How's George these days?
And is that creepy Spike fellow still about?
How's George these days?
And is that creepy Spike fellow still about?
You feel yourself being drawn in through the words, into the very mind of their writer. You know that is what you are feeling, though it is unlike anything you have felt before. You are confined in her consciousness at the time she wrote the sentences you are reading. It is a dark space, split in half by an opaque barrier, a schism through which thoughts pass, helter-skelter, but which blocks the other side’s contents from your perception. You feel a sense of dread about whatever is hidden there.
The space more accessible to you is both crowded and empty, contracted and expansive. Thoughts drift around you, dark shapes that are initially inscrutable, but whose disguises peel away under your scrutiny. You wander aimlessly, selecting thoughts at random to inspect in greater detail. Most seem to be anxieties, worry about acquaintances now known deceased or feared to be. Others elude you, however, evaporating like mist under the heat of your gaze. As they vanish, they leave behind the faintest hint of a message, like a whisper just below the limits of your hearing, or the cold scratchings of a fingernail on your spine.
Eventually you find two central thoughts, looming over the rest, like totems at the center of a circle of worship. As you watch them, striping away the outer coverings, they take the form of two men. The first is dark and looming, his face still concealed by a swirling mass of light and shadow. As you examine this mask, you feel it projecting a tangled mass of feelings into you, feelings of dread, disgust, and a hint of attraction. It does not dissolve on closer inspection, but rather sends you careening backwards, like the mental equivalent of a hard blow to the gut. You decide not to pry farther for now.
The other man has been fully unmasked, but his features are inconstant, flickering between two or more wholly difference appearances, sometimes distinct and sometimes muddled together. The form that seems to predominate is a small man, accountant-like in appearance, slightly disheveled and with features that you cannot picture expressing joy. Not genuine, unrestrained joy, anyway. When this man’s features take full form, casting out briefly the other shapes, you realize, as sure as if he were wearing a name tag, that this is the George that Carrie mentioned in her diary. But what of the other face, or faces, now surging back into view? You remember her words about George reminding her of her father, and guess that that is part of it. You can feel Carrie’s thoughts pressing down on this man, thoughts of contempt and mistrust.
You reassess your surroundings. This environment is foreign to you, but at the same time it makes intuitive sense. You can feel very clearly the trouble this woman has faced, the scars littered throughout her psyche. She has learned to respond to the world with suspicion and reserve. Still, you are not entirely uncomfortable, for your can sense a gentler side as well, a side still capable of, longing to, even, express tenderness. Still, you can tell it would be a tricky business to bring out this happier aspect. You cannot help but think of her like some wild animal, a hostile mass of sharp objects when provoked, yes, but possessing a soft coat and affectionate instincts as well.
You suddenly experience a desire to see Carrie from the outside, having been afforded a look within her mind. To your surprise, the wish is answered, as you feel yourself zooming outwards, out of the chamber of her thoughts and back into physical space. You find yourself looking at her, fixed in the act of writing the diary entry you just read. She is seated at a desk, bent over the diary, pages still young and white, in a room with a twin bed, illuminated only by the morning light sleeting through the window. At first you think she is frozen in time, but you realize that the pen is moving, but only at a molecular pace, the passage of this moment dilated into hours.
As for the woman herself, you must confess that you likely would have ignored her, had you seen her on a crowded street, back when there were enough people in the world that you could afford to ignore most of them. Unremarkable is a term you might have used. But now, having intimacy forced upon you, both by the scarcity of humanity, and also by the inner view of her mind, you consider her in more detail. Her face, framed by mousy brown hair, is pale, perhaps reflecting too many days spent indoors. Its features show the hardness and reserve you saw in her thoughts, but as you look, you can see the other side as well. As you look, you see beauty amongst the plainness, care behind the disassociation. You find her compelling.
Almost reflexively, even in this strange mode of viewing across time and space, you find your eyes drifting downwards over her body, assessing and evaluating. It’s an instinctive act, an unconscious response to meeting a person who is potentially attractive, and it is something you’ve always done, but now you suddenly find yourself under attack because of it. The weak, probing touch of your attraction provokes a response of irresistible force, and your senses, physical and mental, are temporarily overwhelmed by the strength of the countermove.
You come to yourself on the floor, chair having toppled backwards, and a sore spot on the back of your skull from where it struck the concrete. You seem to be okay otherwise. You have no idea what happened, but you don’t especially want to experience it again. Still, you cannot abandon your investigation of the journal. It has not moved, still in its place on the desk, open to the first page of the second entry.
Discover that the second page of the journal was written by someone else. Do that thing again.
Also, Potatoes: Become the main theme of ED.
Throw up the horns and hum some hard rock to yourself as you get up and head-bang the journal.
If that disappoints me by not doing anything, just pick up the journal, lie down on the floor, and start reading again. Maybe get a pillow of some variety.
As you look up at the ceiling, remember that you have to fix that hole in the roof, or else the rain will get in and start eating away at the floor again.
I'm probably going to read this as a story, as I'm struggling to find ideas for suggestions. It's awesome to read, so I'll leave you to it for the most part.
I reiterate my question of where in the timeline of George's noo society Carrie finds herself at the time of writing said diary
You right the chair and sit down. You start to read the second entry, making sure to focus on the words alone, not letting yourself be drawn into the deeper meanings yet. You can feel the memories tugging at your mind, inviting you in, but you politely decline their offer. The second entry is not marked to tell you when it was written, but the ink is blue instead of black.
‘Spike. God, what a monster. It wouldn’t surprise me if he broke into my room and read this.
‘Hey, Spike! Thanks for reading my diary! Go die in a hole somewhere!
‘There, hopefully he’s gone now. I really have to make sure George doesn’t send me out with him again. Every second in that truck with him was like being in a cage with some half-tame wild animal. I didn’t know if he was going to jump over and savage me or god knows what else. I hate guys like that. Act like everything is already theirs, they just haven’t stopped to take it yet.
‘It’s sort of like being back in high school here. There are seventeen people now, and everyone seems to be falling right into place. Next thing you know George and Spike and their cronies are going to get varsity jackets and start dunking people in toilets. No one made them the leaders, but it happened and no one seems willing to question it.
‘I’m the only one here anywhere near high school age. Maybe that’s why I notice it. They’ve all forgotten how much high school sucked. Are any of them under forty? Maybe Spike? I can’t even guess how old he is. He could be ninety-six for all I can tell. Regains his youth with an annual bath in babies’ blood. He’s a god damned monster, I can tell.
‘George might be tolerable without him, but I don’t know what to expect now.
‘Everyone else is just going along with them. It didn’t take ten minutes after that poor lady showed up and told us her story, and George explaining what he thought was going on for them to make up their minds about Chet. Chet is like the new kid in school that one person tells a story about, and soon everyone has heard it and believes it. Billions of people just died for NO GODDAMN REASON and we’re sitting here gossiping about one of the few survivors like he wet his pants in math class.
‘I don’t care though. If they don’t want to give him a chance, let him explain himself, then let them. I’ll get to the bottom of it, and if he doesn’t want anything more to do with us, I won’t blame him.
'Still, he didn't seem to deny that he really is carrying a corpse around with him. But who am I to judge? I'm as crazy as anyone. Maybe we should all go crazy. A corpse might be a pretty good friend.
‘Crazy or not, he seemed so nice. I can’t help but wonder if my loneliness is clouding my judgment. He may be dangerous, I can’t forget that. Anyone would probably seem nice after an hour in the car with Spike. He just wanted to be left alone. Why? When I first saw him he looked so fierce, but once he put the gun down I could tell he was scared. His eyes were so wide, no matter what we were talking about, even when we were talking about his parents. Spike doesn’t act scared. We should all be scared. Right now, I'd trust someone who's scared before someone who isn't.
‘How can we possibly be going around pointing guns at each other? How stupid can we be?’
The entry ends there. The last sentence has been underlined. Glancing ahead, you see that the next entry is the last, but you resist the urge to read it for now. Not until you’ve examined this one more deeply.
'm just finding it difficult to comment on a lot of this, as I come up with vague ideas of what I'm going to think while reading, but then over the course of the rest of the piece I forget what it was by the time I get back to it. Short memory is short...
Having said all that:
Mental image hidden behind the writing, show Carrie's opinion of Spike's monstrous attitude and the bathing in babies blood. Pull further into Carries personal, mental projection and opinion of Spike, also of Chet. Possibly flip backwards around some vague recollections of high school and finally supp on what was eaten prior to writing the entry.
Notice a slight twist at the end of some words, a hesitation in some periods, of Carrie checking over her shoulder every now and again.
Picking up the journal gingerly, you lie down on the floor, not wanting to repeat your chair-plummeting experience. There's not enough light to read by down on the hard surface, but this isn't the kind of reading you need eyes to do. The field of memories pull you in, and for a moment you can see the whole history of the volume: it's production in an Asian sweatshop, shipped to America, placed on a shelf. Death. Carrie finding it in the corpse-strewn shop, writing in it, disappearing, the diary being manhandled by men, abandoned, forgotten. Then you will find it, take it, carry it carefully on your long journey home. But after this glimpse you are drawn back into her memories at the moment of the writing of the second entry.
The setting is much like when you last visited, a haze of swirling abstract thoughts, but now they are moving more energetically, spinning in seemingly every direction, and yet there seems to be some common center to their motion, a strange attractor guiding their orbits. Remembering the two figures that you saw last lime, you fight through the streams of thought, trying to relocate that nexus of her thoughts. Soon enough you come to a clearing, devoid of other forms, but now occupied by four shapes instead of two.
Towering over the other three is that same masked figure, inscrutable and terrifying. Now, however, there is a second man standing in front of it, smaller, but wrapped in a shared cloak of negative feelings, the same dread and disgust, the same abhorrent attraction. As you examine the smaller figure, you realize without being told that this is Spike. His face is twisted in a leer, a mixture of insane glee and brooding malice. You've never seen a human look so inhuman. You wonder if this is the true Spike, or if it is an image distorted by the lens of Carrie's personality.
To the right of those two you see George. He looks much like he did last time, but the aura of contempt surrounding him has now been mixed with some of the fear directed toward the figures next to him.
To the left is another new figure. Your initial suspicion that it is Chet is quickly confirmed. He is a young man, attractive in an unobtrusive way, but there is something indistinct about his features. The briefness of Carrie's encounter with him seems to have left his image here half-formed, unfinished. Despite the visual ambiguity, the feelings around him are strong, a mix of hope, skepticism and disappointment. You wonder how such a strange and powerful cocktail of emotions could form after such a short experience, even taking into account the intensity of feeling we all experienced in the days after the disaster.
As if in response to your question, Chet's form starts to shift, and he is replaced by an older, kindly-looking man. Through some intuition you label this man the teacher. Looking over, you see that Spike has morphed into another form, as well. He has become a teenager with chiseled features and a look of supreme confidence. Even George has shifted back into his other form, the one you think is Carrie's father. Suddenly, all three turn and look at you, the first time any of them have acknowledged your presence. You soon realize that they are not look at you, but are in fact looking at Carrie, and that you have taken her place, and are sharing her feelings for some sort of demonstration.
First the teenager/Spike approaches you, smiling. You don't mind at first. You’re flattered, even. But then he grabs you, grabs your very soul, and wrenches it to his will. You try to resist, but can only struggle feebly. The teacher/Chet seems to notice, walks toward you. You try to cry out, reach him for help. He tries to grab the teenager, pull him off, knock him away, but all his efforts are resultless, like mist beating against stone. He pats you consolingly on the back, then turns away, defeated. The father/George isn't even facing you, as if he's inspecting something in the opposite direction.
Suddenly, the vision fades, and the figures have returned to their original places, their appearances returned to their original state, though occasionally returning to the other, nameless features. You feel violated and helpless.
Not able to face the other two, you turn toward Chet. You are still curious, not sure what the performance meant, what he represents in Carrie's mind. You reach out, hoping to delve deeper into his existence in this space, but once again you find yourself under attack. As your consciousness is swept under the tide of this force, you realize that this is not Carrie's own defenses rebuffing you: this attack is sweeping down upon you from the outside, propelled by a hand unrelated to the memory field of the diary that you are reading. It is a force that transcends time and space, and is irresistibly powerful, and fiercely beautiful.
You come to your senses thirty feet from your vault, in the middle of a sprinting stride. You wrench back control of your body, almost falling before you can come to a stop. You bend over, breathing heavily, and look around you. All is quiet in the abandoned military base, decaying buildings and overgrown fields all around you. You turn and head back to the stairs leading down to the vault.
Note the intense memory field covering the journal, not emanating from, but swirling around the journal. Know you aren't getting back into it any time soon.
Skim a little off the top of the field, try to figure out where it's coming from.
>Consider your own emotional response to what you have seen from Carrie's journal
I'm fine with whatever update pace you choose Tela, it's just a pleasure to read your worldbuilding.
An exploration/exposition of the military base might be intriguing, but so would a further explanation/examination of that mysterious force that swept down upon you.
(Also we have no idea as to the backround of our supposed "main character" but I'm assuming that that's the deep end of the pool you've kicked us into )
Maybe the reason our main character has access to such time-bending memories and visions is that he is the amalgam of the whisps and traces left by every other soul on Earth as they perished -- both those that died in the great cataclysm, and those that died afterwards. He wanders the human-less Earth, a god of Memory, looking back into the past because it is all that he can do.
I still say he should go get something to eat.
You return to your safe house. The journal is lying on the floor where you dropped it, open to a blank page. You pick it up and flip lazily back to the last entry. Nothing seems to have changed, at least not from what you can feel on the surface. You sit down on the floor with your back against the desk, holding the journal up so that the pages catch the lamp’s light. This entry is shorter, and sloppier, with the text trailing off or blotting at the end of lines.
“He DID die. He died in a dark parking garage, underground in Bethesda.
“Did I want this
“I can’t blame Chet for shooting. It was my fault, not his. I had to let him escape. I wasn’t going to let him stay. We’ll just have more killing if they find him. They want me to find him. I want to find him. I wish I could just take them to him, but no more killing!
“I think they are going to have a trial for me if I don’t help them. What right do they have to try me? I am guilty. I’m more guilty than Chet and they probably won’t try
“Someone will die if I go to him. Why do I want to go to him? I saw her. It was just like they said. She’s a corpse. She’s a corpse. I’ve ruined any place I might have here by helping him, though. I should just go find somewhere new, start over. How could anyone not want to start over now?
“I should be happy Spike is dead, shouldn’t I?”
The journal ends without ceremony, and, equally abruptly, you dive one more time into the book’s memories. You don’t even think about the danger you’ve faced the last two times.
Her mind is chaos. Swirling darkness surrounds you, and you are unable to discern individual thoughts anymore. You are lost, no frame of reference, no point the same from one moment to the next. Still, you feel some guiding force, nudging you around to your left and goading you forward. You stagger in that direction, like a blind man without his cane.
Suddenly the haze clears, and you are once again in the open. All around you is a dome of hazy incandescence. In its center is a lone thought, a lone figure. It is seated on a simple wooden chair, sitting stiffly, hands on its lap. As you approach, you realize it is a corpse, lightly decayed. Looking at it, you think it is maybe two or three days dead, but it has been a long time since bodies were a common sight. Now there are only skeletons.
Carrie’s feelings toward the body are as confused as the thoughts around it. You feel resentment and confusion, pity and fear. But there is more, more than you can understand.
As you look, you feel that same external force sweeping over you, the same awful and awesome power that sent you fleeing against your will mere minutes ago. This time, however, you are not under attack. A veil is lifted from the corpse, and you realize it is not a body at all, it is a living woman, and it is not a memory. She is here, right before your eyes, and she is gorgeous, and she is mighty.
Her hands are still on her lap, but her eyes are alive and roving, animate emeralds set in alabaster. She sights you, and her gaze transpierces you, cutting through the medium of the journal and its memories, stripping you to your soul, here and now, on the floor of your bunker. She regards you with interest for a moment, and then dismisses you with a phrase, not spoken, but projected directly into your mind, a dictum you’ve always known but never acknowledged until now.
“Chet and I are off limits.”
With a blink you are back in the present, sitting just as you were, journal in your hands. As you stare at it, trying to decipher what just happened, you realize that it has been stripped bare of its memories. The writing is still intact, but there is no longer any history attached to it, as if yours are the first human hands ever to touch it. It’s deeper meanings are gone forever.
As you think of the woman you just saw, who has apparently bleached clean this object’s value, you suddenly realize that you have seen her before. You drop the diary and leap to your feet, rushing to one of the nearby shelves. You grab a manila envelope and carry it to the desk. Undoing the tie, you open it and shake the contents out. A single Polaroid photograph slips out, and you snatch it up. There she is, the sane beautiful young woman, smiling reluctantly, looking far more mortal than she did within the diary. You remember finding this photograph, miraculously preserved in a charred ruin, but other than the cuteness of the subject, you did not know what to make of it. Now, with your new ability, you attempt to dive into its memories, but you find it is as blank as the journal.
You sigh, no more informed now than when you started, and you realize you stomach is growling.
Find local potato farm. Realise that the potato is the most highly condensed item of pure history, being able to copy the history from it's surroundings.
Om nom it anyway.
If no local potato farms present, attempt to raid an overgrown farm for food.
Go get a couple of cans -- beans, meat, some pineapple -- and cook 'em on the bunker roof with a portable camp stove of some sort. Maybe a can of Sterno. Drink the last of the bottled water and watch the sun set.
Also, hmm. You are either that god of Memory I mentioned earlier, or you are a twelve-year-old child. Or both.
While I'm not in grammar nazi mode let me say great update again, and I'd think canned food would be the only real option here if our character isn't some sort of WILDS EXPLORER.
Though they may be living without any people around.
As for characters George might be interesting since we've only ever had an outside view of his psyche yet he's been pretty involved in the whole story-thread - still I think you might want to save him for a later point in the plot.
Maybe someone with middling authority in Georgetown?
You’re not sure if you need to hold on to these now-blank items, but something tells you that you should. You return the Polaroid to it’s envelope and the envelope to its place on the shelves. The journal is new to your collection, but there’s an empty spot for it. There’s not a lot of empty room left, now. You wonder if this means that your peregrinations are almost over, and, if so, what that would mean. You are tired. You could use rest. But you don’t know what has been guiding you, or if gathering these objects has been your only purpose.
You cast that from your mind, however, in favor of getting yourself fed. You check out your garden first: it’s not much, since you can’t be there to tend it most of the time, but you grow what you can. One of your apple trees appears to have been plagued by insects, but the rest of your fruit trees are heavily laden. Too bad you cannot live, at least not comfortably, on fruit alone. Your other plants have not fared so well, badly overgrown with weeds. It’ll take a while to sift through it all to see if there’s anything you can salvage. There’s one particular patch you need to check first, however.
Retrieving a rake, you claw through the impinging growth in search of the buried treasure of russet gold. Your hopes are not rewarded, however, as your potato crop has been blighted, and is shriveled and inedible. In your recent travels you have heard of such failures, of communities struck with famine if they depend too heavily on the potato. No one was willing to trade for seeds, either, so you fear it may be a long time before you see another fresh potato.
You grab some fruit for your meal, then proceed to your other vault. This one is just for your food, and it’s almost as secure as the one for your artifacts. An unpleasant smell greets you as you crank open the door. You were afraid that the last of that meat wouldn’t last, but you had no other choice but to leave it, since you had no space left in your pack. Still, it’s rather irritating: feral cattle aren’t that hard to find, but getting the meat back to your base is quite a pain. You leave the rotted carcass where it is for now, and grab some better-preserved venison and a sack of flour for your meal. You eye the large cache of canned goods hungrily, but you have to be sparing with those. They’re not as easy to come by anymore, and unlike all the post-disaster food you’ve gathered, they’re not about to go bad.
You’ve always been eerily lucky finding food. Back when canned goods started getting less common, you were always stumbling upon unplundered convenience stores or particularly well-stocked basements. When even those sources started to dry up, and survivors started providing for themselves, you’ve usually kept well-fed. If not through outright charity, you always have enough desirable goods to trade for what you need. Sometimes it’s providential, a gadget that you grabbed without knowing, but that proves to be just the carburetor those farmers need for their tractor. But even eerier are the abandoned settlements you stumble across, well equipped and well supplied compounds, or lone ramshackle huts, always devoid of life, all recently deserted. Sometimes there is clear evidence of violence, sometimes there isn’t, but there is always something useful, whole stores of food or one overlooked bad of grain. You remember with savor the time you found a whole recently killed and plucked chicken.
You take the food into your little kitchen and prepare it over the wood stove. It’s a simple meal, but a generous one. You long adjusted to the routine: small breakfast at first light, then no food at all until your large dinner. The prospect of a big meal has often been the only thing keeping you going through the long days of hiking.
As you eat, you think over the two objects, the journal and the photograph. You found the journal in D.C., just a few months previously, but the photo was found much much earlier, on the journey you took to the same region, mere years after the disaster. You worked your way up the coast, after wintering in Florida, eventually finding the photo in the ruins of a shopping mall northwest of D.C. As you think over the trip, you remember passing through the city, wondering at how empty it was. It was still empty when you were there a few months ago.
After you finish eating, you return to the artifact vault, trying to remember what else you collected during that trip. It’s often hard to keep track of it all, since you never had to work to find any of the objects. The mysterious commands simply lead them to you. But now your mind is clear of such influences, or at least you think it is, and sifting through the decades of memories is difficult.
Walking through the shelves, you come across one of the largest objects in your collection, a large wooden pedestal, with a stand for paper under a long-burned-out reading lamp and a plug for a microphone. You suddenly remember that this object was taken from D.C. as well, on the same trip as the Polaroid all those years ago. You hauled it here in a pick-up, those being the days when you were still driving. Working vehicles were still easy to find back then, as was fuel. Now everything has rusted through, and you need someone with some mechanical skills to keep a car running. The fuel is mostly gone as well, the formerly abundant stocks at gas stations and tanker trucks evaporated, leaked away, pillaged, or burned. What fuel is left now is precious, and used to run tractors and trucks, supplemented with grain alcohol and cooking oil.
The memories around the podium are not as intimate as the ones around the journal, but they are sharp, the feelings of fevered excitement that you remember from those early days, the days of complete loss and new hope. People argued long and hard about the new world over this surface. Placing both hands on its smooth surface, you dive into its history.
I have now found an awesome word and I shall attempt to transpierce it into conversation whenever I can vaguely find a hole for it.
> Nazi Germany: Be remembered.