Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chapter #2

The discoveries I’ve made since I came back from my leave are truly disturbing. My neglect of the task of finding a replacement for myself has now truly begun to weigh on my mind. Up to this point I’ve simply been hoping that such a person would naturally present him or herself, but no such luck has come along.

The last thing I wish to do is settle in my decision, but if things continue the way they have, I fear this is what I will have to do. After seeing how quickly things tend to deteriorate in my absence makes this a truly scary predicament. The person I choose, whoever he or she may be will have years of difficult work ahead of them.

It seems that there is almost a compulsion in the minds of those who run the rescue effort to do things in a new way. Obviously this is needed at times, but the instructions are so clear about the necessities of what we do. I simply do not understand why the first things to be questioned are the very things that hold our effort together. The task before us is difficult, but it is not complicated. So often the tendency is to fix things that are not broken and to break things that have not even begun to falter.

What I need is someone with a passion for the finishing of the effort but also one who understands the process that we must follow to get there. They need patience, but they also need drive. They need respect for the system, but they need to be innovative in how they apply it.

Oh that someone like this existed. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever find them.

~Peter’s journal, the day of his return to headquarters

Paul opened his eyes and began to look around the room. He was on the floor in the middle of his kitchen. He slowly tried to remember how he got there. What time was it? How long had he been unconscious this time? It slowly began to come back to him. He had tried to start cooking breakfast when he began to feel his muscles fail again. He always knew this meant trouble.

His days had been growing shorter. He would need sleep for longer and longer periods, not including when he would sleep at night. He would stop to sleep several times a day, sometime voluntarily, sometimes not. Life was exhausting, not only physically, but emotionally. Many of his friends had died. He knew he didn’t have long. He was only a child when the incident occurred, but he remembered it well.

Many died right away. His parent were fortunate enough to grow accustomed enough to the changed air to survive for several more years. It wasn’t the usual, slow death that eventually took them though. Their minds had been taken captive by yet another of those who offered a false cure. The man would string his victims along until he would either say there was some way past the quarantined boundaries of the city, leading to their inevitable demise, or he would offer them some kind of poison that would put them out of their misery. It was poison for his parents. He hadn’t even gotten a chance to say goodbye.

He began to finish preparing his meal and continued to look back at all that he’d been through. He wished he could have done something to prevent all that had happened, but he had been too young at the time. After he lost his parents, he slowly began to lose his friends, some by the same deception, some by the inevitable course of time. It was strange, as some of his friends drew closer to the end, they would often forget the incident ever occurred. They would behave as if life was in its prime, and they would stop looking for a cure. This was disturbing to Paul, but sometimes he wondered if it was simply for the best. At least they were happy as the end drew near. This only happened to some, however. Most would see the end coming right into their final days.

Paul was glad that he was one of those who kept his wits about him, at least up until this point. As much as he wished things were happier, there was a certain security that came with knowing the truth, even if the truth was not a happy one.

***

Clive had just finished his rounds on the street he used to live on. Up to this point there had been no luck. Most weeks, he would recruit two or three people, so this was no surprise to him. There had been three or four false cures created in the past year, so this made his work even harder. Some were clever enough to disguise themselves as government officials who were spreading word that the quarantine had been lifted. Those who fell for it would then run towards the border, only to be killed by those guarding it.

As little luck as he had, he knew he was one of the better recruiters. He not only was a sincere person, but that sincerity came across to those he spoke to. They truly could see in his eyes that he could get them out of this place. He could present them with this news, but also bring them to a place where they could accept the burden of joining the rescue effort for the years that would be required of them.

As he turned onto the next street, he began to look at the houses. He remembered the friends he used to have. Some had gone with him to be cured; some had stayed behind out of skepticism. He decided to take the risk and he had never regretted it.

Today had been a difficult day. He had run into a great deal of people who were reaching the end of their sickness. Most that he spoke to that day wouldn’t acknowledge they needed rescuing at all. This was odd in that they could barely stand at the time they said it.

He hoped this next street would hold better results. At least he hoped he would talk to some people who understood the gravity of all that was going on in the city. He knocked on a few doors, no one answered. He knocked on a few more; one or two would open and then be slammed in his face as he began to explain who he was. He resisted the urge to grow frustrated. Of course they wouldn’t listen, many of their friends and family had fallen victim to liars and murderers. Why should they trust him? He approached the next door, not expecting anything incredibly different.

***

Paul heard a knock on his door. He went to open it, having to stop in the process of cooking to do so. He opened it to see who was there. “Hello, my name’s Clive, what’s yours?” Something in his face made Paul know that he was nervous about saying what he had to say. “Paul. Can I help you?” “Well, can I come in, Paul? I’d like to talk to you about some new developments in the city in recent years.”

Paul was slightly annoyed, but he wasn’t in the mood to argue. “Fine, but I’m about to eat, so I don’t have very long.” “That’s fine; I won’t take up much of your time.” Clive came into the house and sat at the table. He was glad he had been let in at all. “So, how have you been feeling lately?” “Fine.” said Paul, lying. “That’s good. Do you have any idea why I’m here?” “Let me guess, you have a way for me to get cured?” “Well, you get straight to business, don’t you?” “I deal with this every week, Clive. I know the look of someone who’s trying to sell me.”

“I understand. I dealt with the same thing before I decided to give escaping this place a shot.” “Escaping? Well, I haven’t heard that one in a while. Most of the guys that have come to my door had some weird medicine for me to take.” Paul was getting a bit impatient now, but something kept him from growing angry. As he looked at Clive, he could see that there was no desire to harm. He must have just been a follower; just buying into the lies of someone with a real agenda.

“Look, I know this is hard to listen to, but this isn’t just some crazy attempt to sneak out of this place, or to get you to drink some weird concoction some maniac cooked up in his basement. The founder of this city constructed the system himself. I’m not asking you to buy into some quick fix, I’m asking you to help us. We need people to keep this thing going.

Paul had to admit, Clive was at least respectable enough not to insult his intelligence. He turned from the food he was preparing while Clive had been talking and began to think of how to get Clive to leave. He was about to open his mouth when suddenly he felt his muscles begin to weaken yet again. “Twice in one morning?” he thought to himself. He tried to go to the table and inconspicuously sit next to Clive when he began to lose his balance. He thought he could catch himself but before he knew it, he was on the floor.

“Are you okay!?” asked Clive, in shock. “I’m fine.” said Paul, lying yet again. “No you’re not!” I’m telling you Paul, I can get you out of here. Come with me! We can help you, and then you can help us.” Paul quickly began to try to stand so that he could get Clive out of his house and out of his life. The problem was, he couldn’t stand. His strength was completely gone.

His mind began to race. What could he do? He didn’t want to fall asleep. What if this guy took him out of the house and did something crazy while he slept. It was right then that Clive seemed to read his thoughts. “I won’t take you out of here if you don’t want me to. I’ll leave you here to die if that’s really how you want it. But I’m telling you, we can help. Now you need to make a decision, and you need to do it now. I can tell that you don’t have much longer. Do you really want to finish off your life in this lonely house, or do you want to have a full life that will eventually get you out of this dying city?”

Paul tried to bring himself to turn Clive away, but he couldn’t. Something in him kept him from answering until he had thought it through first. Something in him broke. He finally decided to be honest about what he had been feeling for years. He hated this old house. He was sick of living from day to day, waiting until his body failed him.

He missed his parents and he wished they hadn’t been deceived, but at least they tried to save themselves. At least they didn’t give in to the delusion that nothing was wrong with them or with the city. He looked up at Clive, he knew that at least he wasn’t lying, though he couldn’t speak for those he would be bring him to. “All right.” he said. Get me out of here. I can’t take waiting to die anymore, I’d rather let you kill me in some warehouse than wait around in this house breathing in something that will kill me anyway.” “Well, now neither of those things needs to happen” Paul smiled, and then fell asleep.

To be continued…

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chapter #1 (Read the prologue first! Keep scrolling!)

“I am in awe at what has been happening over the past six months. I never thought a day like this would come. Joshua truly did give me something that could save the people of this city. At first I thought he was simply giving me some failed set of theories in written form. However, within the first few pages of these instructions, there is indeed a cure for those that this city has been slowly killing. Within these first few months, many have been rescued.

The project is now far larger than I could have anticipated. There are now hundreds dedicated to seeing it through. We are now in the process of finishing the headquarters where we will base the continued effort. We have years of work ahead of us, but we must press on, just as Joshua did. His story has been an inspiration to us all as we've begun this work.

As we've made progress in following the instructions, we've slowly begun to see the genius behind them. They must have taken much of the founder's life to construct and plan. As disappointed as we all are that the city itself will not be saved, none of us could have asked for a better system by which to rescue as many as possible from its inevitable end.”

~Peter's Journal, Six months after the death of Joshua

***

It had been twenty years since the death of Joshua. Peter was now approaching his fiftieth birthday. He was proud to have dedicated his life to rescuing as many as possible from the dying city. In fact, he had gone so far as to volunteer five extra years to the effort, even though he was entitled to hand it down to his successor and move on to the new settlement after only fifteen years of work.

That was the way it had been outlined in the instructions. Those who are cured, unless they have passed the age of fifty five, must dedicate fifteen years to the rescue effort before moving on from the quarantined city. Thousands had now been rescued, and other than a select few who had volunteered extra time, much of the first generation of those who had been cured had now moved on.

The headquarters had now been well developed. They had been split into different offices that had made it capable of running more efficiently. The main building as well as the buildings which housed those who had been cured were made to be completely sealed off from the rest of the city. There were specially designed drugs that the residents were required to take before they would leave so that they could go and join the rescue effort without risk to themselves.

Today was to be a difficult day for Peter. As successful as the rescue effort had been over the past twenty years, there were many difficulties throughout its history that Peter never could have foreseen. Many attempts to save the city had been made before Joshua showed up. All had failed. Some even brought about an even earlier death to those that bought into their lies. Conspirators would often simply put their followers out of their misery rather than allow them to meet their fate in peace. Events like these had created a great deal of skepticism within the city that even Peter had a great deal of trouble overcoming in himself.

Even after hundreds of people had been cured, there was great resistance to all that they were trying to do. This kind of resistance lasted even into the present day. Obviously no one was able to see the new settlement until their fifteen year tenure was over. This had the unfortunate effect of bringing about doubt within the community of Peter's colleagues that even surprised him at times.

Peter had just finished a one month time of rest and he was about to rejoin the effort. He was never one to be lazy about his work and it took the encouragement of many of his friends to bring him to take any time for himself. He was practically the founder of the entire community and he never had any need to prove anything to anyone except himself. It was when he passed out from exhaustion in the middle of the city during a time of recruiting that he finally agreed to take some time off.

His time away from the headquarters was now at an end, and not a day too soon. He had begun to hear reports that there were disagreements within the offices. He had even heard that changes had been made to the way things had been organized. Some reports said that certain branches of the effort had taken to locking themselves in their offices and changing their methods of work without approval. There were many he left in charge that he felt would maintain order within the community, but no one carried quite the same authority that he did when it came to keeping things as they were meant to be.

He finished getting dressed and began to walk down the tunnel to the main building. “What on earth could have caused all of these things to go wrong since I left?” He though to himself. “Surely the people I left in charge are fully capable. There's no way this is all meant to rest on my shoulders. I only have a short time left before I move on. I need to make sure these people are ready to go on without me.”

He approached the door to the main lobby and he began to feel nervous about the day to come. Just what kind of problems would he have to deal with today? He pulled out his keys and unlocked the door. He open it and entered. He was pleased to find that there weren't any people running frantically around the building, but there was a certain tension in the air. He wasn't sure quite what to make of it.

“Hello sir!” said a voice from behind the main desk. “Hello Silvia! I sure have missed coming in to see you every morning. How have you been?” “Oh, things have been good... well considering” “Considering what?” He replied. “Well, I'm sure you've received some word of all that's been happening around here.” “Yes, “some” would be a tame way of putting it. What on earth has been happening since I left.” “Well, I wouldn't even know where to begin. Perhaps you should start in the administrative office. I'm sure Ted DeYoung would be happy to tell you all about it. You'll have to knock though, his office has almost always been locked for the past few weeks.” “Thanks Silvia.” He said as he began to walk away. He tried to smile, but there was obviously far too much reason to be nervous.

As he approached the administrative office, he not only noticed a “do not disturb” sign, but he also noticed that the small window on the door was covered up. He shook his head and gave a firm knock. “Come back later!” Said Ted's voice in a thoroughly agitated tone. “I'm way too busy for your complaints at this time of the morning!” “Ted, it's me!” Shouted Peter. “Since when are you one to lock your door?” The sound of papers rustling suddenly echoed through the door. Peter heard Ted jump up from his desk and run over to the door. He quickly unlocked and opened it. “Peter! I forgot you were coming back today! Sorry about that, I thought you were one of the endless recruiters coming to the door with some new idea. They've been going crazy lately.”

“Can I come in? Said Peter. “Sure! My office is a little messy at the moment, but we'll manage.” Peter entered the office and was surprised to find that all the windows were bolted shut that the shades were drawn. The outside light was so thoroughly blocked that Ted had resorted to keeping the lights on even in the time of morning when an open window would do just fine.

“So what's the deal Ted? I've been hearing all kinds of reports about things going haywire around here. Can you give me some idea as to what's going on?” “Well, I'm not even sure you're ready for all this.” “Trust me, I'm ready. A month is more than enough rest.” “Okay, Where to begin? Well, I would say it all really started when someone brought one of the city residence into the building through the back door.” “What!? Shouted Peter. Who would be that stupid?” “I don't know, but it took us about a week to sanitize the area. The city resident was quickly brought around to the other side where he was cured and given an ID badge so that he could get to work, and we made sure we drilled that recruiter one how he careful he needs to be.”

“Well, good work Ted, but is that it? I mean, what's up with all the tension around here. It sounds like the problem was taken care of.” “Well, we took care of the problem, but I have a feeling it was a symptom of something a lot worse.” “What are you talking about?” “Well, you know me, Peter. I've dedicated my life to making sure this place runs smoothly. In fact I was just going over the instructions when you knocked on the door.” “You've always been great about that Ted, I've never doubted it. What's your point?” “Well, I'm starting to get concerned about one of the offices upstairs.” “Which one?”

“Well, you know that the city development office has always been a little bit of a strange idea to me. I'm really starting to worry about the recruiters in that department, I feel like there's been some strange attitudes developing around there. I guess there's some reference to the importance of that department in the instructions, but these recruiters are really starting to make me doubt the merit of their entire office. People from that department really don't seem to care about keeping these headquarters in order. They seem to get so excited about the people they meet in the city that they give almost no thought to protocol. There were a lot of close calls before the back door indecent after you left. I actually feel that it wasn't just careless, it was inevitable.”

“I see what you mean.” Said Peter. He could see that Ted was a little tense, so he was trying to give him some reassurance. However, he felt that there was something here that went deeper with Ted. “Well, I'll see what I can do to straighten things out upstairs. How is everything else going with you around here?” “I don't know Peter, it's just frustrating to me. I don't see how people can get so caught up in rescue efforts that they miss the point of rescue in the first place.” “Yeah, that has worried me at times, but don't worry, this kind of stuff happened about eight years ago. We'll sort it out. Peter started making for the door, then turned back. “By the way Ted, why is your window closed?”

Ted looked at Peter, somewhat annoyed. “Well, I don't know Peter, I've just gotten tired of looking out at this city. I'm glad that recruitment is running as well as it has been, but really I'm just looking forward to my tenure being over.” Peter wasn't convinced. “There was almost an attitude of disdain in Ted's voice when he referred to the city. It was as if he had grown repulsed by it. “Ted, why in the world do you think we built these windows in the first place? We have them for a reason.” “Yeah, what reason is that?” “You know why Ted, you've read the instructions more than most people in this building! You need to remember where you've come from, or you're going to get tired of our work here before you even know what hit you! I can already see it in you're eyes Ted. I recommend you open these blinds. Your invaluable to this rescue effort, but I'd hate to see you think your office is all there is to it.” “Yeah, I understand. I'll try to work on that.”

“Well, I'm headed upstairs. I'll talk to you later. By the way, do you have a copy of the instructions I could borrow?” “Sure, take a look in the closet” Peter walked over and began to open the door. “Oh no, wait!” Shouted Ted. It was too late. Peter finished opening the door and several rolled up blueprints fell out of the closet. “What's this?” “It's nothing.” Said Ted. “Forget about it, it's really nothing important. Peter picked up one of the blueprints and unrolled it. As he examined it, he saw that Ted had been doing some planning of his own. Peter held in his hands the plans to a completely new security system. It contained many ideas, not the least of which was a massive wall that would surround the main headquarters.

“Well the “nothing” that I'm holding has nothing to do with the instructions you seem to talk about all the time!” What's the point of this Ted? Do you really think this kind of project would improve our effort in the least!? You really think the walls to this building aren't enough? You think one careless recruiter is reason enough to plan something this drastic?” “But it's not just one recruiter, Peter! They've stopped caring about what this building is for! It happened once, it will happen again!”

“I'll deal with them when I'm done with you Ted. I'm demoting you to full time recruiter until you sort your attitude out, and I'll be taking these blueprints with me... thank you very much!” Peter picked up the rolled up papers and left the office. He was shocked by the state of things, and he had only visited one office. Ted might have gone overboard, but he had some good reason to be nervous... the ordeal eight years ago might have been dealt with, but it was no small matter. “Hey Silvia!” Shouted Peter. “Yes?” Get Tim down here to cover for Ted. He's moving out for a while. “Peter headed for the elevator... he dreaded what the state of things might be upstairs...

To be continued...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Prologue

Well everyone, I am now attempting to write a second book. This time around, I hope to take a whack at the genre of allegory. After reading C.S. Lewis a lot over the summer, I think it might be one of the better ways to get the things I've been thinking about over the past year down on paper. So, hopefully, if I can keep this book going, I'll continue to post the first draft of each chapter here to get some feedback. Do show your friends! :-)

Prologue

Joshua stumbled through the streets of the great city. He gazed up, then down at the crumbling buildings around him. He had watched, years before, as his father had supervised the construction of the city. He looked left and right at the houses that were once pleasant and contained people who were grateful to reside in them. Now they were old and rotted. He was proud to be his father's son, but was greatly saddened and disappointed at the way things had turned out. He knew this city was meant for greatness, but now that dream was all but dead.

This was now the last hope. Joshua clutched the instructions his father had sent with him closely to his chest. He knew they were as monumentally important as every building in that city combined. His strength was leaving him, but he knew he couldn't stop yet. He hadn't yet reached an occupied building. If he could just see one person, he could then stop to rest, but not until he knew he had done what was asked of him.

The air was hazy. It had been years since the incident, but it was clear that one could not survive in this city for long. Sure, people lived there, but it was only a matter of time until they had to move on. Move on... or die. But they couldn't move on... no one could. The fact that most of the residence had grown older along with the story of the incident they had lived through made them able to live longer than one who was new to the city. However, life was fated to be far too short for even one who had lived there since the beginning. Joshua hadn't set foot in these streets since he was a child, before all this happened, so he knew his visit would be short. Not only short... but most likely the last thing he would ever do.

He pressed on. He stumbled at times, but he was never one to give up. Just as his father had seen this city through to completion, he would finish this great, though simple task that he had accepted. His legs were beyond tired now. His lungs burned within his chest. He knew he didn't have much longer. He prayed that someone, anyone would appear before him, that someone would look out a window, or come from the door of any one of these hideous buildings.

He knew that the first few miles into the city were abandoned, but he hoped that somehow there would be someone to receive him before it was too late. At times, doubt would begin to creep into the back corners of his mind. Could he make it? Would someone find him in time? Would he find them? He swiftly shut these thoughts out. He would not waver. This had to be done. If this plan failed, there would not be a next. He made his way through side streets. He knocked on doors, but the city remained silent. Finally, he reached the first street he had heard there were still residents. However, he worried that they had moved on as well. The air was still thick, even this far into the city.

He desperately knocked on each door as he worked his way down the street. No one answered. His breathing was now more difficult than ever. He continued. “Hello!” He shouted. “Is anyone left on this street? I must speak to someone!” As he approached the final door of the street, he felt his legs fail beneath him. He fell to his knees. He began pounding on the door as hard as he could. “Is anyone here!” He shouted. “I can't go on! I must see someone!” He tried to pick himself up, but he simply could not muster the strength. His eyes began to fade. He leaned back against the railing outside the door and continued to knock.

When he was ready to fall to the ground and sleep, when his hope was nearly at it's end, he heard footsteps behind the door. “Is someone there!?” He shouted. He then quieted himself and listened, slowly the footsteps approached. The doorknob turned, and the door swung open. A young man stood in front of him, no older than thirty. “Who are you?” The man asked, half frustrated and half in shock. Seeing Joshua's state, he bent down and put his arms around him so that he wouldn't fall completely. “What are you doing here?” “My name is Joshua. “Well, Joshua, answered the man, you look awful. Have you just entered the city?” “Yes.” He answered. “Didn't you see the signs at the city limits? This city has been quarantined for years! No one is to come in, and no one is to leave! Why would you be so foolish as to enter it?”

Joshua gathered his last bit of strength. “My father sent me. He founded this city. He saw that it was built properly. Now that this horrible incident has happened, he has sent me to bring instructions to those that are left here. I've carried them all this way.” “Instructions?” Answered the man. “What kind of instructions? What on earth would the founder of this city want with us? The last I heard, he took off as soon as things went wrong. There's nothing left to be done here but to leave us to our fate.” “Your wrong!” Shouted Joshua. “Take these instructions, gather everyone you can. Follow what's written to the letter.”

Joshua paused... “What is your name?” He asked. “Peter.” Said the man. “Well Peter, whether you like it or not, you are the one who has to start this work. I've done my part.” Peter responded, “I don't even know where to start!” “It's all in here.” said Joshua as he handed over the instructions. Peter took them and looked at them. It was a large stack of papers. He wondered what on earth this all meant. “Don't stop until the work is done.” said Joshua. Peter looked at him and knew that if Joshua could, he would spend the rest of his life doing what these papers said. Joshua's gaze remained fixed, even as his eyes began to close. “Please, please do what I've asked you...” After saying this, he closed his eyes and said “it's done... now I can rest” He put his head back... and breathed his last.

To be continued...