The Last Touch — YA Dystopian Fantasy — by: Samantha Wilhelm in New Worlds, New Voices - SFF Shooting Gallery Posted June 13, 2022 NAME: Samantha Wilhelm NOVEL NAME: The Last Touch (the first book of a planned series) GENRE: YA Dystopian Fantasy WORDS: 85K COMPARABLES: Book Comps: Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son meets Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me meets Neil Shusterman's Scythe Media Comps: Steven Knight’s See meets Avatar: The Legend of Korra PITCH: In Fovea, a dystopian interdimensional world hidden in the suburbs of Boston, people are born with magic powers aligned with the human senses. Some are born with the sight (to move objects around with their eyes), the scent (to smell impending doom), the hearing (to hear other’s thoughts), and the taste (to taste one’s blood and determine which sense they possess). Only one person in all of this world is bestowed with the sense of touch: the ability to give or take away these powers—and they must pass the touch on before they die, otherwise it will be gone forever. Clumsy seventeen-year-old Mason, responding to a yearning to prove himself, joins a secret group of rebels who call themselves the Unseen. They believe the magic senses must be purged from Fovea before their power destroys the world. While with the the Unseen, Mason meets Sarah who, following her mother’s mysterious death, becomes only the second person ever from the modern world to accidentally find herself in Fovea. Fearing the Unseen and the touch, the power-hungry governor's son, Pamos, has raised an army hell-bent on finding the person who possesses it so that he can kill them and ensure it’s gone for good. Sarah’s arrival in Fovea, however, sparks a new goal: to find a way to use the touch to possess all five senses, leave Fovea, and take control of the entire world. Mason wants to help Sarah return to her world, despite his budding feelings for her. Together they must find the person with the touch before Pamos and his army does, so that she is able to, and so that they may help the Unseen rid the world of the magic senses altogether—before it succumbs to Pamos’s wrath. PROSE: Part One: The Sight Chapter 1. Mason hoped that this day would be different, but despite the human eye being the only organ more complex than the brain, getting them to do what he needed them to do was a problem. It was the fourth time that evening that he stood in the common room squeezing them shut so tight that his eyebrows reached for his cheeks and sweat dripped from his forehead, leaving his hair stuck to it like a second skin. The task was supposed to be simple: he just had to make the book move. When he mustered the courage to open his eyes, the blurry shapes of his housemates came into focus. They were snickering. No stranger to this, he tried his best to ignore them. He took a deep breath in and drew his attention down to his feet. The thick, hardcover book waited for him in front of his boots, as if it were challenging him to a duel. He exhaled and glared at it. He tried to imagine its pages flipping through his fingers, but in his mind they felt too crisp and rough. So much so that he could almost feel the burn of a paper cut. The book didn’t move. No, no, that’s not right. He tried again and his palms began to sweat. He rubbed his clammy fingers together and this time could only imagine feeling the soggy limpness of a book that had been left out in the rain. Nothing. Ugh, no, that’s not it either. His eyes narrowed into a pinprick and the veins in his temples swelled in concentration, but the book wouldn’t budge. It sat still, taunting him at his toes. His caretaker, Timp, sat in the wicker chair across from him and the grey-flecked silhouette of his head eclipsed the sole window of the room. “It’s okay, you’ll get it soon. I promise,” he said, breaking what little concentration Mason had left. Muffled laughs erupted from where Cal and Daryl sat. They were sixteen, a whole year younger than Mason, but their books were planted firmly in their hands. Even Skylar, only eight years old, had managed to move his copy a few inches over on the ground. He sat proudly in the circle with a crooked-toothed grin, kicking out his feet that couldn’t reach the floor. "That’s enough from you two. This isn’t a competition! The Sight can require dedicated hours of practice,” said Timp. "Dedicated years for some,” laughed Cal into Daryl’s ear. Mason rolled his eyes. “Shut it, Cal.” "Both of you, enough,” Timp barked. “It can take years for some and it’s better that way.” Mason sunk into the knotty pine of his chair, wishing to become invisible. Timp turned to him and his smile cast nets of wrinkles up into the corners of his eyes. “Mason, just remember: with the Sight, your eyes aren’t just windows—they’re doors. In order to see what’s on the other side, you just gotta turn the knob.” Mason flashed a weak half-smile in response, but he hadn’t the slightest idea what he meant. Whenever he tried to use his Sight, there were never any doors, and definitely no knobs. Just an almost-adult who couldn’t figure out how to use his magic properly. It was humiliating. Timp stood up from his chair and stretched. “Everyone, listen up. This is important. I don’t want any of you to rely too much on your Senses. I mean that, even if the governor would have my head for it,” he said, looking tired. “Now, books away. Sight or no Sight, I don’t care how you go about it but there’s stew in the kitchen. Eat up and get to bed early tonight—all of you.” Stew again. If you could even call the rice and bland broth stew. Mason didn’t have the slightest bit of an appetite for it, so he shuffled himself out of the common room and past the cold-tiled kitchen, avoiding any eye contact with his peers. Having lived at the Home since he was a baby, he knew every creak of every step on the way up to the boys’ sleeping quarters. He also knew that despite how early he went to bed—tomorrow would be another full day of failure, just like every other day. He opened the door to rows of canvas cots greeting him from within. Laying down on his own, he freed an enormous sigh. The truth was, he wasn’t all that tired despite how much he wished he was, so he focused his eyes on the disheveled heap of blankets tangled at his feet. There were no distractions. No one waiting for him to mess up this time. He imagined the soft comfort of sleep. Two corners of the wool blanket lifted themselves into the air as if on their own accord. Mason’s mind, taut like the blanket itself, strained as the fabric pulled over his gangly legs. An itch. He became all too aware of the scratchy canvas of the cot beneath him. I just can’t do it. The blanket became slack and collapsed midway up his thighs. Useless. He seized the bedcovers with his hands and tossed them over his head, enclosing himself in blackness. For someone who was almost of age to leave the Home, he hadn’t the slightest idea as to where he would go or what he would be able to do when the time inevitably came. At eighteen, orphans in Homes were supposed to be sent off into Fovea to make something of themselves. Mason wished he had been lucky enough to be born with a more unique Sense, then maybe his inaptitude would go less noticed. He often dreamed of what it would be like to have the Hearing or the craft of the Taste. Hearers were exceptionally useful to merchants for their ability to know exactly what a customer might be looking for, simply by hearing their thoughts. And Tasters, they had plenty of work to do in the apothecaries with taste buds like theirs, able to taste anything and understand in an instant all the properties that it consists of. The Scent would have been nice, too. Skylar was already displaying an impressive perception of impending hazards with his. He would nervously pull at his hazel curls and rub at his button-like nose every time he felt like something bad was going to happen. Mason recalled the sting of jealousy from when he first found out, as he was the first child to come to the Home with a Sense beyond just the Sight. What did it really matter though? Despite how unique he wished he was, he was certain he’d be just as bad at any other Sense as he was with the one he did have. His eyes weren’t windows or doors, just a house so boarded up that not even any sunlight could sneak inside. Just like the wool sanctuary of his blankets.