View Full Version : Chapter 1: Rationing

12-04-2010, 08:18 AM
In the following script I am baring my creative soul. This is the first chapter of a book that I have been working on getting the nerve to write for several years now. I actually must thank Terez for driving me to post this, I was so deeply concerned with how people felt fan fiction was plagiarism I decided to man up and put my own creativity on the line. Please enjoy, and please leave me some form of feedback, even if it is just "Not Bad" or "Sucked."

Chapter 1: Rationing

He carefully swirled the brown and white paper between his forefinger and thumb, watching the shreds of tobacco fall out into the porcelain frontal plate of the old doll. It was ironic that he should remember such small things, like the occipital bone or the parietal suchers of the skull. Names of science. Names used by men to be specific in their description of such things of import as human anatomy, of nomenclature. Names invented by a civilization that no longer existed, based on a tongue dead longer than it had been.

He mentally went through all the bones of the human body, the various lumbar and even went back so far as the various little knobs of bones, the processes, and the various holes that were referred to as foramen. Such importance they had back then. Now he doubted anyone but he was alive to even recognize the pursuit of higher science found in those strangely spelled, strangely pronounced words. He doubted there were people who even knew, much less cared, that there had once been a language of science, the long dead language of Latin, used by those who sought perfection in their understanding of the world.

As the last of the tobacco finally fell into the makeshift bowl, he set the cigarette aside and glanced around his home. The walls had long ago lost their paint, leaving only the faintest remnant of white among the char. Yet even as worn as the paint had been he could still see the outline of a humanoid shape blazed into the wall. He often spoke at length with his friend in the wall; all that remained of some poor soul that no one knew, or cared about. He cared. His friend was always there to greet him when he came in from a night of foraging, always constant in his vigil. There were still some vestiges of the crux of the arms, as the man had tried to shield himself from death. A pointless reflexive action, but an attempt that was as heartfelt as any to be sure.

He bent back to his work, pulling the filter off carefully, so as not to damage the paper. Everything he found was important, every morsel needed to be used. He scraped the inside of the doll head until his prize had come into a small pile. Deftly, he reached in and pinched it, rolling the ball together between his thumb and forefinger and carefully placing it in his pipe.

He had celebrated for hours upon finding the little treasure trove he came across back then. There were gallon jugs that had no holes in them, and even lids. There had been even canned foods, the labels all long gone, but the prize no less valuable. The best part had been the cartons of cigarettes.

He was not a cigarette kind of man; he much preferred his pipe to the things. They tended to smoke themselves and he prized his tobacco too much for that. He doubted he would ever find tobacco again. It hadn’t been produced during the last two years of the War, the fertile lands of the Carolinas and Georgia having been lost during that time as America had been pushed further and further into the cold recesses of Canada to survive. That meant it had to be at least twenty-three years since the last tobacco would have been harvested.

When he had found his prize three years ago, it had been air and moisture sealed inside of a panic bunker. They hadn’t been built until the last four years of the war, but the date on the cartons had been much earlier. Perhaps someone had been wise enough to see the need beforehand. Pity he thought. They didn’t get to reap the fruits of their labor, but at least someone would.

He went to his wood pile, and pulled a long splinter from a piece of split cedar. It would catch quickly and burn hot, plus it left a not unpleasant aroma when he burned the remnants in the fire.

He turned with his makeshift match to his hearth. The chunks of asphalt and concrete had taken him hours to lug to his little sanctuary, and longer still to break into shapes that roughly coalesced into a solid form. He had put gravel left over from the breaking in between the pieces in order to protect the floor. He didn’t want a random spark during the night doing what a nineteen year war couldn’t do. With a thrust he set the match in the hearth of the flames for a few seconds and watched the thin tip catch. He brought the match to his old worn pipe and carefully puffed a few times as he sat on his haunches.

Content the pipe was lit well; he eased over to his door and carefully undid the string from it. He knew full well the nasty surprise that awaited someone who jerked it open unawares. As he stepped out into the night he listened to the soft calls of the birds, the chirps of the crickets as they searched for someone the right degree of friendly in the dark.

He took a slow drag from his pipe and relished the taste of the old tobacco. It wasn’t Cavendish by any stretch of the imagination, but it was gold to him nonetheless. He heard a frog in the distance, showing off his talent at singing. He heard another frog respond in kind and imagined in his mind a dialogue taking place that transcended what the petty scientists of the past had ever considered stopping to listen to. There was a soft sound like branches being tumbled and then the duet of the frogs was only a solo performance. Such was the danger of one trying to find a friend in these times.

He puffed on his pipe a while as he considered what might have happened to the unfortunate frog. Man had killed himself off much more brutally and efficiently than the beasts of the night ever could have. It was ironic really when he thought about it. Nature had never deigned to conquer, never desired to rule. It simply wished to coexist with itself. Yet, in the end, the drive of the ones who had tried to conquer, to bend the world to their whims and wills had instead destroyed their attempts. In the end, nature had conquered, and did rule. He thought about his little shack, nothing more than a trapper’s cabin in the upper Appalachian Mountains really, meant to be a resting place for weary travelers on the trail. It was the last bastion of humanity for as far as he knew, and he had travelled very, very far.

Man had done nature’s job for it, now it reigned supreme. Where once proud cities had defied the landscape, taunting the trees and animals, now there was rolling grass. Pine grew the fastest, and with the least concern for others. The evergreens had quickly dominated the landscape. Deer and rabbits, foxes and wolves, fauna and flora of every kind had come back with a vengeance to take what had rightfully been its own so long ago.

As the taste of the tobacco started to sour into the taste of ash, he grumbled. Not Cavendish at all. Captain Blacks Gold was what he was longing for, but he knew better than to chase the ghost of a long forgotten brand of a long forgotten product. The truth in the title struck him yet again though, it truly was as rare as gold now to find any remnant of tobacco. It was as ironic as the fact that the thing that he found the most comfort in was also yet another one of man’s self destructive products.

He walked back in the sanctuary and redid the string on the door. He had learned there was no such thing as too much caution. Paranoia kept a man alive. He dumped the insides of his pipe back into his makeshift bowl and sorted out the partially burned and unburned product from the ash. He tossed the ash and put the remnants in his little plastic zipper pouch with the rest of it. When his cigarettes ran out he would smoke this, and if it had run out too on him, well then he could always look on the bright side; he had lived far longer than he had expected.

With his monthly cigarette now done and his pipe emptied he found himself depressed. He always was when he quit his relaxation time. He briefly considered emptying another rolled up treasure and lighting it but the thought was fleeting. Rationing had got him this far, and he had no intentions of stopping now.

He put his plastic bag into his poorly tanned leather skin to protect it from the moisture and air. He hadn’t been very good at making leather back then, having only read about it, but his first skin still meant something to him, so he kept it around. The holes where it had worn through were superficial to his cause; he wrapped his stash many times before it fit in the large doeskin.

He walked over to his table, a children’s table once full of vibrant color, the plastic now dull from age, and gingerly checked his water. The multitude of cigarette filters he had pulled off was here. He added the newest one, checking that the snug fit did not inadvertently crush any of the others.

The water on top of the filters was a faint greenish color, so light as to be almost imperceptible, but he knew better than to drink of it. The poisoning of the waters had killed many a man woman and child, but left nature unaffected. He wasn’t quite sure how, but he thought it had something to do with the natural flora of the intestines. Animals had different bacteria in their stomachs than humans, and he believed the poison was targeted at those bacteria instead of the people.

If he drank the water as it was now he would begin to have watery bowel movements. The bacteria would have multiplied to catastrophic numbers in his intestines in a matter of days, leaving no room for absorption, all his food would pass straight through him and he would suffer an agonizingly slow death of starvation even as he ate.

Doctors could have saved people from the sickness with ease, but there were no doctors left. All the doctors had been pressed into field work, to attempt to help the wounded millions, but when the war had turned nuclear front lines had went not long after the cities, as had the doctors serving in them.

The water below the filters was clean enough, at least after he had purified it through his other means it would be. He grabbed his little cooking pot and put a piece of deer fat in it to let it sizzle and melt. After it had melted he pulled his fox hide from his shoulders and laid it flat on the floor. Pulling his short handled knife from his side, he began carefully applying the melted fat to the skin. The fat would repel the water so it wasn’t absorbed by the skin. He wished for some long sheets of plastic or the remnants of a raincoat perhaps, but he knew just how much wishing would get him, so he made do with what he had.

After the tedious task of covering the hide with fat the fire had started to burn lower, he put two small logs of oak on the fire. They would burn slowly, and with a gentler heat than the cedar. He carefully put his piece of iron directly in the middle of his fire on the bottom, sliding it into the four inch notch he had made in the hearth. The iron was nothing more than the remnants of an old crowbar, about two and a half feet long, long ago worn down to nubs, but it suited his needs perfectly. Once the pot had been cleaned with a piece of rabbit skin that made a decent enough rag, he poured the filtered water into it. He set the pot over the fire again and this time he put the fox hide over the top of the iron making a small shape reminiscent of a teepee.

He carefully put four empty water jugs underneath the skin, one under each leg that had been left about nine inches long. The legs could be tied together which he often did to keep the warm hide on his shoulders.
As the water steamed up and hit the hide, it began to coalesce into droplets that ran down the leg flaps and soon he could hear a few drips as they dropped into his jugs. It was a slow process, but a necessary one.

He began to yawn and stretched out his arms as he sat and listened to the melodic drip drip from the water. He banked the fire with a few chunks of asphalt he had for that purpose, and began to strip off his pelts. It was the middle of autumn and more than a little chilly this far north, but his cabin kept the weather out fairly well, and he needed his hides to form his bed. He gently laid them on top of the other hides he had in a stack relatively close to the fire then went over to his trunk. Opening it from the side he rummaged around and pulled out his blanket.

Of all his possessions, this he cherished the most. It had been made for him by Her. It was a conglomeration of browns and whites and blacks, the skins of various rabbits he had tanned, and in the middle was a two foot by three foot quilting of a pony and the stars that had once been a baby’s blanket. His eyes moistened at the thought of her, and his minds eye flashed a vivid memory of her glossy black curls before he could shut it out. He went to his pelts and laid down on them, wrapping himself in the blanket. It was fairly large as it had been meant to keep two warm not just one, and sometimes he thought he could still smell her in it. He curled it around him tightly in a lover’s embrace that he could never give again. As he drifted off to sleep he could still hear the crickets in the night. He felt more like the frog.

12-07-2010, 11:58 PM
Interesting. It's definitely worth reading more - in fact,I would like to do so before commentating too much about your work. I'm a lousy editor so I won't even try to comment on sentence structure/spelling etc etc. It's a good start to a book at least.

12-08-2010, 11:13 AM
Thanks for the offer, I work a lot, and am on here a good bit too discussing stuff. Will try to get some more of my book up here for you to check out. Have a few ideas about the direction I want to take it too, but they are quite different from each other and I have a difficult time deciding on my own as to which way to go. If you notice, I did not name the character I revealed on purpose for I have intent to go with the name based on the direction I go.

03-01-2011, 03:39 PM
Hey SixPips. Took me a while to read this, but I finally did it.

I really like the ideas you have. At first I was like, hmmm nothing much really happening here, but then you beginning introducing more of the setting and history, which is great because now I'm curious as to what will happen next. But yeah, definitely give the character a name because as readers, we need a name in order to better sympathize with the character.

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03-24-2011, 07:23 AM

it's spam

03-24-2011, 08:20 AM
Now it was Spam.

03-24-2011, 04:48 PM
it's spam

I know it's spam, lol.

03-29-2011, 10:42 AM
This has definitely piqued my interest.

I don't feel that the fact that your character is nameless doesn't let me sypathize with him - it's the little things that he does that draws me to him - how he's carefully filtering the water in order to drink, the careful manipulation of the cigarettes and the tobacco, the gentle care with which I imagine him to be holding onto the blanket...

I've read books that I have thoroughly enjoyed where the characters had no name, or at least, they had a title - The Road, is what I'm thinking of.

Maybe it's ust because I like post-apocalyptic stories such as these, where there's a distancing of character, and yet there's also a sense of "this could happen to me". I feel that, without the name, I can integrate myself into the character more easily, and thus be more absorbed in the story.

All this to say:


01-19-2012, 03:15 PM
Hey guys sorry I noticed a couple of you were interested and said you wanted more, I got married and a new job so I've been terribly busy. I really am trying to push myself to write more though, so please bear with me on this one. I'd like to have another chapter up here soon enough :D

01-19-2012, 04:08 PM
Definitely looking forward to whatever else you have for us.

And congrats on getting married!

01-31-2012, 01:45 PM
I have only just discovered this. I enjoyed it a lot. It's definitely wakened my curiosity, and I'm keen to know how the story continues, and also very interested in the back story of how the world ended up like that. That's the problem with reading work by aspiring authors, there's very rarely ever enough (because I'm impatient and just want the whole book NOW), and also that damn real life just keeps getting in the way.

I agree with Khoram that I am not concerned by the lack of a name, I have read books where even the gender of a character is not revealed until later on, and all it does is keep my interest level high. Also, this:

Maybe it's ust because I like post-apocalyptic stories such as these, where there's a distancing of character, and yet there's also a sense of "this could happen to me". I feel that, without the name, I can integrate myself into the character more easily, and thus be more absorbed in the story.

If you ever do get the chance to post more I look forward to reading it. Also if you ever want anyone to proof-read or type up for you then give me a shout. I'd be happy to help :)