Love at Re-Sight

One fateful night two years ago, I was sitting at my table, perusing Facebook on my iPad. The day had been difficult: I had mowed the lawn, weeded the front flowerbeds, and cleaned the guest bathroom. My arms were sore and my eyes were drooping, my body screaming at me that I had to go to bed.

‘No,’ I told myself, ‘No, I don’t want to go to bed yet.’

Continuing to browse, my thoughts drifted back through my past school years. In the summertime, of course, you had no school, but it was looming upon me like a Sabor-Toothed Tiger, ready to tear and maul away at me with no end in sight.

But my thoughts were brought back to the present when I spotted something: A little green dot on my iPad screen brought forth by Facebook’s sidebar. The simulated letters next to it were what caught my attention, spelling a name that I had not spoken in three years:

Jennifer Linda Howes.

I instantly fell into a fit of nostalgia as I traveled back in time, all the way back to fifth grade. My thoughts fell on a girl that I knew, specifically on a time when we were sitting together, drawing Zelda comics in a notebook. We shared a common love for the series and often dreamed up ways we could go on vacation together in our futures.

I instantly tapped her name, my heart beating quicker than it ever had, as I quickly tapped out a message to her. Ignoring the few spelling errors autocorrect could not overcome, I tapped the send button quicker than I ever had before. Then, I slumped back in wait.

Jennifer (or as I came to call her, Jenny) was a mid-sized, blonde girl who I had become very good friends with over the years. We shared tons of common interests to the point where we could almost finish each others’ sentences. Without a doubt, she was my elementary school crush.

But suddenly, in sixth grade, she disappeared. Her mother had transferred her to a different school for reasons I could not figure out. I even asked her once (she worked at my school) and she told me that she thought it was better for her.

So we hadn’t spoken in three years. Two innocent children, loving each other yet not knowing it, separated for reasons unknown.

I waited in anticipation as the girl of my dreams read my message, then began to send one back. My eyes dialated and my hands shook, then it happened:

“Caleb!” it read, “I haven’t talked to you in ages! How have you been?”

And from there it went, catching up and exchanging phone numbers less than five minutes later. And less than a day later, I had confessed my love to her and her to me. Two seventh graders, fallen hopelessly in love with each other, never to be separated again.

To this day, she has never given me any reason to doubt that she is my perfect companion. And although we’re not perfect, two high schoolers in a relationship as long-lasting as this one has been are not to be trifled with. She is my girlfriend to this day, and I hope she will continue to be throughout the years to come, and maybe even for eternity, if all goes well.

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Ordeals

That night I waited in anticipation as my father drove away, the red 4Runner screeching down the hill with surprising speed. There were five others there with me, some older, some younger, but all there for one thing: The Ordeal.

Shiver shiver, little children, for the Bears are out to get you and the wolves bite hard!

To be honest, I don’t remember much of that night, whether it be because I don’t want to remember it, or because it was so dang AWESOME that I was slightly out of phase the whole time. But either way, I’ll do my best to recall.

We headed off, our things slung over our shoulders, following a boy dressed in mock Native American attire. I tried not to giggle as I watched his elaborate headdress, rocking back and forth as if it was taunting us. We arrived at an over dramatized Native American fire, staring at three others in their stoic, emotionless places.

After about 10 minutes of hollering and swearing oaths and dancing, we were all ushered up the hill in complete confusion. My twelve-year-old brain was still trying to make heads or tails of what was going on, and to make it all worse, I was told to stop while the rest of the group went on.

Plunged into complete darkness, I hastily laid out my stuff where I thought they were supposed to go and settled down for the night. Critters were scurrying, insects were buzzing and- Oh no, thunder was rumbling.

The rain went from sprinkles, to a shower, to a massive torrent of water pit-pattering down through the ground as if each drop was a full-fledged rhino. My sleeping bag quickly soaked through and I found myself in a pool of ice-cold rainwater. Resisting the urge to scream, my mind hollered, “Rain, rain, go away! Come again another day!”

But the ritualistic approach to all of this was broken as one of the older boys ran up to me. “Come on! We need to hurry!” he yelled over the rain, and I quickly pulled on my cold shoes, wrapped my belongings in my ground cloth, and ran with the boy through the darkness, hoping beyond hope that I would survive the night.

We made it to a cabin with an overhanging porch, and we all huddled below it. Quite accidentally we kept triggering  motion-controlled floodlight, but before long we were purposely keeping it on to give us something to do. I unrolled my ground cloth to take inventory, but I soon fell short of myself:

My clothes were gone.

Everything else was there – My backpack, my water bottle, my sleeping bag and pad, the ground cloth itself… The only things missing were my jacket and the clothes I had been wearing before changing into pajamas.

I shouted to one of the leaders, “My clothes are missing!” Upon which they grabbed flashlights and headed back into the woods, hurrying upon seeing my cold, shivering figure. All I had when it came to clothing was my shoes, a white T-Shirt, fuzzy pants, and my glasses. Everything else that was meant to cover a person was lost in the woods.

Two boys and I waited under that cabin for what seemed like years. We silently conversed, and I tried not to cry at the prospect of spending the rest of the night in the cold rain, with nothing but a T-Shirt and thin pajama pants to keep me warm.

The boy leaders returned, availing nothing from their journey but the shirt I had been wearing, which now resembled more of a rag than a shirt (it had been torn on a tree branch). I thanked them and we were told to go to a pavilion, and we headed across the parking lot, running at full speed.

The caretaker of the camp, an older guy with a pointed white beard, came speeding towards us on a four wheeler. Upon seeing his face we all shrunk back: He was VERY pissed off.

“What are you kids doing? Stop vandalizing my property, assholes!”

We all stared dumbfounded at him. We weren’t vandalizing anything! Upon telling him that we weren’t meaning to mess around the camp, he rolled his eyes.

“That is such bullshit,” he glared at us, his eyes sending sparks into our very souls. I instantly recalled Santa, with the handlebar mustache and long white beard. Now I knew what he did with his spare time! And he hated kids!

At that moment the adult leader, a large man called Brother Peterson, arrived and took over the conversation. He told us to go to the pavilion and we did, laying out our sleeping bags and attempting to stay warm.

The rest of the night consisted of having to move to another pavilion, then a very uncomfortable and wet sleep followed by the rest of the ritual (which I cannot explain due to secrecy). The caretaker promptly kicked us out of the property we were using the next morning, not giving a crap as to what we needed or the condition we were in.

We continued forth, heading down to Bro. Peterson’s house to find service to do. It feels weird to be doing service for an odd ritualistic thing at the house of the one leading it, but we put those feelings aside and continued pulling out tall grass anyways.

And let me just say this: The next day of school was the most heavenly thing in the world. No arguments.

External and Internal Conflicts

(For the two main characters):

Amanda:
External: Needs to help the Resistance defeat the Unknowns.
Internal: Needs to do so by killing some people, but nightmares of her infancy prevent her from doing so.

Ben:
External: Goes with Amanda to help the Resistance defeat the Unknowns.
Internal: Knows how to fight, but has very severe anxiety when doing so.

Seven-Point-Plot Outline

  1. Hook
    • Amanda goes about a normal day, up to watching the sunset
    • “Little did she know that that sunset… Would be her last.”
    • Darkness falls
    • Amanda meets Ben in the confusion, Ben explains what’s going on
    • Ben takes her to his house to get out of the anarchy
  2. Plot Turn 1
    • The Unknowns take control of the U.S. government
    • Amanda subconsciously recognizes her father, the leader of the Unknowns
    • Ben and Amanda discuss what to do next
  3. Pinch 1
    • The resistance begins its undercover recruitment operation
    • Amanda wants to join it, but Ben’s family strongly suggests against it
    • A quiet internal fight begins in Amanda on whether to go and fight, or to stay and risk enslavement or worse
  4. Midpoint
    • Amanda’s decision is made, Ben wishes to join her
    • After much convincing, Ben’s family concedes
    • They say goodbye and head for the hidden trainee camp
  5. Pinch 2
    • After much training, Ben and Amanda join the squad in charge of undermining Unknown authority
    • They attempt many operations, most of which fail
    • However, one succeeds and they capture one of the higher-up Unknowns who knows a lot of information
  6. Plot Turn 2
    • Amanda finds out that Unknowns’ leader is her father
    • After her mental breakdown, Amanda swears to kill her father even if it means dying herself
    • The resistance begins forming the final operation
  7. Resolution
    • The final operation is carried out and Amanda comes face-to-face with her father
    • They have a long grueling conversation
    • Finally, Amanda fights him one-on-one, barely making it out alive
    • The Unknowns’ dictatorship is shattered, leaving anarchy in its wake

Novel Update

So my novel is up to 2,500 words now! That’s… not very much at all, actually. It’s most of the way through the first chapter. But I’m making progress!

Here’s a message that one of the characters got from an unknown sender:

Night is coming, and nobody is prepared. Destination Unknown.

ApNoWriMo Character Outlines

Name: Amanda Freeman
Gender: Female
Plot Significance: Main character
Occupation: Dumpster Diver (Poverty)
Passion #1: Swimming
Passion #2: Watching Sunsets
Secret: Afraid of the dark

Name: Ben Larsen
Gender: Male
Plot Significance: Main character
Occupation: Fast-Food Cook
Passion #1: Programming
Passion #2: Martial Arts
Secret: Has extreme social anxiety

Name: Brock Smith
Gender: Male
Plot Significance: Supporting character
Occupation: Particle Physicist
Passion #1: Tinkering with Holographic Imagery
Passion #2: Painting
Secret: Responsible for Darkness falling (but his secret goes with him to the grave)

Name: Jordan Butler
Gender: Male
Plot Significance: Main antagonist
Occupation: Coal Miner (before Darkness)
Passion #1: Creating controlled explosions
Passion #2: Hair Styling
Secret: Killed his parents and wife in an attempted suicide bombing

Flash Fiction!?

woman-watching-sunset-1920x1080

(A/N: This was supposed to be <300 words, but I really couldn’t find anything I wanted to take out. So here it is, in its full 892 word glory!)

All my life I’ve had little to nothing. Little clothing to wear, little food to eat, and few friends to do anything with. It’s the inescapable fate of poverty.

But one day everything changed. I was walking down the street, ignoring the many people who stared at me in disgust. It was a warm summer’s day, with the sun’s red glow just peeking its way over the distant mountains, determined to bring sunshine if it died trying. The half-light reflected off of the many tall buildings and wide roads, amplifying its effect and making it almost too bright to bear looking at directly.

I enjoyed watching the sunrise every day in a secret place known only to me. I made my way through the busy streets of town until I came across a hill, which I then scaled. At the apex of the climb I encountered a cliff face. I had come here many times and knew of a small grove of trees hidden from view.

I turned around and used my arms and legs to begin descending the cliff. Ordinarily a person’s feet would get many cuts and scratches, but my calluses were sufficient that this wasn’t necessary.

Reaching my destination, I then looked around for the rock I usually settled upon to gaze at the sunrise. This grove was on the side of the cliff and contained some trees, soft grass, and a stream trickling with clear water. I felt like it was made just for me.

But the issue was, I wasn’t the only person there that day.

“Woah!” I yelled as I noticed a young boy sitting on the very rock I had been searching for. He was wearing dark jeans and a black T-shirt, with fancy grey shoes. He looked around at me in surprise, and immediately I raised my fists, ready to fight to the death if I had to.

“Hold on a second!” he replied defensively, putting his hands up in a classic you’ve-got-me fashion.

“How did you find this place!?” I demanded of him, brandishing my dried knuckles at him once more. I felt violated; I felt angry at him for disturbing my secret place.

“I just happened across it while rock climbing!”

I glared at him for a moment longer, then lowered my fists and stood up straight, “Well, I’m glad that’s settled.”

He then glanced me up and down and said, “Why are you wearing a sheet?” His tone of voice seemed less than kind, and apparently he realized it, because immediately thereafter he began babbling apologies my way.

Deciding to let this one slide, “No, it’s fine. My family has been in poverty for the last six generations,” I smiled at him, and his face turned to one of relief. We stood in silence for a moment, then he stood up.

“I can help you with that,” he replied, standing up and extending his hand. “My name is Ben. I’m not exactly loaded with stuff that I can give you, but I can at least provide you a shower, some clothes to wear, and a decent meal. My mother is kind and I’m sure she’ll whip something out of her pocket.”

Impulsively I held back, eyeing him suspiciously. Guys had offered these kinds of things to me in the past and most of them ended up trying to take advantage of me. I had stopped taking offers for help a long time ago.

But something about Ben seemed almost… Comforting. He wasn’t being too forceful, and he was giving me the option of denying him my cooperation. I really felt like this time, at least, someone was telling the truth.

“I’m not so sure… I’ve had bad experiences with offers like this.”

Ben seemed to understand, “Yeah. This city is full of idiots.”

I pondered for a moment, then looked him in the face, “I’ll go with you. But keep in mind: I’m not going anywhere near to the inside of your house until I see your mother and talk to her.”

“Sure thing,” he smiled, taking my hand and shaking it. “What’s your name?”

“Amanda.”

“Well, Amanda: Nice to meet you!”

We began to climb out of the grove, with Ben going first and me following behind him. He was fairly skilled climber; Almost the same skill level as me. We got to the top, stood up, and Ben showed me the way to his house. And as he had promised, I saw and talked to his mother before receiving a hot shower (in which his mother had to show me how to turn on the water), clothes (which were VERY odd – I had never worn actual jeans before) and a hot meal.

Thanks to Ben and his family, I was able to get a job and raise money to support myself. I was able to go to school, starting off with kids much younger than me but quickly progressing to be one of the top students in my graduating class (and only two years older than them.)

Now Ben and I are married and have two kids, and I’ll forever be telling them stories of how he quite literally saved my life. Before that day I had never appreciated life more than I do now. I found something that I love, and I have no intention of ever letting it go again.