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Literary Criticism

First Page: Untitled

First Page: Untitled

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.


The house looked like something from Superman’s birth cave, all ice and angles and unrelenting glare. Hester hated it with an unnatural passion. She stared up at the monstrosity that was now her closest neighbor and frowned deeply. Six months ago they had come in and torn down Mrs. Panetti’s perfectly good little red brick bungalow and planted this monster not ten feet from her house. It sat to the South of her and blocked all the sun with its angles and glass and modern metal crap. Her garden was ruined, her beloved vegetables would never grow in this shade. Her kitchen was dark, the hulking house blocked all the sun that used to stream in her windows. And she had spent the last six months fighting construction workers and their trucks blocking the shared driveway between the two houses.

She lived in downtown Chicago because she liked the combination of the old homes and the big leafy trees and still being walking distance to the little urban village at the end of her street. The houses, all built in the 1920s, were close to each other. They were a throwback to a time when families lived in each other’s back pockets- kids shared rooms with their siblings, women would exchange gossip while they hung their laundry out to dry. It used to be a working class neighbourhood, humble, well-built, meant to last. But recently too many people had started buying the beautiful old homes only to tear them down and build a McMansion instead. Her new neighbors, whoever they were, were a classic example of this new mentality- too much money and not enough sense.

The rain splattering around her didn’t help to her melancholy mood. She knew she looked odd standing at the front of the house, head craned upward, scowling. But she couldn’t help it, this was awful. And now it appeared it was about to get worse. The idiots that built this were moving in, the first truck had arrived this morning as she’d been leaving for work. They’d delivered a flat screen television that took four workers to carry in the house. The TV had been as big as her bed.

Hester didn’t own a television.

A hushed growl pulled up behind her and she spun to see what made the surprisingly seductive sound. A sleek, steel grey Mercedes had parked in front of the entrance to the driveway. The engine was cut and the driver’s side door flung open. Before Hester could formulate a reasonable opinion her brain fired off a series of unwanted impressions- long muscular legs, thick reddish brown hair, faded denim eyes and a big smile directed right at her.

Her new neighbor. The asshole.

***

The house was perfect. Big. Modern. Walking distance to the rink.

Mike had finally made the decision to move out of the condo right in the heart of the financial district. He’d bought the damn thing when he was 20 and just newly drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. Now 35 he was team captain and established enough that he should’ve bought something bigger years ago. He would have actually, but nothing had ever compelled him to move. Until a year ago when his nieces and nephews started asking why there wasn’t a bedroom at his place that they could sleep in.

How did you explain “bachelor pad extraordinaire” to a seven year old?

To say that his sister and her kids would be thrilled with this new place was an understatement; there’d be enough room for all of them to stay with him now. They’d probably visit more often. Good.

This was going to be his first night in the new place and he was hoping the bare amount of furniture that he’d had in the other place had arrived and been set up like the real estate said it would. And it even seemed as if the neighbours had come out to meet him. Well, one neighbor actually.

One scowly, hardcore granola-type neighbour. Who was looking at him like he was a disease on legs.

She was dressed in red rain boots that went up to her knees, jeans and a big grey turtleneck sweater that obscured any impression of what her shape might have been. Her almost black hair was long and wild and there was a small leaf tangled in it close to her ear. Her eyes were angry and colored to match; dark grey with flecks of green.

“Do you own this house?” She demanded pacing closer to him.

He wasn’t about to step back. Hell, he outweighed her by 75 pounds.

“This is your house, right?” She had stopped about six feet from him and was looking at him with a mixture of anger and hurt? What the hell had he done?

“Yeah, it’s my house.” His smile had long vanished and this prickly woman was starting to piss him off. “Is there a problem?”

Her eyebrows shot up and it looked like she might just launch herself at him. Then she huffed out a breath and…appeared to lose steam. The wild look died down a bit and she was left looking somewhat defeated.

“No. No problem,” she grimace-smiled at him, turned on her heel and marched down the narrow single driveway between the two houses. He watched her with trepidation and interest. Weird little thing.

She stopped at the bottom of the slightly inclined laneway and turned back to him.

“This is my driveway too,” she called out. “You can’t leave your car at the top like that. It’s a shared drive.” The you asshole was left unsaid but he still heard it loud and clear.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

First Page: Untitled – Apocalyptic M/M

First Page: Untitled – Apocalyptic M/M

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.


Dane Foster met his first intelligent Infected at the age of twenty-two.

His first clue that it wasn’t a normal Infected was that it hesitated. It stopped when it saw him, and its eyes went from the pistol in Dane’s hand to the alley entrance. It knew Dane could kill it, and it was more interested in surviving than eating.

If it weren’t for the wounds, he might’ve mistaken it for human. There was an uneven hole in its side, and several of its fingers were missing. Shotgun injuries, Dane recognized. Both were recent and neither were bleeding.

The sentience in its eyes sent chills down Dane’s spine. Unlike all the others, it knew exactly what it was – a blood-thirsty monster – and exactly what it wanted: prey.

Dane leveled his pistol at the Infected’s head and fired.

The gunshot was like thunder in the empty city. The Infected ducked as soon as he began aiming, catching the bullet in its shoulder instead of its skull. “Shit!!” Dane said, scrambling back, but it was too late. Quick as a flash, the Infected barreled into him.

They say your life flashes before your eyes in situations like these. For Dane, it didn’t. There was no unearthly calm, no inhuman focus; there was only his heart thundering in his ears as he gripped the Infected by its neck, fighting to keep its teeth from his skin.

Distantly, someone shouted. Dane didn’t notice. All he could think was ‘can’t let it bite me’ and ‘god, I made it so far’ . But the Infected heard the shout, and the Infected lifted its head. Dane followed its gaze. Wide-eyed, they both stared down the alley.

There, silhouetted against the setting sun, stood a man with a shotgun.

The Infected leapt up and took off in the opposite direction. Or at least, it would have, had it been able; Dane had a death grip on its neck. And just as he’d been terrified moments before, Dane was filled with an awful, all-consuming hate for the creature in his hold. He held tighter, and it choked, clawing at his hands.

It was only moments before the man reached them and fired. A revolting mixture of liquid and bone splattered on Dane’s face. Dane winced.

The man stood there, panting. He looked at the shotgun like he had no idea what it was. He dropped it, throwing up his hands. “Oh my god,” he said, scrambling to check on Dane. “Oh my god! Are you alright?”

Dane was cold. His mind was numb. The man, whom Dane had never seen before in his life, shook him. “Stop that,” Dane snapped, slapping away the hands. But his arms were shaking badly, and he missed. Belatedly, Dane realized he might be freaking out a little.

The stranger hauled him upright. “It didn’t bite you, did it?” the stranger said. “I mean, I saw it scratch you, but – ”

“I’m fine,” Dane said. “Just give me a minute.”

He shoved himself away from the stranger. He sat down and curled up, fighting to breathe evenly. When he felt like he could think without screaming, he stood up. Fist shaking, he kicked the headless corpse as hard as he could.

“Fuck. Fuck!” He kicked it again. He stood still, panting, hyper aware of the stranger watching him. “Okay. Okay.” Dane took a deep breath. He blew it out. “I’m okay.”

“You sure?” the stranger asked tentatively.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.” Dane looked at the stranger sharply.

“Hey now,” the stranger said, raising his palms. “Infected’s dead. I’m a friend.” Then, sounding curious, he added, “You out here alone?”