Release day is coming soon! To be precise, release day is happening in exactly one week. Don’t worry — I’ll provide you all with a link to get the ebook, paperback, and hardcover at a very, very discounted price. As a college student, I shudder at the idea of paying exorbitant amounts of money on books.
In honor of the nearing release, I am sharing the whole first chapter of my novel, Ethereal! In this dystopian novel, the protagonist, Reyhan, is a government agent — just like her parents. Let’s read about her first day as a citizen.
The gun feels cool on my palm. The trigger is familiar to my finger. My first handgun that dad gave me, the one I learned to shoot with. I was told to choose a weapon to bring with me, but not what my task would be. It seems fitting to use my first gun for my initiation, like I am completing my story with the tool I began it with. Mom and dad are outside, looking in through the glass wall that takes up one side of the room. Their faces are mostly void of emotion, but I can see the lines between my mom’s eyebrows.
She looks nervous. She shouldn’t be.
For the past week I wasn’t able to see them. Once this is over, we will be reunited – if I pass. The female Proctor looks up from her tablet and smiles at me. Her lab coat is the same shade of white as the rest of the walls. Her light hair, and even lighter skin makes her almost blend into her surroundings.
Automatically I analyze her. She is thin, but her skin isn’t very tight and doesn’t have any hint of muscle. Although she looks only ten years older than me, her face is slightly wrinkled – especially around her eyes. Small, cut-like wrinkles point harshly towards her mouth, telling me that she smokes. Her cheeks are wide, and when she moves it does not seem deliberate. I can tell she is weak and clumsy.
I wonder what her initiation was.
“Are you ready?” she asks me. Her voice is warm and comforting, like she is expecting me to be nervous.
Not wanting to be vulnerable, I push away the tingling sensation that I feel in my fingers and stomach. Instead, I focus on the adrenaline that I know will come. I think about the smooth black metal in my hand that has been with me through most of my life. Looking her straight in the eyes, I nod.
“Perfect,” she says. “It’s nice to see someone so composed. Usually minors are sweating bullets right now, especially the girls.”
I don’t know what to say to that.
“Oh, right.” She looks down at the tablet. “You’re Militia. Very quiet and used to stress. I’ve never gotten to test one before.”
“There aren’t many Militia,” I say.
“Right. Well, here we go,” she says, opening the door I entered from.
I stiffen when I see two large male guards. Do I have to fight them? My muscles relax when I see them bring in a smaller woman. I’m strong, but taking on two big males would be taxing, and I could possibly fail. But I know I can take the female. Her shoulders are hunched and she stares at the ground. She is maybe a few years older than me, probably 20, and wears a grey uniform that is too large for her. From the way the uniform folds in wrinkles around her, it looks like it is at least two sizes too big. Her nose is slightly red and liquid is streaming all over her face. She sniffles, and averts her eyes away from me.
When I see my Proctor place the female in a metal chair that one of the guards carried in I take a minute to reanalyze the situation. I can’t fight the girl if she is sitting on a chair. I am supposed to fight her, right? A coldness washes over me as I register that the girl will be defenseless. The guards handcuff her to the chair.
My stomach sinks when I finally realize what my initiation is. I am not supposed to fight the girl.
I am supposed to kill her.
The guards nod at me out of respect as they walk back out the door. Militia is a prestigious trade.
My head feels light and the room seems much brighter than it did before. I shift in my clothes, which feel a size tighter than they did a moment ago. My eyes find my Proctor, and she smiles. Her lips pull back, exposing too much teeth, and the smile does not reach her eyes.
“I think you know what you need to do, Reyhan,” she says softly, but in the small room I feel like she is shouting.
Swallowing hard, I turn and face the girl. Her shoulders shake with what I assume are her sobs, and she is doubled over in the chair. She seems so pathetically small compared to the uniform that envelopes her. Trying not to think, I raise my handgun. The girl must’ve registered my movement because her head snaps up. She looks me straight in the eye.
Her eyes are the most beautiful light shade of green that I have ever seen.
Her face is striking, with such hard angles. Dark hair that could almost be black tumbles over her face, softening the lines. Closing my eyes, I try to focus. I do not want to analyze her; I do not want to know anything about her.
When I open my eyes again, she is still looking at me. Water is brimming in her eyes, but she is no longer crying. The angles on her face grow sharper, her eyes narrow and she looks at me in contempt. As hard as I try, I cannot stop my instincts to read and analyze her. I automatically register the softness of her skin, and the dark shadows under her eyes. She slowly looks me from head to toe, and her eyes narrow even more. She sits up straight in the chair and squares her shoulders.
My adrenaline takes over. I force myself to stop thinking of her as a person. She is a target, simple as that. And I can’t spend all day staring at her.
My shooting arm is up straight. I widen my feet for support, steady my shoulders, and lift up my left hand to brace the gun. Just like dad showed me to.
When she sees me do this, the girl’s momentary strength crumbles. She takes a deep breath, leans to the side and looks at the Proctor desperately.
“So that’s it?” the girl says shrilly, just as I am about to pull the trigger. I stop, and look at the Proctor to see what I should do. The Proctor just observes me, typing on her tablet. I guess she is recording my reactions.
I look back at the girl again, and this time I see her eyes are open wide and wild, looking around the room. She starts fidgeting in the chair, pulling at her cuffs, and I can hear her short desperate breaths as easily as if they were my own. The ferocity she showed me a few seconds ago is gone. I should just shoot her now and put her out of her misery. I should. Just press the trigger down and it’ll be over and I can go home. I want to go home.
The tingling in my fingers comes back, and I swear that the light reflecting off of the white walls is growing brighter, so bright that it hurts my eyes. The tingling spreads through my arms. Stand tall, dad would say to me if he were with me right now. The words calm me down immediately. I must shoot the girl; it is my directive. I am doing the right thing. I am standing tall. Slowly I exhale, and my resolve is back.
“You’re not even going to say a word to me?” The girl’s voice is so shrill and breathy I can barely understand her. Her chest rises and falls rapidly with her short breaths. Soon she will begin to hyperventilate.
I refuse to kill her while she is defenseless and terrified. I’m not very good at conversation, but I try to think of a way to calm her down a bit. That way she won’t fidget so much and affect my aim.
“What’s your name?” I ask. My voice is clear, but doesn’t sound very comforting. I need to sound like the Proctor. She calms nervous people down all of the time.
“What?” The girl sits up straight, and her breathing begins to slow to a more natural pace.
“What’s your name?” I say again. My voice is still clear, but has more of a conversational tone. The girl stares at me for a minute, and then at my gun. She meets my eyes again.
“Therese,” she says.
Immediately, I regret asking. Her name reminds me of her humanity. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the Proctor biting the tip of her tongue. Her mouth is half open, and I think she is going to say something to intervene, but I shake my head at her. I can do it. I have no other choice.
I will not shame my family.
“Therese,” I repeat. “That’s nice.”
Therese bites her lip and nods. Her muscles aren’t as tense, her eyes are not watering. She nods again.
I am still in my shooting position. I aim carefully for in between her eyes. That way, it will be over so quick that she won’t even feel any pain.
Pull the trigger, I tell myself. But my finger doesn’t move. My palm is beginning to sweat, and I am afraid it will interfere with my aim. The whiteness of the room grows even brighter, and I am in the center of it all. The walls are crushing me into the gravity of what I am about to do.
A quick look at my parents reminds me that I can end this now. I can go home.
No more wasting time.
I meet Therese’s gaze. The watery light green eyes stare hard into my plain brown ones.
I take a breath and pull the trigger.
Her head whips back with the impact, and I know that I hit my target spot on.
Therese crumples over, thick crimson blood oozing out into the lap of her uniform with each beat of her dying heart, and I know she is gone. It is over.
As I stare at her my chest and throat tightens hard, and I feel like I can’t breathe. There is a pulling in my eyes, just like I used to get when I cried as a child.
Stand tall, I say to myself again. Closing my eyes, I think of meeting mom and dad in a few minutes. They will be so proud of me. I should be proud, too. It is hard for me to tear my mind away from Therese.
I look to the Proctor, to see if I am allowed to leave. Her full attention is focused on Therese and the increasing amount of blood that is overflowing from her lap and spreading to the white ground, slowly inching towards me. For a minute I wait for the Proctor to acknowledge me, but she doesn’t.
“Did I pass?” I ask.
The Proctor’s head snaps up to look at me. There is a crease in between her eyebrows, and I see the traces of a grimace forming around her mouth. She swallows.
“Yes, you’ve passed, Reyhan. You are officially a citizen. Congratulations,” she says. Her voice is flat, and void of the perky professionalism she greeted me with. She opens the door and indicates that I may leave.
The blood has spread so much that I would have to walk on the edge of the room to exit. Part of me wants to walk straight through the puddle of blood, collecting as much as I can on my shoes to spread throughout the rest of the building.
But I don’t. I walk to the edge of the room, watching Therese with every step. When I step out, the door swings shut behind me, closing with a click.
For years I have been thinking about the day I could finally join society. The day that kids talked about at school with anticipation and excitement. Passing initiation is supposed to be a victory.So why do I feel so hollow?
So I hope you all enjoyed the first chapter! Be on the lookout to win free harcover/paperback copies!