I suspected this would happen: my small writing exercise would trigger something that goes on longer. I’m hoping – hoping! – that this is only going to be 1000-1200 words, total. That’s all I’ve seen as yet.
This, originally, was a scene from my second novel, Echoes of Family Lost. However, because of my writing style (start in the middle, use flashbacks for details) this just didn’t fit. And worse, it allowed me to start writing exposition rather than dialog. It’s a failing of mine but at least I know it’s there.
The gist of this is that Lily Barrett, her friend Fausta, and their guide, Orloff, are on their way from the Republic of Texas towards East Tennessee, to find someone very important to her. The badlands of post-Breakup America are a rough place, but charitas may be found in unexpected places.
See? That’s me, talking again. I’ll shut up now.
They came towards Pine Bluff from the northwest. Some days ago they’d left their northeast track from the Texas frontier towards the northeast. Towards Little Rock. About fifty miles shy of that city, Orloff turned them off to the right.
“But why?” Lily had asked.
“Cities cannot feed themselves,” he’d replied guiding their cart while trying to look everywhere at once. It wasn’t as bad as when they’d first started out; now he was aware of Fausta’s auditory capabilities. Even seated in the cart’s bed, behind Orloff and Lily, she could hear trouble before he could see it.
“So that meant,” he continued, “from the first days of the Breakup, protests followed by riots , followed by urban warfare. In days. Whomever came out on top in the cities would immediately raid the suburbs and close-in farms for anything edible.”
He sighed and shook his head.
“And in some cases, like Seattle, that meant other people.”
“Are you kidding me?! Cannibalism?! But this is America – !”
“No!” He cut her off, sharply. “This was America. Now it’s a patchwork of civilized oases such as Texas and the Northern Federation. Beyond that…”
He waved vaguely with his human arm.
“The only survivors are rural clans. Tribes. Who, in many cases, would just as soon shoot and loot travelers such as ourselves. We are counting, as I have before, the last time I came this way, on their Christian charity staying their hands just long enough to talk our way past.”
“And if we can’t talk?”
Orloff stopped his bald head looking around for a moment to regard Lily through the monocle over his right eye. A leather patch covered his left. He pointedly looked at the revolver on her hip, the semi-automatic on his, back to Fausta with the scoped bolt-action at her right hand and the battle rifle at her left. He didn’t comment on the crates that held grenades and C4.
“Dumb question.” Lily said. “Sorry.”