Hullo, hullo! Welcome to Day One of #marchmadness! Don’t know what that is? Allow me to direct you to THIS POST by the @freewritehouse 🙂 (or if you don’t want to click: it is essentially NaNoWriMo but in March and using the daily #freewrite prompt)
I began this with today’s freewrite prompt in mind — grass — but then GinaBOT sent me a notification! The First March Madness prompt had been posted at the @freewritehouse, and it was — in the club. I had some changing up to do! But you’ll find both prompts in the story.
It was a bit hard to get into the spirit of writing today. I barely wrote for the entirety of February, apart from maybe one or two freewrites… and though I have a vague idea of where I want to go with this thing, it took a while for my brain and typing-fingers to get the message that the reprieve was over and to get writing!
Unlike in November, I’m allowing myself to be a bit more “free” with the writing this time. I mean, it was always going to be “weird, horrible sentence structure, copious adverbs, super rough draft!!!!” but… this may end up a bit more terrible than I first imagined. Things may not make sense. It’s half freewritten. It’s a bit rambly. I’m sorry.
Anywho –here it is! Enjoy!
Current wordcount: 1531 (below the mark; will rectify this!)
Vibrant streaks of turquoise rippled across the sky. Intertwined with ribbons of lavender and beholding the faint glimmer of a silver sheen, it was an aurora so bold, so bright, that it eclipsed any and all auroras that may have existed before it. A pity it had been painted across the heavens for close to twenty years now.
Henry sighed. Had it really been that long —did time even matter? Each day seemed longer than the last but there was no mistaking the similar silver sheen that now swept through his hair or each new wrinkle that embedded itself into his weary face. At least his bones and body hadn’t yet succumbed to the ages that beckoned —a small comfort; he would be on the move soon. He hoped.
A rare yellow swirl spiralled across the sky, dancing alongside the turquoise streaks as elegant and refined as the mesmerising twirls of a long-gone ballerina, and a smirk touched his lips. It was a colour he had only seen a handful of times, the first of which on the very day the Event manifested. It had been a sight to behold and he had felt pretty chuffed that he didn’t have to travel all the way to the freezing poles just to see a glorious sky, but now… it would be more noteworthy if the damned colours disappeared, if the clouds became white again, and if the sky returned to the pale blue that now seemed more dream than memory. Maybe then things could go back to how they were. His smirk widened. That was a stupid thought —things would never be the same again.
When the forecasters warned of a solar event that could possibly rival that of Carrington, most people shrugged it off; there were always warnings and nothing ever came of them. The fear-mongering media had oversold itself and no-one cared anymore.
Of course there were those who latched onto the fear. Crazed preachers declared the event to be a sign of Jesus’ return, and there were those who claimed the direct opposite —that the devil was coming for them and that the end was nigh. Then there were the conspiracy theorists. Who would have thought that those yahoos would be the most accurate of them all? They warned everyone that there would come a day when humanity would be sent back to the stone ages and their nonsense was routinely brushed aside. Nuclear annihilation this, World War Three that, how Mother Nature would reclaim what was hers with volcanic eruptions and earth-shattering quakes that would rupture the ground and summon floods akin to biblical myth. Though somewhat accurate, it was still nonsense. In reality, humanity had merely returned to the middle ages. Of a sort. Perhaps it was more accurate to say that they now lived in a fucked up fairytale.
Henry brushed aside the thick vines that curled up over the bricks of what was once the town hall —vines with rough, stone-like limbs that would grow back within hours of being hacked away— and leant over the iron railing as he peered over the remains of the small city: Harclyffe. Once a bustling town called ‘Maryborough,’ it was now named after the man who resided in the building at his back… or would that be monster? Man, monster, maniac, mutant; any one of those words would suffice. It wouldn’t matter soon, though.
He narrowed his eyes. There was movement below, rustling through the overgrown grass that had shot through and replaced the streets. Tiny giggles could be heard through the growth, followed by a gasp as the silhouette of a misshapen cockatoo flew overhead, temporarily blocking the setting sun, then vanished behind a cluster of interwoven trees.
A collective sigh resounded through the tangled weeds as the large shadow disappeared, likely grateful that the beast hadn’t released its ear-shattering war-cry, and as the sun fell beyond the horizon Henry pulled the rope dangling beside him. It may be the end of the world but the town-bells still tolled, and this night would be the last time he released their song, an act that had once merely been a notification that evening had fallen but was now something far more heinous.
The singing bells rang out across the dark town —pitch-black but for the eternal aurora that blazed across the skies— and the people hidden beneath the long street-grass released a cheer.
“Fools,” Henry muttered beneath his breath, wincing as the slow creak of the main entrance opened and allowed the imbeciles entry into Harclyffe’s parlour.
Small moonlit baubles drifted out into the world and hovered above the bodies that entered, illuminating the ruddy faces of those who were as old as he was when the Event initially lay ruin to the world. They were men and women, mostly teenagers or younger adults —people with no memory of the time before— and all were dressed in the finest clothes that could be scavenged from broken wardrobes, each garment patched with dirt, dust, and unshakable debris… garments that would be returned to the very same broken wardrobes to be scavenged anew before the month was out. Someone else would have to replace them this time; he was done with this horror.
Climbing down from the bell tower, Henry entered the top floor of the old town hall and paused as Harclyffe sauntered past, his bulbous head wobbling precariously atop his skeletal body as the maniacal man-monster hurried to greet the newcomers.
He hadn’t always looked like that; Henry easily remembered the thickset young man who had once made a living pushing trolleys from the car-park back to the grocery store, but it was hard to reconcile that image with the mutated man that now was. The boy had been in the wrong place at the right time —if such a thing was possible— and had received a hefty dose of solar majesty as it bombarded the planet. Now the kid was a goddamned wizard. And not a benevolent one.
As though sensing that thought, Harclyffe glanced over his shoulder and directed a disdainful eye towards Henry. The dark sockets were lit by shadowed flames but Henry did not flinch as he calmly returned the man’s glare with a cool stare of his own. It’ll be over soon, you son of a bitch, he thought, almost hoping the creep truly was telepathic, but if Harclyffe was unnerved by that defiance he did not show it —he simply continued on his way and wobbled down the stairs, with not the slightest hint of a backward glance.
“Wha-” A hand clapped over Henry’s shoulder and spun him about, forcing him into a bare side-room as dusty as the dirt outside. “Sebastian! What the hell?”
Ice-blue eyes grinned at him from beneath a mop of blonde hair as Sebastian pried open his hand and pressed a small hard stone into his palm.
“The Harclyffe diamond,” Sebastian hissed through his smile, “don’t flake out on me now, Hazza. Keep it close, wait for my signal, then we’re getting the hell out of here.”
Henry closed his fist around the gem and shoved it into his pocket before Harclyffe could magically appear in the room and discover their treachery.
“I was hoping you’d be a bit more… inconspicuous,” he grunted, feeling a stab of annoyance as Sebastian shrugged.
“Dude, dude, duuuude. Whatever. When the nightclub starts, shit’s goin’ down. Be ready.”
“I really wish you wouldn’t call it that.”
Sebastian winked and hurried from the room. “See you in the club!” he called over his shoulder, leaving Henry with the ill-gotten gemstone burning a hole through his coat and a cloud of dust infiltrating his nostrils. It’s all part of the plan, he reminded himself, holding back a sneeze.
When Harclyffe claimed the town and declared the hall to be his residence, he had discovered a strange machine locked away in the lower levels, entrenched far beneath the surface, and the diamond Henry now harboured was the one item that powered the strange device. He swallowed down the foul taste that crept into his mouth. The gem wasn’t the only thing that powered the damned machine, but the blood of these deluded teenagers would be unusable without it.
The contraption was useless anyway; it could be powered on with a whirl of gears and rattle of unseen clanks, and the delivered bodies would dissolve and do something, but it all seemed for nothing. Henry suspected that Harclyffe merely enjoyed watching the morbid disintegration of that which was once living and did not actually care about the purpose he was supposedly trying to discover.
A loud click echoed through the cavernous building and summoned the steady beat of a bass guitar, followed by the whining vocals of some teeny-bopper trash that had been popular two decades ago. The cheer that rose up from the young men and women who had so eagerly —so blindly— entered the town hall was loud enough to vibrate the walls, and Henry paled.
Time was running out —Sebastian’s so-called ‘nightclub’ had begun.