This is the prologue to the young adult novel that I have been working on for the better part of the past year. It is absolutely still a work in progress, but I would love to know your thoughts.
The day her mother disappeared, Adeline Temple woke up in a nightmare.
The alarm went off at 7:30, like it always did. Her hand slammed down on it almost as soon as the aggravating beeping began, and she tumbled, rumpled and dream-hazy, down the hallway to the bathroom. The hot water accosted her skin with a million tiny knife thrusts; she felt more exhausted as she stood on the bathmat wringing out her hair than she had when she woke up.
Trying to shake the unusual fatigue, she made her way down the stairs, yawning. The hallway was dark. Something prickled at the back of her spine. Where were her parents? She paused with one bare foot poised in mid-step, her right hand splayed against the wall. The house was silent, a hibernating beast. She could almost hear it breathing. Where was the clink of dishes, the footsteps in the kitchen, the early morning bustle?
An unpleasant thrill zipped through her, and her next steps were in double-time. She slid around the corner into the kitchen, saying, “Mom?” The kitchen was empty. There weren’t even any dishes in the sink. No round coffee stain on the counter. It didn’t smell like eggs or toast or coffee. It looked as though no one had set foot in the room for days.
Adeline tried to swallow around the swollen dryness of her tongue. Her skin felt too tight. Her t-shirt itched against her collarbone. She pulled at it, her wild eyes scanning for something, anything, to set her spit firing nerves at ease. They skipped over the immaculate kitchen, past the dimness of the living room doorway, down the front hall, where they skidded to a halt on the front door, which stood open.
She tasted vomit as her feet carried her forwards, bare skin aching with cold on the wind-chilled tiles. The morning air past the house looked indistinct and dewy, a cool, wet morning. Adeline licked her lips, one hand stretched in front of her as though she was moving through the dark, determined not to run into anything. Her ears strained against the silence for any strange sound, any hint of what was happening. She moved through air as thick as pudding, pushing against her limbs with impunity. Her wet hair was soaking the shoulders of her t-shirt. She shivered.
The door shifted back and forth, an inch or two, as though someone had just brushed against it. Adeline’s heart tripped. Her breath rasped in her throat. Her fingertips touched the door.
She peered out into the morning. Mr Harris across the street strode down his driveway in his robe to retrieve his newspaper. A woman with a long, swinging ponytail and tight jogging pants ran past, a leash twisted around her hand and an eager labrador on the other end. An old red car glided past.
A yellow shoe lay in the middle of the walk, incongruent and blaring. Adeline leaned against the doorknob, her weight swinging it further out so that she nearly tumbled after it. When she pulled her hand away, it was sticky. She rubbed it absently on her jeans, then looked down. A strangled scream tried to claw its way past her lips, but died on her tongue.
A red smear on the thigh of her pants.
She turned over her shaking hand, which stared brightly back at her.
Blood on the doorknob and blood on her hand and her mother’s yellow shoe laying abandoned on the sidewalk. The door swung gently, the word witch emblazoned across it in shimmering red. Bile rose in her throat.
Reality became too big for her brain to contain and she collapsed to her knees, tears pouring down her cheeks and terror thumping in her heart.
That’s where they found her twenty minutes later.
That’s when she realized that the nightmare was real.
The world narrowed down to a series of official looking people with official looking notepads asking her official sounding questions on a never-ending loop that she couldn’t answer.
What happened, Adeline?
What can you tell us about your mother, Adeline?
Did she have any enemies?
Could you walk us through it one more time, please, Adeline?
Round and round and round, where it stops, nobody knows.
Two years have passed since that day, and she doesn’t think about it as often. The immediacy is finally starting to fade. The wound finally starting to knit.
But there are still nights when she wakes up screaming, crying for her mother.