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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Attempting a YA Novel

I'm considering entering the young adult foray. Here is the beginning of my latest story (inspired by the pic above)

Like a thousandknives the acid rain assaulted Aaliyah's skin, cutting through weeks of grimeand filth. Her light shift and torn shorts lay plastered to her flesh and she shiveredincessantly as the cold night breeze embraced her. Needing to find shelter forthe night, she sped up her steps as she weaved through the market district. Thevariant odors piqued her nose as she passed through. Carts of putrefyingpotatoes and rotten asparagus abutted stalls holding fresh lemons, tangerinesand melons. Instead of washing away the smells, the rain only accentuated thesharp, the tangy, the moldy and the sulphuric.
In a flash, Aaliyahgrabbed a lemon off its cart and took off as fast as she could down the halfempty street. The elderly merchant, who'd been closing up, turned aroundsuddenly.
"Stop, youfucking thief!" the old man yelled.
She kept her pace and stopped only when a fewblocks separated her from the wrath of the fruit vendor who managed to get in afew more expletives in her wake. She took the chance to round a corner straightinto an alley. As alleys went it was pretty decent. Not as much garbage andbarely any vermin. Except for the man who laid a few steps away on the wetsurface huddled beneath a tattered coat. From its appearance, it seemed to be awoman's ratty coat. Probably purloined like her lemon. She leaned against a wetwall, then bit into the fresh fruit with an exuberance of someone who hadn't eatenanything fresh in weeks.
Within secondsshe'd slurped up the sour juice, leaving only pulp and rind. She tossed theremains to the ground, turned to go back to the streets.
The sound of aquick motion behind her made her turn just in time to see the alley's soledenizen scuttle toward the discarded lemon remnants. Now fully visible beneaththe ambient light of a street lamp, the sickly looking man grabbed up theoffering, eagerly tore into the remains with rotten teeth.
Nothing disgustedher anymore. It was every man, woman, girl and boy for themselves. Survival wasthe game and there were a growing number of players, many of them unfortunate draftees.
Continuing north, ina matter of several minutes she entered the Chinatowndistrict. Even though the rain had not let up, the streets here were teeming.Those who could afford the very expensive plexishields had already activatedthe Lucite enclosures. The glasslike material of the shields reflectedpassersby as well as the gazillion blazing neon signs pushing back the night.
Her mother used tobring her and her brother here for Friday takeout night. Her mother and brotherwere long dead, killed in the riots that took place in 2029. Six full yearsago. Her father had been killed in a robbery attempt five years prior.
Still sheremembered the pagoda buildings, the colorful lanterns, the mouth-wateringsmells of spices and meats. Still remembered the flavors, including her particularfavorite, shrimp fried rice. The smells now made her near-empty stomach rumblein protest, in memory.
She coughed as thechill worked its way into her bones. One day she would be able to have decentclothes, live indoors. Protect her skin against the elements with her ownplexishield. But until that day, she had to survive.
She kept walkingnot sure where she would spend the night. She was tired of doorways, ofmakeshift shelters fashioned from boxes and plastic or sometimes leaves andmud.
She was justtired. She was only eighteen and right now she felt eighty. Not that manypeople lived to that age anymore. Well, at least not the poor.
Sometimes shewanted to give up, go to one of the many distribution centers, sign her name tothe papers and let them give her an injection. Or feed her a pill. Then nothingbut sleep eternal.
But for whateverreason – not that she'd done that much soul-searching in these past weeks – shejust couldn't bring herself to end it all. To ultimately join her family in thehereafter – if there was even such a place.
The neon signs frontingmost of the Chinatown businesses blinked Mandarin script, of which she only knewa few words; she'd learned Cantonese in school, as dictated by the Consortium,the global entity that had come to power before she was born. Before theeconomic devastation. Before the riots and the despair.
Before the schismbetween the haves and the have-nots had become a yawning chasm that couldengulf several universes.
Her own personalworld had upended several weeks ago when she'd officially turned eighteen andher foster mother kicked her out of their small apartment.
"You're oldenough to make do," Leona had declared, not even allowing Aaliyah a bagfull of her clothes. Those would be sold for food for the younger kids.
Aaliyah hadn'teven put up a protest because in the end she agreed with Leona. The youngerfosters needed all that Aaliyah was using up just by her presence. Since thereweren't any non-government jobs available, a non-working teen was a major liability.
She turned downone street, then another, and yet another, wandering a serpentine circuit thatwas leading her into unfamiliar territory. The rain was less brutal now but noless cold and all her strength was sapped as the last few steps led her into aquiet courtyard just off a bustling thoroughfare. Pagoda-like buildings stood quiet and dark.She walked to the nearest structure, climbed the steps leading up to an ornatedoor. The overhead eave leading from roof shielded her from the rain, which shewas all she wanted right now. She rested her back along a wall, slid down untilshe was sitting, her knees propped up. She hugged her arms around her knees,trying to trap what heat her body still maintained. It was difficult since shewas soaked through, but at least she was out of the rain. Come dawn, she wouldbe a little drier.
The quiet, thecalm of the little square began to lull her into a somnolent stupor. Her lidspulled down and just as they began to close, she forced them open, not exactlytrusting her surroundings. Not yet. Ahead stood the silhouette of a tree; thesewere so rare in her old neighborhood that she focused her attention on itsshapes. The thin trunk branched upward and split off into a plethora of smallboughs. Even in the dark, she could fathom the flowers bursting from thesprigs. And even from a distance, the smell of the flowers teased her nose.Pleasant scents, like the perfumes of the men and women who lived and worked inthe wealthy districts she had traversed through only to be chased out of by thegendarmes with their nasty clubs and lasers that could slice through skin inpencil thin cuts that split you open, exposing veins, sinew and bones.
Despite herefforts to remain awake, exhaustion was kicking her butt. The aimless roaming,the hunger and thirst, the lack of rest often took their toll and tonight wasno different. The danger however was ever insistent. There were hazards thehomeless always faced. You could go to sleep and wake up to find a trounce gangstanding over you, preparing for a little fun at your expense. That hadhappened to her once several weeks ago but once was more than enough. She'descaped simply because of her skill with her sole weapon, a pen knife herbrother had given to her on her tenth birthday as well as the intervention of aGood Samaritan who shouted for the authorities. The trouncers, mainly boys whoseemed to be pre-teens or in their early teens, were thankfully easily intimidatedby her small blade and the man's barking and turned tail and run.
In the statebetween wakefulness and the first wave of a dream, she heard voices speaking inCantonese. Through her haze she caught a few words – girl…must be lost…scrawny arms– all of which could be used to describe her. In these weeks, she'd lost somuch weight, her limbs were almost skeletal.
Funny thing aboutdreams. They restated the obvious, re-visualized one's life in surrealbackgrounds that emphasized its horror or pleasure. Or its monotony. She didn'thave the imagination to truly escape her environs. No dream weaver to take herbeyond this universe to somewhere where children weren't torn from families anddrafted into armies, where the food was plentiful and everyone got to sleep insoft, downy beds.
Places like thatdidn't exist for people like her.
Yet somehow she wasbeing lifted from the drizzling cold, was floating into a place that was immediatelywarm and comforting. In moments she was deposited on something so soft she feltshe was melding into clouds. Or how she'd imagined clouds would feel. As shedescended deeper into her dream she was immersed in the scent of something bothsweet and woody, a smell she could never have imagined in her true world. Thereal world.
She awoke to sunstreaming in on her face. And that wonderful smell.
She blinked awaythe residual fog from her head as a new reality crystallized around her.
It took her morethan a few seconds to understand she wasn't dreaming. Nor was she dead. Thismight have been heaven but she was sure with the crimes she'd committed in thelast weeks, heaven hardly her post-death destination.
So where in hellwas she then? She sat up and looked around the sun-infused room.
The"clouds" that had seemed so soft were in fact overstuffed pillowsthat lay on a four-poster bed with ash wood with gold gilding. She'd never seena bed so extravagant let alone slept on one. And that indescribable smell wasall around her, emanating from the cover she'd slept under.
The sun streamedin through two windows on opposite walls that were painted a warm canary. Toher left was a woman's vanity stand and seat. The girl reflecting back at herlooked disheveled and dirty, skeletal but oddly satisfied and well-rested.
She shifted out ofthe covers and rose from the bed, wonder and curiosity beginning to morph intosomething more cynical and frightening.
Who had broughther here since she sure as hell hadn't brought herself here? The one door tothe room was closed and she needed to know what was on the other side of it.She placed bare feet on the floor (where were her shoes?) and walked toward thedoor with light steps. The floors sported several rugs with gold and silverthread running through them in elaborate patterns that seemed to be Chinesescript that was indecipherable to her.
She placed her earto the wood of the door, noting it was ash like the bed's wooden posts. Sheheard no sounds on the other side, and deciding no one was standing near sheopened it a few inches to peek out.
The vantage onlyallowed her to see a wall opposite the door and not much else. Taking a chance,she opened it wider and half stepped out.
Facing west, shesaw a long hallway of which her door was the last in a line of several doors.
The floor wascovered in a long continuous runner with the same fancy script as the bedroomrugs.
There was a tablefurther down on which sat a white statuette but from this distance she couldn'treally see it in detail. But it looked expensive. As did the all-but-barehallway. This was not the hallway of some shanty.
At that moment sheremembered her last conscious thought. She'd been out in a night both cold anddrizzling when she'd come upon a quiet, secluded square with Asian buildings adistance from the bustling streets. There'd been a tree, so rare, and staringat it had lulled her into sleep despite her efforts to remain awake. She'd beenwet through and through, hunger gnawing at her (which it still was) and there'dbeen only the hope of spending the rest of the night on a porch of one of thepagodas.
She must be insidethat same building. Someone had obviously found her asleep outside and had broughther indoors. She had a half-conscious memory of being lifted, the action ofwhich she had assumed was part of a dream. She'd been wrong.
Another GoodSamaritan? Or someone who'd expect "payment" in currency she wasn'twilling to pay? She'd run into too many of the latter if not the former.
Either way she hadto leave.
She stepped backinto the room, went to the bed looking around for her shoes. She'd be at a hugedisadvantage without her sneakers. Threadbare they were but they also protectedher feet from the streets and elements.
Her back was tothe door but a slight sound made her turn around. She had been in a stooped positionto better peek under the bed so she had to rise to face the person standingjust inside the door.
"Person"might not have been an apt description. Male, female, she couldn't be certain. Theface had human features and yet there was something quite off about it.
It was as thoughsomeone had tried to mimic a human but had gotten key factors wrong. Like thedistance between the eyes; they were much too close together, the mouth toohigh up over the chin, the chin itself too undefined.
Two arms appearedfrom beneath some sort of oversized shirt (or was it a caftan like what Leona usedto wear?) Female arms but sinewy like a male's. Hands indelicate and amorphous.A knobby nose.
And yet the eyeswere…kind.
If she'd not heardabout creatures like these, she would have screamed at the first sight of it inthe room.
Would have backed awayin fear as it spoke without benefit of moving its thin lips.
The year of theriots in 2029, when she'd lost her mother and brother, was the same year theEarth was taken over. The same year the humans sought to overthrow the invadersand had been soundly defeated.
Yet for all of therioting and pushback by the humans, the invaders had allowed the beaten humanstheir autonomy. From the aliens' perspective, there had been no need to reallydo anything to oversee the humans. Existing class, gender and racial divisions haddone more harm than anything the creatures could ever implement. It was only amatter of exploiting the divisions. The invaders had simply melded into thefabric of a tapestry woven over several millennia that was still in the making.
Most people hadforgotten about the invasion. Or what the creatures even looked like.
But Aaliyahremembered. And here was one standing in front of her.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 6/26/2012 10:03:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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