Monday, September 23, 2013

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Noser Rev 2

Name: Ann M. Noser

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Title: The Truth


My tenth birthday was the worst day of my life. Dad had to work late, because his replacement didn’t show up on time. Mom and I waited for him to come home.

Five years later, we’re still waiting.

Most kids would’ve requested a Vacation Pass for their fifteenth birthday, but not me. I’d rather forget the whole thing and help Old Gus prepare the chilled bodies in the hospital mortuary. I drag myself out of bed and pull on teal blue scrubs.

I fumble for socks and shoes, and a ray of early sunlight glints off my dad’s picture hanging on the wall. Once again, his blue eyes capture mine, as if he needs to tell me something important. On the floor beneath the photo sits a memory trunk full of how things used to be. But I won’t open it today. I just can’t.

Dishes clink in the kitchen. Mom calls out, “Hurry up, Silvia. I’ve got a surprise for you.”

She sounds happy, but I can’t tell if it’s real. Since Dad’s death, both of us have done a lot of pretending. So far this year we’ve been able to avoid Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medication, but sometimes I think I was sent down to Mortuary Services to push me over the edge. Fortunately, I find autopsies intriguing, not depressing. And since I never got to see Dad’s body after the accident, caring for other people’s deceased soothes the empty ache inside.

So does Gus. He’s better than any anti-anxiety med. He always knows what to say and what not to say to me.

Too bad Mom doesn’t have a clue.

Mom glances up from her green tea as I enter the modular kitchen. “I planned a big surprise for your birthday.”

I tense. “What is it?”

Mom slides over a bowl of organic oatmeal topped with raspberries, a special treat. “I got us Park and Art passes today.”

“I’m not hungry.” I shake my head. “And Gus is expecting me.”

“No, he’s not. He knows all about it. I told him weeks ago.”

“Really? Gus must be good at keeping secrets. He never even wished me ‘happy birthday’ yesterday.”

Which proves he knows me better than Mom does.

She frowns. “You should eat something, even if you’re not hungry. And if it makes you feel better, just pretend it isn’t your birthday. It’s some other day instead. A good day, not a bad one.”

I want to protest some more, but there’s a determined gleam in Mom’s eyes—one that hasn’t been there for a long time. And I don’t want to be the one to snuff it out.

I halfheartedly take a few bites of breakfast, swallow my eight prescribed supplements, then return to my bedroom to change into jeans and a long-sleeved green T-shirt. All my clothes are soft and plain, without decoration, made by hands like my father’s. Only Dad proved himself to be Gifted, so he didn’t make Basic Worker Level clothes for long. Instead, he got promoted to Government Level clothing production—a promotion which cost him his life.

“Hurry up!” Mom calls from the front door.

We clamber down six flights of stairs in the brightly-lit stairwell. Once we reach the main floor, we push out the airlock into the early morning rush of people flooding the streets. Dashing across the busy bike path and an empty car lane, we finally reach the closest walk way. Traffic is orderly today. No bikers stray from their lanes into ours. Men and women wearing blue scrubs of various shades hurry towards the hospitals and medical facilities. Those in green coveralls rush towards the monorail station to speed off to one of the numerous Plant and Protein Production Facilities.

I glance back at a beautiful dark-skinned woman, and try not to feel envious of her green uniform. Normally, I don’t mind my job. In fact, I feel more at home in the mortuary than anywhere else. But part of me still longs to spend all day surrounded by plants. Nothing can be done about it now. The Occupation Exam is over, and I’ve been placed where I’m most effective.

We march past rows of buildings, offices on the first two floors and apartments up above. People whoosh past us on bikes, as those on foot press constantly forward. Only the car lane remains empty, as usual.

We make good time until we hit the Citizen Family Planning and Redistribution Building. Traffic stalls. A crowd of walkers fidget in place ahead of us. I shiver a little in the cool morning breeze.

“What’s going on?” Mom cranes her neck and rises up on her toes. “Can you see?”

Indistinct voices argue up ahead. Strangers murmur around us, but avoid making eye contact. After a long pause, the crowd begins to shuffle past the building. A few cast furtive glances over their shoulders. Everyone’s in a hurry to get somewhere. Now I see who is causing the fuss. A red-haired girl who looks to be about my age shoves an orderly away. The crowd behind us pushes forward. Tears stream down the girl’s pale face. She backs away from the building and turns as if to run. Then she cries out in pain, and clutches her swollen belly, breathing hard.

In her moment of weakness, the orderlies surround and restrain her.

“I won’t do it! I won’t do it!” the pregnant girl screams as they drag her away.


  1. Hi Ann,

    I like the revisions -- you've tightened the pace without losing key story elements. You've dropped clues about the past and hints about what's to come and when the excerpt ends, I'd like to keep on reading. My sole picky point is: I'm still partial to the former, homier 'other people's dead' rather than the more clinical sounding 'other people's deceased.' But, as I said above, that's a very picky point.

    A most enjoyable read.

  2. Definitely more streamlined. I'd like to connect with her a little more though in these pages. I wonder if there's a way to do that by getting to the action faster? So we can find out her thoughts? IDK. It's tricky. I do like it, I'm just brainstorming...

  3. Ann,

    Nice revision. The pace is good. You've added some strong setting details. And that last line leaves me wanting to read on.

    Suggestions: In the first paragraph, I wonder if the end of the second sentence is necessary ("because his replacement didn't show up on time"). And I think that the third paragraph would be stronger if you conclude at "mortuary". I like the tension you've created between mother and daughter, and encourage you to keep developing that. Finally, I found myself wondering about the red-haired girl this time. You could consider adding clothing/uniform color to her description.

    I'm intrigued by the title. Best of luck with The Truth.


  4. Hi Ann,

    I think you're off to a strong start! There's a lovely cadence to the beginning such as:
    "Fumbling for socks and shoes" and snuffing out the determined gleam in her mom's eyes.

    On my third reading, the word "airlock" really stands out. So going back to world building, Silvia and her mom live in a building that is pressurized? But when they exit, the streets seem pretty normal / akin to our world, but with busy bike lanes and empty car lanes. So more details about why there's an airlock would enhance the setting. Is the atmosphere thin? What's different about this world and what caused it? Did something happen before Silvia was born?

    All best,

  5. Thanks all
    Sunni--you're right, something did happen--the story will get to that soon but it would bog down the intro.

    Ashley--I'll have to decide where else to out that second part of the second sentence, because it is really important that his replacement didn't show up--I meant it as some foreshadowing.

    Peggy--that's so funny how different words mean different things to different people. I chose deceased because I thought it implied a loving relationship where dead could just be road kill. Haha

    One more question--do we submit one more revision? It seems that others only did two, so I wasn't sure.

  6. I love the way you've grouped the paragraphs. And I feel like every word choice is well thought out now. Like I get how she is feeling and I feel you hinting at info you're going to reveal later on. I really want to keep reading to find out the promise she sees in her father's eyes etc etc. And I'm so intrigued by the pregnant girl at the end. So consider me hooked! Good luck going forward with this!

    And I profusely profusely apologize for being so late!