Monday, August 25, 2014


Apocalypse High
67700 words
YA Dystopian

Chapter 1

SECTION 1: Let it be acknowledged that the current state of the environment and political atmosphere presents a clear and present danger to the safety of the nation.

SECTION 2: Let a school, Survival Academy, be created to increase the survival skills of the youth, for the benefit of the nation.

SECTION 3: Let all citizens undergo a written test to determine eligibility to attend Survival Academy at the end of their high school career. This exam will be administered by the DARTS (Defense and Readiness Training to Survive) organization and all admission decisions shall be made by the DARTS board.

-Survival Act, passed in 2030                                                                 

As I clung to the edge of the gaping hole I heard my younger brother’s mocking voice in my head, “You’re going to be a reject!” While I agreed wholeheartedly that the odds of me surviving two years at Survival Academy were slim, it still irritated me when he pointed it out. Now, glancing down at the bottom of the hole, which was more than twenty feet away, I could only hope the fall killed me. If it didn’t then he’d have a field day with the fact I hadn’t even made it through orientation.

I tightened my grip on the dirt that held me up, attempting to pull myself out. Years of swimming had given me fairly good upper body strength, but at the same time a healthy love of chocolate and other junk foods had given me a pleasantly plump figure. Even my swimmer’s arms weren’t enough to pull me back up. The dirt started to crumble in my tight grip and I let up a little.

A tiny pebble hit me right between the eyes, and in that moment I hated Survival Academy and everyone involved with its creation. I remembered the room full of spare food and water in my family’s basement. Without a doubt, my own parents had been a part of the paranoid masses that helped bring the Survival bill into existence.

I heard footsteps as another new arrival raced by the hole where I dangled. I didn’t bother calling out for help. Survival Academy students weren’t known for their willingness to assist others. Done blaming everyone else, I turned the blame squarely back on myself. A perfect score on the DARTS Exam, I mentally kicked myself for actually trying on it. I thought I was safe and that I didn’t have the athletic skills that DARTS valued so highly in students. Turns out a perfect score on the exam outweighed my physical shortcomings.

“So you had a modeling job all lined up?! Girlfriend, that is the ultimate bummer. Being forced to trade a glamorous career start for this place.” A slightly high pitched male voice carried across the field. They didn’t seem concerned about attracting attention. I recalled the first part of orientation, and hoped there weren’t more paintball shooters hidden in the area or they’d zero in on him right away. Then again, what did I care? I was seconds away from dropping twenty feet, getting shot by a paintball seemed like a better option at this point.

“Are those fingers?” A prim, feminine voice came from the same direction as the man.

“Yeah, looks like someone fell in a hole. We’ve been passing them for the last few hundred feet.” A masculine voice spoke confidently. I wondered what the person attached to it looked like. I pictured a supermodel with that sexy voice. Not that it mattered, I wouldn’t be able to see him from my hole anyway. At least I could have a happy fantasy going in my head as I plummeted to the ground.

Sparkling blue eyes and an incredibly handsome face appeared over the edge. The man’s perfect features were marred only by a light scar over his right eyebrow. His shaggy brown hair almost fell in his eyes as he looked down. I stared up at the face, so startled by its appearance that I couldn’t even speak. “Want a hand?” The man asked.

“Um, yeah?” His presence unnerved me, and my voice rose at the end.

A second head appeared over the edge of the hole. This man had the same sparkling blue eyes as the first one, but the similarities ended there. “Did you seriously just ask her if she wanted a hand, Pen?” I instantly recognized the voice that had inquired after the woman’s modeling career moments before. “She’s hanging in a hole, get her out!” The second one slapped the back of Pen’s head lightly.

Pen gave the feminine man a dirty look and then two large hands grasped my wrists. I flew up over the edge. I rubbed my arms, trying to get some feeling back into the appendages. “Thanks for the help,” I said slowly. I didn’t trust that these new comers didn’t have an ulterior motive.

“How long were you there?” A gorgeous blond woman stood a few feet away from the edge of the hole. She eyed it cautiously, as though it would pull her down. I got the feeling she was enjoying this orientation about as much as me.

“I dunno, maybe fifteen minutes? Enough time for plenty of people to pass by.” I paused, examining the three people staring back at me. The man who had pulled me out of the hole must have been related to a giant, or at least that’s how he seemed to little five foot five me. He towered over me by at least a foot and was incredibly muscular. The other was probably about my height, and fairly slender. He stood with one hip jutted out, a position I’d seen girls take many times, but never a man.

“What is your name?” The blond girl stepped closer and I instinctively moved back. I just about tumbled into the hole again. Pen grabbed my arm, steadying me and holding on until I stepped forward once more.

“Trying to reach the bottom?” He asked with a raised eyebrow. Despite his initially tough appearance, I saw a small smile flicker across his face that made my knees weak. He was even better looking when he smiled.

“Get off her case, Pen.” The shorter man pushed Pen away. “I’m Skylar Collier and moody muscles here is my brother Spencer. I call him Pen, which could be short for Spencer, but I like to think of it as short for pensive, which is how he’s spent most of his life.” He motioned at the blond girl. “This is Lacey.” Skylar smiled brightly at me. “What’s your name, girlfriend?”

“Annabelle Thomson.” I didn’t see any danger in sharing my name, but I thought I better hit the road soon. “Well, thanks again for getting me out of there. See you around.” I turned south and started walking.

“Um, Bells?” Skylar called after me.

“My name is Annabelle,” I yelled over my shoulder, but I didn’t stop walking. I heard footsteps race over the grass. In seconds Skylar walked on one side of me, Lacey on the other, and Spencer took the lead.

“You should come with us,” Lacey said with a friendly smile.

When I’d discovered I’d been accepted to Survival Academy, my first stop had been the online bookstore. I bought every book I could find on making it through two years at the school - the place students affectionately called Apocalypse High. Every book shared the same advice. Don’t trust your classmates.


  1. Oh, this reminded me a little of Starship Troopers. Very cool! I did enjoy getting the set up of the premise in the opening, but part of me wished it just jumped into the chapter. I felt a connection to the main character as well, but I wasn't sure if she was a girl or boy right away. I think a stronger hint of that would have made an even stronger connection sooner. Best of luck to you!

  2. I think I agree with Laurie here -- I wouldn't mind a little suspense about the exact circumstances that brought Annabelle to this place. More oblique references to this survivalist society would leave the reader curious for more (not a bad thing!) as the book goes on. I'd be very content to pick up those details in bits and pieces as I followed along with Annabelle.

    I'm also surprised that the others reacted so calmly to seeing someone hanging by their fingertips over a pit! They don't seem all that hasty to help her at first. Is that a deliberate callousness because of there competition with each other?

    It's also really interesting to have a survivalist culture, but in a world that clearly still has rule of law, exams, formal academies... It's a good contrast from the standard collapse-of-society dystopia.

  3. Interesting take on a high school! I also like the Survival Act in the beginning that clues the reader in before the story starts, although now I want to know what dangers this world faces in order to pass it in the first place. The beginning has tension, especially with the whole "don't trust your classmates" thing, although I was kind of confused by the school's setup. How do people get into the school? Are you drafted, or do you choose? Is it only based on the test scores? Why is it only for two years, instead of the usual four? I assume you get to these later, but having a little clarification in the beginning would help visualize the setting more.

    Good luck!

  4. I liked the MC' s voice and connected to her right away. I'm not sure you need the articles at the beginning. I'd rather learn that info a little further in and I'm not sure how many teens will wade through the legalese. I want to know a little more about how she fell into the pit--and a few more physical details would help me appreciate how hard it is to hang by your fingers for fifteen minutes. She has a calm, funny outlook--is she panicked at all? What are the stakes if she falls, besides the threat of injury and her brothers mockery? Best of luck!


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