Friday, November 20, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Twenty: Nightmares

The below is a section of the novel that I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. It isn't a stand-alone story, and it's probably not worth your time to read. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month so wordcount is valued above quality. This is a good thing, as it encourages people to actually finish a project. Nobody expects that the result will be ready for public consumption without heavy editing. If you want to read it for some reason you can view the whole thing in one place HERE although that's still totally unedited and terrible. You have been warned.

I know I'm dreaming, but it feels so real. I'm at Disneyland, looking up at the castle. It's beautiful, just like in the pictures. It feels right, somehow. This is where I'm supposed to be. There are clouds overhead just like in Los Angeles, but here the clouds are… wrong. They're moving like living things, twisting and reaching like clawed arms. It's probably symbolic of something, but I'll be damned if I know what. Apart from the clouds everything is frozen, paused. Peaceful. There are families wearing mouse-ear hats and smiling as they walk hand in hand. There's a cart selling churros.

I've had this dream before, and I think I know why. This is where everything started, where the world went wrong. This is what did the damage. Everything after this point is just collateral damage. If there was something I could do that did as much good as the attack on Disney did harm… then maybe the world would go back to normal. Whatever normal is.

I was born into this world, almost at the same time it happened. I've grown up knowing that something is wrong, that things used to be better. I've spent my life looking at pictures of Disneyland and wanting to go there. I need to do more than wish or dream, I need to use my ability to do something. Maybe I can make everyone lose their powers somehow. Maybe I can give powers to everyone. Maybe I can… I don't know, do something so great that everyone will decide we're super heroes. Like Spider Man.

I can recognize faces in the silent crowd. I see my mother and father, and the men I've killed, and the ones I couldn't save. All of them are smiling and happy. I know that's just the dream talking, that there's no way for me to actually make all of that better, but it gives me hope anyway. It's like there's some ray of light coming through the clouds. I need… help. I need to find someone I can talk to, start spending my time in the real world. I need to work things out and plan for the future. The past is over, but I can make the world better tomorrow.

"That's not what you decide."

The voice comes from behind me. I turn, and see that all of the faces in the crowd are mine. Younger, older, male, female.
"The past is over? Not for the people you killed. Not for the ones you left to die."
No matter which way I turn it's from somewhere behind me. Every time I turn around the crowd is a little close, though they don't seem to move.
"You owe them more than that. Try again."
I will myself to wake up.
"A better tomorrow? They'll all still be dead tomorrow, Darryl."
The crowd wearing my face is pressed right up against me now, and the smiles are gone. Someone is watching from the shadows. I can catch glimpses of him moving between the sea of identical glaring faces. I'm not waking up for some reason.
"This is just a dream. I'm going to wake up now."

"You can hear me, can't you Darryl? That's fascinating. That makes this whole thing much, much easier. Let me tell you what you need to do to repent for your sins. To make everything better."
I still can't wake up, and I can't see his face. This is stupid, it's just a dream and I should be in control. I concentrate on the buildings behind the crowd. The buildings are there, solid, brighter than life - and the plaza in front of them is empty. It's just the buildings and me, nothing else. I allow my gaze to wander and see that it seems to have worked - all of the copies of me are gone. I've never been to the real Disneyland, of course, so this landscape must just be cobbled together out of pictures and my imagination. Even so, something feels out of place. Something isn't where it's supposed to be.

"Stop ignoring me, Darryl. This is a unique opportunity for both of us."
The voice is coming from inside a ride. There's a building with a smiling frog standing next to a little car, right near the carousel. Something is moving in the window.
"Don't listen to him, Darryl." This voice is from across the way, in another ride. "This is just a dream. Just wake up, and go talk to your friends at the bar. Buy Franklin a beer and talk to him." I've heard that name thrown around, but I'm not sure why it would be in my dream. Then again, nobody ever said dreams have to make sense.
The first one, in the frog ride, makes a hissing noise. "Franklin is dead."
"David then. Go talk to Big Dave."
I start backing away from the building, towards the carousel, and back up against something. That feeling that something is wrong, out of place, gets stronger. I turn and there's a raised pedestal that I know should have a sword in it. The Extractor is there instead.

I'm awake.

I'm in my room, my little sealed auto shop fortress. I feel stiff, sore, and tired. If I didn't know better I would think a truck ran me over. I want to go back to sleep, but I don't want to dream any more. I don't want to do anything, lately. That feeling from my dream is still hanging over me; I feel like something is out of place, and like someone is watching me. I'm getting used to the paranoia, actually. It's starting to feel normal.

This other feeling, though… I know nothing has changed while I was sleeping; I'm the only person in the world that's not on pause. Still, something seems off. I'm used to absolute silence, and I can’t help but think I can hear a slight noise at the edge of my awareness. The clock is frozen in place, second hand motionless. It's just my imagination. I stand, groaning, and change clothes. Resisting the urge to check on the Extractor, I open the door… no. The auto shop is too dark. With the clouds always overhead it's hard to gauge the time of day, but I know it was brighter when I went to sleep. Stepping back into the room, I smack the wall clock with the back of my hand. The second hand marches forward a few steps before twitching fitfully and stopping. It's out of batteries.

How could this have happened? Did I turn it off in my sleep, or did it just slip away from me? How long have I been wasting time in this stupid room? I have to get to the Squid right now and get caught up on everything. I have no idea what I might have missed. I rush out onto the street the second the room is sealed and head for the bar. I pass some bright green fliers on the way, more than ever before. They're from some pro-freak group, regular citizens of Los Angeles that are tired of seeing the city turned into a war zone and blame the government rather than us. It would be reassuring if I thought it would lead anywhere, but the news that comes out of southern California is only what the government wants.

I get to the squid and I can tell that something is wrong. Everyone looks miserable, it's quiet and grim. Charlie is in a cot in one corner with his leg bandaged, and someone else is covered with a sheet. What the hell is going on?
"They tried to hit the military base, poor bastards." Someone says. I strain to listen over the mumbling and I pick out a little of the conversation.
"Dave and the others were all killed, they got dumped in the park two blocks down. Nobody wants to go get them because they think it's a trap, they'll just rot there."
Oh god. I could have helped. I could have done something. I storm over to the bar and grab a beer - the bartender was an early casualty but Eddie "found" a semi truck loaded with six-packs. I start nursing it and looking around at the disaster, trying to think what I can do. Too late for Dave, too late for whoever is under the sheet. For whoever else is laying in the park.

White sits down next to me. She looks like death warmed over. Of course she does; I understand it's recent but as long as I've known her she's been staying as close to Dave as possible. Even having already lost some friends it must be tearing her apart to say goodbye to Big Dave.
"Emily… I'm so sorry." It sounds so weak, but there's nothing I could say to comfort her.
"It wasn't your fault. They thought nothing could hurt Michael, they wouldn't have bothered asking you to come along anyway." She takes a long pull from her beer and sighs. "When Dave gets back with Mary she can heal Charlie, though, so that's something."
"I thought Dave was…" She fixes me with a stare that could bore through iron, and I stop mid-sentence. She doesn't know. Nobody has told her yet.
"What? Dave is what?"
"I… I just heard that he… that none of them made it. That they were dumped in the park."
She stares at nothing, and finishes off her beer. "He's still there?" Her voice is calm. Cold.
"They think that it's a trap, that…" before I can finish she stands and storms out of the bar.

She won't want me with her, but I should go ahead of her and clear the way of any traps or soldiers. Something tells me I should finish my beer first. It won't hurt to have a little buzz, and I'll beat her to the park anyway. I grab a second one for the road and step outside, and I'm about to freeze time when I'm thrown forward into the brick wall in front of me. A wave of heat washes over me and I frantically try to stop everything so I can get my bearings. It isn't working; it's still too loud.

No. The sound is in my head.

It's a rushing, ringing noise. I can barely think it's so loud. I pull myself to my feet slowly, and turn to see a magnificent fireball frozen in the air. Behind that, barely visible, is a thin streak of cloud - the trail from a missile.