Homework Tuesday: Chapter 1

Wow this week’s been crazy.  And it’s only Tuesday!  I’ve been thinking it’s Wednesday all day and panicked that I hadn’t written a homework post, I hurriedly fired up WordPress and started thinking up a witty “I know it’s late” title for the post and then looked at the date on my iMac.  It said Tuesday.

Crisis averted!

NaNoWriMo is in full swing and has been since Friday, I hope you’ve been writing.  I successfully started on Friday 1st after work and a much needed nap.  Granted, I haven’t got as far as I’d hoped, I’ve racked up just over 3,750 words which is under the average daily scribblings required to complete on time but I’m currently standing at two chapters complete and am about to kick off the third after I’ve published this post.

Homework last week was to write the first chapter of a story, mine is of course the first chapter of my novel but there was no need to make it into the first chapter of anything specific.  So have a read of the entire first chapter below and let me know what you think, does Shen live up to expectations from last week’s character description?  Do you want to read more?

Chapter 1

Small clouds of red-brown dust sprung up from the ground underneath Shen’s heavy docker boots as she ran through the enclosed street.  Decrepit buildings either side of the narrow street towered high above, threatening to topple over, great masses of corrugated iron hastily riveted to reclaimed steel girders and salvaged scaffolding.

“STOP RUNNING YOU THIEVING LITTLE FUCKER!”

Shen ignored the authoritarian cries of the two Breakers pursuing her and carried on running.  Getting caught would certainly mean punishment and although she didn’t believe all the tales she’d been told about what Breakers do to thieves, she didn’t have plans to find out for definite.  Besides, Shen had outrun worse before.

Two loud cracks from 100 yards back were accompanied by a cloud of dirt erupting from the scorched earth to her a right and the sharp ptang! of gunfire ricocheting off the corrugated iron wall on her left.  Shen quickly turned down an alleyway, keeping out of the Breakers’ line of sight.

It was hot.  Trosan District was always hot, having not been a Government sanctioned construction, the enormous slum was void of Breathers, gigantic air conditioning units used elsewhere in the city to cool the baking air.  Sweat oozed from every pore, Shen could feel the glisten on her face and the sting in her eyes, not even the air passing as she ran could cool her.  A cursory glance backwards assured Shen that the Breakers couldn’t see her, making a final left and right zig zag through alleyways she ducked behind a large, discarded reflector plate.  The shade was a blessing, an instant comfort flowed through her as her body had chance to dissipate some of the heat, only to be followed by the irritation of soaked fabric clinging to flesh.

Fidgeting with her sweat soaked tank top, and attempting to shift the weight of her tattered rucksack allowing airflow to the small of her back, Shen quietly paused for breath.  They may have lost her for now but it would be a while before the Breakers would give up their search completely.  Shen surveyed her surroundings, the reflector plate was propped against a wall and would happily conceal her from the main throughway but if the Breaker’s were smart enough to look for her away from the alleyway she wouldn’t have much room to maneuver.  The rickety building behind her was quiet, haphazard metal sheeting rising high off the ground, it was a risky venture not knowing what was inside but it would provide a better hiding place.

The crunch of thick rubber on sandy dirt floated down the alleyway, combined with the grunting of two people searching for a third.  Shen pulled a small blade from the holster attached to her belt and made her way to a small opening in the wall behind her, keeping crouched all the time, eyes continually on the alleyway in which her pursuers were slowly advancing towards her position.  Carefully pulling up the corner of a loose and rusty panel Shen made her way inside.

There was no fabricated flooring and the only light was that which shone through the gaps in the wall, highlighted patches of dirt reflected on the dull metallic panelling, giving the darkened space a dull red glow.  The low ceiling was constructed of mismatched planks of timber supported on old scaffolding.  The structure didn’t appear stable in any way, Shen wondered how such a thing could stand so tall, from the outside it had looked like there were four or five stories but judging by the height of this room there could be up to eight separate floors.  Against her better judgement Shen clambered up onto boards above her head, carefully testing the floor with each step.  Silently tottering across the wooden surface to the wall facing the alleyway she peered through a small gap in the metal patchwork.

The two Breakers were wandering slowly down the alleyway, glancing from left to right in the hope of spotting their prey.  Shen watched as they ambled, they couldn’t be comfortable in this heat dressed in their clunky all-black leather and rubber armoured uniform.  Each had their weapon drawn, a basic projectile firing contraption, highly inaccurate and unreliable but enough to make the general population wary.  Breakers were known for their trigger happy demeanour and disregard for surrender.

“Where’d that little shit get to?”

As the Breakers got closer to the building that Shen was seeking shelter in she began to hear their voices, a deep gravelly rumble from the one on point, Shen thought he must be the superior officer, his hair was shaved short with a ponytail sprouting from the back of his head.  Eyes sunken into a face weathered by sand and sun, dry and cracked.  The second sounded like he was trying to put on a deeper voice than he actually had, it wavered slightly and she realised he was much younger, trying to appear tougher than he really was.  A bandanna was tied around his forehead and his cheeks were flushed red, skin peeling from exposure to the elements.

“I dunno, but the scrawny wretch is gonna get it when I find him.  I’m gonna slice his belly open and let the rats feed on his guts.  And I’m gonna look him right in the eye when I do it!”

“Very dramatic kid, but it was a girl that you let slip away!”

“No way!  A girl would be too shit scared to move if we caught her red handed.  And I didn’t let him slip by, it was this bastard armour, I can barely move in it.”

“It was definitely a girl.  You best get used to that armour quick.”

Shen didn’t like Breakers.  Not in the usual fear of prosecution way that most people didn’t like Breakers.  Breakers had a past that most didn’t care to know about, one that Shen had witnessed first hand, and one that fuelled her hatred.  Shen watched and listened as the two Breakers lumbered down the alleyway and turned out of view, remembering as she did so, the murder of her adoptive parents Bree and Mikah at the hands of one of the first breed of Breaker eleven years ago.

After the years of chaos that had followed The Destruction, as the cities had begun to grow, and governments started asserting their power, the need to control criminal activity was very apparent.  There had been a widespread call for people to act as law enforcement, promising regular work in exchange for food, supplies and a place to live in the city.  The call had been successful in some respects, a great number of people applied and those best suited for the position were picked and given basic training.  Most of these people however, had been opportunistic bandits, having roamed the wilderness, terrorising other survivors for years, they seized the chance to be given authority, only to abuse it without consequence.

It was one of these early Breakers that had come to the settlement where Shen, her mother Bree and father Mikah were living, farming simple crops and tending for the livestock it had taken years to find.  There was no reason for the Breaker to be there, at that time the settlement was well outside the city’s limits.  It was a strange but welcome mild evening, the family had enjoyed a simple meal after a hard day’s labouring.  Shen was inside the small shack, playing with her treasured pink teddybear Brick when she heard a loud crack, her mother scream and an unrecognisable voice.  Her parents had warned her of the dangers of the world over the years and taught her techniques for self preservation in the harsh environment.  She hid.  Her mother had run into the house, a panicked look on a blood spattered face, calling Shen’s name and shouting to get to safety.  Peering through a small hole in her hiding place Shen watched as a large man, dressed in a black leather motorcycle jacket, thick black jeans, big boots and gloves stepped through the open doorway, a large metallic object made of tubes clutched in his right hand, smoke silently rising from it’s open end.  Bree stumbled and fell to the floor as the man advanced, she muttered in fear, Shen could see the tears in her eyes.  With his free hand, the man grasped Bree’s arm, rolled her over and pulled her into a sitting position.  Crouching down to bring his face within a foot of his own he pushed the metal object towards Bree’s right eye, staring into her left as he did so.  

“Don’t worry love, it’s nothing personal.”

The words were almost whispered but it was all Shen could hear at that point, a brief moment of silence followed, amplified by the slowed passage of time as the horrific events unfurled.  A deafening crack erupted from the metal tubing, breaking the silence.  The back of Bree’s skull exploded into the back wall of the shack and her lifeless body slumped to the floor as the man let go of her arm.  Shen gasped.

The man’s head span in the direction of the intake of breath, clambering to his feet he made his way toward the noise.  Shen was shaking, part fear, part annoyance for giving away her position, her hand instinctively made its way to her hip here the small knife was holstered, pulling it out she readied herself.

“Come out little girl.  I won’t hurt you.  Maybe we can have some fun together.  Would you like that?”

The voice was slow, malicious and calculated.  As he got closer Shen could see his cold steel grey eyes reflecting the fading light outside, he moved steadily and with purpose.  Shen knew he could now see where she was, there were enough gaps in the panel that would reveal her to someone looking, it was a bad hiding place, but she knew that the man couldn’t see she had a knife.

Shen was a blur, she’d never moved so fast and so accurately in her life.  Launching herself from behind the panel she swung the small blade, making contact with the man’s face and slicing the knife from forehead to chin, cutting deeply through his eye and mouth.  Red liquid spewed out, spattering Shen’s face as she continued her fluid movement towards the door, deftly grabbing the key to her father’s tricycle from it’s hook by the door as she passed through the opening into the clear evening.  The screams of pain from the shack were still audible as Shen threw the tarp off the trike, only being drowned out by the guttural roar of the engine as she fired it up and rode as fast as she could towards the fledgling city.

Eleven years had passed since then.  The city had grown, engulfing the small settlement as it did so, Shen’s former life had been destroyed and she was forced to fend for herself inside the city walls, never forgetting the Breaker that murdered her parents that night.

A quiet voice brought Shen back to the present.

“Why were they looking for you?”

What with NaNoWriMo being a time constrained undertaking I haven’t done any redrafting on this, I haven’t even spell checked it or sieved through the grammar with a fine toothed comb so you may have to forgive some oddities.

Nonetheless, I am pleased with what I’ve written and being pleased with something I’ve created is not something I experience on a regular basis, I can always find something wrong with my work, whether it’s writing, photography, bass playing or any other creative outlet I may have.  I guess that’s part of the creative process though.

Anyhoo, what should next week’s homework be?  I’ll avoid the cop out of saying “write the second chapter” considering I’ve already done that (don’t let it stop you though).  Instead, how about writing a poem?!  Any format you’d like, about whatever you want, as long or short as you feel is necessary, and as I was taught at school; it doesn’t have to rhyme (but make it rhyme if you want to).

Thanks for reading.

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