Archive for the ‘The Pig Girl’ Category

The Pig Girl

18 Jul

The story The Pig Girl, which I have published serially for many months (its length protracted by its irregular update schedule), has been a failure—one that is every bit as instructive as it is embarrassing. It’s a shame, because I think it had a lot of promise. There were some ideas and characters that I was very eager to work with, and some of them didn’t turn out too bad, but the final product just didn’t have the cohesion and momentum it needed to survive. There was no smooth, logical progression from interesting event to interesting event, only a sluggish jumble of things happening before other things happened to someone else, somewhere, at some indeterminate point on a timeline. As a result, I—and most probably the readers—lost interest before anything could be resolved, which, at this point, would discourage me from resolving them. Or at least, from writing another half-dozen chapters of it. I’ll do my best to wrap up who the characters were and what was going on below.

For those of you who liked the story, I’m sorry that I can’t provide a good ending for it, but I just feel that I’ve botched the wind-up so badly that it’s not worth making the pitch. For those of you who liked the characters, don’t be too upset about that—I’m sorting this under “Scrapped Project,” and I’ve got no compunctions about cannibalizing characters, jokes, and plot points from scrapped projects. For example, the character Trenchcoat from Vatsy and Bruno was originally one of several antagonists in a comic I did twenty to thirty pages of before abandoning. Actually, that project yielded a few other characters I plan to use at some point, so I shouldn’t talk too much about it. Anyway, regarding Pig Girl: Reginald and Victor will certainly be resurrected, perhaps even with those names, and I’ll keep the file on Lottie and her toy open as well.

Now, let’s resolve some of the story elements of Pig Girl. Some of this stuff is great big mystery territory, and some of it is, “should have just gone ahead and established this one day one,” material.

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The Pig Girl: Section 2, Part 5

25 May

Something had gotten into the batch of powder. Dieter’s stomach felt like some rodent was eating him from the inside, and moving around just made it worse. So he sat in the gutter and waited. His condenser rested in his lap, and his gun was cradled in his arms, and he sat and he waited for something to happen.

Waning sunlight. Gunshots, far away, farther than Dieter needed to think about. Then, urgent: footsteps coming around the corner. Dieter raised the gun up, and sucked his teeth at the pain, and watched through half-lidded eyes as a man turned the corner and approached him.

“Hey there,” said the man. “Name’s Wallace. Lower the damn gun right now.”

Dieter blinked. New man was pointing a pistol at him. He didn’t need this right now. Slowly, he lowered the barrel of his rifle.

“Thanks. Where’s a door to get into this building?”

Dieter frowned, and he jerked his head backwards towards the alleyway with the side door.

“Thanks. Hey, ever get tired of sitting in a gutter living off eight-year-old processed birdshit and drinking recycled water? Ever want to actually get off your ass and accomplish something, and help your fellow man, and rebuild some shaky semblance of modern society? Huh? Do you?”

Dieter let his eyes droop away.

“I guess not! I guess nobody on this block wants to shake the status quo. Living like urban hermits and getting shot at by assholes with machine guns, that’s the life. That’s the dream.”

Wallace walked past Dieter, who didn’t follow him with his eyes or try to stop him.

“Keep living that dream, friend. Keep living that dream.”

A second later, two men in jumpsuits followed after Wallace, talking interestedly amongst themselves. One made eye contact with Dieter and motioned as if tipping a hat. The other just looked at him and waggled his eyebrows. Then they, too, were gone, and Dieter’s life went more or less back to normal.

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The Pig Girl: How This Will Work

17 May

There was some confusion a while back when I posted on Twitter that there’d be six remaining Pig Girl entries, posted on the site that there’d be ten, and whispered to the hidden microphone in my sock that there would be a rain of frogs that would block out the sun and herald the arrival of the Great Woodshaper. Naturally, these items are all mutually exclusive. Let me go ahead and clarify the game plan from here on out.

I’m going to work to produce about six to ten extra-length entries in the serial. I will try to post these on the agreed upon weekly basis, but as these will be a little lengthier, this may be difficult. The final entry will conclude the series entirely. There will be no follow-up series, and it will probably not be aggregated in a manner similar to Vatsy and Bruno.

After that, I’m not sure if I’ll jump into another fiction serial right away. Not because it hasn’t been a useful exercise, and not because I don’t want to host/write another one, but because recently my most valuable practice has been in stuff I can sit on and edit for a while, not a long-running series I write as I go along. So, there’ll probably be another serial, but it’ll be the kind that’s written first and broken up into chunks second.

I’m working on an entry that will be done within this week. The next entry will most likely be done by the Wednesday morning of that week. I’m drawing close to the end of this thing, and I want to take the time and make sure I’m getting it done right.

 

 
 

The Pig Girl: Section 2, Part 4

11 May

Today, the whiskey from Leader’s skull-cup did not satisfy. He had a job to do, and this hung on his thoughts like a sandbag, tugging each earthwards as they floated past. Perhaps it was wrong to call it a job; he couldn’t abide jobs. It was a duty, the personal kind of duty that was the only kind he recognized.

Pipe Wrench and Bare Hands had spread a map out against the rust of a long-abandoned car. Leader approached it, and regarded it, in complete silence.

“Okay,” said Pipe Wrench. “We did see a man wandering off along 63, what was that, a week ago?”

“Yeah,” said Bare Hands. “But he was off the overpass. Wasn’t worth a detour. Wasn’t worth a bullet.”

“At the time, yeah, that’s what we thought. But if he was there then, that means he could have been the guy that talked to those two morons we killed, which means, well, it could mean that–”

“Larking,” said Leader.

“Yeah. It could mean the man we saw wandering around was one of them.”

Leader tapped one of his fingers on the map.

“That’s where we saw him, yeah,” said Pipe Wrench.

Gradually, Leader began to drag the finger along the map’s surface. The only sound was the quiet rasp of paper being pressed against dust.

“So we can hunt him down,” said Pipe Wrench after a second. “Shouldn’t be hard. He’s on foot, we can maybe flag down one of our guys with a car and have him drive around, get him to grab the Larking and bring him back. Then once we’ve got him, we use him to figure out where the others are. Shouldn’t be too–”

“What’s this X?” asked Leader.

His finger was on a little “X” scrawled on the map in graphite.

“One of the signals,” said Bare Hands. “S4. The one that’s just numbers.”

It was a few moments before Leader’s frown spread to Bare Hands and Pipe Wrench, but when it did, it swallowed both of them immediately.

“We need to get there first,” said Pipe Wrench.

“I’ll radio Fender,” said Bare Hands. “He won’t be too far away from here. He can pick a few of us up and we’ll be there in no time.”

Leader turned and left. The conversation was over. His duty, for now, was to prepare his weapons. Whether or not he was to succeed, he knew, he would have to kill someone very soon.

 
 

The Pig Girl: Section 2, Part 3

02 May

Don’t miss the new JaR below. Also: we’re about ten entries from the end.

The vehicle rumbled to a stop—slower than usual, so that Wallace could easily distinguish the shifting of deceleration from the kick of braking. In this vehicle, with these pilots, it was what passed for gentle handling. The growl of the engine vanished.

Reginald pulled a lever, and the top hatch made a distinct clunk and popped open a crack.

“End of the line, then,” he said pleasantly.

“Wait,” said Wallace. “Wait, hold on. Isn’t someone going to shoot me if I go out there?”

“What gave you that idea?”

“Someone just shot at us!”

“Oh. That’s right. So, yes, probably. Probably someone is going to shoot you.”

“Unless,” said Victor, “It was just that person.”

“And he has very recently moved.”

“Otherwise, being shot is almost a certainty. Enjoy your stay.”

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The Pig Girl: Section 2, Part 2

13 Apr

Wallace was deliberating whether he should bother asking any more questions when there was a faint, but audible, pang from the roof. It sounded like someone throwing a chunk of concrete at a garage door.

“Welcome to Greene Boulevard,” said Reginald and Victor almost simultaneously.

This spun around in Wallace’s head for a moment–and then it hit him.

“Indeed,” said Reginald. “Homemade. Nothing to be worried about.”

“They might not have meant harm by it,” added Victor. “Might have just been a warning shot.”

“True. Or maybe they were trying to murder all of us with a gun made of garbage.”

“Which, I should stress, would not be out of character.”

Wallace was already up and leaning between their seats, squinting up at the monitors to catch a glimpse of the sniper responsible. He still didn’t have a handle on which grainy monitor corresponded to which direction—he had no proof, but swore it changed sometimes—and sometimes, when they were tearing down the street at full throttle, it was hard for him to tell one thing from the other anyway, impossible for him to spot one man lurking in one of the shadowy windows or disused alleys or uneven rooftops. He really had no chance of spotting the shooter. No sign of him—or anyone else.

“Where’s the settlement?” Wallace asked.

Victor shrugged and eased back the accelerator a little. “Such as it is, it’s up ahead.”

Wallace found the monitor corresponding to the front camera. It displayed rapid movement down an empty street, past empty buildings, towards a horizon that promised the same unto eternity.

“I don’t see it.”

“That’s fair,” said Reginald.

Wallace clenched his hands on Reginald and Victor’s chairs and took a long, slow breath through his nostrils.

“Okay. This is important. This is too important for me to go around in circles for an hour while you two jerk me around on grammar and semantics. So I’m going to ask again, as unambiguously as possible, and I would very much appreciate an unambiguous answer: where is the Greene Boulevard settlement, if it does exist, and you have not been jerking me around to a greater extent than I had believed possible?”

“Inside the buildings,” said Victor.

“Inside the buildings on this street,” corrected Reginald. “Missed a spot of ambiguity there, old sport.”

Wallace looked up at a monitor. There were buildings—old, crumbling tenement buildings, much like the thousands of gassed-out shells he’d seen hundreds of over the course of nearly a decade. “What? Are you sure? There’s no signs…”

“Of course not,” said Victor. “They’d be gone within the week.”

“The people, not the signs,” added Reginald. “Although, in all probability, those too.”

They swept under a rusted out, over-street catwalk. The monitors dimmed in the shadows, and the light level of in the interior lowered perceptibly.

Wallace said, quietly, “I thought this was place was supposed to be different.”

“Different in the sense that it’s a badly-kept secret rather than just a secret, yes. The location’s better known than most. That’s all.”

Victor tugged at the handbrake. The vehicle began to slow further–more gently than Wallace would have expected—and Victor turned the wheel, slowly, and coasted it into a careful right turn. Up ahead, in the distance, Wallace dimly recognized a dead end.

“That’s how they have to operate down here,” said Reginald. “A month in which you see no-one new is a good month. You can’t count on guests having good manners.”

“More often lead pipes and nails.”

“Explosives.”

“Unspeakable appetites.”

In the monitors, more and more city drifted by—all of it the same. Wallace found himself unable to concentrate on it any longer. Slowly, he felt his way back into his seat.

He had no right to feel sick, and less right to be surprised. The idea of being shocked at paranoia and violence at this point was almost, in a perverse way, funny. What had he been expecting?

It had sounded so promising. An actual settlement. Civilization—open, organized, some earnest attempt at the peace and order of the old days. Crude, maybe. Rough. Violent. Anything, as long as it was…

But never mind. He was here. So was the box. He really had no choice but to do his job.

 
 

The Pig Girl: Section 2, Part 1

21 Mar

Wallace woke up ugly, in fits and starts, one foot in consciousness and the other in nightmare. He’d been dreaming about the city the way it was, about night air and dull news stations and overpriced breakfasts, and then that dream ended, and another began—he dreamt that he was in the bed in his old apartment, waking up to find that the riots were happening again. Mobs of people—no, not people, but screaming, red-eyed gargoyles—broke down the door, dragged him from his bed, and were stretching him out to split his bones with hammers and hacksaws while sirens spun their wheels uselessly in the distance. And he couldn’t understand what they were saying, even though they screamed so loud his ears stung, but he could only think to respond to them with, “I didn’t want any of this, nobody wanted this, nobody is proud of what they did, nobody, nobody…”

“Looks as if he’s having a seizure back there,” said Victor in a perfectly audible and conversational tone. That was something to anchor him, to place him in the vehicle—not his bed, not his apartment. Some of the dream dissolved away.

“I rather hope he isn’t,” said Reginald. “You know, I don’t think I remember any of that medical program.”

“Neither do I. More’s the pity, really. It’s a wonder neither of us have been shot yet at this rate.”

“Or had a bone broken.”

“Or gotten sick. Especially given the red wind exposure.”

“Or…”

“Hey,” said Wallace. His voice was a little more of a croak than he expected; too much powder, not enough water. That also explained the nightmares, come to think of it. “What time is it? We getting close?”

“Teatime,” said Victor, “And we’re an hour away.”

A dull headache throbbed behind Wallace’s eyes.

“When’s teatime?” he asked.

“In my experience, whenever you’d really like some tea. Academic, since as we don’t currently have any. Sorry if I got your hopes up.”

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The Pig Girl: A Summary

23 Jan

I’ve been taking my sweet time establishing the setting and characters of this story–probably more than I should have, but never mind. Point is, its pace is about to start picking up some. I’ve spent too long screwing around with scenes that don’t precisely go anywhere; time to kick into gear some, start pushing things forward. Getting to the actual story parts.

In the interests of that, let’s do a quick recap on a.) what’s happened, and b.) what we’ve learned.

The story starts with a man named Wallace traveling through the ruins of a city. He is armed, but does not appear confident in his abilities. As he travels, he encounters a pair of nearly identical wanderers, Reginald and Victor, who have strange attitudes and an even stranger mode of transportation–a massive heavily-armored battlewagon resembling the kind used by riot police in years previous. They themselves are dressed in defunct, torn riot cop uniforms with the nametags missing.

Reginald and Victor offer to give Wallace a ride to his destination, a crappy burg called Greene Boulevard. He doesn’t seem to know much about it, although they do. They claim it’s full of unpleasant and cagey individuals who don’t take kindly to outsiders.

At one point, they stop to play a game that involves using a device that can read communication logs on several wrecked cars. This reveals to the reader, but not the characters, that the source of the city’s decay is at least partially a set of riots that occurred about a decade ago.

The three continue driving, and in the process, someone attacks their vehicle with a homemade cannon. That someone appears to be a member of a group of marauders referenced earlier, a group whose members have strange naming conventions, calling each other things like “Pillow,” “Pipe Wrench,” and “Bare Hands.” They’re led by an eccentric, but charismatic, individual just called Leader. Leader is apparently trying to track down several radio signals, one of which is nothing but numbers and is possibly coming from Greene Boulevard.

Two of Leader’s agents break down the door of a small safehouse and interrogate them about a man who passed through. Apparently, the traveler was a member of something called the Larkin Five, left a blue piece of paper, and is an enemy of Leader’s, wittingly or not.

Finally, as all of this occurs, a small girl named Lottie travels, alone, to a place of wind and ashes called the Red Zone…

 
 

The Pig Girl, Part 15

13 Jan

Disc hasn’t come in yet. Also: X-COM streaming begins today. Be there, or–failing that–just watch it later on Blip.tv. Squareness is not an option I’m even going to address.

“I didn’t know him,” Richard gasped. “He didn’t live here. He was just passing through.”

“Obviously. Who was he?”

Richard broke down. Whether it was the pain, or the shock, Richard stalled right there and couldn’t say another word. The smaller man just stood by, waiting patiently; the larger was industrious, pacing around the room and opening cabinets before dropping down to root through the backpack still strapped to Douglas’…

“Oh god,” Richard murmured. “You killed him.”

“Yes,” said the smaller man.

“You sons of bitches.” Richard’s face screwed up, slick with hot tears. “You sons of bitches.”

“Who was the man who passed through here?”

“I’m not telling you anything.”

“How come?”

“You assholes murdered Douglas!”

“I don’t get it,” said the smaller man. He was still facing Richard, but the question didn’t seem directed at him; the other man didn’t seem to have heard it, and was still busy rifling through the backpack besides.
He unzipped the outer pouch, reached in…

…and withdrew a crumpled, faded, folded-up piece of blue paper.

Richard watched him unfold it and read over the first few lines, then read it again. Then, without a word, the larger man passed it on to the smaller, who read it quickly and glanced back at Richard.

“It was him that left this for you?”

“I said I’m not telling you anything!”

“He must have left it,” said the larger man. “Explains what a traveler was doing up here, anyway.”

The smaller man grimaced. “This is a problem.”

“You gonna be the one to tell Leader?”

“Sure. I mean, he’s not going to like it, but it’s not as if he’s prone to shooting the messenger.”

“Right. Speaking of which…”

“Huh?” The smaller man glanced at Richard. “Oh. Yeah, go ahead, I guess.”

Richard didn’t have time to breathe in before a bullet smacked through his forehead.

“I hate it when they go quiet like that,” said the smaller man, returning to the paper. “I just don’t see the sense in it.”

“Did we have a good description of what the traveler looks like?”

“Male, wore a hat, carried a bag—and that’s it. We lost track of him around the bridge, so no news on where he’s gone.”

“We’ll find him eventually. One thing’s for sure: if there’s even a possibility one of the Larking Five is wandering around the city, Leader’s going to want to make them as dead as they can get.”

 
 

The Pig Girl, Part 14.5

04 Jan

It was morning, and the sky on the fringes of the Red Zone was a strange hash of clouds and violent colors. The Cracks couldn’t be seen from this vantage point, but they could be felt all the same—wind, hot and aromatic, washed over Lottie’s face and blew black little leaves and clouds of dust down the asphalt. Lottie breathed the winds in deep, because there was nobody to tell her not to anymore.

Of course there was nothing wrong with it. It was just air. What was wrong with air? Everyone else was just being silly.

There was a faint tic of movement in the alley up ahead. Lottie wasn’t worried. There were lots of little animals in the Red Zone, lots of things moving away from the predators outside into the city’s relative security—and away from any reliable food source, except for people and what they left behind. But the little ones weren’t a problem. They spent most of their time wandering the city, scared and alone, at which point they became a reliable food source themselves.

Lottie was starting to find the edges of the thing in the shadows, little giveaways that betrayed nearly perfect stealth. The thing blended into the walls and pavement, and it had frozen completely.

“Don’t be scared,” Lottie said.

The critter in the alley stirred, and its form was suddenly and abruptly apparent. It was pressed up against the wall, and its fur, matted and swabbed with city filth, was ideal camouflage. Crouched in the shadows, the thing was was very difficult to make out.

Lottie took a step forward, and the thing flinched, but held its ground. It really was a remarkable looking animal. It had long, swept-back ears—two sets, one near the front of the head, pointing forwards, and a smaller pair curled up on the neck.

“Look, Mr. Beany. It’s a bunny.”

She drew another step forward, and it drew back cautiously without bolting. She hadn’t moved for her slingshot; she was a little bit hungry, but much more than that, she was curious. She’d never seen one of these before. Then again, she’d never been this close to the Red Zone before.

She took a final, slow step forward, and before she’d finished shifting her weight, the thing became a blur and vanished in a small flurry of dust.

“I think it’s afraid of me, Mr. Beany.” She sniffed, then gave a little half-toothless smile at nothing.

“I guess maybe everyone is.”