Youth Un-Wasted: A Segment for Young Authors
This is what you might call an icebreaker piece. It exists as the forerunner of a new segment that will feature the efforts of young authors -- those promising, highfalutin folk who birth word-children for the reading world.
Without waxing analytical, we will take a look at the anatomy of stories, as well as post synopses, chapters, and pieces of real, unpublished novels written by actual young people. Below, you’ll read the synopsis for one of my own unpublished novels, and below that, its first chapter.
The idea is to promote/expose young talent, particularly those who’ve completed full-length novels, but might be a little shy about sharing them.
This satirical story is called Emerald: Some YA Dystopian Bulls**t
My name is Piper Caltrans.
I am an Emerald.
I didn’t know it at first. Not for years. All information, suggestion, any trace or whisper on the topic of Emeralds was heresy. Being an Emerald, being a Glimmereyes, meant being hunted. And in Newbuquerque, New New Mexico, it usually meant death, too.
But I’m a survivor. I’m not afraid anymore.
I am an Emerald and this is my story.
It was after the 7th apocalypse, or the 8th—I can never remember which—that the Glimmereyes were cast from our walls and told never to return.
Glimmereyes were supposed to be bad for society. Bad News. So the Arbiters disposed of them after the Great War, in which a thermo-nuclear zombie virus bomb was detonated over every major city in the world, at once destroying and stylizing civilization. Global powers then, corrupted by avarice and incompetence, decided on forming fractured states for which new laws and constitutions were drawn up almost overnight. In these newly established borders they sought ways to heal the scorched planet. After a few hundred years of pitting high school kids against each other in death trials, tossing sixteen-year-olds in volcanos, and manufacturing love triangles, scientists and world leaders alike decided that the answer to human salvation did not rest—as many seemed to believe—with teenagers, but instead—and this came as a revelation—with what they called the Glimmereyes.
I still remember the announcement, as it was broadcast on all working televisions that day.
"Glimmereyes are dangerous," the head Arbiter announced, "And we’re pretty sure this isn’t just some random physical feature chosen to engineer superficial plot lines that might appeal to young people—no this is really, really real science."
I also remember the night my trial started, long before I knew what I was…
It’s dark out. I clutch the leather folds of my jacket, shivering against the harsh air. All around me, shrill sirens begin to wail, the sound tearing through the night, humming in my bones. I exhale deeply and glance at my watch. The time is 8:30. Curfew has set in.
Without another thought, I begin a soft lope through the packed snow and turn right down an empty thoroughfare. My head throbs, pulses with each heavy step. The wind bites at my face. I find myself wincing as I go; it’s as though a knife rattles loosely inside my skull, its edge finding a groove every once and a while, and...
My insides coil with molten fear as I wheel about a dark corner and pass close to a ringing curfew alarm—a megaphone shaped speaker mounted on a steel pole.
Cursing, I double down on my speed. This was cutting it close. Too close. Really close, guys.
S**t’s gone to hell in Newbuquerque. And with the addition of last month’s law, a law that included the expulsion of all suspected Glimmereyes, the fear is more tangible than ever. It settles heavy and thick over the stoops, alleys, and chimneys of this town. It is not unlike snow, and sometimes I wonder if it is the snow.
A reel of memory blinks through my mind. Images of my mother, her shroud-like auburn hair wrapping around her shoulders, the deep rose flush of her cheeks; that crinkled, familiar smile…
The knife in my skull must drop into my rib cage, because these memories cut my heart like a blade, a blade of metal or something.
Snow continues to fall. The sky is a black, velvet curtain plunging over the frosted brick buildings of Newbuquerque—my home for the last fourteen years. Though their pitch is great, the sirens’ shrieking is swallowed by the city, as though muted by a vast and dark loneliness extending across the universe. I grimace in the frigid sweeps of ice.
True, Glimmereyes are dangerous; everybody knows that. What I don’t understand is the curfew. If all Glimmereyes were either executed or sent beyond the wall, why impose such restrictions on regular, brown-eyed folk? I calm myself as I run, eyes searching for the right street. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. After all, ever since the Arbiters exiled the Glimmers from our society, and decreed that all those remaining behind or hiding would be hunted down, the world has been a much safer place.
At least, that’s what the Arbiters tell us.
I continue to run home, following the familiar streets (all empty) to the tilted brick apartment complex known as Rudgers. Sparing the building’s rough exterior a brief glance, but never once slowing, I charge through the doors and step quickly through the sparsely populated lobby of my home. Warmth surrounds me like a blanket; the heater is working today. At least there’s that, I think, taking care to avoid eye contact with the men hunched over in the corner, their boozy propositions mumbled in my general direction. I keep moving until I reach the elevator. Within seconds, I’m inside the filthy lift as it rises jarringly toward my floor. Floor three. As I wait, my mind returns to the drunks in the lobby, and pity passes through my gut. Half the reason I ignore their wolf-whistles, the reason I don’t clobber them senseless, is that I know they have no bite behind them. These are broken, weak men; men who probably couldn’t even stand unaided, let alone threaten me. Taunting a beautiful young girl is all they have left.
A weak bell dings, and the metal doors whoosh aside, revealing a flickering hallway drenched in dingy fluorescent light. The stained, violently crimson shag gives under my feet as I follow the corridor to my room. The hallway carpet always makes me cringe, as I imagine the kind of filth that must be clinging to its soft and ancient fibers.
I stop abruptly.
And here it is, right underneath the one light that doesn’t flicker at all, but is instead broken, and covers this section of hallway in darkness. Room 45 B.
I knock twice and push the paint-chipped door ajar. The smell of raw garlic meets my nose and my face screws up against it.
My mother sweeps me into her arms, crushing my ribs in the process. I manage a muffled “hey” before I’m dropped and subsequently leveled with a blazing glare intense enough to melt steel girders.
“WHERE ON EARTH—?”
“Got caught up, mom.” I cut across her quick, and grin weakly at her bewildered stammering. “Had to deliver a package to Pablo.”
Mom’s face sags, her reply caught in her throat. She is not the auburn-haired beauty queen I remember. Years of fear and depression have riddled her surface with craters and tectonic marbling. Great chasms trace places where once were small cracks, and two dim brown eyes—grown shortsighted from years of staying indoors—narrow so as to behold my face better.
“P—Pablo?” she repeats nervously, still ready to burst at any moment. Her hands grip my shoulders, trembling slightly. “And he provided you with a note, did he?”
“He did.” I lie, then shrug with practiced nonchalance. “Obviously.”
Pablo runs the bakery I work for. He wasn’t there today...
But this seems to do the trick; Mom’s manic expression melts away, replaced by one of exhaustion. She leaves my side and collapses into her folding chair. “Thank god. I was worried a Glimmereye might have…”
I scoff. “Mom there hasn’t been a Glimmereye in Newbuquerque since the Great War.”
Mom throws me a mingled look of confusion and tiredness. “I though it was the Great Fire.”
I shake my head. “No, no, the Great Fire came after the Great War, and both came before the Great Rending.”
“Of course, of course.”
This correction aside, I have to admire mom keeping track of all the terrible events that shattered our world of long ago. We call that world the “Before World” a time of “paradise” and a time before the Glimmers. It’s confusing enough to be old and boring. Add the fact that we’re poor and not particularly attractive, you got yourself a recipe for a tough life. That in mind, it must be hard for Mom to keep up with modern terminology.
I find a seat at our plastic dinner table, settle into it, and feel my bones creak gratefully against the feeble chair. My eyes roll about the room, picking out everyday things—the white linoleum floor, the cerulean box of Captain Crunch, the copper wires that power our shitty toaster. I catch myself in the mirror pinned to the pealing wall directly across from my seat. Two brown eyes stare back at me. The face around them is simple. Olive skin, and a rich collection of light freckles make me look like an Irish girl with black hair.
My favorite features are my cheekbones. They, at least, are sharp and defined. They are the reason I get called pretty sometimes.
“Hey mom,” I start, still staring at my familiar reflection.
“You ever wonder why the Glimmereyes were so bad?”
Though it’s not overt, I can feel her tense at the question.
“They were bad news, Piper. Trust me.”
I frown, continuing to gaze at the mirror. “Bad enough to ban all magazines depicting them…”
I pause and reach slowly toward my jacket pocket. “Calston almost got arrested for having one today.”
My mom’s head swivels toward me. “What?!”
“I… I wanted to help him out.” I’m starting to feel guilty, terrified as my fingers close around the rolled up magazine. “So… seeing as how no one was suspicious of me—“
“Piper, what did you do?”
Abandoning pretense, I quickly toss the magazine onto the table before me, releasing it as though it burns my fingers. My mom’s look of shock is both immediate and fleeting. Her face crumples into rage.
“PIPER TUNGSTEN CARBIDE RIFLE DOPPLER RADAR CALTRANS!”
“He needed my help, mom!” I protest, rising to my feet, suddenly fierce. “They were going to arrest him!”
“And he deserved it!” Mom rages wildly. She’s been like this for the last year or so—a powder keg. “Glimmereyes are dangerous, Piper! They’re…” She glances heavily at the magazine, now unrolling slowly on the dinner table—“Bad news…”
Panting, I look down at the face on the magazine. A handsome boy beams back up at me with black untamable hair and a jawline that just don’t quit. His eyes aren’t brown, like normal peoples are, but a light shade of roguish blue. The magazine title reads: VOGUE. He smiles charismatically, as if without a care in the world. I stare at those odd, beguiling, dangerous blue eyes.
Outside, the sirens rise to a crescendo over the city and then peter out, rebounding into silence. Curfew has ended; anyone left outside at this hour will be arrested on suspicion of being a Glimmereyes.
If you’d like to submit your own story for a chance to be featured on the segment, contact us here: email@example.com