Hello all! I apologize for it being nearly a whole month since my last post! Things have been very crazy lately with Christmas coming up in a few days, and I haven’t had a lot of free time. In apology for being late in posting and in celebration of Christmas (even though this is not Christmas related…) today’s post is the first half of a short story that took me quite some time to complete. It’s one that I did for a competition, but unfortunately I didn’t win anything. However, despite that, I’m still super glad I did the competition! The parameters were that it had to be 50 paragraphs long exactly, each paragraph had to be a minimum of 40 words each, and dialogue was allowed but could only be put in a 40+ word-long paragraph (no stand-alone dialogue). The host of the competition, which was Owl Canyon Press, also provided the first and twentieth paragraphs for me, and I could not edit those two at all. So as you can (hopefully) tell, this was a bit of a challenge! It really helped me grow as a writer, and Owl Canyon Press is having another competition (called a Hackathon) this spring, which I am super excited to start as soon as I can get the details! I will post the details here on my blog as well in case any of you would like to compete as well. The majority of my inspiration for this story came from Gerard Way’s graphic novel The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, as well as the My Chemical Romance (in which Gerard is the lead singer) album under basically the same name. I highly suggest checking out the graphic novel, and if you like rock music I think you’d like the album as well. I hope you all have a very merry and blessed Christmas! As always, please give me constructive criticism in the comments! I’d love to hear it, especially since I am planning on turning this short story into a full-length book.
1 Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!
2 Rainbow Moon gazed at it, her ice blue eyes going back and forth as she read the single-word message over and over again. A slight movement caught her attention out of the corner of her eye, and she sighed when she turned to look at it. It was just a flyer from the pole drifting in the wind. That kind of poster wasn’t unusual to see. It was marked with a letter from the government, Greater Good Industries, preaching about how they were going to change the world and all we had to do was be patient. Rainbow tilted her head ironically. Of course. Patience. A praise worthy virtue, until it got you in trouble. The graffiti wall gave the same message, even though it was just one word. The shrine at its base was against GGI, but they didn’t dare to remove it. If they did, there’d be a full-blown revolution against them.
3 The shrine was dedicated to those who died at the hands of the government. That included anyone and everyone who said even the slightest word against them. Rainbow had contributed a few flowers to it, for her parents were two of the Eliminated. Gazing at the shrine, Rainbow whispered, “I miss you guys.” She was only seventeen, and her parents had been killed four years ago. No one had bothered to take care of her. No one really bothered about anyone these days.
4 Rainbow’s hand strayed up to her neck, fingering her necklace. It was a rainbow-colored crescent moon on a simple silver chain. Her mother had made it for her, knowing it fit her name perfectly. Rainbow never took it off, not even when she showered or slept. It was no longer shiny, but Rainbow didn’t mind. It didn’t attract attention when it was dull, and attention was the last thing Rainbow wanted.
5 Rainbow turned away from the wall and walked down the narrow street that had been on her left. Very few others were there, and they simply mumbled at Rainbow if she accidentally bumped into them. They weren’t mumbled curses. In fact, they weren’t words at all. Just a mindless sound in faint acknowledgement of Rainbow’s touch. Those she didn’t bump into simply shuffled along, heads raised high and pleasant expressions on their faces. They looked like they might be perfectly normal and fine, but their eyes were glazed over, making them seem like ghosts trapped inside mindless human bodies.
6 Scooting past them quickly, Rainbow turned down a few more streets before ducking past a hanging dirty blanket that served as a door. Beyond it was her home. It wasn’t much, but it was all she had. A pile of random clothes and blankets made her bed, and she had broken pieces of billboard balanced on long-empty kegs as her table. An overturned bucket was her chair, and an old lantern provided a tiny amount of dim light which only reached half the room. Her canned and freeze-dried food was kept in an old refrigerator that didn’t work. She had a rusty can opener and some bent silverware as well as an old pie tin for opening and eating her food.
7 Rainbow smiled grimly. This was more than anyone had, or at least, more than anyone appreciated. Before sitting down, her eyes strayed to the left-hand wall of her room. She went over to it, sliding her hand along its surface. Before long, she found the secret pressure point that caused a section of the wall to pop slightly out. Inside was her most prized possession, a small old wooden chest that her father had engraved vines and flowers on years ago, before she was even born, before the rules became too strict. She unlocked it and carefully pulled out a notebook. Her parents had written in it, detailing all they knew about GGI. She opened to the first page which showed the GGI logo and what they assumed it meant. It was made up of two green G’s and a black I. The G’s were right next to each other and slightly overlapping, and the I was underneath the G’s, right against the place where they merged. Her parents said it was a tree, and not just any tree. It was the Tree of Life. That made sense with a name like Greater Good Industries. Rainbow believed everything her parents wrote except for one small thing. They said GGI used to be good, but changed shortly before Rainbow was born. Although Rainbow knew it was impossible for her to have memories of that time, she still had a hard time believing it; the only experience she ever had with GGI was purely bad. Not to mention how her parents had died.
8 Although Rainbow didn’t know it yet, GGI was in the process of experimentation. It wasn’t just any kind of experimentation, either. GGI had a massive building about ten miles away from Elysium City, dedicated to making the perfect utopia for mankind. To accompany this utopia, it was their goal to make humans immortal, allowing them to enjoy it forever. But of course, science costs money, something that doesn’t tend to appear out of nowhere. GGI used the vast majority of its funds on the experiments, which could only be done on a certain number of the population. Elysium City, which contained the rest of the population, was therefore neglected, and the Orations were put into action to give people a false sense of security and happiness. Rainbow’s parents had been able to figure out a few aspects of GGI, but not quite enough to give Rainbow anything extremely concrete.
9 Rainbow sighed, slipping the book back into place and closing the chest. After a moment, she walked over to her bed, pulling out her iPod as she flopped down. She also pulled out some earbuds. She couldn’t risk anyone hearing her music. It was banned by GGI. Her parents couldn’t figure out why that was, and Rainbow was determined to find out herself. But for now, she simply put the earbuds on and hit “play” on her iPod. She leaned back, absorbing the music as it flooded into her ears, thankful to her parents for protecting it. When GGI went bad they set off an EMP bomb which took out all technology; all except Rainbow’s iPod. Her father had altered it, making it resistant to the bomb. Whether he did it just because or if he knew what was coming Rainbow didn’t know. But at the moment she didn’t care, either. She was just thankful.
10 As she lay on her bed listening to her music, Rainbow fell asleep, which wasn’t rare for her, even without dinner. A loud commotion outside startled her awake. She shot up in bed, ripping her earbuds out, stuffing them and her iPod under the blankets. She stood up, checking to make sure her gun and ammo belts were firmly secured and not visible underneath her baggy coat. Slipping her hands into her pockets, which were actually holes in her coat leading to the guns, Rainbow ducked under the makeshift door. As she straightened up her eyes widened. Alex Carlyle, the president of GGI was standing on a slapped-together stage, machine-gun-wielding soldiers flanking him on each side. He was speaking loudly, projecting his voice to the gathering crowd incredibly well even without a microphone.
11. “Ladies and Gentlemen of Elysium City,” he began. “Gather around and listen close, for I have the greatest of announcements. I understand that you are all happy, but I could make you even happier if you aid me in one thing. If you help my team and I in tearing down about half of the old buildings on Main Street, we shall build the greatest ride of your life. It will be calm, it will be soothing, it will make you the happiest people on the planet! Eden’s Treasure will be the name, and trust me when I tell you you won’t need anything more than this. It will enhance your Orations, leaving you with absolutely no troubles and no cares. It shall be paradise.”
12 Rainbow choked back a disbelieving snort as he finished. She knew the truth about the Orations, and them getting enhanced was the last thing the people needed. Ely City. More like Helly City she thought to herself. But everyone else around her had huge smiles on their faces. They were too drugged by the Orations to whoop and holler their approval, but that was just how GGI wanted it. They wanted a quiet people, oblivious to whatever they were doing wrong. Rainbow was sure there was something.
13 Alex looked around at the crowd, bright greed glinting in his eyes as he saw their unanimous approval. He didn’t look twice at Rainbow, for she knew how to blend in, even if she didn’t approve of what she was doing. Faking it was better than death. Alex handed out pickaxes, shovels, and other menial tools for people to use in the destruction of the buildings. His employees got to use a wrecking ball. They smashed down the buildings, leaving the rubble cleanup for the people. Rainbow had no choice but to lend a hand, so she dragged wheelbarrows of broken bricks and concrete to the designated dump site and back again.
14 As she worked, Rainbow had to fight very hard not to get addicted to the Orations. Everyone chanted them while they were working. Rainbow moved her mouth with the words, but never actually spoke them. However, they did not need to be spoken to become addictive.
15 The days began to go by in a blur, merging together like it was just one continuous day rather than the regular progression of days and nights. This was an effect of the Orations. Because of them Rainbow was becoming numb, more and more unaware of the dust and grime. Some nights she even forgot to listen to her music, sinking deeper into a drugged abyss. She no longer minded hauling the wheelbarrows of debris to the dump, and her muscles no longer complained of the work. It wasn’t because they were getting used to it, they just had little to no feeling because of the Orations.
16 After about a month of work the building rubble had been cleared and the lot was now ready to be built on. Rainbow watched with the others, still in a semi-drugged state. She managed to get back to her home and pull out her iPod, but the more she looked at it, the more unappealing it looked. Rainbow stumbled over to her chest and opened it. The picture of her parents was the first thing her eyes found. When she saw it, she picked it up and pulled it out like it was some foreign object. Then, all of a sudden, she clasped it to her chest and began sobbing. A flood of memories crashed upon Rainbow, screaming at her, cursing her for falling into GGI’s trap. She stood up suddenly, wiping tears off her face. She put the picture on her table, propping it up against the wall so she could look at it properly. After staring at it for a few minutes, Rainbow nodded to them, vowing to shut out the Orations from now on. Grabbing her iPod, Rainbow plugged in the earbuds and pushed play, shoving the buds into hear ears. She slumped on the bed, absorbing every note. As it played, she felt herself being released from the hold of the Orations. Her vision became more clear, and her mind opened up once more. She would not be fooled again.
17 The next day, the cleared street was full of commotion. But Rainbow was the only one who noticed. Now that their task was done, the other citizens of Elysium City went about like they had before: mindless and foggy, paying no attention to anything or anyone else. They simply walked along the streets, heads held high and faces pleasant. Rainbow ducked behind some old fifty-gallon drums, peeping through the cracks between them to spy on the building process. It was nothing spectacular. There were no bright colors, no eye-catching mural to draw people in. It was gray concrete, just like everything else. But despite this, Rainbow knew that it would be a death trap once it was completed. Before the Orations got to her, she had been observant as she worked. She managed to spy on some official papers. From what little she saw, Rainbow gathered that the ride would give the people the Orations on a whole other level. People would get into cars mounted on tracks, somewhat like a roller-coaster. But instead of going for a thrill ride the car would move slowly as speakers emitted the Orations loud enough to penetrate the soul without disrupting the spell it cast. There would also be ambient lights and other soothing sounds to sink the people even further down than they already were. Rainbow shivered. If this Eden’s Treasure truly did become all that, Elysium City was doomed. She had had a close call with just the regular Orations. If she went in this monstrosity she might be lost forever. But just then, something caught her eye. It was a splash of color in the drab, gray world. A young boy, perhaps around her own age, dressed in an old red Pizza Hut uniform, was standing not too far away, staring blankly at the construction. His eyes were foggy, but perhaps not quite as foggy as everyone else’s. He was holding a small box in his right hand, and he was rubbing his thumb over it thoughtfully. A minute later he turned and walked away, going towards an old garage, not looking back. Rainbow considered following him, but then decided against it. It’d be suspicious for her to appear out of nowhere and go after him. The construction workers would be sure to see her. So instead she shuffled away, back to her home and her music.
18 A few months later, Eden’s Treasure was complete. Alex Carlyle did not make an appearance again, but Rainbow noticed a slight change in the Orations as the people flocked to try out the new ride. Alex didn’t need to come out and speak again; the Orations were commanding his subjects for him. But even though he wasn’t there, his guards were. Rainbow got pushed along with the crowd, unable to slip away with the guards watching. She walked like they did, trying to match the blank pleasant expressions on their faces. When she finally reached the entrance one of the guards bustled her onto a car, and other people were set down next to her. It took all her willpower not to look around at her new surroundings. The others were looking forward, and forward only, so she had to mimic that no matter what. As the last person was squeezed in, the guard closed the door of the car and it moved forward, going slowly but gradually picking up speed. It never exceeded ten miles per hour, though. But soon Rainbow didn’t seem to mind. The Orations thrummed in her ears, and the lights opened her eyes wide and held them like that, making it impossible to close them for more than the occasional blink. Her head was fixed and refused to move. She nearly went mad at this, for the physical effects happened long before her mind began to go. But when it did go, she was gone for good. The lights, the sounds, the chants, they were all so soothing. Her mind slowly turned to mush once more, forgetting the sound of even the most simple of notes.
19 The ride ambled on, dragging Rainbow deeper and deeper into its depths of light and sound. Eventually, the car slid into a slot, and was barred in so that it could not slide in any direction. Normally, Rainbow would have panicked, but she was too drugged to do that now. The car lifted up, like it had become part of a gigantic ferris wheel, and indeed that’s what it was. One last soothing motion before getting dumped back into reality. Well, as real as a drugged reality is. Right before going almost completely numb, Rainbow’s memory jogged and she saw the splash of color. She fought the Orations fiercely, only causing her to slip into the cold blackness even faster.
20 When the ride ended, she was lifted again. The kid slid her body onto a soft pile of clothing among the boxes in the garage. He pulled an old coat over the top, creating a cave that emanated the sweetness of old ladies who frequently powdered themselves—a light rose motif that played ironically well in the deep recesses of Rainbow’s ancestral brain. The pizza kid lifted her head to help her lap water from a hubcap. He broke bits of pepperoni and crust into bite-sized pieces and left them where her tongue could reach them. Much later, she heard him practicing his orations like songs. Like monks chanting in the distance, they were a comfort.
21 After a few minutes of listening to the soothing sounds Rainbow forced her eyes open, staring at the pizza kid’s bright clothes. They brought back memories of a singer she knew who had bright red hair, and she did her best to push the Orations out.
22 “Hey,” she whispered hoarsely, unable to raise her voice any further, “stop.” The kid looked over his shoulder at her, hesitating in his chant. Rainbow repeated her request, adding an urgent “please” at the end. The kid cocked his head at her, not sure why she was making such a request. His Orations mumbled on, habit and addiction refusing to let him stop.
23 Rainbow pushed herself up slowly and awkwardly on her elbows, then managed to shove herself into a full sitting position. She channeled the rest of her remaining strength into her voice, singing the first few words of a song she knew by heart. The song was “SING” by My Chemical Romance. The kid stopped mid-word, the slightest spark of light shining through his misty eyes. It only lasted a second, but it was enough to give Rainbow hope for him, especially since he didn’t return to the Orations right away.
24 “What were those sounds you made?” he asked slowly, clueless that the simple word “music” even existed. Rainbow took a few deep breaths, gradually regaining her strength as the Orations released their hold on her brain. When she felt ready, she considered his blank face for a few moments before answering.
25 “It’s a song,” she explained, “not like the Orations. I mean a proper song. Music. Joy and laughter and pain and sadness. It reminds us of all the things that are human.” He nodded slowly, still not quite understanding, but the mist had receded from his eyes just the tiniest bit. Rainbow smiled at him, and to her surprise, he smiled back. It was a sideways smile, but it lit up the pale, freckled skin of his face nicely. He ran an equally freckled hand through his ginger hair.