Because Nanowrimo is already happening by this goes up, I prepared a blog in advance for this week. As mentioned earlier, I’ve been entering a few short story comps, and I had decided beforehand anything that didn’t get picked I’d post them on here as examples. Here is a recent piece I did; it’s inspired by one of my novels WIP. Since the theme of the competition was freedom, I decided to take one of my characters and write a small ‘before’ piece, just one moment I knew occurred in her life and ran with that. I hope you guys enjoy it, and are having a great time with Nano.
An Echo in Silence
People can’t change the truth, but the truth can change people. – Unknown
Flickering street lamps were the only source of light amongst the shonky streets, barely casting a dubious glow as the shadows leered from all corners. A perpetual dampness could be felt all around. The air was so thick, it felt as if it were alive and sapping the energy out of those surrounded by it.
This was the only life she had ever known. The thick, high walls surrounding them, coupled with a ceiling above that was so high and dark, it could almost be the night sky. These were the confines of her life, these slums that penned them in like cattle.
Echo had heard the stories of the world outside. There were cracks in the ceiling, where little rays of light filtered through; occasionally at night, if you peered at the right angle, you could see twinkling stars. They were the most beautiful things she had ever seen.
People used to live outside of the slums. They would live in little towns, raising animals and taking care of flowers. Her grandmother used to tell them all about it. Riven was a city that bloomed in the middle of all the towns, a giant source of power and cutting edge lifestyles. It had been the beginning of a prosperous future for all, they had said. Slowly, it had started killing the world around them, destroying it. The little towns surrounding Riven had been swallowed by it. Their homes turned into slums, giant walls built around them to transport energy to all of Riven as its prosperity waned.
Eventually, the people in the slums were all but forgotten about. Resources were focused on the inner city of Riven as the richest kept it clean, habitable. They’d all heard rumours about the utopia that lay in the centre. They also knew that the drivel that was fed to them about making a sustainable and equal community was a load of crap.
The slums of Riven were divided into different sectors that were cheerfully referred to as regions of Riven. They each retained their original town names from before. There was falseness in them, though. No one cared about the people stuck there; officials were mere figureheads, raking in the profit.
They couldn’t even leave this hell. Access to the outside was expensive; even travelling between sectors was nightmarish. It was all a scam. Work hard enough and you could get ahead and move out of Riven completely, or into the centre. There was no moving up or working hard enough in the slums. The people that were in charge, that run everything- they knew this, and kept it this way. They made sure each job was a dead end that was just enough to keep a person alive. They ran people ragged and pocketed the profits.
This was the only life Echo had known. She had spent her youth pushed between orphanages, working the worst jobs in the system to build credit that barely kept her in a cramped dorm in the worst of the slums. It wasn’t a life she would wish on anyone, except the people that forced them to live and work like slaves.
One of the favourite jobs they gave Echo was asking for donations to the all-girls orphanage. She was small and waif-like and appealed to a lot of people, particularly older gentlemen. While no one had money to go around in the slums, the girls home did their best to scam the little other people had. None of which was used to take care of the girls; and as soon as they turned eighteen, they were turfed on the streets. This would soon be Echo’s reality as her eighteenth birthday approached.
The gloom of her situation settled over Echo like a storm cloud as she absentmindedly wandered the streets. She didn’t really care about getting donations. It wouldn’t matter for much longer, so why should she put the effort in. Instead she wandered, aimless.
The sector marketplace was the best spot for this. She could see things, and hopefully people would just put money in her collection can out of sympathy without her doing much. Maybe she’d be sneaky and use some of the funds today to buy a snack.
The market was crammed up against the wall in the middle of the sector. Above it was one of the ceiling cracks where real sunlight could come through. It was the only place Echo had ever seen sun, and sometimes she doubted its existence; the light was probably another lie.
It was a nice place to wander though, to see how everyone else lived out their miserable lives in the hovel they had been shoved into. She could pretend for a moment that things weren’t as bleak as they seemed. These moments of quiet were short lived, however.
It happened before any of them understood what was going on. Echo watched as people were milling around the market, enjoying the brief bliss it offered; the next minute, their shoddy stalls were collapsed, people buried beneath rubble. There was a split second of complete silence before all hell broke loose.
Echo dropped her can in confusion. People were running around her, screaming and lost amidst all the confusion. Smoke shrouded them like a cloak, clogging their sight and lungs. It warped the air around them, which was already so thick from day to day life. Echo coughed and shuddered. What on earth was happening?
Soldiers began milling in the centre around them, roused from their posts by the commotion. They were as dumbfounded as the townspeople, glancing around wildly. It was like the world melted away from her. The screams and yells of the people around her faded away in the din, she felt as if she was floating, isolated from all that was going on around her.
Half of the market by the wall had exploded away as men and women spilled through. The soldiers looked as shocked as Echo as they stared, wide-eyed and mouths open as weapons were raised against them.
That’s when the fighting started. The first few gunshots didn’t even register to her. She was so disconnected from all that was happening. It was as she stood there and a man beside her fell to the ground, his eyes and mouth widened with shock, his body slamming into the ground with a sickening thud as blood oozed from the wound in forehead that she snapped back to reality.
What was going on?
Echo sank to her knees; she didn’t know if the vibrations coursing through her was her body shaking, or from all the commotion around her. She wanted to cry, to scream, to do something. She didn’t feel in control of her own body anymore.
Maybe she could curl up and pretend to be dead. She could run too, but she couldn’t really work out what was going on. Maybe she would just run into something else wrong. Oh God, well, at least working out what she was going to do after she turned eighteen wouldn’t be a thing anymore; she’d probably be too dead to care.
Echo started sobbing as a large man ran towards her, shooting rapidly above her. She screamed and held her hands over her head. Was this the moment she would die?
The gunshots stopped echoing above her head. Wincing, she opened an eye. The man was standing directly in front of her. She squeaked as he crouched down to her level and looked her in the eye. It felt like the very blood in Echo’s body froze.
“I’m not here to hurt you. We’re here to resist.” Echo was confused. “Do you want to be free? If you can stand, you can fight.” He was gruff with his words, but soft with his tone. He hoisted Echo to her feet, handing her a metal bat from the pack on his back. Echo stared at it in confusion as her hands coiled around it. “It can’t save you from a bullet, kid, but it’s a stepping stone for knocking things outta your way.”
What did he mean, fight?!
Echo wasn’t given a lot of time to think. A guard that watched the gate between the sectors spotted her with a bat and came at her, yelling. He unsheathed a sword and continued to sprint at her full tilt. Oh no, he thinks I helped break through the wall.
Echo ducked and swung at his knees. It collided; a dull metallic twang sounded out as he screamed and tripped forward. She was slow and clumsy as she whirled around and whacked him on the back of his head. She mercifully missed most of it, the bulk of her swing slamming into his back as he lurched forward, face first into the ground.
A man was collapsed on the ground possibly dead, all because of her. Horror swept over Echo like a violent wave. She was chilled; she had done that, she had attacked another human. It didn’t matter that he had rushed at her.
A scruffy looking woman ran past her, flagging people down and ushering them. “Run civilians; we aren’t here to hurt you, we’re here to save you! Run for safety, as we pave the way to your future!”
All around her people fell and dashed down alleyways or slammed themselves into doorways, seeking shelter as soldiers let out a hail of bullets. It was so surreal to Echo, to see something so intense and dramatic. She felt as if she was merely floating there, observing it all from afar.
“Move girl, come on! We ain’t got time to hang around!” The gruff man was yelling at her, waving his arm erratically, motioning for her to follow. Though her heart was thumping hard against her chest, she stumbled along behind him. She had no idea where they were going or what was going to happen, but it didn’t matter. She had the ability to make her own decisions and change her life. Echo didn’t have to feel trapped in this toxic cycle; she could fight. It was up to her to snatch the freedom she so desperately desired, to break the chains that society used to trap them all. She left behind the confines of this existence as she scurried through the hole in the wall. Any life had to be better than one where she didn’t get a choice.
There you go, guys. I’m off to write some mediocre WIP!