For the first time in a long time, I am doing a teaser. Why have I been so long away from teasing? Mostly because I’ve been revising an older novel and writing a new one. I took a long break from the on-line writing world (Hi, Absolute Write) because my last novel struck out with agents and I decided to hole up and write something that would absolutely knock their socks off!
This is assuming that agents regularly wear socks. And that socks can, indeed, be knocked off which, now that I consider the phrase logically, seems unlikely unless you were to take the food with the sock. And I’m not sure anyone would appreciate that.
So, for your reading pleasure today, I have the opening paragraphs to my young adult science-fiction novel Persephone. Unlike most of my other work, there is no fantasy in this book, no breaks into unexplainable magic-like interludes (except of the Arthur C. Clarke variety of “sufficiently advanced technology”). It was a strange challenge for me since inexplicable events are part of what allow me to keep going in a book once I get stuck. But here I had to use actual science! Mad science, perhaps, but science all the same.
These are the things I remember: the weight of my cat curled up on my chest; the honest-to-goodness last fast food hamburger I ever had; the rancid-sweet smell of Houston after a rainstorm; the girl who tried to befriend me the first day of kindergarten, and who I made fun of for her crappy haircut.
These are the things I don’t remember: what chocolate cake tastes like; the particular feel of being outside on a sunny day; my parent’s faces.
And it’s not even quite that I don’t remember them. If I really didn’t remember these things, that would be fine. I wouldn’t remember that I didn’t remember them, so I wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of memory. What I feel, though, is infinitely worse. I can sort of remember these things, but I know that my memory isn’t accurate. My parents’ features change. The sunny day becomes confused with exercising in the sun room. Chocolate cake becomes just another form of flavored tofu.
Maxwell, my wrist computer says, my own voice coming from its speakers, get a grip. There’s no point in obsessing over what you can’t change.
My name, for example. Maxwell Clerk MacLeod. Can’t change that and, despite what you might think, there is no good feminine version of either of those names. Maxie? Tried that for a micro-second in fifth grade and it took years for the echoes of Maxi Pad to die. And Clerk isn’t even a name, it’s the sound a chicken makes with marbles in its mouth.
Stop being stupid, Maxwell.
I’m sitting in an air vent near one of the outer rings of the Exploration-Class Spaceship Santa Maria. Spread around me are all my possessions in the world, everything that is irretrievably mine. A backpack full of food. A wood-handled brush. A mirror. A kitchen knife honed to a razor-sharp edge. A barely-working wrist computer.
Everything is silent around me, except that it isn’t. Nothing is silent on the Santa Maria. Just like you don’t pay attention to your own breathing unless it’s brought to your attention, unless you’ve been running as fast as you can to escape the grasping hands of someone you had thought was your friend, all the sounds of the ship normally go unnoticed. A thousand beeps and creaks, the constant whoosh of circulating air, the subtle whirring of the cleaning robots as they slowly, inexorably scour the ship, all of it was as much a part of my body as the pulsing of my blood.