Of Earth and Ice – Ep 2

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial

by Jeremy C Kester

edited by Beth Townsend-Smith

2: Deep Sigh

Evie stared down at the empty space where the lower half of her leg once was.  Despite recovering the environmental unit on her suit, frostbite had taken hold of her. She’d lost 2 more toes, 3 fingers, and suffered terrible scarring across her back and limbs.

Letting out a deep sigh, she leaned back against the pillow in her colony’s clinic. Her eyes blinked tightly before resuming their focus on the ceiling.  It was a repeated cycle.  Each time she would look down expecting her leg to be in its proper place.  Not once had it changed, but she continued the ritual as she tried to recall how she arrived back at the colony.

She was draped in a pristine, white gown with wires and tubes protruding from random parts of her body.  She was clean for the first time in nearly 2 months.  It felt strange.  It always felt strange to be clean.  Despite the ice that surrounded them, harvesting water took energy, energy they could not afford to waste.

Water was vital to the health of the colony and personal bathing was one of the uses that was heavily rationed.  Just like water used to clean up waste, it had to be filtered and recycled or else disposed of.  Neither was an easy option to manage.  It was just easier to use less.  Drink what was needed; ration the rest.  Evie didn’t mind not bathing.  She had been used to it since she was a kid.  In the midst of how busy she normally kept herself, she’d never really thought much of it.

“I see that you’re awake finally?”

Evie heard a familiar voice suddenly at her side.  She turned her head to see her commander followed by the doctor and a nurse.  Gerald was a tall, slender woman only a few years older than Evie.  She had a worn look in her eyes, while otherwise having a smooth, clean appearance.

Gerald kept her pale blonde hair short in what would have been described once as a pixie cut. Her eyes were light brown and carried the years of hardship that she had endured as the colony’s leader.  Her body was lean and strong, the mark of a person in a high caste.  Food was more readily available to those of greater social status allowing them to sustain a healthy lifestyle if they so chose to do. She dressed in her military dress code: well pressed slacks with a perfectly starched button down blazer over an equally dark shirt. On her shoulders she wore the green emblem rank of Colonial Commander with no other adornments anywhere to be seen. Gerald disliked the other markings that other officers were forced to wear, including their caste’s symbol. She felt that with her rank, she was free to set her own dress protocol and did so with no protest.

Evie, in stark contrast, was dark hair, dark skin, and was from the lowest caste.  The few years of life that she had endured already etched trenches of hardship into her skin. Her eyes were drawn and always kept with them a sense of quiet exhaustion. Despite being a high ranking officer in the colony’s militia, Evie found herself held back by her unfortunate birthright.

Still feeling groggy, Evie raised a heavily bandaged hand to salute her superior.  Evie’s eyes widened in surprise as she realized the missing fingers for the first time.  Gerald returned the courtesy.  Evie held her hand up for a few moments trying to determine just how badly injured her hands were.

“It could’ve been a lot worse, you know,” Gerald remarked, as she pulled a small chair alongside the bed and sat down.

The doctor walked around the bed, barely acknowledging Evie’s commander.  Evie automatically noted his markings indicating her caste.

“How long was I gone, ma’am?” Evie asked.  Her voice was ragged and meek.  To her own ears, she sounded drunk.  She thought of the extensive amounts of drugs that must’ve been employed on her.

“We lost contact with you and your squad for a few hours.  The remaining troops found you after the rest of the was area cleared out,” Gerald explained, her tone steady and unemotional.  “You’ve been unconscious for a few days.”

The doctor shook his head disapprovingly.  Normally, their caste never spoke to someone of the highest caste, that which Gerald belonged.  Even the doctor had to use the nurse, who was a member of a middle caste, as a mediary to speak to Gerald.

Besides Evie, no officers in the colony’s militia were of the low castes.  She was a rare, the only, exception to that rule.

Overall, the colony was divided into 6 separate castes.  The only ones considered to truly matter were the two lowest and the one highest.  The high caste, or the Ariledites, were the governing caste.  They were the only people allowed to sit on the high council save three seats.  They had full, unrestricted access to any supplies they felt it necessary to have.

The next three castes, the Yuotiphers, Giridites, and Rephers respectively, were all allowed one representative each to sit on the council as a voting member.  Their supplies were also rationed, but to a much lesser extent. Each had rights successively removed.

The low castes, Xepes and Iradiles, were all non-voting members of the colony.  Most were employed by the colony in some form of heavy labor or defense.  They could hold higher positions in the society’s labor force, although such waivers were heavily regulated.  Those who showed great skill, such as the doctor, were given caste waivers and allowed to pursue a more venerable job.  Despite this allowance, they remained locked into their social status.  Iradiles were the least regarded and not permitted to even speak directly to Ariledites or Yuotiphers.

Each caste was distinguished by tattoos given at birth.  Ariledites were marked on their forearm leaving their face clean and untouched. Iradiles’ tattoos were above their left eye. The remaining castes had their symbol tattooed visibly on their left cheekbone.

No one now living was alive during the initial setup of their colony’s government and caste system.  It was just accepted protocol; it was normal.

Since Evie had attained the rank of officer, she was permitted to speak to anyone, but only if spoken to first.  Over time she and Gerald had formed a friendship, an anomaly that was never allowed.  In spite of this, not wanting to ever feel as though she were taking advantage of her privilege, Evie most often chose to simply follow the rules of social convention and courtesy.

“Her vitals are looking good,” the doctor told the nurse.  Gerald heard this and patiently waited for the nurse to walk over and repeat it.  Once the nurse did so, Gerald resumed her conversation with Evie.

She noticed a sadness in the young woman’s eyes.  “You’ll be fine,” Gerald said, trying to reassure her soldier.

“I’m a mess, ma’am,” Evie replied, bluntly.  “I wouldn’t even make a good slusher.”

Slusher was the nickname given to those who handled all waste generated by the colony. It was a job no one wanted and only Iradiles had.

The pair were silent for a little while. Gerald sat keeping herself poised and stoic. The doctor and attending nurse finished examining the various devices and attachments monitoring Evie’s condition. When they changed her bandages, Evie quietly closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, refusing to look or give in to the pain. Gerald, however, watched with grim curiosity.

When their tasks were complete, Gerald instructed that they left the room leaving her and Evie alone. Evie steadily held her gaze forward as Gerald watched the door close and listened for the latch. Gerald waited a few minutes before she stood up, walked over to the door, and cracked it open.

The hall was fairly busy, but it appeared that no one was waiting outside or were much aware of the room.

Quietly, Gerald closed and latched the door again. For good measure, she grabbed her chair and carried it toward the doorway wedging it so that it could not be opened unexpectedly.

“We can’t keep doing this anymore, Gerry,” Evie said, as she kept focusing straight ahead.  “My privileges won’t excuse this.  They’ll kill us both.”

Gerald continued in silence, wedging the chair firmly against the door and checking it until she was sure that no one could open it.  Feeling confident this was done, she walked back to the bed and climbed up, kissing Evie while gently holding her face with both hands.

“I thought you were dead,” Gerald said, her eyes welling with tears completely releasing the stone-like presence she was holding earlier.

Evie said nothing.  She accepted the kiss of her lover and began to cry softly.  She had survived by sheer luck, but she suddenly felt her luck expiring.

Previous Episode: 1 – Failure Imminent

Next Episode January 18, 2015

My Top Weapon at the Gym

t-rex-hates-pushups-t-shirtI have been back into the gym for almost 22 weeks now. At one time for many years I was a regular, a veritable gym rat. Many factors led to my not going so far through my 30’s. But that’s neither here nor there.

Now, all on my own, I’ve lost 15 pounds and got my squats and bench press strength up nearly 50% in the time since getting back those weeks ago. Both above my body weights prior to losing those 15 pounds (full set, not just single lift… yes, that is a bit of a brag).

More than anything else tangible (meaning other than the drive and commitment) I would give one item the description as the most important tool for my success in the gym:

A notebook.

That’s it. Not any piece of equipment. Not any workout plan. No website, book, magazine, diet plan… nothing. Just a notebook.

It seems hokey, sure. I even see the looks I get from the majority of people who go there at the same time as I do. I only see two others normally besides my wife and I that have notebooks with them. It is definitely a tool that is overlooked.

I record almost everything regarding my workout routine, the weights or resistance I use, and the number of reps per set I do. What that has done is given me a full view as to where my weaknesses are and where I can step up.

I’ve written down if an exercise felt weird, or where I might have felt pain… I also wrote where and how I injured myself 9 weeks back.

Installing-Muscles-(Loading)-T-ShirtsIt is all how I’ve been able to go from below average to well above average for my age and size in just 22 weeks. It was my biggest help recouping the progress that slowed when I injured myself. And I’d say I haven’t been pushing myself quite enough.

Having a notebook has also secured that I will always know what I had done and if I am ready to push more or if I’ve stagnated.

Don’t think so? Try it. It may start as a pain in the ass, but if you want to constantly push yourself, there’s no better way.

 

Weekly Update – 14 December 2014

The General Update

Not much has happened here this week after an unfortunate accident sent my son to the hospital. (He’s ok, so no worries.) So this week it has been more about being a dutiful father than much of anything else. I still got a little bit done, but it wasn’t as much as I would have liked… such is life at times.

Music of the week

Foreign Beggars

A British alternative-hip-hop duo, these guys are awesome. They released another video on youtube this week. It immediately was added to my favorite music videos.

 

WIP it

As above, not much happening. Wrote approx 2k words in Agnes Pyle and am preparing Of Earth and Ice’s 2nd episode for release this Thursday (18th). Other than that, WIP’s haven’t moved a whole lot, but what can be expected.

Currently Reading

Still working slowly through Academ’s Fury… nothing changing there.

Motivational Message

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

– Samuel Beckett

 

Time to Build Habits

(image links to source)
(image links to source)

I’ve been trying to push a lot of change through lately specifically regarding my writing. It’s gotten me to further reconsider what I am after and how I am going to get there.

Of those who read this blog, one may come to the natural conclusion that I enjoy writing. And that conclusion is not inaccurate. Writing is a passion of mine. But with that passion, there is a ton of fear and doubt. Having a nice job and fairly stable lifestyle further allows the doubt to cast over my desires. (This is a ‘why rock the boat’ situation as best as I can figure.)

But no matter what, I want to get back to writing.

No matter how much I distract myself, no matter how much life gets in the way, no matter how much I may just not want to at a given time, I just have to write.

And writing makes me happy (besides the stress, doubt, fear, etc).

So I want to do something about it, and I want to build habits into my life to make it happen.

Here are a few of those habits:

  • Write every day. It seems simple enough, but believe me, it isn’t
  • Track my word count – I am leaving off my goals, but I used to track my word count every day and it had a positive effect (so long as I just ignore reaching a minimum count and make it a daily competition with myself.
  • Put out my web-serials. To some this will look like work and a set-up for failure. But this is actually a plan to write. I need to practice and my web-serials (which are lightly edited and not as crucial for perfection as my short stories, novellas, and novels are) are a nice way to get some practice out.
  • If it ain’t working, do something else. This is a trick I heard from a lot of professional writers. The trick is that the wheels of creativity need grease. If the motivation/inspiration isn’t striking on a current WIP, move onto to something else, even if it is just purposefully gibberish. Write something! Once it starts, the original project might become easier to produce.
  • Read everyday. They go hand-in-hand. I need to take 15 minutes out of my day and read.
  • Write down a to-do list in the morning. The morning is crucial
    (image links to source)
    (image links to source)

    because it puts the items at the front of your mind. And I’ve tried this on a computer or a phone… it always works better for me in a notebook being handwritten. Others find their own ways.

  • Publish a blog post every week. This seems like stressful work, but just forcing to write about something even though it might seem stupid is good practice. And it’s content.
  • Avoid distractions. Try to ignore the calling of social media… it only serves to destroy.

This is fairly aggressive, but it truly centers around the 1st point (write every day). I have been building myself great habits with my health, and it is time to do the same with my writing. It will take time, but I am sure that I can make this happen. If not, I’ll keep trying something else.

 

Weekly Update – 7 December 2014

updateThe General Update (a general status of my writing world)

As with anything, I wanted to get back on the wagon with regards to my writing this week. As per usual, it is an on-again-off-again relationship with me and the pen (or keys if you want to be more technically oriented). My problem with this has been getting closer to a resolution point though as I continue to drive myself towards the inevitable conclusion that I am not yet ready to be a full-time writer as I just do not take my writing seriously enough yet. After writing for 20 or so years, one would maybe think that it is close, and I feel that it is. But it is all me.

My wife did give me a piece of advice though as I healed from a brief stomach flu this week in that I should take an approach to my writing that is similar to the approach that I have recently taken to my health and my attendance to the gym. A lot of that is quite simple: build habits. That is what I will be focusing on in the coming weeks/months, and this update is part of that plan.

Also this week I quietly released chapter 2 of my web-serial “The Vigil” here on this site. Both of my web-serials will be updated monthly (alternating every 2 weeks on the 3rd and 18th of each month) and will be available on this site for free. Look over to the left for the links. I’ll also be adding them to Wattpad in the coming weeks where they will be updated at the same time in the future.

Music of the week (song or band that’s been this week’s playlist)

I cannot avoid putting Chvrches here for this one. They have been practically the only album on my playlist for the last two or three weeks and it won’t be changing soon. Here is there “hit” The Mother We Share.

WIP it (status of work in progress)

I’ve stated (I don’t know how many times) before that I am working on a 5-1-1 plan on my next phase of stories. I have numerous projects that will enable me to make that happen. I’ve talked about them before. Suffice to say, three of the seven are absolutely finished and ready, two are really near completion, and the last two are still in need of more work. If I keep up my current rate I may get it complete by mid 2015. With the habits mentioned above, I should ensure that.

Currently Reading

92626 (1)

Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher. Book 2 of the Codex Alera series has been a slow to get started, but it isn’t due to a lack of good material. Book 1 was a great read, and I look forward to actually getting myself into book 2.

Motivational Message (quote or message from me or others)

In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative. But if you can foster a positive understanding of failure, the opposite will happen.

-Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar

 

This guy who writes stuff for you to read…