She had fifteen minutes to get home before the Serafim took to the streets. Peering out the window, Davey swiped her ID card, hopping in agitation at the three second delay in the building's electronic mechanism. She did not want to be caught on the street by the red-masked Serafs; government issue goons keeping citizens in check.
Identity approved and work-hours logged, she hurried onto the pavement. The wind was cold, whipping her braids across her face. With a shiver, she dodged the last of the cars buzzing along the street and entered the network of alleys leading her down-town.
As glass topped corporate towers gave way to crumbling apartment blocks, Davey's hand slipped into the pocket of her coat, her fingers gripping the can of pepper spray. Atlantis was disintegrating. The city was rotten, its citizens divided into those with money and power, and those desperate to eke out a living in the effluvial haze.
The starving vagrant sluiced from the fog of stinking cess like a ghost. "Hold your fire, bleachling. I have speak."
Boz was always want want want, a shade of filth and hunger whose begging repulsed her, but he had an ear for the street and his knowledge of the city's underbelly had saved her life on more than one occasion.
Davey tossed a mermaid scale into the sludge. "Today, but not again. Do you understand?"
"I understand perfectly." The wretch grinned and dragged himself over to her feet, eyes fixed on the glow of her white skin. "Tomorrow, the Serafim will not come."
Davey's neck dropped — a reflex stoop she thought she'd fixed. "What? What the fuck are you talking about?"
"Stay indoors," Boz continued, his voice a gurgle of spittle. "Stay high. Tenth floor. Get supplies."
Davey threw back her shoulders, fixed him with a status glare. "The Serafim always come. Why should tomorrow be different?"
"Tomorrow, Atlantis falls." Head bowed low from a spasm of servitude, Boz slithered back into the shadows. Davey cursed. To bid him return would court guilt even she couldn't afford to cover.
In the sludge at her feet, the mermaid scale glistened in the dim light from the overhead towers. With the latest trades, this was food for a month, drugs for a day, sex with some desperate kid. The Boz she knew would have snatched it as it fell if he could.
But this was not the Boz she knew.
She pulled her coat tight around her generous curves and sped on through the shanty sprawl as the wind, ferocious now, tore at all hope of shelter rooftop by rooftop.
Nothing had been the same since Reagan took office.
Opening: Suzanne van Rooyen.....Continuation: Whirlochre.....Punchline: Bill
Unless hyphenation rules don't apply to certain terms in this world, this has a few hyphen problems:
Downtown is one unhyphenated word.
Work hours is two unhyphenated words.
Three-second should be hyphenated.
Government-issue should be hyphenated.
Glass-topped should be hyphenated.
"Government-issue" is a term I would apply to something the government provides for someone. "Government-imposed" makes more sense for goons. Although explaining what the Serafs are is a brief info dump; perhaps you should let the reader figure out what the Serafs are. You could change "took to the streets" in sentence 1 to "began their patrols," and I think we'd have a good idea what they are.
Not sure why they don't just spell "Serafim" and "Seraf" with a "ph" instead of an "f." This is like Hell's Angels calling themselves Hell's Anjels. People would mock them for their bad spelling.
"alleys leading her down-town." If your home is a fifteen-minute walk through some alleys from your job, and your home is downtown, chances are you're already downtown when you're at your job.
"Atlantis was disintegrating." This makes it sound like things are just starting to go bad. You've already done a good job of showing that the place is well-along in the disintegration department, so no need to tell us.
I found this opening confusing, especially when Davey is peering out of the window. What window? Where is she? And why didn't EE rag on this author about using a man's name* for a woman, azackly? XD
Is there some particular reason why Davey only has fifteen minutes in which to get home today? If it's normal, there's no need to emphasise it.
I think tbh you're trying too hard to set up a lot of things in this opening. Too much too fast. Tell the story. The world and the backstory will fill in naturally as that unfolds. It might be more interesting, also, to find out from what ideal Atlantis has slipped to its present state, which reads like pretty much any city anywhere.
*wo prejudice to earlier comments I may have made....
Davey could be a nickname for Davina. The "e" is obviously inserted to make the name less masculine, sort of like changing Billy to Billie. Mr. Crockett spelled it Davy. Of course, it wouldn't kill the author to call her Davina.
The window is in or beside the exit door of the building in which Davey works.
All men's names are now women's names, at least in the U.S.
Madison I accept. Taylor was a tough one, but okay. But Tyler? Tyler? I ask you, Tyler?
/nothing to do with the opening, which I thought was okay if a little info-dumpy in spots. It's not as bad in that respect as some of the crap that gets published.
Yes, after reading on, I realised that must be where the window is. But it wasn't immediately apparent.
I thought this was interesting and I liked this and would definitely read on. Nice job of setting the scene and creating tension right off the bat.
Other than the changes EE mentioned, I would cut the last sentence of the first paragraph - that's too much of an info dump. Why not keep us in suspense and reveal what the Serafim are later?
I don't think that you need drastic changes. Just some rearrangements. I put the last paragraph first and slightly adjust the original first and second. I think this works.
Davey gazed at the city. The glass topped corporate towers gave way to crumbling apartment blocks, Davey's hand slipped into the pocket of her coat, her fingers gripping the can of pepper spray. Atlantis was disintegrating. The city was rotten, its citizens divided into those with money and power, and those desperate to eke out a living in the effluvial haze.
She had fifteen minutes to get home before the Seraphim took to the streets. She swiped her ID card and fidgeted at the three-second delay in the building's electronics. She did not want to be caught on the street by the red-masked Seraphs; nothing but the government-sponsored goons that kept the citizenry in check.
Her identity approved and work-hours logged, she hurried onto the pavement. The wind was cold, whipping her braids across her face. With a shiver, she dodged the last of the cars buzzing along the street and entered the network of alleys leading her downtown.
That's mostly your words. I changed some words that felt odd to me. I determine odd not by merely reading it on screen. I read the excerpt out loud as if I was doing it for an audience. I am always amazed that the written words read silently can sound so different when spoken out loud. I think it improves a story but that's subjective.
I usually defer to Evil Editor, since he is a pro and I am not, but in this case I disagree. The Hells Angels spell the name of their club without an apostrophe. I know that’s bad English, but don’t think I would want to challenge them to a knife fight over it. I don’t think anyone would mock them if they committed some other grammar error. After all, nobody mocks google.com because they cannot spell googol correctly, and those guys don’t settle disputes with chains and razors.
As for "alleys leading her down-town," that makes sense if you have ever lived in New York. “down-town” in this sentence is a direction, meaning she went south toward Battery Park to get home. If she was headed north, toward Central Park (or the Bronx if she was further north to begin with) she would be going up town, regardless of where she started from
The part I did not like was Atlantis. Make it Atlanta instead, or better yet, a real slime hole like Baltimore. I was also confused by the mermaid scale. What the hell is a mermaid scale? That kind of stuff would jolt me out of the trance a novel is supposed to create. Other than that, I liked it. I would read this if it were in print.
First of all, if you are someone who "usually defers to Evil Editor," one would assume you've been around long enough to know that the blue words aren't part of the author's opening, and thus your complaints about the mermaid scale fall on deaf ears. However, if I may enlighten you on behalf of the continuation author, fish have scales, mermaids have fishtails, get it?
As for Hells Angels, I suspect the lack of apostrophe is to allow them to trademark the name without stepping on the toes of the air force squadron and the movie that have the name with the apostrophe. According to their website the apostrophe isn't needed because Hells is plural rather than possessive. Either way, you are the only one who is calling them grammatically challenged. Which explains why you remained anonymous.
As for the uptown/downtown issue, of course uptown and downtown make sense as directions in NYC. But this is set in Atlantis. According to Google (or Googol, as you erroneously spell it), there are almost 50,000 "Downtown Atlantis " references on the web, while the number of "Uptown Atlantis" references is so small as to be negligible. In short, there is no Uptown Atlantis, ergo, everything is Downtown.
Aw grumbles, curses and nasty words. Blogger ate my post from this afternoon.
I think this is mostly OK. That's like Douglas Adams whose fourth book of his HHGG trilogy was "Mostly Harmless"...
It needs a bit a rearranging and a tiny bit of smoothing. Consider this:
The glass topped corporate towers gave way to crumbling apartment blocks, Davey's hand slipped into her coat pocket, her fingers gripping the can of pepper spray. Atlantis was disintegrating. The city was rotten, its citizens divided into those with money and power, and those desperate to eke out a living in the effluvial haze.
She had fifteen minutes to get home before the Seraphim took to the streets. Peering out the window, Davey swiped her ID card, hopping in agitation at the three second delay in the building's electronic mechanism. She did not want to be caught on the street by the red-masked Seraphs. They were government sponsored goons.
Her identity matched and work-hours logged, she hurried onto the pavement. The wind was cold, whipping her braids across her face. With a shiver, she dodged the last of the cars buzzing along the street and entered the network of alleys leading her downtown.
Clean if up and polish it a bit more but I think this reads smoother and flows better than the original. And, it has the endearing quality of being mostly your words.
I think that covers what I said earlier. Blooger, uh bligger, uh blogger must have had brain farts today.
;) But what do I care ;)
The frogs in my yard were building arks and collecting pairs of slugs and crickets...
I just adore blogger.
Interestingly, everyone is wrong about the Hells/Hell's Angels, though there is a spelling issue.
'Hell' is actually short for 'Helen' (Petulengro), the transvestite Harley D enthusiast who founded the "Hel's Angels" in Fontana, California in 1948.
She was revered by the group's twelve original members, not only for her love of bikes and penchant for violence, but also her fairy cakes (which, according to the infamous Dirk 'The Rat' O Dooley "tasted so like heaven we wuz scared to eat the fuckers jus' in case Satan wuz watchin'".
When the group's membership grew, doubts were raised about having a transvestite figurehead and after a series of viking helmet headbutt duels, Helen was forced to stand down as leader.
Problem: what to do with all the painstakingly rendered leather jackets and insignia bearing the word "Hel's"?
Solution — change the apostrophe to a second letter L.
As Dirk "The Rat" O Dooley later put it, "no way wuz I gonna embroider those leathers again with no arms and legs..."
I was carefully ignoring the fact that this is Atlantis. I remember the last time I got in an argument about that place.
I just thought Davey was her last name.
Since that fated spring day back in 2011, when the May skies had opened in a divine cataclysm of flames and thunder and the world as it was known came to an end, life had become somehow less meaningful, and considerably more deliberate. She’d scoffed at the prediction of “the Rapture”, as did most of her colleagues, but she’d been wrong, and she was thankful to Them for This mercy towards the uniquely human flaws of doubt and skepticism. The True Believers, capable of suspending rationality and incapable of questioning the infallibility of words drawn by mortal men and colored by their own interests, had been Ascended to what was shown to be Heaven, leaving the freshly devout New Believers behind to be sorted out by the Divine Provenance. A strictly linear hierarchy formed a bureaucracy of Angels, which had supplanted the temporal government once the Great Tribulation took place. And consequently the Serafs patrolled the streets in search of sins of commission as well as those impiously availing themselves of the sensual pleasures of sunlight, greenery and fresh air.
But now was the time to make haste to the designated personal sanctuary she still called home. Although the Unsalvageables, the idlers, the working girls, the thugs, and the pickpockets were long gone from the streets, their shadows were still etched into the concrete from the Smiting that had purged the now wobbling planet of the most egregious sinners as well as those who sinned in the name of Them. And despite, or perhaps in some part due to, the holy extermination of those that would Steal, Kill, and Adulter, the streets were not safe.
Not as long as the Chayot, or Living Ones as they called themselves, roamed the lesser city blocks in a collective and hypermethodical effort to “Salvage” the New Believers remaining on what was left of the earth. In exaggerated suits and hats, riding noisy bicycles heavily laden with newly revised editions of ThisBook and slick pamphlets of hyperbolic Praise, the Chayot swarmed any New Believer unfortunate enough to be found openly unengaged in divinely-assigned labor. Harmless enough taken for what they were, these somewhat unhinged zealots could miserably delay one’s arrival at work, at Worship, Praisings, or to one’s personal sanctuary at the proscribed time, risking a visit from the Seraf. The mesmeric and unvarying “Holy, Holy, Holy” chant in the streets signaled the coming of the Seraf, and it was better to use whatever means short of harm necessary to dispel the Chayot so one could hurry to log into their assigned location. Thus Davey carried a can of pepper spray at ready, an effective deterrent to the most persistent Chayot determined to browbeat her into submitting to conversing about subjects no longer up for debate, or even in question. Preaching to the choir, one could say; although everyone was in the choir nowadays, she pondered ruefully. Everyone Believed now, and only one’s degree of sinfulness determined one’s standing as a citizen-minion, as well as one’s future assignment into a better, or worse, far worse place.
(continued in next comment)
Unchosen Continuation (continued):
The shiny towers teeming with various orders of Angels and their Minions stood in deliberate contrast to the relatively degraded brownstones and marble-stepped row homes downtown which housed those still judged Salvageable. A marginal life was preferable to the alternative, such as it was; and the surviving residents toiled at the jobs they’d been assigned day to day. Manna no longer fell from the heavens, nor appeared in mailboxes once a month. The fruits of labor were sustenance now, but only the indolent, or apollyonites as the were now known, knew real hunger. Sin had become the currency of deprivation, and it didn’t spend cheap.
One could no longer count solely on Belief in Their existence, to absolve one of the crime of sin, not since the Revealing. Seeking Sunday forgiveness in the pews of a manmade church for commandments freely violated during the week, didn’t wash clean one’s soul for the price of a few prayers, a couple wadded bills in the collection plate and a fervent belief in Their existence. No, absolution was no longer the bargain it had been, prior to the Revelation.
--Mistress Claudia Balzac
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