Hello, blog followers! It is my greatest pleasure to announce that I have finished another story called The Wanted Man. This is always a huge step for me when I actually finish a story I begin to write, because as any writer knows, it is easy to start a story, but it is hard to actually finish it. :0)
The Wanted Man tells the futuristic story of Ashton, a young man living in a world that has embraced Darwinian Evolution. Mankind has essentially sorted itself into three groups, the highest-evolved Elite, the brutal, lowest-evolved Ravagers, and the rest of the population, stuck somewhere between these two extremes. The Ravagers roam the land, killing at will, and the Elite gather in exclusive cities to protect themselves. The rest of the population is left to their own devices.
Ashton can never be accepted as one of the Elite due to his defect: a mangled leg. As a result, he lives a dangerous life in the forest outside of Phealidiatt, the City of the Strong. He kills to survive, which eventually makes him a threat and a target. The Elite have set a price for his head, and hunted by packs of bounty-hunter-led Ravagers, Ashton becomes known as the Wanted Man.
In the midst of this, a mysterious stranger offers Ashton a chance at a better life, a chance to live in a settlement that has broken away from the pattern of the world and does not judge by physical appearance. It sounds too good to be true. Can the stranger be trusted? And will Ashton even live long enough to find out?
I wrote The Wanted Man for two reasons, 1) To contrast the evil "survival of the fittest" mentality found in Darwinian Evolution with the unfailing love of God for the outcast, and 2) To write a believable conversion story of a young man while at the same time clearly presenting the Gospel. Though I am but a novice writer, I pray that I accomplished these goals in an enjoyably-readable way.
Without further ado, here is a sneak-peak, the prologue, of The Wanted Man!
Firelight danced in the bleak hall, shimmering and playing off the windowless walls of the place. The light came from a stone fireplace on one end of the hall where a fire was burning. Yellow and orange tongues of flame consumed several brown, gnarly logs. Despite the fire, it was cold in the hall. A storm raged outside, and fierce wind drove the cold through cracks in the depleted building, overpowering the warmth the fire produced in the airy hall.
A lone, high-backed chair stood before the fireplace and cast a long, stretching shadow across the decaying wood floor. In this chair a woman sat bent over a small bundle wrapped in a green cloak on her lap. She shivered slightly in the cold.
“My son,” the woman said. “My son.” She repeated the two words over and over, her voice breaking and full of emotion, rocking back and forth. Tears slipped down her careworn face and fell on the green-wrapped bundle.
The bundle stirred. A tiny hand touched the woman’s wet cheek. “Mommy, don’t cry.” The voice was small and shrill, as if its speaker had just learned to talk.
The woman pressed the child close to her but said nothing in reply. Nor did her tears stop flowing. The gnarly logs burning at her feet were slowly eaten away by the dancing flames till only bright coals remained, but she made no move to stoke the fire. Her son, still wrapped in the green cloak, slowly relaxed in his mother’s warm embrace.
She began to sing softly to her resting child, her lips whispering in the tiny ear of her son as if she was afraid someone else would hear the song. Her broken voice was strained, but capable, and she began a beautiful song that rose and fell with the gentle breathing of the child.
A righteous God there is
A truth that cannot be denied
He cares for all who are His
For the chosen He will provide
Love pure and true
Holy justice served
Grace made new
All these He extends
All these He will give
The lacking He befriends
And in Him we can live
He lavishly enriches the poor
He offers healing to the hurt
To the lost He gives a door
The useless He will exert
Come to Him, all who are heavy laden
None are unworthy in His sight
Neither young or old, man or maiden
He will uphold you—
There was a loud crash at the end of the hall, and the woman turned abruptly, the song dying on her lips. Two immense doors had been thrown open at the head of the hall, letting in a whistling gust of wind from the storm that raged outside. Sheets of rain, driven by the biting wind, pummeled the muddy ground before the door. The form of a man stood in the doorway. His cloak was drenched and dripping, but he strode into the room, ignoring the trail of mud and water he left behind. The rotten floor beneath him creaked with every step.
“Wife, it is time,” the man said simply, stopping before the woman.
“I am not ready,” she replied, a hint of defiance in her voice. She made no move to stand, still cradling the sleeping child in her lap.
“You need not be ready; we are leaving now no matter what. To stay is death.” The husband’s voice was hard.
“Get up,” the man hissed. He grabbed a handful of his wife’s hair and pulled upwards, and with a cry the woman stood up. She still clutched the green bundle in her arms. “The last caravan north is outside our doors, our only chance at life. We are leaving for Phealidiatt, the City of the Strong.”
“Must we go? We have not been harmed by the Ravagers here. God will protect us. ” Gone was the woman’s defiant tone. She was pleading.
“You believe in foolishness, Melissa. Your god is one of imagination. We can trust only in the strength of men.”
“But what good is the strength of men when they are tearing each other apart!” the woman, Melissa, retorted bitterly.
“In the City of the Strong, the Elite, the highest-evolved, respect and do not make war with each other,” her husband said coolly. “Pray to your fake god that we will be accepted there. Come, we are leaving.”
Taking her by the elbow, the man led his wife out the hall and into the storm. A long strand of people filed by before them, carrying sputtering torches in the dim light. Battered vehicles, relics of a past age, flanked the snaking human line on either side. A mismatched array of trucks, cars, and even buses, they were heavily burdened with people and possessions and bumped along over the uneven ground. Very few of them looked serviceable, but then again, it was a miracle that the vehicles were even moving. As a whole the procession was shabby and ragged—the people disheveled, their clothes matted and tattered, and the vehicles rusted and falling apart, windshields and windows broken throughout.
“Let us join them.” The man glanced down at the bundle in Melissa’s arms. “Leave him. He has a defect . . . He will not be accepted in the city.”
“No, husband, please, not yet,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears. “Let me carry him for a while.”
“You cannot carry him forever. He will grow too heavy to bear.”
“I know, but I cannot bear parting with him yet. Please, I beg you, just for a little while.”
“Very well.” The man shook his head and strode forward past his wife, joining the caravan heading north. Melissa followed behind bearing her son, near two years old, in her arms. The couple was soon lost in the mass of people tramping along towards the City of the Strong.
In a matter of minutes Melissa’s arms ached from the weight of the sleeping bundle she carried, but she trudged along without complaint, knowing that to show a sign of weakness was to forfeit her son forever. Hours passed, and she started lagging behind. The ground, churned up by the mass of people ahead, was little more than a bog. Mud sucked at her bare feet and made each step tedious. Suddenly she tripped and fell awkwardly, trying to shield her child from the impact of the fall. Hollow-cheeked people trudged past her on either side. Their faces, made even more shadowy in the wavering torchlight, were uncaring. And why should they care? To them life was tedious enough without looking to the concerns of their neighbors.
Melissa struggled to her knees in the mud. Her child stirred and started to cry, but she spoke softly to him, trying to coax him back to sleep. He was not easily comforted, the cloak wrapped around him already soaked through by rain, but finally he fell asleep again. The last thing the woman wanted was for her child to be awake when the time came, as it soon must, to abandon him. She had known this time would come; she had often cried herself to sleep thinking about it. Even this day when she learned that the time had come for the journey to Phealidiatt, she had gathered her child to herself and wept.
The woman tried to get to her feet, but her strength was spent. Still she struggled, desperately trying to stand with the deadweight bundle in her arms. A hand grabbed her arm and helped her to her feet.
“This has gone far enough; leave the boy. Your strength is spent.”
Melissa turned to her husband. “Will you not help me? He is your own son!”
The man raised his square jaw. “He is a deformed whelp, a runt that should never have been born into our world. He is no son of mine.”
“How can you say that?” Melissa asked, her voice a sob.
Her husband made no answer, but his eyes remained locked with hers. “Leave him here, or I will take him from you,” he said at last.
Melissa broke away from his stare and looked around desperately. A forest line stretched some fifty feet away in the dim light. “Let me take him to the edge of the forest. He will have a little shelter there, at least.”
The man nodded and she started past him, but he grabbed the edge of the green cloak the child was wrapped in. “Don’t leave the cloak. The boy will not need it for long, and you will.”
Melissa made no answer. Before her the ground rose at a steady incline to the forest. She took a deep, shaky breath and started up it. Her legs quivered with the strain, and her arms felt like she was holding lead. She could feel each thump of her heart inside her chest. Lord, she prayed silently, why have you forsaken me?
Finally she reached the forest and collapsed at its edge. With one last effort she nestled her sleeping son in a clump of ferns under the canopy of dripping leaves. She stroked him from where she had collapsed before him, her fingers running over the green cloak.
“My husband said you wouldn’t need this, but I know you will,” she said softly, pulling the cloak more tightly around her son. “It is the only thing I can give you, my precious one.”
Behind her the blinking and wavering line of torches was growing distant, but the woman lingered. She thought for a minute of fleeing with her son into the forest, of escaping the cruel reality of the world she lived in. Heaven knew she had nothing in the caravan below that she cared about. Her own husband had bought her; she had never loved him. But yet even in the forest the cruel reality of her world would find her. The Ravagers would discover her. They would torment and abuse her, and then she would die. She shuttered at the thought. No, her only safety lay behind her in the ragged mass making for a city that would receive only a select few of them. Phealidiatt, The City of the Strong, was only for the highest-evolved humans—not for the bony, hollow-cheeked shadows of people that made up a majority of the mass. Her husband might make it, for he was strong of frame and handsome, but most of the rest would be turned back at the city’s gate . . . or worse. She herself might not be accepted, for she had grown weak providing for a son these two years without the help of her husband. But she must try.
Melissa rose slowly to her feet and looked down at the green bundle nearly hidden in the undergrowth. “God, if you love me, please don’t let my son die,” she said desperately out loud, turning her face to the bleak sky above her for a moment. She stooped down and kissed the soft cheek of her son, and as she began to back away, she sang quietly to him again.
Come to him, all who are heavy laden
None are unworthy in his sight
Neither young or old, man or maiden
He will uphold you with his might
The last few words were snatched up by a fierce gust of wind, and the song wavered and died as the woman disappeared into the storm. The child was alone.
I would deeply appreciate any input from you, blog follower. What was your impression of my writing (please tell me truthfully; I am not easily offended ;0) )? Any typos/corrections?
In fact, would any of you be willing to edit/critique this story? It is relatively short, somewhere between a novella and a short story. I know that the only way I can grow in my writing skills is first by continuing to write, but secondly by getting input from my readers on what you liked/disliked, and even having someone spot typos is in and of itself a huge help. No pressure, but if you are willing, I would deeply appreciate one or a few of you critiquing the full story. The link to the full story is below for anyone who wants to read further!