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First Page: Unpublished Manuscript – Women’s Fiction

First Page: Unpublished Manuscript – Women’s Fiction

Welcome to First Page Sunday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

Being alone, Mallory and Dwight Cook claimed a smaller section of bench than necessary at the picnic-style table. Their shoulders kissed while their eyes and ears attended to the swivel television on the counter between the dining and kitchen areas. As usual during dinner, they watched the regional TV news broadcast out of Portland, Maine, thirty minutes north of their small town of Great Wharf. Like a one-celled amoeba, Great Wharf squeezed a pseudopod, or “false foot,” into a portion of the southern Maine coastline between Ogunquit and Kennebunkport.

Five minutes into tonight’s broadcast Mallory said, “Dare we hope? It looks like no new bad news tonight. I mean, just updates on old bad news. How refreshing!”

Dwight murmured his agreement, but Mallory knew he was just biding time until he finished eating. He’d been wanting to say something ever since he got home. But she had hurried him into washing his hands and sitting down to catch the start of the news. She had, as usual, looked forward all day to seeing him. He was her anchor, always had been.

At the first commercial break, Mallory picked up her empty plate and flatware, swiveled, and swung her legs over the bench. She laid the dish and utensils on the counter by the dishwasher. Then she turned and asked,

“Ready for more wine?”

“Not yet, still nursing this one. Why’d you jump from the table so fast?”

“I didn’t jump, just got out normally.”

“Yeah, normal like a scared jackrabbit.”

“What would I have to be afraid of?”

“Mal, you telegraph your emotions in all sorts of ways, not that I’m going to give away my secret store of knowledge. But thirty-six years and three grown kids later, I’ve learned how to read you.”

Mallory harrumphed and refilled her wine glass. Turning to face Dwight again, she waved it slowly in an arc from left to right in front of her. “Did you notice the amazing cleaning job I did on this room today?”

“It always looks clean in here. Sorry. Tell me what you did.”

“I washed under the counter edges, and I dusted everything including the leaves on the fern. I even risked life and limb on the stepladder to dust the overhead light. Little did you know while you were chatting with tourists at the trolley museum that your wife was this close to a fatal fall.” She held her arms out from her sides and swayed (careful not to spill the wine).

Dwight shook his head. “You really need to get out more, Mal. I’m starting to think you’re hiding out in here, like someone in the witness protection program. Or an actual hermit.” He chanced a grin over his nearly empty plate, but a question hung in the air. Mallory gave him a lopsided smile.

So, he had raised the subject after all. She didn’t want this conversation. She grabbed the sponge and swiped it across the sparkling counter.

“Sorry, babe.” Dwight backed off. “I didn’t mean to stick a label on you. I’m just concerned.”

“Tell you what, I promise to do something out of the ordinary tomorrow.”

“Outside the house and away from the yard?”

“I promise.”

First Page: Quiet noise-makers- YA

First Page: Quiet noise-makers- YA

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

‘Holy Head of the Unsleepers, no!’

I pull the sheets into my clenched fist as my eardrums pulsate from the squeaking sound. Today is the day I kill them.

Every morning I wake up to that thought. It’s like I made the extermination of Borebees my only life’s mission.

I hear a smash coming from downstairs and I know they’ve broken something again. It’s so loud I can almost feel the broken item’s pieces stabbing my eardrums.

After the smash they start screaming again. Their pitch is so inhumanly high I’m not even sure why anyone outside, well, deepest pits of hell can even register that frequency.

The squeaking makes itself comfortable in my ears like an uninvited guest, overstaying the welcome.
I realize it’s not the noise that unnerves me. It’s the contempt behind it. This is the Borebee laugh. I would take it more lightly if it were moaning, or an expression of pain. I would excuse it if they couldn’t help it- like an annoying cough in the middle of a class.

Half-awake, I stare at a cluttered bookshelf in what I wish was silence. I try to think of this morning’s strategy when a thick book catches my eye. Kzinta Spokorof’s Encyclopedia of Endangered Species.
That’s it! Today, I chase Borebees away with irony.

My bed creaks as I get up. It’s as if everything around me is after my eardrums. My room is small, and ceiling is very low. My friends nag about it all the time, but I myself am too short for my age and this is probably the only place I feel normal.
Few transparent balls hang from the ceiling on a thick, long rope, but they still don’t reach my head.

They are called dreambubbles. My mom says that in the old days they were used as dream catchers, but today they are dead and purposeless. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I try and listen to see if magick is alive inside, but nothing comes.

I never knew magick. I don’t even know what do live dreambubbles sound like, but I always imagined it as a heartbeat. Sometimes I think I feel it for a few seconds, but the feeling is gone as soon as I begin to process it.

Bubbles are currently pale blue, reflecting the paint on the walls. Not much can be seen of the walls though, since the room is almost completely wrapped in cluttered bookshelves. Sometimes I read books. But more often, I use them to scare away Borebees and bring about silence.

As I approach the bookshelf to pick up my weapon, strange sensation fills my ears. Something feels off and I freeze in place.
Out of nowhere, this thing happens. The most unnatural, unusual thing; that thing I don’t wake up to. That thing I haven’t woken up to in years. It can’t be…

My grateful ears say it’s fine, but I distrust them. Borebees don’t simply stop screaming. They go away when I face them. When I… when I chase them away.

That’s strange. Someone else must have woken up before me, and got out. Until now, I was sure people just considered Borebees my job, since I am the alert one in the neighborhood. A single whisper can shock me awake but the lot in my street-they can slumber through wars.

I wish to continue sleeping for a few more hours now that it’s finally quiet, but a gut feeling informs me that something’s wrong. So I follow the feeling downstairs.