New YA novel i’m working on.
As well as Prophecy of Three i’m working on a sci-fi trilogy. Below is the first couple of pages. I’d really appreciate some feedback. Be as brutal as you like.
Chapter 1 – the Island
Taylor Shephard woke up to find he was falling. Freezing air punched him in the stomach; rushing up his nose and down his throat. He flailed his arms, kicked his legs. Terror rose like a choking stone in his throat. Sheer panic made him forget to breathe. And either it was night or he was blind because he couldn’t see a thing. It was so dark, it had to be night. But if it was, why were there no stars, no clouds or moon? His mind raced, crazy, illogical thoughts whirling in his head. Now the cold wind howling up at him was painful, like daggers, stabbing at every inch of him. His lungs seared, the air forcing its way down his throat and pushing back the threatening bile. And still he was falling, was that even possible? How could someone fall for this long?
Then he saw it, below him: an island. And around it the sea, almost as dark as the world was only seconds ago, but not quite. Fear beat back confusion. He was going to die, plummet down straight onto that island with no way to stop or break his fall. The island looked like ink, spilled across the water. He saw jagged inlets, thin beaches and as he fell closer, he could make out mountains and the glistening roof of a vast jungle. He would crash down through those treetops, hard and fast, and hit the ground. He knew what would happen. His legs would hit the ground and then he’d crumple into a broken pile. At least it would be quick. At this speed, how could it be anything but?
“Pull the ring!”
The yelled voice came from his left. Taylor turned his head, searching. There was someone else, falling, too, but much slower, and above him. And then Taylor saw why. A parachute, stretched taut by the wind, was attached to the persons back. He could see the cord, the bulge of the backpack that must have stored the parachute until the cord had been pulled…
“The cord, pull it now. Pull the goddamn cord right now!”
With fingers all but paralysed by cold, Taylor searched himself. He felt the backpack now, strapped around his waist and over his shoulders. No cord though, where was the cord? Then, his scrabbling fingers touched the cold surface of something metal. It was a circle, a metal circle. He yanked it hard. There was a ripping sound, something rustling, unfurling and then Taylor was shooting backwards. All the remaining air was forced from his lungs; his stomach lurched upwards as he did. Looking up, he saw his own parachute, a giant dome of silver against the dark.
Taylor had barely comprehended what the person had said when his feet hit something. A spray of cold water lashed him in the face. Then huge leaves and vines were slapping him, jostling him like the hands and arms of a bustling crowd. Something hard, a tree bough, punched him in the gut. He vomited and the sickly, sweet liquid hit him straight in the face.
“You’re gonna- ow- son of a- you’re gonna land. Brace yourself!”
Taylor barely heard the voice over his own crashing fall. Opening his eyes he looked down to see a mass of darkness, broken only by the titanic tree trunks strangled with vines. His entire body seemed to tense for the impact. But he never reached the ground. There came a tearing sound and suddenly he wasn’t falling anymore. The straps of the parachute tightened, biting painfully into his chest and under his arms.
Somewhere below him, Taylor heard a thudding crash and guessed the other person had landed. He looked down but all he could see was the darkness.
“You good up there?”
Up until now, Taylor had been too dazed to register much of anything, about what was happening. He realised now that it was a boy’s voice. “If good means alive then yeh, I’m good,” Taylor said, throat still stinging, feeling raw from the bile.
The boy laughed and the sound of him grunting and cursing drifted up to Taylor. “What about you?” he called down.
There was the snapping of branches and a final curse. “Me? I’m fine, absolutely brilliant in fact. This is my third time so I’m kinda used to it by now.”
“What, you mean this’s happened to you before?”
“No,” the boy said, then laughed again.
Taylor laughed, too, he didn’t know why. Maybe it was because he was absolutely terrified and laughing seemed the only way to parry it? Though he couldn’t remember a thing, didn’t even know how old he was, he knew that he didn’t like being this high up. If he couldn’t even see the ground, exactly how high up was he? He was sure it must be hundreds of feet. The thought rekindled the bile in his stomach, but he forced it down. “What’s down there?” Taylor asked, hoping to distract himself.
“Jungle,” said the boy. “I think it’s a jungle anyway.”
Fleetingly, Taylor felt a pang of recognition; something came back to him but before he could even reach for it the flicker of memory vanished. Overhead there came a growl of thunder followed by a dazzling flash of white light. For a second, Taylor saw the trees around him flash emerald in the lightning before darkness rushed back. Then, in the thunder’s garbling wake, strange sounds emerged from the shadows in every direction. A haunting chorus of howls and shrieks, guttural growls and piercing wails.
Arrows of icy fear lanced up and down Taylor’s spine, he felt the hairs rising on the back of his neck. Another peal of thunder reverberated, tailed again by a startling flash of white lightning. Then, joining the voices of what Taylor could only guess were animals, rain began to fall in a drumming torrent. The fat, cold drops struck his face like bullets, numbing his skin, blurring his vision until he was all but blind.
“Is there any way for you to get down.” Taylor barely heard the boy’s voice over the deafening ruckus.
Desperately, Taylor cleared his eyes as best he could and looked quickly round, then up. The silvery canopy of his parachute had been snagged by the grappling branches of a colossal tree. The material, as far as he could see, was ripped to shreds. He tried yanking on the ropes attaching him to it, hoping to work it loose. He stopped, realising how stupid he’d been: even if he did free the canopy he’d just plummet to the ground.