I was originally going to write this post about my resolutions for the upcoming year, but then I thought, “Damn it, Michelle, your blogging compatriots deserve more! What are you, a man or a machete?” Since I am neither, I immediately dismissed that thought.
But then I had another thought. And that thought was to post an excerpt from Imminent Danger. Since my new thought didn’t involve any gender changes or sharp objects, I decided to roll with it. The novel will be published at some point in January, after all, so what better day to release the first-ever excerpt than New Year’s Day?
Therefore, without any further ado, I present to you Chapter 1 of Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It.
Fasten your seatbelts. And forgive the lack of indents, as WordPress formatting tools live to bewilder and perplex me.
“Personally, I think the existence of extraterrestrial beings is a scientific improbability. Just because there’s life on Earth doesn’t mean there’s life on other planets. Until we find evidence that aliens do exist, I think we’re wasting time and energy searching for something that’s probably not even there.”
Folding her speaking notes closed, Eris stared out at her fellow students in the high school science classroom. If any of them had found her presentation particularly intriguing, it didn’t show. Most were too busy reviewing their own speaking notes in case Mr. Pingree decided to squeeze in one more presentation before the bell rang. The students who had already finished their presentations were staring out the window, texting under their desks, or sleeping.
Mr. Pingree crossed his arms and addressed the class. “Any thoughts? Eris raised some excellent points.”
He was met with silence.
“Come now,” the tweed-clad teacher cajoled, wiggling his eyebrows as if this lighthearted display could somehow inject life into his zombified audience. “Aliens, ladies and gentlemen! Little green men from Mars! UFOs! Someone must have an opinion.”
A boy in the back row raised his hand. “I don’t know about little green men,” he said, “but that blue chick from Avatar’s pretty hot.” His friends hooted their agreement and exchanged congratulatory high-fives.
Mr. Pingree apparently sensed that expecting intelligent class participation at such an early hour might be asking too much from his teenage students. “All right,” he sighed. “An excellent and thorough presentation, Eris. You may return to your seat.”
Eris smiled tightly at her teacher and hurried back to her desk. She disliked public speaking, especially when a misstep could make her the latest target of the formidable Barlow Collegiate gossip mill. Luckily for me, no one ever listens to class presentations, she thought.
She was out the door as soon as the bell rang, anxious to get back to her dorm and take the shower she had skipped that morning in favor of going over her presentation notes one last time. As she walked along one of the many pathways that crisscrossed the high school campus, she kept her head down and avoided all eye contact with her fellow students.
Once safely back in her dorm room, Eris finally started to relax. She spent a moment rummaging around for her toiletries and a towel and then locked her door and headed to the suite bathroom for a relaxing shower. But barely halfway through, the water switched from pleasantly warm to freezing cold. Eris frantically rinsed the conditioner from her long, dark brown hair. Then she wrenched off the faucet and jumped out of the shower.
Looking for her robe, Eris realized she had left it in her room. Silently berating herself, she took the towel she had brought to use as a turban for her wet hair and instead wrapped it around her body. Pressing the top of the towel firmly under her armpits, she gathered up her clothes and clutched them under one arm. With her soaking hair dripping down her back, she stepped out into the hallway.
A deep, male voice sounded from the common room, accompanied by female laughter. As Eris fumbled the key card from her bundle of clothes to unlock her door, she heard the voice say loudly, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” This high-pitched voice with a slight British lilt belonged to Lisa Brightman, one of Eris’s roommates. Of the three girls who shared her suite, Eris found Lisa to be the most tolerable. The other two girls acted so vacuous that blonde jokes were remarkably close to doing them justice.
“The door,” said the young man. “Didn’t you say Mallory’s in class?”
“Well, she is …”
Heavy footsteps pounded on the floor as Lisa’s jock boyfriend, Josh Fisher, poked his head around the corner. “Yo, Mal, where were you last night? I thought we were gonna—whoa!”
Eris froze and blushed as the handsome rugby player gave her a once-over. His head jerked back toward the common room as he called out, “Babe! Who’s the naked chick?” Josh’s eyes returned to her towel-clad body.
The key card practically flew from Eris’s hand and plunged into the lock. Yanking the door open, she dove into the safety of her private room, the door slamming shut behind her.
“Lisa! You been holding out on me, babe?” Eris heard him yell, accompanied by the sound of receding footsteps. “Your roommate’s kinda hot!”
“So?” Lisa demanded.
“You said she was a nerd!”
Eris tried to glare daggers through the door. It didn’t work, of course. All it did was attract her attention to the full-length mirror attached to the back of the door. “How does being a nerd automatically make me unattractive?” she grumbled, eyeing her slim, admittedly less-than-luscious curves. “Maybe I don’t flaunt my body, but I’ve still got it where it counts.” She smoothed the towel down over her hips and sighed. “Keep telling yourself that, Eris.”
“I never said that!” Lisa’s shrill voice cried from the common room. “I said she never parties with us!”
And that makes me a nerd how? Eris thought.
“Fine, babe, whatever you say,” Josh said. Eris knew that the rugby player was right now raising his hands in surrender before her very persuasive roommate. Lisa was commonly referred to as “that smokin’ hot British chick,” and she generally got her way where boys were concerned.
Eris wished she had a fraction of Lisa’s natural good looks and poise. Growing up, Eris hadn’t been given the usual advice that other girls received from their mothers. Most mothers taught their daughters how to dress stylishly, how to wax their eyebrows, and how to wear makeup. But Ms. Miller, a divorced feminist entirely disillusioned with men, had always insisted that following fashion trends turned you into a mindless automaton, waxing was unnatural, and wearing makeup didn’t make you more attractive; it only made you look like you were wearing makeup.
Three years ago, when Eris had first set foot on the campus of Barlow Collegiate as a freshman, she’d had an unpleasant surprise. Not that middle school hadn’t been enough of an eye-opener, but in high school, looking good seemed to be an obsession—that, and getting drunk and high, but Eris’s mother had turned her off those as well. Eris had tried vodka at the only residence party she had ever attended but hadn’t liked the fuzzy-headed feeling it gave her. Drinking herself into a stupor had never struck Eris as particularly appealing.
It’s not that I mind not fitting in here, she reflected. Well, fine, of course I do. Who wouldn’t? But if fitting in means showing up to class stoned or going to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, I think I’ll pass.
She could still hear Josh and Lisa talking and laughing in the common room. To her dismay, Eris felt a familiar pang of longing. I wish someone would talk to me like that. He doesn’t have to be cool or handsome like Josh. Just a nice, sweet guy who would make me feel wanted.
She sighed. “Who am I kidding? I don’t have a chance, not with girls like Lisa around.” Eris grabbed the bottom edge of her towel, gave her mirror a practice curtsy, and then rolled her eyes. “Might as well wait for Prince Charming to appear out of thin air and sweep me off my feet, for all the good it’ll do me.”
She pulled on a pair of jeans, her favorite purple hoodie, and worn sneakers. Normally she had to wear the school uniform—a pleated green skirt and white shirt—but today was casual Friday. After a quick trip to the bathroom to brush her teeth and fix her long hair into a ponytail, Eris gathered up her books, put on a coat, and hurried from the suite. Josh and Lisa barely glanced at her as she passed by.
Eris decided to take the elevator down to the ground floor even though the plodding old contraption was long past its prime. Although that will mean missing this month’s “art exhibition,” she thought. Last month, the stairwell had been splattered crimson from top to bottom, thanks to three seniors, a bottle of tequila, and a can of red paint.
When the elevator doors finally grated open, Eris stepped inside and pressed the M button. “Hold it!” a familiar voice called as the doors lumbered shut. Josh barreled into the elevator, book bag flung over his shoulder.
Feeling very awkward, Eris stared at her school bag while the elevator descended, avoiding eye contact with Josh. She wasn’t used to being alone and so close to an attractive member of the opposite sex. When something touched her arm, she was so startled she yelped and jumped away.
“Sorry!” Josh exclaimed, giving her a weird look. “I was just being friendly. Chill.”
Eris flushed and rubbed her forehead. “No, sorry, it was my fault. I’m not used to people touching me. Strangers, I mean.” Thank God I stopped myself from saying “boys.”
Josh chuckled. “Considering that I just saw you half-naked, I wouldn’t call us strangers.”
Eris’s jaw dropped. “What would you call us, then?
“I’m sure I could think of something.”
“I’m not entirely sure you could.”
Before he could respond, the elevator doors opened on the main floor and Eris rushed out. She wanted to be far away from Josh in case he ever figured out what she had meant.
She had ten minutes to get to Calculus, so she set off along the bustling, tree-lined pathway that led to the science building. Eris found something comforting about being lost in the flow of students—it made her feel like she belonged, and that was something that didn’t happen very often.
Just as Eris was passing the thick row of pine trees that lined the path near the science building, she felt suddenly uneasy. She stopped and looked around but could see nothing out of the ordinary. “Stop being so paranoid,” Eris muttered. She hoisted the book bag farther up her shoulder and continued walking.
A flash of movement among the pine trees startled her, and she stopped again. “Watch it!” a girl snapped, almost running into Eris.
“Sorry,” Eris mumbled and quickly stepped off the path.
Convinced there was something moving behind the pine trees, Eris tried to peer through the dense screen of green needles, but the morning sunlight was filtered by thick gray clouds, making it too dim to see. Probably just some idiot getting high before class, she decided, turning to resume her journey.
Suddenly, a large, blue, scaly, clawed hand darted out from among the trees and closed around Eris’s wrist. The hand gave a single tug, and before she could open her mouth to scream, she was yanked backward into the pines.
Terrified, Eris flailed her limbs and attempted to shriek, but a second scaly hand closed over her mouth, muffling the sound. Her survival instinct kicked in, and she lashed out, trying to struggle free of her captor by elbowing and kicking. Then a third hand wrapped around her torso to trap her arms, and a fourth and fifth grabbed her legs. A gang attack? Eris thought incredulously. And they’re all wearing … scaly gloves? What the hell?
A sixth hand tilted her head back, and a vial of glowing blue liquid descended toward her lips. Eris clamped her mouth shut, but her jaw went slack the instant the vial touched her. She could feel a disgusting fluid trickling down her throat. Her terror doubled when she realized her arms and legs were going numb. Seconds later, she was completely paralyzed.
Eris’s captor hissed, and then she felt someone pull the book bag off her shoulder. She tried to see who was attacking her, but there wasn’t enough light. All she could make out were several huge figures, easily seven or eight feet tall. It seemed as if there were far too many arms for the number of bodies, but Eris assumed that was just a trick of the shadows.
Her books were soon tossed aside. Her laptop was discarded as well, flung at the wall of the science building, where she heard it shatter. Just as the space bar flew through the air and landed at Eris’s feet, she began to feel the world spinning. That stuff they made me drink … must have … The words blurred in her mind as she lost the ability to form a coherent thought.
One of her assailants poked Eris’s paralyzed body and emitted a sound like that of a decompressing balloon—phhh … phhh … phhh.
Eris’s world went black.
So there you have it! Sweet, innocent little Eris has been dragged into the trees and abducted by strange, scaly, malicious personages with a suspiciously high number of limbs. Whatever will happen to her next?
You’ll have to read my book to find out!