Author Topic: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words  (Read 3469 times)

Offline 510bhan

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In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« on: December 07, 2015, 03:04:53 PM »
In the Grip of Something


It happened again with no explanation. Carla clutched her neck, hyperventilating – eyes open extra wide. Claustrophobia often smothered her when caught up in crowded places. But this was open space, a huge expanse of clear, open space with not another soul was in sight. Even the nearest tree stood more than 50m away. Tremulous, shallow breaths rippled in her throat never getting deep into her lungs. Light-headed, she dropped to the grass and stared at the sky, trying to regain control.

Through tightly scrunched eyes the sunlight appeared diffused beyond her lashes. Think calming thoughts, take yourself to an exotic beach . . . relax and breathe. Breathe. Breathe. The panic subsided but Carla still felt tightness, not just in her chest but all over as if she had been shrink-wrapped. Tighter and tighter her skin felt. Veins branching underneath the surface momentarily glowed green. Carla gasped and pushed up her sleeve to inspect the inside of her arms. From wrist to elbow the blood vessels shone like phosphorescent chlorophyll. She traced her fingers over the lines but felt no discernible change in temperature, texture or tension. A breeze blew back her fringe and she shivered.

Leaves stirred on the distant trees, a noise so loud, Carla looked up to see if a commercial airship flew overhead. Clouds bouldered across the sky from nowhere, threatening to close the space completely, but she observed no craft. Closer they came, dense, burling low. Carla curled into a ball to avoid their attention. The incident lasted only a moment and with a gust of wind, the ground-seeking clouds disappeared. Did Astrocon really have the technology? Cloud seeding for agricultural purposes was commonplace, but this . . . this seemed out of place, sinister. She decided to confront Edward.

The building crouched on a hillside like a beetle. Security fences surrounded the perimeter and armed guards patrolled the premises. Carla, still wheezy, approached the entry gate and produced her ID card, demanding to see Edward Simms. Impassive, the guard scrutinised the document and called through to the Chief Executive’s office. “You’re clear to go. Please step through the scanner.”

All the while she stomped to the top floor suite, Carla muttered. Edward needed to get control of the situation before total destruction of natural phenomena ruined the world. Artificial rain was one thing but it appeared nature had other plans for man’s interference. She swerved round the spiral staircase and looked below. Dizziness made her grab the rail and shake her head. She paused and steadied herself, noticing the green discolouration on her skin again.

“Carla Hope, the gate rang through. He’s expecting me,” she said to the receptionist.

Edward stood to greet her when she entered the office and gestured for her to take a seat. “Ah, my dear girl, delighted to see you. I trust you are well.”

Carla tensed. “Well, you would wouldn’t you?” She ignored the offer to sit down and marched up to the man. Arms thrust forward, she turned her palms upward to reveal her inner wrist. “Say what? What the hell did you inject me with in the last session? What is my body responding to?”

Edward inspected her skin, nodding, lips pursed in concentration.

“Well?”

“Are you feeling strange in any way? Any unpleasant symptoms?”

“Jesus, Edward, you don’t think shiny green blood is enough?”

His brow furrowed, almost with sympathy, but more probably curiosity, Carla thought.

“I’ve been having attacks, feel like I’m collapsing in on myself. Breathing’s difficult.”

“Hmm. But nothing else?”

“Christ, isn’t that enough? And there were weird clouds today and noise. What the hell is the facility up to?”

“Now, now, please – do take a seat – it’s nothing to worry about. There have been a few problems with harnessing the moon – getting it to swing another orbit. Tidal energy relies on it.”

Carla thrust out her arms again. “So what in hell’s name is this?”

“Well, light management has had some side-effects on cellular structure and response. Seems to have affected respiration. You’re not the only subject to have experienced this. I assure you there’s no harm.”

“No harm? No harm? I’m turning into a fucking triffid and you say no harm done. Can it be reversed?”

Edward drummed the desk with his fingers. “Didn’t you read the small print when you signed up for this? You were paid handsomely for your participation and warned there might be side-effects.” He leafed through a folder, removed a document and slid it across the desk at her.


Carla recognised her signature and noted Edward’s arched brow. “No one warned me there would be anything like this. Or that you would be scaling up activity involving the moon. Clouds and rainfall are one thing. We all want to help humanity. But this is . . .” Carla rolled her eyes and shook her head.

Silence hovered. Edward made no response so Carla turned on her heel.

“Don’t forget your next appointment,” Edward said as she stormed out.

Participation in the experiment gave Carla access to information online. She contacted others who had sold their bodies to Astrocon. The name seemed horribly appropriate considering latest developments – an astronomically huge confidence trick. No one had escaped deformity and Carla planned revenge. She thought how to destroy Astrocon and Edward Simm’s experiments. Security couldn’t be breached – not without an army. Carla had to stop them. Somehow. Before the world surely ended and, more immediately, before the side-effects made it impossible for her to function.

Save the Planet. Go Green. Carla’s eco-warrior slogans sounded hollow now. Regret festered into rage and she knew what she must do. Warrior–leader with a band of recruits? Hmph. Words would mean nothing but action carried considerably more volume. Edward Simms still expected her to attend the clinic for further injections. Sabotage might be possible. False responses would demand retests which could buy some time and give Carla opportunity to discover any weak points within the establishment. She’d soon work out where a suicide bomb would cause the greatest disruption and destruction. The bomb might require elements that would linger in the atmosphere long after to ensure all the staff on the scene died. It had to be airbound. It had to be quick so security couldn’t contain it or neutralise it.

Carla typed in ‘most fatal pollutants’ and inspired by the results looked up ‘cyanide bomb’.

Offline heidi52

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2015, 06:33:58 PM »
Start of an interesting story.

However it seemed rushed to me. Do you have a word count restriction? If not I think this could benefit from slowing down just a bit. You went from panic attack to the MC turning green, to the confrontation with even more world-shattering information and then to her revenge fantasy and even picking out the means of carrying it out. Great stuff, but too much for the first 1000 words of anything. IMO, others may differ

As to logistics if she just started turning green and no one had told her of that side effect how did she know it was going to make it "impossible for her to function" in the near future?

4th sentence, get rid of the "was".

Would definitely keep reading.  ;D





Offline 510bhan

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2015, 06:41:59 PM »
Thanks, Heidi. Guess I hit the ground running too fast. :P

Shall ponder your suggestions and play with this some more. Not often I get accused of needing to lengthen something. ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D You may regret this! :D

I reckoned if your blood had become filled with some green gunk that you probably wouldn't have long to last, whether or not you had been warned about it. It was mentioned . . . . :-\
Quote
Edward drummed the desk with his fingers. “Didn’t you read the small print when you signed up for this? You were paid handsomely for your participation and warned there might be side-effects.” He leafed through a folder, removed a document and slid it across the desk at her.

Off to fiddle and smooth. Thanks again. :-*

Offline drab

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2015, 07:00:53 PM »
Hi 5,
I'm usually a slow reader but I got through this at a pace. I think that's because it is interesting, and well written.
It's certainly an attention grabbing opener, and like Heidi I would definitely keep reading.
Regards
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Offline 510bhan

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2015, 07:02:06 PM »
Thanks drab, praise indeed. :o

Offline Dustin91

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2015, 02:05:51 AM »
Hiya Sio

I'll third what the others have said about continuing to read. I was hooked for good when Carla noticed her glowing veins. I've recently learned a bit about punctuating internal thoughts, and I like that you chose not to tag or italicize. Deep 3rd person calls for a very close narrative distance and you seamlessly took us in and out of Carla's thoughts.

Just a couple things I'll leave for you to decide whether or not are worth looking at.

She paused and steadied herself, noticing the green discolouration on her skin again.
Even though her skin is turning green and it makes sense she'd be noticing it again, I felt that we were already aware of it and that it was unnecessary to call her attention to it again. Perhaps if there was some sort of change happening that we'd need to be updated on, then she would notice that. Otherwise I thought it might be a good opportunity for the receptionist to give some sort of concerned reaction to Carla's glowing arms, at which point Carla would pull down her sleeves in embarrassment.

“No harm? No harm? I’m turning into a fucking triffid and you say no harm done. Can it be reversed?”
There are certain times when repetition can strengthen a sentence, and I thought this was one of those times.

I would consider a minor adjustment to punch it up a little, something like:
"No harm? Edward. I'm turning into a fucking triffid over here and you say there's no harm?"

I thought the pacing was great until the last two paragraphs. I also thought they seemed rushed and a bit of an info dump. But I'm not ruling out the possibility of my own ignorance of a unique plot device. Your intention might have been to give us something to chew on to carry us into the next segment of the story, but I felt like too much was given away, even though the story will surely deviate from her plan. In my opinion that information would be better serve the story if it were drip fed to us or used to start the next chapter.

Totally nit-picky I know but hey, the writing's tight and there's not much I could think to improve. Hoping to see more of this up here.

Dustin  :)





JewelAS53

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2015, 06:13:37 AM »
Hi Sio

What everyone else said. I would read on. And while the content presupposes new ideas, new words and new behaviour I do think perhaps you meant airborne?
It had to be airbound.

Offline 510bhan

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2015, 06:46:31 AM »
Good spot, Jewel, airborne it should be. Cheers. Internet crashed last night several times so I didn't get a chance to post the revision but hopefully I'll do something about that later. ;)

Thanks, Dustin. I'm not sure if this can be extended beyond her going to wreck the facility before she's banjaxed. It was just a short though I have expanded the end now, except I'm frightened it might be even more info-dumpy. ::) Can't see her escaping this without some other character becoming involved and if that happens this will no longer be a short, probably a damned novella. ;D ;D ;D ;D

I have other things to do -- this isn't a major priority.

Offline 510bhan

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REVISION In the Grip of Something - now 1,481 words
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2015, 07:53:14 AM »
Can't work out where I've added stuff so I'm posting the revision in its entireity. Most of the new stuff is at the end. Hopefully it's an improvement. :-X

In the Grip of Something


It happened again with no explanation. Carla clutched her neck, hyperventilating – eyes open extra wide. Claustrophobia often smothered her when caught up in crowded places. But this was open space, a huge expanse of clear, open space with not another soul in sight. Even the nearest tree stood more than 50m away. Tremulous, shallow breaths rippled in her throat never getting deep into her lungs. Light-headed, she dropped to the grass and stared at the sky, trying to regain control.

Through tightly scrunched eyes the sunlight appeared diffused beyond her lashes. Think calming thoughts, take yourself to an exotic beach . . . relax and breathe. Breathe. Breathe. The panic subsided but Carla still felt tightness, not just in her chest but all over as if she had been shrink-wrapped. Tighter and tighter her skin felt. Veins branching underneath the surface momentarily glowed green. Carla gasped and pushed up her sleeve to inspect the inside of her arms. From wrist to elbow the blood vessels shone like phosphorescent chlorophyll. She traced her fingers over the lines but felt no discernible change in temperature, texture or tension. A breeze blew back her fringe and she shivered.

Leaves stirred on the distant trees, a noise so loud, Carla looked up to see if a commercial airship flew overhead. Clouds bouldered across the sky from nowhere, threatening to close the space completely, but she observed no craft. Closer they came, dense, burling low. Carla curled into a ball to avoid their attention. The incident lasted only a moment and with a gust of wind, the ground-seeking clouds disappeared. Did Astrocon really have the technology? Cloud seeding for agricultural purposes was commonplace, but this . . . this seemed out of place, sinister. She decided to confront Edward.

The building crouched on a hillside like a beetle. Security fences surrounded the perimeter and armed guards patrolled the premises. Carla, still wheezy, approached the entry gate and produced her ID card, demanding to see Edward Simms. Impassive, the guard scrutinised the document and called through to the Chief Executive’s office. “You’re clear to go. Please step through the scanner.”

All the while she stomped to the top floor suite, Carla muttered. Edward needed to get control of the situation before total destruction of natural phenomena ruined the world. Artificial rain was one thing but it appeared nature had other plans for man’s interference. She swerved round the spiral staircase and looked below. Dizziness made her grab the rail and shake her head. She paused and steadied herself, noticing the green discolouration on her skin.

“Carla Hope, the gate rang through. He’s expecting me,” she said to the receptionist.

Edward stood to greet her when she entered the office and gestured for her to take a seat. “Ah, my dear girl, delighted to see you. I trust you are well.”

Carla tensed. “Well, you would wouldn’t you?” She ignored the offer to sit down and marched up to the man. Arms thrust forward, she turned her palms upward to reveal her inner wrist. “Say what? What the hell did you inject me with in the last session? What is my body responding to?”

Edward inspected her skin, nodding, lips pursed in concentration.

“Well?”

“Are you feeling strange in any way? Any unpleasant symptoms?”

“Jesus, Edward, you don’t think shiny green blood is enough?”

His brow furrowed, almost with sympathy, but more probably curiosity, Carla thought.

“I’ve been having attacks, feel like I’m collapsing in on myself. Breathing’s difficult.”

“Hmm. But nothing else?”

“Christ, isn’t that enough? And there were weird clouds today and noise. What the hell is the facility up to?”

“Now, now, please – do take a seat – it’s nothing to worry about. There have been a few problems with harnessing the moon – getting it to swing another orbit. Tidal energy relies on it.”

Carla thrust out her arms again. “So what in hell’s name is this?”

“Well, light management has had some side-effects on cellular structure and response. Seems to have affected respiration. You’re not the only subject to have experienced this. I assure you there’s no harm.”

“No harm? No harm? I’m turning into a fucking triffid and you say no harm done. Can it be reversed?”

Edward drummed the desk with his fingers. “Didn’t you read the small print when you signed up for this? You were paid handsomely for your participation and warned there might be side-effects.” He leafed through a folder, removed a document and slid it across the desk at her.


Carla recognised her signature and noted Edward’s arched brow. “No one warned me there would be anything like this. Or that you would be scaling up activity involving the moon. Clouds and rainfall are one thing. We all want to help humanity. But this is . . .” Carla rolled her eyes and shook her head. She tugged her sleeves down beyond her wrists.

Silence hovered. Edward made no response so Carla turned on her heel.

“Don’t forget your next appointment,” Edward said as she stormed out.

Participation in the experiment gave Carla access to information online. She contacted others who had sold their bodies to Astrocon. The name seemed horribly appropriate considering latest developments – an astronomically huge confidence trick. No one seemed willing to talk about the experiment. That damned bit of paper she’d signed, it must have included some sort of non-disclosure caveat. It had all seemed so noble – helping save the world. What a fool she’d been. Small print. Damn. She chewed a thumb nail while she thought, worrying at it, nibbling it until a satisfying sliver detached. It remained between her teeth for a moment or two before she spat it to the floor and smiled.

Aha! Small print, data, something had to be recorded somewhere. Her hand hit the keyboard in a triumphant slap. As her sleeve flicked back it renewed her concern for the stained blood pumping through her. I’ll find something, I will. Documented results, for scientific validation purposes, revealed the extent of the side effects. No one had escaped deformity. As she scrolled through links and scoured pdfs for her specific condition, Astrocon’s flagrant disregard for human rights disturbed her. This information didn’t exist in the public domain though. She wondered if the government, any government, knew the extent of the company’s exploitation of the agri-chem industry for unchecked human experimentation. Page after page of reports  . . .

“Oh, god. No. No. No.” She re-read the frightening words. Permanent. Irremediable. Fatal. “The bastard! No wonder he never answered me.” Her wrist itched worryingly. For a moment her breath quavered. Then she stilled. Sniffed. No point crying.

Carla schemed. She planned the destruction of Astrocon and Edward Simm’s experiments. Security couldn’t be breached – not without an army. Carla had to stop them. Somehow. Before the world surely ended and, more immediately, before the irreversible side-effects made it impossible for her to function. If she remained in darkness, perhaps the lack of light might slow the green poison long enough to implement a plan.   
   
Save the Planet. Go Green. Carla’s eco-warrior slogans sounded hollow now. Regret fomented into rage and she knew what she must do. What impact could a warrior–leader with a band of recruits and leery placards make? Hmph. Words would mean nothing but action carried considerably more volume. Considered options sped through her mind. She winced at the tight sensation gripping her harder this time.

Edward Simms still expected her to attend the clinic for further injections. Sabotage might be possible. False responses would demand retests. Might buy some time to discover any weak points within the establishment. She’d soon work out where a suicide bomb would cause greatest disruption and destruction. Not just an explosion. Some sort of dirty bomb. With elements that would linger in the atmosphere long after to ensure all the staff on the scene died. They’re all culpable. Hmm. Her fingers tapped slowly. Nothing and no one must survive if her intervention was to be effective. It had to be airborne. It had to be quick so it couldn’t be contained or neutralised. She smirked at the familiarity of the idea. Well, two out of three’s pretty good I suppose.

Carla typed in ‘most fatal pollutants’ and inspired by the results looked up ‘cyanide bomb’. The irony appealed to her. Cyanide poisons derive from naturally occurring plant alkaloids, do they? Already experiencing breathing problems, chemical suffocation to trigger invasive cell-expiry meltdown until a final death scream, seemed fitting. Almost an ideological ‘green’ killing for those in the industry. Among ingredients used for cloud seeding there must be varieties of concentrations and mixes for silver or potassium iodide. Maybe cyanide sat in a canister in the store. The lab guys were always searching for improved efficiency and decreased costs. She was already dead. What did she have to lose?



Offline heidi52

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,476 words
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2015, 08:51:03 AM »
It read better to me now, and I hardly noticed the info dumps. ;D

Meant to say before that I love the opening paragraph, spot on, but I had a bit of trouble understanding the third paragraph with the threatening clouds. Made more sense re-reading because of the explanation further down, but maybe you could clarify just a bit. Like have her think Is that the clouds making that noise? Maybe not, I'm sure you'll come up with something better.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2015, 09:37:23 AM by Alice, a Country Gal »

Offline 510bhan

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2015, 09:42:40 AM »
Thanks, Heidi. I'll try and smooth that a little.

Leaves stirred on the distant trees, a noise so loud, Carla looked up to see if a commercial airship flew overhead. Clouds bouldered across the sky from nowhere, threatening to close the space completely, but she observed no craft. Closer they came, dense, burling low, hunting like a wolfpack. Carla curled into a ball to avoid their attention. The incident lasted only a moment and with a gust of wind, the ground-seeking clouds disappeared. Did Astrocon really have the technology? Cloud seeding for agricultural purposes was commonplace, but this . . . this seemed out of place, sinister. She decided to confront Edward.

Is that enough to consolidate the image? :-\

Offline Dustin91

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2015, 12:47:45 PM »
Quote
Edward Simms still expected her to attend the clinic for further injections. Sabotage might be possible. False responses would demand retests. Might buy some time to discover any weak points within the establishment. She’d soon work out where a suicide bomb would cause greatest disruption and destruction. Not just an explosion. Some sort of dirty bomb. With elements that would linger in the atmosphere long after to ensure all the staff on the scene died. They’re all culpable. Hmm. Her fingers tapped slowly. Nothing and no one must survive if her intervention was to be effective. It had to be airborne. It had to be quick so it couldn’t be contained or neutralised. She smirked at the familiarity of the idea.

If you're intent on making this a short, this ^ is the story I'd like to read. Otherwise I see this whole post working better as the start to a novella, and a good start at that.

As it stands the story arc isn't exactly a thrill ride, and then the exciting stuff we're all waiting for gets dumped on us at the end in a heaping cop out. I want to be there when Carla brings the whole festering organization down, regardless of whether it's a novella or a short story. But that may just be me. I think you can do it.  ;)

Offline 510bhan

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2015, 03:21:21 PM »
 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

Maybe . . . it'd have to change completely in order to to match that suggestion. Blimey! :o Don't know if I'm capable of that. I'm just writing 'stuff' to keep my hand in as I've hit a tricky spot in my latest novel. I saw it going more horror than action thriller -- suppose the two could merge. Not promising anything. ;)

Thanks for reading your kind remarks.

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2015, 03:32:11 PM »
Sio, I've not commented on this, but have been following the thread. I can see it as something longer, perhaps around 5,000 words.

With what you have here, there are a number of different ways it could go.

For instance:

One she and her body adjust to the changes taking place, she might find she has unsuspected powers (either physically or mentally) that was not expected by anyone. These powers could be used to facilitate the revenge she wants.

Sorry, wheels started turning. But I know you can give her a longer life if you decide to go on with the story.  8)
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Offline 510bhan

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Re: In the Grip of Something 1,070 words
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2015, 03:40:42 PM »
Thanks, Alice. Good idea. Maybe she can limit the effects if she stays out of the light, or, like you suggested turns into the Hulk or Poison Ivy or something. ::) As Skip would say, 'pondering'. ;)