Thank you so much to all our wonderful Red Light/Green Light participants! Today we're narrowing down the pool to the top 5, and posting first pages.
MY SPAN OF FOREVER
Underwater, we hear with our bones. It’s true. Sound waves pass directly through the water into our skull. Our head becomes one big ear.
My brain never stops thinking about things like that. Mom calls it intense. Chelsea calls it weird. But good weird.
Pushing against the scratchy bottom of the pool, I follow my breath to the surface. My phone pings just as I haul myself out of the water. I have three texts from Mom telling me to Come. Home. Now.
I snag my towel and don’t bother drying off.
As Mom rarely sends me one text, let alone three, a vague sense of urgency has me bounding up the three flights of stairs into our apartment. My bikini bottom creeps up my butt as I squelch across our dingy linoleum floor to find her in the kitchen. I try not to squirm, wondering what could be more important than dry undies. “What’s the emergency?”
I drape my towel over my head, blotting my hair. “I picked up the biscotti this morning for our I Love Lucy marathon.” I kick off my flip-flops. “And the candied almonds.”
Her lips stretch into a tight grimace. My own grin slides from my face. “What?”
“I’m pregnant,” she says. I struggle to remain standing as the word “pregnant” ricochets through my entire body. Mom sits upright in one of our battered kitchen chairs, her thin fingers clenched around her favorite giant-sized coffee mug. “I know this is a shock to you.”
All of his stories end like this.
The Lassarian banner, blue and silver in a restless wind.
The young king, with his Imagi behind him.
The horse himself, the color of smoke and storm clouds, the nervous earth trembling under his feet.
Chanteron always looked just as a king’s horse ought to, eighteen hands of power and grace, a deep dapple gray with smoke rings in his coat. His neck was arched and heavy with mane, and he carried himself like a coiled spring. I know because I’ve touched him. Felt him breathe on my palm. Stolen a few hairs from his mane to keep with me, as a reminder.
But when I first laid eyes on him, he was almost as white as the Nairne snow. A ghost haunting our hills.
My father took me to find him, in the beginning. I was just six years old. He pulled me up behind him on Bessie’s broad back and told me that if I was good, I would see something special. I asked if it was magic. When you are six, magic still holds promise of spectacular things.
“Not the kind of magic you’re used to,” he told me. “But yes, in a way.”
We stood on the hilltop for what seemed like hours, breathing in sunshine and moorland summer, and I was very quiet because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise. At last, my father pointed at the beach, and I saw the ghost horse for the first time.
LAND OF SAND AND STARS
YA Historical Fantasy
Late Spring 562 B.C.
Pain shot across Āmitis’s bruised thigh and she bit back a yelp. She scowled at the curved, wooden blade in her instructor’s hand. The desert sun beat down behind him. His long shadow stretched out and swallowed her whole. It was like a scorpion fighting a camel; although it had a poisonous sting, it would do little to a large animal.
“Why must I fight you?” Sweat dripped from Āmitis’s dark hair and streaked through the grime on her cheeks. “They get to fight each other.”
She pointed to the other side of the training courtyard where the other seven-year-old girls and boys sparred. Their wooden blades smashed and the rapid thuds of their weapons bounced off the walls built of mud and sun-dried brick.
Malach glanced over and she brushed away the sting of tears. She’d lost count of how many times the practice akinaka struck her. She hadn’t hit him once that day. She wanted to become the best soldier, but couldn’t see how when Malach was the only person she fought.
Her grip tightened on the hilt. Maybe while he’s not looking…he did say to take every opportunity to strike, no matter how small.
His dark gaze returned.
Āmitis gulped and wondered if he knew what she’d been thinking.
“Tell me, Āmitis, where are your brothers?”
The words bit harder than the whack of the mock blade. As if she could forget. Āmitis mumbled, “Dead.”
“How did they die?”
She glared as he folded his scar covered arms over his bronze and leather breastplate.
GATES ON THE WAY TO THE GREAT UPSTAIRS
My story really isn’t all that complicated: Dad died almost a year ago, and I killed him. I didn’t use a gun. I wasn’t even there when it happened. It’s just that I’m responsible, so this is a secret I’ll carry with me until my last day.
If I’m right, that’s exactly eleven days from now.
I’ve closed my door so I can think in peace, but that doesn’t stop Jeffrey from barging in unannounced wearing his Thor helmet. He’s just gotten home from trick-or-treating, and as usual, he’s the superhero of bad timing.
“Hey, Evan, can I have a piece of chocolate?”
“You have a sack full of candy. Go eat your own chocolate.”
“Mom confiscated it,” he says. “She’s only giving me one piece at a time.”
I open my desk drawer and toss him a Milky Way. I wasn’t about to dress up for Halloween, but I did swipe some of the candy we had in our bowl. “As Thor, you should be able to get your chocolate back.”
“Just because I’m immortal doesn’t mean I can have my chocolate anytime I want it.” He opens the Milky Way and shoves the whole thing in his mouth. “And besides,” he says, barely able to talk because his mouth is so full, “why would I ask for my own chocolate when you’ll give me yours?”
I grab my Nerf basketball off my desk and whip it at Jeffrey. The ball knocks his Thor helmet off his head.
“I’m keeping your helmet!” I shout after him.
THE LOST COAST
Twisted fruit grew from the kernel of doubt in my heart. When will power failed, I ate it. Like Eve’s fateful bite, each mouthful came with the curse of knowledge. My impulse eating didn’t cause humanity’s downfall; it only triggered my own. I had a chance, but I was screwing it up. Again. What good was sensing emotion in others, when my feelings were a constant mystery?
Panting, I stopped at the edge of the highway. On one side of the two-lane road, a gravel path led to Aunt Lyndie’s modest cabin. On the other side of the winding blacktop, The Sasquatch’s Paw Souvenir Emporium sat nestled among the trees. The camera thumped a rhythm against my ribcage, as I sprinted across the road. Would she still be at the shop when I got there? Apologies dashed through my brain.
The stretch of pavement beneath me was dark most of the day. Trees here were massive, and incredibly old. Sunlight didn’t stand a chance. Even Highway 291 bowed to the rule of the redwood. Instead of a straight line of asphalt blasting through the terrain, the road snaked back and forth, twisting to dodge mammoth trunks.
A truck with a dented camper top wheezed its way up the hill. As he rolled past the Bigfoot Xing sign, the driver honked his horn. I flung him a scowl in return. My mood was far from friendly. I was stressed about dealing with Aunt Lyndie, and I felt guilty for letting her down.