View Full Version : Giants Don't Ride on Trains -Short Story

January 11th, 2014, 02:54 AM
Giants Don’t Ride on Trains

None of this happened by accident. Everything was caused by a complicated string of events that just sort of tripped over their own feet and just kept on falling through every rabbit hole that it came across. Ties can be made throughout history of governments and kingdoms rising and falling in a haphazard, chaotic mess. Time always takes its toll on the human idea of what the future holds. We try and plan millenniums ahead of ourselves, as if the world will stay the same and people won’t ever try and destroy what they build. It’s not a logical way of thinking, but we take safety in the thought that our life and everything else around us does not move or gradually shift and evolve constantly. We try and bury ourselves in ignorance and then when we are reminded of what we tried to deny, there’s a moment of awe and incomprehension that takes us aback every single time.

Setter and I, we met under sad circumstances. The world we knew ended and everything reverted backward to what felt like a completely different time. Our twenty first century existence degenerated and rapidly disintegrated. The two of us were left alone, somewhere outside of Lexington, Kentucky.

A few months had passed since our arrival. Our first day in the city, we had to fight off another colony of people just trying to survive. They wanted the buildings and homes for themselves and apparently joining together never crossed their minds. Afterward, when more people died and the violence had stopped, the rest of us were left to think on the events and learn to deal with what we’ve done. As humans, we deny and bury our sins. Facing it becomes more damaging, but I know that admitting our guilt and bearing the burden of what the world has become is the best thing we could do.

The sun was clouded over and the temperature was dropping. I didn’t know how long we had until winter was upon us. Going north was risky, but we had to do it. Setter was important in her own way and I knew that she was the good thing that I could use to cleanse myself of all of the bad. One of my fears has always been not being square with the world and myself. Balance is everything and the very thought of not being able to say goodbye terrifies me. It may not be practical, considering the state of the world, but it’s something that keeps me going.

I walked alongside Setter as we traveled down the side of an interstate that ran north out of Kentucky. She was quiet and didn’t ever complain. The road was a difficult place to live on and our struggles would probably get worse as we continued, but she didn’t care. Setter wanted the adventure, even if it meant that we all might die trying to get to Boston. I looked at her as she brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. She wore a hat and the rest of her brown hair was tied in a ponytail. I had given her a pair of aviator sunglasses that I had kept with me and she wore them just about every time the sun was even remotely visible.

The sky was empty, save for a few birds that flew above the trees in an oddly usual way. But as we walked something was getting closer. A sound. Something we should have never heard again. An almost deafening sound that I had thought would never occur again. A gust of wind kicked dirt up around us, but not a wind from nature. I covered my mouth with a bandana and Setter did the same. I looked around as the noise continued to blare.

“Get down!” Setter yelled as she pushed me off of the road and behind the guardrail. We took cover and watched as the source of the noise came into sight a few dozen feet above our heads. It felt like one of those moments that could change everything for us. I looked to Setter and could see her disbelief and she probably could see mine. Three years after the world ended, an airplane fell out of the sky and crash-landed right in front of us.

The landing gear touched ground on the interstate and the plane screeched as the pilot braked and rammed into vehicles on the road. I had never heard the world go from silence to as loud as it did then. And I had survived a mortar attack and experienced the brutality of an army murdering civilians. Chaos continues to be a plague.

When the airplane finally halted a hundred or two yards ahead of us, the noise stopped but the energy of what had happened still lingered. The adrenaline had only just begun. Setter grabbed my hand and helped me back over the barricade so we could investigate who and what was aboard the plane.

“Keir,” Setter said, clearing her throat. “This is unbelievable.”

“Yes it is,” was all I could manage to say.

For a few minutes we just stood near the barrier looking down at the almost dream-like vision ahead of us. I hadn’t thought about airplanes as a possible thing anymore. After the first year, nothing flew in the sky except birds. Our surprise was that this flying machine could still exist. A part of me thought that everything about the world before had been erased and seeing something tangible from that old world was uplifting. Maybe people were trying to piece everything back together.

I looked to Setter and back at the odd scene ahead of us. I held out my hand and Setter grabbed it. She was the only person I had. Without the end of the world, I probably would have never met her. And it is certain that we would have missed out on this entire adventure that Setter and I had just embarked on.

“Alright,” I said and started to move forward. “We go together. Don’t let go of my hand.”

We traveled down the side of the road and used whatever vehicles we could to cover our progress. If this was some sort of trap or maybe the wrong type of people, we did not want to be out in the open. I held on tight to her hand and made sure to make calculated moves as I kept glancing around the vehicles to see what was happening at the landing site.

There was something about Kentucky. It was more dangerous to travel through. More than New Mexico had been. More than anywhere we had gone through. Setter and I were together now and that was the best outcome. I thought back to Lexington and the events that happened there.

The four of us took aim at the oncoming men that were trying to take over the city. We didn’t really belong there, but it was the only thing we could do at the time. Our best chance was to fight alongside strangers as other strangers tried to kill us. That day was beautiful. It was still warm and the sunlight was cut off in odd places because of the shadows that the city created.

“Looks like we’re fighting,” I said.

Cael asked one of the men stationed at that end of the city where we should go.

“Right here with us,” he replied and glared as he reloaded his rifle.

Setter stood in between Cael and I, Albee was furthest away from me.

“Ready?” I asked and looked over at Setter and said the only thing that I thought she’d want to hear: “Let’s keep moving.”

Each of us had drawn our pistols and aimed at the oncoming strangers that were now in range to fire at us. None of us said anything else; we just pulled our triggers and defended Lexington.

The pistol kicked back as the first bullet exited the chamber and I lined up the next shot without hesitating. An attacker moved from cover to try and get his own shot at us, but the man with the rifle put two bullets in his chest before he could even aim his gun.

Several other men came into view and I fired a few more shots at them before getting down as they barraged our position with bullets. Setter screamed and dug her head into my chest as we both fell to the ground. I grabbed her to make sure she was all right and saw Cael and Albee still firing. They looked as if nothing in the world existed and everything we had done was merely prelude to this event.

The memory lingered in my head a while as we made our way down to the airplane. I lost track of the movement around the plane.

“Keir?” Setter whispered and tapped me in the shoulder. I turned to look at her as she rested against the side of the car we were crouched near. I guess I hadn’t moved in a few minutes.

“Sorry,” I said and peered around the vehicle and at our destination.

The passengers unloaded boxes and army rucksacks. They were in a hurry and for good reason. If there were any other larger groups around that heard its engines or even caught sight of it in the air, they wanted to be gone as soon as possible. Everyone was dressed in blue hooded sweatshirts and camouflaged pants. They were quiet as they worked to pack a few cars with the boxes and carried the backpacks with them. They were nearly finished and we needed to hurry.

“Do you want to try our luck and talk to them?” I asked.

Setter pulled up the sleeves on her sweatshirt and tucked the stray hair in front of her face back under her hat.

“I don’t know,” she said.

I fixed my backpack firm on my shoulders and covered the butt of my pistol with my sweatshirt. “Let’s keep moving,” I said, taking her hand again and moved from the cover of the vehicle and out into the open. We were going to walk straight for them. There would be no more moving from one overturned vehicle to another.

“Are you sure about this?” Setter asked.

“No,” I replied.

The risk was that they could either shoot us or not. I was willing to gamble because they looked to just be transporting supplies. So we walked forward, making sure they would see us coming. I hoped they would see us as we were: a boy and a girl traveling together, tired and hungry, looking for help.

To Be Continued. This is only the first half of the story)

January 13th, 2014, 07:28 AM
Hey, your introduction was great. The first paragraph set the stage for a rapid change of thought, making us expect a wild turn from what we know to be true today. Bloody perfect. From there, however, I think there could be improvement on the very next set of paragraphs. In a nutshell, I want more detail about the ruins of the world. Details details details.

You say "Our twenty first century existence degenerated and rapidly disintegrated. The two of us were left alone, somewhere outside of Lexington, Kentucky." implying that everything we take for granted in our day in age is now gone, destroyed. Whatever caused it can be irrelevant for the sake of story progression. However, you say all of our world came violently crashing down with few survivors and then give us no juicy details about where they found themselves. That, as the reader, is a shame. The greatest magic in the post apocalyptic genre is the mental image of plains of wastelands, metropolises crumbled into ashen skeletons and blasted concrete frames. You suggest such a thing has happened, but give us nothing to visualize.

I suggest just hinting at the level of destruction that had occurred. Was it enough to make Lexington look like a sandbox of skeletons and rust? Or is there still the haunting vision of empty buildings, devoid of life from some sort of extinction virus, leaving rotting corpses scattered about? The introduction of your story could use just one paragraph putting the reader into your personal post apocalypse. It puts the events of the rest of the story into perspective and lets us feel at home in your wastelands.

As well, in your first encounter with other survivors you seem to blow past the opportunity for so much lore and detail. Why were the other survivors violent and unable to join their group? What was in the houses that was so important? What resources are your people living off of, and what do they hold most dear? Give us some juicy details about how you fought them off, tooth and nail or with leftover guns and weapons? Your third paragraph could itself be fleshed out into a page of information, it seems rushed and plain. Particularly explain why they had to protect these buildings when in the very next paragraph you say they decide to travel north.

They seem like small details but from the perspective of the reader every scrap of information you toss at us is bare bone truth, particularly in a world with few resources. These people need to survive, that is their number one priority. That harsh tone seeps into the very foundation of a post apocalyptic genre, making every event that more dire and important. You cant skimp on details when your characters are skimp on essential survival equipment and food.

In the end I hope this helps. I really just suggest adding more depth and background, the more the better. This critique was intended solely for peer editing and was in no way meant to insult or slander your work. I would love to give this a read over after some polishing :]

January 13th, 2014, 08:13 PM
Thanks for the comments, I appreciate it.

Though I am concerned that I didn't convey the events properly if you focused more on the past events that were covered instead of the airplane that was in the "present" time period. Maybe that's on me for not marking it. If that's the case, I do indeed have some editing and adding to do.

There's no need comment on the peer editing bit at the end of your post. I have been here long enough to that intentions of commenting are quite pure. I admire your in depth analysis and hope you only improve on reviewing other writer's work. It is truly a great skill to have to be able to communicate clearly about writing. =)

January 15th, 2014, 12:07 AM
What's the purpose? Why are you writing this? The beauty of the short story is that it's short! Brevity is key. To be focused is to be a good short-story author. Only include that which is necessary to move the plot or accentuate the point. It's nice to include character development, but only if it helps the reader understand your statement. Certain elements of this piece feel like they belong in Chapter 1, instead. Unfortunately, you don't have a Chapter 2 to explain what it's supposed to mean. You've got to get through the entire piece by the end of this sequence. I would lose the flashback. Whatever it's supposed to say, I'm not seeing it. I might actually scrap the first paragraph too. Great opening line for a novel, but not pertinent in short-form.

You're goal for edits and for the second half should be a resolution. Find a climax, build to the climax, and then resolve it. Post-apocalyptic pieces are fun because they allow the author to examine the animal nature of human beings, so you might want to think that way. Don't be afraid to throw a conclusion at us that we don't see coming, though.

Good start. Might make a great beginning to a longer piece.

January 15th, 2014, 01:29 AM
(Here's the second half of the story. This may or may not help.)

Cael, Albee and I had met her soon after we crossed the Oklahoma state line. It must have been a day or two after we exited Texas after nearly dying. She was holed up in an apartment building and helped us by giving us some food and a place to sleep. None of us were aware that she was a girl until the morning when she had had time to gather our weapons and make sure we weren’t going to kill her. She wasn’t a victim and that’s what made us want to take her with us. Nobody else was left in the building she was living in. And I knew by looking at her that she didn’t want to stay in Oklahoma.

She told us she was from a small town in Kansas. I never asked any further because it really didn’t matter anymore. Everyone was a pilgrim or a drifter these days. The four of us became something of a family. Or whatever the equivalent is after life had fallen apart. People used to identify themselves from where they were born or where they lived. It’s not something that is ever said anymore. What matters more is where you’re going and what kind of people you are with. The people in the plane didn’t know us and we didn’t know them. But we were heading for them to ask for help and offer whatever we could to help them if they needed it.

When we got close enough to them that they started paying attention to us, a few of them drew their pistols out of caution. One of them said something but I couldn’t make it out and the other two stayed behind as he walked out to meet us. I still held Setter’s hand and she kept her composure, as she always tends to do.

“Hey there,” the man spoke, his voice gravelly and tired.

“Hi,” Setter replied.

The man stopped a few feet short of us and this signaled for us to stop also.

“We saw your plane land,” I said.

“You’re probably not the only ones.” He tilted his head at us, as if he were sizing us up. He wore a pair of glasses that reminded me of the ones my dad used to have and was taller than me by a few inches. His dark hair was parted in an older-man’s style. The blue hooded sweatshirt and pants did not reflect the man that wore them.

“Who are you?” Setter asked. To me it was a weird question, but somehow felt appropriate.

“I could ask you the same, Miss.” His face had a wisdom to it that made me want to trust him. He still held his pistol by his side, but not in any sort of threatening way.

“Setter,’ she replied. “From Kansas.”

The man looked at me for a reply.

“Keir, from Idaho.”

“Nice to meet both of you. My name is Jude. From Pennsylvania.”

“We have to go!” someone yelled from behind him. Jude looked back and waved in acknowledgement.

“Follow me,” Jude said and started walking back toward the plane. “We don’t have much time until other people start showing up and fighting over this thing.”

“Fighting over what?” I asked.

“The carcass of this airplane.”

Jude led us back to the group of other people that were now boarding the vehicles they had been loading. The engines turned and started after a few tries. I had a feeling that nothing good was going to come of our being here, but the adventure beckoned and there was no abandoning it now.

“We have to go,” another passenger said as they entered the driver’s seat of a truck.

“Go! Take different routes. Do not stay together!”

A few of the vehicles that had been packed took off save one that stayed in anticipation of Jude’s company.

“Where are they headed?” I asked, not expecting a full answer.

“North,” he replied. “I suggest you find transport and get out of here.” He opened the door to the sedan that waited for him and got in the passenger seat. “And I suggest you hurry.” He closed the door and the vehicle took off down the road and away from the wrecked airplane.

“That did not go as I thought,” Setter said.

I shook my head and looked around. We needed to leave and follow Jude. Wherever they were going, I wanted to be there. Whatever they were transporting had to be worth all of this. Attracting attention with an airplane. Crash-landing on the interstate in Kentucky. Something was happening. These people were trying to do something big. Maybe they were trying to piece the past back together. Maybe they had artifacts that they wanted to protect and bring back to a new government. Our world could function again, the way it used to.

Setter found a car that hadn’t been overturned by the plane and she started it somehow. I got in the passenger seat as she shifted it into drive and we were traveling slowly down the road after Jude and the other passengers.

“There isn’t much gas left,” Setter said.

“As long as we get away from here, that’s ok.”

“Let’s keep moving, right?” She laughed. I smiled and turned my head to look out the window. I saw movement and knew instantly that we weren’t going to be following Jude for very long.

Other people had found the crash-site and were upon us.

“Go faster,” I said. “Go!”

Setter stepped on the gas more and we lurched forward, the engine revved and we started picking up speed. The movement continued on the side of us and seemed to be gaining on us.
Daylight was the same as it had been before the plane suddenly existed. But the day felt different and now it was changing again.

“They’re going to catch up to us,” I said. “When they do, I want you to run. Don’t stop and wait for me. Just run.”

“No, I’m not going to leave you.”

“Setter. Please.”

She steered the car through an array of debris and we were going at a decent speed. But the movement on the side of us was now ahead of us. It seemed there was another road on the opposite side of the barrier. They were going to cross it.

The vehicle finally came into view. A four-door truck was headed for us from the left side. It collided with the barrier and somehow broke through it. It kept on for us and Setter tried to speed up and outrun it, but there was no way with all of the debris in the road.

“Brace for it!” I yelled. And the truck darted for us. I felt the impact but wasn’t aware of what else happened. One moment we were driving and the truck was in my view and the next we were stopped and the world seemed to not move anymore. All of the noise and silence of the day collapsed and made everything feel empty.

I looked over at the driver’s seat and saw Setter. She wasn’t moving. I moved and grimaced as I shook her shoulder.

“Keir,” she muttered, opening her eyes to look at me.

“Can you move?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

She shifted in the seat and opened the driver’s side door. I tried the passenger’s side but it wouldn’t open, so I followed Setter out by crawling over the seats. She sat on the pavement, shaken from the impact and dealing with our new reality.

The people in the truck weren’t moving. After I stood outside of our car, I looked over to them. One man was sent through the windshield and the driver’s head was resting on the steering wheel. I had no idea if he was alive or not and I had no intention of investigating.

“Let’s go,” I said and helped Setter to her feet. Neither of us had any visible injuries, but the emotional torment wasn’t lifting.

Kentucky continued to be one of the most difficult places to get through.

Setter put her arm around my shoulder and I helped her walk as fast as we could to the side of the road and away from the car-wreck. We stopped about twenty yards away and I looked way back down the road, past the cars, to where the plane had landed. It was barely in view, but I saw more vehicles descend upon it and heard multiple gunshots.

“This place—” Setter began but didn’t bother finishing.

“You alright to keep going?” I asked her.

She nodded.

I didn’t want to be predictable but by then, Setter knew me better than anybody.

“Let’s keep moving,” she said with a smile. I held out my hand and she grabbed it and we walked along the road, trying to stay out of sight from the people way behind us at the airplane that shouldn’t have been.

My thoughts reeled back to Jude. He could help us. All we had to do was find him.

“Where could they have been going?” Setter asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

The road felt unsteady beneath my feet and the air was brisk in my lungs. Everything that had happened since Lexington ruined what the four of had planned. Cael and Albee were supposed to be with us. We were supposed to have gone north to find his family and stay with them. Life, or whatever life had become had taken its toll and caused us to go places we never intended. In my head we were never going to die and that we would always be giants.

I thought back to Lexington, after Setter and I were lying on the ground as the bullets were fired around us. Setter tried to stand up but some sort of explosion knocked her back down on top of me. Cael looked down at us and bent down to check to see if we were all right.

“We need to fall back!” the man with the rifle yelled and he grabbed my shoulder and started pulling me away from the barrier. I stood up and began running. Setter was on the side of me and I grabbed her hand, not wanting to lose her. The man pushed us forward to one of the makeshift trenches they had made for an occasion such as this. We reloaded after we had slid into them and looked back at the progress of the attackers. Three men had climbed over the barricade.

Cael and Albee were a few feet away when I saw one of the men take aim at them.

“Get down!” I yelled at them.

They both fell forward to the ground and bullets were fired. I aimed down at the man and pulled the trigger, shooting him in the shoulder. He fell to the side and wrenched in pain. Albee crawled the rest of the way into the trench and rested beside Setter. Cael stood up and turned around to get another shot at the intruders. He managed to take another man down, but not before the third man took aim at him and sent the deadly concoction of metal and gunpowder through his leg. The blood spurt out of the back and I cringed, not wanting to believe what had just happened to him.

He screamed and collapsed to the ground. Albee crawled out of the trench and grabbed him to pull him into the safety of where we now were. A few seconds passed, but it felt a lot longer. The man on the side of us with the rifle took aim and shot a few more rounds down range. There was a moment of silence after the last gunshot and then the shuffling of Albee pulling Cael and sitting him on the side of the trench to look at his leg.

I moved over to them and looked around to see if I could use anything to help him.

“Keir,” Cael said in between screams. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

That was all I could think of as I walked down the road with Setter. There was something calming about it, even though the world around us was falling into chaos again as the people behind us were fighting over the remnants of Jude’s mission. They weren’t aware that he existed and they weren’t worried about that. They wanted whatever was left and didn’t care what they had to do to get it.

I took solace in the warmth of Setter’s hand in mine and knew that Cael and Albee were safe. After that first day in Lexington, the battle was done and most of the attackers were dead. Cael survived and knew it was better for him to stay in Lexington. It would take a while for him to recover. Albee just didn’t want to leave. I guess he’d had enough of being on the road.

Setter squeezed my hand, bringing my thoughts back to her and the present situation. “This place,” I said, hoping to finish Setter’s previous thought.

“It sucks,” Setter and I said together.

She laughed and touched my shoulder with her head in that cute way girls sometimes do.

“You know… Kentucky is sort of growing on me.” I smiled.

Our adventure had changed again, like it often did. But nothing was going to change where we were going.

“I guess we have to,” Setter said.

“What?” I asked, unsure of what she meant.

“We have to find Jude.”

He was just a name and a face. Everything else about him was a mystery. And Setter knew that I could never let an adventure like this slip by. She knew me too well for that.

“All right,” I said.


It was final. That was our next move.

And we continued walking down Interstate 75, the worst, hopefully behind us.

January 16th, 2014, 05:15 AM
Okay, so the second half starts to piece things together, but it still feels empty to me. The action doesn't quite lead me anywhere, there's not really a climax, and there's not really a resolution. The pieces are there, but you have to put them together. Flesh out the meaning here. Spend more time on that than anything else. Meaning drives plot in a short story. A novel can just be a fantastic tale, sometimes, but even in that case, you're going to need a bit more purpose.

January 16th, 2014, 06:39 PM
Okay, so the second half starts to piece things together, but it still feels empty to me. The action doesn't quite lead me anywhere, there's not really a climax, and there's not really a resolution. The pieces are there, but you have to put them together. Flesh out the meaning here. Spend more time on that than anything else. Meaning drives plot in a short story. A novel can just be a fantastic tale, sometimes, but even in that case, you're going to need a bit more purpose.

Indeed. That can easily be added in with maybe another page, I think. Thanks for the help. Although it could be said also that since this is a end of world type thing, the purpose doesn't have to be earth shattering, but simple and not overtly spelled out. Subtlety is part of any story, is it not?

That wasn't an excuse, I was just thinking aloud. Not doubting my faults, just working on trying to improve on them. =)

February 2nd, 2014, 04:17 AM
The beginning is great and then you shift to Lexington. Really killed the flow for and I stopped reading.