Empathic Tendencies

Now that Cedar has been properly introduced and her world somewhat explained, the narrative will begin to shift away from an omnipotent point of view and zoom in closer to the characters and what is happening to them within the environment. I prefer using the third-person present tense. I feel closer to the action as though I’m calling play-by-play and color commentary on events unfolding as they happen rather than retelling a tale of past events. I experimented with the first-person past tense but found it awkward. It may seem easier to write at first, but the challenge is that the author must rely solely on the cognition of whoever is being used as the storyteller and have a firm grasp of who that person is, use the words they would use, and color the perception of what is happening with the life experiences of the character. In a sense, the author is “boxed in” to the perspective of one character for the duration of the telling. To be honest, I’m just not good enough to pull that off!

When writing the Sims legacies, I avoided actual dialog between characters mostly because of the way the Sims is played. We have a vague idea of what is being said by the sims given their nonsensical vocabulary. For the most part, it leaves the player guessing. Hinterlands Cedar will be different in this sense. I will fold in some actual dialog between characters.

Thanks for reading!

Cedar stands frozen from a confusing amalgam of uncertainty and awe. She has seen predatory beasts as large as the one now lying prone in the street only from a far distance and only dwelling deep within the badlands. She was rather young when she first discovered their existence. Probably too young to be crawling around the old-world ruins alone. She had discovered an artifact used for looking far distances and was eager to try using it. She had climbed to the top of a ruined tower and peered out over the badlands with her new possession. A smile tugs at the corner of her lips as she recalls the landmark memory. She had spent hours surveying the landscape and had come to realize that the world was much larger than she had ever imagined. Among these discoveries was finding that large predators prowled at her doorstep. The beast she had observed through that far-looking artifact was impressive. Seeing one within her natural field of vision is nothing short of terrifying. Nonetheless, the beast poses little threat in its present state. However, the source of its demise is still a matter of imminent concern.

Injured and writhing in pain, the human responsible for taking down the predator has not yet noticed her. Although her exposure to other humans is limited to the people in her village and the nomadic tribe that passes through twice every year, nothing unusual stands out to give her any reason to think he is anything more than an ordinary human male. What does set him apart is the odd layers of clothing and the bright white shell he has donned. It’s no wonder the beast spotted him. Though she sees no spilled blood, she is able to sense his injuries are likely grave. His bruises and welts paint a picture of the beast using its size and weight to knock him around at will as it would any prey. The fight had ended only a short while ago. His actions are still being directed by the heat of battle. Rough, heaving breaths, trembling limbs, and guttural grunts and groans color his presence. Then, within the time span of an eye blink, he discovers her.

Moving faster than any human ought to, the man shifts from his prone position and levels his weapon toward her whilst roaring some unrecognizable commands with furious resolve. His forceful aggression is fearsome and subduing.

Apprehension and anxiety take a firm and unrelenting grip on Cedar, causing her body to perform through pure impulse. The act of bearing her weapon happens in one fluid motion. Instinct dictates that she lower herself close to the ground and become as small a target as possible. Her body slinks away in a graceful, creeping motion executed with perfect economy. Having gone from calm to alert in a matter of moments, Cedar becomes aware of her rapid heartbeat, erratic breathing, and nervous sweat. She has survived numerous life-threatening encounters with beasts and collapsing ruins; all the while managing to remain composed and aware. Something about this situation is different and she finds herself battling the urge to mindlessly escape.

A burst of blinding, orange light accompanied by a deep, low-frequency concussion rattles her bones and teeth and sends Cedar diving for the ground. Her chest and stomach are left quivering from the aftereffects of the sonorous discharge. Having been momentarily deadened by the concussive pulse, her hearing returns and is filled by the man’s angry commands. She takes mental inventory and finds no injury. He had fired his weapon as a warning to her; a resoundingly successful tactic as it turns out.

Cedar wills her body into calmness, fighting its instinctive demand to flee with an inner voice every bit as commanding as that employed by the unusual man just moments ago, “CALM….”

Casting out an emotional net of contrived tranquility, she gains control of her breathing and wildly spinning thoughts, “PEACE…”

Cedar emerges from her inner place to find her unknown companion quieted. His unintelligible babble has ceased but his continued labored breathing and piteous groans of agony echo unsettlingly throughout the old-world structures. Planting her palms on the ground beneath her, Cedar slowly pushes herself up from a prone position, cautiously keeping her gaze fixed on the man as she recovers her balance. He has dropped the weapon and resumed a defenseless, lateral posture.

“I want to help you.” These are the only words Cedar is able to knit together.

His response is delayed and in a tone more suitable for conversation than the commanding roar he had evoked earlier. Again, his words are unintelligible and unsteady. He is undoubtedly experiencing severe pain but still manages to move his shell-covered arm and direct it to point toward her vehicle.

“It will be dark soon. It is not safe here.” Cedar gently and cautiously approaches the man while continuing to speak knowing he does not understand. Somehow, it puts her mind at ease. “You have produced a great, tasty carcass for the big scavengers to discover. They will come in droves and feed off of this for days.”

He speaks again, this time even quieter than before, his words coming in gasps. She quiets him with a touch on his forehead.

“Then they will be on the prowl for something new to eat,” she states, mostly to herself. “My village is a short distance from here. Your actions have put us all in danger.”

Coming to the realization that loitering about and admonishing a half-conscious man with words he does not understand is wholly pointless and self-gratifying, Cedar moves quickly towards the vehicle, scooping up her dropped rifle along the way. Of all the treasures Cedar has recovered from the ruins, this vehicle has proven to be the most valuable and useful of the entire lot. Despite this and the many other artifacts she has reclaimed, not one person in her village approves of her adventuring into the old world ruins. The nomadic people are far worse than her tribe when relics are concerned. They shun if not outright fear anything relating to the old world. Cedar climbs into the compartment and then brings the machine to life with a familiar and satisfying, sedative thrum. She smiles an indulgent smile whilst moving closer to the scene of the battle.

Boarding the man into the vehicle proves more difficult than she had anticipated. He is unable to climb into the compartment under his own power so she is forced to devise a stretcher and lift him into the vehicle with an improvised winch. It is nearly dark before he is situated enough for her to travel the remaining distance to the village with her mysterious guest in stow.

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