Here's the first few pages of my speculative fiction book. I'd love some feedback as I hope to send out to agents soon!
A sound was creeping into the dark, peaceful silence. Like a swimmer fighting against the current, it pushed its way through the heaviness of sleep. Rasping, grating, screeching, it pulled at her attention without patience. A light pulsed through her closed eyelids, blood-red and demanding. Her eyes flickered open, then squinted against a burning pressure. Her lungs contracted, but found no air. Her arms reached out, pounding weakly at a wall of constraint.
A crack. A slick gush. A surge of liquid pulled her from her suffocating cave. She took a weak breath and crumpled onto the floor.
“Elise, Elise…” a faraway voice is calling, stretching the syllables in a playful, needling tone. “Elliesiiiita.” Elise giggles and backs away from the curtain that provides her hiding spot. “Donde estas?” the voice muses. “Hmm, maybe she’s been taken by the circus! Maybe she ran away with pirates to roam the open seas! Maybe she’s una mosca and she’s buzzing around the room, trying to get my attention!”
Elise dissolves into giggles, giving away her hiding spot. Fingers plunge through the curtain, tickling the little girl until she cries out in laughter.
The bright curtain faded, the playful fingers became insistent and strong. “Ma’am, wake up! Hey ma’am, wake up! We gotta get outta here!” Strong arms lifted Elise up and set her on still weak legs. “Here lean on me, I’ll help you.” The man wrapped an arm around her and led her through a hazy maze of spaces. She followed him blindly, coughing roughly against the acidic smoke that filled the air around them.
They stepped through the light of an open doorway. Muted sunlight filtered over Elise’s face and soft grass brushed against her bare feet. She looked up to find the face of her rescuer. “Where are we?”
“I dunno ma’am, don’t look like the Moon to me. But that guy said don’t worry ‘bout that yet, said just get everybody out the shuttle first.”
“The shuttle?” Elise tried to shake her mind clear. “What shuttle? Why were we in a shuttle?” She repeated the word in every sentence, as if repetition would help it make sense. “…did you say the Moon?”
“Sit down here ma’am. Just take some long breaths to clear out your brain. It takes a minute to really get it all woke up.”
He led her to a wide fallen tree and she sank down into the nearby grass. She focused on taking long, slow breaths and stretching out her tingling limbs. She pulled her long, dark-brown hair away from her face, squeezing out the heavy liquid that still coated her whole body. She wiped her hands and feet on the dense grass around her, seeing that her pale, freckled skin was still tinged an oxygen-starved blue. Slowly the fog began to lift. A few other people lay near her, all facing into the same small clearing. They were each dressed in the same dull-brown jumpsuits and covered in the same thick goop. Surrounding them, impossibly tall trees stretched upward, almost joining together across the empty space to block out the sunlight above them. Nearby, shrouded by smoke and tree limbs, a large metal frame protruded from the ground, jagged tree limbs jutting out from its edges like collapsed stilts.
Elise squinted through the smoke to read the words printed on the metal sheeting:
U.S.S. FAREWELL - LUNAR SHUTTLE
ALL CONTENTS PROPERTY OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
Elise’s eyes opened wide in recognition. She remembered now why she’d been on board the shuttle. She leaned back into the tree that was supporting her, the force of memories washing over her with such strength that it felt like a physical pressure. She closed her eyes and let the wave take her.
Three figures huddle behind Elise. Their tiny hands grasp onto the back of her shirt, seeking a reassurance that she can’t give them. A single light glares above them, its harsh line of shadow and light rocking back and forth across the only furniture in the small, cramped room, a large metal table. A man with guarded eyes stares at her from over an open file.
“Elise Annesley.” Her voice is a hoarse whisper, and the man looks up impatiently.
“Elise Annesley,” she repeats loudly.
“Are you Head of Household?”
“Yes.” Tears burn behind her eyes, but she swallows hard and pulls them back.
“Names of dependents?”
“Mateo Annesley. Nicolas Annesley. Josefina Annesley.”
The man casts an appraising glance over the small huddled group. “Previous state of Residence?”
“Name of sponsor?”
“The person whose military service makes you eligible for residence here?”
“I, I’m not sure…”
The man sighs and closes the file in front of him. “You’re in the wrong line. Persons seeking residence without sponsorship report to building 7A.” He pushes the file back towards her and stands to reopen the door behind them.
“No!” Elise leans across the table, almost grabbing his arm in an effort to stop him. “I’ll enlist. I’m strong and healthy.” She racks her brain for another selling point, anything to keep him from forcing them back out. “I’m, I’m smart. I was a research assistant before the war. I did my thesis on the WPO. I’ve studied their culture and their language…”
The man eyes her speculatively. “New recruits are subject to immediate deployment, and unaccompanied minors reside in group housing.”
Elise glances back at the small faces beside her. “But they’ll be under the cyber-dome? They’ll be safe from WPO attacks while I’m gone?”
“If you’re accepted.”
“Leese.” Nico tugs on her arm, trying to pull her away from the table. “Don’t do it, Leese. We’ll find another way. We can go back to the tunnels…”
Elise shakes her head, ignoring the panic rising in her throat. “There’s no other way.” She looks back at the man, her expression as hard and confident as she can make it. “What do I have to do to enlist?”
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