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Noise
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Noise

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Author: Darin Bradley
Publisher: Spectra, 2010
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Horror
Sub-Genre Tags: Dystopia
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Synopsis

This haunting debut from a brilliant new voice is sure to be as captivating as it is controversial, a shocking look at the imminent collapse of American civilization-and what will succeed it.

In the aftermath of the switch from analog to digital TV, an anarchic movement known as Salvage hijacks the unused airwaves. Mixed in with the static’s random noise are dire warnings of the imminent economic, political, and social collapse of civilization-and cold-blooded lessons on how to survive the fall and prosper in the harsh new order that will inevitably arise from the ashes of the old.

Hiram and Levi are two young men, former Scouts and veterans of countless Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Now, on the blood-drenched battlefields of university campuses, shopping malls, and gated communities, they will find themselves taking on new identities and new moralities as they lead a ragtag band of hackers and misfits to an all-but-mythical place called Amaranth, where a fragile future waits to be born.


Excerpt

The Book:

"ONE"

[1] i) This Book assumes many things. ii) Among them, that you are still alive. iii) It assumes that the world has not been destroyed by fire, that it has not developed radiation flats and a meteorology of fallout. iv) It assumes there has been a breakdown. v) It assumes that a new competition for resources has begun; that there are resources yet available; and that primarily, the Event involved ab initio (or has since developed) an economic revolution.

[2] i) The destabilization of Trade informs the competition for resources--conflict, nationalism, religion, and consciousness are all Narratives for securing these. ii) These will be your ready tools.

[3] i) This assumes that you will kill other people. ii) Begin identifying the people beyond your Group as Outsiders as quickly as possible. iii) Begin before the Event, if you are able.

[4] i) You will need a Place, and it will require a name. ii) Your Place is your strongest Narrative.

"TWO"

[1] i) If your Place serves also as your residence prior to the Event, then there are a number of preparations you can make. ii) Of course, stockpiling firearms, ammunition, fuel, preserved or preservable foods, and medical supplies is a priority. iii) However, over-preparation can lead to disaster (c.f. 2.1.iv-2.1.v). iv) If your Place is too near an urban center, then Outsiders may attempt to Forage it for supplies or shelter. v) If your Place is over-prepared, it loses mobility, which is among a Group's most primary survival characteristics.

[2] i) A Group inhabiting a Place too near an urban center will endure considerable Administrative stress in the process of negotiating with potential Additions to the Group, for this negotiation inevitably includes a number of necessary eliminations--Rejections that stress the Place's perimeter. ii) This is problematic, for in this instance, your Group will be forced to eliminate Rejections before your Narrative has solidified against the psychological damage that can result from doing so. iii) A Group requires time to identify not only itself but also its Outsiders. iv) For this reason, situate your Place an appropriate distance away from any urban center. v) Given time, a Group will stabilize its Narrative such that Additions and Rejections will not stress Administration.

***

We put soft edges on the swords, which were looser ideas about sharpness than what we intended. Than what we intended to do with these edges.

We took turns, grinding and grinding, throwing sparks onto the linoleum and against the fridge. The other of us paced from window to window, watching for notice. We had every light in the house on to make it look like we were working our late-night house-flipping renovation. They dimmed, a sort of sinking, light-choir, every time one of us bore down on the wheels with our steel.

We only made them so sharp. Because we had to practice, which was going to dull them. After we'd practiced, then we'd finish the ideas. We'd sharpen them fully. And we got lucky--the grinder didn't burn up, because we didn't finish the job. We let it cool, and added some lubricant, which would be enough, we'd heard, to finish the job.

There would come days, though, when we would do this by hand. With our whetstones.

#

What I remember most about pumpkins isn't carving them. It's the smell. Even fresh pumpkins smelled like rot to me, like bad flesh, and disemboweling them so you could insert candles felt like grabbing fistfuls of decayed sinew--the seeds like tumors caught in their own body-webbing. Roasting the seeds, with salt and oil, always seemed carnivorous, even though we were dealing with a plant.

We had the pumpkins set up on sawhorsed plywood, on the dark side of the house, where neither Jo nor our other neighbor could see what we were doing. We were screened from the next property by the back yard's mess of bamboo and sycamore trees.

Outside, in the dark, I held my sword like a carving knife. I thought about Halloweens past, about how we created glowing faces with sharp knives. How pumpkins became jack o' lanterns. About what I wanted faces to look like. About what I had to do to a pumpkin to get what I needed to know about striking someone in the head with a sword.

It took practice, slicing into the pumpkins instead of simply knocking them from the plywood.

#

We also used watermelons, which were important because they made "the sound."

Later, we finished the idea. We finished the edges and burnt up the grinder. Adam put all the pumpkin seeds we'd picked from the plywood on a baking sheet. Added salt and oil, because there was no sense wasting. Not with what was coming. We had to become accustomed to doing carnivorous things.

#

Killing people outside of a grocery store is more than it seems. It is also collecting baseball cards.

#

It is an entire pack, a box of packs, too large to steal. You must simply take them, right in front of the assistant manager who only lets six students in at a time because our junior high school was too close, and we all stole too many things. After the first card, there is the next, and the next, an entire loose-leaf photo album that isn't yours. And somehow it means something, even though baseball bores us, because it meant something to our fathers. It is a stack of talismans we'd rather not understand. And they stack and stack.

#

So do the people, when you kill them.

#

I was twelve then, and there were three of us: Jon, Chuck, me. In the wooded lot behind our development, we had a fort. A copse of trees, really, at the soft end of a flood-plain, where the city had installed an extra storm drain, right in the trees, leading to the main culvert nearby. The culvert was only slightly more important to us than the fort. It was an open-topped, cement trapezoid, and it was horseapple fights, experiments with aerosol spray and butane lighters. It was access to a second-place, between our housing development and the next, between and below privacy fences. It was an underworld where we sold scraps of stolen Playboys and Clubs and Penthouses to each other. It was where we got beat up. It was our Place.

The city's failed drain became our coffer. We wiggled the calcified service "key" out of its brackets under the iron lid and finished the job that runoff had started: sealing the drain and its ground-level vents with mud, sticks, anything that would move downstream. We made it our own Charybdis.

A neighborhood grocery store moved in a year or so later, absorbing the majority of our field into its parking lots and facilities. So we formed a Plan.

On Friday nights, we would sleep over at Jon's house. His parents let us watch unscrambled late-night cable and stay out as late as we wanted. As long as we stayed in the neighborhood. Which was fine with us. The neighborhood was all places to us.

Through the culvert, through the fort, through the unmowed grass at the edge of the lot--the grass as tall as we were--we took the field back piecemeal. We read teach-yourself ninjutsu manuals and practiced moving invisibly and silently through the grasses. We destroyed the store's decorative shrub-lighting with clubs from the fort because doing so with the baseball bats we had used in Little League, on team Yellow Jackets, felt wrong. We threw bottles into the lanes, and nails--anything we thought would make grocery store life generally unlivable.

By day, before and after school, we took back the store. We stole medicines, mostly, because they were small and expensive. But we also took anything else we wanted: pens, lighters, a whisk. Anything small enough to escape the ceiling's bubbled, black security windows.

And eventually, we stopped stealing and started taking. A gallon of milk, a mop. A box of baseball cards. What twelve-year old would walk out with a gallon of milk? The store's bigger problem was the other kids, those stealing bags of candy to sell on the blacktop at school during lunch--the managers always caught them. We were never caught. Our combination of force and paranoia was stronger than guilt and stealth, which never worked. We dumped everything in our coffer, used or not. We were most amused by just destroying what we'd taken.

Adam hadn't started stealing until college, when he dated a punk girl without realizing it. He didn't know until months afterward, when she told him that what they'd been doing, stealing together, was dating.

#

We were force, and paranoia, moving through the culvert along University Avenue toward the store where Adam and I bought Ramen noodles by the shipping crate and boxes of mac-and-cheese and soda. We ate these things while we played Dungeons & Dragons after work. We had never stopped playing.

Word had slipped through the F.C.C., and things were unraveling. We chose this store because there was a pharmacy across the street, and we intended to target both. We parked Adam's truck beside the unused loading dock of the mostly empty shopping center a few blocks away. We used the culvert to move along the avenue to get to the store because we thought the swords would provoke a fight, if people could see us. Not everyone was being strategic. Some we...

Copyright © 2010 by Darin Bradley


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- charlesdee
  (8/3/2014)

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