Paladin chapter 1

A sample of something I’ve wanted to write for a while (about a month) but I’ve been focusing on you-know-what instead.

It’s also a piece of Discovery writing, ie not the type I usually do.

 

They call me Paladin.

Obviously that’s not my real name – that would be something else entirely, and in this world, exchanging names just leads to emotional connection. I don’t need that shit and you don’t need to know my real name; only the story that follows.

So call me Paladin. Everyone else does.

The highway passes by in patches under dirt and sand, barely visible but definitely there, somewhere. The corpses of skyscrapers appear in the distance and I know I’m going the right way towards Terminus. I haven’t seen jack out here, so I feel confident doing a hundred and fifty, because it’s a highway and I ain’t seen jack.

Having a car is a big neon sign to wasteland punks desperate for fuel. The guns on the bonnet of the Inception V8 are a deterrent, but the system picks up five of them closing in fast on my position from the right over a small mound, a bunch of motorbikes and dune buggies. I wait until they get close enough and press the auto-fire button. The guns open up – one of the bikes takes a hit and spins out of control, barely missing another bike. The guns swivel and fire on their own, but the punks know I’m armed now and they spread out to flank me.

I brake hard.

One rider on my left crashes into a buggy and the two collide in a screeching tangle of metal and pulverised limbs. Two left; the guns take out a buggy, and it spins out of control, going airborne when it flies off another desert mound. For a brief moment it’s flying, then it slams back to the ground and hits a dead tree. I barely see the punk slam forward, head smacking into the tree and splattering blood everywhere, before the low ammo alarm blares.

I hit the pedal.

The guns miss the last punk, and the chambers are empty, the only thing left is the smoke from the barrels.

The punk – this last one in a buggy – turns and shoots at me, the bullets thumping into bulletproof glass. The glass takes the hits, but only just. Cracks spider-web from the impacts.

Switching to auto-drive I grab my Vortex Thermal Rifle, which I call Grace, and lower the window. A hail of bullets pepper the side of the car, and some hit me, but I’m unconcerned because of my healing factor – though it hurts like a motherfucker. I lean out the window, fire off two multi-hued energy beams one after another, and the second one hits, vaporising the punk instantly. The vehicle rolls as it hits a pot hole and comes to a rest upside down.

I stop by the wreck, turn the car off and inspect the punk’s possessions.

He has food and decent shoes, so I take those. He also has a small statuette of a bobcat. I look it over, when I hear movement I pocket it and rise to standing, and point my gun at the noise. One of the punks has survived, crawling on his belly over the sand mound. He reaches for his gun, pulls it out with trembling fingers, and then dies. I take his gun too, and some more food from his bag.

Then I get back in the Inception and drive for Terminus.

Dark sides

I’m rewriting a short story about darksides and come to the conclusion that my character’s darkside double needs to be darker.

The character at one point, a while ago, was homophobic, so maybe I could go back to that being one of his flaws. Then there’s his alcoholism. And finally, his berserk button – harming his love interest. He will straight up murder someone if they threaten her. It’s not white knight – it’s psychotic. In the setting, there is no law (“Lawless Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland” is the definition) so he can do that. And this is the good guy. His dark side is amplification of those traits, or a twisting of them into something worse. That’s how you write dark sides – by amplifying negative aspects to a character’s personality.

Which is why Peter Parker in Spiderman 3 was so cringe-worthy in that scene where he’s gone “bad” – he’s not a bad guy, he’s a dork. That behaviour is a magnification of his dorkiness.

‘Just’ Happens To Be Gay

Today’s post is a link to a Book Riot post. I agree so much. “This, so much this” even. So here’s an article for you.

http://bookriot.com/2015/04/10/lets-stop-saying-just-happens-gay/#

My thoughts on this follow. Disclaimer: I am a straight white male. I am the default. (The Defaultinator?) My word is powerful, even though I don’t feel very powerful myself. I’m straight when gay or other is being talked about; I’m white, everyone’s clamoring for more ethnicities other than mine;  I’m male, so I’m supposed to be the master sex. To me, these factors don’t seem to make me all that interesting. But then I think about how the world still gives gay people, people of colours other than white, and women a hard time (especially women in gaming, but that’s another post) and I realise I have it good, being what I am.

So. I thought I was the only person for whom “just happens to be…” annoyed the shit out of! So glad to find other people who think like I do (in this instance).

Is being gay the lowest importance to a gay person? Hell no. Of course not. It’s MUCH more important to a gay person. Same goes for women, for ethnicities other than white, for trans people, etc. This phrase is BS that I’m sick of people brandishing as if being gay doesn’t matter. It does matter. It matters a lot. And this particular phrase, while meaning well, diminishes the experience to the lowest level of importance. I’m all for equality and ending racism, sexism, homophobia, all that. I really am. But I get pretty annoyed with “just happens to be…”. It actually diminishes the importance of the experience, experiences that shape easily 50% (probably a lot more) of the human condition.

I don’t know how I managed to not be reading Book Riot before a couple weeks ago. I’m liking it a lot. I might even be LIKE liking it. :p

He Was In The Dark, Alone, At The Bottom Of A Pit

This is the title of my current work, for my writing group, and for our next anthology, Darkest Depths. We don’t have much in stone yet, but we’re looking at a 2016 release, and we’ve decided on the title… and that’s about it. The title has a built-in theme, obviously, that of darkness, deepness and what lurks there. Mine is about a character’s dark side – glowing red eyes, trechcoat (maybe), the whole shebang.

I feel the title is Literary – or, maybe not, but it’s definitely evocative and not-vague. Australian novels all have one-word titles, maybe with ‘the’ at the beginning, it seems. It’s like we’re allergic to anything else. That’s the way it seemed at one point during Uni, anyway. One-word titles feel restrictive, and most short stories have longer titles – much longer – so I wonder why it is this way? Even if it still is, because I graduated a few years ago.

One critiquer suggested I start with my character waking up in the deep dark pit, and remember in pieces. They might be on the money with that idea, but it would mean losing a scene in another character’s POV, so I don’t know. But I’m giving that suggestion a go and it’s working out fine so far.

Tooth pain

I have been having some horrendous tooth pain, the kind only antibiotics and codeine have helped with. All weaker meds are ineffective. The reason being, I need a root canal procedure done because it’s all nasty up inside. Words like “drilling” and “draining” were used. I’m not looking forward to that, though the dentist says it’s not THAT bad.

This is because of what happened when I was in fifth grade. I’d just lost two teeth the night before, and I was really woozy. I got up to get some water, I think, and I went to the kitchen bench. I was saying something, then I paused.

Next thing I knew I was on my back, in the hallway, mouth bloody, front two teeth shattered. I was crying, obviously; you would have too. I had to get an emergency procedure on my front teeth, this horrible, concrete-tasting thing they put on the teeth until they could put the caps in. I’ve had to get the plastic fake-teeth replaced every so often, usually once a year, though I haven’t had to for several, lately.

Today I went to the dentist, and found out why my tooth – the one next to one of the fake ones – has been sore this last week. It’s because of that day when I lost the front ones.

It’ll be $700 to get this root canal procedure done. Good fun.

In the meantime, antibiotics. Which are working wonderfully, btw. Though I did feel like throwing up while in the dentist’s chair. Not sure if pain or codeine or what.

So that’s what’s going on in my life right now. A complication from when I was 10 (ish). Good times.

Women Are Aliens

I’m going to be honest with you:

I’m not as familiar with the ladies as I wish I was.

That’s not to say I’m totally ignorant.

Andrew Smith recently-ish (I’ll go for vague here) said that he’s completely ignorant about the ladies. They’re foreign and alien to him. And there’s been a bit of a backlash to him saying that. (He’s got 9 novels published) I know this only because I’m on Book Riot right now, listening to a podcast, and they’re currently talking about it.

He’s supposedly only know a few females; he has a daughter, and that’s it. That’s pretty sad. To think that someone has only known 3 women in his entire life – his mother (maybe), the mother of his child (maybe), and his child (aged 17) – is pretty bleak. What about teachers? Editors of his books, or the publishing team behind them? Surely you know SOME women!

But I’m talking about this because I am in kind of the same position, sort of. See, I’m shy. As a shy male, I don’t approach the ladies. Ever. If I know any, and I know a few, it’s because they approached me first. I’m reserved, I’m introverted, and for most of my life, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting that many of the female persuasion.

Most of my friends are male. That’s a hard fact. I do know a few women, but it’s way less than 51% of my friend list on Facebook.

But even I, who only has a few female friends, don’t make the mistake of thinking of women as alien, foreign, Different.

Yes, there’s some things that only women have to experience. You know, that whole menstrual cycle thing. And maybe feelings, I guess?

Back to seriousness, well, men feel things too, you know? We feel anger, sure. But we also feel love. We feel confusion. We feel envy. We feel uncomfortable when another dude kisses a girl we were talking to ten minutes ago. We hate, we love, we fear.

Guess what? So do women and girls. We all have these reactions, because we’re all human.

But to admit you don’t know many of the opposite gender is brave. Because you’re putting your view out there to be scrutinised, and you’re going to be judged whether you like it or not. That’s life. Man or woman, that’s what happens. You’ve got to be aware of that. You can’t hide behind a shield of “I don’t know women”. And while it’s true that some men really don’t, there’s a point where it’s necessary to admit that you need to learn, and then to learn.

If you don’t know many women, you have to correct that. I know it can be fear-inducing; for my entire school life, I didn’t know more than about 2 girls. And when grade 7 came around, when I was liked by TWO girls, I completely shut down and basically took a fetal position and tried to keep it all at bay. I did however like the attention, but since I was a ball of anxiety and confusion, I didn’t do so well with two girls liking me at all, let alone at the same time. Hormones are a bitch. People with Asperger’s Syndrome have it worse. It’s hell. It’s confusing as all hell, you probably don’t want to admit you have a problem, and you don’t know who to turn to.

I knew maybe three girls before I turned 15. Just three. One I knew from Sunday School at Church. My mum got ostracised from that particular church and I never knew why. I later reconnected with a girl from preschool, and at the same time, word on the street was that a popular girl liked me (bullshit, I said). It made me really embarrassed (out of confusion and not being equipped to handle that sort of strange new thing). The girl from preschool stopped liking me when I didn’t reciprocate with the fact that I actually liked her too. I COULDN’T, because I was a messed up ball of fear. So know you know my deepest, darkest secret.

It wasn’t until I was 15, or grade 10, that a girl even said hi to me again. It was short, I was nervous, I regret not being braver. Shit happens.

I go to my local pub, and I know maybe 10 women from there. Yes, 10. That seems a lot to me, considering how shy I am, but not that many, in the greater scheme of things.

The thing is, I don’t know anyone really well. I’ve known some of these females of the species for three or four years, but mostly, they have other people to talk to. The time spent with them is small compared to the time they spend with other people who aren’t me. I don’t know them deeply, I don’t know much about them, only the five minutes I get to spend with them, which is only enough for surface level stuff.

I’m almost 30 and I haven’t had a girlfriend, except this Chinese girl for about a month (3 days, if you want to get technical).

That was when I was 20. Two people in my entire life has asked if I have a girlfriend; one was a coworker and one was a gay guy. One guy, one girl. That’s it.

I think it might be that I’m just not appealing to people in general. I’ve gotten more interesting in the last 10 years, being a writer. But I think it might be that I’m shy. Shy people are hard to talk to, because we’re short with our answers and we don’t go around saying hi to people. It takes a lot of courage to do that. We suck at it. I met a shy girl recently, she didn’t seem very interesting. Maybe she is, I’ll definitely spend more than five minutes with her next time I see her, but she seemed pretty shy to me, not really knowing how to answer questions or get conversation going… and I finally saw what shy people are like from the outside.

I can finally say I’m less shy than I used to be. I’m not an outgoing person; I’m still antisocial in a lot of ways. But saying I don’t know any women? Well, that’s pretty ridiculous. There’s my mother, the girls I know from my local watering hole, and people I’ve worked with or for, or studied with (one of my best friends from Uni is female).

I know some fantastic ladies. And some plain ones. I even turned down a really unappealing one just the other day (a pregnant bogan who asked for a cigarette, then for my number, then for a cigarette again – no, just… no). Yeah, I usually only met weirdo, obnoxious women and I despaired because no female I met was interesting, not insane, and at least a 4. These days are better: I know some beautiful, interesting, intelligent women. I follow women on social sites (not in a stalkerish way, as far as I know). I’m even blessed to some my friends. And I am in a position that I can actually reject women who strike me as trouble. Because I’m not desperate. Because I know women now. I don’t consider them aliens any more. They’re not *that* foreign, any more. Some of the ones in my life I even like the company of. (okay, most)

So it sucks to not know many women. They make up 50% of the population! How can you not know more than 3? You must be a ball of shyness and nervousness to only have 3 in your life (or less). I’m not saying they’re all fantastic creatures (the ones I know seem to be though), but seriously? So few that you claim you don’t know ANY? That’s pretty sad.

And besides, you have to know SOME. Even if it’s just to reproduce. You obviously had to know at least one for that to happen. Unless it was this drunken thing and nine months later you got a special delivery to your door. Even then, you’d probably know at least 2. And not knowing your own daughter? That’s a bit cold, don’t you think?

Potions

Ah, the humble potion. It can restore health, mana or stamina. They can cure whatever ails you, basically. But have you noticed… they’re usually the same colours?

Health potions are generally red, mana blue, and stamina green or yellow.

Colour theory comes into this in a symbolic way.

I figure red is for blood – you have the Red Cross organisation (go donate some blood, right now!) for blood work, and having blood is generally considered healthy for human beings. Red plus signs, red potions. Red health bars, too.

Mana potions are usually blue, just like their corresponding bars. Blue is often a mystical colour, and the ocean and sky are blue, and ghosts are sometimes blue, as are magic weapons in D&D. Sting, Bilbo/Frodo Baggins’ sword, glows blue when orcs are near, is where that comes from.

Green is an earthier colour, and generally works well for stamina. Plus, there’s plant extracts that are supposed to help fix aging men’s ‘stamina’, so there’s that too. Green is nature, apex predators have stamina, I guess that’s why they usually go for green. Sometimes it’s yellow, like Dragon Age, but I’d say usually green, like in Elder Scrolls. Yellow for the sun, which is generally considered a source of positive energy (and it’s want plants want, when they don’t want ‘Lectrolytes).

So there’s some colour theory/symbolism to go with your health potions. You’re welcome.