Friday, October 12, 2012

New Beginning 974

The world didn't end on Mayan year zero but it tried real hard. The Yellowstone, Long Valley, and Valles calderas in the northern hemisphere, Lake Toba in Sumatra, Taupo in New Zealand, and Aira in Japan blew and activated the Pacific Rim volcanoes. Ashy ejecta blotted out the sun.

We called it the Dark Time and I was ten. Mom and Pop didn't survive the Resource War and plagues that followed. I stayed alive by being a privateer and bushwacker for decades. Recently, I've been guardian of surviving youths. My caves hold a dozen young men. We grow mushrooms, vegetables, berries, and raise rabbits, goats, and sheep.

I walked into the waterfall where we bathed and came behind Angel Wings, my youngest charge who we thought was eighteen years old. The wings tattooed on his back hid the scars and permanent welts. Tonight, they moved up and down with his efforts. These boys need relief and privacy. I didn't breathe as his body stiffened for a silent finish. I tried to back away.

"Please don't. I want to talk about the time before? Will we ever have towns, suburbs, wives, and children?" Angel asked, tears in his eyes.

Maybe not, but we sure still have burgers."

Angel and I turned to see who'd spoken: a squat guy on a unicycle. Slung round his neck was a portable mini-barbecue, the sizzle of its burgers complementing the volcanic boom like a suffocating snake buried under a dump truck.

"Fifty cents for regular, a dollar fifty for jumbo, mustard and ketchup fifteen cents a squirt."

"Sure beats eating sheep," said Angel. "And the fractal patterns swirling in that cooking oil are easier on the eye than any ejecta. Or any ejacula, for that matter."

"One problem," I said. "Since the Resource War, we've had no resources. Like coins."

"I'll take your pants," said the squat guy. "It's a fair exchange in a nightmare world where the only relief from contemplating a fractured and dystopian future comes from raising rabbits in caves with young men."

Angel slipped off his moose hide chaps. "I'm in."

"Me too." I unhitched my customised brassiere thong. "Do we get napkins with these? I'm a messy eater."

The squat guy flipped a burger with his foot long tongue which up till now we had mistaken for a lurid cravatte. "Napkins — why, yeah. And a toy. You want Disney, Britney Spears or a bizarre alien dildo?"

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Whirlochre


Dave Fragments said...

That's a breathtaking continuation.

Evil Editor said...

P2: We called it the Dark Time and I was ten. These don't belong in the same sentence.

If you've been surviving decades as a privateer and bushwhacker, then Angel Wings and possibly most of the youths in your caves weren't even born at the time of Mayan year zero. So to call them survivors seems odd. They're alive, but everyone alive is a survivor. Can I call myself a survivor of WWII just because I survived the decades after WWII if I was born after WWII ended?

If the youngest of the youths is eighteen, why do they need a guardian?

Is it still called the Dark Time?

P3: It sounded like you were switching to present tense, but now it's back to past.

Do we really need a scene with an 18-year-old polishing his bayonet? If he needs privacy, give him some. Also, I prefer that people not whack off in my bathtub.

P4: Suburbs? People living in caves don't ask if they'll ever have suburbs.

Dave Fragments said...

Thanks EE.
This going to take me a while to fix. I had my doubts about this, a little voice scolding in my head.

I'm not satisfied with using first person. I'm going to change all of it over to third person and stay in the mind of the older character in this.

All that will take me a few days to change.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

There's a lot about this that I loved. The voice, details and characterization are good. I'd just tweak a few small things.

The first paragraph felt too much like a list. Is there a way to cut out maybe two or three things and weave them in later? Again, it's just a tweak I'm wanting. Overall the wording is nice.

I didn't have any issues with para 2. Great stuff.

The shift to Right Now the third paragraph felt jarring, and I'm not sure if it's because of the tense issue or because I want to be told we're shifting from Story About The Past to Present Moment. Maybe, "Today, I walked..."

The first time I read para 3, the narrator's gaze felt almost predatory, watching the younger boy. Something like "I had to remind myself these boys needed relief and privacy," might clear up why he's sneaking up on the boy when he knows they need privacy.

I agree with EE about "suburbs." Honestly, I felt that way about "wives" too. Maybe because it felt like another leap. Lovers, girlfriends, or relationships might feel realer to me. With the earth in so much turmoil, who knows if a new society would keep the old institution of marriage.

Can we see Angel turn?

All of this is nit-picky. I always like your stuff, Dave.

Anonymous said...

When I got to the line where the POV character "...walked into the waterfall where we bathed and came behind Angel Wings...", the unwelcome image of Jerry Sandusky popped into my mind.


Dave Fragments said...

Chelsea (first and then others),
I can't tell you how many times I rewrote that opening line of P3 with "Today", or "Nowadays" or some more esoteric lines to shift the time from the past to the present. The hardest tasks of writing for me is not the scene or its middle and climax (once it is set in my mind), it's the transitional bits between scenes that have to make either a chapter break or a scene change.

P3 is that paragraph
-- I've set the past and now I've got to move the reader to the present.

Another part that was troubling me and wasn't working itself out in my head was that the speaker does not realize that Angel is in the waterfall/shower. It's a surprise. The shower is an actual waterfall inside a cave and has no on or off valve.

"Wives" and Suburbs" are words I will avoid in the rewrite. The last line of the excerpt has been reworked a dozen times and had me stumped.

And to all who expressed dismay about Angel's actions -- He won't be doing that "thing" in the rewrite. He will turn, see the narrator, and act guilty because the speaker told him that he shouldn't be antisocial and leave his "brothers."

The rest of the story reveals that the military and others has sequestered the women to protect them from a plague germ unleashed in the last war. Female births are rare, so rare as to make them valuable beyond measure. As lone boys show up, (male babies being abandoned and female babies being hidden and then used as baby machines by the remaining savage world), the military sends the boys to the speaker who raises them hidden in the caves. Their lives are either slaves or soldiers.

That is why at 18 or 19 Angel would still be unable, uneducated, or unwilling to leave. He asks the question: "Will normalcy ever return" (and Angel cannot use the word normalcy). It is a question of despair. Angel doesn't like sleeping with others because sleeping in a cave of a half dozen boys is (what shall I say) crude.
So what Angel does is to butcher the next days meet to age it from being wild and rank. Covered in blood, he excuses himself to shower and comes back to the cave when the others have fallen asleep to avoid any talk or friendship. He's been beaten too many times to open up to others.

The narrator has told him to stop this and when he finds him this time, Angel reveals the reasons for him avoiding contact with the others.

So now the dystopian world is revealed. It is cold and dark.

I think that the current solution to all this will be all living men must live in quarantine, die, or leave earth and be replaced by a new race of men genetically free of the germ. That means the speaker and Angel are marked for some other fate, not death but not life. Don't hold me to that. It's only an idea now and the details are hazy.

BTW - I too feel the first paragraph is a bit listy and I will work to fix it.

Mister Furkles said...

So Dave, I understood the geological volcano references in P1 but a lot of SF readers won't. It sounds too much like a textbook too. It also doesn't read like the voice of a person hiding in caves who lived as a pirate for decades. Consider starting with P2 then explain how the world nearly ended later.

Also, you might change it to: “ We called it the Dark Time; it started when I was ten.” So it lasts a few years and that means the ten year old comes to understand what happened in the years afterward.

I think Angel would be more interested in a regular farm, a house, and some kind of settlement than in a more advanced civilization he's never known.

Anonymous said...

It's a well written opening, perhaps with more telling than showing, although that could be tweaked.
As for para 3, I'm glad you'll be rethinking it. It's a courageous opening gambit. I guess depicting males masturbating is as off-putting to female readers as a description of females taking care of their menstual hygiene would be to male readers.
Just a thought.

Dave Fragments said...

Mr Furkles,
In this time if anyone is unaware of the havoc that Eyjafjallajökull caused, perhaps they shouldn't be reading Sci Fi but a romance novel with another vampire. The event is the Ring of Fire erupting all at once. I'm going to rework those lines anyway, I'll keep your comments in mind.

As for cave and farmhouse, my fault. They hide in caves to hide from hostile tribes and militias. I have to adjust for that for the reader to understand.

That's an interesting comment. It's usually male editors that are squeamish and not the female editors. I'm not talking about an editor asking me to tone down the sexual aspects because they want the anthology PG-13 rather than R (to borrow the movie ratings). That doesn't bother me.
I am speaking of contrived excuses and whining when a male is subject to horrific treatment and its called "Distracting" while a female being treated exactly the same horrors as a woman and it's not OK. It's called distracting. It's a curious dichotomy that I will avoid in this story. Angel will talk about the scars on his back from beatings that the wings are hiding the scars rather than the other horror of being sexually abused.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I didn't have a problem with the sexuality. Considering Angel follows it up with a question about companionship (at least in part), I figured his actions were representative of the boys' loneliness and need for physical contact.

Dave, are you saying male editors shy away from stories about males being sexually abused? That's interesting if so, I hadn't heard that.

Mister Furkles said...


We haven't nearly enough SF readers now. Don't go chasing them to the vamps. Subscriptions to Asimov, Analog and Fantasy & SF are down nearly 90%. All the geeky boys are playing online mass murder games and the girls are into love with monsters.

How many people do you think actually keep up with science news? If the geek-boys ever discover girls, SF is finished for sure.

Dave Fragments said...

Are you saying male editors shy away from stories about males being sexually abused? That's interesting if so, I hadn't heard that.

No, not specifically like that. The sex wasn't tied to sexual abuse.

Lisa said...

Really, really liked the opening sentence. The list-y second sentence made me wonder why I used to love geography. (I still love geography. Just trying to make a point that too many particulars make even us geography lovers minds go to mush.)
Agree with EE on the separation of Dark Time and when she was ten. The main character obviously isn't ten in the next sentence, so there's a major disconnect. It seems to me that you're condensing a longer story into a few words.
Again, first sentence is gold.
I'd say more, but I'm eyeing the word verification, and panic is setting in. Porigni? Seriously? Pork sausage? Rotund professional wrestler? Someone help me. Please.