This (plus like two more paragraphs at the beginning) was the original first chapter that I pitched to my editor in November of 2012. I kind of love it.:D It encapsulates the whole feel of the book.
Class is nearly over when the blackness starts to descend around the corners of my eyes and it’s almost a relief to lay my forehead on my arms so I can get it over with.
Even though all my muscles are tensed and ready, it’s as though a force crashes down and I try not to shudder as a painful weight settles on my body.
It feels different this time. It’s a vise that envelops my entire head. Squeezing, squeezing. A moan builds up in my throat and I push it away.
An Oracle never loses control. My aunt’s voice echoes through my head, but her words blow away as a storm thrashes within my brain like a physical thing, battering against my skull until I honestly fear the bones are about to shatter. What is this?! Distantly I feel my fingers grip the edges of my desk and I hold statue-still, scrolling through every tactic my aunt taught me and new ones I’ve come up with on my own throughout the years.
But this vision is too strong. It tosses aside my defenses as though they are tissue paper trying to hold back a stampede.
Within seconds, the formless presence of the foretelling pulses around me. I can still kind of hear Mrs. Patterson answering a question about the radius of convergence, but her voice is getting further and further away as I struggle against a pull that feels like a river, carrying me away in a whirling current. Inside my mind, shadows are beginning to emerge. Then I’m spinning, falling.
No, no, no! I shout in my head, trying to grip my desk harder, breathe even shallower.
None of my tricks are working.
I’ve never had a vision this strong. Even when I was younger and didn’t know how to control them, they didn’t overwhelm me quite this way. Some tiny part of me knows that I’m in school, sitting in a classroom surrounded by other sixteen-year-olds, but in the midst of the vision, those facts seem as fantastical as stories of princesses and dragons.
Then, with a brilliant flash of light, the falling sensation stops and my stomach feels like it flips upside down.
My feet are on solid ground.
I’m at the school football field.
Goose bumps rise on my arms, and the air is clammy and damp like I’m standing in a thick fog. The vision pulls me forward, forcing me to walk, bending me to its will as though it were a living thing.
I fight every step even though I know it’s too late. Still I fight. Because I’m supposed to. Because Sierra would expect it.
Because I owe it to my mom and dad to at least try.
I see her feet first.
Clearly a her—small feet clad in maroon ballet flats with little bows over the toes. I focus on those bows. I don’t want to see the rest.
But even where I look is out of my control and my gaze moves up her body. Legs, torso, shoulders. Face. In my mind, I gag and I hope my physical self doesn’t too.
Her eyes are open, sightless and a vivid blue. The splatter of blood across her cheeks is so fine it almost looks like glitter. But deep-red liquid pools under her neck, still dripping from her unmoving body. The puddle spreads as I watch, and the slice across her neck gapes in a grotesque display that makes my whole body rebel.
I want to run—need to run—but the vision isn’t finished with me yet. I focus on the rest of her body, taking in the smaller injuries I missed the first time around. Her shirt is torn across her midriff and a long, bloody scratch decorates the skin there. A knife? Fingernails? I can’t tell. Her ankle is twisted at an unnatural angle and her hand is covered in blood starting at the fingertips. Her own? Her attacker’s? There’s no way to be sure.
The voice is almost singsongy.
I jerk my head up and air rushes into my nose. With a dull shower of sparks, my physical sight fades back in.
“Yes, Mrs. Patterson,” I say as soon as my throat stops convulsing long enough to let me speak. Croak.
“Number twenty-three,” she says, her hand on her hips, her voice heavy with annoyance.
How many times did she call me?
I make my neck tilt down; my eyes have trouble focusing as the numbers swim on my paper.
“One hundred sixty-seven point six eight,” I say, finally locating my answer. I look up and meet her eyes, hoping she’ll just move on. I don’t even care if I got it right. She stares at me for a moment. A beat. Too long? Too short? I don’t know.
My breathing returns to normal but my fingers are still clutched around the edge of my desk, pressing so hard they’re white all the way up to the second knuckle. I force them to relax, one at a time, but when I pull my arms back and tuck my hands into my lap, they ache from the tension.
A sheen of perspiration prickles on my forehead and catches the breeze from the heater, making me shiver. More sweat is trickling down my spine, gathering under my arms. I feel gross and worn out and all I want to do is go home and take a nap.
And some ibuprofen.
And something that will make me forget.
Even before I was better at blocking foretellings, the things I saw didn’t always happen—the future is fluid and the glimpses Sierra and I get are simply that: glimpses of how the future is currently set to play out.
But my record is pretty solid. Because unless you do something to change the future—which I would never do again—it’s probably going to flow down the foretold path.
My heart speeds as I try to recall every detail. But it almost hurts to remember. The stark image of the thick, syrupy blood still pouring from the slash across her neck makes my stomach churn. It may not technically have been a real body, but unless something changes, it will be.
The bell rings—shrill and piercing—loud enough to distract me for the tiny second I need. I pull my mind away and take a deep breath, pushing back some of the nausea.
I have to get out of here, I think as I shove my books and papers into my backpack. Get out of this classroom and I’ll be okay. I can go home. Take a nap. Forget about all of this.
I yank the zipper closed and spin toward the door in the back of the classroom, hoping I can walk some semblance of a straight line.
Then I freeze.
Bethany laughs and touches her friend’s shoulder.
I didn’t think about her face in the vision. Didn’t worry about identifying her.
All I saw was that cut. The blood.
But she’s wearing those maroon ballet flats.
SLEEP NO MORE, by Aprilynne Pike, April 29, 2014
"Don’t close your eyes.”