Title: Fresh Horizons
Entry Nickname: Humankind Is Basically Screwed
Word Count: 86K
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Addisalem Worede never asked to be the last hope of the human race, and to be honest, she’s not that great at it. As the unofficial leader of a mission meant to ensure that the end of Earth is not the end of humankind, she must keep the last twelve humans in the galaxy alive and safeguard their meticulously curated trove of gametes.
Except Addi can't protect them all as the casualties start coming. A fire onboard their spaceship, an unprecedented and irreversible Sisyphon jump, a crash landing on their new planet—the colony is foundering before it has even begun. The only thing standing between Addi and a yawning pit of existential despair is her faith in the endless protocols developed by the planners back on Earth. But Earth is a quadrillion kilometers away, awaiting certain doom, and the protocols offer less help every passing day. The colonists, and Addi, are on their own now.
Addi has to hold the colony together, concealing just how precarious their position is, without falling to pieces herself. Their colony is supposed to be the continuation of humankind, but Addi may just be presiding over the final demise.
Space is mind-bogglingly, indescribably huge—so of course they all had to attempt to describe it.
"It's like a drop trying to picture the whole ocean," was Sasha's offer. She only said it to hold up the bare minimum of participation in the conversation. She wished everyone else would just shut up or go away, but they wouldn't, so she had to play along. Not the worst way they had passed one of their post-dinner evenings, trying to assuage the boredom of being cargo. At least Addi wasn't nagging at them, for starters.
"The cramped conditions of a spacefaring vehicle will require extra attention to interpersonal relations," her mission therapist had said.
Fine. She tried to disregard the others, biting her tongue against someone's idiotic statement that the universe was a giant womb. Sasha didn’t want to think about wombs, or the suspended gametes a couple decks below her boots. She pressed her forehead against the porthole. The velvety blackness stretched away in all directions, speckled with a few stars bright enough to be seen past the Mayflower's lights.
One of those stars was not a star at all but Earth. Almost impossible to believe, if she hadn't spent the past few months watching it grow steadily distant and miniscule. Longing lanced through her. The craving to see blue skies overhead, to run until her lungs ached and still have a limitless horizon in front of her. To feel the sun on her face.
Yeah, and then die an excruciating death. Don't be daft, Sasha.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: Under the Surface
Entry nickname: Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy
Word count: 64K
Genre: YA Speculative Fiction
Seventeen-year-old Lauren Williams, self-proclaimed rebel and professional mother-disappointer, needs a distraction.
When Lauren hears about the legend of Lake Modoc, she’s intrigued; exploring the forgotten underwater town is the perfect adventure to take her mind off of her mounting stack of detention letters. Together with her two best friends, Lauren hops on a boat (somewhat illegally) and sets out to discover the Atlantis of Owego County.
One problem: Lauren must bring her eight-year-old tattletale sister, Roxie, along for the ride. In the split second Lauren and her friends find the creepy, algae-covered church steeple under the lake, Roxie disappears from the boat. Silently, impossibly, Roxie is gone.
While the police and the county focus their efforts on dragging the lake, Lauren is wracked with grief. She becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets behind Roxie’s increasingly mysterious disappearance. The further she digs, the more she realizes that the century-old town under the lake was buried for a reason. Unwittingly, Lauren unleashes the town’s ability to lure away children—and if she doesn’t find her sister soon, she might have more than one lost kid to answer for.
With Roxie’s life hanging by a thread, Lauren must dive under the surface to save her sister… or live under the weight of Roxie’s death forever.
The water of the lake stretches out in a shadowy blanket before me, rippling in the cool breeze. I breathe deeply and let the wind play with the ends of my hair. On the horizon, I see something bobbing in the water, but the moment I squint harder to see its shape, it disappears.
“Ugh, damn it! These test tubes are impossible,” Carly shouts beside me, breaking my meditation.
“Jesus. You ruined my yoga vibe.”
“Yeah, ‘cause I can totally see you doing downward-facing whatever. Can you help for two seconds?” Carly pushes her red curls out of her face, bent over the water’s edge.
As I make to take a step toward her, movement flashes in the water again. My heart skips a beat, but I try to focus on taking up my time-honored duty: talking Carly down from insanity.
“Hey,” I say. “You’re the one who wanted to overachieve on this assignment. I would’ve been fine using tap water.”
“Tap water is too easy. I want a challenge.” The glass tubes she’s holding cascade into the lake, causing her to swear under her breath.
“Well, consider yourself challenged.”
Carly has been my best friend since that time we had the misfortune of being dressed in the same hideous sweater on picture day in the second grade, but at times like these I ponder our actual compatibility as human beings.
I crouch down next to her and help her fish the test tubes out of the water.