Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April Indy 500 #2

TITLE: Tainted
GENRE: YA Fantasy
Something was terribly wrong. Mum rubbed at her neck and glanced up at the wall clock. She did it all during dinner. Lines creased my dad’s forehead ever since we sat to eat. He never frowned.

“So,” I said, “what will it be tonight?”

“Is it a Saturday?” Mum asked, her lip twitching.

“Yes,” I replied and stared down at my empty plate, avoiding my reflection in the glass dining table. On the first Saturday of every month, all three of us sat in the lounge, watched a movie, and ate popcorn together. Mum exchanged a quick glance with my dad and I frowned a little. Even the lingering scents of saffron and garlic, though my favourite, emphasised how wrong everything was. They normally cooked a barbeque.

“I think we forgot to pick up a movie from the video store,” Dad said. “Sorry Aisling.” I suppressed my sigh and feigned a smile. Never had they forgotten before, not in the six years since the tradition started. 

I dropped my knife and fork together on my plate with a loud clatter. Mum’s leaf green eyes darted in my direction and she exhaled heavily. She never startled that easily before. Even dad shot me a quick glance.

“Can we play a board game instead?” I asked. Again, both of them exchanged looks, their eyes looked haunted. My stomached contracted into a tight ball.

Mum gave a short nod. “Sure honey. Why don’t you go grab one and we’ll clear the table.”

“Great,” I said and forced a smile. All the bedrooms were up on the second floor, the collection of board games sat on a shelf in the spare room. 

Even though I knew something bothered my parents, I started up the staircase regardless. I only got to the third step when the power went out.

Instinctively I gripped the stair rail and took a deep breath. There was no storm, no rain, and no sound of a substation exploding.

“Mum? Dad?” I called out, and reached out until my other hand hit the wall. I didn’t hear their response, and I couldn’t hear them moving in the kitchen. Repeatedly in my mind, I kept telling myself it was ok, the power would come back on in a second. I heard my jaw pop and stopped biting the inside of my cheek.

“Have you guys found the torches? Candles, even?” I called again, and silence met me. Keeping one hand on the rail and the other flat against the wall I slowly felt around with my left leg. It connected with solid ground and I took a step backward. When I went to repeat the process, my foot encountered something, instead of air.

I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Mum? Dad?” No response but warm breath tickled the back of my neck. Goosebumps prickled down my arms. My eyes hadn’t adjusted to the darkness and my flight response kicked in. I tried to sprint up the stairs, only to kick a step and stumble.


  1. Of all the entries, this one is one of the best. I can't really critique anything, other than to say I wish I could read the rest of this when you're done writing.
    This is only 500 words, but I'd love to know what age the protagonist is to give me a better mental image. I'm thinking between 8 and 12, maybe?

  2. I just want to start by saying that I generally don't read fantasy. Sooo...take whatever I saw with a grain of salt. I thought the beginning started out a little slow, but I can't necessarily say that's a bad thing. I knew something was going to happen, but couldn't figure out what. At first I was thinking the parents were going to tell her they were getting divorced. Their actions and her nervousness led me in this direction. You kept me guessing...and then the lights went out. I was like "oohhhh...parents didn't pay the bill." But then they were silent and there was a warm breath and now I don't know what to think.

    So I don't really know what to say. Like I said, it started out very slow in my opinion, but it helps make the lights going off that much more exciting and unexpected.

  3. I agree that the first part started a little slow. The opening line was intriguing but I bet similar things have been done before. I also figured a divorce was coming, and I wan't connected enough to the character to worry how she'd react.

    But that attention to detail with the smell of saffron added a new layer of reality to the piece, as did the sharp clatter (which startled me, too). And from there things just got better and better. The power outage really sparked my curiosity (pardon the pun), and you proceeded to create exactly the kind of spine tingling tension I tried to create in my entry (#5 - it's the one that pales next to this :P) I commend you, you've done and excellent job. I'd love to see where this is going.

  4. Very interesting. I have only two points I took issue with, both minor. I don't know that the first sentence is necessary; if you take it out, I think the tension will still build just the same.

    Also, if someone is biting their cheek, I'm thinking they would notice it when they taste blood rather than when their jaw popped. Or the pain would certainly get their attention - maybe I'm a baby, but that hurts like crazy when you do it by accident!

    Anyway, the slow build up was great and I liked how this section ended. If I had the book in hand, I would have read on!

  5. Intriging build up! I agree the beginning is slow but I don't think that's a big issue. Although the first sentence could be reworded to make it stronger.
    "Something was terribly wrong" feels sort of redundant because the reader knows that by the great way you lead us through the story. It's also a bit telling. I think if you revise the first sentence to match the rest of the story it will shine.
    Your first 500 grabbed me and pulled me from one paragraph to the next leaving me wanting more. I am curious about why he avoids his reflection in the glass table. I would keep reading:)

  6. This is really good!!! I like the way mom and dad didn't make a sound when the lights went out. Now I want to know what happens next. The only mistake I seen was a typo in the paraghaph that starts "Can we play a board game instead?" shomached should be stomach other than that it looks great! You really keep your reader on thier toes keep up the great work!