Sunday, March 6, 2016
1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Barnes
Name: Joel Barnes
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Zipper
At five fifteen on Monday morning Kelly Thomas crawled out of bed. Had she known what would happen to her in the next twenty minutes, she probably would have locked all the doors, jumped back into bed and pulled the covers over her head.
But she didn’t know.
She stood in the kitchen draining a glass of orange juice, pausing between gulps only long enough to check her text messages. Peeling a banana, she walked across the tile floor and looked outside through the glass patio door into a jumble of dark shapes and shadows. Good, still no sign of the sun.
Pouring another glass of juice, she smiled, knowing that if she messaged her friends saying she was getting up this early during summer vacation they’d reply that she was crazy. After all, fourteen-year-olds were supposed to sleep as late as possible.
She had to admit to a little craziness—about nature photography. It ran in her blood. She was hooked on the central Florida ecosystem and its allure at the break of dawn, a nature photographer’s prime shooting time. This morning the chance of capturing that mystical allure on her camera called her out of bed and into the woods before the sun came up.
Five twenty—she’d better get going. After stuffing a pack of watermelon bubble gum into one back pocket of her khaki shorts and her sunglasses into the other, she picked up her camera from the kitchen counter and slung it around her neck. She pulled a black Marlins baseball cap over her still uncombed hair, adjusted the bill and stepped out the back door.
The pre-dawn blackness quickly swallowed her. The night loomed dark and scary, far scarier than she’d expected. A few widely scattered stars dotted the dark sky; the sliver of a quarter moon hung low in the horizon. Menacing silhouettes—trees, bushes, a chain link fence—closed in around her.
A shiver of fright shot through her stomach. Kelly hesitated, glancing back at the house where a faint light glowed through the kitchen window. Why did I ever leave my bedroom? Then she imagined that the early-dawn pictures would be to-die-for, and she hurried away from the house.
Kelly’s pencil-thin shadow stretched out beside her as she covered the hundred feet of patchy grass separating the shadowy house from a white storage barn. Her ears found the sounds of the night—the shrill chirping of crickets, the eerie screech of a wood owl, the distant croaking of a frog—creepy. She passed the storage barn, and her feet met the narrow path leading into the dense woods that surrounded the house.
She had traveled this same path hundreds of times, but never before alone in the dark. Her heart raced as a canopy of leaves closed over her and the sky faded from view. She wished she had her flashlight.
Her fears multiplied as she ventured deeper into the thick darkness. Dried leaves crunched beneath each tentative step. Low hanging branches whipped across her face, stinging her cheeks. She wrinkled her nose at the pungent odor of decaying leaves.
She reached a temporary break in the tunnel of darkness when the path curved into a small grove of short trees. When her gaze shifted upward to welcome the glimmer of moonlight that penetrated onto the path, her sneakers caught on the rough edges of an exposed root. Her hands shot out as she tumbled onto the path.
She kicked the root in frustration. Could she go on, this scared, with the woods ahead looming so dark? She pictured herself asleep in her bedroom, safe and comfortable. No time for a pity party. You’re not leaving empty-handed. Suck it up and you’ll get some awesome shots.
Hands shaking, Kelly fumbled with her camera. To capture the scenes in the first light of dawn, she had no choice but to keep moving. She resolved not to back down—neither fear, nor darkness would stop her.
She walked on. Her fears walked with her as the path twisted beneath a canopy of interlacing limbs. When her gaze darted toward the dense undergrowth on both sides of the path, her mind envisioned a dreaded something silently stalking beside her. Without warning, it could explode onto the path, all dagger-sharp teeth and flesh-slashing claws, craving her quivering flesh.
To her relief, the unnamed something never materialized and a couple hundred yards into the woods, she reached her destination—a dense clump of short bushes.
Ahead of her, on the other side of the bushes, stretched a sizable clearing filled with low-growing grasses, the grazing grounds of the white-tailed deer. She sank onto her knees and tucked herself in tightly behind the bushes, making certain she had an unobstructed view of the clearing. Settled in, she shoved a wad of watermelon gum into her mouth and readied her camera.
Then she waited in the silence of the clearing and the darkness of the woods for dawn to arrive.
Soon Kelly noticed a tiny red glimmer hanging just over the tree-tops. Its jagged edges gradually expanded until the sun’s first light began to penetrate the woods, sending shimmering rays reflecting off the gathered dew. The sunlight revealed six or seven white-tailed deer grazing in the clearing. Kelly quaked with excitement and her fingers shook as she raised the camera to snap her first photograph.
First she zoomed in on a large buck with light brown fur, surprised at the size of its antlers. Next her focus shifted to a doe. Beautiful. She was careful to capture the white patches of fur on its throat and underbelly. A thrill shot through her when a fawn scrambled up on spindly legs from its hiding place in the grass. She focused her camera on its huge, soft eyes and the white spots that dotted the reddish brown fur.
The buck shattered the tranquility of the moment when it whipped its head around and snorted, shaking its antlers and stomping its hooves. Then, raising its pointed tail, the white underside flashing in the dim light, it bolted into the woods and out of sight, the rest of the herd streaking close behind. She snapped frantically, realizing she’d probably get nothing for her trouble but blurry backsides. Great! Her prime-time photo op had just evaporated like the morning mist.
Kelly lowered her camera, her hopes of capturing any more deer dashed. As she began previewing her pictures, a rustling in the foliage caught her attention. She peered across the clearing in the direction of the noise. Tree limbs were bending and then splintering with loud snaps and with cracks that sounded like rifle shots.
A blast of wind surged across the clearing. A split second later a huge shape exploded out of the trees. Kelly gasped as an immense creature materialized near the edge of the clearing, shaking the ground and stealing her breath.
Kelly found herself staring at a beast that stood taller than a house and stretched out half as long. The behemoth crouched on two powerful legs as thick as tree trunks. Her gaze locked in on the huge teeth and the flesh-ripping claws. Her shocked mind reeled in disbelief, reluctant to accept what her eyes clearly saw. Across the clearing stood a T. rex. As in tyrannosaurus rex. The most feared predator to ever walk the earth.