Working Title “Ashfall”

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Coming of age moment for the main character in my current work in progress. The working title is “Ashfall” however, it won’t be named that because of the number of books that already have that name. This is not edited, just sharing with the group:

…“Things are bad out there right now, but it can’t be the end of everything.” A nearby scream pierced the night in contrast to her statement.

Ty slid aside the curtain and then looked back at his roommate. “Shit, Aeric. It looks like a gang is beating someone down there. Are we gonna stand by and let that happen or do we go out there and stop them?”

More screams emphasized his point. Aeric and Veronica went to the window. In the parking lot below, a group of men had surrounded another. They took turns stabbing him every time he stood to escape while two men holding rifles stood back from the group watching to make sure that no one snuck up on them. Harsh laughter drifted up the seven stories to their window and grated on Aeric’s nerves like nails on a chalkboard.

He didn’t know what the future held or how long Austin would be lawless, but this was the first time that he had a real life-and-death decision to make. If they stood by and did nothing, then the man would surely be killed, but what was to stop them from getting killed if they went down to stop the men? They had guns and knives, all Aeric and Ty had was one baseball bat and a pair of cleats. They wouldn’t be able to stand up to anyone with that.

A small hand fell on his shoulder. “I think I know that guy. It’s hard to tell, but I think he lives in the building,” Veronica muttered. “Are we going to go down there and stop them?”

Were they going to stop the gang from torturing the man in the parking lot? Was it even their place to protect people that they didn’t know? In his mind, Aeric thought that was the right thing to do; it was easy to say what the honorable choice was, but when he was actually faced with the possibility of torture or death, the distinction between right and wrong became a whole lot murkier.

The decision was taken away from him before he could make it. One of the thugs stepped forward and grasped the man’s head from behind. Blood fountained into the night as he slid his knife across the victim’s throat. Veronica gasped and turned away from the window and Aeric stepped back in shock. He couldn’t believe what he’d just witnessed; in truth he was relieved because they didn’t have to go down to the street and face their own death. Did that make him a coward?

He stared in silence at the small opening in the curtains where they hadn’t fallen completely shut. He didn’t feel like a coward and had always considered himself a risk-taker, but then again, he’d never been faced with such a momentous challenge before. He tried to reason with himself that even if he and Tyler had charged headlong down the apartment’s stairs, they never would have made it in time to save Veronica’s neighbor. It was easy to look back on it now and determine that waiting had been the smart thing to do.

Aeric’s sense of moral justice and self-preservation warred within him. He’d done the right thing to assess the situation before acting, but his lack of action had allowed that man’s death to occur. He argued that it wasn’t his place to go around rescuing people who’ve gotten themselves into trouble. Then, his thoughts reversed and he told himself that both he and Tyler should have responsibilities to the residents of the city. They were both physically stronger and more intimidating than most people, so they should use those gifts for good.

But what was good? What was evil? How did he know that Veronica’s neighbor hadn’t been evil himself and the men below had simply reacted and carried out vigilante justice because of the lack of police? Of course, he’d likely never know, but he did know that “justice” didn’t entail torturing a man. His mind took those thoughts and carried them further; those men had tortured him for fun. Their cruel laughter was evidence of that. They were the evil ones. They must be stopped. He was the one who had the strength and ability to stop them.

The police were fighting a losing battle with the gangs in southeast Austin. It was his responsibility to ensure that bastards like the men below would never do anything like that to helpless people again. Aeric Gaines vowed to himself that from here on out, he’d do whatever he could to put an end to the evil of this world; he would never again question himself whether he was considered a coward.

“Veronica, can I have your knife? I’m going hunting.”

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