Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Plague: Alternative Beginning


1
The land had returned to what it was meant to be. Seventeen-year-old Anora Maddock looked up into the ongoing, star filled night above her home. It was almost half an hour past midnight and the sky had never looked so clear. She lived in a place called Tabor Colony with her father and brother. She was waiting for the rest of the officers to finish their work and board the plane. She took a long breath of the clean, pure, unpolluted air. She remembered her grandparents telling her about the smog and dust storms that had covered most of the planet. How her great-grandparents had to move from their home near the coast before it was swallowed up by rising sea levels. These were environmental issues, nothing compared to the war waging in the middle of it all. A lot had to happen to get the world to this point, to ensure people like Anora, and her older brother Omri, had a peaceful childhood. Their parents worked for the military, more often than not the children would find themselves playing around the base. It had taken great efforts to get the world back to where it was thriving. 
Anora was not one to sit and contemplate her history lessons from school. She did what was needed to get through school so she could become a member of Asylum, the rescue officer program integrated by the current Prime Minister Tammany Hart. The very day of her seventeenth birthday Anora was at the military base talking to Commander Ezra Song, signing up to go through Entry Stage 1. Despite the fact she still had another month before graduating school. Entry Stage 1 meant six months of geography and history lessons, basic first responder training, conditioning and health assessments, and briefings on those they would be helping. This was her third mission as an officer. Most of the work was sitting in the base thinking of strategies to get to those in need and filling out mountains of paper work to get permission from the government. 
The Prime Minister’s proxy, Dallice Garvin, ordered through chain of command that Anora and the other rescue officers of Tabor Colony to take a huge shipment of supplies to an island just off the shore of what used to be the continent of Asia. Garvin had written a letter to the troupe personally thanking them for taking on such a high risk mission. He had the government send extra supplies to be certain they would be fully capable of taking care of whoever they met. Two weeks of duties had been rearranged and rescheduled so the officers could focus on this one mission. Anora had assessed and reassessed the supplies for hours. Then they went over the protocols of landing in an unknown area. A great deal of preparation was taken in order to insure they made the most of this trip. 
Although it had been a century since the Black Crusades, there were still refugee ancestors scattered in the far parts of the world. Anora worked as a rescue officer with the military, her main job was supply and recovery. The office, first started in Tabor, had been working since the end of the crusades locating these ancestors, ensuring their safety and helping them restore civilization. It was a relatively small program encouraged by Prime Minister Tammany Hart. A few of the displaced people had to be taken back to the Effaith Colony so the higher up officers could take care of them and get an idea of what kind of environments the group would have to work with. Effaith is where the capital and main political functions were. It was located in the approximate area of what was once Wales. 
          This was a particularly perilous trek, the island was a short plane ride away from where Plague had been rumored to fled when the Black Crusades had ceased. Several of their aircrafts had been shot down, causing whatever survivors to live in the area. This was another reason the government gave for the continent to be sealed off. The last remaining descendants of Plague living in remote areas of Asia. Some figured they were rebuilding. Ephraim always laughed at this statement, what would they have to build with. 
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Anora, they had been trying to reach this people group for decades. Before Anora or Omri had been born. Song had requested this assignment two years prior. As soon as schooling in Tabor is completed, the options are Asylum, military, logging or work in the shops around town. Anora didn't have to think long on which she would be choosing. She loved the idea of traveling, going to places seldom touched or seen. The factor alone that sold her was travel. The others, the serving and helping those in need, were characteristics Anora seemed to have inherited from both parents. 
The remaining nine officers loaded their packs onto the plane. Anora took a seat next to a window beside her fellow officer Lacey Rayne. The rest took their seats, Urban Weir sat in the co-pilots seat next to Song and put the plane into motion. No more than a few minutes later and they were off for a six hour plane ride. Anora watched as what used to be British Columbia, the Canadian Rockies and her home became further away. The military base close to the mountains, with houses and shops scattered out away from it, then finally the logging yards and trucks on the very edge of the community. The land surrounding the colony was beyond words. Untouched for years after the Black Crusades, many of the old cities and towns had been destroyed during Plague attacks or the governments' pathetic attempts at retaliations.  
Anora was ready for this, ready to begin the major part of her work. Her mother had worked for Asylum, she had been killed during a training exercise when Anora was eight. They had been testing new equipment that would help them drop supplies without putting people on the ground. The hatch caught, when Helena went to shove it open the plane caught turbulence. She fell out of the plane. They were never able to recover her body. The rescue officials decided to discontinue the effort to drop cargo in the air. Anora's brother Ephraim had recently been chosen to work on mechanics and robots that would take the place of humans in dangerous situations. 
Anora pulled her knees against her chest and rested her head as they reached 39,000 feet. She was trying to get some sleep, it was going to be a long, strenuous day and perhaps disappointing. They had not a bit of information on the people they were helping, so for all they knew it could be a bust mission.  After what seemed like seconds of sleep, Urban Freigh was pushing on Anora's shoulder to get her awake. 
"Maddock," his roughed voice broke through her sleep. "We're here."
"Okay," she stretched out her legs. 
She was dressed in her black pants, light green shirt and tan jacket, the rescue government issued uniform. Her dark brown hair worn just at her shoulders was pulled back. Her dark brown hiking boots doubled as her work boots since she had not yet been issued a pair. This was fine with her, she had these boots for years. 
They had started to unload supplies as dawn was breaking. Anora was surveying the area with Lacey to find the best spot to leave the supplies. There were signs of life and hunting, there were markers scattered through trails made by repeated walking. Not far from this was a grove easily crossed to get to the village. The officers took in the landscape surrounding their aircraft. Hills rolling as far as they could see and lots of jungle type trees. Every now and then brightly colored, exotic petals could be spotted through the greenery. The humidity made Anora's hair stick to the back of her neck. Quickly, she reworked it so it was higher. 
Four of the older officers, including Commander Song, went to the village to tell the people about the supplies. Anora and Lacey had made it back to the plane where all of the boxes had been pulled out of the cargo hold. Urban was checking everything, making sure nothing had been damaged. Anora helped transfer the materials into bags that would be easier to carry to the village. The four officers came back to take the items back. 
"They seemed to think we were ghosts," said Song. "It was hard to make out what they were saying, even with this translator. I don't think they have ever seen other people. We tried our best to explain what we are doing here. Our best option may be to leave everything and hope they figure it out. Maddock, get back on the plane to try to radio back home, tell them what we've found and that we have made contact."
"Yes, Ma'am," Anora said turning to go into the plane. She sat down in Urban's seat next to the tele-unit. 
After a few attempts and tweaking the signal she finally got through to the base. 
"Ark Military Base in Tabor Colony," the man's voice on the other end said. 
"This is Asylum Officer Anora Maddock on location," Anora started to say. "Reporting we have made contact with villagers."
She waited for confirmation when she heard a crash on the other end of the radio. The operator swore loudly before a second crash. It sounded like chaos and explosions. Anora couldn’t understand what was going on. In her life, there hadn’t been an attack anywhere. It had  been the most peaceful fifty years anyone had experienced. It was hard to explain what a war zone was like when so few had actually been alive through one. It was the unfamiliar chaos that frightened Anora. Then she heard gunfire, another explosion followed by white noise. Anora quickly grabbed the short range to tell Song to bring all of the other officers back on board, to release the cargo where they were and leave.  
“Commander, we need to go,” Anora said. 
As hard as she tried, she could not steady her voice. As she looked down at the radio in her hand, she saw that her entire body was trembling. All of her training was erased in that second. The grip she attempted at calm slipped as quickly as the radio went out. 
“Excuse me, Maddock? What are you talking about?” Song yelled. "I am about twenty yards away from the plane, what do you need?"
“Something has gone terribly wrong at home, we have to go back now. The radio is dead, I can't get a signal.” Anora said, her voice catching at the end. She allowed herself a few breaths to get the lump out of her throat. 
“We’re going to be too late if we don’t leave immediately,” she finished. 
“Maddock, don’t panic and slow down,” Song responded. “What did you hear?”
“Fighting, it sounded like fighting,” Anora said. “There were loud crashes and gunfire.”
“You have to be 100 percent sure before I make the decision to abandon this mission,” Song said. “We won’t ever get this chance again.”
“I wouldn’t have said anything unless I was certain,” Anora replied. “Ma’am, we can’t waste any time, I am afraid we may already be devastatingly late if the radio is down.”
“I understand, Maddock,” the commander continued. 
  “All rescue officers will report back immediately. Leave the supplies where it is and report back,” Song radioed to all the officers. 
No one questioned the order, at least not verbally. Within ten minutes, all officers were accounted for and strapped in for a fast ride home. It had initially taken them six hours. The return ride went much quicker, but they were still too late. They hadn’t received any word if the other colonies had been hit. All communications between the colonies had been cut off with the radio signal. There were government officials at the colony working to get all the transmitters working again. The officers quickly dispersed to look for their family members or any other survivors. Walking through the destroyed houses, trying to keep to where they knew the roads would be. Anora kept her eyes up, focusing on anything else than the destruction around her. 
Anora’s first look at her home was a sickening one. She had expected to come home to fighting. Nothing. There was nothing. The two-story house she had grown up in, that her parents and grandparents had been raised in, was a smoldering pile of stone and wood. She stood where her bed would have been, looking at her family history scattered around her. Walking among the wreckage, something cracked underneath her boot. Moved her foot slightly, there was a piece of glass reflecting the bright sun above Anora's head. She thought nothing of it initially, there were shattered windows all over the place. Then she moved her boot more and realized what the item was. Now would have been the time to use the gloves she declined to take She bent down and carefully worked her way through the splinters to pick up the frame holding her mother's medal. It had been on the mantel in the front room next to a photograph of her mother. As her eyes traveled through the rest of the house, she noticed other items scattered. Her dad's reading glasses, Omri's fishing poles. 
The homes around her were similar scenes, only with young children's items. Ripped apart dollhouses, toy trucks and stuffed animals in shreds marked houses where a child had lived. Overcome with emotion, Anora sat down on the pile of bricks that had been the chimney. She wasn't hysterical, but tears were running down her cheeks. She stared at her home, her neighbors homes. There was not anyone else searching, because there was no longer anyone to search. This thought broke the shock, sending Anora into the labored breathing that comes with sobs, made worse by the gas mask Song had asked her to wear. She had to take it off. The air was fine, other than the burning smell and smoke. She watched her feet for some time, trying to think of what to do next. A few tears dripped down onto her boots, making streams into the ash and dust that had settled on them. 
Anora looked around and could see the twenty Asylum officers wandering around the colony in the distance. About five of them had started pulling bodies from the area that had once been the primary school. She was thankful they were far away. The sight of those small, broken bodies would be enough to discredit her from any kind of service in the future. She would have lost it, and been hospitalized. She figured all of the officers would need some serious counseling after this mess, but there was no one to counsel them. With all this in mind, her eyes were beginning to focus on the spot they were laying the bodies, in a row in the middle of the street. 
Taking a deep breath, she started searching for anything that could be passed as remains of her brother and father. She went to the area that would have been each of their rooms. Their mattresses were smash underneath mounds of brick and lumber. She didn't think there were any signs of death but that didn't mean much. The house could have taken a direct hit, there was no way of telling. They could have heard the incoming planes and started looking for shelter elsewhere. There were a number of scenarios that could have been their last decision. Anora was so lost in her thoughts, she hadn't noticed that everyone had taken off running towards the military base. It wasn't until about the fifth time Song had radioed, that she realized it was directly for her.
"Anora Maddock, if you can hear me please report to the military base at once," Song said. 
She was about half a mile away from the base. There was a few moments when Anora seriously considered ignoring the order. What could they possibly want? She was still crying, and in no state to face the rest of her colleagues. 
 "Maddock, we have found survivors at the base, report immediately, it's all hands on deck," Song said strained. 
Anora wandered back, taking her time, not sprinting like the others. Why would her family had been at the base? It would have been roughly 5 a.m. they would have still be asleep in bed. After being yelled at over the radio, she picked up her pace but only slightly. After twenty minutes of avoiding the base, Anora walked up behind the group of officers working on a door that was warped from the impact of debris. Debris that covered most of the entrance. They all still had their masks on, very intent on opening a door. 
"Nice of you to join us," Urban said. 
He was dripping from sweat. It was maybe 80 degrees but felt much worse with the sun beating down. Anora ignored his remark. Everyone had strained emotions, she didn't want to snap back at him. 
"What're we doing?" Anora asked walking to stand next to him. 
Her voice was much different from Urban's. Her voice came out void of all feeling. 
"Lacey was nearby and thought she heard knocking, so she called Song over to join her," Urban explained. "After a few minutes they heard the knocking again and tried to call through the door. They could hear muffled shouts but nothing distinct. We've been working here ever since. Did you find anything?"
"No, no one," Anora said. She started pulling rocks from in front of the door. 
"How are we going to get the door open once we've moved everything?" Officer Gage Harkey asked. 
"Crow bars, we'll need equipment from the plane," Song said through heavy breathing. She took her mask off seeing Anora had abandoned hers. 
"The air is breathable?" Song asked Anora.
"Well, I suppose so, I've been breathing it for a few hours now," she said, dropping all etiquette procedures. "I'll go get equipment."
"No, you stay here," Song said. "Gage and Urban, go to the plane retrieve as much as you can. Anything you think we may possibly need in the next 24 hours."
"Yes, Ma'am," Urban said, followed by a salute.
Anora watched him as he walked off. Wondering if he knew that his family was dead, if the comfort of knowing for sure would break whatever was suffocating her. She went to work heaving large concrete slabs out of in front of the door. A truck with a wench would be helpful, she thought. All of the logging trucks were outside of the town perimeter. They would have certainly taken a hit. 
"Maddock, I know this is a rough time, but we really need everyone working 100 percent here," Song said. 
"I know, sorry I was just distracted," Anora said quietly. 
"Let's get this done, let's help these people out," Song said.
"Are there any trucks available?" Anora asked.
"We don't know, no one has made it that far. The debris gets worse as you get to the perimeter," Song said. "As soon as we get these people out I will do an aerial survey of the damage."
After Urban and Gage returned, they were able to brake apart the largest piece of concrete that had been shoved against the door. It was dusk by the time they made a clear path to the door. It was completely jammed into the side of the base. 
"What we need is a torch or something," Urban said. 
"Take a break," Song instructed. "We need to gather our thoughts."

As they sat around, everyone in silence, a murmur came over the radios. Song looked up at everyone, seeing that no one was missing she scrambled to her radio that was resting against a pile of rock.
"This is Commander Ezra Song," she said. "We are at the base, the Ark on the east side of the mountain. There are survivors trapped inside a bunker."
"Commander Song, it is excellent to hear your voice," the person on the receiving end said. "We feared all had been lost. This is a rescue unit from Effaith Colony reporting to help. The entire planet has been deemed a no fly zone at the moment so we are coming in by road. Is there a way for us to get to you?"
"I don't know, let me get my thoughts straight," Song stammered.
"The loading entrance for the base and shops is a few miles south of us. That area didn't get hit at all, they should be able to get in with little difficulty," Urban said. 
"Thank you," Song said. "Relay that to the Effaith officers, Urban."
Urban did as he was told. There was knocking at the door, it was slow and steady. As if one last person was trying their hardest to get out. Anora, who was sitting closest to the door, crawled on her hands and knees to the door. There was a gap so she was certain they'd be able to hear her.
"Hello?" she said at the gap. "You are going to be fine, we have help. Another colony has sent help."






Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Damaged Light


By the time I realized the earth below me had given way, it was far too late. I was falling. 
Imagine you are at the bottom of a pit. You have been unknowingly falling down this hole mile by mile. Perhaps you really knew, in the back of your mind, that you had finally gone over that edge. The moment you decide to look up, the light is so far away it is unattainable. You can't struggle and crawl your way out. This is when the fall becomes faster. In hopes of distracting yourself from the inevitable. you fill your time with what you believe are meaningful activities, paying attention to this new found purpose rather than the oncoming pain. 
A part of you welcomes the end. Then it happens.
Smack into the cold, damp floor of the pit. You lie there, wanting to accept your fate. Embracing the final moments of life as if they are your salvation. There to rescue you from the numbing ache that has made its home in your stomach. The worst part, the end doesn't come. The thoughts, the pain, the whispered fallacies continue, even though you have nowhere else to fall. 
It hurts. It hurts in such a way you try everything you can to get it to stop. The pain is so deep, it is like an itch that will never be scratched no matter what you do. This is where my self mutilation came into play. The physical pain was a release for the emotional and psychological pain. I covered it up. 
This was what it was like, this is how I got to the point of what I thought was no return. 
I didn’t want anyone to know I was hurting, because I didn’t want to be a burden on those I loved. I didn’t want them to worry about me, because they had more important things to focus on. I wanted to punch things, I wanted to scream and cry and throw things. Every inch of me wanted to lash out, but I didn’t. Because that was not acceptable for me, that was not the person I wanted anyone to see. I didn’t need to be the crazy girl. 
I went out and made myself presentable. Did the right things, said what everyone wanted to hear, I was fine. My life was going in the direction I wanted it to. The lies grew out of other lies, all for the sake of protecting others. I was passed the point of protecting. The only one to protect me from was myself. I was alone with myself quite a bit. This was towards the bottom. I hadn’t taken much time to watch the signs that told me where I was headed. I was too busy being a Sunday School teacher, the perfect youth student, the upstanding daughter. All that time, I was destroyed inside, damaged, ruined. No boy could ever love me that way. This was another part of life I tried to make work myself. Find the perfect guy to be with so I could fix myself through him. Only, nothing ever worked passed a couple weeks, when my damaged self would start to show up. She didn’t stay quiet for very long, I didn’t want anyone to see her so I would do something to ruin the potential relationship. Stop it from getting too serious or anyone from coming too close. This isolation made everything worse, made the whispers into shouts. The same names for myself; damaged, ruined, crazy, sick. Finally the voices became so loud and the pain so intense I wanted to go to sleep. I wanted to take just a break from what was going on inside my head. I have never been afraid of death, I am actually quite intrigued by it. The odd thing was I never thought “I want to die”. I simply thought “I need this to stop” or “I want this to be over.” 
I fought with these ideas. Shoved them away. I am not sure why I chose the particular day. If I was just tired of the shouting. I was a Freshman in college, feeling more alone than ever. The pain medication was just sitting there, waiting for me to take my daily dose. I looked at the bottle, hoping that it would let me sleep. Sleep without worrying, or nightmares. The whole bottle was ingested in less than five minutes. I took them before a class. I don’t know why. I don’t know if I was screaming for help, screaming for someone to notice that I was not all right. All that happened was a lot of shaking, some dizziness and finally falling asleep on my dorm bed. But I woke up. I woke up on that bed because I had a friend who needed my help. My friend had gotten into a car accident so I went to help her. Never mentioning the slip of sanity. The thoughts continued, just slightly subdued. The mutilation became worse. The pain grew deeper. I had hit bottom. I still carry scars from the three day period of my breakdown. Still no one knew, not a soul. I was miles away from my parents and kept everyone else at such a distance it was easy to hide my flaws. 
It took those three days and some drinking for me to come clean. Another three days for me to seek help. My parents pulled me from the dorms, took me home to watch me. It was this, or hospitalization. Sometimes I wonder if I would have been better off hospitalized, just to be forced to get help. 
The voices continued, the thoughts continued at home. I would drive home. All the time considering whether or not I should wreck my car. Then the results would be out of my hands, if I was meant to die I would die. I never did though, just the thoughts. 
Things happened that contributed to this and these events will be told later on. I won’t go into extraneous detail to spare those involved. This is not a burn book to destroy the lives of others. I want to help, if I can spare one person from going through what I went through than it was worth it. God created light out of my damage. 
 It is hard to pinpoint when all of the thoughts and emotions began down this path. I thought that maybe my personality was just more susceptible to them. I had bouts of self mutilation in middle school and junior high. 
I didn’t have a particularly damaging childhood. I grew up in a house with my parents and sisters. My parents were still together, while so many of my friends were dealing with a broken family. We didn’t have much, but I didn’t know that. I played outside until the stars came out and the streetlights came on. 
It may have started when I was molested by a fellow student in the sixth grade. A student many others saw as popular so I wouldn’t dare tell. May I just say, tell. No matter what, tell someone. 
Already a very insecure girl, this made it worse. Then I started to have my experiences with tragedy as family members or family friends died. Most people go through such things, but I didn’t deal with them. Didn’t cry because I was trying to be the strong kid. Then, still searching for approval from someone, mainly boys because that seemed like the thing to do. I found myself in the company of boys much too old for me. The summer before eighth grade one took advantage of me, forcing me to do things that I hadn’t ever done, nor knew what I was even doing. I cried and threw up. He begged me not to tell, said he was already in trouble for other things. Dropped me off at home, I never saw him again. I felt dirty and completely ruined. Most of all I felt ashamed because I thought I had brought it on myself. Thought I had done something to cause this boy to do those things to me. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn shorts or hung out with him in the first place. I had lied to my parents about where I was going, so that must have been why this happened to me. These thoughts and more went through the mind of my 13-year-old self. Yet again, I never told. I was so ashamed and embarrassed that these things happened I didn’t dare let anyone know. It would change how I was viewed in their eyes. I developed eating disorders and continued cutting, or any other way of punishing myself for what had happened. I tried to make myself whole again. 
Something that did not happen for years. God was the only one that fixed this for me. After all this, I still thought I was no good. I directed my attention towards participating in as many church activities as I could. I thought maybe if I surround myself with these people no one would see me as that damaged, crazy girl. But I was damaged and broken. I still became vulnerable for any guy willing to show me attention. This all spiraled down to me falling for someone who I thought was the one, the one who loved me back. After months of fighting it, months of keeping away, my hormones got the best of me. That kind of emotion is too much for a 17-year-old girl to handle. That kind of attachment started the worst chapter of my life. I thought I had to make this work, no matter what I had to make this relationship work because it was the only choice now. Despite inquiries from friends, I was ignorant towards to toll this relationship was taking on me. I had people tell me I looked terrible. I was unrecognizable in photographs. The emotionally abusive relationship I had become trapped in was finally showing through. I still didn’t see it. A woman I looked up to, my cheer coach, sat me down and asked me why I was still in this. I admitted it was because I had totally given myself to this boy. She wisely told me to get out, that it was unhealthy and she, along with others, was worried about me. 
I continued to see him, despite being forbidden to, even snuck around. Then I noticed. I saw just how scary this had become. The emotional became physical, just once. But once was enough to terrify me. I didn’t know how to get out and I was scared to. It took a week away, a week with people who were trying to save me, to get me out. A series of scary encounters, phone calls, talks with my youth pastor and his wife, a restraining order and two court appearances and I was free. So I thought. I was still struggling with my self worth. Even more so because whatever glimpse of my true self that was left had been smothered. I trudged on. Attending counseling sessions, camps, trying to get on with life as usual. I dated other boys to push out the effects of that one. I tried to find boys who were the complete opposite of him. This is where I started to what I call date jump. Go from one person to the other, siting some pitiful excuse after another as to why it just wasn’t working out. When in all honesty I had no business dating anyone, I wish someone would have told me that. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to take care of myself, let alone invest in another. 
I went off, as far from my problems as I could get. I continued to fill my days with things to distract myself. I am thankful for the people I met, they helped me through some extremely trying times. 

Even now, years later, I have tendencies to become depressed if allowed enough alone time with my thoughts. It has been years since I have cut or burned myself. I remind myself I do not want my daughter to see this side of me. 
It has been years since I have injured myself but the thought had crossed my mind. I can fight it now though, I know I am loved by someone who will never stop. I know that I have been chosen by Christ to be a child of God. This is enough. The fact that I am breathing is a blessing and the fact that I have a daughter and loving husband means more to me than anything on this planet. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Plague Excerpt: Part II

The four Taborians went to the designated room and found hot food waiting for them. They sat in silence for a while, eating the first substantial they had eaten since before the bombing. After their stomachs ached from being full, Anora turned to her father.
“What’s with him, Jax I mean? Why did he look at me like that?” Anora asked.
“He’s exhausted, the whole colony has been anxious since the attack on our colony,” said Henry. “It is a lot of unknown and new to deal with. He’s got the right thinking though. Good call, Ephraim. Not telling him, I think it would send him into a panic. Not that it wouldn’t be constructive, but its still premature to bring in more followers.”
“It would only put him in danger,” Ephraim said. “The less people know about what we are doing the better. It won’t take long for Garvin to track what we are doing once we haven’t returned home.”
“Garvin? Why Garvin?” Anora asked. “What does he have to do with this.”
“I think he is the one doing most of the work, but I could be wrong,” Ephraim said. “Hart has appeared once since the attack. She didn’t look too well when she did.  Garvin is preparing to take her spot, I can feel it. A lot of people are calling for a special election, they’re blaming Hart for the lapse in security. It couldn’t have been her fault but it’s human nature to find someone to blame.”
“You kids may want to save your energy, we’ll be driving straight through the night to get to the academy,” Henry said. He had poured a large cup of coffee and was looking for another to put in the jeep. There was a disposable thermos sitting on the table next to the food. He picked it up with the intention of asking Jax if he could take it.
“Are you going to drive all night?” Ezra asked Henry.
“I’m going to drive as long as I can, it’s a straight shot south. We’ll be there in ten hours,” he said.
“Ten hours isn’t bad,” Anora said. “We can switch off half way.”
“We’ll see how I’m feeling,” Henry smiled.
The door opened, Jax came in with a girl about Anora’s age. This would explain why he looked so fearful when he saw her. It made the attack more real.
“This is my daughter, Victoria,” he said. “She wanted to help.”
“Hello,” Anora said.
“Here are some clothes, I don’t wear them much anymore,” she handed a stack of clothes to Anora. She realized that Tabor families had lost everything. Anora had been wearing government issued uniforms ever since.
“Thank you,” Anora said appreciative.
“These are my mothers,” Victoria said, handing a second stack to Ezra.
“Jax, mind if I take one of these?” Henry held up the thermos.
“Not at all, mind helping me with something,” Jax said.
Jax pulled Henry out into the hallway.
“Whatever you all are doing, keep your heads down,” Jax said so only Henry could hear. “Things have gotten strict and I don’t think it is for our safety. I was notified you all would be coming. Then the Sentry told me to call him as soon as you all were heading home. He wanted details about your visit. Of course I’ll be brief, and give you all a day’s head start.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Henry said.
“Well, if you all decide to do something against what you would normally do keep me informed,” Jax said. “You can reach me on any radio wave with these numbers. I always keep it with me. Keep safe, for all of  us. Victoria wants to go with you all, but I told her it’s not the right time.”
“Have a place to go, a bunker, shelter, anything,” Henry said. “Just be prepared, okay?”
Jax nodded. The men joined the group. Anora was getting antsy, bouncing on the balls of her feet. Ephraim and Ezra were talking to Victoria..
“Your whole family lives in this building?” Ezra asked.
“Always have, makes work much easier,” she said. “I work for the school so it only makes sense. How much of a drive do you all have left?”
“Hard to tell, weather could always make it longer,” Ephraim said. “If all goes well nine hours.”
“Well that isn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Jax said. “No one travels that way much anymore, it is hard to guess distance when you never go. Victoria has always wanted to go to Cardiff. She says they have a massive library, with books as old as time. She’s read all about it.”
“But you have to have special permission to travel that far, particularly overseas,” Victoria said. “I have put in a few times for a work exchange, to see if they need any help over there. I went through the interview process last time but they cancelled the plans at the last minute. There’s always next time, right?”
“I hope you get the chance to travel,” Anora said. She had travelled to several places, all under extreme stress and cover. None were for leisure, she could barely wrap her mind around traveling for fun.
“Thank you,” Victoria said. “We’ll see, best of luck to all of you. I know that you are doing the right thing.”
“We need to get going I’m afraid,” Henry said looking at his watch. “The quicker we are the better.”
“If you both are ever in the Tabor area look us up,” Anora said. She gave Victoria a hug and thanked her again for the clothes. They packed up the rest of the food. Victoria was shoving it into biodegradable containers as they followed the troupe out the door. Jax was showing Ephraim how to calibrate the radios so that they couldn’t be detected. After quiet waves and salutations, the jeep rolled quietly, lights off southward. Jax assured them he would give them a 24 hour lead before radioing Tabor Colony’s Sentries. The drive south of Ensomhet was better than the one out of Tabor. The sense of impending discovery had past, with the help of outsiders their mission seemed possible. It made the travel more enjoyable. Anora sat in front with her dad for this leg of the drive. She continued to write things into her tattered, leather journal.
Ephraim and Anora still hadn’t fully grasped the fact they were going into space. The concept was so bizarre it was difficult for them to imagine. It seemed more like they were escaping to live in the wilderness. Impossible as it seemed, Henry knew they had no other choice but to follow through with their initial plan. Living out their lives the four of them in the wilderness wouldn’t end well. He knew once those bombs were dropped something had changed immensely and irrevocably. As he drove, wired from the thirty two ounces of coffee making its way through his system, his thoughts of all possible outcomes played in his head.
A majority of them ended with his children massacred. After six hours of driving along what used to be United States Highway 91, they crossed into the state that had been called Colorado. Henry’s hands were shaking, whether it was from the caffeine, nerves or exhaustion, he wouldn’t have admitted it. They pulled over so he could walk around and Ezra could get into the driver’s seat. Anora walked around looking out into the stretch of nothing. This was a nothing she was not afraid of, it was bright and colorful and welcoming. She had removed her shoes, to feel the beautiful, lush grass beneath her skin. Occasionally she would kneel down to get a better look at a unfamiliar plant. The air was clean, the cleanest air she had ever breathed. It smelled of rain, but the clouds were off in the distance over the mountain. That morning, Anora dressed in one of Victoria’s white cotton skirts and a bright green blouse, feeling more feminine than she had in months. She fit very well into the landscape, the green and gray mountains capped in white accenting her beige skin and dark hair. The wind blew her hair behind her, making it look longer than it did when it hung around her shoulders. Her wild hair, bare feet and open spirit clicked with this land.
Ephraim sat on the back of the jeep, they had pulled back the canvas. The weather was beautiful with no sign of cloud coverage as far as they could see. It was a much needed respite for the travelers. Ezra stayed close to Henry, talking to him about the possibilities of their escapade.
“Am I going to get my children killed?” Henry asked Ezra. “Did I lead them to death?”

Friday, November 2, 2012

NanoWrimo Update: Plague

I decided to name my novel Plague for now. Ominous and dark I know. Just how I like things. It has a lot of promise to be a series, Pestilence, War, Famine, Death. Anyone else see a pattern here?
It is a Science-Fiction novel currently. At least I think it's a Sci-Fi, I've never written one so I'm not too sure. 
I attended my first write-in last night. It was full of awkward introvert conversation. No really it was fun, neat to be back in a room full of writers. You could hear the wheels turning in their brains, even if it was mulled out by the constant click of keyboards. I always like to hear what other writers are working on, so I know my brain isn't such a dangerous place after all.
At first I wasn't going to give updates, I hate seeming like I am bragging but then I realized giving updates would be my way of keeping myself going. That extra push I need to see this thing through. Last year I fell about 500 words short of "winning" NanoWrimo. At the rate I am going, I hope to blast that number out of the water. Now remember this is purely rough draft. We technically aren't supposed to be editing at all. This drives me insane of course, but I am doing my best. Please forgive the unkempt nature of this piece.
Here is a bit of an excerpt from what I have written in the past two days:
It had finally come, a day and time when the entire world was at peace. No fighting, wars, famine. The people worked together to insure the welfare of their fellow man. Now, this was perhaps a bit easier to accomplish when a large part of the human population had been wiped out one hundred years ago.
Although it had been a century since the Black Crusades, there were still refugee ancestors scattered in the far parts of the world. Anora works as rescue officer with the military, her main job is recovery. She, and her colleagues, had been working for five years, locating these ancestors, ensuring their safety and helping them restore civilization. It as a relatively new program developed by the most recent Prime Minister, Tammany Hart.
Hart felt the need to help these refugees was a step toward a more unified world. There were teams, one for each colony throughout the known communities in the world. The communities were in what once were Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Cardiff, Wales; Northern Ethiopia; Banff, Alberta; and a few similar areas.
Anora and Ephraim Maddock were born in the area that was once Banff. Of course, the current colony included several miles of surrounding wilderness. The placement of the towns were supposed to be strategically harder to attack.
The Prime Minister’s proxy, Dale Garvin, ordered Anora and the other rescue officers of Tabor Colony to take supplies to an island just off the shore of Old China. This was a particularly risky mission, the island was a short plane ride away from where Plague had been rumored to fled when the Black Crusades had stopped.
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Anora, they had been trying to reach this people group for decades. Before Anora or Ephraim had been born. Anora’s commander, Ezra Song, had requested this assignment two years prior. Anora had just become of age to join as a 17 year old. Ephraim was four years older and had been working at the base as a concept coordinator. He was against Anora joining the officers so young, but she was determined to make a difference. Anora left that afternoon for the long flight over. She was dressed in her black pants and light green shirt, the rescue government issued uniform. Her dark brown hair worn just at her shoulders was often pinned back. Her brown boots were her mothers, who had been killed during a training accident. She had been a rescue officer too. They had been testing new equipment that would help them drop supplies without putting people on the ground. The hatch caught, when Helena went to shove it open the plane caught turbulence. She fell out of the plane. They were never able to recover her body. The rescue officials decided to discontinue the effort to drop cargo in the air.
Ephraim had recently been chosen to work on mechanics and robots that would take the place of humans in dangerous situations. Anora never understood why they made these efforts, they had never run into trouble.
They had started to unload supplies, under cover of night, when the radio signals went dead from their plane. Anora was on the plane listening to the radio before the static. It sounded like chaos and explosions. She couldn’t understand what was going on, perhaps a natural disaster. In her life, there hadn’t been an attack anywhere. It had  been the most peaceful fifty years anyone had experienced. The children were still trained to be very defensive and strong, in the case the Plague returned. It was hard to explain what a warzone was like when so few had actually been alive through one.
Then she heard gunfire, another explosion followed by white noise. Anora yelled at Song to bring all of the other officers back on board, to release the cargo where they were and leave.
“Excuse me Maddock? What are you talking about?” Song yelled. She was at the back of the plane helping untie crates.
“Something has gone terribly wrong at home, we have to go back now,” Anora said.
“Maddock, don’t panic and calm down,” Song responded. “What did you hear?”
“Fighting, it sounded like fighting,” Anora said. “There were loud crashes and gunfire.”

“You have to be 100 percent sure before I make a decision to abandon this mission,” Song said. “We won’t get this chance again.”
“I wouldn’t have said anything unless I was certain,” Anora replied. “Ma’am, we can’t waste any time, I am afraid we may already be devastatingly late.”
“I understand, Maddock,” the commander continued. She picked up her transmitter, “All Esperer rescue officers will report back immediately, we have a Code Gray.”
Code Gray meant unknown emergency. No one questioned the order, at least not verbally. Within ten minutes, all officers were accounted for and strapped in for a fast ride home. Song’s co-pilot was young, he had turned eighteen a few months prior. Anora was impressed with his reserve, even in this situation of uncertainty. Of course, that was why these people were selected for the rescue department of Esperer. They knew how to face uncertainty. It had initially taken them six hours to get from Tabor to the haven in Old China. The return ride went much quicker, but they were still two hours too late. They hadn’t received any word if the other colonies had been hit.
Anora’s first look at her home was a sickening one. There was nothing. The house she had grown up in, that her parents and grandparents had been raised in, was a smouldering pile of stone and wood. The areas that had taken a direct hit were incinerated, the northern and western sides, farthest from the mountain. When the ten rescue officers and Song got off of the plane, it seemed that there would be no survivors. It was hauntingly quiet, not even a sound from the wildlife they had grown up with.
She walked to the foundation that had supported her house, looking for anything that may be salvaged. As she kicked around stones and rubble she realized there should be two bodies amidst it.
“Commander Song,” Anora radioed. “Has anyone checked the base? I believe there is a bunker in it from before the crusade, on the side that is against the mountain.”
“We’re on it, you should come too,” Song replied at once. Anora wove her way around the debris, keeping her eyes up. She didn’t think she would be able to stomach the sight of bodies laying about. At one point, the smoke came to much for her to breathe, she started running the several blocks toward the base.
By the time she arrived, her eyes were watering. Song and a few other rescue officers had begun to clear out debris.
“There’s knocking from that door,” Song said pointing. “We arrived at the base five minutes after I talked to you. It took us that long to locate the knocking. We don’t have any clue how many managed to make it into the bunker in time.”
Anora jumped in, knowing her brother and dad must have made it into the bunker. She helped them clear away the rock that had been knocked loose in the explosions. They had to be extremely careful, there was a high chance more rock around the military base could fall at any moment.
Thirty minutes later, they had to bring in cutters to remove the door completely. It had been smashed into the wall.
“Stand back from the door, we have to cut it,” Anora said loudly through the door.
“Anora!” came a man’s shout from the other side.
“Dad,” she yelled. “Are you alright? Is Ephraim in there with you?”
“He is, but he’s unconscious, he needs medical attention,” he said.
“We’re cutting you out step back,” Anora said.
It took ten minutes to remove the door, the people inside were given what provisions the rescue plane still had on it; water, food, blankets.
“Where is he?” Anora jumped into the bunker. “Dad?”
“He is over here, come help,” Anora’s dad, Henry, yelled.
“What happened?” Anora asked.
“I’m not entirely sure, I know he was looking for people to bring into the bunker,” Henry explained. “Then he was carried in by a couple of military guys. He has severe burns on his face and arm. I’m warning you our bandaging wasn’t superb so it looks a bit gruesome.”


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NanoWrimo 2012

In a last minute decision, thanks to a discussion with a fellow writer, I will participate in NanoWrimo 2012.
I am being proactive this year and have even done, wait for it, pre writing. (I apologize for the HIMYM reference).
I hate prewriting, I usually like to go into a rough draft full force without any premeditated scribblings. I went against my grain this time. I am pretty excited about the results. A sign of getting older I assume. The beginnings of characters, sketches of a setting and the first few lines have been molded. The joy of not knowing what will unfold in the next month is overwhelming. I miss this. The creative high of starting with absolutely nothing.
Here is what I have so far:
“I know nothing I do will ever make up for my actions. The events I had a hand in and the people they effected will haunt me until I die,” Ephraim said staring off into the ongoing stretch of ash.
“Your actions?” Anora asked.
Ephraim didn’t respond to her inquiry. He continued to stare in silence. Anora tried to follow the line of his gaze, but all she could see was devastation. There was nothing to look at but hurt. She wasn’t here when this happened. Her ship had narrowly missed the arrival of a fleet, a fleet of enemy planes that had gone unseen on the radar. Ephraim had been there, had shot down at least five of them on his own. At least this was the story being told by survivors, the ten that remained of the mountain town. That is where they were standing, on an old outlook post. The post had originally been built, centuries ago, to watch out for forest fires. 

Not much I know but it is 100 percent new. Last year I did a continuation of something I had been working on already. A bit of a cheat. This year I had a spotless slate. 
Good luck, fellow Nanos. 
 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Starving for Artistry

When my eager little freshman self went to the advisor at UCO, I wish I would have known how ill informed I was. The nice young twenty something asked me what I wanted to major in, my response was simple.
"I want to write."
Not hard, not complicated. I knew what my passion was and what I wanted to do with my life. She quickly skimmed to the Mass Communications portion of the huge catalog filled with mystery. Pulling out and printing the page for Journalism, I had no idea what I was getting into. She never once suggested an English major or that a Creative Writing program even existed. I don't blame her, I just wish someone would have told me.
Five years and one degree later I find myself working in journalism. I enjoyed my classes, found them interesting and like the aspect of interviewing people I never would have talked to in my life. There is a kink in this career choice though. I am an introvert. I can be forcefully outgoing but it takes a lot of courage for that. I find myself having inner pep talks before I have to approach someone to ask them what their name is for a photograph.
Needless to say, my calling is not journalism. I am certain I am in this place for a reason, but it just isn't where my heart is (I apologize for the cliche).
I'd like to say it is a smarter career choice financially, but it isn't. I work ridiculous hours, never see my family and am basically working so Elizabeth can go to daycare.
"But Shawndra, it's a foot in the door."
Wrong foot slammed in the wrong door. I am trying to see where I am to go next, what I need to do in order to get out of the slump. I feel extremely overwhelmed when it comes to new things. My initial thought is "What if I fail?" or "What if I am terrible at it?"
I luckily have begun to fight down these thoughts.
My passion is literature. I love all there is to do with it. Writing, reading, researching, biographies, NPR interviews, I could spend countless hours in a library. If it has to do with good literature I am intrigued. There is little to no literature in what I do currently. It is regurgitation of what has been done or said. Creativity or opinion is limited, which I respect. There is a time and place for those things. News is not the place. We shall see where life takes me from here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Taking a break

My novel and I are taking a break. After the last mishap I am just too mad to even look at it. It truly isn't the novel's fault, it couldn't have known what would have happened. Still, the glimpse of the sentence "File is corrupt" gave me enough of a heart attack to want to walk away right there.
I calmed down, told myself four years is far too much history and work to just throw away at the first sign of trouble.
Currently, I am just playing around with ideas and making notes here and there throughout my day. The actual work as an entirety is benched. I had made so much progress, gotten my word count up significantly, fine tuned important moments, filled in some missing details. I was becoming extremely happy and excited with the way my story was going. Then the file went corrupt. Thankfully, I found a back up stashed away. It wasn't the same though, much of my late nights and coffee induced idea bursts were a memory. A memory I had to scramble to write down so I could go back and put them in again. I really want to go back, to pick up where I left off and hammer out as much as I possibly can. Then I remembered, it is not a race. This is the one thing I do not have a deadline for, I don't have to be done. I can enjoy the elements of writing and creating.
As of now I am fighting the urge to open up the document and get lost in it.