From the Failed Novels of my Youth Archive

Monday, September 10, 2012

Because I love all you internet people dearly, and enjoy cringing at the writing of my youth very much, I have dug up for your entertainment the beginning of a novel I wrote in 2008. When I was fourteen. (Only a year before I wrote Girl Saves Boy, but I did a lot of writing in that year. So this is not very good!)

Here we have, in it's original un-edited glory, the start of a weird dystopic sci-fi novel with multiple narrators (one of whom is an escaped government weapon with a very strange name... I so love very strange character names). It is super dramatic! But entertaining in how bad it is. I hope?

It features:
- multiple viewpoints (differentiated by their respective formatting and nothing else!)
- a very vague war-like thing going on!
- a very suspicious underground facility!
- some kind of cyborg character!
- nothing that is fully thought-out!
- a superbly lame title. You'll love it. 


The Experimentals

Part One – The Underground
The lights in the hall flickered, the fluorescent light illuminating the cold grey room so it was brighter than day. It was sharp enough to give you a headache, and that was the lighting alone.
Mae’s eyes were dead. The rest of her was alive, only just, but her eyes were dead. I was looking into them and there was nothing there.
She glanced away, as if I’d seen her secrets in those hollow, empty eyes.
Her hair was grey and pulled back in a severe bun, but her face didn’t look any older than forty. Her teeth were slightly yellowed, and there was no happiness left in her smile.
I wondered how long she’d been here. How long it had taken for her eyes to die.
I don’t think she looked like that before.
I brushed my stiff uniform with my hands, trying to iron out non-existent wrinkles. The blue and white striped material simply bounced back in place. It was a formless dress that fell past my knees.
A man brushed past Mae and I in the hall, eyes glued to the clipboard he was holding, barely noticing what surrounded him.
I didn’t get to see his eyes, but I could tell from the way he walked he felt there was little left of value in his life, just as with everyone else.
The skin between Mae’s eyebrows puckered, as if she was thinking. I wished I could reach over and smooth it away, but I knew it would be an entirely odd thing to do and I wanted to make a good impression on Mae-with-the-dead-eyes.
Her forehead relaxed and she plastered a smile to her face, nodding to me, “Shall I show you around?”
I wondered how long it would take for my eyes to die. I’d already lost the ability to genuinely smile.
I nodded crisply back.
“You’ll be handling Ward B Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday,” the smile on her face slipped a little as we walked, as if it required too much concentration, “Wednesday, Friday and Sunday are your off duty days.”
A headache was already forming at the back of my head, like a fist grasping my hair and tugging it backwards. I longed for natural light, but we were fifteen metres beneath the ground and not going up anytime soon.
“Are we allowed to go upstairs then?” I asked.
Mae appeared a little apprehensive. After a pause, in which we stopped walking and paused outside a door to one of the rooms, she shook her head, and I almost sensed sadness emanating from her, “No. We’ll get to where you’ll be staying later. We all have to stay there when we aren’t on duty. It’s quite nice,” she smiled a little bitterly at this point, “compared to this.”
She glanced away, and I wondered what she was thinking. Maybe she’d lost family too. Or they’d lost her.
Then she refocussed, glancing at me and then towards the door we were stationed outside with a slight nod.
“Are we going in?” I asked.
She shook her head again, “Just look through the window.”
I glanced through the small window high in the door, having to stretch onto my tiptoes to be able to see in.
Inside, a nurse was conducting what appeared to be a physical examination on a naked girl who appeared about twelve. Her eyes were small and darted around uneasily.
She didn’t see me, and I felt vaguely voyeuristic, looking in like that.
I glanced toward Mae with a question in my eyes.
“Cavity search,” she answered simply, “Drugs, weapons, those types of things. After this she’ll have medical examination. Once we made the mistake of doing the med exam before the cavity search and Doctor Shepard ended up with a needle in his arm.” She chuckled slightly, gazing up at the grey tiled ceiling as if she were remembering. Then her eyes flashed to me and she patted me gently on the shoulder, “Don’t look so scared. Dr Shepard survived. And you won’t be doing these. Your job is mostly sedating, feeding, and assisting in showering and activities, you know, basic stuff.”
“Are these people…” I began, “Are they…?”
“The kids and teenagers here are here because we can’t have them out on the streets,” she answered my half spoken question, “Most of them have lost all their relatives and are mentally unstable, some can’t look after themselves or are at risk of hurting others. Our job is to keep them here and keep them alive until this all ends.”
I noticed she couldn’t bring herself to say ‘war’. A year had passed since the whole thing had begun and people were still coming to terms.
I guess it’s easier to ignore if you lived underground.
Suddenly I was torn from my train of thought as a sudden high-pitched scream ripped through the hall, the sound bouncing off the walls with nothing to absorb it.
It was a sharp, almost tortured shriek, and it made me shiver.
Almost in unison, Mae and I both turned our head towards the source of the noise – a girl ten metres down the hall.
She was wearing the ordinary garb of every patient here at Tranquillity, baggy white track pants and t-shirts made of flimsy material with the tranquillity symbol embossed on it as you would have your school emblem on a uniform.
The symbol was a waterfall, a miniature replica of the one in the reception area. As I got further and further into Tranquillity, I discovered more and more how much of a farce this symbol was. Meant to represent what its name suggested, this place was far from tranquil.
The girl was different to other patients I had seen. While the rest were gaunt-faced, with shapeless bodies, lank hair and a ghostly pallor, this girl appeared, dare I say it, healthy.
Her cheeks were flushed pink, her complexion, whilst pale, was of a healthy tone, unlike the other vitamin D deprived youths that filled this building. Her body was a far cry from that of the other patients. She filled out her white t-shirt and pants with curves that were becoming rarer and rarer to see since the fall-out, food shortages and complete power-out. Now that people could no longer microwave their meals and sit in front of the TV all evening, they were at a loss of what to eat and where to get it, not to mention how to avoid getting shot at.
That was part of the reason I came here, only part mind you, so that I would have guaranteed food. I got sick of living on baked beans in my basement.
These thoughts, of her Size 12 figure, bouncy brown curls that fell to her shoulders and shimmered with every movement, and healthy skin tone, came second to my observance of what was going on.
What she did filled me with genuine fear.
She’d exploded out of the door of what I presumed was her room, and a nurse of short stature who I hadn’t yet seen stepped towards her, cooing to calm her but conversely brandishing a needle with the intent of sedating her. The girl flung the back of her hand towards the nurse, striking her face and sending her across the hall. That happens in the course of a few seconds and whilst I stood there dumbly observing the situation (the girl growling madly and looking around like a tetchy dog, the nurse wavering in and out of consciousness, slumped against the opposite wall), Mae sprung into action.
“Ash,” she barked to a taller male nurse, who was coming out of a small office across the way, “Help me. Deanna, help Lola.”
Deanna nodded crisply and walked slowly and precisely towards Lola, not making eye contact with the girl.
The girl cast me a glance, looking directly into my eyes and I noticed hers weren’t dead.
But I wasn’t quite sure whether they were alive.
Then she ran.
But Mae and Ash were already upon her, stabbing her arm with a needle when she was pinned to the ground. She slumped over, falling unconscious.
Mae stood and breathed out heavily. She nodded for Ash and another nurse to take the girl back to her room. They struggled a little. She looked heavy.
Deanna helped Lola to her feet. Mae glanced to me and gestured I come over. I noticed as I walked towards them I was shaking.
I arrived at Mae’s side just as she was beginning to lecture Lola.
“That’s not to happen again, Lola,” she said, her voice blunt. She pursed her lips and stared Lola down.
“It won’t,” Lola shook her head vehemently. I observed she was still shaking a little.
“Take her back to her room, Deanna, after she gets checked out by Doctor Cherry,” sighed Mae, then turning to Lola, “Lola, I’m going to move you down to Ward D for a few days. I’ll speak with Yolanda first, but head down there tomorrow morning.”
Lola nodded again and Deanna helped her away. Lola was shaking violently.
I stared after them, before turning back to Mae, “Who was that girl?” I asked.
She knew who I was talking about. “Emo Nightfire,” she sighed, glancing at the door she’d disappeared back through as Ash and the other nurse came out, and returned to what they were doing before.
“That’s a weird name,” I observed.
Without looking at me, Mae said, “She’s a weird girl.”

The nurse placed my tray on the side table and after brushing her hair out of her eyes and behind her ears; she wound them together behind her back.
She was a different nurse, probably new judging by the light left in her eyes. She was small, but probably a reasonable height for her age, which didn’t appear to be much older than me. Her hair was dark blonde, and cut just below her ears. It was longer on the left side, and I liked that.
What I liked most about her was the way she didn’t sneer down at me, her upper lip twitching back in disgust, eyes squinting along her nose, which crinkled as if she’d smelt a bad stench emanating from my soul.
No. She smiled courteously, and I could see she was probably here for the same reason I was, but under different circumstances. It makes a difference what side you’re on outside, because it’s the same in here.
But I’m never really sure who’s good and who’s bad, and in my spare time (which is quite a lot of it) I like to think it through, but never really get any closer to an answer.
I like to think I’m not bad, but the way they’re keeping me locked up like this, I sometimes doubt it.
“Hello,” I smiled, and propped myself up on my bed. I had a small room, barely two metres long and three metres wide, but that meant I got it to myself. I used to be in with a boy called Liam when I was under suicide watch, but that got tiring pretty quick, waiting to see whether he’d strangled himself every time I got back from dining hall or showering or the awful evening activities they make us do.
“Good evening,” she replied. I offered my hand for her to shake and it remained behind her back, not in unwillingness to shake my hand, but merely out of being unsure.
“You’re allowed to touch me,” I replied, smiling slightly as I swung my legs over the side of my bed, “If you weren’t they’d have a glass wall in here. Those rooms are actually cushier, come to think of it.”
The edges of her lips rose vaguely in an uncertain smile before grasping my hand and shaking it.
“I’m Alex,” I said. She let go of my hand (her fingers were soft) and dropped it back to her side, where it swung aimlessly.
She stood silently as I picked up my small cup of pills (a rainbow cocktail of drugs I didn’t really need, but it was better than needles) and said, “Cheers,” tipping them back and swallowing in one gulp.
“You’re allowed to tell me your name…” I paused and glanced at her ID tag, “Storm.” I chuckled.
“That’s me,” she smiled again, but her uncertainty still held her back from smiling genuinely. Then again, she might have already lost that. Her smile, displaced, missing, never to resurface again like that bomber jacket I had which never showed up in the lost and found. She shuffled backwards, and I felt vaguely sad at the thought of her leaving. It was nice to have someone in my room apart from me.
She wasn’t leaving, instead perching herself on the edge of the stiff chair in the corner of my room, painted an undulating white to match my bed and side table. The floor was a dull grey carpet, a shade darker than the cool concrete walls.
I tore the weak plastic cover from my plastic knife and fork with my teeth -yet another preventative measure to stop us hurting ourselves or someone else.
I know people in here who could easily kill someone with a plastic fork, but they keep her under such heavy sedation she can never do much damage.
“Am I under suicide watch again?” I asked through a mouthful of mush. I believed it was a mix of potatoes, water and protein powder. It wasn’t much to taste, but not eating it is worse, especially if someone notices.
Storm’s eyes appeared alarmed, and she glanced down at the clipboard she held. She shook her head, “Just says to watch you eat and check you room for sharp objects… Doctor’s check-up next week…”
I laughed again, and she glanced up at me, eyes confused. I scooped up another mouthful of mush and pointed my knife at her, “You aren’t meant to tell me what that says.”
“Oh,” she said, and her eyes downcast.
I swallowed, “It’s okay,” I smiled, “I won’t tell anyone.” I made a motion of zipping my lips.
She almost laughed, but she caught herself before a noise came out of her mouth. Instead, she asked, “Why are you in here?”
“I’m sorry?” I knitted my brows together in puzzlement.
“Did you kill someone?” she asked, and her eyes were honest. She really meant what she was asking. I noticed she leant towards me and I liked that.
“Do you know how many people are in this ward, Storm?” I asked.
“Fifty?” she asked back, not sure where this is going.
“About,” I answered, waving my spork to illustrate, “In the entire ward there are around sixty people. This is one of the smaller wards. If you put every patient in this facility together, you’d have about five hundred kids.”
“Really?” she asked, using her words genuinely, rather than as sound filler.
I nodded, before going on, “I’d say only about three of those have killed someone, and I’m not one of them.”
She digested this and then asked, “Why are you here then, if you haven’t done anything wrong?”
“Why are you here?” I asked back immediately, almost as a reflex.
She fell silent, and I answered for the both of us.
“This is a war, Storm,” I said, quietly, “We’re both prisoners. Wars kind of obliterate reasons for things.”
She glanced up, and I could see tears welling in her eyes that she refused to let spill over and I wondered why they were there.
“Goodbye Alex,” she smiled, crisp, courteous demeanour returning as she stooped to pick up my empty tray.
“Call me A.J.,” I answered.
She left my room, the door locking automatically behind her.
I liked Storm. Maybe if this whole thing hadn’t have happened, I wouldn’t be three stories beneath the ground in a mental hospital that refuses to be called that, and would instead be at high school. If I met Storm there, I might have even dared to have a crush on her, with her lopsided blonde bob and eyes with light in them, still.
I fell into a drug-induced sleep.

My prison break wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped. Of course it would fail, I lamented myself later, you were still half sedated.
If I wasn’t half sedated Lola would probably be dead, instead demoted to Ward D. Ward D wasn’t so bad, I suppose. They were going to keep me down there, until I jabbed Doctor Shepard. Damn, they got mad. They should’ve been happy. I could’ve killed him. I wasn’t sedated then. But I didn’t. I like Doc Shepard. He’s very good-humoured, even after you make a weak attempt on his life.
My room isn’t like most of the others. For a start, there’s a one-sided window against one of the walls. Windows don’t belong in this building. We are underground after all. My door doesn’t have the standard window in it, because they’re afraid I’ll break it.
It isn’t as if they tell me these things. I can hear them on the other side of the window sometimes. A normal person wouldn’t be able to, but I can.
If we were above ground, I’d be able to bust a window and get out. Here, there’s nowhere to go. This building is effectively a giant coffin with air-conditioning.
It isn’t just the constant sedation and crappy food that gets to me. There’s so little space in here. I long to be able to have command of my senses, be outside, and leap and jump and scream all I like. I want freedom, and I’m choking in this hole in the ground.
There’s nothing to do here. Breathe and eat. I don’t need to sleep, and I can’t. It’s a marker of what I am. A hybrid of human and something else. Something better. Something with power and without weakness.
A victim of people playing god.
You know what, you could even say I was the messiah - if there weren’t more people like me. 


Please comment with tales of failed novels from your youth / melodramatic stories you wrote! (I would love an excerpt. That would make my day.)
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