My book used to have a prologue. I know, I know, I should avoid them like the plague (unless they REALLY bring something to the story), but I was young and dumb (so full of hopes and dreams) and hadn’t really written a novel before. Prologues seemed the way to go – after all, all my favourite (epic fantasy) books had them. Why shouldn’t mine? Well, because it was bad. I’ve also been told it was confusing. That might be because I started the first chapter with my main character waking up from a terribly disturbing dream….yeah, I know. I think I’ve probably committed every writing crime there is.
But you have to break a few eggs to fluffify a souffle, or whatever. The first draft is never going to be good. Maybe not the second, third or seventh either. And that’s okay! As long as you improve a little for every draft, you can get as many tries as you want.
Anyway, the prologue! I cut it out like I cut out toxic friends – slowly and protractedly (is that even a word??). I also cut like the first four chapters, but more on that later (finding your true beginning is hard, yo). Fortunately for you, I kept the prologue hidden in a secret safe in my basement, also known as Google Drive, so that I can take it out and look at it from time to time, to remind myself that however bad my book is now, it used to be so much worse! And so, without further ado:
Her skin rippled, as bones and organs rearranged themselves. Dr. Marcus Lowell pushed his glasses as far up on the bridge of his nose as they would go. It was the only way he could describe it. Like sails billowing in the wind. Waves rolling onto the shore.What had he done? The lab he was in forgotten. The people in there with him were black and grey smudges in his peripheral vision. The only thing that mattered, the only thing that existed was her. He noticed that things were growing. Joints moved around. Her spine, shins and the many little bones in her feet elongated with loud pops and cracks. Her shoulders then pushed forward and the breastbone and ribcage became more pronounced. Lowell winced, as the change caused the her organs to drop and squelch, suddenly untethered. Her nasal bone melted into the upper jaw, was pushed forward as the eyes were pushed to the side, and the ears up and back. Her blackened lips curled back and revealed an impressive set of sharp teeth. Elongated canines. Cheeks and jaw bulging as new and larger muscles replaced the old ones. He hoped this one lived. He hoped this one remained sane.There had been so many failures. A howl of pure, raw agony erupted from her throat as the skin on her toes and fingers split apart to make room for larger, harder, sharper nails. He shivered. An unpleasant tingle in the back of his head spread down his shoulders and arms. His hands turned cold and clammy. His stomach roiled. He wanted to scream. When the horror ended, the doctor leaned his head against the glass wall separating him from the thing inside the cage and closed his eyes. His heart raced, his mind raced and his hands were itching to run tests, and poke and prod the creature. After all the years of trying and failing, all the sacrifices, he had finally succeeded.
«Gentlemen, what you see here is a successful rearranging of the human DNA, a complete reconstruction of the human physiology. We have fused her genes with the genes of several different animals. She is faster and stronger than anyone else on the planet. She has excelerated healing abilities. Thicker skin, sturdier bones, able to withstand tremendous amounts of pressure. No simple bullet will kill her. Gentlemen, we give you the future. And this is only the beginning,» Dr. Lowell’s superior said to the group of investors who were watching the transformation with him. He had completely forgotten about them. They stood in a semi-circle, arms across chests. Expensive suits, even more expensive watches. Dark stains in an otherwise white room. Ruining the sterility, the sanctity of his lab with their breathing. They reeked of money. And power.
«Friends,» his superior said, spreading his arms wide, «we have delivered on our promises. This is a sound return on your initial investment, yes?»
«But…look at it. What can it even do?» a short, broad-chested suit said, disgust stamped on his face.
«I assume you don’t expect us to continue funding something like this without testing the prototype first?» another suit said.
His boss shot a glance at the second man, then shrugged before folding his hands and smiling at the investors. «Of course not. I will make sure-»
«Look! Something’s happening again,» a third suit said, pointing towards the glass cage. Dr Lowell turned to the glass separating them and it. The subjects’s body convulsed again and the ripples reversed. Everything retracted and moved back to its original place. He swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry.
«What-» the suit was cut short as the subject opened her eye. A burning, golden eye focused on the men beyond the glass wall.
«Don’t worry. She can’t see us,» Dr. Lowell’s superior said.
Dr. Lowell felt coldness spread out from the pit of his stomach and he shivered involuntarily. Her gaze was disturbing. So calm and calculating. Indifferent. Inhuman. A predator’s eyes. Even worse than John’s. As always he forced himself not to think about where or how John found his subjects. Who they were before. If they had families. John could be snatching people from their cars on the way to work, stealing babies from their cribs, kidnapping nuns from their cloisters. He had that look about him. Doctor Lowell did his best to stay out of John’s way as much as possible. But this one had been skinny to the point of emaciation, bruised and needle-marked. A street girl. Maybe John had actually done her a favour? He doesn’t do anyone any favours, remember that. He follows orders and collects what is owed him. There was something odd about her pupils, something he couldn’t quite describe. But it’s nothing like last time. This… this is better. Her lips pulled back in a crooked grin, revealing that her teeth had not yet been fully restored to their normal state. The suits were moving nervously about, trying to stay as far away from the glass, and the creature behind it, as they could, and yet still being close enough to see. The boss gave Dr. Lowell a pat on the back and shook his hand.
«Well done, doctor. Excellent work. She is perfect,» he said. He stepped closer to the glass, positioned himself directly in front of her, enjoying the sole focus of her attention.
«Sir, maybe you shouldn’t stand so close–»
«Nonsense, doctor. Three layers of alon glass and two-way mirror. I’ve never been safer,» the boss said.
«She scares you, doesn’t she?» his boss asked, not even bothering to look at him.
Dr. Lowell didn’t answer. She shouldn’t be able to do that, he thought, the amount of sedatives John gave her could knock out a small horse. A loud crack sounded from the subject’s room. Dr. Lowell looked up and took a step back. The woman had broken both her wristbands and was now casually wrenching off the breast and headband. A restrained flexing of her legs broke the ankle bands. He sucked air in between his teeth and pushed it out again in a loud hiss as the subject got out of the chair. That alloy was supposed to be unbreakable, he thought. She rose to her full height and he realized that his design was flawless. It had been intended to hypnotize, to incapacitate and it was working. He couldn’t look away, didn’t want to. He stared, frozen, taking in her deadly grace, as she moved towards the glass, her movements oddly loose and fluid. Her gaze slid over them, not resting on any one in particular, as if none of them mattered. Her regard, her countenance seemed almost bored, and her movements were slow, almost lazy. Still drugged. What if she comes out of it completely? He thought. A tremble had settled in his hands. She moved closer and he could see that her feet were less human than they appeared at first glance. The heel stretched far up on the calf, making it look like she possessed an extra joint. We could disguise that. The thought came from somewhere distant and far away. A place were logic and reason were still intact.
«Doze her,» his boss commanded. His voice brought Dr. Lowell out of the trance and he swung his head to the side. «Tranq gas only.»
Dr. Lowell used a control panel by the glass door and flooded the room with sleeping gas through nozzles fitted into the ceiling. The creature kept its burning eyes on him the entire time, before they rolled back in her head and she collapsed to the floor.
«Lets start testing her right away. After the initial battery of tests and secuirty clearances, set up a host family and a controlled environment. I want to see how she functions in real scenarios.»
«But, she’s-» Dr Lowell said, but was interrupted before he could finish. She’s dangerous. Does it matter? No. I could learn so much.
«Get it done!» his boss barked. «And make sure we have eyes on her at all times. I want everything monitored, 24-hour surveillance and analysis, weekly medical check-ups, the works.» «Yes, sir.»
Dr Lowell was working on new projects in his lab. It had been two years since they inserted his first successful experiment into a controlled environment, and for the past year she had been off the grid. Completely gone. No one had seen her, all of her tracker implants were dead, satellite searches had yielded nothing. John was out there looking for her, his frustration evident in his increasingly violent behaviour. The boss’s face popped up on his computer screen.
«Good news, doctor. I just got word that John has located the asset. He is bringing it in as we speak,» the man said. «Finally…Alive?» the doctor asked. The pop-up head nodded. «Prep the lab. Have everything ready when John brings it in.»
So much exposition! And how about that clunky-ass dialogue?! Now that I think about it, this is actually the edited prologue…The original one was much, much longer and a lot cringier… I wonder where I put it?