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View Full Version : Wild Blue - A Dystopian Fiction: Chapter Two (Two different directions to go! Help!)



coraelise
June 18th, 2014, 11:53 PM
Okay, so I know I got a lot of reads on my first chapter, as well as fabulous feedback from a few of you. I now have two directions I can go, and I'd like your opinions! There are two versions of Chapter Two here, the first being the one I wrote with my original idea in mind (John comes home from his imprisonment in the City) and second being the one I wrote today (A man is sent by John to check on Elise). Obviously, you guys don't know exactly where I'm going with the rest of this book (Hint: it's not a revolution - too cliché!), but I'd like your opinion anyhow! Here we go!

FIRST VERSION:

I didn’t wake with the sun, which for me, indicated that something was off. The midday light seared my eyes as I lifted my droopy eyelids to a squinting position. My mouth had that “slept too long” taste and I sat up, scrambling on the floor to find a water container. I realized after throwing all the blankets out of the way that I’d left one in the bathroom when I washed my hands of blood from the hunt.
My knees creaked and my back popped when I stood. I slept hard.

Slowly making my way to the bathroom, head hung in laziness, I noticed the way the light through the windows made shadows of leaves dance across my tanned, muscular legs. The shadows moved in a way that was erratic, but poetic. A lot like me, I thought as I crossed through the doorway and the shadows disappeared.

The bathroom mirror was unforgiving, as I knew it would be. My short, mousey brown hair had formed a gigantic nest in the back, and the waves formed by dream sweat gave me a boyish look. My round cheeks were burning red, clinging on to the heat I had produced in my sleep. A set of wide, pale blue-green eyes were accentuated by bags hanging sadly underneath.

I found a half-full water jug on top of the closed, useless toilet and I poured some into my cupped hand. I slapped the water onto my face and felt the cool, refreshing droplets fall from my chin down to my neck. My holey t-shirt served as a fine towel and I looked up to the mirror again.

That’s better, now just to fix this hai-

My head snapped towards the little bathroom window as I heard a shuffling noise come from outside. I knew the wilderness, and those were not sounds made by wildlife.

I bent my knees into a crouching position and made my way the few steps back into my bedroom. In the corner opposite of my blanket pile lay my possessions, a pair of fitted deerskin pants, my rucksack filled with jerky, bullets, and water containers, and on top of that, my rifle in its holster.

The shuffling noise slowly turned into low slaps - the noise of shoes on concrete. I began to feel internal panic as I rushed to put on my pants and pick up my rifle, which I kept loaded at all times. I heard the creak of the door and my only thought was, how did they find me?

I got back into a crouched position and steadily made my way to the front door, where I could hear heavy footsteps on the wood flooring. I aimed my rifle forward and turned the corner to the front, ready for a group of City guards.Instead of men in heavy black armor, I found a certain someone else. I gasped in surprise, and set my rifle on the ground as I felt my body drag itself down the wall. My body shook as I took in my visitor.

There he was, in the flesh. Holding a shotgun with a knife on his hip, John Gulley stood before me in my foyer, looking equally as surprised as I. It had been two years since I last saw that man’s steely blue eyes looking into my pale green ones. Two years was a long time in our kind of world.

His presence was a lot to take in. Not only was he there, but he was so familiar. The dark, eerie quiet of the Rocky Mountain woods disappeared around me as the image in my head changed from the present to my last safe memory of this man and I.
In my mind’s eye, we were sitting on the balcony of the old house on Cheyenne mountain overlooking the spiking, red rocks that were Garden of the Gods, my head on his shoulder, listening to the sound of birds in the trees. I could still taste the dinner we had that night - open-fire roasted pork and fresh tomato sauce. I remembered the way the sunset lit his face and the tattoos on his forearms. Before they came for him.

The sound of John closing the door and the sensation of a quick breeze snapped me from my fantasy and the taste of warm food left my mouth. My heartbeat thumped through my chest as I got the strength to stand and break the silence.

“I can’t believe you still wear that damn hat.”

John’s crow-feet-lined eyes widened and the corners of his thick, chapped lips turned up as he lifted his empty hand to his head, adjusting the dirt-caked, sun-bleached cloth on his head. I caught a glimpse of his hair. There’s a lot more grey than before. He put the hand back down to his side after making the adjustment and started rocking on his heels. His smile disappeared.

“My brother gave it to me,” he said hoarsely, steadying his frame and shifting his eyes away from mine for the first time since they locked.

“I know.” There was a knot in my stomach as I realized what must have happened. I immediately felt fat, guilty tears fill up my eyes. I avoided blinking for fear of their running down my cheeks.

John set his shotgun against the wall. I felt the knot grow tighter as his tall, broad figure stood and walked toward me. I hesitated in my reaction, and in doing so tightly pressed my eyelids shut, releasing the dam of emotion I’d been trying so desperately to keep levied.
A sniffle escaped my nose and I felt his breath on my forehead. As I opened my eyes, I looked up and was surprised to see a smile on John’s face. I melted into his embrace as it took me in. He was so warm. I hadn’t felt that in far too long.

“Promise to tell me everything?” I asked him.

“No. You know I can’t do that,” he whispered. I wasn’t going to push it.

“I like your hair,” he said sweetly. I raised my hand to the back of my head and realized I hadn’t brushed it since my awakening this afternoon, feeling my fingers get caught in the thick knots. I sniffled, containing my emotion again, and gave him a solid punch to the shoulder. He just smiled.

“Oh, shut up.” I began to make my way back down the hallway, but John cut me off and walked ahead of me to what would have been the house’s living room before the war. Now it was just a large, empty space with weathered, paintless walls, two folded blankets on the floor, and a large stump between the two as a table.

“You kept my spot.”

“Always,” I nodded sheepishly. Is that pathetic? Does he think that?

He smiled and sat down crosslegged on the blue blanket, the one he’d last sat in two years ago, before he was taken. I took my place on the other side of the stump. He began to shed his physical burdens, taking off his gloves, many bags of all sizes, his ballistics vest, and a thin jacket.

As John searched his packs for water, I began to wonder where he’d come from, how he’d escaped. Navigating routes in and out of the walls had been something we did together - he’d know how to get out of the City. But how did he get out of their captivity?
The question hung in the air as John unscrewed a cap from a bottle and took a long swig of water. As if I’d said the question out loud, John replied.

“It wasn’t easy. I had help from another man - he’s like us. Is that really what you want to talk about? I see you for the first time in god knows how long-”

“Two years.”

“-Two years, and you want me to recount some of the most terrifying moments in my life?”

He stared at me with tired eyes and I said the only thing I could: “I want to see if you’re the same person. I want to be sure you’re not one of them.”

He steadied his elbows on the stump and ran his hands through his hair. “Fine, Elise. What do you want to know?”

“Where were you?”

“A building in the Quiet District. They keep it like a normal place of business on the outside, but it’s just a prison for Wanderers. That part wasn’t so bad - they fed us that shit synthetic food and let us congregate for social time a few hours a day. Most of the other prisoners were weak and easily molded into their society. They’d take those that agreed to conform upstairs and they’d never be seen again. I don’t know what would happen after that, but I always fought it. Thompson and I always fought.” He nodded and looked at me.

“Thompson?” I asked.

John sighed and took another drink of water. “He’s a guy I shared a cell with. Been through a lot, but kind and wise. A little younger than me, older than you - maybe about 26. He’d been raised on the outside, like you. He was captured a year before Dan and I, making him the longest to stay without conforming.” He paused and his chin fell, eyes staring blankly at the stump. “I wish I could have helped him more. I hope they didn’t do anything to him.”

Oh no. Unsure of how to reply, I softly asked another question, “What...what about your brother? Where’s Dan?”

John’s head snapped up and his eyes glared into mine.

“I don’t talk about that. Ever. Don’t ask me about Dan again.” He took the hat off his head and threw it across the room.
“No more questions,” he stood up. “Do you have any food?”



SECOND VERSION:

I didn’t wake with the sun, which for me, indicated that something was off. The midday light seared my eyes as I lifted my droopy eyelids to a squinting position. My mouth had that “slept too long” taste and I sat up, scrambling on the floor to find a water container. I realized after throwing all the blankets out of the way that I’d left one in the bathroom when I washed my hands of blood from the hunt.
My knees creaked and my back popped when I stood. I slept hard.

Slowly making my way to the bathroom, head hung in laziness, I noticed the way the light through the windows made shadows of leaves dance across my tanned, muscular legs. The shadows moved in a way that was erratic, but poetic. A lot like me, I thought as I crossed through the doorway and the shadows disappeared.

The bathroom mirror was unforgiving, as I knew it would be. My short, mousey brown hair had formed a gigantic nest in the back, and the waves formed by dream sweat gave me a boyish look. My round cheeks were burning red, clinging on to the heat I had produced in my sleep. A set of wide, pale blue-green eyes were accentuated by bags hanging sadly underneath.

I found a half-full water jug on top of the closed, useless toilet and I poured some into my cupped hand. I slapped the water onto my face and felt the cool, refreshing droplets fall from my chin down to my neck. My holey t-shirt served as a fine towel and I looked up to the mirror again.

That’s better, now just to fix this hai-

My head snapped towards the little bathroom window as I heard a shuffling noise come from outside. I knew the wilderness, and those were not sounds made by wildlife.

I bent my knees into a crouching position and made my way the few steps back into my bedroom. In the corner opposite of my blanket pile lay my possessions, a pair of fitted deerskin pants, my rucksack filled with jerky, bullets, and water containers, and on top of that, my rifle in its holster.

The shuffling noise slowly turned into low slaps - the noise of shoes on concrete. I began to feel internal panic as I rushed to put on my pants and pick up my rifle, which I kept loaded at all times. I heard the creak of the door and my only thought was, how did they find me?

I got back into a crouched position and steadily made my way to the front door, where I could hear heavy footsteps on the wood flooring. I aimed my rifle forward and turned the corner to the front, ready for a group of City guards.
However, the man who stood in my foyer was no guard. As I peered down my sights, I also stared down the barrel of his shotgun. I stood from my crouch and the shotgun followed me.

Slightly reddish, short hair and a lengthy beard sat on a solemn face. The average-height man wore what looked like a ballistics vest over a thin jacket, Citizen “jeans” (The material was not denim, but a synthetic version of it, as all clothes are in the City), and Ex-Age-styled military boots. A large backpack hung on his shoulders. His eyes were squinted and his demeanor cold.

I spoke first, barrel still aimed at his chest, “Who are you?”

He inhaled quickly and fired back, “Are you Elise?”

Surprised, I took a shaky breath and nodded. In response, he began to point the barrel of the shotgun down, easing me into doing the same with my rifle.

Once again, “Who are you?”

“My name is Thompson. You don’t know me. But John does.”

John? That’s impossible. “John who?”

Thompson leaned his shotgun against the wall and folded his arms over his vest. “John, your husband.”

My heart pounded erratically in my chest and I felt my thoughts bounce around my head at an incredible speed, trying to process the man’s words. As I turned the safety on on my rifle, I finally had the right question prepared. Thompson still stood stiffly in front of the door. I gestured for him to follow me, fingers still on the safety, Just in case.

I lead him down the short hallway into the main room, where last night’s fire had left a charred smell and on the wood floor, there lay only two folded blankets and a short, handmade table. I sat on the baby blue blanket and he took the dark red one. For a few moments, we sat in awkward silence. I had never seen this man before, yet at the mention on my husband’s name, I felt his presence to be wanted. If he was a Wanderer, such as myself, I knew he held no ill feelings toward John, and was not here for negative reasons. His general air of ruggedness and his gnarly appearance dictated that he could not be a Citizen or representative of the City. I chose to trust him, for now. Finally, I broke the silence.

“Is John...safe?”

Thompson hesitated and when he replied, I sensed a hint of urgency in his voice. “He didn’t send me to talk about him. He sent me here to make sure you were alive and well. He sent me to take care of you.”

I blinked and my eyes widened in disbelief, “He sent you? John sent you? Where is he? I need to know!” My heart rate maintained its frantic beating as I searched Thompson’s face for a clue.

“Like I just said, I am not here about him. How are you? Are you well-fed? It’s getting into the cold season, do you need firewood or blankets?” His avoidance struck irritation in me.

“I manage just fine on my own, thank you. Now if you don’t want to tell me where my husband is, I’ll have you leave right now. You are of no use to me if you cannot answer my questions. Now where is John?”

For the first time since he stepped through my doorway, I saw emotion on Thompson’s face. It looked a bit like sadness. He sighed deeply and looked into my eyes as he replied.

“I’d guess John is somewhere in the Quiet District. We were being imprisoned underground in an administration building somewhere.”
“You’d guess? Tell me what’s going on,” I demanded details. Thompson looked away and took a moment to comply.

“We shared a cell, John and I. I had been there what seemed like a year before he was thrown in with me. All he ever talked about was you and this house and seeing both again soon. We made this plan - it took us months to coordinate. Finally, we were able to act on it. Things went wrong after we got out of the building, and before he was captured again, he told me to find you - in the house he’d talked endlessly about - and take care of you. So, here I am.”

I felt my throat tighten as tears began to gather in my eyes. “You really aren’t lying, are you?”

Thompson shook his head and looked down at his crossed legs, fiddling with a loose string on the blanket.

John...I played Thompson’s words in my head over and over as the silence echoed unbearingly loud in the large, empty room. I was going to wait a bit until asking for details, instead, voicing my hunger and finding Thompson in an equal state.

As I stirred a stew over the freshly restarted fire - rabbit, carrots picked from the remains of my garden, and a fatty broth - I mulled over possible questions for my visitor. He had made himself somewhat at home in the 30 minutes he’d been here, taking off his backpack and ballistics vest and laying out the maroon blanket for his sleep when the sun went down. He kept his boots on. He’d remained without words since his tale earlier, sparing a “yes” or “no” when asked about food. Finally, the stew was served and I cut through the solitude and straight to the chase.

“So...will you tell me about where they held you and John? Is that too much?”

He shook his head and began to speak, “It wasn’t so bad, I suppose. They put us two in a room, with a toilet and cots. They fed us that shit synthetic food - I got so accustomed to it, that when I went on my first hunt after I got out, I was disgusted by the taste of real deer meat. We had “social time” - which meant being sat in a room with the residents of two other cells and hearing a strange little man tell us how lovely life was in the walls. It was all just a scam to try to get us to convert.”

I stopped him there, “Convert? What, to a Citizen? I thought that was impossible.”

He shook his head and stroked his beard, “Not if you agree to a mind-erase and reboot. It’s disgusting, really.”

Reboot? I thought that was a myth…

“How did you escape?” I asked cautiously. He took a moment to sip on some of his stew before answering.

“It’s complicated. Involved some vents and a sewage line. We messed up when we ended up being unsure of the building location. We thought we were in the Administration District - we were really just inside the Quiet district and we were unprepared for the security measures in place there. I only escaped because John stayed back to distract them.” Thompson slurped on his stew one more time and set it down next to his bed. He lied down, facing the wall opposite of me. I guess that’s it for tonight.

The sun had just reached down on the surrounding peaks, indicating it would be dark in a couple hours. I decided to stay up and read the collected stack of books I’d only glanced at in the last few months.

Leaving Thompson to his sleep, I stoked the fire and went into my room, deciding which of the books I wanted to skim through first; I chose “A History of the World: Antiquity through 1943”.

Nippon Devil
June 20th, 2014, 11:18 PM
This was an even better read than the first chapter. It cleared up most of my problems with the first one. Good job.

I would like you to pick which one you like more, as I don't know what direction you plan on taking the story in. But if you'd like my suggestion, I would pick the one where John doesn't show up. When John shows up, he blatantly deflects the protagonists questions which creates a "carrot on a stick" charade that I don't particularly care for. John also acts kind of like a douch for someone who hasn't seen his wife for so long. I feel the second version is more interesting because instead of giving us a big unknown, it shows us a few possibilities. Has John been converted? Is this Thompson fellow to be trusted? It also preserves John's dignity, which is important if Elise is suppose to love him.

jnamake3
June 23rd, 2014, 05:15 AM
I see a really great story developing, especially if you go with version 2. If her husband shows up, then where can the story really go? If Thompson shows up instead, it preserves John as a motive, while shedding more light on life inside the city, which balances nicely with what we already know about life on the outside.

KJSinclair
June 23rd, 2014, 06:27 AM
This read so very well that both versions left me itching (not literally) to read more!

Version 2 drew me in faster and (to me) makes more logical sense as far as building the rest of the story.

I am no authority on anything but I do know what I like and this is something I will be looking out for.

Thank you for sharing!

KJ