A Chapter by Vanessa Rico
End of the world scenario mixed with government conspiracy, a flu, and aliens
What do you do when your whole world falls apart? I do not really know the answer to that particular question, but I know what I am hoping and trying to do: survive. I had a perfect life up until two weeks ago, when everything went wrong. A month ago, I had no worries, except if I would pass the end of the year exams, so I could advance to senior year. I know sounds pretty minor compared to what I am dealing with or at least trying to deal with now. I do not know how or where this all started, but there are a few facts that I am sure of.
My name is Alexia Montgomery and I am 17 years old. I have two pain-in-the-rear brothers, Jared (16 years old) and Caleb (14 years old); both of them think they are the higher power’s gift to teenage girls everywhere. Oh brother, the most they can hope to communicate with girls is some caveman grunting. For example: “I, overly hormonal boy. You, hot girl. Let’s make smooch face.” Okay, maybe that was more Tarzan than caveman, but you get the picture.
I lived in my ancestral home, The Montgomery Manor in Easton, Massachusetts all my life up until recently. My home was named after my great to the 5th power grandfather, who designed the mansion for his lady love (you know my great to the 5th power grandmother) as a testament of their love. I know how strange it sounds to live in a house/manor with a name, because it is just not normal to go around naming your humble abode. You must be getting a mental picture of me as some snobby socialite sipping tea with my pinky finger in the air while I lounge about in the conservatory. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I do not like tea or walking around with my nose in the air, which is quite unattractive by the way. I have seen, firsthand, the dangers of walking around with one’s nose in the air. There should be a surgeon general’s warning out there stating: “Can cause tripping, losing one’s balance, and the occasional falling on one’s large posterior, which you have amassed due to too many daily intakes of food and not enough exercise.” I admit I have faults and I am far from perfect (I am horrible at geometry and I am a size 10/12 for goodness’ sake!), but in no way am I a snob. I am a smartass, but not a snob. My parents, Ethan and Rachel, would have kicked my a*s, pardon my crude language, if I acted like a spoiled princess directing orders at everyone.
Here is another fact for you: my parents are dead from a particularly virulent strain of the flu. You probably think I am cold and heartless for bluntly stating the fact of my parents’ death, but how else can I tell you what happened? I guess I could invite you over for brunch some time and break the news to you then. As we sit there all cozy at the table, I would lightly remark, “My parents are dead. Please pass the marmalade.” I do not think that would have the same effect or be appropriate; it would be an insult to their memory. The truth is better without any sugarcoated toppings.
My parents died a horrible death, which I witnessed with my own eyes, leaving me numb to most of the feelings swirling inside me like a category six hurricane. There was blood, fevers that caused rashes and pustules, coughing up of their drowning lungs, gurgling whenever they tried to tell me they loved me and my brothers, and wait for it-more blood. Every time I visualize their faces as they lay dying together, I want to curl up in a ball and cry and die all at the same time, but I cannot and will not. I wish my parents were here to make everything better by taking me in their arms and telling me everything would be all right…like they did when I was a little girl. No matter how many facts and truths I have, none of it will bring my parents back to me, because the cold, hard truth is exactly that-cold and hard to bear.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention another teeny, tiny little fact about that flu bug. Fact is, the flu bug that viciously took my parents away also took most (and when I say most, I mean all) of the adult population over the age of 25. As you can guess the world has ended and I am not sure if I will survive, but I have to. I promised my parents I would survive and protect my brothers and find someplace safe for us. I am not sure if any safe place exists, but I have to try for my parents’ sake. My father told me to get out of the city as soon as possible before it turns into a war zone. I know I rushed this on you, but there really is no other way to prepare someone for the end of the world, you know the better word for it is apocalypse. Every country blaming every other country for the pandemic did not help either, especially when those countries started bombing the other countries (jeesh, politics are hard to keep up with). The town I have grown up in is now a mess of bombed buildings, ransacked stores and houses, and dead bodies.
With the death of my parents, my brothers and I were “evacuated” (I put that in quotes, because we were literally dragged out of our home) by military personnel, who I could tell were in the beginning stages of the flu. We were brought to a hotel that was being used as a makeshift evacuation and information center. Masses of people were milling around, some were crying and some were just staring off into some wishful fantasy world. I saw families holding on to each other in hopes of somehow protecting themselves from the horror of what was happening around them. What I more importantly noticed was the lack of adults. Yes, there were a few adults here and there, but all showed signs of being infected. There were some college students, who thought this was some type of frat party; they even brought several kegs with them. I do not know how or why they would be celebrating in light of everything that was happening. I looked to my two brothers, but all I saw was glazed over eyes and utter hopelessness on their faces. I made my way over to a military guy and asked him how long we would be forced to be here. The only response I got was a creepy, once-over appraisal and a painful shove in the direction of my brothers. You know how I mentioned bombs earlier? Well, I had never actually expected one to be dropped in Easton, Massachusetts. It shook the building and caused a few people to be shaken out of their reverie. I heard commotion, as well as a few distant screams causing shivers to travel down my spine, coming from outside of the hotel. The bomb and the screams also shook me and woke me up to remember the promise I made my father. This place was no longer safe; we had to get out of there…but I will stop here before I get too ahead of myself.
You may think I am taking the world ending lightly, but I am not. I have always been told my sarcasm and my smart-assed-ness was a defense mechanism. Truthfully, my smart-a*s ways is the only thing keeping me going and from completely falling apart. Maybe, when or if I find someplace safe, then I will be able to properly grieve…or fall apart, whichever happens first. Everyone deals with stress differently, or so they tell me. At the moment, Jared is not talking, he will do what you ask, but other than that, he is in his own world. Caleb, on the other hand, is in a world of denial, thinking we will find mom and dad, when we find our haven of safety. Heather and Holly, my best friend and her younger sister, are non-communicative with everyone except with each other; thankfully, they do what they are told. Now, you see what I am dealing with? I am writing this all down so that I can try to keep up morale and my sanity, since I really have no one else to pour my heart out to. It is hard, really hard, to keep going and try (I know it seems to be my favorite word, but it is all I can really do). You may think I make it look easy to be in charge and not fall apart. Fact is, every breath I take is excruciating and I think to myself, why should I take another breath when everything I knew and loved is gone? I mean everything is definitely fucked up (again pardon my crassness), what is the reason to go on? Every time these questions pop up into my head, I remember the promise I made to my dad and the way he looked at me as I promised him. I will never forget the proud and loving look he gave me…that is the reason I keep going and (here is that word again) trying.
Like I said, it all started with a little flu virus, but I have a feeling the end of the world has been brewing for awhile now. I do not know why I think or feel that way…just that I do. Two weeks ago, the dreams that have haunted me all my life came more frequently with more intensity than I had thought a dream could have. Normally, I would have this dream once every few months, but I had the dream almost every night for the past two weeks. Now that I look back at it, maybe the dreams were premonitions or visions or whatever you want to call them. They were all about a boy with vivid green eyes, who kept telling me to run, and then his body kind of disappeared/ dispersed (yeah both things kind of happened at once. I do not know how else to explain it) and I was standing in space. At the time, I had factored down the reasons of my recurring dream to two causes: stress about my finals and Stargate SG-1 episodes (there was a four day marathon and of course I watched it).
Never mind about the dreams, forget I mentioned them. Obviously the stress of the world ending and everything else is finally getting to me; I guess I just need a break (fat chance that will happen). I have been trying to stay strong for everyone and keep them safe just like I promised my parents. I will not give up though. It is not in me to just lie down and die (no matter how many times I have wanted to do just that). I have always been feisty and a fighter (my father says I get my spunk from my mom, and then she would normally punch him in the arm, while managing and succeeding to remain demure and ladylike …I guess he was right).
Since I do not want you to be confused about how this all started, I will start at the beginning 14 days ago and try to explain everything to the best of my ability. You are reading this after all, and probably thinking, “Why start with the ending first?” Fact is, I truly hope this is not an ending, just a messed up beginning that will get better…maybe I will find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or Shangri La would not be that bad of a find either.
© 2011 Vanessa Rico
Let me know what you think please! I have edited this piece and polished it up a bit more. I spent over two hours editing, so hopefully I got eveything! Let me know if I missed any grammatical errors and if something does not make sense! Thank you!
"I do not really know the answer" - This sounds too formal for a teenage narrator. Try "I don't know" instead. Let her use contractions to mimic her actual speech pattern. (Yeah, I realize that you were probably told by teachers that contractions are "wrong," but the rules for fiction are far more fluid than that.)
no comma after "no worries"
"the end of the year exams" - "the end-of-year exams" - no comma after "exams"
"I know sounds pretty minor"- either "I know it sounds pretty minor" or "I know - sounds pretty minor"
"what I am dealing" - "I'm" would sound better here
comma after "Alexia Montgomery"
"17 years old" - "seventeen"
"16 years old" - "sixteen"
"14 years old" - "fourteen"
I think the "caveman grunting" needs to be even less grammatically correct. Try "Me, overly hormonal boy."
"The Montgomery Manor" - don't capitalize "the"
"my great to the 5th power grandfather" - "my great-to-the-fifth-power grandfather"
"you know my great to the 5th power grandmother" - "you know, my great-to-the-fifth-power grandmother"
dash, not comma, after "nose in the air"
I like the aside comments - funny.
comma after "unattractive"
no colon after "surgeon general's warning"
comma after "I have faults"
comma after "10/12" (normally numbers should be written out, but I have no clue how to handle this one)
"in no way am I a snob. I am a smartass, but not a snob"- latter part of this sounds awkward due to repetition. Try "in no way am I a snob. A smartass, yes" instead.
"my parents' death" - "deaths"
REALLY like the commentary about how she could relate the news about her parents - if she was a stereotypical rich girl.
"As we sit there"- "sat"
"My parents are dead. Please pass the marmalade" - This got an honest laugh-out-loud.
"a category six hurricane" - "category-six"
The symptoms of the disease are not those of the flue. If you need it to be flue, change the symptoms; if you need to keep those symptoms, change the name.
"and wait for it-more blood" - "and - wait for it - more blood"
space after the "..."
space before and after a dash - don't run it into the words around it
"the age of 25" - "twenty-five"
comma after "As you can guess"
"prepare someone for the end of the world, you know the better word for it is apocalypse" - run-on sentence - try "prepare someone for the end of the world. You know, the better word for it is apocalypse."
comma after "did not help"
"politics are hard" - "is" ("politics" is construed as singular)
"town I have grown up in" - "had grown up in"
"I put that in quotes, because we were literally dragged out of our home" - awkward - try just "we were literally dragged out of our homes" instead
semicolon or period, not comma, after "were milling around"
"holding on to each other" - "onto"
"all I saw was glazed over eyes and utter hopelessness" - "all I saw were glazed-over eyes and utter hopelessness"
"as well as a few distant screams causing shivers to travel down my spine"- "as well as a few distant screams that made shivers travel down my spine"
space after ellipses (...) - capitalize "But"
I assume these are meant to be conventional bombs, not nuclear?
"my sarcasm and my smart-assed-ness was a defense mechanism"- "were a defense mechanism" - That was my impression of the character, too.
"my smart-a*s ways is the only thing" - "are" - if you want, you could change this to "that is the only thing" - the pronoun referring back to "defense mechanism" in the previous sentence
space after ellipses
"then I will be able to properly grieve…or fall apart, whichever happens first" - I have a character in my own fiction who could really relate to what your protagonist is feeling.
The transition from past tense to present works, I think - it's clear that she was giving backstory before and is now telling about what is happening currently. Be careful, though - switching tenses is a tricky thing and usually to be avoided.
period or semicolon, not comma, after "Jared is not talking"
"find mom and dad"- "Mom and Dad" (or "our mom and dad" - see the difference?)
no comma after "Dad"
"non-communicative with everyone except with each other"- delete second "with"
period after "keep going and try" - let the part in parentheses be its own sentence
comma after "excruciating"
comma after "I mean"
comma after "again" in the parenthetical bit
semicolon, not comma, after parentheses
"questions pop up into my head" - "pop into" or "pop up in"
space after ellipses - capitalize "That"
"brewing for awhile now" - "a while"
space after ellipses!
comma after "came more frequently"
"I would have this dream once every few months, but I had the dream" - change "the dream" at the end to "it"
no comma after "vivid green eyes"
comma after "yeah"
comma after parentheses
titles for television programs are italicized - and I'm fairly sure there's a colon after the word "Stargate" in that title
comma after "four-day marathon" - notice hyphen (Ah, but "full immersion" is the best way to watch it, yes?)
period, not comma, after "Never mind about the dreams"
You have a lot of parenthetical bits that would work better as separate sentences rather than tacked onto the ends of other sentences.
The protagonist keeps saying over and over that she 'promised her parents that she'd keep everyone safe.' It comes across as obsessive. Not that it's inappropriate - makes perfect sense - but I wanted to make sure you intended it that way.
comma after "I will not give up"
" It is not in me to just lie down and die (no matter how many times I have wanted to do just that) - I suggest deleting the first "just"
no comma after "in the arm"
"while managing and succeeding to remain demure and ladylike" - delete "and succeeding" - means the same thing as "managing" here anyway
space AFTER ellipses, not before
"how this all started, I will start at the beginning" - "how all this happened, I will start at the beginning"
"14 days ago" - "fourteen"
comma after "You are reading this"
space after ellipses - capitalize "Maybe"
comma after "rainbow"
comma after "find"
Interesting opening for a novel. I definitely want to read more of it and see how it goes in the next chapter. Aside from the lack of contractions (I really think she'd be less formal - and usually IS - in what she says), you've done an excellent job of capturing the protagonist's voice and personality. Her reactions to the situation are believable, and she is a character with whom the reader can sympathize.
Posted 2 Years Ago
14 of 14 people found this review constructive.
Excellent beginning chapter. It has me wondering exactly how this character is going to survive. But one thing I want you to be careful of is falling into the usual stereotype apocalypse story. Though that might be hard to do and at some point it will sound like another end of the world story. Just make sure to create your own story and not get caught in the pit holes of the usual. With that being said I happily move on to the next chapter.
Posted 11 Months Ago
This is an amazing book so far can't wait to read the next chapter keep up the great work
Posted 1 Year Ago
I really like it. I liked the use of the sarcasm and thought it made the prologue that much more better. I will definitely read on and enjoy.
Posted 1 Year Ago
I love this, I really do. I did find a few errors that Weaver already pointed out so no need for me to point it out again.
I love how Alexia is sarcastic, I was laughing at the first few paragraphs because of her narration. I'm expecting the next chapter to be really good since the start told me it would be. Good job!
Only one thing, I was confused because like it is said in the story, people older than 25 were dying of the flu.. so does that mean people about 25 years or younger ran the government and everything else? Or maybe it was just confusing in how you put it. (or maybe it was me). Other than that, I really liked this. :)
Posted 1 Year Ago
3 of 4 people found this review constructive.
I think you could make the opening paragraph more unique. If the first paragraph is a little more extreme, a little more detailed regarding the narrator's feelings, I feel it will just sound stronger. I mean, this type of set up, which happens across all genres of writing can easily fall into cliche.
Narrator starts vague monlogue about big event. Narrator looks back and juxtaposes new situation with previous, identifying some general teenage cause or concern that only now to the narrator seems like clearly overblown problems that weren't as major.
Because to be honest, I really like the last sentence of the first paragraph and how it follows. That's the kind of unique/extreme kind of feeling that will make it seem less generic. The idea that the narrator only now holds the most basic and simple facts to be true gives a lot of credence to just how dramatic whatever has happened to the narrator is.
Typically, I imagine narrators in the sort of young adult genre as fairly annoying, complain-y, and pretty lame in terms of humor. In contrast, I actually liked the caveman/Tarzan impression and found it pretty humorous. Good word choices in those sentences, plus you avoid falling into the whiny teenage girl narrator. The, "Oh my God, my brother's are soooo this. My sister is ugh, that." I mean, at least you when with a nice humorous joke where we can see that yes, the narrator may find her brothers dumb/juvenile or whatever, but she has a sense of humor about it, and doesn't act like her brothers are THE. MOST. EMBARRASSING. thing in the world.
Again, I want to point out that I like how you're using your narrator. I've by no means read much, if any young adult/teen fiction kind of stuff, but I've always thought one problem is the main character never recognizes their own flaws and thinks every single event that happens to them is this ultra-dramatic, end of the world scenario. You do have the narrator say, "I have flaws," and she mentions geometry and size, but I do think that the rest of what she says is actually more talking herself up rather than pointing out flaws. "I'm not a snob." "My parents would have never let me act that way." All that. There's really no problem with this section, just that maybe something more than a few "surface flaws," would be a little more unique. Of course, the major flaws of a character come out over time and later in a story so and very rarely does a narrator just come out and tell the reader their deepest imperfections, so maybe just tinker with this how you will or leave it how it is now.
"My parents, Ethan and Rachel, would have kicked my a*s, pardon my crude language," I understand maybe wanting to get the characters names out, but to me, saying, "My parents, Ethan and Rachel," just sounds weird to me. I do know many people that call their parents by their first names, but that still seems weird to me. Maybe one alternative is just saying, "My parents would have..." and on from there, and getting their names out there later somehow.
One thing I don't think is mentioned is, approximately how long ago had Alexia's parents died from the flu. Just weeks ago? Months? Maybe a year or two now?
"I know I rushed this on you, but there really is no other way to prepare someone for the end of the world, you know the better word for it is apocalypse." I don't think there's any problem with the narrator being like, "Hey you, this is my story," knows she's narrating, but this last sentence almost sounds like the "you" is someone in the story and not just a listener. I mean, the reader's world isn't ending, there's no apocalypse for them, so the "you" ends up being addressed by Alexia as someone that HAS to be inside the narrative for what she says to really make sense.
I really think the set up of the disease is very very intriguing though. The concept that a pandemic isolates a certain age group of the population is pretty novel, I think, and definitely leads to some interesting themes about maturity, adulthood, childhood, and everything really regarding age and what comes with that. One sentence that is kind of weird though is, "As you can guess the world has ended and I am not sure if I will survive, but I have to." Since it comes right after the sentence about the flu attacking 25 and over, it sounds like misguided fear. Why would Alexia really be in trouble of dying? If you place this sentence after some of the stuff about how now it's a war zone, fighting, and all that, Alexia's concern will seem more justified.
As interesting as the concept of an apocalyptic world of only pretty much youths is, the minute details and specifics are going to be really tricky. One thing I thought of first is, we're talking 20-24 year olds running these countries that are apparently arguing over the origin of the disease and bombing and warring with one another. I think it might be difficult making young people in this age group as believable tyrants and threats and other things. Just the right amount of detail and summary about the backstory is going to have to be used to make it both effective and ready to move forward in the story, yet still believable/plausible.
At the end of the paragraph where they are "evacuated" your story up to that point is all summary. I would definitely expect a lot of summary though. The story you want to tell is the post-apocalyptic/post-flu story, so the stuff leading up to then has to be sort of summarized, but I would think some of these events leading up have to be in a bit more detail. The evacuation center stuff seems like it should really have more details. I mean, here is this point where Alexia remembers this important promise and decides, for a specific reason which isn't really described either in the paragraph, that for her and her brother's best chance to survive, they have to leave this place. That seems like the potential for a pretty big/important moment or decision.
Was there a debate about staying or leaving? Her brothers are only slightly younger, do they fight her sort of being in charge or cede leadership responsibilities to her? Do they talk over the pros and cons of staying vs. going? These seem like very important things that would occur in this situation.
"Truthfully, my smart-a*s ways is the only thing" "is" should be "are."
"why should I take another breath when everything I knew and loved is gone?" My own personal preference here, but I would word this differently. Saying "everything I knew and loved," really undermines any care or concern Alexia should still be feeling for her brothers and friends. Saying, "When so much that I loved," or "When almost all that I loved is gone," might be better.
Alright, as I reached the end, I realized many of my concerns about detail, time, and whatnot will likely be addressed going forward in the story. So obvioulsy, if my comments address things that are talked about later in the story, then probably just ignore them.
I guess one thing I'm now wondering is, will the rest of the story just be two weeks ago up to present, or will it get to the present then continue forward? I guess I didn't really get the clear indication of what the "present" is. Two weeks ago, the flu kind of started, I get that. But I really don't have a clear idea of how much may have happened in the two weeks in between. This is just my feeling from reading only the prologue, but that the flu starts two weeks ago. Her parents get pretty sick, and pretty quickly. Their health deteriorates over the next 7-10 days before whatever happens. They either die, are taken away to a hospital, or Alexia and her brothers are "evacuated." Then, the next couple days are spent in the evacuation center, hearing, learning about what's going on as the pandemic and fighting escalates before at the end of the two weeks, the make the decision to go out on their own.
My interpretation may be possibly way off. You may be thinking waaaaay more is going to happen in this two weeks. You know, maybe it was only two days after the first signs of the flu that they were evacuated and then the next day, decided to leave, basically leaving 10 days for the rest of the story to unfold from there. But in my own personal opinion, if this were the case, the story would maybe be moving too fast to be realistically plausible.
Of course, if you can make it work, seem plausible and believable, then there's no probably no problem with having it go that way. I mean, we all know we're reading fiction and are ready to suspend our disbelief for portions of a story.
The set up, the idea, the concept, is what I like the most. I think it is a really cool and ingenious apocalypse to be honest, which is definitely a compliment considering the high amount of post-apocalyptic plots out there. I wouldn't concern yourself with details in the prologue as much as I suggested, so maybe ignore a lot of that stuff too.
Posted 1 Year Ago
5 of 7 people found this review constructive.
hehehe wow interesting
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 8 people found this review constructive.
Oh, this is a great prologue. I love how you wrote everything as Alexia Montgomery being the narrator. I honestly don't think it was too formal at all, because, quite frankly, people tend to mature RAPIDLY when catastrophe strikes. I am particularly fond of how you constantly have the narrator self-pointing this and that out about sarcasm. Yes, I laughed a lot reading this especially with the part
"You may think I am taking the world ending lightly, but I am not. I have always been told my sarcasm and my smart-assed-ness was a defense mechanism."
Weaver, have you ever read anything by DearSweetAgony? Extremely formal pieces for a 13 year old.
Posted 2 Years Ago
0 of 1 people found this review constructive.
This is awesome chapter and well written. Although I do agree with some of the comment other people have made. I can see why Alexis is so formal since her parents death left her emotion numb. I hope to read more about her.
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 1 people found this review constructive.
The narrator's voice comes through strong and clear. You do a good job of showing how she tries to cope with her situation through humor.
There's a part of me that likes it when the opening to a novel is a scene, not just an overview or exposition. So you might consider picking a particularly suspenseful moment, like when the soldiers are pullling them out of their homes, and start with that--as a definite scene. The backstory can follow later.
It might be interesting to know more about who the "you" to whom the narrator refers. Is this her diary? Or is it a letter to someone?
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 1 people found this review constructive.
This sounds really interesting...I couldn't see any errors. Great job!
I am not sure if I like Alexia yet. She seems kind of stuck up.
I will read and review more soon!
Posted 2 Years Ago
Fall River, MA
Hey there all my fellow writers! All right you want to know a little about me? Hmmm...where to start? My name is Vanessa, most people call me Vanessa (a few special people call me Ness or Vannie), and.. more..
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