A Nice, Light Snack

December 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

Nursing a headache and not enough sleep, so I don’t have more Ahs for you. Yes, it’s Christmas and I work in retail. You’ll have to deal with it.

What do I have? Well, I have the first chapter of the YA novel that I’m working on. Yes, it’s YA but it’s Sci fi. You might like it? Maybe! As well, I decided to try and blitz through a shorter novel. I’ve gotten an estimate that Hunger Games was a (roughly) 60,000 word novel, which should take me, on estimate, 10 weeks. Here is the beginning, let me know what you think about it!

Chapter 1

0300 Hours, 13/10/11

Inside The Zone

1200 metres from the School

The barbed wire bit into Iryna’s gloves but the thick leather kept her from feeling it. Too much. Little pinpricks burned as she finished the vault and landed heavily on the ground. That added to the pain in her knees from the fall and the burning in her lungs from the chase, leaving her feeling like a dead thing. But she didn’t let it stop her or else, she knew, she would be a dead thing.

The unseasonable warmth on the Flats lapped at her chest as the grass brushed against her knees as they pumped up and down. She had only given herself a second to catch her balance after vaulting over the fence, her feet unconsciously pushing her forward without needing her brain. Her animal brain was screaming at her to run faster, to run further and hide as fear and adrenalin and excitement ran through her veins.

There were Stalkers after her. And even though they panted for her blood and were only a few feet behind her, Iryna was exhilarated.

She approached the compound, a squat, low building of ugly concrete that dominated the low field of the Flats. The large red hammer-and-sickle, the only ornamentation on the building, was invisible in the night but in the day marked it out as a pre-Event structure. No lights burned in the windows, but Iryna’s sharp eyes marked out the shapes that walked across the roof. There were Green-eyes there, she just knew it. And, where there’s Green-eyes, she knew there was food and ammo and clothing. Everything Scrapers needed to survive, and in abundance.

Iryna hooted twice, even though owls hadn’t been seen in the Zone for a good five years. Small prey was the first to be affected, and the rodent population that the raptors depended on was declining, but the two hoots was still the Scraper alert. Iryna wanted what was inside that building, but not at the cost of a Scraper’s life.

The momentary distraction nearly cost her her life. She felt a huge hand claw through her ponytail and tear out some hairs by the roots. Raw terror gave her wings as she surged forward and felt her stomach drop. They were right behind her, close enough to touch her. She could hear the slap-slap-slap of their scaly feet on the ground as they scrambled to get closer. To get close enough to reach out and messily tear her piece-by-piece…

Iryna forced the thought from her mind. She had a mission to do and people depended on the supplies in that bunker. So that made it her job to deliver or else people, people she knew and loved, would die. That was not going to happen.

The Green-eyes weren’t facing her way yet, and they still hadn’t heard her. Good, she thought, then they certainly haven’t heard the Stalkers. Their hesitation would give her the edge, but just barely. She had to time this perfectly, or else she wouldn’t need to worry about the Stalkers getting her. A Green-eye bullet would do just fine, and she’d be just another corpse that appeared every other morning in the Zone.

Not yet, Iryna promised herself, I can’t die yet. I still have to find the Golden Egg. I promised tato I would, and I do not break my promises.

Raising two fingers to her lips, she used the last of her dwindling breath to whistle sharply. Although nothing seemed to change in the night, she suddenly felt the stares of the Green-eyes on her. Good, she thought, let them look at me and miss the Stalkers behind me. Miss them as the whistle startles them so that they slip into their camouflage and disappear like bats into the darkness.

“Ya, you Communist idiots! Up, up the Republic! Get out of Ukraine!” She screamed as terror and exhilaration fought for success inside her.

A voice snapped out from the bunker like a whip. “You are in violation of quarantine! Leave this zone immediately, or you will be shot on sight! This is your only warning!”

They always bragged like that, in their professional voices that smacked of bravery. But they lived inside their concrete houses and cowered like children when the night came. Scrapers like Iryna, as a rule, looked down on Outsiders like these Green-eyes, knowing they were nothing but bullies and cowards who hid while the Scrapers lived in the field. But that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Fear was a powerful emotion, and it drove those it touched to madness or courage, and it was impossible sometimes to tell which was which. The Green-eyes weren’t too scared tonight. A small puff of dirt blasted up by her foot, the quiet shot of the warning bullet a whisper in the night. She swerved to her right and pounded right towards the building. More bullets murmured through the air, warning shots to keep her away from the bunker. Even though they were being far too incautious as far as Iryna was concerned, they were smart enough to realize that a teen-aged girl running alone at night was not normal, if normal even existed in the Zone anymore. If she got any closer, the next shots would be fatal.

When she was only a couple of dozen metres away from the bunker, she dove to her left and drove her self as far as she could. This was the riskiest part of her plan. Stalkers might be beasts, but they weren’t stupid. They recognized guns, and knew that they were more dangerous than a girl. If the Green-eyes had shot enough times, the Stalkers would have heard it, despite their silencers. If they had heard it, they would probably attack the Green-eyes instead. If they were quick enough, they could kill the Green-eyes, feed, and slip away at dawn. If they did that, then Iryna could load up with as much food and supplies as she could carry, and her mission would be a success.

That was a lot of ifs, buts, and maybes, and the failure of any would lead to her quick, gruesome death. But Iryna knew that such was life in the Zone.

She tucked her arm under her body and rolled when she hit. The impact sent more pain through her body, but she forced herself to keep rolling. Stalkers tended to be single-minded, and if they ignored her long enough, they would forget about her.

The long grass covered her as she lay, breathing heavily. The long stalks blocked her vision, so she closed her eyes and did as her tato told her. His voice, gone for many years now, spoke to her now.

“Listen with your eyes, hear with your touch, and see with your ears. Learn this, and you will never be blind.”

She “saw” through the night. Her eyes noted how the grass trembled with the wind, but here and there it parted like water being cut with a ship. Stalkers, moving closer. Her fingers heard the whisper-soft touch of the Stalker’s scaly feet and the snaps as bullets hit the earth. Her ears saw the Green-eyes as they screamed, the Stalkers as they scaled the walls, and the grisly sounds of their feasting.

Iryna crawled away, staying below the tips of the grasses. The screams and shots of the Green-eyes drifted away on the wind. The wind in the Zone eventually took everything away.

Everything.

In the morning, Iryna easily climbed the wall of the bunker. The parapet was empty, but showed the signs of last night’s struggle. Gouges in the concrete showed where Stalker claws or Green-eye bullets strove against each other. Shell casings littered the walkways, but no bodies. No blood. Not even a scrap of cloth. The Stalkers were thorough.

Iryna shuddered. They might be Green-eyes, but they were still human. No human really deserved such a fate. Her friend Konstantin, she knew, would disagree. He hated the Green-eyes more than anything else, and would have been happy with what Iryna had done, and Iryna was no fool. She knew exactly what the Scrapers needed to do to survive in the zone. If a few Green-eyes had to die, then so be it.

But still, these are just men. Russians, yes, but men all the same. They have brothers and mothers and fathers and sisters. She stole through a doorway, as silent as a snake in the grass. A part of her mind disagreed, and well knew that she had only the Green-eyes to blame for her tato’s death, but she still couldn’t bring herself to hate them.

Kill them, yes. But hate them?

The bunker was completely silent and dark. Iryna moved slowly, feeling the walls with her fingers and listening to the currents on the air. The Stalkers hated sunlight, but they also hated being away from their dens for too long. Although some might have hidden in the depths of the bunker, they probably had moved on once they had finished feasting.

Probably.

Iryna clung to that as she moved deeper. She passed an empty cafeteria, little more than a room full of cans and a few tables, and her stomach grumbled so loudly it startled her. She stood silent for a long second as her heart pounded a tattoo in her chest, wary that something might have heard her.

Silence.

Although she was tempted, so tempted to gorge, she knew she had to make sure the bunker was empty. More than a few Scrapers had died, or worse, from being incautious. More things than humans could set traps.

A few minutes later, Iryna sat in one of the bunks in the lowest part of the bunker. The room was empty, and so dark she could just barely make out the shape of the beds and the lockers. Feeling a little giddy, she lay back in the canvas. The feeling of comfort just from lying down washed over her tired body like water. She almost let herself fall asleep, but knew better than that.

Something caught her eye on the ceiling, and she flicked out her lighter to get a better look. A picture of a handsome man, his hair cut short like the Green-eyes liked, sitting with a little girl was taped to the ceiling. They were both smiling happily on a beach somewhere, their hair wet from swimming and the sun happily shining down in the background.

Iryna flicked off her lighter, and the image disappeared. She was disgusted with herself, all of a sudden. She had killed that man, as surely as if she had shot him herself. Now, he would never see his daughter again, and that smiling little girl wouldn’t have a father anymore. Did I just make another Iryna? She wondered. Will she miss her tato like I miss mine?

The silence in the bunker was her only answer. She climbed out of the bed and headed to the cafeteria.

The sun burned in the sky overheard. It was a new day in the Zone. 

 

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