Lauren Oliver, the author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy (now becoming a TV series), recently put out a contest in the theme of her upcoming novel, Panic. Here is the official page.
Below is my submission for the contest, along with a podcast with what was going through my brain while typing up the words.
OR If you prefer reading, check out the blog I also wrote on the writing process!
Here is Lauren Oliver reading her first three chapters of Panic (which I mention in the podcast).
The contest prompt was exactly what I needed to overcome the writer’s block that has been plaguing me for the last few days. So all in all, it was still an amazing experience! Below is the piece I wrote (and actually may incorporate parts of it in my upcoming novel, who knows?), and comments on what was going through my mind throughout the piece.
By Yada Pruksachatkun
THE silence was so brittle I feared it would shatter.
Sitting on the dentists’ chair, in the middle of Carp Hospital, with a mask-covered nurse shuffling everywhichway, I could only imagine what was going on outside.
There would be the crowd of survivors who were eliminated from the race, as well as parents and even high school students. The jocks would be holding back the line of freshman girls ogling at the judges.
“It is that time again folks,” a judge would say, “The Final Exams.”
Such creativity. The nurse dabbed some yellow fluid into my wrist, which was wrapped by a rubber wire.
My parents would be there. They would be pointing at the hospital, gushing about how it was their daughter up there and about the money. It wasn’t like we were poor; we had a house with a pool. But we weren’t rich either.
The nurse put a clicker right beneath my fingers in the arm rest, a black contraption the size of a keyboard mouse.
“If you choose to back out, click. “
I peered at the cloudy sky from the window. Heather would probably win; she was the braver of the two. For this particular Exam, the judges had decided on a drug which was supposed to turn your worst fears into dreams.
The needle pierced my skin, coldness seeping from that sharp point. It spread slowly, under layers of muscle and sinew, wrapping around blood vessels and glazing everything with a layer of ice.
And as tingles became shivers became an endless ache, the sounds of the room faded away.
And yet, I could not stop the memories.
“Let’s promise to be better than them.”
But now, memories, thoughts, were slipping away, into the ice the drug had left behind…
“Yada Pruksachatkun!” Her usually light, velvety voice was strained.
Lifting my head up, grogginess gave way to dread. The class was silent, except for the usual tricksters, who were throwing paper airplanes at the back.
In the middle of her desk was a packet of A4 papers, “English IB End-of Year, Grade 12 Exam” splattered on the front. My name, written neatly at first, had trailed off at the end.
Ms. Dougherty was now in front of her desk, her fingers drumming on the oak. Steeling myself for the insults and disapproval, I looked up.. Her relaxed face didn’t match her tone of voice, soft, hazel eyes peering from beneath grey, thinning hair.
“I guess even the best must fall.” There was not even an inkling of emotion in her words.
What? “Ms. Dougherty, I can explain. I was simply”-
The teacher put a detention slip on the desk. “Sleeping? I frankly don’t care.”
And now, the whispers start, from the edges, spreading like a virus. “She’s such a problem.”The voices built up, a wall of noises one on top of the other. “What a hassle.” “An embarrassment.” And all I could do is close my eyes, wishing this insanity will stop. Pleasepleasepleaseplease
Warm arms embrace me, the smell of slightly burnt cinnamon protruding the smell of paint. “Ssssh….”
I pushed at the person, strange whispers and contempt stares still penetrating me, before leaning into the cotton, flower-print fabric.
“I had the worst dream. ”
As my mother enveloped her, she realized the smell of burnt cinnamon was off, The smell spread out, now smelling too much like cheap perfume.
“Can you stop hugging me now?”
I felt my mother trace little circles down my spine.
“Mom, stop!” Tearing myself out of the embrace, I found my mother suddenly on the ground, gasping for air.
Her eyes were a cracked brown, blood slowly trickling from her mouth. A moldy green was spreading across her skin.
The blood now flows profusely, and it’s edging closer and closer to me. I want to run, but I can’t. My mother’s expression is haunting. A serene calm, like my mother had known I would do this to her.
My fault, my fault, the stretch of blood was making a zig zag pattern across the ground. My fault, my fault. Her raven black, cropped hair merged into my longer, wispier hair.
Now, staring back at me, the person was no longer my mother. It was a small girl with a kinked smile and wispy hair. I knew who she was. And then I found my voice, and screamed.
She, that person in my body, wearing my eyes with a blank look from beneath the blood. She was me. Staring at me curiously, she tilted her head, and asked.
“Why can’t you do anything right?”
Other than the black dentist’s chair, the heart monitor, and a box TV now in front of me, the room was empty. The applause was coming from the TV, which had the local news station on.
“Heather clicked, Yada did not! ” one of the judges said, “And so it is out extreme pleasure to award Yada Pruksachatkun with the Pot!”
“Good for you.” Turning my head to the matter-of-fact voice, I saw Heather. She was leaning back against the door, a clean Macklemore Rocks T-shirt on, a rueful expression on her face.
“It’s tradition for the runner up to give you the pot, so.” A stack of $5,000 bills was thrown on top of the TV.
I did it. My parents could finally get that vacation house they desired, and I could get that Alexander Wang dress I had been eyeing online.
Catching herself, I stilled. I had made a pinky-swear promise, to Kayla, my best friend, and to myself, in a sleepover so many years ago. I would never feed a system where only the greedy and moral-less get to the top, feeding off of the poor.
TV didn’t seem so appealing anymore.
Heather opened the door, before hesitating.
I turned as the door slammed closed, leaving me alone, with $50,000 made from the sweat of someone else’s toil and sacrifice.
I’d like to congratulate all the winners. Their work was incredible and so emotionally jerking. To see the winning entries, click here.