Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Beginning 181

Sheep were good at dying. Considering each sheep could only do it once, so practice was hard to get, they showed real natural talent for being found stiff in the field with their legs in the air, or collapsing in the barn, looking at Laura reproachfully--You're the human, you do something!--before shuddering to a dead stop. They died as expertly as teenagers in a horror film.

Laura looked over at the not-yet-dead sheep, clumped against the fence in an untidy heap of dirty wool, as if they were piling themselves into a knitted replica of Mount Don in the distance, then looked down at the biologist who crouched among the grassy tussocks and scatters of sheep-droppings. “I wasn't raised on a farm, Mr. Rennie,” she said, brushing back a strand of faded blonde hair, limp in the heat. “I used to think sheep were soft fluffy things, like big stuffed toys. I guess my husband thought so too, when he bought the business.”

Rennie looked at Laura, a humorless smile on his face. “You’re not the first city folk to be misled. They’re evil creatures. They lure you in with their soft, white fleeces and gentle bleating--”

A sudden noise behind them, and Rennie spun around. He raised his shotgun and fired off a shot. “It was about to lunge,” he said. “A Scottish Blackface. They’re the worst. They hunt in packs. There’ll be more of ‘em around here somewhere.”

“Of course there will. It's a sheep ranch.” Laura looked around. “Why there must be--”

“No! Don’t count 'em, ma'am. That’s how they get you. You’ll be unconscious in no time.”

Rennie glanced around nervously. “The contamination is an STD,” he said. “It has to be cut off at the source. The ram.” He picked up his shotgun.

“But we don't have a ram.”

The biologist closed his eyes. “I was afraid you'd say that,” he said. He stood up, and for the first time Laura noticed how thin and tired the man looked. Although his shoulder holster looked worn in places, his German Luger looked as deadly a force for decontamination as when Laura had first seen it.

Rennie threw down the shotgun and pulled out the Luger. He felt the weight of her gaze and sighed. “I wish there was another way, ma'am. Don't take it personal. Now where's your husband?”

Laura resignedly led the way.

Opening: batgirl.....Continuation: ril, Lp


Evil Editor said...

Sometimes EE gets another good continuation before he pulls an opening from the queue. I don't have an author name, but here it is:

Mr. Rennie took a deep rasping breath, but gave no other response.

Laura took a step closer and bent down. The strand fell loose again and she twirled it around her fingers, watching over the biologist’s shoulder as he caressed a young sheep’s snout.

“You see?” Laura said. “You’d think it’d be all soft and fuzzy like in the stores, but it’s like there’s a piece of Mount Ralph in there.”

The sheep looked up, past the biologist and into her eyes. It shuddered once and went still. The biologist stared at it a moment longer, then stood up.

“So what have they got?” Laura asked. “Anything I could catch?”

The biologist shook his head. “Are you aware that your animals have nothing to eat?” he asked.

“Mr. Rennie,” she said, pressing back a laugh. “These aren’t real sheep. They’re clones, imitations.”

Mr. Rennie looked at the Astroturf covering the pasture. “I don't think you understand how it works.”

Laura frowned. “So if they need food, they also need . . .”

The biologist gestured at the gaping entrance to the barn. “Yes. Their housing needs to be hermetically sealed.”

Laura stared at him, inhaling deeply from the oxygen tank on her back. She gave her blonde hair another twirl and looked at the dead lamb. Apparently there was more to off-planet ranching than she’d thought.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the first one better, but this 2nd continuation had an unexpected twist.

Anonymous said...

The continuations are so funny! As for Laura, she does not seem very bright. MC's don't have to be book smart, but I'm not sure how many people can identify with idiocy.

Oh, wait. I take that back. Lots of people...but do they buy books?

shaded-lily said...

Good beginning, hilarious continuation!

I didn't get the sense that Laura was dumb -- just unfamiliar with sheep when her husband bought the ranch. That was an impulsive purchase, it seems. If she were a perfect heroine, she would have insisted on a sheep-ranch internship before her husband bought anything; but I don't require my heroines to be perfect. In fact, I distinctly object to perfect heroines.

I'd keep reading, just because the beginning is well written and I appreciate its black humor.

Anonymous said...

I thought this beginning had a lot of potential -- the subject matter caught my attention, and the writing was generally strong.

My only complaint is that some of the phrases and sentences felt a little awkward: "Considering each sheep could only do it once, so practice was hard to get," for example, and then that sentence goes on too long.

I'd urge the author to look carefully at every sentence before submitting, to make sure every idea is being expressed as economically and forcefully as possible. See your first sentence for a beautiful example.

Anonymous said...

The opening left me confused and feeling like it was muddled. The featured continuation, however, is astounding.

HawkOwl said...

"I'd urge the author to look carefully at every sentence before submitting, to make sure every idea is being expressed as economically and forcefully as possible."

Nah. Minions have been aiming for that for a while and it makes for really nasty writing. There's no need to express ideas economically unless you're a journalist or a technical writer.

Back to the writing, I wouldn't read more because I hate this style of humour, but it's quite fluid. Except for "Laura looked over at the sheep." That's really ugly and unnecessary. Either "Laura looked at the sheep" or "Laura looked the sheep over" is plenty.

Dave Fragments said...

Although I think that this could use a word or two pruned, I don't know what else to say.

Sheep are dying is not a hook.

The thought that came into my mind is something like anthrax or hoof-in-mouth or just plain neglect. But not much else, not anything that would make me want to read more. IMHO

Also, there is an odd sense of humor in the writing. I'm not sure it is intentional or desireable. It's disturbing if it isn't meant as humor.

Bernita said...

I rather like it.
Not sure if that's because of the continuations or not, though.
They rather overwhelm the original.
Dave has a good point.
Two pickies:
The first sentence is long.
A character does not note the colour of their own hair.Be sure which POV you are using.
In any event,consider making it, "brushing back a limp strand of faded blonde hair." if it's omniscient, or simply "limp strand of hair" if close third.
The heat can come somewhere else.

GutterBall said...

“No! Don’t count 'em, ma'am. That’s how they get you. You’ll be unconscious in no time.”

Bwahahaah! Oh, iced tea out the nose in a gout! Good Lord, I almost choked!

Ahem. Sorry. As to the opening, it's just oddball enough to catch my attention. I'd read more.

writtenwyrdd said...

I wasn't particularly grabbed by this beginning. I think that you could tweak this to make it a little more energetic and that would make a lot of difference. Perhaps if you cut "" and "as if they were piling themselves into a knitted replica of Mount Don in the distance, then looked down", picking up the pace?

writtenwyrdd said...

Sorry, there, I'm home sick with a head cold and obviously out of my mind-- as proved by that last post. That first quote should have been "looking at Laura reproachfully--You're the human, you do something!--before"

Anonymous said...

I like this. I would read it if I picked it up on a table at the bookstore.

I'd like to be a little more sure of the genre. This could be heading towards some Chricton-style SF thriller story (if the sheep are dying of some exotic cause), romance, or literary coping-with-life drama.

Bernita said...

Sorry, make that the second sentence.

Anonymous said...

I liked this beginning. I liked it so much I couldn't come up with any snarky ideas for a continuation. (IMO, the two EE presented are great.) If the cover copy was interesting enough to get me to open the book and if this was what I then read, I'd buy the book just for the voice of the author.

Word verification Xoqiza - the planet where all this is taking place?

Anonymous said...

I'm seeing 'The Devil Wears Prada' mixed with 'All Creatures Great and Small'. Fish out of water kinda stuff...

I'd read it.

Verification: egspuso - some kind of coffee you drink after breakfast.

Rei said...

I liked it. It was a bit weaker when you got to the Laura part, but the beginning was great.

Anonymous said...

I know what happened to the sheep... Laura is Mrs El Chupacabra.

HawkOwl said...

Return of El Chupacabra! That's brilliant.

McKoala said...

A bit wordy at times, but a nice, different kind of beginning.

Anonymous said...

Bwahahah! What a great continuation.

"The Terror from New Zealand!"

Poor Laura...

Anonymous said...

The opening is kind of like that dust you see floating around in a shaft of sunlight -it' there, but you just can't get a hold on it. -JTC

Anonymous said...

Wow, brilliant continuations! I knew sheep would be inspirational. But no Monty Python quote? "He's that most dangerous of animals, a clever sheep."
word ver: edvfrd - Ed vs. Fred?

Anonymous said...

The continuation that's up there is sheer brilliance!