Tuesday, October 29, 2013

mountains haiku

I'm still pretty wiped out from the weekend trip, so I only got half a chapter done today.  How about a haiku?  Came up with it on the plane over.

Mountains

Sitting in a plane
Far above all, these mountains
Look attainable

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

chapter 6

I've been bucking the porcelain bronco the last few days and felt run down.  I'm also preparing for a trip this weekend.  In conclusion, just one chapter this week.  Even as I write this stuff I'm struck with how different it will be after editing.  Editing and revising is what takes boring rocks and makes them into pretty trinkets.

Part 2: The Beginning


Chapter 6


Clarke and Louis headed Southeast, passing through a number of towns as they drove away from the Salt Lake City metropolis, eventually ending up on Highway 40. They'd seen small groups of people as they passed, struggling but not giving up. They waved, but didn't stop. They'd been cooped up for a little over a year and it was nice to cruise along. The towns gave way to hills, buttes, and flat desert. “I like big buttes and I cannot lie...” Louis sang, mispronoung buttes. After a few hours they stopped to stretch at Starvation State park. “Cheerful place to stop. Lovely,” Louis said. Clarke tested the reservoir there, and it was safe to drink so they filled up several empty bottles. Clarke marked the reservoir as clean on his map.
Clarke had been marking a lot of things on his US highway atlas. Salt Lake City was crossed out with an X. Detours were noted when they left to highway to avoid pockets of radiation, or dormant traffic pileups. The fallout was spread unevenly, moved by wind and rain. It tended to settle in low areas, but there were no hard and fast rules. Their Geiger counter was in constant use as they drove.
Returning to their car with the water bottles, Clarke and Louis saw three men and two women leaning against their car. “Uh, hi. We just came for some water. Who are you?”
A man with dark sunglasses and a bow slung over his shoulder smiled. “I'm a state park ranger here. These other folks are on a long-term camping trip. Nice wheels,” the ranger said, kicking the back tire. “Where you boys headed?”
Louis just shrugged. “We're heading East, to see if Topeka still stands,” Clarke replied.
“That sounds safe enough. You two stay away from the Navajo Nation on your way. They weren't hit like most other places. Most of them are alright, but some of the younger, angrier ones are venturing out to pick fights and settle old grudges.”
“We'll keep that in mind,” Clarke said. Louis, apparently bored with the conversational topics, was drawing on the ground with a stick.
“Say, you wouldn't mind taking some meat and fish to Duchesne for me, would you? It would save me several trips on the bicycle, and my wife'll get you two some lunch.” Clarke agreed and loaded the backseat with as much as there was room. He realized that these people weren't really out here camping, they were hunter-gatherers. Fish, forage, return to town to feed the rest. A state park with a large reservoir could do a lot to help support the town of Duchesne.
They drove the short distance to town and unloaded the prize. The wife indeed gave them a hearty lunch. While Louis argued with the wife about the best Romero movie and what her zombie escape plan was, Clarke studied the maps. They were far enough away from Navajo country that he wasn't worried about any troublemakers there. He knew they'd have to avoid Colorado, and Boulder, and maybe even Colorado Springs. Just how many nuclear missiles had gone off? There was no way of knowing. They would stay on Highway 40 for quite a ways, and then turn onto Highway 34 to go through the mountains well North of Boulder.
The air vents for the AC, along with the vents in the trunk to regulate battery temperature, had been thoroughly cleaned. The AC was off, though. “I heard that nuclear winter would decrease world temperatures by ten degrees farfignugen,” Louis said proudly. Clarke knew he meant Fahrenheit. Louis remembered hearing that climate change had risen temperatures by ten degrees in the last century. Nuclear winter seemed to be, ironically, the quickest way to reverse global warming.
Clarke and Louis pass through the town of Roosevelt and Vernal, seeing more groups of people looking for food, looking for water, and looking hungry. Most of the next few hours are open country and big skies, the same scenery the boys have seen all their lives. “What are we going to do when we reach Topeka, assuming it's in one piece?” Clarke asked. “Settle down? Start a delivery service?”
Louis ansered in his ussual fashion, “We could be the fastest pizza delivery around! Way faster than horses and bicycles.” The truth was, neither knew anything about Topeka. They'd essentially picked a small city and figured the rest would fall into place as it came.
They stopped for the day in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Population: 12,000. They followed some signs to the Edgemont Ski-In, Ski-Out resort, where they found half of the buildings frozen in the middle stages of construction. The completed sections were large and impressive. No one was skiing. “I guess it's not tourist season,” mumble Louis. They parked by the entrance and went to see who was inside.
Juanita was insdie. She explained that the place was going to be a ritzy place for skiing tourists, but they'd run out of both construction supplies and tourists. Clarke and Louis made a deal to fill several gallon jugs full of water from the river a few miles away in exchange for lodging (in one of the finished rooms) and some food. When Juanita found they had a vehicle, she found more containers to fill and kept them busy hauling water for hours.
Over a dinner of rabbit, pine nuts, and wild mushrooms, Juanita told them a story. “This story was told to me by a young man pasing through. He was looking for adventure. He said there was a bridge across a river far to the South. Cars piled up in a gigantic crash. Story goes, both sides were too busy watching the mushroom clouds in their rearview mirrors to see what was right in front of them.”
“Might be they couldn't see through a duststorm,” Clarke offered, “Those blast waves stireed up a mess of wind for months.” Juanita shrugged, “Perhaps, but that's not very interesting.” She nudged some of the wood in the fireplace. “The cities, the places we used to have stories about, they're all gone. We need new stories now.”
Clarke and Louis chatted with Jaunita as the fire burned lower. After the sunset, there was little reason to stay awake, and they had just gotten up to go to bed. “Wait, “ said Jaunita, “If you two tell stories to others, tell them about me, and tell them about the bridge. It might spark a rush of tourism,” she said wryly, retreating to her own room.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

chapters 4 and 5

Sorry, I know it's a day late.  I was almost done with chapter six and was hoping to finish it yesterday to have a whopping three chapters at once, but then I started playing Blood Dragon. 

It's turning out to be a young-adult appropriate story.  No sex, no violence.  Not sure if I'm going to ocntinue the story after Topeka or not.  We'll see.

I'm going to reinforce a few themes in editing.  Right now I know what they are but I haven't worked them in throughout in a comprehensive way.  I suppose I'll have to write the story and fill in the finer things afterwards.

Anayway, chapters four and five:

Chapter 4


BOOM


BOOM


BOOM


Clarke woke with a start, his first thought of bombs falling. As he turned on his light and woke up a bit, he realized the sounds were coming from the barricaded store entrance. Someone, or something, was banging on the doors.
As far as “something,” Clarke hoped it wasn't more rats. Rodents had found some way into the store and were getting into the food. Some of the infiltrators looked perfectly healthy, while others bore tumors and other reminders of the world outside the walls. For lack of anything better to do the refugees sppent a lot of time patrolling the grocery section, chasing and trying to bash the invertible vermin. These extermination efforts were not very successful.
Everyone that had been sleeping was now awake (without daylight, people slept whenever they felt like it). The group converged at the entrance, where Raul was arguing with Steve. “He's gotta be a zombie. Look at him, shambling, skinny, and his skin is all damaged. Maybe from bites” Out of the gaps in the barricade one could make out a man, wobbly on his feet, with red sores on his skin. He was bald, he was holding some kind of box, and a puddle of vomit was at his feet. He looked confused, but kept banging.
“Actually, his symptoms are consistent with radiation sickenss,” Steve started to explain. He loved being the smart one in the room. His explanation was cut off by the man outside, “Please! My cat!” He yelled, holding his box a little higher. Clarke realeaized it was a cat carrier, with some sort of sheet metal covering it. Lead? “We need to let him in, Raul,” Clarke said. “He's not a zombie.”
“But maybe he's a vampire!” Louis chimed in, but it was obvious he was joking because he was dismantling the barricade as he said it. “Is it safe to let him in? Will he make us sick too?” A worried girl named Cindy asked, holding her swelling belly. Cindy and Dave had been cashiers, casually dating just a few months ago. Now Cindy was pregnant. No one knew the anaswer to her question. The reading selection at their disposal didn't cover these sorts of scenarios.
“Look,” said Louis, “He's dying out there. In the movies they hose people down that have been exposed to radiation. We might be able to help him.” The barricade was shoved aside, the door was opened, and the man collapsed forward. The box clattered as it hit the floor and a startled yowl could be heard within.
The man, delirious, was taken to the back and tended to as best they knew how. They imitated whatever they'd seen in the movies, and put the man to rest on a pile of blankets. The box was indeed lined with lead, and the cat, spared the fate of its master, was released. Cindy named him Shabby Tabby, and the vermin problems would soon be a thing of the past.
They took turns watching the man, who was clearly deteriorating. Leafing through his wallet, Raul announced that their non-zombie guest was named Aziz. Clarke and Louis were playing cards near Aziz one night when he sat bolt upright, “The car, I left it in the car!” Clarke and Louis put folded their hands and tried to calm Aziz. “Don't worry, you're safe in here. It's okay,” Clarke told him soothingly.
Aziz kept agitatedly babbling about the car. “Do you think he'll calm down if we show him our car?” Clarke ventured. “Well,” Louis replied, “We'll try that first, and if that doesn't work I'll get some Hot Wheels from the toy department.” The two of them supported Aziz and led him toward the garden center. Most of the others followed; something new was happening, and that didn't happen much.
When Aziz saw the car, he fell silent. A curtain seemed to lift from his ruddy face. He said the first coherent things since he arrived, “This winter won't last forever. When the sun is back, you have to leave this place. You have to move on, and show others- other survivors-” Aziz vomited on the floor, and then collapsed, apparently drained by his moment of clarity. Clarke and Louis looked at one another. Leave? To where? Show what to survivors? They hadn't thought beyond the day-to-day tasks in a long time.
Two days later, Aziz died.


Chapter 5


Some people handled the dark quiet of Wal-Mart habitation better than others. Donna had lost her family, and had been pretty catatonic for eight months. The sky was now clearing enough to distinguish day and night, but this did not cheer her. She missed her family. She didn't know what to do without them. One day she said she was going to try to look for them, and walked out the door. Donna never came back.
Cindy's pregnancy was obvious now. Her and Dave had read the two books about babies at the store, and asked questions to everyone. There was an anxiousness in the air, and a tinge of hope. Sundays were reserved for casual spiritual reflection for anyone that wanted to join in. For the most part, everyone agreed that the world-ending events described in holy books had not occurred. Therefore, the world hadn't ended. It went on, and they with it.
“It could have been The Rupture,” Louis pointed out. “You know, the good people went to heaven and Earth was left with atheists and outlaws. Shabby Tabby, THE BEAST!” Cindy picked up Shabby, “This guy? He's way too cuddly. And I think you mean the rapture.”
“The Raptor? That sounds horrifying,” Louis parried. Moods were certainly improving. Louis insisted that sunflowers were sprouting in the garden center, and told everyone how they'd power up the car. No one fell for it.
“Where are you going to go when the sun comes back?” Raul asked. “Probably to the East,” replied Clarke. “California had a lot of major cities, so that's probably a mess. Arizona and Nevada have massive fires every year withou the help of bombs, so they're probably devastated too. North is tempting, but there's a lot of open nothing in Wyoming and Montana, and we might run out of supplies.”
“I, for one vote that we go to the place in Kansas. The one that makes that orange drink, uh, Tampico,” Louis said. “Topeka?” clarified Clarke, “It might have been spared, actually. That's not a bad idea, just don't expect any oranges.”
Over the last few months of nuclear winter, Clarke and Louis ventured outisde with their Geiger counter, helping find water, fertile ground, and safe areas for the ones that would stay behind. Cindy gave birth to a boy, which Dave named Wolfosaurus. Steve tried explaining why this name was inaccurate, but no one listened. Dave and Cindy moved to a vacant gas station just down the road to raise their family in.
In time seeds did sprout in the garden center, and then outside planting began. Raul led Dave, Cindy, Steve, Clarke, Louis, and the rest in starting over. Dubbed by Louis as the Walmartians, they would make it. Especially if zombies came to town.
The car was moved back outside in the warm, beautiful sun. Louis said he might have become an albino from the extended dark period. Clarke ignored him and checked the air pressure on the tires. Louis was cleaning the windows. The batteries were recharged and the car was ready to go.
“Good luck out there. I hope you find what you're looking for,” Cindy told them, holding Shabby Tabby. Dave was holding Wolfosaurus. Goodbyes were said all around. Clarke and Louis were looking for their way, the open road, and maybe a safe haven of more than ten people.
They headed East.

Monday, October 7, 2013

chapters 2 and 3

this is easy to write.  ideas just keep moving it along, and I had a few hours to type today.  keep in mind, this is still a very rough first draft.  A and B are now named Clarke and Louis, respectively.

Chapter 2


This was not part of the plan. Go to college, get a kick ass job, and life is great. Nuclear bombs weren't part of the American dream they'd been eating. They got back in the car, thankful for sunglasses but still with blind spots from seeing one dozen suns. They turned off the music; it wasn't helping.
“Do we have anything stronger than Coke?” Clarke asked, leaning his head on the steering wheel. “No,” Louis replied soberly, “The breathalyzer, remember?” The university had helped come up with most of the funding for their solar-powered alterations, and as a requirement of doing so demanded a breathalyzer be installed. If breath had too high BAC, the engine would turn off, or just not start.
“Damn,” Clarke said, “Just... damn.” He turned the car back on, turned around, and sped back the way they had come. Their families, their friends, their professors... everyone and everything they knew was in Salt Lake City. They had to know what happened there.
Once they got back on the interstate, things slogged considerably. Cars were packed on both sides, fleeing the city, or seeking the city, everyone was looking for something. Safety. Loved ones. Answers.
It was a quiet, slow journey. Clarke and Louis were both wracked with tumultuous thoughts and fears. As they approached Salt Lake City, the air became heavier with smoke. The general direction of the city burned a dark orange with thick black clouds. Ashes started to rain on the the windshield. Clarke turned on the wipers to see better, but he knew this would ruin his air filter. Clarke sighed, “Loius, I'm sorry but I have to turn off the air. These ashes will plug up the air intake. I don't know if this stuff is radioactive, so we should keep the windows shut too. It's going to get hot in here.”
With a grave expression, Louis reached to the pilfered Geiger counter and pulled the tigger. It chirped immediately. Louis frowned. “What's it read?” Clarke asked, worried. “100 microsieverts,” B replied, consulting the chart that came with it, “The same dose as a chest x-ray, except this is continuous.”
Clarke pulled on to the shoulder, dazed, “Well... what do we do? We're still miles away from downtown. Everyone we know is further in...”
“We have to turn around.” It was hard to see Louis acting so seriously. He was usually goofy, “Salt Lake was obviously hit. Anyone at the center is gone, and anyone much closer than we are is going to be seriously irradiated.” They both knew they had to abandon the people and places they loved. To do otherwise was suicide, but it was still a heavy decision. They would never get a chance to say goodbye.
In a grim mood, Clarke got onto the opposite lane, and started heading away. “We passed a Wal-Mart a couple miles back.” The ash fell steadily and the skies, so bright only a few hours ago, were darkening to a black hellishly lit by fires below. The Wal-Mart in question was nearly surrounded by burning buildings, while somehow not catching itself. A trick of the wind, perhaps.
They would survive. Everything they knew was gone, and the future, well... they couldn't think too far ahead. Despair hung around their necks, longing, loss, and uncertainty. The Wal-Mart paking lot was deserted. Apparenly when the world ends people don't go shopping.


Chapter 3


Clarke, Louis, and about ten employees made up the entire population of Wal-Mart refugees. Everyone appreciated the potential value in a solar-powered car, so the first order of business was to get the car indoors. It was just a little too big to fit through the garden center doors, so the side mirrors had to be removed. The battery was disconnected and the interior side panels were removed. The speaker grill covers were take off, along with the speakers, to expose the nuts holding the mirrors on. The car was rolled inside. The doors were locked and barricaded to withstand the strangely strong winds blowing outdoors
Outside it grew even darker, and there was no power indoors. A desperate lot, the refugees were quick to follow any leader. The manager of the store, Raul, knew what to do, “Don't worry, I've had a plan for this kind of thing since I started here pushing shopping carts in.” They gathered flashlights and batteries so they could see what they were doing, then Raul directed them to use the camping stoves and salt to start curing all of the meat. They did this while scarfing ice cream. The frozen stuff had to be dealt with now, because the freezers had no power.
“See,” Raul explained, “Anyone that's seen Dawn of the Dead, or played Left 4 Dead, or knows anything about zombies, has a plan in case the shit hit the fan.” A single, middle-aged man with no family, Raul had little reason to mourn, and, in fact, saw the apocalypse as a bit of excitement far beyond the usual Wal-Mart fare.
“I totally had a plan for zombies!” Louis piped in, while he and a few others used tools to dig a well in the floor of the stock room. “I was going to go to one of those shrines with the eternal flame, 'cause, you know, zombies are really flammable. Then I was going to eat beans all day and easily eliminate any zombie that wandered in.”
“Can zombies enter a shrine?” asked Clarke. “That's holy ground, even if you were proudly flatulent.”
“They're ZOMBIES, not vampires,” Louis chided, rolling his eyes. After a few days, the fires had mostly stopped burning, but the sky was completely black. Anyone passing in a vehicle might now even see the store with the raging winds blowing ash all over. The only way to tell time was by clock and calendar. Air temperatures began to fall. Nuclear winter was setting in.
Some of the refugees drank heavily, and for good reason. Raul tried his best to keep everyone occupied. Everyone worked together to dump bags of dirt onto the floor of the garden center and spread seeds. Three was no sun now, but someday there would be, and the glass ceiling there would make a perfect greenhouse. They had a few bonfires in the garden center using wooden palettes. They cooked and drank and drank and sang along to the iPod in the car until the batteries in the trunk had drained.
After a few weeks, it was too cold to stay in the garden center all the time. The group bundled up in clothes and blankets and relocated. “Hey,” Clarke asked one day (or possibly night) as the group played cards and board games. “I played Fallout 3, and all the water was radioactive. How does this Brita water filter fix it?”
Raul didn't know because it didn't involve zombies, but a somewhat awkward teenager named Steve had the answer. “Well,” Steve said, snuffling his nose, “Water isn't radioactive, it's particles in the water that are dangerous. Activated carbon filtering removes the particles, and that's why our well water, from an irradiated aquifer, is safe for us to drink.” He looked proud to have chipped in. The poor kid really missed his pet gerbil, and hadn't had much of a life off the internet before now.

There was no water pressure, so pits were chiseled into the floor for toilets. When they were used up, they were filled in and covered to contain the smell. A couple of months passed with Raul as leading his motely bunch as best as anyone could. Secretly, he hoped for a zombie or two to knock on the door just so he could really feel like he was accomplishing something amazing.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On the Road (working title)

I had an idea for a story (or a book if it goes long enough, we'll see) a year or so ago.  I came up with a few ideas but never typed anything.  I figured I'd give it a whirl.  The base premise is two guys with a solar-powered car driving around what's left of America after nuclear winter ends.  They'll meet interesting people!  They'll hear interesting stories!  Some humor will be in there along the way.  We'll see how it goes.  Here's the rough (no edits or revisions done) of the first chapter.

On the Road (working title)


Greg Thomas




Part 1: The End


Chapter 1


It was the brightest day imaginable, how could it be better?
A and B had just driven on to the salt flats of Utah. Their solar-powered project car was a joint senior capstone, and this was their third test drive. With the latest round of tinkering, their goal was to get it up to a sustained fifty miles per hour for six hours. A nice, leisurely test drive to finish their engineering degrees.
On such a sunny day, they could drive until nightfall, and even later with the battery reserves in the trunk, but there wasn't any reason to. As long as they could show that the converted Ford Taurus was a viable alternative to gasoline, they'd graduate with honors, get great jobs, and make lots of money. At least, that was the plan, and it was going well so far.
“Why the hell did you bring a Geiger counter?” asked A, after setting the car on cruise control. B was pointing the device in every and making noises like it was a laser pistol.
“Haven't you ever seen the movie 'Them?” Giant ants in the desert. It's a classic. With this, I'll be able to see them coming!” B explained.
“If they're giant, ants couldn't we see them through the windows?” A replied, turning the AC up a notch. He had grown well used to B inanities.
“Not if they're invisible. Radiation can do that, you know,” B patiently pointed out.
“I must have missed that lecture. Hey, pass me one of those Cokes.” B grabbed two Cokes out of the cooler in the back and popped the tops. They each took a nice long gulp.
There wasn't much to see out here. Mountains in the distance, but otherwise just a huge expanse of flat glaring sand. A could probably take his hands off the wheel, there was nothing to hit, but there was the odd race now and again. Their car hummed along wonderfully, with the passengers comfortably passing through the wasteland.
“You know, I don't know how the settlers got through this place. It's desolate. I don't remember it from in Oregon Trail,” B wondered whimsically.
“Dude, we're in Utah. Not Oregon.” Batteries were fully charged from the sunlight. Speed had been maintained for one hour now.
“I think they're sister cities,” B said nonchalantly. “Hey, we rigged this up to power my iPod over the weekend,” B said, fishing an iPod out of his pocket. “Let's get some tunes going!” Soon, Led Zeppelin was coming out of the speakers. B sang along, “When the levee breaks, I'll have no place to stay...”
A flash in the rearview mirror. “Was that lightning?” A asked his companion, turning the music down. The brightness was unbelieveable. A few seconds passed, then a brighter flash, from the right. A turned off cruise control and stopped the car. “There was only sun in the forecast...”
They both got out of the car. B had the Geiger counter in hand, but looked serious for once. They stood baking on the hard salt, scanning the horizons. Bright flashes seemed to have sprouted all around- but not lightning. Clouds were forming in dreaded mushroom shapes. The iPod had been left playing, the doors half-open, “Crying won't help you, praying won't do you no good...”

It was the brightest day imaginable, and things could not be more dire.