The estimable and always funny Chuck Wending wrote a blog post today, asking for excerpts of everyone’s novels-in-progress. (“Everyone” here means those who read his blog, and if you aren’t currently doing that, I strongly suggest you do. He gives great writing advice, and he’s funny, on target, and profane in the best way possible. Go here now: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/ )
Anyway, here’s a taste of Chapter 4 of “Here not here,” my YA sci-fi work in progress, in which Sutton Kopec, an 18 year-old girl, suddenly finds herself transported to other worlds. In this scene, she’s been Moved (her word for it) to a sinister place in the desert.
They stepped into a room, and Sutton’s eyes were drawn to the floor, which looked like it was covered in golden grass. She’d taken off her shoes and as she walked, the strangest sensation come up through her feet. She would swear the grass was moving – not just bending to her steps, but switching as if there were plates underneath, shifting around. They didn’t move her forward but responded to her steps as if they were sensitive to her weight and movement.
She jumped a little, and the sergeant pulled on her arm. He motioned down to her feet, and Sutton interpreted that as a sign to keep walking.
It reminded her of the hall in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her animal companions had to walk in order to get to the Wizard’s lair. And like Dorothy and her friends, she had no idea of what awaited her as she walked beside these strange, angry soldiers. This was a day of many footsteps.
Instead of the giant head of the Wizard floating above the ground, there was a man sitting at the desk in a large chair that was made out of the same sturdy materials as the door. He wasn’t wearing a turban or face cloth; and as they got closer, Sutton could see that his skin was different than the soldiers’. Instead of that white hardness, his was a light brown, like caramel. His hair was also light brown, but thin and stringy, and combed over his mostly bald head.
Sutton tried not to smirk. Some things were the same in any universe.
He seemed taller than the others. His shoulders were broad. If there were men here who varied in shape and size, it made it easier for her father to blend in. Sutton relaxed a fraction at the thought.
There were two other people here who also seemed to be prisoners of some sort. They stood off to the side of the desk with shackles around their wrist and ankles. They wore shorts and short sleeves, she noticed. Their skin was light yellow and waxy, with the look of melted candles. Perspiration stood out on their foreheads and necks.
The officer behind the desk wore a different uniform than the soldiers: dark blue and very clean. He motioned for the other two prisoners to be brought closer to the desk. Then, he stood and opened a small box with a flip-top lid. He brought out an object which looked remarkably like a dildo. Sutton watched in amazement as he held it to his throat.
He spoke directly to the prisoners in a language that was different than what she’d heard the soldiers speak. The words had a phonetic sound that, if they had been English, would have been heavy on consonants. The officer spoke solemnly, but he was clearly angry. He asked them a question.
Both prisoners shook their heads and held their chained hands out, pleading. They continued to talk, and, Sutton presumed, beg for their life.
The officer looked at the soldiers and jerked his head in the prisoners’ direction. Each soldier grabbed one arm of a prisoner and began squeezing it, working their fingers from the shoulder all the way down. It was the exact kind of unwanted massage the other guard had worked on Sutton when the soldiers found her.
One of the shoulders gave a shout of satisfaction and began squeezing the tender underside of a prisoner’s arm. Slowly, a piece of metal the size of a nickel emerged from within the prisoner’s skin. The soldier worked the loose, waxy flesh and the metal gradually slid out with a final, sickening thwick. The prisoner had pushed it through his skin like a coin in a slot until it disappeared under the surface.
Sutton recoiled. There was no blood, but the coin was covered in a something slimy.
Both soldiers worked up and down the prisoners’ arms, finding more of the coins hiding within their skin. They slid out one at a time, sometimes from within the crook of an elbow, sometimes from right on top of the forearm. Each made the same disgusting noise as more and more of them fell on the floor, an oozing puddle forming underneath them.
But they weren’t done. The officer gestured to the prisoners and barked another order. The soldiers began the same process on the men’s legs. They found at least a dozen of the coins on each leg.
The officer spoke in a deadly low voice, his tone marked by satisfaction. Holding the language device to his throat with one hand, he pointed at each of them with the other. The soldiers took the men away. One of them screamed, the other hung his head and remained silent.
The officer nodded toward the coins. Two soldiers who’d been holding a bag stepped forward to clean up the coins, their faces expressionless. They wore gloves. Their last assignment here consisted of mopping the floor.
When this was done, the soldier pushed her toward the desk and shouted something that sounded like an order. Not knowing what else was expected of her, Sutton bowed. This seemed to satisfy everyone.
The officer moved the language device to his throat once again. “You.are a visitor?” His voice sounded tinny, but there were no mistaking the language.
“Yes. You speak English?” Sutton asked in surprise.
“This helps.” He moved the device away and waved it like a cigar. “It translates for me. Many who have come here speak English.” He waited, as if expecting her to continue.
“Um…well, I’m from New Jersey.” Can’t be a problem if I tell him that, right? Not like he’ll ever go there…wait. “Have you ever been there?”
He shook his head. “I don’t leave.” Somehow, that sounded ominous, even though Sutton knew at least that meant she’d never run into him at a mall at home.
“What do you want from me?” she blurted.
“I ask, why did you come here?”
“I don’t know. I was…well, I was on Earth minding my own business and then I was gone. Believe me, I didn’t want to come here.”
“I don’t know,” she repeated. “I sure hope not. I mean,” she added hastily, “not that I don’t appreciate your guys getting me out of the sun.” She held up her hands, palms out, in the universal gesture of surrender again. “I don’t want anything from you. I just want to go home.”
“Soldiers will watch you,” he said, and Sutton had no doubt, from the look on his face, that he meant it. “No steal.”