It's been a while. I used to post here on a different account, but y'all should know your feedback helped me grow and get my first novel published! (SOUL OF THE WORLD, from Orbit Books, with its sequel, BLOOD OF THE GODS out last summer and the third book in the trilogy, CHAINS OF THE EARTH forthcoming).
Today I sat down on a lark and wrote a new scene for an unrelated space-fantasy. I'd be thrilled if you could give it a read and offer up any thoughts. I have no clue where this goes, it was just a quick scene that popped into my head during a freewrite session. I'd love feedback on both the technical aspects of my writing and on the scene itself – does it work, is it cliche, any thoughts/initial reactions to the character, the magic, the world, etc.
His brother’s skin was cold.
Breath came quickly. Red light flashed overhead. The nursery lights. They were greens, yellows, oranges. Never red. A new color. He wondered what it meant.
Tomas rolled toward him. His brother’s eyes were glazed over, like panes of glass. Piotr found his hand, squeezed it.
“What’s happening?” Tomas asked. His voice was thin. A whisper.
“I don’t—” Piotr began, cut short as the floor lurched. The lights were always yellow when the floor moved. Never red. He kept Tomas’ hand clutched tight, and they slid.
The nursery floors were cold metal, smooth and curved. It still hurt when they moved. Abi and Shalene rolled, loose, their bodies stuck together in a tangle. His sisters were hurt, and neither moved. But Tomas needed him. He stayed, pushed himself loose when the floor lurched again.
Another slide, this time so they were upside down. Cold metal all around, but now the lights were on the floor outside the nursery’s glass walls.
Tomas let out a whine. Not a whine like Abi’s, a baby’s sound. Something else.
Something loud bellowed far away. A cracking noise, then a roar, then quiet.
“I’m frightened,” Tomas said. “Piotr. Piotr! Are you here?”
He hadn’t let go of his brother’s hand. He squeezed it again.
“I’m here,” he said.
“Why are you so hot?” Tomas asked. “Are you sick?”
“I’m fine,” he said. His suit was wet between his legs. That was the only heat he felt. The rest was cold, cold from where his skin touched his brother’s hand, spread across the rest of him, cold even through their suits. Cold.
“If you get sick they’ll take you,” Tomas said. “Piotr.”
Tomas went rigid, his back arched toward the lights.
“Tomas?” he said.
His brother didn’t move.
“Tomas!” he said.
The nursery went quiet.
He let go of Tomas’ hand, grabbed his face, moved his head so their eyes met. Tomas’ pupils had rolled up. Only whites. Only glass.
He shouted it this time. His brother didn’t wake. He shook him. The body moved, flailing in time with Piotr’s shoves. Nothing more. Dead.
He couldn’t be dead. Babies died. Older siblings got sick, went away. He’d woken to find babies dead before, gray and cold and empty eyes. Attendants came and took them from the nursery. None who had reached their third year ever died. Tomas had his birth-marks. Three. Three! No three-year-old ever died.
“Shalene! Help!” he cried out. She was four. The same as him. But his sister was with Abi. They lay together in the nursery’s curved metal floor. Shalene’s arms were wrapped around the baby, too tight, one bent the wrong way. “Shalene!”
He screamed it. Too loud. Attendants would come with calm words, put hands on him, rub their gels on his skin, if he screamed. She didn’t answer.
He set Tomas down, stood up, and the lights went off.
No more red. He was glad to have it gone; red was new. But no new light came on in its place. The nursery had never been dark before.
He stood still, frozen. Tomas was dead. Abi was dead. Shalene was dead. The lights were dead. The nursery was dead.
A light shone through the dark, but it was the wrong light. It came from the wrong direction, shining in his eyes. The door had opened. Light came from there, from the hallway, and it moved. A light in someone’s hand. Someone in the doorway.
Two someones. Piotr stood, watched as both someones entered the outer nursery. Neither were attendants. Attendants wore white, the same suits he and his siblings wore. These someones were bulky, with bulges and pouches and suits that looked black, or maybe a deep blue. One carried something in both hands, a metal tube he aimed, first at the walls, then at Piotr through the glass. The other someone held the light, flashed it to Tomas’ body, then to where Abi and Shalene lay together, then back to Piotr.
The second someone spoke. “Three dead,” he said. “One alive, untouched.”
Piotr had done it. He’d summoned them with his scream. Guilt pierced him through the gut. He’d killed his brother and his sisters. It was his fault. Now these someones were here to take him, even though he wasn’t sick.
The someone with the light went to the console, punched a key, and the glass vanished.
The other someone aimed his tube at Piotr’s stomach, pulled a trigger.
He felt the light, the heat. It wasn’t right to put heat on him here, not when Tomas was so cold.
He changed it.
Orange light flooded the nursery, sparks jumped from the someone’s tube. The someone said a filthy word, one Tomas had learned and taught him, listening in when the attendants thought he’d been asleep. The someone tried to fling his tube away; Piotr held it there. He put the light back into it, the heat. Sparks flew into the second someone’s visor, then flame. A deep boom filled the room, and a flash.
The second someone’s tube was bent and twisted. His arms were gone at the elbows; his chest was caved in, black, smoking. Visor melted through, face as black and charred as the chest.
The someone with the light dropped it, fumbled at his belt, stammered the same filthy word twice. Backed away from Piotr.
Piotr wanted the light. He’d never held light in his hands before. He and Shalene had dreamed of what light must feel like, at its source. But she was dead now.
The other someone held a smaller tube, small enough to fit in his hand, and squeezed the trigger without aiming, pointing it at Piotr’s leg.
This time he didn’t have to think. The tube exploded, taking the someone’s hand and arm with it. The someone screamed. Too loud. Didn’t he know screaming was forbidden here? The scream scratched Piotr’s ears, grating through him like an attendant’s knife. He made the sound change. It went back, twisting inward, playing in reverse until it went quiet.
The someone collapsed, his chest sunken in, same as his throat. Both body parts were flat and thin now, connecting the head to the body, but with no bone, no support.
Piotr stepped cautiously past where the glass had always been. He expected something to happen. An attendant should appear. The nursery lights should come on, bright orange, pointed at him, marking him for doing something bad.
He went to the someone’s light, retrieved it, held it gingerly in his hand. Polished plastic, smooth and black on one side, pure white light spilling out the other. It shone where he wanted it to. Where he wanted it to! He had the light now. He spun back, shining it on Shalene, ready to tell her what he’d found.
Her eyes were open, and so was her mouth. Staring. Nothing there.
He looked away.
The nursery was dead.
He’d glimpsed the hall before. It had been Tomas’ dream to go there, someday. But it was his now, like the light. The door was open. The way was his, and there was nothing behind him anymore.
Part of him wanted to cry, to stay there and shine his light and cry some more.
The rest knew it was time to go. So he shined his light ahead into the hall, and left.