deleted scenes from book 1

This was briefly the opening chapter of Zero Repeat Forever.  You may recognize a couple of phrases which I salvaged an used in later chapters in the final draft, but this is the only scene of Raven's life before the invasion.    

     The bus engine rumbles impatiently, grumpily, as though it knows that at least three of its passengers have no choice about our upcoming journey.  It’s hot, even for June, and I don’t think the bus is any happier about that than I am.

     Squinting in the dry sunlight, I search for Topher and Tucker, and find them bidding their parents farewell by a gleaming SUV at the other end of the parking lot. They shake hands with their father. Even at this distance I can feel his disappointment. Their mother gets a hug—a cold hug, I bet. I’ve hugged that woman. It’s like hugging a snowman. The four of them are like variations of some idealized doll – tall, slender, and as beautiful as fairytale characters – the picture of a perfect middle class family. A bit plasticy though, if you look closely enough. Tucker has a real heart, but maybe the other three are imperfect copies of him.

     My own lumpy parents fuss over my luggage in the back of our station wagon. Mom moves a set of clothes from my duffle bag to the small backpack I’ll have with me on the bus. She thinks it’s possible that I’ll be separated from my luggage somehow, even though it will be travelling with me on the same bus the whole way to the camp. Mom lost all her clothes on the way to France once, and spent a week washing one pair of underwear in the bathroom sink of a youth hostel in the Marais, and drying them with an iron. It was twenty years ago, but I guess you don’t forget things like that.

     She’s doing it so she doesn’t have to talk to me. And Jack is unnecessarily helping her so he won’t have to talk to me either. This whole situation is so far away from what they wanted for me that I’m barely even in the same universe as them. Nothing about me was what they expected, what they planned. I stripped away the last crust of that painted fantasy the night I got arrested for vandalizing the park. They had many ideas about being my parents. All I’ve done is disillusion them.

     “That’s better,” Mom says at last. She looks down at my backpack and duffle bag with the kind of satisfaction she rarely directs at me. Maybe if she could just unpack and repack me, I might be more to her liking. My parents love me, they tell me. But I don’t think they like me right now. And who can blame them?

     Jack wraps his meaty arms around me and gives me an encouraging hug before passing me to Mom like a parcel. We look at each other face to face. The only way I resemble her is in height. We are shortish, compact but not slight or tiny. Her creative softness envelopes my athletic hardness as we hug.

     “This will be good for you, dear,” she says. “It’s really a wonderful opportunity. And you have so much to offer.”

     Better than juvenile detention, I think. But I don’t say that. I doubt I’ll ever say those two words to my mother again. I hope I don’t anyway. It’s a pathetically small hope, but it’s what I’m working with right now. A manageable goal, just like we discussed with the judge. Volunteer at a camp for underprivileged kids. Never say the words “juvenile detention” again. It’s only ten weeks, and Tucker will be there to keep me going.

     That detail was hard to negotiate, but in the end my parents were convinced he and Topher would be a good influence on me, a grounding influence. And with the familiarity of them I was less likely to disappear into a crevice—literal or metaphorical. So my mother gave me a humiliating lecture about birth control—another two words we’ll hopefully never exchange again—and it was settled. We would volunteer to make up for an alcohol fueled rampage in which twenty thousand dollars of damage was done to a city owned bandstand.

     Neither Topher nor I ever admitted that the vandalism was mostly Tucker’s doing. Topher stared at me during the arraignment, as though daring me to squeal on his twin. As though I would betray my boyfriend that way. Then again, maybe he wanted me to turn on Tucker, to get him off the hook. They seem to be devoted to each other, in the type of bond I’ll never have, but with Topher it’s hard to tell what is sincere and what is part of some kind of self-serving scheme. And Tucker? Even he doesn’t know what he feels most of the time. Maybe they’re not the best set of twins in the world to keep me “grounded” over the summer.

     The bus driver shouts something unintelligible and Mom and share another inscrutable look. Jack slings my duffel bag into the luggage compartment, and gives me another quick hug.

     “We’ll be at Aunt Ellen’s by Friday,” he says. “But you can call our cellphones before then.”

     “We might lose reception over the Coquihalla,” Mom says.

     “She can leave a voicemail,” Jack says.

     “What if it’s an emergency?”

     “How could we help her if we’re halfway to Vancouver?”

     I look down at my feet and smile. They’re such dorks sometimes. Possibly that’s the only thing I did inherit from them.

     “I’ll be fine,” I say. “Tucker will guard me like a Stormtrooper.”

     "Well, that’s true,” Mom says. She doesn’t look very happy about it.

     Behind her, Topher boards the bus, Tucker waiting for me, his lips turned into a cheeky grin. Of the three of us, he’s the only one who is enjoying this outcome on its merits rather than its shameful implications. Ten weeks at a wilderness camp? For Tucker, what could be better? Why should the label “community service” change that?  He has no shame. Topher feels enough shame for both of them.

     As for me, I swallow my shame. A small part of me feels guilty for dragging these two nice boys into my broken existence. A bigger part of me feels guilty about dragging my parents into it. The rest of me focusses on the goal—a good summer, a debt paid, a lesson learned—and gives thanks that I didn’t lose Tucker as part of the deal. I take his hand and he pulls me onto the bus.

     As the bus pulls out of the parking lot and we all wave, Mom puts one hand over her mouth, making my throat tighten with the effort to not cry.

This next scene takes place after August leaves Raven at the top of the path down to the base. I deleted it for a bunch of reasons but I've always thought, if Zero Repeat Forever was to made for the screen that this scene should go back in. I love the image of Topher running out into the snow in his bare feet. 

     It’s dark when I reach the perimeter fence.  I wait in the cold, standing by the electrified gate, stamping my feet, my hands tucked under my armpits. Topher and I did perimeter patrol enough times for me to know it will be fifteen minutes at the most before one of the three patrol pairs comes by. Fifteen more minutes in the freezing night won’t kill me. Not after everything I’ve been through.

     I sit on a bare rock with my knees drawn up to my chest and wait. Long minutes pass, long minutes filled with memories and questions. How am I going to explain where I’ve been and how I got back here? I should be dead. I’m sure they all think I’m dead. How will they react to my miraculous resurrection? The last time anyone saw me I was being carried off by a Nahx. I remember it, in the way that I remember fevered dreams, all swollen and distorted, like a balloon animal version of reality. Of all the conversations I forgot to have with August, this is perhaps the most perplexing. Why did he spare my life? What is it that made him change course? Why did he carry me off that day, bleeding and broken? He could have left me there for Topher to find. Topher was there. He chased us. I remember him screaming my name.

     Topher. I’m minutes away from seeing him. My face flushes hot at the thought and my lips form a hesitant smile.

Behind me I hear a rifle being cocked. I raise my hands and turn slowly towards the noise. A flashlight shines in my eyes, a voice cutting through the snow-muffled quiet.

     “Jesus Christ,” Mandy says. “Someone go find Topher.”

     He meets us halfway across the equipment yard by the east entrance, running, wearing nothing but sweats and a t-shirt, not even boots. Mandy walks beside me, her arm supporting me, while a boy I don’t remember carries my pack. The expression on Topher’s face as he reaches me makes the ache in my frozen feet and hands, the burning muscles in my legs, the skin flaking off my nose and the peculiar emptiness in my heart all worth it suddenly. He looks as though he might faint.

   “Ah…” he manages, before throwing his arms around me and lifting me up. I press my mouth to his neck and feel his racing heartbeat on my lips. Neither of us moves after that or speaks. Time stands still. Even the snowflakes seem to hang in the air as though they are waiting for something momentous to happen. It is Mandy who interrupts us.

     “I hate to break this up but Topher you have bare feet and I’ve already treated you for frostbite twice so…”

     Topher neither speaks nor puts me down. He turns and carries me through the cave entrance, into the entry hanger and through the thick metal blast door. There he collapses to the floor, me with him and we lay there together in a heap, wrapped in each other while a crowd gathers. I hear my name and gasps of disbelief and murmurs and elated laughing. Above all that, below it, underneath and inside and in between I hear Topher’s overjoyed sobbing, and my own. It’s like a photo negative of those hours we spent weeping over Tucker’s body. There we were separated from each other, by grief and resentment. Now there is nothing between us but our damp clothes and expectation, and questions, some of which I don’t know how I will answer.

     Eventually the crowd disperses and Topher leads me back to my old room.

     “Where is Kim?” I ask, stripping off layer after of layer of black clothing.

     Topher looks stricken for a moment.

     “What? What happened?”

     He turns and looks out the high window as I strip down to nothing and slip into the army casuals that lay folded on my bed.

     “They took a Humvee back to that town, you know the one we passed on the mission? They were looking for insulin and other drugs. Anyway, the Nahx were there. Mason made it back, and Ethan, you know him?”


     “Britney got darted. And two older guys. Paolo and Ken D. And Kim.”

     I fumble with my sweater, sure that I’ve heard wrong.

     “Kim is dead? Who is in command?” I say and when he hesitates to answer I provide my own. “Liam? Is this like a monarchy now?”

     He leans on the wall and looks at me appraisingly, territorially almost, before biting his lip and looking away. “God, it’s good to see you, Raven,” he says.