So I started a Dystopian YA Novel…
Hey pals! Needed to shake things up a bit, so I started writing a vaguely satirical Dystopian YA Novel that both embraces the genre’s tropes and subverts them…here’re the first three chapters. Super, super early, draft, but wanted to share what I’ve got so far to see if peeps are interested in reading more. Enjoy!
THE DAY OF MANY
“The Day of Many is one of our most time-honoured traditions: a time when our smaller communities come together to recognize and celebrate the contribution they make to the safety and well-being of The County and how they in turn are protected and taken care of by The County’s scientists and soldiers, who keep the Great Virus in check and maintain order. And of course, there are performances by local Perk Squads. Gotta love their pep.”
-Dr. Montgomery Graves, Dear Leader of The County
It is always dark, before we perform.
My fellow Perks and I are standing in a small shelter, hastily constructed at the edge of the town square. On the small permanent Example Slab that dominates the town square, I can just make out Mayor Wilkins, giving his traditional Day of Many speech. Beside me, my partner Hyno’s big hand finds mine and squeezes. He knows I’m nervous. I know he’s nervous, too. We’re all nervous: the Day of Many is the second most important performance we’ll give this year, aside from Leader’s Day.
But this time is different. This time, the County will be watching.
Which means Dear Leader will be watching.
If things go well, my family will be greatly rewarded – and truth be told, we need it. Ever since Mom contracted The Purple Flu last summer, things have been hard for Jann and me. She’s my younger sister, but people tell us we look like twins. We act like it too. But Jann can’t earn as many portions as me, no matter how hard she works. Doctors just aren’t as important to the town as Perks; and with Mom sick, we both need to bring in as many portions as we can; and my bonus for performing well today will go a long way.
“You okay, Evie?” Hyno asks from beside me in that oddly high voice of his. For such a big guy, his voice is gentle and high. Elegant in contrast to the thick muscles that line his squat frame.
“Yeah,” I whisper back. It’s a lie, but a comforting one. Around us, the rest of the Perks maintain a focused silence and I’m worried Lila McLeod will hear. As the squad leader, she enforces strict discipline over pre-performance chatter. Nell Winthrop got kicked off the squad for it a few years ago; no one has seen or heard from her since.
“Because, it’s okay if you’re not,” Hyno continues, oblivious to Lila’s ears perking up and her head beginning to turn, “It’s a big deal, today. It’s okay to be scared or nervous…”
He does this when he’s nervous. He tries to calm other people down, thinks he’s helping them. In this case, he may well be dooming me.
“I’m fine,” I say, slightly more sharply.
“Okay,” he concedes, “But even if you aren’t, we’ll get through this together. I’ve got your back.” He flashes a broad, earnest smile. It doesn’t help.
“Thank-you,” I mutter, just as Lila’s gaze falls upon us, cruel as a Gorgon’s.
“Evelyn!” Lila hisses and my cheeks turn the same shade of red as my hair, “Do you want us to fail today? Shut that misshapen mouth of yours and focus.”
I twist my lip, forever slightly crooked from a scar I’ve had since I was young. Most people actively ignore it, but Lila isn’t like most people: she knows what hurts and she uses it. Lila turns back without waiting for a response. She makes statements, not questions.
I release Hyno’s hand, which drops to his side with a thwack.
“Thanks a lot.” I mutter, not particularly caring about the hurt in his large, chestnut eyes. He may look like a kicked puppy right now, but my family and I would look a lot worse if Lila kicks me off the squad.
I turn my eyes forward and my attention back to the task at hand. Running the routine in my head, thinking of each motion, step, each lift and toss.
Mayor Wilkens is finishing up, almost our time. My squadmates begin to shift and move on their toes, psyching themselves up. I mutter a silent prayer to Dear Leader.
“And now in honour of The Day of Many, the people of the town of Threecy present: your Perks!” Wilkins announces and just like that, we’re running, all smiles, waving – the whole town is here along with dignitaries and of course, the Media. I catch the cyclopean eye of one of the cameras and flash it my very best smile.
As we make our way to the Example Slab, I see all the familiar faces I’m used to seeing looking up at us with keen eyes and expectant faces. I see Jann and she winks, mouthing ‘You’ll do great!’ There’s a man I don’t recognize in the back row, his features obscured by a hood of some sort, who seemingly nods to me.
I feel a chill go down my spine, but I don’t know why. I’ve never seen him before, have I?
Then I hear the first few beats of our backing track and it all falls away: it’s show time.
In retrospect, I wish I was paying more attention to that man in the back. After all, he was about to upend my whole world…and forever change my life.
THE FUTURE MRS GERRY HIGGINS
“Guard duty sucks on the best of days, but at least on The Day of Many we’ve got Perks to look at. I like the perky ones, if you get my drift…”
-Gerry Higgins, Citadel of Hope guardsman
In a guard post at the south entrance to The Citadel of Hope, a portly guard named Gerry Higgins’ wandering attention suddenly sharpened.
“Hey Dayle!” he hollered over his shoulder, “Get in here! The Perks are on!” He quickly muted the feeds from the other security cameras and dialled up the sound on the County state-feed. He could hear his fellow guard, Dayle Herberaut clambering into the small booth with all the grace of a drugged elephant. The gangly man forced his way into the small viewing alcove and took up a position over Gerry’s shoulder.
“Oh my, yes,” he whistled, “LOVE these country girls.”
The Perk Squad of Town 3C, one of the more remote, rural towns in the County – a major cog in the food chain, mind you – was filled with the exact kind of women that kept Gerry awake at night. One in particular caught his eye, an athletic red-head with a dazzling strange, twisted smile who looked directly into the camera and smiled, seemingly just for him.
“I think I just met my future wife,” Gerry grinned, wolfishly.
Dayle chuckled appreciatively, though his eyes were locked firmly on the man running two steps behind the red-head. He’d never admit it to a thug like Gerry, but he much preferred the company of men and the muscle bound man with his ebony skin and earnest smile looked just like his type.
“Tell me about it,” Dayle muttered.
Together, the two men watched the Perks mount the stage and give one final wave to the audience, before their backing track began, one of those shapeless, nationalistic pop songs that Dear Leader and the Ministry of Loyalty made sure was playing somewhere at all times. The song never mattered in these situations, only who was dancing to them.
The Perks began their routine, the women in their form-fitted spandex moving in fits and starts, shaping and reshaping their bodies into new and ever-enthusiastic angles to the beat, the men standing by for the tosses and catches that always ended the performances.
It was a fully competent performance, if somewhat uninspired; but what more could you expect from a backwater hole like Town 3C? The red-head, though, was really throwing herself into the performance: her actions precise, passionate, genuinely exciting. For a hot second, Gerry found himself overwhelmed by an actual sense of nationalistic pride in The County and shot a quick glance to Dayle to make sure he hadn’t been caught.
Dayle neither saw nor cared, which was pretty standard for Dayle.
Suddenly, the red-head tripped, stumbled, and fell.
Even with the sound-buffers the techies at the Ministry of Loyalty had running at high, Gerry and Dayle could hear the gasps from the audience. To trip during a performance that Dear Leader himself…that was as good as treasonous.
The rest of the performance continued without her, as she struggled to her feet, helped by the big guy that Dayle had been eying, but she fell again immediately, favoring her ankle.
“Looks like your wife is out of play there, Gerry.”
Gerry sighed, “A traitor like her? Nah. I’m into the blonde at the front now.”
Dayle didn’t particularly care.
At least, not until the shooting began.
“Of course I had no idea anything untoward was going to happen on The Day of Many! It is one of our most sacred and respected holidays and here at Threecy and we take it very seriously. And knowing Dear Leader himself would be watching meant we had spent all the more time preparing! Our Perks are second to none.”
[Mayor Wilkens looks down, sadly]
“Or at least they were. It is hard to believe they’re all gone…”
-Mayor Amos Wilkens, following the Day of Many Massacre
I was in shock when I felt Hyno’s hands on me, pulling me to my feet.
She tripped me. Lila McLeod tripped me.
“I, I can’t –” I muttered, uselessly as Hyno hoisted me up.
“Don’t worry about it,” Hyno’s reassuring voice did little to quell my shock, rage, and embarrassment.
“No, you don’t understand – ”
“It doesn’t matter right now,” his voice never wavered, “You have to finish the routine.”
I know what he is saying makes sense, but I’m so confused, so scrambled right now that I barely hear it. Instead, I feel a sharp pain in my ankle and fall once more, yelping.
Hyno swears under his breath but then I feel him loop his broad shoulder under my arm and start dragging me back toward the edge of the Example Slab.
“What are you doing?” I hiss, “I have to-”
“No.” He says simply and firmly, “Not on that ankle.” And brokering no further debate, he pulled us off the back of the Example Slab, down the small ramp, and leaned me against the six feet of stone we’d just descended from. Much as I hated to admit it, I couldn’t stand and thus couldn’t perform – but it was Lila’s fault. Lila had just cost my family the extra portions, we do desparately needed…what I couldn’t figure out is why.
Hyno was examining my foot, when I finally realized that he wasn’t on the stage.
“What are you doing?” I yelled, “Get back up there, Hyno! You can still –“
He shakes his head, still cradling my ankle gently in his large hands, “Not until I’m sure you’re okay…”
I grab his head with both hands and look him square in the eyes that I can see are full of concern and worry, “I’M FINE. Go, finish the routine, there’s no reason we should both suffer because of Lila’s betrayal.”
I can see he’s still worried, but he’s a fool to stay down here when he could still earn the bonus; his family needs it too. He’s got a baby brother at home who is too young to know how hard things are in Threecy. I know he’s my partner in the Perks, but still…
“Go,” I implore.
He nods and lowers my ankle to the ground. Giving me one last look, he takes one of my hands and gently kisses it.
“I’ll be right back,” he says, then he’s gone.
My eyes follow Hyno as he mounts the ramp in one, big step, striding confidently back up and onto the stage. I feel blood rush to my face, a flurry of emotions rushing through me. What was that? I’ve known Hyno my entire life, but he’s always just been…Hyno. But the way he was looking at me, the way he took my hand, that kiss…could he be something more?
All these thoughts are rushing through my head as I hear the first gunshot and see Hyno’s head explode.
I’m deafened by a scream I barely recognize as my own.
The gunfire went on long after my throat grew dry, raspy, and my scream collapsed in hysterical sobs, as I dragged myself over to Hyno’s body, which had fallen sideways off the ramp onto the opposite side from me. Crawling awkwardly, I drag myself around, hearing screams and death above me, but my only thoughts are of Hyno. His kind smile, the comforting warmth of his hands, of the kiss that still lingers gently on the back of my hand.
On the future I only just realized I wanted with him.
It was too late the moment the bullet hit him, but still I shake his body, the warmth not yet faded. My mind won’t let me eyes register what has become of his face, the remains of which stay angled away from me as I shake him. I can’t stand it and finally look directly at it, but see nothing left of my friend in the mess of red that remains. I try to scream again, but my throat is too raw – my grief has no release.
A hand lands on my shoulder and a voice as cold and certain as steel whispers urgently, “We must go. Now.”
I barely hear it, eyes fixed on Hyno.
“You can’t help him, but you can still help yourself,” the voice came more urgently, “But we need to go now. They’ll be upon you soon.”
Rage overtakes grief – I’ve always been told I have a temper – I spin, shaking his hand off and throw a right hook into the stranger’s jaw. It’s like punching concrete, but his head cranks away never the less and I lunge at him. The man in the hood. The one I saw in the crowd.
“What did you do?!” I cry, with sudden, horrible certainty that he was behind this. That Hyno’s blood is on his hands.
“I’m trying to set you free, set us all free,” he snarls, checking his lip for blood, when he turns his gaze back upon me, I see his eyes are grey with violet irises. Then I see the teeth; his incisors are drawn to fine points.
Surprise out-weights my grief and rage.
“You’re, you’re…one of them?”
He nods solemnly, then looks to his right and hisses. Two County soldiers in their jet black armour are running around the corner, guns up.
“Too late. Good luck, Evelyn Kaspian.”
From somewhere in his cloak, the stranger throws a pellet at his feet, that erupts in a blast of grey-black smoke. I begin to choke and cover my eyes, but can feel him move away.
Then it dawns on me: how did he know my name?
This and all other thoughts abandon me, as the choking smoke overwhelms me and I lose consciousness. With my last ounce of strength, I reach out and take Hyno’s hand, but there is no warmth or comfort left in it.
“I’m sorry,” I rasp as I slip into darkness.