The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

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tyrud
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby tyrud » Tue Oct 27, 2015 12:54 am

Lol, you're sorta right I guess. If it's just the talking bits though, that's alright because that can be changed much more easily. I got into it as I wrote this so hopefully it shows somewhere. I'm kind of excited to show off more of Valerie's pre-Colin experiences. I'll probably post more as I come up with them, and maybe throw in a Colin post or two as well, though the Colin experiences I really want to get into would be real long, at least one of them anyway.
"Humankind cannot bear very much reality." ~ T. S. Eliot
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tyrud
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby tyrud » Tue Dec 29, 2015 6:38 am

Chronicles of a New Age:
Petals in the Breeze

[Tuesday, July 16 2013 - 2:29 PM
Bayou Sorrel, Louisiana]


"Damn it, Valerie. What have you gotten yourself into?" Valerie said lowly to herself. She was sitting on a thick tree branch, looking down at a group of eight cannibals that were reaching up at her in vain. Still, their inability to get to her didn't make her feel much better. While she was safe, she was clearly cornered, having been forced up the tree to avoid the group."I should've never left the city."

Valerie found herself northwest of New Orleans, somewhere near the damp bayous that were characteristic of the region. She had gone there because living in the city had become unfeasible. What had initially been categorized as a riot, turned out to be some kind of infection that soon ran amok across the country and the rest of the world as well. New Orleans had been one of the supposed points of origin of the disease in the U.S., and it certainly showed. Order in the city collapsed rapidly after the so called dock riots as people tried to flee or seek shelter and supplies. Attempts by the authorities to establish a quarantine went miserably, and government controlled areas were quickly reduced to a few over crowded safe areas established throughout the city early on during the outbreak. These of course only lasted as long as the National Guard and other military units were stationed in them. Once they were ordered to pull back to places like Cuba and areas west of the Rockies, the safe zones melted away. Too few people choose to stay behind to protect the safe zones against the cannibal hordes and increasingly more brazen marauder groups that had begun popping up. Soon the only things left in New Orleans were the cannibals, the bandits and Valerie. At least as far as Valerie could tell. There might have been other survivors like her but Valerie never saw any, presumably because they were doing the logical thing of staying well out of sight.

Shawna never returned to the apartment, and failed to respond to any more calls or messages. Her coworkers largely remained silent as well, though the worst blow to Valerie's psyche was losing contact with her parents. They had told her they were well in Maine, but that was some time ago. After the phone lines cutout completely, Valerie was left alone and isolated in her own apartment. She did little to remedy this of course, and she found herself living in abject terror. She feared the cannibals, with their sickly demeanor and insatiable hunger for flesh, and she feared the bandits even more. She had seen from her window the terrible things desperate humans could do to each other, and she would surely become a victim if they ever found her. She had barricaded her door and spent most days sitting on her couch, knees up against her chest, with the curtains drawn and tears of disbelief, frustration and despair streaming down her face. The military came to her building once looking for survivors, but she didn't answer when they knocked. She didn't trust them anymore than she did anybody else, and couldn't bring herself to open the door. The military didn't show up anymore after that, and she simply assumed that any subsequent attempts to break down her door were likely not by people trying to help her.

Of course, unlike the plants she had studied for years, she couldn't subsist on water and sunlight alone. When she was forced to go out to find something to eat, she initially stayed on her own floor. When she could no longer find any more food there, she moved on to the other floors, albeit very reluctantly. Even the smallest chance of an encounter with the cannibals or with other people was usually enough to dissuade her from going near an apartment or floor. There had been quite a few days that she had gone hungry because fear had driven her away from potential food. Those types of days seemingly grew more frequent as she increasingly had to search apartments and floors closer to the street. It was a pitiful existence, and it depressed Valerie significantly. She had contemplated suicide on a few occasions, but fear drove her away from those thoughts too. Death by her own hand hardly seemed like the solution to possible death at the hands of someone or something else. She wasn't even sure death would mean the end of her suffering. She wasn't really religious, but she wasn't a transcendental being either. The other side was completely unknown to her, and there was the chance that it could somehow be worse than her current life. After a significant amount of thought, however, she convinced herself that she would be doing herself a favor if she ended her own life. After all she didn't exactly fancy being ripped apart by the cannibals or beheaded by bandits.

She walked over to her bathroom looking for a razor, but she failed to find any. She eventually figured that she could go to her kitchen to find a blade, but she didn’t move from where she was in the bathroom. She felt foolish, awful and ashamed of herself that she was simply choosing to end it all. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw in the reflection a distraught anemic figure, eyes red and puffy from crying so much. She was a ghost of her former, robust self. It was hardly her in the mirror, except for one particular feature. Attached to this specter and looking back at her were two bright emerald eyes. They shined, almost burning, in the relative dimness of her bathroom and didn't seem to belong to the face they were on. Yet without a doubt they were hers. Having decided to hold off on her suicide attempt for the time being, he stepped out into her room which she hadn't used in some time. On her desk was the orchid her mother had sent her. Even on the worst of days, Valerie never failed to devote some time to care for the plant. As she observed it in the sunlight, it seemed to be doing well in spite of the everything. The same could be said of the plants in the apartments of her former neighbors. How such fragile things could be so resilient in spite of it all made pause to think Valerie. She wasn't being true to herself if she keeled over and let herself be consumed by the world. Death was not the solution. It couldn’t be. Instead, she had to resist and fight against the outside. The flowering plant had evolved in the face of a hostile world, and she would have to do the same.

The conditions for such a thing weren't going to be found in New Orleans, however. Valerie understood that she had to leave, but where to was an entirely different matter as there were no easy answers. She thought of going north, towards New England and her parents, but she recalled what she had told Shawna all those months ago; not even in her wildest dreams. There was no way she could make it. It was simply too far and too dangerous, if New Orleans was any indicator of the state of the rest of the country. The same applied to any number of other places she thought about going. She quickly burned through the list of possibilities, until there was nowhere she could think of. It was exasperating for Valerie to say the least. She knew what she wanted, yet it still seemed out of reach. She knocked a book on her desk to the floor, irritated, but quickly recollected herself to try and think. As she went to pick up the book, she noticed some writing on the inside front cover that was not hers. Upon examining it closer, she was stricken with lucidity. Before the end of the hour, she had collected some things and headed outside onto the street once the coast was clear.

Now, hovering a few feet above the ground, it seemed Valerie's adventure was close to coming to a grim end. Getting out of the city had been no easy task, and she had certainly been lucky until now. Anything could've gone wrong for her in the two days it took her to trek to the edge of the bayou. Somehow, nothing did, present situation excluded. As it so happened, the Mississippi river had become a highway for the cannibals in areas in the center of the country. Seemingly immune to drowning, they were carried south by the current, along with bodies, boats and other detritus that gave the mighty river a grossly polluted look. Most of it had ended up in New Orleans and the other cities bordering the river, but some of it had floated down smaller offshoots and into the swamps and bayous. Valerie hadn't foreseen that, and was quite surprised to find sizable groups of cannibals in her way, such as the one currently under her.

"No, I can't go back. This is no time for defeatism." Valerie said to herself, placing her wrists against her head and shutting her eyes. "Come on, Val. Think."

She opened her eyes again once her thoughts were in order, and looked around to gauge her options. Valerie noticed that the trees around her were quite close together, with the branches not far from each other. Even the branches that were furthest apart were only a short hop away. Valerie wasn't the nimblest person, but she figured she could try and make her way over to the next tree by walking across the branches. She didn't exactly have any other options, in any case. With her satchel bag hanging on her shoulder, she very carefully got into a crouching position on the branch. Placing one foot in front of the other, she proceeded to stand up straight. Almost immediately she could feel herself shaking and her heart start to race. The precariousness of her situation wasn't lost on her, and it wasn't helping her nerves at all. Nevertheless, she started walking along the branch towards a nearby branch from the next tree over. The horde below noticed her moving and easily kept pace with her. By the time she eventually managed to get to the other tree and press herself against the trunk, the horde was still waiting for her at the bottom. Nothing had changed, but at least the plan seemed viable. Valerie would just need to be faster to put some distance between her and her pursuers.

She looked for a branch that would lead her closer to the river, and started walking along it once she found one. Once again the horde followed, but this time she moved a little quicker and the horde was no longer right below her like it previously was. Unfortunately, she couldn't maintain her speed because the branch she was on didn't lead directly to another. Instead, she would have to hop over to the next tree. It wasn't ideal, but if she stopped to consider going another way she would lose what little lead she had on the horde. Valerie took a breath and readied herself to jump. Counting herself down, she then hopped over to the next tree. It was a shaky jump, and it was a mix of luck and quick reflexes that stopped her from tumbling over. Catching herself in a crouched position, she waited until the shaking of the branch subsided before standing up again and continuing along the trees.

The next couple of trees were closer together, and she was managed to put a little bit of distance between herself and the horde. The cannibals eventually turned their attention to some smaller animal that Valerie had accidentally disturbed while walking and that ran down the tree past them. Valerie finally had some breathing room, but she decided to continue her journey through the trees for a little longer for good measure. She moved along another branch and once again found the distance between branches to be too far to just walk between. She had jumped across a similar distance earlier, conveniently forgetting just how disastrous it almost was, so she felt confident in being able to make it again. She set herself up for the hop across and then jumped. She landed better than she had last time and it was almost smooth. Unfortunately, the branch she landed on wasn't as sturdy as the others she had been travelling on, because it bent down and then snapped, sending her towards the ground. She landed hard on her back and got the breath knocked out of her.

"****!" she cursed as she spent the next few moments rolling around in pain. She honestly should've foreseen something like that would happen at some point. In fact, she probably could've just climbed down the tree, but it was a little late for that. When she finally got up, she very rapidly decided to stick to the ground. After all, she had gotten away from the horde and there were no more cannibals in sight, so there was no need for any antics. Thankful that she didn't break anything, she turned her attention instead to looking for a way to cross the Little Tensas Bayou. She eventually found an unoccupied kayak near the edge of the river, but was unable to find the paddles that should've gone with it. She settled for using some scrap wood she found nearby to paddle across. It was slow going and uncomfortable, but it was good enough and Valerie was soon on the other side.

Having crossed, Valerie checked a map she had brought along to get her bearings. After tracing a few paths with her finger, she set forth towards the bayou’s interior. At first she followed a man-made canal through the swamps, with only a vague idea of where she was going. It was hard work as the heat was oppressive, cannibals and dangerous animals lurked in the shade, and any significant bodies of water she encountered forced her to have to find a way around. Many times a way around wasn't close, and by the time Valerie reached anywhere familiar to her, three hours had elapsed since her escapade in the trees. She was covered in sweat and bug bites, her clothes were stained with mud and her back still ached from her fall. She was tired, hungry, and occasionally experienced moments of regret. She could've been in her apartment on her soft couch, but instead she was in a swamp and very much uncomfortable. Yet she trekked onward. There was nothing to go back to at her apartment except a miserable existence, and she couldn't help but feel a little bit alive as she walked and took in the swamp ambiance. Besides, she was close to her goal now. The further she went, the more the vague images tucked away in the folds of her past slowly cleared and became more recognizable. She had been here before years ago. She had walked along the same creek and had come across the same lake. Excitement gripped her, and she tried to speed up as she went along. In spite of her determination, however, it was almost another hour of following an unnamed creek as it winded about before Valerie reached her ultimate destination.

"The creek ends in a lake. South of it in the woods there's a pond, and sitting in the middle is your grandparents house." Valerie repeated to herself, echoing the words of her mother. Lo and behold, there it was. On thick stilts and apparently untouched was the house that belonged to her maternal grandparents. She had been there once before, shortly after graduating from high school. So much had happened in her life since then that her memories had grown hazy, but she remembered enough about the place to try her hand at travelling there. All she had needed was her grandmother's writing on the inside cover of her book to remind her of the place's existence and just how close it was. After her grandparents had passed away Valerie didn't visit the house, being too caught up with her university studies to do so, and she wasn't sure if her parents had visited the house either. It had been willed to her mother, but by then she was already living in Maine. The house was very out of the way, and there seemed to be very little interest in buying it, something that Valerie's mother didn't try to improve, showing considerable apathy towards trying to get the house off her hands.

Having finally arrived, she slowly walked towards it. It seemed to be isolated in the middle of the water, but if she remembered rightly it only seemed that way. There was actually a wooden bridge connecting the house to land, it was just covered by a thin film of water. Sure enough, when she took a step into the water, she found her footing and followed the bridge to the porch. A healthy fern hung to the right of the door, and to the left was her grandfather's old rocking chair and spitting bucket. She would've thought her grandmother, a published botanist and herbalist, would have had more plants around the house or that her grandfather had dropped his tobacco habit. She was wrong on both accounts. Valerie grabbed a small bronze key from her bag and placed it in the door's lock, turning it until she heard a click. It had been brought to her by the lawyer who had managed her grandparents will, upon her mother's request and Valerie was quite amazed she managed to find it in her apartment. The door initially failed to open, but after applying a bit more of her body weight to the push, it gave and opened to reveal the combined living room and kitchen area. Nothing was out of place and the air inside felt cooler, scented by a collection of spices hung from a rack in the kitchen. The flag of Acadiana put up by her grandfather hung over the television, and the floorboards softly creaked as she walked towards the back of the house.

[Sunday, August 23 2026 - 2:18 PM]

After Valerie left to go collect plants, as she usually did on Sunday, Colin found himself alone in the swamp house. He had attempted to find something to read in the library, but all the books he had randomly selected pertained in some fashion to plants and they failed to pique his interest. He headed back out into the hallway, thinking about taking a seat outside, when he stopped to look at the large painting hanging on the wall. It was the only painting in the entire house, but he had never taken the time to really study it. It was a square framed oil painting of a woman dressed in a dark navy formal gown that measured four feet on all sides. The woman was seated in a cushioned chair, one leg crossed over the other, with a small table to her left and shelves of books nearby. She looked directly at the onlooker, her posture upright and her hands folded in her lap. The colors of the painting were dark, yet very sharp. Every detail was well defined, meaningful and impeccable. It was an exact moment in time, captured perfectly by someone who was truly skilled in their craft, and who could only be identified by the initials they had left in the bottom right of the painting. From the moment he laid eyes on it, Colin knew who the subject of the painting was. It was Valerie, through and through, sitting in one of the library's chairs. She appeared younger in the painting, yet she seemed no different from the person he knew in the flesh. The eyes, the shape of the face, the slight yet sly smile. It appeared as if though Valerie had always been and would always be the same prideful and devilish person. There was no indication she had ever been anything different.

[Tuesday, July 16 2013 - 6:52 PM]

Valerie had explored the rest of the house, checking for any inhabitants, but found nothing other than a garden snake, which slithered outside upon being bothered. Her grandmother's vast collection of books was still intact, albeit covered in dust. A preliminary inspection indicated that many of the books would help her in searching for edible and useful plants nearby. The house was much safer than her apartment, and she was free to explore this part of the swamp as not a single cannibal or bandit was to be found. Finally, at ease and happy with her decision to leave New Orleans, she found herself getting lost in the sole painting in the house

"Did I really look like that?" Valerie asked herself as stared back at the green eyes in the painting. Upon seeing it, she had remembered just how much of her visit had been dominated by this painting. After her graduation, Valerie's grandmother had insisted that she come spend some time with them and have a formal portrait commissioned. She had spared no expense in finding the best artist she could and had spent considerable time picking out a dress for Valerie to wear. The entire work took days to complete and Valerie could remember having to sit still for hours on end in that uncomfortable dress in the same position while the artist painted. Her grandmother adored the painting, and indeed it was impressive, but Valerie had always felt that the woman in the painting wasn't really her. She seemed malevolent and arrogant, neither of which Valerie felt she was. It crossed her mind to take down the painting and flip around so it wasn't looking at her, but she decided against moving what was likely to be a very heavy painting. Besides, her grandmother probably wouldn't have appreciated something like that.
Last edited by tyrud on Sun Sep 11, 2016 5:51 am, edited 3 times in total.
"Humankind cannot bear very much reality." ~ T. S. Eliot
(⌐■_■)

TheTeddyguy
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby TheTeddyguy » Tue Dec 29, 2015 11:04 am

Awesome post, I really liked this one, looking forward to the next.
"**** it, it's late."-Coins "Change it later."-Teddy
"She had a face like a bulldog licking **** off a nettle."-Jingles
"so he resigned himself to dying in a trash can."

coinsruledude
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby coinsruledude » Tue Dec 29, 2015 3:28 pm

10/10 post. How many more do you think you'll make for her?
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

tyrud
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby tyrud » Tue Dec 29, 2015 5:43 pm

I'm very happy you both liked it so much. I was worried it felt a disorganized, but thankfully that's not the case.

As far as how many more posts I'll make for Valerie, I have a list of events I want to cover and looking over it I can probably turn it into three or four more posts.
"Humankind cannot bear very much reality." ~ T. S. Eliot
(⌐■_■)

tyrud
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Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2010 12:33 am
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby tyrud » Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:20 pm

Quick poll question: Would you guys rather I post another part involving Valerie or a part revolving around Colin?
"Humankind cannot bear very much reality." ~ T. S. Eliot
(⌐■_■)

TheTeddyguy
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby TheTeddyguy » Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:42 pm

Valerie
"**** it, it's late."-Coins "Change it later."-Teddy
"She had a face like a bulldog licking **** off a nettle."-Jingles
"so he resigned himself to dying in a trash can."

coinsruledude
Posts: 14906
Joined: Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:36 pm
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby coinsruledude » Sat Jan 16, 2016 7:12 pm

Valerie.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

tyrud
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Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2010 12:33 am
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby tyrud » Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:09 pm

Chronicles of a New Age:
A Thorn's Touch


After settling into her grandparents’ vacant home in the bayou, Valerie returned to New Orleans for a final time to finish grabbing things from her apartment. Whether or not the four days it took her to reach the city and return were worth it was questionable. While she had managed to pick up a number of useful books from her collection of old university texts she had never bothered to sell, they hardly made up the bulk of the things she brought back to the swamp. Instead, the majority of the things she had collected during her expedition were dresses and other clothing she had recovered from her closet. To most people this certainly wouldn't have been worth the effort, and for good reason too.

For all her intelligence, Valerie was also terribly vain and with her renewed confidence came her desire to espouse it through her attire. She reasoned that just because the world had ended, that didn't mean she couldn't still dress as fashionably as her heart desired. She might have been tempted to search for more clothes too, but she knew better, for the city had not gotten any safer since her initial departure. The high volume and concentration of cannibals, as well as a few first-hand views of people being summarily executed, were enough to make her understand that New Orleans was off limits and so she made no further plans to return.

Instead, having secured her source of literature and fashion, Valerie slowly got into the pace of her new life. She spent a lot of time reading, trying out dress combinations and exploring the swamp. Her existence was lonely but it was also calm. That said, it was not always easy. The swamp soil wasn't exactly conducive to growing every type of crop. Some things like mushrooms and root vegetables like potatoes were right at home, but more exotic or complex plants proved more difficult to cultivate and thoroughly tested Valerie's agricultural abilities. Despite her best efforts, without extensive reworking of the land or the creation of agricultural projects far beyond the scope of what was possible for her, Valerie would have to make due with a limited selection of crops.

It was a daunting task, and not many people wouldn't have accepted it. But Valerie was happy to exchange peaceful farming for possible death scrounging around for the few expired cans that remained in the cities. This of course meant having to make due with a bland diet that she had to compliment with swamp fish for the sake of nutritional balance. Even with the addition of spices, her meals were flat and uninspiring. Still, what the food lacked in flavor it more than made up for it in quantity. Valerie wouldn't be going hungry anytime soon so long as she kept up with her horticulture.

One problem remained, however. While she was well fed, Valerie lacked something very important; medicine. Valerie was healthy and suffered from no major conditions, but it was difficult to say for how long that would remain true. A stray bite from an animal or insect, an improperly cooked meal or bad water could easily incapacitate her with dysentery or some other ailment, and she had nothing with which to treat any afflictions she might encounter. The solution would once again come in the form of plants, but unlike the crops she had planted, the medicinal herbs and flowers she needed weren't so easily found in the swamp. Instead, she would have to look outside for the swamp for them. She knew just the place that would have them, but she wasn't happy about having to go there; Baton Rouge.

Although Baton Rouge was Louisiana's second city, it was nothing like the Big Easy. Life in Baton Rouge had a different pace than life in New Orleans. It was a smaller city, propped up on the only bit of elevated land in the area. For Valerie, it was the city where she had spent her formative high school and university years in. She couldn't complain about her time there. Even during Katrina things hadn't been so bad there, or at least not like they had been in New Orleans. That was all before the outbreaks started popping up, however. It didn't hold true anymore, or at least there was no way it could. Not if the situation in New Orleans was representative of what had occurred everywhere else.

Valerie dreaded the thought of returning to any city. She had pledged not to go back for a reason, but there was something in Baton Rouge that was absolutely vital to her survival and that could be found nowhere else. South of the city center in the LSU campus was the university herbarium. The LSU herbarium was the oldest collection of preserved plant specimens in the Gulf South and was the second largest collection of Louisiana plants in the state. It was an indispensable resource for someone like Valerie. It was the final piece of her plan, but getting to it was no doubt going to be extremely dangerous.

For a while, Valerie had a lapse in confidence. She was quite adamant about not going anywhere near populated areas, but eventually she reasoned through it and figured that it was a necessary evil. Worse would be to get sick or injured and have no way of treating herself. The long term pros outweighed any short term cons. Having set her mind to it, Valerie began planning out her journey and preparing some supplies and references. Once she was ready, she left her grandparents’ home early in morning. After arriving at the edge of the bayou a few hours later, she spent some time searching for a vehicle to drive to Baton Rouge in. She had learned from her journeys to and from New Orleans that walking long distances was neither safe nor efficient. There was no point in repeating the same erroneous process to get to Baton Rouge.

She found a suitable four door vehicle that still worked and happened to have a spare key stored inside the glove box. From there, Valerie started following the road northeast towards Baton Rouge. It was a slow process, as empty cars and cannibals blocked bits of the road ever couple of miles. Compounding this was Valerie's poor driving skills. Although she had a license, she had never owned a car. In fact, she took her driving exam in loaned car. She used the public bus while in university, rode a bicycle to work and was always happy to let Shawna drive when they went anywhere together. So when she got behind the wheel to go to Baton Rouge, it was a comical scene to say the least, and she hardly disproved the stereotypes related to female drivers. Nevertheless, some time and many abrupt stops later, she had arrived at her destination.

[Sunday, November 18th 2013 - 12:07 PM
Baton Rouge, Louisiana]


Forced to abandon her vehicle on the blocked on-ramp that led into the city, Valerie walked the rest of the way towards the university. It was about an hour's walk, plus some additional time she spent avoiding the cannibals that were lingering all around. Luckily there weren't as many of them around as there were in New Orleans and climbing from vehicle to vehicle proved to be an efficient method of staying out of their reach. By midday, with the sun beating down on the ground below, Valerie stood facing the entrance to the herbarium which was in the life sciences annex of the university's biological sciences building.

She had been inside the herbarium a few times before over the course of her studies at LSU. It consisted of a single large room with insect-resistant cases containing thousands of types of plants, fungi, and bryophytes all dried and compacted into files for preservation. A scientific lab was also present in the building, stocked with all the usual equipment and adornments. Everything Valerie needed was inside, or so she hoped. It was clear that the university had not escaped the outbreak unharmed. Nothing had truly stayed as she remembered it and there was no telling what she might find lying in wait inside. Armed with nothing more than a stiletto dagger she found in her grandparents’ home that she had yet to use and her own intelligence, she made her way inside.

The glass of the main doors was broken out, allowing Valerie to enter rather easily. Inside the lights were out, but the large windows let in plenty of light allowing Valerie to piece together what may have happened here. Papers, books, chairs, and all manner of other things were strewn about, indicating a rush to escape had occurred. There was some dried blood here and there, but no bodies or cannibals. Overall, the extent of the damage seemed limited, which bode well for the state of the rest of the herbarium. She spent some more time exploring the lobby, making sure it was truly clear and empty before moving on. She didn't need anything surprising her on her way out. Once she was certain she was alone, Valerie located the door to the stairs that led to the second floor, which was morbidly held open by a decaying and mostly consumed dead body. Stepping over it, she headed upstairs with her flashlight in hand until she reached the second floor. Trying the doors, she found them unlocked and headed into the room.

In the center was large built in table that also doubled as storage. The far end of the room had a large window stretching across it that started at about waist height and went up to the ceiling. There was work space underneath the window, and two doors on the left of the room lead into two separate rooms, likely offices. As before, the sunlight revealed a scene of academic bureaucracy in chaos. Valerie slowly glanced over and sifted through the some of the paper work and reference material that was strewn about. Reading some of it brought back memories of her time in academia and made her wonder if the people who had been here had been peacefully working when the world around them collapsed. She found nothing of value to her in her initial search, and so turned her attention to the actual collection. She found the entrance doors in a hallway to the right of the primary entrance and headed inside. Much to her delight, everything seemed to be intact.

In the large compactor system room stood 450 cases of files containing preserved plants from all over the United States, with some samples older than a 100 years in age. All the cases grouped together had papers on them indicating what was in each one. On the left there were cubicles with windows to the outside, as well as computers, microscopes and shelves containing all kinds of informational material, including maps highlighting where certain plants were found across the state. Valerie had truly hit the jackpot and instantly lost any regrets she had about coming to the city to visit the herbarium. It was a veritable playground for the young woman who, once she had checked to make sure the place was clear, went about opening and exploring the now unpowered and unlocked cases. With her leggings, boots, hat and shirt with the sleeves rolled up, all in black, coupled with a dark navy skirt, Valerie had the appearance of a ghost as she floated around dreamily from case to case. She spent a couple of hours looking for the plants she had taken notes on from the books back at the house, mostly because half the time she would get distracted looking at other plants in the process. For the plants whose dried remains would be of no use she spent time looking through maps to locate where they grew in the state. Those plants that were native to the parish the house was located were of particular interest to her.

She was finally roused from her concentration by the low rumble of thunder in the distance. Her satchel was as full as it could be with the plants she needed and maps of where to find more, so she decided it was time to go as threatening clouds started to gather. As she headed towards the exit, she found a cannibal standing idly by the door. How long it had been there was a mystery to her, but now it stood squarely in her way and she had no way of leaving without dealing with it first. She had yet to kill a cannibal, and really she had no intention of starting with this one. She was still apprehensive about even getting near them, let alone trying to fight one. All she needed was a little time to figure out a way around it. But Valerie wouldn't get any time for as the cannibal began to turn towards her, its head suddenly blew apart. The loud rapport of a gunshot accompanied the scene and two men soon walked into room to observe the dead cannibal.

"Goddamn, Robbie. Couldn't be bothered to use your knife, huh?" the older of the men said. He was shorter than Valerie, with gray-brown hair, tan skin and a narrow build.

"Not through the window of the door, I couldn't. Besides, I'm not taking any chances with these things. You saw what happened to Josh. They may be stupid, but they're still dangerous." The other man answered. He had dirty blond hair and was built like a swimmer with wide shoulders and a fit build.

"Think there are anymore in this place?"

"If there are, the noise will probably draw them out. I thought I saw another one, actually. Flashed across the hall somewhere behind this one, I think."

"I don't see ****, man. What are we doing here, again?"

"Reggie said why, but I can't remember now."


The two men waited a while, just in case another cannibal popped up, before they moved back into the other room. Valerie, who had raced behind a nearby case, could hardly believe her terrible luck. Just when everything seemed to be shaping up, the world suddenly erected a barrier in her way. If killing a cannibal was outside of her abilities, taking another human life was outside the realm of her existence. Nevertheless, she wasn't going anywhere with those men in the other room. Slowly and quietly, she made her way over to the doors past the now dead cannibal. Looking through the now blown out window of the door, Valerie caught a glimpse of the two men as they were leaving. She followed them with her gaze as she saw them disappear, and then moved behind the side of built in table closest to the large window. From there she had a view of the whole room and saw that the coast was clear. Until she was about to head over to the exit, that is. The blonde man soon returned to the room, forcing Valerie to cower behind the table and make herself as small as possible. She held her dagger with two hands and could feel them shaking. She heard his heavy footsteps get closer until she could feel his presence hovering over her. The blond man known as Robbie was standing right next to her, but rather than looking at Valerie he seemed to be more interested in something on the wall next to him and so wasn't even facing Valerie's direction.

Valerie could feel her heart pounding in her chest and her breath shakily leaving her lungs. She had no idea what to do with him so close to her. Any sudden movements would surely betray her position, but if she didn't move at all it wouldn't be long before he physically tripped over her. Her mind raced as she tried to figure a way out. She noticed the door to one of the offices behind her was ajar. She could hide there and be out of sight until the blond man left. Valerie decided to move, so inch by inch she stood up. As she did so, her arms were extended in the man's direction, the dagger in her hand so close to the back of his neck that it was almost touching him. She wasn't sure what she would do if he turned around, but perhaps it would be a deterrent if he saw it so close to him. As Valerie carefully began to take a step back, the man suddenly turned around and took a step towards her. The result was that a startled Valerie accidentally stabbed the man in the throat as he essentially walked into the blade. She watched in abject horror as the man crumpled, holding his throat with the dagger still in it.

Valerie fell to her knees by his side, panicked. She apologized to the dying man profusely as she attempted to help him, but there was little she could do. She tried to remove the dagger, but succeeded in doing nothing other than covering her hands and exposed forearms in blood and causing the man to try and grab at her. She tried to calm him, but in the end he would die struggling in pain. Valerie was still for a moment, staring at the man she had just killed. It hadn't been her intent. All she had wanted to do was get away. All she wanted to do was leave, having found everything she was looking for. Instead she had ripped this man's life from him.

"No, no, no, no, no..." she repeated as the gravity of what had happened dawned on her and began weighing down on her mind. The stress of it all caused her to press her wrists to her forehead, a habit she displayed when she wanted to stop and think. Only now, there was too much to think about, too much to contemplate as she shut her eyes hard. She looked down at her blood covered hands when she felt the crimson liquid running down her arms. The rose tattoos on the palms of her hands and the vines attached to them that spiraled up her arms were no longer visible, hidden underneath a layer of blood, none of which was her own. The symbols that represented her younger self's naiveté were obscured by her recent crimes.

"Hey Robbie, are you alright up there- holy ****!" someone said, grabbing Valerie's attention instantly. Standing by the entrance that led downstairs was the brown haired man, a shotgun in his hands. "You ****!"

Valerie wanted to explain what had happened. She wanted to say she hadn't meant to. But she couldn't. The words got snagged in her throat and she was cut short by a shotgun blast smacking into the table next to her. That was enough to spur her to her feet. Ignoring her dagger, she took the opportunity to rush into the office she had originally wanted to escape to. As she shut the door behind her, she stepped to the side just as another shotgun blast blew a hole in the door and sent wooden splinters flying. Valerie responded with a short, involuntary scream. She locked the door and used her strength from adrenaline to push a metal cabinet against it. Outside she could hear yelling as the brown haired man alerted the rest of his group to her presence. Inside the office, Valerie was well and truly trapped by the looks of things. There were no other ways out. No other way, but the window. Valerie noticed that like the windows downstairs, the one in the office was broken out. With the door to the office being beaten down by the group outside, Valerie broke out the remaining bits of glass in the pane and hopped out onto the roof of the covered walkway below. She climbed down the branches of a nearby tree and once she hit the ground, she started running.

She ran in spite of the world around her. She ran in spite of the pain in her chest and legs as she surpassed the limits of what her body was used to. She ran past the university's various buildings, and then past the various houses and businesses of the city. She ran until she simply collapsed a mile down the road on an empty lot of grass. She threw up on the ground before falling onto her side and starting to cry. All her confidence, all her self-worth, all the calm and glee she had felt in the herbarium melted away as tears streamed down her cheeks. Around her, raindrops started falling until a moderate rainstorm started pouring down, drowning her out. She laid on the ground for a long time, getting drenched, until she managed to muster the will to get up and start walking back to the car she had abandoned.

Surprisingly enough the car was still where she had left it; a tiny ray of good fortune in an afternoon that had fallen apart. Hours later, with the sun having fallen an hour ago, she arrived at the swamp house. She stored all the things she had brought with her in the library before she headed to a creek south of the house. She spent some time bathing in it, vigorously scrubbing her hands and arms to get rid of the dried blood on them. Once she had finished, she returned to the house and looked around in the house until she found an unopened bottle of bourbon her grandfather kept. She opened it and took a swig straight from the bottle, which turned out to be a poor decision. It felt like it was burning her insides as it went down and tasted awful, but she didn’t care. She spent the rest of the evening sat against a wall, bottle in hand, blasting music from her phone through headphones and drinking until she felt physically sick. Eventually she got so light-headed her mind went blank as she fainted into sleep. A series of fever dreams and nightmares pervaded her slumber in between boughs of violent vomiting until she very sluggishly woke up late in the afternoon of the following day. Though it was a new day, she had not forgotten what she had done the previous day. She had not forgotten that she was still and forever would be, a murderer.
Last edited by tyrud on Sun Sep 11, 2016 5:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Humankind cannot bear very much reality." ~ T. S. Eliot
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coinsruledude
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Re: The Shifting Tide: A short by Tyrud

Postby coinsruledude » Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:34 pm

NOT ROBBIE
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy


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