Saturday, April 23, 2011

5 1st 5 Pages Workshop - April Final Revision Round Entry #4

Young Adult - Lisa Marie Bosso

Darkness swallowed the too-real dream and I awoke to a scream ripping from my chest. My heart pounded against every angle of my chest, the sound reaching a crescendo as my doorknob pinged off the crumbling lath and plaster wall. A dark figure smelling faintly of pears and honey tip-toed to my bedside.

I fought the instinctual urge to reach beneath my pillows and unsheathe my katana. Nearly three months here and I still hadn’t fully allowed myself to feel safe.

A barely hundred pound girl sat beside me on the bed, not enough weight to even bow the mattress. The lamp on the nightstand clicked on, bathing the room in soft yellow light. “You’ve had some bad dreams before but that one…it sounded bad.”

My breath still hitched in short gasps. I looked up at my roommate, Taylor. Metal shined from her right nostril and just above the right corner of her lip as her piercings stole light from the lamp. “It’s fine,” I said in place of I’m fine, and avoided her gaze, scolding myself for coming even that close to cutting her in half.

“Want to talk about it?”

I shook my head. Nothing had ever felt so real. Or so threatening. It was like I hadn’t truly lived yet, hadn’t felt anything before the grit of that dream. Something stung my eyes, but it couldn’t be tears. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cried. At my previous home doing so was forbidden.

“You’re ringing wet,” Taylor said after sweeping my dark bangs aside. “And not in the good way.” She wiped her hand on her too-short pink sleep shorts.

I tucked what I could of my almost chin length hair back behind my ear and swiped at my forehead with the back of my hand. Sweat not only dripped from my brow, it trickled down the back of my neck and seemed to cover every inch my skin. The images from the dream came again, flowing like a faucet with broken knobs.

Chained to a chair. In the dream I had felt the cold metal biting into my wrists. I rubbed wrists, searching for the all too familiar feel of indents or cuts on my skin. But there was nothing, only memories from the dream.

I fought through the tightness in my chest for air. I heard myself wheeze and centered my chi inward, willing my lungs to expand and contract normally. Taking control; the way my former master, Darius had taught me in case I ever got captured or sustained a fatal injury. He used to say: with meditation and inner control you can delay the inevitable and take your revenge. You can carry that soul over to the other side with you, a trophy.

Darius never was much of a role model, but his teachings kept me alive on the near-impossible missions he sent me on.

I wiped my mind clean of everything that reminded me of him—including the all-too-real dream—and threw my blankets off. “I’m good, Tay. Thanks.”
She stood and folded her arms. The tattoo of a bird centered on her chest peeked out from beneath her pink tank. “I don’t buy that for a second. I’ve never seen you so scared. What was it about?”

I thought about telling her every detail of the dream, but what good would it do? The dreams were my curse to bear.

The creak of a floorboard outside my room sent my hand beneath my pillows. Twisting my fingers around the hilt had never felt so good. With the flick of my thumb, the sheath loosened. All I’d need was to move the blade and the sheath would fall away. Another creak. The footsteps were coming slowly. I tensed my arm rather than immediately freeing the Praying Mantis from her cell. I’d have more than enough time to see the intruder first.
A busty blonde stepped in the doorway wearing nothing more than a pair of red lacy underwear and a sheer bra. I used my thumb to close the distance between the hilt and the sheath, putting the blade to rest once again.

“Come back to bed, Tay.” She crossed one foot over the other and leaned into the doorframe. A satisfied grin stretched across on her unblemished face.

I arched a brow and shot Taylor a glower of disbelief.

She bit back a smile, badly, and said, “Take that sweet butt back to bed. I’ll be there in two minutes.”

The blonde spun like a dancer in an almost pirouette, and trotted away without a thought in her head and not nearly enough fabric covering what that sweet butt. “Another one, Tay?”

The goofy smile of a love struck cartoon character overwhelmed my roommate’s face as she stood and stretched.

“Wasn’t that Carrie, the JV squad’s cheerleader?”

She simply nodded, satisfaction breaching her lips again. “That’s her all right, and you should see her splits off the field.”

“I think I’ll leave the lady lovin’ to you. Guys are much more my speed.” Guys. I again tried to shake the feeling that crept up my neck like fingers from the dead, back for revenge. In the dream, there was a guy. I never saw him, but the Reptilian questioning me called him Devlin.

“I don’t discriminate, you know that,” Tay shot back. “Male, female, I love ‘um all.” Her smile dropped and she sobered when she glanced around. “You still have a bag packed.”

Avoiding her eyes, I glanced at the black duffle in question. “I have to be prepared. In case Darius comes back—or something comes up.” I rushed to cover over my stumble, but Tay never missed things like that.

“But you said he’s never late.”

Damn her for being right. My former master timed everything perfectly. So when he abandoned me on the wrong side of the Academy’s bars two days after the start of the semester with a typical assignment brief, and said he’d be back in two weeks—tops—and never showed, I knew something was wrong.

“Anything can happen, Tay. And when it does, I need to be ready.”

For fourteen days I waited, existing without sleep, the way he taught and calculated my escape. I was used to non-mainstream, night-based intel gathering and assassinations, not sitting around inside some gated Academy with no direct orders. Darius had to be in trouble, otherwise why would he have just left me here?

But Taylor stopped me from leaving. I’d done everything in my power to keep her at arm’s length, to make her believe we were polar opposites and would remain that way, but the girl was relentless. She dragged me to a party that fifteenth night where I got drunk and told her everything—well, not everything, but pretty damn close. She even held my hair while I buried my face in the toilet and tried her hand at convincing me fate had brought me here so I could finally have a chance at a normal life.

On the sixteenth day, for the first time ever—anywhere—I unpacked.

Her brown eyes rounded in that apologetic sort of way. “You gonna be alright?”

As soon as I heard the click of the door latch, I flipped my pillows off the bed. The Praying Mantis sat there, same as always, looking so sad and unused. Braided green silk circled the hilt and the bottom of the deep brown scabbard—the saya. The only thing keeping me from unsheathing it now was the absent promise of blood.

5 comments:

  1. OMG, you've done so much work on this! It is so strong now. I love your details, your sensory immersion, and the way you've woven so much more into this opening. For the first time, I have a sense of where this is going and it is absolutely awesome. GREAT job!

    At this point, I recommend you go back over it and check your narrative intrusions to make sure they are absolutely smooth. See if you can shift a couple of them into dialogue to keep us focused on forward momentum this early on, but truthfully, I don't think it's a huge problem. Do check the Katana mechanics that someone mentioned though. I'd hate to have this excellent work stumble on a technicality.

    But overall? Fantastic! The writing is so much stronger and clearer, and you've lost none of the grittiness that everyone loved!

    Martina

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  2. LOVE where this is going. I think it works so much better now. I think taking out the dream was the right move. Now we have different questions that beg to be answered, but in the right way. You've dripped in the info nicely. I agree with Martina, your focus now should be to go back and smooth over the prose. Little things (E.g.,taking out the word "almost", which you use a few times) will make a big difference. Great job, really unique.

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  3. Lisa,

    Much better. As Martina and Lisa have said, dropping the dream has made a huge difference. Dropping tidbits of the dream gives the reader just enough to be curious about that's going on. The only advice I can give is to be careful of over description... focus on the most important elements. This will help to tighten the voice, speed up the pace, and in the end it'll make the story even edgier because you'll be focusing on the important elements.

    One things for sure... you've got the makings of a great gritty voice. Keep polishing and sharpening until its as sharp as it can be.

    Best Wishes,
    Joseph

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  4. Wow. Really. WOW! This is so much stronger! This takes it from 'been done before' to different and intriguing. You've got some gorgeous language here (grit of that dream, for example.) I echo the above -- some polish here will really make it shine. Reading aloud will help you find the phrases that trip up the rhythm.

    One thing that pulled me out of the story was reading "JV squad" -- wouldn't that make the cheerleader about 14 or 15? Nothing in this piece suggested teen to me except that.

    Also, I'm a bit confused about the duffle bag. Is it packed? The narrative goes on to say she unpacked it on the 16th day.

    At the end, I'm assuming Taylor has left and that is what prompts her to uncover the katana. I think it would help if you made that clearer.

    But this is worlds better than your first pass. Well done!

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  5. WOW! GREAT job! This is SO much better! I think you made the right decision taking out the entire dream. I love that you're teasing us with us now. Now we just want to keep reading to find out more about the dream, and this old mentor guy of hers. My only suggestion would be to go back and look at some of your character descriptions. The thing about the roommate being light read a little clunky to me. Also, I think you could take out a few adjectives and make your action descriptions a lot stronger. But overall, this is great! I just want to keep reading!

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