Thursday, 18 July 2013

#11 OUT THERE (MG sci-fi)

Debilitated by freakishly sensitive hearing, 12-year-old Isabel Murphy has always been a loner. If she's going to survive her first year at Grayne Middle School, she figures she better stay unnoticed, and that means, no matter what, never covering her ears. But one night a shooting star appears, followed by a loud crack from the sky, and the next day at school Isabel's floored—literally—by a deafening rumble no one else can hear. 

Isabel tracks the noise to a boulder behind the school, and becomes convinced the rock is broadcasting an alien message. Except the only person who believes her is the school loser, Charlie, the last person she wants on her side.

Then the Gym teacher disappears under mysterious circumstances. Charlie's terrified—clearly whoever or whatever these aliens are, they're dangerous. But Isabel believes they might have something to do with the hearing problems that have plagued her all her life. Isabel's willing to risk her own safety, and the beginnings of an unexpected friendship with Charlie, to figure out whether she really belongs some place else, galaxies away.

First 500 words:

Light oozed through a grimy window above me into the Gym's storage room. It wasn't normal, like car headlights, or a flashlight, or anything I'd ever seen before. The light was yellow, cheesy popcorn yellow, but glowing like a wild animal's eyes.

A shivery cold tingled down my spine.

The boy flicked on the overhead lights as he joined me. I hadn't caught his name—Mr. Reynolds had just pointed and sent us after the basketballs. I looked around the narrow room, filled with rows of wooden shelves balancing soccer balls, a crate of flag football ribbons, and other, non-Gym stuff. My eyes darted back to the window.

The glow had dimmed in the fluorescent light's artificial glare, but it was still there.

"Do you see it?" I whispered. Because maybe I had finally cracked. How many weeks had I been thinking about this day, worrying about returning to school?

"What?" The boy came further inside. "Whoa!"

The light vanished.

"Weeeird," the boy said. "All that's outside is the graffiti rock. But I've never seen it do anything like that."

Because rocks don't glow. Clearly something else was going on. But why had it disappeared right when the boy saw it?

"What do you think it was?" he asked.

I didn't answer right away. Mostly because I didn't know this boy at all. But also, you know that feeling you get, that tingling on your back when someone's staring at you across a room? It was that, times ten.

I didn't feel crazy. Instead, I was certain, whatever was outside that window, it had been looking for me.

"What are you doing in there?" a voice teased from the gym doorway.

Other feet pounded by. "Maybe they're hiding!" someone else said.

"Or K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” a girl sang.

The boy's face flushed the same red as his hair, and he grabbed a bag of basketballs. It was too heavy for him to lift, so he dragged it to the door, stumbling over his feet in his hurry to get out.

I took the other bag. But I waited a second longer. At least it was quiet in here. The cement walls must have been thick, softening every noise to a low rumble.

My last day of school had been in kindergarten, and had ended with me cowering under the reading station table, my hands clamped over my ears. It'd been like that my whole life. I could hear so much more than most people, like every sound was several times louder. Doctors said nothing was wrong with me, no brain disorders or strange growths in my ears. "She's sensitive," they usually said. "She'll get over it." But Mom had pulled me out that first day, homeschooled me ever since. Until today.


  1. Wow! You are so adept at creating mood and tone! Reminds me of Bruce Coville. :)

  2. interesting challenge to make her sensitive to sounds. my son has autism and is very sensitive to sounds - he seems to hear everything way before i do - and too much noise in small places can way overstimulate him. this should make life interesting for your character at school where things are loud and chaotic all the time. love the sensory details in this passage.


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