Saturday, August 14, 2010

Story in Progress: Section One

This is the first section of a story I started writing a few weeks ago. At some point I'd like to develop it into something longer, but this is what I have so far. Let me know what you think.

He woke with a jolt in a dry darkness. The air left his lungs in a gasp, as if he had been hit in the gut. He looked around in the close black with the momentary panic of someone waking in a new place for the first time. After a moment, he flexed his hands weakly, rousing them from stiffness and slowly forcing them back to life. He was calmer now; he still could not see, but he remembered why. His breath heated the cold metal before his face, and sweat began to drip from his nose. It was time; he had to get out.

Stretching his arms slowly outward, he pushed on the familiar ridged surface before his waist until he heard a click. His hands now free, he quickly wiped his face before unbuckling the straps around his chest and legs. Heat returned quickly; his breath was again quick and labored, and every movement ached. With a desperate motion, the man pushed on the warm steel behind him, leaning his body into the curved wall that faced him. A click sounded, but he did not move. A faint whimper escaped his lips. Frustration took over as his lungs filled with warm, spent air. A last twitch of energy pulled his head back and jerked it forward, into the dark barrier. This time the click was louder, and he felt the door give. With a high squeak, it fell forward and down, and Jacob Clarke tumbled into the light.

He lay still for a moment, closing his eyes against the blinding sunlight. Forcing himself onto his back, Clarke lifted a hand to cover his eyes before opening them. Tears streamed down his face as his tender retinas perceived the light of what he realized was merely the dim glow of a sunset. He had been lucky - the light of a midday sun could have blinded him permanently. His childlike eyes eventually stopped watering, and Clarke weakly smiled in the joy of his sight, after twelve years of darkness.

Gathering himself, Clarke examined his surroundings. The black shell that had held him was now a heap of bent steel. He hurriedly crawled back to the pile and began to search, pushing aside chunks of shell that were already collapsing into dark dust. After a moment he pulled a small leather parcel from the heap, which he opened in delight. Inside he found a package of semi-frozen meat product and a small bottle of distilled water. He breathed on the food package excitedly before wolfing down half of its contents, chasing the tasteless mixture with two gulps of water.

His strength somewhat renewed, Clarke finally stood. A cursory scan told him that he was in a coniferous forest, fairly dense but open enough to allow travel. The ground where he stood was mostly flat and was mostly covered by needles, some bright blue, some a deep, rusty red. Behind him stood a small foothill that lead to a mountain, stretching to perhaps fifteen thousand feet at the summit. He saw no clear path out of the area, but knew he must move soon.

A sudden breeze blew over Clarke, and he shivered under the sweat of exhaustion. A poignant scent entered his nostrils, like old eggs and car exhaust. Clarke’s eyes blurred momentarily, and as he gazed at the ground beneath his feet, the deep red of the dry grass forced sharp realization into his mind. His breath stopped short, caught by the sudden knowledge that every breath was toxic. Panicked, Clarke stumbled to the remains of the black shelter, throwing the remaining pieces aside as his lungs clinched tighter in terrible immediacy. His last ounce of strength heaved away a small segment of steel that covered the floorpiece of the shell, revealing a small silver package lined with tiny blue capsules. His strength almost gone, Clarke ripped the aluminum package and choked down two of the pills before his vision faded once more to black.

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