First chapter of my first full length novel “Born in the USA”

“Born in the USA”, my first full length sci fi novel, is nearly finished. Here’s the first chapter – if anyone has any comment or criticism I’d love to hear from you. Would you want to read more, for instance? Thanks very much.

Chapter 1  

 Earth Prime

“No, please, don’t. No!” He wanted to retract his ears so he couldn’t hear his mother’s sobbing. But he didn’t. He needed to be able to hear if they came for him too. So he used his two-fingered hands to cover them, just big enough to block out most of the sound.

And he wanted to be able to retract his eyes, too vulnerable on their stalks. Wanted to be able to pull in all his appendages, like Dad could do. That way, almost nothing could hurt him. But he was too young to have complete control of his Terranoid physiology, so he just had to listen. And wait for it to be over.

He had heard the men burst in; saw two pairs of big boots pass his bedroom door. Heard voices shouting; the men’s deep and menacing, Mom’s high pitched and frightened. He should have gone to her, should have stopped them Taking. Dad hadn’t come home from work yet and although he was only a kid he was supposed to be the man of the house. But he was only eight; too small and weak to protect his mother, too old to be innocent of what was happening to her.

When it was over, he crept from his hiding place. He’d wet himself, too scared to have come out from under the bed when his bladder had needed him to. His jammies smelt of pee and had a wet patch on the front and down one leg. It clung to him when he walked and he tried to hold it away from his skin, but not wanting to touch the wet bit with his fingers.

In the living room the the lamp was turned on its side and with the bulb still lit, the shadows looked wrong, made odd shapes on the wall. Scary shapes. He turned the lamp up so that it stood in its proper place on the coffee table. The curtains were open as they always were, allowing the perpetual dusk to seep into the room, filling up the corners, the nooks and crannies. He needed that lamp to be on, needed some light against what might be outside.

His mom was sitting on the couch, clutching a cushion to herself. Her face was half in shadow but he could see that she’d been crying, wiping her eyes with a hankie. She was hunched over, holding herself like he did when he had a pain in his belly. She didn’t have retractable appendages or red skin like him and Dad; Mom didn’t come from Earth Prime. So when she saw him and looked up, he could see her skin was pale, almost white and her eyes were all red and swollen. 

He didn’t go to her. He looked around the room, at all the empty spaces where her ornaments had been. All the little things that he and Dad had bought her for birthdays and Christmases past. All gone. All that was left on the shelves were his eighth birthday cards. And her trinket box was empty; its lid twisted and pulled off one of its hinges. Now that the jewellery was missing he could see the red velvet lining that he liked to stroke, looking like Grannie’s open mouth when she didn’t have her teeth in. 

Mom saw him looking, his eyes wide on their stalks. “They Took everything.” She put her hands to her head, closed her eyes. 

“Taking is bad, isn’t it Mommy?”

She looked up. He didn’t like how her face looked. “For God’s sake, of course Taking is bad.” She jabbed her finger at him and snarled. “You weren’t any use to me. Why didn’t you keep me safe?”

He sat down on the couch next to her, careful not to put the damp patch against her skin, his little body thin and uncomfortable in its wet jammies. He tried to take her hand, tried to catch the fine fabric of the hankie as she twirled it endlessly around her fingers. She pulled away from him, rejecting his attempt to comfort her. “Don’t. I’ll kill myself before I let a man touch me again.” He held himself still as she cried, almost afraid to breathe. In case she told him that she blamed him, that she didn’t love him any more.

###

He waited at home while Mom and Dad went to the police station. He hadn’t wanted to be at home on his own, in case the men came back. But Dad was angry and had told him to stay. So so he stayed.

He was hungry. But he didn’t want to eat his birthday cake. It didn’t seem right now to eat cake bought for a celebration. And he was thirsty. But he wasn’t allowed to use the kettle when Mom or Dad wasn’t there. He was just about to get some milk from the fridge when he heard the front door open.

Mom came through the door pale and walking slowly, leaning on Dad’s arm. He wanted to go to her, hug her. But more than anything he wanted her to hug him, comfort him, tell him it wasn’t his fault. 

She wouldn’t look at him, and Dad wouldn’t meet his eyes either. Was it his fault, what happened to her? Could he have kept her safe? They didn’t speak to him, so he took himself off to bed, pulled the covers around his shoulders and retracted his eyes and ears. But he kept a hand extended so he could hold Teddy, make sure no one could Take him. That made him feel safe.

###

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