Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cracking Skulls by Nathan Shephard

A/N This excellent short story about zombies was written by Nathan Shephard who heard about my zombie competition too late, but got inspiration to write anyway. He emailed it to me, and I really had to post it somewhere. It's a tad long, but it's worth it. Hope y'all read and enjoy :D

Thud – the sound of a lifeless form hitting the ground.
A steady aim and a moment of focus-
Another body collapses. But there are more bodies now.
They come and they come- like relentless and determined waves crashing upon a desolate shore, they keep coming. Whether dead or alive, they pile up after each consecutive wave. And you know there’ll be more - always more.
Keep moving – I have to remind myself! It’s kept me alive so far.
Keep moving, cause they’ll keep coming.
Something shoots past my face, thoughtfully caressing my ear as it passes. I reflex as the projectile embeds itself in the cold concrete wall behind me. A reflex that would’ve been far too late if the dart had been accurate.
That was too close.
I’ve had too many close calls like this. The fact that I’m still alive surprises me – I should be dead, like all the rest. There sure as hell has been more than one occasion for that certainty.
Yet here I stand, in defiance or stubborn tenacity – one common trait I share with my enemy.
I turn around to see the serrated barb sticking out of the wall. There’s only one thing that can do that. And I don’t want to stick around to give it another shot.
Time to make myself scarce.
I slip through a narrow passage, just as I hear another dart zip by, putting enough distance between me and that shambling horde. No doubt my activities are bound to attract certain undesirables. You can count on that every time a shot is fired.
The rest are merely distractions; bait to draw out the living - the real monsters are the things that think gunshots are the dinner bell ringing.
I’ve seen my fair share of these monsters; always on the prowl, lurking in the shadows, seeking their next victim to satiate their ravishing hunger. Twisted abominations, a contradiction of life.
I round a corner, panting softly and straining my ears for the sound of pursuing footsteps.
But I hear nothing. Keep going, don’t stop now. I must find a way out of here. This dead edifice, this decaying city and ruined civilization will let me go either way sooner or later. “When” might not be my choice, but “how”...
My hand finds its way into my pocket where my fingers fondle a standard 9mm round and my thoughts drift off to a bleak possibility- but I stop them before they can go any further.
Check my magazine: still got eleven rounds and two full clips. Gotta make them count, don’t know when I’ll come across more munitions.
An object that only becomes a viable weapon once two parts are combined is hardly a reliable one.
But if all else fails, I’ve still got my trusty axe, it never runs out of ammo- a cliché but it’s true. Partially blunted and well loved, it’s got me out of more than one sticky situation. It means getting closer to your foe to strike a blow, sometimes too close for comfort. And it causes a wonderful mess; a splatter and spray of blood usually, but it’s no dinner bell. Although, if you’re not well covered while handing out the chops you could find yourself saturated in ichorous blood; one drop splattered on an open wound or in an eye and you’re in for a protracted, agonizing and measured death.
Blood- avoid it like a plague if you can.
A sound!
They’re coming.
I hastily make my way to the far end of the corridor where it T’s off left and right. I knew coming here would be a risk, but it may still be worth it.
The end of the corridor comes to greet me, I stop to spare a glance behind me; various forms have started to appear and gather at the other end of the corridor.
Damn! I’ve called in the hungry mob with two shots! Bad idea.
Left or right?
The left corridor was dark and silent. There was an unsettling presence about the darkness that convinced me I’d be better off going right; where the eerie glow of the moon shone through the cracked and shattered windowpanes, flooding the corridor with light.
You learn to trust your intuition with decisions like these.
Glass crunches underfoot as I make my way over it. There’s a lifeless body slumped against one of the apartment doors. I’m not sure if it’s officially a corpse yet so I keep my distance as I pass it.
This corridor is long but I can see an open space at the end which should be a foyer with a staircase. I consider the rough map of the building I hastily sketched in my mind and I hoped it hadn’t changed much.
Another body; its organs decorating the floor and splatter of red painted on the wall. It groans and I hear glass shifting beneath it as I stride over it. I imagine it reaching after me.
It’ll never get me though, I’m already gone and as I prepare to round the bend I hug the wall to peer around the corner- a habit you quickly pick up on, it soon becomes mandatory.
My back against the wall, I glance around the corner and-
My heart sinks, and for a moment mortal jeopardy petrifies me.
Did it see me?
No – I would’ve known by now.
A sigh of relieve.
It’s just standing there. They do that, it still freaks me out. Some things you just don’t get used to.
You wouldn’t even know they’re there until it’s too late- until you’ve already run into one.
As though cast in stone, they stand idle- but once it has something to kill it becomes fanatically animated. I’ve seen one of them rip a man in half and that was after he managed to spray it with a couple of shotgun shells- the worst thing to run into right now.
Especially if all you have is a 9mm hand gun and a blunted axe.
I’ve never killed one of those things before, it’s the type of brute I try to avoid altogether and hope to never engage. The type, when encountered, presents you with two options; flee or take your slim chances fighting. And unless you’re some kind of badass, the latter isn’t recommended.
“Sentries”, some called them, believed to guard key locations. Rumour has it that they’re blind but if that’s true, it’s never stopped them. And what the hell could it be guarding here?
I hear movement at the other end of the corridor. Swiftly, my hand gropes for the nearest door handle. It opens and I slip in, suddenly relieved but then quickly realising my dreary situation.
Right now, I had a hungry mob steadily closing in on me from one side, and a ruthless killing machine on the other. And by all appearances it seemed as though I was fast becoming trapped.
Trapped- another way to get killed.
I found myself in a room that seemed abandoned and relatively untouched; things were neat and everything seemed in order- a stark contradiction to the matter. As though oblivious to the chaos outside its walls. Even the bed was done- it seemed absurd. It was like this room was altogether forgotten about until now.
I look around for a possible exit. The windows lead to a crumbling ledge outside. It’s an option, but maybe not the best one. The drop is a long one, and I could suffer no broken bones right now. I approach a door which I believe leads to the bathroom.
I open it and suddenly find myself flailing to keep from slipping off an edge. Steadying myself on the door frame, I peer down at my feet; the tips of my boots hang over a massive hole in the floor that seems to drop many levels deep, at least five or six stories. I can’t see the bottom.
The wall to the right doesn’t exist anymore and even the ceiling is missing; as though some kind of wrecking ball ploughed through this part of the building.
That would’ve been a silly way to die. Rushing through doors, I should know better. Silly mistakes get people killed in this urban wasteland, I’ve seen this too.
Pop, pop!
Gunshots! That distinctive sound.
I haven’t heard anyone else shoot anything else in days! And it sounds like it’s coming from somewhere in this building.
Pop, pop-pop!
Again- this time closer.
A bang and a shudder vibrating through the building, dust falls. Sounded like a grenade. Someone is packing heat and attracting a lot of attention.
As though to confirm this I hear the heavy foot falls of the Sentry stir behind me, on the other side of the wall. For a moment I pity the mortal soul down there somewhere, once you attract the attention of a Sentry you better hope you’re packing extra frags.
I hear more gunshots, this time the distinguishing sound of automatic fire, drawing ever nearer.
Nothing I can do to help this person. If anything this will be a good opportunity to give the Sentry a slip… But it seems it hasn’t moved since-
What the hell?!
That sound of concrete cracking, crumbling and splintering behind me, I find myself steadying my balance again. A piece of brick bounces and rolls pass me to leap off the edge and drop down the shaft.
My mind is trying to logically comprehend what just happened, but I know already- I know that the thing just came through the damn wall!
The dust settles to reveal the menacing shape of the Sentry sprawled on the bed, thrashing and kicking up a fuss. It obviously didn’t expect the wall there.
Soon its up though, grunting and hissing through nostrils, shaking off its collision. Its head raises and shifts from side to side, it seems to be peering, straining its senses to pick up on a target. Then it stops, as though something catches its attention.
Its head turns slowly. Slowly towards me, then stops. Has it noticed me?
If it had eyes it would be looking directly at me, but I could still sense a thousand yard stare that cut right through me.
I’m standing stock-still.
Quivering arms raise and I peer down the barrel at the ugly face of my adversary. My finger curling around the trigger.
One chance. That’s probably all I’ll get- one chance to put a bullet through its head. One chance to get it right and put it down for good - with one shot. One chance, one faultless shot.
There’s that moment, when time seems to slow down to extend you the courtesy of contemplating your last few precious moments and accepting your fate. You notice things; things you would never think to consider in these moments. Like how the dust fell as it resettled, like a lazy rain, partially obscuring the menacing, hulking figure before me.
Pop-pop-pop, pop!
The noise echoed up the shaft from a lower level behind me to snap me out of the spellbinding grip of mortal peril, its sound augmented as it bounced off the walls.
The Sentry grunted, then suddenly launched forward – it had a fix on its target. It wasn’t me (thank God), but I now found myself directly in its path (dear God!).
Charging forward, and directly at me.
Instinctively I step aside- it crashes pass me, taking some of the door frame with it, smashing into the wall on the opposite end of the small room, before it falls down the shaft.
Clinging on an edge I watch as it quickly descends; tumbling into the darkness and obscurity below, bouncing off concrete protrusions on its way down.
Good riddance.
I’m tremendously relieved and I can’t help but wonder how I managed to survive that.
This is turning out to be one of those days.
Just keep going! Gotta keep moving- I remind myself.
Stay in one place too long and you’re bound to test your luck. Especially in a place like this; so close to The Fallout Zone.
Darting out the room, my pursuers have closed some distance. Their glee is spine chilling as they notice me- this puts a spring in their shamble and they stumble forward faster.
I turn to leave-
But suddenly I’m sprawled on the floor, and for a second I’m dazed and confused, my head swimming.
There’s a numbing buzz filling my skull. Did I hit my head?
My vision clears and I suddenly realise my sidearm has eluded my grip. Lying only meters away I scramble up to retrieve it when a searing pain suddenly grips my arm.
My hand instinctively wraps around the source of pain and I can feel a liquid seep between my fingers. Glancing down I see a laceration.
This isn’t good! Panic threatens to overwhelm me but I won’t let it. I scoop my handgun up noticing a barbed spike not too far from it, the blood on it still fresh and I get this feeling it’s my blood.
There’s a strepitous shriek, I turn to see a form rushing through the fleshly obstacles around it. It knocks one down and swipes another aside with its mutated clawed arm, the body flies through the air in two pieces, smacking against the wall with a meaty thud and collapsing in a pile of fetid flesh and blood.
My eyes widen, it’s coming for me. Rushing to meet me on four limbs; its eyes manic and its twisting tongue hanging out the corner of its lipless mouth - a permanent grimace of long pointed teeth. Its tail flickering behind it, another spine emerging from its tip, ready to sling.
I don’t even debate it, my arms are raised and shots are fired. The first few are off the mark, the result of an impulsive reaction. They zip passed my target, the next few shots rip into it- but still it comes, ever more enraged.
Last chance – don’t screw it up, okay.
The following shots sail true- I’m sure of it! But I don’t have time to see them land, I’m darting out the way before it rips into me.
Collapsing to the ground as it crashes into the wall at a tremendous speed, I’m on my feet again as quickly as I can manage, pistol at the ready.
It lies there motionless, the wall cracked by the impact- blood splatters the impact crater on the wall and pools on the floor around it. The massive claw on its arm twitches. The unconventional combination of hot lead and solid masonry must’ve done it!
I spare a disdainful glance at the creature; a “Cutter” they called this one.
The shambling horde approaches and the possibility of additional Cutters roaming the ranks are likely.
I survey my surroundings, pleased to see a staircase at the end of the foyer and quickly make for it while reloading my clip.
I ascend two floors before a sudden pain surges up in my arm and I’m reminded of the tear in my flesh.
It won’t stop bleeding.
Shit! This is bad, this is really bad.
No time to staunch and dress it, don’t lose focus – just keep going dammit!
My legs carry me up another few flights without stopping. The buzz in my head subsides to give way to the nagging concern of the sharp sting in my upper arm.
Ignore it!
I see the sign “Flr 72” on a door. That’s the one! Carefully, I open it. My hand turning the door knob slowly- it opens with a squeak that confounds my efforts to remain inconspicuous.
But only an enigmatic silence and a still darkness come to receive me.
What are the chances of Creeps being this high up in the building?
Slimmer than usual but I haven’t survived this long by taking slim chances.
I sweep the area best I can, my eyes adjusting to the lack of light, proceeding cautiously but steadily. My arm going slightly numb now- the pain becoming less severe.
Soon, I find the apartment I’m looking for – the door is open ajar and I step in.
It doesn’t take long to find what I’m looking for. It was exactly where I expected it to be.
I’m out of the apartment and making my way down the corridor when I have to stop.
Did I hear something?
I wait…
Another couple of paces and I have to stop again. That sound, I heard it again. But now, only reticence.
I continue and then suddenly stop – I definitely hear it this time!
A tapping noise, like the sound of scurrying claws over a solid surface.
Something is following me.
I turn around peering into the darkness, my grip around my pistol tightening. It sounded close. I imagine malevolent eyes glaring at me from the shadows. I can feel goose flesh wrap around me.
I run, as swiftly as my legs can carry me, and I hear the scurrying tap-tap quicken to match my pace behind me. I don’t peer behind me, I don’t slow down even while rounding the corner. The door, I must reach the door. My arm reaches out, my hand curls around the door knob and I slip through, slamming it shut behind me.
A violent impact shakes the door in its frame and I’m thrown back. Quickly I descend the steps, two flights down and I hear the door above me shatter, a splintered shard of wood falls down past me.
Shit! Here it comes!
I just keep running, even when my legs start to burn and my chest tightens, I don’t stop. I don’t know what that thing is but I don’t intend to find out. The knowledge that it stalks its prey is a hint of some intelligence – that’s enough to unnerve me.
Suddenly I can go no further. The flight of stairs simply breaks off, wrecked and crumbling. I have to volt up another flight to reach the nearest door. Struggle to open it, it’s jammed!
Dammit! Try the next one. This time luck!
I find myself in another foyer – and I’m not the only one.
A man stands there in black fatigues – dressed for war.
He holds some kind of automatic rifle in his hands, standing over a corpse of Cutter. Around him bodies lay strewn in pieces.
He turns to face me. A gasmask covers his face and beneath the goggles I sense a cryptic and calculating stare.
I’m thrown forward, the door behind me shatters and I hear the clamour of automatic fire followed promptly by a shrieking wale.
I stumble to my feet, look around to see the man thrusting a combat knife through a repulsive looking mutation with multiple limbs and curved talons. He must’ve moved damn fast to cover that distance and get in under it with a knife. He pushes it aside, extracting his blade from its throat, as it slumps to the floor.
I make my getaway while he’s occupied. Speeding off at a run and even as I do I hear the thundering roar of what could only be a Sentry close by. Suddenly a massive form crashes through the windows to my left and sprawls on the floor only a few metres ahead of me.
I come to a grinding halt as it rises, shaking off shards of glass. It bellows and charges at me. Bullets spit past me like streaking lines of yellow light, one coming close enough to my neck that I could feel the heat as it passes.
The bullets ripped into the brute. It clutches its face in agony and I have to dive aside to avoid it ploughing through me.
I hit the ground hard and the Sentry charges past, crashing into the wall beside it as it struggled, disorientated and infuriated. I see the man approach, casually striding up to the creature. He draws a side arm and with one shot ripping through its head, the Sentry drops.
An efficient killer. Is he on my side? We share a common enemy but there’s always this ever present issue of trust amongst other humans where self-preservation is concerned. I’m not waiting to find out, this guy must have a death wish to come into a place like this blasting away. He might as while be banging a gong, inviting every Creep in a 5 mile radius for a feast.
And it doesn’t matter how “hard-core” you are, when the bigger things start showing up, you will die.
“Stay where you are!” I shout, raising my pistol as I get up again.
He stops and raises his gloved hands in an unthreatening gesture.
The first person I’ve come across in days that isn’t already a corpse. But this man was different, well trained, well equipped. Is he the only one here? Why is he here? Where did he come from?
I hear the faint buzzing of a chopper in the distance. Something is definitely going down and I find myself in the middle of it now.
I fire three rounds. They cleave into the wall beside the man, he rolls away to evade, masonic dust sprouting from the walls like blood from a wound.
I make my get away. Sprinting down the corridor. I remember the day this hell visited us- this man reminds me of the people responsible. He appeared to be well sponsored by a resourceful organisation, probably connected to that chopper too. No survivalist looks like that. You know one when you see one, survivalists looked like me; a rag-tag shamble of whatever it takes to stay alive.
I ran over the massacred bodies of the Creeps that stood in the way of some heavy fire power. He obviously came through this way. That may mean my chances of running into something sinister could be abated.
Sure enough, I managed to make my way down to the ground floor without encountering much more than a clumsy “Hobbler” or two, too slow to be a threat.
I had a lingering impression I was being followed at a careful distance, but I’m open to the possibility that this could be the result of a suspicious mind.
Soon I’ll be free of this tower of ghouls.
I step into the main lobby and freeze.
It’s filled with Hobblers – Dammit!
They stumble around mindlessly but with a single purpose, driven by the need to satiate their perpetual craving. And with all the dinner bells ringing from this derelict building, the lure was probably too good to resist.
Now they blocked my only exit out of here.
I take a deep breath – Okay, let’s do this.
I pull the buff over my lower face and bring down the hockey mask strapped to my head, completely concealing my face. I holster my pistol and reach for the axe.
A Hobbler moans with delight as it notices me, suddenly more begin to take note of presence.
Here we go!
Cleaving my way through the shuffling crowd in a spray of red, taking care to make the blows count and allow myself the room I need to manoeuvre, keeping a steady progress as to not get completely surrounded, and not offering the nape of my neck to the nearest freak behind me.
Cracking skulls.
The exit approaches and with one more swing to thwart the last fetid obstacle my way is clear!
I step out into the world and cold night. Ungainly figures are steadily approaching from all angles, stumbling out of alley ways and hobbling down streets.
I’ve made it.
But something isn’t right.
What’s this feeling? This sensation? It’s not elation… It’s something… else.
My upper arm begins to sting again. Suddenly my legs give way and I realise I’m on my knees. The bloody axe slips from my grasp. My vision is swimming, my head filling up with flashing lights and numbing pain. I feel myself sway, my eyes peer up, struggling to keep consciousness but despite myself I slump over to fall upon the cold asphalt. All feeling and sensation swiftly leaving my body as I lay upon the ground in front of the doors to the building ringing the dinner bells.
I can’t move!
I lay there, fading away fast but all I’m thinking of is how close I came - and how I’d end up on tonight’s menu despite this.
But then I hear something.
Is that gunfire? Automatic? Are the delusions setting in? As long as there is no pain. I’m ready to leave this cruel world.
I hear voices in my head as dark figures loom above me, “She’s still alive, call in the Bio-Med, she’ll need the vaccine.”
Then I drift off…

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chapter One

     Luke, waking early the following morning, arose before anyone
else- this being his usual practice. The mornings were his favorite
time of the day, the time when the sun was struggling to make it over the
horizon. This was his time; a time when everything seemed quiet, still,
and peaceful, without a rambunctious mother or sisters or such a melancholy
father to impute his unwelcome thoughts.

  Departing from the house, Luke strolled into the forest nearby,
still bright from summer, although autumn would be coming before long;
A bit of a chill and something in the wind could already be felt.

  He walked along the paths he usually chose, the ones not many other
people enjoyed as he did,  especially down the routes he particularly
liked. Really, they were nothing more than deer tracks and hardly paths
at all; still, this made them even better, letting him wander and
think, passing by streams and creeks where wildlife frequented.
Dear and rabbits were especially common, and they had gotten so
familiar to his presence that they scarcely even started at the sight
of him.

    After an hour or two, when the sun had risen high enough to see more
easily, he returned, assuming correctly that someone would
be up by now. Usually it would be his father, or sometimes Saffron who
was a rather light sleeper. He and whoever else would dawdle and talk until
breakfast; however, today he was surprised upon entering the
parlor by another person, finding Hazel sitting and reading a book.
He wondered whether or not to interrupt her, and decided it would be worth the risk, "Good
morning, Miss Chandler." She started at the sound of his voice.

"Oh! good morning, Master Williams."

"I apologize. I didn't mean to startle you."

"No," she laughed, "the fault is entirely mine. I fear I was so
engrossed that I didn't notice your entrance."

"Do you mind if I ask-? What are you reading?" Luke entered the room
and sat across from Hazel.

"It's a collection of short stories and tales. To be perfectly honest,
I can derive enjoyment from reading most anything, but I love fairy
tales out of them all.” She paused a moment before adding, “Probably
you think I'm silly- for liking nonsensical stories such as these."

"Ah, you would be mistaken, madam. This is Grimm’s Fairy Tales, is it
not? This particular book," Luke explained, "I bought myself a year ago
when it was first dispensed for the public. When I originally heard of
it, I was thrilled, determining to do what I must- to buy it."

"Truly? So this is a book which you added to the Library yourself."

He smiled, "Indeed, my family thought I was ridiculous to spend as I
did on books, especially fairy tales, but I think you will agree with
me that it was entirely worth bit of it."

Hazel laughed, about to reply, when her mother appeared in the doorway
and interrupted, “Hazel! My dear, the cook is just about to ring for
breakfast. Are you going to sit and chatter all day?”

    Hazel glanced at her mother when she said this, and there was
something in her eyes Luke couldn’t identify. Then it was gone, like it
was never there at all, and her crystal eyes returned to Luke. She smiled, "Well,
I suppose I ought to take this up to my room before breakfast. If you'll excuse me,
Master Williams."

"Of course."

   As Hazel left, her mother walked towards Luke, who stood, as was
proper, and offered her a seat and tea, if she would like him to get
some; although it would be an odd thing to have just before
breakfast. Still, Luke’s mother expected him to be beyond civil, and he
was fulfilling duties.

“No…, thank you my dear, but I would much prefer a bit of company, if
you wouldn’t mind offering it, before the cook rings the bell.”

“Oh!” Luke was surprised by this request, knowing she
hadn’t been particularly impressed by him the day before. “Of course,
Mrs. Chandler; it would be my pleasure.” She seated herself where Hazel
had been, and an awkward silence followed. After a moment more, he
couldn’t bare it further and tried small talk.

“The weather, I’m sure you will be pleased to hear, is beautiful today.
Perhaps you will like to make that visit to town this afternoon.”

Mrs. Chandlers nodded curtly and smiled such a fake smile. “Master
Williams, I do hope you understand that we’re here to get away from
city life.”

“Yes, I- of course… I wasn’t meaning to insinuate anything. I apologize
if it came across-“

“Master Williams, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Luke, wondering what he could have possibly done in so
short a time to upset Mrs. Chandler, tried to explain that he didn’t
understand at all what she meant, but the bell rang in the next room
before he could say two words. Mrs. Chandler stood, “If we must, we will speak of it
another time. If you will pardon me, Master Williams.”

He stood for her departure, utterly confused. Outwardly, however, he
remained calm, “Of course, madam.”


    Breakfast seemed to ebb along in the slowest possible fashion, and
Luke had to strain to appear patient. He really just wanted to be out
of the house and away from everybody. They were all acting strangely
for one reason or another, especially the Williamses who were either
doing everything to appear hospitable, friendly, and the perfect place for
lots of rich guests; or trying to impress one another. Luke, personally, didn’t
entirely understand the latter example, especially when it came from Saffron,
who was generally a companion with whom he could enjoy a reasonable conversation.
Today, however, she was focused on other things and seemed to be acting out of
character. Mrs. Chandler was probably the worst of the Chandlers, as
she kept looking at him oddly, somewhat snarky, and interrupting him
uncivilly. Even Hazel sat at the other end of the table and avoided his eye.

   It did end, however, and that was a good moment. Luke immediately
made his apologies and left, escaping, and walking the two miles to
town. The walk was exceptionally relaxing, and he went slowly to draw
it out, letting his mind wander.

   It was only the second day since the Chandlers had come, and yet,
things were already becoming awkward. Luke couldn’t explain either his
conversation with Mrs. Chandler that morning, or the way Hazel had
acted afterwards. Perhaps they thought he was too beneath them and
didn’t want to bother talking with him more than absolutely necessary.
Only- they- especially his and Hazel’s mother- seemed to get on
relatively well and each had much to talk about. Just that morning
Luke’s mother had expressed her joy at Mrs. Chandler’s recovered
health, and the conversation from yesterday went on practically
unceasingly. Also, from what he had seen of Hazel Chandler, she didn’t
seem the kind to be so petty or aloof. It was all completely baffling
and governed his mind until arriving in Hemmingsworth.

    Luke’s excuse, when leaving home, had been that he had promised to
Go to town to see a friend of his that day. Well, he might not have
actually promised it, but it had been more than a fortnight since he
had seen Jack Cartright and assumed his presence would not be dismayed.
However, upon arriving, he found Jack had already left for the day to
visit his brother and sister-in-law in the next county over. They had
been married just over a year, but Jack still missed his brother and
visited often.
Disheartened, Luke determined to browse the town until nightfall; a
ploy, as it was, to avoid as much communication with the Chandlers as possible
that day.


    Browsing Hemmingsworth, in usual terms, would not have taken all
day; however, Luke stretched it out, and triumphed in delaying his return.
Part of which, must be attributed to having been invited to an
acquaintance’s for lunch, where he remained afterward for tea and
conversation. It was the house of the Adams who were particularly
fond of gossip.

“My, my, Master Williams! It seems so long since we last had the
pleasure of your company!” Mrs. Adams proclaimed. To which, Luke
replied that he would certainly visit more often.

“Yes, yes, you really must!” She paused only a minute before adding,
“And by the by, a little bird told me that an exceptionally elegant
chaise was seen arriving at your quaint little bed and breakfast! Dare
I ask- are we to have new acquaintances for the ball?”

Luke, smiling, explained that he was uncertain whether or not his
guests would be their guests at the ball when the time came, but would
be sure to inform them of its existence, in case they did, indeed, wish
to join. This reply, of course, hardly satisfied Mrs. Adams’ hunger for
gossip, and the afternoon passed in her attempt to casually gain more
information. Miss Adams, but fifteen, seemed particularly distracted in
trying to gain his attention until he left, exclaiming how excited she
was for the ball, especially, and wondering if he would be there.

   All in all, the time slipped by sufficiently well, and when he did
get back, was addressed with exclamations of surprise at his being away
for so terribly long. However, dinner passed fairly the same as breakfast had;
only, Hazel didn’t entirely ignore him. Almost, to be certain, but not
completely, for she did ask him how his trip to town was. The
conversation between them ceased after this.

   That night, he took to the library where he was least likely to be
interrupted. He thought Hazel might venture in, but contrariwise, it
remained quiet. Luke assumed this was because she still had books to read in her own
room and remembered her reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales that morning. These
thoughts, however, were trying to take his mind again, and he refused
to think on them further, delving, instead, into his books until late at
night when all the house was silent and serene. He slipped past the
doors , noticing a small light coming from Miss Chandler’s room, and
strove to be especially quiet until he found sanctuary in his own
room, where he swiftly drifted off after a long day of too much thinking

Friday, September 21, 2012


  Hey, everybody!
Nope, this isn't a new FF..., I'm still working on that.. [or, that is, I really NEED to work on that ~cough cough~]
[First, lem'me say sorry that the story is kinda... all on one side? For some reason, my email makes it like that... You see, I've been saving it on my email as a draft since I lost my flashdrive. xD]
But anyway, this is a story I've been working for the last several days. Well, obviously, the prologue to a story. It's completely different than the style I usually write in, so prepare for some... well, unusual-ness.
I've just recently read Pride and Prejudice [twice, actually, once to myself, and once out loud to my mom, both reading, in which, about the space of two weeks xD], and I absolutely loved the strange style Jane Austen wrote it in. At first, I didn't; I thought it was weird because I was used to something entirely different. Once I got over that, however, I enjoyed it highly! And I got the urge to attempt something similar. Hence, this story.
It's different, like I said, than usually, but hopefully y'all'll like it anyway :3
Please tell me what you think, and don't at all be afraid to critique!

And that's that!

( •_•)>⌐■-■

Have fun! 8]

  Hazel Chandler and her family were to arrive within the course of
the morning, an impossibly trepidatious thought for Mrs. Williams.
"Luke! My dear, never leave your books lying about so! You're going to cause
the death of me, falling over and splitting my head open! Do you so desire my end?"

"No, mother, of course not." Luke replied warmly.

"Well, I certainly hope not! Get them up, my dear, and prepare
yourself! The Chandlers aren't to be taken so evidently lightly! You
know how important they are; don't dawdle so!" Mr. Williams remained
quiet, reading his newspaper, as the youngest two Williamses, Mia and
Saffron, just a year apart, and neither of which older than seventeen,
dashed past in a frenzy to make something special of their appearances,
this being one of the few occasions they might actually meet with new
acquaintances. "Saffron! Mia! Watch where you're going, children! My
word, what is to become of me!"

"Yes, mother!" Saffron called out, "I'm so terribly sorry, but you see
I'm trying to look pretty... And I'm doing just for you! I know how 
important this is for you. I thought it would help if the Chandlers liked me."
Mia could hardly contain her giggle at her sister’s sly reply and disappeared
into another room before her mother caught sight of her mischievous grin.

"Aww, alright then, sweeties, just make sure you're on your best
behavior when the Chandlers do so arrive!"  She called after them.

    Thus, in this manner, so spent the early morning- Mrs. Williams
fretting, Mr. Williams avoiding, and two Miss Williamses fixing their
hair. Luke Williams was quite used to it after nineteen years of
experience. Hence, he remained quiet and attended to what needed
attending to as he thought about nothing more interesting than the
arrival of the guests they were to be keeping for a fortnight. The
Chandlers had written Mr. Williams a month before, requesting the
trouble of keeping them for thus time, for the city house in which they
generally resided was being updated with the newest... well,
everything. The Chandlers, consisting of a man, wife, single daughter,
Hazel, and son, Collin, were decided upon experiencing the country life;
and they, being none other than the richest guests the Williamses had
hence encountered, were imposing themselves with the knowledge of the
deepest wishes of Mrs. Williams to have such a renowned title for her
humble bed and breakfast, they would be taken care of with the utmost
civility... At least as well can be managed from a country home.

Day One

    The Chandlers were late. Fortunately, this suited Mrs. Williams
perfectly well, for she was able to finish last minute tidying to near
satisfaction; and the breakfast they were to serve, having turned into
lunch, had the addition of a third course. “They’re coming!” Mia,
giddy and frolicking about the house, shouted from the front-facing
parlor. “Yes, my dear, of course they are, just inform me when you see
them.” Mr. Williams muttered from behind his newspaper.

“Mr. Williams! Stand up! Stand up!” Mrs. Williams fretted, “They’re
just coming ‘round the bend! I can see their chaise. I do declare, it’s
as elegant as I ever would have imagined!” Mr. Williams sighed, and
reluctantly stood, not quite as agitated with excitement as the women
rapturously were. Luke Williams was of a like mind, although he was
rather more curious than his father.

     Mr. Williams considered the whole charade completely unnecessary,
as he personally saw the arrivals simply what they were- people, who
happened to have a lot of money. Mia and Saffron, on the other hand,
had similar expectations, both of which delighting in new company, and
therefore, new gossip. However, Mia was more interested in this than
her sister, for Saffron, unbeknownst to her relations, had other
schemes that were developing steadily. Mrs. Williams had the sole
thought of glory, praise, and lots and lots of money if the Chandlers
were good enough to talk to others of their society about her humble
bed and breakfast. Luke looked forward to new company and hoped to find
among them a similar mind, spirit, and, of course, one who must admire

  "Here they are!" Mrs. Williams rushed to the front door and nodded to
Harris, the butler whom they had kept on for as long as she could
remember. He was an old fellow, but did his job well enough, and Mrs.
Williams rather enjoyed talking to him, for he was a good listener,
even if he was deaf.  Harris opened the door, admitting the Chandlers.

   “Oh! How quaint this is!” Mrs. Chandler, the leader and entrepreneur
of this vacation, strode into the room.  She was adorned in pearls from
bracelets to buttons to necklaces, and as elegant as she was, her
clothes were tight-fitting on her large form. Collin Chandler followed
behind her,  enormously physically different, considering his vergiform
appearance and modest vest. He seemed resigned to be there. Behind him
came Mr. Chandler, tall and broad, followed just a moment later by
Hazel Chandler in a simple gown and single loop of pearls around her
slender neck.

   “Welcome! Welcome, to my humble home, Mr. and Mrs. Chandler, Miss
Chandler, Master Chandler!” Mrs. Williams trilled and curtsied much
lower than entirely necessary. “This is my husband, Mr. Williams,” Mr.
Williams bowed his head, “And my daughters, Mia and Saffron.”  Mia
immediately curtsied and greeted them, but Saffron stared at Collin
Chandler until he happened to glance her way; She bowed her head and
curtsied, “Charmed… I’m sure.” She murmured quietly.
“And this is my son, Luke Williams.”

 “Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“My,  my!” Mrs. Chandler babbled, looking about the room without the
least bit of forbearance. “Small, to be sure, but such a darling

“Of course it’s going to be small, Mother; it’s the country after all.”
Collin mumbled.

    Luke tried not to cringe at the incivility, and ceased
listening to the exchange between the Chandlers and his mother. His eyes
fell, staring into the distance and nothing at all. For a moment, he
stared at the quilt hung on the wall; and then his eyes roamed to
Collin’s face. His eyes were brown, a determined brown, like they
weren’t going to change color for anybody. His personality appeared not
to be as Luke had hoped for, but it was too soon to judge with any
accuracy. He would give him another few days before he really accepted
the dismal character.  Luke diverted his eyes, and, momentarily, 
they fell on Hazel Chandler. He started, realizing she was staring 
back at him. Her eyes were crystal blue, and intense. They 
widened at his look and moved hurriedly to another part of the room.


     Lunch was, without doubt, the most unusual Luke had ever had in
his nineteen years. Mostly he remained quiet, and watched, listened to
the visitors. One minute would invite Mrs. Chandler’s remarks on one
thing or another, with the next, his mother’s mutterings of humbleness,
and hoping for the most amiable experience for her guests. Soon after,
Mia would be asking anything and everything of city life, to Luke’s dismay
of such poor civility in new company. Collin mostly grunted, remarked
with displeasure on one topic or another, and obviously couldn’t wait to
 be rid of his current companions. Mr.Williams and Mr. Chandler got
on tolerably well; at least they talked to each other a bit, which was an
improvement, at least, for Luke’s father. The strangest part of it all was,
however, Hazel Chandler’s attitude and behavior.

   Luke, sparing a glance for her once in a while, curiously wondering
what she was thinking, noticed she hardly talked either, choosing,
instead, to focus on the two courses and rather observing the faces
around her. She didn’t appear shy, only interested, quiet, getting ideas of the
individuals just through their faces. He caught her, once or twice, looking
at him, yet again, with those severely intense crystal orbs.

   Trying to identify with her, Luke determined to attempt
light conversation, as she was sitting just across from him, and
whenever there was a lull, “I hope your journey to our town was an
agreeable one, Miss Chandler.” Hazel glanced up, a bit surprised at
being spoken to, and replied casually that it was perfectly adequate.
The silence lasted only a moment before Hazel’s mother gladly took upon
herself the burden of making conversation, “By the by, I’m sure your
town of Hemmingsworth must be absolutely quaint! I can only possibly wonder how
it will compare to our, dear city! Indeed, I shall enjoy a drive through it.”

With this, Luke went back to his lunch and remained silently with his
own thoughts.


   The day passed more quickly than even Mr. Williams would have hoped.
While they were lunching, Harris, the butler, took the Chandler’s
luggage up to their rooms; and after a bit more of the dreaded polite
conversation in the parlor, Mrs. Chandler proclaimed herself weary with
the traveling and all this meeting of new people. “Oh, my dear Mr.
Chandler, I’m suffering from the most dreadful headache! It must be
 from that trundling drive here. And such strange surroundings I’m not
at all used to! ” Luke’s mother immediately expressed concern, offering
to send for the doctor, but Mrs. Chandler wouldn’t have it, exclaiming
she only needed to rest.  She and her husband went upstairs, leaving
Hazel and Collin with the company of the Williamses.

   Silence ensued. “Master Chandler,” Saffron interrupting it, spoke,
“Perhaps you would like to see the grounds? We have a most lovely
forest nearby, and the pathways are overshadowed from the heat of the
day. I find it quite nice to walk along the paths and get away for a
while.” Collin blinked, but agreed, almost happily, that he would very
much like to be out in the open air. Luke wondered when it was that
Saffron had started liking the outdoors so much, but remained quiet.
Collin bowed and exited with Saffron beside him.

   Mr. Williams soon gave up, retiring to his room, never one for idle
chatter, and Mrs. Williams did her best to make conversation between
Mia and Hazel. The attempt didn’t last long, however, as neither seemed
at all interested in the other. After a bit, Mrs. Williams, sipping her
tea, seemed to stop altogether making any useful conversation.
Realizing the burden had fallen on himself, Luke tried to think of
something to talk about, but Hazle took the trouble herself, “To be
honest, I’ve been longing to ask, do you have a library I might use?”
Luke glanced up, a half-smile on his face.

“Oh!” Mrs. Williams, surprised by this question from the young lady,
“absolutely, Miss Chandler! Would you like me to take you, or…”

“I can show her, Mother, if you would like me too- Miss Chandler?”

She smiled, graciously, “I would very much appreciate it. Mrs.
Williams, I hope you don’t mind my slipping away?”

“No, no! You go right ahead and do what you like, my dear.” Hazel
curtsied, following Luke out of the room.

   Opening the door their small library, Luke and Hazel entered
silently. “Are you fond of books, Master Williams?”

He smiled, “Exceptionally. No one but my father and myself really enjoy
reading, and when it comes to Father, mostly he reads only the
newspaper. Our library was essentially gathered by the past generation
and myself.”

“A kindred spirit.” Hazel smiled at him, and turned, browsing the

Luke, clearing his throat, “Well, I’ll let you read in peace, Miss
Chandler,” and exited the room.


   The remainder of the day passed in near silence. Mrs. Chandler
remained in her room all that day, with her husband taking her food
when the time came, having informed them that she was abed, still, with
her headache. Collin and Saffron stayed gone until dinner, only coming
back when entirely necessary, both in better spirits than the morning
had afforded. And when Hazel returned from the library, she requested
to take a few books to her own room, and was answered with a most
welcome yes, Mrs. Williams already hoping for a most excellent review
from the youngest Chandler.

   Retiring to bed, Luke pondered his guests, letting all his amiable,
civil, and gallant faces fall way to what he really thought of them. He
wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the lot of them, their family
being drastically different from his own. Except, that is, for Miss
Hazel, who seemed rather more interesting.
   It was a long while before he could let go of his thoughts, and drift off at last.