Name: Raquel Irvine
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Title: The Sanctuary
Word Count: 73,000 words
Themes: Grief, personal growth, will to survive, #ownvoices
35-Word Pitch: After being expelled from her birthplace, 17yo Kit Gomez must survive the unforgiving Arctic – and possibly the undead – with only her handsome, entitled nemesis as a companion on a mission to save her mom’s life.
First 500 words:
If there was one thing I knew best, it was this: never let your guard down, never lose your edge. Too much hung in the balance. Once exhaustion overcame caution or distraction blurred focus then bad things happened. Like dying. And I wasn’t about to die. Not today. Not in training.
I shifted my weight, my legs numb from crouching. Curls from my ponytail tickled my neck as I squeezed my eyes shut and listened. High above, polar winds roared against the dome ceiling. An isolated gunshot echoed down the alley, followed by one – no, two sets of running footsteps.
I smiled. I lived for this. The moment to prove myself equal, to feel like I belonged for once – and it never got old. No, I wouldn’t die today. I felt more alive here than in the reality of the dome, where only cold expressions and judgement met me. And the past.
Alice crouched a few feet from me, her gun poised between her knees. Her deep brown eyes were dilated – an echo of the surge I felt. I held up two fingers, and she nodded back.
On cue we turned the corner into the alley. My heart battered my ribcage like a death dirge. I flexed my finger over the trigger, steady and composed.
Two figures froze, jaws open wide, their faces just discernable in the darkness. I fired twice at the thin blond nearest me, the recoil of the gun casting vibrations up my arm. He clutched his vest and with a sharp cry fell against the red brick of the building, his face white in contrast.
A shot rang out from behind me, and the second target hit the ground hard. I tightened my grip on the gun as I looked at their fallen bodies. A pang of remorse seized me. No time. I turned and scanned the street ahead. Clear. Too easy. It was never this simple.
A flash of movement on a roof caught my attention.
“Cover!” I hissed to Alice.
I ducked down a street to our left. The continuous rows of red brick wall formed a tight maze, but it wasn’t our first run. We’d never failed yet and didn’t plan to today. Alice followed as shots rang out from above.
I pointed above. “There’s two left. We’ve accounted for the others.”
Time was almost up. I pushed the thought away. I would deal with the realities of life in the dome when I had to. Not now.
“We can’t stay here forever,” I said. “Let’s go.”
We followed close along the wall, our focus a rusty fire escape about midway. Alice was taller, so she jumped and grabbed the lowest rung, cursing under her breath as it clattered to the ground. I flinched. Anyone could have heard that racket. Cole, I thought grimly.
The rungs of the ladder were cold on my hands, and the stagnant scent of mildew and mold lingered in the air around me, filling my lungs like a blanket of pollutants.