Within These Walls - First Chapter Critique

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Within These Walls - First Chapter Critique

Postby TeeVee » January 17th, 2016, 11:36 am

Hey guys, it's been a while since I've posted any writing here on Boolprop but I've been working on something new and I'd love to hear some thoughts on it. Within These Walls is a horror story for a middle grade audience (I've gone for creepy over downright scary). So far, I've got two and a half of the five books I'd planned out written and I'm really enjoying the characters and the world. I'm just curious to see how gripping my first chapter is.

When Yuuki wakes to find herself being held captive in a dark dungeon, she never imagined it would be because of the Lamia her mother had always warned her about - the demon creature who preyed on naughty children.
Forced to work in a mine with the other children, Yuuki can only dream of finding her way out of the prison and back to her parents in Tokyo.
But the children weren't taken just to mine the pretty crystals hidden in the earth - something darker is going on within the walls and slowly the children are beginning to disappear.
Yuuki stumbles upon the secret one day and finds herself locked in a battle of wills trying to hide what she knows. But their warden has ways of finding things out, and it's not long before she's coming after Yuuki.

So, without further ado, here it is:

The Jailer

My gnarled fingers sunk deep into the springy, moss-ridden dirt as I clawed my way out of the hole in the ground. Prickly branches swept over my body, niggling against my back as they fell back into place to cover the tunnel again. The sky had faded to a dull purple during my time underground, leaving me to be little more than another shadow in the night.

Heaving the rest of my tail out of the tunnel, I turned and sniffed. The sweet scent of life weaved through the air. Sharp, vibrant, tangy; I shivered at the thought.
Moving silently through the darkness, I kept my head tilted as I listened to the sounds of the night. My progress was slow; my tail feeling more and more like the burden it was. I was getting weaker; it had been a while since my last hunt.

A light thrust me into a spotlight of unwanted attention and I hissed involuntarily, forgetting myself for a moment, then retreated into the shadows once more. Glaring at the offending building, I noticed a silhouette dashing behind a curtain in the square of light that had blinded me. Perhaps I wouldn’t need to go far after all, I had thought. I had planned to go further into the heart of the city, but the outskirts would do fine if I could get even a hint of what I was searching for.

As I reached the wall of the house with the light, I placed a bony hand against it and closed my dark eyes. Taking a deep breath, I pushed my palm flat against the stucco wall and sent a pulse through the building. Then I waited. After a moment, my lips twitched into a gruesome smile. It was faint, but it was there. Magic. Excited now, I crept towards the front of the house. There were no windows on the ground floor at the side, and I needed to see inside. The age is important; it has to be just right or the magic fades too soon. At the front, more light spilled out, so I carefully peered into the first window.

Around a table set for five, sat three. A cake lit up the child’s face as she blew out the candles; candles in the shape of two ones. The girl was eleven. Perfect. My fingers twitched as I gripped the edge of the window. I would have to be patient now. I couldn’t just snatch the child there and then.

A scream swiftly followed by a crash catches my attention. Glancing back inside, I could see the girl was throwing one hell of a tantrum. Curious, I pressed my ear against the window so I could hear what was being said.

‘You horrid little brat!’ the girl’s mother shouted. ‘Do you want the Lamia to take you? Do you?’

‘No!’ the girl shouted back.

Too late, I thought. I’m already outside. I knew that parents used me as a tactic to scare their children. I am the monster in the night; I chase them in their nightmares. But I don’t choose naughty children as the adults suggest, no. I’m interested in something much better.

It wasn’t long before the girl was sent to bed. Naughty children are such a burden for their parents, even on their birthday. I waited and watched, searching for the window that would light up; the beacon for the bedroom I was looking for. The windows on the front remained dark. Dragging my dead weight of a tail behind me, I kept my eyes focused on every window on the higher floor until I spotted the one at the back of the building, lit up just for me.

Keeping my eyes fixed on the window above me, I stayed in the shadows and waited. Closing my eyes, I waited until the faint trickle of magic shifted the air; it was stronger than before now - the girl’s anger and confusion feeding it strength. I had an inkling as to why she had freaked out; their powers always awakened whenever I was around. A touch from the other side does wonders for a magic sproutling.

Feeling my strength return, I waited just a few more minutes. Then I started singing.

The lullaby never fails. My voice turns soft and wilting, relaxing and tempting. Children can’t resist it; human or otherwise. I have to be careful. My appearance has jolted a child out of the trance more than once before I was able to grab them. I shrink into a patch of shrubbery and watch the window, letting my voice drift towards the window, willing the child to be an easy target.

It didn’t even seem like a second later that her shadow appeared against the curtain. Moving it aside, she peered out into the darkness, searching for the source of the beautiful tones. I shrank further into the shadows. She couldn’t see me, not then. It was too soon.

‘Come little child, let’s all go away. The darkness is ripe, for adventure this day. The moon is our guide, glowing pale in the sky. Such wonders await you, when you come to my side,’ I sang, raising my voice just ever so slightly higher.

The pitch is such that only children can hear it. A wonderful trick that my dear mother imparted to me. We need the children, she had told me, but they must be strong, healthy, and young. Always young.

The girl had opened her window by then, poking her head out into the night, searching the garden. I peered through the shrubs, searching her eyes. The lullaby played on the magic, brought it out, even if the child wasn’t aware of it. If the lullaby was strong enough, it linked to the magic immediately. I would be able to feel it. I waited, watched.

Then I felt the slow, steady trickle come to me. Raising myself to my full height, I left the shelter of the shrubs to stand below her window. She was deep enough now that I could reveal myself. Even I am disgusted by the way I look. Almost human in appearance above the waist, my feminine figure has been ravaged by the slow passage of time and my lack of care. My lank, black tendrils of hair hang over my shoulders and slither down my back. My skin is taught and brittle, easily damaged. Below the waist, I am a strong serpent; my tail a lethal weapon when I have the energy to use it.

I pushed myself forward, keeping my eyes locked on the child. She had the telltale glint of gold in her eyes. She was mine.

‘Come to me, child,’ I said, holding up my arms. ‘I shall show you things you’ve never imagined.’

All thoughts, critiques, etc. are welcome. I've actually already got an agent's interest with this novel so I'm trying to make it the best that I can possibly make it before I send it off to him :)
Thank you everyone who voted!
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