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HumanYoYo
November 19th, 2014, 06:32 AM
A friend and I started coming up with this idea. I started writing it. There you go.
It's a surreal dystopian sci-fi, only different... :sunny:
Feedback appreciated!

Question: I've updated this quite a bit, and so the word count is larger than what the thread title says. Also, I've come up with a (working) title: The Tenant. Should I start a new thread after extensive updates?


CHAPTER 1


Day Job

Decay falls from above, countless, lifeless, merges and separates down the gangways of Prenton, past the silent floors of the apartment building, to the man in the courtyard. These fragments seem to him tiny white fluttering moths.
Something alien hangs in the air—he’d breathe it in now and be kaput in seconds, if it wasn’t for the helmet and suit. The blue-grey material is stiff and heavy. Air is fed from the tank on his back through rubber tubes into his helmet. Beyond the hiss and occasional radio chatter, everything is silent.
Oh, his name, well, its Patrick Augman, though he feels no more correspondence to that title than to any other, and lately hasn’t even been turning his head when he hears it. Like a word repeated until it loses significance, he carries it with him as an afterthought of his personhood, so it can be filed into systems and catalogues of memory out of his control. Its all empty and absurd in a way he can’t quite explain. Sometimes, under his breath, he says it—Pa-trick, Pat-rick, Patrick—to take the meaning from the sound. Call him Trevor or Lance or even Rebecca and he probably wouldn’t mind.
Up and down the street, masses of dead trees lay strewn about—unseen veins and reservoirs flooded now through breaks and pits in the bark. As Patrick walks by a large fallen branch, he kicks it to the gutter, and it crumbles like charcoal. A reticulum of factories, prison pink and enclosed in barbed wire fencing, is across the empty street. On the Southern end of the block are office towers. He circles the courtyard, past graffiti palimpsests of gang signs, hearted initials, and caricatures all turned yellowish and dull through the air, looks up to the spaces between the buildings, and tries to piece together the trajectory. But this does not work. The sky is visible in patches: long rectangles of daylight seen from down here on street level, unbroken by the skyways that crowd downtown (right at this moment carrying shoppers from building to building, now frantic for the coming Christmas, businessmen and women on meeting-to-meeting runs, derelicts on unmoderated bridges, security herdsmen standing at entrances and exits slouching for a while then straightening their backs and cracking their spines, information booth folk on shifts between classes at polytechnic schools usually situated in rented space on either side of the skyways, the whole patchwork like switches and shunts on a circuit board, all integrated, all no more than a few bus stops away—)
It’s December, and cold, but he is completely insulated from the outside, and so sweats from his own body heat. Someone in the squad croons to him on the radio under his helmet, static-y,
“Patty, wanna hear a song?”
“Ha ha,” says someone else.
“Wrote it meself. Doesn’t have a name yet. Maybe you can help me with the lyrics.”
“Shut up, Daryl,” says Mitch, the squad leader.
Today, the search is for a grey metal disk that fell from the sky, about ten inches in diameter, with strange white lettering printed across like a serial number. At the briefing earlier in the day, Mitch had said something about it being deactivated, self-destructed—a cold dead shell like the neighbourhood it left behind.
Actually, now that he thinks of it, Patrick remembers living around here for a few weeks, back in his early days of couch surfing, in an apartment whose tenants, girlfriend and boyfriend, were studying film at Prenton Community College. He can’t even remember their names…
Around a corner onto another grey thoroughfare, head still cranked upward to the yellow sky, Patrick slips down the egg-bowl of a skatepark, feels his air tank bang hard against the smooth concrete.
For a couple of seconds he just lays there listening for a leak.
Ssssss: the flow of air being fed into his helmet… but nothing is broken. Just a steady hiss.
Growling, he turns on his side and gets up, struggling against the weight of his suit.
The rubber nodules on the bottom of his boots are worn gripless. Furthermore, the soft dead snow has collected down in the bowl, forming a fine frictionless layer of powder. He takes a few steps back, then lurches forward to propel himself up the curved incline, but fails to reach the ridge and slides back down.
Someone, perhaps Richard, starts buzzing on the line,
“It’s on 51st! By this pizza place! Uh, Pancamo Pizza!”
Patrick tries about eight more times, unsuccessfully. Eventually a figure shows up at the rim of the bowl and looks down at him, does a sort of jig, must be Lloyd.
“Pat? Having fun down there?”
“Just felt like doing some snow angels.”
“That’s morbid.”
“What else’ve I got?”
“…Well how about I just toss down this rope here.”
“That’d be nice.”
After a small hassle he climbs up out of the bowl and dusts himself off.
They walk together around the corner and onto 51st, where the rest of the squad has already gathered by the pizza place, waiting for a Captain Henrik from CADS.


Pancamo Pizza / The Station

In a Fomey Cheese voice he has mastered to a dime, Daryl asks Doug,
“Whe-en’s, uh, Mr. Big-Boss gonna show?”
Doug looks annoyed and decides to not acknowledge him. Daryl says,
“A-ha, golly,”
Patrick and Lloyd come and join the group. Patrick says,
“So where is it?”
Doug says,
“Look up there on that Greystone. See where it’s all cracked?”
Patrick looks up and sees the surface of the building across the street, cracks spreading out like manic little highways.
“Ah.”
Doug continues,
“Must’ve come down from the other side there, heading… east, fell, bounced off that Greystone, then down on the street where it… skidded like a pebble on water… into the pizza joint…”
“Imagine that.”
Pot-holes mark the road in a line—an asphalt memory of the disk’s bouncing path. The whole front window of Pancamo Pizza is gone. Glass shards lay about on the window-seat tables and floor. Tape has been placed around the front end of the building. Someone says,
“Maybe folks were sitting right there. You think they were? Right there, just eating some pizza…”
Then from out in the street comes this horrible metal-clanging/brick-clopping and before you can bite into a slice with Pancamo’s Special-House-Made-Pepperoni both you and your date (and your pizza) are… well… made into snow angels…
Imagine that.
New recruits smooth their hands down their sides to find pockets that are not there, then remember they have on these suits and their cigarettes are back at the station anyway…
Patrick hears some jostling coming from inside, to which he raises his head.
“I just want to see it, Lloyd, just once…”
Lloyd says,
“What’s to see?”
Patrick blows air in pulses past his teeth, turns to Lloyd with an eyebrow raised, says “Screw it,” lifts up the tape, and steps in over the window ledge. Lloyd says,
“OK than.”
Inside, in the dim yellow light streaming through the front, Patrick stands for a few moments surveying the damage. Behind the counter, the wall has been shredded—wall studs turned to splinters, pipes fractured and leaking, electrical wires strewn about like spaghetti. And the place must have been packed the moment of The Incident because the decay in here has formed a carpet a few inches thick. The menu board is in readable condition though, ricotta-stuffed calzones on special—
“Jesus Murphy… it tore a hole right clean through the back wall! How much does it weigh?”
Over the radio, Daryl says,
“Round’a’bout ninety kilos, what, didn’t pay attention at the briefing? Mitch, what am I always telling you? You gotta enliven those briefings, Patty gets bored,” pronouncing ‘bored’ like a five-year-old: ‘bowd.’
More shuffling sounds through the cavity—Patrick follows the tracks in the powder around into the back kitchen. Near the stainless-steel pizza oven, Richard, Mitch, and Hergerd are busy fussing with a large heavy-duty black metal case. Mitch looks up to Patrick and says,
“Oh, Patrick, come help us with this thing.”
“Is it in there?”
Hergerd says,
“Yes and we aren’t taking it out for show-and-tell. Thing weighs a ton, had a helluva time getting’ it in. Here, Richard, hold the flashlight.”
Mitch mumbles something about the Captain, and then steps out. Richard shines the light around the kitchen and says,
“Spooky…”

Outside, an armoured truck shows up and out steps Mr. Big-Boss: Captain Henrik, a greyed old man, eyes disproportionally less hostile-looking than the rest of him, suit unsoiled, helmet unchipped. He makes his way around the group, nods good-ay, and shakes hands with Mitch, who has just stepped out. Mitch says,
“Good afternoon, Captain.”
“Guessing the damned thing’s in there.”
“Oh. Sure is. Right this way.”
Mitch steps back inside hurriedly. The Captain hesitates a moment under the red-and-white striped awning to decide whether to enter in through the door or the vacancy in the wall where the window once was. Being a traditional man, he chooses the door.
Daryl says to Lloyd,
“D’you see Avion last night?”
Lloyd replies,
“No, I stopped watching it.”
“You deserve to die. Why?”
“It doesn’t… matter. Hey move your head, I’m trying to see.”
“Hey Doug, do you watch Avion?”
“No.”
“Oh.”
And so on, repeating the routine with other shows like Same Song & Dance, Bury Me, Wreck, Raise Hell, In Due Time, Ceraisa…
Eventually the Captain returns from the restaurant with the others. Patrick and Hergerd carry the case and load it into to the back of the armoured cattle-crusher. Captain Henrik turns and says to all the men,
“Good work today,” then jumps in the driver’s seat and screeches away—that’s that.
Mitch, who was left at the curb, catches the updraft of snow into his face. After coughing for a good solid minute he shouts to the now scattering men,
“Remember our chequing system has been in a whack! So if any of yours bounce just take it in to the office! To Amber!”
The men walk down the block a ways and hop in the back of the deployment truck, which soon begins to move—turns the corner and passes the factories. Patrick asks to no one in particular what the place manufactured. Someone shrugs.
The snow lessens in magnitude the farther away they get from the epicenter. Yellow haze slowly gives way to clear and icy air. When they are officially out of the sickly wastes and past the road blocks, Lloyd, sitting at the open back, takes off his gloves and smacks them together. Puffs of white powder recede away from them and dissipate over the street.

Back at the station, routine…
Take off suit and helmet and throw into the Contaminated Gear bin, walk into scrubber and go through UV light sanitizer into the vented, scratched-tile domed shower (smoking spires of downtown – growing taller every summer – just poking into view through the skylight clouded over by the winter), towel dry, get into marked-up jeans, faded t-shirt, and fleece sweater given to him last Christmas by Rachael, go down white corridor to Amber at the front desk, who is cheery as usual, typing into the computer and chewing gum, place elbows on counter in a way that reminders her of a high school boy, chit-chat, something like:
“Stop When Amber Lights Flashing.”
“Hi there, Pat. Guessing you want your cheque?”
“That’d be fine. And is that strawberry?”
“Mm-hm, sure is,” as she swivels on her seat and digs around in a cabinet.
“So, uh, did you know anyone who lived there?”
“Prenton? Sure. My old dog-sitter lived in the apartment building just off 51st.”
“That’s too bad.”
She fishes out the paper, says “here we go,” and hands it to Patrick with a sort of flourish of her hand.
“Thank you, Madame.”
He folds it into his pocket, zips up his sweater, and walks out the front door into the smoke grey, the shivering city.


Skytrain

Night approaches. Through the high windows of the Trent Park skytrain station the neon advertisements of downtown just now begin to shine. Workers install new route maps with red crosshatches over Prenton; a busker with a Stratocaster soloes softly over pre-recorded strings and snare rim shots, high hats, his case open in front of him sprinkled with change he threw down as incentive for commuters; a boney woman mutters loudly and angrily in mock-English to herself, or to people who stare away down the tracks for the train.
When it comes and after everyone files in, Patrick stands gripping a rubber handle from the overhead support and looks out to the city passing by below and above, through concrete corridors and windows behind which Christmas lights and holiday sales glow otherworldly. Eventually the brightness of the entertainment district drops off and they ascend the bridge. The lumber mill below, even this far into the evening, drops logs down metal ramps to collect by the embankment of the river.
After a few stops the train car gradually empties of riders. Patrick finds a vacated seat and takes out his pocket book in which he sometimes jots down his idea of dada poetry. Without much in his mind, he draws a disk-shaped object. After realizing that what he has drawn is basically a UFO, he adds cartoonish antennas and globular lights, then an alien landing pad and a dark desert landscape, even a couple of alien aircraft refueller guys with hoses hooked to the udders of an alien cow which stands with an expression of what you could call contempt.
As the train approach his current neighbourhood, Lembren, he stares through the window to see who he can see in his apartment building, by which the tracks pass. Its only a small moment, but he sees her, Rachael, through the French windows, in the kitchen, making tea.

Smith
November 22nd, 2014, 05:40 PM
I really enjoy what you do have, but I'd like to see more. You acknowledge that the chapters are short, but I still think that they could be lengthened a bit. Develop the characters some more. Some of the best parts were the realistic chatter between them. Or just small things like how the recruits instinctively try to put their hands in pockets that don't exist. Kind of humorous, that.

I haven't read a book yet that was dystopian in the same sense this one is. Don't be afraid to delve into it a bit more. You've got a lot to explore, which is really cool, such as the snow, factories, his girlfriend(?) Rachael and their relationship. One thing that would help a bit is the formatting. Paragraphs, separate the lines a bit. Just my opinion I guess, but it makes it a little easier to read.

One thing I found was "re-and-white awning" should be "red-and-white awning". Small typo. But yeah, what you've got here is good, but it can be even better. And then you can even add additional chapters. Believe me: I want more! ;)

EDIT: Another question. Maybe I missed something, but are they soldiers, or just a recovery team for these... objects?

HumanYoYo
November 22nd, 2014, 10:02 PM
Thanks for the feedback, Smith, always appreciated.
What I'm doing right now is just getting down the bare bones of the chapters. Once I get this going, then I'll go back over everything again and expand it. At least that's my plan. :)
I'm not entirely sure at this point how much of the dystopian elements will be in the story.

And they are a recovery team. I left it kind of ambiguous as to whether or not they are soldiers, especially at the beginning. But then it turns out to be more of a day job, with a secretary and chequeing problems and all.

Also, in regards to the formatting - it looks a lot better on the word document. When I copy it over onto the thread, it never looks right...

Anyway, thanks again for reading!

thepancreas11
November 24th, 2014, 01:46 AM
Smith has the right of it, here, I think. A satirical spin on everyone's new favorite era, the dystopian future, this could push you past the sea of other entrants in the category to put forth something worthwhile and memorable. I thought the characters had real life to them, as little as I got to see, with built in accents and very clearly defined personalities. You dialogue works a long way for you there.

I thought you had a good thing going with the snow metaphor. It really carried the chapter. In fact, it really had the only life in the chapter setting-wise for me. The eager reader will wonder what the rest of the world looks like in the not-to-distant apocalypse. Populating that world with mundane things gave it an almost melancholy feel, but populating it with colors, smells, and textures would bring that relation between reader and reading to a whole 'nother level of connection. The more images you induce, the more likely a person will stick around to read on, I find.

Also, a pet peeve, try to keep a couple of dialogue tags in there. They don't have to be elaborate, but when you just start going back and forth sans delineation, it can get confusing. Not a must, but definitely a strength. You might do well to name the man to start with, too. I think character ambiguity just fogs things up.

You have a lot of right going on for as little as you have written. You could use a touch more of color and structure, that's all.

Optiluiz
December 3rd, 2014, 07:13 AM
Loved it!

Great atmosphere, great phrasing and interesting characters. The descriptions can be a bit overbearing at times, but I think it fits the story quite well. I'd like to read more of this eventually. :}

Mr.Vernon
December 14th, 2014, 09:42 PM
Dear HumanYoYo,

I have to say that I absolutely love the way you portrait the atmosphere of the places. You indeed have a talent to picture the place that I can almost see it in front of my eyes.

What I disliked however is the dialogue from the Pancamo Pizza.The dialogue is more focused on the background story of the characters and feels like you are jumping from one thing to another. I believe that giving the characters more space to express themselves and really writing yourself into it would make the story flow with more ease, since after writing such awesomely descriptive beginning the rest is a bit brief.

But please, don`t take this a bad way, your piece is indeed interesting and I would love to read more!

Mr. Vernon