Inverted: Chapters 1 & 2

I decided to start National Novel Writing Month on the 10th November, and began writing on the 11th. I somehow managed to finish, doing 50,467 words in 20 days… I still can’t believe it! No prep, no prior idea, no characters, just an urge to give it a go. It just shows you’ll be amazed at what you can acheive!

Illustration by Bridget Spackman, for 'Inverted'.

Illustration by Bridget Spackman, for ‘Inverted’.

This image was done by a friend of a friend… I love it, so thank you Bridget!

Here’s a brief synopsis and the first couple of chapters…

Synopsis

The year is 2051 in a gender inverted world where all deities, leaders, dictators, and politicians are women, and men have to fight for equal rights. The War against the Taliban in Afghanistan has now been going on for 50 years, and troubles in the rest of the Middle East are worse than ever. Britain and the rest of the Western World can no longer afford the War on Terror, and they have to find a way to end it once and for all; an action that if taken could put their female fighters, and the entire world, in immense danger.

Three fiercely close sisters get separated in the tangle of this War, and have to fight to reunite. Grace Hartness, a young solider in the British Army, is being held hostage in an unknown location in Afghanistan. Alex Hartness, lose cannon and ex-Army Officer, is sent to find Grace, and bring her back before before it’s too late. Rose Hartness, the eldest sister, is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and has to decide what is more important; her duty or her sisters?

Where is Grace? Will Alex find her sister in time? Will either of them get out of the war zone before Rose has to make some very difficult decisions? Will Rose keep her promise to bring her sisters home, or will she get distracted by an old flame that threatens to get in her way?

The sisters struggle with morality, as they are forced to judge what is more important in a world that isn’t as different as you may think.

Part 1

Alex

 

She had dirt in her eyes, and her head still ached from where she’d fallen, with some force, against a rock a few hours ago. Or was it days? She wasn’t sure. Her sense of time was rapidly depleting. She was repeatedly turning a coin between her fingers, which were feminine yet rough in texture. There was dried blood near the wound on her forehead, where it had trickled while she had lain unconscious momentarily. The helmet and armour designed to prevent such things were long gone. God only knew where. She certainly couldn’t remember. Probably strewn amongst the hundreds of dead that were out there rotting in the immense heat, or worse, rotting for all to see with their body parts strung up separately, like bunting from barren trees. Some had been there years, put there for show by the women of the Taliban.

Out of her platoon only herself and Alice remained, and the Joint Operating Base resembled nothing like the one their regiment had organised the set up of by the Royal Engineers 30 years ago, when the British Army had first arrived here. One of the three regiments that allowed males near the front line in a support role, not in a combat role obviously, had constructed it for them. For a long time it had been solid, and had even developed into the main operating base in Helmand province. It had been large enough for hundreds of women from NATO forces across Europe and Northern America; it had everything from hospitals, to gyms, to shops and cafes. Today, it was deserted, and falling apart.

Alex was sat on the warm desert floor, propped up against the remains of an old blast wall constructed from HESCO; her SA80 A2 rifle was casually lying on the floor beside her. It was against her training to put it down like that but she was beyond the realms of training now. Now it was pure survival. Her soft brunette hair was plaited at length down one side, nearly down to her belly button, and fine wispy bits were escaping with the humidity of the rainy season. She wore only a sand coloured tank top and MTP (multi terrain pattern) cargo pants, and both were badly stained with dust. She was exhausted, physically and mentally, and let her head sit comfortably in her right hand, which in turn was rested on her bended right leg. In her left hand the coin was still flipping between her fingers. Her left leg lay stiffly against the ground, with a well-used bandage wrapped around the small circumference of her knee. One of the Taliban, the female Muslim extremists that they were fighting, had shot an arrow straight through her leg as she had ran for cover after being ambushed on a night watch a few days ago. It could have been worse; luckily, the bitch had run out of bullets. The short stock of bullets and guns meant many people, from all sides, carried a mixture of old and new weapons to use when needed. The still-open wound ached as she thought about it.

As a manner of distraction, she looked up to the heavens; deep grey clouds covered every part of the sky. She didn’t flinch as it began to rain. The light drops struck the ground with such combined force that they pulverised the dust into a sticky mess. She let her eyes close with her head left tilted backwards onto the hard surface behind it; the water melted down her face and washed some of the dirt and dust into long streaks running down her neck, chest and arms. Her strong, defined yet delicate, jaw was jutted out so that the rain created a waterfall effect, cascading down onto her chest.

She was soaked to the bone within seconds. She appreciated it. It washed away any nasty bits of memory that may have been surfacing, allowing them to drip from her mind and out into the puddles forming on the floor.

Hearing footsteps, despite the heavy thundering of the rainfall, she scrambled to her feet, weapon now in place. The coin disappeared into a pocket. You would never have thought that her leg was injured had you seen how fluid her movement was.

“Alice. You scared the shit out of me. Where the fuck have you been?” Alex relaxed, visibly relieved.

“Sorry”. Alice shrugged her slender shoulders as she shouted over the rainfall, and flashed a grin. “Thought I’d have some fun with that boy we captured an age ago. He’s pretty much dead. But still. Never know when I’ll get a chance again right? Could be months!” She let her flaxen blonde hair out of its clip as she spoke, washing water through her face and hair with her hands, as if she were stood in a shower. She wore the same cargo pants as Alex, with a torn up loose grey t-shirt. She was tanned and you could see that her arms were well defined with muscle, as she raised them to her face.

“You’re sick.” Alex laughed and shook her head, more at the fact that she actually wasn’t that disturbed, but knew she should be. This place twisted your mind and flipped your sense of right and wrong. All you knew was survival. The rest just faded into a faint familiarity. She picked her pack up from the floor and hefted it onto her back, in readiness to get going, and to forget what Alice had just told her.

“What? He wanted it anyway. Wanted to get some, you know, try it, before he went to our lady Allah… changed his mind about the virtues of male chastity and all that shit…” She was trying to tell me in earnest but there was an almost evil twinkle in her ice-blue eyes. She grabbed her pack from the spot next to where Alex’s had been, and flung it with apparent ease onto her back, spraying excess water into the air as it landed with a thud.

Alex was at a loss as whether to chastise her, whether it was worth it, or whether that had even just been said and she wasn’t imagining it. She was joking, Alex thought. What could she do right now anyway if she wasn’t, strip her of her rank and leave her here to rot? They were in it together now, and Alex didn’t take Alice for an inherently evil person. She was a normal person; this was just an evil place.

Having made her decision, Alex turned to answer Alice: “Yeah whatever, freak, you said you going to check if there was any food left; guess that’s a no?” Alice’s face said it all. “Lets move out of this shithole anyway.”

 

 

 

Rose

 

On this day two years ago, when the sky had been unusually ice blue and clear, they had been stood together at his graveside. This year the mood was different, the sky was dark and flushed grey with anger. This year she stood alone.

Last year it had just been her and Alex. She doesn’t remember what the weather was. Alex was back in Afghanistan.

She pushed the thought from her mind almost as soon as it had entered, as she stared, unmoving, at the headstone in front of her. A faint whistling breeze fizzed past her ears, an echo of the empty spaces to her left and right; spaces her sisters should have been stood in. Last year had been bad enough, with one gone. Now that they were both gone their ritual seemed almost redundant.

She shook the whistling from her ears, shifting for the first time in what seemed like hours. Her expensively styled hair swung at shoulder length as she did, with the smooth clean ends feeling beautifully light, as freshly cut hair always did. She rocked on the balls of her feet to bring some life back to them, thinking as she did how inappropriate the patent red kitten heels were for a graveyard. It didn’t matter much anyway. Dad wouldn’t have minded.

It took Rose a second to realise that the cloud of misted breath floating in the air was hers; it was cold in London for early November. She caught herself wondering what the weather in Afghan was, before stopping herself abruptly.

Enough Rose. Time to leave, she told herself firmly.

As always, she carefully bent one knee to the cold-hardened grass, pressing two fingers first to her lips, and then to her father’s headstone, before gently rising. It was covered with a thin layer of frost. Once stood, she brushed the non-existent dirt from her soft cream woollen coat and dark trousers before swiftly turning on her heels to leave. As if she hadn’t pause for thought to think about it.

She walked briskly through the hundreds of gravestones, cutting a straight line back to her car. Her driver sat at the wheel of the expensive black Mercedes Benz patiently, where she’d left him at 6am this morning. There better not be much traffic she thought grimly, as she climbed in; she had Prime Minister’s Questions to take in two hours.

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3 responses to “Inverted: Chapters 1 & 2

  1. Pingback: Inverted: Chapters 3 – 5 | Abstractions of Life·

  2. Pingback: My Campaign: Help a Girl Succeed! | Abstractions of Life·

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