Chapter 2.01

Book 2! Book one was a whole 68,000 words and turned out pretty well considering I didn’t have a clue what what going to happen when I started back in February and had never written anything before…

I’m going to compile it into an eBook for download at some point.

Thanks for the support! On to book two:

My life was unrecognisable from what it had been two months ago.

You could say I’d had awful luck, that the things that had happened to me were terrible. I didn’t think that was true.

Sure, I came out with a couple of scars. I’d done some awful things. But I felt more alive than I ever had before. Maybe coming so close to death helps clarify things. Provided you can live with the nightmares.

Maybe it was just because I’d made a friend, a bond with a real person. Someone cared about me. But then it may well be so simple as having a string of decent meals and being fitter than I’d ever been before.

Mike successfully warding off Haley Baxter was a relief, though I’d kind of replaced her with a gang of bloodthirsty drug dealers. You win some you lose some. Personally I feared the Kolmek less. Psychology is strange.

It left one thing, something I could resolve easily. Something that had defined my life, that I’ve only just realised doesn’t need to.

The solution was simple.

I opened the door slowly. Twenty degrees, anymore and there would be that screaming creak. I had difficulty fitting through the gap, I hadn’t just put on bulk with my exercising and copious amounts of food intake – I’d actually grown upwards. Yeah, I was still on a par with a twelve year old in height but it was an improvement. I’d take what I could.

I wish I could have given time to acclimatise my eyes to the dark, I thought the hallways were bad but the room was in near total blackout.

It was oppressive, coming from a light clean flat back to this… hovel. The room wasn’t that much smaller than Mz Gregory’s place but the walls pressed inwards. It was the gloom, the dirt that had penetrated the plaster, the stubborn mould. It stank without me to clean up after mom.

It leeched into your consciousness, the pessimism and bitterness. I was a captive of these walls. But nothing held me here anymore. I could free myself.

To my relief the room was empty. I grabbed a few black garbage sacks and started to pile my blankets in one from the corner they had been carelessly kicked into. I didn’t have much in the way of possessions but I’d spent a long time getting my clothes, saving up for the thrift stores or, shamefully, stealing them from washing lines and other people’s trash. It was amazing what people would throw out, I had a lot to thank shifting fashions for.

I grabbed the couple of tins I’d managed to squirrel away behind the skirting board along with my savings. A whole eighty six dollars, which was quite a good amount compared to normal. I had been ‘borrowing’ stuff from Beth and Mz Gregory, taking home school dinners. It adds up.

I still wasn’t sure if anyone was watching the place, so I wanted to get in and out fast.

Gathering my meagre possessions hadn’t taken long. Could I just leave like that? She was just in the next room, should I say goodbye? I didn’t think leaving a note would be enough – and she probably wouldn’t even read it. Would she wonder why I had left? Would she even notice?

Feeling obliged, I pushed the door to the bedroom open a crack. The smell that hit me nearly made me gag, I’m gone for a week and she ends up in this state? Maybe I should stay…

No. It wasn’t safe.

I slipped inside. By now I could make out shapes in dim light, pieces of battered furniture we owned, including the bed. There was a figure huddled in the centre. A quiet wheezing of breath was the only thing that gave any indication that it was living. She might as well be a corpse; our relationship was at its best when she was in this state.

I sat beside her. I’d always considered leaving, running away but I’d never had anywhere to go.

After some of the worst days, when she had been really bad I’d spent a couple of nights on the street. It wasn’t easy; I was paranoid enough walking through the island – closing my eyes and lying somewhere in a dark alley for hours on end? I couldn’t manage it. I’d never actually got to sleep; I just lay or crouched with my eyes half open. It was resting of sorts. I always ended up coming back here.

But now I had somewhere. It was small, didn’t have heating and wasn’t really for habitation but it was my own place and it was safe from everyone, from her.

Then why did I feel that ache in my chest? Like I was losing something important?

I was giving up.

I’d always had a dream, as a little girl that mom would wake up. That she would give up the drugs and… love me like everyone else’s mom did. As I grew up, I became more rational. I gave up on that dream, but it was always a longing of mine, to have a mother.

The time I’d spent with Mz Gregory had been just like what I’d dreamed of. How I’d pictured it in my head. But I wasn’t her child; she didn’t have any kind of duty to look after me.

She didn’t love me.

But she cared for me more than my own mother. Who could I turn to when I was injured, hurt and needed help? A stranger. I could never trust my mother to even think about me, I couldn’t trust her to change.

That gave me the strength to cut ties. I knew then that my dream was never going to happen.

That realisation was what fed this feeling. I had lost a mother, my idea, a little hope that she would change hidden within me. That was what I had lost. What I was walking away from.

Fitting, that she should sleep through me saying goodbye. I was thankful for it, there was no shouting.

* * *

I dumped my stuff in the corner, only unpacking my blankets and forming them into a nest like bed. I wondered what Mz Gregory was doing now. She must have gotten my note hours ago. I imagined her sitting and watching the TV, browsing the internet, doing the things people did during the evening to whittle away the time.

I had two days of the weekend before having to go back to school. I had a lot to do if I wanted to get some new armour made. I’d been using Mz Gregory’s tablet for my homework, but I’d also been making a list. I’d not even spent half the money I’d taken. Stab proof wasn’t going to cut it, I needed stuff I could be confident to stop a bullet.

Kneepads, they were a must – my knee still twinged when I was running because of that fall. Vest, very important, my back and ribs were a testament to that. Helmet, as bullet proof as possible please. Brains are useful. I couldn’t find any shoulder, arm or leg protection on the web, I’d have to go down the DIY route again. Jim could sort me out with weapons.

It added up to just shy of all my remaining money. Now I just needed a bank account and an address so I could pay for all of this. That wasn’t going to happen, a nice electronic trail leading straight back to me? My last attempt at armour was in the hands of my enemies, if they had any kind of sense they would try trace the products. Luckily they were probably the most common stab vests on the market, sold in hundreds of stores around Montreal. I was careful again to pick the seemingly most common, if more high end, equipment just in case someone ever got their hands on it.

It was surprising how cold it was. The concrete floor seemed to leech the heat out of my body even through the blankets. I would have to get some kind of barrier, a mattress or one of those foam sheet things to insulate me from the floor.

I could still sleep.

* * *

I’d already managed to increase the push-ups I could do from thirty to fifty. I began thinking of what else I could do to get stronger in my upper body. Pull-ups? There was enough grip in the lintel over the door so I added those into my to-do list. I only managed fifteen. If I ever needed to climb to escape a situation I’d need to be able to pull my own weight up. Fifteen wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough, and I’d paid the price.

Maybe I should invest in some weights too; they are relatively cheap and versatile.

The room wasn’t really big enough to do any running and I wanted to go to Jim’s. The weather outside hadn’t improved much overnight. At least it wasn’t raining. The first thing I did was stop off at one of the many thrift stores nearby. I needed a new jacket, one with a hood. I didn’t feel confident walking around with my face so exposed now it had been seen. I spent a whole twenty dollars, a good quarter of my savings and that was after a solid five minutes bargaining. I was happy to find a few tears and badly stitched seams in it. Something I could repair but knock ten dollars off for.

It helped keep out the rain and it made me feel less exposed. Well worth the money.

I didn’t start running until I was clear of the worst areas, you didn’t see many joggers about where I lived, for understandable reasons.

It was strange cutting through the more well off districts now I’d spent time on the inside of one of those houses. It made me feel a touch more jealousy knowing how easy things were.

I felt a lot safer running.

“You there! Hey, Stop!”

Or not.

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18 Responses to Chapter 2.01

  1. Kwisatx says:

    Man, I loved the prose in this chapter! I don’t know what exactly makes it shine, but it truly does I find.

    One note: press up is British English (as is the spelling of grey actually, I just realized, but I don’t think that’s going to be changed :p)

    • agreyworld says:

      Wow, thank you!

      Changed to push-up. I might have to do that with previous chapters too. Pesky Americans changing the names of things…

      I also didn’t know the US spelled grey different, though I have always been confused which way you spell it anyway – I think I prefer it with an e!

  2. anonymus says:

    hi
    thanks for the new chapter

  3. umthemuse says:

    Why don’t you just change the setting so that it just happens to use the British spelling? That way, you don’t have to hunt for every little difference.

    If you stick with Americanisms, you should change “plaster” to Band-Aid a couple chapters back. If you insist on using non-trademarked names, you could make up a name like healing spray.

    • agreyworld says:

      I originally did have this. For one the USA has expanded into Canada at least as far as Montreal so you would expect some more British lingo to have leeched into the language from that.

      There is also the few hints that Britain kind of doesn’t exist anymore (at least not in the same way as it does in todays time). Dr Romanov was looking at the work of a “British scientist, from before the Steinbach disaster” and Alexis mentions that her ancestors are from England.

      My plan was if any did creep through that I can just say that the influx of refugees, and integration with Canada (or whatever happened there) have affected the language.

      But then is it worth trying to explain that or just changing the odd thing that people spot?

  4. fionag11 says:

    Oh my goodness. I did not realize that Montreal was now part of America. The francophone Quebecois would not take that without a fight – if there are any left? Vive le Quebec libre!

    • agreyworld says:

      Oh wow, I did not realise that the percentage of French speakers was so high! 72% of people in Montreal… 95% around it. Should have done more research…

      I’ll have to have a chapter with a decrepit old resistance fighter moaning about a unified global language…

  5. fionag11 says:

    Also, Canadians officially use British spellings but tend to use American words/phrases, as well as a few of our own eg. toque = woolen winter hat. If you make Alexis’s mom of British origin that can explain Alexis using some British phrases as well as Canadian and American ones she hears at school, etc.

  6. k4rv3r says:

    You did great for book one and you are updating at a steady clip. Good for you Grey! I am liking the world you are creating with this story. I read the whole thing in 2 days. kinda makes me want to start writing.

  7. Bobby says:

    *sigh* If only it was that easy to go from “scrawny and critically underfed” to “fifty push-ups”. I want me some genetically engineered muscles.

    • farmerbob1 says:

      It’s a lot easier to go from scrawny and critically underfed to fifty pushups than it is to go from obese and overfed to fifty pushups in most cases. Especially if you are young and have access to food. As a normal human male at 16, weighing about 130 pounds, I went from one set of 30 pushups to two 120+ pushups sets five minutes apart in a single semester. I was also eating between 5000-7000 calories per day at that point, with a hemoglobin count high enough that the family doctor was worried it might be too high. Even a small amount of strength goes a huge way towards mobility and power when you are a small person.

      Having an enhanced metabolism helps a lot too, I’m sure.

  8. JN says:

    It made me feel a touch more jealously knowing how easy things were.

    Either ‘jealous’ or ‘jealousy’ would be better, I think.

  9. farmerbob1 says:

    If you intentionally crafted Alexis’ farewell to her mother in such a way that you intended to not make it emotional to the reader, you did admirably. When I read through it, and did not feel emotional attachment, then realized that Alexis really didn’t have emotional attachment either, I did a double-take and read it again.

    Good Stuff.

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