jayseven

Contamination.

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Alright. I've written two parts so far, each is about 700 words long. This is probably going to be my coursework, it will need to be 4,500 words long so I suppose there ought to be seven parts in total...

 

It wasn’t a hot, steamy day. There were no kids running around with water pistols, or ice cream vans roaming the streets. I wasn’t out in a t-shirt, and I wasn’t smiling.

 

Two years yesterday, nobody would have guessed that they were going to wake up and see this.

 

Every now and then it even rains ashes again.

 

These days instead of carrying shades or a battery-powered fan, the people who were brave enough were out wearing gas masks and carrying tasers.

 

There was no warning, some say it was because the government didn’t know about it. Most say it was because they didn’t want anything to get out.

 

The first few months were the hardest – that’s not to say that it’s ever really gotten easier, but back then there was pure chaos on the streets. You didn’t know that you couldn’t trust everyone. In the Centre, the stores that were still in one piece were becoming warlords, allying with neighbouring shops and creating their own mafia. Charging whatever they liked for the last of the fresh food. People were looting their old best friend’s houses, whether their pal was dead or alive. The few who had guns were either creating home fortresses or out hunting old enemies, fearing the situation in our city would only get worse. The Forts were a good idea for a while; friends moving to the largest house, barricading all entrances, pooling resources and getting a game plan, but too many were built recklessly, relying on strength by numbers or overlooking either entrance points. If someone wanted you out, all they needed was a hole anywhere in the building the size of a football, and they could blow you right out.

 

But in the long run, instead of uniting over a common enemy, Forts were fighting each other in turf wars, and the Mob were taking advantage by playing us against each other for their own gains. The pretty girls didn’t last very long, as they were worth a lot.

 

Nobody knows if anyone else is alive outside the city. Once you leave the boundaries you’re facing two worlds of pain; the Highway Men and the Unseen. At that time, nobody even possibly thought about what was out in the woods surrounding the city, but now, two years later, we’ve already got nursery rhymes and fairy tales to warn the kids.

 

Those… things could be the cause of all this. They could even be the answer. Most people don’t know much about them, because it’s rare to get within twenty metres of them twice.

 

The city was now very much divided. The centre is controlled by two gangs, led by two of the richest men in the city. Not that long ago, that meant in terms of money, these days it means in terms of weapons, medicine, gas masks and Petrol. Anything flammable was worth lives. Lots of them.

 

Outside the centre, the city was divided into four zones, with a set of roads acting as a No Man’s Land separating them from the Mob. One of the zones was rivalry-free. Everyone in that part, maybe four or five thousand, had settled their differences within the first six months. There were a couple of medical centres there in the Old village, and a community spirit thanks to the area having been through some serious fires and floods in the previous decades. Those guys knew what was important, and that was trust. The other three zones weren’t so stable. Some gangs were invading other zones, trying to change the boundaries. In the Estate there are age-old rivalries still booming on, glad of the new reasons to fight amongst themselves. The river runs under the city, but where it runs over ground it separates the Estate from old Chinatown, with each half getting their own bank of the river. For a long time there’s been a truce with the river, both sides agreeing to share their resources. But recently the Estate side’s turf war was reaching the bank, and the newcomers weren’t as interested in sharing. Chinatown… Nobody went to Chinatown without a good reason. Just the Fetchers.

 

 

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Nice. The way the tone of the story is set within the first few sentences is superb. It's good how it starts with a sinister sort of description, and that tone remains throughout the passage.

 

You've worded it down very well, and you've left us wondering what happened two years ago. And I can easily imagine such a city and the problems it has.

I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next, and find out what had happened.

 

I can't find any critique to point out, which I feel is just me being ungrateful on my part. But if there is anything, I won't be afraid to point it out.

 

It has started off very well, and I'm hoping the rest of the story is like that. Keep it up. :smile:

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Well clearly I don't have as many fans as you :P

 

During the day these streets would be speckled with Fetchers – men, women, sometimes even families who would go from camp to camp, trading necessities and bartering their way to salvation. Everybody trusted them more than anyone else because they lived in No Mans Land, and because we all knew that’s where they wanted to be. A lot of them were the old hobos, but some of them are men of the cloth, who expelled themselves from the immoral Centre, and continued dedicating their lives helping whoever they can. Some of the Fetchers used to be in a Zone, but were either Exiled or called Sanctuary, choosing a life as a Fetcher rather than a dead man. The fetchers are smart, though. They might not have the guns or the masks or the medicine growing on their doorstep, but they stay alive, somehow. If anyone ever wants something, the fetchers will likely be able to get it

 

Everyone’s welcome in the Centre, so long as you pick a side. Once you’re in though, then that’s it. You’ve sworn an oath to your chosen Leader. They’ll let you leave at any time – well, anytime it’s dark, anyway. If you want out then they’ll lower you over the side in a cage, and release you to the wild. The fetchers seem to have some sort of deal going with both sides of the Centre, too.

 

And last, but definitely not least, is my own Zone. Mine. The worst hit by the strike. We border Chinatown and the Old Village. There’s a road that leads us to the Old Village that isn’t infected, and we’ve got half of squad at the barricade there. All fifty of them. Those that survived Day Zero were very quickly faced with choice. Either stay here, or go. A lot of people that had friends or family over the Border were pretty quick to make their choices, but for those of us who lost loved ones were not as quick to befriend the Old Village, for their part in this all was not small.

 

The other half of our squad are in charge of Strip-Searching – going out into our quadrant and scrapping out old cars, deserted houses, corner shops, allotments, you name it. The Fields is the largest area of all four. We have a pretty large amount to ourselves to roam in – two years down the line and we’ve still got a hell of a lot of places to look. We’ve got high rises, one medical centre, a couple of medics on our squad and a lot of home-made weapons, Traps and tools to help us day by day. The Fetchers have been good to us; old Father George used to run the Parish, now our base of operations, now he does what he can to scoop some extra items off the top of the Carts for us. In return we sometimes let some of the Fetchers abide here a while – but only those Father George brings in, and never more than a couple. We trade off some of the things we find, things that we think we’ve stockpiled up well enough for ourselves. But what we do have to import, unfortunately, is fresh produce from the Estate. Our land is too contaminated to grow anything fresh, and we have no drinkable water supply. The internal battle on the waterfront over there is looking set to affect our trading, and we’ll either have to start trading with the Old Village, or start pushing towards the Chinatown border, and hope we could avoid anything too dangerous.

The main problem with that plan is Little Italy. There’s a couple of roads the other side of the Fields that was famous for its choice of restaurants – as in, nearly every other one was a pasta or a pizza place. When this started, a lot of the owners made to get to Chinatown, or had heard about the Old Village. The Italians already knew each other, having boiled up a little friendly rivalry over the years, and were content with staying where they were. They had some farm which wasn’t contaminated and, as we found out eighteen months ago, some that was. They made no objection to anyone leaving because they weren’t in charge yet, but once they had the majority share, they started pushing their weight around.

 

We never posed a threat to them because they didn’t do any Strip-Searching. They have a few sentry points out around by the school, roughly half-way between us and them, and we have Traps at every possible place they could get through to us, that are checked daily. We’ve never had a confrontation, but we hear from some of the Fetchers that stay from time to time that they like to keep their friends close, but their enemies closer. They have a non-verbal peace contract with us, and some sort of arrangement with Chinatown. I don’t know why Chinatown doesn’t take over Little Italy – there’s only a couple of hundred there. We suspect that they have cut some sort of deal, but we have no idea what.

 

 

 

Got another thousand words after this. with DIALOGUE!!

 

I'm unsure about the Little Italy element. Bit cheesy? I don't know. I wanted another group to be inhabiting the vast Fields that were distant and secretive, yet there needs to be an air of power. I think that'll grow once I start sending my dude Zander 'round the houses... plot is coming together a little.

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Again, nice passage. Telling us more and more about the state the city is in, and how you slipped in a little description of the disaster was very well placed.

 

Again, I have no bad things to point out. I don't think the Little Italy thing is a bit cheesy, it sorta adds to the sort of turmoil that the city has found itself in, and that there was actually something there before the disaster.

 

It's great so far. You've said there will be dialogue in the next part, as it happens, dialogue is my strongest point. I might be able to help you a little bit with that, if you need any. :smile:

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You didn’t know that you couldn’t trust everyone.

 

The only problem with the first part is this sentence. It might just be me but it doesn't make sense. Should it be something like: "You didn't know whether you could trust anyone."?

 

Well clearly I don't have as many fans as you :P

 

I'm unsure about the Little Italy element. Bit cheesy? I don't know. I wanted another group to be inhabiting the vast Fields that were distant and secretive, yet there needs to be an air of power. I think that'll grow once I start sending my dude Zander 'round the houses... plot is coming together a little.

 

You didn't give me a chance to read it.

 

As for the little italy bit, it does sound a little cheesy. Maybe you could put something about the being shady and secretive, adn you don't know much about the so everyone just calls them little Italy.

 

This story is brilliant. I'm really looking forward to the rest. Keep it coming. :D

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Personally, I like it so far, with the suspense, and the uncertainty to what has happened (Biological? Nuclear?).

 

Sounds like this is shaping up to be a nice thriller. :smile:

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Again, nice passage. Telling us more and more about the state the city is in, and how you slipped in a little description of the disaster was very well placed.

 

Again, I have no bad things to point out. I don't think the Little Italy thing is a bit cheesy, it sorta adds to the sort of turmoil that the city has found itself in, and that there was actually something there before the disaster.

 

It's great so far. You've said there will be dialogue in the next part, as it happens, dialogue is my strongest point. I might be able to help you a little bit with that, if you need any. :smile:

Yeah i've been getting very mixed responses about the little italy. Most people haven't noticed the cheeky "nobody goes to chinatown"... I think I'll leave it as Little Italy and try and work it into a nice, slightly clichéd mobster-esque place... And yes, the next two parts will be mostly dialogue.

 

The only problem with the first part is this sentence. It might just be me but it doesn't make sense. Should it be something like: "You didn't know whether you could trust anyone."?

 

I see what you mean. Thing is i want to say that basically, you didn't know that most people weren't trustworthy, i want to get the sense of scale in there... maybe "you thought you could trust everyone" instead of all the negatives.

 

And yeah, Little Italy will need to be shady... Chinatown was going to be the most mysterious place, and there's going to be strange goings on in the Old Village too... But I have a few ideas for Little Italy.

 

At the moment the more I write the more scenarios keep popping into my head that I want to write about... Haven't written this quickly in ages.

 

“Hey! Zander, we got some sparks over here!”

 

We were scouting out a new sector up north of the old business park. The contamination seems to have mutated some species of flora, and now they grow real quick; quicker the closer you get to the Woods where there must have been some sort of chemical reaction during the contamination. You get a yellow grass growing in the cracks in the tarmac, and vine-like branches arc down from skeletal trees at the roadside, blocking the way and sometimes shooting right through post boxes. It’s taken us a few weeks to hack through a series of blockages where hedges and trees had dropped roots as they’d grown. We’d brought some root-killer with us to ensure an easier return to the place, but we didn’t have enough to stop it from growing back like stubble tomorrow. We knew there could be a lot of useful supplies the other side, so it would be well worth the time and effort.

 

The business park was good for machinery parts and we managed to siphon some oil from the fork lift trucks and cars that were left, doors agape, cups of coffee still on the dash. We didn’t clean the place out like some of the smaller sites closer to the boundaries; we just took what we needed. The Fetchers have told us that car batteries are running high on the demands list, and we figured the Scrapyard would be the place to find some. We were right.

 

“Ok Pete, I’ll be right over. We got roughly an hour ‘til sundown so we’ll just grab a few today and come back tomorrow with some wheels.” We never split into fewer than pairs, currently there were four of us. Me and Lysa this side of the road, spraying anything of interest with an S. When we come back here and Strip properly, we’ll circle these. I had been spraying some six-foot walls and dumpsters. The walls look as if they might lead towards another residential block where we might find some more Tins. Pete and Rose were the other side, all four of us with our masks on, looking like something out of a holocaust movie. I admit I’d been a little preoccupied with this search; cars used to be a big thing for me. Looking at all these old Fords and Nissans – not even that old, really… but they made me think about those easy Sunday mornings, getting up at whatever time, ambling down to the corner shop, knowing I’d have a hard week at work starting the next day but just not caring; seeing every driveway filled, smiling at the knowledge that everyone else was, too, ignoring the oncoming stress and going about enjoying their days however they can.

 

And now all these cars, parked on top of each other, broken and dirty, rusting. Parked cars always looked like they were sleeping, or hibernating, but now you can tell that they’re dead from the inside out. Well, except for those batteries.

 

“Oi, numpty, get back to the year 2012!” Lyse punched me in the arm. She wasn’t as keen on cars. Her thing was rock climbing. More useful than you might’ve thought in a city as crumbled as this. “You said it yourself boss, fifty minutes and the moon shines. I’ve got one Spark in my pack already, I reckon I can get another two in.”

 

“Alright, alright. You know maybe you ought to try punching me in another spot? I think you’re slowly making a hole in that arm.”

 

“You’re right. I think by now your thoughtful pauses have climbed the annoying ladder a few rungs enough for it to be a kick in the balls next time.”

 

“… Ok, we’ll talk about this later. Yo Pete!” I yelled. “Where’s Rose?”

 

“Over here, Zand. Saw a couple of barbed wire coils and some old suspension springs that could come in handy.” This is what I love about Strip-Searching. You get to see everyone’s core come out. The first time you go out on a Search, your focus is all over the place, hands shaking, rattling a can of mace, heart beat drowning out all twig snaps and gate creak just enough to make you uncertain. Little do you know that a few weeks later you’ll be calmer than a drop in the ocean. Totally in your element. You start getting a knack at something. For Pete it’s his eye. He can be looking around, chatting away about cider or omelettes, then just point over behind him and say “that looks interesting…” and be off for five minutes, returning with a bucket of oil and a pocket full of ball bearings. He can always spot the way into – or out of – a building. Lysa can scale a nine-foot wall in about three seconds, and is slim enough to squeeze into any alluring gap. Bit of a mouth on her, though. And Rose… Well rose is a gem. She must have been Joan of Arc in a previous life; before all this started she hadn’t even held a bread-knife and now she could look at a gun and tell you its firing range, bullet capacity and reload speed. She’s to blame for some of our most ingenious traps. Together, we make an excellent Team.

 

“Ah, trust you. Ok Pete, what’s the body-count?”

 

“Well Skipper, we got a whole storage room full of them, and a whole line of cars not rooted yet. I’d say close to... seventy? Woo! How ‘bout that. We’ll be lighting up our little third-world town with these tonight!” He was dancing as much as anyone can when you’re standing still.

 

“Ok, well between us we ought to be able to carry about ten back, so we’ll have to just light up a third-world room. Pete, I marked up some scrap heaps over there that I want you to look at tomorrow when we got the wheels. Lots of washing machines and fridges, might be something in there. Rose there are some manhole covers that need sorting tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll be a breeze now you’ve got those springs.”

 

“Gotcha”

 

“And Lysa… you saw the walls too? So we’re sorted. Right. Let’s do this.”

 

 

 

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Your dialogue is strong. One point about dialogue is that it can show what sort of personality the character has, and you've done that, especially with the character Lysa.

 

When I look at the characters in my story, I think of different ways in which a simple sentence could be spoken by them. I take on board their personality, attitude, mood, and even accents and dialect, and add them to customise a simple sentence. Ultimately, the sentence is spoken in a way that is unique to the character. You can even see here on the forum, that we all say the same thing differently.

 

Maybe that tip isn't really useful to you. But that's how I look at dialogue, and I think that's a decent way of looking at it. :smile:

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Ok, well I'm being pretty speedy with the parts but fuck it :P Here's the last part I've written, it's a lot shorter, and a lot more dialogue.

 

No matter how many times we were out this close to sunset, I couldn’t help but get a little nervous once the sky starts turning. I remember when pink was such an innocent colour, but now…

 

We were nearly back to Base. When I heard the siren.

 

“Woah woah – That can’t be possible… Zand—“ But Pete was too slow, I was already sprinting down Fisher Street, readying my rifle. I knew this could not be good. The sky might be burning red now but it’s still daylight…

 

“Nate! NATE open the gate NOW. What’s going ON?”

 

“Zander| We were just setting the traps down the alleys when… well it caught us by surprise! We totally didn’t expect it…”

 

The others had caught up and were dropping their bags on a bench just inside the first gate.

 

“What’s happening?” Rose said, alarmed.

 

“Down the alley on the west side, It was real fast… We tried shooting at it, Frank even slashed at it a couple of times but… it was so fast…”

 

“Frank? Was he with Louisa? Where are they now? Is she ok? Tell me!” Lysa only ever let her guard down when it was to do with her little sister. “Tell me Frank!”

 

“She… she got hit.”

 

“Oh my God…”

 

“But she’s ok – She’s down in the quarantine with Doc. She got hit but we managed to set the trap just in time. We- we got it good” Lysa froze for a few moments; dread, then anger, and finally concern washed over her face.

 

“Zander?”

 

“Yeah, Lysa.”

 

“The west side alley leads to Old Village, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Thought so.” She pushed Nate aside, as he tried to avoid her eye contact. Lysa can really put the fear in a man.

 

“Fuck, how could it get this far from the woods? They don’t normally get half as close for another hour.”

 

“I know Pete. I know. Look, can you go check on Lysa and Louisa? Help the Doc. Check see if everyone else has returned. Double-check.”

 

“On it, Skipper.”

 

“Ok, Rose? You ok?”

 

“… Yeah. Shit Zander, will she be ok?” None of us wanted to think about what we had to do last time someone was hit.

 

“I don’t know yet, but Doc’s good, we’ve been through this a few times now. Look, we need to go check that last Trap was set properly. I hate to say it, but the Fetchers could get us a decent price for the hide, too.”

 

“Yeah, ok, I’ll grab Jiffy Bag.” She left the interim room and headed for the Fort’s Recon lab. Nate had stopped shaking, and come to his senses a little.

 

“Here… take these Flackets, Zand”

 

“Thanks, Nate.” Flackets were flour bombs with a little fire cracker in them. Confuses them for a bit. Don’t know why. “Listen, don’t worry. Lysa won’t blame you. She won’t blame anyone but those things, or Basileus, even, but not you guys. Not us. God knows how many times we’ve saved each other’s lives. This isn’t something we’ve seen before, some… some day-runner. It could change everything… Listen, go take it easy. You were on Cook’s duty tonight right?

 

“Right.”

 

“Ok well Kitty will have to manage without you. Take it easy. I’m sure a lot of appetites will be silenced by this news. Go tell Frank and Shelly to do the same.”

 

“Ok, I got the bag. Zander?” I clenched my jaw, and nodded. She took a breath, her hand tightening on her handgun. “Let’s make it quick.”

 

 

really weird how you create characters and they tell you what they're like. Rose keeps telling me that she's black. I'm all "dude I don't care" but nooo... How do you think I'm supposed to portray this in writing? The clichéd ideas in my head involve comparing the colour of her skin to something like chocolate or whatever. But I've not described anyone else's skin. Maybe I should. I don't know. Maybe I'll just never mention it until they go to the Estate... maybe she can come from the estate, have family there and they're pissed off because she left years ago... OK awesome that works with me!

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