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.
" I know sounds (this) pretty minor compared to what I am dealing with" "(a(A)gain(,) pardon my crassness)"
I have a feeling all the things you have written in parenthesis should be written as sentences rather than fragments. Maybe.
A good chapter. I have only read Chapter Two and I was super confused. But it's well written and those are the only mistakes that I found. Good job!
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 10 people found this review constructive.
I'm going to be honest..... I LOVED IT.
Not just the future setting and the storyline, but mainly the way it is written, all sarcastically humorous and yet serious at the same time. Your style is awesome!!
Now I think we HAVE to collaborate on something. Please message me soon, and let me know.
I didn't find any errors worth mentioning, but don't worry about that right now anyway. There's always plenty of time to revise later, after the rough draft is complete.
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Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 10 people found this review constructive.
I like how this draws your readers in Vanessa. I think you should allow your readers the chance to fill in the blanks thought by not having so much explaination...allow them to find their own conclusions.
Otherwise, I think the writing is energetic and entertaining....and you have obviuously spent a lot of time on this plot so go with it!
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 2 people found this review constructive.
This is my first reading of the story, so I don't know what it was like before. I really like end of the world stories. Your killer flu idea isn't so farfetched, considering all the germ warfare different governments are working on. Someone might actually engineer a superbug that only affects people over a certain age. It's truly scary if you think about it. You lost me a little bit toward the end of this chapter, though. Except for the part about the dream, it just seemed a bit wordy and like you were talking about the same thing over and over. Overall, great story!
Posted 2 Years Ago
2 of 3 people found this review constructive.
Truth? I think I liked it better before some of the changes you've made. It's like you've gone through and are trying too hard to add witticisms to it. Yes, they are witty, but there are a few too many and some feel forced or contrived. I think the 17-year-old voice you had before was better. Hope that's not too disappointing...but it's only one man's opinion.
Here are a few line-by-line things...
LOL! I think you took my "that" speech a little too seriously! "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." You took out the wrong "that"! You need a "that" in "I know that sounds..." and you need to take out the one at the end, "...there are a few facts I am sure of."
"I lived in my ancestral home, The Montgomery Manor in Easton, Massachusetts all my life up until recently." Commas after Massachusetts and life.
"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." I think since you are listing multiple symptoms, it should be "There WERE blood..."
"Every time I visualize their faces as they lay dying together..." Lay means to set, lie means to recline. I think you mean lie instead of lay.
"As you can guess the world has ended and I am not sure if I will survive, but I have to." Comma after guess.
"The town I have grown up in is now a mess..." I think it flows better without the "have grown"... "The town I grew up in is now a mess..."
"I looked to my two brothers, but all I saw was glazed over eyes and utter hopelessness on their faces." Again, since there are multiple items listed, I think this should be "...all I saw WERE..."
"Truthfully, my smart-a*s ways is the only thing keeping me going and from completely falling apart." ...ways ARE...
"I am writing this all down so that I can try to keep up morale and my sanity..." This is an example of an unnecessary "that". "I am writing this all down so I can try..." Isn't that smoother?
"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." This paragraph is really convoluted and repetitive. You could cut it in third and still say everything you want to. Here is my suggested edit...
"I am writing this all down so I can try to keep up morale and my sanity, since I really have no one else to pour my heart out to. It isn't easy, in fact, every breath I take is excruciating and I think, why should I take another breath when everything I know and love is gone? Every time these questions pop into my head, I remember the promise I made my dad and the proud and loving way he looked back at me. Because of him, I will keep trying."
"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." Here's an example of the unnecessary "had" and "have" rule. How's this instead..."Two weeks ago, the dreams that haunted me all my life came more frequently with more intensity than I thought a dream could have." Smoother? I think so.
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 11 people found this review constructive.
I love reading this book. It's my new addiction. The revisions to it make it better and clearer.
Can't wait to read the next chapter :D
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 3 people found this review constructive.
A amazing prologue. You told the story like it was real and fact. I like the main character. Direct and honest. The story is being written with a honest and direct pen. You have my attention. No weakness in this prologue. Just a powerful beginning and description. A outstanding beginning.
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 12 people found this review constructive.
I think the "superflu virus" novel has already been written by Stephen King entitled The Stand. I think anything else with the flu and end of the world contained in it will be held up to comparison with The Stand; never mind that his virus isn't REALLY the "flu" but everyone thinks it is. As for a title...how about...The Strain; since every new type of flu is referred to as a strain of virus...and you could actually play off of the popularity of The Stand by the similarity.
Posted 2 Years Ago
2 of 4 people found this review constructive.
This is a great start, Vanessa! You've captured your readers' attention and made them hunger for the story. You've painted the right picture and you've written in a style that is believable for the character you are creating. Well done!
Here are a few suggestions...
One thing you need to watch is your tenses. You've flipped back and forth between past and present tense a lot, sometimes in the same sentence. Make sure that you are being consistent throughout.
You use "Fact is" a lot...I know what you are trying to do with it. Sometimes, repetition works well in a story, sometimes not. This one isn't working for me and I'm finding it terribly distracting, but that's just one man's opinion. If you keep them, they need a comma after.
"...but there are a few facts that I am sure of. One of these facts that I am quite sure of is my name..." You don't need to use "facts I'm sure of" again...it really messes up the flow. Just go with "One of these is my name." The reader already knows what "one of these" means.
"You might think I said that relatively indifferently and heartlessly; however..." When you use a semicolon, you don't need the "however" or an "and" or any other word to connect the two sections. The semicolon has already done that. You do this a couple of times here.
"and wait for it"more blood." The stupid WC server converts dashes to ". It will stay though if you go back in to edit and change it to a dash.
"...because the cold, hard truth is exactly that"cold and hard to bear." Dash again.
"I am writing this all down so that I can try to keep up morale (or at least try to)" You've already said "try to", so I would get rid of the parenthesis.
Here's one final tip for you...the word "that" is most the time unnecessary. You use it a lot when you don't need to. I remember when someone pointed this out to me a few weeks ago and it changed my life! Here's an example of what I mean...
"I had no worries, except if I would pass the end of the year exams, so that I could advance to senior year." Take out the "that" and it's..."I had no worries, except if I would pass the end of the year exams, so I could advance to senior year." See how much smoother that is?
Here's another..."Fact is I truly hope that this is not an ending..." Without the "that": "Fact is, I truly hope this is not an ending..." See? If you go through and delete all the "that"s that aren't essential, you'll be shocked at how much better your writing will be. Same thing with the word "had". It isn't necessary a lot either. I didn't really notice you using the unnecessary "had"s though, not like you do "that".
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 10 people found this review constructive.
I am enjoying this as much as the beginning of a King or Koontz novel.......on to the next chapter.......excellent!
Posted 2 Years Ago
1 of 5 people found this review constructive.
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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