Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe, shared an excerpt from her story; “Love is a Choice”, on her blog yesterday. You can read it below.
I don’t want to kill him, but I will if I have to.
A smooth plastic bottle rests in my right pocket. Inside are three pills. Only three. I have to get more. It’s as simple as that. I have to get more. Without the pills, my mind will be contaminated by the drugs in the water used to control the populace. Phydus will make me acquiesce to Eldest’s rule. It will make me give up.
I grip the knife in my left pocket. It’s crudely made from a scrap of metal I found near my hiding place, but it will do what I need it to do. It will get me the pills I need.
I run both hands through my tangled, dirty hair, yanking against the matted knots. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. But what choice has Eldest left me? I used to get one pill a day, like clockwork. That pill protected me from the drugged waters that are piped throughout the ship, the chemicals that make nearly everyone else aboard Godspeed a mindless minion of Eldest. When I started to question Eldest, though, when I started using this brain of mine that had been sheltered so long by the daily blue-and-white pills…that’s when Eldest tried to have me killed.
The only reason I escaped is because Doc didn’t want to be responsible for killing a kid. I’m not that much of a kid. Practically a man. Nineteen. Doc might have let me go then, to fake my death and try hiding out in a ship that’s too small to hide anything forever, but if I don’t get more pills, I might as well give myself up to Eldest now.
I take a deep breath. I’ve been hiding in the walls of the ship for so long that I had almost forgotten the scent of dirt and grass. I had not known before how the stench of metal and dust had woven into my very bones until the clean air purged me. This is the largest level of the ship, the easiest level to hide in. Ten square miles of farm land with a city in the distance, all surrounded by metal walls painted blue to simulate a sky none of us have ever seen. One day Godspeed will land on the new planet, and we’ll get a real sky.
But until then…
I reach into my pocket and clench the knife in my fist.
Rachel Caine who writes, The Morganville Vampires series also shared with the world an excerpt from her story, “Dogsbody”.
When I was thirteen, Corporate handed out free tickets to the Cup game to kids on Level K. A lottery win, they said, as they visited each narrow little apartment and listed off kids by name.
By the time they got to Gray, Xavier, I had already heard all about it. Could have ducked it, I guess; my folks were long dead, and at thirteen I was mostly on my own anyway. But I was big, strong, and maybe a little stupid, ’cause I still thought I had a bit of luck, and it had finally paid off.
So I took my ticket, and the Company man crossed my name off on his handheld and told me to have a nice time. He had a tight, empty smile.
Should have known better, about the luck.
See, we all knew better, that was the thing; Level K was a hard place, and we didn’t get much. Getting a ticket to the Cup was something that happened up on Level A, maybe B … not down here in the dark.
But everybody wants to believe in something, and we believed in the Cup game.
So that morning, some two thousand kids showed up painted up in crude makeup. They carried makeshift signs to wave, and clutched tickets like they were passes to heaven itself. Two thousand shining, excited faces. Mine among them.
The trains pulled in on time—big, shining, sleek things, all lights and glass and gleams. They were so beautiful, so unreal they might have been from another planet. Kids watched with rounded eyes, opened mouths as they realized, just as I did, how drab and broken our station looked, with its cracked tiles and rusty metal.
Maybe it was just that I was a bit older than the others, or I was naturally suspicious, but I thought it was strange there were no adults here to see us off. Not one nervous parent, not one idle gawker. Nobody had come.
All kids. All alone. Clutching tickets.
Hackles prickled at the back my neck.
Co-Editor of Shards and Ashes, Kelley Armstrong, also shared from her story, “Branded”. She explained that the stories in the anthology are more like short novellas than short novels, given the lengths. Armstrong is also hosting a contest that ends at midnight on her blog where a lucky fans can win copies of Shards and Ashes. You can read her excerpt below.
Off to the far left there was a body not yet reduced to bones. Carrion eaters attempted to remedy that, silently ripping flesh from the corpse. From the looks of the body, it had been a hybrid. I could no longer tell what kind. Maybe part bull or part bear or part cat. Those were common ones.
The hybrids were the end result of the overreaching ambition that began with the supernaturals. The minister taught us that supernaturals had convinced us to use their DNA, but Braeden’s family told him it had been the humans’ idea. They’d rounded up the supernaturals and taken that DNA. The scientists had started with careful, controlled studies, but then the wars for food and land broke out, and there wasn’t time for caution.
Eventually they decided there was no need to limit themselves to creating ultrapowerful werewolf soldiers or spell-casting assassins. If they could use the DNA of supernaturals, could they use animals, too? That was near the end of the Old World, when the situation was so dire that no one cared about limits. So they created hybrids. Then the Great Storms came and the Final War came, and when it ended, the hybrids and modified supernaturals broke out of captivity and fought back. It took only a few years for the first fortress to rise, shielding a small group of uninfected humans against that endless wasteland overrun with hybrids and roving bands of survivalists.
That’s where Braeden was born. Out there. When he was five, his parents had been killed by hybrids. He’d survived and been found by a tribe of wanderers. They’d taken him in—as a slave whose job was to roam from camp and attract any nearby hybrids so that his tribe could kill them for meat.
So Braeden knew the hybrids better than any fortress dweller. We were told they were just animals with humanoid features, but he said they could be as cunning as humans, setting traps and raiding camps. Some even had language. The point of the lie was to convince us they weren’t human so that we wouldn’t feel guilty when we slaughtered them.
The hybrid rotting outside our gates hadn’t accidentally perished there. I’d heard the shot two days ago. It had ventured too close to the fortress and a guard had killed it. The carcass would warn others away. To me, that proved the hybrids had some human intelligence.
When the gates opened, the regulators drove the cart through, then stopped just past the walls. By now, Braeden had recovered enough to walk on his own. Once he was out of the cart, the driver led the horses to the side, and two regulators flanked Braeden as the First stepped from the edge of the crowd and solemnly walked toward him. A young prefect followed.
The elderly First stopped in front of Braeden.
“Braeden Smith,” he said in his reedy voice. “You have been found to possess werewolf blood, which has been proven to manifest itself in the form of a physical transformation. For this, you must be cast from the fortress. However, in recognition of the fact that you have been an otherwise loyal and productive member of the community—and that this curse comes through no fault of your own—this is not a sentence of execution. We hope that you will find your place in the Outside. To that end, we will provide you with the tools necessary to do so.”
He motioned to the young prefect, who stepped forward and handed him a dagger, the metal flashing in the sunlight.
“A weapon for defense.”
He dropped it at Braeden’s feet. A small bow followed.
“A weapon for hunting.”
A filled skin and a bound package.
“Water and food.”
“Clothing and shoes.”
Finally, a bag.
“And a pack with which to carry it. You are young and strong, Braeden Smith, and I trust that you will not perish in this harsh land. Go forth with our gifts. And do not return.”
Everyone waited for the inevitable final outcry from the convicted. Some attacked the First, and their exile turned into a speedy execution. Some raged and had to be forcibly dragged into the Outside. Most dropped to the First’s feet, wailing and begging, promising anything, should they be permitted to stay.
Braeden bent and picked up the shoes first. He put them on. Then he stuffed the food, the waterskin, and the rest of the clothing into the pack. He slung the bow over his shoulder. When he reached for the knife, the First tensed, but he could not recoil, could not show fear. Braeden picked up the knife, thrust it into the sheath, fastened it to his belt, and hefted the pack. Then, without a glance at the First or the fortress, he began to walk into the Outside, bloody soot falling from his brand in a trail behind him.
The gates closed as soon as the cart was brought back in. I left then, mumbling apologies to Priscilla as she told me again how brave, how terribly brave, I’d been. Before I could escape, her father clamped a hand on my shoulder and said I must come to dinner, soon, that the fortress needed more young women like me.
If only he knew.
After reading what has been shared yesterday and today, how many of you are rushing out to buy a copy of the book? If you were offered a chance to write a story for a dystopian and post-apocalyptic anthology, what kind of story would you write?