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Archive for the ‘Young Adult fiction’ Category

Clockwork Girl Chapter III Part 2

Posted by Charles Gray on May 17, 2018

Dazzled, Terri had to blink her eyes a few times before she could see what had happened. The robot closest to her had been flung back, a hole blown clear through its body.  The second robot was backing off, the useless gun pointing at someone behind Terri. There was another flash and blast of thunder, and that robot was flung back, literally blown in half.

“That was close,” a familiar voice said.

Terri blinked as she twisted around to see who her savior had been. The figure was about the same size as Terri, a hood obscuring its features, holding a short, bulky gun with some sort of drum underneath it.

“Mike?” she finally said in a squeak.

“Well, I’m a Mike,” he said, pulling back the hood to reveal a familiar face.

It is! It is Mike! Terri thought as she scrambled to her feet. The blue eyes, the curly brown hair, it was Mike. Sure, he wasn’t wearing the clothes he wore when they used to go to the mall before they’d moved to the new neighborhood, but it was Mike.

“Mike!” she squealed. “You’re here! Someone survived!  What happened! What happened to your dad, what happened to Mom!” her voice started scaling up. “I woke up and everyone was gone!  Everything was wrecked and I can’t find Mom and the mall vanished and what’s happening!”

Suddenly, Terri was screaming, tears rolling down her face.

Mike lifted his weapon and backed off away from her, other hand raised placating. “Terri, Terri!” he said. “I’ll tell you what happened…”  He licked his lips once, looking around. “But you have to come with me. We made a lot of noise and anti-infantry spiders aren’t the only thing that could be in this town— they’re not even the worst things we could run into.  I was heading into downtown to get something but now the whole place is stirred up…” he shook his head. “We’ve gotta go, now.

“I-”  Terri’s voice cut off as she heard something from deeper within the ruined town.  Something that sounded like a heavy object moving, or being moved.  “Okay,” she said. Terri took a deep breath, feeling an odd sense of calm clamping down on her panic. “Is there anyone else with you?”

“Nope! Just me!” Mike said with a grin. “C’mon!” without any further words, he turned and started walking back the way he had come from.

“Mike,” Terri said as she followed him. “Where are you staying? What happened to everyone else!”

“You don’t know?” Mike asked. “You really don’t know?”

“Of course I don’t!” Terri snapped. “I fixed dinner for Mom and went to bed and then” —she waved her hands frantically— “this happened!”

“Wait—you really had a mom?

Terri blinked in surprise and opened her mouth to shout of Mike. What type of comment was that? But then she paused. Mike didn’t sound snarky… He sounded surprised…

What’s wrong with him?

“Mike,” Terri said. “You came over to my house to play, remember”

“Oh, boy.” Mike ran a hand through his disordered hair and frowned. “This is going to be hard.  C’mon, let’s get back to my place before I say anything else.”

“Sure…” Terri said doubtfully as she followed Mike.  They moved quickly, taking a different road then the one Terri had came in from.  Terri strained her ears to hear any sound of pursuit, but it seemed like the two robots had been alone.  As they walked, the  dead city fell behind them, the buildings, what ones remained intact, becoming smaller, mostly shops and store houses.  Then they they came to a place where the forest was starting to reconquer the city, bushes and small trees rising through the cracked pavement and burned out buildings. Terri saw an owl perched on top of the twisted remains of a big truck. It stared at her for a few moments, before hooting and taking off, soon vanishing into the growing dark.

Mike set a fast pace as they entered the forest that surrounded the city.  “You want to stay off the roads,” Mike said. “Some of the robots patrol them, and then you’ve got mines, even killer swarms.  They’re not safe.”

“I didn’t run into anything…” Terri said.

“You didn’t stick around very long,” Mike said and turned back to look at Terri, his face sober. “If you went back now you might find that you woke something up…”

Maybe that’s why nobody came to get the bodies… Terri thought. Then she shivered. That was dumb. The reason nobody came to get the bodies was that they were… ”Mike, where is everyone else?”

“The humans? They’re all dead. I haven’t seen any for, oh, years…” Mike said without slackening his pace.

Tara didn’t stop walking as she digested the words. Years?  Mike, have you gone crazy? Mike didn’t look any older than she was. Not to mention that Mike was a human.

But on the other hand, the city did look like years had gone by.  Terri thought about the buildings. Some of them had been burned down, but she hadn’t been any smell of new smoke. To say nothing of the skeletons, rusted vehicles and the trees growing through the pavement…

But how could she have survived sleeping for years?


They kept walking for most of the rest of the night. Mike varied between chattering about the world, though he was oddly light about the details of their earlier life together, while Terri remained silent, thinking about what she’d seen.

Mike was serious about avoiding the roads. As they kept walking, the forest rose around them, little streams and brooks making their chuckling way through the wooded lands. The half-moon in the now cloudless sky left her with enough light to see by, giving the terrain an ghostly look to it. Terri saw only a few signs that humanity had ever lived here—a broken down shack, a crashed military aircraft, vines and moss reclaiming it for the forest, what looked like an old footpath with a rusted and bent safety rail.

But all old. All overgrown.

And it didn’t make much sense, because Terri had remembered cities, big cities and interstates.  Surely everything couldn’t be gone.

“We’re getting close,” Mike said.

“To what?”


“Out here?” Terri frowned. “Why not closer?”

“Just about every big city has hunter drones in it or worse. They attack anything that gets too close.” Mike told her. “But they ignore stuff out here, well, unless you’re real unlucky.”

“Oh,” Terri said, then blinked as she looked up into the dark sky. There was something up there, glinting against the light of the moon. “Mike, there’s an airplane up there.”

“Yeah,” Mike said, following her gaze. “Real high up. Probably a robot bomber, going off the bomb some old base.” He shrugged. “The bombers don’t seem to change their targets, so it’s easy to avoid them.”

Terri opened her mouth, then closed it without saying anything.

What was there to say? She’d gone to sleep with Mom in the living room and woke up to…this.  Everything different, everything gone.

Mom was gone. Terri sniffled, dragging her forearm across her face to get the tears out of her eyes.

Finally, they came to the opening of a deep valley, its sides covered with trees and overgrown buildings. Terri blinked at that.  These buildings looked older then the city or her home.

They also didn’t look like they had been blown up or burned or otherwise attacked. They just looked old and abandoned. Like  a graveyard, the buildings gleaming like headstones in the soft moonlight.  Terri shivered.

“Welcome to my home!” Mike said with an expansive gesture.

Terri looked over at Mike fought a grin. At least he was normal. He’d always loved those big, wide arm gestures. Once he’d broken one of Mom’s drinking glasses.

Mike led Terri down into the valley, while the setting disk of the moon fell behind the valley wall and plunged the depths of the valley into a dim murk.

Terri found herself getting closer to Mike.  The empty windows of the abandoned buildings, mixed in with the dark woods, were in their own way just as ominous as the ruined city had been.  The buildings looked like the skeletons of great, dead beast, the dark windows forming its eye sockets.

“What happened here,” Terri asked. “Was it… like the city?”

“Nah,” Mike said as he picked his way through the growing dark. “This place was abandoned a long time before the fighting started. Just not so many people anymore, I guess. That’s what makes it so safe though—it’s not even on the map for most of the drones… and here we are!” he said as he came to a door and pulled it open.

“C’mon,” Mike said. “We can turn on the lights once we get the door closed.”

“I thought you said nothing comes here.”

“Sure, but it’s better to not take any chances,” Mike said with a grin.

Terri followed him inside, a dubious expression on her face.  Mike waited until the door was closed, plunging the chamber into a pitch darkness that even Terri’s eyes had a problem seeing through. Then he reached up and turned on an LED lantern, the illumination revealing Mike’s room.

Or lair.  There were dozens of racks of equipment, some of them fairly obvious, such as the racked guns by the door. Others looked like tools or just plain junk. Another rack held books, while clothes were strewn here and there in disordered piles.

Terri sighed. If there was anything that had stayed the same, it had to be the fact that Mike could be really messy.

“How did you get all of this stuff?” she asked.

“There’s more of it downstairs,” Mike said. “But like I told you, I had time to get it. Years in fact.”

“Mike,” Terri said, putting her hands on her hips. “Stop being an idiot. If you had years to collect all of this stuff, you wouldn’t still be a kid.

“I’m not,” Mike said. “I haven’t been a kid…” his voice trailed off.

“What, you’re a ghost?” Terri asked, trying to sound funny.

Except… What if he really is a ghost? Granted, none of the ghost stories Terri had heard involved kids with guns, but…

“No.  You’d have to be human to be a ghost… and I’m not that,” Mike said, his voice quiet and sad. “And neither are you. Because I may be a Mike, but I’m not the Mike you knew and you’re not any of the Terri’s I knew.”


Posted in My stories, Post Apocalypse Writings, Science Fiction, The Clockwork Girl, Uncategorized, Young Adult fiction | Leave a Comment »

The Girl Who Stole a Starship Cover Preview

Posted by Charles Gray on March 16, 2017

Well, one of my stories is almost finished, going through final edits (otherwise known as: am I over editing? I think I’m over editing. Wait a minute, that phrase sucks).  I’ve also started working on the cover since us poor folk can’t hire those fancy pants graphic artists with their Highfalutin ways. I’m gonna give it a few more brush ups, and show it off to other people, and see what else I can do with it.


Here it is:


the girl who stole a battleship


The book itself should be out on kindle in the next two weeks, or possibly earlier if I don’t find anything that demands major changes.


Posted in Ebook, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult fiction | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Young Adult writing, guns, racism…. and Boobs.

Posted by Charles Gray on January 10, 2012

Stephanie Faris makes a very good point in her post about sex in Young Adult books.  It’s well written and I think points out a fact that all writers need to consider– target audiences are shifting.  As a substitute teacher, I’ve seen kids reading Twilight at age 10, and Lewis and Clancy at not much older.  Equally, in a changing market it’s important to avoid limiting the audience.

But there’s another factor here, one that goes beyond sex, and it’s the simple fact that children, even facing children, to say nothing of teenagers, have far more access to the world around them than we do.  Some teens have video and internet pals across the world– I know one girl who talks via internet and video chat with friends in Israel– and the West Bank.  She is, far more than I ever was, aware of the problems of the Middle East, whenever her Palestinian friend speaks of problems with the settlers, or her Israeli friend speaks of the tensions and fear she experiences whenever a rocket comes sailing over the  border– her contact is personal.

We get the same today when you can watch youtube video’s or face book postings about the tsunami in Japan, or more locally about someone being bullied via the internet.  Like it or not, children and teens are exposed to, and aware of far more than we were, and that includes sex.  Go to deviant art, and you’ll see examples of artwork and images that not too long ago would have been, if a teen had them at all, a deeply hidden (or at least we hoped they were hidden) cache in the bedroom.  Today, you can get it on the internet, and I’m picking DA for a reason- it’s actually quite mild compared to what else you can find.

Now, this doesn’t mean that YA writers should cheer and start writing sentences that start with “His pulsating Piston of Power,”  but you’ll have to accept that in the modern world of youtube and texting, kids, some of them quite young, may know a lot more about the world, and the dark places of the world, then earlier generations may have.  They may be more willing to talk about it, at least to their friends, and that means that the books they read had better talk about it as well.



Posted in Ebook, Uncategorized, Writing, Young Adult fiction | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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