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: Timothy Collins Genre: Young Adult Horror Title: Neffers
The toe tag on the decapitated body read: IF FOUND, CALL (512)576-3038, so fifteen-year-old Del pulled out her iPhone.
“I’m not afraid of you,” Del said, circling the shirtless decaying corpse. She maintained a perimeter outside the buzzing flies and fluid soaked ground but breathed easier knowing it wouldn’t answer. “I’ve seen other dead people, you know.”
Seen. Created. Collected. Same difference.
The burning Texas sun played spotlight for the headless body starring center stage. Nothing else in the forgotten hay field warranted a second glance. Del spied a turkey vulture gliding in a copycat pattern around the body. She reached her sweat drenched hand down, snatched a piece of gray limestone from the dirt, and launched her projectile at the hideous black bird.
“Get the hell outta here! He’s mine!” Del’s fumed, stretching the Deadpool t-shirt with her outstretched arms. The vulture settled into the field’s lone oak tree and voiced its displeasure, but, for now, Del owned her prize uncontested.
She sneered at the corpse. “He’d eat you if I let him, but you’re my entrance fee.” Del flipped her head toward the oak masquerading as a kickstand for her ten-speed bike. “And them.”
Dead bodies were a one-way ticket to life in jail for most, not a bloody precursor to salvation.
Dad better not be full of shit. His bedtime stories, or nighttime tales of terror, as my little sister called them, mentioned headless bodies with phone numbers attached. Today was too much coincidence to be a coincidence.
Nervous excitement drove Del to chew her last unbroken nail to a jagged nub before dialing. She figured most people would be afraid to call, but they weren’t in her situation. How many people needed to find a magical cure for cancer, like yesterday.
What if no one answered?
The option to call the cops had long since passed. They would canvas the field. Talking her way out of one dead body seemed plausible, but not half-dozen. While her underground fort kept them hidden from sight, their putrid scent would no doubt betray her.
“Yeah?” Gruff and tumble on the other end, but welcoming in an odd way. “You got Pez.” Del strained to hear him over the hum of the idling truck engine behind the man’s voice.
“Pez, who the hell you talking to?” A garbled male voice in the background asked.
“I found something I think belongs to you.” Del opted not to slow play her hand. Time wasn’t an ally.
“I’m listening,” Pez said.
“A body. Male. Fat and goopy. Like, ‘loved Taco Tuesday’ fat.” Del noted the corpse lacked fingers. No blood ran from the wounds. “And no head.” She performed a quick pirouette to verify she didn’t miss it in the open field.
Nope. No head. No smell. Maybe the perfect guy.
“Should I be freaking out?” Del asked.
Silence swept over the abandoned field. She dug her teeth into her sun-chapped bottom lip.
“No need to freak out. We’ll take care of everything. Can you tell me where you are?” Pez asked.
The background voice chimed in, louder and filled with subtle rage. “Did you put your phone number on a dead body?”
“Do you think I’m stupid? I’d never give out my phone number, Dermit,” Pez paused. “This is your phone.”
Del jerked forward, laughing so hard the jet-black iPhone slipped from her hands. It bounced harmlessly into the white milky substance oozing from the body. She hesitated but relented and plucked it from the goo.
“Five-second rule,” she muttered, wiping the phone clean on the hip of her jeans shorts before putting it back to her ear.
Trashing these as soon I get home. Not sure how I’ll explain to Mom how I “lost” another pair of shorts, though.
“Just find out!” The background voice faded, but his anger resonated through the phone.
“Relax. You’re gonna burst a blood vessel.” Pez cleared his throat. “Still there, kid?”
Kid? Doubt many fifteen-going-on-sixteen kids achieved my body count.
“I’m here,” she said.
“Text me your location,” he said, before lowering his voice, “and if you keep this between us, I’ll make sure there’s a little something in it for you.”
Del’s fingertips danced nervously across the touch screen tapping out her location.
“A magic fountain of life,” she muttered. “Dad better be right.” The stories were entertaining and all, but what Del needed more was hope.
His words ran through her head:
It’s like those trays by the convenience store cash register.
Give a penny. Take a penny.
But instead, the fountain treats lives as pennies.
Give a life. Take a life.
Del amassed enough bodies for six lifetimes, twice what she needed. If these guys coming weren’t who she thought they were, that number would have to increase to eight.
“You’re the first headless body I’ve seen, though. I’ll give you that.” Del relented her guardian’s prowl and knelt near the body. “If you truly want to impress me, you’d answer.”
Ears or no ears, the dead made the best listeners.
“Can I tell you a secret?” She cupped her hands around her mouth and leaned in close. “We’re not alone in this field.”
She pushed a pile of dirt over the “dude milk” as she referred to it. Dude milk seemed harmless compared to whatever name some scientist would label the white ooze. Maybe they’d name it after her. God, she hoped not. That’s not the way she wanted to be immortalized. There was a better way if one was inclined to believe the ramblings of a dying man.
The corners of her lips turned higher when she saw a clear spot close to the body. Del tossed a handful of dirt onto the corpse’s chest. The clump floated on the soggy flesh. She continued until his nipples became a buried treasure.
“Sorry, dude, not a fan of Moobs. You know, man-boobs.” Del leaned in closer and molded the dirt into a bikini. “Everyone’s going to be wearing one of these this summer. All natural, organic dirt bikini. The Dirtini. It practically sells itself!”
The digital readout on her iPhone read ten after three. More troubling was the eighteen-percent juice left on the battery. She rolled her eyes realizing she didn’t ask the guy how long it would take them to arrive.