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Name: DeQuaina Washington

Title: HELLGROUND

Genre: Sci-Fi

Comparables: Octavia E. Butler's Dawn meets Tom Piccirilli's The Cold Spot

Hook: 

Beaten and betrayed, facing a life sentence in state prison, a seasoned bank robber makes a desperate break for freedom and escapes only to discover that the world he knew has suffered a devastating and hellish alien invasion, and the only option left to him is to try and save the one person he still loves.

Pitch: 

When Mint Mallard, one of the most prolific bank robbers in the world, breaks out of prison to get revenge on the man who put him there, he quickly realizes that the world he left five years ago has changed more than he could have imagined, and not for the better.

Preoccupied with fielding attacks from mysterious and murderous creatures that masquerade as human, Mint soon realizes that his vengeful mission must take a back seat to finding and rescuing his estranged wife, Mira Star, from whatever is making the sky churn and the world slowly devolve into chaos.

Unfortunately for Mint, Mira is on a mission of her own and proves hard to find. While searching for her in the dangerous outskirts of Las Vegas, Mint is attacked by a brutal, fanged creature. He survives, barely, and wakes with a newfound ability to mirror the powers of the otherworldly creatures that want him dead. Finally able to see their malevolent intent from the inside, Mint realizes that the very person behind the evil taking over the earth also happens to be Mira's newest love.

Forced to team up with an enemy and master his new powers, Mint must undertake the heist of a lifetime to save the world, and the woman he loves, before the entire world succumbs to Hellground.

First 500 Words:

 

CHAPTER 1

“Another sandstorm,” Mira says, tossing her spent cigarette to the ground and grinding it into the sand with the heel of her boot. “And it looks like it’s going to be a bad one.” She shades her eyes from the sun and squints into the horizon where the storm festers like a swarm of locusts. It’s so damn hot. Her lungs are on fire, her mouth is dry, and her tongue is a sweltering, heavy sponge in her mouth. She’s in constant pain from head to toe and the cut on her bottom lip reopens every time she speaks, as if to remind her that things are spinning out of control. Wouldn’t be the first time, won’t be the last. Her eyes flit to the door of the gas station and she wonders if they should shelter inside until the storm passes.

“Oh yes, another sandstorm. Fourth one this week. Global warming?” Red asks with a smile. He likes to bring up global warming. He finds it funny, poetic, exciting, says it’s the perfect indication of humanity’s frailty in the face of climatic shifts other species would consider innocuous. Mira has no opinion on the matter. She only hopes that she’s dead before the whole planet combusts into dust and gas.

The bell on the gas station door tinkles as they enter. The sudden shift from the arid heat into the chill of air conditioning makes Red flicker in and out of corporeality as if he’s the unfortunate result of a bad television signal circa 1960, a glitch in his emulator, but the gas station attendant doesn’t notice. She is tall, blond, the type of girl people see and wonder what fate forced her to waste away her beauty in such a way, expiring behind bulletproof glass in the middle of nowhere. There’s no doubt in Mira’s mind that the woman’s seen some things out here in the desolate desert lands between Las Vegas and the ethereal strangeness of Rhyolite, but she’s probably missed way more than she’s witnessed. With a job as boring as this, chronic inattention is inevitable after a while.

“Storm’s coming,” the attendant says without looking up.

Mira nods and then hesitates. The woman's uncanny resemblance to someone she despises has left her unsettled, and Mira's trying to figure out if she should do something about it to ease the sudden unpleasantness in her gut. In the end she lets it go and heads over to the snack aisle in search of off brand chocolate sandwich cookies to eat on the way.

“Do you think this one will last long?” Red asks, appearing beside her. He finds the sandwich cookies before she does and hands them to her, his eyes searching for his favorite snack—salted peanuts.

“The storm? Nah, it should be over in a few minutes, I bet. This one's pretty bad, but even the worst of these are in and out in under ten minutes. If you’re looking for peanuts, they aren’t on this aisle, this is the sweet stuff."

She watches the attendant closely as she approaches the counter, notes the heaviness of her breasts, the brilliant green of her eyes, the all over tan that suggests she likes the outdoors when she’s not stuck selling petrol and unhealthy snacks to unsavory characters--present company included.

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