What I have here is a young adult novel that I’ve been working on for a while. The title of this work is Deviant, and in essence, it is my ultimate dream project because it combines all of the genres I adore: dystopia, science fiction, coming-of-age, and yes, romance. The themes of gender, humanities and the arts, and politics are very prominent throughout the entire work.
This novel takes a different approach to the coming-of-age genre. Although it has three main characters, the novel is peppered with preludes and interludes that tell the separate yet complementary stories of other characters. This constant deviance from the main plot serves to highlight the flaws and issues of the dystopic society without compromising the action and budding romance present in the main plot. The prelude and the interludes simply enhance the reader’s understanding of the tensions and problems that the main characters face.
As of now I only have about four chapters left to finish. But what I’m desperately looking for right now is some good (constructive) feedback. In this post, I’ve shared the first chapter/prelude of my young adult novel. It is not the final version of the chapter, and it is still subject to change. Do you think the novel seems interesting and/or worthwhile? Does this first chapter grab your attention? Does it make you want to read more? Any and all feedback is more than welcome.
Chapter I: A Prelude
I rest behind the garbage bin, trying to catch my breath. I don’t know what’s more brutal… walking barefoot through the snow, or running through a city in the middle of the night with nothing but a hospital gown on. My feet are blistered. Shades of periwinkle overlap the bruises and scabs peppered all over my legs. I can’t remember the last time I had sensation in my toes. I huddle my legs against my chest in an effort to retain the little body heat I have left. Either I’ll die out here in the cold, or they’ll catch me. Either way, I don’t think I’m going to last much longer.
I take a deep breath, look up, and exhale. A large cloud of steam escapes my mouth. The cloudy wisps tango into the air until they dissipate. If only I were like the steam. If only I can disappear into thin air. I gently turn around and bend on my knees. I wonder if they managed to keep up with me. I grab the corners of the garbage bin with my fingers and I slowly tilt my head to the side. The three figures stand ominously across the street. Damn. I was too desperate to cover my footprints in the snow. I led them right to me.
I blow some steam into my hands, hoping to give them even a few seconds of heat and consolation. It’s useless. My fingers are a sickly shade of purple. I see a darkened alley nearby. Maybe if I make a run for it, they won’t catch me. I grab a crushed soda can near the bin. This is it. I launch the can towards the opposite direction of the alley. I hear the metallic clash a few meters away.
I run. Well, I stumble. I’m beginning to lose my ability to balance myself. My feet are warning me that they can’t handle much more pressure. I feel a beam of light hit the side of my face as I head towards the alley. So much for my distraction.
I head towards the alley and reach a fence. Seriously, a fence? I thought fences in dark alleys were only used to make escape sequences dramatic in action films. The movie’s hero is chased by the villains and he or she dramatically climbs the fence and jumps over it. That’s not happening here. Between my frozen feet and my frostbitten fingers, it would be a miracle if I could climb half a meter. I frantically look around. The windows of the adjacent buildings are also too high for me to climb. I’m trapped.
I sit on the ground, knees against my legs. I lean my back against the cold brick of the one of the buildings. Flurries continue to fall from the heavens. I can hear footsteps approaching. Bursts of bright light invade my pupils. I cover my eyes, shielding them from the gleam of the three flashlights. My back presses firmly against the grimy wall. The rough texture of the brick perforates my skin. Sweat pours down my soiled hair. My chest heaves back and forth. A continuous flow of steam escapes my mouth. My carnation pink hospital gown offers little protection from the wind and the snow. I always knew that they would find me, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon.
“I d-don’t care w-what you d-do or say. I’m n-never going b-b-back there.”
I’m not afraid. I’m freezing. Too bad my stuttering makes me seem like a coward. I have to show them that I’m not afraid. I stand up. My fragile body shivers and quakes as I try to straighten up my body. I shake my head side to side, dusting off the snowflakes that have accumulated over the crown of my head. I take another deep breath. This time, I pronounce the worlds loudly and clearly without stuttering.
“Did you hear me? I…am never…going back.”
Two of the flashlights turn off; the other points directly at my face. Two men in black suits and cerulean ties grab me by each arm. The remaining light is soon consumed by the darkness. Even without the flashlights on, I can see their faces quite clearly. It seems that even the moon has a luminous interest in this recent development of events. The moon shining. The snow falling. What a lovely night this would’ve been under different circumstances.
There she is, staring at me with her cold, calculating, eyes—one glows with a yellowish hue, like the eyes of the panther. I can’t distinguish the color of the other eye, but it is much darker than the one on the left.
She loosens up her ponytail. Auburn hair begins to flow freely. Her flawless alabaster skin reflects the moonlight, and her bright pink dress suit, on the verge of a neon tone, could be spotted miles away in pure darkness. She reminds me of those brightly colored frogs that live in the Amazons, distinguished by their dazzling colors that serve as a warning to other creatures. Even animals know not to mess with beasts that don extravagant, bright-colored coats. Who knew that someone so beautiful could be so… menacing. Yet the beauty is a lie. Inside of that captivating shell, all that resides is ugliness. She’s a mummy within a jewel incrusted sarcophagus. I’m not one to be fooled.
“Well, Amethyst, it seems like you thought you could escape the Hub yet again. But as you very well know, nobody escapes. Deviants such as yourself can never leave, at least not until reparations are finalized. I must say, however, that your attempt to escape was quite a… noble effort. Ineffective, but very noble indeed.”
“There’s s-s-still p-plenty of time for me to es-ca-ca-cape.” No. I started stuttering again. The woman chuckles. Seems like she’s amused.
“Did you hear that, boys? Amethyst still thinks she has a shot at freedom. Little girls and their big dreams. Dreams are for weaklings, darling.”
“At least I’m c-capable of dreaming. M-monsters like you never dream.” Even with the two guards grasping my arms, it’s still getting harder to stand by the minute. I can’t collapse on the floor. I can’t let them see any more signs of weakness.
She steps towards me. Her eyes scan me top to bottom, basking in the pathetic visage in front of her. My bloody face. My bruised knees. My shivering body. She must be enjoying this spectacle. She leans toward my face. Her mouth is about two inches away from my own. She softly closes her eyes and whispers, “True. But that’s because monsters inhabit the realm of nightmares. And guess what, my dear Amethyst? Nightmares are still dreams. Cooperate, or I’ll make sure that you’re living a nightmare for the rest of your meager, pathetic existence.” She says this with a demeanor that is both calm and serene. Now I’m beginning to feel afraid. I try to respond, but no words come out of my mouth. Only steam does.
“Denise knows better than to try and escape. She knows that we can repair her” says the woman, still inches away from my face.
Denise. For a moment, I nearly forgot about her. I tried to let her know of my plan to escape. I wanted her to come with me. The Hub, however, is very cautious with its administration. It would be a shame to allow a relapse to occur within its premises.
My mind wanders off to my time in the Hub. I recall the cramped white room with nothing but a bunk bed, a sink, and a toilet. My cellmate was a seventeen year-old boy named Trevor. He was clearly ashamed about his recruitment to the Hub. It could be worse. Enrollment in the Hub was usually one of the lighter punishments for Deviants like us.
He would toss and turn while sleeping at night, whimpering the name of a person that I didn’t know. A person that he refused to talk to me about. When I first mentioned this name, he cupped one hand over my mouth and just stared straight into my eyes. With his other hand, he gently made a zipping motion across his lips. I perfectly understood who this person was.
Trevor and I had known each other since our first year in the Culture and Communication Center. I was seven when I first met him. Our assigned Center is the least popular of all the training centers, and we knew that. Understandably, we weren’t excited to be there, but it’s not like we have much of a choice in terms of what center we are assigned to at that age. Although we briefly talked during the first couple of years, we soon grew apart. Who knew that we would one day be cellmates at the Hub?
The transgression that led to my imprisonment happened about four months ago. All it took was one moment. One moment to obliterate years of work and effort. One moment to destroy a lifetime of possibility. When it happened, Denise and I knew we were doomed. Hopeless. Lost. The Régime doesn’t take these matters lightly—and although it’s been decades since all the cells in the Hub have been full, you occasionally see one or two new faces in the dining hall every month or so. Denise and I were the unlucky ones this time. You can never be too careful here… the Régime is always watching, in addition to listening.
The agent stands in front of me, breathing heavily on my face, with a pocket placed firmly into her hand. I know what comes next. We all do. We’ve been warned about the penalties for multiple transgressions. We all knew the protocol that Hub-Masters usually followed when pursuing an escapee. Knowing what comes next, I looked at her adamantly with a sense of valor.
“Leave…Denise… out of this.” I’m losing my breath.
“Oh Amethyst, just drop the act of courage and valor. You already look pathetic. Do you want to actually be pathetic as well?”
I can’t take it anymore. With all my might, I yank my arms away from the guards and I lunge at her, trying my best to knock her into the snow. With any luck, her head will bash into the pavement. I lock my arms around her, but she barely budges. I must be way weaker than I thought I was. Not even adrenaline can save me now. She grabs me by my hair and tosses me on the ground. I look up and see those eyes. They truly do look monstrous in the moonlight.
I black out momentarily. I open my eyes and notice one of the guard’s boots embedded within my abdomen. The other guard swings his foot. I black out once again. Yes, that’s blood dripping out of my mouth.
I spit out the blood and watch the crimson masterpiece that I created on the silver snow. I lay the side of my head on the red-tinged snow. “I can’t be repaired. I refuse to be repaired” I whisper, loud enough for them to hear me.
The woman gives me a half smile and pulls out the roll of parchment that I was expecting to see. Parchment. How old-fashioned. How traditional. One of my history instructors back at the Center mentioned that all agencies belonging to the Régime use parchment for most of their official documents. It makes them feel as if they were in touch with history. The days when Deviants were nowhere to be found. The days when the entire population upheld the virtues of purity and dignity. Strangely, with my act of defiance, I feel like I have fully embraced both of those virtues.
She unrolls the parchment and reads the proclamation in a stern and cold voice. Even the snow seems warm in comparison to that voice. I know the proclamation by heart—I saw it all the time in movies and television shows repeatedly, all telling the story of people who dare defy the fourth natural law. To add insult to injury, they even made the proclamation rhyme—a lullaby uttered right before our final sleep. It sounds just like I expect it to sound, but with my name and borough mentioned in the first verse. Rhymes used to always calm me down as a kid. This rhyme manages to finish the snow’s job of freezing the blood running through my veins.
“Amethyst Jacobson of the South-western Borough,
The Régime has been clear, its stipulations were thorough.
Your defiance of nature, and a will that won’t bend,
Leaves us no choice but to uphold and defend
The revered mandate of the fourth natural law:
your sacrifice will bring order and peace to us all.”
As she finished the proclamation, she kneels down on the floor and pulls out a syringe from her pocket. She pulls out a vial with a rose-colored liquid and fills the syringe. I don’t even feel the needle piercing my flesh. I never thought I would die this way. I always thought I’d be old, surrounded by my loved ones, dying in the warmth of my bedroom.
I feel the heat draining away from my body. My chest tightens. No more steam escapes from my mouth. My eyes are open, but now, all I see is darkness. My spirit breaks as I realize that for me, there is no white light at the end tunnel.
ALL RIGHTS TO THIS POST RESERVED BY AUTHOR
Published by Angel Daniel Matos
Copyright 2013 © by Angel Daniel Matos