Following you will find an excerpt from the first chapter of a novel on which I’ve been working. The title of the novel has always been To Save Conliana in my head, but I suppose that’s going to change at some point. I hope you enjoy it, and please, some feedback (positive and negative) would be most welcome.
Evie’s heart was going to explode, she was sure of it. Even if she outran the thing hurtling after her through the trees, there was no way she would survive the ensuing heart attack. As she darted under a branch, Evie snuck a hopeful glance behind her.
Nope, still there. Keep running! Evie groaned, and upped her speed. The monster (there really was no other word for it, no matter how stupid she felt saying it) was still behind her. It was far enough that she couldn’t hear it breathing but close enough that she could feel it staring at her. And man, that stare felt pissed.
Evie saw a patch of sun dappling the ground ahead of her, and made a beeline toward it. She was desperate to feel something on her skin other than spider webs and wet leaves, even if for a moment. She slowed down only a little as the warmth slid over her bare arms and shoulders. She barely felt it before it was gone, and she was plunged back into the gross darkness of the forest surrounding her. She sighed and thundered on, crashing through thorny knee-high bushes. The ground beneath her sneakers was wet, and she slipped every other stride. She had been running for so long she couldn’t feel her feet anymore, and that only made it worse. Each time one of Evie’s feet hit the mud, it threatened to betray her and bring her tumbling down.
As she ran through a particularly dense wall of bushes and trees, a sharp pain suddenly ripped through Evie’s side. She stumbled and fell to her knees. Oh god, what now!? She grimaced, and tried to suck in a deep breath. No such luck; it felt like someone had just shoved a knife through her ribcage. Kneeling in the mud, Evie quickly tried to stretch out her muscles and breathe a little deeper. She managed to rub the stitch out a little before the monster came bursting through the trees. Evie’s head snapped up as its feet hit the ground behind her. Then, for the first time, the creature bellowed. The sound was raw, guttural, and altogether unnatural. It scared the hell out of Evie. For some reason, the sound made it all real. She had been running for hours, but the entire chase had been a silent one. The only noises the creature made came from its huge frame bumbling through a dense forest. And so, without daring to look back, she exploded forward, her sneakers flying over rock, stump, and the occasional startled woodland creature.
Evie powered through the trees. Her mind was a blank, her muscles and nerves concentrating solely on survival. Something about that scream had set off every alarm her body had, and it was forcing her into hyperdrive. She ran for what must have been miles, all the while the creature not far behind. While Evie could feel her body breaking down by the minute, that stupid monster never slowed down.
How can one forest possibly be this huge?! Am I going in circles? Evie was about to collapse right there on the forest floor when a brilliant flash of light ahead blinded her.
What the hell? Evie kept running and squinted at the light. What is that? When it finally came into focus, Evie couldn’t resist letting out a squeal. It was daylight! Real, non-tree-obscured, open-aired daylight! And it was right there! Evie hurtled toward it, aching to breathe something other than wet. The monster saw the light, too, and it let out another blood-curdling scream. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is…
The light was close now. She could see a bit of blue sky beyond it, and even a little grass. There was something else looming out there, a building maybe. And there was noise: normal, everyday noise. People were talking, a few birds, and a dog. She could hear a dog barking. Evie almost felt bad for what she was about to do. Here she was, a 20-year-old girl caked in mud and sweat running for her life from some terrible creature, about to burst into the middle of society. That’s not going to be traumatic or anything. She was close enough now to see shapes and colors emerging from the light. It was definitely a road of some kind. A farmer’s market was seeping through the edge of the forest. A few flags and banners were waving in the wind and she saw the hazy figures of children scurrying between the dark brown booths.
Three strides later, and it happened. Evie sucked in one last mildewy gasp of air, closed her eyes, and leaped into the open air. She winced, expecting to hear a multitude of shrieks and screams echo around her. But as her feet hit the dry dirt with a little puff of dust, all she heard was the dog barking. And it wasn’t even vicious barking. Evie kept moving, but she whipped her head around to try and find the monster in the trees. She hadn’t heard it hit the dirt and assumed it was lurking along the edge, waiting for her. And that’s when she stopped dead in her tracks. She turned her whole body around, felt her jaw drop, and fell to her knees.
It wasn’t there. The forest, the creature, the hordes of bugs… it was all simply gone. Utterly confused, scared, and exhausted, Evie slumped to the ground. And then, she started to cry. But not small, dignified tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes- oh no. She cried the big embarrassing fat tears that dripped off her chin and nose onto her shirt, mixing with the mud and sweat. Dropping her head into her hands, Evie let go. Every thought and emotion smashed into her brain and body. She knew two things: one, that she had been running all day- her stiff and cramping muscles were proof enough of that. And two, that she was very likely completely insane. Where was the forest? She was covered in mud, leaves, and bugs and her shins were cut to ribbons from the thorn bushes. But when she looked around, there was nothing but a town full of normal people doing normal things. No sign of a forest anywhere. Most importantly, where was the monster that had been chasing her? She vividly recalled its haunting scream. Goosebumps prickled down her arms and legs; had she lost her mind? Evie slammed her eyes shut and buried her head in the crook of her elbow. She didn’t know how long she sat there, arms wrapped around knees and the sun baking mud into dirt on her back and in her hair, and she didn’t care. She was safe; at least, she thought she was. She wasn’t running anymore, and that was good enough. So she stayed there on the ground, unmoving. She let the world work around her. No one bothered her, or asked her to move. As her hiccups finally stopped and her nose quit dripping, Evie thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to open her eyes again.
“Evie? Evie Saunders? Is that you? My god, what happened to you?!”
She kept her eyes shut and groaned inwardly. Evie didn’t have to look up to recognize the smooth deep voice hurrying across the market square to her. In that instant, she would have given a million dollars to be back in the forest running for her life.
God damn it, Braxton. Why is it always you?