Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Monsters

I was going to do the Primal Scream Blogfest hosted by the FABULOUS Raquel Byrnes [], then I forgot and didn't get my post edited, then the FOMS kicked in, so I'm doing it anyway. In my world the monsters aren't... monsters exactly. They are adults who do horrible thing that have implications for this children. This chapter is my first draft, first chapter of Legacy, so please only judge it as that—a first draft. Chapter 2 is scarier, but it is definitely rated R instead of PG-13, so I felt this was more appropriate.

With only a little more ado *snort* (I just like saying that, though there IS other business...)

ADO: I will be at a CONFERENCE Thursday through Saturday. I have blogs scheduled, but will NOT really be able to read or comment, and will only be able to check in HERE a little. I apologize and will MISS you. I still hold it your SACRED duty however, to practice Hooray, Hooray, the 8th of May in just 3 days time. (will tell you all about it Friday.)



Chapter 1

When the wood splintered, Kade grabbed Peter's arm, tension visible in his stature. “I'm getting Tasha. If she makes a noise, we're all in trouble, but we need to know what's happening. You know what to do.”

Peter nodded resolutely and went in his closet, deftly climbing the shelves to the side, and pushing his way into the attic. He was careful to put the hatch back in place so it wouldn't give them away.

This was the hard part. He had to edge along the cross beams in the dark, without stepping down into the insulation, or he risked falling through the ceiling. He knew he was less likely to than Kade. He was only nine, after all, and weighed sixty-two pounds last they checked, but it still wasn't a chance he could take. If this was really what their father had been warning them about, it was too dangerous.

He only had to go about thirty feet before he came to what appeared to be the end of the attic, appear, being the critical word. He slid a piece of paneling along a runner that was buried in the insulation. It was silent. His father had seen to that as soon as his mother had lost touch with her family. He tucked through the opening and closed it again.

There, where they'd been left, were flashlights and soft slippers. The slippers were a redundant precaution, because the entire area was carpeted. Effectively, it was a small apartment, equipped with a kitchenette, bathroom, and two double beds. Shelves were stocked with food to last months.

Peter didn't know anything about why it was there. In fact if someone had asked him, he would have expressed that everyone had a hiding room and it was normal. He did know though, that needing to come live in here meant things were really, really bad. What he had to find out was if things were that bad now.

At the edge of the room was the top of a strong wooden ladder that was built onto the wall. Around the hole was a rail, but near the ladder it was easy to climb under. He climbed down it, and below, came to another, much smaller room. The root cellar of the house opened to the room, the main house, and to the outside, something left from when the lot was seriously farmed. It also had his current destination—access to the home's ventilation ducts on the side of the house with his parents' room.

He knew Kade felt very uncomfortable crawling in them, but Kade was fourteen and tall. Peter was small enough that he could crawl comfortably. He only had to be careful not to bang anything, as the metal echoed, and he might be heard from anywhere in the house.

He reached his destination, his parents' bedroom, quickly. Two intruders were turning everything over.
“He has to be here!” The man talked funny—the same kind of funny as his dad talked, only more. He knew his dad talked that way because his dad grew up in Romania.

“His car is here. Keep looking. Balto will make sure he doesn't leave through either door. We just need to search!” The other man didn't have the same funny accent.

The accented man opened the closet, “Demitri, my friend! This is no welcome!”

He was punched in the head, but the accented man was able to recover and pull Peter's father out of the closet.

“Why is the house empty?”

“You should know!”

His father was hit again and Peter had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from whimpering. He thought his father had only hidden to give him time to get there. He had to see and hear everything.

“Where are your children?”

“Madeline took them to her sister's before she left.” Peter hated that his father sounded hurt.

“Liar!” He was punched again.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Peter thought his father was fairly convincing, considering he knew they weren't at Aunt Sarah's.

“What the hell do you want with my kids, anyway?” Demitri sounded outraged.

“They would have been nice... as leverage... but mostly we need to make sure there are no witnesses.” The man with no accent flipped Demitri onto his stomach and pointed a gun at the back of his head. Time stood still as Peter watched his father's head fly apart, his ears left near deaf from the crack of the gun.

He squeezed his eyes shut, willing it not to be true, and then he opened them again. He could barely see through the tears that filled his eyes, but his father had trained him well... not a sound.

The intruders looked around some more, behind pictures, in drawers—like they were looking for treasures, or a safe. Peter buried his head between his arms. He let his eyes and nose run, managing not to sob or sniff for what seemed an eternity as the men finished their business. Then he backed slowly out of the vent, into the cubby with the root cellar. There he sat in a ball and whimpered quietly.


When he finally felt he could manage it, Peter climbed the ladder. Kade looked at him grimly; a small lantern sat on the table casting their faces in dark shadows and yellow light.

“Was that what it sounded like?”

Peter finally let out a sniff and broke into tears.

Kade was already on a bed, holding his arms around Tasha. Her face was hidden in her older brother's chest, her arms over her ears. Kade held his other arm out to Peter and Peter gladly curled up on Kade's other side.
Kade held his siblings, his chest heaving occasionally. Peter recognized it as a trick to try not to cry.

He'd never been so scared in his life.


The lantern sputtered and instead of turning the wick up, Kade turned it down, so the trio settled into darkness.

“Kade? Tell me how momma and daddy met.” Tasha was two years older than Peter, but she seemed younger in a lot of ways. Peter didn't really understand it. She knew a lot of stuff, but she was really uncomfortable around people, and got scared really easily. Their dad called her his genius because she was so good with numbers, even in her head, but she could only go to a special school with tiny classrooms. That's why their parents taught them a lot at home. She loved stories though. Even though she didn't like real life interactions outside her family, she loved to hear about them. And stories about their parents were her favorite.

“Grandpa was an ambassador,” Kade began. “Mom went to Stanford and majored in art history and languages. She speaks Russian, Czechoslovakian, Romanian, and Greek. When she finished college she went to Romania to live with grandpa because grandma had died and she thought he was lonely. She worked at the University of Bucharest in the library. That was where she met dad. He was a professor. She helped grandpa though, too, because of the languages, she knew she could change the wording to suit culture, so the person wouldn't offend other people. When grandpa had a stroke, she stepped in to help him, and when grandpa died, they made her ambassador.”

Tasha let out a contented purr and laid back on a pillow to hear some more.

“Father taught literature, and was an expert in all the books Romanians were allowed to read. He was instantly smitten with mom. Smitten means he thought she was really smart and very pretty. She learned really soon though, that he was also extremely interested in western literature.”

“So they started seeing each other, but because mom was American, some old geezer Romanian guy always had to go with. I guess it was because dad wasn't trusted on their list or something. But finally dad proposed. It was a big shock to all those Romanians when after the wedding he declared they were coming to America to live.”

Peter grinned. He liked the story, too, even if it was sort of romantic. He liked that his parents were smart and had pulled something over on a government of some faraway place.

He heard Tasha's soft snore and in a way he felt relieved to have her asleep. Now he could relay what he'd seen and heard to Kade and not have to carry the burden alone anymore.

Kade put a big book on it's side, open, so that he could shield Tasha from the lantern he lit. Then he sat with a note pad and had Peter go over everything he saw and heard three times. Peter was patient, even though it was terrible. Their father had said some details you don't remember until you get to the third repetition, and it was true. Peter hadn't remembered noticing that the men had different accents—that one was Romanian like their dad and the other was probably American, until the third telling.

“You did good, Peter. I'm sure that was awful.” Peter frowned. He wasn't used to his brother being so calm and nice to him, but he supposed until their mom got home, maybe Kade felt like he had to act like a parent. He just blinked and nodded. He didn't want to talk about it any more.

“What are we gunna do, Kade?”

“For now, wait. Remember dad said people might be watching. They don't know we're in here, but they might think we got out and are coming back. Until somebody comes to get dad at least, we just have to hide.
Peter sighed. He knew the words. He'd just never thought about what they all meant before. “We can't go outside at all?”

“Not until we're sure nobody is coming.”

“What if someone's here now?”

“In the morning, before we use any water or anything, I'll need you to crawl all the vents and make sure. I'm pretty sure they left, and we get that ding up there if the door's open. The alarm will go if the windows open.
“The front door is broken.”.

“Oh, right. Well at least that means they'll probably find dad sooner. Nobody who drives up and sees that will think we just aren't home and leave. He gets company every couple of days.”

That was true, but Peter didn't like having to crawl in the tunnels each time they needed water.

As if reading his mind Kade said, “You'll check in the morning, we'll pour a huge bucket, then you'll check at night so we can flush and stuff. It's just for a few days.”

“But Kade?”


“Dad's gone.”

“I know.” Kade looked deeply sad. “It's my job though, to make sure you and Tasha and I stay safe until mom gets home, so we just have to be tough for now, okay?”

Peter nodded, resigned.


I should note that SINCE this was written, I've had several conversations with a friend who lived in Romania around this time (the story is in the 80s) and it wasn't as closed as I'd thought when this was written, so there is some editing to the back-story that is told, in addition to the NORMAL cleaning... just wanted you to know the research was progressing *winks*


Jan Morrison said...

Wow - that's chilling...I definitely want to read more. Good.

Hart Johnson said...

Thank you, Jan! You're so fabulous and encouraging!

Ella said...

I really love how you jumped right into the action, well done! The tone was set and the pace...more, please.... It is really good!!!

Ella said...

I tagged you on my blog; If you have time, I'd love to hear what you have to say~

Hart Johnson said...

Hey, thank you, Ellie! I will pop on over, too!

Rebecca T. said...

I feel so sorry for Peter. Very chilling for him to have seen that.

Charity Bradford said...

Why are we so cruel to our characters? Very nicely written.

Eric W. Trant said...

Tense. Chilling. Vivid and unapologetically graphic.

- Eric

Hart Johnson said...

*happy dancing* I think all three of you are new here! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading, Rebecca, Charity and Eric! Thanks so much!

Seems to me it's my turn to get over there and start reading!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Quite vivid. Just a suggestion, instead of "tension visible in his statue" you might say "His body stiff with tension."

You held us in suspense with skill. A great job. And your research showed. Roland

Raquel Byrnes said...

Oy...compelling, terrible...I couldn't stop reading. The reaction of the children, the way they knew how to comfort each other after such a horrible incident -- the training, I think, is what made my heart go out to them. No child should think a hiding room is normal.

As always, your work encourages me to push myself...gotta keep up! =)

Thanks so much for participating!

Anonymous said...

Oh, poor Peter having to witness his father's death. You've done a superb job presenting all this action, tension, sadness, despair, and hope in one short passage.

Helena Soister said...

You jump fearlessly into the heart of the story in the opening lines. Very tough to do, but you do it vividly. Congrats!

Hart Johnson said...

Roland--thank you! And yes--that sentence is passive... will definitely get a rewrite... probably something like 'tension held him rigid' or some such thing next round!

Raquel-thank you! Glad you spotted the 'seeming normal' piece, as that is one of the questions that drives forward... what the parents are involved with (thus the name legacy--kids stuck with this mess because of what their parents are up to)

Catherine-great to meet you, and thank you! I will need to get over and check yours!

Helena, thank you! Yes... I think CONFLUENCE (the polished book that isn't selling) has taught me one CRITICAL lesson--get to it already! Thanks!

Jenny Milchman said...

Oooh, I definitely want to read the next (rated R) chapter! I agree--the contrast between blatant violence and the ability of the kids to comfort each other is great. A wonderful opening!

Hart Johnson said...

Thanks so much Jenny! Hopefully a little of what I was TRYING to convey in my query comes across, too.. MAN I hate that query process, and you're a superstar for helping me out. (the next chapter is the other MC, and sadly, she has NO ONE--but she's smart)

sarahjayne smythe said...

Good job setting the pace and setting up the tension here. I'd like to read more. :)

VR Barkowski said...

I am one of the very few folks on the planet who dislikes an action open, but this is riveting and touching all at once. My heart goes out to those children esp. Peter. Well done.

Unknown said...

I want to read more! I want to know more about Tasha. Will we get any more sneak peeks or do we REALLY have to wait for it to be published??

H.B.Markor said...

(not that you need one more comment, but...)I want to read more too! I think you will have no problem getting this book into stores!

Hart Johnson said...

Sarah, VR and HB--WELCOME! I think you three ALL wandered in as a result of primal scream and I promise I will check out your entries too, though I will be traveling all day, so it will have to be tonight--THANK YOU! I love all the feedback! I feel like the book needs about a month worth of cleaning (about half of which because it is part of a trilogy and things change a little) but I love hearing that people like the opening!

And Amy-you know where to find me, so poke me now and again and I'd be happy to give you a few more peeks!