The Oxygen Factory
by Renee des Lauriers
Breathe the air and die. Or worse, breathe and survive as one of the infected—blind, scarred, mangled, and stripped of everything but the hunger. Every day that Stella survives, scavenging through the buildings left standing, is another chance for the infected to kill her. If they can hear her, they know exactly where she is. If she stands still they can sniff her out. Fifteen years after the spread of the toxins, Stella was raised watching the infected hunt humans down. She told herself that it wasn’t ever going to happen to her.
Until one day, Stella finds a man washed up on the shore, from the Oxygen factory; the factory that ships out pills, which work its way into the lungs and pump oxygen throughout the body. He is part of the only organization working to keep humanity alive. Stella knows that to save him, will put her straight into danger. She’ll have to fight off more than just the infected to keep his secrets and keep him safe.
Behind the Scenes
There were many ideas for stories, then there was the story that I always knew was the one: The Oxygen Factory. I imagined the factory before anything else. What would the factory that held the key to life on earth look like? What would the scientists who lived there be like? The idea came when I was reading about how little we knew about the ocean, and all the resources it held. I began to map out designs and diagrams of a place where science was integrated with nature.
Every part of their lives from their buildings to their experiments to their houses emerged as a melding of nature and machine.
As I wondered what had happened to the rest of the world, I pictured all the modern day chemicals that get into the air. All those pesticides, and car exhaust, and that industrial smoke that gets released every single day. What if one day, it all became too much? How horrifying would it be if it was the very air that could kill us? What would it take to survive if we could die in the space of time it takes to breathe?
But what if those toxins in the air could do worse than just kill you? I imagined toxins that stripped you down, until every layer of humanity was taken away. What if you had to watch as every piece of you was gone until the only thing left was a savage hunger?
How could anyone survive this? The only way was through the greatest invention of those surviving scientists. You had to take a pill, that was more than just a pill. Inside it was all the oxygen that you needed, delivered to your lungs in a time-released pattern. You would take that pill and never have to breathe at all.
Last, I thought if the world had turned into this wasteland, populated by the infected, how could it be saved? Someone with the answers from the oxygen factory, must have gotten separated one day. They met just the right person from the outside. It was through this series of questions that the premise for The Oxygen Factory was born.
Some of my life experiences leaked out on to the pages of this book. As I write I can feel the memories of my years as an emergency medical technician. The writing reflects all those times that I drove an ambulance with lights and sirens blaring, and helped victims of burns, cardiac arrests,and heroine overdoses. I got to see firsthand people facing the worst experiences of their lives. I also closely worked with dialysis patients. It was haunting to see how their lives could only continue if they were hooked into a machine day after day after day.
In order to write through the lens of experience, I also did some things for this book that I never would have done otherwise. I never would have fired a gun if I wasn't a writer. But since I am, I shot down targets, and soda cans, and stuffed animals.
There were some scenes that I knew I could only write through traveling through them myself. After work one day, I walked across the George Washington bridge. I stepped into New York City imagining what I would do if all of the people I saw were infected and wanted to eat me. I answered that question, decided my path through the city and walked back.
Whenever I reread the story, I can't help but recall all those hundreds of places where I wrote it. I wrote on airplanes, in hot tubs and swimming pools. I wrote on line at the grocery store. I wrote on the sidewalk, waiting for my favorite thrift shop to open. I wrote during Hurricane Sandy with the power out, surrounded by hundreds of candles.
I also recall the odd quirks I adopted. For some reason I was convinced that everything I wrote in purple ink was inherently better. I have chapters all laid out in purple. I also decided that my good friend's purple couch helped me think, which is where I wrote the majority of my first draft. Looking back, I have no idea why I did this. Besides in writing, I don't even prefer that color.
Thank you for reading about what went on behind the scenes, and I hope you enjoy the book. And by the way, for the sequel I have already purchased a gas mask, a machete and a new set of purple pens.
The Oxygen Factory Playlist
Renée des Lauriers was raised in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in America. There amidst the crowds and traffic, she pictured what would happen if the zombie apocalypse broke out. She now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband and chinchillas.
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