Scourge is a very short story I originally wrote at a friend's house on May 22, 2015. I remember it being late at night and I was high at the time, so I decided to write a story. I didn't pre-plan anything. I just started writing. I wanted to see how being high affects my writing. This story is obviously about Launch; I don't know why I chose to write about her; she was just the first character who came to mind.
I wrote the first draft of this story on May 22, 2015 from 12:53 am to 2:27 am. I did not write the entire time - as I was at a friend's house, I was highly distracted. I took many breaks. I would guess I actually only wrote for less than an hour. Once it was done, I didn't post it, for it felt very rough and I didn't feel like editing it that night. I looked it over a few times in the coming days, but instead, I focused on completing Midnight City and A Soundless Dark. Once those were completed (by June 1, 2015), I considered posting this story. However, after reading it over again, I was reminded by how rough it was and put off working on it again until June 7th. I added in one short line ("rugged hope") on that day. Then, on June 9th, I began the editing process. Now, before I began editing, the story was much shorter - only 775 words. I added almost four hundred words in the editing process, which was a nearly 50% increase in the size of this story. I edited from 4:34 am to 5:43 am on June 9th. I posted the story on this site right afterwards.
There isn't a lot to say about this story. It didn't change much, plot-wise or thematically, from the first draft to the final draft. My edits were mostly to do with grammar and sentence wording and whatnot. While I was high, it seemed like my grammar and sentence structure suffered greatly. I wrote a lot of atypical sentences and descriptors in this story; some of them remain, many of them do not. This story is a good indication of how my writing changes while high, compared to how it changes while I'm drunk. There is quite a huge difference. That is the most interesting thing about this story (at least to me).
On the bleakest of highways, on the deadest of days, she skidded, rubber on asphalt. The air hung orange, smoke and dust mingling in the high winds; cursed golden hair streaked across a solemn land of scars and lifeless land. She clutched blood in her hand, a bullet in her mouth. Vulture choppers spun their talons towards her, but still she sped, as sparks flew across silver-blighted sand.
They hadn’t had time to get her name. The highway ran with fire that day.
She steered the smoldering coffin that was her transport into the nearest town, running parallel to the road on either side. The blonde bleeding woman launched her car into the nearest building, hitting it side-on, and exploding in an angry puff of flame. The woman propelled herself from the wreckage of twisted steel and raging fires that consumed everything in sight. She stood up, sprinted out of the building, barreling through a window and crashing into the ground. She drew a pistol from a holster across her back and aimed it into the dusty foreground.
The air was hot that day, like a snake waiting to pounce. She barely paid heed to the looming silence, thick as sap and terrible as the dawn. Feeling a piece of shrapnel in her arm, the woman grimaced and steadied herself on a lightpost. She tried to pull it out, and blood fell in scarlet tears. The pain was too much. She had to stop. Everything was blurring; everything was dissolving into one. She could hear her heartbeat, but she wasn’t sure if it was really her’s.
“Where are you?!” she roared, waving her weapon around trying to return to reality. Then she heard them, their steeds’ guttural palpitations calling back in anarchistic din.
Like feral hogs, the motorcyclists came scuttling into town, firing their guns in the air, shooting with hate and joy as one. Theirs was a dissident death march, cacophonous barks of glee and hubris, and she felt it pound into her head like a burning stare. She swallowed and shook her head to prevent herself from throwing up.
She took the first one in the hand; he fell from his bike like a plank of rotting wood. The second, she missed, and he did too. The third, she nailed in the neck, crimson tides of blood instantly spewing from his gash in life-espousing fits of horror. The bikers circled. They smelled carrion, she knew. The woman bit her lip. The pain in her shoulder was growing hotter. They could taste death. She couldn’t have felt more alive.
They came at once, the hungry pack of ragged wolves they were. She raised her pistol, squeezing off three shots before taking one in the leg. They fell into the rocks and cactus, to the blazing heat and cracked ground they would not return from. She staggered to one knee, not ready to give in. She was nearly dead – but in this game, nearly meant everything in the world.
She heard the motorcycles kill their howls once she had been hit. The sun blazed an ancient and shattered light. Her blood ran cool like water into the cracked desert ground. Sand blew into the sky, glinting in that ruinous dying light of the calescent day. She saw her shadow stretch across the horizon, the empty houses sullenly staring back. The five surviving bikers formed up in front of her. She clutched her arm, held her pistol loosely. There was iron on her tongue and rugged hope twitching in her fingers.
The biker at the head of gang wore a black leather vest with faded white wings on the back. The biker held an unlit cigar in one hand and a pistol in the other. Another rider stepped forward and removed his leader’s helmet. Blue hair burst out from the darkened faceguard like a waterfall.
The woman looked at the biker’s face. She was tall for a biker, and her face was as still as a new morning. She lacked little in beauty and little that was not familiar to well-met eyes. She was younger, not as she seemed. The woman’s ears were ringing with the steady-quick throbbing of her lifeblood.
The blue-haired biker aimed a pistol at the kneeling blonde.
“I’ve finally found you. After all these years of chasing ghosts, I’ve caught you.”
The blonde felt her swollen stomach and could feel something pushing back. She remembered the days when the sun had been young, when the wood had yet been fresh, when she had lacked any cares or any loves, when the world had been vivid and meant something. She had torn up those forsaken desert highways, burning rubber, her sister beside her, their hair blowing behind them like evanescent tails. From cactus to crevice, they had indisputably owned the area. They had been demon queens, hellbent on preserving their kingdom of blood and bones and sand. And then one day, they hadn’t. The pounding in her ears continued; her heartbeat was fluttering like an angry raven. She felt dizzy and sick and alive.
The blonde spit on the ground and grinned through her bleeding teeth. Like a bolt of lightning, she sprung forth her arm and shot the four bikers behind the blue-haired woman with expert precision. They were, all of them, dead before they hit the dirt. She lingered her sights on the woman in front of her before lowering her weapon. There would be time enough for that last trigger pull. The woman looked at her sister and spit. “You haven’t caught anyone. You haven’t even looked in the mirror–”
The blue-haired woman sneered and fired her pistol, hitting the kneeling woman in the forehead. Blood ran free across the earth, soaking it along with the withering sun. The woman holstered her weapon and stared at her slain foe, looking a bit older and less beautiful. Her hair shone with pale golden light as she stood on that desolate highway. The deep-beating drum thumped on, but it no longer fluttered, no longer raced with anxious hysteria.
The decaying buildings around would serve as gravestones well enough, and true ones at that. Their emotionless slate gray walls were a breath of fresh air, the first real things she had seen in a long time.
Everything was nothing as it seemed. The blue-haired woman felt an ice dread in her stomach. It hurt in the deepest recesses of her brain; in the darkest corner of her mind, a light still flickered and burned, a candle in a storm, and no matter how hard she tried, it would not quench itself. The pain was her own, a fragmented, surreal thing. She knew what she had done wouldn’t change anything. There was only one way out of the misery her sister had brought her.
Sighing, she pressed the pistol to her lips. Bum dum. Bum dum. Bum dum, her heart went. She felt the warm summer air on her skin, and for a moment, it made her remember sunnier days. Then she squeezed the trigger, and the sun faded from the black sky, and she felt desperately tired once again.
- This is one of the few one-shots I've written that is not part of a one-shot collection.
- This story wasn't named until after it was completed.
- The two main sources of inspiration for this story were the two movies in the Kill Bill series and Angel In Blue Jeans by Train. The song was the larger influence of the two. I was in a mood to write a story in a "western" style setting, and this was that story. Another story which will be similar (if I ever write it) is Chasing Oblivion, a story about Yamcha's origins. That story's theme song will be the above Train song. So this story was just me playing with a similar setting and similar themes, but with a different protagonist, in order for me to familiarize myself with the world I am creating for Chasing Oblivion.
- This story was heavily focused on the aesthetic beauty of the bleakness and harshness of the setting. A major theme is comparing this beautiful bleakness to the chaos of the humans who move through it and what that means for my portrayal of those humans.
- The "scarlet tears" part is a reference to Cowboy Bebop.
- Launch's heartbeat is a symbol of her emotion, of how she is alive. This symbol recurs several times in this short story, so I consider it an important one.
- Another focus of this story for me was to show how the setting and the chase is affecting Launch physically, making her want to throw up and whatnot. These feelings evoked by the setting and plot have a deeper character meaning.
- "She barely paid heed to the looming silence, thick as sap and terrible as the dawn." - the second half of this sentence is a reference to Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings series.
- The prose I used in this story reminds me more of what I'd do for a poem. I guess that's one difference when I'm writing while high.
- "There was iron on her tongue and rugged hope twitching in her fingers." - the second half of this sentence was the only editing/writing I did for this story on June 7, 2015.
- I got the idea to have another rider remove Blue Launch's helmet from the serious absurdity seen throughout the Kill Bill series.
- The fact that there is a blue-haired woman and a blonde-haired woman is no accident. Those aren't random hair colors. It also says a lot about the "reality" of this story. Is it a dream, a hallucination, or something similar? Or is it truly real? The content of the story answers this question rather definitively, but you do have to look carefully to find it.
- The blue-haired woman and the blonde-haired woman find each other familiar. That hints at who they are.
- The two women are called sisters in this story, yet that is an exaggeration.
- The fact that Launch thinks that the world, as it is in this story, has lost its vividness is tonally ironic. It also shows the purpose of the desert, symbolically.
- Launch constantly notes how she feels alive. This is important in understanding if this story is taking place in reality or not.
- Blonde-haired Launch is hinted at being pregnant, which is a reference to Kill Bill.
- The way blue-haired Launch kills blonde-haired Launch is very similar to how the main character is shot at the beginning of Kill Bill: Volume I.
- The sun is an important symbol in this story. It and its light evolve as the characters do.
- Notice how the point-of-view shifts to blue-haired Launch after blonde-haired Launch is killed. This narrative move hints at the two characters being one. Blue-haired Launch can hear the heartbeats that blonde-haired Launch could. This signifies a changing of domination - a changing of agency and demeanor that it oft seen in the bipolar Launch - of two characters who are truly one.
- "Everything was nothing as it seemed." - this is a lyric from "Angel In Blue Jeans".
- Blue-haired Launch knows that as long as she lives, blonde-haired Launch lives. That is the light in her mind that she dreads so much. She doesn't want to be two halves of one person; she craves to be whole. Interestingly, her solution to that problem is death, which says a lot about her character and the theme of the harshness of the world in this story.
- The sun fading when blue-haired Launch kills herself is the culmination of that symbol's meaning.
- Blue-haired Launch feeling tired when she shoots herself is a sign of this story's true meaning and true place in the Dragon Ball universe.
So this story is bizarre, surreal, and very vivid. The descriptions of the scenery in particular are really cool, as they show how being high affected my sensory perception and creative thinking. Of course, I did write prose in this story that I would not have otherwise written - paragraph two is an example of that. The pacing and word choice is not my usual style. So that's interesting. This story reminds me of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, albeit tonally different. The vivid, visceral descriptions are my favorite part of this story, and the story of Launch's inner mental turmoil told against such a complex backdrop - and in such a short amount of words - is something I am very proud of writing. I think this was quite a successful experiment. Overall, I'd give Scourge an S-.
<---- Part 53
Part 55 ---->