Chapter 1.04

The city used to be one of the major transport and shipping hubs of the state thanks to what was a revolutionary spaceport.

When a much more efficient method of launching ships was developed the spaceport wasn’t so revolutionary. It struggled for a decade after the new facilities in Toronto opened.

If the port had been allowed to fail the city would have been so much better off. Being 300 miles away from the new space hub for the whole of North America gives a lot of opportunity. Instead of focusing investments on the industry that would flourish the Mayor piled it into shoring up the unsustainable spaceport that was haemorrhaging money. After 10 years the port went bankrupt and closed. Montreal was left with a lot of debt and it wasn’t in a good position to recover.

The result was that overnight the centre of the city lost its major employer. It fell into decay. The outskirts had begun to recover with tourism as a driving industry.

In practical terms it formed an unconventional ‘ring’ city, the central Laval Island had been the industrial hub, high population density and little else in the way of businesses. The area had become slum-like and taken over by a number of gangs as criminals settled into the too-common theme of profiteering from people’s misery and hardship.

Surrounding it were what Beth referred to as Downtown. It was what you would normally expect Downtown at any mid-sized city: restaurants, cinemas, and shops. In reality they were mostly grouped round three malls. We had gone North of the Island to Highgate in Saint Therese. Springfield was to the west at Vaudreuil Dorion and the Alameda to the South on Montreal Island. The suburbs reached out from the ring like any other city’s centre and that’s where the more affluent lived.

As the car travelled further out from the city the flats became houses, the houses got gardens and the gardens got bigger.

We ended up on a clean street with rows of simple, identical looking detached homes that seemed kind of new. They each had a garden, a garage and a stretch of drive to park another car on. Beth’s mom pulled into one and turned off the engine.

I followed them into the house and Beth led me to her room. Everything was so clean; it made me ashamed of my flat.

Her room was tidy, she had a wardrobe and draws for her clothes – I just shoved mine in a pile for clean-ish and a pile for dirty. She had little trinkets by her bed and photos in frames.

She had a bed. I’d always slept on a sofa.

It was far too warm so I took my jumper off. I was still too hot so I took my t-shirt off leaving just a vest-top. They must have central heating.

I hope she never asked to come stay at my house. Even if I could keep her away from my mom, I had no illusions that she would like me if she knew where I lived.

We sat on the bed and Beth switched on the TV in the corner. There was some crime drama on and we half watched it half watched each other. It was a little awkward. After a while though I relaxed, watching TV was kind of novel for me.

* * *

I must have drifted off because I woke with my head on Beth’s shoulder as her Mom opened the door and said something to her.

“Mom, don’t just barge in here, why don’t you ever knock?” She gently let my head down onto the bed as she got up – I didn’t feel much like moving so I kept my eyes closed. Beth followed her mom outside. I could still ear them through the door.

“Is she asleep? How long has she been like that?” her Mom asked.

“An hour or so.” Had it really been that long?

“Is she ok? She seems a little… Do you think she should go home?” Her mom sounded worried.

“I don’t think home is a good place for her, Mom.”

“Oh… What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I just get the impression it’s not good.” She said. “Anyway I’d like to see her eat something at least, she hardly eats anything at school, have you seen how thin she looks?”

“I know, I had noticed. Ok, I’ll trust you. If she wants to go tell me though, I can give her a lift anytime.”

It was a few minutes before Beth came back in she’d probably gone to the toilet or something. I sat up. It had gotten dark while I’d been asleep.

“Hey, I’m sorry for falling asleep.” I said, “I don’t want to be any trouble.” I didn’t want her to know I’d overheard her talking to her mom.

“Don’t worry about it I don’t mind it’s not like we were doing anything.” She stood by the door. “Do you want to come down for dinner?”

“Ok.” I was kind of hungry. My last meal was at school and I hadn’t had all that much. I stood, stretched my arms and followed her downstairs.

The kitchen seemed small, but I didn’t really have anything to compare it to. The smell was amazing. I wondered what it was, I hoped they hadn’t made anything especially for me coming over I didn’t want to be any trouble. Beth’s mom, Kim, had already paid 60 dollars for me to see a film I didn’t want to impose any more.

What could I say though?

I sat at the small table with Beth as her mom served up some rice in a bowl and then poured what looked like a pale green curry on top.

“What is it?” I said, letting my curiosity overtake my manners.

“Thai green curry, moms half Thai. Gran used to make it didn’t she Mom?” Beth said.

“Yep, it’s a family recipe. We make the curry sauce every month and freeze it, this is the last batch. It’s really easy to whip up a meal when you have half of it already made.” She said. “Go ahead, try it!”

I did. It tasted as good as the amazing smell. She sat down opposite us and we all demolished our servings.

I was starving and it was so nice so I ate as much as I possibly could. I got far too full to eat any more long before I finished the bowl though, and long before Beth or her Mom put down their forks.

“Are you not going to eat any more?” She asked, I think she was a bit hurt.

“Oh, I’d love to but I’m really full. If I eat anymore I always get ill…” I was a bit self-conscious about my eating. I’d gotten used to a single meal a day if I dared go to lunch at school. The worry of school tended to ruin my appetite anyway. At weekends I had nothing but the odd can of soup I could steal from the corner shop. When food was available my stomach just wasn’t big enough to hold much.

“You can take some home with you if you want? Can’t she Mom.” Beth said the last bit quite firmly and gave her mom a stern look.

“Of course.”  Her mom matched her tone and the look. She stood up. “I’ll get you something to put it in. We can’t keep it because it’s already been frozen once. You might as well take it home with you. I’ll put it in the fridge.”

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20 Responses to Chapter 1.04

  1. anonymus says:

    look stern look

  2. Bobby says:

    …Did Canada fuse with the U.S. in the future? Or did Canada rename its provinces into states?

    In other news: oh my gosh they’re in Montreal? That is so friggin’ awesome!

    Saint Therese -> Sainte-Therese
    (Am I allowed to be pedantically francophone? If yes: Sainte-Thérèse.)

    I also wanted mention that I love that you ramped up the prices to account for inflation and show that it’s in the future.

    • agreyworld says:

      The US borders have been pushed north at some point yes! As a result a lot of French has been pushed out of a lot of what was Canadian territory, so expect some place names to change slightly.

      Accents on letters became so annoying for people to type in the future they were dropped :P

      Truth: I thought it would be cool having the US expand into Canada when I was looking for a place to set it – I picked Montreal on a whim and completely forgot it has a 70 something percent French speakers!

      Also, I kind of hope no one reads this that has actually been there – because no doubt everything will be all wrong lol

      • Bobby says:

        “As a result a lot of French has been pushed out of a lot of what was Canadian territory”
        Nooo! It’s the Anglos, always out to get us! :P

        “Also, I kind of hope no one reads this that has actually been there – because no doubt everything will be all wrong lol”
        Haha. Well it is somewhat weird that “Canada’s Cultural Capital”, a city with a wide range of activities, would become so intensely focused on a single industry. This isn’t Detroit. But, eh. It’s the future and stuff. I’m sure things happened.

        Although obviously, the most important question is: did the video-game industry survive the economic crash? Seriously, there’s a bunch of cool stuff like the Assassin’s Creed series that comes from Montreal. You can’t ruin this! You just can’t!

        Fun fact: Montreal is supposedly the fourth largest center for aerospace jobs in North America (according to wikipedia, at least), and the headquarters of the Canadian Space Agency are there. I’m not sure if you knew that, but it’s neat, considering the background you came up with.

      • agreyworld says:

        Yeah, I knew it was a big cultural city – makes it all the more fun making it awful. Incidentally I knew Canada had a big games industry (my brother works with a team in Toronto from here in the UK in the industry) but not specifically Montreal.

        Also, I didn’t actually know it had the headquarters of the CSA, though I did know it had a big airsopace industry, so that is only half a happy coincidence lol

        I was thinking about changing the city to somewhere imaginary because I don’t *really* know much about Montreal… but for the moment I”m still using the Its-in-the-future card.

        Thanks for reading anyway!

      • Syphon says:

        How much of the border? Because something like 75% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border.

  3. After a while though I relaxed, watching TV was kind of

    Not sure what was going on in this sentence grammar-wise

  4. “I don’t think home is a good place for her Mom”

    Period and comma

  5. AlsoSprachOdin says:

    “expect Downtown”
    expect of (the?) Downtown

    “mid-sized city, restaurants cinemas and shops”
    suggest: mid-sized city: restaurants, cinemas and shops

  6. haton says:

    Under normal circumstances I don’t believe your stomach will shrink on one large meal a day. If she isn’t getting any other food she could and would eat one really large lunch.

    She’s also strangely cavalier about food considering she’s literally starving. I would expect a much more possessive and focussed attention to where her next meal is coming from.

    If you want to bother you could simply make it that Beth notices that she always guzzles down her whole (limited) lunch at school, but is still stick thin.

    Decent characterization on the whole, with hints of the larger setting. Not much to get our teeth into yet though. I’m not a big fan of the passivity to the bully problem. Didn’t like it in Worm, don’t like it here. That’s at least partly personal preference of course, but in general I want protagonists to be proactive about their problems. So her bullies have become violent: she should find a solution, not just duck her head and ignore it. Hopefully that is exactly what is about to happen.

    • agreyworld says:

      Thanks for the feedback on the early chapters. I’ll take a look at the foot stuff. My thinking was she doesn’t eat much even though, rationally, she should stuff herself silly. I think you’re right about the stomach thing. Maybe I should introduce some psychological reason. hmm. People can have very strange psychological relationships with food. (There are also some potential physiological reasons…)

      “Not much to get our teeth into yet though.”

      I agree completely with this. I think it’s the biggest flaws to my start. I’d love to do some re-writing but it would be difficult without major changes. Even if I started from scratch I’m not sure what I’d make as a starting point… I like building her character before she goes all badass on people, but it leaves a void in terms of action and focuses quite heavily on the bullying side of things, which isn’t such a big factor later on.

      RE bullying: A lot of people don’t seem to like the passivity to bullying. You’re not supposed to like it :P (Joke) But yeah, I know what you mean and I understand why people feel that way: It shows a weak character. Later on she shows that she *should* be strong, but is still passive to bullies (not wanting to spoil anything). But you know, character development. But… weaknesses are there to be overcome. It takes a while (no where near as long as Worm in that particular respect), but it’s not static. No spoilers, honest.

      I’ve not seen many people *sort* out their bullying. I’ve saw it, and lived through it, a lot when I was growing up and passivity is by far the most common response. That’s often how bullies pick victims. People put up with it for years, and a disturbing amount of people go so far as to take their own lives rather than confront the problem. The character I’m writing is pretty… damaged, and I think it fits her.

      I’m unsure how you will find the rest of the story… Please leave a comment on how you find it further on :)

  7. farmerbob1 says:

    haemorrhaging money
    draws for her clothes
    “The smell was amazing. I wondered what it was, I hoped they hadn’t made anything especially for me coming over I didn’t want to be any trouble.”

    Commas are not my strongest point but I think you need one here “over, I”

    Also, you have four complete thoughts/sentences in there, and it seems a lot less smooth flowing than most of the rest of what I’m reading – “especially for me coming over” made me stumble a bit reading over it

  8. farmerbob1 says:

    Hahaha there’s quite a few more. And tomorrow is a non-writing day so there will be more after I get home from work and take a look at my own writing from yesterday.

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