Saturday, 9 July 2011

Return to Hollyworld

I finished Hollyworld a few months ago now and I have started on a sequel, named Return to Hollyworld (how original, right? ~sarcasm) I am not going to give away anything about the plot but here is the first draft of the first chapter:

The streets of New York City were deadly quiet. It was certainly too quiet for a Friday afternoon. There should be busy shoppers and tourist groups bustling past, swamping the pavement. However, this would be the opinion of someone who had lived several decades ago. Nowadays, 2081 that is, it is completely normal to see an empty New York street. No one went outside anymore. They had not done so ever since the Technological Revolution a decade earlier. It was true, there were some people that still enjoyed fresh air from time to time but they were in minority now. The majority stay inside; watching TV, browsing the web. Not many even did the latter anymore. Not many could read properly. Children were supposed to be educated but instead of attending school they watched online lessons. There were many flaws in the education system as many children did not bother with the lessons at all. Nobody worked other than the government. The government consisted of thousands of smiley, white teethed people who represented themselves to the world everyday via television sets. A range of inventions had been brought in; including scientifically bred robots that would take care of your every need; meaning that the globe was now full of morbidly obese layabouts.

Clik, clak, clik, clak, clik, clak. Coco Richardson walked round the corner onto the desolate street. She stopped outside an empty building that had used to be a shop. She stared at her reflection in the dusty window. She looked closely at her face. Not a wrinkle in sight. At nineteen years old she still had at least six years left of her career as a supermodel. If only they would give her the chance.

Now she was on a lonely street, simply staring at her sombre appearance in the window of a once lively city shop that was now dead and cobweb ridden.

Coco had stuck out from the crowd for as long as she could remember. She was beautiful, but not in the conventional sense of the word. That was why her modelling agency had found her so intriguing from the first day she had been taken there after being scouted five years previously, at the innocent age of fourteen. Photographers loved to work with her. Not just because she had a pleasant personality but because she had what many of them they called “the look.” She was their muse. At first Coco was uncertain what “the look” was but she understood when nearly every girl around the globe tried to recreate it after she became an international success. At eight stone in weight and five foot ten inches in height her figure went straight up and down and was very boyish but she had abnormally long legs which defined her in the industry. Her only feature that her colleagues would try to cover up or edit out would be her knobbly knees that “stuck out almost as far as her toes”, as one malicious photographer had once commented. She had a very fast metabolism and had always been skinny but, like many young models, she still had insecurities about her weight and had tackled an array of eating disorders in her past. Her time in the fashion industry had been short lived but she had made her mark as the last really super supermodel. However, it was a shame that no one cared about how super supermodels were anymore. Many nations despised her because she was slim and beautiful but now everyone had let themselves go so were overweight and made no efforts whatsoever with their appearance.

Coco took a deep sigh and kept on walking down the street. She had one goal in mind and that was to get back to the get back to her hotel room and sleep. It was a doleful day and Coco was dressed in a leather biker jacket that was not very insulted and her exposed legs were getting more goose bumps by the millisecond. Her toes were numb at the ends of her shoes and rain was starting to patter down now. She had to get inside before the rain got heavier. If she did not then it would burn her skin. The constant use of electricity since the start of the Technological Revolution meant that acid rain was not uncommon. She picked up her pace but in her mind everything was still moving so slowly. It would have been impossible for Coco to describe her grief on that day. She did not want to talk to anyone or do anything; that was the reason why she was now on her own. Although Coco had wanted to get back to the hotel promptly she had not wanted to walk with all the others and listen to them rattle on about how sad they were because she felt that no one in the entire universe could possibly feel lower than she did that day. She had told her best friend, Karla, that she would see her the following morning and that she just needed some time to think. But the more she thought the worse she felt and the lower her heart sank. Coco could not imagine ever recovering from this. She had loved her job with such a passion and it had been the main thing that had been keeping her going as she had spent her teen years watching the world crumble around her as a result of the Technological Revolution. She could not imagine her life going on. It would from now on just be like a vicious cycle of getting up in the mornings and watching the TV. She did not want to let that happen but she knew that eventually it would be inevitable. What had the human race let happen?

The most powerful people in fashion had managed to get a few ex-hotel staff to do a day of work for once so that the depressed fashionistas would have somewhere pleasant to return to after a distressing day.

Coco’s flight back to England was early afternoon tomorrow and she wanted to get at least twelve hours of sleep and rest in before then. They had had to hire a few ex-pilots for the flights as the world’s air space was closed unless absolutely necessary.
Coco collected her key from reception.

“Hi” she half grunted, whilst trying to sound polite, “I’m Coco Richardson. Can I have my key?”

“Sure you can” said the woman at reception, quickly looking at the records from the fashion industry’s stay. She swiped a card and handed it to Coco.

“Thanks” Coco said, reluctantly. She was not in the mood for talking. She was not in the mood for anything; apart from sleeping. She climbed the stairs at a snail pace as the elevator was broken. Each step was like she had a tonne of weights tied to each foot. She would have sat down and fallen asleep right there on the carpeted steps if that had seemed like a logical option but she must keep her logic. She had never been an intelligent person when it came to academic subjects but she seemed to be one of the few people that could see how wrong the Technological Revolution was. She did not want her brain to wither away until it was just one ineffectual mesh inside her skull; for that was what had happened to many people that she had once been friends with. Coco was not alone with her fears that some people would soon forget how to string a sentence together therefore will not have any way in which to communicate. They would just sit with their ineffectual mesh inside their skull inside their overweight bodies inside their tracksuits, on the settee, watching their televisions.

Coco got up to the third floor and fumbled to fit her key card in the slot. Her eyes could not focus and everything was becoming one big blur. She stabbed at the door with the key a few times before finally slotting it in the correct place. When she did she picked up her pace and fell down on the luxurious queen-size bed. As her head hit the pillow she had one thought on her mind. It was a thought of what her mother used to tell her. It was this: “It was all seem better in the morning.”  

She was aroused from her deep sleep the next morning by a knock at the door. She stumbled out of bed, walked over and opened the door. Coco was still wearing yesterday’s clothes and her hair was disarrayed. Her friend, Karla, stood in front of her. Karla looked beautiful as ever. Her thin hair was tied back from her face, showing off her defined, high cheekbones that were highlighted under the hotel’s lighting and perfectly shaped and coloured eyebrows. She wore a touch of makeup and her outfit consisted of a nude coloured vest top, showing off her tiny waist, a black biker jacket, skinny jeans and black studded ankle boots. She had one neatly manicured hand on her hips and the other on her Balenciaga suitcase handle.

“What the actual hell, Coco? Have you really just got up? I’ve been knocking for the last five minutes” Karla raised one of her perfect eyebrows which she had a skill at doing, her expression changing from tranquil to angry, stressed, “Our flight leaves in like an hour; if we don’t leave now God knows when we’ll get back to England.”

“Shit!” Coco exclaimed, abruptly waking up fully, “I didn’t set an alarm. I don’t know how I could have slept in so long. I’m so sorry Karla.”

Karla stepped inside as Coco dashed around, shoving items in her suitcase. Once she had packed she stood by the door. Karla was texting on her Blackberry. Karla looked up at her, “Are you not gonna get changed?”

Coco shrugged, “Can’t waste any time” she said before slipping on her black stilettos, grabbing the room key and walking out the hotel room with Karla in tow. The stairs creaked under their step as they ran down clumsily which suggested that they had not been in use for some time, which they had of course not. They checked out at reception and began their journey to the airport by foot.
 They could not call a taxi although they were short on time because taxis did not operate anymore. They walked briskly, not speaking a word. Coco did still not feel like speaking. Sleep had not made things better; all the facts remained the same. They may have evaporated whilst she was asleep but they were back again like a cruel nightmare, that occurred in the day, chasing her endlessly. She had always loved the day; how the sun shone high up in the sky and how she could get constructive work done. She did not care much for the night; sleep was time wasting, no one got anything worthwhile achieved in their sleep. Now, however, her views had flipped. She longed for the night so that she could get away from the reality of the day. Of course, the only way to stay asleep forever would be death.

After fifteen minutes of walking at a constant speed, Coco removed her shoes, rubbing her feet. She looked regretfully at Karla’s Converses as she did so. “You should have worn more practical shoes” was all Karla said, “No time to change them now; we’re in a rush as it is. Just walk barefoot.”

“To be fair, you did rush me this morning” Coco said.

“And I’m going to have to rush you now. Come on, time is rushing by, we’re going to miss our flight” Karla said.

Coco pulled off her six inch heels and carried them in her spare hand. She stepped on the occasional stone but there was no fear of litter; no fresh chewing gum or broken bottles. These streets had been vacant for a decade at least. There was no evidence of human existence. It was like thousands of years spent building up civilisations had all been thrown away and for what? Some new technology that meant that people no longer had to work hard; so that they could lie around all day like animals and let their brains shrink down to the intelligence level of animals. Hard work was the seed of almost every plant; of every important creation or memorable occurrence, but it was no more. Ideas were no more. Memorable occurrences were sparse; the most exciting thing for many people that had happened in recent years was developments in technology. Nobody did anything really notable.
They arrived at the airport with a few minutes to spare. They did not need to hurry as the airports no longer carried out vigorous security checks; all the shops, restaurants and caf├ęs were closed. There was nothing to do but wait.

One large, commercial plane was stopping off at every major European country so that everybody who had attended the New York meeting could be dropped off home. France, Italy and the UK were the main stops because these fashion capitals were the homeland of nearly everyone on the flight. They were all lucky to be able to meet up and fly out. Lots of efforts had been made so that the fashion industry could go out with style. They would not have been possible if people did not have friends and family who worked for the government and Coco was thankful to those people. If it was possible for her to feel worse she is sure that she would have done if everything had ended on a video conference on a computer when computers were part of the reason that they were going under in the first place.

Coco and Karla took their seats and a safety video came on but Coco was not listening. Today would be another sad day. She would have to say goodbye to some long time friends and colleagues and after then she would never see them again. There was no way of her getting across the channel and into mainland Europe.

Coco stared out the window as the plane took off. It was another grey, empty day. Everything seemed grey and empty. She felt grey and empty. Coco rested her head on the wall of the plane. She simply looked at the clouds as they got higher and higher into the sky, before eventually, allowing her eye lids to flutter closed.

“Coco! Coco! Coco!” The screams from reporters and journalists came at her from all angles as the she exited her swanky London home.  She wore oversized sunglasses and a black trilby hat in an attempt to hide her identity. Her grey, baggy tracksuits hid her perfect legs that she was so famous for. However, her white vest top showed off her slim shoulders, non-existent stomach and small chest. She kept her head down as she ploughed through the fields of people calling her name.

When she was a little girl she had dressed up as a Princess with a tiara and a gown. She would act out public appearances. She would imagine the people calling her name and she would curtsy, wave and blow kisses to them.

However, she was no longer a little girl and she was not wearing a gown or a tiara. She could not curtsy; wave or blow kisses and even the sweetest smile could not get her life back on track. The people were not calling her name for a good reason. Chances are they were probably all from trashy tabloid magazines wanting the inside scoop on the once glamorous supermodel’s sudden drop from grace. Cameras and microphones were being thrust in her face as she struggled to her car, which was parked on the drive at the other side of her front garden. “What were you thinking at the time?” “Were you aware of the consequences?” “How do you feel about what happened?” “How do you plan to make a comeback from this?” and “How badly will your career be affected?” were frequently asked questions that she was heard on the way to her car. They were all questions that she truthfully did not know the answer to. She reached her shiny, red Lexus and her heart dropped as she spotted the letters LOSER spray painted across the windscreen. She tried to rub it off with her hand but soon discovered that it was permanent and the word would not budge. She put her hands on her hips and tried not to look too stressed as she was aware of the flashing cameras all around her trying to get a good shot of her looking bad. She pondered the situation for a while before pulling her Blackberry out of her large oversized brown leather Louis Vuitton handbag (it had been a gift when she had first started modelling for that company.) She dialled the number for Karla. “Pick up, pick up, pick up” Coco muttered to herself as Karla‘s phone rang.

“Karla Benjamin” Karla said.

“Hi, Karla, I...” Coco began.

“Ha! Coco, you loser! Your career’s over. No one wants to employ you after what you did” Karla cackled.

Then there was darkness but Karla’s voice kept on cackling until it faded out and was replaced by the ominous chant, “The fashion industry is over. Over, over, over. It’s over Coco, Coco, Coco.”
“Coco, Coco.”

“No, no, no” Coco was saying in her sleep.

“Coco” Karla shook her friend, “Coco. Stop it; you’re just having a bad dream. Wake up, we’re in Spain now. You need to say goodbye to the people getting off.”

Coco blinked. It had been bad dream but the reality was far worse. At least in her dream people had been willing to interview her on the untimely demise of her modelling career. The Technological Revolution meant that the fashion industry and all those involved in it had just snuck of silently whereas it would have lived up to everything that it was known for if it had gone out with a big, loud, glamorous bang. 

“Are you OK?” Karla asked after they had said their first goodbyes. Coco had been very quiet since she had woken up. She was reflecting on everything; contemplating life and what was to come next. She never imagined that she would lose her job so early. She had never thought about life after it and what she would do, where she would go.

“Yes” Coco lied, “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” Karla asked.

Coco nodded, holding back the tears.

“It’s been a tough week for everyone” Karla said.

“Oh I know” Coco said as tears filled her eyes, “I just don’t know what I’m gonna do next.”A pause, “What is to become of us, Karla?”

“We’ll be fine” Karla reassured, “We always pull through.”
“But will we just fade away into our couches like the rest of the population? If not then what is the other alternative?” Coco asked.

“We don’t need to worry about all that right now” Karla said, shaking her head.

“If not now then when. If we leave it too long then it will be too late. We would have brainwashed ourselves into thinking that this sort of lazy behaviour is normal; healthy even” Coco said.
“I don’t think that will happen. There may not be much to do but we can find a way to stay what we call healthy. There are some people that actually do things. We can go out on walks together every so often and we can make sure that we keep speaking and reading and writing to keep our brains active” Karla said, “There is a way around the obvious, Coco. It isn’t the end of the world.”

But it felt like the end of the world. 

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