Way back in December, I posted a chapter of a post apocalyptic novel I’ve been puttering away at. Actually, the puttering stopped and said novel went into the pile of WIPs that I wish I had the time and the focus to finish. Insanity tends to make one easily distracted. I’m always very easily enamoured with new ideas so I’ll pause and write an outline, then something else happens, and I deal with that, then before I know it, I’ve got five chapters written of the new story and original story is gathering dust. It’s how my mind works.
Actually, it’s probably why I have finished novels that are so completely different. I need to write what I’m in the mood (re: inspired) to write. I can rewrite anything at any time, but the initial draft is written in a different mindset. The one that’s fun.
Anyway, I’m rambling. this story was mostly stalled because I hadn’t finished the outline and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with it. I don’t need to work from an outline, but I at least need to know my intended ending. I say intended because the ending I finish with is never the same as the one I plan. But that doesn’t matter. I HAVE to have a direction to write toward. Do I make any sense?
I was bitching about this to Kurt, and he’s all like, “Something that I can’t share because it would give the whole story away but let’s just say insert insane idea here.” I was like “Right. Thanks for nothing.” And I stormed off to my office/garage to chat with the moles while I pondered whether or not to give up on this one. But you know, the more I thought about it, the less crazy the ending he proposed seemed. So inside I went. Kurt dutifully muted the hockey game and answered my questions. Then, when he started doing the nod and smile thing, I knew I’d lost his attention. So upstairs I went and out to the garage…er, my office. I emailed a dear friend who always gives me honest feedback, whether I want it or not, and he didn’t say crazy even once. He loved it.
So, now I have an outline. I’m writing. I wrote more than 3000 words over the past couple of days in a story I struggled to write even 500 words a day for months. Interesting, no?
Of course, I’m going to share a bit. Imagine for a moment:
A beep from his computer brings Matthew’s gaze to the screen above his head. He stares, too shocked to blink, and too afraid to believe what he’s seeing. His hand goes to the keys in front of him and he pulls up a different view. It shows the same thing, only closer, more definite. But it can’t be. They’d have had warning; something would have shown up long before now. How could the entire world have missed it?
“Hey Carl,” he calls to his co-worker, another meteorologist working for the KPLA news station. “Come look at this.”
Carl, who rarely rises from his chair, rolls over to his desk, the wheels of his chair squeak under his considerable weight. “What?”
“Is that what I think it is?” He points to the screen and Carl leans his bald head in. His normally ruddy cheeks drain of color.
“My God—“ Carl covers his mouth and leans back in his overburdened chair.
“It’s already here. What should we do?”
In a weather station in Thailand, a group of three meteorologists realize far too late what has happened. As the earth rumbles, they too bow their heads.
Across the ocean, Canadian scientists scramble to send out warnings, but they won’t have enough time. Nor will the Welsh scientist who wakes from his afternoon nap at his desk to the bleeping sound that heralds disaster. Rubbing his eyes he squints at the email from his peer in Alaska. “Bloody hell.”
All over the world this scene is replayed again, and again. Whispers of prayers, sobs, and cries of despair are echoed from America to Zimbabwe, and for once the world can agree on something; the end is here.
Oooh…see where I’m going with this? No? Okay, here’s a bit from Chapter 4:
A warbling reached his ears and Rayne exchanged a puzzled glance with Mel. “You got a phone?”
“No. You?” Mel stopped and turning to the rest of their group. “Anyone got a phone?”
Laughter echoed back. “If we did, don’t you think we’d have used it?” someone snapped.
The warbling filled the air again and Rayne’s brain registered its location. His pocket. “I have it. It’s me. I forgot I grabbed this earlier.” Cheeks burning, he pulled the satellite phone from his pocket and flipped it open.
“Bonjour? Qui est-ce? Parlez-vous Francais?”
“Pas bien,” Rayne replied. His French was rusty at best. “Parlez-vous Anglais?”
“Oui—er, yes. I do. Who is this?”
“My name is Rayne Summers. I’m on Mount Kilimanjaro with a group of passengers from flight—“
“How many?” the thickly accented voice asked.
“Passengers—how many are you?”
“Fifty-eight…no, fifty six. We’ve crashed and we need help. It’s unusually cold and we have very little food. Some of us are critically injured.”
“I’m sorry, Monsieur Summers. You are—how you say—on yourselves?”
Mel shuffled in the dirt next to him. Rayne digested the Frenchman’s garbled English. On their own? “I don’t understand,”
“Listen carefully,” the phone beeped and static filled his ear.
“Fuck,” Rayne held the phone up, the battery light flashed. He put it back to his ear. “If you can hear me, please, call me back. I have to change the batteries in the phone. Please, call me back if you can.”
Nearly dropping the phone in his haste, Rayne flipped it over and ripped the battery cover from the back. He pulled the dead battery and tossed it aside. Stuffing his hand in his pocket, he cursed as he came up empty handed. Switching the phone to the other hand he searched his other pocket and came up with nothing again. He reached inside his coat. Damn military issue—his fingers scraped plastic and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“What is it? Are they coming?” Sarah’s whine grated on his nerves.
He wanted to tell her to shut up, to just stop with the constant questions, but he bit the words back. She was young, very pregnant and married to an asshole. A little whining could be expected. Rayne jammed the battery in place and flipped the phone over to turn it on.
“No. I don’t know what’s going on. The phone died before I co—” the phone warbled once more. Rayne opened it and put it to his ear. He barely opened his mouth when the Frenchman cut him off.
“Listen carefully, and do not interrupt. I have important news for you and you must hear me.”
“I’m listening,” Rayne managed.
“You are on yourselves. There has been a major…event? Um…disaster, yes, a disaster. An asteroid, which we’d been watching for a number of years, changed course unexpectedly. No one saw it coming. I don’t know how, but we all missed it.”
Rayne felt dizzy, his heartbeat echoed in his ears and a large hole opened inside of his belly. Asteroid. The word echoed in his mind.
“The impact was in the Atlantic, huge asteroid. I estimate at least four miles wide. It caused a tsunami, which in turn caused earthquakes and more tsunamis. There is nothing left.”
“Nothing left? Of the continent?” Rayne couldn’t wrap his brain around what the man was telling him. An entire continent gone? Impossible.
“No, not the continent.” Rayne closed his eyes. Thank God. “The world. It’s gone. Buildings, land, plant life, animals, houses…humans. All gone.”
“I wish it were so. I’ve contacted others…two in China, a group of five stuck on Everest, a half dozen in Canada, and a handful more scattered around the world…you are the biggest group left. I have limited resources here. I am a researcher stationed in Alaska, an observation station—it doesn’t matter. I am the only one here. No food, no heat, and no hope of rescue. I fear I will be gone in a matter of days. The others, they have major injury, and no food. They will not last either.”
“What are you telling me?” Rayne’s ears roared with his words. Gone. All of it gone. It couldn’t be. The world could not end.
“You will not be rescued. This is what I am saying. Do what you have to in order to survive because you are all you have. No one is coming, Monsieur. I am sorry.”
“How did you know to call this number?”
“I didn’t. I have a machine which works much like a…telemarketer? It runs through the numbers available, dialing until it finds an answer then I receive a…notice…or an alarm from it and I pick up the phone. I don’t have anymore numbers available. You’re the last.”
“What do we do?”
“Frankly, Monsieur, I wasn’t too religious before today and I think I lost all belief in God just this minute.”
So? Rough, I know. That’s all I can share right now.
My point? No idea is ever too crazy for fiction. Don’t tell Kurt, but from now on I’m keeping a file of his insanity. You never know when he’ll have another stroke of brilliance.
7 thoughts on “Insanity is a Gift”
I like it! I especially like the phrase, "over-burdened chair". I'm totally going to use that the next time I see a fluffy person sitting down at the mall or something.
And I love the phrase "fluffy", totally using it somewhere. My uncle called me fluffy. First time I ever heard it.
Will you hit me if I say these scenes seem eerily similar to the movies, ‘Deep Impact’, with flashes of ‘The Day After Tomorrow’? I’m only kidding you. I don’t have enough to make a good assessment, but it did remind me of those movies.Not that using some of their devices are bad things; people do it all the time. It’s just good to be aware of what’s been done before. The other red flag is the meteor, which I suspect is what you meant by things not being what they seem. Even though the ‘meteor’ isn’t what it seems, you’ll still have to supply a very good reason how the whole world missed an Extinction Level Event, right? Satellites are amazingly accurate—especially if it’s tracking a known entity, and let’s not forget amateur astronomers all over the world too. So the anomaly must either have the capacity to manipulate space, or disguise its signature, such as the massive ship a la ‘Independence Day’. (Yes, I am a walking encyclopedia of disaster movies.)Or you could do this the EASY way and not bring up the reason at all, letting pandemonium and speculation guide the characters.You call this a rough draft, but you’ve managed to capture characterization and tension in a very small amount of space.It’s got some legs, Renee. As long as the science works, I’m on board. 🙂
You picked up on some very key points in just that little bit, Maria. Wow. I have researched the science, and this first section is intentionally…misleading? There are reasons why things are vague which are clear later on. The reader should be going "Um…huh?" by the middle of the story, when a major twist is thrown in and then, through the last part of the story, everything falls together. How is that for confusing?
Oh and re: the meteor…You make a great point there. This part is not meant to give facts, which I've unintentionally provided there. Good eye. I think maybe I'll rewrite that without the meteor because for that bit it's only supposed to give that scientist's theory, not state it as fact. You're right, no matter what, it doesn't work very well because it is inaccurate. Someone would have seen it. I could make Frenchie more vague and uncertain. He only knows that 'something' occured and the aftermath. Hmm. Glad I posted this.
It's fun to brainstorm these things when they're in their infancy. It's liberating!It's when you try to fix the story after you've written 'the end' that it becomes monstrous to tame. Every change becomes exponential because it alters ten other things you hadn't thought of.Best to catch the cowlicks early.
I find the outline the time when I get to have the most fun, next is the first draft. I can't tell you the problems I ran into before that smart little Spaniard coerced me into trying to work from an outline. You are probably very aware of those problems anyway. This one has been monstrous from the beginning because I'm in unfamiliar territory in every way. It's a challenge though, and I love challenges.