Here is my updated word count. This is the last week of NANOWRIMO and I am a little behind but I’m not too embarrassed by my story so far! For those of you who are tired of my blogs about writing a novel it won’t be long before I’m snapping photos of snowflakes or writing the occasional poem, you know, whatever you sick people come here for :D
Chapter 1: 3083
Chapter 2: 1992
Chapter 3: 1252
Chapter 4: 1121
Chapter 5: 2109
Chapter 6: 1228
Chapter 7: 1646
Chapter 8: 836
Chapter 9: 2481
Chapter 10: 2835
Chapter 11: 1152
Chapter 12: 1865
Chapter 13: 1429
Chapter 14: 1037
Chapter 15: 1819
Chapter 16: 1372
Chapter 17: 2433
Read my first draft as I write it here! Or you could pop over to my creative writing only blog to view it as one document (could make for easy and more chronological reading) please comment on whichever blog you prefer. If you like where it’s going so far or have any suggestions (spelling/grammar corrections or have general concerns about the story or characters) please use the comment section! Thank you so much in advance for any constructive criticism or flattering compliments you are willing to give. I’ll take anything!
Here are a few chapters to see if you might be interested :)
Chapter 12: The Tiger on the Carousel
The gigantic wheel at the entrance to Wonderland Carnival hadn’t turned in decades. The light bulbs were mostly broken and black birds roosted in the spokes of the machine. The front gate was bent and the ticket booth was rotting away.
“I’ve scavenged many amusement parks before.”
I stayed close behind him taking in the faded reds and nearly nonexistent yellows. He strode confidently towards the Fun House. He looked up the ramp into the soggy wooden structure. I peeked inside but didn’t want to get too close to the entrance. Wind howled through holes in the floor and walls.
“We could sleep here tonight.”
I looked up and saw the bloodshot eyes of a fanged clown staring back at me. Rome admired the entrance to the Hall of Mirrors. Its black and white checkered floor was chipped and splintering. The structure leaned to the right and was caved in slightly at the very end. Most of the mirrors were intact, which produced millions of Romes grinning at one another and back at me.
“Sure, maybe but let’s check out the rest first. I’ve never been to a carnival before.”
Rome dismounted from the house of fun, landed on springy overgrown grass and indicated the rest of Wonderland Carnival’s abandoned grounds with an outstretched arm.
Waltzing from ride to ride I spoke their names to myself. Bumper cars, The Gravitron, Tilt-A-Whirl, The Zipper. Then I saw a magnificent circular ride in the middle of the park.
I called back to Rome and I ran ahead and jumped up on the raised platform. Animals were mounted on colorful striped poles.
“That’s a carousel.”
Rome stepped up to the controls and jiggled all the handles and pressed all the buttons.
“Let’s see if there’s any juice left.”
He tried everything on the control panel and even opened it up to check the connections of the wires but nothing happened. I shrugged and started to walk away. Rome ran to the ride and latched onto its side with his hands. As he ran the platform moved causing the animals to come alive. Animals I had never seen in real life but had read about and seen archival footage of began to travel up and down along the circular path of the carousel. They were battered and some had broken heads or legs.
I searched the creatures great and small: pigs, zebras, goats before deciding on a brightly painted tiger. Music started slowly but picked up as the merry-go-round gained speed. Residual power jolted the components of the machine but before long the carousel was winding down. Its multicolored lights flickered on and off and the music slowed and stopped. I rode in circles for a few minutes until momentum brought me creaking to a halt.
Roman ran until he was exhausted. He pushed the carousel into commission no less than ten times before he suggested sleeping on the bench seats in between the zebras and horses. I settled into one of the worn wooden benches.
Roman left to scope out the nearby booths for something to rest our heads on. Enormous brightly colored stuffed creatures lined the insides of most of the shacks that were still standing. Those near the opening were worn and weather damaged. He rummaged through boxed animals at the back of the “Lucky Ducks” carnival game.
Returning with an unopened box of pink elephants with black button eyes and red tigers he smirked.
“Which would you prefer?”
He laughed and threw a couple of the tigers at my head. They smelled new after all its years trapped in this empty amusement park.
“You have more in common with the tiger I’d have to say.”
I couldn’t help but snicker at a grown man in the process of propping five stuffed elephants under his head. When he looked over at me several fell off the bench.
“You’ve been shoved into a box your whole life.”
He tossed another cat at me to hold onto. I couldn’t remember if I ever told Rome I slept with a small rabbit at home. Mom and dad had it waiting for me in my crib the day I came home from the hospital. The last few nights were the first I could remember spending away from my home and Jellybean the rabbit.
“What’s the point of being free if you have nothing left?”
I spoke mostly to the tiger but it was Rome who answered.
“You can have everything. I can find you anything, you’ll see.”
He nodded, as if affirming this to himself. I just wanted to close my eyes and go back one day. Just before Rome and I left my father. I wanted to convince Rome to stay with me. Instead we were runaways seeking refuge in a ghost of an amusement park. Knowing the laughter and happiness that used to inhibit the place made it all the more glum and empty when I opened my eyes.
“You’re more free than you could have ever been inside. You should be happy, we will be able to find the truth together now.”
What did he know? What had he really given up? Rome was used to living out here he didn’t mind the loneliness. It was the time I would usually be talking to Roxy. The moon illuminated the park grounds.
“All we have is a condemned carousel, bumper cars that can’t move and cotton candied cobwebs!”
I sat up. This is what he wanted from the beginning. I couldn’t hold any of my fears inside in any longer.
“Should I be happy my parents died and I lost my best friend, too? We aren’t free, we’re on the run. There’s a difference!”
I spat at him and jumped off the carousel falling in the dirt. Rome just stared at the ground under me. A few drops spotted the dry earth. I examined my filthy clothes and black fingernails. Exhaling I felt a mix of anxiety and relief letting myself fall back in the mud that was forming under the weight of my body.
I looked at the sky at last. Fat clouds plummeted my mind with icy reminders that stung me back to life. I’m alone. I’m cold. I can never see my parents again. How could I let this happen? How well do I know Rome in the first place?
“Come out of the rain.”
Rome’s tone demanded my attention. He offered his hand. I anchored myself to the puddle I occupied causing him to slip and fall on top of me in the mud. I looked right through him.
“Tell me why you brought me here. Didn’t you think any of this through?”
I screamed at the top of my lungs but my pleas were drowned out by sheets of precipitation and an angry clapping in the sky.
Roman’s eyes locked on mine they flickered on an off in the lightning. He gave in, kissing me.
“I never wanted this. Believe me. I don’t know what I’m doing. Can’t we figure this out?”
Handsome features warped with worry and desperation.
“I just want the truth. Why don’t our societies want us to know about each other?”
Biting his lip he lurched forward crawling past me. I stood and followed him. Water saturated our tattered clothes. I stood under a rain spout, it was my only shower since the night we met. I felt cold droplets de-tangling and re-tangling knots in my long copper curls.
Rain rinsed mud down our legs in vein-like patterns collecting in swirling pools as we undressed and made our way to the Tilt-A-Whirl and dried off together in one of the small enclosed circle seats.
After a game of rock paper scissors Roman went back to gather our soaked clothes, wring them out and hang them to dry. He fell asleep immediately after stretching out along the length of the padded bench. It seemed like he made beds in Tilt-A-Whirls on a fairly regular basis. I left him snoring into the faded leather cushion and negotiated the uneven floor of the ride.
I walked a while imagining how things would have looked brand new and all lit up. My stomach lurched when I considered the funnel cake and corn dog signs that still hung over the concession stand booths. I decided to get into my boyfriend’s line of work and raid the place for goodies.
It was a humble feast but I thought Rome could appreciate extremely stale breakfast popcorn, cold foot-long hotdogs and assorted unopened packets of mustard and relish along with a little cherry snow cone flavoring mixed with collected rain water.
“What is THAT?”
Rome dipped a finger in the unnaturally red liquid. He downed the snow cone cup full and crunched a few hard kernels of popcorn before he cracked.
“Nice try. Let me show you where to find the good stuff.”
He spit the kernels at me shoving the condiments in his bag as he marched toward the food court. I was amazed what Rome could find in a place that had been long deserted. We moved from ghost town to ghost town looking for food, wood, clothing and cookware.
Our temporary fort needed to be near a supply of water. Since most of the natural waterways were polluted and stagnant we found a little church with a well in its backyard. The structure was small but had a wood stove and a small cemetery with mausoleums and family vaults. The entire church was enclosed behind iron bars and the gate still latched.
The hospital was never far from my thoughts even though I had no idea what direction it was in or how far away it was. All I knew was that I had to go back. I had to verify my parent’s stories. I had to know where I came from and if it had anything to do with where I ended up.
Rome and I gathered wood and stocked the small cathedral. Rome filled me in on every aspect of the Elder’s society. I had already spent over two years telling him every detail about myself so it felt nice to finally get his side of the story.
Things were so quiet at first but after a few weeks I got used to the stillness just like Rome told me I would. Mostly, I just missed Roxy. She was supposed to contact us the morning we ran away. I dropped the communicator after our confrontation with the elders. I could only hope they wouldn’t find it and use Roxy against us.
More than anything I wanted to see my family. Being banished made my decision to remain abroad with Rome an easy one. He was pleased with my companionship and compliance but I soon began planning a way to back inside.
Silence was scary at first then it’s sort of nice. Now I could feel nothing but numbness. Rome said it was just the cold. At home all streets and homes were regulated so winter never seemed very harsh. Now, there was a chill in the air that never seemed to leave my bones.
Chapter 13: Reaching Roxy
Rome and I passed the days splitting wood and foraging for food. It was scarce but luckily the church had several lifetime supplies of beef stew and canned peas on the makeshift fallout shelter pantry shelves we found below the main kitchen. We lived off old jugs of purified water and slept on old curtains and pew pillows in the empty baptismal pool.
“I see these all over the place. Many religions were consumed by their fears of a rapture. I’ve seen many church shelters and they are full of priests who were never taken into the sky by their god.”
“Don’t you feel sorry for them?”
He didn’t have an expression. He was transfixed by a spot on the stone wall. Rome had spent most of our two months on the run checking every inch of the small church for hidden holes and compartments.
“What are you looking at Rome?”
I would ask as he moved furniture and patted the stone walls with his hands late into the night. I didn’t like being ignored by the last human being on earth I could communicate with.
“Hold on. And calm the hell down.”
Rome soured his face and narrowed his eyes on a strange spot on the fallout shelter’s back wall. He placed his hand on the discolored stone that seemed loose amongst the others. The stone plummeted to the floor shattering into black shards. Within the pile of rock dust and glass I noticed a brass shape. He brushed the debris aside and picked up a heavy skeleton key.
“The wall must have deteriorated over time. It seemed too obvious to me when we first arrived but this church fit the criteria.”
Rome was mumbling to himself more than taking to me. He placed the key in his pocket. I gazed at his pocket the questions must have shown on my face.
“This should open any door in the church. We can access more of the pantry and the office now. Most importantly I can get into the record cabinets. This church was in use until about forty years ago. The people who settled this village were rounded up and relocated according to their specializations. Those who weren’t useful were sent to hospital or cast into the outer regions. A priest hid in this building in a secret room to help stragglers reach safe destinations.”
I stared at Rome. How could he possibly know all that?
“I’m a scavenger remember?” He winked at me diffusing my anxiety about the secret key. I narrowed my eyes but didn’t press the issue anymore. I had the feeling he knew much more than he let on but I felt safe at the church and safe with him.
Tonight marked the first Christmas Eve I had ever spent without my family but I wasn’t really alone. More than anything I wanted to exchange gifts with Roxy and make treats and decorations for the holiday party at the academy. Everyone would be having parties soon. My stomach grumbled.
“Looks like it’s time for your gift.”
Rome led me into the kitchen where he had filled nearly every surface with apple cider, assorted tinned meals and other spoils Rome sought out in secrecy.
“I’ve been going on double hunts most days so I could find something very special for your present. I know it is the only one you’ll be getting this year and I feel that is mostly my fault.”
His grin spread from ear to ear. The kitchen was full of light because Rome had opened all the window shades and everything was arranged perfectly. I didn’t know why apple juice and tinned ham made me teary eyed but Rome’s effort to make my Christmas bright made up for all the cold nights spent on the run.
“You’re a very lucky girl this Christmas.”
Rome turned and pulled something out of one of the unused drawers. He held out a bulky first generation communication tablet. I touched the screen and it sprung to life.
“It works. It took me weeks to fix but there she is and there’s someone who wants to talk to you.”
The communicator light indicated a pending incomm. I froze to the kitchen floor. The old school tablet opened a video chat window and I saw Roxy bawling in my hands.
I felt the connection I had been missing for months immediately. It was the longest time I had gone without hearing from my best friend.
“Oh Lucky I’m so glad you’re alive. When I saw this weird message pop up a few days ago I knew. Rome wanted to surprise you!”
It was the best present anyone had ever given me even if the technology had gone obsolete by the time I was born. It didn’t matter I could hear her voice and learn what happened after Rome and I fled.
After catching up Roxy had to show us something serious. Rome came around next to me to get a better view of the document Roxy had displayed on the screen. It was a snippet from the digital news report from the day after we escaped from Comnet.
Police Confirm Capture and Disposal of District Citizen
Community traitor, Lucille “Lucky” Selene Church was aided in escape by an unknown male of average height. The man is believed to have entered our community from the outside. If you have any information on his whereabouts please contact officials immediately. Lucille is preceded in death by her parents, Artume and Norman Church.
Under the full page story was a blurry photo of Rome from the escape and my last year’s photo from the academy identification card. It was eerie looking at my old image on screen. I looked nothing like that anymore and rarely saw what I looked like anymore. Rome helped me chop off most of my hair so it would be easier to manage. I wore clothing I found on our scavenges, the more comfortable and warm, the better.
“Don’t worry Luck, we can clear your name. We just have to explain what you guys were trying to do. I’ve been working on a way to get you back through the hospital.”
Rome perked up at this and went to retrieve the plans he and Roxy had been making over the past few nights. Roxy told me how busy she had been tapping into the hospital’s security footage and digital record keeping system.
Roxy looked as pretty as ever, if not more so than the last time I saw her. She was wearing a green sweater and huge peppermint earrings. Her hair was almost as short as mine.
I thought about the last day I spent in Comnet. I found myself replaying my goodbye to Roxy, reliving the last moments with my dad, watching him walk down the hall away from me.
A painful sound escaped my mouth without me realizing it. Roxy and Roman both looked at me and decided it was time to get some sleep. We had an early start Christmas morning.
The machine in my hand was made of cold slabs of plastic and wires. Its most important function was to tie me back to the community, to make me a part of the network again. A lonely life for me was possible but a bleak alternative. This outdated tablet tied me back to Roxy and brought back my desire to discover the truth about my family and return to Coment.
Rome and Roxy were already planning on breaking into the hospital on New Year’s Eve. It was the perfect time as most people attended the countdown in the middle of Comnet’s downtown area. Rome and I would have to set out early tomorrow morning, Christmas Day to remain as undetected as possible and to arrive at the gate on time.
Before we left the church for good Rome opened every lock he could find. He found a file in a cabinet in the office that listed the names of parents who adopted children from the church but where the child’s name was supposed to go someone had blacked out all the names and replaced them with numbers.
“It says there’s a copy in the record room at the hospital.”
Rome replaced all the files he had dug out of their dusty homes.
“They must have worked with the hospital but I thought our societies cut ties a long time ago.” I said.
Rome pocketed the key, took one last look at the filing cabinet and locked the office door behind us.
Chapter 14: The Way Back
I was overjoyed at the thought of standing in a heated building even if it meant breaking into the record room on the top floor of the hospital with the threat of imprisonment if we were caught and my name couldn’t be cleared.
My travel bag was wearing thin in spots. It was loaded with enough food for the week’s journey. We both wore several winter coats each that were pulled from houses and stores we came across during our trip abroad.
What was months in reality seemed like years. I was glad to have the communicator back and talking to Roxy was the best Christmas gift Rome could have dreamed up but I had grown used to things being quiet and having the time to think.
When Rome and I scavenged we could find anything. A few times we even found old devices, hints of the life I was leaving behind but mostly I learned about the world outside our societies.
Homes and schools were left behind crumbling town signs. The roads were cracked and overgrown but we could walk in the middle, sometimes we could just make out the solid or dotted yellow middle line. As I saw more of the world destroyed I longed for the sleek facades of buildings back home. These old school houses were made of jagged red bricks, their glassless eyes stared at me making me shiver.
We had to go into abandoned community buildings because many of them held food and useful supplies. It could be dangerous climbing stairs, there was always one weak board that threatened to send you feet first into broken glass and rusted nails below. Rome did most of the searching if the building leaned too far to one side or if the roof looked unstable.
We must have walked ten miles a day when the weather was good but sometimes we would stay in a place for a while if we liked it. Rome had found our home-base chapel with ease. He seemed to know the area well and was preoccupied with looking in every nook and cranny of the sanctuary, office, shelter and outside storage sheds.
We found a sled which we loaded with supplies and a very warm sleeping bag and overalls. He looked strange weighed down in bulky winter clothing but I looked identical and waddled in a similar fashion. A few nights we couldn’t find shelter to hunker down in for the night and Rome let me sleep on the sled with the sleeping bag while he leaned against a tree and our over stuffed bags. Mornings were the most quiet.
On those mornings I woke up early to watch breath billow out of my lungs or frost to glisten on the bare tree branches above me. The last night of our journey Rome and I found an enormous pine tree that we could walk under comfortably. That night we laid the sleeping bag out and drifted off, the world becoming a snow globe around us. We woke with a start when our entire surroundings were completely white.
We were snowed in but we slept late and took our time digging out because we couldn’t sneak in until visiting hours were over and all the employees had gone to celebrate New Year’s with their families and friends. Everyone besides emergency personnel attended festivities in the cultural center of downtown. Everyone watched the giant glass display for the countdown to a new year.
Roxy knew Comnet better than most girls her age having snuck in and out of many districts in the pursuit or evasion of a lover. Most of these excursions were handled late in the night and it just so happened that Roxy had the misfortune of contracting Typhus, a disease long thought to be dead. She was sent to the hospital after complaining of frequent headaches and acting strangely. She might have come home sooner if she hadn’t fallen for guys who were in her predicament. Apparently you can get typhus twice, once before and after a serious case of infectious mononucleosis.
On the bright side Roxy learned the hospital layout like the back of her hand and learned to fashion and fix communicators from the hospital technicians that she would buzz for assistance. Even the nurses liked her and gave her special treatment for being a long time patient. Somehow the doctors wanted to keep Roxy around, my guess would be because they liked visits from Mrs. Fox. Artistic types were rare in Comnet. Roxy’s family was much cooler than I gave them credit for. This became clear when Mr. Fox uncovered Roxy’s secret plan. He was worried she was preoccupied with another boy but when she confessed it was me he offered to help. Mr. Fox was developing a map of Comnet for use as evidence in criminal and civil suits such as murder trials and debt recovery courts. His employer was breathing down his neck for the prototype but Mr. Fox grew more and more concerned that it had to track everyone, not just those who had committed crimes. It seemed great for some aspects of law enforcement but Mr. Fox was a simple man and he just wanted to work with numbers that represented people. Instead he was forced to assign many of numbers of people to criminal lock down, debtors prison or simply further from the heart of the city which in Comnet was an insult and a downgrade in lifestyle.
Out in the wilderness nothing mattered but surviving and discovering. Coming back home is bringing many thoughts I never dreamed were possible. I could get definitive proof that my parents were from the outside. I wasn’t sure why it was so important to know. I trusted my parents, believed what they told me but I was raised to be the kind of person who looks at the evidence.
Rome supported me but I sensed he had his own reasons for searching. Either way we would only have one night to get what we needed. Then there was the task of finding a place to go. Could we really wander a demolished landscape searching for scraps of humanity forever?