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  • Writer's pictureHillora Lang

Dark Passage

This is an introduction to my first attempt at a middle grade novel. I'd love to hear what you think!

Keffi, a human female who has just turned twelve, has stowed away on her parents diplomatic shuttle, which has just landed on a ship of the Et’ealth, a new species with which they are establishing first contact.

Running for cover, I barely slipped behind one of the jelly-filled metal pods before the door slid open. The feel of fleshy leaves stroking the back of my neck made me cringe away from the lush vegetation above, but I was grateful for the extra cover. I crouched down low, leg muscles shaking. And it wasn’t from the sudden sprint.

I’ll admit it: I was scared.


Fighting to quiet my breathing, I peeked around the edge of the pod – one of hundreds ranked across the huge room – and watched two of the Et'ealth enter the ship’s farm. They were guiding a floating bin between them, and I could see half-meter-high seedlings nodding their heads above the rim. The seedlings were small, but I could tell they’d grow into plants like those in the pods lining the farm chamber, bulbous and fleshy, translucent-creamy stalks topped by lush leaves in a variety of colors.

The Et'ealth were dressed in a variation on the ship’s uniform I’d seen the ambassador’s staff wearing, and that of the crewmembers in the docking bay. But whereas the other Et'ealths’ uniforms were black or gray, these two wore green. I guess that’s the universal color for growing things, even among alien cultures.

Who ever thought there’d be farmers on an interstellar ship? But the Et'ealth were vegetarians, so I guess it stood to reason they’d grow fresh food, when traveling far from their home world.

The crew members – male? female? did it matter? – positioned the floating bin at the top of the pod where Ensign Morley floated on the surface of a bed of pinkish jelly, then took up positions on either side. From where I was hiding I couldn’t see inside, but in my mind, I could see the ensign’s terrified eyes jittering around, desperate to escape whatever the Et'ealth had in store.

There was nothing I could do to save him now. I’d tried to pull him out of the pod, but they’d paralyzed him somehow, and he couldn’t move a muscle. They’d stripped him bare, a fact which heightened my fear.

Some of the jelly clung to my hands where I’d tried to lift him out; it was mortifying that I’d touched his skin like that. I’d had to fight my squeamishness and failed anyway. I wiped the slime off on my coveralls, leaving a viscous smear along the side of my thigh. PaAveryx was going to kill me for ruining another piece of clothing.

I should be so lucky. The Et'ealth would kill me first, no doubt of that. They were going to kill us all.

My back pressed up against the pod, I peered out from my hiding place. I didn’t want to see what they were doing, but I had to. I had to be able to report back to the commander, in excruciating detail, what I was seeing. I had to bear witness to Ensign Morley’s torture. I had no choice.

If there was any way I survived myself, I had to tell them what I’d seen. The lives of everyone on the ISS Daedalus depended on me.

The lives of everyone on Earth depended on me.

The Et'ealth pulled laser scalpels from their beltloops, and started transplanting the seedlings into the pod, one by one. Into Ensign Morley. Tears burned tracks across my face, blurring my vision. And still I watched.

Ensign Morley’s screams went on for a long, long time.

Please tell me what you think. Should I write this novel?

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