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View Full Version : Short Story Excerpt: 2,000 Words. Emeryville, CA. *WARNING: Profanity, Violence*



JamesR
April 8th, 2015, 03:20 AM
I am working on the 4th installment to my living dead series, and this one in particular means a lot to me because whereas my previous stories have all taken place in faraway locations, this one takes place right here at home in the Bay Area of California. As such, my descriptions are much more accurate, detailed, and intimate--something I'll probably have to edit out for legal reasons if these ever get published, especially the many real locations I allude to. I am writing this story in a more lighthearted, comedic tone than the previous ones. It primarily serves as a satire of the Bay Area--politics, culture, attitudes, etc. Those outside of the state may not understand, but I hope that those who do will not be offended but will appreciate it for what it is: comedic drivel made for no point but humor.

That said, here is the first excerpt from this story. It takes place in Emeryville.

DISCLAIMER: I have tried to format this excerpt to be as easy on the eyes as possible, given I still haven't quite mastered the art of transferring Word documents to this site.
_____________________
1st September 2015
Emeryville, CA
6:03AM

“Ah Shit!” National Guardsman Solomon Harris grumbled from behind the trashcan. An empty .308 shell casing pinged the sidewalk as he cocked his powerful bolt-action rifle and fired again.
“Fuck!” He missed again by a hair. The disgruntled young soldier nervously fumbled for a third shot as his two targets mindlessly staggered closer from across the grassy field.
“Right in the head,” he whispered to himself as he carefully zeroed in with his scope this time. “Right between the eyes.”

“Pow! Crack!” Two gunshots rang out in quick succession before Solomon could pull the trigger. The two shambling targets fell to the floor dead like sacks of potatoes. Confused, he cautiously inspected his rifle for defects. It must have fired prematurely.
“Fool, learn to aim!” Corporal Andrea Smith casually blew away the smoke from the muzzle of her AR-15. “The parks in this part of the city are too dangerous for fuck-ups.”

“Ain’t no more dangerous than they were before the outbreak,” a disgruntled Solomon replied to his fiancé.
“Just saying,” the charming ebony-skinned woman laughed. “This ain’t no game. This is official business. Gotta stay focused.”
“Easy for you to say,” the man lowered his weapon. “You got that bomb-ass assault rifle and I’m stuck with this shitty hunting rifle.”

“You and your adjectives,” she laughed. “If I use my rifle to hunt risers, does that make it a hunting rifle?”

Solomon ignored her. He was tired and not in the best mood. Leaning on the trashcan, he took a drink of water from his canteen and then splashed some on his face. Solomon then watched as the early morning fog dissipated under the sun’s illuminating rays like curtains. The fresh, virginal beauty of the grass was revealed as its thin layer of dew evaporated as dawn transitioned into day. But like the exquisite autumn crocuses that sprouted forth from the greenery, the eerie tranquility of the park was deceptive. More would be back. They always came back, often in numbers larger than the previous day.

“We got two more down at the park,” Andrea reported into her walkie-talkie. “Requesting assistance for disposal.”
“…Roger,” a man’s voice replied over the static.

“We can’t be doing these morning patrols for much longer,” Solomon complained to the woman. “We’re running low on manpower and supplies. Eventually we’re gonna need to just fortify the gates.”

“Tell that to the politicians back at camp,” she scoffed. “Some want to completely remove the gates altogether.”

Two large and rusty pickup trucks accompanied by a Humvee pulled up near the couple. A combined force composed of National Guardsmen and armed volunteers dismounted from their vehicles and approached the rotting corpses on the grass. They poured gasoline on them and then set them on fire like charcoal.

“HQ wants us all to report back immediately for an emergency meeting,” the driver of the Humvee said to Solomon and Andrea.
“Seriously?” Solomon sighed.
“Afraid so.”

The couple went around the back and attempted to board the Humvee, but discovered that it was already full.

“Look’s like we’re gonna have to ride with them,” Andrea whispered to Solomon as she nodded toward the armed civilians. The couple watched in disgust as the group joyously circled around the smoldering corpses like medieval savages before a witch burning.

“Look’s like we done got ourselves two Negros onboard!” One man said to Solomon and Andrea as they reluctantly climbed behind one of the pickup trucks. They ignored him and took their seats as close to the edge as possible. The convoy then took off, and Solomon surveyed the ragtag band of yokels who shared the back of the truck with him. They drank coffee and beer amidst themselves while fiddling with their firearms or boasting about who scored the highest count of the day. Neither of them appeared very educated. Neither of them came from money or affluent backgrounds. Solomon turned his gaze to the flag mounted on the top of the truck. It read: “Civilians’ Volunteer Army.”

“These niggas is crazy,” Andrea nervously whispered to Solomon.
“Maybe so,” he replied. “But they’re still a lot less crazy than those niggas back at HQ. At least these niggas can hunt risers.”

A fatigued Solomon then leaned his head back and surveyed the surrounding scene. Once a bastion of trendy hipster ideals and countercultural progressivism, the tiny city was a shadow of her former glory. Opulent libraries that once served as beacons of knowledge for the community fell into disrepair as not even all the wisdom of mankind could save the city from its tragic fate. Weeds and overgrown foliage replaced the promising college students and dissatisfied twenty-somethings that once called these libraries home. Cosmopolitan shopping centers composed of the most prestigious boutiques and coffee shops stood empty as a monument to the high-end fashionistas and Apple-toting armchair intellectuals who used to frequent them. The truck turned left, and Solomon spotted a rather peculiar sight.

“Infected Free-Zone!” The signpost read. Solomon chuckled. As if a mere sign possessed the power to deter tragedy. There was another signpost only a few meters away. This one read:
“Gun Free-Zone!”

“BOOM!” One of the civilian volunteers ironically fired his Remington 870 shotgun at the sign. The powerful 12-gauge blast blew the sign clean off its post like a bolt of lightning.

“I told you these niggas is crazy,” Andrea whispered to Solomon. He ignored her. But the man with the shotgun overheard.

“I may be crazy,” he remarked. “But at least I’m still alive.”

The truck traversed its way through the narrow streets and crisscrossing intersections as the sun shined down upon the post-apocalyptic scene. Once packed full of motorists in their zany new eco-friendly smart-cars, these streets now remained as empty as the luxury apartment complexes that overlooked them. Solomon longed for the bustling sound of citizens on their way to work in the morning. He missed the sound of blaring horns and profanity. He missed his old life.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” the famous line from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno was tagged across the side of an old card club on San Pablo Avenue. A smile flickered across Solomon’s face. Overturned dumpsters crawling with rats were littered across the sidewalks as garbage trucks failed to empty them. Roads were flooded like canals as the city’s sewage system went down the drain. The convoy made a sharp turn down Park Avenue, and within minutes it arrived at its destination. Once renowned for its cutting edge CGI technology and blockbuster children’s films, the abandoned animation studio was converted by the National Guard into a rescue station for survivors. The vehicles pulled up to the front gate where they were greeted by four police officers that stood guard. Three of them sat on lawn chairs and smoked cigarettes amongst themselves while the fourth monotonously scanned the streets with binoculars. They did this in shifts while a fifth officer resided inside of a small security checkpoint situated behind three brick pillars that supported the studio’s iconic front sign.

“What’s the count?” The one with the binoculars asked Solomon.
“Well Andrea here dropped two,” he replied. “But I’m unsure about the rest. I think about a dozen.”

“BAM!” Their conversation was cut short as one man behind the truck fired a massive .44 Smith & Wesson revolver. It was then that Solomon finally saw them up close. With their disembodied eyes and gangrenous flesh that rotted off the bone, six more of the mysterious trancelike assailants advanced down the road in their menacingly slow lurch. Their harrowing moan sent chills down the Guardsman’s spine. The exhausted band of policemen frantically scrambled for their M16-A3 rifles and took aim. They opened fire and dropped the undead shamblers like flies. As the gunfire receded, two officials in HAZMAT suits cautiously approached the corpses and burnt them with gasoline.

“The meeting is in the atrium,” the policeman continued speaking to Solomon as he motioned for the officer in the security checkpoint to open the gate. “Go on ahead, we’ll patrol out here.”

The convoy entered the rescue station and parked a few meters away from the gate. Solomon dismounted from the truck and then helped Andrea do the same. The majority of the vehicles’ occupants stood behind to aid the police officers as they guarded the entrance. But two of them joined Solomon and Andrea as they headed for the meeting.
“I got a bad feeling about this…” Solomon complained out loud. “Nothing good ever comes from these stupid meetings.”
“Honey?” Andrea asked.
“Yes?”
“Shut the hell up.”

Solomon complied. And together the group made their way through the long, tree-lined path that led to the atrium. The birds chirped. The bees buzzed. Leaves covered the broad sidewalk like a blanket as the summer transitioned to fall. Solomon passed by the oversized study lamp and starry kickball positioned parallel to the path. In the past these two iconic landmarks used to arouse the imaginations of countless star struck tourists from around the world. But today they stood neglected as sad epitaphs to what the world used to be. Dirty displaced civilians and other survivors lucky enough to be alive replaced the ambitious young college graduates who once followed this inviting path to work where story was king. Filled with tents, sleeping bags, and makeshift barracks as far as the eye could see, the entire courtyard and all of her ornate gardens were transformed into a vast refugee camp. Like ungrateful children, they looked upon the overworked Guardsman with disgust.

“The undead are people too!” and “Tear down the gate!” They angrily protested with picket signs. Solomon ignored the uproar. He was used to it by now. But today his patience was exceptionally low, and the combined stress of the anticipated meeting had his temper running hot.

“How many infected did you kill today? Baby killer!” One bearded young man foolishly jumped in front of Solomon. He wore oversized glasses and a pointed beanie. Cup of coffee in one hand and iPhone in the other, he continued to taunt the Guardsman while blocking his path.

“Get out of my way,” Solomon calmly ordered the protestor.
“Military industrial complex scum!” He spat on the Guardsman. Incensed, Solomon bit his tongue and casually walked around the protestor to avoid a violent confrontation.

“Thud!” a rock hit Solomon from behind. He paused.

“Gun-toting barbarian! Infect-o-phobe!” The same protestor chanted before tossing yet another rock at the Guardsman. Solomon turned around and furiously looked into the protestor’s eyes. His oversized glasses and yellow stained teeth from years of coffee consumption made him sick. He got within inches of the Guardsman and spat on him again. Solomon remained frozen and overcome by rage.

“POW!” An infuriated Solomon slugged the protesting son of a bitch right in the face. The massive blow sent him sprawling to the floor like the Twin Towers. Blood dripped down his shattered jaw like a volcano. Coffee spilled all over his cheap Che Guevara T-shirt and burnt his flesh like lava. In a final act of defiance, Solomon stomped the man’s iPhone beneath his boot and shattered it like cheap plastic.

“He broke that man’s iPhone!” Other protestors angrily gathered around the spectacle. “Oppression!”

As the crowds grew larger and began to riot, Solomon had no choice but to draw his Beretta 92FS. Andrea and the two yokels from the Civilians’ Volunteer Army reluctantly drew their firearms as well. The crowds surrounded the group like piranhas. Fearing death, Solomon’s grip on the handgun grew tighter. And then…

“Rat-tattat-tat-tat!” Automatic gunfire rang out overhead as a band of Guardsmen and police officers dispersed the crowds and swiftly escorted Solomon and his group to the meeting.

“That’s enough!” They ordered. “Come on, the atrium is this way!”

“Fine by me,” the yokel with the Remington 870 lowered his shotgun. “This city is full of nothing but hipster douches and faggots.”

wainscottbl
April 8th, 2015, 05:28 AM
“Tell that to the politicians back at camp,” she scoffed. “Some want to completely remove the gates altogether.”

Two large and rusty pickup trucks accompanied by a Humvee pulled up near the couple. A combined force composed of National Guardsmen and armed volunteers dismounted from their vehicles and approached the rotting corpses on the grass. They poured gasoline on them and then set them on fire like charcoal.

“HQ wants us all to report back immediately for an emergency meeting,” the driver of the Humvee said to Solomon and Andrea.
“Seriously?” Solomon sighed.
“Afraid so.”

I find it a bit confusing here who is talking when. Since I think there are three people here, I think you've got be more clear until a two to two dialogue is clearly established in a multiple person conversation.


The couple went around the back

Say two instead of couple. Couple makes it sound like they are on a date!


The couple

Same thing.


trendy hipster

Hmmm...hipsters and trendies are two opposites I think because hipsters make their outfits out of second hand clothes or self-made, I think, while trendies wear high fashion. I am not sure if trendy can be used for hipsters or not, at least strictly speaking. Trendies are like Taylor Swift, and hipsters are like, well...you know...



The truck traversed its way through the narrow streets and crisscrossing intersections as the sun shined down upon the post-apocalyptic scene.[/QUOTE]

I would say something else. I think it is clear it is post-apocalyptic.

[QUOTE]one man behind the truck fired a massive .44 Smith & Wesson revolver.

I know you once mentioned about one of my stories the narrator being "God" but I think this is too far removed. I think it is better to just say a gun, since the gun was not seen. Maybe the genus of gun, such as rifle or handgun.


“Honey?” Andrea asked.

I think it is better to say she "said" even though it is a question, because it is more rhetoric in that she really is going to tell him something, and is not asking strictly speaking. Sort of like how you can use a a preposition at the end of a question because it is assumed it is leading to something. Same logic IMO.


Solomon complied.\

Maybe "obeyed"


The birds chirped. The bees buzzed. Leaves covered the broad sidewalk like a blanket as the summer transitioned to fall.

I think you need to rework this. Drop the part about the bees buzzing I think. It's like you are just listing instead of describing.


“How many infected did you kill today? Baby killer!” One bearded young man foolishly jumped in front of Solomon.

I think you should drop what I put in red. I know this is meant to be satirical, but this is too direct in its criticism.


An infuriated Solomon slugged the protesting son of a bitch right in the face

I will end with this. I like the piece. It is meant to be more satirical I assume. I like how it gets to the heart of political mindsets, such as the protestors who refuse to see common sense, thinking in a sort of cult mentality or mob mentality. It's very much a part of human nature, and we see it in literature, such as the people in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar". They praised Caesar at first, then when he was killed said he was a tyrant worthy of death, and then when Brutus played them with clever words, drove the murderers of Cesar out of Rome. It may seem flat or whatever to some, but if we observe protesting in the news, especially when it gets heated, we see that both sides, right and wrong (that is up to us to decide) often refuse to see reason and stay peaceful. So I like that part about the protestor at the end. Of course I have read the other parts of this series which I liked very much. They were very personal, but I find this very impersonal, which is why I think I made so many remarks. I think that is the main problem with this. It has good substance, but needs to be reworked to be more personal. I hope that makes sense.

JamesR
April 8th, 2015, 06:23 AM
Brandon,

Thank you for your critique. It actually makes A LOT of sense to me because I was knowingly writing this story in a somewhat different way from my previous ones. Thus, I can see where, how, and why certain things would come off a certain way and how I made the mistake--in particular, the impersonalness of this story opposed to the personal-ness of the previous ones. This I believe is a result of the different disposition I had going into this story. Whereas previous ones, especially my China sentimental one, where about character development and how people react, this one is more about a theme--in this case, the satirization of my home state. Truth be told, I didn't even think of names for my characters until the very end, and to this day I still haven't developed backgrounds for them in this particular story. In fact, I don't even have an outline yet--I'm just taking it as I go, using it more so as an opportunity to "date-dump" humor and satire. Most of this story wasn't even composed on my computer--I composed it on my iPhone notes during car trips and waiting rooms.

With that said, I know where and why I went wrong, and I think I know what to do to remedy it. I'll try to focus on a clearer outline and game plan for this story opposed to just satire and an abstract theme. I think that from there I'll be able to make this story a bit more personal--which also includes fixing the dialogue to be a bit more specific.

Regarding the hipster-trendy deal, that was intentional. In this particular city--which is somewhere I've worked for about 2 years--hipsterism is ironically the trend. It's a bit of a light poking at the culture.

But I can see what you mean about the bees buzzing. In retrospect, that does come off as a bit "listing" opposed to describing. At the risk of disagreeing with the popular opinion that Show always trumps Tell, I believe that this fault is the precise result of when Show goes too far. It's the negative result of Show, where, when lacking the descriptive glue of Tell that binds everything together, Show just comes off as abstract and mundane listing--not really relevant or ingrained so to speak. I think this is one thing the two of us can agree on.

You got a point about the firearms thing. To clarify, I am a big gun-nut and so yes, my stories are often overly specific and particular about firearms. Some of it I suppose can be dismissed via Suspension of Disbelief, whereas the rest of it is due to my own infatuation with guns. I'll try to keep that under check for future reference. In retrospect, I've done this A LOT with my previous stories as well as this one. In reality, FN-FALs are very rare, 7.62 rifles that have all but been abandoned by most of NATO and the West in favor of 5.56 guns of the AR platform. The notion that a prison in the United States would have been using them en masse is almost impossible--even in extraordinary circumstances like a zombie outbreak. They'd most likely be using AR-15s or outdated M16-A1 rifles at best. It's also equally preposterous that one of them would have a Colt Python--arguably the most sought after, iconic .357 revolver on the market--and that a simple redneck would possess the multi thousand dollar .50 caliber Smith & Wesson 500 revolver which would probably be confined only to wealthy African game hunters. That shooting range bit from my China story also bears witness to my infatuation with guns, since I mention so many--"Type 77, Type 95-1" etc.--of them in detail. Every time I've mentioned an M16-A3 is also extraordinarily unlikely. The A3 model is only reserved for special forces like the Navy SEALS and is very rare. The A4 or A2 model would be more common and realistic, although I choose the A3 because unlike the other two, it is the only one that fires in fully-automatic mode opposed to 3-shot burst.

Getting back on topic...

Thanks for the helpful tips. I'll be sure to keep them in mind, and hopefully with them I can gear this story back in the right direction as I write my next segment.

LMFlores
April 13th, 2015, 05:06 PM
You're a good writer man. The story is an easy read and I didn't feel the need to be constantly scrolling down to see how much more until it was over. I'm not much of a zombies man myself, considering they are so over done. Regardless good read.

The level of satire your aiming for is it comparable to a "Scary Movie" flick? Or you have a different image for your piece in mind? To better understand it, is there anything you can compare it to?

The setting is around present day California right? The line about the "two negros onboard" feels outta place. Takes me to like a 1960's Wiggins, Mississippi.

But maybe it's supposed to feel awkward?

The dialogue is good. I see your going with an urban style which will help add a comical dimension to the story in my point of view.

The protestor thing was great. I felt a satisfaction as my boy Solomon layed his ass flat out. And I liked how he tried to stay calm despite this man harassing them. Also, The description of his yellow teeth made my stomach react which is good. You didn't even need to go into a detailed description of the guy and I could visualize him. I personally visualized a Michael Moore looking character with a rough midsize beard. Possibly smelly too. I don't know if the twin towers line was appropriate but screw it, the governments gotten away with a lot worse.


Overall it's a good read. It feels right and flows along well. Very enjoyable.

JamesR
April 14th, 2015, 12:26 AM
You're a good writer man. The story is an easy read and I didn't feel the need to be constantly scrolling down to see how much more until it was over. I'm not much of a zombies man myself, considering they are so over done. Regardless good read.

The level of satire your aiming for is it comparable to a "Scary Movie" flick? Or you have a different image for your piece in mind? To better understand it, is there anything you can compare it to?

The setting is around present day California right? The line about the "two negros onboard" feels outta place. Takes me to like a 1960's Wiggins, Mississippi.

But maybe it's supposed to feel awkward?

The dialogue is good. I see your going with an urban style which will help add a comical dimension to the story in my point of view.

The protestor thing was great. I felt a satisfaction as my boy Solomon layed his ass flat out. And I liked how he tried to stay calm despite this man harassing them. Also, The description of his yellow teeth made my stomach react which is good. You didn't even need to go into a detailed description of the guy and I could visualize him. I personally visualized a Michael Moore looking character with a rough midsize beard. Possibly smelly too. I don't know if the twin towers line was appropriate but screw it, the governments gotten away with a lot worse.


Overall it's a good read. It feels right and flows along well. Very enjoyable.

Thank you friend. I highly appreciate your critique.

Regarding the satire, imagine Return of the Living Dead (1985) meets Southpark. In this case, I'm satirizing modern day California. And that brings me to the awkwardness of the racist rednecks in the truck. That awkwardness serves a dual purpose: first, to satirize how ironically it's the most barbaric, backward people who would survive in such a tragic world--the rednecks, the gun nuts, the barbarians, etc.--and to exploit a particular California regional stereotype. I haven't mentioned it yet, but that particular redneck is from the Central Valley which is a region known for being a bit more rural, uneducated, and politically incorrect.

LMFlores
April 14th, 2015, 02:02 PM
Ah okay I see.

And that's a valid point amigo and a good angle. Makes sense.

Keep at it and good job.