Thursday, February 7, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

Howdy folks.

It's been a while since I've tossed anything up on my blog.  The simple reason is that I had winter break from school, and didn't do shit except work and eat on my time off of school.  How's that for honesty?

This semester, I'm working toward my graphic design courses, with a Drawing class and a 2D Design class.  But I'm also in Advanced Creative Writing, and the focus in this class is story writing.  My instructor is a good teacher, breaking down the various structures of stories, and why we write them.

He pointed out that he was at a guest lecture with a popular science fiction author.  After the author spoke, he returned to his seat, and the woman seated next to him was one of those literary writers that likens her work to that of Joyce, Faulkner, and Hemingway.  To her, writing was an academic exercise, and any good writer couldn't possibly make a living writing because the modern reader was too idiotic to understand it.

She asked the science fiction author where he taught.  He replied that he didn't teach.  She asked, how do you make a living?

He replied, with my writing.

The funny thing is that these literary writers consider those who make a living with their writing as pandering to the lowest common denominator, the everyday man and woman that read their books.  In regards to those who read (and enjoyed) the 50 Shades of Grey books, this is absolutely true.  I've read (and written) erotica in my spare time that was a hundred times better than what was written by this 14 year old girl, and no, there was no sparkly vampires in it.

But for the rest of those who write for a living and can support themselves with it, they're given a bum wrap because they write to their audience.  I've written a variety of things since my time at the keyboard, from horror to science fiction and fantasy, all things that I've read and that I like to read.  Hearing that those who can make a living with their writing are subject to ridicule for doing so gave me the confidence to keep writing.  It helped reassure that what I was writing (my little stories about vampires and werewolves and elves) was worth writing, and that, if I continue to persevere and hone my craft, I could have my name in print one day too.  My books could be on the shelf next to the likes of R.A. Salvatore and Stephen King, and that I could one day support myself with something I've been doing since I learned how to type.

Now, with that said, its time to put my money where my mouth is.  What follows is the first of weekly assignments in which we have to write five pages of something.  I chose to begin writing the tale of Jackson Guice, my werewolf character on the (now defunct) World of Darkness chat site.  Of course, the setting is the Windy City and various names have been changed.  The game setting itself has been tweaked to avoid copyright issues, as well, but what's important is the attention to character and retelling the epic adventures of my werewolf.

So, read on and enjoy!

Bark at the Moon

    Jackson knew he was being followed.
                He could smell his pursuers as they trailed him, the cunning beasts ducking for cover whenever he glanced behind him.  They were overeager to get to him, and it showed.  They didn’t bother staying downwind, nor did they try to hide the nervous chattering of their thick teeth.  Even amidst the busy city streets and the mortals that walked them the beasts pursued, their only thought to get their hands on their target.
                ‘That’s what you should expect from wererats…’ he thought, and grinned, glancing behind him again.  He supposed he was lucky that they hadn’t shifted to their hybrid forms, six feet of rodent fur and fangs and a long, whip-like tail that they could use effectively in combat.  He’d battled them before, but he hadn’t thought that they had moved so far into the city.  Here, just blocks from Navy Pier, the wererats were a threat to werewolf territory and the packs that controlled it, and they had to be dealt with.
                Turning a corner, Jackson jogged across the busy four-lane highway and onto the adjoining sidewalk.  The wererats came out of hiding long enough to let him see them, before they retreated to the shadows, waiting for him to continue on.  He turned and began walking along the lakefront, stuffing his hands in his pockets as though to ward off the late winter chill.
                The wind off of Lake Michigan was cold, but that chill was nothing compared to the chill of anticipation he was feeling at the moment.  He was the bait, the worm on the hook, dangling just close enough for the wererats to come in for a bite.  He had to lead them north, up toward Lincoln Park, where the rest of his packmates were waiting.  His Alpha, Bridgette, had made it clear that he had to stay just far enough ahead of them to keep their interest, and that he was not allowed to engage any of them until he was close enough to the rest of his pack for them to back him up.  Wererats were no match for a werewolf one-on-one, but when a group of them focused their jittery rage on a single wolf, the resulting chaos and savagery was enough to tear down even the most battle-hardened shapeshifter. 
                He could smell them even stronger now, he noticed, the wind off the lake carrying their musty scent to his nostrils.  The smell of rot and sewage and wherever else the hideous beasts crawled through made him want to retch, but he continued walking, doing his best to control his nausea.  ‘Besides,’ he thought. ‘They aren’t going to taste much better than they smell.’
                That was the bad part about being a werewolf.  Sure, your teeth were sharp and deadly, but that meant you had to bite what you were fighting, and often, taste it as well.  And with the multitude of threats that a werewolf in a city as large as Chicago faced, that meant that he had tasted a large number of disgusting foes in his time in the area.
                “Ready or not, here they come…” he said, more to himself than anyone.  He turned to see his packmates lurking in the shadows of the park, the dim lights of the zoo making the shadows of the trees spread long and menacing along the manicured lawn.  He paused, glancing to the lake, while peeking at the street behind him.  Sure enough, the wererats continued their march, their eyes beady and dark, the first sign that they were ready for a fight.  They were shifting already, slowly, not enough of their features changing to cause a panic in any of the cars driving by.  Once they reached the park, however, they would let the change from man to beast erupt in full, and the battle would be on.
                He hurried his pace, ducking between two hedgerows as he removed his jacket.  Already, his flesh was beginning to itch with the onset of the change.  He could feel it in his bones, in every fiber of muscle that twitched and spasmed, readying for the shift from man to beast.  As he walked, he lifted one leg, removing his boot, and then the other, wrapping them in his coat.  Ahead, he saw his packmates, and they were similarly disrobing, readying for the shift to their werewolf forms. 
                As he reached them, he hurried out of his jeans and his shirt, and balled his clothing into a heap, and stashed it in a pile with the others.  If he didn’t, they would rip and tear and be utterly useless afterward, and running through the streets of Chicago naked was as bad an idea as running through the streets in his wolf form.  No, it was better for them all to risk being seen naked for a moment than to have to travel through the city in a compromised fashion.
                The wererats didn’t bother to disrobe as they charged.  Once out of the view of the highway, they shifted almost instantly, some staggering under the weight of their transformations but most not even missing a step as they attacked.  Jackson fell to his hands and knees, glaring at the oncoming rodents, the rage rising within him fueling the change.  He growled as muscles stretched and bones creaked, reforming from human to werewolf, the hybrid form of man and wolf that was bred for war.
                As soon as it was complete, the wererats were upon them, biting and clawing and slapping with their elongated tails.  But the pack was ready for them, and gave even better than they got, their own claws thick and sharp, shredding the furry flesh of the rodents with gleeful abandon.  The rodents were longtime enemies of the werewolves, seen as the outcasts of the shifting species, and it didn’t help that they could not stop themselves from corrupting the world around them to suit their needs.  Jackson could recall the stink of the abandoned tenement that served as the nest for this group of wererats.  They had found it only days ago, and the stink still clung to his nostrils, even if only in memory.
                Batted aside, broken and bleeding, the rodents continued to fight, heedless of the damage their numbers took.  They hissed and piled atop the pack, slashing wildly, their claws and teeth threatening infection if it weren’t for the regenerative abilities of the wolves.  To the mortals they often hunted for food, those that survived an attack by wererats suffered wounds that were horribly resistant to antibiotics and modern medicine, if they did not become wererats themselves.  The rodents were a plague wherever they went, and it was a constant task to keep their numbers culled.
                Jackson tore the throat from one, his fangs dripping blood, before turning and slashing the chest open of another.  He was slammed from behind, however, and staggered, before turning and slashing open the throat of the rodent behind him.  It was a temporary reprieve, however, for everything around him was a spinning, writhing mass of fur and fang and claws.  He growled and pressed the attack, knowing that his packmates needed him to fight as courageously as they did.
                To his right, Bridgette was fighting hard and fast, her claws tearing brutally into flesh and a constant, steady stream of growls coming from her throat.  Her green eyes flared in the darkness, and darted back and forth between enemies as she fought.   Blood sprayed from torn flesh, tufts of fur fell to the ground, matted with blood, and the cries of the dying filled the air, drowned out by the neverending roar of the city traffic.
                Within minutes, it was over.  The wererats were slain, the nest decimated, and not a single werewolf had fallen.  The pack was victorious, and they all howled a celebratory cry of triumph to the moon, their voices joined together as one.  The sound echoed throughout the park, making squirrels and birds and stray dogs run for cover and hide.  It was the cry of predators, and everything living in Lincoln Park cowered in fear at such a mighty roar.
                As their voices faded, Bridgette motioned for them all to change back.  She shifted quickly back to her human form, and Jackson did likewise, his chest rising and falling quickly with deep breaths, the adrenaline of combat still coursing through his veins.  He wiped the grime from his forearms, staring at the cooling bodies of the fallen rodents, and began to don his clothing once more.  As he dressed, he glanced to his packmates, and smiled.  Their eyes were as full of pride as his own, and not a one of them blanched at the torn bodies or the dark blood staining the grass.  Not one of them regretted killing the wererats, and not one of them had neglected their duties to the pack.
                All around them, the bodies of their slain foes began to smoke, the dark blood of the rodents burning their remains like acid would scorch the ground.  There had never been any scientific research done on the occurrence, and no werewolf ever thought to want to study it, but every time a wererat died, it’s body would deteriorate, the tainted blood inside them burning away any evidence of their passing.  It was one of the reasons why so many young shifters had a hard time seeing wererats as threats.   It was only when the hordes were upon them that they realized just how great a menace the rodents could be if their numbers were left to grow unchecked.
                The stink of the burning bodies wafted into the air of the park, and Jackson winced, raising his shirt to cover his nose.  Bridgette waved the pack toward her, and began to lead them from the park.  She walked with a confidant gait, her shoulders squared, unafraid to show her back to the rest of her pack.  It was unusual for a woman to lead a pack, much less to do so as successfully as she had.  The elder packs, those who policed the city and its rural environs, had come to respect her for her ability to protect her territory from any threat and to keep the actions of her pack hidden from mortal view.  The last thing any pack needed was talk of wild dogs in their territory.
                “That was a lot of those vermin…” Jackson said as he fell into step beside her.  She only nodded, not even averting her gaze from the parking lot.  He studied her for a moment, then merely grinned.  She wouldn’t allow herself to revel in their victory.  To celebrate their victory would be to acknowledge the chance that they might have failed.  And that simply was not allowed.  Of course they had won their battle against the wererats.  There simply could be no outcome that allowed for failure.
                Turning behind him, Jackson glanced to his packmates, then back to his Alpha.  She did glance at him then, and he smiled, nudging her in the arm with his elbow.  She cracked a grin, albeit a small one, the expression the most emotion she could muster that wasn’t rage or sarcasm.  She nudged him back, and he nodded, turning to walk backwards so that he could address them all.
                “Good job tonight, all of you…” he said.  “The rats won’t be back for some time, and not in any numbers for a while.  We’re going to head to the bar for a drink and enjoy the rest of the night.  Meet us there!”  He turned back around, and jogged off to where he’d parked his own vehicle, a black 1976 Charger, the exterior sleek and polished and as dark as the night sky.  He couldn’t help but grin everytime he saw it, and after tonight’s battle, it only seemed appropriate that he ride off into the night on his dark steed of iron and steel.