Thursday Tropes: After the End

I love a good post-apocalyptic story. Hell, I even enjoy ones that aren’t that good, because just the hint of one will perk my ears. And given the proclivity of this kind of setting lately, it’s safe to say I’m not the only one. Just

It’s Ellen Page in the post-apocalyptic future! (Actually, the resemblance is a coincidence, but I’m sure she’d have something quirky to say if it were her.)

yesterday I came across some trailers for an upcoming game, The Last of Uswhere a version of the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the fungus that can create a zombie ant, has jumped to humans and created zombies and lead to the collapse of civilization as we know it. I know so very little about the gameplay, the plot, anything, but I know it looks gorgeous and I’m suddenly we’ve got a PS3 and I’ll be able to play it! I’ve also written before about another such setting I ate up (a coincidentally interesting choice of words on my part) when I wrote about Feed by Mira Grant, which features fantastic world-building. The third book and final book in that trilogy, Blackout, releases later this month and I can’t wait to read it.

When reading up on TLOU the other day, a few things occured me. One, this was a perfect topic for my next Thursday Tropes post! Two, I clearly have an itch to write my own post-apocalyptic story, so I should work on that at some point. And three, why are we obsessed with post-apocalyptic stories? I’ve come to at least one conclusion: it’s real-life fanfiction crossed with cautionary tale. Read more


Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

I’ve been away too long and my writing feels rusty for it. So, let’s play catch-up on weekly photo challenges!

A few weeks ago the inspiration was Windows, and I found Radical Amazement’s picture of the Rose Window (2nd one down) in Chartres Cathedral to be quite lovely. Even more interesting was the link and a mention given to this picture of the labyrinth on the floor of the cathedral. This sent me googling information about the labyrinth, leading to an informative page about it. In the end, the picture I’m specifically using is a larger version of the on that page, but thank you to Radical Amazement for a lovely photo that spawned the search! The window will still get a mention even if the labyrinth takes over as I suspect it will.

Windows (or, Labyrinth)

“How’s Barker?” Tisa asked as she and Joseph walked back to the nave.

“Not that good, but no worse.” Their third companion had a broken leg from two days earlier–rotted boards on a wooden bridge gave out under him. They’d been transporting him on a litter so far, which Tisa did not find practical in the least.

“We need to talk about that,” she began. “We can’t afford to have someone with us who can’t walk. It’s no good for us or him.”

“We cannot simply abandon him,” Joseph replied.”We’re indoors now, I can take a better look at the leg. Maybe use some of the wood from the pews to make a splint.”

“And if you can’t?”

“I am not leaving him defenseless and along,” Joseph said firmly, looking at her. “If you want to leave, you’ll do it on your own.”

Tisa pressed her lips together, dissatisfied with this. She should leave. Joseph’s intelligence and education were handy, yes, but he was no fighter. His life would be short in this world, without someone like her. She should go, there was no practical reason to stay just to have two more people to have to defend…

But she’d been alone before. For too long, and she didn’t want to go back to that. Too much time alone was…bad, for her. I’ve grown too used to his prattling, she told herself. “See to it he gets splinted and a crutch so he can at least be upright,” she ordered gruffly as they entered the nave.

To both their surprise, Barker had pulled himself off the litter all on his own in their absence, and was looking at the floor in the center of the church, on his stomach and rubbing at the profane symbols with his sleeve. Joseph hurried to him. “Barker! What are you doing?”

“The devil, the devil’s in this, blocks the maze, blocks the way out!” Barker babbled.

Tisa exhaled through her nose. Even without the broken leg, Barker wasn’t fully sane. She was certain by now that his name was a nickname earned by the virtue of being “barking mad.” This was a new level even for him, however–the devil? A maze?

Joseph tried to pull his hands away. “There’s no devil in here or anyone else, Barker. Get back on the litter so I can look at your leg.”

“Need to find the center!” Barker struggled. Joseph cast a pleading look Tisa’s way.

“I’ll find it, Barker, just listen to Joseph,” she said, walking over. That seemed to calm him enough to allow the scholar to get to work. He kept staring at her, though, eyes wide and twitching, so she looked down at the floor to see what he’d been going on about.

Huh. There really was a maze, now that she looked more closely. The floor of the nave had a weird, winding circular path on it that kept doubling back and curving on itself. She walked around to get a better idea of it–it was a large circle, that had only one path to get from the outer edge to the center, one that had the walker taking the longest possible way to wind their way inwards. What was the sense in that?

Moonlight illuminated large chunks of it, with colored images dimly lighting others. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that the remains of the shattered stained glass once provided on overlay to the maze when the light shone through it. She walked to the middle and stood looking at the window, but whatever was meant to be seen from there was gone now, nothing but shards of glass on the floor and the ground outside the building. Searching the ground again, brushing leaves aside with her foot, the center of the maze was also the center of the profaned circle that defiled the place of worship.

A maze, a window, and a church, so apparently important that they inspired both hate and madness. Tisa quickly stepped away from the center. That wasn’t something she wanted any part of.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Faces

The latest weekly photo challenge was “Faces”. The DP’s photo didn’t catch me, so I went looking through those that were posted by other bloggers, and found one  by Estirador that I quite liked. Estirador has a number of great photos up for this one, but one in particular reminded of what I wrote for my first WPC, “Entrances.” So let’s go back to the abandonned church…


“The abandonment,” Joseph replied. “These lines aren’t hurried, like they would’ve been if they had to hide from anyone. The pews were moved aside to clear the floor space, though.”

Tisa looked as well, now seeing what he saw, and nodded. “Get Barker, I’ll check the back.” Joseph went back into the dry cold of the early winter to retrieve their wounded friend, while Tisa held her weapon ready and walked into the rooms behind the altar. These too were empty–where once a priest or minister might have lived, the sheets were dirty and moth-eaten, and the drawers were bare. The man who’d been here before had seen fit to close them as he left, however. Was he not in a hurry, or simply a man who was married to his habits or organization as much as his church? Either way, he had left nothing here for them. But the church was still shelter they could not turn away from. The stone made it safe for a fire, and the pews would make good kindling once they stripped off the varnish.

A few empty cells–Tisa was fairly sure that was the term for the small plain rooms where priests or sisters or monks would live–yielded similar results. A symbol of the faith sat in one room, very noticeably the only thing remaining. Left behind on purpose, but what purpose? As a reminder? Or as a guardian?

At the end of the hallway was a short stone staircase leading down. It made one half-turn as it went, and then it ended in a large door. Unlike the grey and weathered wood of the front doors, this was real stone, and there was no obvious way to open it. No hinges, no seams, nothing but a large and ugly carved face in the rock. It grimaced at her, dead empty eyes like her father warning her with no uncertainty that one more step would bring his wrath. Do it and you will weep, child, do it and you will know regret like nothing you’ve known before. She’d never wept for him, though. Not when he beat her, not when he died.

But this face, this door, this promised some other variety of punishment, a kind she was not comfortable contemplating. Its frowning mouth held the ends of what had once been a handle or knocker, but that had been broken off. It wasn’t to be found on the floor, so there was no way to know who had broken it off or why.

“That’s an ugly mug,” Joseph said behind her. Tisa spun and aimed, her gun up and at his head, instinct moving her before her mind caught up.

“Shit, Joseph, don’t sneak up on me!” she scolded him as she relaxed.

“I’m sorry–I thought you would’ve heard me coming,” he replied. “What is this?”

“Looks like a door, but there’s nothing there to open,” she said, stepping back so he could look more closely. Joseph peered at it, leaning in, fingers fluttering just above the surface without ever quite touching it.

“That hasn’t stopped someone from trying. The scratches at the eyes, see? They’ve been chipped at and not by whoever carved this. That damage came later,” he pointed out. Tisa squinted at it in the dim lighting of the stairwell.

“Huh. Who’d do that? The eyes aren’t gonna open this thing.”

“I don’t know. Maybe who ever desecrated the nave.”

“The what?”

“The main seating area of the church upstairs is called the nave,” he explained.

“Where’d you learn stuff like that?” Tisa asked.

“At school.”

“Huh. What school?”

“Does it matter?” Joseph replied. “This carving must have had some kind of religious importance, or else why spend so much effort on a door that’s so out of the way? So it’s likely whoever desecrated the church was trying to desecrate this as well.”

“Must’ve been some really anti-religious folks around here at some point,” Tisa remarked. “So, should we try to open it?”

“No. Whatever’s in there can stay in there. I stay out of religious conflicts whenever possible. And it’s unlikely this was an anti-religious effort; chances are it was a very religious one, in fact, just one that was in opposition to the religion originally established here,” Joseph said, stepping back from the door. They headed back through the hallways of cells and towards the nave, and Tisa felt pleased at giving it the right name in her head now. “Some group working at counter-purposes to what this church was built for. Or that felt their religion was more right.”

“More right? That sounds off,” Tisa said.

“It is,” Joseph said. She waited, but he offered no further thoughts.

Smashing the Routine

After spending a chunk of yesterday feeling in a funk, I finally realized why: I’ve spent most of the last month moving (twice), hosting my boyfriend’s mom for a week, going away for a family vacation weekend, and going away for a friends camping trip weekend. My normal routine and most of the things in it have gone completely out of whack, cutting me off from the outlets I usually have for creative work, physical work-outs, and other things I’m passionate about. Life happened along and smashed my little routine to bits for a while there, but luckily it’s not too hard for me to put them back into the niches where they belong.

But this also segues nicely into another topic: why I love post-apocalyptic (or even mid-apocalyptic) stories. It has a dash of why I really enjoy stories set in the Real World Plus, as I think of it. You know, our world, but plus a little something else–like a school for witchcraft and wizardry, or a girl given incredible power so she can slay vampires, that sort of thing. It’s that yearning of wanting to picked out as someone special for being exactly who you are, an ordinary and good person who gets to be extraordinary all of a sudden. Who doesn’t want that? Also, it helps that you don’t need to go through the set up of a completely different world, either on the enjoying or the creating end. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either, but it minimizes the tasks that require your attention. There are also plenty of stories that are in completely foreign worlds that are excellent, and well-done world-building is an admirable skill.

Back to the post-apocalyptic. The basic tennant of this genre is always the same: the entire world has changed, and that means the people need to change with it in order to survive. What do you do when everything you know, your daily life, has been irreversibly changed? How do you deal with the world as it is now? The Walking Dead is a fantastic example of this–while it’s about zombies, it’s really not. It’s about people trying to figure out how to live in a world that has changed completely. Priorities have to change, the way they think has to change, and they realize these things slowly and with significant growing pains (not to mention a significant body count). The routine they have become accustomed to and lived in is smashed, gone forever, and there’s no guide for what the new routine needs to be. What’s more, the new routine itself is a constantly changing thing, and if you don’t catch up, how will you get by?

Characters in this setting not only need to adapt, but they eventually need to realize, in most cases, that there is no going back. Even if the bad guy is destroyed, that doesn’t mean the world gets to go back to the way it was. Who are they going to be, now that not only their life has changed, but the whole world has?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Entrance

As one reason for doing this blog and aiming to do it daily is to improve my own writing by virtue of practice-makes-better, I’ve been checking out The Daily Post to see if I can get inspiration or ideas of what to write about from there. I noticed this morning that they have a weekly photo challenge. Now, I’m not really a photographer for anything other than recreational purposes, but you may have noticed I enjoy writing. And I really like that picture. So I’m going to try and write based on the weekly photo challenge whenever I can, starting with this one right here.



An immense set of doors stood before them. Made of oak so thick and old that it was stained grey by the weather of the years, and nearly looked like metal at first glance. But only the thick circular handles were actually made of metal, and given the season, those were quite cold to the touch. Rusted, too, they learned, when their first few attempts to lift and pull the handles to gain entry failed. It finally took both of them pulling at one door to get it move at all, and the rusted hinges creaked, the sound echoing out into the dead forest.

Inside, what had once been a celebrated place of worship had fallen into disrepair, dust-covered and cluttered, wearing a few remnants of its better days, like an aged matron bedecked in finely made clothing that was long since out of style, refusing to forget her youth. The stained glass windows were broken in places, but what was still whole spoke of great talent and care having gone into the artwork. The ceiling’s paint was chipping and stained with mold and mildew, but had traces of the gold-leaf edging and immense murals of the faith. An angel’s now-scraggly wings were all that remained of the central graceful creature once depicted above them. Nature had begun to reclaim this place, now that its celebrants had abandoned it.

The furniture had been battered and pushed aside–before it’s last occupant left, whoever and whenever that had been, they had made some adjustments. Stacks of benches by the walls, the main area of the floor was empty but for the profane symbols scrawled there in black. Those helped explain why the altar was destroyed with such intentional malice, shattered into splinters of wood and smashed slabs of marble.

“What do you think came first?” she asked. “Was it abandoned and then despoiled, or the other way around?”