Monday, February 11, 2008

New Beginning 448

Samantha shivered and wrapped her jacket tighter. The moonless night was perfect for their escape plans. Except Roland was still in solitary. The lockdown window was two feet above her head. She jumped up, but couldn’t see into the cell. “Roland?”

Roland reached through the bars. “Take them and go.” He opened his fingers.

Samantha caught the rusty ring of keys. “But these are yours. You found them.” Reaching up, she twined her dirt-encrusted fingers with his. “I can’t leave you.”

“You have to, Samantha.” Roland shook off her fingers. “The Farmers pick new breeders tomorrow. Your time’s up.”

“But you’ll be alone.”

Roland chuckled. “Can you imagine those Farmers doing work? They’ll buy more slaves.”


“No more buts,” Roland said. “It’s my fault I’m in here. Have to learn to keep my mouth shut.”

“Oh, Roland. I love that you stand up to them.” Samantha turned away.

Safely out of earshot, she flipped open her cell phone. “Jessica, I got the keys to the Ferrari . . . No, no, he’s off in some fantasy land. Roots meets The Shawshank Redemption or something. Last time he was Zorro, and he was out of it for a week . . . I know I should, but . . . he's got a Ferrari. See you in an hour and . . . PARTY!”

Opening:: Sarah.....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

She jumped into the Ferrari and started up the engine. The purr of the motor warmed her more than the jacket ever could.

Just as Roland had taught her, she eased up on the clutch, gave it gas, and roared off down I-80. Soon, Ogallala would be a blur in the rear view mirror. She had castrated her last bull for Mr. Farmer, eaten her last Rocky Mountain oyster, and the lazy rancher could find some other girl to work like a slave in his smelly barn.

Roland would have to do the time for stealing the sports car, but who ever said life was fair?


"Oh, Samantha..." he said.

She bit her bottom lip and turned back to face the window. "Roland?"

"Don't forget to take your stuff out of the bathroom as well. Lock up when you're done and give the keys to Clive -- he'll keep them for me. Oh, and you can keep the boots; I'm guessing my new breeder will have smaller feet.

"What..? I should have kept my mouth shut again, shouldn't I?"


She lurched toward the fence and treeline beyond, stopping once or twice to yank her foot back frontwards. The rot had set in a little too deep there despite the farmer's 'special' food.

She'd miss the brain shakes that kept her mind from going. Having to stalk and kill her meals was going to be a pain in the ass. She hated gnawing through skulls.

But leaving was a much more palatable solution than to let the smooth-skinned humans breed with her. Necrophiliacs. Gross!

She shuddered, yanked her foot again, and focused on the trees.


“Darling...” Roland’s voice was dry as the corn husks.

Samantha turned back, but could no longer see the window through her tears. “Yes, Roland?”

“You do believe me, don’t you? You’ll tell them--”

“Roland, I--”

“Samantha! You have to tell them. The increasing industrialization in the north will lead to a rising demand for manufactured goods resulting in a massive migration of labor from the traditionally agrarian midlands and a shift of wealth and power in accordance with the formula G equals A times F divided by the coefficient--”

“Sure, Ro’, I’ll tell them...” She turned and began to stride back toward the farm. “But first I got to milk the cows.”


* * *

Roland reached through the bars. “Take it and go.” He unclenched his fist.

Betsy deftly caught the engraved lighter. “But this is yours. Your father gave it to you. I can’t leave you.”

“You have to Sa--, uh, Betsy. They’re taking me to the chain gang tomorrow. My time’s up. I did what I have to do.”

“Oh, Roland. Keep the faith, Darling. You'll always be in my heart.” Betsy turned away.

* * *

Roland refilled his coffee and dropped down on to the bed and grinned like a kid in a candy store. These bumpkins were no match for a city guy like him. It was almost too easy to get laid out here in the farms.

* * *

He reached through the bars. “This is for you my love. It was my grandmother’s. Think of last night whenever you look at it.” He opened his fingers and a silver bell on a leather neck-band dropped to the ground.

She eyed his gift as it lay in the mud.

“Take it, Daisy. Take it and go. I’ll think only of you as they carry me to the gallows...”

Daisy looked up at him with her soft, brown eyes. “Moooooo.”


A single tear washed a path through the grime on her face as she dropped the keys into her pocket. “Roland, my love, I will never forget our nights of tempestuous passion. And your child, the one that grows within me will never be a slave! I swear to you my love!”

“What? Wait a minute, what child?

“Why, our child, dear one. Surely you suspected?”

“Ah, no actually, I had no idea.”

“All those nights, while the Farmers filled their bellies with beer and the studs and breeders filled the night air with their musky scent; all those nights, Roland, the hay – what did you think would happen?

Think? Thinking had nothing to do with it. But you! You knew I fell in love with you the minute I laid eyes on you and that I was willing to give you the ragged scrap that was left of my heart after Jamie and Chris and Pat had shredded it; willing to give you anything your heart desired, you filthy wench!

“But Roland,” Samantha said sweetly, stroking the rusty key that she knew would slide gently into the ignition of a Mustang hidden in the woods, “Why ever would you call me such a vile name?

“I already said, ‘No more buts’ bitch. If there is a kid, it sure as hell ain’t mine. I see now that this was all an act, a twisted plot to get that key from me. Damn you!”

For a brief moment, Samantha was confused. She had, it was true, only been acting a role in order to get the key. She was desperate to escape this latest captivity. But she always tried to leave her lovers still in love with her and the baby-in-the-womb-line had always worked before. “But of course there is a child! Why wouldn’t there be?"

“Because I shoot blanks you slut. Why do you think they made me a slave and not a breeder?”


She clutched the keys and thought about the contents of his old Toyota van.

If only he’d given them a little more time. Sure, he was young, eloquent and charismatic, and he’d captivated them for a while -- but this corner of Nebraska was a long way from the big city, and new ideas took time to take hold. Round here, they liked to raise the herds the traditional way. Though some of his equipment was strangely alluring, there was no one in this town ready to be introduced to an artificial vagina.

"Then she remembered Cousin Jeb, and his catalogues."


And I love your fetish for dirty fingernails, she thought, glancing tenderly at her own before dropping the keys into her jacket pocket. Would she ever find another man to massage her cuticles, to pick at her hangnails, the way Roland had done night after night through that high window? Heart breaking, she forced herself to jog toward the shadows; the rhythmic, rusty scraping of the keys comforted her. Almost like a lullaby.

Yes, a lullaby! Samantha slowed to a walk and put a grubby hand to her belly. She'd been a disappointment to the Farmers, who had marked her for the shameful exile of the unproductive. But five more nights as moonless as this one would show whose fault that was!

A triplet of gentle bumps against her palm answered her chuckle. Where the Farmers' seed had failed, that of Roland the Smart-Ass Slave had prevailed. And everyone would know it, too, when they saw how freakishly long the infant's arms would be.

--Kalynne Pudner

Evil Editor said...

It wasn't easy to get a clear picture of what's going on here. They planned an escape, but he's still locked up and she's out. Yet he has keys and she needs them. Keys to what? He found the keys in the lockdown, or he found them earlier, and they let him keep them when they locked him up? My guess is they're both locked in the slave quarters, and he found the keys to the outside, but then they locked him in a cell inside the slave quarters that needs a different key. Even if that's correct, I had to work too hard to figure it out, and the first sentence may indicate that Samantha is outdoors. Can you, without adding an "As you know, Samantha" statement, give us a better idea of the setting?

Robin S. said...

Wow, Sarah, EE was picky with your continuation. And I don't know who the anonymous is who finally pleased the man, but it's a really good one.

I didn't send a continuation in for this one because:

A- I hardly ever write them
B- I felt so sorry for Samantha and Roland.

So I think your beginning worked, in that I felt empathy for their plight. Both of them. But especially for Samantha, because she's torn two ways- if she stays - it sounds like she's gonna be 'bred', which pisses mne off into another planet just thinking about...

OK- I had to breathe a minute.

And also, because she feels so guilty and torn about leaving Roland behind.

I'd say this is a good dilemma to get a reader worked up enough to want to find out what happens.

But I have to admit I did have to reread a few passages, to figure out the logistics. So, as much as I hate to agree with HRH today, I do. A little. We need a grounding sentence or two, I think, as readers.

But as for my interest, you have it.

Dave Fragments said...

This is an interesting opening and I like how well the characters come when you read it.

But all of the words aren't working for you. He's in prison. She has to leave. She wants to stay.
I think that the problem is that we don't know why. You're being a little too mysterious. The reader needs a bit more danger for Roland and Samantha. It needs a sentence to tie the two characters to the readers.

Sarah Laurenson said...

My God, that's a lot of continuations.

Hm. Thanks for the food for thought on this one. It's the new beginning for Samantha, Charlie the dog and Fritter the Treeling's story. Previously it started with Charlie howling. (was 366)

Hm. Lots of thoughts. Hm.

I think I'll read the rest of the continuations now. Enjoying and laughing sounds better than thinking.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Sarah. I cheated. I went back and looked at the original opening. Me, I'd rather about a yapping mutt than another guy any day. But then I'm the one at a party off in the corner petting the dog.

What struck me was the difference in Sam's voice between the two openings. It would never occur to me these were the same girls.

Also, going in cold, I thought it was about adults. I wasn't at all thinking 13 yo's locked up. Which struck me only because my MG features a 14-yo locked in a dungeon, yet until I re-read your original, it didn't occur to me that your characters were that young. I think it's one of those instances where knowing what the book is about by reading the flap or cover copy will help bring it more to life.

The tension in this version is better than in the original. Although perhaps a few indications that she's worried about being caught? Keeping her voice low, maybe a hurried glance up and down the cellblock. Hand closing tight over the key ring to keep the keys from jangling.

Maybe: "The moonless night was perfect for an escape."

And delete "Samantha" from "You have to, Samantha." You have plenty of dialog tags going for you that you don't need the characters saying each other's names, too.

Be proud -- I don't remember seeing this many conts for an opening in a long while!

Whirlochre said...

I'm with most of you on this one in that it's just a little confusing what's going on - and to whom. I've got a sense of something - including the possibility that Roland is being farmed by his captors like some kind of breeding stud - but overall, reading this is a bit like watching a play with the curtains still drawn over the stage.

The 1st three sentences are the tightest, and the business with the various keys and fingers, the loosest.

Chris Eldin said...

I agree with Robin. I like the characters, but it was just a bit too mysterious. Kudos for detailed crit from EE!

And wow with the number of continuations!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Thanks for the comments!
Does this fix the problems?

Samantha shivered and wrapped her jacket tighter. The moonless night was perfect for their escape plans. Except Roland was still in solitary. She raced through the wet grass to the side of the lockdown building. The window was two feet above her head. She jumped up, but couldn’t see into the cell. “Roland?”

Roland reached through the bars. “Take them and go.” He opened his fingers.

Samantha caught the rusty ring of keys. “But these are yours. You found them.” Reaching up, she twined her dirt-encrusted fingers with his. “I can’t leave you.”

“You’re breeding age.” Roland shook off her fingers. “Your time’s up.”

Samantha examined the ring of large keys. “Any of these work in there?”

“Gate keys don’t work on doors.”

She was running out of ideas. “But if I go, you’ll be alone.”

Roland chuckled. “Can you imagine the Farmers doing work? They’ll buy more slaves.”

Evil Editor said...

I think this sounds a little beter:

“You’re breeding age now.” Roland shook off her fingers. “You have to get out.”

Samantha examined the ring of large keys. “Any of these work in there?”

“No. They're all outside gate keys.”

She was running out of ideas. “But if I go, you’ll be alone.”

Roland chuckled. “Not for long. The Farmers’ll just buy more slaves.”

Not sure I get the "You'll be alone"/ "They'll buy more slaves."

Is Roland the only slave? If so, what happened to the others? If not, why will he be alone?

Sarah Laurenson said...

The farmers haven't bought slaves in three years. It's part of why the city is about to go to war with the farm. The city people are starving and have nothing left that the farmers want to exchange for food. The other slaves have become breeders.

The breeding program has matured and there is a new work force / army at hand.

This point in time is a turning point for most of the people in the book.

I think there are parts of the story that still need fleshed out in my head. And this is helping - a lot. Thanks!!

Robin S. said...

I like this version, Sarah.

Adding this line: She raced through the wet grass to the side of the lockdown building helped me find out where I was.

Anonymous said...

EE's rewrite is nice, too. Try reading it aloud -- there doesn't seem to be much variation in the rhythm of your sentences; they're all kind of short and choppy which makes reading a little tiring after a while. There's a feeling of reportage rather than narrative here, which can easily be fixed by varying the pace here and there.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the scene, but it doesn't really feel like the real beginning to me. If the keys are important, I'd think you might consider opening a touch earlier when he finds the keys. It also does seem a bit coy to me, although I do like the revisions both you and EE posted much better.