Famished Chapter 1

Thursday, July 21, 2011


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

        Chapter 1: Aftermath

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1


 

Vivid flashbacks of the day the asteroid hit had always

haunted me. Not only because the asteroid demolished the

world I knew, but because it led to The Great Famine, a

deceitful murderer ten times worse than the asteroid itself.

    Two things had circled around my mind in constant

rotation when I thought about my last day on the earth I

knew. The loud, deafening cry my mother let out, when the

leader of our nation made the announcement that we were

all doomed. And the actual sight of the asteroid, with the

circumference of a small strip mall, when it breached our

atmosphere. It blazed bright orange and muted yellows

flames trailed behind it as it sailed across the powdery blue

skyline.

    Plopping down on my porch swing that day, I

marveled at the asteroid. My mouth had dropped open and

I kept my eyes on the cratered monstrosity, lost in a trance

as it passed over my house. Even though I knew the

amount of destruction the asteroid would cause, I still

found it beautiful. The bright colors reminded me of a

brilliant display of fireworks shot off on the Fourth of July.

    Our neighborhood was like an intersection in an

overpopulated city. People were frantic, running from their

houses to their cars, grabbing everything they could. Police

officers were parked in between the cluster of people and

cars, shouting from megaphones, blaring their sirens, and

shooting off rounds of bullets into the air, trying to take

control of the situation. But it didn't matter, because

nothing they did worked.

    One of the men in the street clubbed a police officer

on the side of the head with a baseball bat. Then, the people

who didn't have cars trampled all over the poor police

officer, trying to evacuate. Terrifying screams played out

like a song on the radio. And in just seconds, the amount of

people in the street doubled.

    My parents didn't panic like all of our other

neighbors. Yes, my mother had been startled and yes, she

had screamed. But my parents were focused and set a plan

in motion. Only seconds after the President finished his

speech, my father was out the back door in a flash with a

shovel in his hand.

    I'd glanced at my mother, confused. "Where is he

going?"

    "To build our new home," she answered solemnly.

    "Where at?" The President had informed us that the

asteroid would have breached our atmosphere in six hours.

    "Underground."

    As I watched more of our neighbors flee, I'd

squinted, puzzled as to why they thought it was necessary

to shout and carry on like escapees from a mental

institution. Did they think panicking was going to help

their situation? Would spouting off like lunatics save them?

Now, as I looked back on that day, I understood.

    Nobody expected a global apocalypse. Nobody

expected a massive ball of molten, burning rock to fall

from the heavens and disintegrate anything and everything

we knew. And most of all, nobody expected The Great

Famine to sneak in, like a thief in the night and leave the

remainder of the human population, starving and mad.

    Everything had been wiped out. All of the houses,

buildings, and skyscrapers, that were once carefully crafted

wonders had become heaped over piles of rubble. Cars

spontaneously combusted as a result of too much

radioactivity. Plants died from the earth's soil being

tainted. And shortly after that, the animals died, leaving

what was left of the human population to rot from the

outside in.

    At the time, I'd thought people would have been

more educated on what to do if a catastrophe struck. But

people weren't educated. And because they weren't

educated, they weren't prepared. They were ignorant. Now,

two and a half years into The Great Famine, everyone is

hopeless and lost, left to fend for themselves.

    The following two months after the asteroid hit

were dismal and depressing. My father had constructed this

tiny underground home for us, but it wasn't completed and

we spent most of our time huddled together, wearing

surgical masks, and going without food for days at a time.

Honestly, thinking back, if we would have continued on

like that, I was certain that within a few months, our

carcasses would have been rotting on the side of the road

with most of the other survivors.

    The name of the state I used to live in was

Nebraska. And the city used to be Lincoln, the capitol.

Now it was nothing. There were only fourteen surviving

families left. Fifteen if you counted mine.

    It had been a long time since I breached the surface

of the world above. My parents wouldn't allow it. So, as far

as I knew, the survivors that remained were savages. I'd

seen a few things while our colony was being built, and

most of the inhabitants left ran wildly through the bare,

desert terrain, filth covering them from head to toe, bones

protruding through their leathery skin, foam dripping from

their mouths in search of one thing…

    Nourishment.

    A high pitched squeal pulled me from my thoughts.

"Georgie!"

    My time reminiscing about the past was over the

second my kid sister, Frankie waltzed through the door. I

rolled over on my cot as she plopped down next to me,

sitting Indian style on the concrete floor. "What's up,

Frankie?"

    "Were you sleeping?" Frankie was short for

Francesca. The name suited her. She was a short, petite

brunette that made the word enthusiastic seem like an

understatement.

    I propped my head up. "No," I commented. "I'm

just thinking."

    She raised an eyebrow. "Thinking? About what?"

    I let out a long winded sigh. "I don't know, Frankie,

just things." I didn't feel like elaborating.

     Suddenly, Frankie, shot up off the floor like a

cannonball barreling out of a cannon. I flung myself

backwards startled by her spontaneous gesture. "Did Mom

let you have coffee today?" I inquired. She was hyper by

nature. She didn't need the added caffeine.

    Frankie paced back and forth across the small room,

then giddily clapped her hands. "No," she squealed. "But I

have the most exciting news!"

    I waited for her to go on with the story. "Well,

come on. Spit it out."

    She stopped pacing, faced me and giggled out in

delight. "We're all being invited to the council meeting

tomorrow!" She went on. "Can you believe it? After all this

time we are finally going to see what goes on inside of a

council meeting!"

    I nodded. "Yeah."

    Four months after the apocalypse we banded

together with the fourteen other families. The members

helped my father expand our underground home into a

colony, with tunnels that led to each family's household.

Shortly after that, they formed our colony council.

    Once a week, the heads of each household met for a

council meeting. Only the heads of each household

attended the meetings. They never invited any family

members. So I found it odd that were inviting everyone

now.

    There were a number of reasons why the families

could be invited. They may have learned of some

advancement on new earth. Maybe there were less toxins in

the air now. Or they could be calling us in to give us some

bad news. That maybe our food supply was running low or

that they caught someone committing a crime. My gut told

me, whatever the council was planning, wasn't necessarily

good. I sat up some. "Where did you hear about the

families being invited?"

    "I overheard Dad talking to Mr. Baker."

    My father's involvement in the council worried me.

He was so kind, trusting, and easily impressionable. I

scowled at the idea of a weasel like Mr. Baker, a man who

was always sneaking around, planting some stupid idea

into his head. My father wasn't a natural leader but, he did

start this colony so he had to be included. I crossed my

legs. "Well, what else did he say?"

    Frankie cocked her head to the side. "That's all I

really got. Dad said and I quote, 'we'll have to invite all of

the family members.'"

    Seconds later my mother strolled into our room.

"Dinner is in ten minutes." She turned to leave.

    Then I got up from the bed. "Mom, wait!"

    My mother stopped, turned around and faced me

and Frankie. "What is it, dear?"

    I spoke up. "Frankie heard something about the

families being invited to a council meeting."

    My mother turned away from me, looking sternly at

Frankie. "Francesca, were you eavesdropping again?"

    Spots of pink appeared on Frankie's ivory cheeks.

"Guilty."

    She stepped backwards, glancing between me and

Frankie. "Well, as far as I know, the topic is all really hush-

hush. But yes the families are being invited to the council

meeting tomorrow."

    I narrowed my eyes. "And you swear, you have no

idea what for?" Even though she said she didn't know, I

knew sometimes she lied about certain things. She said she

did it to protect us.

    She made an x across her heart. "Sweetheart, I

swear. I have no idea."

    My mother turned to leave, giving Frankie another

hard look. "Francesca, you better start minding your own

business or I'm going to have to lock you in this room. You

hear me!"

    Frankie rolled her eyes. "Yes, mother." Frankie

glanced at me as my mother walked out of the room. "How

is she going to lock me in? We don't even have a door."

    "Believe me," I harrumphed. "She would find a way.


 

             * * *


 

    On the way to the mess hall, I brushed passed

MayVickers. "Sorry, May!" I shouted apologetically.

    May kept her eyes on the floor, lost in a trance and

didn't look up. She hadn't been the same since her

daughter, Monica disappeared.

    The council had set up some rules for the rest of the

colonists to follow. They maintained their importance

because it made our new life underground operate

smoothly.

Rule number one: You could not steal another colonist's food.

    Our supplies underground were limited and

greediness was not tolerated. In fact, if you were caught

stealing, the punishment was severe. First, you were kept in

solitary confinement in a little room called the hole. You

had to stay in that hole, submerged in complete darkness

without food or water for three days. The punishment was

created to remind the guilty party what life outside of our

little world was like.

    Second, after you were pulled out of the hole, you

were given lashings. One for each item that you stole.

Dylan Edwards once stole three eggs from the Baker

family. After he received his punishment, he lifted his shirt

to show me the deeply rooted lashing marks that stretched

horizontally across his back. As I fanned my fingers across

his scarred flesh, I shuddered. There was no way in hell I

was stealing anyone's food.

Rule number two: You could not, under any circumstances, leave the colony and venture out into what remained of earth unless instructed.

    Monica Vickers disappeared about six months ago.

I was told that her curiosity was eating her alive. That she

was so desperate to peak outside that she just left our

world, never looking back.

    Every week, gatherers were sent out in search of

supplies. That was different. They were given permission

to leave. But if anyone was like Monica and just wanted to

see what was out there, well, they should have seriously

considered digging themselves an early grave.

    A twinge of remorse struck my heart whenever I

saw May, wandering around like a lost soul. But these rules

were made for a reason. They had to be followed. There

could be no exceptions because with exceptions came

chaos.

    And finally…..

Rule number three: You could not give food to outsiders.

    Yes, there were outsiders. Mostly people that

traveled from other cities and states in hopes of finding

some kind of rescue or refuge. Sometimes, it bothered me

that we never invited them in. "You'd better erase that

thought from your mind, Georgina Carver!" my mother

would say. "Food is scarce and we have too many mouths

to feed as it is!"

    "But, what if they need help?"

    "They could be cannibals. We can't risk it!"

    I didn't bring up the subject of outsiders too often.

It wasn't a subject my mother or anyone else liked to talk

about. And the punishment for feeding an outsider was….

    Well, I honestly never knew because no one had

ever done it.

    The members of the council made it perfectly clear

that if we were caught feeding an outsider, the punishment

would be more severe than any of us just stealing food. I

don't think anyone needed them to elaborate. Fear was

already instilled us after we saw Dylan Edwards being

whipped. Nobody wanted to experience a punishment

worse than that.

    I caught up with my father as he walked down the

wide, muddy corridor with Mr. Baker. I reached out,

tugging on his arm. "Daddy."

    He waved goodbye to Mr. Baker and wrapped his

arm around my shoulder. "What is it, Georgie?"

    I pulled away from him, lacing my arm through his.

"What can you tell me about this meeting?"

    He craned his head around, looking behind us.

"Where's Frankie?"

    "There's no point, Dad. Mom already yelled at her."

    "I've got to start looking out for her and learn to

watch what I say when she's around."

    Frankie was one of those kids that was like a talking

parrot. She couldn't keep a secret. And if she was in

hearing range of your conversation, she would repeat

whatever you said.

    She was five years young than me. One time, when

I was thirteen and she was eight I accidentally screamed the

word "bitch." She heard me say it and even though I asked

her not to say anything, she ran around the house for the

next two days shouting the word. Naturally, my parents

found out she heard it from me and I was grounded for a

week. I learned to keep my lips tight around her from that

moment on.

    My father and I made a left turn, walking into the

mess hall. I unlaced my arm from his and stepped away.

"So, are you going to tell me more about this meeting?"

    He placed both of his hands on my shoulders.

"Honey, I wish I could but you know I've taken a vow of

silence when it comes to the council. I can't talk about

what goes on in the meetings outside of them."

    "Did Mr. Baker put you up to this? Why do you

always do everything he says?" It bothered me that my

father started this colony and Mr. Baker pretty much ran it.

There was something sinister about him that made my

insides churn when I thought about his fake, gap-toothed

smile. It was a smile that said, "I know something you

don't."

    "Georgina, this has nothing to do with Mark. I'm

telling you, I took a vow and I will not break it. You need

to learn to respect that."

    I pushed his hands off of my shoulders. "It's not

fair!" I protested. "You people keep us out of the loop for

all of this time, now suddenly you want us involved!" I was

more confident than ever that this meeting was going to be

bad. And more than anything, I felt betrayed. Council or not, my father was my father. And if he knew something awful was going to go down he should have told me.

    He sighed. "Georgie, don't act like this. You know I want to tell you. I just can't compromise my position."

    "Your position as what? A council member or my father?"

    "Georgina!"

    Storming off, I ignored him as he continued to call out my name. At the moment, I wished that whole council would disband. Then maybe my father would put his priorities as a parent above his priorities as a council member.


 

7 comments:

  1. khashway said...:

    Love it, Lauren! I can't wait!

  1. Oooh - you've built such great tension already in this first chapter! Nice!

  1. I like it. You've got me intrigued. I've always been a fan of apocalyptic settings (while at the same time being terrified of it. I think this is why I write some of the stories that I do). You drop us right into the action. Fascinating concept of the interlinked underground community.

    My only suggestion (take it or leave it) would be to try and find a way to spread out the rules of the community when they are applicable. For example, instead of telling us all at once, perhaps you can only tell me about rule #2 when she encounters May Vickers. Maybe hint that there are three rules, but just telling me one rule now will keep me hooked to find out the others (obviously there is more that has hooked me, but that's just one more thing). Just a suggestion.

    Paul D. Dail
    www.pauldail.com

  1. Lola7384 said...:

    Thanks Paul for the advice. But the book is coming out Tuesday! LOL.

  1. I really enjoyed the first chapter! Thank you for sharing =) I can't wait to check out the whole thing. Congrats on the release!

  1. Oh, never mind. I think I actually knew that. I get confused between people asking for feedback vs. people putting out previews. It wasn't anything major anyway. And when I think of some of my other favorites of this style, they very often list everything together. As an example, The Giver, while very different in apparent content from Famished, at several points puts all the rules right out there together.

    Congratulations. Tuesday, eh? You must be very excited. So happy for you.

    Paul D. Dail
    www.pauldail.com

  1. Oh, and awesome cover, by the way.

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