I was hoping to get some proper content out this weekend, but instead I was sucked into editing Extinguish and didn’t get around to my short story plans.
What I did do, however, was stumble across this brief idea I’d had around about draft 6 of Extinguish, when I’d planned to rewrite the entire first half with a completely different setting (well, I did that anyway, but not in this particular direction).
Since I’m kind of fond of parts of this scene but will be unlikely to reuse it, I thought I’d share it with you. It is completely unedited, and a little rough, but I like the idea of seeing how stories can evolve.
Even as the writer, sometimes it’s fun to see how differently a story could have turned out.
So here it is: A Scrapped idea (Extinguish)
There are three rules to surviving daily life at North Camp.
- Keep your head down.
- Stick to the hierarchy.
- Never talk back.
Three simple rules.
Most people managed to obey these rules without thinking. They didn’t complain when people cut in line, or correct others when they were called by the wrong name. Anonymity was a blessing. It means no one cares who you are, and that’s good.
So, the rules were obeyed. Without needing to be explained. Without needing to be broadcasted. It was common sense, and those of us left had only survived because of common sense.
Most of us, anyway.
I was only alive because of my twin brother, Freddie. He kept me safe. He was always there to keep me from getting trampled or lost whenever the threat of an outbreak loomed close and everyone lost their minds.
He navigated this strange new world we lived in with ease. Somehow getting his hands on high valued trading items, buying us safety and a room big enough for three.
I never asked how he did got the items. Or where he sold them. He wouldn’t have told me even if I’d asked. Freddie kept me alive, though, and so I never asked questions I knew he couldn’t answer.
How he stayed alive was a different matter. Freddie broke the three rules every day. He and Tim (our best friend) had copt more beatings than anyone else and yet still they lived on. They fought and snarled and scratched their way through the rules and the barriers that stood between them and whatever it was they had their minds set on that day.
Today, it happened to be basic training.
The use of the gym was in high demand and reserved mostly for soldiers and people who volunteered for the military. Tim did the odd job here and there when he was allowed (at sixteen we were all still underage), but even he had trouble reserving time at the gym. He got it, though. He had a certain ability to get what he wanted. It wasn’t charm or charisma, he just talked a good talk. He was blunt and honest and fierce. There wasn’t much Tim said he would do that you wouldn’t believe he’d do.
It was an air he held, something almost wild and … and ancient. Whatever it was that gave Tim his talents, he was the first one they’d ask if they needed an extra hand when no one of age was available. Freddie was the second. The two of them were a volatile mix and no one could deny that they were an effective team.
Where did that leave me? Well, I was the little sister. I was the girl. The small thing that needed protecting.
Not that it stopped Freddie or Tim from beating me up themselves.
Which again led to today’s purpose in the training room. The training room, by popular request of the soldiers who protected North Camp, was one of three rooms given some of the limited power supply to run air conditioning. Despite that, a sheen of sweat covered my skin.
Every cell in my body was sweating fear. My hands were slick around the stick I held in front of me like a shield. It wouldn’t stop him, and we both knew it.
Freddie took a step to the left, and I matched the movement, sliding my feet to the right. He grinned, lips quirking up just so, in a tense excitement. He was excited because he liked training. He liked the adrenaline and the sweat and the movement and the energy it consumed. It was something to do that he was good at.
He was tense because his opponent was me. It wouldn’t stop him from beating the living hell out of me, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.
His foot shifted, the toe shuffling an inch to the left. I threw myself sideways at the same time he lunged forward. For a moment he was completely open. Over his back, leaning against the wall watching us, I saw Tim straighten.
His dark eyes locked on mine and he gave a firm nod. Do it, those eyes told me.
My grip tightened on the stick. I took a step. Tim’s face fell. I kept moving around, guiding myself away from Freddie into a defensive stance. Freddie whirled around to face me, his face going hard.
‘You shoulda hit me,’ he said, his fists clenched.
I swallowed hard but said nothing. Anything I could say would just make him angry. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t fight back. Why all I could do was defend. It didn’t matter that I defended well.
Freddie threw himself towards me again. I shuffled back, keeping my stick between us at all times. If he’d had a stick of his own I might’ve been in trouble, but then, Freddie didn’t need a weapon to inflict pain.
My reluctance to strike left me open, and in a whirl of moment Freddie kicked at the stick, flicking it easily out of my hands. I turned, hoping to scramble after it, but Freddie’s solid chest slammed into me and we tumbled to the ground.
My defence was gone, but that didn’t mean I was helpless. I was small, and as Freddie and Tim constantly told me, that was an advantage over any opponent I would have. I twisted, fighting against his hold. He dug in with his hands. I’d known he would. He was always rougher when I didn’t fight back, trying to provoke me into lashing out.
We struggled, and Freddie kept pushing at me even after the bell went off, signalling the end of our time there.
‘Do something,’ he hissed at me. ‘Just hit me for Christ’s sake.’
‘I can’t!’ I said.
Though I tried to stop them, the tears sprang up in my eyes, betraying my weakness. I wasn’t hurt, not really. Freddie never struck hard enough to really hurt me. He didn’t have it in him to.
‘It hurts doens’t it?’ he said, leaning over me even as others started to call out for him to ‘Hurry the fuck up!’
I could say nothing.
‘Just hit back. Fight, Genie!’
‘Freddie,’ I heard Tim’s voice from somewhere above us. ‘Time’s up.’
‘I don’t care,’ Freddie snarled, his gaze darting to the side.
I used that moment to get free. Freddie’s distraction cost him his grip on me and I rolled away, scrambling to my feet and diving for my stick. I grabbed at in, falling to my knees and spinning so that the blunt end of the stick faced Freddie.
He stopped short in his chase. Grey eyes darkened and he reached out to grab the end of the stick, pushing it against my grip.
‘Never give your enemy something to fight you with,’ he said.
He pushed on the stick again, and the pointy end—the end I held—slipped free and jabbed softly into my stomach. I dropped my gaze to my hands, and let my hands slide away from the stick. Freddie tossed it aside, sighing.
He hauled me up to my feet, leading me away from the soft flooring so others could take our place. Tim trailed along behind, hands shoved into his pockets, gaze roaming about the hall watching the other fights going on. The slap of skin on skin, the knock of wood, the echoing twang of metal rang throughout the room and my ears now that my own fight was over.
‘Are you hurt?’ Freddie asked.
‘No,’ I said.
He stopped, reached out and grabbed my chin, tilting it this way and that so he could determine for himself how much damage he’d done.
Grey eyes became cloudy and a brooding look settled over his face. Apparently, he’d gotten in a few good hits. No doubt in a few hours I’d start to feel the throb of pain, but for now they didn’t hurt.
Not as much as disappointing him did.