Unintended Excerpt

Unintended Excerpt

Creativity is intelligence having fun. ~ Albert Einstein

So I didn’t mean to grab this screenshot (I have a bad habit of accidentally grabbing images of my home screen), but since I did, I thought I’d share. I’m terrible at sharing things before they’re ready, so this is an exercise for me to learn to let go of that control.

Enjoy!

The Origin

Tonight, I fully intended to settle down and write some more meat to this story that is hammering to get out.  Instead, after a long day, I lazed about the living room and watched science shows on television.

I had, after all, just pumped out 50,000 words over the weekend.  I could give myself a break!

Except not.  Not intending to write, I paced around the living room seeing so clearly in my head a carrion crow facing against a ruined Humanity.  It is no secret that this story is set in a dystopian world, where people tell themselves they are upholding ideological beliefs.  So while walking the strange pathways of my foyer, an origin proverb emerged.

It is rough.  And it might or might not make it into the actual book, but I enjoyed the act of writing it.  Of exploring what I viewed in my mind’s eye of how a group of people could subjugate themselves to what amounts to emotional enslavement.

A little light is shed tonight.  A light I share.

The Origin

Someday, Humanity will be forced to look back,
At the origin of all things.
“Where is everyone?” they cry.
Only the carrion crow answers. “Consumed!”
Humanity stares in shock at glossy feathers,
Beady eyes.
“Say it isn’t so! The world was full! The world was young!”
Humanity’s cries pierce up to the sky.
“Even the young suffer the pestilence to live,” the carrion crow barks.
Caw-caw-caw-caw!
“We were not sick!” Humanity cries.
“Did you not disdain compassion for the poor?”
The carrion crow pecks at the nails of Humanity’s unhelpful hands.
“Did you not disdain the value of life?”
Humanity wails in agony.
The carrion crow plucks out the plump, juicy orbs of Humanity’s eyes.
“Did you not fail to steward the environment?”
Gone, gone; Humanity’s lungs are pecked free!
The bird’s iridescent feathers thicken with gore.
“Did you not fail to love each other in spite of your differences?”
“Wait!” Humanity cries.
Always on the brink of death, hands grasp for absolution.
“Yes?” The carrion crow’s beak gleams
As nuclear sun lights its wicked sharpness.
The bird poises over the heart.
“We were doing what they told us to do! We didn’t mean it!”
The remains of Humanity thrash.
Desperate.
“It wasn’t our fault! It was their fault! They told us not to help the poor!
They told us to hate those different from us! They said that they had all of the answers!
They promised us safety and a life free of hardship!”
The carrion crow pauses and Humanity weeps in relief.
“Did you not disdain knowledge?”
The skull cracks like a cracker and the carrion crow feasts on the brain.
Humanity weeps.
Blinded and helpless, Humanity is without even the hands to lift itself.
The plumpest bit is last. Humanity doesn’t fight the carrion crow
When the bird’s beak plunges into the cavity that protects emotion.
“Please…” Humanity begs.
“To live without compassion, to live without valuing all life,
To live in your own polluted filth, to fail to love,
To blatantly disdain knowledge.”
The carrion crow consumes the fattest of Humanity’s organs.
It is filled with tainted sorrow.
And yet. The bird cocks its head at the corpse of Humanity.
“Do you wish for a second chance?”
Humanity has no eyes to see, no brain to process, no fingers to feel, and no heart to love.
But the power of the tongue still rests within a dying soul.
“Yes.”
The carrion crow, big and fat now, glossy and layered in visceral remains, flaps its wings.
It leaves behind Humanity.
There’s nothing but bones and putrefying flesh.
It soars over the ruined planet.
Until it finds a spot to regurgitate the Eyes of Humanity.
“Here, you will flourish as the eyes to value life.
Let none wander through who seek to make lesser another creature before themselves.”
The carrion crow flies off, leaving behind the origin seed of life.
From high above, it finds the next spot, sheltered from the Eyes.
The carrion crow spews up the Lungs of Humanity in an enormous crater in the middle of the world.
“Let none wander who seek to taint the air and water,
Ruin the plants and animals that might yet return. Death be upon them,
He that wants to subjugate the land.”
Flying away, the carrion crow finds the gnarled branches of a copse of dead trees.
There it regurgitates the Fingers of Humanity.
“Let none wander who seek to refuse aid to those lesser than themselves.”
Nestled in the bedrock of a cracked ravine,
It digs a hole and coughs up the Brains of Humanity.
“Knowledge is power. Let he who wields it be apart from the masses.
Let none wander who seek to follow in the footsteps of the Fool.”
At the highest point, the carrion crow pauses.
The earth is blackened and scorched by Humanity’s hubris.
It nestles the Heart of Humanity into the mountain.
To this, the bird says.
“Let none wander who gives in too freely to emotion. Those who kill in the name of love and hate
Shall be forever damned.”
The bird returns to Humanity.
Nudges the body to see if life still sparks.
Humanity moans.
“I have spread your legacy throughout the land.”
“Thank you,” Humanity rasps.
Death is close. The carrion crow is surprised it has not come yet.
“Why?” Humanity questions. It is the last question Humanity asks.
“Because good exists in your heart. Your eyes are blind.
Your brain is easily swayed by the will of others.
Your hands are numb, and your lungs breathe the harvest you’ve sown.”
Sharp talons of the crow’s feet pace across the ruined corpse.
“But your heart has a vast capacity for good. If you had listened, had loved, had thought,
And had protected what was yours to treasure, you would still be here.”
Humanity dies.
The bones of civilization will long be covered in dust.
But the crow’s work will live on in those who remain.
Much time passes, and another carrion crow lands next to the first.
“What did humanity taste like?” it asks.
The carrion crow thinks for a moment. “Like all things, like flesh.”
“I wanted to taste Humanity.” The second bird is regretful.
“You will have a chance again.”
“Will I?” Now, the second bird is curious, beady eyes resting on the larger crow.
“Humanity always repeats their mistake. I did not take the lying tongue.”
Atop their Kingdom of Rust, Humanity’s descendants build and build.
Until the land is warped and savaged.
Soon, they will cry again.
“What happened to us?”
And the carrion crow will answer.
“You, you happened to you.”
And that will be the end.
— An old City proverb

100% of 50k: Excerpt #4

Camp Nano Progress

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Week 3

I have reached my Camp Nanowrimo goal of writing 50,000 words.  This is not the end of my story, however, but it is a valued, achievable goal.  I won at the game of writing, and I will continue winning.  This is the last excerpt for a while as the end of the story is heating up and I’m not sure I want to reveal too much, too soon, before baking into the story the ideas I really want to come across.

All excerpts are lifted straight from the uncut, unpolished, unedited Nano project.

This Week’s Excerpt: Ember’s POV

Interrogate is a nice word, but I do not flinch even when her blood spills across that pristine white table.  I don’t flinch when her screams die down to a muffled sound, and I certainly don’t flinch when they haul her limp body away, knowing only that she’s still alive because of the faint and shallow way she breathes.  I am left to stare in that blood splattered room for a long time before an officer comes to get me.

The door clicks open, and it is the same handsome face that greets me.  I am stone, though, and his charm no longer touches the icy interior that shields my body from what I’m feeling.

“Ms. Mako, it’s time to go.”

I stand, my bones creaking from the length of time I sat there and watched what they did to my friend.  Dutifully, I smooth my skirt out and lift my chin, and turn towards the Security Officer.  My shoulders are straight, my back is straight: my proverbial armor is in place.

“Yes, sir.”  My voice may be soft and quiet, but it is not meek, and maybe the Officer notices this and that is why he does a minute double take.

“This way, Ms. Mako.”

Without further drama, he leads me away from the room where I essentially sat and watched my friend get tortured for the information she had.  I sat and watched as she told them where to find Parkyr and where the two thieves fled to.  I sat and watched, knowing the entire time that they had cleared the pane of glass between us so that she could see as I watched.

For the first time since I was granted the honor of being elevated to the Government Science Caste, I have begun to have doubts about the project I’m working on and what the government is really doing.  I feel the coldness spread through my limbs, because I sense the worst is yet to come.

All Fired Up @ 75%: Excerpt #3

Camp Nano Progress

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Week 2.5

All excerpts are lifted straight from the uncut, unpolished, unedited Nano project.

This Week’s Excerpt: Cam’s POV

“Cam?  You okay?”  It’s my sister’s voice and the pound of her hand against the old wooden door that rattles it in it’s old frame.

“Yeah, sis, I’m fine.  Just taking a while,” I call out, and push away from the sink to vigorously rub the life back into my face before yanking the door open and forcing  a crooked smile on my lips.  “I’m a dead man walking, remember?”

“Stop it.  Father wants to see us.”  Something in her tone draws me up, and I frown.

“Doesn’t he always?”

“They’ve unlocked the tablet,” Kizete’s voice holds a dark warning.

“Shit,” I lean out and peek down the short hallway into the main room where I can see the shape of my father bent over Khoury’s seated frame.  Yanking my sister weakly into the washroom, I shut the door and whisper.  “You know he’s going to try something crazy, Kiz.  He’s got the fever and he looks at me like I have the answer he wants, and I don’t.  I don’t remember anything except dreams of a girl and some weird hazy memories of an empty City.  I don’t know anything.”  My eyes are intent on Kizete and I know she knows what I’m saying.  We’ve both seen our father at his worst.

“Whatever is on that tablet,” I continue, “is going to fall on us and on you.  You’re the one who…”  The one who’s band still works.  The one who has to count their emotion.  Reaching for her wrist, I check the numbers I know so well.  Enough of a padding to live at least mostly through her twenties.  If our father doesn’t kill her.

“But,” Kizete is her father’s daughter, and that fever that burns in his eyes often burns in hers, and the defiance is strong in her heart, “Khoury’s friend might have also gotten us a way free.”  She pulls back and curls her hand tightly on the doorknob.  “And I will do anything to be free of this forsaken place.”

“It’s a mistake, Kiz.  Mark my words.  This is going nowhere but down a terrible road.”  I’m tired, and frustrated.

“At least I’m doing something,” she bites those words at me, and slips out of the washroom, angry.  I don’t blame her.  If I weren’t tired and conflicted about what I’ve seen and now feeling this strange separation, I probably would be on fire for change too.  Something has settled in the pit of my stomach that makes me think that whatever we do do now, wherever we go now, it’s not going to end up well for us.  For Kizete.

I’ve lost my mother, I’m not close to my father, but I think my whole world would crumble if I lost my sister.

So I do the only thing I can do, and that’s leave the washroom and join the others.  I will do everything in my power to see that my father doesn’t cause the end of my sister chasing his vengeance.

Halfway Point: Excerpt #2

Camp Nano Progress

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Week Two

This Week’s Excerpt: Ember’s POV

“Ember,” Catie turns to me with a tablet in hand, the clear glass lit up with the image results of the scan, “We have a problem.”

“Hmmm?” I’m marginally interested because my own reports are coming through, and some of those experiments are critical to understanding what’s happening in our City.

“The Wall’s defenses were activated.”

“What?”  Now I’m paying attention, moving around my little work station with its shiny chrome gleam and creamy white gloss of the semi-plastic material that forms the base of it.  The small little screen that hooks into the overall Government network blinks at me, waiting for my input to give up the results of the tests.  The Wall, however, is what holds my attention as Catie brings up the measurements.  The spikes in electromagnetic current.  The brief flash of danger in bold, red splashes across charts of endless numbers.

“How?  Why?”  Touching the cool glass with my finger, I zoom in on some of the readouts, trying to process the information.  “We didn’t …”

“I know.  We didn’t.  There was no external force trying to assault the Wall, Em.  Something came at it from the inside.”

Shocked, I feel a brief warmth of emotion when I gasp, “The inside?  Is there anything even down there?”  My hands pull my own portable tablet from my lab coat pocket and I turn it on and bring up a map of the City.  It immediately shows me where I am, in the Government Science Research Facility smack in the middle of the Hill, the district that’s reserved for the Highest Castes to live and work.  From there, the Upper City rings the Hill, and the Middle City rings the Upper City, and last, the Lower City — the largest and oldest part of our City — rings the Middle City.  It’s still about twenty or thirty miles from the walls that surround the Lower City to the Wall itself.  Each City is connected by their Gates, like spokes of a wheel.  And all around our City is the structure that protects us from the Outside, the screens that attach to the walls and form the barrier against whatever is left from the Cataclysm.  Noxious gasses and a sun that can melt flesh, is what we’re told.

“Who would be out there?  The pastures are on the other side, near the cliffs.  The livestock are all corralled in the lower quarter of the Lower City.” I zoom in on the map, confused by what it’s showing me, which is a bright red blip that flickers in increasing urgency.  “Do we have cameras?”

Catie shakes her head, the faintly reddish brown curls tumbling around her face.  She’s pretty — or she would have been pretty if not for the unfortunate accident when she was a child that left her cheek bisected with a scar.  Still the soft green eyes and lips that tend to want to smile gives my co-worker a certain charm, even if that charm is currently worried about the possible repercussions of whatever is going on down at the Wall.  “The Wall does, but it’s not responding to my instruction.”  Lips pursed, she casts a worried look my way.

“What do you mean?  The Wall always responds to our instruction.”  A note of alarm enters my voice at the thought that we do not control the Wall, which had been, thus far, just an anomaly here and there.  Nothing we were too concerned about, because the Wall is — well, it is.  It’s the largest part of our City’s defenses against the outside.  It encircles us and falls off into the sea.  A sea we can’t see except from the highest point of the Hill, and only then, from an extreme distance that glitters when the panels can be safely made transparent to see beyond our sheltered world.  Recently, however, the Government has noticed that some things are behaving strangely.  Wall defenses going off when there’s nothing there.  People’s bands losing all of their emotional currency for no reason other than some strange malfunction.  In the grocery store just yesterday, when I was using my credits — my job provides for my basic food and shelter, everything else, I pay with the points on my band — to purchase some fruit for my mother, the lady in front of me started thrashing and screaming.  Her arm was turning black when the Enforcers came in and took her away, but it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.  She was just standing there and in an instant her life was over.

Steady Progression: Excerpt #1

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Week One

camp-nano-logo

I’m about 25% of the way through my word count goal of 50,000 words for Camp Nanowrimo this April.  I’m averaging about 2,000 words per day.  Some days more, some days less.  The point being that I’m using this to get into a habit of writing at least every day or every other day.  The story is taking a different turn than I expected.  I kind of half-ass see it as a twisted Hansel and Gretel, because I’ve swapped from the girl being the main character to a character I’d originally only introduced at the end of the first incarnation of this story.

The world is less complex in descriptive expectation, though I’ve built the world very complex behind the scenes. I’m pretty excited, I think, to get through this story.  I guess the biggest thing that I stumble on is the fact that I’m in need of a title!  Nothing fits, but I can’t think of this project as Untitled forever!

So I plod away and hope that somewhere along the story’s road that a title springs to mind.

This Week’s Excerpt: Cam’s POV

Two men scramble over each other in the dirt, dust pluming up like some kind of putrid disease cloud.  The binoculars distort their limbs with every gesticulating gesture they share between them.  Their clothing is ratty and dirty, torn and patched so many times over that it’s easy to wonder how that shit stays on.  They are at the base of what amounts to a large pile of trash, probably setting traps for when it’s Feast Day.  Traps that will tear off the legs and limbs of the unsuspecting, but these men seem to be arguing over something stupid.  My fingers roll over the knob that adjusts the lenses and brings my vision in closer, close enough to try and catch a glimpse at one of their wrists.  My guess is that they’re getting to the age where a heated debate is going to matter.  This zoomed in, and I can see the calculation on the younger man’s face as he pushes the older man into more of a rabid frenzy.  The older man pushes the younger one, but neither of them notice the kid scrambling across the old bones of last month’s trash left to rot beneath the heat of a false sun.  The kid doesn’t matter.  Nor does her long face and starving eyes.  She’ll pick something clean, and I don’t give a damn about some heaped trash.  However, her eyes give away the drama happening out there on the mound.

Flipping the binoculars up to rest on the crown of my head throws me into the real world, where the massive food trough and the mound of trash that spills out of it becomes nothing more than a small hill more than a handful of miles away.  I’m safely tucked away in the one part of the Forsaken City that’s high enough to get a good view over the crumbling ruins of what was probably a great ideal.  A meager meal passes for what most would call lunch and I’m just about to pick up the weirdly fried dumpling when I see one man doing some kind of crazy dance.  He’s nothing more than a tiny dot until I flip the massive binoculars down over my eyes once more.  Immediately, the man comes into view and he’s flailing about clawing at his arm.  Already his hand is turning black, like it’s rotting right off his body.  The kid barely notices other than to give both men a feral assessment before she goes back to collecting trash.  A garbage kid, is what she is.  Turning trash into things she can exchange for rations of food.  It is the younger man that benefits, falling back a few steps as the older man tumbles to his knees.  If I weren’t so far away, I’d hear his cries of agony.  I’ve seen it before and I’m sure I’ll see it again.  Most of us who’ve learned to make our lives down here in the trash heap have learned that you don’t push someone like that.

Because then the Enforcers come to carry them away.  Which is exactly what’s happening.  The garbage kid has split, but the young man is too dumb to realize what’s going to happen.  Obviously, he’s here for punishment or he fell below on their stupid tests they hold in the clean parts of the city.  The parts that don’t like to acknowledge that beyond the Lower City’s outer wall, there is us.  The Forsaken.

Sure as shit, even as I absently shove half that dumpling in my mouth and chew through the rubbery noodle and the meat that’s probably rat with shredded lettuce bits salvaged from a withered, moldy stock, I watch the hover craft come into view.  I don’t know if that’s what it is, but it’s sleek and black and hovers above us in passing judgement.  Two Enforcers — clad entirely in shiny black like some strange carapace has encased them so that not even their identity is known — drop down and grab the man.  I flick my fingers across the knobs, and the lenses shift again, bringing the world into even closer view.  My sister made these binoculars out of warped glass that she molded into the brass framed lenses.  It’s bulky, but does the job.  Enough that I can see the younger man’s face when the Enforcer turns on him.

I’ve never seen one up close, and I really don’t fucking want to.  The false sunlight shines off the helmet encasing his head when he grabs the dude’s arm and yanks up the ratty sleeve.  All it takes is a second and the other man’s screaming — or I assume, given the way he’s suddenly flailing about with his mouth open.

Bottom line?  That black shit is crawling up his arm too.

I can’t watch the rest, so I pull the whole contraption off and let the sour wind cool the sweat around the crown of my head.  I wash the aftertaste of fear down with the rusty water from my canteen.  That fate is waiting for us all.

“Welp, I guess that’s two less for Trough Day.”  Sarcasm is my bread and butter and it bubbles up even when I’m alone.  Looking down at my own wrist, the bluish numbers that glow beneath the skin promise me that I am nowhere near the edge, but Trough Day always costs me at least a point or two off my total.  I got enough, I think, to last me through my twenties if I’m careful.  We don’t live long down here.  Only a few graybeards make it, and that’s only if they somehow manage to earn back what it takes to live in this forsaken place.