Fiction Fragment Fridays: What Will You Write? Edition #1

FFF
Recently, Jay Dee Archer over at I Read Encyclopedias decided to start a new writing challenge called “What Will You Write?” The idea is that Jay posts the beginning of a scene, and we (the participants) have to finish it. There’s a deadline, and once it is past Jay will judge all the entrants and decide who he thinks did the best job. There are a few other rules, and if you’re interested you should check out the first edition of the challenge here. By the time you read this the first challenge deadline will likely be up, but keep an eye out because I’m sure there will be many more coming. 🙂

Since the writing for the challenge is fictional in nature, I thought this would be a great opportunity for something new to post for Fiction Fragment Fridays. So this is the way it goes: the text in bold is the “prompt” written by Jay. What follows in regular text is my addition. Please feel free to let me know what you think! And if you’re interested in joining in on the next challenge, make sure to visit Jay’s blog and follow him so that you won’t miss it! 🙂

 


Conrad opened his eyes to a view of a massive blue globe.  He jerked back and twisted around in the microgravity.  He touched something solid in front of him.  A window.

He pushed against the window and turned around.  Conrad scanned the small room, no larger than a public bathroom stall, and empty except for an EV spacesuit and door.  He studied the view through the window.  Neptune, he thought.  How did I get here?

His head was ringing, and his body was covered only by his boxer shorts and a loose white t-shirt. He tried to think back, but the last thing he could recall was sitting in that little coffee shop on Mars. Had he even finished his coffee? The memory was hazy, as though it had happened a lifetime ago.

 

What happened to me?” he whispered to himself. He was surprised to find that his throat was hoarse and croaky…a sign of lack of use?

 

With few options available to him, Conrad reached for the spacesuit and manoeuvred himself into it. Even with the microgravity working with his body, he felt achy and weak. He didn’t want to think about it, but the evidence thus far caused him to believe that he must have been unconscious for quite some time. Or perhaps he had been drugged and the effects hadn’t worn off. Either way, he was concerned.

 

The door didn’t have a handle, but it slid open at his touch, moving as quietly as a baby’s breath. Conrad peeked out into a vast white hallway. It was silent as a grave, and empty save for the dozens of identical doors that lined both sides of it. The end of the hall nearest Conrad appeared to be a dead end. The opposite end was so far away that he couldn’t tell if there were any turns from here. All he could see were the doors. He thought there must have been a few hundred of them.

 

Tentatively, nervously, Conrad stepped out into the hallway. The door to his room slid shut behind him. He immediately began to shiver a bit. There was something truly frightening about this completely white hallway, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He almost reached for the door to his room, intending to return and hope that someone would come to him, but when he turned to it he noticed a tiny white placard on the wall next to the door. It was so small that he might never have seen it if it hadn’t been at exactly eye level. It blended into the wall, but the small black letters were what had caught his eye.

 

Conrad Skye

3 Counts of Premeditated Murder

Lifetime Sentence

 

Conrad felt his heart constrict. He reached out with a shaking hand to touch the words, praying to ever God that ever was that he was imagining what he saw. But no. He could feel the indentation of the words drilled into the placard.

 

You’re new,” a gentle voice spoke. Conrad nearly jumped out of his skin. He whirled around and found the source of the voice. A girl – no older than 15 – was standing in the open doorway of her own room across the hall. She had been pretty once, Conrad thought, with her long blond hair and bright blue eyes. But her hair was hanging limp, and her eyes had very dark circles around them that gave her the appearance of having not slept in a very long time. “You’re new,” she repeated.

 

Conrad opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it again, but he wasn’t sure what to say. He stared at the girl, confused, upset, angry, before his eyes found the little placard next to her door.

 

Eliza Ratchford

5 Counts of Kidnapping and Child Endangerment

30 Year Sentence

 

Conrad’s eyes returned to meet Eliza’s. His mouth felt dry. “I didn’t do it,” he found himself saying. His hand seemed to move of its own accord to point at the placard with his name on it. “I didn’t do it,” he said again. “I never killed anyone.” He licked his lips. He felt as though he was listening to his own voice from a far away place. Surely this had to be a dream. “I’ve never even been in a fist fight,” he added, as though that meant something.

 

Eliza smiled a little, but her eyes were sad. “We’re all innocent here,” she told him. “But that doesn’t seem to mean much to the politicians whose crimes we’ve been chosen to pay for.”

 

Panic was setting in. All of a sudden a thousand images were flowing into Conrad’s mind. His wife and daughter, whom he’d left sleeping in bed when he decided to visit his favorite coffee shop. His sick father, who would be needing his medication soon. His mechanic job at the interplanetary travel agency, where his closest friends would be wondering where he’d gone. All the things he’d planned to do and not yet done. All the things he’d never known he wanted to do, but were suddenly filling his mind and body with desires.

 

I can’t be here,” he croaked. “This isn’t right. I have a family, a life. I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong!” By now he was screaming, and all up and down the long, white hallway, other heads were starting to peek through their respective doors. Some of them had begun to walk toward Conrad, and it was making him feel like a small, trapped animal. He tried to back away, but Eliza had moved in front of him and had her hands on either side of his face.

 

I’m sorry,” she whispered. “But unless you think you can jump to Neptune from here, the life you left behind is over. Welcome to the Intergalactic Government’s robotic, automated prison for completely innocent scapegoats.”

Fiction Fragement Fridays: Erased (Chapter 3 – Part 2)

Remember: this is a draft! A rough one! A very rough one!

Additionally, to read the whole story thus far, chose the ‘Erased’ option in the Categories dropdown banner to the right.

The group, which had swelled slowly from one to five, walked mostly in silence as Ashes and Siora led them back through the testing and cleansing rooms and back to the long hallway. Every so often either Bodhi or Ashes would speak, sharing small details. Vaguely, Toreshi heard Bodhi wonder aloud why the place had seemingly been abandoned with the power on and half of the equipment running. Ashes replied something to the manner that they should be grateful because there was a large kitchen in the direction they were headed with the freezers still well-stocked. But though she heard the words they were saying, Toreshi kept her own mouth shut and thought quietly to herself as they walked. She wondered at the situation they’d found themselves in. It looked like they’d been abandoned here, but there had to be more to it than that. The lights were on and the place was sparkling clean. The IV tubing that she had ripped from her arms still had medication dripping from them. The monitors had still been running. It all came together in her head and insisted that someone else must have been here watching them…if they weren’t still here.

The walk seemed to take forever, but finally they found themselves at the exact opposite end of the enormous hallway. There were two doors they could take. One had a sign that said ‘Cafeteria’, but no one was really looking at that door, though some stomachs were beginning to rumble. No, all eyes were focused on the second door, a thick white door with an electronic keypad hanging from the wall in pieces. The sign on this door read, simply, “Augmentation”.

Bodhi turned a questioning eye to Ashes and gestured to the keypad.

“It was like that when we found it,” Siora grumbled, guessing at the other man’s thoughts, “We haven’t gone around smashing the place up, thank you.”

Bodhi put his hands in the air in a gesture of apology. This time Toreshi was the one to push through the door. After their first encounter with Siora, one would have thought she’d be more careful where she rushed, but something about the word on the door had her shoving through it so fast that it slammed against the opposite wall. The others followed quickly, Kattenya almost slamming into Toreshi, who had stopped dead barely past the threshold. Siora and Ashes followed more slowly, grim looks on their faces.

The first thought that came to Toreshi’s mind was “torture chamber”, though logically she knew that wasn’t the case. After her initial shock she began to move slowly further forward, her eyes scanning anything and everything they could see, bile steadily rising in her throat.

It almost could have been a medical facility, but only at a very distracted first glance. There were shelves stocked with strange, multi-colored liquids and shiny mechanical bits and bobs. There were jars filled with slimy red things that looked disturbingly like they’d been hauled out of a human body. Three separate metal tables stood in the middle of the room, each with glaring white lights blazing down over them. Each table was flanked by no fewer than six medical trays filled with all manner of equipment, from simple scalpels to complicated and terrifying devices with circular blades and foot-long needles. Everywhere, on every wall, were charts. Charts of anatomy, both human and otherwise, charts that showed strange pictures of brains and muscle groups, and most frightening, charts that showed surgery plans…horrifying surgery plans.

Even Bodhi had to swallow back a cry of alarm.

Toreshi couldn’t stop shaking as she walked up to one of the charts, hung over a light board so that the details glared out distinctly. The outline looked female, and there were incision marks made across the head and throat, with indications at the wrists and ankles to reference a second drawing. The second drawing showed a series of mechanical devices that Toreshi didn’t recognize as anything even remotely common. She found herself idly feeling at her wrists, wondering.

Eventually Ashes broke the silence. “Creepy, yeah?” she said simply. She was smiling, but there was no happiness or amusement in the smile. She strode confidently over to a row of four large file cupboards and pulled open a drawer. “We found some surgical records in here,” she explained, “They’re hard to work out because they’re in that same ridiculous language, but they have names on them, so there’s that…”

Ashes had barely finished her sentence when Toreshi was in the file cupboards. She flipped through them as fast as she could while still able to read the names at the tops and eventually she found what she was looking for. She pulled out the file with her name on it and stared at it, her heart leaping into her throat. She stared at it, gulping, for a good couple of minutes before a hand on her shoulder made her jump. Bodhi was looking down at her with concern on his face, and Kattenya was bouncing from foot to foot as though she couldn’t decide if she wanted to comfort Toreshi or tell her to get on with it.

“You don’t have to look,” Bodhi suggested sagely, gesturing to the file.

“But that’s the thing,” Toreshi replied, gulping, “I actually think that I do have to. If I don’t, I’ll just go mad wondering what they did to me…”

Ashes piped up, almost too sweetly, “If it helps, I can tell you what they did to me first.”

Siora snorted. “You say that like you want to brag or something.”

Ashes glared at him. “Just because you want to keep your file to yourself doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t share.”

Siora’s glare was considerably more frightening than that of the young woman. “My innards are my own goddamn business.”

“Oh please shut up, you two,” Toreshi groaned. She kept her eyes on the file, so she didn’t see if they shot their glares at her.

After a few more long moments and a few extra-deep breaths, Toreshi turned the page on the file. The first four pages were jibberish, but the fourth and fifth pages caught her eye and almost made her gag. The first picture showed her leg, opened up from the knee to the foot, the skin pulled back and pinned to the table. The muscles shined up at her, red and stringy. A second picture directly alongside the first showed a set of four enormous needles puncturing those muscles. Staring at the pictures, Toreshi could almost feel the metal rods in her leg, pumping some unknown fluid directly into her calves. She bit back the urge to scream and looked to the next picture. It wasn’t immediately evident what this picture was of – all she could see was a sea of blood and bone. Eventually she established that it was her chest and throat, pulled open as far as they could go, her anatomy splayed out like a morbid centerfold. In an adjacent photo, something metal was being inserted between her throat and collarbone.

A particularly large gag reflex came over her and she dropped the file to lean against the wall and cough miserably. Kattenya rushed forward and rubbed Toreshi’s back. Bodhi, calm as ever, retrieved the file from the floor and began thumbing through the rest of the files in the cupboards. He extracted several, the ones with their names on them, and added them to his backpack.

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Erased (Chapter 3 – Part 1)

As before, if you would like to read all that I’ve posted for Erased thus far, choose ‘Erased’ from the Categories dropdown banner to the right of this page. Also, as before, keep in mind that this is a (very) rough draft!

Ashes and Siora stepped aside to let the others into the room, and despite themselves they found their jaws dropping.

This room was enormous, at least two thousand square feet of floor space, and the ceiling was a good thirty feet in the air. But that wasn’t the jaw-dropping part. What had the group staring in amazement was the equipment. Almost every inch of wall space was covered in computers, medical equipment, monitor screens, and other items that they didn’t immediately recognize. There were sections of floor devoted to what looked like exercise equipment, areas that were set up like a surgeon’s room, and areas that looked like someone had tried their best to demolish them. One of the first things that caught Toreshi’s eye was a long, double-row of monitors that showed each of the small rooms they’d each been bound in. She saw her name written under one of the monitors.

“What is this place…?” Kattenya gasped, eyes wide.

Ashes was the one to step forward and reply. It seemed that when it came to her and Siora, she was the speaker and he was the doer. “As near as we can figure, it’s some kind of testing facility,” she sighed, staring around at the room, “Though I have no idea what they were testing for.”

“Well obviously we’re the subjects…” offered Bodhi, staring at the same monitors Toreshi had noticed. Siora snorted, as though the statement was unbelievably obvious, but Bodhi did not react to the slight. Examining everything carefully, he walked down a long row of medical equipment. “It looks like they were taking regular blood samples,” he observed.

“Physicals too, I’d say,” Toreshi added, prodding an enormous set of barbells with her toe. She looked warily at a tall glass structure filled with liquid and tried not to wonder what it had been used for.

“But what about all this?” Kattenya asked. She gestured to the area that looked like it had been attacked. There were large holes smashed in the floor and walls, with several indistinguishable pieces of equipment scattered about in hundreds of pieces. “Was all this like this when you two got here?”

Siora raised an eyebrow and looked like he was going to ask if she was accusing them of something, but again Ashes was the one to step forward and speak. “Yes, it was,” she insisted, “And I suspect it’s been like that for quite some time.” She pointed to another destroyed area that was littered in wires and hunks of plastic. “There’s some smashed computers over there, and none of it is so much as lukewarm, so it’s been laying there without power for at least a little while.”

For the first time since she’d first woken up alone in her room, Toreshi felt a growing sense of dread and discontent. What in the Universe was this place? Why had they been bound and housed here? And where were the people who’d done it to them?

She turned to the newcomers. “Can either of you remember anything about yourselves?” she asked.

Before Ashes could speak, Siora tossed a couple of note boards at Toreshi’s feet. “Nothing,” he said simply, “Got our names from those.”

Ashes, who looked annoyed at having been spoken over, shot Siora a look and continued, “We can’t understand anything else on there. What about you?”

Bodhi was picking up the boards and, after a quick glance through the pages, shoved them along with the others into his backpack. “No,” he was saying, “It’s no language I’ve ever seen.”

Kattenya was wandering around the room with a strange look on her face. She ran her fingers along strange pieces of equipment, her gaze lingering on them for a few moments each. Toreshi watched quietly while the others argued about the indecipherable language. Kattenya stopped at a tray of surgical equipment, picked up a long, nasty looking needle, and examined it carefully. Her gaze slowly transformed from ignorance, to understanding, to outrage. By the time Toreshi walked over to the other woman, Kattenya’s hand was clenched firmly around the needle and her fist was shaking.

“Are you okay?” Toreshi asked quietly.

Kattenya had to take several long, deep breaths before she was able to stop her hand from shaking. “I…I don’t think so,” she said through clenched teeth.

Carefully, Toreshi laid one hand on Kattenya’s shoulder and reached forward with the other to gently pluck the needle away and lay it back down on the surgical tray. As an afterthought, she used her toe to nudge the entire tray away from them. When she felt they were safe from the sharp implements, she carefully took Kattenya’s shoulders in both of her hands and looked firmly into her eyes. “Are you remembering anything?”

The look on Kattenya’s face changed to one of mild confusion. Her eyebrows furrowed and her mouth fell into a small frown. Her eyes glazed over and she seemed to be thinking, deliberating. “No…” she said first, but quickly followed up with, “But yes… I don’t know.” She shook her head violently. “It’s weird,” she groaned, “It’s like…there’s no memory, but I still feel, you know?” She looked like she was having great difficulty in conveying the point to Toreshi. “I look at this needle and I just feel dread and pain and anger, but I don’t actually remember why.”

Toreshi was nodding. “Yeah…I think I know what you mean,” she said. She pointed across the room to a strange structure she’d noticed during their initial examination. It was a large metal coffin, big enough to fit three or four average-sized people in, and it had a single small window at approximately eye level. There were enormous clamps on either side of it, ensuring that whoever went in was not getting out without help from the outside.

“See that thing there?” Toreshi gestured, “I don’t know what it is or what it was used for, but when I look at it I just get this awful, sick feeling in my stomach, like I saw or experienced something terrible there.”

Kattenya nodded simply.

Bodhi had walked over to the women and waited for them to finish their conversation before speaking. “Ladies,” he asked, “If you’re interested, Ashes says there’s much more to see.”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Erased (Chapter 2 – Part 2)

Another chunk of Erased, for your reading pleasure. At this point I would like to mention, for anyone who hasn’t figured it out yet, that if you want to read everything I’ve posted for Erased so far, you simply have to choose ‘Erased’ from the Categories dropdown banner to the right of this page.

Toreshi looked into her locker with a strange, detached curiosity, like she was looking at a stranger’s belongings. There was a pair of brown ankle boots sitting on top a folded pair of blue jeans and a comfy looking red turtleneck sweater. Laying next to the pile of clothes was a small pile of hair elastics. She glanced down at the photo on her note board and reached up to touch the mane of brown hair falling around her shoulders. After a moment of idle thought, she lay the note board down on the floor and grabbed a couple of the elastics.

A few minutes later she was dressed in the significantly more comfortable clothing, with her hair piled high (if a little messily) atop her head. Bodhi had redressed himself in a simple pair of casual pants and a plain blue t-shirt. Kattenya was significantly more stylish than her comrades in a tight black blouse and pants, a pair of knee-high black boots, and an almost extreme amount of jewelry. She was wearing three loose bangles on each wrist, two thin chains around her neck, and a pair of dangly silver earrings, and when Toreshi turned to her she was just inserting a silver stud in her lower lip. At the look from the other woman, she shrugged a little. “I don’t recognize any of it, but it’s a pretty sleek outfit, huh?”

Toreshi couldn’t help but smile a little, and Bodhi made a slight noise like he was trying not to laugh. There was a small backpack under the clothing in Bodhi’s locker, so he gathered up the note boards they’d been carrying, shoved them in the pack, and slung it over his shoulder.

Once they were all dressed and just slightly more comfortable with themselves, the three headed for the only other door in the room. It was a soft mahogany door with a small placard that read: Testing.

Kattenya, who had just begun to let her guard down after her rude awakening, pushed confidently through the door. Toreshi and Bodhi barely saw what happened, but the next thing they knew, Kattenya had been snagged, whirled around, and had a thin, but dangerous-looking scalpel held to her throat. Her cat-like eyes were wide with surprise and alarm.

Toreshi’s instinct was to leap forward and attack the threat, but Bodhi was quick to lay a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She looked up at his calm, calculating face, and then back to the situation before them.

The figure holding Kattenya prisoner was a tall man with a lean, athletic body. His dark brown, almost black hair hung in dreadlocks all over his head, and his face was covered in a thick, full beard. He was standing very still, holding Kattenya close, but not viciously, and a pair of calm brown eyes were staring with interest at Toreshi and Bodhi.

Before anyone could say anything, a sweet, melodious voice came from behind the tall man. “Siora, do calm down. They’re probably just like us.”

The man, Siora, turned his head only slightly, but kept his grip on Kattenya. “We don’t know that, Ashes. We don’t know anything about them.”

Ashes stepped into the picture with a frown on her face, directed to her companion. She was a slight figure of average height and extremely pretty. She had shoulder-length, layered brown hair, and large, chocolate brown eyes framed in beautifully long, dark lashes. She looked small and innocent, in contrast to the large man she was glaring at.

Both of the newcomers had obviously been to their lockers, as they were both wearing casual clothes. Siora was in dark pants and a long black coat, while Ashes was in a pretty little yellow sun dress and sandals.

“Let her go, Siora,” she demanded, not sounding at all like she had any sway over the situation, “Look at them! They’ve obviously just come from their rooms as well!” She looked first to Bodhi, then Toreshi. “Right?” she asked.

Toreshi nodded, moving her eyes back and forth between the small woman and a panicked-looking Kattenya. “We all…came to in our own rooms, bound and hooked to medical equipment.”

Siora relaxed slightly and Kattenya used the opportunity to slip from his grasp and leap back toward her friends. Thankfully, he let her go.

Ashes was nodding slowly, a hundred thoughts passing behind her pretty eyes. “Yes, us as well,” she explained, “We believe there were others who woke sooner, but they appear to have gone.”

“The empty rooms,” Bodhi agreed, and gestured behind him, “And the other lockers.”

Toreshi remembered the torn papers and the decimated room she’d found first. Whoever that was, she was somewhat glad he hadn’t stuck around.

“So,” said Ashes with a strange, sad smile, “Come to see the factory of horrors?”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Erased (Chapter 2 – Part 1)

I thought I’d return to Erased, since it’s something I can break into easy chunks and schedule ahead of time. Please keep in mind while reading that Erased was a NaNoWriMo project and as such has not been properly formatted/revised/edited/etc.

So anyway, please enjoy part 1 of chapter 2:

Some instinct in Toreshi had her sprinting toward the scream, bare feet padding on the shiny floor. She was about to burst through the first door she came to when the scream came again, further down the hall. Three more doors down she had come right upon the shriek and practically kicked the door open.

It was another identical room, but there was a person in this one, another young woman. And she was absolutely losing her mind.

“Hey!” Toreshi called as she rushed in the room, “Calm down, calm down!”

The girl continued to scream as she pulled at her bonds and bucked on the table, so Toreshi stopped trying to reason with her and began pulling the bonds off instead. As soon as she was free the other girl scrambled across the table and soon found herself collapsing on the floor in a heap, unable to stand on her own. With a shout of pain and a small whimper, she dragged herself into the corner of the room and looked up at Toreshi with something like suspicion in her eyes. “Who the hell are you?” she demanded in a croaking, sore-sounding voice.

Toreshi examined the girl for a moment, as she was as yet unsure what to say. The other girl was similar in build, but a little taller and much bustier, from what Toreshi could tell beneath the white pyjamas. She had shoulder-length hair of a fiery red shade, and her bright, ice-blue eyes had a very cat-like distinction to them. Overall, Toreshi thought she was a very classically beautiful young lady.

“I’m…not sure who I am, exactly,” Toreshi finally replied, clearing her throat a few times to get used to speaking. “But I can promise you that I’m not the one who put you here. I woke up in a room just like this.”

The girl looked wary. “Woke up?” she asked with one eyebrow slightly raised.

Toreshi rethought her phrasing. “Well, not woke up exactly…” she admitted, “It was more like…I wasn’t, and then I was…” She made a face to herself. “Do you get what I’m saying?”

The other girl nodded slightly. “I do, actually…”

“That’s how it was for me too.”

The male voice made the two women jump in alarm. Toreshi let out a little yelp as she whirled toward the door. Standing there was a man, older than the two women, but still in the prime of life. He was holding up both of his hands as though to show that he meant them no harm. He also, was in a set of the white pyjamas.

“Sorry,” he apologized, “I didn’t mean to startle you. I heard the scream and came to investigate.”

For the second time in as many minutes Toreshi found herself taking inventory of the newcomer. He was taller than either of the women, a good ten inches taller than Toreshi, and a little larger, but fit. He had short, dark brown hair and a goatee that was in desperate need of trimming, and he was squinting his hazel eyes as though he was having trouble seeing properly.

Toreshi noticed then that he had a note board tucked under his right arm. She gestured toward it while asking simply, “Name?”

He lowered his hands and shrugged a little. “The only word I can make out is ‘Bodhi’, but I can’t remember if that’s my name or not.” He seemed exceptionally calm about the entire ordeal. Without prompting, he reached back and grabbed the note board from outside the door of the room they were currently in. He glanced at the front page and then to the girl on the floor. “It’s you,” he explained, gesturing toward the photo, “It says Kattenya.”

The girl scrunched her nose up a bit. “Kattenya?” she questioned, “Sounds…weird.” She tried to push herself up again and when she slipped Toreshi rushed forward to help her. She murmured a quiet thanks as she threw her arm around Toreshi’s shoulders. “So we’ve got names…kinda. But what the hell is going on here?”

“I just…’woke up’ a little while ago,” Bodhi offered with another shrug, “I had only just found this,” He lifted his note board. “When I heard you scream.” He took a cursory glance up and down the hallway before turning back to the women. “It’s a rather quiet facility, isn’t it?”

Toreshi raised an eyebrow and nodded.

Bodhi stepped forward and took Kattenya’s other arm. “Shall we move on together?” he asked.

The next half a dozen rooms they checked were identical, but empty. Most looked as though they’d never been inhabited, but they came across two that had loosened bonds on the tables and loose tubing hanging from the IV racks. They found no note boards.

As they walked, Kattenya’s legs became more steady and eventually she took her arms from around the others’ shoulders and began to walk of her own accord. The three were all rather quiet, but for different reasons. Bodhi seemed to be a creature of unusual calm, whereas Kattenya was looking around nervously and Toreshi was biting her tongue to keep from screaming.

Eventually they found themselves, mercifully, at the end of the hallway. There was one final door, marked with a strange phrase: Testor Cleansing Room.

With a glance first at each of the women, Bodhi turned the doorknob and pushed through.

It was similar in appearance to any sports team’s locker room, but unnaturally clean. Like the hallway and rooms behind them, the walls, ceiling, and floor were all bright white and extraordinarily pristine. To both the left and the right were rows shiny silver lockers. Toreshi counted at least twenty. At the back of the room, spanning the entire width of the room, was a frosted glass wall, about four feet high. Above the frosted glass they could see sparkling silver shower heads. There was a large shelving unit filled with fluffy white towels to the edge of the shower area. Nothing about the room indicated if it was for men, women, or whether it was unisex, but Toreshi suspected it was the latter.

Kattenya stepped cautiously up to the first locker. She examined the area where the lock would normally be; instead, there was a small name tag and what appeared to be a thumbprint analyzer. She ran her finger along the name tag. “It’s you,” she said, turning to Bodhi.

With a look of keen interest, Bodhi stepped forward and examined the name on the tag. “Hmmm,” he mumbled. After what seemed to the women like a long moment, he pressed his thumb to the analyzer. After only a second and a faint beep, the locker door popped quietly open.

Toreshi and Kattenya leaned over Bodhi’s shoulders. There wasn’t a great deal in the locker, but Bodhi couldn’t help letting out a small cry of happiness as he reached in a snagged a pair of black, square-rimmed glasses and shoved them on his face. “Oh that’s so much better,” he sighed, holding his hands out in front of his face and smiling at the women.

Toreshi gave him a cursory smile and gestured back to the locker. “Looks like there’s some clothes in there as well,” she told him. They were the only other items in the locker.

Kattenya was already examining the rest of the lockers. They all had strange names on them that didn’t quite sound like real names. In the second row she found hers, and pointed a few down to Toreshi’s. Together, the women pressed their thumbs to the analyzers and listened to the quiet beep and gentle pop as the lockers opened.

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Erased (Chapter 1 – Part 2)

Since I left the last installment off on a bit of a “huh?” note, I thought for my second FFFriday I’d post the second half of Chapter 1 of Erased. If this is your first time here, you can click here to go back to the first half of the chapter.

Wearing only a pair of thin, white pajamas, the person in the mirror was no more or less than a complete stranger. It was an incredibly disturbing situation. She found herself leaning back and forth and side to side to prove that the young woman in the mirror was in fact herself.

Her skin was a bit pallid, her hair limp, but otherwise she thought she was fairly pretty. She was short, maybe a little over five feet, and neither fat nor thin. Her hair was long, reaching nearly the middle of her back, and was a light brown hue. But the thing that really caught her attention were her eyes. They were a vivid, bold blue, lined in thick black eyelashes. They were bright eyes, kind eyes, but also, they were eyes that had seen a lot. A lot of what, she wasn’t sure, but she could tell that these eyes had witnessed things that most hadn’t, and wouldn’t want to.

She stared at her reflection for a long time, willing herself to recognize those eyes, trying to understand what could have happened to her that would erase her own face from her mind.

An eternity after she’d first found herself staring resolutely at the pristine white ceiling, she finally walked over – on legs that still weren’t quite steady – to the single door in the small room. She held her breath as she twisted the knob, but mercifully the door swung open. Unsure what to expect, she leaned slowly and peaked out through the opening. A hallway…stretching mindbogglingly far in each direction, as pristine white as the room she’d started out in. Doors were interspersed at thirty foot intervals. She strained her ears, but still there was no sound other than that steady hum. The lights, she thought.

With bare feet sticking to the spotless floor, she stepped out into the hallway and noticed a note board hanging on the wall next to her door. Interested, she pulled the board down and saw with a little shock that the first page had her picture on it. The girl in the picture looked prettier than the girl in the mirror. She was standing straight and proud, smiling slightly, with her hair up in a tight bun high atop her head. Next to the photo, in large black letters was a name: Toreshi.

“Tor..e..shi..” she said slowly, in a voice that was crackly from disuse.

The name felt weird and unfamiliar in her mouth. She wasn’t even sure she was pronouncing it properly. Was it Torr-Ee-She, or Tore-She? Tor-Ae-She maybe? Or maybe she was mistaking the placement of the word and it wasn’t even a name at all. Maybe it was some kind of weird designation? More confused then ever, she began flipping through the rest of the pile of papers, but everything else seemed to be written in some strange language that was part letters, part numbers, part indecipherable symbols. Disappointed, Toreshi (she figured she may as well assume it was a name), folded the papers under her arm and began a slow walk down the hallway.

The first door she came to had another note board, but it had been ripped to pieces and was littered all over the hallway floor. Toreshi sorted through the discarded papers for a few moments, but it was similar to hers, written in some strange language that made no sense to her. She couldn’t find the full front page, which she assumed would have a picture, but she found one scrap of the name. It was ripped across, but the first four letters were Chao.

Quietly and carefully, Toreshi pushed the door open a few inches and peered inside. She furrowed her brow and pushed the door open further. The room was identical to the one from which she would come, except for the minor fact that it had been utterly demolished. The table had been upended into a corner, the IV machine was in pieces on the floor, and the mirror had been shattered by what looked distinctly like a punch of rage. Her suspicions were further confirmed by a small pool of blood on the floor directly beneath the center of the crack.

There was no one in the room, and as the blood was fresh, Toreshi assumed it’s former occupant had vacated quite recently.

Toreshi stepped back out into the hall and began gathering up the papers in the hallway. She didn’t know why she felt the need to take them with her, but something inside told her they might be important, so she tucked them in the back of her note board and continued on.

She’d only gone another ten feet down the hallway when she was assaulted by an earsplitting scream.

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Erased (Chapter 1 – Part 1)

For my first Fiction Fragment Friday I decided to share the first half of the first chapter of a little something that no one aside from myself has seen yet. It was my NaNovel for 2012; I barely broke the surface on it, but someday when I finish working on my current manuscript and work-in-progress, I’ll definitely be getting back to it.

Erased is a sci-fi fantasy about a group of people who are “erased” by the Galactic Militia for reasons they have yet to discover. They have to rediscover themselves while attempting to discover what was done to them, and for some of them these discoveries will not be at all pleasant.

So without further ado, and keeping in mind that this is a very rough draft that has not been revised or edited in any way, here is Part 1 of Chapter one of Erased:

It wasn’t quite like waking up. If she had to describe the feeling, it was almost as though she’d been awake the entire time, aware of a living state, and yet unaware of herself or anything around her. She had no sense of time passing, or of the world around her, but she had a vague idea of stillness, silence.

When she “woke up”, her eyes were already open, staring, unblinking. It was as though she had been blind but suddenly was able to see, and what she saw was a perfectly pristine white ceiling. There was no sound, no noise aside from a steady, constant hum.

It took a few moments (minutes? hours?) for her brain to catch up with her eyes and realize what she was seeing. She blinked a few times, thoughts muddled, and tried to shake her head, but it wouldn’t move. For a moment she thought with calm surprise that she must be paralyzed, but a few seconds later she realized that she was, in fact, tied down. She struggled against the bonds and found them quite firm. She was becoming more aware now, and as such she was beginning to panic a little. She could feel thick leather bonds at her wrists, ankles, and waist, and something else, cold and hard, around her head and over her mouth (so she couldn’t scream?). She couldn’t move her head more than half an inch, so she strained her eyes as much as she could. She couldn’t see much. She was laying on some kind of small metal table and there was an IV rack standing near her head. She could see tubes hanging from the IV bags, but couldn’t feel whether they were actually attached to her body or not. The room seemed to be otherwise empty, except for a large mirror on the wall to her left, but from this position she couldn’t see into it.

She took a deep breath to calm her rapidly accelerating heart beat. Calm down, she thought to herself, Think. Get free.

It took a while, slowly examining what she could in her prone state, but she eventually found that she could twist her right wrist just far enough to feel the buckle on her bond.

It was slow, painstaking, and several times she had to stop, take a breath, and calm her heart again, but eventually she managed to prise the leather through the buckle and free her right hand. Once one limb was free, the others came quickly. It took her a few moments to figure out the hard bond around her face, but she she finally found the small clasp and ripped herself free. She found herself practically dying to let out a good scream. She restrained herself, taking a few large gulps of air instead. It felt good to be able to breathe through her mouth.

Sitting up felt strange. Her body was stiff, sleepy, weak. Her legs, especially, felt limp and thin, as though they hadn’t been used for a while and the muscles had died away. She tried wiggling her toes. She succeeded, but they had a dull ache, as one might experience while stricken with the flu. Upon closer examination of her body, she found that the IV tubes were, in fact, jammed into her skin in several spots. She ripped two tubes out of the underside of each elbow, and three more out of her wrists. Small droplets of blood pooled at each spot, but she felt better with the tubes gone.

Tentatively, she slid herself to the edge of the steel table and reached a toe out to the floor. Gently, slowly, she eased forward, only to grab desperately at the table as her knees buckled beneath her. She could barely support her own weight between her legs and arms, so she let herself bump down to the floor.

For what seemed like a long time, she stretched her limbs, leaned them into the walls and floors, tried to make them wake up. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew that, logically, if she’d been prone on the table for any length of time, she’d need extensive physiotherapy to get her muscles working properly again. But in another, further back part of her mind, somehow she knew that the rules didn’t apply to her. It was a silly, childish notion, and yet she knew it to be true. So she stretched, and pushed, and soon enough she was lifting herself back up, standing on achy legs, helping herself steady with achy arms.

It was only at this point that she finally thought to look into the mirror.

Hook, Line, and Sinker

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

72. Developing a compelling hook

I’m quite certain that a great deal of literature has been written on this subject, but unfortunately I have not read any of it. All I can really give is my opinion, based on the fact that I’ve been an avid reader since I was about 8 years old.

To me, the trick to developing a compelling hook is to be both realistic and unrealistic at the same time. Sure that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. First, you have to be somewhat realistic with your characters and settings, because even when your reader is looking for fantasy, sci-fi, horror, or any of the other crazy options there are, they want to feel some kind of connection to the story. If your character is a gorgeous creature who was born with a silver spoon in their mouth and is absolutely perfect in every way your reader is going to have a hard time giving a rat’s behind about them. In fact, they’re more likely to hate them and not want to read about them anymore. But if you give your character some flaws that the reader can relate to (they were teased mercilessly as a child; they have an alcohol problem; they’re embarrassingly clumsy; etc etc etc) the reader is more likely to connect with them and want to follow them through the story. George R.R. Martin’s writing is a great example of this. In his A Song of Ice and Fire series you can easily find yourself rooting for multiple characters on different sides of the battles, because even the most evil characters have certain traits or beliefs that force you to relate with them. Sure, they’re still creeps, but you can’t help feeling that they could almost be your friend in a different situation, which makes you want to find out what happens to them.

Moving on, once you’ve established this sense of realism, you have to move on to being unrealistic in your story. See, the thing is that (for the most part) reality is pretty boring. The world is a pretty amazing place, yes, but the everyday world is, well…every day. People don’t read fiction because they want to read about the same things that they see every day in their own lives; they read fiction to put themselves into another world, a place that’s strange and different and lets them escape from the mundane. To continue using Martin as my example, his world first seems like a perfectly realistic medieval land, but suddenly you find out that it’s also full of magic and dark creatures. You’re relating to the characters and the world they live in, but you’re also surrounded by the odd and unusual, the kinds of things you secretly wish were real.

This doesn’t exactly help develop a “hook”, but I think that these are two important things to keep in mind when attempting to do so because any plot idea you do come up with will be a lot more enjoyable to read if these two ideas are kept in mind.

Or maybe I’m wrong. If so, feel free to debate it with me!