First Page Feedback – Dark Justice

Here’s a potential dystopian, potential  futuristic story from Shelley Russell Nolan. 

Jackson opened his eyes a fraction to study the two guards stationed outside his cell. All  the lights in the cell block were dimmed but he could see them clearly. They were both watching him, their enhanced vision almost as good as his in this light. Their hands remained close to their holsters, ready to shoot him if he made a move they didn’t like. The one on the left shifted his feet, fingers caressing the top of his stun gun, mouth twisted into a grimace as he glared at the prisoner lounging on the cell’s only bunk.

The guards would be able to see the whites of his eyes shining even though his lids were half closed. That shine allowed him to see in the dark far better than when he’d been a member of the pack, like his guards. The only physical manifestation of the virus that had overtaken his brain, turning him into a freak bent on dealing death and destruction, it  left him hypersensitive to light.

Darkness was more than a friend; it was a way of life. Even a split second exposure to anything brighter than moonlight would send excruciating needles into his brain. The dim light in his cell was bearable, just.

Jackson closed his eyes and listened to the guards breathe, their respirations shallow as they maintained a vigilant stance. That level of vigilance would wane. Two hours into their shift they were alert and prepared for anything, but three weeks of guarding him without incident would soon see them settle into their watch. Respirations would deepen, tense muscles relax and attention spans waver. His turn would come.

Ears pricked for any change in his surroundings, Jackson caught the murmur of voices from the guardhouse down the end of the corridor. He stifled a grin as the door into the cell block opened and his guards were called away.

Visiting time.

The guardhouse door closed and moments later a single set of footsteps made their way towards him. Only when the footsteps stopped outside his cell did he open his eyes and look at the woman who had replaced him as pack leader.

‘Hello, lover.’ Jackson kept his rangy form relaxed despite the chains around his wrists and ankles. ‘Did you miss me?’

‘I miss the man you were, the man you’ll be again as soon as we find a cure.’

‘Miranda, Miranda …, it ain’t gonna happen. Your blue-eyed boy is gone forever. I’m all that’s left.’ Jackson gave her a lazy smile.

‘I won’t accept that. I can’t accept it.’ She shook her head, long black hair momentarily obscuring her face. She brushed it back behind her ears.

‘Will you accept it when I’m carving out your insides?’ He rattled his chains. ‘These aren’t going to stop me any better than the bars did. How many throats do I have to rip  out before you put us both out of our misery and let me go, or kill me?’

First Page Feedback from Deirdre McCluskey

This first page accomplishes a great deal very economically. Without wasting words, we know where we are, what kind of world we’re in and the names of our protagonists. We also know what kind of book we’re going to get – there’s a paranormal or sci-fi element (a mysterious illness) and we can expect high-stakes drama (the illness causes its victims to be capable of extreme violence.)

This setup hints at a dystopian alternate world without giving us too much detail or exposition. We know enough to picture what is going on, but not so much that we’re lifted out of the action and left with nothing to discover.

We also have two characters motivated to act. Miranda cares about Jackson and wants to help him, and Jackson wants to escape his captors. It’s unclear at this point how much we can sympathize with Jackson. The fact that he’s a threat to Miranda creates some interesting tension, and we want to read more. What’s not clear yet is, who do we root for?

Overall, a very strong beginning. Well done!

 Very exciting, indeed! Thanks for sharing it with us, Shelley!