The Beginning

I think I’m a decent technical writer, but I’ve always been abysmal at writing anything else.  Like, seriously awful.  My brother got an ocean of talent in that department, but god left me high and dry, that asshole.  This is really unfortunate because I enjoy fantasy literature and have ideas for new worlds floating about my head, I can just never put them into words.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of attempting to conquer things I suck at, so every week I will post a continuation of this story that I started writing a while back.  Signed on to help with its creation so far are my friends Jeremiah, David, Tim, and the legend, Dr. David Burger.

I’m new to this, so critiques are welcome.

Hey there, kid.  So, you wanna know what I do?  Well, it’s kind of a long story.  Did your folks ever tell you about why the world looks the way it does?  Heh, I can’t suppose I blame ‘em.  Come on over and drop yourself by the fire, I’ll tell you all about it.

December 2nd, 2011, about five years ago by most calendars…that was when the first one appeared – a woman, just floating in the sky above New York City.  You would have loved the place.  It was so full of people you couldn’t walk outside without bumping into ‘em, and the buildings were so high you’d swear they touched the sun.  Anyway, this woman, the news networks couldn’t get enough of her.  News networks?  You mean nobody has told you about television?  Well, we’ll save that for another time…

Some people thought it was a gag, but after a day people started calling it a sign from heaven.  Some people called her an angel, which kinda made sense.  Hell, she looked just like one in the dress she wore, minus the wings.  Her expression was always the same and she looked so peaceful.  Others thought she was here to protect us, and most people started calling her our guardian.  We’d known about her for less than a day and already people were flocking to our city.  It was a right mess.

Three days later, that was the day that we adults have spent the last five years trying to forget.  I was lucky.  I was visiting my folks that week in Buffalo, which was far away from the city.  Like everybody else that night, we were curled up with some popcorn watching it on the tube, waiting to see how long she could stay up there and when the trick would be revealed, when the guardian finally opened her eyes – her blood-red eyes, and showed us just what an angel she was.

She began to change.  Within seconds the angel had become a beast with enough muscles to rip up the statue of liberty, and enough teeth to swallow it!  It first turned its attention to one of the other news helicopters, blasting it out of the sky with some type of…beam?  I don’t know, but the helicopter plummeted down in a fireball, just missing the crowd of people below.  It would have been better if it hadn’t missed, because next the devil flew after the crowds.  I’ve never seen anything move so fast.  Within moments, they were gone.  Within a day, so was New York.

Four more guardians appeared over the next week.  Some crawled out of the ground, one was reported coming out of the sea, and another from the air.  Together, they began devastating the major cities all around the world.  Los Angelos, St. Louis, Miami, New Orleans, all gone in what seemed like the blink of an eye.  Nations emptied their stores of weapons, most of ‘em at the guardians, some of ‘em at each other.  At best, it only slowed the demons.  The survivors moved away from the centers of population and struggled to survive, most of us just waiting for when the guardians found us.

But in my travels, I’ve heard from some people that something did stop the bastards – a band of mercenaries or something who figured out the trick to it.  Or maybe the monsters just decided there was nothing left worth destroying.  Who knows why it all stopped?  But they left us an entirely new world.  I’m not sure if it was the nuclear fallout or if the damn monsters brought them with ‘em, but what’s left of our cities are now full of creatures, abominations that you couldn’t even imagine.  Only profiteers, desperate ones, or the suicidally insane go near the ruins of cities.  If you walk in, you probably don’t walk out.  Nobody knows what’s going on across the oceans, since any ship that sails out never returns.  The waters must be full of ‘em as well.

They even say that human beings are changing.  I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been all over the place these last five years, so I say it’s hogwash.  But the Revenants are all up in arms about humans turning into monsters or using magic to aid the devil or whatever other nonsense they dreamed up at the time.  What’s that?  You don’t know about the Revenants?  Well, consider yourself lucky.  These guys think we’re living in the end times, and that this is their punishment for not having enough faith before and boy, do they ever hate anything that strikes ‘em as strange.  They’ve got their holy book and it gives some pretty precise instructions about what to do with “witches”, so they’re marching across the country looking for ‘em and, trust me, you don’t want to know what they do once they think they’ve found one.  It’s best just to steer clear of them if you can, but their movement is growing and I always find a group everywhere I go.  One will probably spring up here before you know it.  What a world, eh?  Who am I?

Heh, I s’pose you could say I’m a treasure hunter.  I’m one of those desperate guys who walks into cities, but only the outskirts.  What’s left of a city they once called ‘Washington’ is just about fifty miles away, and I’m gonna pay her a visit.  I won’t tell you about some of the things I’ve seen, kid.  If it weren’t for Suzie, my trusty axe here, I’d have been worm food a long time ago.  People want to remember a time before the Guardians, so most of ‘em will trade quite a bit of stuff for relics of the past.  Me, I left the past behind a long time ago.  It’s a new world that’s only just now getting back on its feet, and we’d all do well to let go of the ghosts of the past and start looking out for ourselves.

Well, I’ve probably kept you up long enough, and some of the adults are giving us funny eyes.  Sleep tight kiddo, and may an angel guide thee to thy rest.

PERSONAL: Happy birthday, Hitch.
Update and pics from #AACon15. MST3K cast members were at my talk.
PERSONAL: The corrupting power of fame and my love for my commenters.
PERSONAL: Mid day lab pics from the wife.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Jay

    Not half-bad. Reminds me a bit of the Fallout series of video games (particularly Fallout 3).

    • WMDKitty

      Yup, same here. I’m working on the Operation: Anchorage quest right now.

  • Eric Riley

    I am intrigued – it’s a good start for a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, or even a short story. But I want to know more – what are these creatures? How are people managing to live? Where do they get their food? Are any cities forming anew? Is there a strong leader out there who is carving out a little empire for himself (herself)?

    This does a great job of setting the scene though. I now have a pretty good picture of what’s around, but not *too* detailed. There’s even a presumption of ignorance on the part of the narrator, so if things are a little different from what he says, that’s OK.

    Where’s the start of the story?

    • JT Eberhard

      That is precisely the effect I was gunning for. :) More will be revealed as the story unfolds.

  • Carly

    Great! I love this idea! I’m a student of ‘Creative Writing’ so I’d love to give you some critique here.

    My opinion is that this doesn’t quite work as a story told to a child, at least, not in the way it’s written. The folksy language is a bit distracting; it’s softening it a bit too much. There are ways to talk to children that are more cohesive, unless the feeling you were going for was that this rambly dude just kind of sat down on the kid’s bed and just did his rambly business. It makes the character come off a little self-centered—though I understand how you were trying to portray him as mentally scarred and stuff. Just do some more thinking on that. :) The story also presupposes that the child knows nothing about what happened, which, if you’ve ever been a child, children are more keenly aware of things than you could imagine or want as an adult.

    Things I would do:
    - Add some dialogue from the child, even if just at the beginning. It gives the man a reason to ramble!
    - Make the speech a little fancier. Children can understand some big words! I’m not talking Neil Gaiman fancy, but you can replace some of the simple adjectives with moer accurate ones and still keep the folksy feel, or not.

    Can’t wait to read more of your work. Congrats on conquering!

  • Richard

    B+, the beginning is a little rocky, but the premise is excellent. I love post apocalyptic stories, but be careful about dating apocalyptic events. Like the rapture, post apocalyptic stories get dated fairly quickly.

    I disagree with Carly about the style advice, personally, the rambling man works beautifully to me.

  • Alix

    Together, they began devastating the major cities all around the world. Los Angelos, St. Louis, Miami, New Orleans, all gone in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

    If it’s all around the world, shouldn’t you put cities outside the US? London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Moscow? ;P And is it not Los Angeles?

    Otherwise, I can’t say I particularly like it (I’m not a fan of this much colloquial writing or of first person fiction) but that’s a personal taste, and I can’t say it’s particularly bad. Keep up, and you’ll be great!

    • Richard

      In a post apocalyptic world, the whole “international” worldview breaks down. Ya know, no TV, like was said in the story. Probably means no electricity, except for a few rare cases. No internet, no JT blog, no cheesecake. Truly, an apocalypse.

      • Alix

        Wait. What? No WWJTD OR cheesecake?
        … If the radiation didn’t get me, I’d perish from the lack of those things!

  • Ashton

    I agree with Carly. I love the premise and want to know more about these creepy things. Why did it hang around for days before attacking? I’m sure such questions will be answered later. But I would like the style/tone better if it were different. I also find it odd, the way that the man is telling the story to the kid. My suggestion would be to write it as this man writing a historical record, sort of like War of the Worlds or something.

  • Dana Hunter

    I’m going to have to be contrary to other advice, I’m afraid. I’ll admit, after what you said about your lack o’ writing skillz, I went into this cringing. Came out wanting to wrap my hands round your throat and squeeze out the rest!

    I like the folksy tone. It was a bit distracting at first, but as I got to know the character, it felt right. And the way he’s talking to the kid (who for all we know might not be that young anyway), that strikes me as the way this tough-as-nails gent would talk to anyone old enough to form sentences. New world. Dangerous new world. And he’s not seeming the kind of man who’d soften the blow.

    This is the kind of prologue that doesn’t really need dialogue. Maybe a few more responses from the man, reacting to things the kid says or does that we can’t see, but I don’t mind the kid not being in the frame just yet.

    The real question is what’s going to happen when you hit the first chapter. Because while this writing style works for a prologue, you can’t do a whole novel in it.

    Still. You’ve got talent, kid. And don’t worry if the first, second, third, fourth and fifth drafts are rough as hell – you seem to have something here worth polishing.

    • Richard

      Seconded. With two thumbs up!

  • Dana Hunter

    Meant to say, too, if you need any help out o’ the public eye, you can always find me on Yahoo as dhunterauthor.

  • Stephanie Zvan

    I’ll agree and disagree with Dana. I went into this biting my lip and came out much happier than I was when I started. You done good. I particularly like all the “Oh, they haven’t told you about that?” bits. Lovely.

    I also agree that the tone of this isn’t sustainable for a longer piece. I disagree that it needs to just be prologue, though. It reads a lot like the first drafts of a lot of my early stories–so concentrated on getting where it’s going that it misses some of the scenery along the way. What you’ve ended up with is a very good high-level explanation of what happened told with character.

    The word choice and sentence structure are colloquial, but the way the story is structured isn’t. When we sit down to tell a story, we include all sorts of little “irrelevancies.” Doing some of that here (though not as much as we would in real life; this is fiction) would make the story more immediate and the narrator more of a real person. A couple “I saw…” or “They said…” details on how the events affected individuals would go a long way here.

    The good news is that writing this way gives you a very solid start. You can get the structure laid out and make sure it’s sound, then go back and add the flourishes where appropriate. I find that so much easier than cutting later.

    Very well started, sir, and kudos for hanging something like this out in public.

  • WMDKitty


    This little… taste… just isn’t enough — I have to know the rest!