Name: Emily K Beck (@EmilyKBee)
Genre: Science Fiction
35-word pitch: Mina hears the rhythms of other people’s minds. She fears the sounds only she can hear are a sign she is one of Bastion's secret guardians and commits a crime to learn the truth.
First 500 words: As I wait in the dark, the drone of sleeping minds presses in. It’s the same sound I fall asleep to every night. It only feels different because I’m about to break the law.
There’s a click as Bree opens the door of her apartment and slides out. Her mind is a fizz of anticipation that agitates my own nerves. I hold up my solar torch to reveal my friend’s slanted grin.
“Come on,” I whisper, gesturing with the light towards the stairs. Bree slings her backpack onto her broad shoulder, and turns towards the exit. Entering the stairwell dampens the buzzing of brain noise as we move farther away from the people sleeping in their apartments.
We sacrifice stealth for speed, hurtling down the stairs. It’s late, but there is still a chance someone could return home after a night shift.
Bree shoves the heavy door at the bottom of the stairs, letting in a biting rush of air. I pull my arms deeper into my jacket.
Stepping outside the tenement reduces the buzzing to a faint tingling at the edge of my awareness. Today might be the last day I have to wonder why I’m the only one who can hear that sound.
Compared to the darkened stairwell, the streets of Bastion are vibrant. The moon hangs overhead, the visible sliver bright behind the perpetual veil of smog. There’s enough light to glint on windows and the glossy skale leaves growing over the skyscrapers.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been outside at night, with no one else around. For a second I forget about our plans. The darkness blurs the imperfections of well-worn buildings and streets, making the city look fresh and untouched. It glitters. It’s like new.
“Mina.” Bree is already a few paces ahead of me. “We’ve got to hurry.”
She’s right. It’s a long walk to the Chancery and we’ve got to leave now if we’re going to make it there while it’s still dark. I straighten and adjust my backpack. The can of spray paint shuffles inside the bag, the cold metal burning through the thin fabric.
“Okay, let’s go.”
We hurry towards the edge of our block. I glance back at our tenement to make sure no one is following and my gaze slips down the darkened street that leads to the outskirts of the city. The presence of the empty buildings on the perimeter of Bastion is harder to ignore in the dark. A reminder that this city was built for a lot more people.
“Let’s cross to the terrace,” I say, forcing myself to focus. Bree nods.
My hair flies free from my hood as I dart across the road. Despite my nerves, I’m smiling.
I reach the other side of the street and duck into the shadows. Bree joins me a second later.
“We should do this more often.” She laughs, but the words send an aching ripple through her brain noise.