As I've mentioned before, I've been working on my plotting and story structure of late, and I thought I would post some of my practice on "beginnings".
This is a prologue, or a potential opening chapter for the story I'm gearing up to write for NaNoWriMo this year. Enjoy, and tell me what you think below—if you are so inclined.
There were two places De'Andre knew where one could go to secure certain illegal services. He could have gone to the row of shanties that had slowly built up on the Potomac in east Arlington. It had started as a lonely row of cardboard houses, but slowly ballooned as more people migrated into the city and pushed the lower classes out onto the streets. Now it was a burgeoning city in its own right, complete with micro-climates and it's own economy of sorts. Unfortunately for De'Andre, that location was currently being raided by the metro police, so he begrudgingly opted for his second choice.
He swung the door of the abandoned storefront open and cringed at the signal bell.
"Brother!" A deep baritone echoed through the room, apparently originating from somewhere in the back that was obscured by a wall that had been erected to hide whatever it was that went down inside.
De'Andre sighed and stepped into the room. "De'Sean, get out here! I don't want to fall into another one of your stupid traps!"
"Hey, man. Not my fault you came wandering in here without permission. I told you to watch your step." De'Sean appeared in the doorway on the far end of the wall and smiled at his little brother. "It's safe now."
"You got new ink," De'Andre said.
"Yeah, I wanted something to remember ma." He looked down at the entangle mess of tattoos that adorned both of his muscular arms. His white tank top showcased his barrel chest and massive biceps in a way that always made De'Andre feel grossly inferior.
De'Andre nodded and the two walked behind the wall and to a small table and set of folding chairs that were set up on the other side. As a matter of habit, De'Andre never went into the far back room. He knew that was where all of the interesting stuff happened, and he didn't want any part of it. He didn't want any part of it except for one thing.
"I need to get off the grid," De'Andre said as he sat down.
De'Sean raised an eyebrow. "Drink? I've got some beer around here somewhere."
"Just water, please."
"Suit yourself." De'Sean walked over to a mini-fridge in the corner and retrieved a bottle of water and a can of lite beer before returning to the table. He passed the bottle of water over to De'Andre, and cracked open one of his beer cans before settling into the chair. It creaked under the strain of its occupant. "That water's poison you know. Government's been putting who-knows-what in that stuff."
"What do you think they make your beer with?"
"Love and affection. Now why do you need to go off grid? What'd you do?"
De'Andre looked down at his bottle of water and set about cracking the seal and taking a few greedy swallows. Confrontation made his mouth dry. "I can't say."
"Come on bro, you know the room is clean. Nobody listening here but us."
"Are you sure about that?"
De'Sean stood up, his face suddenly severe. His fists were clenched and De'Andre felt himself subconsciously shift backwards in his chair. De'Sean had always been the bigger of the two, and the disparity had only grown over the years. While De'Andre had thinned out, watched his weight, stuck to a strict routine of diet and exercise, his brother had spent his time consuming protein supplements and spending most of his evenings in the gym.
The truth was that their lives had dramatically diverged. De'Sean was an all-state high school linebacker that took his aggression and brawn to the streets after graduation. The only reason he had stuck it out and graduated was because of De'Andre who had helped him make it through math and science. To the surprise of nearly everyone in the entire world, he got a scholarship to study engineering at Virginia Tech that wasn't connected to his efforts on the football field. De'Andre found that he was not only in his brother's shadow physically, but also academically.
"Yes. I'm sure."
"Sorry," De'Andre said, holding up his hand in an attempt to calm the older, feistier brother. "I guess I'm just a little more paranoid than usual."
"You think I'd let them snoop in on me like that?"
"No. Of course not. How could they? You're smarter than all of them."
De'Sean considered this, then relaxed and sat back down to enjoy his beer. "Start talking. What trouble you in?"
"No trouble," De'Andre said, returning his attention back to his own drink. He didn't believe most of his brother's conspiracy theories, but they always made him uncomfortable. He slid the water bottle a safe distance away and saw the slightest upturn in De'Sean's lips.
"A girl then?"
"No, nothing like that. I just need to get out of the city for a while, and I don't want anyone following me."
"Who would follow you, brother? Your about as interesting as this beer." He looked down as if to address the can in his hand and knit his eyebrows. "Sorry, no offense."
"It's for a job."
De'Sean leaned forward and crumpled his empty beer can in his hand. "Now we're getting somewhere. For your big boy job, or a different kind of job? How is that fancy defense contractor treating you these days?"
"Same as always: like crap. You know I can't talk about it though, and no this job isn't related."
De'Sean raised his eyebrows and leaned a little further forward. He tilted his head, as if to entice De'Andre to continue.
"C'mon brother. Can you just reset me and get it over with?"
"You paying me?"
De'Andre shifted in his chair, grabbed the bottle of water and took another swig without thinking about it. "I thought--you know since you're my brother--that maybe..."
"Everybody pays, brother. But I'll accept your payment in the form of information." He cracked the second beer can open and leaned back in the flimsy folding chair once more. "Gotta keep the business running somehow."
"How does my information help you?"
De'Sean shrugged. "Never know until you tell me what's going on. Now spill it."
"Alright," De'Andre hissed, "but you know I can lose my clearance for telling you this stuff."
"Brother, that's treason."
"Who's worse, the traitor or the traitor's brother who forced his hand?"
"The traitor's brother won't be lined up against a brick wall when it's all said and done."
De'Andre searched his brother's face for any sign of emotion or remorse. "You know, I shouldn't have come."
"Alright, alright," De'Sean said as he put his hands up, "you've said enough. I don't want them taking my little brother in for something I did. I'm still looking out for you."
De'Andre grunted and downed the rest of the water. He waited for his brother to finish his beer and then they both retreated to the back room, passing through the doorway that De'Andre had always told himself to be forbidden. He could be brought up on charges for just being back there, let alone what he wanted to do back there. He'd always been a rule-follower through his time at university, even though he had been stuck in his brother's shadow in every way.
The door led to an expansive back room, lit with fluorescent bulbs that lined the tall ceilings. Metal beams and support girders ran throughout the room. De'Andre looked up and saw that the whole room appeared to be lined in a fine copper mesh.
"Sealed off from the whole world in here," De'Sean said as the door closed with a satisfying thud. "I can't tell you how long it took me to tune out the trouble frequencies. Some of that stuff you guys are developing for the Feds is almost too much to block without taking extreme measures."
"I can see you've taken them," De'Andre said as he looked around the sparse room. There was another metal cage in the center of the room that contained a table, something that looked like a chair from the dentist's office, and a few other machines that De'Andre could only guess at. Other than the cage and its contents, the room was entirely empty.
"Well, I guess you could say that there are signals that I want to keep out, and signals that I want to keep from getting out." De'Sean walked over to the inner cage and opened the door. It gave way with a squeal. "I can't believe you haven't been back here before."
"It's not exactly on the list of approved activities." De'Andre walked through the door as his brother held it open, then let it swing shut once they were both inside.
"Have a seat. This should be pretty quick."
Let me know what you think in the comments!