03 January 2011

Show Me Yours Blogfest: Excerpt from The Gift

My contribution to the Show Me Yours Blogfest is an excerpt from my 2010 NaNoNovel, The Gift (working title). 

A brief bit of background: Alex and Emma work at Outlaw Books. Together they talk pop culture, philosophy, and play a game called “it’s your turn,” as they dare each other to deal with the weirder customers the store always seems to attract. When Emma mocks a customer whom she and Alex have dubbed Johnny Brittle, she triggers an ancient curse that makes her a target for all things evil.

Emma isn’t alone in her new role as monster magnet. Alex is attacked in a park near Emma’s house by a man with tentacles for a face. Although Alex survives, he becomes physically ill after the attack. He asks Emma to help him get home, and to stay in his apartment overnight to make sure he’s okay. After she falls asleep on the couch, he wakes up to discover he isn’t okay after all. This scene takes place after he manages to stumble into the bathroom and turn on the shower.

“The school” is Alex’s name for his five pet fish.

Thanks for reading!

In the mirror, his face looked grey. His lips were white and dry. He stuck his tongue out. It was covered in a sticky white coat. He cleared his throat. Something was in his mouth. He reached in with his fingers and pulled out long cords of sticky mucus, dropping them into the sink.

He looked again at the elbow. The sharp edge of panic rose up in him. Was that something black, there in the centre of the wound? Congealed blood? Something else?

The steam from the shower was starting to fog the mirror. He stripped off his shirt and pants, and climbed into the shower.

The water on his face, all over his skin, felt better than it ever had. He opened his mouth to the stream. Hot water gushed in. He swallowed mouthful after mouthful as thirst hit him like a hammer. He reached around the shower curtain and grabbed the glass that sat on the edge of the sink. Filling it with hot water from the shower, he drank, then filled and drank again.

He felt his elbow. There was no wound at all there now. Had he hallucinated it? He scrubbed his face hard with both hands.

He picked up the bar of plain white soap and sniffed it. He needed to wash, but he felt reluctant to use the soap, almost repelled by it. He lathered it anyway and rubbed it under his armpits.

He stifled a scream as his hands, underarms and sides began to burn as if he’d applied acid to them. He rinsed off the soap, but the damage was done. All down both sides and on each hand, thick red welts appeared.

Despite the pain, he felt better than he had since before last night’s attack. Maybe a shower was all he’d really needed. He turned off the water and reached for a towel.

After gingerly patting himself dry, he used the towel to wipe the steam off the mirror. He was still pale, but there was a pink, well-scrubbed look to his face. The welts were already starting to go down. He wrapped the towel around himself and headed back to the bedroom to find some clothes.

In the living room, he paused. The gurgling sounds of the aquarium filter seemed too loud. He realized he hadn’t fed the school in a couple of days. He felt sure that he could cross the thick brown carpet of the living room and drop some fish flakes into the tank without waking up Emma. He held the towel for extra insurance and stepped carefully across the room. After he fed them, he watched the fish, the four orange ones and the black one, as they ate.

He loved that black fish, with its googly eyes and shiny dark scales. It always seemed so mellow compared to its faster orange buddies. Its plumed tail floated behind it as it swam up to the top, took a piece of food, and then returned for more.

Emma’s voice came from the couch. “Alex? What are you doing?”

He looked down at his hand. The black fish lay curled in his palm, flexing its small, muscular body, its round mouth trying to suck oxygen from the air. The lid of the tank was lying on the floor by the balcony door, five feet away.

He knew without a doubt what he’d been about to do: put the fish in his mouth and swallow it. He was so hungry. Only the tiniest part of him felt sorry about it.


Tony Benson said...

Hi Elizabeth, This is really compelling stuff. Tantalising to have a short exerpt! I very much enjoy your writing style.

Margo Benson said...

Wow! Didn't see that coming! A great excerpt, thank you.

Ellie Garratt said...

Ooo...I like this a lot. Alex is definitely not the same person he was before and I'm intrigued by what will happen to him and Emma. Great stuff!

Jon Paul said...

Wow! Loved this. The piece at the end with the fish was great, and certainly stirred my interest in reading more!

Thanks for sharing.

J.C. Martin said...

Oooh...what an excerpt! I could feel his terror! What is he turning into? The sudden allergy suggests at something slug-like. And the attempted fish eating was a brilliant finish! You've left enough unexplained to make me DEMAND more!

Thank you for sharing!!

Sarah Ahiers said...

first off, mucus? So gross. I mean, kudos on the description, but blegh. I can handle almost any gore but throw in some mucus and i am grossed out.
This piece was great! It flowed very nicely and i easily could have kept reading. Great job!

Elizabeth Twist said...

Thanks, everyone! Much obliged.

Lisa Potts said...

Loved the mucus part! It made me want to clear my throat. Would be very interested to find out what happens to Alex. Thanks for sharing.

Rebecca T. said...

That was fantastic! I love the description and the clues that made me guess what was coming next, but still kept me interested!

Hannah said...

Okay. First, gross. Second, awesome! I love gross!! Remind me to never eat jello while reading about mucus. That being said, I loved your descriptions. If you need a beta...:D

Mara Nash said...

This was really good...I was right there with him and all the weird changes. The bad thing is, though, that now I want to know what the heck is going on!!!

Summer Ross said...

That was an interesting read- atfirst i thought he was going to change into a fish- but then he tried to eat one...hmmm this has me thinking. Nice piece. If you don't mind a small critique I would suggest going through and taking out every "felt" you can see because it tells the reader instead of shows the reader what is happening. other wise i think you have a very decent snippet going.

Elizabeth Twist said...

I'm especially chuffed by those of you who were grossed out. Thank you for allowing me to repel you - it's my pleasure!

@ Summer: thank you. I'll be editing this time and again over the next few months, so I appreciate the feedback.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's pretty creepy, I'm wondering what Alex is actually supposed to be turning into - is he going to end up as some sort of marine creature himself? That makes sense with a lot of the clues - getting revived by the shower (drinking hot shower water?) but being hurt by soap, and wanting to eat the fish.

Thanks very much for participating in the blogfest, and for telling me about it so that I could join in!

Denise Covey said...

This is riviting stuff Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing. You caught me! It'll be great if we get the chance to read more. Happy New Writing Year!

Oh, thanks for following. I've followed you back..:)

Jodi Henry said...

OMG! This is great stuff. You really had me with the opening paragraph.

I loved all the details.


Unknown said...

Ohh . . . great stuff. I particularly loved the part about the black fish curled up in his hand, the idea of being so hungry that it be appetizing.

Summer Frey said...

I LOL-ed at what Sarah said, because I feel the same way! Excellent description, but ughhh... :)

I'm so intrigued!! Great excerpt!

Jessica Silva said...

So interesting! Kind of intrigued--and I'm not usually drawn to this kind of stuff. Thank you for sharing!

NiaRaie said...

You definitely grossed me out with him pulling the tentacles from the back of his throat. Eeek! But I can't wait to see what other repulsive things he does.

Caroline said...

Count me as pleasantly grossed out. :) I want to know more about his adventures as (an amphibian?).

Poor fishies.

Justin W. Parente said...

Okay, so where have you been? This is great stuff. The first paragraph especially. Very visceral and reminds me much of how the first Immortal Nicholas Flamel book opens. That's a good thing. The curse ordeal is interesting to think about.

Thanks for sharing.

In My Write Mind

Elizabeth Twist said...

This blogfest was terrific! Again, many thanks to Sarah, Hannah and Summer for hosting. Thanks everyone who added themselves to my follow list, and thanks for all the great comments.

Justin, I've added the first Nicholas Flamel book to my want list at my local library - sounds like it's right up my alley! The most amazing things are published in YA these days. To answer your question, I've been here, there and everywhere - mostly too busy doing grad school, and lately, developing a burgeoning career as a tai chi teacher. But writing fiction (as I'm sure is the case for most people here) has been a lifelong passion. In the past couple of years, I've been trying to kick it into turbo charge.

And where have you been?