Mind The Gap

This is my novel which I will be attempting to write during the month of November as part of National Novel Writing Month, as I'm in England, I'm doing my bit to make it International Novel Writing Month. I'm really not sure I'll actually manage to finish, but I will give it a go. Obviously writing to a deadline of one month is by definition going to be rushed, so please, if you do spot mistakes it'd be great if you'd let me know, I'd also love any feedback, constructive criticism etc.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Well, I clearly didn't make it. I just noticed something I hadn't even realised which is that there was an incomplete draft of chapter 9 stored here on blogger, that I never posted, might as well post it I guess. I may continue this story, Mark seemed interested. I kind of want to finish it, so maybe I will keep trying never mind that I've completely missed the deadline.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Chapter 9 (incomplete)

Joel figured he had visited a good proportion of the city's abandoned buildings in the last few hours, but he couldn't see that he had actually accomplished anything in his search. The only thing he had to show from his visits was a feeling of nausea from the overwhelming stench of the old slaughterhouse and something unmentionable that he had inadvertantly stepped in and had yet to succeed in removing from his shoe. All in all the exploration could have gone better. It was getting late, so he guessed he'd better get back to the warehouse, whatever they had been doing all day, chances were they had now stopped and returned to the base, unless he happened to have twigged that they were up to something on their day of action. He hoped and prayed that this wasn't the case.

Indeed, as he entered the warehouse everything looked much as it had done in previous nights, general activity was going on as if it had been all day, no signs of anything amiss.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Chapter 8

He was a moron; that was the only explanation that made any sense. How could he have been so incredibly stupid? Was he blind? Did he have no brain at all? The hammering of the criticisms in his head beat rapidly; keeping pace with the pounding of his feet on the tarmac. He was too late, he knew it already, yet he quickened his steps anyway, trying to put the negative thoughts aside, to convince himself that he might get there in time. In time for what, he didn’t know, but it wasn’t going to be good. The realisation had only just hit him, he’d been so busy since his recovery, so many jobs to do, he’d been out of the warehouse all day every day, just returning to close his eyes for a few hours each night, barely seeing anyone else, or anything they were doing, he just hadn’t had time to think; which had been their plan all along, he was sure of it now. As soon as he’d realised and started to put the pieces together, everything had slotted together so obviously; they’d been throwing jobs at him, keeping him so occupied that he couldn’t ask questions. They were intentionally keeping him away from the headquarters, making sure he didn’t see the real plans that were being put into action. He could be wrong, he hoped desperately that he was wrong, that he was being paranoid; but in his heart he knew he was right. The hard-core members, they were staying at the warehouse each day, on the pretence of doing some menial, unimportant jobs while he was out doing the important things. Why didn’t he see it sooner, all of the truly crazed members who didn’t have qualms about hurting people, even innocent people, the ones who seemed to enjoy causing destruction, had been working close to Nathan. Of course, plans were being made, they were doing something major and people like him, people who did have morals, were being shut out of the loop; that was never a good sign.

Joel’s feet slowed as he neared the warehouse. He could hear nothing over his laboured breaths. He shouldn’t have pushed himself so hard, he was no good to anyone in this shape; he would have to rest for a minute or two before investigating further.

Joel couldn’t wait longer than absolutely necessary to see what was going on in the warehouse. His breathing was still heavy as he crept closer to the building to try to sneak in on them before they had a chance to hide whatever they were up to. Slowly he inched towards the window, stretching up onto his toes to see over the ledge. The inside of the building appeared empty; maybe they were all in the back room. There was no way of seeing into the back room from outside, the windows having had blackout blinds secured to them many years before, which meant Joel had to enter the building if he wanted to know what was going on. Cautiously, Joel eased the door open and edged towards the back room. The door to the back room was closed as he expected, he leaned against it, pressing his ear to the wood in an attempt to hear what was going on inside. He could hear nothing, no voices, no movement, almost as if the room was entirely empty. Perhaps it was, he was learning nothing from outside the door and peering through the lock proved fruitless. He would just have to take his chances and go in, maybe he could claim he’d forgotten something. Mustering his courage Joel reached for the door handle and pushed open the door. The room was totally empty, not just empty of people, but empty of any signs that anyone had ever worked out of this room. There were no papers on the desk; the bin was completely empty; Joel could see nothing that could give him any indication as to where they had gone.

Anger at himself, Nathan and the world coursed through Joel, he balled his hands into fists, screaming as he rammed them again and again into the wall, his foot lashed out, kicking the bin across the room. His knuckles began to bleed, but the sight of the blood just made him angrier, grabbing a clock from the desk, he hurled it with all his strength at the window, the clock hit the reinforced window and smashed, leaving the window completely unscathed. Joel made one last aggressive move, charging the desk and overturning it, leaving the room looking like it had had a run in with a tornado. Finally, Joel slumped to the floor, his anger spent, leaving him with a feeling of complete hopelessness. There was nothing he could do to stop whatever they were doing, he didn’t even know where they had gone, so how could he do anything. As he gave in to the feeling of desperation Joel’s eyes gazed at the destruction he’d wreaked. In the midst of his despair he began worrying about what people would think when they got back and saw what he’d done. The incongruity of his thoughts amused him and he began to laugh. Then he began questioning his sanity, had he gone mad? Was he hysterical now? He laughed again at himself, reasoning that if he was able to think these things, he couldn’t have completely lost his mind, as an insane person could surely not know it. This didn’t comfort him much, he began to think it might be nice to be mad, then he wouldn’t have to worry about stopping immoral schemes, he could just live happily talking to the walls and believing he was a boiled egg. It was as his eyes tracked over the mess that had once been an office that he noticed something on the floor, he turned back to examine what he had seen, it was paper, from its positioning it must have slid down behind the desk at some point, lost to sight until he’d ripped the desk from its position. It was probably nothing, he told himself, it could have been there for years, who knows when the desk was last moved, though the lack of other rubbish in the space made him suspect that someone had been clearing it out down there fairly regularly. He reached for the paper and opened it. It was a list of addresses. It could mean anything, for all he knew it was Nathan’s Christmas card list. It was just wishful thinking to believe it could be anything more than that. Joel considered putting the paper back where he found it, but decided against it, it might not be anything, it might be rubbish, but at the moment it was the only lead he had. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do than to visit the addresses, if he didn’t check them out now he would never know, would he. However, the firs thing he should do was restore some order to the room, he didn’t want them to realise he was on to them if they came back tonight, for all he knew they’d been disappearing like this every day and getting back before him, pretending to have been in the warehouse working all day.

It took longer to make the room resemble its previous state than it had done to create the mess in the first place. One of the desk drawers required some attention, thankfully it wasn’t smashed and just needed some reassembly work. There was nothing he could do about the clock, he’d have to just hope they put it down to a thief or something. Maybe they would just assume someone had moved it.

Once the room was back to normal, Joel headed off to examine the addresses on the note, perhaps they would give him some idea about whatever nefarious scheme Nathan had been concocting.

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Not going to make it

I think it's pretty obvious that there's no way I'm going to manage the 50 000 word target, I just seem to have been so busy, as well as not knowing what to write. I figured I'd keep going anyway, so I'm going to post some more that I've written today and we'll see how many words I do write.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Chapter 7

The child barely stirred as she was passed from Cassandra’s arms to those of the Social Services representative. Cassandra prayed that the girl would find loving parents and that she would adjust, adapt to her new environment. Joel had left, returned to his room she presumed. It was only know that she wondered why he had left in the first place, drawn by the commotion she guessed. She must really have been drawn to him through his writing, to have allowed him such close proximity to this child, to her even. To not have moved him on, politely, but firmly reminding him that he should be in his own ward. Yet she hadn’t, she had allowed him to stay, she had shared with him her worries for the child.

It took every scrap of energy that Joel had to dress himself; as he reached down to pull on his shoes, the contents of his head seemed about to burst from his skull. He’d been accosted on his way back to his room by a member of staff who was all too happy to accept his request to be allowed to leave; she’d practically run to fetch his clothes for him before making him sign the mandatory forms. Now however, he was beginning to doubt the wisdom of trying to dress himself. Leaving in the pyjamas was looking steadily more appealing. That option wasn’t really open to him now though, he was already half dressed, so it would be almost as hard to get back into the pyjamas, he might as well go the whole way and at least look semi-presentable. He just needed to struggle a little longer to get the last things on. If only his feet weren’t quite so far away, he really didn’t appreciate having to bend quite so far to put on his shoes. He silently cursed whoever had untied his laces so that he couldn’t just force his feet into them as he usually did, if he left them as they were he’d be sure to trip over a trailing lace and aggravate an injury.

The working day was finally over and Cassandra was looking forward to heading home to collapse. First though, she found herself heading in the direction of Joel’s room, she wasn’t sure why, she just felt the need to see him again before he left. Entering the ward, she realised that she was too late; the bed was already being prepared for the next patient, they didn’t stay empty around here for long; Joel must be on his way home. A surprising sense of loss settled on Cassandra’s mind. She berated herself silently, she didn’t even know the man, how could she possibly be bothered that she hadn’t got to say goodbye, she was being ridiculous, turning sentimental even. He was just another patient; he didn’t even know her name, why should his leaving have any effect on her at all. If anything she should be pleased, it was a case where the hospital had done its job, he was leaving in a much better condition than when he’d entered, everything had gone smoothly; an injured man had lived to carry on another day, thanks to their work. She didn’t feel it as a success though, knowing where he’d probably gone back to. Knowing what she knew about the man he was following.

By the time Joel had reached headquarters he was physically exhausted, yet at the same time his mind felt over-stimulated. In an attempt to ignore the pain building in his muscles, his mind had begun thinking everything over. He was currently engrossed in his own fantasy world; imagining a world in which people truly did live in harmony; where everyone had food to eat, clothes to wear, and a healthy environment. He had got quite far into his fantasy, even picturing the family he would have, and the little house they would share. Realising he was at the place he shuddered to call home, he shut off his fantasy and limped through the back door. The building was deserted; no doubt everyone was out protesting or procuring supplies. Joel figured he might as well take advantage of the peace and quiet and get some rest before they all descended on the headquarters again. Within moments of lying down sleep had claimed him and within a short time of entering sleep the dreams that so often plagued his nights, had returned to haunt him. In Joel’s dreams he was happy, his family was alive, he and his brother were talking and laughing. The dreams hurt so much because when he awoke, there was a second or two where he forgot that they were only dreams, for those few moments everything was normal, before reality came crashing down on him. He found those dreams far harder than the nightmares that sometimes came. Somehow the nightmares hurt less because they didn’t rip everything from him so cruelly. Even waking in sheer terror from the enemies of the night was preferable to the feeling of being given his family back; only to have them pulled from his grip again.

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Saturday, November 06, 2004

Chapter 6

In the privacy of his room, Nathan paced. With everyone tied up elsewhere he was able to let the anger he was feeling bubble to the surface. He only wished the room was sound-proofed so that he could vent his frustration verbally. Stupid, he’d been so stupid to try a raid so soon after the devastating protest. He had hoped that the raid would be such a success that the people would focus on what they had gained, pushing their worries from the protest out of their minds. Of course the raid had been disastrous from the word go. It was supposed to be a quick job, in and out, gathering supplies from a warehouse. Security was low and the rewards would be great, theoretically the unit’s food and clothing needs would be taken care of for the next three months. But in his haste, he hadn’t thought through every eventuality and in the end it was a child who brought their downfall. Why a man had brought his family on the raid with him Nathan didn’t know, possibly never would know, judging from the man’s condition when Nathan had seen him last, but he did know that the small girl’s actions had brought the security guards to them and caused the loss of several of his men. Nathan felt some small satisfaction that his side had had the upper hand numbers-wise and that therefore before retreating they had taken down the majority of the guards.

There was no doubt about it in Nathan’s mind that this was going to be a blow for morale. He had to work hard here, working out how to put the right spin on it so that people’s commitment to the unit and its goals, was strengthened instead of being knocked back. As Nathan began mulling over the stock phrases to feed to his people, his calm demeanour returned, he could do this, this wasn’t a problem, it wasn’t even a setback, if he turned the situation the right way it would even become an advantage, a way of boosting people’s dedication he should thank the girl and the security forces, they may have done him a huge favour. “Casualties of war” was probably the best way to play it. Don’t let their sacrifice be in vain. Yes, that was definitely the kind of phrasing to use. Those brave men and women who gave their lives in service to this noble cause. Giving up would be like spitting on their graves. Of course all of this was assuming some of them didn’t make, they had all still been alive when he’d left the scene, but judging from their injuries Nathan was convinced that a large percentage of the wounded would not survive, they had been barely hanging on to the last shreds of life when he’d seen them.

Grabbing a pen Nathan began scratching out a speech to unite his troops. A speech that would twist this into a tragedy caused by the commuters. After all, if they treated them like human beings and allowed them access to enough food and other necessities, then there would have been no need for them to try to steal. No, not steal, he must avoid that word, it had negative connotations. He must make sure that the members of his unit never see any of the unit’s actions as wrong. They weren’t stealing they had been trying to get what should rightfully have been provided to them. Did the commuters wish them to starve? They had been procuring what they needed in order to live, acting peacefully when they had been viciously attacked. Nathan’s confidence was completely restored, his anger had left and he felt renewed and ready for anything now that he had had time to compose himself, time to deal with the catastrophe and move on, turning it into a highpoint instead of a disaster. Now he felt ready to talk to his people, to convince them to see it as he did.

Cassandra couldn’t stop the tears from beginning to flow as her patient gave up on life. His breaths had been becoming gradually weaker and had finally ceased altogether. She had failed him, she gazed at the death around her, it was such a waste.

Why did they listen to him? Why did they follow a man who leads them to their deaths? What hope do they have with Nathan? Why can’t they see that his cause is him? That looking after himself is his point in life. Despair washed over Cassandra as she felt pain for the people who had died today. She tried to compose herself, to stop herself falling further into a state of depression. As she dried her eyes, she noticed someone watching her. A familiar presence was standing in the doorway. It took her a moment to clear the confusion from her mind and recognise him out of context, after all, she’d never actually seen him vertical before. It was him, the writer of the letter, the Outcast from ward 311. In his eyes she saw compassion and understanding. He too had seen too much death, too much suffering, but she knew that wasn’t necessarily going to change his actions. She realised that following Nathan wasn’t a whim, it wasn’t a hobby, something to do until something better came along, it was this man’s lifestyle. She racked her brains to think of his name, she couldn’t just think of him as the writer. She certainly couldn’t call him that to his face. Finally she remembered the name she’d read from his chart.

“It’s Joel isn’t it?” Cassandra gently asked him.

Joel just looked at her, he didn’t confirm or deny her question, though Cassandra became convinced that that was indeed his name. Joel just stood in silence for several moments. Finally he spoke.

“He’s dead.” The statement was spoken quietly, it was more of a statement than a question, although Cassandra caught a hint of questioning in his voice, as if he was hoping that despite the obvious the man lying in front of them was not in fact dead.

“Yes, I’m terribly sorry, did you know him?” She asked sympathetically.

“Not particularly, I’ve seen him at headquarters. He has a family.” Joel told her.

“Yes, the little girl is in another room. The wife, well, she didn’t make it.” Cassandra found herself revealing more details than was strictly allowed by protocol. She couldn’t hold anything back from Joel, she trusted him, even though she didn’t know him; even though he was potentially a terrorist.

Joel walked across to the door heading in the direction of the man’s daughter, Cassandra made no move to halt his progress, allowing him to find the girl, perhaps he would be of help to her in this time until social services arrived and found her a new family.

The girl had suffered so much, but at least Cassandra was confident that she would be re-homed quickly. The sad state of affairs meant that the child would probably be better off now that she had been orphaned. So many couples struggled to have children, she would probably be placed with a family outside of the city zones, she would get a good education and have a healthy upbringing. Cassandra knew though that nothing would make up for the loss of her parents. She might no longer be an Outcast, but that wouldn’t necessarily make her happy. In fact, many relocated outcast children felt guilt whenever they felt happy in their new homes, as if they were rejecting their parents by enjoying the new lifestyle. Cassandra had seen many unhappy cases where these relocated children had grown into bitter, cynical adults. Many of these turned to crime, perhaps in a subconscious attempt to be returned to their original home. Of course to many people, this reinforced the idea that Outcasts were criminal, but not to Cassandra, she saw the crimes as cries for help. This girl might do better than many, Cassandra reasoned, she was still young, the younger the child at the age of re-housing, the more likely the child is to acclimatise, adapting to the new environment with less feelings for guilt.

Joel paused in the doorway gazing at the small form curled up before him. He didn’t know how to deal with children at the best of times, what was he supposed to say to the girl now? Was she even old enough to understand what was going on? She was silent, Joel assumed she was asleep, after all she’d be screaming the place down for her parents otherwise, surely. He didn’t know much about kids, but he knew they made a noise when they didn’t get what they wanted. He moved towards the tiny body only to see it recoil from him. She wasn’t asleep at all.

”Hello.” He tried to look friendly, so as not to intimidate the girl. She backed further from him, leaving her position on the sofa and wedging herself between it and a large cupboard. This wasn’t going as well as he’d planned. He tried to think of what children liked, he didn’t even have his own clothes, which ruled out checking is pockets for chocolates. Joel was beginning to think that coming in here was a bad idea. He turned to leave and found the woman in white behind him.

“They left her alone.” Cassandra sighed at the carelessness of some of the other staff. She knew they were busy, but to leave such a small child so soon after she had been involved in such a terrifying incident, to abandon her as her parents were dying? Cassandra held her hands out towards the child and began whispering in calming tones. The girl looked unsure, but she didn’t attempt to distance herself any further. Cassandra crouched and then sat on the floor by the child, all the time holding her hands towards her, letting her know that she could get physical comfort if she wanted it, but not pushing it. The child shuffled closer to Cassandra, allowing herself to be lifted into the woman’s lap, she whimpered once and then feel silent. Cassandra rocked her for several minutes until her breathing became more regular and she was evidently asleep.

Cassandra turned to Joel, who’d been watching the situation play out. Joel felt out of place standing above them, he slowly lowered himself to their level.

“Is she going to be okay?” He asked Cassandra, his voice little more than a whisper, to avoid disturbing the child.

“It’s hard to say.” Cassandra answered truthfully. She’s been through a lot, physically she’s unharmed, but she has experienced a serious trauma, losing her mother in front of her eyes, seeing her father so injured, knowing he’s probably gone too, it’s a lot for a small child to deal with. On the other hand, the very young are often resilient, if cared for properly and nurtured well, she could recover from this and grow up as a normal happy child.

“Where will she go?” Joel was pretty sure he knew the answer to this, but he just wanted to check.

“Social services are on their way. If they don’t trace any relatives willing to raise her then she’ll be given to a family, there’s a large waiting list out there of people who are willing to adopt in cases like these, so she’ll be placed in a matter of days.” Cassandra confirmed Joel’s thoughts. Joel nodded, he wasn’t really sure if this was good news or not. The child would be taken from everything she knew, but the child would get what he was campaigning for for them all, she would be free from Exile, she would have a chance at a decent life. He felt sad that it had taken such tragedy for this girl to get what she deserved; he wished she could be leaving exile in the arms of her parents, but that clearly wasn't to be.

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Friday, November 05, 2004

Chapter 5

It was only now that he was somewhat recovered, that Joel began to remember that he hated hospitals. The smells surrounding him began to make him feel sick. There was just something unnatural about the sterility of the place. He smiled as he realised the contradiction in his thoughts, one minute bemoaning the filth he is forced to live in, the next complaining that cleanliness is too unnatural.

Man he hated waiting. He felt so useless. He knew he was about ready to leave the hospital, was expecting them to come and sign him out a few minutes ago in fact, but then there’d been a cacophony of sirens and alerts, general mayhem had ensued as doctors and nurses had scrambled and suddenly his area of the hospital was devoid of all medical personnel. Presumably there was an emergency coming in and everyone had been needed in the crisis department of the hospital. Well, either that or there was some sort of threat and they were evacuating this area, ignoring the patients in their hurry to be safe. He pushed the paranoia aside though, it had certainly seemed as if they were running to, not from something. There wasn’t much he could do yet anyway, he could get up and hobble to the crisis centre, but what would be the point of that? He had no medical skills and would simply be in the way. He could leave the building in case there was a threat, but realistically if it was a bomb or something he probably wouldn’t have time to escape and in all likelihood any threat would have come from outcasts, so they would be targeting commuters, not injured outcasts. Any commuter staff had left the area, there weren’t any commuter patients here anyway; injured commuters didn’t stay in this hospital for any longer than was absolutely necessary, they may be treated in the crisis area, but as soon as they had been stabilised they were transported out to one of their own hospitals where they would receive the best care money could buy. Outcasts would no this, so there would be no point attacking this area if that had been their plan. They may have planned to push the commuters into a different area, but really it seemed to Joel that any scenario which had the commuters abandoning them to evacuate the area, seemed illogical. It seemed far more likely that there had been an incident. He would just have to wait and see, despite the urge to know, to see if it was his friends fighting for their lives.

Cassandra tuned out the noise around her as she worked on the man in front of her. So much blood, she was coated in this man’s blood. A screaming child clawed at the man’s body. Cassandra yelled and a porter dragged the child from the room. Cassandra desperately tried to shut the image of the distraught child out of her head. Focussing her mind on the task in front of her, Cassandra pressed on, ignoring the emotions battling for her attention, telling herself that this was not a person. She could not think of him as a person: a husband, a father. If she did she would make mistakes, she had to remain distanced. This was just another project which she had to finish. There was a pulse, it was weak, but it was there, she just had to make sure it didn’t stop. Cassandra ploughed all of her energy into her task. He was in a bad shape and she knew it, not many survived from the kind of injuries he’d sustained, but he had to, his wife lay on a slab in the other room, no one was even trying to save her, there was no point, one look at her and it was silently agreed that she was beyond help. Someone had to survive for that little girl in there or she’d have no-one.

It had been hours and still Cassandra was working on the man, she didn’t know his name, didn’t want to know it. If she found out his name she wanted it to be because he’d told her. She didn’t want to accept that he would never be able to, that he just wasn’t going to make it. She didn’t want to know his name just so that she could say goodbye. Every time she fixed one part of him another failed, he was battling, but his body was beginning to give up. She carried on working, he certainly wasn’t going to miss out on anything that might possibly have saved him.

Finally Cassandra stopped work. There was literally nothing more that she could do, it was now out of her hands, she just had to wait and see whether he would awaken and live, or give up and die. Cassandra looked around at the other staff, most of them had given up long ago, the room looked like a morgue, the people had just been too far gone. There was a heavy silence over the room, interrupted only by the irregular beeping of the monitor for her John Doe. Suddenly the beeping stopped. Cassandra stopped breathing at the same time, willing him to breath, to live. She began talking to him, begging him not to give up, telling him about his little girl in the next room.

Joel had tried to wait patiently, but he just really wasn’t that kind of guy, he needed to know what was going on. Pulling each of the sensors from his skin he ignored the wail of complaint that issued from the monitor. Slowly he levered himself up from the bed and began looking for his clothes. Typically, he couldn’t find them. This left him with two options. Number one, continue waiting, or number two wander around in the hospital pyjamas. Since by this point, walking naked through a large crowd of everyone he’d ever met would be preferable to waiting any longer, he chose to venture out in the clothes he was dressed in.

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Aaargh I haven't had time to write today

Nooo, now i'll have to write 4000 words tomorrow. I blame ebay with their free listings day. Why did that have to be this month? Honestly, evil people. Well apart from the fact that it allows me to at least try and offload some rubbish, er, I mean quality lovely goods, onto other people.

Will try to catch up tomorrow. Only I have to admit I was having a little writer's block and being sick of the story, which could be a problem this far in, unless someone wakes up and it was all a dream :-) don't worry, I won't do that to you.

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