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Author Topic: Gods of War, Soldiers of Peace Prologue  (Read 886 times)

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« on: August 16, 2017, 08:28:19 PM »

I wrote this prologue to sort of give readers a glimpse at the dreary world and situation our main heroes will eventually be confronted with well before they actually leave the comfort of their homes. Thank you all so much for your time and please be as forthright as you feel prompted to be.

Link now available here.


The snow hit Daewon Suh like a cluster of daggers. Each flake was harder and colder than the last, and shelter was still several hour’s march away. Clutching his left hand was his faithful wife, a woman as steadfast and strong as he was. He remembered a time when their days had been filled with glory, with luxury, and purpose. The hardest things Daewon ever had to do in another life were during his military training, yet even those tasks seemed like pleasant distractions compared to the long winter that had become his whole world.

When the Americans had first invaded, the Dear Leader promised to beat them back. He was a god to all the people, and Daewon had believed him. When the Capital fell and foreign soldiers poured into the city to kill and rape at their leisure, he still believed the Dear Leader who said it was a trial of faith, that only the weak and untrue would perish. When his son was shot before his eyes by enemy soldiers and his daughter carried away to most likely be raped, he still believed. When the Dear Leader was taken out and shot by the Americans for the whole world to see…

Daewon shrugged away the thought. Once, he took great pride in his appearance and the many shiny medals attached to his uniform. Those same medals, now blackened by rust and cold, were each a badge of shame. He hated remembering how gullible he was and felt as ragged as the fraying threads on his coat. Some in his camp were still slow to realize how badly they’d been deceived so Daewon had to remind himself to guard his tongue once he returned. When he and his wife reached the caves that served as shelter and civilization, there was already a commotion among the few dozen inhabitants that made up the entire community.

“We can’t stay here! Winter hasn’t even come all the way and we have nothing to eat!” a man cried out.

“And go where? The children won’t survive the snow,” a woman snapped back.

“Hundreds of children died during the famine decades ago. But the strong survived. That’s what the Dear Leader said.”

“f**k the Dear Leader. In the end the Americans shot him like a dog. He was just a liar like everyone else.” The slap was so loud even from outside the cave Daewon couldn’t help but wince. He stepped inside and dropped the pile of firewood he and his wife had been gathering for half the afternoon.

“Is there a problem?” he bellowed. Among the camp of thin, half-starved husks of survivors crammed into the rock crevices, Daewon stood the tallest. His own ribs pressed tightly against his skin, with no flesh to pad the bone from the outside world. Thankfully, the mass of his winter military uniform bulked him up enough to make him an imposing figure in spite of his own poor health. No one said a word. No one had to, Daewon could see the woman with the fresh bruise on her left cheek. “What did I say about hitting women? Or men for that matter? We have enough problems without us fighting among ourselves.”

“She spoke ill of our Leader!” a man shouted. It was an older man. Daewon had a hard time believing he of all the camp members could have hit a woman so hard. His arms were little more than gnarled branches of bone with pale, liver-spotted skin wrapped tightly around them. His eyes pointed in different directions, with one clouded snow white from an untreated cataract. The rags draped around him did little to help his ragged appearance.

“She’s half-starved and delirious from cold, just like the rest of you,” Daewon said with a weary sigh. “And she’s wrong. We need to head south.”

“South?!” another woman cried. “Where the Americans and their dogs can kill us?” She was missing two of her front teeth, and her right eye was so cloudy it could have been mistaken for a pearl.

“We can’t stay here,” Daewon declared. “Old Man Lee’s right about that much. But we can’t go north. The fallout would kill us all in days. China’s ruined. The whole world’s ruined. Nobody’s seen an American or Korean traitor soldier in this area for years.”

“Even if every last American dog in the south was dead, we’d never make it past the border. If we made it past the landmines the automated turrets could still kill us.”

“Maybe. The fallout in the north could kill us, the turrets and landmines in the south could kill us, but staying here absolutely will kill us.” None of the others had anything to say in response. “It’s getting dark. We’ll eat what’s left of our rations and march south in the morning.”

With nothing more than a fist sized ball of rice and a finger sized strand of dried and cured meat in his stomach, Daewon Suh crawled into his frayed sleeping bag along with his wife. He could feel the ribs and shoulder bones wrapped thinly by her skin, even through the fur coat she’d been wearing to stay warm. It hurt every time he touched one of those stony points on a body he once remembered as soft and supple.

“I’m sorry Jiwon. For all of this,” he said as he caressed her bony shoulder. “If we ever find someplace warm, we’ll find good ground and farm. We’ll have so much rice you can eat until you’re fat enough to cover every bone on your body.” Jiwon turned around to look her husband in the eye with a smile.

“You’re withered as a reed yourself,” she replied. “Stop looking so grim. The worst that can happen now is we die. I’m okay with that. I’ve lived a good and happy life, you made sure of that.” She took Daewon’s cheek in her hand and kissed him on the lips. Her hands were coarse and calloused, as heavily battered from hard labor and survival as his were. One day, he vowed to himself, she’d touch him and her hands would be softer than silk. She kissed him again, while slipping her other hand underneath his clothes.

“What are you doing?”

“We might die tomorrow. I’m ready. But I want to spend tonight as if everything’s fine.” She undid the buttons and laces holding his clothes together. Even under their sleeping bag, the chill of winter night air raised goosebumps on his chest. His wife noticed and closed the gap with her own bare body. Her grey stained black hair was thin and brittle, but Daewon liked to remember when it was smooth and dark black. He took care when running his hand through it so he wouldn’t pull on it. He kissed her on the lips, then the cheek, then the neck. Tomorrow they might die, but tonight he and Jiwon lived as husband and wife.

It was still dark when Daewon opened his eyes. He peeked outside his sleeping bag and noticed half the camp was vacant. Those who remained were still sound asleep, or at least that’s what Daewon had to assume. There was a blizzard outside the cave. Snow and clouds hung in the air so thick the man could scarcely see five feet beyond the entrance. He looked over to see Jiwon fast asleep with a smile on her face. Uttering an apology under his breath, Daewon slipped out of their shared bedding and grabbed his rifle. There were fifteen rounds left in the last magazine he had. He had no intention of firing more than one or two. The weapon had always been more for intimidation than actual combat.

Less than a minute after wandering out, Daewon found a body. He rushed over and turned it over to see the face of Old Man Lee. His cheek was pale, his gaping mouth produced no warm breath. He shuddered and rushed back towards the cave. But as familiar as he was with the way home, the snow made it impossible for him to return in a straight line. Gusts of wind and the utter lack of landmarks swayed him left and right, dizzying him with each burst. The outline of the mountain above just came into view when he noticed several bodies lined up in front of him. He couldn’t make out their faces in the midst of the blizzard. He only knew they were human bodies. But upon closer inspection Daewon realized they were alive and standing, and they were all naked. If they were cold or uncomfortable, they showed no sign. All of them breathed in unison, creating a collective cloud of steam to further obscure their greying white skin.

Daewon had seen these creatures before, and the sight of so many assembled at once made his skin crawl. Dokkaebi, Old Man Lee had called them after old Korean folk monsters. No one in their group had any more concrete explanation for what they were or where they came from, only that they ate whatever poor soul couldn’t slip away from their decrepit jaws. They had only ever had to deal with them twice in the past few years, and both times never more than two at a time. In front of him were standing at least ten. They took a step towards him in unison, and fear overcame Daewon Suh. He ran, and the multitude followed.

Though none of the trees had leaves, the forest in front of him made it even harder for Daewon to see ahead. By weaving in and out of the increasingly thick maze of wood, he hoped to lose his pursuers. They all ran as one, sometimes splitting to avoid a tree but always coming back together when there was enough space. When he’d put enough space between himself and the creatures, he raised his rifle and aimed it at the closest one. The shot blasted through the thing’s head, spraying its brains all over its fellows. None of them even blinked or hesitated. Daewon thought better of trying to kill them all. He turned and ran again.

By turning and circling back while fleeing, Daewon managed to clamber back towards safety in his cave. He grabbed several rocks from around the walls and hurled them at the monsters who climbed up after him. Several of them missed, some of them hit their marks. Those that did left bruises, scratches, and even dislocated bones but fewer of them truly slowed their targets down. Only on the occasional lucky shot did Daewon manage to hit one on the head, sending its brains spraying out and killing it for good.

“Jiwon! We have to go!” Daewon screamed into the cave. He looked back between throws but heard no reply. When he ran out of rocks, he raised his rifle and cut down the remaining five monsters still standing. There were seven more rounds left in the gun, he knew. Seven bullets in case more monsters appeared. Moments later, he could hear his wife step out from their bedding. “Jiwon. I’m sorry for waking you but we need to go. Something’s out there.” There was no reply. “You’re tired I know, but get dressed and packed. We’re not safe here.” He was met with only silence. When he turned to face her, he knew why.

Lumbering forward with the grace of a sloth and as naked as the day she was born, Daewon’s wife Jiwon had a gaze every bit as lost and inhuman as the monsters he had just killed. Her ribs and hip bulged out prominently on her exposed, emaciated frame and her arms were little more than bones wrapped in thin, pale skin. Even so, she walked with the same ironclad gait as the others, and she was soon on Daewon. His hesitation became his downfall, and the creature that was once his wife tackled him. With the snarl of a rabid dog, she bit at his neck. He jerked his head away to the side to miss the creature’s yellow stained teeth. The two wrestled and rolled on the hard stone floor for several minutes.

It boggled Daewon’s mind that the body of such an emaciated woman could thrash and pin him down with such strength. Of course, he realized, his own growing frailty made him a weak combatant as well. After several near fatal bites, he managed to slide out from under the woman and grab a hatchet laying on the ground. A quick view around the camp made Daewon realize, with a churn in his stomach, that the remaining members of their dying community were also gone. More than a few of them were likely among those whose heads Daewon had blasted open. There was little time to dwell on it, however, as the husk of his wife lunged at him again. He jumped to the side to dodge, allowing her to smash into a jagged, rocky wall that would have given even the toughest sane human being pause. Instead, the creature, now with cuts, bruises, and a bloody hole where one of her eyes used to be, lunged at him again.

It left his hand without him truly realizing it. The sharp steel end of the hatchet buried itself in Jiwon’s skull, caking itself in blood and brain while her body slumped to the floor. Daewon was alone, with nothing but his wife’s corpse to accompany him. He’d often imagined the day as a nightmare. He pictured himself roaring with rage and charging at the culprit, always an American in his mind, with rifle in hand. He imagined how satisfied he would be after being drenched in his victim’s blood. But there was no rage or satisfaction this day, and the only blood he was drenched in was that of his wife, his only victim. The desolation inside him matched the cold of the unwavering blizzard outside. He opened his mouth expecting some sound or reaction to echo in the cave. A howl, an anguished cry, a lamentation, anything. Nothing did. His eyes were as dry as a glowing fire pit and his throat was likewise parched.

When he first stepped out into the snow, he marched south only to pass the time. His stomach was empty, his hands were going numb from the cold, and the sun was still little more than a cruel, mocking memory, just like Dear Leader. Yet even under such lethal odds, his body refused to crumple. He walked and walked and walked yet death refused to claim him. It didn’t matter though, Daewon told himself. If the blizzard refused to do it, the landmines or turrets left behind by the American dogs would finally end his suffering. He didn’t know if there was an afterlife, and in the delirium of his cold and barren mind he didn’t care.
In the end it wasn’t snow, landmines, or turrets which halted him. It still didn’t kill him. It was the shouts of other human beings.

“Freeze!” He heard several of rifles being cocked in warning. The footsteps were of trained human soldiers. Human, not monsters, he thought to himself. He fell to his knees and raised his hands to his head as he had seen countless prisoners do before a firing squad executed them. This far south, the only soldiers he expected to find were Americans, or perhaps the southern dogs who served as their puppets. He was not wrong when he saw them. Garbed in the combat uniform of the Army of the Republic of Korea, a dozen men and women in masks appeared to surround him, each with a rifle aimed at his head. He closed his eyes, ready for his own execution. Instead, they dragged him off his feet and carried him away after covering his eyes.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2017, 02:46:11 PM by AndyJ » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2017, 12:29:16 PM »

This sounds intriguing, so when I have more time I would like to review this and your first chapter in more depth. In the meantime, some initial thoughts on the opening:

The snow hit Daewon Suh like a cluster of daggers. Each flake was harder and colder than the last, and shelter was still several hour’s march away. Clutching his left hand was his faithful wife, a woman as steadfast and strong as he was. He remembered a time when their days had been filled with glory, with luxury, and purpose. The hardest things Daewon ever had to do in another life were during his military training, yet even those tasks seemed like pleasant distractions compared to the long winter that had become his whole world.

Some may question opening with scene setting, in this case the weather. Establishing stasis is important, in this case weather appears to be part of his current misery, so I think it works, but others may disagree.

that being said, I would recommend trying to make it more focused and active regarding your main character, who I assume is Daewon. In your first line, focus is really on the snow, which is being described. In the second, again we read about the snow he faces as opposed to his experience/ actions. In the third line, its passive (generally when you see "was", that is the case) and the line is more about his wife, then his hand, and Daewon is kind of in third place. In the fourth, we get active with "he remembered".

Just shooting from the hip here, but maybe something like- Daewon tightened his collar, but the driving snow still stung his neck. He gripped his wife's hand tighter, everything else had gone to hell, at least she was still by his side.

These  are just comments based on some feedback I myself have received. Overall it is intriguing, and I look forward to seeing this develop on here.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2017, 12:31:21 PM by Thanksgiving400 » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2017, 02:11:57 PM »

to sort of give readers a glimpse a wider world beyond the little bubbles my main characters are going to be shown in for the rest of the book

This response is not a commentary on the content of your prologue, but rather your reasoning / motivation for including one in the first place. The dreaded prologue is dreaded for a reason. If included, which I strongly discourage, it should be (1) relevant to the main character, and (2) closely tie into the the content that follows--i.e.your first chapter. Prologues that "give glimpses" fall into irrelevancy and leave the reader feeling cheated. A false start.

So start where the story begins.

What you're doing with yours worries me because...
(1.) Not only is it irrelevant to what follows but, by your account, it also is not "shown for the rest of the book." That doesn't make any sense to me. You're going to lose readers right there. Start with your strongest writing. With conflict. Not a glimpse of something that occurs down the road. And definitely not something we don't experience firsthand in this book. It adds nothing to the story.
(2.) By starting with something we don't experience again for so long, you're wasting the most powerful part of your book. The beginning should be memorable and hook us. Don't do yourself a disservice by making your opening forgettable in the grand scheme of the story. Leave a landmark.

Let's take the quintessential Harry Potter formula. It starts with a first chapter that in many ways functions like a prologue. But it does this right in two fundamental ways.
(1.) It's immediately relevant to the content that follows.
(2.) It presents the central conflict that will stay with us for the next six books and not be resolved until the end. In other the words, the first few pages presents a question, the end of the book concludes that question with an answer.

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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2017, 02:39:24 PM »

Evidently I had a really poor choice of words. I'm gonna go ahead and edit my initial post because I meant to say that the prologue starts by establishing the world where my story takes place from a unique Point of View before we get to the main cast. We see the antagonist's forces in their home environment brutalizing innocents to get a grasp of what will be the main and final conflict while also seeing how hopeless the situation would seem to those less powerful than the main heroes. I should mention that Chapter 1 picks up pretty much exactly where the Prologue ends, showing what happens to Daewon while he's imprisoned while at the same time introducing us slowly to more of the cast.

Anyway, I hope that addresses your concerns and if not... well I tried :/
I'll post Chapter 1 in another thread for comparison if anyone's interested in crosschecking.
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