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Treading on Broken Glass (Worm CYOA/AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by AnotherMoniker, Jul 5, 2015.

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  1. Threadmarks: 0.0 Prologue
    AnotherMoniker

    AnotherMoniker Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Treading on Broken Glass (Worm CYOA/AU)

    Decided it was about time that I actually wrote something for the Worm-verse given the obscene amount of time I’ve spent reading it.

    Needing a little bit of inspiration to get started, I looked up the Worm Choose Your Own Adventure guidelines and was shocked at how un-Worm-like they seemed. But in the spirit of the setting, I figured the most fitting thing to do would be to take what appeared to be a good thing (triumvirate baseline powers) and make it into something sinister and dangerous to all involved (mental anguish, unintended side-effects, doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, etc.). While I’m still developing the idea, I hope this prologue is a solid start. All feedback welcome.

    Bare with me if things start a bit rough, it’s been almost two years since I wrote anything that wasn’t code or some type of technical writing.

    I’ll include the notes I made regarding the Worm CYOA prompt at the end, but in the meantime, to the writing!

    Notes:
    flashbacks
    significant
    ‘thoughts’
    “speech”

    ----------

    Treading on Broken Glass: 0.0 Prologue

    Forever after, my first conscious thoughts would be encapsulated within the image of a single moment, that of glass shattering into uncountable pieces.

    In the recesses of my mind, I knew that there were many points at which my path could have diverged from its current course, but it would always be that first image that I would return to as the liminal point at which the course of events was irreversibly changed. Perhaps, had things played out differently at that time, I could have made things better, perhaps things would have ended up worse.

    Ultimately though, it all traces back to that moment, when I realized, even then, that it would all be over before things even had the chance to begin. And the irony of it all? The fact that I will never truly know what it was that I forget, what was lost, and what was saved. All of that was lost in those first, dark months.

    From what I do remember, I was born in the winter of 1986 somewhere between Cincinnati and Columbus Ohio, though the specifics no longer truly concern me.

    I do remember that shortly before I was born, the hero Alexandria first became known to the public. People were a lot more optimistic then, they labeled it as a “good year.”

    My parents’ generation was raised on comic books and cartoon heroes, things which would prove a remarkably poor template for what superpowers would look like in the real world.

    My childhood, as I recall it, was unremarkable: quiet, studious, and without significant incident. Like everyone else, I remember the early years of the heroes and the villains, when we first thought that things were truly changing for the better. After all, with a being like Scion hovering in the sky, encouraging countries to make rapid turns towards nuclear disarmament, the fears of the Cold War were rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

    Besides, why waste time fearing threats from thousands of miles away when your neighbor might secretly have the power to build the same weapons with whatever they might buy at the local grocery store?

    A bit exaggerated perhaps, but that was how things seemed then. Superman suddenly became an everyday reality. Our imaginations were immediately given a degree of validation.

    By the time I was a teenager, much of the glamor of the early years had already worn off. The appearance of Behemoth in Iran in 1992 quickly brought about the realization that the world really had changed and quite possibly not for the better.
    The idea that some individuals were “gifted” with incredible powers was much more palatable than the new reality of an invincible monster living under the earth that could strike anywhere at anytime.

    The successive appearances of Leviathan in ‘96 and the Simurgh in ‘02 only reinforced these new fears. And while the formation of the PRT, the Protectorate, and other such organizations would attempt to bolster hope in the security of the future, the ever-increasing number of villains, powered-gangs, and even straight up monsters like Sleeper or the Slaughterhouse Nine rapidly made it apparent that the changes for the darker were not only very real but here to stay.

    Overall, my teenage years seemed quite tumultuous, but adolescence is always that way, nothing particularly special there.

    When I enrolled in college, the world seemed to have settled into a new normal. We knew that our heroes could die. Hero proved that. We knew that that the monsters were here to stay. Ellisburg taught us that.

    But mostly, we believed these problems were far away, contained, always someone else’s problems. The world was always falling apart, even before the Endbringers, it just fell apart much more dramatically now. Humans are nothing if not quick to adapt.

    After all, the scope of the headlines didn’t change, just the subject matter. Instead of the threat of nuclear war, it was nuclear-capable Godzilla and his equally terrifying siblings.

    I get caught occasionally, reminiscing about the past, however recent. Things were always changing then, reality flaking around the edges, looking rather the worse for wear but still intrinsically whole. While the changes reverberated around the world, we accepted each in time. It was normal, business as usual.

    However, I can remember the moment when it seemed reality shattered. Even now, I can see it in my head.

    It looks like this.

    ----------

    They announced themselves in spectacular fashion, a low hum, almost undetectable except for a sense of tremendous anticipation, growing louder, higher, and higher still.

    It left a crawling sensation on the skin and seemed to pierce the brain, bypassing the ears entirely. It could not be heard, only felt, like the vibrations of a train coming down the tracks, but everywhere, simultaneously.

    The “sound” grew high enough in pitch that it was no longer audible, but rather, tangible in the vibrations in the air. And then, mere moments after the sensation first began, it seemed to stop.

    For an instant, there was silence. The light of the afternoon sun caught dust particles spinning in the air.

    Around me, the other students quieted, collectively gazing out through the wide-paneled glass that bordered the lecture hall, seeking the cause of the disturbance.

    Mid-sentence, the professor stopped, looking as if to reprimand the students for their overt lack of attention, before stepping to the door of the lecture hall and looking outside.

    Students glanced at phones and laptops, looking for some indication that nothing had changed, that the world was still the way it had been moments ago. Nowhere was there any signs of panic, only slight unease or curiosity.

    That silence lasted only a moment, but it will be forever crystallized in my memory. Liminal. A last breath of air before diving underwater.

    And then the world broke, or at least it seemed to. A sound like something massively heavy being dropped came from far away outside, but grew immediately closer, accompanied by
    the sound of splintering glass and screams of panic.


    In a single pulse, the large glass panes of the windows that bordered the lecture hall shattered into millions of tiny, deadly shards. Like a wave, a single note of what sounded like singing passed over the us, carrying the tide of broken glass with it.

    Unthinkingly, I threw myself to the ground, seeing others attempting to the same around me.

    And then it was upon us. In my ears, I could hear the rush of blood, my heartbeat reaching a fever pitch. My awareness seemed to fade for a time.

    It could have been minutes, maybe even hours. Logically, I new only seconds had passed, my ears still rang from the noise, but time seemed to have a taken on a surreal nature.

    Despite the open nature of the lecture hall it seemed rather dark and I quickly realized I must have fallen at some point, my face buried in my arms underneath the desk I had just been seated at.

    Lowering my arms, I was treated to the sight of dozens of jagged shards piercing the side of the desk, each protruding almost an inch through the thick wood frame.

    The precision of each shard of glass tugged at something in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t process it now, still hazy with shock.

    Gasping slightly as I realized how closely I had just come to being fatally impaled, I made to stand up, only to stagger as I brought my foot down on a shard of glass that had wedged itself into the sole of my shoe.
    I tried to lean back against the desk so that I could clear the glass away, only to feel something else cut into my side. Gingerly holding myself in a half-kneeling, half-standing position, I took great care not to touch anything, as a careful inspection showed that razor-sharp glass had permeated nearly every inch of the surfaces around me.


    I briefly considered kicking off my shoes, but immediately dismissed that as an awful idea as I looked at the floor around me. I would be lucky to get five feet if I did that.

    Losing patience and still largely numb to the pain I knew would be hitting me sooner rather than later, I brought the bottom of my shoe down hard against the chair in front of me, gasping at the jolt of pain the coursed up my leg as a shard of glass the size of my finger was ripped out of my foot.

    Trying not to think about how much blood I must be losing from the cuts I was rapidly accumulating, I delicately stood and got a good look at the hall for the first time.

    Sunlight spilled into the hall, illuminating a sight that would could be called beautiful if not for the horror it implied. Every surface of the room seemed to sparkle with an innate light, a fine layer of glass refracting the light in every direction with jagged shards lining the walls, floors, and desks creating a deceptively deadly image.

    It reminded me of breaking dishes by accident as a child. I would quickly rush to clean up the mess only to cut myself on the innocent-looking bits of glass.

    This was not nearly so innocent in appearance.

    Here and there, a figure stirred between the aisles or slumped over a desk, but more often than not, they were still.

    The air was filled with quiet sounds of pain, the gurgle of someone trying to breath through a cut throat, someone crying quietly off to in the corner. Other sounds that I could not identify.

    The fugue state I had been in for the past minutes disappeared instantly. Vaguely I recognized it as shock. In a panic I stumbled forward, acquiring more cuts to my feet and
    hands as I steadied myself. I needed to do something, anything to help.


    I almost didn’t see the body in my haste, but managed to catch myself before I fell again.

    While I recognized the person, I didn’t know her name. She’d been in the same class as me for the past two semesters and for a moment I felt an irrational burst of shame. Here I was surrounded by the injured and the dead, people I’d seen almost daily but had no idea who they were, what they were like. And now I never would.

    A quiet sucking noise brought my attention back to the person before me, and I realized that she was still alive. Where the glass sprouted from her chest it seemed as if one of her lungs had been punctured, the source of the sucking noise I’d heard.

    I vaguely recalled the term for this, “pneumothorax”, but couldn’t remember exactly what was supposed to be done. Cover the hole maybe?

    The idea that I might to help, to do anything, sent me into a frenzy. I tore at my shirt, managing to rip off a patch to cover the wound and knelt next to her, attempting to cover the wound.

    I quickly realized that wouldn’t do any good. For this kind of injury she would need something that wouldn’t breath, like plastic, which I didn’t have. Dammit, dammit, dammit.

    I looked around frantically, realizing that time was growing shorter. Where was I supposed to find plastic wrap, let alone actual medical supplies, in a college lecture hall?

    All the while, the sounds of difficult breathing next to me grew softer.

    Help, I needed to get help! Staggering back to my feet, looked towards the door and, what I imagined to be, the promise of help.

    Nimbly stepping around the labyrinth of shatter glass, still acquiring numerous small injuries on the way, I made it down the steps and to the door of the lecture hall. And was stunned.

    In the far distance, I could hear the beginnings of sirens, but the promise of relief seemed impossibly distant.

    I had first thought that perhaps a bomb had gone off, some small act of terrorism on a college campus and I was just unfortunate enough to have been caught at the center, but as I look around I couldn’t see an end to the destruction.

    Students caught between classes lay scattered about the ground, phones had exploded in hands, laptops carried in backpacks creating localized IEDs. Cars had crashed or driven off the road, all of the glass driven inwards to the misfortune of their unlucky passengers. Here and there, people moved, among the fortunate few who had escaped with their lives, but they stood shocked, unable to truly comprehend the magnitude of what had just happened.

    I had read of this, or something like it. Glass everywhere. Shatterbird. I knew of the Slaughterhouse Nine, had seen the footage from towns and cities struck by their attacks, but the vividness of it suddenly becoming my reality resonated with something in me. I had read this before.

    ‘This is exactly like what they did to Brockton Bay.’ I thought.

    Then I caught myself. The Slaughterhouse Nine had never attacked Brockton Bay to my knowledge. Besides I seemed to remember it as if I was there myself. Still I felt with certainty that they had attacked Bockton Bay.

    In fact, that wasn’t long before...oh...oh my...

    The memories came in an overwhelming cascade and for the second time in an hour I felt myself fade from consciousness as I processed the memories of another life and of a story that I had read in that life, a story called Worm.

    I remembered that it had been enthralling, a tale of superheroes, villains, and monsters. A story of the end of the world, and the valiant efforts to forestall that end, efforts that both failed and succeeded at incalculable, horrific cost.

    It was a wonderful but terrifying story. It was a world that I now lived in.

    A story that I only remembered as I stood bleeding out and unable to help those around me.

    And with that realization, conscious thought left me, carried away into the image of something greater.

    My perspective shifted, as if I was viewing myself from several feet away. Before I had the chance to become accustomed to the view, the ground fell away and I was above myself, falling higher and higher until “I” was nothing but a blip upon a horizon of darkness. Above me, I could see something. It was massive, a crystalline structure that shifted and turned in upon itself, connect by a single thread down to Earth, down to where I knew I was. As I took it in, I saw that I was looking at only a small piece of it. A Shard. And I remembered.

    Suddenly, I was back in myself, surrounded once more by the bedlam and chaos.

    It took a moment before the realization hit me, I had triggered, I could do something, I could help!

    Charging back into the lecture hall, unheeding of the glass that stepped on, I threw myself to the ground next to the girl whose name I still didn’t know. The bit of cloth from my shirt had bled through entirely and I could no longer hear any sounds of breathing.

    I reached out with my newfound power.

    Her heart had stopped, but not long ago. Somehow, I directed it to begin beating again, only to realize that her body didn’t have enough blood to circulate. Still directing a power that I did not understand, I managed to convert some of her excess body fat to blood.

    With an intensity driven by the belief that I could now do something, I continued to operate, pulling the glass from her lungs with my hands and sealing the wounds again with my power.

    I do not know how long I worked, but at the end, nothing worked. Before me lay what appeared to be healthy person, heart beating, flesh intact, but essentially dead. Instinctively I knew that as soon as I let my focus wander, her heart would cease beating once more.

    I started laughing uncontrollably. A kind of hysteria gripped me and I found myself unable to stop. Here I had all of this power, hell, all of this knowledge, and it didn’t do any good.

    Once upon a time, in my previous life, I had considered what I would do if I were in Worm. ‘Help people.’ I remembered thinking. ‘Prevent the worst of what happened.’In short, I had wanted to stop things like this, and yet here I was, with all the potential to make a difference, incapable of saving a single person.

    As my focus slipped, my power reached out, reshaping the form of girl before me. Anomalous growths formed that quickly took the shape of new limbs, twisted and alien in appearance.

    Realizing what was happening and understandably horrified, I attempted to reign my power in, but a wall seemed to have formed and I was cut off from the part of my mind that controlled the power. Unable to do anything, I watch as my power spiraled out of control. The wood in the desks around me took on a semblance of life, growing into strange, ominous shapes.
    I ran. Partially in the hope that hopes that if I got far enough my power would stop whatever it was doing, but mostly out of fear.


    As I made it to the door of the hall, I looked back.

    The desks had stopped growing and now hung still like some surrealist’s painting of a forest. The rest of the lecture hall had long fallen silent, but from within that strange forest of mutated desks, something stirred.

    What lumbered out from within that mess could only vaguely have been described as having a human shape. It stood at well over six feet tall, with five sinuous arms of varying lengths, the longest just brushing against the floor as it moved. It could honestly be called Lovecraftian in nature, perfectly fitting the description of some eldritch horror from beyond time and space.

    Unable to comprehend that my power had created this, this thing, I stood unmoving as it shambled up to me before stopping.

    With knowledge undoubtedly provided by my power, I realized it recognized me as its “creator”, and while it possessed some autonomy, it was mine to command.

    I had saved the unnamed girl, sort of. The irony was disturbing.

    I knew that powers related to the nature of individual trigger events, but this made no sense. Somehow my power had been twisted, my desire to save and my desire to change the course of events somehow melding into some broken version of Panacea’s ability. There were no words for this.

    I fell to my knees in the doorway of the lecture hall, where minutes ago I had been just another student.

    Beside me, my “creation” merely stood, gibbering nonsensically.

    Gazing out into the chaos that had now become my reality, I was filled with a brief moment of hope. Someone was coming. Maybe they could help, do what I could not.

    The feeling of relief would be short-lived.

    Despite my rapidly tunneling vision, I had a moment of clarity as I stared, horrified, at the figure approaching me.

    Until this moment, I couldn’t truly say what he looked like. Sure, I remembered the wanted posters that appeared after the news broke that King had been killed and that his former subordinate now ran the Slaughterhouse Nine, but the grainy image circulated by the PRT did the man before me little justice.

    What I did remember, was what I had read, back in what I now knew was my previous life. And there was only one person I had ever read of that had the kind of presence as that of the man now standing above me, idly twirling a knife in one hand while the other was in his pocket.

    Heeding some unconscious command, my “creation” lumbered forward, flailing its limbs and growling menacingly, but before it had taken three steps it stopped cold before falling over.

    As it fell the bottom and top halves of its body came apart, bisected by an impossibly straight cut.

    “Well...shit.” I fumbled for something more to say, something to stall for time at least, but I came up empty. “You’re Jack Slash.”

    “Oh?” Jack said, a slow grin that could hardly be mistaken as friendly spreading across his face. “I suppose I am.”

    I tried to grasp my power, to direct it to create something to fight for me, or maybe to harm Jack directly, but it was too new and I was growing too weak.

    Jack turned, addressing the young girl that had been walking close behind him. “Well, Bonesaw, I believe we’ve found our first potential recruit. He’s my pick.”

    And then, for a time, I knew no more.
    ----------

    Postscript:

    Concerning this story

    So, even though this was the first scene that it occurred to me to write, it didn’t occur to me just how difficult of a scene this might be to start with. I’ve gone through and re-written it a couple of times now and made several passes to catch minor mistakes, but I would not be the least bit surprised if it reads pretty roughly. I’m still trying to capture the voice I’m aiming for.

    While I can dream that this story will grow and flourish with time, I make no promises whatsoever. My course load is pretty intensive for the foreseeable future and sadly things like exams are priority. What I am hoping is that this will at least serve as a foot in the door for writing in the Worm-verse as well as an exercise to get back into writing in general. Any and all feedback is of course welcome.

    Concerning the Worm CYOA prompt

    I went ahead and followed the suggestions for point adjustment made by Paradoxius on the /r/Parahumans subreddit.

    Here were the choices that I made. I thought about writing out the actual thought process, but well, I figured better to “show by doing” or in this case “by writing”

    Nature of Entry: Reincarnation
    Difficulty: Skitter Mode (as is only proper)
    Complications: Slaughterhouse is Hiring (+2 points), Marked (PRT/Protectorate (+1 points), Wildbow,? Whats a Wildbow? (+2 points), Drawback (+1 point), and Everything Gets Worse (+2 points) (total: +8 points)
    Perks: Blank (-2 points) (Total: +6 points)
    Powers: Shaper (-2 points) (Total: +4 points)
    Companions: The Steel Demons + The Bodyguards (-4 points) (Total: 0 points)(I’ll be using these more as inspiration rather than as they are strictly described)

    All of the above choices will be implemented through the first arc, but not immediately at the outset of the story.

    Edit: Went through and added text formatting that I'll be using. Wanted to keep things consistent.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
  2. TheLordSiffer

    TheLordSiffer Getting out there.

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    Lookin' good. There's not much to say so far, considering it's just the prologue, but your writing seems pretty solid and the progression and scene choice has me pretty hyped to see what happens next.

    It's not very often that I see a fic that shows how scary the Slaughterhouse 9 actually are, when they're not being systematically erased by Skitter and her Merry Troupe™. With that in mind, hoping to see some more, especially since the last fic I saw do the S9 justice kinda imploded.
     
  3. AnotherMoniker

    AnotherMoniker Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Thanks for the feedback!

    I'll admit that I found the Slaughterhouse 9 to be one of the most poignant parts of Worm, which is part of why I wanted to write something that heavily involved them. Where the Endbringers and such were more threatening and ominous, the S9 were "normal" people that either through their powers or Jack Slash's influence became very, very scary, consequently driving home the darker parts of the setting.
     
  4. blackshadow111

    blackshadow111 Happy Helpful Grenade

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    You took 'Everything gets worse'.

    You took it, without Invcitus.

    Welp.
     
  5. jrbless

    jrbless You needed worthy opponents.

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    Starting by getting captured off the bat by the S9 with the "Slaughterhouse is hiring" certainly makes it "things get worse".

    The "Wildbow? What's a Wildbow?" isn't quite adding up because of this section:
    Picking "Wildbow? What's a Wildbow?" for 2 points effectively makes you an OC with no future knowledge. The world of Worm is known to be real because it is the only world that you know.

    Other than the Wildbow option, things are looking interesting. I hope you can keep it going.
     
  6. AnotherMoniker

    AnotherMoniker Getting some practice in, huh?

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    The next post will explain most of that. To put it briefly, "Wildbow? What's a WIldbow?" will kick in near immediately in the sense that almost all specific information about the Worm-verse is going to be forgotten in the course of being recruited by the Slaughterhouse Nine. Some of the "forgetting" will be defensive from the trauma, but I imagine that part of it will be a result of realizing that a Jack Slash with full knowledge of the Worm-verse would be about the worst thing that could happen.

    When the dust settles, all my protagonist is going to remember is that he forgot a lot of very, very important things. Anyways, I digress.

    In my mind, the paradigm of the Worm-verse is based on the fact that any kind of power comes at the sacrifice of some degree of wellness, typically mental. If I wanted to write a S9-centric fic, having a main character who no-sells any kind of psychological manipulation seems counter-productive.

    I've written a good portion of the next/first real chapter (2k words or so) but am still trying to work out the kinks in how I want things to play out. Hopefully I'll have that up some time tonight or early tomorrow morning.
     
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