Well, after many months of work and 98,601 words later, I have a first draft of Withered World! I’m about two months late, but better late than never, right? When you live a double life (writer and full-time professional job holder), it just happens.
Withered World is a YA-inspired, dystopian story about a futuristic earth where all efforts to save the planet from human destruction have failed. It is a story told in two parts, which is a new style for me. But it just made sense.
The first section of the story, and the shorter of the two, tells the story of Bram Taveras, a young man and scientist who grew up on West FARM, one of four farming communities that exist surrounding the CITY. The FARM communities and the CITY have been at odds with each other for some time following a chemical spill in East FARM many years ago. After the spill, families left East FARM, migrating to other communities and burying their East FARM roots for fear of being ostracized by their peers. The spill triggered a debilitating illness known as Chem Sickness and the people of the CITY are still afraid of it – and by association, anyone from the FARMs – so many years later.
Bram is a “transplant” who migrates to the CITY to continue his studies and fulfill his dreams of becoming a scientist. People who leave one community for another, particularly from CITY to FARM (CITY slicker) or vice versa (transplant), are looked askance at. He takes a job as a scientist for the Government FARM League (GFL), an organization seeking to find new ways of farming that will feed the people. When the CITY and the FARMs split, the CITY stopped feeding real food to its people and now they subsist off of processed meals. Bram hopes to find new ways of farming and he desires to fix the rift between the communities.
Over the course of a series of events, Bram is forced to question who he is as a human being and must come to terms with his heritage as a FARMer and how the chemical spill of East FARM changed him and the future of the earth. Here are the first few paragraphs of Bram’s story.
It had been so long since Bram had felt the rain that the sensation of it peppering his skin escaped him. He could not remember the earthy scent of the land as it was cleansed by the clouds; nor could he recall the blurry sight of a storm unleashed upon the landscape. His ears did not ring with the residual memory of the epic claps of thunder that shook the small mud brick houses of West FARM in better days.
Even though the rain was far too acidic for continuous contact with human skin, the FARMS and their dying crops cried out for that fickle liquid life force that showed no promise of arriving before all was lost.
The sky was steely and cloudless with a residual, permanent film of pollution diluting its pallor. Heat radiated off the ground in waves visible to the naked eye, gyrating like the snakes of so long ago. Bram could feel his father’s worries for the FARM deep in his gut, radiating like the heat that reflected back from the wrinkled landscape. Liam, Bram’s father, had an uncanny connection to the earth, even for a FARMer. His fears left Bram with a feeling of dread for the future. Liam had never before lost hope that the rains would come, even in the most stubborn of droughts. But this time, even he seemed to have given up.
As Bram lay beneath the desiccated tree, the burnt grass poking him through his hemp woven shirt and pants, the CITY far from thought and reach, he called to mind the cool pelting of the liquid drops and the feeling of them running down his body, cleansing his skin. He sniffed the acrid scent of the land as it was washed anew. His cloudy eyes were closed and his breathing was light as he dreamed of rain.
Above him, the skies opened, clouds materializing out of nowhere, and water poured out of the heavens. The sound of the rain upon the ground, a roar that meant life, renewal and survival, beat a joyful and ancient tempo upon the land. The meager crops that were all but lost turned their heads to the sky and rejoiced.
Fifty years later, you meet Vea Algana, a Curare [Curare means “to heal” in Latin, btw]. Curare are individuals born with special abilities to manipulate the elements – and typically, they are only found on the FARMs. Most Curare fall into one of four categories: Igni, Terrae, Aquae or Venti (fire, earth, water or air) and can manipulate those elements, though to do so means they must relinquish part of themselves. Curare age and die at a much faster rate than normal people due to the use of their abilities which are tied to their life force.
But Vea is a Curare unlike any other. She has spent most of her life in hiding, aided by her family in avoiding capture by the Curare Planetary Agency (CPA), an organization that captures Curare, catalogs them and forces them to use their abilities to heal the earth. Once taken, the Curare never return home and are never seen again. They are slaves, used by the CPA until there is nothing left and then tossed aside like rubbish.
Here is a small excerpt from the introduction to Vea’s section of the story.
Wherever I walk, the grass perishes. I know only an instance of the softness of spring under my feet. For quickly, as soon as I set my toes upon the ground, the grass shrivels and browns. The life force I take, I do not take needlessly. I must have it to survive for I am a Curare unlike any other.
The world is full of desiccation and decay, much of the soil white with salt and chemicals and the sky thick with ash. Mankind has not cherished his home. He has destroyed her with the cheeky arrogance of spoiled entitlement. He has behaved like an errant king luxuriating in the spoils that he believes to be his and his alone. Perhaps, many theorize, this is why the Curare came into being, a last-ditch effort by Nature to save herself, a plea from Nature to humanity by giving them the power to choose.
On the surface, we Curare seem normal. Human. Even within our bodies, we are anatomically the same. Our differences, it would seem, lie in the realm of an extra sense, an extra-awareness that manifests as our ability to manipulate the elements.
One would think that nature has blessed we few with the power over the elements and perhaps if the world was a different place, we would have felt blessed too. But nature is not without a sense of humor; or perhaps, it is irony. For each time a Curare seeks to manipulate an element, no matter if his intent be good or ill, he must make a careful decision to sacrifice a part of his own life. Is the manipulation worth the reduction of his own life force, for this is the price he must pay to wield the powers of Nature.
And then, there is me. A Curare by name and practice, but not in execution. I seem a rogue among a population already rife with disorder. My abilities are not turned inward but back upon Nature herself. To live, to thrive, and to manipulate the elements, I must draw from the earth. Thus, beneath my toes, the grass wilts and in my hands, I carry death wherever I go.
I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peak of Withered World! I will keep you updated on my progress and will let you know as soon as this book is available for pre-order. I’m shooting for spring 2017.
As a gift to myself, I took all of last weekend off from writing. But now it’s time to get to work. Edits await!