Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Wordy Gift #3: NaNoWriMo Excerpt

Third month, guys! And we are going strong here at Grace & Steele. So awesome. And because of this awesome anniversary (by months), I'm going to be sending you all a wonderful excerpt from the NaNoWriMo novel I was working on. For 2014. And yes, this is TBQ (The Black Queen) aka the first book I wrote for NaNoWriMo. 

Here we go! First chapter. Please note that this is an unedited version of it, so it is a bit crazy. And weird. I fixed it up in a hour (I know, so lazy of me), and I had Alex look over it a bit. But this it what I got.

Grandma Kills Me

               “Checkmate,” says Gloria, moving her black rook against my white king. She smirks at me while Grandmother Four watches on.
               I sigh, tipping over my king. Might as well do that.
               She won. Fair and square.
               Grandmother Four sniffles, as if smelling something disgusting. She taps her clipboard and records our score. “That was only fourteen moves, and the game only lasted three minutes. Ashlina, you better improve. Gloria, very good.”
               Gloria, my first cousin, beams. An old habit that never dies, her hand reaches out for mine, for a simple handshake.
               I don’t touch. I don’t want to see her memories.
               Putting my hands inside my pajama’s pockets, I hiss, “I’m sorry if I can’t improve. I don’t like chess. Not my fault.”
               Grandma glares at me. “Chess is one game you will play. Whether you like it or not. The game is better if you win.”
               “Whatever,” I say. I storm out of the living room. Grandmother favors Gloria over me anyway. That much is clear.
               I open the wood door to my room. Grandma hasn’t updated the apartment to modern technology. There are some homes where motion sensors automatically open the door. Technology has improved life, but Grandma prefers the old ways over the new. However, she still gets excited over the smallest mention of a scientific breakthrough in genetics.
               I look around. This room doesn’t have much of a personal touch. The curtains are blue, and everything looks as if it came right out of a catalog. Still, I like it. I go to my small closet and pull out my outfit. Classes are starting in two hours, and I better put them on if I want to get there on time.
               The body-length mirror reflects what I already know. It is slightly dusty, because I fail to clean the room. At least, I can see some parts of me quite clearly.
               My dark eyes are muddled, but I can easily tell that my cheeks are pale. My long hair is swept behind my shoulders, and my cheekbones are pronounced. I guess I’m okay for a Chinese girl. Grandma always complain of me looking like an American.
               I turn away and adjust my white sweater. The sweater doesn’t make me look as pale as I really am, and the blue jeans hug me like a second skin. I put my fake leather boots on.
               I check myself once again. Everything looks alright. I look better than I was in my pajamas.
               “I’m going out,” I call softly.
               “Where?” Grandma glowers darkly at me.
               I don’t answer her. Instead, I go straight out the apartment’s door and push the button for the elevator.


               I live below a city once called Seal Beach. It is located in Southern California. This basement—compound or complex, as some call it—belonged to the military or something like that. The details of its history remains murky and unclear, mostly because it is classified data. The year is 2035 A.D. Many humans were forced to retreat underground because horrible creatures called the Faeries attacked us two years ago. They run the world above while we hide deep within the earth.
               I can still remember what the world was like before. When I was five, I lived in the foster system. I don’t have many memories of that time, but I do recall it being one of my happier times. I moved to Grandma Four’s house when she retrieved me and lived there until the Faeries attacked the world.
               Being so far away from those creatures, I’m able to close my eyes and pretend that Seal Beach Complex is still aboveground.
               “Ashlina?” pokes the male classmate, who sits next to me in Advanced Math. “Ash, you need to wake up.”
               I wasn’t sleeping, but I put my head up. I rub my eyes and look towards the teacher. Mr. Dawson uses a touch board while preparing roll call.
               The back of the classroom is the best place for me. Here I can quietly listen to music—all while pretending I’m a perfect student like Gloria. The teachers don’t mind as long as I ace the tests and turn in all my homework on time. If I’m a slacker, they will quickly turn me into principal’s office without mercy. I learned all the tricks years ago.
               I glance at my slim watch on my left wrist. Although it seems to be a normal watch with gold hands and leather straps, the watch is of modern technology. If I tap its face, it changes to reveal the home page and all the little messages sent from my friends. The screen is small, but the microphone makes everything so much more assessable. I just need to whisper an order or a song, and the watch complies.
               So easy. So simple. So camouflaged.
               I poke at the tiny earbuds in my ear. They are partially hidden, but they can play music using Bluetooth. Advanced tech makes everything easy—all while my grandma looks at me with heavy disapproval.
               “Ashlina Four?” calls out Mr. Dawson. His dark eyes land on me. “Your grandmother is pulling you out of class early.”
               I nod, internally groaning. I stand up, pick up my black laptop case, and walk out of the classroom. Slowly, I walk to the Administers’ office, dreading the moment when I have to listen to Grandma’s lecture.
               In a white lab coat, Grandma Four looks to be only in her early forties—though she is actually sixty-seven years old. I suspect plastic surgery to be the cause of her youth, but I think genetics might play a role, too. Her black hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail, and her mouth is pulled into a permanent frown. She changed her last name thirty years ago. Her original name is Carla Xi. Now it is Carla Four with all her credentials in genetics.
               Needless to say, she doesn’t like me very much. In my opinion, she hates me because of how slacker-ish I am. She believes that I need to win every time I play a game.
               I stopped trying long ago.
               “Let’s go,” she barks.
               I roll my eyes, but do what she says anyway. We get into her Jeep, and I move into the backseat. Knowing her, she is going to talk—lecture, more like.
               After a long minute of silence, she scolds, “You are not aggressive enough. You do not pay attention to Gloria’s movements, and I have yet to see a win from you.”
               The last time I won against Gloria was on January 3, 2033. That was over two years ago, and Grandma Four is tired of all the times my king fell. I forfeited at least thousands of games and was on the other side of Fool’s Mate at least twenty times.
               I don’t say anything. It will only make her talk longer.
               “The Realm expects something impressive from us. Our family has been the Black Queen for many years,” she rants, glaring at me from the mirror. “You are an embarrassment to this family. Gloria is much better than you, and she is only three years younger.”
               I can’t resist. “Then why don’t you send her to the Realm? I’m sure she will be the Black Queen you always wanted.”
               Her nostrils flare.
               I sigh loudly. Angry monster. Nothing I haven’t seen before.
               She goes back to my chess movements. “Not aggressive enough. And you are terrible at paying attention. How many times do you have to look at the east side of the board until you realize that the darn rook is moving for your king? Huh? Pay attention. Commit everything to memory, and recognize how many moves each player can make. Don’t forget to watch the knights…”
               She talks and talks.
               I ignore her, turning on sound cancelation on my watch. Pretending to be listening to Grandma Four’s long lecture, I sit back and listen to my music.
               The Realm she keeps talking about is the land where souls go after death. I don’t know the exact features of the Realm—the Underworld—but I know it must be better than here. At least, there is no yapping grandmother in my ear.
               I know there are players. They take on the role of real chess pieces, but I’m not sure of how they play. I assume they play like real chess, but this is people as pieces… It is all so complicated, and I always zone out whenever Grandma talks enthusiastically about our great family’s history and accomplishments. I’m sure Grandma is just lying on half of the stuff.
               Let me tell you something. She is a real wanker.
               An actual nutcase.
               “Ashlina Four!” she shouts. “Will you pay attention?”
               With a simple tap on my watch’s face, I turn off sound cancelation. I suppose I must listen to this nutcase, don’t I? I say, “Sorry? I dozed off.”
               She narrows her eyes at me. Then she continues talking. “Originally, I wanted Gloria to go this year instead of you. She is much better prepared, but our family members are spread thin. There are some in the New York City, but most of us don’t have children. We can’t pass on the legacy if we send both of you.”
               Every year, the Four Family is allowed to send one contender—who is between the age of fifteen and twenty-five—to participate in the Realm’s twisted little game. Other families from all over the world are also participating. If a family sends multiple contenders whether on accident or purpose, then they will be forced to fight until one contender remains.
               A Legacy is someone who passes on the knowledge of the Realm to the next generation. Grandma Four is the Legacy of her generation. Though she is a shrew, she is dedicated to the family’s cause.
               “So what are you going to do?” I reply haughtily.
               “I’m sending you instead. You will fail for sure, but it's better than you being a Legacy. You will sabotage what this family stands for,” she says. She seems sure and confident that I will somehow kill myself in the Realm, doesn’t she?
               But if I am Legacy, I will for sure sabotage everything.


               The complex is like an underground city. There is a fake sky above with a fake sun. There are even clouds up there, but I’m sure it is all an illusion.
               On the road, we pass by houses and buildings. Then we stop in front of one building. Its large signs declare its name—PA Laboratory And Research Building.
               Isn’t it obvious that it is a building? I’m afraid the name is slightly redundant and unnecessary. They might as well call it, We Slaughter Pigs In The Name Of Science Here.
               We walk in, and I take an examination room. I’m not sure how the procedure works, but I know when Grandma Four is done, I will be long gone into the Realm. Forevermore away from her. At least until she dies.
               I sit on the bed. I’m the only one in here, and I’m glad for the silence. I can listen to my music, but I don’t. I don’t want to.
               I stare at the posters on the wall. Some of them are about how to wash hands. Others are more descriptive, and they go into details about diseases like Ebola, Smallpox, and Bird flu. I have no idea what Grandma Four—oh, Dr. Frankenstein—does here, but I know it was enough to scare Gloria on “Bring Your Family to Work” day.
               I pestered her with hundreds of questions. She wouldn’t answer me, so I assume it is something terrible like torturing pigs with vaccines and antibiotics. It probably isn’t anything. Gloria runs scared at the sight of a barking dog.
               Then Grandma comes in. She is still wearing her lab coat, but she also has purple gloves on along with a bottle of a clear liquid.
               “What are you doing?” I ask, slipping closer to the wall. I eye that bottle carefully. “What is that?”
               Grandma Four holds up the clear bottle. “Etomidate majorly.”
               I look at her, unsure what that thing is.
               “It is a drug used for surgery. It will knock you out cold,” she adds, rolling her eyes. “Even your cousin knows what this is from the color of the bottle.”
               “What are you going to do?” I back into the wall, trying to get away from her. I don’t want to be injected by that. It is… I don’t want to be injected by anything Grandma is giving me. No, thank you! I’m not doing any of that.
               “Send you to the Realm.”
               “What?” I sputter, jaw dropped. “What?”
               She smiles a little at me. “You have to die to go to the Realm. It is the land beyond death. Isn’t that obvious, Ashlina?”
               “I just thought it wasn’t going to be you!” I move away from her, standing close to the door. “Are you going to murder me?”
               She takes out a syringe and pulls an amount of clear liquid out. “Only if you aren’t going to do it. Besides, I’m not murdering you. I’m sending you away to a worse place. Where those people are going to walk over you. I had been too nice to you for all those years yet you squander it with your attitude and inflated size of your ego.”
               “I have an ego?” I gasp, fumbling at the door. It is locked from the outside.
               “Don’t worry,” she soothes, her voice dropped to a soft whisper. “It isn’t going to hurt. It is painless. At least I didn’t choose something like bleach and make you drink it.”
               “How is that different from this? It is still murder!” I pound the door, trying to get anyone to hear me. “Help! Help, help, help! She is trying to kill me!”
               Calmly, Grandma Four grabs my arm. “It won’t work. They already know about what I’m going to do.”
Her emotions and feelings threaten to overcome me. I can see brief flashes of her memories, and I almost stop fighting to try to push her memories away. I don’t want to see her regrets, her feelings, her thoughts. But they come after me, wanting to be heard.
To be seen.
Keeping a clear mind, I stare at her in horror. I keep trying to resist, kicking her at the shin and knees, but her grip is like steel. That syringe enters my bloodstream and unleashes the strange clear liquid. I have no idea what it is, but I hope it is painless.
               And quick.
               Knees numb, I sink to the ground. The world seems so unclear and wobbly. I can still make out Grandma’s figure, but it seems so… confusing.
               “Count down from ten,” says Grandma Four. I think I feel her cold hand on her cheek, as she tries to sing to me quietly.
               I can’t move my mouth.

So what do you think? Leave your thoughts and feelings in the Comment section below. 

Happy Writing!

-Penelope Grace

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