So, if you have been reading my posts, you know I have been complaining about writing a novel I barely have been working on… Anyway, I decided to share the first chapter with all of you since it is the most developed and porbably not changing much when I completely rewrite the rest of the book. I have been reading through a friend’s novel, which has inspired me to start writing again. I even have a deadline.
So until November 1, here is a sneak peek at Parnox:
I didn’t have a destination. Maybe the mountains in the distance. Maybe even beyond. The only thing that held me back from continuing on was that I had forgotten to bring any sort of survival essentials with me. To avoid being spotted, I hopped into a tree.
I waited until nightfall before moving. I attempted to come up with a plan to return home and gather some useful things before running again. Not seeing a good way to do that tonight, I slid down from the tree, listening intently. I continued walking lightly while staying alert. Off in the distance, I heard shouts and saw dim flashes of lights. The search party was making its way into the woods.
I ran in the opposite direction.
The full moon’s glow guided me through the trees. There was no path. The search party found me before, but they won’t find me this time. Not if I keep running.
After a couple of turns, a number of trips, and a few stumbles, I slowed and checked out my surroundings. It was dark and damp, and smelled like fresh rain. Moonflowers were in full bloom all around with their perky heads bowed towards the stars. The trees congested most of the light, but some slivers passed through the branches. I probably would have found it inspiring, if I weren’t fleeing for freedom.
Good thing it was warm, I hadn’t thought to bring a hoodie. I was in a part of the woods I’d never been before. Everywhere I went, moonflowers were blooming. They opened when I walked past. I went to turn, but the bulbs stopped opening. I turned around going the other way, and the ripple of spreading petals progressed. I followed the flowers, transfixed.
I heard a stick snap, then the rustle of branches. I crouched into pounce position, and surveyed the area. No uniforms, but more rustling. It seemed to be coming from random spots in the trees, but I didn’t see any squirrels, and it couldn’t possibly be the wind. I saw a shadow within the branches. I tried to fixate on it to figure out what it was. I thought I managed to make out some sort of gray light …
Then it hit me.
I was crushed into the ground with the shadow on top of me. It was definitely made of matter. Heavy matter that crushed ribs and suppressed screams.
“You will do as I say, no questions asked. Understood?” It hissed. It had a masculine voice, was bigger than I was, and smelled like what I imagined a meadow would. It also needed to relieve my lungs.
I nodded the best I could without rubbing my face further into the dirt. He stood up. It happened to be a boy of about seventeen, and was about a foot taller than I was. His eyes also sparkled a bright gray hue through his mess of black hair. And he didn’t look as strong as he felt. But I’ll admit, I immediately changed “It” to “Gorgeous.”
“Are you just going to gawk, or can we get a move on? You know, the cops are still after you. Even if it is only for a measly runaway attempt.” Gorgeous had a bit of an attitude. So instead of being dragged to wherever he wanted me to go, I concluded obedience would be the best option.
We trekked deeper into the woods, with me tripping over roots and bushes trying to keep up with his long and sure strides, until we reached a clearing. He scanned the area without moving his head. “Sit,” he ordered.
I was about to retort, but he shot me a glare, so I immediately sat on the damp ground. My best defense was to run like hell. Unfortunately, he was probably just as fast as I was judging from his hasty walk through underbrush. I sat cross-legged leaning against a tree trunk, and he stood next to me, waiting. I was beginning to think we were waiting for a rendezvous with the police when a girl materialized out of the darkness. I tried to focus more on what she looked like opposed to trying to guess where she came from. What stood out most was her hair. Her bangs had a cascading rainbow, but the rest was black and flowed almost to her waist. She was radiating confidence as she walked up to us in her mini skirt. I’ll call her Rainbow Dark.
“’Bout time. I thought I would spontaneously combust before you managed to even enter the woods.”
“I had an encounter,” Rainbow Dark nonchalantly twirled a strand of hair in her finger. The fire brewing between them was enough to engulf the whole state. I let out a little cough, so they wouldn’t forget I was there.
“Oh, right. Forgot we had a delivery.” Rainbow Dark still had some hot embers in her voice.
What was I? Mail? A trade? Some sort of suspect for a secret agency that needed to be convicted and held in captivity? Gorgeous hoisted me up, as if I were a toddler, and threw me over his shoulder.
“Hey!” I screamed. “Put me down!” My senses were finally waking up. I believed I was being kidnapped. And they didn’t even offer me candy.
Gorgeous just laughed. Flat out laughed. “I was beginning to think you didn’t speak.” Then he ran through the woods as if I wasn’t dangling down his back. I confirmed he was much faster than I was. I tried to avoid thudding against him repeatedly by holding myself around his torso. I couldn’t see anything, which was probably for the better; I never got motion sick, but this might about just do it.
I closed my eyes. Besides the slight disorientation, I was concerned as to where they were taking me. All the horror movies I had watched just to spite my mom flashed through my head.
Gorgeous stopped abruptly, and I squirmed to break free. His grip softened, but he didn’t drop me as I was hoping he would. “Now, now, Jade. No fidgeting.”
So he knew my name. It was nice to hear someone address me, even if it was condescending. Confirmed I was one some sort of Wanted poster somewhere because why else would my name be important? We were at the edge of a lake that was surrounded by mountains. Gorgeous decided I didn’t plan on running, so he put me down.
When Rainbow Dark caught up, I was preoccupied with surveying the mountains trying to figure out how deep in the woods we had gone, and sneaking peeks at Gorgeous. The fire between them also seemed to have receded, but not completely.
“Must you run? We have all night.” Despite her complaints, Rainbow Dark didn’t look the least bit breathless.
“Jasey, must you chastise me when we’re almost there?” So Rainbow Dark was Jasey. I preferred the name I made up.
A boat drifted through the haze and bumped against the shore as if waiting for us. It looked like it was meant for two people. Jasey hopped in, and Gorgeous dragged me along. “Well, come on!” I felt a push from the wind as he encouraged me forward. Perplexed, I stumbled into the boat, and he pulled me into his lap. I usually didn’t let people manhandle me, but under the circumstances of two against one, I followed suit. Well, at least I didn’t have to stand. Then I would have fallen out. Secured in his grip, the boat tugged along with what I was assuming was the current, considering that no one was rowing. I had no clue as to how deep or wide this lake was or a clue as to where we were going. My mind wandered off into fantastical places where spies seclude their headquarters in the depths of the mountains to train their assassins.
While I was fantasizing about my possible unjustified death, Jasey studied my face carefully. Maybe she was trying to read my mind. The look of disgust she gave me when I made eye contact made me think this could be true. Then again, maybe she didn’t want me to study her back.
I looked away and tried to see where we were heading. But the fog was too dense and it was too dark. I had no idea how long they intended to keep me wherever we were going.
It dawned on me I had no idea when I would be able to return to my house. What if I never saw my mother again? This morning replayed in my head.
I had been scared awake by the alarm my mother had set for me. It was summer, but she insisted as a maturing adult, I should have a normal schedule to get the most production out of my day. Usually I pick up the blaring clock and hurl it across the room. Scary things that rouse people from sleep for sheer amusement should be smashed. I untangled myself from the sheets and pulled on the closest pair of clothes I could find, which was an ordinary pair of jeans and a tank, then slinked downstairs.
My mother usually sits at the table with a teacup of coffee. I processed her absence after I realized I wasn’t receiving a lecture for letting my alarm ring more than three times. I grabbed some of her juice, and drank from the bottle making sure to spitefully spit in it before putting it back. Cranberry juice tasted disgusting anyway, and that’s all she buys. On the refrigerator door was a list of what I was supposed to do that day. For example, today my mom wrote a grocery list in the midst of the crowded, extra-large post-it. I deemed that was the most important task of the day. More like the only task I was doing.
I walked to the garage and was about to hop on my bike when I noticed the car was still there. I snatched the keys from the key hook and slid into the Accord. Technically, since I only had a permit, I was supposed to be driving with an adult, but when living in the middle of nowhere, things like that didn’t matter. Plus, there was no way I was bringing groceries back on a bike if I could risk driving.
About five minutes later, I pulled up to the closest grocery store. I was speeding, so it should have taken more time, but I’m in Nowhere, Colorado. I wouldn’t crash into anyone. Except maybe a cow.
Out of the car, lock the door, put keys in pocket, and grab a cart. It felt like a brainless routine. I examined the list written in my mother’s ugly all-caps handwriting, which made it seem like she was yelling. It was the usual organic yogurt to fresh produce. Riding my cart like a scooter, I wandered around the store making sure to grab everything on the list and then some.
After gathering my necessities, I cruised while curiously watching other shoppers. I found my English teacher, Mr. McCuney, in the bread aisle nonchalantly walking up and down while glancing at his list. He probably was looking for the wheat bread again. I walked over and pulled two loaves from the shelf: one for him, one for me. As I walked by, I carefully tossed it over into his cart.
“I’ll find it on my own one day!” He smiled at me. “They keep rearranging these darn aisles!”
“I’m sure you will, Mr. McCuney.” Besides the store always changing its shelves around, his eyesight wasn’t the best nowadays. His wife sends him shopping during the summer since he’s off. Poor guy can’t shop for his life, and his wife is very particular. I empathized with him.
I continued wandering around observing other shoppers playing a guessing game of what they were going for next from aisle to aisle. This one is looking for apples, that one wants yogurt; another is going to grab the sale cake mix. Ten out of ten times I’m right. After the checkout, I stuffed everything into the trunk, and started on my way back home.
Unfortunately, there was a police officer standing in the middle of the main intersection waving people over to the detour route. Apparently, Mr. Ramon’s cows were loose again. It didn’t look like he was letting anyone through, not even the other people that lived that way. The detour route, laden with rocks and sharp turns, was worse than evading cows with my new driving skills. I pulled up, slipped my mom’s huge sunglasses on and the hat she leaves in the glove box, and hoped he wouldn’t recognize me, since I shouldn’t have been driving unsupervised. I muttered some wishes to be waved through to the less treacherous cow-laden side under my breath. He waved me over, to the non-detour side.
Luckily, I didn’t hit any cows.
I parked in the garage, put the keys back, and went to unlock the door, only to find it was already unlocked. I walked in and looked around. The house was asleep. I shrugged, left the door wide open, and went back to the car to grab some bags.
When I returned inside, I found my mom still in her pajamas texting furiously. Going to be another bad day at the office, I presume. I didn’t question her. She was still texting when I finally hauled the rest of the bags in after three in and out trips. I sighed and ran back out to close the trunk, only to find it had closed itself. I marched back up the stairs.
Sadly, my mom finished typing. I began unpacking bags as she began ranting at the pitch of a hyena bark. “Where did you take the car? You know you only have a permit! You can‘t just go driving around without supervision! When did you decide you make the rules in this house?” She said some more things, but I stopped listening when she said the “whuh” in where. I could predict the rest. She always said the same things. She could at least come up with something new to amuse me.
“I went to the store. Is that a crime?” I shut the refrigerator door and flung the list towards her. “Obviously not.” I shoved some more food into the pantry, grabbed my Cheetos and Dr. Pepper, and headed up stairs.
“We were supposed to go togeth- what was that? Snacks?” she said with disgust. “And what is this: WHOLE milk?” As I retreated up the stairs to my room, she was still screaming. “Do not run away from me, young lady! I have not finished with you! Where do you think you’re going? COME BACK DOWN HERE!”
I slammed my door and blasted the first hardcore-noise-drowning song I could find on my iPod. I had at least five different locks on my door. They loved me at the hardware store. I picked up my mangled alarm clock and tossed it out my open window.
My mom had walked out the front door, most likely to grab the mail, and yelled up to my open window. She just didn’t understand my hatred of alarm clocks. I mean, it’s summer. She wouldn’t let me get a job, so I didn’t need it. Tired of her tantrum, I closed the window. For once, I was glad we lived in the middle of nowhere.
I turned around and saw a piece of paper on my desk. It looked like poetry.
I am a Protector of the Night.
I am a Guardian of the Stars.
I am a Dancer in the Moonlight.
I am a Keeper of the Dark.
It was written in calligraphy or some other loopy writing that no one uses anymore. I sat on the desk corner thinking about who could have written and placed this in my room. My mother wouldn’t play tricks; it was out of character for her to be childish like this.
I threw it in the trashcan. I had no explanations for it and wasn’t even in the mood to venture one.
I snuggled into bed since I didn’t feel like doing anything. I ate some Cheetos while I waited for my mom to leave so I could go eat real food in peace. When she finally left for work, I began doing what I wanted, which involved nothing on the list my mom made. And then I took a nap.
The banging on my door woke me up. I checked my clock: 5:34 p.m. “How may I help you?” I asked in a mock, overly cheerful employee tone as I opened the door.
“We need to talk,” My mom said while holding up the corpse of my alarm clock. By talk, she meant for her to lecture and expect me to listen. “Today you killed your alarm clock, took the car without permission, and failed to complete your chores. You bought extra unhealthy food, disrespected me, ignored me, played terrible music at a deafening volume, and then slept all day. This is unacceptable.” She said it as if she were an officer reading off my reasons of conviction.
Mentally I added that I drank from the juice bottle, spat in it, I haven’t even showered yet, and it was already 5:40 at night. My, my, what a bad child am I?
“From now on I will be adding more to your list, and if you fail to complete it, there will be severe consequences . . .” She started to list things I wasn’t able to do, like go out with friends and or go out after 7 p.m. Like I could keep friends with the Warden for a mother.
Tired of hearing her blabber on, I shut the door. Well, more like slammed and locked as fast as I could before she even registered that I just slammed a door in her face. I heard silence for a moment. Then what sounded like a banshee. I didn’t bother to decipher the shrieks. This time it wasn’t going to matter. I pulled my hair up and grabbed the necessities. Okay, I just grabbed my phone. I opened my window and climbed out onto the porch roof. Same routine as like twenty times before. I jumped down and sprinted to the woods just down the road. Running track has paid off. By now, she’d realize what had happened again, and she probably ran downstairs to grab her phone to call the police.
I decided never going back home might not be so bad.