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Mokrie Dela
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#1

Posted 26 January 2014 - 09:32 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 17 June 2014 - 11:24 AM.

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Table of Contents:


 

 

 

ThemeTheme Tune
ProloguePrologue
IntroductionIntroduction  
Part One

The Vault

One Same Old, Same Old  
Two A Friend At Last  
Three  A Lesson Learned  
Four  Stature  
FiveMore Than a Friend
SixComplications
SevenAdulthood
Part Two  Exile 

One  The Expedition 
Two  The Unknown 
Three  Remains of the Past 
Four  A Dead World 
   
   
   
   

 


Mokrie Dela
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#2

Posted 26 January 2014 - 09:37 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 05 February 2014 - 12:54 AM.

The snow hung in the air like a dense fog. Through the haze a lone figure emerged, materializing like a ghost. He trudged through the deep snow, his movements practiced and fluid. His body was encased in a cocoon of ceramic-based armor, once white, but now faded. A long grey duster sat on top, flapping in the wind that disturbed the fine top layer of snow. The man’s head was hidden under a symmetrical helmet, a pair of ribbed pipes arching from the sides of the gas-mask canister round to the back. It was spray-painted white, giving the figure a robotic image. Even his hands were hidden, with gloves that were reinforced with metallic plates.

 

Two men stood in front of a large wooden gate. A wall of metal and wood stretched outward on either side. They were dressed in simple clothes and basic armor, layered against the cold, with a torn sheet acting as a scarf that wrapped around their necks and faces.

 

“Goddamn hate gate-duty,” the taller of the two guards said.
“We all gotta do it,” the second replied with a shrug.
“Yeah well, I’d rather be in the bar.”
“You and me both. Not long till shift change, though. Just be glad we aint pulling night duty.”
“I had that last week. Thought my toes were going to fall off.”
“Wear two pairs of socks. I'm sick of your complaining.” The shorter man turned away, his eyes staring at the town’s wall.

 

A moment later, his colleague slapped him on the arm.
“Goddamnit, what now?”
The taller man said nothing. He nervously nodded toward the lone man as he approached.
“It can’t be,” the short man mumbled from behind the face-wrap.
“Sweet Jesus, it is.”
“What do you think he wants.”
The taller guard shook his head. He reached up with a gloved hand and pulled the scarf down, grimacing against the cold.

 

“Hold up, there!” he ordered with as much authority as he could manage.
The lone man stopped only when he was a few feet from the guards.
“What’s your business here?” the tall guard asked.

 

The man didn’t answer. Instead he just stood there. Through the mask, the guards couldn’t see if he was staring, but they could feel he was. The two guards shared a brief look, each one wishing for the other to do something.

 

"No tourists,” the shorter guard finally said, allowing his arm to fall away from his body slightly. The lone man’s head turned a fraction as he sized the guards up. On the taller guard’s back was a four-foot long thermic lance. The shorter guard was armed with an assault rifle. A submachinegun hung on each guard's hip.

 

The lone man showed no reaction to the guards being armed. He remained motionless. The only sound was the howling of the wind, and that stopped, as though the world was holding its breath.

 

Again the guards exchanged glances, but this time the visitor did move. He stepped forward, quickly, his left hand flying out from inside his coat with a Samurai Sword in the gloved fist. The blade arced wide to one side. The guards' eyes went wide.

 

The lone man thrust the blade forward, toward the shorter guard. It piercing through the leather-based armor with a wet pop and plunged into the guard’s chest cavity. The taller guard flinched at seeing the death of his partner. He pulled the bulky Thermic Lance from his back and motioned it forward.

 

The lone man saw the movement and had expected it. With the shorter guard impaled on his sword, he brought a silenced pistol up with his right hand. He fired a single shot, hitting the guard in the forehead. With a soft puff, the tall man fell to the snowy ground.

 

The quiet was ended by the relieved sigh of the wind as the lone man holstered his weapons. He crouched and patted the guards down, taking a handful of bottle caps and ammunition from each and placing them in his own pocket. He took a key from one of the bodies and turned to enter the walled town that hid behind the gates.

 

He paused and turned back, staring at the bodies, his mechanical breathing the only sound he made. He crouched and picked up the assault rifle. He examined it for a second before slinging it aside. Next, he weighed the Thermic Lance in his hands and examined that too. He spun it round in his hand, first in a circle, then a figure-of-eight before swiping it diagonally down and stabbing it outward. With a pleased nod, he picked up the guard’s harness and slipped it over his shoulder. He slung the long lance into its holster, and walked between the bodies toward the gate.

 

He knew the layout well enough. He closed the gate behind him and walked down the gentle slope. At the foot of the slope a metal railing stood on the cliff edge. Ten feet below, small, boxy buildings sat, cramped together. Balconies bridged the rooftops, and served more buildings built onto the side of a steep hill. He looked around, seeing a few people walking about. He then looked both ways along the walkway on which he stood.

 

He followed the walkway until it turned, a set of metal stairs leading into the snowy coulee. He descended the steps and paused halfway. He looked around and, with no eyes on him, vaulted over the hand rail.

 

The snow made for a soft and quiet landing. He stood beside the stairs and a small shack and quickly darted behind the wooden building.

 

From the other side of the buildings came the relaxed chatter of two different voices as the wind whistled through the town. The man skirted the town, staying close to the cliff, and hidden by the ramshackle buildings that, despite their appearance, were sturdy enough to survive the harsh weather. The snow was working in his favor but, although it covered his footprints, there was still the chance of them being seen. Footprints seen on the walkways would go unnoticed, but he would not. Footprints leading behind the buildings might arouse suspicion, but it kept him out of sight.

 

His objective stood before him after several more minutes of skulking. He watched the unmarked building, which stood out from the others in the sense that it was of stone masonry.

 

He checked the walkway for patrols and, seeing none, stepped from the shadow and moved toward the door.

 

The door creaked open and he stepped inside, his gun drawn. Two men sat, a pack of dirty playing cards sprawled across an old table between them with more in their hands. A cigarette fell from one of the men’s mouths, while the other one dropped his playing cards.

 

The lone man didn’t give them time for the surprise to wear off. Without a word, he pointed the men toward the jail cells, which stood at the back of the building. The two men stood, intimidated by the metal man and his mechanical breathing. Without a word of protest, and with much fear, they obeyed.

 

After stripping the men of their guns, and pointing them at the metal bars, he watched them unlock the cell door. He waved them inside with his gun. The lone man, still nonspeaking, pointed at the only prisoner and crooked his finger. She was petite and had been sitting with a defeated posture. She looked up, her face and hair darkened by dirt. Her clothes were little more than rags, which were far too big for her tiny frame.

 

The girl stood on shaky legs and exited the cell. The lone man tied the two men’s hands together and gagged them. He then locked the cell door and pocketed the key.

 

He turned to see that the girl had retrieved her possessions and dressed in her own clothes. The man opened the door a crack and looked out.

 

Once the girl was ready, they exited the building and disappeared into the white mist.

 

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Mokrie Dela
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#3

Posted 04 February 2014 - 05:32 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 23 February 2014 - 03:08 PM.

War. War never changes. For millennia, mankind has fought over things from survival, religion, resources, ideology to simple ego. Technological advancements brought about new weaponry, from the first metal sword to the thermonuclear bomb. Marching armies yielded to automated cruise missiles and, on the twenty-third of October 2077, mankind’s obsession with war reached its breaking point.

 

In two brief hours, the world was changed forever. The force of the bombs crafted new mountain ranges, and tore new valleys into the earth as the world was thrust into an unrelenting age of fallout that ravaged what little survived the harrowing conflict.

 

Those that survived mostly did so by living in giant underground bunkers, called Vaults. Over a hundred were constructed, and in the decades following the war, they eventually began to open. Generations born in the Vaults emerged, ultimately forming their own civilizations.

 

Cities grew up around some of the early open Vaults and from them came all manners of legends and horrors that would eventually make their own marks on the world.

 

A quarter of a century after that fateful day, the earth succumbed to a world-wide winter. Over the following months mankind faltered again, but despite the cold and the ashen snow, mankind persevered and survived. The world thawed, but the shock to the earth over the last twenty six years had permanently changed the world’s climate. Places accustomed to dry weather suffered floods from the melting snow, and new rivers and lakes were formed. Other places saw perpetual winters or summers.

 

But through it all, mankind remained, stubborn and steadfast. And from the shadow of the Great War, communities grew, rising from the ashes of a world long gone.

 

But war… War never changes. The lessons learned from the nuclear holocaust were soon forgotten or cast aside, as greed, hunger, corruption or egomaniacal pride took hold. Conflict returned to the world, fought between or within communities, over water or trade or even dominance. To the east, battles raged in the ruins of the nation’s former capital. And on the other side of the country, another storm was gathering.

 

Two hundred years after the world was ravaged by nuclear conflict, another war had reached its culmination as the Bear fought the Bull. But this war would persist, and, just a few years later, it would reach its culmination once again. History, it seemed, was determined to keep repeating itself.

 

Throughout all of this lay Vaults that had unopened. Some had failed, condemning the residents to hell or death, but some had survived the centuries. Beneath the ravaged world, some lived in blessed ignorance of the horrors and wars that raged overhead.

 

And inside one of those Vaults, one of the few lucky enough to survive two hundred years, a community thrived, supported by hydroponic technologies.

 

But life in such a Vault, while seemingly perfect, can be less so. For some, life can be difficult, and even in such sanctuary, were some with nothing other than to cause trouble, to hurt others, or cause chaos.

 

Because human nature itself is just like war.

 

And war; war never changes.

 

Theme tune:

Spoiler

 

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Tycek
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#4

Posted 04 February 2014 - 06:12 PM

That I must say was something worthy. I even pictured it as read by Ron Perlman. 

 

One point though. You wrote that after 200 years (making it 2277) some Vaults are still unopened. IIRC only Vault that supposed to be open after that time was Vault 13 and rest of them were opened much earlier. You may of course create your own Vault, but if it's control Vault, then Vault 13 took that place already (to be opened 200 years after the war).


Mokrie Dela
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#5

Posted 04 February 2014 - 10:04 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 04 February 2014 - 10:05 PM.

Some creative license has been taken. There's over 100 vaults, and not all have been mentioned in the Fallout universe. It stands to reason that Vault 13 won't be the only control Vault - you'd need several control vaults to study.

That said, this Vault's "gimmick" is the exploration of hydroponic and aeroponics - much like Vault 22, I guess, except it worked. I read through some of the Fallout bible and fallout wiki to get the timeline of the dates. The intro speech, as i'm sure you noticed, references The Master and Harold (those that made their mark), FO3, and the NCR war in NV. Throughout all this, some Vaults remain unopened. Some failed, of course, but a few persevered. This story is set in one of those. I'm not specifying the exact date, either, only that it's set AFTER the 2nd battle of hoover dam.

 


Tycek
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#6

Posted 04 February 2014 - 10:29 PM

I'm not saying "Holy 13" was only control Vault. According to Fallout Bible there were 17 of them and yours of course can be one of them. 

 

I've understood it will be set after second battle of Hoover Dam (you wrote it after all), but I just doubt any of control vaults would be closed that long (just my opinion). I'm saying Vault 13 was the one to be closed for the longest period (200 years). Also you meant that this Vault will have experiment, so it's not exactly control Vault. 

 

Why this piece wasn't included in the first place though?


Mokrie Dela
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#7

Posted 04 February 2014 - 11:00 PM

Well control Vault of experiment Vault, i think it's a detail hardly worthy of over-analyzing. The Vault is not the main setting. It's just the start of the story, where you meet the characters.

I know it's sealed for a long time, but hey, if 13 can survive 200 years and only have a faulty water chip, imagine if they had spares.... Theoretically, it could have survived another 200, right?

 

Why wasn't this included? What the little narration intro? Honestly, it was an oversight. You said it wasn't feeling Fallouty enough, and i'd missed one of Fallout's most notable parts!


Mokrie Dela
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#8

Posted 05 February 2014 - 12:39 AM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 05 February 2014 - 12:56 AM.

One - Same Old, Same Old

 

Maggie Rose saw her daughter out of the metal door, which closed with the usual hiss of pneumatics. The child looked back at the door, knowing that it did not lock but feeling somehow condemned and alone by it. She turned away and looked down the long hallway, the grey concrete walls stretching as far as she could see. I-beams crossed the ceiling from which rectangular lamps hung, bathing the hallway in white light. The artificial sunlight seemed to make her pale skin glow in contrast to her royal blue jumpsuit; the matted fabric absorbed most of the light.

 

She stood for a moment, hearing the gentle hum that constantly resonated through the hallways. She walked forward, her tiny feel tapping on the concrete floor. The lamps buzzed as she passed. Metal pneumatic doors crept by, a single vertical yellow stripe down their centers. Etched onto the metal was a dwelling number, and below that a removable plate that bore the name of the residents.

 

She looked at the passing doors, envisioning happy families within, each one respected and valued. Every day she made the same quiet journey to the classroom. She was in no hurry. She walked with her head down like a defeated criminal being marched down death row. Her copper-colored hair was tied back in a short ponytail and seemed to glow in the artificial sunlight. She likened it to a warning light, informing everyone of her presence, when all she wanted to do was to be unseen. It was bright, vibrant, and she hated it.

 

Her reluctant walk took her through one of the wide, metal doors. With a hiss of pneumatics, the steel panel lifted, and she entered the classroom sector.

 

She walked into one of several classrooms, crossing the threshold of the open door. She wasn’t late enough to be marked as tardy, but most of the other children were already in their seats, chattering and laughing. She headed straight to her usual desk, which sat at the very front. Some of the laughter and conversation would be at her expense, she knew – her own personal, soul-crushing anthem. She did her best to ignore them, and sat down with a mournful sigh.

 

Attendance was taken, and the lessons started. Her only tactic to combat her daily trials was to throw herself into the work, her mind soaking up every detail as it was offered, and that gave her some enjoyment, at least. She reveled in the medical and scientific subjects – enough that she could immerse herself in the work, blocking out the cruel words and jokes from the other kids. She liked history too, somehow feeling as though she could relate to people of a world long gone. Perhaps that was pity, she wondered, and how she would welcome even pity into her own life.

She spent much of her spare time reading books and holodisks – computerized storage devices which could store a vast range and array of data, from videos, to sound recordings to simple text. She tried to paper over the cracks of pain with a concrete made up of information, but the cracks remained, even if they were hidden. Perhaps it was a distraction, or perhaps it was a substitute for having no friends. She felt strong relief when she returned home to spend the evening with her mother. The first thing she did at the end of the school-day was to wrap her arms around her mother’s waist. Her mother would always rest her hand on her head before leaning over to hug back.

 

During the day, though, she was ridiculed, and for reasons that escaped her. She was frustrated; how was it she understood biochemistry and the mechanics that ran their home, but she could not work out why she was the target of the children’s cruelty?

 

While the children sat behind her, scribbling cruel notes and sketches and whispering jokes at her expense, she worked hard to fill her mind with every scrap of information she could manage. Information was her only companion. The few children that didn’t make fun of her tended to avoid her as though she was a leper, leaving a void that had to be filled with something.

The children eagerly flocked out of the classroom when recess started. Some headed for the synthetic playfield while others spread throughout the corridors. She did not eagerly follow. She didn’t want to spend time with such horrible people. Instead she tried to remain in the classroom, reading or writing. Sometimes, however, the teacher would insist that the child played with her friends, condemning her to the social hell. When the classroom was closed to her, she would seek out a quiet corner to sit and read or write, with varying degrees of success. The school sector was not designed to have many out-of-sight recesses, so there was simply nowhere she could hide without venturing into the other areas of the Vault – that would see her swiftly returned to the classroom by security, and the last thing she wanted or needed was to draw attention to herself. At times, she wished she could become invisible.

She knew she was different. Aside from the physical attributes, her mind worked differently. Unlike most children her age, toys didn’t interest her, though she did place great value in her weekly night of board games with her mother. Chess was her favorite. It required foresight and planning, where cunning triumphed over blind luck.

“You’re a child,” the teacher once said patronizingly. “Go and enjoy it.”

Instead of playing, she regularly borrowed books and holodisks from the classroom or the science or medical areas. Her father used to obtain them for her, but gradually she became known to the middle-aged engineers, and they eagerly offered them to her as well. She would read the holodisks on the terminal in their pokey living room until her mother insisted she stop, lest she damage her eyesight. She had no friends, so that was her only solace.

It was lunchtime, and it had come quickly. Sometimes it would be after a long and tiring morning – those were the days where the children were worse. Their taunts would be whispered, so the teacher didn’t hear, and often they’d be whispered behind her back. In some ways, that made it worse, but at least then she could pretend that she hadn’t heard. When they were said to her face, there was no denial, and she knew they other children could see her face drop.

 

She walked into the canteen like she did every day: on her own, hoping most of the children were in line facing forward or too busy eating to notice her. She reached the counter without incident and hoisted her sectionalized tray up. The stainless-steel flexi-arm of the levitating orb of metal people called ‘Mister Handy’ reached over her tray. The floating robot deposited a mound of hydroponically-grown vegetables, thinly sliced synthetic meat and fluffy mash in the relevant sections with a speed and accuracy only a robot could do. The portions were carefully measured by Mr. Handy, to provide sufficient nutrition while sustaining the stock of food. The girl made a note to visit the lower levels again, where the food was grown in rooms under specially designed lamps.

 

The girl walked toward the only empty table, hoping that today wouldn’t be too bad; that no children would through their food at her, or try to put her off her food – something that wasn’t that hard, with some of the things they said.
There was a shortage of tables, she noticed. One of the metal tables leaned against the back wall with a bent leg and another was absent for reasons unknown to her. She planned to eat her lunch quickly and keep her head down. It usually worked….

 

The shortage of tables, however, made confrontation inevitable.

The tray slammed down in front of her, but she resisted looking up.
“Having fun with your imaginary friends?” the voice mocked. “Are they carrot-tops too?”
“Leave me alone,” she said weakly and without lifting her head, knowing it would make no difference. In fact, she'd known it was a mistake as she said it.
“Why should we? We need to sit and eat.” More trays landed on the table.
“Oh no,” another voice sang sarcastically. “There’s not enough room.”
“Yeah, you’ll have to get out of here. Look, even your imaginary friends have gone away!” The children laughed. Perhaps it was because she was the victim, but the girl saw no humor or even intelligence in their taunts.

 

A hand reached out and flicked over the plastic cup, spilling her drink all over her lunch. Before she could react, someone shoved her off the edge of the bench. She fell to the floor with a loud slap as her skin came in contact with the tiles. Heads turned and most of the children laughed.

The physical pain wasn't easily ignored but the emotional pain inside was worse. She stood, trying hard to hide it, but she was already sniffling as tears welled in her eyes. She turned from the laughing kids and ran. One of the kids threw part of her lunch at her and missed. They laughed harder.

 

She managed to hold the first sob off until she was in the hallway, away from prying eyes. Barely able to see through the tears, she ran on, away from the school area, and didn’t stop until she found herself somehow in the engineering section, standing in front of one of the pumps.

 

She stood there for a minute, expecting an engineer to angrily confront her. But none did. The sound of her crying was drowned out by the whirring and humming of the machines. The engineers usually wore ear-protectors to defend against hearing damage long-term exposure to the constant sound might cause. But she welcomed the noise as it covered up her sobs.

 

She saw her face in a polished panel of metal and wiped her tears away, stifling her sobs. Why me? she asked silently. What have I done to them? Why is the color of my hair, or the paleness of my skin a problem?

 

She was utterly miserable. What had she done wrong that made her deserve this? She collapsed onto her backside, her eyes still staring at her reflection and she hated what she saw. She stroked her red hair, again asking why she was different.

 

Would things be different if I was blonde, or a brunette?

 

She held her hair in between her fingers, and, with a grimace and a frustrated cry, she pulled. Her other hand mirrored her actions as she tried to tear her hair from her head. She pulled harder and harder until it felt like her scalp was going to split open. The physical pain, at first refreshing and cleansing, became agonizing, and she collapsed into a heap as she broke down. She cried again, her howling hushed by the sound of the machines.

 

Her mother’s hair was golden, and it flowed like the locks of Venus. In her eyes, her mother had a regal beauty, one that emanated from deep within her nurturing soul. The child had evidently inherited her mother’s vibrant hair color, though her hair was a slightly darker shade. Her mother looked at her with pride in her eyes and often said how beautiful her ‘perfect daughter’ was. Was that a lie, the child wondered, something to spare her feelings? The child didn’t see what her mother saw. Her preadolescent reflection was that of a hideous monster, ridiculed by the populace and self-loathed.

 

Her mother kept hammering home the point that she was beautiful, but all parents said that, didn’t they? She didn’t know what it was that made everyone hate her, but that had to make her a horrible person, didn’t it? After all, how many friends did she have? Only horrible, ugly people had no friends.

 

A few minutes passed and her tears retreated. She found it comforting down with the machines, with the whirring and clunking and humming. The technology that had such an important role was the product of clever minds – minds she adored. Surrounded by the machines incapable of emotion, she almost felt like she belonged.

Lessons resumed for the afternoon, and her feelings were suppressed once again as she forced herself to think of the work. The remainder of the day was split between mathematics and then history. They had learned of mankind’s last great war and the events that led up to it. With resources running low and tensions running high, something had given and, for two hours, missiles rained down across the entire world. Everything was destroyed. The last of the human race sought shelter in huge underground bunkers – called Vaults. That was her home. In some ways she thought of herself as the Vault, surrounded by hell itself.

 

Alone and trapped.

Finally the school day ended and, well after everyone else, she left the classroom. She often requested extra lessons, but the teachers rarely allowed her more than half an hour – they wanted to go home too, they said, and she understood. Even ten minutes was enough; the other children, eager to get home for dinner or just to be away from school, wouldn’t hang around for long. The classrooms quickly fell quiet, the hallways empty. This was her favorite part of the day.

Peace and quiet.

The walk home was almost always lonesome and she welcomed it. Although the loneliness was often crippling, she’d rather be alone than with anyone who hated her. She wished for just one friend, but alas, her wishes were unanswered.

 

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Mokrie Dela
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#9

Posted 05 February 2014 - 12:46 AM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 12 February 2014 - 11:22 AM.

Two - A Friend At Last

 

The girl shuffled into the classroom as others took their seats, each one connected to a metal desk. At the front, on the grey concrete wall, was an electronic blackboard, the control panel jutting out of the wall beside it, its red keys glowing softly. The teacher’s desk sat in the corner beside the control panel, at an angle, facing the class. From the back came the rattling of a projector, the Vault-Tec logo flickering over the blackboard.

 

The girl walked through the giggling children, trying to ignore the laughter. She was used to it, like the gentle humming that perpetually filled the Vault’s hallways. She passed in front of the projector and her shadow arced over the blackboard.

 

Something caught her eye as she sat and she turned, seeing one of the children talk to another.
“Sit here. The seat’s empty.”
“What about the girl that normally sits there?”
“Who cares? She’s not here, and her name’s not on it, is it?” The girl found that strange. No one had designated seats. People sat where they wanted. The trouble-makers tended to sit near the back, perhaps where their antics could go unnoticed, or their whispers unheard. The smarter, more enthusiastic children sat at the front, which is where she sat. But never had her seat been occupied when she arrived. She suspected the children saw it as tainted or something.

“What are you looking at?” one of the children said, seeing the girl staring at them.
“Someone should poke your eyes out so you can’t see,” the other said.
“Well, the workshop has a sander…”
The girl turned away, feeling that familiar lump in her throat.

“Good morning, children,” the teacher said from the front with blessed timing. “Quiet down now.”
The girl swallowed past her hurt. She breathed deep and long, trying to keep her tears quelled. It took a couple of minutes as attendance was taken, and she barely managed to reply to her name without her voice breaking, but by the time the final name was read out, she was okay.

She heard activity from the back but didn’t turn around. The teacher, however, did take notice.
“And what time do you call this, young lady?” the teacher demanded.
“I'm guessing it’s not playtime.” the latecomer – a girl - replied.
“Don’t get smart with me. Any more of that and you won’t have a play time.”
“Oh no,” the latecomer said with feigned concern.
“Just sit down, Valerie.” There was a moment’s pause. “Anywhere will do.”
“Someone’s in my seat,” Valerie protested.
“Don’t see your name on it,” the boy from before said.
“No, but I see your name on my fist,” Valerie shot back.
The teacher stood. “Enough! Just sit down. There’s only one seat so take it and be quiet.”

 

There was laughter as Valerie sat. The girl turned her head to see the blonde late-comer sit at the desk next to her. She quickly turned back to her desk before someone said something and the laughing died down.
“That’s what you get for sleeping in,” Valerie said.
The girl didn’t reply. Valerie smiled dismissively and turned away.
“Right,” the teacher said. “Seeing as how you all like laughing, I think it’s time to talk laughing gas. Who knows the correct scientific name for it?”
The girl put her arm up and the teacher pointed at her.
“Nitrous Oxide.”
“Very good. Now –”
Valerie leaned over. “Wouldn’t mind having some of that on hand, don’t you?”
The girl smiled. She almost laughed, but she said nothing for fear of reprisal.
“You don’t talk much do you?”
She shook her head.
“Alright.” Valerie turned away again.

 

 

Morning recess arrived and the teacher sat as the children eagerly marched out through the door. Valerie stood and began to walk off. The girl got up, thinking she was the last one to leave.

 

“Out of my way, Pumpkin-face.”

The girl felt the boy shove her as she stood. She tumbled to the floor one of her flailing hands knocking a book from the neighboring desk. She whimpered and the boy laughed before running out of the classroom. The teacher looked up from the book he was reading.

“Stop larking around, will you? Go out and play.”
The girl felt her eyes filling up with tears and knew she wouldn’t be able to hold them back. She looked helplessly toward the teacher.

 

“Are you okay?”
The girl looked up to see the blonde hair of Valerie hanging over her.
The teacher appeared also, having realized a child was hurt.  He checked for physical injuries and found none.
“What happened?” he asked as he helped her sit back on the chair.
“I fell,” the girl replied, her eyes now dry.
The teacher looked at Valerie, doubt on his face.
“It’s true, mister,” Valerie said. “She just slipped.”
The teacher wasn’t buying it at first but then he stood and shrugged. “Alright.”
Valerie began to lead the girl out of the classroom.
“No,” the girl said.
“What?”
“I don’t want to go and play.”
“Okay, we won’t.”
“You go. I’ll be fine.”
“It’s okay, don’t worry.”
“Please. Leave me alone.”
“Why?”
“Because… They’ll pick on you, too.”
“Let them, I don’t care.”
The girl looked up, perplexed. How could someone not care?
“Why are you helping me?” the girl said after a moment.
Valerie shrugged. “It’s what normal people do.”
“I'm not normal.”
Valerie laughed. “Nor am I.”
The girl looked up, seeing Valerie smiling. Out of her sadness came a single snicker. Valerie’s thin smile turned into a full grin. “Want to go and just sit down?”
The girl nodded.

 

“Why are you still here?” the teacher asked.
Valerie did the talking: “She feels a little shaky, and needs to sit down.”
“Alright, she can sit in here as long as she’s quiet.” Valerie helped the girl sit down. “You can go now,” the teacher said to Valerie.
“It’s okay, I’ll stay and make sure she’s alright.”
“It’s your break,” the teacher said with a shrug.
“Thank you,” the girl said softly as Valerie sat next to her.
“No worries,” Valerie replied with a smile.
“And thank you for not telling him who did it.”
“Wouldn’t help things, would it?” The girl shook her head. “You clearly don’t need more attention. I'm Valerie, by the way.”
The girl smiled in reply but said nothing.
Valerie asked, “What’s your name?”
“Amelia.”
“Hello, Amelia.”

 

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Tycek
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#10

Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:50 AM

Wow, Mokrie, I don't want to say it, but it's a mess. I literally got lost reading this, with all these dialogues, especially with all these girls. I need to re-read it couple of times and I'm, still confused who said what. You can definitely do better than this.


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#11

Posted 12 February 2014 - 11:19 AM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 23 February 2014 - 03:04 PM.

Three - A Lesson Learned

 

Amelia Rose was still miserable and confused about her social position and the only rest bite was her one-and-only friend – Valerie – and her undying support and understanding. As the months and years went on, Amelia found the education more interesting and more challenging. Amelia still received the same tirade of insults from the other children, and when she hit puberty, it only got worse. Most girls were developing to significant statures, but Amelia felt she didn’t measure up. That physical difference only gave the teenagers more ammunition for their verbal attacks.

 

Her first sight of the day through her bleary eyes was the boring grey ceiling of her tiny bedroom. She sat up, swinging her legs out from beneath the blanket, her feet touching down on the unwelcomingly cold floor and she blinked a few times until her eyes cleared. For a moment sleep repressed her memories, but by the time she was standing up, she remembered. Her body slumped as yet another day stood before her. There was never anything different, just the repetitive tirade. The cramped confines of the Vault gave her nowhere to run or hide, and her tiny, boxy bedroom felt like a prison cell. She often reminded herself of what the world was like outside of her home; she’d been taught that the world was an empty, lifeless wasteland, filled only with ash and rubble from destroyed cities. She was lucky to be here, she told herself. This is sanctuary.

 

This is purgatory.

 

Sometimes the lessons offered enough variety to give her something to look forward to, but as she grew older, that excitement began to fade. Variety became routine, exciting became mundane and still, she was miserable. She valued the education, but the social side of school filled her with constant dread.

 

She stepped into the shower, washed, and stared at herself in the mirror. She didn’t see any logical reason to hate what she saw, but she still felt disdain over her reflection. She’d started exercising over the last couple of years, thinking that perhaps it was her figure that was causing the jokes. It wasn’t, and she’d realized that quickly but continued with the exercises nonetheless. To begin with they made her feel good as the endorphins were released, but that buzz wore off and she was left with the same misery. Puberty had completed the task that it was biologically programmed to do – she could see that in the mirror. But as she, and everyone else her age, entered adulthood, the victimization didn’t end.

In the reflection, she saw a relatively slender, slightly-toned body. She thought the exercises were paying off, aesthetically, but she still didn’t feel good enough. She thought her efforts would make her less hideous, but the other teenagers only saw the results as boyish. She wasn’t a big girl. Her arms and legs were thin, but her face was round, and she thought it looked fat.

 

Amelia had started to see the futility in singling out one flaw. Instead she thought it was a combination of things. She wasn’t that tall – only about five-foot-four – and was skinny, her hair was on the red side of copper, her skin pale and now she was underdeveloped. She genuinely wondered if that would change things. Would any of the teenage boys find her attractive if she was bigger, or her face less full? She even looked at her green eyes, and wondered if it was that, too. Someone had once called her an alien due to the color of her irises.

 

Many of the girls liked to exhibit what had developed, leaving their jumpsuit zips halfway with tight, low-cut or low-hanging tops underneath, accentuating their physical attributes. Even with their jumpsuits zipped up, the contours of their chests were hard to miss. That seemed to win them popularity with many of the boys. Amelia simply didn’t have much to show off; a low cut top would have little effect. She often imagined herself as one of the bustier girls, but somehow, she doubted that would change things.

People would just laugh. She wasn’t one of the pretty girls, and she knew she never would be. She didn’t waste her time trying to fit in.

 

She dressed in her blue Vault-issue jumpsuit, leaving the zip half done for a moment. She looked at it in the mirror and, using her hands, hoisted her chest. She sighed in disappointment and closed the zip fully. One thing, she thought, just give me one thing that people would like.

 

She had no motivation to exercise. Instead she elected to enjoy her mother’s company over breakfast before her daily trials began, and even that was muted. She tried to be all smiled, but she just wanted to cry.

 

* * *

 

On their tenth birthday, everyone received a Personal Information Processor – commonly known as a Pip-Boy – an electronic gauntlet that would become the hub for their digital life. It stored a range of information, from notes – useful for education – to a map of the Vault. It also monitored the owner’s vitals, warning of any health or environmental issues and dangers.

 

Amelia sat at the metal desk in her tiny bedroom. Her Pip-Boy laid in front of her beside a tool box borrowed from the engineering sector. She lifted a screwdriver and carefully removed the Pip-Boy’s faceplate. Staring at the circuitry, she traced the wires with the tip of the screwdriver. She unplugged the wires from the screen and set it aside. Then she began to poke around inside, seeing the different components. The battery wasn’t hard to find and Amelia figured out what wires led to the inputs.

After a couple of minutes Amelia was leaning in, getting her eyes as close to the circuitry as possible. She unplugged the wires, locating individual components, removing them, and studying them. She marveled at the technology.

 

Then her mother called out for her to get ready for bed – she had classes tomorrow, something Amelia had forgotten. She hung her head and felt that familiar sinking feeling. She lifted her wrist to check her time, but her Pip-Boy was in pieces on her table. Her mother wouldn’t lie about the time, so if it was bedtime…

 

She’d been disassembling her Pip-Boy for hours!

 

And it was time to put it back together, only… she couldn’t remember how. She tried to the best of her knowledge, but the screen wouldn’t turn on. Anxiety hit then. The Vault residents were strictly prohibited to interfere with Vault technology – from Pip-Boys to air filters.

 

“What are you doing?” Amelia’s mother asked.
“I'm… Nothing.” Amelia’s voice was shaky, and her mother stepped into the room. She knew that look on her face. She was in trouble.
“You should know better, Amelia,” Maggie Rose said, snatching the Pip-Boy from the desk. Amelia watched as she tried to turn it back on. “What did you do?”
“I looked inside.”
“Well I'm going to have to take this to get fixed tomorrow. Count yourself lucky that most of them are friends. Let’s just hope you don’t need it.” Maggie turned to walk out of the room. She paused and turned. “Get to bed.”

Amelia couldn’t mistake the anger in her mother’s voice. She hung her head as the door hissed closed. She was a disappointment.

 

The following day Amelia woke and did her daily exercises. She showered and dressed. That’s when she remembered about her Pip-Boy. She took a deep breath and opened her door.

 

Her mother seemed to be in a good mood. Like Valerie, she always seemed chirpy. The Pip-Boy sat on the small dining table. Everything was small about her home – and everyone else’s. The Vault’s residential quarters consisted of a grid of corridors, serving hundreds of dwellings. These were only as big as they needed to be; a living area big enough to fit in a couple of benches and a small table, and the dining table. There was a kitchen not much bigger than a cupboard – they had one of those too – and two bedrooms, big enough for two beds (or a double bed), a work table and a chest of drawers. Amelia’s room had a few shelves which, where most would find toys, were full of books and holodisks.

 

Amelia didn’t speak, and her mother gave her a long stare as they began to eat breakfast. Apart from the usual hums and clangs that made their home seem to have a life of its own, the only sound Amelia heard was the rather grotesque one of herself and her mother swallowing food.

 

“You know you’re not allowed to mess with these things, don’t you?” Maggie said after the quiet grew awkward.
Amelia simply nodded, her head hanging over her breakfast.
“The same goes for air vents and heating ducts. You shouldn’t fiddle with things you don’t understand.”
“But –”
“No buts. If you did understand it, then it’d still work. If it’s not working properly, leave it to the engineers.”
“Dad would have fixed it.” Amelia instantly hated herself for saying that. It was weak, she knew, and it only made her sound pathetic.

 

Maggie’s head dropped slightly, but she quickly regained her composure.
“Well, Amelia, your father isn’t here.”
“Sorry,” Amelia said into her chest. Looking down just reminded her how unhappy her life was. She wanted to burst out with everything, spill her guts and cry on her mother’s shoulder. She wanted her to say it would all be fine – but it would be a lie.
“I just wanted to see how it worked.”
The hard look on Maggie’s face melted into a softer one of love. “Amelia…”
“Dad was great at this kind of thing. He loved it, and I…” Amelia just stared at her mother.
“I miss him too,” Maggie said.
Amelia got out of her seat and darted round the table. She wrapped her arms around her mother.
“I love you, mom.”
“I love you too, Amelia.”
“I'm sorry.”
“It’s okay.”

 

 

Amelia hated entering the classroom. She found the sound of the door’s hydraulics daunting and ominous. After years, the giggles and whispers had grown stale. She was almost able to handle it, but she saw the malice behind the words remained.

She usually excelled in her lessons, and was more often than not in the top percent. That proved to be more ammunition for the teenagers’ jokes. Her mother often told her how proud she was of her, though Amelia sensed that was currently not the case.

 

She’d been predicted to do well in the science and medical track. She knew she was smart, but found herself encumbered by that very fact. She certainly didn’t show it off, but the other teenagers knew she was clever; the teacher often handed out test results, offering no privacy in the grades. She wondered if that was a factor in the teenagers’ abuse. Although she tried to keep her head down, she was too tempting a target.

It was midway through the afternoon’s lessons when the classroom door opened and a man walked in. Amelia recognized him as he approached the teacher. Bernard, his name was, and he worked in the engineering section. He used to work with her father, and Amelia had spent time with them, watching them repair machines.

 

Bernard and the teacher spoke, their voices hushed, and the teacher nodded. Bernard approached Amelia.
“Would you come with me, please?”

Amelia nodded and timidly followed, hearing the chuckles as she exited the classroom. Neither spoke until they reached the engineering section. The noisy machines were a stark contrast to the quiet of the classroom – even with the giggles and whispers. Amelia saw her Pip-Boy lying on the workbench.
“I'm sorry about that,” she said.
Bernard pointed at the stool and said, “sit down.”

Amelia obeyed and looked up at him. He moved over to the bench and slid the Pip-Boy in front of her.
“I had a look and it’s easy to see what you did, but not why.”
“I wanted to see how it works.” Amelia was entering adulthood, but she felt like a child again. The shame was evident in her voice. Bernard looked at Amelia for a moment. Then he smiled.
“You know your father was the same when he was younger. Always wanting to see inside things.” Bernard handed Amelia a screwdriver. “Open it up.” Amelia did so, and Bernard spoke her through the mistakes she’d made, instructing her how to correct them.

“So basically,” she said, “I’d just got the wires the wrong way round.”
“Pretty much.”
She chuckled. “That’s embarrassing.”
Bernard laughed as Amelia slid the Pip-Boy onto her wrist. “Don’t worry about it. We all make that sort of mistake at the start.”
“Well thank you for fixing it.”
“I didn’t,” Bernard said. “You did.”
Amelia looked up to see Bernard smiling. She smiled back.

 

* * *

 

“Hey, Amelia!”
Amelia had just come from the engineering sector and was on her way home when she heard Valerie’s voice.
“Hi,” she replied. In the last few years, Valerie had blossomed into a beautiful young woman, perfectly proportioned. Her blonde hair reached down to her shoulders and she always seemed to be smiling. Amelia was surprised that Valeria hadn’t seen her as a dead weight and ditched her in favor of the more popular crowd, to which she would definitely fit in.

 

“Hard day?” Valerie asked. Unlike Amelia, her voice was full of exuberance and energy. Happiness. She had that love for live, despite living in a cramped Vault.
Amelia nodded. “Kind of. Bernard came into class this afternoon though. He pulled me out of class.”
“Why?”
Amelia explained about her Pip-Boy. Valerie simply laughed.
“At least you had an interesting afternoon.”
Amelia flashed a rare smile. “Yeah. It was fun. I now know how to wire them up. Bernard showed me enough so I can look at it in future.”
“That’s cool. Can you tweak mine to give it x-ray vision so I can scan through clothes?”
“What?” Amelia frowned at Valerie’s deadpan face. “Are you joking?” Seconds passed, and Valerie burst out laughing. Then she caught herself, setting her face.
“I don’t know, am I?”
That’s what Amelia loved about Valerie – she was very jovial. She was a joy to be around.
“I don’t think there’s anyone I’d want to use that on,” Amelia said. “Even if it you are serious.”
“You’ll find someone.”
“I doubt it. I can’t stand any of them. Not one. I just don’t understand.” Like Amelia, Valerie was of an academic mind. When most kids were playing together in the evening, they were often sitting on each other’s beds, discussing or studying a variety of subjects. Sometimes they played word games, or wrote poems. They shared a real connection, something that rivaled most siblings.

Valerie put her arms around Amelia to comfort her.

Soon they were back in Amelia’s bedroom, a few books spread out on the bed.
“You know Lucy?” Valerie asked. They were in different classes but some subjects were split into different skill sets. Amelia and Valerie were in the top class for many subjects, and Lucy was also in the top tier.
“What about her?”
“She’s hot for Frankie,” Valerie said with a beaming smile.
“Good for her.”
“Yeah – she wrote him a love note.”
“What did he do?””
“I don’t know. So, anyone you like?”
Amelia blinked. “Well… Maybe, but… I don’t want to say.”
“Go on!”
“Valerie, please. Besides, the redhead nerd fancying someone? That’s just stupid isn’t it?”
“Don’t be like that. Come on, who is it?” A theatrical gasp. “Is it Mister Jones?”
“No…”
“Mister Clarke?”
“No.”
“I know! It’s the lunchtime man – Earle!”
“Eww, no –”
Misses Earle?”
Amelia blushed. “Valerie, no.”
“Oh my god, you do, don’t you!”
Valerie! Please I get enough of that at school, don’t tease me here!”
“I'm sorry. I was just joking. You don’t have to tell me who it is.”
“No it’s okay. I don’t think they like me anyway.”
“How would you know?”
“I just… I just do, okay? Look at me. No boy would go anywhere near me, and even if they did, how could I be with someone who treated me so bad?”
“Okay, Amelia.” Valerie turned the page of her book and the two girls returned to quizzing and debating with each other.

 

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Tycek
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#12

Posted 12 February 2014 - 05:57 PM

 


This is sanctuary.

This is purgatory.

 

 

 

While I can understand the first sentence, the second doesn't make much sense in my opinion. It's clear what is hell in that case, but if nuclear war charred the whole world, what can be considered heaven?

 

Second question. If this girl is starting her puberty period at the age of 10 (calling it adulthood is a bit over the top) then why she finds it strange that she's not woman yet. I can understand that in Vault occupied by 1000 people all kids would probably attend the same class (like in small villages back in the day), so it would be nothing strange that 16 years old girls would let's say expose their valors in some way. I don't see why 10 year old girl would worry about this. I'm not one of them so maybe they're really doing this at this age, but I find that a bit strange. She's 10 years old, yet she's trying to act like at least teenager. Did I miss something? 


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#13

Posted 12 February 2014 - 07:54 PM

Read the very first paragraph again, Ty.

"As the months and years went on"
Years have passed since the previous chapter. I am avoiding the timestamp, but several years have passed. She is about 15/16 in this chapter. The teens can be a very trying time for people, especially those with self esteem issues and self hatred (that comes from a real place.)

Sanctuary/Purgatory.

The vault is sanctuary (in the meaning of the word that it is a place of refuge, a place where one is protected. I.E. a Bird Sanctuary - wherein birds are protected. The Vault is a "people sanctuary"

Here, she's telling herself that this is a safe place, that the world outside is hell on earth. This is my safe place. This is my sanctuary.

But in reality, it's hell to her; a place of suffering. She's trying to convince herself that this is a great place, but it's the opposite.


Tycek
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#14

Posted 12 February 2014 - 09:01 PM Edited by Tycek, 12 February 2014 - 09:03 PM.

So the first paragraph is in present time when she's 15/16 and the rest is a form of retrospection into her tenth birthday? I find the dialogues not convincing for ten years old, then. 

 

I see it like this: She got Pip Boy for tenth birthday, she broke it by looking inside, her mother gave it to the fixing, Bernard came to the classroom, took her to the engineering section and show how to fix the device. Am I lost here or was the Pip Boy lying broken for 5/6 years? I wonder how they survived if the engineering was so fast :blink:

 

And about that Purgatory/Sanctuary I am aware of the meaning of these two names, yet I found that unconvincing. Of course it's my opinion, but during Nuclear war the safe place with even the worst company would be blessing. Sure, they harsh for her, but they are alive and that's what matters. Would be better for her to sit alone in Vault? You could compare it to Ark, which would be quite cheap, but more convincing than purgatory at least for me. Purgatory by definition is place for waiting to get into some better world, but is there a better place to live during nuclear armageddon than safe underground shelter?

 

She was born underground, that's all her life, so how she knows what is better for her? Sure, being surrounded by people who found fun in kicking someone who is a bit different isn't great and living there would be rather not funny (people like this usually made some kind of armor, though, to protect themselves), but 10/15/16 years old girl comparing her only home and reason that she's alive to purgatory itself is a bit strange. She doesn't know what is outside, she weren't there, so it's her only world. Maybe I am wrong with such psychological stuff, but you actually would try to catch every ray of shine, when sitting in complete darkness. It's not like she can move out. It's your story and maybe you want to give her the reason to travel with the Vault Dweller, though.   


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#15

Posted 12 February 2014 - 11:15 PM

In hindsight I think the tenth birthday/Pipboy is misplaced

There's no time jumps here. Everything happens in this order. She opene up the Pipboy as a teenager becaus she wanted to see inside. I apologise that the tenth birthday bit is a bit confusing.

This most recent chapter occurs several years after the previous. She HAD received the Pipboy on her tenth birthday - she had it for years and her curiosity eventually got the better of her.

I greatly value your and anyone else's input though
Don't ever think you shouldn't tell me how it is. If you're confused (then I've not done my job!) or dislike something; say it!!)

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#16

Posted 23 February 2014 - 03:03 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 11 March 2014 - 04:11 PM.

Four - Stature

 

There was no denying it, Amelia said to herself as she looked in the mirror, her Jumpsuit was too small for her. She’d woken, exercised and washed as usual, then dressed in her new jumpsuit. The older one had been traded with the new one, and now that didn’t fit. That frustrated her. She found it difficult to close the zip fully. She turned, side on to the mirror, and rested her hand on her stomach. On a logical level, she knew it was flat, but that didn’t explain why the clothing didn’t fit.

I’m too fat, she told herself.

But she didn’t really believe that, did she? She pushed with her hand, as if to squeeze her stomach in but it had little effect. Her stomach wasn’t the problem.

She struggled to move the zip past her chest. That annoyed her. She was not overtly large in that area. There was no reason to be unable to do the zip up past her chest. She wasn’t Stacy – busty and sexy. She arched her shoulders forward, exhaled and forced the zip up.

That still wasn’t good enough. The jumpsuit was so tight that it only accentuated what she lacked. It felt like a medical brace had been fastened over her chest. With every breath she felt the jumpsuit squeezing her.

 

With a sigh, she opened the zip until it sat in the middle of her torso. The relief was welcomed, but the open part of the jumpsuit flared outward, almost creating an arrow that would draw the eyes to the tight T-shirt she wore beneath the blue coveralls. There was only the slightest of protrusions, and she worried over what others would say.

But there was no option. She couldn’t sit in class all day feeling like her chest was in a vice. She tried to lay it on, but her mother wasn’t having any of it.

“You’re a beautiful girl, Amelia. No one’s going to care if you have it partly open. We’ll get it changed this evening.”
“But I don’t feel well,” Amelia tried, knowing it was weak.
Maggie simply smiled. “I was young myself, once. I know that line. You know as well as anyone how important education is.”
Amelia nodded at that. There was no arguing with her mother. Soon enough, and with the usual kiss to the forehead, Amelia was out in the corridor.

 

She dawdled to class, mindful of the jumpsuit. She tried folding the open flares over her chest, but they kept falling back down. There was no hiding it. She found it cruel, but luck had rarely been kind to her. She knew that the white T-shirt, in contrast to the blue jumpsuit, would attract attention. It always did; everyday she saw it, but never in a bad way. Guys would sway up to the girls, lean with one arm on the grey Vault wall and spin some chat-up line. Never toward Amelia, of course, but she never saw a guy approach a girl and mock her. For everyone else, the half-open jumpsuit was alluring. Most were seemingly stuffed into it, almost bursting out. Guys would stare and the girls would blush.

Perhaps, she said to herself as she approached the classroom, some guys might look at her with that same lustful look. In some ways, she didn’t want that; she wasn’t a piece of meat or a pin-up to be ogled and objectified. She wanted to be liked for who she was, not what physical attributes she had – or didn’t have. But despite that, some attention – any positive attention – would be a welcome change. Her mother always promoted optimism. She was always cheerful, and Amelia had notice that her mother’s figure wasn’t lacking. Everything appeared perfectly proportioned. Amelia wondered if maybe that would come with time, and in that vein of optimism, she allowed herself to believe – just for a second – that things would be alright.

She was, of course, wrong. It took until recess for it to happen, but she realized it was inevitable. As the teenagers exited the classroom, someone pointed and yelled.

“Look! The carrot-top’s trying to flash us!”
Some of the teenagers laughed.
“No one will ever want to get down with a child.”
“I think her ass is bigger than her chest.”
“She looks like a little boy.”
“Eww, that’s gross.”
“What a skag.”

The taunts made her dizzy. She could see their faces staring at her, their fingers pointing. Laughing. She felt like they were surrounding her, bloody-thirsty bastards. Vultures preying on the weak. She cried out and fled from the classroom, tears bursting from her eyes. She cried and ran, practically blinded, through the hallways. Instinct or habit led her to the engineering sector.

She hated herself. She hated her childlike figure. She was fat, she was too skinny. She was hideous, she was horrible. A monster. A freak.

Why couldn’t she be like everyone else?

 

She still didn’t fully understand why. She knew the programming structure of the computer system to the extent where she could manipulate the algorithms to change the way the system worked; she knew how the systems worked that kept them alive and well; she knew how the human body worked, how it breathed, how it carried nutrients around the body and fought infections; but she did not know how people could hate her for no logical reason at all.

 

Every time she looked in the mirror she was repulsed. Her hair was a horrid bright glow, her skin ghostly, her figure too skinny, her face fat, her breasts too small…

 

She looked at her reflection in the polished metal of the machinery. Her hand floated up to her face, the backs of her fingers stroking her cheek. She pitied what she saw. She lamented how she’d aesthetically drawn the short straw. Stacy had hoards of girl-friends and a steady following of boys, their eyes almost bulging in their ugly skulls. Amelia resented Stacy for being beautiful, she hated the boys for not finding her beautiful, but she hated herself more for not being beautiful.

 

In her reflection on the machinery, she saw herself as a child. Pure. She saw her soul without the abuse. She wanted to reach out, to cross the years to a time before the taunts and jeers started. She wanted to see herself before the horridness had set in, as a baby when every man or woman was truly equal, with the same potential and the same innocence.

 

The tears faded after a few minutes. She sat there for the remainder of recess, just staring at herself. The slight curved metal of the machinery distorted her face. In the obscurity she saw her mother. She saw a beautiful woman. A woman with long, smooth legs, sultry lips and golden hair. A woman whose subtle hourglass figure suited a silky red dress. She saw what she could have been. She saw, perhaps, what her mother saw. She saw what she wanted the boys to see.

 

But any small movement was magnified in the reflection, like a hall of mirrors. In the distorted reflection she saw instead what she assumed everyone else saw. A fat-faced, pale-skinned, red haired abomination.

 

What had gone wrong? What had she done to deserve this?

 

She sighed and forced the zip up again, braving the discomfort. She stood, wiped her eyes and plodded out back to the classroom. She was very aware of how tight her jumpsuit was and how it clung to every part of her torso. She knew she’d still suffer, but at least they wouldn’t…. wouldn’t what?

 

What was the point?

 

By the time she reached the classroom, she’d gotten used to the tightness, and took her seat as usual. She felt the eyes on her and heard the whispers and snickers. She tried to ignore them, but that only made it worse.

 

She dreaded lunch. She tried to eat her food quickly or choose something she could take away with her; she’d formed the habit of taking her food to the engineering level, hiding in one of the maintenance coves and eating in peace she could only find in the Vault’s loudest area; she felt at home down in the noisy cavernous facilities, surrounded by warmth of the machines and the smell of oil.

 

Waiting in the cafeteria line at lunchtime was the hardest part.
“Hey,” a boy said, appearing beside her. She stared at him, waiting for the inevitable insult. She found herself trying to predict them. What was it today? She’d heard them all and, aside from the emotional hurt, they were boring and uncreative. “You fancy a game of ball with us out in the hall?”
Amelia turned slightly. Her mouth twitched into a tiny smile. It was unexpected.
“Yes, that would be –”
“Oh, you’re a girl.” The boy began snickering. “I thought you was a boy!” He ran off, laughing and Amelia saw him reach a group of three other boys – all laughing. The boys high-fived and she saw one of them bring his hands up to his chest. The boys laughed again.

Amelia just turned and faced forward, trying her hardest to control her breathing and hold back the tears. She thought she would have mastered that by now, but already her vision was clouding with tears.

The afternoon played out according to the usual script. A paper airplane landed on her desk, and she turned to see a couple of teenagers laughing in a way that told her the paper aircraft wasn’t supposed to land on her desk.
She opened it, knowing it was a bad idea as she did so.

 

The boys had crudely drawn a naked girl, with large breasts and flowing locks of hair. Beneath the figure was the word ‘girls.’ Next to the drawn woman was that of a skinny and naked man, with wavy man-like hair and stubble, the unmistakable shape of male genitalia between the legs. His face was covered in little dots, meant to represent freckles or acne, she guessed – the former she’d grown out of, and the latter she’d managed to avoid. She didn’t need to look at the bottom to see her name but she did anyway, and her head dropped. Instantly she heard the cackles of the teenage boys.

School couldn’t finish quick enough.

 

 

Valerie was outside, waiting for her. Valerie had a couple of other friends, but the days where their lessons were not spent together, she waited for her. They spent most evenings in each other’s company. Valerie didn’t need to ask to see that her friend had had a bad day.

“What happened?”
“They got my clothes wrong. I think this is a man’s.”
“Be a pretty small man,” Valerie said, quickly realizing this would not help and simply touching her friend on the shoulder.
“It’s too tight to have done up, so I had it open a little, just so it wasn’t tight around here,” Amelia rested her hand over her chest. “I haven’t got anything to show off, so I didn’t think they’d notice, but they did, and they said something.”
“Don’t be silly,” Valerie said. “You have got something and you’ve got an amazing figure. Okay, so you’re not Stacy, with like basketballs under her top, but would you really want to be? Bigger isn’t always better.”

 

Amelia just shrugged. In some ways she knew Valerie was right, but in others she felt like a freak for being smaller than most. She had looked in the mirror during puberty, thinking that one day would bring with it a sudden, drastic mammary growth spurt, but that had never happened. She had thought that Stacy was shallow, and that she was only popular because of her bust, but she’d be lying if she didn’t want the same, even if only a little. Even false friendship and popularity would be welcome. Instead she was the small-chested, skinny, fat-faced freak of a redhead. She didn’t suffer from acne, and her freckles had disappeared as puberty progressed, but she still felt like she was defective.

 

She wished it was that simple, that she could just replace a malfunctioning part, but life was not that easy nor simple, and even if she could bolster the size of her bust, she felt like she’d be selling out slightly; trading her integrity for shallow popularity.

She tried to tell herself that, with her one true friend, she was luckier than Stacy with her superficial hoard.

 

But she never succeeded in convincing herself. Such relationships might have lacked substance, but Stacy appeared happy at least. Amelia envied her.

 

“I guess I just feel like I'm still a kid,” she said to Valerie. “If I was bigger, maybe people would think I'm more grown up, and treat me nicer. They make fun of my hair, my skin and now that. It’s horrible.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Valerie said. There was a conviction behind the comforting words.
“I just wish I could understand why they pick on me.” She always felt like a baby when it happened, or when she talked about it. Even toward Valerie, she felt so infantile. “If I could just know what it was, I’d change it, and – ”
“Don’t.” Valerie’s reply was flat but stern. She shook her head. “Amelia, don’t ever think of changing who you are. You’re a wonderful person, and you don’t deserve to lose that because of them.” They’d grown closer after the last few years, and developed an understanding and respect of each other. “I like the person you are. You’re not like everyone else. Why throw that away?”
“So I could fit in? I don’t know. You’re my only friend and….” She sighed.

Valerie reached out and grabbed Amelia’s hand. “I’ll always be your friend. But my friends, they don’t hate you. They don’t talk about you. They don’t care if someone else talks about them. You should hang out with us sometime. They would love you.”
Amelia was reluctant. “No, they’re your friends. You’d only get laughed at for being with me.”
“F*ck them,” Valerie hissed. “They can laugh at me all they want, I don’t care. You’re my friend, and you don’t have to hide away or want to change. You should be held up. It’s a shame none of the guys see that; they should want you on their arm to show you off.”

 

Amelia nodded tamely, and Valerie hugged her. Amelia felt her spirits lift somewhat. She was lucky to have a friend like Valerie, and she

found herself wishing some of the boys would be the same but… No, she said to herself. Valerie was worth a hundred boys. Even the few she’d seen that she thought were cute – two of them had never even spoken to her, and the other just last week sabotaged her work at class – couldn’t live up to her friend. Valerie was right – looks counted for nothing. Inside, even the nicest-looking boys, with their rugged, hard features were as ugly as all the rest.

 

Valerie, however, was beautiful. She had blonde hair and was smart and caring. Her face was so smooth it could have been shaped from a bubble. Amelia cherished her friend, but also envied her. She was an attractive girl, and an amazing friend. She wasn’t the slimmest of girls, but obesity was not present in the Vault – the food was designed to provide nothing but nutrition, and most exercised regularly. Somehow, she avoided any jokes at her expense – not that she’d care anyway. Perhaps that’s why she avoided them. She was an angel, Amelia thought. She was a friend to treasure forever. Perhaps, she wondered, having one of Valerie was worth everyone else hating her.

 

Not that that made the taunts any less painful, of course, but it at least gave something good in her life.

 

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Eminence
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#17

Posted 25 February 2014 - 01:18 PM

Okay, so after reading everything here, I genuinely think you've chosen the wrong entrypoint into the story. Nothing here is captivating my interest or demanding my attention; what's more, we're four chapters in and there's been barely any progression at all. It's not even that the pace of the story is moving slowly, which can be a desired effect, it's just that there's very little that's interesting about the story you're currently telling. There's no real conflict. There's no real drama. Much of the writing is constantly going over the same ground – every chapter has multiple tangents where Amelia is saying, almost word for word, 'I don't understand, why do they do this, what is wrong with me'? etc., and it gets boring fast.

 

Not helping matters is the fact that the the characters, to me, feel like caricatures. It's absolutely overflowing with the aforementioned teenage angst, but a very simplistic, cliched kind of teenage angst, a la the girl obsessing constantly over breast size. It's an oversimplification. I don't buy it. I don't buy that someone is perenially bullied by absolutely everyone. People form groups. Even the outsiders have their cliques. Perhaps more importantly, I don't buy that she's so self-aware, like the way she refers to herself as the nerd. I mean, this can go either way – I suppose people can be aware if they're the class nerd, in this particular instance – but generally, I don't think people are conscious of their place in society. Even if they are, it's much more interesting for them to see themselves as one thing, and be something else in reality, isn't it? The inherent contradiction in their self-perception becomes instantly compelling.

 

On this note of self-awareness, Tycek touched on an interesting point: that this is her world, so she wouldn't know of anything else to long for. I think this psychological element – of this world being literally all these people know – is largely missing, which is what strips the 'Fallout-ness' from the writing. This is essentially a portrait of a contemporary (cliched) classroom, replete with the inane bullying of modern society. These people don't feel shaped by the world around them.

 

I think it's a really interesting idea to explore a character's upbringing in the vault. You could situate your entire story in the vault; you'd never necessarily have to leave. But there has to be something more compelling about it, and more importantly, the characters have to be influenced, to a much larger extent than we're seeing here, by this upbringing. We have to get the sense that, even though there may be veiled parallels to contemporary society – that's the point of science-fiction, after all – this story could only have taken place in this location, at this time, with these characters. Amelia's situation is way too broad. It could be anywhere, anytime. It's not taking advantage of the rich backdrop available to you.

 

More than anything, I see nothing here that's necessary to show that couldn't be alluded to later on.

 

I know this may seem like a lot of harsh words, but I think they're necessary in order to realign your focus. From your excitement about the project, I think you have an interesting story and interesting characters to share, so I can't for the life of me understand why you want or expect the reader to sit through such a laboured opening when you could more quickly unfold the actual drama. You're doing yourself a disservice, and, when it comes down to it, given that this is a piece of Fallout fan-fiction, I think you're vastly misunderstanding the expectations of your target audience. They don't want to read teen angst, they want to read Fallout – and this is not Fallout.


Mokrie Dela
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#18

Posted 25 February 2014 - 01:48 PM

Again, some fair points.

Some of Amelia's thoughts and observations parallel my own school-life. It's true that not everyone would hate her, but when you're in that position, that's how it feels. I found myself thinking of myself in this way (minus the female-specific parts) - feeling shunned, ridiculed, an outcast. I had my friends, but I felt like i didn't. Also this community is a small one - so it's a lot more focused; where a town's school might have a thousand pupils, one in a Vault will probably have less than a hundred or so. there are indeed groups, but also trends, and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. I lost count of how many people i didn't know and didn't know me spoke sh*t behind my back.

I can honestly say I had no idea how to start this and try to convey this part of the story without starting at the beginning. As said, I didn't want to use flashbacks, or simply refer to these events. I wanted to show them. I can't see how else I could show these events without starting where I did.

 

In terms of rectifying it, I can't see any other way of proceeding - it's up here now, and I made the mistake of reposting it once, and i think that eroded a lot of interest. Doing so again is going down a slippery slope of scrapping the entire thing everytime there's feedback so i can't do that.

All i can do is try to trim the chapters up and push forward. Perhaps, for your points, the story should have started when they left the Vault, but again, so much of the character or Amelia is built on this, there'd be no emotional connection if i started it then and just referred back, or at least that's how i feel.


Eminence
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#19

Posted 25 February 2014 - 02:33 PM

I think the point you're not quite grasping – at least from my perspective – is this: built on what? Nothing is happening! If you want to detail this backstory of someone feeling shunned etc. then by all means, that's a valid opening... but make it interesting, and don't make it all part of a played out cliche!

 

You just touched on a point that would eradicate the cliched feel and make it more compelling at the same time, and I don't understand why you haven't included this: 'I had my friends, but I felt like i didn't'. That's interesting. That's more complex than 'wah wah, everyone hates me, I'm an outcast, bullying, the world is unfair, angst angst angst'. There are a lot of dynamics you could play with there, from a sense of disillusionment to betrayal and beyond.

 

Let's be real for a second here. As a reader, I don't care about you, the author, and your specific teenage experiences. I just want you to tell me a compelling story. So while these minor details may resonate with you – because you experienced them – they don't translate directly to an audience. If you want to create that same emotional response in the reader, you have to up the stakes. You have to heighten it just that little bit; do whatever's necessary to convey that emotional truth. There's material to work with here, it just needs a sharper focus.


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#20

Posted 25 February 2014 - 03:48 PM

You don't care about me? I'm insulted!

Joking aside, I see your point. There is a development in the next few chapters - it's not all angst and wah wah wah until they leave. Perhaps this will allay your concerns, or perhaps not. We'll have to see. I will take what you said about the angst and repetitiveness of the "everyone hates me" and try to make it appear less in the next few chapters.


Mokrie Dela
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#21

Posted 11 March 2014 - 04:14 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 11 March 2014 - 04:46 PM.

Five - More than a Friend

 

Valerie sat on Amelia’s bed, a pile of books between them. Amelia had had another bad day, with the subject of her feminine endowment coming up again.
 

“Has anyone ever commented on you like that?” Amelia asked.
“Not really,” Valerie replied. “I mean I’ve had one of two guys come up to me and say something – that’s part of being female, I guess. I was running on the synth-field once and a guy practically had his tongue hanging out.” Valerie giggled. “I mean, yeah, I'm not an object, and definitely not going to go with anyone like that, but it was kind of flattering….” Valerie stared, realizing that Amelia didn’t need to hear it. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I have to accept that I'm like everyone else.”
“You talk like you’ve got nothing, which clearly isn’t true. It’s not a good idea to compare yourself to other people. There’s always someone taller, or stronger, or faster or bustier. Who cares? They’re not you.” Amelia nodded, feeling like a pitied child. She hated the abuse she got from the other teenagers, but what she hated even more was feeling like a useless, whiney baby when she spoke about it. In her head she knew Valerie was right, but in her heart, and when she hid in the engineering section crying, she couldn’t believe it so easily.

“I used to think I was fat,” Amelia said after a moment.
“What?!”
“I know, I'm too skinny –”
“You’re fine.”
Amelia smiled awkwardly. “I used to think – I still think – what it could be that made people hate me. I mean everyone. You’re literally my only friend.”
“I’ve told you, my girls would love to hang out with you.”
Amelia smiled shyly but evaded Valerie’s statement. “You know when a machine breaks down, you run through a checklist of problems?”
“Yeah…”
“That’s what I did. Firstly, my hair – ”
“You’ve got lovely hair, Amelia. So does your mother. I think that makes you special, like a gemstone in a bucket of pebbles.  Apart from Rickie, no one else here has red hair.”
“And he gets picked on, too, so it’s got to be the hair.”
“True, but not that much anymore. Not since he got in that fight, remember?”
“But I still do. So what is it then?  Is it my skin? I know it’s genetics, and that red hair and pale skin are connected, but –”
“We live in a sealed vault where we get no natural light, and sure, we might have the simulated –”
You’re not pale. No one else is. Even Rickie.”
 

Valerie sighed, holding out her hands for Amelia to continue.
“I thought: is it my figure then? I know I'm not big, but was I… flabby?”
“Good lord, no.”
“Too skinny then? I mean I’ve seen myself, and I know I'm petite. Now I think, am I too skinny?”
“When was your last medical?”
“Two months ago.”
“And?”
“And nothing.”
“So you passed.”
“Yeah.”
“Then you’re not fat and you’re not too skinny. Look at me – what am I?”
“Valerie…”
What am I?
“Normal.”
Valerie sighed, perplexed. “No, I'm not, believe me. What I mean is: I'm not skinny. Am I fat?”
“No.”
“No, I'm not. But I'm not nice and toned or perfect. Half the girls here are slimmer than me. Only a few are bigger. But I'm not them. I'm me, and this is how I am. This is my body, not anyone else’s, and I’d only ever change it if I wanted to, which I don’t.”
“But you’re not ugly or anything. What’s your point?”
“My point is that you’ve crafted yourself into an attractive person. In many ways you’ve taken a negative and turned it into a positive. You took that hurt, that pain and insecurity and, while you might have flirted with sickness by taking it to heart, you used that to motivate you to exercise, and that’s resulted in –” Valerie gestured her hands up and down toward Amelia. “– this; you. I’d kill to have your figure. People might be too hormonal or immature to see that now, but they will. Don’t ever look at yourself and think you need to lose weight – you’re slimmer than me, and I don’t need to lose weight, and if you did, you’d probably get ill. Don’t think you’re too skinny either. You’re perfect, Amelia, because you’re you.”

 

Amelia blushed and turned away. On some level she knew Valerie was right, but part of her simply refused to accept it. Compliments were rare – she literally couldn’t remember the last one she’d received – and it made her feel embarrassed.

 

“You just need some happiness and confidence in your life,” Valerie said. “You need to look in the mirror and see, not just the stunning girl staring back at you, but the person within. That person is a hundred times nicer than the people whose lives are so empty that they have to pick on others.”

Amelia smiled, though her eyes remained sad. “Thank you, Valerie.”
“No problem,” Valerie relied. “Now come here.” She held her arms out, and the two hugged. “One day the boys will grow up and see you for what you are, and one day, you’ll have a big, strong, but soft, man to hold you.” Strangely that thought wasn’t as appealing as it sounded.
 

“Why don’t you have a man?”Amelia asked.
Valerie shrugged. “Let’s just say I haven’t found anyone who’s my type yet.”

 

Amelia smiled. She yearned for companionship. She thought about that every day, and it was another thing she envied her friend; Valerie did not have a man, and seemed perfectly happy about it. Amelia wanted to be loved, but she felt she was unlovable.

 

The hug ended and, when they pulled away, their eyes locked. Amelia smiled, briefly and awkwardly. She breathed a tiny chuckle, her eyes wandering away for a moment. She suddenly felt nervous and uncomfortable. Valerie stared back, biting her lip as she did so. Valerie began to lean in, her lips parting slightly.
 

Amelia didn’t really do anything. At first she was shocked, enough that she just let it happen and, in a moment, they were kissing. Her reactions were delayed, but to her surprise, she kissed back. She had no idea why.

Amelia’s heart was racing. A strange excitement had overridden her shock. She had never kissed anyone intimately before, and it felt electric. She tingled and, while she wanted to pull away, she was physically unable to do so. She was frightened, but at the same time, it was exciting.

What the hell are you doing!? she demanded of herself. After a moment she pushed Valerie off of her, wiping her mouth as she did so.
“Valerie, that was…”
Incredible.”
“No; wrong. You’re a girl…”
“You noticed?” Valerie wore a playful smile and began to lean in again.
Amelia shook her head, her hands coming up. “No, I mean… Look, I can’t stand boys, alright, and there’s none here that I would ever want to kiss, but this…. It’s not right!”
“You don’t want a man, so what, you’re going to be celibate forever? Why’s it not right? It felt right to me.”
“Because it’s…. It’s weird.”
“I don’t think so. What, didn’t you enjoy it?”
“Valerie, I…. I think you should go.”
“Fine,” Valerie snapped, grabbing her books and storming out. Amelia stood and began to follow her but stopped herself. She was now petrified that she had lost her only friend. She was paranoid that Valerie had been playing a game all along. She felt dirty and guilty over the sin she’d just committed. Valerie had been so good to her, and Amelia felt deep adoration toward her but…

 

Amelia stared at the mirror on the wall, feeling all… funny.

 

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Mokrie Dela
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#22

Posted 11 March 2014 - 04:41 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 17 March 2014 - 12:18 PM.

Six - Complications

 

 

Amelia woke up, momentarily forgetting the previous day. It came back to her as she climbed out of bed, and she sighed, looking up at the mirror. Today though, wasn’t the remembrance of the usually bullying, but of her encounter with Valerie.

Did that really happen? she asked herself, her hand coming up to touch her mouth. She remembered the slightly sticky feel of Valerie’s lips, and the sweet taste, which was actually incredibly pleasing. But, she’d kissed a girl. She looked in the mirror, seeing the body of a girl, not a boy, and knew how wrong it was. She was petrified of the repercussions, should people find out, and in a sealed environment such as the Vault, there were few secrets. Nowhere to hide. She moved to the bathroom, almost in a daze and showered. Breakfast followed and, as she sat there with her mother, she was unable to pull her mind away from Valerie, or what they did. She couldn’t even look her mother in the eye. She ate with her head down, ashamed.

She wasn’t fully aware of walking to class, and she felt numbed to the jeers from the other students. She sat down, sure that the lessons would help her forget, but they didn’t.

She was obsessing over it, she knew. Her mind cycled from disbelief to shock, then fear and self loathing, then denial and finally back to disbelief. One minute it felt like a dream, but the next it felt so real she became nauseous. She felt her skin cool as blood drained from her face, shortly followed by a hot flush of panic. Her heart raced and her mouth grew dry.  

What’s happening to me? She felt like she was suffering a mutation. Something was changing her, and she didn’t like it. She felt a sick desperation for normality, but she also had a realization that that would probably never happen. She couldn’t stop thinking about the kiss. She told herself she regretted it, but deep down it had felt good.
 
She sought refuge in the engineering section again over lunchtime. She didn’t feel like eating. Instead she stared at her reflection in the polished metal of the machines, wondering what had gone wrong with her.
 
Her life was a mess. She was deeply depressed. She knew that but, of course, refused to openly admit it. She was desperate for companionship, but found no appeal in boys. The only person in the Vault that made her feel even a tiny bit better, or seemingly understood, probably now hated her. She was trapped in the cold concrete facility, and the thought that things would be the same for her entire life frightened her.
 
Her self-loathing had reached a new level. She wished she could just be somebody else, and her self-hatred made her feel guilty. It was an insult to her mother. Maggie Rose, the beautiful, graceful and kind woman, loved her with all her heart. To her, Amelia knew, she was perfect, just as Valerie said. She felt that her self-deprecation was a betrayal to her mother. That of course, made her feel even worse. She truly felt she was a horrible, horrible person.

Valerie had kissed her. That had to mean something didn’t it? There were signs, she realized. Valerie’s constant praising of her – her insistence that Amelia was ‘perfect’; her hinting that she was not normal; and it was Valerie, not Amelia, that instigated the kiss.
 
But Amelia had kissed back. That confused and frightened her. Did she have such an urge, or was it just the fact that someone – male or female – was kissing her. Someone had found her attractive enough to actually kiss….
 
Amelia was still fretting over the kiss during the afternoon lessons – not the shame, guilt or regret she so strongly felt – but the actual kiss, feeling Valerie’s breath on her face, and tasting her… It took the teacher four tries to get a response, and Amelia looked up, without the faintest idea of what was being said.
 
“Are you okay?” the teacher – Mister Jones – asked. She barely even heard the giggles of the other teenagers.
Amelia nodded and Mister Jones repeated the question. Amelia stammered, stumbling her way to the correct answer. She tried to focus on the work, but the more she tried to forget about the kiss, the more she found herself thinking about it.

That night she didn’t sleep well. The thought of the kiss was playing in her mind. She sat up in the dead of night and stared straight ahead, realizing that, although it was wrong, she wanted to do it again…
* * *
 
Weeks passed and Amelia kept her want repressed. The awkwardness that followed their first meeting after the kiss eventually faded and their friendship reverted to normal, to Amelia’s great relief. Amelia would look at Valerie with questionable feelings, seeing a beautiful girl sitting next to her, in both physical attributes and in personality.
 
They were back at Amelia’s after class, talking about their work as they so often did. The conversation digressed, and they began to gossip about the other kids. Valerie wasn’t the slimmest of girls, and she knew that Amelia had begun exercising a few years previous.
 
At Valerie’s request, Amelia explained her mourning exercise routine, which was neither complicated nor difficult.
“That sounds alright,” Valerie said when Amelia had finished her explanation.
“I didn’t think you were bothered about that kind of thing.”
“I'm still a girl, Amelia. Even if I can shrug off whatever rubbish anyone can think up to say at me, doesn’t mean I don’t have an idea of self image or insecurities. I'm comfortable with my body, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve it. I'm not perfect like you.”
Amelia laughed. “Perfect? I'm far from it, and you know it.”
 “No, that’s the sad thing. You think you aren’t but you are. You’ve got a figure that most girls would kill for. I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again.”
“Even so, I'm not perfect. If I was, I wouldn’t get laid into everyday.”
Valerie scoffed. “Weaker people have to latch on to stronger people to survive. And those that cannot, seek to destroy them.”
“What on earth do you mean by that?”
Valerie smiled. “They’re jealous.”
Amelia shook her head. “No, they’re not. You’ve seen it, haven’t you? It’s hatred. I'm the odd one out, so they make fun.”
“You think odd one out, I think extraordinary. A rose in amongst some thorns.” Amelia blushed at the complement, even with the bad pun.
Valerie continued: “Every girl – and guys, I imagine – would improve on something. You don’t have to improve on anything.”
Embarrassed, Amelia blushed then shrugged. “That’s partly why I do my exercises. I started, thinking that if I improved my body, it’d help me fit in… ”
“I think I'm going to try it. It’s obviously worked for you, and hey, it can’t hurt. I try to take care of myself, you know, just in case. Keep myself neat, and all that, so a little more exercise…”
“What do you mean?”
“You know…” Valerie pointed downward toward her legs.
“Shaving your legs?” Amelia asked, her face screwed up in confusion.
“No, I mean, you know…”
“Oh… You…”
“Yeah.” The playful glint had returned to Valerie’s eyes.
“Why?”
A shrug. “I think it looks neater, cleaner. Plus it’d make some things easier, if you get me.”
Amelia blushed, embarrassed again, though for a different reason. It wasn’t so much that she wasn’t comfortable with the conversation but more…. curious.
“Well, I don’t think that’s an issue with me. No one’s going to come near me.”
“Maybe you should try it. It’s strange at first, but it does make you feel good. Maybe it’d give you some self esteem to get over what others think. It’s a strange thing, but you never know. You need something that’s going to make you feel good about yourself. And if it’s not for you, well it’s not permanent.”
“Why would that do it?”
“You’d be surprised. It’s no different to cutting your hair, or shaving your pits.”
“It’s not natural.”
Valerie laughed. “Have you seen where we live? I don’t think natural exists anymore.”
 
Amelia shrugged, and changed the subject for her own benefit. The kiss had returned to her mind, accompanied by other thoughts that she found frightening in their candidness. She found it hard to think about the work.

They turned back to the books, but words read out loud went in one ear and out the other. Amelia kept looking up, sensing that Valerie was looking at her, but the blonde’s eyes were quickly diverted to the page.

“Valerie, about that kiss…” Evidently her attempts to forget it had failed.
“Oh, that. I thought we’d forgotten about that.”
“Well yeah but… I can’t forget about it.”
“Why?”
“I don’t know. I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“You want to do it again, don’t you?”
 
Amelia stared, too afraid to say yes. Valerie shuffled closer and stared at Amelia’s green eyes. Her hand came up and rested on Amelia’s shoulder.
 
Amelia was both terrified and overjoyed as their lips touched. Once again she knew how wrong it was, but she couldn’t bring herself to stop it. Instead she reached up and pulled Valerie in.
 
It ended mutually, and the two just stared at each other.
“Are you okay?” Valerie asked.
Amelia nodded and considered sharing her feelings. Would Valerie understand? How could she, when she didn’t even understand herself?

 
School resumed the next day and Amelia found herself affected less and less by the words of the other kids. Whenever they said something she’d think of the kiss, and be back in her room with Valerie in front of her. Her work began to suffer though, and it took more and more effort to bring herself to do it. Focusing was difficult and with each day that she tried to resist, school grew harder. She finally gave in and, one recess, found Valerie and led her to the engineering section. She showed her to the spot that gave her refuge and there they kissed again, hungrily and passionately.
It became a narcotic; Amelia needed a hit. She needed to see Valerie and taste her lips. After spending recess together, she found herself able to concentrate better, until lunchtime approached, where she craved Valerie again.

She walked into the cafeteria and saw Valerie with her friends. Amelia had sat with them a few times, but felt out of place, despite their efforts to welcome her. She collected her food and turned to see the girls share a laugh. She thought nothing of it, then saw one of them lean in and kiss Valerie on the cheek. The kiss was innocent and she knew it, but jealousy reared its ugly head, overriding sense and logic. Amelia turned round, storming over to an empty table and sitting down in a huff. She ate her food, casting her eye toward Valerie, and feeling betrayed. How could Valerie do that?!

But at the same time, she knew she was overreacting.

A tray was dropped on the table and Amelia looked up at a teenage boy she’d seen but never spoken to. He was tall and stocky with brown hair so dark it was almost black.
She sighed. “Just say what you’ve got to say.”
The boy frowned. “What?”
Amelia dropped her fork on the plate, picked up her drink and poured it over her own lunch. “There. Happy now? Fine, I’ll go.”

 

The boy reached out and touched Amelia’s hand to stop her getting up. She snatched her hand away and stared at him with a sad anger. This is a new tactic, she thought. For a second she feared that the boy wanted something she’d be unwilling to give.
“Why would I want you to go?”
“Why wouldn’t you? So what is It, you haven’t got any jokes?”
“Why would I joke?”
Amelia began to question it then, but she quickly became paranoid. She found herself suddenly frightened, that if she fled he’d follow her to a quiet spot… “Because I'm ugly, pale, carrot-top – that’s the one you all like saying.”
“Really? I mean, yeah I’ve heard them but I…”
“What, I'm fat now?”
“No, I think you look alright. I mean, you’re kinda pretty.”
“No need to be sarcastic.”
“No, I'm not making fun!”
“Then why sit here?”
“It’s the only empty seat.” That was a lie, and Amelia knew it. There was space on Valerie’s table, and she’d seen at least two other spots – one of which was on the table with the boy’s friends. “Seriously – I'm not making fun of you.”
“Well you’d be the only one.”
“I’ve never thought about that. I’ve heard people say things but…”
“You’re seriously not…?”
“No. Why waste time and energy acting like a baby. People make fun out of your hair, but I like it.”
Amelia blinked. What the hell was happening? “Are you serious?”
“No, I'm Mark.”
Amelia actually chuckled at that.
He smiled and held his hand out.
Amelia stammered. “A- Amelia,” She timidly took his hand. His hands were rough, but his touch was gentle.
“Why did you do that?” He pointed at her ruined lunch.
“That’s what they normally do. They don’t want to sit here with me, so they pour my drink over my lunch and push me off. I don’t even usually eat here.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ve seen you take your lunch and run off. Seems a shame for someone like you to hide away. Here.” Mark slid his tray into the middle of the table.
“What are you doing?”
“Your lunch is ruined so share mine.”
“Oh my god, are you actually being nice to me?” She felt like crying, but in a different way to normal.
Mark shrugged. “You should stand up to them.”
“It’d make things worse.”
“Not if you break their arm and stab a fork in their leg.”
Amelia laughed at that, to her surprise.
 
“Well, well!” a male voice said. Amelia looked up to see one of her tormentors. “What have we got here? Got a boyfriend, have we?”
Mark abruptly stood and slapped the boy’s lunch tray to the floor. He moved forward, getting right in his surprised face. “Want to say that again?”
The boy hesitated then scoffed. “Come on lads, let’s get out of here.”
“Oh, no.” Mark grabbed the boy’s arm. “No; you’re forgetting your lunch.”
“It’s floored, I aint eating that.”
“Oh yes, you are.” Mark threw the boy to the ground. The boy looked up, but Mark stared him down. “Eat.”
 
To Amelia’s surprise the boy picked up part of his lunch and took a bite, screwing his face up as he did so.
“Now f*ck off,” Mark said, placing his foot on the boy’s shoulder and pushing him onto his backside. The boy, and his friends, hurried out of the cafeteria.
 
“Why did you do that?” Amelia asked. “That’s going to make things worse!”
“Nah, they’ll stop.” Mark turned to Amelia and she saw the look in his eyes.
“No one’s ever done anything like that for me.” She didn’t know how to feel about it.
Mark shrugged. “Well, I got your back. Don’t worry about them.”
Amelia smiled. She’d just met a boy that was nice. And he wasn’t bad looking either. What the hell was happening?
 
 
Next

Table of Contents


Tycek
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#23

Posted 12 March 2014 - 12:01 AM

Well, to be honest...

 

I won't quote it as a whole, but there is some points to say about it. 

 

The whole point of them (Amelia and Val) getting physically and sexually interested in each other is a bit too easy to predict. I was just waiting when you will come up with it. Maybe that was actually the point, with getting us ready for that kind of relationship, but I've found that kind of expected. Maybe because F:NV got exactly the same type of relationship mentioned between Veronica Santangelo and Christine Royce (probably), who were both in BoS or maybe because it was so easy to predict. Sometimes it's good, but I prefer to be shocked and here it was as shocking as new day appearing after a night. 

 

The whole thing about kissing and thinking about that feels overdone in my opinion. Sure, kissing is cool and first kiss in life is new experience, but girl getting paranoid over this? I believe it could be toned down a little, because the message is rather clear. Girls kissed and whole hell broke loose. No point in repeating this for the eleventh time. 

 

Another point  is about the Amelia and her mother eating breakfast in their room. From what I remember the only place to eat in the Vault would be the cafeteria, since rooms had like bed, some closet and small desk. I believe it's something more like high school dorm, or prison with one cafeteria for all people. Also most of the Vaults were using hot bunking systems if I recall correctly, so it's hard to even say if it was their room. 

 

How that Mark appeared there out of the blue. Imagine living in small village (1000 people) for sixteen years without people going out or coming in. You would know everything about everybody, so this Mark had to be there, yet in that one day he decided to stay in Amelia's defense. Where he was before then? Standing and looking how they were bullying the girl? 

 

And last point:

 

“I used to think I was fat,” Amelia said after a moment.

“What?!”
“I know, I'm too skinny –”
“You’re fine.”
Amelia smiled awkwardly. “I used to think – I still think – what it could be that made people hate me. I mean everyone. You’re literally my only friend.”
“I’ve told you, my girls would love to hang out with you.”
Amelia smiled shyly but evaded Valerie’s statement. “You know when a machine breaks down, you run through a checklist of problems?”
“Yeah…”
“That’s what I did. Firstly, my hair – ”
“You’ve got lovely hair, Amelia. So does your mother. I think that makes you special, like a gemstone in a bucket of pebbles.  Apart from Rickie, no one else here has red hair.”
“And he gets picked on, too, so it’s got to be the hair.”
“True, but not that much anymore. Not since he got in that fight, remember?”
“But I still do. So what is it then?  Is it my skin? I know it’s genetics, and that red hair and pale skin are connected, but –”
“We live in a sealed vault where we get no natural light, and sure, we might have the simulated –”
You’re not pale. No one else is. Even Rickie.”
 

Valerie sighed, holding out her hands for Amelia to continue.
“I thought: is it my figure then? I know I'm not big, but was I… flabby?”
“Good lord, no.”
“Too skinny then? I mean I’ve seen myself, and I know I'm petite. Now I think, am I too skinny?”
“When was your last medical?”
“Two months ago.”
“And?”
“And nothing.”
“So you passed.”
“Yeah.”
“Then you’re not fat and you’re not too skinny. Look at me – what am I?”
“Valerie…”
What am I?
“Normal.”
Valerie sighed, perplexed. “No, I'm not, believe me. What I mean is: I'm not skinny. Am I fat?”
“No.”
“No, I'm not. But I'm not nice and toned or perfect. Half the girls here are slimmer than me. Only a few are bigger. But I'm not them. I'm me, and this is how I am. This is my body, not anyone else’s, and I’d only ever change it if I wanted to, which I don’t.”
“But you’re not ugly or anything. What’s your point?”
“My point is that you’ve crafted yourself into an attractive person. In many ways you’ve taken a negative and turned it into a positive. You took that hurt, that pain and insecurity and, while you might have flirted with sickness by taking it to heart, you used that to motivate you to exercise, and that’s resulted in –” Valerie gestured her hands up and down toward Amelia. “– this; you. I’d kill to have your figure. People might be too hormonal or immature to see that now, but they will. Don’t ever look at yourself and think you need to lose weight – you’re slimmer than me, and I don’t need to lose weight, and if you did, you’d probably get ill. Don’t think you’re too skinny either. You’re perfect, Amelia, because you’re you.”

 

And that Ladies and Gentlemen is page from "How to love your body if you are insecure teenager" book, by famous writer Mokrie Dela.  ;)

You really must like teenage insecure girls. It's surprises me how much one adult man, a goalkeeper and guitar player can know about teenage girls' angst and insecurities. Is there something more about you? :sigh:

 

Just my two cents.


Mokrie Dela
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#24

Posted 12 March 2014 - 12:46 AM

Haha. I think we all have that insecure child in us. I don't find it hard to identify tbh. Yes, you might feel this is all overdone, but i'm at a point now that if this story is ever going to progress, i have to continue. That or scrap it, and i don't want to do that.

 

Regarding Mark. You have to understand how Amelia feels, and this is perhaps where I've failed. She's suffering for depression, and often wants to keep her head down. She doesn't pay attention to the names of all the kids. There are a lot, and not all bully her, but to her that's how it feels. Perhaps that should have been made clearer, i don't know. It's a good point about hot bunking. A simple oversight, i guess. And as for eating in their room - yeah, perhaps they would be in the cafeteria. Damn.

I'm seeing what Eminence said about entry point, but as said, if i scrap what I've got, i feel it's game over. There will be no re-upload. I did that once and feel like I threw away whatever interest others had in it. Call that bad writing in this, I don't know, but with other works waiting to be written, it's do or die for this story. I think a lot of the problems are likely stemming from that as Em said.


Tyler
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#25

Posted 12 March 2014 - 04:05 AM

Just curious: how much of this story have you actually written out and revised?


Mokrie Dela
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#26

Posted 12 March 2014 - 12:03 PM

A lot of it. I had written this way in advance before starting to upload because - and get this - i wanted it to be as good as possible!


Tyler
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#27

Posted 13 March 2014 - 03:27 AM

I understand your hesitation regarding a restart. Something to take away for future endeavors would be to make sure you need to establish characters, setting and plot as quickly as possible. You only need to establish -- you don't have to go all in, just make them known. See the problem I have with your layout here is that you put a prologue scene followed by a monologue in the fashion of Fallout followed by chapters upon chapters introducing this character who is juvenile and insecure and afraid. The reader gets a sense of no progression because the story is reset thrice by the time we meet the actual protagonist. Flashforward introductions can be hard to pull off but when you throw a prologue into it, the pacing becomes near-impossible to fix.

 

Then there's the actual story. I'm all for angsty stories and insecurity -- Catcher in the Rye is my sh*t and no one will convince me otherwise. The thing is you have to be very careful in your treading. You want a sense of confusion but you don't want to constantly pound that into someone's head. Your best bet is to portray the protagonist in pivotal moments that affect them and the people around them -- in fact that is usually regarded as the way a story works. You see, I'm reading your chapters here and wondering where that is. You're on chapter six and all I know is that people hate this girl for some facet of her oddness and that she's very affected by this. She finds someone she wants to be romantically involved in and she almost cries when some guy sits next to her. So what? Why couldn't half of this be put into the first chapter?

 

I guess the reason I'm asking for why it meanders is this: your [first] introduction gives us a taste of action that while directionless is inferred to be meaningful for some reason. As a reader I expect to know the reason for this violence in the intro, and since this is probably going to be under novella-length I expect the answer rather soon so we can move on in the plot. All of that could be forgiven but then you literally go no where for the next five chapters. We have seen a small section of this vault which is just a part of the story I would imagine since it's named Fallout and not Vault Life. I understand that you probably put action in the first scene to intrigue the reader. That's good, nothing wrong with that. It's just the pace otherwise that throws you off. We should be getting a stream of consistent events and character developing and there is a minimal amount of the latter and none of the former.

 

 

Amelia Rose was still miserable and confused about her social position and the only rest bite was her one-and-only friend – Valerie – and her undying support and understanding. As the months and years went on, Amelia found the education more interesting and more challenging. Amelia still received the same tirade of insults from the other children, and when she hit puberty, it only got worse. Most girls were developing to significant statures, but Amelia felt she didn’t measure up. That physical difference only gave the teenagers more ammunition for their verbal attacks. 

 

Aside from the fact that this is mostly showing, it does a good job of just summarizing everything in the following chapters. You could easily have trimmed your story down by hundreds of words by just following in a similar pattern as the above and signifying special events by going more into depth with them. For instance: I'd love to hear more about how Mark bullies the sh*t out of some kid and makes him eat food off the floor. This guy sounds like a total dick but unlike the rest of the characters he's actually doing something which is awesome. This is just my own input so don't take it too hard, I'm just explaining how I would expect a Fallout story and really any story to go.

 

You could make an interesting story focusing on the life of a teenager in a Vault. You could make an interesting action-adventure story that follows characters in the Fallout world. You can write a short story about many things in the Fallout universe. But you can't combine these three and not have a bit of a mess.

 

I'm not telling you to restart by any means. You've written this much and it's good that you keep with it. I just think you should refocus your narrative structure for future projects. I'm someone who tends to ramble on about the unnecessary actions and lives in my stories and as a result I take a huge axe to my writing to make it as clean and straight as I can. If I don't do that I know my stories become too contrived and esoteric and while those can be good, it isn't ultimately what works in a short story format. Maybe if I could write a full-length book I'd let things get looser, but when it comes to submitting online pieces there's no way I could make it work. That's just how I see it.

 

Anyway, hope more comes out of this. I enjoy the Fallout universe and I'm fine with the idea of a fan-fiction set in it. I just hope you can structure the story in a more focused way so as to keep the readers on edge and make the story more enthralling. Again, coming-of-age can be great but I'm not sure you're detaching yourself enough from the writing to truly clean it off and make it both engaging and provoking. The key to stories like that to me is painting a complete picture of life of the character but making sure a sense of confusion and restlessness pervades the writing. When I read the chapters above I don't get a complete picture of this girls life, nor do I hear confusion. She seems to understand her situation to an almost transcendent degree, and this makes the sections where she talks about her feelings seem more forced and unenjoyable. There has to be cohesion and I think that's why coming-of-age stories are so hard to pin down. Most writers who try it don't get it on their first time but the same could be said of anything. So there's no reason to feel like quitting, just be aware that you might need to hone your narrative more.


Mokrie Dela
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#28

Posted 13 March 2014 - 11:29 AM

Thanks for all that Tyler. It's given me some perspective in it. I think i tried too hard to show Amelia's troubles, and got bogged down in the Vault sections. As the prologue shows, the story does leave the Vault, and yeah, that probably should have happened by now.

 

Thing is, if the story started as they left the Vault, which is probably where it should, all of the bullying and insecurities etc can only be told, and well "show don't tell". So the only way I could see of showing these events were to literally show them - in chronological order. Perhaps the entire in-vault part could be condensed into a few chapters as you said, and i think  it is too late for that. It's up here now, and all I can do is try to adapt the pacing and action.

 

The repeating of certain things was deliberate, but i'm guessing it didn't come off. To Amelia, it is tedious and repetitive. it's the same thing over and over, and she hates it. It's mundane and monotonous and I wanted to convey that. Perhaps I tried too hard.

 

Her meeting Mark is one of my favorite scenes. It, i think, shows the contrast between the two protagonists. The aim of these chapters was to have the reader get to know Amelia and, later, Mark. I didn't want it to start mid-story, and just reference back to bullying or whatever, because to me, that breaks the "show don't tell" rule and let's face it if someone said "I was bullied" your reaction would be "okay" but if you saw it....

 

Anyway, more will come from this. I'll try to pick up the pace, so to speak, and get out of the Vault as soon as i can get the narrative there. Thanks for your input, and I'll think about all of that.


Eminence
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#29

Posted 13 March 2014 - 02:29 PM Edited by Eminence, 13 March 2014 - 02:29 PM.

I agree wholeheartedly with Tyler's sentiments, and would also like to add: I'm still slightly taken aback by your representation of female characters, because they seem extremely image and sex obsessed, and it's not really playing right, for me. But I digress.

 

With the whole 'show, don't tell' mantra, I think you're taking it a bit too literally, and you're failing to see the forest for the trees. You're allowed to tell, when it's appropriate; the difficult part is figuring out when it's appropriate. Take these two examples:

 

"It was a door."

 

"It was a tall and thin rectangle of wood, fixed perfectly into a gap in the wall, with a protruding metal handle that allowed you to either push it inwards or pull it towards you, thus exposing the gap in the wall."

 

One is telling us it's a door. Another is showing us what a door is. But it's ridiculous, and a waste of space.

 

Obviously I'm pushing to an extreme here, but I'm trying to illustrate a point: if you 'showed' us everything, the writing would literally be laughable.

 

What the sentiment stands for is to, for example, make sure that you effectively convey the drama of an action. Instead of saying someone is funny, you have them tell a joke. It's more interesting. Instead of saying someone finds something funny, you have them laugh, it's more natural. But sometimes you've just gotta say a door's a door.

 

You're getting hung up on backstory because you want to show it rather than tell it, but that doesn't mean you have to spend so much of your valuable story time literally documenting the backstory. To be honest, in many cases, that's the worst thing to do. Backstory is important, but when you write it out as a part of the story, it not only often loses its edge, but its effectiveness.

 

The point of backstory is often to inform how a character behaves; to influence why they are the way they are, to explain how they came to be.

 

Showing backstory, then, is actually very simple: you have it influence how a character behaves. Not then, but now, in the present tense of the story, amidst the action that's going on. In your case, it would make your character hardened. It would make them distrusting. And witnessing this behaviour would make the character interesting -- and it may even make us want to find out how they came to be this way.

 

At this point, telling the backstory is, by and large, fine. Sure, you don't want to suddenly go off on a huge expositional rant, which is perhaps what you were trying to avoid in dramatising the backstory from the get-go, but you could create a series of allusions that, when pieced together, enable the reader to understand the depths of the character's history. Hell, the very fact that they might not want to tell us about their past reveals a lot about them.

 

If you give us all that backstory up front, we have very little left to learn about the character, in fact. So by the time you head into your main plot, there'll be little baggage left for us to discover; you'll have used up a lot of your material.


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#30

Posted 13 March 2014 - 03:36 PM

I see. To put it simply, then, I've got too bogged down in the back story, trying to make it part of the actual plot.

 

On a more immediate note, as said before, I'm more concerned on how to proceed. I can only try to increase the pace, i guess.





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