Story #2: Leah Rego

Necropolis

Ivory ran her hand along the wall, trying to avoid looking at the thousands of pictures taped to the other side. They showed the happy lives and joyful faces of those that had been condemned within the city, many had notes attached to them, pleas for information, and declarations of love. Those inside would never touch the outside world again, never be held in a loved one’s embrace. They were the missing, the infected, the living dead.

There was a monument outside of the wall, with a screen to look up the name of a person inside. There they could read the details of their imprisonment, and if known, their current status. Many of the occupants had a single line under this heading, ‘presumed dead’. People on the outside used to visit every day by the hundreds, thousands maybe. They would line the clear visiting wall hoping to see their loved ones inside, hoping that they were still alive, now, no one came. Ivory stopped to peer between a gap in the pictures at the world outside the wall. Fall leaves and debris littered the usually clean concrete expanse, giving it an abandoned air.

Ivory heard a rattle from the trash bins behind her, she spun around drawing her bow, ready for whatever had come after her. She was tackled from the side, her attacker punching and kicking at her in manic fury. Her bow fell as she struggled with her attacker, trying to block the brutal blows. She pushed them away, shoving with all her might. Her attacker screamed in rage, gnashing teeth struggling to take a bite of Ivory. She shoved her knee between them, trying to gain enough space to defend herself. She got her attacker at arms length and swung a punch at their head. They toppled off her, scrambling away and falling back over a pile of rubble, then as quickly as they had appeared, they were gone. She picked herself up off the pavement, brushing off her clothes, she picked up her bow. “Not damaged,' she mused, “I suppose that’s something anyways.'

Ivory knew she would have to move, where there was one crazy there were likely to be more. The creatures were always more dangerous, and brave, in groups. She hurried up South Capitol street, to the long overgrown patch of weeds and grasses that was once the National Mall. Ivory remembered coming here to study when she was in college, couples sitting under trees to picnic, children playing under the eyes of watchful parents. It was a community hub once, an oasis of green in a desert of concrete and steel. This city of the dead had been the capitol of one of the most powerful nations on earth, it’s streets were lined with monuments of past wars, of great men of history. Now they stood witness to the slow death of a corrupt nation, and the miserable existence of those trapped within. Ivory made her way along edge of the Reflecting Pool, it’s surface strewn with the blossoms of the overgrown cherry tree forest around it, to the stalwart edifice of the Lincoln Memorial.

She climbed the steps to the monument, avoiding rubble that resembled the remains of a man, and slipped in a small side door. She entered the undercroft of the building, the air stuffy and moist with a distinct smell of earth, and made her way through the passages to the small room she called home. As she walked she called out greetings to the other occupants of the underground lair, they were a bedraggled, humble mass of humanity, but one of the few isolated pockets of sanity left inside the walls.

When she reached her room, she was rushed at by a brown-haired little girl who wrapped her small arms around Ivory and began talking in a hurried tumble. “Ivry,' she said in a soft lisp, “You’re home! I went to class today, and we had a danger drill, and we all hid in the cubbies in the walls, and it was like hide and seek, only it was kinda scarier, and Miss. Handel said if we ever heard the bells that’s what we should do, only we had to be really sneaky and really quiet so the crazies or any of the gangs couldn’t find us. And then Mr. Todd came in and pretended to be a bad guy trying to find us and whoever he didn’t find gets and extra dessert tonight, and guess what!' “What?' Ivory answered enthusiastically when the girl finally stopped talking to take a breath. “It was ME! I was the only one he couldn’t find! I scrunched up really far inside my cubby, there is a little extra bit in the back and I scooted and scooted till I was in there and I pulled all my stuff over and around me and I breathed really quiet and didn’t make any noise! I’m a really good hider and he didn’t find me!' Ivory smiled, always amused at Lily’s boisterous approach to conversation. No matter how long or depressing her day, Ivory always felt her burdens lighten when Lily was around. “How about I go get cleaned up and then we can go to the cafeteria and get something to eat, and you can tell me more about your day, ok?' Ivory said to the girl, who smiled nodded solemnly in agreement to this plan.

Ivory grabbed a change of clothes and went to the bathroom thinking about the day she’d met the little girl. Lily was very good at hiding, so good that when the police came to evacuate her family, they hadn’t been able to find the little girl. She lived in her little home for weeks alone, scrounging meals from the food that had been left when her parents were taken. She spent her days hiding from the gangs that took over the streets after the wall went up.

Ivory had found her while scavenging the home for medications and supplies. She’d come upon the girl’s hiding spot by accident. While moving some boxes in the pantry, she’d seen a little opening in the wall, probably access to the home’s plumbing or something. Tucked away inside, was a sad scrap of a little girl, no more than six or seven years old, curled up in a tight little ball and barely breathing. Ivory had been terrified that the little girl was dead until she heard the tiniest inhale of breath. She looked like little more than a ball of rags, her hair a tangled mass, her pale skin filthy. Then the girl opened her rich green eyes, which had been scrunched closed in the childish instinct of hoping anything she couldn’t see couldn’t see her either. They peered up at Ivory, catching at her heart with the fear they showed. The girl whimpered, and Ivory spoke to her in a soft soothing voice, then the girl began to cry. Ivory gathered the girl into her arms, and gently lifted her out of her hiding place. She took the girl back with her to the shelter of the monument, and she had lived with Ivory ever since.

Ivory finished washing up and put on a baggy sweatshirt and jeans; like most of the undercroft’s citizens, her clothes were a mismatch of pieces scavenged from houses and stores, they rarely had the luxury of getting something in the right size, and too big was always the better option. She tucked her long light brown hair into a loose ponytail and called to Lily. Their community pooled their food, that way no one would go without unless they all did, and they ate cafeteria style. Ivory and her little charge grabbed their food and sat down at at an empty spot at one of the tables, enjoying each other’s company and sharing news about each other’s day. This was one of the great advantages of taking their meals cafeteria style, it brought people together from the vast sprawling corridors of the undercroft. It tied together their community and helped them to retain their humanity.

After the meal Lily returned to their room to do her homework, while Ivory went to meet with the council. The undercroft council consisted of a group of citizens that was chosen to oversee the welfare and safety of the people within. Most of the council members were middle aged or older, and chosen for their skills and leadership abilities. As a scout, Ivory made her reports directly to the council members, and what she had seen today was particularly important. When the council secretary let her into the council room, she saw that most of the members were within.

“I scouted out at the visitor center at the wall today,' she began, “there was still no one out there. Not on the streets, at the information center, the memorial, not one person out there. It’s been almost three weeks now, there have been no supply drops, no messages, no information or contact with the outside at all. We can’t continue this way.' She told them. The head councilman was a gruff older man with molasses colored skin and broad muscular shoulders from years of working as a fire fighter. “What exactly do you propose Miss. Nilsson? It’s not like we can just leave whenever we want. We’re locked in this damn city and there are crazies all over above ground. If we send a large group of people up there, they’ll be all over them like flies.' He said. “I don’t know how to get beyond the wall yet, but I think that if we move people out in small groups, traveling between the sane communities, we at least stand a chance to get to the exit, once we do figure a way out.' Ivory said this in a voice that conveyed more confidence than she felt at the moment, she wasn’t sure that her plan would work, but even a bad plan was better than doing nothing “Okay Miss. Nilsson, get together with the scouts and come up with a exit plan, we will contact the other sanities and come up with a way to get all of our people to the exit safely.' the councilman said.

Ivory returned to her room, her thoughts heavy with the task ahead of her, she sent Lily with notes to the scouts and guards to meet her in her rooms, it would be a tight squeeze, but she felt it was best to keep their conversation private. She had considered the different options and thought that the best place to start their investigation was probably at the medical centers.

The centers had been set up to provide treatment to the quarantined citizens, but the medical personnel from the outside had long since quit showing up. They had ransacked the facilities for every bit of medication and supplies they could find. While the medication was useless for the disease that had spread through the world like wildfire, it was invaluable for the every day illnesses and injuries that untreated could cause just as much harm. Every center had an entrance from the outside, the interior and exterior zones connected by a locked clean room, where the center personnel would enter in hazmat suits, then be decontaminated before exiting the quarantine zone. If they could figure out a way through the clean room they would be able to leave the city.

The next morning, after seeing Lily off to class, Ivory and two of the other scouts headed to the nearest medical center. They watched carefully for crazies along the way, but luck was with them and they made it there without being attacked. The center door was open, probably left that way after it was ransacked, the once clean and sterile interior was dusty, leaves and bits of detritus lay scattered on the white tile floors. There were clear signs that both humans and animals had been through the place for whatever leavings they could find. Ivory headed for the clean room, the clear wall and door let them see through to the hazmat suits hanging on the other side. She had no idea how they were going to get through the door, and even less clue as to what barriers might be waiting on the other side if they did.

Ivory looked over the door, it was sealed shut with no place to pry it open or handle to pull on. There was a keypad on the other side, she assumed that the medical personnel had used a code to get the door open. The electronic pad was still powered, and she could only assume that the seal on the door was kept shut by the same power source. Most of the city had lost power during the bombings that a half decade before the pandemic swept the globe. It was the quickly spreading disease that had finally brought an end to the hostilities, as the warring nations and terrorist organizations turned their focus inward. Ivory wasn’t sure how they would get through the electronic precautions that kept the door sealed, but she thought that she knew someone who might. Ivory and the scouts headed back to the undercroft. They had hope now that they just might have a way out.

Joshua had been a computer systems analyst and tech genius in his life before the pandemic, his hacking skills were practically legend, and it was said that the code hadn’t been written that he couldn’t crack. Though the disease had left his mind intact, Joshua had been left crippled, his legs weak and barely able to stand. He managed to get around mostly with the use of a scavenged wheelchair, which severely limited his movement with the unfinished and uneven floors of the undercroft. Without computers he felt useless in this new reality, and Ivory though he would likely be excited by the challenge of breaking into the sealed clean room. She had liked Joshua since she met him, he had a kind nature and despite the limitations his legs posed, he always tried to lend a helping hand in the community. Lately he had been teaching math lessons to the children in the undercroft. He liked to say that even the apocalypse wasn’t enough to diminish the importance of his favorite subject.

Ivory headed to the undercroft’s classrooms when she returned, she knew that she would find him there, passing on his knowledge to the younger generations. She opened the door and slipped quietly inside. Joshua sat at the front of the room, he looked at peace, as if he’d found his place, his purpose in this changed world. Ivory waited for his class to finish, then said “Joshua, I have a problem I hope you can solve.' “It’s nice to see you too, Ivory. Yes, I’m doing well, how about you?' He replied with a touch of sarcastic reproach. “I’m doing ok, and I’m glad that you are doing well. I see the students are progressing nicely, Lily enjoys your class quite a bit.' She answered with a chuckle. “Well, she’s a wonderful student, very smart, and you’ve done a great job helping her settle in here.' He told her. “Now, about that problem you mentioned, lay it on me.' He prompted.

Ivory explained her plan to him and the problem of the electromagnetically sealed door and it’s security keypad. “There haven’t been any supply drops in weeks, the medical center staff haven’t shown up in even longer, there is no sign of life outside the walls. The council has been trying to keep it quiet, so people don’t panic, but that won’t last much longer. Something has gone very wrong, Joshua, and if we don’t escape this prison, there is a good chance we’re all going to starve.' She said. “Well, if you can find me someone who can tap into that power supply, I may be able to access the system.' Joshua told her. “Ok, I’ll go talk to the council and see if I can find someone' she sighed. Ivory was not looking forward to another meeting with the council.

When Ivory left Joshua she headed to the council room, she didn’t know who would be there; hopefully they would know who could help access the power supply in the medical center. Ivory was shocked to find that the room was full when she arrived, and the council was in heated discussion. She knocked on the door, “Excuse the interruption council members,' she said, “I’ve made some progress on an escape point, but I need your help locating someone.' “Ivory,' the head councilman addressed her, “Ivory, I’m glad you’re here, we have a problem.'

“We’ve made contact with the other sanities, and while they are receptive to your plan, they reported that their scouts have been seeing increased activity by the bands of crazies. They say that the crazies have been clustering. We need to get this plan moving and quickly, if an evacuee group runs into a mass of crazies, they won’t stand a chance.' The councilman told her. Ivory was shocked at this information, they’d only ever encountered the crazies in small groups. They knew that there were thousands out there, but as long as they kept their scouting to daytime hours they had only been attacked occasionally. “Well sir, that makes my request even more urgent. I need an electrician, or at least someone who knows enough to help Joshua tie his laptop into the electricity at the medical center. If we can do that he thinks he may be able to hack into the access panel to the clean room. It’ll get us one step closer to getting out of here.' Ivory said. “Give me two hours, I think that there is someone at the DuPont circle sanity that might be able to help. I’ll contact the council there and have them meet you at the medical center.' he answered.

Ivory arranged for Lily to stay with the grandmotherly neighbor across the hall who often took care of her when Ivory went on scouting missions. She packed up her overnight gear, her pistol, and her bow, she went by Joshua’s quarters to collect him and then they headed to the medical center. The reports of growing crazie activity made Ivory was extra cautious on their route, especially while traveling the relatively open paths that ran along the reflecting pool. While the open spaces allowed her a clear field of vision, they also allowed any attackers a clear view of her from the cherry tree forests not far away from the formerly well manicured paths. It wasn’t a short walk; the medical center was in a section of the wall near the Navy Yard. The Yard itself was outside of the wall and had served as the quarters for quarantine enforcement and research personnel. They traveled slowly, Joshua walking with the aid of crutches, his ankles braced to prevent him from injuring them further. It wasn’t easy going, but the cracked and overgrown walkways were too rough for his wheelchair to traverse.

Ivory and Joshua, and two of the Undercroft guards walked beside the wall that ran along the Washington channel. They could see the water glistening in the setting sun shining through the clear wall. There were no city lights across the water, and still no signs of human life outside the wall. “What happened out there' Ivory mused solemnly. “I don’t think the quarantines worked. If they failed, the world out there probably isn’t too different from in here, it might even be worse.' Joshua answered her rhetorical question. “Maybe, and if so we can get supplies we need for long term self-sufficiency and withdraw. Lock the door, at least then we’ll have the key, we’ll have the freedom and means to ensure our survival.' Ivory replied. She wasn’t entirely convinced of this though, the recent reports on crazie activity were troubling. They continued walking in silence, their thoughts of the uncertain future weighing heavily on both of their minds.

They finally arrived at the medical center, the electrician and a DuPont Circle scout and guard escort were already there. Ivory introduced herself and Joshua, and their guards Matthews and Smith. “I’m Andrew,' the scout said, “this is Ethan, and the guards over there are Richards and Gonzales, how can we help.' “We need access to the center’s power, I need to be able to connect my laptop to it. Once it’s charged I can hook into the maintenance access port, and I should be able to hack through the firewalls and reprogram the access code to one of our choosing. Then we can control who comes and goes.' Joshua told them. “That’s the ideal result anyway,' Ivory added, “but if necessary, Joshua can shut down the security system altogether, which will release the locks and allow us access to the other side.' “Ok then, let’s get to work.' Ethan spoke up fo the first time since they arrived.

Ethan began digging through a tool bag, when he found what he was looking for he began scanning the walls. Ivory had no idea what he was doing but she hoped he found what he needed. Ivory and Andrew took positions by the entrance, watching for any crazies that might attack. “Do you think this plan will work?' Andrew asked. “I honestly don’t know, but what I do know is that we won’t last long if we don’t find a way to leave these walls. We have no tools, or, seeds to grow our own food. Little to no wildlife is left, even the squirrels and rats are scarce and the birds have learned to avoid these skies. There haven’t been supply drops for weeks, and I have no faith they’ll ever resume.' Ivory answered him. “I haven’t seen a soul on the other side of the wall in weeks, and none of our other scouts have either. Joshua thinks that the quarantine may have failed to contain the pandemic, if so, the there is no help coming. We have to look after ourselves now.' She said.

Ivory noticed movement and drew her bow, she pulled an arrow from her quiver, knocking it on the string she aimed it in the direction of the disturbance. A crazie came out of the cherry trees, skulking along. It was a warped and feral example of human kind, animalistic and filthy, it’s scant rags and skin showed the blood of recent kills. It was heading in their direction, sensing the potential meal awaiting it inside the building. Ivory aimed her arrow at it and shot, it was no use to show mercy to these beasts, they no longer had the capacity to understand it, and the safety of her group was essential to the success of the mission and future of all the sane humans inside these walls.

Suddenly she heard a loud pounding behind her, startling her out of her concentration. “Christ! can’t you do that quietly!' She scolded. “Ma’am, if you know of a quiet way to put a hole in this wall be my guest, otherwise stop complaining and let me do my work.' Ethan replied grumpily. He resumed pounding on the wall with his sledgehammer, slowly breaking a hole in the solid concrete wall. “I located an electrical juncture inside this wall, if I can get to it we can tie into the power easily enough.' He grunted pounding away at the wall. “Matthews and Smith, help him with the wall, Andrew and I will keep watch on the entrance, Richards and Gonzales stand ready in case there is an attack. The quicker we get this done the better.' Ivory said.

The two men worked at the wall, finally breaking through to the space beyond. “There’s the panel!' Ethan said excitedly putting his hand on Andrew’s shoulder stopping his swing. Ethan rummaged around in his bag again, grabbing another device and a handful of cables and wires. Within minutes he had rigged up access to the power. “Alright Joshua,' he said, “plug in and let’s get that computer of your’s charged!' he was clearly excited. This was probably the first time since he was quarantined that he’d had a chance to work on something electric, with the city-wide blackout, and he obviously enjoyed it.

Joshua walked over to the jury-rigged outlet, clearly hesitant to plug his precious computer into the makeshift power receptacle. “Are you sure about this?' he asked Ethan, “This is the only reasonably intact computer I’ve been able to find, if it gets burned out I won’t be able to access the panel.' “It’s safe, I know my business, it’ll work just like an outlet in any home…except it’ll actually provide power' he said with a chuckle, considering the dead state of the power outlets in every building inside the wall. Joshua plugged in his laptop with obvious skepticism, ready to disconnect in a second at any sign of a problem. “It’ll take it awhile to charge up, we may as well all get some rest, I’ll start working on the panel in the morning if everything goes well.' Joshua told them, setting down the device gently and turning toward them. The group moved shelves and beds against the closed door to prevent any crazies the might decide to attack.

Ivory, Andrew and the guards took turns on watch throughout the night, there were a few times they heard a commotion and pounding at the door, but with their short attention spans the crazies gave up before they managed to break through. As the sun peaked over the horizon, that changed though. Crazies rushed out from behind cover towards the medical center. The threw themselves against the windows and doors with near mindless ferocity. Ivory had never seen so many in one place. Dozens of crazies launched themselves at the building in full bodied attacks, coming away dazed and bloodied but always rushing back in a few moments later.

The windows shook with the impacts, they were shatterproof glass, but Ivory wasn’t sure how long they would hold up to the attack. The door to the center was definitely the weak spot, it was never intended to be used to keep out an attacker like this. The frame began giving off a cracking sound as the bodies slammed into it. Then suddenly the door, frame and all, swung away from one side of the wall. The crazies attacking that spot began trying to shove their way in through the gap.

The guards began firing arrows at the assorted limbs trying to keep them from making any progress. “Don’t waste your arrows!' Ivory shouted to them pulling out the machete that all the scouts and guards carried in case of close combat situations. She began hacking at the limbs. “Richards, Smith! Push some of those shelves over here to block the door!' Andrew yelled. The two guards pushed some of the heavy metal storage shelves and slid them into place in front of the door. The crazies continued to pound at the side of the building, for the moment the barricade was holding.

Joshua was already at jacked into the panel, intensely concentrating on hacking the firewalls. Ivory walked over to Andrew, who stood by the barricade, “He was up early, got to work right away, hasn’t taken the slightest break in a couple hours now, even with all the commotion.' He told her. She nodded at him, not inclined to talk.

Suddenly Joshua cried out triumphantly. “I did it! I’m through,' he said, then proceeded to mumble along to himself about files and codes and passwords for the next hour as he reprogrammed the panel to allow them access to the room beyond. “Ok,' he said, unplugging his laptop gently from the panel and shutting it down to preserve the precious battery charge. “Now all you should have to do is enter 1225, Christmas, I miss Christmas.' He told Ivory, clearly feeling a bit nostalgic after the hours spent working at the profession he held for so many years before quarantine.

Ivory stepped to the panel and took a deep breath, she paused with her hand hovering just over the keys. She was afraid of the loss of hope if the code didn’t work, and the challenge of trying to get out of the center, and back to one of the sanities either way. She took another breath and entered 1225. The light switched to green and the door opened with a hiss. Ivory walked into the room beyond, somewhat hesitant at her first step beyond the wall.

Ivory signaled to the rest of the group, they picked up their gear and followed her. As Ivory walked through the clean room to the door on the other side she noticed that the room beyond it was in disarray, as if everyone had dropped whatever they were holding and left. They reached the other door to find it open, clearly the staff had left in a hurry. “Ivory,' Joshua called, “I’m going to lock the door behind us, and wait in this side of the center. The computers on this side still have power and maybe I can find some information about what has been going on. Besides, with my legs I can’t keep up if there is an attack outside. If I need to I can retreat to the clean room and lock myself in until you get back.' He said. The group exited the clean room to find the research lab on the other side, Joshua pulled up at the computers. “Be careful Joshua.' Ivory said. The rest of the group moved quickly, keeping an eye out for trouble, but with curiosity at what lay on the outside. They passed through empty corridors finding the exit by the still illuminated signs.

The small group passed through the doorway into the early morning light. They had expected some resistance, a military presence that could have been alerted by their exit, but the streets beyond were as empty as the lab had been. “What the hell,' Ivory said, “where is everyone?' The streets were cluttered with debris and drifting paper, Ivory grabbed one up. “Quarantine fails, no cure to be found, infection spreads to thousands daily.' She read aloud. So, the world beyond had fallen, no longer so different from the walled city in which they’d been imprisoned. She had hoped to find that the lack of supplies had been some government oversight, that the emptiness of the memorial simply meant that their loved ones had moved on. The world they had left behind was gone though, there would be no outside aid, they were on their own.

19 thoughts on “Story #2: Leah Rego

  1. Sierra Russell-McCollum

    Leah, I found myself completely on the edge of my seat while reading your story. I am a huge sucker for apocalypse stories and this hit the spot for me. First off I have to say I found your main Character, ivory, To be totally badass and dedicated to her mission. I also loved her weapon, a badass female who can shoot a bow is pretty awesome to me. The way you described the few main characters you had was spot on and very easy to visualize in my head. I think adding Lily to the story helped show Ivory’s soft spot and I find that so important.

    One thing I wish you did a little more of was describing the “crazies”. You did here and there but I found myself wanting more. Like what does the disease do to them physically? Does their flesh rot? Do they have their senses get stronger? How did they know the group was in that building? I think this would help paint a better picture of the crazies. Also In the very beginning when Ivory was attacked, I wanted to feel more of what she was feeling. I feel like that scene was thrown in there and didn’t have enough description. I wanted to know I she was shaking with fear if she was attacked or if she was fuming with anger.

    Another thing I also wanted to know more about was the people on the other side of the wall. Did they have a certain name? Were they an organization? I felt like there was a lack of knowledge on who these people really were.
    I was also wondering if Lily was okay with Ivor’s sudden departure. I felt like you could definitely add more emotion to that part because little kids get attached to people easily. Lily must have been feeling mixed emotions and feeling scared. That would have been the perfect time to have Ivor show her soft side again and comfort Lily telling her everything will be okay.

    Other than those few things your description was pretty spot on. I loved when you described the barren land and compared it to when the character was in college. People were all sitting under the tree without a single worry. That helped show the reader of how much has changed since the disease started to spread. The flashback you put into the story was done very well. There wasn’t a part of the story where I wanted to stop reading. I loved that it was a longer story, it was very well planned out. Your writing style is also very enjoyable and easy to read. In the beginning, when I said I was reading this on the edge of my seat I actually mean it. Especially at the end. I was expecting the other side of the door to have life thriving but that wasn’t the case. It was the exact opposite. I wish there was more to the story because this definitely caught my attention.

    This could definitely be a potential book in the future and if it is I would gladly take a copy! Good job writing this story!

    Reply
    1. Leah Rego

      Sierra, thank you! Your comment is very helpful and I will work on developing those areas you mentioned. I’ve never quit been happy with the attack scene in the beginning and am aware it still needs some work. I have much more info on the crazies, (neurological dysfunction caused by damage to the higher function areas of the brain caused by the hybridization of rabies into the pandemic’s genetically modified combination of diseases) basically they are animalistic with extreme bouts of rage and some, but not a lot, of ability to band together in “social” groups. It’s hard to explain it all within the confines of a short story though, my plan if to continue to develop it into a full length novel though.

      Reply
  2. Andrew Lange

    Leah,

    First of all, your introduction definitely hooks the reader and makes them wonder what is going on! At first I couldn’t tell if it was a hospital or a prison during visiting hours, until the mention of the “disease”, although your descriptions of the missing-person, have-you-seen-me? flyers do foreshadow this a bit with their “Presumed dead” lines. It reminded me of the bulletins set up after any natural disaster, with their hastily assembled, often outdated photos of the person and hastily assembled descriptions by friends and family; I could only imagine what going through one of those looking for someone such as a loved one could be like.

    As the story wears on, I also enjoyed your flashbacks to areas of (I presume, Washington, DC?) to before the crisis began. You mentioned half a decade, so about five years, which sounds logical given your descriptions of the somewhat overgrown National Mall and surrounding areas; no maintenance or upkeep or grass mowing or tree trimming done in the parks in at least that long, nature starting to take back civilization.

    Your descriptions of the city are also quite logical, for instance a description of evening falling and not seeing any city lights or other signs of life, given the post-apocalyptic situation; people were likely few and far between to begin with, went to bed or sought shelter as soon as night fell given the lack of electric power in most of the city in the current situation, or were under curfew or Martial Law I would presume from reading.

    Similarly, I found it realistic and relatable how one of your characters, a veteran hacker, first has to find a place to even charge his laptop, as in a city which mostly lacks electrical power and has for some time finding a working outlet can be a bit of a challenge; as well as that of an electrician using what I presume from my own experience to be a hum tracer to find a live circuit at the medical center/hospital, presumably one of the few places which would have had its own backup generators or otherwise still had power despite a city-wide blackout or security measures such as electronic door locks with keypads still functioning.

    I also enjoyed the climax of the story, with the “Crazies” actually being the ones to (paradoxically enough) breach the locked door, the presumed resolution of the conflict. This excites the reader but then the story ends with suspense once we are informed conditions aren’t any better on the other side of the door.

    I was also curious- are you familiar with Washington, D.C.? Your descriptions of landmarks make me wonder…

    Reply
    1. Leah Rego

      Andrew, I lived in DC for four years, in my late twenties. The only place I’ve lived longer as an adult is Alaska, though I lived in Southern Italy almost as long as DC. My familiarity with DC really helped in writing. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

      Reply
  3. Aundrea Pierce

    Leah,

    Great opening scene, I could picture it in my head. The zombie theme is always fun, there are so many routes you can take with the living dead! Survival, the types of zombies, and a lot of action really engages the reader. I like the term “crazies” you gave them. I’m a Walking Dead fan, so I was curious to see in what ways your story differentiated from the show. I like Ivory’s character with her bow and fighting skills. I love how you included her outlook on killing the zombies because it’s the same outlook I have (kill or be killed!). She comes off as a tough and intelligent character.

    The story had a smooth flow and transparency, but I would try breaking up/ separating the dialogue a bit, so it’s easier to keep track of who’s saying what. Maybe that’s just my personal preference though. I enjoyed the description you gave Lily “She looked like little more than a ball of rags, her hair a tangled mass, her pale skin filthy. Then the girl opened her rich green eyes,” I did find myself wanting to know what Ivory looks like.

    “This was one of the great advantages of taking their meals cafeteria style, it brought people together from the vast, sprawling corridors of the undercroft. It tied together their community and helped them to retain their humanity.” I’m not sure why but I love the way this is worded! It makes complete sense and is a detail I wouldn’t have even thought about. I feel you didn’t leave many stones unturned with particulars like pushing furniture against the door and emphasizing the importance of the laptop. Your knowledge of technology helped to paint more realistic scenes, such as the issue with connecting the computer at DuPont Circle.
    When it comes to zombies, I find myself wanting to know details such as, what infects them, what are they capable of, do you turn immediately when bitten? Information like this put at the beginning or middle would help heighten the sense of urgency even more for the reader. Do they run? How intelligent are they? These are just some questions in the back of my mind. Maybe you can include a flashback for Ivory of someone she witnessed (perhaps a loved one) get bit and turn; a reflection scene like that would be an excellent opportunity to give more background on the zombies and even Ivory’s past.

    Overall I thought this was a fun and exciting read! You have a good vocabulary and clarity in your writing style. I could tell you put a lot of effort into answering the many questions readers may have about shelter, community, food, authority, etc. I get it’s a short story, and you can only include so much, but you did a good job. You should expand this!

    Reply
  4. Leah Rego

    Aundrea, expansion is the plan! They are not truly zombies if you read my response to the first comment I give some more info on them but in a way they are rabid humans, lacking higher brain function, very much alive but lacking what we consider our humanity. Their nature and the details of the disease are unfortunately way too involved for the short story version. I chose not to include a description of Ivory at this point because I felt it would detract too much from the story line, it is something that will be worked in once I can find a way to smoothly mesh it in. Oh and I also am a Walking Dead fan.

    Reply
  5. Caitlyn Williams

    Leah,

    First of all, I’d like to say I really like the name of your main character Ivory. It’s a creative name, and it’s really pretty. Second of all, I love the way your title is incorporated your story. Necropolis is a great title! I also really liked the way Lily’s school had a danger drill, it kind of translates to the violence in today’s school. Her positivity really radiates in your story.

    I love the backstory about how Ivory met Lily. It really gives life to the characters, and it tells how they met and how special she is. One part that caught me off guard was your 8th paragraph describing lily’s eyes. These sentences first confused me a bit, “Then the girl opened her rich green eyes, which had been scrunched closed in the childish instinct of hoping anything she couldn’t see couldn’t see her either. They peered up at ivory, catching at her heart with the fear they showed.” After reading the second sentence, I understood the emotions your sentences were telling. I would change the word ‘They’ to ‘Her eyes’ to make it more personal.

    Something that I really liked was the way the narrator narrated. The backstories in your short story really make the story stand out when I read it. In my short story, I didn’t include much backstory, now I wish I had. I like the thought you put into your story, and the good narration it has.

    Overall, I really enjoyed your story, and i thought your storyline was really interesting. I loved the action in the middle of your story. The rising action in your story had me reading with anticipation about how they’d survive the crazies attack, and how they’d ultimately escape the wall.

    One thing I’d suggest, is to use dialogue blocks. Inserting separating blocks of the various conversation would help the reader focus on the action, and the dialogue. Other than that your story is great! I loved that you wrote your story on an apocalypse too, it really intrigued me.

    Reply
  6. Monica Gallagher

    Necropolis

    This is a well rounded, good written and detailed story. I like the location use of D.C. and the various elements of the mall. It was realistic and ironic. Ironic that it was showing pinnacle statues of the United States in the apocalyptic fall. The action in the story was palpable and it was consistent throughout the text. That being said, there wasn’t a true climax or signifying event that happened in the story. You could say that maybe finally getting through the secure door to the other side was that event, but it didn’t feel like that was enough compared to the height of action in the writing. The ending seemed to be left undone as well, though I could see it continuing into the next chapter or the next sequel. Speaking of which, the way that this was written was very similar to a full novel. It was very detailed and condensed with storyline elements that read to me like a full-length book, which is great.

    As I was reading through this, it really reminded me of The Walking Dead. I’m not sure if you watch that or if you even like it, so I’m sorry if it’s offensive, but it’s actually a great compliment. That is a huge series, the rate of action and the consistency of ongoing drama is the main thread that paired the show with your writing. I’m not sure if anyone ever does short story sequels, but that may be an interesting concept to explore, especially with something so action based like Necropolis.
    Another show that this reminded me of, more so with the relationship between the main female character and the little girl, is The Hunger Games. That is the extent of common thread but it a very significant one. The dynamic between those two characters is very deep and conveys their individual character perfectly. If you wanted to polish the story up a bit, or add a new element, I would suggest having a climactic event between those two characters. You could present it prior to the main climactic event and maybe have it tied into the main event somehow. For example, I hope you’ve seen The Hunger Games, when the little girl dies it drives the main female characters anger and passion towards the fight against the Capitol. I think that would add a lot to your story to have multiple elements of climax between the characters to add depth to the overall interactions of the story.

    Having those events between characters adds to their development, but it also gives the reader something else to grasp on while the “regular” action is going on. I was never bored reading your story because I wanted to find out what was going to happen, but the same type of action tends to get monotonous. Bringing in internal character drama could break that up a bit and add to the “regular” ongoing action of the main plot line. I really enjoyed reading your story and if you haven’t watched The Walking Dead or The Hunger Games, check it out, especially if you want to add some different elements to your story.

    Great Work!

    Reply
  7. Michelle Cordova

    Leah,

    First of all, I have to say that I am typically not super interested in zombie-type stories, films, etc., but you did a great job at keeping me hooked from beginning to end. I enjoyed your opening paragraph, which is what really got me interested, curious to find out what was going on.

    Your short story did read a little long for me, but I think that is just because you put so many little details into this piece, which definitely is not a bad thing. I enjoyed the role you gave your main character, Ivory, as she totally reminds me of Jennifer Lawrence in the “Hunger Games!” (Which I love, by the way!) You also did a great job at giving the reader a backstory, especially on Lily and the way her and Ivory met.

    I would have liked to have read about how the world came to be “infected” as well. However, there were a lot of details involved in the technology and how Ivory and the others were going to exit the room, which is where I felt you placed most of your focus.

    I did notice a few errors in reading the paper, such as:

    “The reports of growing crazie activity made Ivory was extra cautious”

    “Ivory and her little charge grabbed their food and sat down at at an empty spot at one of the tables”

    “The group moved shelves and beds against the closed door to prevent any crazies the might decide to attack”

    “The threw themselves against the windows and doors with near mindless ferocity.”

    These are not huge mistakes, but they did momentarily throw me off. With an extra proofread, you probably would have caught them as well.

    Overall, I feel that you did a great job with this short story. You took a chance and wrote about something that can be hit or miss, especially when you don’t know your audience. The story flowed really well, and you gave your characters personality, which was fun to read.

    Reply
  8. Corbin Knapp

    Leah, I enjoyed the apocalyptic feel of your essay, and I think that you have the great beginnings for a full length book if you wanted to make it into one. You have a very strong female protagonist in your story which is a great change from most of the apocalypse stories I’ve read. There are a few parts that I think you could expand on however, such as why they all were put away in the facility in the first place and how old Ivory was when she was put in the facility. Was she put into the facility a long time ago or did she just arrive a relatively short time ago?

    I thought that your choice for starting your story was great pick. You jump straight into the action and drew me in the story almost immediately. Something I was confused about however was when the crazy attacks Ivory you don’t describe him like a zombie, he is more like a regular guy except he wants to eat human flesh? In your first paragraph you write that, “They were the missing, the infected, the living dead.” but I don’t really get that feeling from what little details you gave about them. I could tell that they were supposed to be terrifying , but I have no clue what they look like. Are they rotting? Or are they just pale and clammy?

    I especially liked the character Lily because she added some innocence to the story and showed us that Ivory has a soft spot as well as being a hardcore scout. It was cool that you created Lily, but I was confused at why she was only mentioned in the beginning of the story and then didn’t reappear again and was only briefly mentioned later in the story. I think that it would make your story even better if you included a scene where Lily wishes Ivory good luck before she goes on her mission with Joshua and the others. This might give a more realistic feel to Lily’s character by including a scene where Lily and Ivory show how they might view each other as sisters.

    The council was an interesting part of your story, but I think it would be great if you add some history of how they were formed. Are only certain families allowed to be on the council? Or can anyone be on it? Have the members on the council remained the same since the facilities founding?

    I enjoyed reading your story and I think you should make a full length book out of it. Your characters all had unique personalities, and you flowed smoothly between your sentences. The only thing that is really missing is how they got to the facility, and why the crazies are crazy. I enjoyed the futuristic feel of your short story, and I have always enjoyed a good apocalyptic novel. Nice work and keep writing!

    Reply
  9. Ben Knapp

    Your story was an enjoyable read. I liked the post-apocalyptic setting, as well as how you described humanity’s reaction to it. Your story is memorable for both its characters and its background.

    Your initial paragraphs do a really good job of drawing the reader into the story. I liked the idea of the wall separating the quarantine from the rest of the world being covered in the pictures of those inside, but I was a little confused by it. I’m not sure how she can avoid looking at the pictures at the other side of the wall; sense she shouldn’t be able to see them at all. Other than that, this paragraph totally works for me.

    I liked how the early attack serves to subtly highlight the main cause of the quarantine, as well as why the main character carries a bow. It also shows the reader that these attacks are part of the daily routine of the protagonist. I can tell by her attitude that she has survived hundreds of these fights, as she calmly brushes off her clothes and checks her bow.

    You did a very good job of capturing the feeling of your quarantined city. With just a few simple descriptions, you bring the reader into a dark, gloomy, but not quite lifeless, world. It’s hard not to shudder while thinking about the abandoned streets of Necropolis, as they make a very real impression on the reader’s mind.

    Another aspect that I thought was really good was the little girl, Lily. Lily shows the reader that the world of Necropolis is not all gloom and doom, and people are still finding ways to enjoy themselves. Having her tell Ivory about her day at school was a perfect way of showing how the survivors of your post-apocalyptic city have carried on with their lives by creating a school to raise future generations.

    One thing I didn’t understand was how the disease that created the “Crazies” spreads. The people don’t seem to be worried about close proximity to the Crazies, except for the obvious danger of being attacked by a bloodthirsty maniac. Although it might have been better to explain a bit more about them, the aura of mystery that surrounds the Crazies is definitely a powerful part of your story, and a more detailed explanation of your story could ruin this.

    I liked your ending, but it was a little abrupt. The story goes directly from intense action to sudden calm, which admittedly does add to the shock of discovering that the quarantine had failed. Finding ways of smoothing this transition might be something to think about, but I also think the suddenness of our conclusion is certainly valid, and definitely adds to your story.

    Overall, I think your story was really good. There were a couple minor things that confused me, but other than that your story was amazing. It was very memorable, despite the fact that it was only a couple of pages long. The world of Necropolis feels somehow very real, and was an awesome setting for your story.

    Reply
  10. Cassidy Kramer

    Hi Leah!
    This was an awesome story! I really liked the detail you put into it. Throughout the story I was very interested on what was going to happen next with the “Crazies” outside, and the tension built with Joshua trying to hack the firewalls.
    At the beginning of the story I was very confused because I did not know where the setting took place. However, as I kept reading, I started to understand that they are diseased people and outside are the more normal people. I just pictured them as zombies and I am sure that is what you meant by mentioning the words “diseased” and “quarantined” etc. What I did not understand, however, is why the more normal people, like Ivory, were in with the crazies, and how crazies got outside of the wall, thus making the outside world empty and deserted.
    I thought this was a great story. I do not know how you can come up with this stuff, since I myself am completely not creative like this, but you are very good at it. I like the touch of the little girl and I am very happy that you gave a backstory of her. Also, I like how you placed her hiding at school story before the backstory because it made the story flow a lot better, like how a movie would do.
    I did have a lot of questions about Ivory’s background, however. I would really like to know how she got into that position of a scouter, and why she is so far up in the council respect. I was also wondering how old she is, and if she had parents of her own. I do know that you added that the scouters are mostly middle-aged, so I am glad that I had something to latch on to for my curiosity. Also, is she Lily’s primary caretaker? If she is, why doesn’t Lily just stay at her grandparents all the time?
    I know that these are A LOT of questions, and it would take A LOT of explaining, but I think that giving the reader even the briefest explanation would settle their curiosity for the moment so that they can enjoy your cool story.
    Overall, I think you did a very good job writing this story with details, backstories, and putting good imagery in the reader’s mind. You are a very talented writer, and I am glad that you shared this piece of your creative mind with me and the rest of this class.

    Reply
  11. Katherine Whelchel

    Leah,
    Your story is exciting, unique and attention-grabbing! The thick plot was rich with description and images. Your theme was so out of this world, that I could see it being a popular sci-fi book! I really liked your ending as well. I prefer endings that leave the readers wondering, ‘what will happen next?’, but still have some resolution. It gives me an excitement and a moving feeling.

    Having to communicate fight scenes can be hard, so I commend you for adding them! When visiting this story in the future, I would go through and try to add more description to the fights and clear some of it up. Overall they were good but could be tightened up a bit.

    Your main character was nicely developed, and I enjoyed getting to know her as I read. I would most likely have shied away from writing about a fantasy world because it requires so much backstory, set up, and explanations of everyday things; however, you did really well with this theme! As I read, I thought about how much braver you are than me. If you love it though, I suppose it comes naturally.

    You gave great attention to details, which provided knowledge about the world you were writing about and helped for me to understand it. This is once again, a necessity when writing sci-fi or fantasy. I am intrigued to know where your inspiration came from? Overall, you did a very good job!

    -Kassie

    Reply
    1. Leah Rego

      Kassie, I’m glad you liked it! I have been writing fiction since I was in middle school, this is definitely the piece I’ve love the most so far and I am dertermined to make it a full length novel. I am a huge fan of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction, as well as sci-if in general. I used to live in the DC area and I though that it would make a great setting for a book. -Leah

      Reply
  12. Aubri Stogsdill

    Leah,
    I really enjoyed reading your story. There is something so interesting about apocalyptic stories. They pull you in and really get your imagination going. I loved your main character. I think you made her seem strong and she was very likable. Almost a Katniss Everdeen sort of character. Someone that the people look up to.

    Overall, your story was interesting, engaging, and lovely to read. One thing that I think you could have improved on is taking some of the descriptions out. I know this might sound funny, but there were a lot of points when I didn’t understand why there was so much description. I think sometimes its easy to try to include lots and lots of description because (obviously) you want to paint a picture for your reader so they understand your story. But, I also think it’s easy to fall a bit too far into a description that is actually causing your story to become a bit draggy.

    Also, I would suggest going back through and proofreading. There were a lot of little words that seemed out of place sprinkled through the paragraphs.

    Other than those two things, I really enjoyed your story! You have a wonderful imagination! I love that you were able to communicate the severity and intensity of this world that you created in your mind! You’re a great storyteller! Keep it up! (:

    Reply
  13. Mekayla

    Leah,

    First off, good intro. I felt like I had been transported to the beginning of an apocalyptic movie, which really set the mood for the rest of your piece. I was on edge the entire story, because you did an amazing job at conveying the emergency of the survivors situation. Over all, great progression, and I like the direction that the story took. I think that a little more character development could have been a little more helpful to establish who they were, why it was so important that they survive, and what they had lost to get there. Although a lot of it was implied, getting more attached to some of the key characters i think would have made your story stronger than it already is.

    I did end up with a few questions about the story:
    What was this insanity?
    Was it a zombie virus?
    What were the influencers behind the war that preceded this illness?
    Why was this specific city made a prison, and why were healthy people left inside?
    How did they manage to build the wall while a good portion of the city had come down with the virus?
    Did the virus start there, and if so, do we know why?

    You’ve created such an interesting world here, and it really left me wanting to know more and more. You conveyed the tension and the fight to survive so, so well, as well as painted the scenery of a post-apacolyptic world. The imagery was tied into your description of each scene and characters that I felt completely immersed into this story. You did a great job, and I mean it when I say that I’d love to read more of this.

    Reply
  14. Jessica Honebein

    Leah! The beginning of your story really caught my attention and you seemed to hold it the whole way through. It really was a nail biting story and I know that I was asking myself what is going to happen next? I think that it flowed well together and it had a beginning, middle, and end. I like that you used an apocalypse story and put your own twists on it like having “crazies” in the story. I think that you had a good beginning that drew the reader in, honestly at first I thought that you were talking about prison. I suppose that quarantine could be seen as prison as well though! The middle/ meat of the story was very strong and had a lot of build up for the readers. Although I liked the ending, I feel that it was abrupt and I did find myself asking so what happens next? I think that that was the point of ending the story that way, but it does make me want to continue reading.

    I think that the story being told by a narrator instead of through the main character Ivory was a good choice. I like how we are getting the story of her personality and what she really is about. I think that if she was the one that was telling the story we would not get that much detail about the character. I also think that it was good that you only had one central character, I think that this helped the reader focus on the story line. However I do feel that the other characters (the councilmen, Lily, and Joshua) were a good touch to enhance the story and add dialogue. Overall I really like how the story was told and how the characters helped tell the story.

    One thing that I would like to have seen more on was background. I was unsure what was happening at first and then when I found out it was an apocalypse I was intrigued to find out what caused it. The disease was interesting, although I was interested on where it came from and why they were taking all of the families away. I found the story easy to read, but I think with background it would have cleared some of the questions I had throughout the story and made me want to read even more.

    Overall, I think that you embodied a truly interesting apocalypse story. The character, setting, and actions that were in the short story really helped the reader follow along as the story progressed. I think that with a little background of where this disease came from or how it started/ spread would enhance the story and clear a little confusion. I also think that a more drawn out ending, or maybe another chapter to the story would help the reader understand what happened to all the characters in the end. I think that you did a very good job about keeping the reader’s attention and if you wrote another chapter to this story I would definitely want to read it!

    Reply
  15. Naimy Schommer

    Wow! What a captivating world this is! I am so intrigued to know what happens next!
    I like how you jump right into your story, in the beginning, explaining things as you go– it’s a good way to get the reader immediately invested. This piece has good structure and a clear beginning, middle, and end. Right off the bat, I was getting some strong “Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen” vibes from the main character, which served as a good platform to start the story from until you were able to more broadly describe your character. I was a little worried in the beginning that this story would just be a reimagined Hunger Games story, but I was pleasantly surprised. The parallels are there, but they are both unique stories that stand on their own.
    I like how this piece, though imaginative and a great fiction piece, was full of political and economic implications. I found myself wondering what WOULD we actually do in this situation as a country? What are the ethics behind quarantine? How do we justify mandated isolation? I really love when creative pieces also have a lot of real-world implications. I was struggling to find something concrete to work into my own short story, but you really nailed it. Very thought-provoking.
    When crafting imaginary worlds, such as you post-apocalyptic landscape, I personally find it really hard to create an environment that feels believable and that I can “see” even without being there. There are some areas where I think you really nailed those descriptions, but other areas where I struggled to picture exactly what was going on around the characters. I really love how you describe the living situation of the people within the community, especially describing why they live in a group. THose were excellent details that lend themselves well to describing the overarching storyline. When the characters get to the hospital though, I had a hard time picturing their surroundings. There’s a lot of action in those scenes, but when I read it, the tempo of the piece had to slow down in order for me to try and construct their surroundings instead of speeding up to allow for more dynamic action.
    Other than that, I think this is a fantastic, beautifully creative piece. Great job!

    Reply

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