Author Topic: VICTIMLESS (Reworked, YA Urban Fantasy, Mature Themes, 1934 words)  (Read 109 times)

Offline Zaheer547

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Hi everyone.

I'm not new here but I seek more help and criticism. Quite a while back, I had posted the first chapter of my WIP, VICTIMLESS. A YA Urban Fantasy. It had gotten mixed reviews and I had gone back to rework it and now I'm here with a new first chapter that I absolutely love. It would be so kind if you would take a look and give me some feedback.

WARNING: Mature themes are discussed.

Side note: I am also currently looking for more beta readers, as my novel is complete, and I am open to beta reading for anyone else. PM me.

Thank you and enjoy.





I cut myself - off of the extending thorns of the trees in my path, not in the other way if that's what you thought.

Twigs break beneath my feet as the moonlight sets in and shines through the holes of the top of the forest roof. Vast contorted trees - as if they had come straight out of a horror movie - stand tall on my way home on this late evening. (Or early morning.) I had lost track of the time after taking one too many shots of a slightly yucky tequila. It was all that I could afford. Can’t sneak out with too much money otherwise Abuela would freak. The typical brown family questions: With who? Where? What time? You know the rest.

The air temperature has dropped and the icy wind strikes me as if subtly dull needles stab my skin leaving the tiny goosebumps that race across my skin in its wake.
Darkness surrounds me and I use my hands to try to move leaves out of the pathway. Doing this allows some moonlight to poke through which gives me just enough to see what’s ahead of me. With every foot forward, I make sure I step very lightly to ensure no echo comes with it.

I look up at the bits of the black sky that I can see, I didn’t intend to be out this late. Abuela also usually sets a curfew. Fortunately, my phone died so I won’t have had to hear about it. A little bit of guilt makes its way into my chest. She’s always been there for me after Mom and Dad... She raised me like her own daughter. She’s made me into half the person I am today.

And I, like the other half idiot that I am, decided to take the shorter route home through the forest. Like in those cliche horror movies; some idiot girl always takes the forest because she’s that desperate to run away from the murderous killer. Those girls are usually blondes so what does that say about me?
Deeper into the forest I go, the darker it gets. At this point I feel like I’m about halfway through the couple hundred yards of tall dark wooden terrors. Eyes of the inhabitant creatures begin to glow as their natural night vision kicks in. Deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I try to calm myself down. Dead phone means I don’t have a flashlight. I’m using whatever of my five senses I can muster to make my way home.

In a far off distance along the horizon, I get glimpses of what seems to be the lights of the neighborhood street. Either that or it’s my mind playing tricks on me. Making me feel safer so I don’t freak.

I finally reach the other side of the forest safe and sound. Crossing the street, I dread opening the door to meet Abuela’s face and see her mad at me. I hesitate at first and consider sneaking up through my bedroom window but something catches my nose and I can almost sense it through the walls.

I open the door and see Abuela in the kitchen. Making cookies. I slowly latch the door behind me. The smell of flour and vanilla immediately hit my nose and linger in the air.
“Hola, mija,” she says with no anger. “Do you mind helping me in the kitchen?”

I’m taken aback at first. No scolding, no death stares, nothing. Strolling towards her, I ask, “you aren’t mad?” and head into the heaven that is a Mexican’s kitchen. Every time I see her face-to-face it just brings back memories that make me want to tear up.  I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was so excited to see Mom and Dad after I got off the school bus but all I remember was the yellow tape. After that, things got complicated. I’ve been practically raised by my Abuela and she’s taught me everything I know. Including how to make cookies.

“It’s okay, mi amor. I was waiting up for you anyway while watching mis telenovelas. I decided to make some cookies too. Perfect for breakfast in the morning. How was the movie? Leigh was there, right?”

“Yeah, Leigh was there,” I say. Abuela has always been so fond of Leigh. Appreciated that I had made a good friend this time. “Movie was pretty shit.” That’s a lie considering it was a party and Leigh was in fact not there. She decided to opt out last minute but that’s okay.

“Hey,” she takes her whisk and holds it up towards me letting some of the batter fly, “watch your language.”

“Lo siento,” I say wanting to die of laughter at her version of a knife threat

“It’s alright. Here help me. Get the chocolate chips.” We’ve been baking together since I was in diapers. I have this great memory of when the entire bowl of batter ended up on my head and dripped down all over my face. It was not lumpy at all and the peaks were stiff - so that was a plus side.

"Okay all done," I say pushing the last tray into the oven. "Let’s get to bed, Abuela."

"Yes. Let’s go.”

The night slowly creeps in and as I lay in bed I notice how, when the light from the hallway shines, the door frame actually needs another paint job, and so does the window frame and so do my walls. I go on like this until procrastination is not in my mind anymore and I can finally fall off to sleep. Everything is peaceful.

Obviously that doesn’t last long when a jump in the tree outside my window causes me to turn swiftly. The moonlight shines bright through and lights up the entire room. I get up to look outside the window. Standing several feet above ground, I watch out into the San Diego darkness to look for the cause of my concern.
When I can’t seem to find anything, I decide to slide up the window. The cold wind already starts to make its way through my clothes and cements itself deep into my bones. I take a couple of steps back. The stifling air is making it hard for me to breath and I can feel my heart wanting to rip through my sternum as fear slowly builds. For some reason, I feel like I’ve been watched the entire night.

As if  I’m drawn to the outside, I climb down through the window and land in the street. Right between the house and the forest that I came through.
Another movement to the right of the tree line catches me and instantaneously I turn to face it. I walk slowly towards the tree line until the street lights can no longer illuminate my path and I’m deep into the woods - again. My heart is racing.

They say you have two natural responses in a fearful situation; fight or flight. For me, a third one kicks in: freeze. I’m just standing here. Helpless. I’m not one to scream so this death would go unheard but I’m sure as hell I’ll go down with a fight.
“I really don’t want to get eaten today.”

Strength builds in me and I clench my fists and stand firm as adrenaline becomes indifferent to the blood in my veins. It pumps through me giving me the energy and ferocity of a wolf - a fitting animal noting the setting that I’m in.

I plunge through the shrubbery and foliage to find myself on the other side with nothing behind it. The fear in my heart begins to subside as I think I must have imagined the movements. I take another deep breath and close my eyes. It’s okay.

“Hi,”

I open my eyes faster than I’ve ever recalled myself doing so. I turn around pivoting my head looking around to the source of the voice. Nothing.
“Surely my alcohol tolerance is a lot more than this.” I tell myself. I shrug it off and lift my leg up to make the next step back home when a sudden laughter fills the air. It’s so distinguishable from the background sounds of the dark and mysterious forest. The laughter is eerie with a sense of mischief behind it. El Diablo - first thought that comes to my mind. My heart starts racing again. Pounding actually. I can feel the blood rushing through my body this time which shortens my breaths. I’m absolutely terrified.

“You’re not drunk, Valentina,” the voice says again. This time I actually focus on making it out. It’s a boy’s. Someone around seventeen or eighteen years old.

“Okay, it’s not my mind because ‘it’ will definitely know that I go by as Chelsea.”

A sudden silence fills the air creating a dreadful tension between my breathing as I try to look for the source of the voice.

“Over here.” I turn to look at the edge of the opening where the darkness meets the moonlight.

Slowly, particles of light start to gather together and cascade down taking form as they fall to the floor. It reveals a leg’s shape first. Then an arm’s next to it. My eyes trace the body parts until they all join into one solid body of light that gleams and glitters under the moon.

The bluey white fades out leaving a translucent silhouette of a boy. I stare blankly and watch as his eyes form and shine grey as they stare directly at me. As he moves, light particles dust off him and reform again creating his body form. He whisks his left hand back and forth between the dark forest area and the bright lunar opening and I see as his body disappears without the presence of light and reforms when he pulls it back in a truly mesmerizing sight.

“Un...fantas...you’re a ghost,” I say in shock and disbelief.

“Yeah, and you’d be surprised what the previous humans have called me.”

“...What?”

“Well you are my fifth attempt, perhaps you’d actually be the first,” he says and pauses for a minute before continuing, “I need your help.”

“...What!” I shout this time. “Ay, Chelsea, qué me pasó? How much have I had to drink?” I whimper out and stumble a few steps back.
 
“Listen to me,” his voice gets stern and worrisome as he turns back looking at something beyond the trees, ”you need to come with me. Now. I’ll explain everything on the way but I fear they may have found me-“

“No, no, no. This is all just in your head, Chelsea,” I try to calm myself down by closing my eyes but it doesn’t work and I snap them open to get a look at him again to make sure I’m not dreaming. “What do you mean you need my help? Who’s they? What the hell is going on?”

“Chelsea,” his face frowns and he rushes towards me floating through the air without laying a foot on the ground. I dash backwards without lifting an eye of the marvel that I’m seeing.

“Dude, stop. This is really freaking me out!” It feels odd saying that to what seems to be a form of PTSD that my psychologist warned me about.

“Chelsea, we don’t have time for this! I fear we may already be too la-“

A scream in the immediate distance cuts him off. A frail, old voice that sends shivers down my spine when I hear it shriek. It causes me to forget everything and look towards home. It ruins me.

“Abuela!”

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: VICTIMLESS (Reworked, YA Urban Fantasy, Mature Themes, 1934 words)
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2020, 06:22:04 AM »
A couple of observations if I may.

1   The business with walking home through the forest and all the things that might frighten your character is a false start and achieves nothing as far as the plot is concerned. She gets into a panic about nothing, so the reader is left wondering why our expectations were not met. The scene also goes on for too long and all we know at the end of it is this:
Quote
I finally reach the other side of the forest safe and sound.
It's not enough reward in exchange for reading more than 500 words.

If the forest is to play a significant part in the plot you can introduce it later - when she climbs out of her bedroom window maybe.

2   The domestic scene with the grandmother baking cookies in the dead of night again achieves very little other than establishing that your main character was raised by her abuela. I found it far too clichéed and sickly sweet. It's also less likely to appeal to a YA audience than having your heroine yelled at for arriving home in such a state because it's so untrue to life.

3   The only part that intrigued me was the way you refer to her parents' death. The yellow crime scene tape tells us so much in so few words. That's excellent foreshadowing. Presumably we will discover more later. But then you have her climbing out of her bedroom window and conversing with some invisible entity - a voice.

Her behaviour here is completely at odds with what has gone before - her terror at having to walk through the woods has been replaced by the inexplicable decision to step out of her comfort zone into the unknown. There has to be something more than a 'jump in a tree' to get her to leave her bedroom in the middle of the night. And if this is meant to be scary, we need the build-up of tension to be more threatening and less jokey. I can't decide whether this is going to be a paranormal thriller or a slushy teen romance between a young girl and a ghostly boy.

My advice, keep writing but make sure every scene drives the plot forwards and in the direction you want it to go.