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K. Altan
September 1st, 2014, 03:11 AM
This is for a contest I'm entering called ABCs of Apocalypse. Entrants are each given a letter to use in a short story or poem about the apocalypse. Sorry for the depressing theme, and the grammatical errors. This is still a rough draft, but I hope that you like it.

A is for Almost
Their bodies sat at my feet. My family, my friends, my neighbors, everybody. Cold air nibbled on my aching skin. A deep, rancid odor had set in the room as I sat with my back propped up against the hard wall. Black hands started to grab at the edges of my vision. Hunger and thirst twisted my insides. When would the pain end? Between grunts and gasps, I was able to shift onto my side and lay my cheek on the cold, linoleum floor. I honestly didn’t know how I’d been able to keep myself alive this long, but I could feel it then. Death was closing in on me from all corners. So this is how I die, I thought, in some underground bunker, cast off from the world. I’ll never feel the sun warming my skin or the cool breeze tousling my hair. How could it all end like this? There has to be something more to life. I closed my eyes and thought about my last conversation with a living person.

People had been dropping dead left and right. Nobody talked. Everybody was waiting, waiting for a miracle, or waiting for their demise. A young girl crawled over to me. “Are you scared?” Her dark eyes bored into my soul. They were sunken into her skull, and the plump cheeks that a girl her age should have had were replaced with deep indentations.

I saw no reason to lie to her. We were all going to die, so we might as well die truthfully. “Yes, I am.”

“Me too.” And with great effort, she crawled onto my lap, rested her head against my shoulder, and died. I placed the girl on the ground; her golden locks splayed out in a web of tangles. I didn’t have the sun, but at least I had something golden to look at as I slipped into unconsciousness. I didn’t even know her name, but this girl was my little bit of light in that dull bunker.

I am alone, I thought, Unlike this girl, I’m going to die alone. I came in here with so many people. Why do I have to be the last?

I should have been swimming in grief, but I was numb. I kept telling myself that I was so dehydrated that I couldn’t produce tears, but the familiar knot in my throat that comes along with grief was gone. I’d stopped caring. I wasn’t human anymore. I had lost my emotions.

My thoughts were interrupted with a harsh beeping noise. Red strobe lights reddened the lifeless bodies. The poison gas cloud had passed. It was safe to go outside again.

“No,” I squeaked. There was nobody left to celebrate, nobody to cry, nobody to laugh. There was no joy left in the world; only me. I shook my head. This is all wrong. I looked over at the little girl. Her dark eyes were forever closed. Her skin was as pale and stiff as plastic. “I failed you,” I whispered. “You held me. I didn't hold you back.” Then I looked at the other bodies. They were taunting me, staining my vision red. I couldn’t stay there. There was nothing left for me, so I mustered up all of my strength and grunted as I dragged myself towards the doorway. I was grabbing people’s arms, jackets, faces, anything that could help to pull me across the floor. I elbowed a small boy and dragged myself over my mother. I had to get outside. I had to see the sun. I made it to the stairs. The only thing standing between me and the sun was a set of stairs. I screamed in pain as I dragged my body over one step. My right leg started to go numb as I mounted the second step. The third, the fourth, the fifth. My breaths had grown short and loud. I sounded more like a failing engine than a human. The sixth, the seventh, the eighth. I started to cough up phlegm. The stairway was spinning, and I could feel my heart jumping up my throat. The ninth, the tenth, the eleventh. My left leg started to go numb. The twelfth, the thirteenth, the fourteenth. The last step was staring me down. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. I laid on my back and tried to take a deep breath, but it wouldn’t come. I couldn’t breathe. My fingers were tingling and my head was throbbing. The sound of the alarm slid into the background, becoming nothing but a dull quack. The black hands became more and more visible, no longer grabbing, but clawing at my vision. I closed my eyes. The sun penetrated the darkness of my mind. Leaves rustled and birds chirped. No, not yet. I’m still alive and I’m going to see the sun one last time. I hauled myself over the step, using all of my strength. The fifteenth. I pushed my weight into the door, and it creaked open.

The breeze pushed the hair out of my face; the sun warmed it. With that, the human race ceased to exist. We had almost survived the apocalypse.

Pishwi
September 3rd, 2014, 06:20 PM
Very well written :eagerness: For a piece this long, fairly little happens in the plot (which is not a bad thing in this circumstance) but you managed to keep it interesting, which was impressive. The protagonist's pain and apathy came across nicely I particularly liked
I elbowed a small boy and dragged myself over my mother, insofar as you can like something that dark. It's little things like this that make great literature.
Just a couple of errors really, such as where you say the girl was "hugging nothing but a corpse" even though she was hugging the only body in the room that wasn't a corpse. Or perhaps that was supposed to be ironic in which, case, there's probably no need to change it. Also, the part where you write "she crawled onto my lap...and died. Ten minutes later the breathing stopped". In this instance you make it seem as though she dies twice, once when she crawls onto his lap, and again ten minutes later.
I think it really picks up towards the end, but the beginning could perhaps be more captivating if you shortened it. Just read through it again and get rid of anything that feels unnecessary for setting the scene. The lack of food and water, for instance, has no real effect on the rest of the plot.
But otherwise very well done I'm sure you'll do well in the competition, if not come first : )

thepancreas11
September 5th, 2014, 05:24 AM
Hmm. Reminds me a little of the story of Robert Neville: I am Legend. Have you ever read it? It's the idea that the human race has been narrowed down to this one individual, although in that story, life does in fact continue with mankind. I have been seeing a lot of apocalyptic stories, and you can grow quite tired of the ways that people keep trying to kill us all off, so I appreciate that you went about making the focus less armageddon and more on the emotional side of survival. Way to think outside the box on that one.

That very first sentence had some potent imagery. Even the second sentence carried a lot of metaphorical weight. I would say it went a bit down hill from there. You have all these sensory organs, and for some reason, you never really get past the optic one. These people have been wasting away in an underground lair. I want to know all the gory details. If you want me to feel the kind of sympathy an apocalyptic dystopia should elicit, you better paint the scene an apocalyptic dystopia does. Don't be afraid to take that paint brush off the page too: let me hear, smell, touch, and taste every last acrid, nauseous thing. That's how you impact me.

I think you focused too much on the emotion of it. I rarely say that, but by the end of that first section, I thought, "We get it: mankind has killed themselves off and you're lonely." The more times you accentuate a thing, the less weight that power holds. Think of it as a bank account. The more times you withdraw, the less precious the contents of the account, right? Same goes for describing a feeling or a setting. Too much of a good thing can go horribly wrong (not that yours has; I'm just warning you).

It's a decent start, but it does need some polish. Don't worry. Help will always be given at WF for those who ask for it.

jakegenebarnes
September 6th, 2014, 06:30 PM
Highly readable. However, I felt that you had so little space to try and convey so much that it was hard to become invested in what was happening.

K. Altan
September 7th, 2014, 04:00 PM
Thank you so much for all of your comments. It was definitely rough and a bit too wordy at times. I've edited it and hopefully it's a little better. I think I need to read I am Legend now. I had no idea it was pretty much the same concept, haha. You all give such helpful advice and I couldn't be more thankful.

sloonzz
September 12th, 2014, 01:05 PM
I really liked the way you set up the atmosphere and the complex emotions of the protagonist. The utter desolation and hopelessness really weighed me down as I was reading. Although, it would really help adding some more vivid details, but that's been said by another poster so I have nothing to add here. It's very good.

K. Altan
September 14th, 2014, 06:26 PM
Thank you. :) I'm not very good at adding details, so I'm definitely going to have to practice that. I hope I didn't weigh you down too much.