I’ve been eagerly working on my latest project and have the first six chapters (30,000 words) in rough draft form. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 3. I hope it gives you a taste of what’s to come with this work.
Fear had overwhelmed her to the point where she couldn’t think straight. Ava could only react like a wild animal cornered and facing certain death. When Jane had ignored her pleas to leave the ship, she did what she thought was the best thing to ensure her survival – she abandoned ship herself. The rest of the crew could plummet to its death on the broken ship, but she was going to do all she could to survive.
At first, she couldn’t believe she had pressed the button to open the door, but once the door whooshed open she stepped out like she was leaving her house for work as cocksure and determined as any other day in her former life. She stepped onto the rocky sand and paused a moment to survey her surroundings before she located a destination and immediately began walking toward it.
Her boots scuffed against the surface kicking up small sprays of sand as she stomped away from the ship. She slipped on the rocks, but her strong legs kept her upright. The dim evening light seemed much brighter once she was outside, but she flicked on her suit light anyway. It cast ominous shadows before her. She feared the ship more than anything unknown that awaited her.
The strange, sinewy shadows flickered on the dim, red sand as she walked away from the ship. The bulge of the pack she had thrown over her shoulder made her look like a hunchback, and she strained under its weight. Her breathing flooded her helmet leaving her unable to hear anything else, even the pounding of her feet on the ground as she trudged to a rocky outcrop just above the ship.
She crested the closest rock and stood at the entrance to a cave. The hairs on her neck pricked and she swallowed hard. Her heart thrummed in her chest from climbing the small hill but also from fear of the dark entrance to the cave. She sat the pack down at her feet outside the entrance and took one tentative step forward.
She flicked on the flashlight she had grabbed from the passenger cabin before she walked out the door and stood stock still aiming the light forward. The strong beam washed over the red rocks and the ghostly clouds of dust that she had kicked up. She panned over the space before her illuminating the mouth of the cave. She could see nothing but endless red rocks and sand that cast curious shadows before her. She sighed a bit in relief. Sweat trickled down her forehead, and she wished she could wipe it away, but she couldn’t remove her helmet.
After she swiped the cave with her light a few times, she convinced herself that it was safe. Anything was safe compared to the ship. She spun around and slashed the ship with her light. It stood a little more than 100 feet away from her. The beam of light traced an outline along the port side of the ship. She could see the back side dangling over the edge of the cliff. From this angle, it didn’t look as precarious since only a few feet of the end of the lumbering vehicle actually hung over the edge. The majority of the ship sat firmly on the ground, and the two cables that remained held firm.
She pushed the light back across the side of the ship when she caught sight of Jane peering out one of the small, porthole windows. She was too far away to make out Jane’s expression, but she imagined that Jane scowled at her. She had turned off her suit comm system, so she didn’t know if Jane or anyone else had tried to speak to her. She didn’t care.
Ava sighed again, almost relieved to be out of Jane’s domain. “Bitch,” she muttered to herself. She returned her light and her attention to the cave as she explored its depth. The mouth of the cave seemed like any other she had explored on earth. Nothing remarkable jumped out at her other than the thrill of being somewhere that no human being had ever been. She wished she could remove her helmet and inhale deeply. She often associated smells with her memory, and this was certainly a seminal moment for her. She was the very first human being to explore the surface of Mars in person. The tingle of excitement eclipsed any lingering fear she felt.
The wind picked up again as the pressure on her suit increased. She swiveled her head around to see if an encroaching cloud of sand was near, but there was nothing on the horizon. Nevertheless, she picked up her pack and moved it into the cave. As she plopped her pack onto the ground near the back of the rocky shelter, she noticed that a smaller opening in the back wall that led further into the cave. She quickly shined her light on the opening revealing paler versions of the red rock and sand that surrounded her. Her senses stood on edge again, but she ignored them.
She sat down near the back of the cave just to the left of the small opening to rest and gather her thoughts. The depth of the cave both excited and worried her. Sure, no life had ever been detected on Mars, but how did she really know if something inhabited the cave or not. It didn’t have to be some large animal or creature; it could be microscopic and just as deadly. Her skin crawled at the thought, and Ava shivered.
Outside the cave, the wind continued to build and the blown sand started rising like an antsy audience eager to get out of the theater. The whine and the strain of the cables attached to the ship cackled as the sand swallowed the ship. Ava shined her light out of the mouth of the cave, but the sand reflected her light back. She could do nothing but wait out the encroaching storm and hope that her colleagues didn’t plummet to their deaths. Her body rattled in fear.
The intensity of the storm rivaled the surges she had felt earlier in the day. The blown sand stayed outside the cave at first, but then a swirl of grit poked through the entrance and wreaked havoc on her. It pelted her face mask and her suit and sounded like rain on a tarp. She crouched lower to the ground, but the incessant beating continued. Meanwhile, one of the two cables holding the ship in place snapped under the pressure and banged against its metal hull. An awful groaning noise emerged from the blight – a sound of metal scraping across rock. Ava wanted to throw up.
In all the craziness of the storm, Ava managed to flick on her comm system and try to communicate with the crew. At first, the ear piece just buzzed with static, so she waited for it to die down before she tried to speak. A short silence convinced her to plead with the crew once again.
“Jane!” she yelled into the microphone. “Captain Smith!”
“Captain Smith! You have to get out of there! It’s not safe!”
“Where…are…disobeyed…at risk…” replied the Captain.
Her fractured words arrived in Ava’s ear. Ava didn’t need to ask Jane to repeat herself. She knew what the Captain had said. She clicked off the comm system again. “Fuck her,” Ava thought.
As if Jane’s anger had fueled the storm, the wind picked up and more sand piled into the cave drubbing Ava. She shook in her suit. The flashlight proved futile; she could see nothing in the reflection of the light in the blowing sand.
Ava grabbed her pack and dragged it to the small opening in the back of the cave. She slid through it pushing the pack in front of her. Whatever lurked in the tunnel couldn’t possibly be worse than enduring the sandstorm in the bigger cave. Besides, she didn’t want to hear the spaceship plummet over the edge of the cliff. She may have been angry with Jane, but she didn’t want to see the crew die.