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18+ Language Violence

Fox Who Stole Her Name 1.1

by Lauren2010


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and violence.

Fox and her brother, John-bear, had been sleeping in a second-floor room of an old roadside motel when the owner of the gas station across the highway killed a man for his Volkswagen Jetta. The whiplash crack of bullet-on-glass grabbed Fox by the throat and she was awake, lying where she’d dropped a few hours before, boots unlaced but still on her feet.

“John-bear,” she whispered, and glanced up to her brother where, sitting upright, he’d fallen asleep at the head of the bed. He had his arms crossed in front of him, head lolled back, Fox’s shotgun laid over his legs. Ever the teenager. “John-bear,” she hissed and smacked the toe of his boot as another shot went off outside. It was dull, and wet. Bullet on flesh.

Fox grabbed her shotgun and her brother and all three were outside on the walkway before the man with the car had drawn his gun to return fire. They ran down the stairs, past a woman smoking a pipe of crushed tobacco, and crossed the motel marking lot while three additional men with guns spilled out of the gas station’s convenience store. None of their gunfire had crossed the highway, yet, but it would. It always did. And Fox had a rule about guns: when shots were fired, run.

The woman they’d paid for their room watched them dash across the parking lot from the motel’s front office, not apparently bothered by the post-apocalyptic pissing contest going on next door. A bunch of teenagers no older than Fox lounged near a pair of defunct vending machines, no doubt waiting for a room. When they saw Fox, one of them slipped inside the office. Another whistled. Fox cursed at them under her breath, but kept running.

They didn’t stop until they’d ditched the main highway for a country road heading approximately the direction they were going. “Well, that was forty bucks well spent,” Fox said and kicked at a hunk of pavement that had come dislodged from the road.

“Man, I’m tired,” John-bear whined, letting every one of his thirteen years show. “We should have stayed. I’m sure it would have been fine.”

“And I’m sure you were supposed to be the lookout.” She jabbed him in the side with the stock of her shotgun. “We’re just going to have to keep going.”

“How much farther to Indianapolis?”

Fox dug the folded state map out of her back pocket. “We’ll make it by dark,” she said, looping the strap of her shotgun around her shoulder to mess with the map, “but just barely.”

John-bear slung his arms back over his head and groaned, but kept walking.

“I don’t want to hear it,” she muttered, tracing their options from Indianapolis to Chicago. It had been a long time since they’d gone home. Years, even. But at that point, Fox didn’t know what else to do.

The wind kicked up behind them, pelting Fox’s bare arms with granules of dirt and pavement and carrying with it a buzzing sound that stirred against the highway. John-bear had already moved on to speculating about the canned goods he dreamed of lifting out of some decrepit Indianapolis grocery store. Fox stopped and looked back down the road.

Heat burned off the road on the horizon. Her fingertips itched against the map, sweat seeping into the edges. She folded it, slowly, and let a hand drift to the stock of her shotgun.

John-bear looked back at her. “Something out there?”

“I don’t know,” Fox said and then the buzzing washed over them like a thousand cicadas humming. She shoved the map into her pocket. “We gotta go,” she said, and forced her brother

They tumbled through a patch of brush and weeds overgrowing in a line of scraggly trees planted on the side of the highway. One step behind her brother, Fox snagged her foot on a branch. She wheeled forward and caught her balance, but not without a sharp twist to her ankle.

“Goddamnit,” she cursed, and kept running.

On the other side of the thicket was some old farmer’s field. It seemed to have been unattended for years; the grass grew long and slathered Fox’s skin with late summer pollen. John-bear sprinted through it. He threw his arms out at his sides and, in a surge of wild adrenaline, howled in delight.

“Would you shut it?” Fox shouted at him. She kept a careful eye behind them. Hazy blacktop bled through the trees behind them, and she couldn’t tell whether it was heat or bodies moving in the spaces in between. She blew air through the gap in her teeth where she’d lost a molar the year before. Her body ached. They’d been rationing and hunger burned at her joints.

“Speak for yourself.” John-bear flashed her a grin over his shoulder.

Fox ground her teeth. “In case you need a reminder,” She fixed the strap of her shotgun on her shoulder, “the aim is not to get shot at by a marauding stranger.” Then, her foot caught on the lip of something firm and metal. She tumbled forward into a full somersault that put her on her back in the grass. Clouds and blue sky swam in her eyes. “Oh,” she groaned, “god.”

“Shhh.” John-bear crouched over her, hidden in the grass that crested on a summer breeze over their heads. He stared ahead as if he could look straight through the blades back the way they’d come. Fox imagined that, overhead, anyone looking down could trace their serpentine path through the field. She breathed shakily, heart ricocheting around her ribcage, and closed her eyes. Fox didn’t believe in God or heaven or any afterlife that wasn’t the one she already lived in. There wasn’t anyone looking down on them.

“I think we’re in the clear,” John-bear said. He tipped from the balls of his feet and dropped onto his ass, one arm slung lazily over his knees. He prodded Fox’s forehead. “Come on,” he said. “You’re okay.”

Fox swatted his hand away and pushed herself up. “We should keep going,” she said and gasped in pain, doubling over. Her ribs ached. She reached underneath her t-shirt and felt along the more tender spots for anything that felt like a break. Then, she reached for her shotgun. “What even was that?” she asked.

John-bear kicked the rim of the metal thing hidden in the grass with the heel of his boot. “Whatever this is,” he said and kicked it again, harder. Metal groaned against metal and a plate of reinforced steel slid off of what looked to be a metal basin buried in the dirt.

Fox yanked at the grass that tangled over the basin, revealing a thickly-walled steel pit carved into the ground. It had a ladder bolted to one side, the metal dull and clouded. Light, filtered scattershot through the grass, danced on the concrete floor at the bottom.

“What is it?” John-bear helped her to her feet and stood half a step behind her, her body an unspoken shield. He peered over her shoulder and Fox wondered when her little brother had gotten so tall.

“Some kind of bunker.”

“No fucking way,” he said. “That’s so cool.” He edged her aside and dropped a foot onto the top rung of the ladder, testing its strength under his weight.

Fox crossed her arms over her chest. She eyed the pit with distrust. “I don’t know, John-bear,” she said. She pressed her foot against the rim of the basic, forcing stray blades of grass over the side like a shredded waterfall of green. “This is old world stuff.”

John-bear whined, like a puppy waiting for a treat held above his head. “But it looks so cool,” he pressed. “What if there’s something down there we can use.”

“What if there’s someone down there?”

“If someone’s down there, we’d be dead by now,” he said, and Fox couldn’t argue with the logic. They’d been standing there aboveground for at least ten minutes, talking loudly. If someone had heard them, they’d already know.

A breeze picked up across the field and ruffled the hair that grew long over John-bear’s forehead. His knife hung in a sheath from his belt – one of the last things they’d actually paid for, years ago – and he tapped the blade with the side of his thumb. Then, he dropped another foot onto the ladder and lowered himself into the pit.

“John-bear,” Fox warned, her tone turning harsh. Her skin pricked, goosebumps dancing up her arms in time with the spike in her heartrate. “You’re backing us into a corner here.” It was one of her rules: don’t put yourself in a position that only has one escape.

“Bring your gun,” he said. “Who’s around, anyway?”

Fox gestured emphatically toward the highway. “Excuse me?”

He stopped halfway down the ladder and squinted up at her. “Can you see them now?”

Grass brushed her elbows, making her skin itch, but nothing else stirred in the grass. Heat stirred behind the trees at the highway. It had to be heat, she swore to herself. All of it was just a trick of the sun. They’d know by now if it had been differently.

“Coming?” John-bear stood at the bottom of the pit now, some twelve feet beneath the surface. Tentatively, he pressed his palm against a door left ajar, and disappeared inside.


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Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:19 pm
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Elinor wrote a review...



Hey Lauren!

I realized before I read this that I don't think I've read any of your writing before, at least, I don't know If I've ever critiqued it on the site. Because of that, I was very glad you posted this!

I think the strongest part of this first chapter here is your pacing and your character development. I like how we don't know too much about what happened to Fox and John-bear to see them on this path, but I'm aching to find out more. Already, you give us a strong sense of not only their bond but really just how close they are to each other. Additionally, your writing style is very evocative while still being easy to get into.

One area where I think this could be stronger is the world building. I like how you drop us right into the action, but:

Fox and her brother, John-bear, had been sleeping in a second-floor room of an old roadside motel when the owner of the gas station across the highway killed a man for his Volkswagen Jetta. The whiplash crack of bullet-on-glass grabbed Fox by the throat and she was awake, lying where she’d dropped a few hours before, boots unlaced but still on her feet.


When I first this, I felt like I'd started reading in the middle of a chapter and not the proper beginning of the novel. Maybe (and this is just my suggestion) you could introduce Fox before introducing the situation, or introduce the shots and then show us what happened later. It feels like there's a lot of information being crammed in, and I think you can take your time, at least somewhat.

I also don't know if I got much of a sense of what type of post-apocalyptic world this is, as there have been many different ones portrayed in media. Considering Indianapolis still exist as well as functioning motels, it feels for more apocalyptic itself then post, and I found myself wondering how long it had been sense whatever crisis set these events in motion. It didn't feel like it had been that long if any time had passed at all, and I wasn't sure how off base I was about that or not. I don't think I need to tell you how show and not tell, but I think I wanted more moments like these:

Hazy blacktop bled through the trees behind them, and she couldn’t tell whether it was heat or bodies moving in the spaces in between. She blew air through the gap in her teeth where she’d lost a molar the year before. Her body ached. They’d been rationing and hunger burned at her joints.


Which say a lot without saying too much. Obviously, you don't want to reveal everything right away, but I think you've created a good base to start leaving hints and clues that you can follow up on later.

I enjoyed this! Let me know if you have any questions, of course. <3

- Elinor




Lauren2010 says...


Thanks so much for your feedback, @Elinor!! I've been struggling with starting this novel and how much to reveal and when. I will say, hopefully the second half of this chapter does give more information about the world and what happened. The next chapter definitely gives more context about what happened.

But it's super useful to know what things you wanted to know more about in this section! <3



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Sat Jun 02, 2018 1:59 am
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fraey wrote a review...



Hi Lauren!

First Thoughts:

To begin with, I like the way that you dropped the reader in this world. I'm happy without a prologue to tell the reader how exactly the world changed and such, since this really does provide good information hidden within the words themselves. And I really enjoy being able to extract those hints from just reading, which is the whole point of books, right?

One thing I noticed was how closely you included similes using "like" in

forcing stray blades of grass over the side like a shredded waterfall of green. “This is old world stuff.”

John-bear whined, like a puppy waiting for a treat held above his head.
This caught my attention on the second read through primarily, but it's not that I don't like the imagery. I would just recommend you reword one of these lines slightly to a more metaphor-like statement, maybe like
John-bear whined, imitating a puppy...
I'm bad at examples, but that was something I saw that was more a grammar thing than a stylistic thing, if that makes sense.

Characters:

Let's see. Fox and John-bear are the only two characters we really see in this chapter, but I even like the inclusion of the bystanders and such, since they tell the reader a few things about this world. If someone's not bothered by gunshots, or teenagers are dying for a room, then the reader can think of a maybe post-apocalyptic/war/something-bad that definitely changed societal norms.

I like Fox for a few reasons. One, she tells the reader about the world by just her actions alone since she has little sayings like
but it would. It always did.
That alone allows the reader to picture how long this world could have been like this for a supposedly young adult to have gone through so much. I say "young adult" because that's what I'm guessing she lands in at, but I could definitely be off. Two, because I love it when characters have rules and such, and her distrust is interesting, and yeah. I like the complexity this novel can hold for such a character, since past experiences could have changed her personality, and her interactions with John-bear are nicely worded as well.

John-bear I like as well, mostly for his curiosity, since that's a good balance to Fox, and can spread out her horizons a little, especially when they encounter the bunker. Honestly, the first thing I thought of was "Lost" which also made me like this story!

Plot:

I will never tire of a good adventure, on-the-run maybe, post-something vibe-y story, and this holds a lot of promise to what these characters could encounter. This bunker seems very interesting and I even just like hearing the dialogue back-and-forth, especially the idea of this being "old-world." A rehash of the twenty-first century, perhaps? I guess we'll have to see!

One more random thought bubble - was this line
“We gotta go,” she said, and forced her brother
supposed to be longer? I'm guessing it's just like "forced her brother running/forward" or something. That was the only typo-ish I saw in this, which is definitely a well done job :D

Overall:

I like this a lot, and am very intrigued by not only the characters but also the promise that this premise holds. Can't wait for more chapters!




Lauren2010 says...


Thanks so much for your feedback @killeham!! I am definitely a big fan of the simile, and it is a conscious choice when I use them. But I see what you're saying about how close together they are. I'll keep an eye out for those in the future.

And you're right. That's an unfinished sentence xD I definitely didn't catch it until I was reading back through HOURS after I'd already posted. Oh well!

<3




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