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Glowpeak Academy- Chapter Three

by SubSubLibrarian


The Brooks family sat at the dinner table. Judith, two years old, was playing enthusiastically with her food and singing quietly as she did so. Zoe, age six, was eating as fast as she could and Frank, eight, was slurping his juice loudly. Jared, 15, was talking to all who would listen about his plans for track season.

Veronica and Charles say at the dinner table, barely eating and completely silent. They were both staring at their plates as if they were observing the behavior of their mashed potatoes and we're more interested in that than anything else that was going on all around them. The conversation between Jared and his parents (they would listen), took a surprising turn towards the lockdown, which had affected Jared's high school as well. This apparently was a topic in which everyone was interested. Even Judith gazed intently at those who took part in the conversation, though she continued singing.

"I heard there was a shooter," said Frank, grinning in delight.

"That's not something you should be happy about, darling," said Mrs. Brooks.

"I'm not happy, Mom," said Frank. "But why does it matter? No one got shot. Did they?"

Frank's eyes widened and he looked between his three older siblings.

"No," said Jared. "No one got hurt in any way. The school prepares for this sort of thing."

Charles sighed and mumbled, "yeah, tell that to Columbine."

No one heard him, which was probably a good thing.

"Did you see the shooter?" asked Frank.

Jared shook his head. "We just went under lockdown because we're close to the middle school. That's where all the action was."

Frank looked at Charles and Veronica expectantly, but they were still staring at their mashed potatoes and didn't notice. Frank repeated his question, directing it straight at Charles and Veronica. They looked up finally and glanced at each other. They seemed to be wondering "what should we say."

At least that's how it seemed to Frank, and he said, "The truth would be nice."

Veronica looked at him uneasily, but it was Charles who spoke.

“There was no shooter,” he said.

“A knifeman then,” Zoe said excitedly. “I read somewhere that Italians use knives. Maybe it was an Italian.”

Mrs. Brooks looked incredulously at her younger children.

“Where did you two get all this from? Your father is just as likely to use a knife as any Italian.”

“Are you saying that Dad attacked the middle school?” asked Jared. “I wasn't aware that Dad was into that sort of thing.”

Mr. Brooks, who had been silent up until that point, roared with laughter. Mrs. Brooks looked angrily at them both.

“Don't you encourage them,” she said.

“You mean you saw the guy?” asked Frank.

Charles looked at Veronica, who shook her head. Charles nodded.

“We think we saw him, but it was just a short glance through a window, so for all we know, it could have been a teacher or someone else looking for the guy. Could have been a student.”

Frank narrowed his gaze. “How do you know it wasn't a gunman then? If it wasn't a good enough glance to be sure if it was even the guy, how do you know he wasn't carrying a gun?”

“Because,” Charles said, “he saw us. If it really was a gunman, wouldn't here have just shoot straight through the window? We couldn't take a longer look because he saw us. The windows aren't bulletproof. Not even close.”

“I guess that makes sense,” said Frank. “If he was the guy. But if he wasn't, then how do you know there was no shooter?”

“I suppose I don't,” he said.

He looked back down at his potatoes and took a small bite. Jared excused himself from the table to finish some homework and Frank showed a roll into his mouth before doing the same. Mrs. Brooks stood up and extracted Judith from her high chair, cleaning up her face quickly, then setting her down on the ground. She ran from the room. Zoe got up too and ran off to play with her baby sister. Mrs. Brooks started to walk out of the room, but Veronica stopped her.

“Mom,” she said, “can we talk to you about something?”

Mrs. Brooks walked back to the table and sat down beside the twins. Mr. Brooks said he had to finish some work and left the room. Veronica wasn't sure what to say, but she felt that they had to tell someone about what had happened during the lockdown. Maybe they would get answers. The prospect was unlikely, but it was possible.

“Mom,” she said slowly. “Do you think zombies exist?”

Mrs. Brooks was startled by the question. She had assumed that her children had something serious they wanted to discuss with her. She thought something might have happened at the lockdown that they didn't want their younger siblings to know. Then what was all this about a zombie?

"Well," she said. "I've never seen one and I have no way of proving they don't exist, but I don't think they're anything more than a myth."

Her mother's mention of the lack of proof was enough to give Veronica hope that she would believe their story. With growing confidence, she continued.

"Would you believe me if I told you that Charles and I had seen one this morning during the lockdown?"

So it was about the lockdown.

"Are you sure it wasn't someone wearing a mask?"

Veronica pictured the cold, Misty eyes and knew they had to have been real. She shuddered.

"The eyes. It was real," she said decisively.

Charles nodded in agreement. Mrs. Brooks was shocked.

"Both of you saw this?" she asked in disbelief. She looked at Charles, her gaze lingering, then at Veronica. Both of them said they had. She stood up.

"You two need to get some sleep. I think school and all the lockdown stuff has work you out."

She hugged them both and kissed their cheeks. They looked at each other glumly as she left the room. They were alone and uncertain. Veronica shrugged and glanced at her mother's retreating figure.

"She didn't believe us," she said.

Mrs. Brooks stepped into her room and closed the door. Hey husband was sitting at his oaken desk staring at the screen of his laptop. He looked up from his work as she entered the room. She said nothing, but dialed a number on her phone. There was no answer to her call.

"I guess I'll have to call tomorrow," she said, putting her phone down and looking back at her husband.

"What is it?" Mr. Brooks inquired.

"Zombies. They think they saw one."

Mr. Brooks gaped at her. "Both of them? Surely-"

Mrs. Brooks cut him off. "That's what they said. Veronica and Charles both saw it."

"Do you think it's true?" he asked.

She shrugged. "I don't know. Can it be a coincidence? If it was just Charles..."

Mr. Brooks nodded. "His mother," he said. "You still have the letter?"

" Of course. I couldn't get rid of it. I knew someday we might have to tell him."

Mr. and Mrs. Brooks sat in silence and did not hear the footsteps outside their door. They were too deep in thought. They did not see the look on Veronica's face because the door was closed. They did not feel the pounding of a heart as she did it taste a sourness in their mouths beyond anything previously known to them. Of all their thoughts, there were none which considered the possibility of a child listening to their conversation.

Now, Veronica thought, frightened, What should I do?


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Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:31 pm
niteowl says...



Hello again! This is more of a comment then a review, so I won't mark it as a review.

So Veronica has overheard this conversation, and this is what influences her behavior in the next couple chapters. The thing is, from this conversation, I know very little. There's a reference to a letter, which Veronica would know nothing about, and something about his mother, which would make no sense to her because Mrs. Brooks is their mother. I would imagine that Veronica would be more puzzled by this than anything. What do they need to tell him? Why do they say his mother? As a child hearing all this, I would be confused and going through possibilities, but I don't know if I would go straight to frightened. Again, I might be trying to rationalize what I heard (maybe the "he" she's referring to isn't Charles, but someone else).

Also, who the heck was she going to call? I didn't think anyone else knew about Charles's origin and who would believe this zombie story?

That's all for this chapter. Just got to read Chapter 4, then I'll go on to Chapter 6.




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Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:18 pm
BiscuitsLeGuin wrote a review...



Hey, finally getting here :)

Nit-picks:

The Brooks family sat at the dinner table. Judith, two years old, was playing enthusiastically with her food and singing quietly as she did so. Zoe, age six, was eating as fast as she could and Frank, eight, was slurping his juice loudly. Jared, 15, was talking to all who would listen about his plans for track season.

I'm not a fan of all of the exact ages being listed. For one thing, I'm unlikely to remember names and number pairs when there's that many. Secondly, it should probably become apparent during conversation anyway, and if it doesn't, it's maybe not that relevant.

“Are you saying that Dad attacked the middle school?” asked Jared. “I wasn't aware that Dad was into that sort of thing.”

Mr. Brooks, who had been silent up until that point, roared with laughter. Mrs. Brooks looked angrily at them both.

I don't think this is that funny that it deserves roaring laughter. Maybe a delighted chuckle.

Overall:

This is going to come in two parts. First I'm going to talk about the zombie conversation as if the chapter had ended when Mrs Brooks walked away. Then I'm going to talk about it in the context of the whole chapter. This is because even though something might make sense given the true circumstances, the kids wouldn't know that, so it would make sense for them to comment on any gaps in logic.

And for me that gap is that in a world that clearly does not typically contain zombies, Mrs Brooks is so quick to accept that that is what they think they saw. There are so many conditions that cause cloudy eyes that I don't think that detail alone is enough to clinch it. You could have a shuffling gait, pale skin and misty eyes and still not be a zombie. What makes the kids so sure?

In the context of the ending, obviously I don't know how much of the missing information I'm meant to know because I haven't read the last two chapters, but either way I think it's pretty strong. Whether I know that they have had some sort of experience with zombies, or that's just the implication, I'm super into that. And Veronica overhearing it too was so cool, though I think she should wonder what on earth her parents are talking about, rather than taking any specific conclusion from what she overheard, which is what she seems to do.

I'm actually okay with the omniscient narration because it's consistent and not lopsided in terms of time spent with each character.

Oh, right, the main plot. This is a fairly good way with dealing with a shooting/lockdown. I have a feeling inappropriate humour might be a common feature, but there should maybe also be a few more slower, emotional beats.

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)






Thanks again! I do think the chapter would make a lot more sense in the context of the first two chapters. Part of my thought process with Charles and Veronica thinking that what they saw is a zombie is revealed in chapter two. They aren't sure, of course, but there is a definite inhuman quality that they could kind of feel.
Also, the age things at the beginning isn't really important. I just wanted everyone to know right off the bat what order the kids went in, so they would understand the conversation better. At the time I wasn't really sure of a better way to do this, but if you have any suggestions, let me know.





Ahhhh okay! I might actually go back and read the other chapters because I did enjoy this :)





That's fine with me. :)



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Sun Jul 29, 2018 8:43 pm
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Mea wrote a review...



Hey there, SubSub! (Can I call you that? I really like your username, it's funny.) I thought I'd drop by for a quick review on this lovely Review Day.

One of the first things I noticed that I really liked about this was how you had a whole big family with a bunch of people here at the dinner table. It meant that there are a lot of people who can bounce off each other and make for a dynamic, chaotic scene, and your descriptions of the different conversations really added to that. I think you could maybe make it even more chaotic, with more back-and-forth between the characters, to demonstrate their personalities more.

Something I couldn't always figure out was whose head we were in, which character we were following closely. At first, I would have thought it was Veronica or Charles, but then it switched to Frank, and then it switched to Mrs. Brooks. By the end, I had pretty much figured out that this is most likely omniscient POV and the switching is totally intentional - by and large, it works pretty well, particularly in the last couple of paragraphs where it gives it a really chilling tone. It also makes it so it makes more sense that Mr. and Mrs. Brooks are called that, instead of Mom or Dad or being called by their first names. (The main thing to be careful of is to show really clearly when you switch focus, so the reader doesn't get confused, and also not to be so far removed from the characters that the reader doesn't care about them. I think you've mostly avoided both traps here, but sometimes it felt like you spend too much time just saying "X did this, Y was doing that.")

I don't think the omniscient POV worked quite as well at the beginning, however, because although you go around and give the names and ages of the whole family, you excluded Victoria and Charles, and that almost made me think they *weren't* part of the family, and were just family friends or something. More importantly, the transition between them looking down at their plates and eating silently, to the conversation turning to the shooting, felt a bit abrupt and disconnected.

I really liked the line about Mr. Brooks attacking the schoolhouse; that was funny. xD

And I think that's about all I've got for you! The mysterious letter and the fact that Mrs. Brooks seems to know something about zombies is definitely interesting, and I'm intrigued! That part of the scene as a whole was really good. Good luck with this story, and keep writing!






Thanks a lot for the review. I don't know if you read the first two chapters, but they clarify things a lot more. Chapter two mostly followed Charles to make it clear that he was the main character, but it is omniscient POV. This chapter was supposed to be focused on the family as a whole because Charles's family is really important to him. The earlier chapters also explain some things about Charles and Veronica and about the shooting. You said that the transition between their silence and the shooting conversation felt abrupt and disconnected. It was supposed to be abrupt because it fees realistic to me. But I think Chapter two helps with the connection. It's really just supposed to show that they aren't sure how to respond to their siblings questions, but that they do expect the questions to come. If that makes sense. I totally agree with everything you said though.
Thank you so much for reading!




Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux (One must imagine Sisyphus happy).
— Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus