Free writing workshop for aspiring authors of young adult and middle grade fiction. The first five pages may be all that agents, editors, and readers read, so get them right with the help of three authors over the course of three weeks. During the third week, an agent will also critique your pages and your pitch and pick a workshop winner - the prize is a partial request!
Name:ToashaJiordano Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Title: Epoch Earth; The Great Glitch
I was twelve the first time I saw someone glitch out and die. It was the scariest damn thing I’d ever seen.
He barged in the room as I stood there not setting the table, mentally cussing the stupid dress my mom forced me to wear. Out of nowhere the man started clawing behind his ear. His burning flesh sizzled and smelled just like steak. He fell to his knees, tears and spit running down his face. And that face! It didn’t even look human anymore. The agony masked his features so much that I feared him as I would a monster or beast. Still I stood there, motionless.
Both of his hands covered his ears and a low growl erupted from his contorted mouth. I watched, frozen, as he dragged himself over to a small wooden table in the corner. The fingers on his left hand dug into the hardwood floor, nails crunching as they broke. His right hand scraped at the back of his ear the whole time. Still I stood rigid, mouth gaping, wanting to flee. Never once thinking to help.
As his fingers found the table leg he pulled himself upright. The growls turned to pitiful moans. So unnerving. Kneeling unsteadily, the man hunched over as if to vomit. No sooner had I wondered why he crawled all the way over there to puke, he bashed his head on the table.
If you’ve never heard a human skull smack against a wooden table - the dull thud of a splitting watermelon - I suggest you keep it that way. Every thwump sent shivers across my spine and bile to my throat.
His legs buckled, threatening to drop him to the floor. Yet he persevered. Charred sizzling chunks of skin slid down his neck onto the table. The sight churned the peanut butter and jelly climbing its way up my throat. His bloodied hands still tore at the flesh behind his ear between thuds. His finger disappeared knuckle deep down the hole he made.
Within seconds, or years from my estimate, he retrieved his prize! The chip was larger than most, half an inch square. Congealed blood hung from the corner, ready to drop in the already darkening puddle of him on the table. His face softened with relief. He tugged at the chip still hanging from his head. A final sigh escaped the man’s lips as he flopped to the floor. Doilies and magazines raining down.
My mother screamed and glass shattered behind me. The commotion snapped me out of my daze as she rushed to his side. She cradled his mutilated head in her arms, kissed his forehead and chanted his name. Through my fingers I watched the chip-to-chip mind meld between my parents as they mentally became one. Breathing ragged and shallow with him - in full transmission sync - my mother escorted my father through his journey out of this world.
Never did I run to help my father or cry out for my mom. I just held my breath and watched. In my defense, I was twelve. But still, to stand idly by and allow your flesh and blood to be reduced to a pile of, well, flesh and blood. Disgraceful.
“Sam… Sam… Sam…” My mom’s tears erupted hard and fast over the carnage on his face.
Her mournful wailing harmonized with his last gurgles creating the most gut-wrenching tones. Her head flung back, dark locks of wavy hair soaking up his coagulated blood. Only the whites of her eyes were visible now as they rolled deep into her head. Her grief song died as his lungs emptied.
Complete silence blared as my father’s body expelled the last of itself onto the floor of our dining room. The floor that a week ago he’d sworn to finally get around to polishing. The floor where my mom had just yelled at me for leaving coloring books all over. This is the floor where my father glitched and died, taking that innocent little girl inside me with him.
After my father’s last breath, my mom’s cheeks returned to near pink. Her eyes, black and barely open, settled back into their normal positions. She straightened herself, smoothing damp matted hair down her blood-stained apron. Turning those empty eyes toward me she whispered, “Synta, go find your brother.”
Post Glitch: Day 1
The next morning the world outside Synta’s house was too quiet. Even the birds knew not to breathe. No sound came through the walls, only a random red or blue light peeked in. Synta’s mother languished on the couch one hand over her head like the fainting actresses in the old movies they used to watch together. Shock still had a firm grip on Synta as she sat at the foot of the couch, cradling her four-year-old brother Brooks. Her mother moaned and whimpered above them, still weak from the chip meld with her father on his death floor in that room. Every thought that flew through her mind always found its way back to that room.
Synta’s senses were held hostage by the agony on her parents’ faces, the scent of her father’s charred flesh and that horrible thwump of his skull on the table. Synta shook her head hard and flipped the switch on the holopad to distract Brooks with some TV time. Unfortunately, for three hours already President Sturn’s speech played on a constant loop in their heads and on every channel. Even the cartoon ones. Citizen Network Updates piped directly to every chip and all public broadcasts. There was no escape. So they watched the speech, on repeat, until they could recite it themselves.