Chapter 1.01

My stomach hurt. Hunger is a bitch. You never adapt to that gnawing pain in your gut. You never get used to it. There was only one way to stop it, like I didn’t fucking know I needed to eat. Thanks body, you just have to make things harder.

Nausea, lightheadedness, apathy, general fatigue. Yes, reasonable products of a lack of energy. But pain, why does it have to hurt? I don’t have a choice in the matter. If I could, I’d eat.

However much hate I had for school, at least it provided me with lunch. It was better than home.

The class was coming to an end. It was a safe option. I liked safe options. Full of the geeky kids that I could cross off my mental list of threats with reasonable confidence. I didn’t really fit in here, and while not fitting into a group of misfits was quite a feat, they weren’t the kind of people to target you for it. They left me to myself.

Programming, it was all math and logic. I could do that. This course was one of the first in a string of required modules that would eventually lead to a scholarship at college to study the high-level math you needed to become a pilot.

Then I could leave this damn planet behind.

Gym class in the afternoon would be a problem. Lunch before that was also a risk, but a risk my stomach reminded me I had to take.

The bell sounded and people stood with the shrill dischord of scraping chairs.  The shuffle ensued, a byproduct of twenty people trying to get through a single door. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and trying to gather the energy stand. Given the difficulty I had with that, gym was going to really take it out of me.

As I walked out Miss Gregory looked up from her tablet.

“Nice work with that algorithm, Alexis.” Making conversation, she was always trying to talk to me. “It was an elegant solution.”

“Thanks.” It seemed like what I should say.

“Listen,” she said, “you look tired. I know you stay back after school in the lab every day. Is there anything wrong? Are you having problems at home?”

Just what I needed, someone looking too close. I put on a fake smile.

“No, I told you – I don’t have a computer at home. No internet. You know how annoying that is? Staying back means I can watch videos and do my homework…” I don’t think she could imagine not having a computer. Hell, it was pretty damn stupid. Everyone had a tablet, or a phone at least.

“Okay, but If you ever want to talk to anyone…” Yeah, right.

“Thanks, I will. I’ve got to get to lunch.” I walked out before she could say anything else to me. Step one to surviving, keep your distance. If you don’t give people opportunity, they can’t hurt you.

Being late to lunch wasn’t such a bad tactical decision. As I walked through the doors with a few stragglers, I could survey the room. Assess the threat. Okay, the main problem was the queue for food. It would mean standing in a fixed position for a long period. But, I might get some peace when I sat down on the far side of the room, at the table closest to the exit. The queue wasn’t so big. I just had to go for it.

Someone shoved me in the back, lightly muttering something in annoyance. I panicked for a moment but then realised where I was standing. Right in the main entrance. It wasn’t a targeted attack, but just someone annoyed that I was blocking the steady stream of people coming into the cafeteria.

“Sorry,” I said in the person’s general direction, as I followed the mass to the source of food.

The smell of freshly prepared food hit my nose and I basked in the fantasy of ending my weekend’s fast. I usually hated the smell of food cooking. It was usually because someone was selling it, forbidden temptation.

This though, this banquet of gluttony, it was free. Free! The school posted the ID I needed to my house. This year I managed to get to it before my mom could ‘loose it’. It was the best and, usually, only meal of my day. I don’t know why everyone else complained so much, it was warm and had actual fresh vegetables – I think the government had a law for schools to serve at least one portion of vegetable per kid.

But, while I didn’t have to pay, it did come at a cost. I kept my eyes down, a standard tactic. Step two: Avoid attention. It didn’t work. It seems to work less and less these days.

“Have you seen what she is wearing today?” Ah, the all too loud ‘please overhear me’ voice of Haley Baxter. It was followed by a ripple of giggling and a louder call directed at me, “Hey Alexis!”

The insults came from the table I’d identified as the most likely problem as soon as I walked in. I didn’t move my eyes from the floor. Don’t rise to it.

“I’m talking to you,” she said.

Ignore them.

“Are you never going to throw that piece of crap rag away? It’s like 20 years old.” Original. I didn’t give a shit, I liked my coat. Sure it was old and had a couple of stains on it, but it was warm and had cost me nothing. That’s what mattered.

“Fucking retard, I bet you took it out of someone’s garbage, you always stink of garbage.” Okay, that was cutting a bit too close to the truth, but I didn’t care. Words were no problem. Anyway, it was food time. Food took priority.

I loaded up on everything green I could. Generally I stayed away from the meats, as they didn’t seem to agree with me.

I took the pressed steel tray and scanned for a seat. Far corner, a table with a few other girls, but none I identified as much of a problem. Avoiding an obvious stuck out leg trying to trip me, I successfully got to there without incident. I sat and began stuffing my face with as much as possible as fast as possible.

“You eat so fast, but never much. You on a diet or something?” the girl opposite said. I couldn’t remember her name, but she was in one of my classes. I glanced up. She was a quiet one. I don’t think I’d heard her speak much.  Jet black hair in a bob cut, glasses, with an oriental look about her eyes. I’d probably assessed her as a non-threat years ago and not looked at her again since.

“Yeah, I’m on a diet.” Who the fuck went on diets? Anyway, I was stuffed; I’d eaten all I could manage. It seemed like loads of food to me.

“I don’t really think you need to lose weight…” she trailed off, looking away. Why was she talking? Was she trying to make friends with me?

I made a non-committal ‘hmph’ noise, figuring it’s hard to have a conversation with someone if they don’t reply to you. She continued on anyway.

“I’m Beth, we have calculus together, but you don’t really talk much do you? You’re Alexis right? That’s a nice name.” Nice… I didn’t much care for my name. Whatever it was, ‘nice’ didn’t seem suitable to describe it.

“I fucking hate my name.” I was trying to shut her up without being hostile, well, I failed at that. On both counts it seems.

“Oh, sorry.” She smiled. Why was she still talking to me? Who even smiled at that, I knew I was being a dick. “What do people call you then?”

Ok, that threw me – what was she talking about? I asked her.

“Well, if you don’t like being called Alexis what do people call you? Alex?”

“Uh… people don’t? Alexis is my name, people use that.” She looked a bit put down, and I took the opportunity to get up, put my tray on the pile, and get out before the rush.

* * *

Whoever planned Gym after lunch needed help. I was tired anyway but a full stomach made me even more lethargic. Running with a full stomach turned lethargy into pain and nausea.

At least it was athletics and not a team game. I was not good in a team. What did the teacher say were the three rules to win? Communication, Cooperation, Coordination? Something like that. I hardly spoke to anyone, was reluctant to do what anyone said and usually forgot what other people were doing half way through the game.

Not that I was any better at athletics; I got tired easily. I preferred it because I got to spend less time with the other girls in my class. Running around the track for a bit, I could manage. Not as much opportunity for them to sneak an elbow into my ribs.

I wasn’t so lucky today. As I was concentrating on gasping in as much air as I could jogging around the track, Haley managed to lap me.

The kick to the back of my knee caught me by surprise. I should have been paying more attention. The floor flew up at me as I fell in a tangle of ankle and elbow. I didn’t stick my palms out; I learned not to do that after last time my wrist hurt for a month. Instead, I angled one of my arms in front of me to roll me sideways. At best I would transfer the kinetic energy into a tumble, and at worst I would take the impact sideways to my shoulder. Still, it was better than my face.

It took the wind out of me regardless. I lay there gasping for air as my vision flashed with pinpricks of light. Being winded was not good when you were out of breath – I felt like I was going to throw up.

Haley stopped ahead of me and turned. “Oh my god, are you okay Alexis?”

She jogged back to where I was curled into the fetal position, drawing my arms in to protect my stomach, expecting the worse. The second kick came as hard as the first, catching my kidneys. She knelt down, as if to check on me, and kneeled on my back, pressing down with her weight.

“Say anything and I will fucking kill you Alexis. You know the drill.” What was creepy was that she said it in such a calm voice, almost caring.

She pulled me up, squeezing my hand too hard and jarring my arm. I was still coughing, gulping at air that just didn’t seem to get into my lungs. Jesus, two kicks and I was completely incapacitated… I was pathetic.

Mr Forzoe wandered over leisurely and asked if everything was okay. It was of course. Thank you sir. Yes, I tripped. Yes, I know I’m clumsy sir. Sorry sir. At least he let me go sit down so I could catch my breath.

I managed to sit out the rest of the class. To be honest I think Mr Forzoe forgot about me. I was happy with that.

 

Next Chapter

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36 Responses to Chapter 1.01

  1. JN says:

    Just hopped over here from clicking on your name over at your last comment over on Worm. The net-networking continues!

  2. ite a feat they weren’t the kind of people to target you for it. They left

    Needs a comma

    I walked out Mz Gregory looked up from her tablet.

    Mz

  3. h that algorithm Alexis” God I hate that name, “It was an elegant so

    Needs a comma of direct address. Two, actually. Direct address and god, i

    ed ahead of me and turned “Oh my god are you ok Alexis?”

    Commas. Dialogue and direct address

    • agreyworld says:

      Oh my, you have found one of the things I didn’t know when I started writing this… This happens a lot and I haven’t had a chance to go back and fix them yet…

    • agreyworld says:

      Ok, I’ve reworded it a bit. Am I right in thinking:

      “Hi,” said bob, “that’s an nice hat.” Is correct? (I use a comma with a tag)
      so
      “Hi.” Bob adjusted his tie. “That’s a nice hat.” Is correct (Unrelated action, so full stops!)

      That’s what I do now, from my vast knowledge gathered from the internet…

  4. You need commas (direct address and dialogue) everywhere, all over the place, and periods with the Mister and Miss abbreviations. (Mr Forzoe)

  5. flame7926 says:

    Came here from Worm, someone mentioned it for Topwebfiction voting. Its pretty good, just needs a bit of dialogue editing.

  6. SaidIToMyself says:

    Found my way here from imgur, guess it’s time to strap in and start reading.

  7. Lalilala says:

    Hey! Found this through Topwebfiction, and so far it’s looking pretty good. Besides the comma issues that other people’ve mentioned, here’s some other grammar mistakes, etc.:

    > Nausa

    Nausea.

    > Nausa, light-headedness, apathy, general fatigue, yes, a reasonable product to a lack of fucking energy.

    Run-on? Also, lightheadedness is one word, and you have more than one product. How about:
    “Nausea, lightheadedness, apathy, general fatigue. Yes, reasonable products of a lack of fucking energy.”

    > The class was coming to an end. It was a safe option.

    What was a safe option? Clarify.

    > Programming, math, I could do that. It was one of the first in a string of required modules that would eventually lead to a scholarship at college to study the high-level math you needed to become a pilot.

    Plurals. “Those were some of the first in a string of required modules …”

    > “Ok, but If you ever want to talk to anyone…”

    If you’re using “OK” instead of “okay,” both letters have to be capitalized.

    > Okay, that was cutting a bit too close to the truth, but I didn’t care.

    “OK” or “okay”? Pick one!

    • agreyworld says:

      Thanks!

      However much I go back and edit this chapter I always seem to mess up other sentences in the process

      Yeah, I’m not a good technical writer as I’m sure everyone has noticed… I’m getting better though! Bad habits are being hammered out of me slowly, though I’ll never be able to spell (homophones, I’m looking at you).

      Thanks for the typo’s/errors on the first chapter though, I usually only get stuff for the later chapters, and by that time I assume I’ve caught the readers attention and they are willing to forgive my incompetence a little :P

      • Lalilala says:

        Haha, no problem. I admit I was turned off by the typos at first, but all of your glowing reviews convinced me to keep going. :)

      • Ophi says:

        Travelled here from topwebfiction. Like what I’ve seen thus far, here to add to the typo/grammar thread! All the below are suggestions, to take or leave as you please.
        > I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and trying to gather the energy stand.
        /trying/ –> /tried/, or /and/ –> /while/. Also /energy stand/ –> /energy to stand/.
        > It wasn’t a targeted attack, but just someone annoyed that I was blocking the steady stream of people coming into the cafeteria.
        /but just/ -> /just/
        > This year I managed to get to it before my mom could ‘loose it’.
        /loose/ -> /lose/
        > I don’t know why everyone else complained so much, it was warm and had actual fresh vegetables – I think the government had a law for schools to serve at least one portion of vegetable per kid.
        /so much,/ -> /so much;/
        > “Fucking retard, I bet you took it out of someone’s garbage, you always stink of garbage.”
        /garbage, y/ –> /garbage. Y/
        > Avoiding an obvious stuck out leg trying to trip me, I successfully got to there without incident.
        /got to there/ –> /got there/
        > It was of course.
        /was of/ –> /was, of/
        The editing never ends :-)

  8. Zephy669 says:

    Pretty good start. I was under the impression that Alexis, the main character, is a bit of a loser, hates himself and hates everyone else around him, and just basically wants to be left alone. He’s a bit of an anti-hero, at least judging from this first chapter. I didn’t have much sympathy for him, but I’m sure that will change in the later chapters. The interaction with the girl regarding his name was interesting.

    • agreyworld says:

      Didn’t have much of a plan at the start (or for that matter through the whole thing). But glad you liked it! Hopefully you will enjoy the few hundred thousand words after it too.

  9. Dom Wright says:

    Another late arrival :¬) I hope you don’t mind my adding some thoughts as I go along.

    >>Thanks body, you just have to make things harder.

    Good opening, but it jumps about a bit, first person, interior monologue, second person, different tenses, and then this line just sticks out. Maybe its because its yet another second person addressee? This might be better.

    “Stupid fucking body, it just has to make things harder.”

    • agreyworld says:

      Yeah, I like internal monologue but it turns the tenses in a mess. I tried doing the italics thing, but there’s chunks with so much italics it just gets a pain.

      As a result I often get the tenses messed up.

      I’m never sure if they should be present tense or past tense. I think, without italics, all the internal dialog should also be past tense – but I don’t think I’ve followed that well at all :S

  10. Dom Wright says:

    Nausea, lightheadedness, apathy, general fatigue. Yes, reasonable products of a lack of energy. But pain, why does it have to hurt? I don’t have a choice in the matter. If I could, I’d eat.

    This has been gone over already I know, but still doesn’t feel right. My take on it:

    Nausea, lightheadedness, apathy, general fatigue – this is all understandable if you don’t eat. But pain? Why does it have to hurt? I don’t have a choice in the matter. If I could, I’d eat.

  11. Dom Wright says:

    >>> to become a pilot.

    More of question, but what kind of pilot? Commercial, military? what kind of ships? If this is Alex’s dream, it would be loaded with details, and it would be a good opportunity to drip feed some world building.

  12. Dom Wright says:

    >>damn planet

    after all the fucking this seems a bit middle aged :¬) I’d take the opportunity to drop in something more colourful, and give some clues about the state of the world, f’rinstance

    Then I could leave this fucked-up shit ball planet behind.

  13. Dom Wright says:

    As I walked out Miss Gregory looked up from her tablet.

    For what its worth I like the Mz you removed. But also, tablet seems a bit mundane

  14. Dom Wright says:

    But, I might get some peace

    No need for the comma?

  15. Dom Wright says:

    It was usually because someone was selling it, forbidden temptation.

    i would at least start a new sentence when slipping into interior monologue. So:

    It was usually because someone was selling it. Forbidden temptation.

  16. Dom Wright says:

    It was the best and, usually, only meal of my day.

    think this needs rejigging:

    It was the best and, usually, the only meal of my day.

    It was the best, and usually only, meal of my day.

  17. Dom Wright says:

    >>it was warm and had actual fresh vegetables – I think the government had a law for schools to serve at least one portion of vegetable per kid.

    rejigged a bit for flow, and student would be better than kid in this context
    it was warm and contained real vegetables – I think the government had a law that schools had to serve students at least one portion of fresh vegetables a day.

  18. Dom Wright says:

    >>Step two: Avoid attention. It didn’t work. It seems to work less and less these days.

    Ha, I wondered at Step one if there would be a step two. But there’s a bit of gap, its easy to lose the connection. I would try and start a new para with each step, and rearrange if necessary.

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