Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #9

TITLE: Red Dirt White Noise
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Remembering how to breathe is harder than it sounds.

Without the respirator tube, too many seconds tick past by the time my brain tells my body what it needs to do. Lungs sputtering, I pull air in, let it out, and swallow around the pain.

I cough and pray my heart won’t rocket out of my chest until enough oxygen kicks in, and my body slowly comes back under my control. Took long enough. I can still feel echoes of the tube where it was wrenched out of me. Like throwing up a hard, thick straw, leaving my throat bruised but intact.

But I’m here—breathing—and too soon, I wish I wasn’t.

I try to sit, but my arms aren’t quite ready to listen. I flop back against the hospital bed. Everything grates. Every breath. Every movement.

My eyes water as I blink back the harsh light of the examination room. Antiseptic dulls my nose. The crease of my arm where my port was aches even though the skin’s now healed over. My jumpsuit—brand new when we left Earth—has that itchy, worn-too-long feeling. I need a bath. And a one-way ticket back home.

The med tech hums as she checks my vitals. Hands brisk and impersonal like those of some manufacturing line inspector. She checks off boxes with her stylus, then signs the bottom of her touch screen with a well-practiced flourish.

She looks up and smiles. “Welcome to Mars...” She glances at the screen “…Nadira Kordell.”


  1. Um, yeah. This is AWESOME. Okay, no cheerleading. But really, it is.

    My one note: the sentence, "Took long enough." I'd recommend either reword or cut.

    Best wishes!

  2. I liked this.

    There is a problem with the first line of the second paragraph. It sounds awkward. Consider, "...too many seconds tick past before my..."

  3. Got to say, I loved it. I was hooked by the first sentence. But I agree with MargotG, that sentence did not flow quite well, her suggestion sounds better.

  4. I really enjoyed this. The first line is brilliant. The narrative voice is spot on and all the little sensory details bring the situation to life.

    The only sentence I didn't like was 'But I'm here - breathing - and too soon, I wish I wasn't.' You're using first person present, so everything you write has to be what the narrator experiences, as she experiences it. Yet I can't get a handle on what, in that precise moment, makes her wish she wasn't breathing. It feels like that line should fall either earlier (when she's talking about her bruised throat) or later (when she says everything grates). Sorry - not sure I've explained myself very well here - but I hope you can see what I'm getting at.

    My only other nitpick is 'blink back the harsh light'. I think of blinking something back as meaning blinking it back INTO your eyes (like blinking back tears). Whereas she's trying to keep the light OUT.

    Overall, though, I couldn't find much to criticise, and I would definitely read on.

  5. Great writing. My only suggestion is to omit, "Took long enough." After reading the paragraph again, I understood what you meant, but on first reading it pulled me out of the story.

  6. I love this excerpt. The only thing I'd suggest is that I wanted a bit more leading up to the "I need a bath. And a one-way ticket back home." Because while I got that the narrator was disoriented and in pain, presumably that was as expected... Is it worse than she expected? Does it feel just "wrong" in some other way? Is there another reason she arrives and immediately wants to head home? It doesn't have to be much, but I think a bit more might strengthen that line.

  7. This is all kinds of awesome! My main complaint right now is that I can't read more. The description of her remembering how to breath is fantastic, you pretty much had me hooked from go. I love that she's living on Mars, it's so close it seems possible, making it so easy to get drawn in. Good luck!

  8. I agree with some of the little nitpicks others have mentioned (Took long enough, too many seconds..., blink back the light). I would add that I'd rather you didn't say, "But I'm here" if you aren't going to specify where "here" is.

    I also agree that this is terrific. Great physical descriptions. Good job conveying the confusion of a weird situation. Love the first line.

  9. You had me all the way through, until the last sentence. I had imagined this girl had gone through some calamity, what with not being able to breathe, having a grungy suit and needing a bath, and then it turned out she hadn’t been on an adventure at all. She had simply taken a trip to mars and had to get used to a different atmosphere. It was a let down, because now, everything starts all over again. Everything that happened before the announcement that she was on Mars, doesn’t mean anything, and all I know is that a girl from earth traveled to Mars. That’s the hook, and for me, it isn’t enough because it doesn’t hint at anything to come. There's no hint of a problem. Anything could happen at this point. Might this be a case of starting too early?

  10. This does a good job of being interesting right away. We’ve seen the “remembering to breathe is hard” concept before, but it’s usually in relation to seeing a cute boy, so we were happy to see you subvert that expectation here with an actual medical situation.

  11. I liked this opening, how active the scene was, and the visceral reactions. Given the genre is Sci Fi, I assumed she may have been transported in space, this was not a surprise to me. I think we can be a bit harsh on first pages, so I don't mind that I don't know everything about this story yet. Though I do think that her own narrative thoughts could hint at how she feels about her situation, and her awareness of it. Is she happy to be on Mars, hates it, shocked? Is she wondering where she is? That type of thing.