Chimera and the Shrubbery – Part 1 – Chapter 1

Ok. A quick word. As I said in my last post, I am going to try to write a serialised story on this blog. What this means is, if I can sustain it, I will be trying to write about 3000 words per week, to this story. This is the first I have announced of this to anyone.

The story is called Chimera and the Shrubbery (working title). The first chapter is below. All I can say is, I really really do welcome any and all feedback, positive and negative. This is my first venture like this, so please read it, and share any and all of your thoughts.

-Vera!

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Chimera and the Shrubbery

Part 1: Parades of Carbon and Intrinsics

Chapter 1

Underneath a pale moon, a forest at night was seen, and heard. As the leaves swayed back and forth, black against the blue sky, a strong wind made noise, whistling through the undergrowth, tearing apart nests, toppling precarious mounds of earth. A wash of liquid falling from up high blurred the shapes of trees and some tiny creatures (and some large) scurried to their overgrown homes. The thousands of drops caused an orchestra when they landed; some drumming hard and fast against fallen logs, others playing light, whimsical notes against foliage. Rivers cut through the mud now, where hours ago there had only been hard dirt. Long white worms rejoiced in the downpour. Furred animals hid in cubby holes in their hollowed trees. Nature painted the scene.

Above the treetops, but still underneath the moon, most unnatural vehicles flew across the sky. As the behemoths whizzed by with their thunderous engines, coughing clouds of poisonous fumes, they cast black shadows on the forest below them, shadows so harsh that they were darker than the insides of all the animals’ burrows.

The denizens of the forest mostly cowered from this new, alien threat; giant metal pods zooming through the sky without wings. The young ones clung to their parents, who clung to each other.

But a small few of the forest folk- only two, in fact- stood tall and stared up at the rumblings of trouble, unafraid. Worried, but not afraid. For these two had heard the sounds and seen the titans before. Not exactly like these ones, but similar enough. Rain and thunder brought peace -loud peace, but peace still- but these new invaders brought only deathly war.

The duo were the guardians of the forest. Watching the airships, they knew what must be done, and their eyes glowered in the moonlight. Without a word, they reached to each other and held hands. They were ready to fight.

A short while away from them, at the edge of the forest, where the dirt and stone first became grass, two very different entities entered the woods. They were not there with a purpose. They were quite lost.

One of their feet slid deep into the mud. “Jelly beans! I’m stuck!” came the shrill utter.

“Don’t call me that, please, Denver,” came the grumbling reply. “My name is Jeremy. We’re soldiers. No more nicknames.” Jeremy hauled over in the darkness and laid a hand on Denver’s wrist with a clank. With a buzzing sound, his grip tightened until her wrist was almost crumpling under the pressure. Then he pulled her, and her foot came free of the mud with a loud popping sound.

“Jeremy is just a name they assigned to you,” she said, brushing herself off. “I don’t see how it’s any more valid than Jelly Beans.”

“Not now.” An engine coughed way overhead, and Jeremy ducked down in fear. Looking up, he realised what it was. “That’ll be Vato’s supply drops.” The pale blue sky was becoming black. Clouds exhaled a constant downpour. The droplets of rain made a hollow clang against his chest.

“Still nothing from the satellite,” Denver informed him, checking her uplink constantly in case of change. “I’ve never seen it malfunction this badly. We are without map, without topological data, without radio communications, without even a compass, Jelly Beans!” A crash of lightning made her leap backwards with a jolt. She scuttled up to her partner. “What is causing the satellite interference? Do you think its the storm?”

Jeremy watched as the darkness began to envelop them, and truly felt the isolation that came from being disconnected to the satellite network. He laid a hand on Denver’s shaking shoulder, trying to console her. He needed to get them home, and not just for his sake. Denver had always looked up to him. He wasn’t about to let her down now. “It feels funny, doesn’t it?” he said, a thought occurring to him.

“What does?” Denver backed up against him, desperate to maintain physical contact as visibility grew less and less.

“Speaking with our voices, and not our radios. Did you even notice when we switched?”

“I noticed. Now I’ve activated my audio sensors, I can hear a lot more than just your voice. I didn’t know rain could be so loud. It’s just water, after all!”

Jeremy watched the drops trickle over his black fingers and down his breastplate, washing away what could have been months of dirt buildup. “It’s a lot of water,” he said, half to himself. He shot up suddenly to full height, a wave of determination overcoming him. He flicked on the torch mounted to his head, and a beam of solid white burst out. Tiny animals hiding in the trees couldn’t help but gasp in awe at this light that was brighter than the sun. Jeremy pointed it at Denver’s face.

Her fur was soggy, causing it to clump and hang from her chin. Her long bunny ears went bent down, drooping over her face. Her shiny pink nose sniffled in the rain and her oval black eyes met his gaze. As the beam shone upon her she blinked and winced. “Jelly Beans! Watch where you’re pointing that thing!”

“Just adjust your irises for optimal input. Without the satellite, we’ll have to rely on visual data only. And turn your torch on too, Denver.”

“Okay.” Another bright beam came out to play with the first.

“Good. Now, there’s a bunch of guys back at base just waiting for you to turn up and take all their cash at poker. Right?”

“Right..” she said as confidently as she could manage, glancing around the tall shadows, and gulping.

“Then let’s go!”

“But, without a map, how do we know which way?” she said, panicking again.

Jeremy pointed upwards, to where a trail of green gases hung stationary in the air amongst the rainclouds. “We’ll follow the airships. That’ll take us to Vato’s base.”

Denver smiled, and extended her hand with a whir, giving him the thumbs up.

Their legs buzzed fervently as they sprinted through the forest. Twigs and logs were smashed to splinters when their heavy metal boots landed on them, and dens were demolished. They carved a path through the woodland, as the rain increased. Birds and insects fled in fear when they saw the two beams approaching, and they fluttered and skittered to safety.

Following their progress closely, but silently, were the two guardians of the forest, adamant to protect their home from any threat that presented itself..

“Stop,” said Jeremy, and instantly he and Denver both did.

“What’s up?” asked Denver, swinging her furry head in all directions, illuminating endless trees and hills in every direction, the shadows dancing dangerously.

“I can’t see the trail anymore.”

Up above, the branches of the trees had become webbed and interwoven with each other, creating a ceiling so thick that the sky above them could no longer be seen. A puffy feathered ball hooted, and sharp teeth ground together deep in the belly of the forest. Their audio sensors picked up the array of ominous sounds, and Jeremy and Denver took a step closer to each other.

“Have you ever seen trees like that?” whispered Denver. “I mean- ever?

“Never,” admitted Jeremy. They were so tall, creatures unto themselves, great giant monoliths that didn’t need to be built by anyone: they built themselves. “But,” he added, “this is new territory, after all. For all we know, none of our kind has ever set foot here.” He paused, letting the words sink in. “We have no idea what to expect.”

“There’s more than just trees here. There are things living in them, and under the ground. Hundreds of them. I can hear them.” Her tinny voice became hushed. “And I think I can see them.” Her vision darted left and right, trying to confirm that there was something out there that wasn’t just a trick of the light.

Jeremy clunked his boots boorishly through a shallow swamp, his torch beam pointing straight upwards, searching for the trail again.

“You never answered my question,” said Denver, following him cautiously. “About what’s causing the satellite interference.”

“I don’t think it’s the storm.”

Denver stopped dead. Her black pupils grew massive in size. “Then could it be-”

“No.” Jeremy spun back around to face her, a stern expression on his whiskers. “Don’t even say it. Our tribe is the first to come to this new land. We are the ones pushing our front lines forward. They are not here. They aren’t causing this.”

The rain stopped dead.

Tendrils snaked along the ground, and ancient oak groaned. Bows and branches swayed in the gusting wind, and in amongst them the two guardians moved precariously, stepping in and out of the shadows. Carefully, patiently.. this was their home turf.

“Watch them.. Hilda.. watch them and learn from them,” the deep, gruff voice of the elder guardian muttered to his companion.

The younger one brushed through a big bush without making a sound, then shot up some low hanging branches with ease. “I’m always watching, Papa.. but what do we have to learn from them? You said we must kill them. Then, why wait?” Her thin brown brow creased, and her mouth formed a creaking smile, dirt spilling out of it. A snaking green tongue leapt out and wormed around her face. She sniggered.

“Daughter.. Hilda, you listen, but your own thoughts always take priority. That is not the way of the Guardians. We learn from our mistakes, and pass our knowledge down through generations.” Papa stretched his long limbs forward with a creak, and pulled his old, limp body forward through the brush. “Tell me, did you ever fight against any invaders?”

“No, Papa. You know I didn’t. You remember everything.” Hilda crossed her leafy arms.

“You were only a seedling when the last invaders came. They stayed here for days. We watched, and we waited. Then we sprung our trap, and we defeated them.”

“Well, I hate to burst your bubble, Papa, but these two are fast. So fast its hard to keep up. And they are running towards the edge of the forest. Maybe they are just passing through?”

Papa shook his head solemnly. “You saw the metal birds in the sky. They have come again, like before. Not exactly the same, but close enough. They are heralds of destruction.” He tightened his fists as he spat the words. “We will have to kill them. It has always been the only way. The only way to protect the forest.”

“Then let’s get going!” hissed Hilda with a cackle.

“Daughter- wait!”

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20 thoughts on “Chimera and the Shrubbery – Part 1 – Chapter 1

  1. Hi, Vera. Thanks for stopping in at my blog today, and for your comment. It’s always nice to connect with another writer. Best of luck with your novel-writing endeavours. 🙂

  2. Hello again Vera, and thanks for stopping by my blog!

    While I AM definitely interested in this story, it seems quite a slow and rather confusing start. I’m not sure if I’m looking at sci-fi, fantasy, or a cross-genre piece. It also seems to alternate between lacking a point of view and head hopping like so many third-person omniscient novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but with less information. What are the furry robotic creatures with the american names? And what are the father and daughter pair towards the end? Where’s the visible transition from one set of characters to another? Whose head are we in towards the end?

    Ahem. I’m hoping that didn’t read snarky or troll-y. I’m definitely interested, and it’s certainly not anything I’ve read before. I’m just not grabbed or emotionally connected. It’s the difference between passive and active description and an issue with POV, I think. I’m not emotionally involved from page one like I like to be.

    As to the lack of visible POV shift indicators, it could just be the phone I’m reading on… Perhaps for the blog format you could make a little *~*~*~*~*~*~*~* line across the page or something so others don’t get confused?

    I do hope I’ve been constructive and not mean here. I have a tendency to use exactly the wrong words when offering a critique, and thus, can come off quite rude.

    Keep posting! I look forward to reading more from you.

    *~Paige

    • Thanks a lot for your critique! Don’t worry you used exactly the right words. I have read it through a few times, and I’m fairly comfortable with how it switches from viewpoint to viewpoint, but I will certainly go back and try to make it more clear. I’m absolutely not going to put squiggly line breaks in, as that would interrupt the flow and also make the reader think time is passing, when it isn’t.

      Anyway, thanks a lot for your help. And see what you think when Chapter 2 is posted. I see what you mean about not knowing who the characters are, but it’s only the first tiny bit, and I want to maintain some air of mystery for just a little while.

      -Vera

  3. Hi Vera, thanks for stopping by my blog today. I enjoyed your piece and am intrigued as to who/what the characters might turn out to be. I think you conveyed a lot in this first chapter with a good sense that there is a lot of back-story to come out in time. Will look forward to the next piece.

  4. Hello Vera,

    Your story is quite bizarre, and that’s hardly a criticism. In fact, the storm, the odd characters and futuristic context give Chapter 1 a mystique that is attractive to a reader like me.

    I will agree with Paige on the opening–it’s slow and a bit choppy. I only reiterate this because it would be a shame for a reader who happens on Chapter 1 to get turned away during the first paragraph (as I almost was) before getting to the good stuff.

    Technically-speaking, I am sure that you will work out some of the kinks when you inevitably read, reread and revise repeatedly. Phew.

    I have immense respect for writers who are willing to put there work out for the world to read and respond to–I just wish other writers took more time to read the work of their contemporaries and engage via feedback or critique.

    Fight on!

    Martin

    • Ok. I’ve made some changes to the chapter that hopefully make the two guardians and Jeremy and Denver a bit more distinct from each other, and made it more clear who is talking and who is being followed at any given time.

      I left the first paragraph intact because I think the description of the forest is very important to what comes after. If you still think the opening paragraph needs shortening, or changing, I will take it on board.. but let me know what you think 🙂

  5. Pingback: Chimera and the Shrubbery – Part 1 – Chapter 3 | Vera Silver's Writing Blog

  6. As promised, I took a stop by your blog. Thanks again for checking my blog out! Hm, your story seems very animated to me. I can tell that you’ve really tried to focus in on getting the reader’s senses into play here, and it is very vivid indeed. I absolutely adore how you start the story right in the middle of everything. I look forward to your future posts.
    – Banks

  7. Hey Vera, you’ve created an interesting world here. In quite a short time you’ve managed to introduce alot of backstory and conflict. Well done. One suggestion, when dealing with sci-fi and new worlds and aliens, it sometimes helps the reader if you anchor in your characters descriptions (esp if they are aliens) as soon as possible so when we mentally follow them we know what we are dealing with. You did then with the reveal of bunny ears very effectively, so a bit more of that would help. Also be careful of contradicting your imagery – at one point you described the spaceships as lumbering, then a few sentences later as zooming across the sky. Personally I think lumbering is more frightening, but chose (or have both but make it clear it’s not at the same time). I will read on. Keep going.

  8. Finally got a chance to swing over here and love what you did with the chapter. It pulls me in and makes me wonder more about these rabbit-like people and guardians.

  9. Wow, for one because I would never dream of putting my novel up on my blog… but partly also because the descriptions were really lovely to read.

    Jelly Beans is a funny nickname. It kind of mirrors the name Jeremy, doesn’t it? How cockney (though I’m sure… that wasn’t your intention).

    The idea of forest guardians kind of reminds me of the film Princess Mononoke. Jeremy and Denver are funny looking creatures, though. Probably just as at home in Princess Mononoke as a plethora of other references I conjured, as well as an RP I once participated in.

    I missed the change back to the guardians at the end, though… just a side note.

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