The following is the opening scene of my latest sci-fi novel. It's just under 800 words so it shouldn't take long to read. I'll say no more about it. It would be really neat if you all could comment on whether or not you're pulled in enough by this opening to want to read on. For me, the opening is the hardest part of writing a novel. I'll admit, I've struggled with this opening scene quite a bit and have rewritten it several times. Let me know what you think, and don't be afraid to be critical. Please note, nothing here (other than the first three lines because I'm convinced they're perfect) are set in stone.
He took the red pill first. Sure, any fool could follow the company’s prescribed pill-taking sequence—green, blue, yellow, and then red. He may have been a fool, but he wasn’t their fool. Used correctly the pills were designed to keep him alive. Abused correctly they could drive one insane, which would be one way to get out of the monotonous twelve-hour shifts he endured day after endless day monitoring meters and gauges that never changed; meters and gauges millions of desperate people bet their lives on.
His brother’s voice came over the comm. “Pierce, it’s been a long night. Can you be here on time for a change?”
"Sure thing," he replied, wondering why the hell he hadn't turned his comm off the night before. As his superior in the Pits, Pierce hated the idea of disappointing his big brother, Paul. So for now Pierce would take the company’s pills in moderation, albeit not in the right order, and show up for his shifts like a good little soldier, which meant he needed to get his ass in gear and get ready for work.
He stripped down and walked through the quick-cleanse, effectively killing off whatever underground bacteria might be nesting on his body. When he got out, he settled in front of the mirror. The face that looked back gave him pause. Something about this morning was all wrong. He grabbed the lower half of his beard and gave it a tug, then grabbed a pair of scissors and began cutting. Then he went at it with a razor until there was nothing left but a short stubble. Still not satisfied he began shaving geometric patterns into the remains of the beard before moving on to the close cropped hair on his head.
His friend Remmy’s voice came over the comm just as he was putting the final touches on a swirly design above his left ear. “Hey Pierce, I got something big cooked up for this afternoon. Stop by my control room when you get a chance.”
“Shit. What time is it?” He looked at the clock on his comm device. Twenty minutes late and his face and scalp were a bloody mess. After a quick wipe with a wet towel he slapped tiny pieces of tissue over the bleeding nicks and pulled on his coveralls. Then he popped another red pill in his mouth, and ran out the door. Already his morning had gone to shit and the day had barely started. Dashing down the hall he jumped into the elevator and pushed the middle of three buttons several times before the door closed.
A sexy female voice came from speakers in the ceiling. Welcome crewman Pierce to the Big Sleep; the most extensive social networking event ever. You are now twenty six minutes and eighteen seconds late.
He mouthed along with the greeting stopping just short of the reminder of his tardiness. Pacing as the car made its ascent to the next level he almost wished it would keep going until it reached the planet’s surface; crazy thoughts that vanished as soon as the doors opened.
Thank you for your service crewman Pierce. Have a nice day.
He rolled his eyes and tried to act casual as he hurried out of the car. But as the doors closed behind him he heard something unexpected from the voice in the elevator.
No need to hurry. He’s already dead.
Shaking his head he raced down the hall to the security door of his control room where lifted his hand to the palm reader for access. He was shaking. Something was definitely off this morning. Maybe he shouldn’t have taken the red pill first because his thoughts kept getting crazier. If he didn’t get in the control room soon, Paul would ream his ass faster than he could flick a bugger. But first he had to fight through this sudden panic attack. From down the hall he heard the elevator’s voice again.
He’s dead. Don’t go in there.
He covered his ears and squeezed his eyes shut. Sure he’d been late before, but he’d really been meaning to turn things around. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he forced his hand onto the reader and opened the door.
As expected, his brother sat in the command chair. But there was no disappointed older brother glare. “Paul, are you asleep?” he choked out, knowing full well his brother would never be caught sleeping on the job. But looking at Paul sitting motionless with his unflinching eyes wide open, Pierce couldn't admit to himself what he knew deep inside to be true. And sooner or later he would have to accept the fact that he would never hear his brother’s voice again.