So while driving to bowling tonight, I had some quiet time in the car and started thinking about things. Whenever I start to think about things, I end up dwelling on horrible things. Like the soldier who killed women and children in Afghanistan. Or Republicans (shudder). Tonight, my mind went to a story I read about a child in China who had been hit by two cars. Neither driver stopped, nor did the many people who were passing by.
It’s hard to believe that kind of thing can happen. It’s hard to believe any tragic and pointless deaths can happen in our modern world.
It causes me a great deal of pain, and yet I struggle to put it out of my mind. I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to my children. It would destroy me.
It suddenly came to me that I could put that pain I feel into words, to help alleviate it. And so a new story idea was born. The problem is that I’m still working on finishing up TWICE SWORN. But now I have a new idea that is demanding to be written. I’ve already developed (in my head) the world. It’s post-apocolyptic. Most living things on the planet have died. The few that have survived are banding together in small villages, although a few cities have also managed to eke out an existence. My main character is a young woman named Ana, one of the Forbidden. The Forbidden are people who are born with magical abilities, and they are “Forbidden” because they brought about the end of times. If someone is discovered to possess magic, they are hunted.
Ana is running from a bounty on her life, and has with her a traveling companion named Carlos. He is something of an expert with weapons, especially guns. Cars don’t run (they are basically junk heaps) and most animals died with the ‘event’, so they travel by foot, like everyone else. Sometimes they can go a long time without running into a single other human.
That’s a brief outline of my backstory. Here’s the first draft of the first chapter I just wrote:
Carlos and I walked into yet another small village. It was the first one we’d seen in over thirty days. This one was a bit bigger than our last one. There were about forty buildings still standing and it was clear most of them had undergone renovation. There were four roads that were still being used and we kept to those. We arrived at the town center where we hoped to do some bartering for supplies. We were running low on food and clean water.
I stopped in my tracks. Ahead of me, I saw a burly man kicking something. I looked closer and saw it was a child. Without thinking, I ran forward to stop him. I pushed at him and he backhanded me. Carlos was right behind me, although he probably wasn’t thinking about the child. He protected me. Carlos had pulled out his guns and had them pointed at the stranger’s head. The stranger had went still.
I went to the child. I could tell he was in a bad shape. He couldn’t have been more than four years old.
“Ana,” Carlos said. I looked at him and he shook his head. I knew what he was saying to me, but I didn’t care. This was an innocent child and I wasn’t going to let him die. I could tell he was taking his last breaths. I leaned down and whispered a tune into the child’s ear. My magic told me the child had a broken neck, among many severe injuries. Thanks to my tune, healing his injuries could wait.
I looked up and around me then. I noticed there were many people on the street and looking out windows.
“No one could stop this man?” I screamed. “What could this little boy do to you that deserved dying for?”
The man laughed at me. “He’s not going to die. He can take his punishment.”
“Punishment? For what?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but he spilled his juice on my carpet. I spent a long time looking for carpeting I liked and now it’s ruined.”
I stared in disbelief at him. I made up my mind in that moment and leaned down to whisper again. I would not let this man have this child back.
I looked back up. “So carpeting was worth the life of this child?”
“He’s not going to die,” the man said stubbornly.
“He’s already dead,” I said, and tears sprang to my eyes. Even though I knew the child would live, it wasn’t hard to cry. There were a lot of things in our world to cry over and someone beating a child to death was just one of them.
“What? Don’t be ridiculous!” The man pointed at another person standing on the street. “You, go get Doc Burroughs.” He started approaching me, but Carlos stepped closer to me and reminded him of the guns pointed in his direction.
“So why didn’t anyone stop him?” I demanded of the many faces I saw.
“It’s not our place to step in when a father is disciplining his son,” said one man, standing a little further down the street. The sun was starting to go down so I couldn’t see him well.
“This isn’t discipline. This is murder,” I said. “You all should be ashamed. We aren’t animals. We are the survivors.” Everyone started walking away and going back about their business. I should not have expected anything different. It was the same everywhere we went. The corrupt ruled and the weak just tried to not get stepped on. People had become immune to suffering, even of children.
“Let me check him,” said a man who had just run up. I held the child but allowed the new man to look at him. I knew what he’d see. He took out a stethoscope and listened. He felt the child’s neck for a pulse. He put his hand over his mouth. Then he shook his head and looked back over at the child’s father.
“He’s gone.” The look of disbelief on the man’s face would have been priceless, if the cause of it hadn’t been a child’s suffering.
“He can’t be,” he whispered, but I could already see the wheels in his head turning.
“I’m taking his body,” I said. “You don’t deserve to bury him, you murderer.”
I knew trying to get anyone to do anything about the fact that the man killed a child would be pointless. I stood up, holding the boy close. He was so tiny and fragile in my hands.
“You can’t take him,” the man said, rage making his voice loud.
“Just try and stop me,” I said and turned my back on him. I started walking back the way we came. We had set up a safe camp about two miles away. I glanced back over my shoulder and saw Carlos was backing away, coming towards me, his guns still pointed.
“We are taking him,” said Carlos. “And if you try to come after us, I will shoot you dead.”
We made quick time out of the village. No one tried to stop us or follow us. Once clear of the city, Carlos took the child from me and we ran back to our camp.
So this is the story that is speaking to me now. Bear in mind this is my very first draft, so I know it needs some work. But I felt the need to share it. You can see where the story of the young child in China inspired the beginning of this story. I’ve already mentally developed the next few scenes too.
But now I’m going to be a good girl and go back to TWICE SWORN, because that book is ALMOST DONE. But this new story is screaming at me to tell it! Oh, the frustration.