When Jaylie learns her utopia is a slave pen, she must take down the government trying to control her powers—putting lives at risk. #PitProm
Eighteen-year-old Jaylie Haddox grew up trading memories for the food on her plate.
Indigo Children like her have the power to create natural resources in exchange for sacrificing memories. They’re the only humans left alive, but thanks to these powers, humankind has survived inside artificial ecosystems for the last two hundred years.
Or so she thinks.
When Jaylie’s artificial ecosystem collapsed eight years ago, she gained a frightening new power—one that destroys instead of creates. Only Jaylie’s powers stopped demanding memories, isolating her with the realization that society has become addicted to forgetting the bad ones.
That is, until Shaye Lewis, a childhood friend Jaylie can’t remember, fights his way back into her life. He tells her the utopia she calls home is an elaborate slave pen designed to control the Indigo Children’s powers. She’s one of thousands who were kidnapped and brainwashed, and the government won't need its slaves much longer. If she doesn’t lend her power to Shaye’s group of rebels, the Indigo Children will be exterminated.
But the more Jaylie remembers about the day she and Shaye were separated, the more her moral compass wavers. With memories of her old life beginning to influence her present, Jaylie must sort out the difference between who she is and who the world wants her to be before the war decides for her—and whether memories from her past or her present will shape her future.
THE INTERIM is a YA metaphysical dystopian novel with series potential. My manuscript is complete at 116,000 words and combines elements of THE DARKEST MINDS with FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST.
I’m a freelance Japanese manga/novel translator. One of my short stories was a quarter-finalist in the 2017 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Contest and ranked #4 on Coverfly’s Red List for the month of January 2018.
Thank you for your consideration.
First Ten Pages:
Two minutes. That’s how long it took to kill a fifth of humankind.
Wheat stalks whipped my face as the flames chased Bria, Gavyn, and I out of the fields. Explosions were ripping apart the honeycomb network of rafters that held up the mile-high dome that protected Julian, my home Sanctuary, from the outside world. Pipes, cables, and light panels as big as trucks plummeted into the farmland below in smoldering streaks, crushing homes and silencing screams. Sparks sent wildfires roaring through the wheat field in seconds and swelled the climate-controlled humidity into blistering heat, transforming our golden playground into a wall of flames that pinned us against the crushed half of Bria’s red brick house.
The ground shook and lurched, dropping us to our hands and knees in the dirt. Mrs. Fournier, Bria’s mom, lay face-up in a garden of blood-spattered white roses and broken bricks. A rafter pierced her stomach. Broken ribs poked through her navy shirt. Blood dripped from her nose, sliding down her cheek in quivering lines as falling debris shook the earth. She stared up at her daughter with half-lidded eyes that should’ve been purple—the mark of an Indigo Child. They weren’t glazed over; they were drained of all color, leaving nothing but white between the thin black lines encircling her pupil. They looked like a fly’s wings.
The smoke thickened, tickling my throat, prickling my eyes. Ash caught in Bria’s red curls and stuck to my teeth, tasting like dirt. A tangle of beams slammed through a monorail track and sent train cars soaring through the smoky air, tumbling into the neighboring orchard, crushing the dozens who worked there. Even when Gavyn started sobbing and crawled over to grab my sweat-slicked arm, I couldn’t tear my stinging gaze away from the fly wing eyes.
No. No. This made no sense. Surely this could all be fixed?
My Nature turned back time. No matter how broken, no matter how many pieces were missing, my power could restore anything to its previous state. Julian was falling apart quickly—the air was thinning, filling my tight lungs with falling ash and rising smoke. It was a lot to fix, but it was doable. Might as well start reviving the dead first and get everyone to help, right? I’d never tried it before, but nothing was impossible with our Natures. Indigo Children made miracles happen every day.
I peeled my trembling hand out of the blood-soaked soil and pinched a thorn out of my wet palm. A rusty scent latched onto my tongue as the ground jerked me forward mid-reach for those fly wing eyes. My balance teetered on my knees, eyes brimming with tears. If I could just fix those eyes… Those wrong, dead eyes…
A deafening crackle resounded through the Sanctuary. The sound crawled like ants under my skin. Gavyn’s ash-caked cheeks turned up at the sound, and my eyes followed. A crack was zigzagging through the rafterless dome of concrete, thick enough to be visible through the rising smoke. It branched out and spiderwebbed, sprinkling concrete chunks into the flames around us. There was a moment of stillness—Gavyn stopped crying, Bria stopped shaking her mom’s shoulders, I stopped reaching for the discolored eyes—then concrete chunks bigger than the house broke off and plummeted down like earth-shattering rain.
It wasn’t my rattled brain that kept me watching with heart-racing awe, even as Gavyn and Bria cowered and screamed. It was the hole in the enclosure that the pieces left behind, a hole that grew and released the smoke into the world beyond. A hole that, for the first time in two-hundred years, exposed humankind to the sky.
The sky was red.
As soon as I saw it, pain knifed my brain. A yelp tore from my throat, and I shivered—the sweat streaming down my neck and back turning cold. I clutched my head with bloody hands, chest heaving, black spots speckling my sight. Silver threads swirled and gleamed around Bria’s hands, the mark of conjuring a Nature. Her tear-streaked face grew flushed and focused in the sweltering firelight, and then Bria’s Nature-fueled palms slammed into her mother’s motionless chest.
In exchange for a memory, Indigo Children can conjure natural forces through their given Nature. Bria’s Nature conjured electricity. She was trying to bring her mom back from the dead, like I planned to do with my time Nature moments before.
That’s why her actions made sense to me, at the time. Life was, after all, no more than an electrical charge.
The limp head rolled to one side from the sudden impact, unseeing eyes slipping past her daughter. Strange. An electrical charge should’ve zapped her chest and restarted her heart, right? But Bria’s threads vanished into thin air without manifesting even a touch of static. Still, Bria waited, hands folded, watching her mom’s face in silence as more of Julian’s enclosure fell and the blood-red sky expanded.
Gavyn’s shoulders slumped, orange flickering in his purple eyes, staring at the bloody soil sticking to his knees. He was so absent, so far removed, he didn’t notice the silver threads that sprung back out of Bria’s mom’s chest in a thrashing flurry. The gleaming silver spooled and wove together, solidifying from the ground up into a statue made of jagged purple crystals: legs, hips, torso, head. Bulging and misshapen. A not-quite-human shape.
Its sharp jaw unhinged with a crack. Bria’s name in its gaping mouth was nails on glass, a spine-chilling echo from a pitch-black well.
“Come with Mommy, Bria,” it whispered in a crackle of Mrs. Fournier’s soothing voice. It dragged a crystallized foot forward, flames flickering red reflections on the gleaming purple surface. “Come to the Interim.”
As Julian fell apart above us and shuddered beneath us, Bria greeted the abomination of her mother with a smile and open arms.
My headache dulled as quick as it came. Heat flooded my skin again. Wiping my sweaty brow with the back of my hand, I blinked away the falling ash. Why did Mrs. Fournier return from the dead like that? Was it because her body was broken? I reached past the crystal ankles, aiming my threads at her body’s eyes. I stared at the red coating my trembling fingers, waiting for threads that never came, dumbfounded by the limit to my Nature I never knew I had: our miracles couldn’t reverse death. This crystal figure wasn’t Mrs. Fournier, nor her soul. It was the memory of her, infused with Bria’s desperation to see her mom again.
Mrs. Fournier was lost to the Interim, and no miracle would bring her back.
Purple shards tinkled down the statue as it leaned over its daughter’s smiling face. The jaw snapped off and shattered like glass on the ground by Bria’s knees, disintegrating into shimmering dust. Jagged fingers chipped away one by one until the hand was whittled into one clawed finger. Its arm shuddered as it stretched to touch Bria’s cheek, like Mrs. Fournier often did in life. Then the sharp point lowered those few frightening inches, to the vein pulsing in Bria’s sweaty neck.
My brain lulled in the heat, shuddered with each impact to the earth. But my hand rose on instinct; it knew what to do.
Power surged up my right arm and tingled in my fingertips. Wild. Impulsive. Nothing like the rhythmic pulses of time. Threads lashed from my hand in a violent flash, a heartbeat’s burst that ripped the torso off the crystal statue in a blast of purple shrapnel. Without a torso to balance it, the legs teetered, stumbled, then crumbled and dissolved in a dusty, shimmery heap.
My mind swam with euphoria, tight lungs coughing up a laugh. My skin buzzed with energy. Adrenaline rushed through my veins. I knew this feeling. I’d experienced it once before. It shouldn’t have been possible, but a second Nature was awakening inside me. This time, it was pure destruction singing through my every nerve, filling me with glee. As if the power to destroy the world around me was only natural. Teeth chattering, I cracked a smile.
The last shimmers of Mrs. Fournier’s failed resurrection dissolved into the sticky blood. Her tears now dried by the fire’s heat, Bria’s horrified gasp withered into a quiet breath. She sank her weight onto her heels and said nothing, as if detached from the destruction around her.
A shadow darkened our faces. Gavyn shrieked—falling concrete was rushing down at us. Snatching my braid and Bria’s sleeve, he cast the silver pulse of his teleportation Nature around us. The flames, the blood, the fly wing eyes blurred and smeared into grainy color.
In his Nature’s aftershimmer, a white tile floor materialized below us and soft ceiling lights shone above us. Cool air soothed our overheated skin. Water splashed a constant rhythm from a spherical stone fountain. Two women spoke into headsets with cheerful voices behind a long front desk. Music soothed this space so gently, I had to hold my breath to convince myself it was real.
Two men in lab coats turned when we tumbled into existence behind them. My hands slipped with mud and sweat and blood but I crawled over to them anyway, smearing the white tile with copper-scented grime. Through my stinging tears, I recognized my brother Ryner’s puzzled face and nearly fainted.
His presence meant one thing: Gavyn had brought us to Compass Headquarters. Outside Julian. Inside Charlotte. The safety of another Sanctuary.
Gavyn’s wails pierced the lobby. Men and women in lab coats stopped to stare, sparing confused looks at the purple crystals scabbing the swollen fingers Gavyn cradled at his chest. The older man with Ryner—who I later learned was Doctor Nellum, the director of Compass—kneeled in front of Gavyn and twisted his wrist for a better look, scratching his chin at the world’s first case of the Pull.
Tears spilled down my cheeks. My hands scrambled for time’s threads, to reverse the damage done to me—I repaired the torn hem of my dress, cleaned the blood off my shoes, lifted the dirt stains from my socks. I begged my time Nature to take away the fire, the blood, the fly wing eyes, to plunge me into ignorant bliss, but no matter how many times I expanded my mind’s reach in search of the Interim’s mental tug—that stream of consciousness beyond my body that would whisk my memory of that horror away, the memory refused to release my mind from its haunting claws.
And then it hit me: Ever since that destructive new power poured out of me, the rule—the mercy—that every Indigo Child must sacrifice a memory to use their Nature no longer applied to me.
I crawled to my pale-faced brother. He stood petrified and wordless as my fingers curled into his lab coat. “Fix me,” I hiccupped in my smoke-scratched voice. The destructive threads of my new, second power seeped from my hands. Ryner tore out of his coat and backed himself into the small crowd forming behind him, letting the coat flutter to the cold floor at my knees. Purple crystal growths seeped from my hands, spreading like bacteria over the sleeves, the hems, and the four-pointed Compass logo on the breast pocket. Frozen and rigid, reduced to solid crystal, the coat cracked, crumbled, and disintegrated in my hands.
I reached for Bria’s arm with shaking fingers as if she could give me relief. Destruction’s silver threads still thrashed in my hands. When they reflected in her curious eyes, an image of her torso crystallizing and crumbling flashed through my mind. Hollow and helpless, I lowered my arm. As I backed away, Bria tugged my sleeve instead. Her mouth moved as she pointed excitedly at the city street beyond the glass front doors, but I couldn’t hear her beyond the pounding in my ears.
Questions balled up in my throat: How are you smiling? Why won’t you move away? Can’t you see the danger? As soon as they came, realization froze my blood. To resurrect her mother’s soul, she’d chosen to forget Julian was collapsing. No trace of it remained in her brain. It didn’t matter that the cause of her mom’s second death spun in my hands. She couldn’t remember what I’d done. She wouldn’t know to stay away.
Fire and blood and death. Fire and blood and death. Julian’s collapse looped in my mind, clawed my brain and disfigured my sanity, taunting me, goading me, demanding I pick apart its every detail in a meager attempt to reason how the enclosure that protected Julian for two hundred years managed to fall in a single day.
It didn’t matter that I couldn’t forget memories, or that every detail would haunt me forever. It couldn’t have been a malfunction of the climate control system, the lighting, or the monorail tracks that brought the entire Sanctuary crashing down on the forty thousand farmers packed inside. The damage was too widespread to pinpoint an origin. Still, I couldn’t shake the thought that it wasn’t an accident. Julian’s destruction was too thorough. Too effective.
Almost as if it was intentional.
The Indigo Memorial’s courtyard would be stunning if factory walls and apartment buildings didn’t loom over the patrons from all sides.
A layer of glass paves the courtyard, separating my shadow from my feet. With the white marble underneath it, it creates the illusion of walking on air. Glass columns encircle the perimeter, each wrapped in metal coils extending to the glass underfoot in a swirling web of silver. Light refracts from the columns with rainbow-tinted clarity, painting the surrounding hedges and cherry blossom trees with the full color spectrum.
The Inter-Sanctuary monorail screeches overhead, and I tense as it echoes off the Sanctuary’s enclosure. It’s been eight years since Julian’s collapse and I still can’t shake the trauma. The supply trains run between Sanctuaries every thirty minutes, and every damn time it passes, there’s a split second where I expect it to come crashing down.
Cursing, I rub the headache budding at my brow. You’re fine, Jaylie. It’s normal. I push through the dozens-thick crowd encircling the Compass representative standing in the courtyard’s center. I try not to look at faces in the crowd—the wilting corners of mouths, the hard lines pressing wrinkles into overworked brows. Some people clench their fingers, shifting weight from leg to leg. Others wipe tears, frowning into wet fingers with confusion. For what most of these people believe is the first time in their life, they’re confronting the problem that is death. The one problem Natures can’t fix.
But that’s what funerals are for: to comfort the living. Not mourn the dead.
And nothing brightens a day like a funeral.
The representative—I’ve stopped memorizing all their names, so I call them the Daves, even the women—clasps his hands in front of his chest as he nods to the funeral guests. His white coat swishes as he paces the crystal-encrusted corpse curled up on ground in the courtyard’s center. Half of the dead woman’s face is jagged with violet crystal clumps. Core material, we now call it—memories in physical form. Judging by how much core material covers the body’s entire left side, it solidified at least one vital organ.
This woman didn’t die naturally. She died from the Pull.
Dave kneels at the body’s side and places a hand on the crystallized shoulder. “Hear us, Mother. Let Vina transcend the limitations of self. Let her memories become one with those who came before her. May the Interim analyze the state of the world she observed and gift your children with the Natures we need to maintain our peace and propel our future.”
What a pretentious load of crap. He makes the Interim sound more understood than it is. It was discovered by accident during the Resource Wars. While the rest of the world was fighting over Earth’s last resources, a handful of physicists invented a passage to explore the multiverse, intending to find a parallel dimension where humans didn’t exhaust them. Instead, they found a conscious dimension they called the Interim: a collective consciousness that’s been recording history since the dawn of time. Like most people, Dave believes the Interim has its own will based on our collective observations, and that it chooses our Natures. But all we know for sure is we can conjure the Interim’s memories of how the world used to be into the present. Memories aligning with our Natures. Nobody’s seen inside the Interim itself. Not even the Daves.
Someone in the crowd hiccups a sob. I frown as Dave approaches individuals who look the most upset, holding their shoulders, purple eyes drilling into theirs as if demanding they match his smile. They force smiles back, but the glisten in their eyes doesn’t leave or spill over; the smile is Dave’s push to hold them over until the end.
The Pull’s silver threads web through the body’s dead skin. In their wake, crystals fester and envelop more of her in a jagged shell. It won’t be long until her body becomes solid core material.
Not all Natures can connect with the dead like Bria’s or mine; in fact, most—terraforming Natures, molecular duplication Natures, for example—can’t. Compass brushed Gavyn and I off when we told them about Bria’s resurrection attempt; just two traumatized kids with hyperactive imaginations. But now, the Daves make these funerals feel designed to prevent resurrections. Have more people attempted resurrections since then? Maybe I’m paranoid. I wouldn’t put it past me. Not after Julian’s collapse.
Welcome to the final round of pitches!
Agents and Publishers,