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The Middlestone Murder
YA Fantasy/Murder Mystery, Chapter One Snippet
Instead of sharing a work of flash fiction today, here’s a brief “snippet” of a project I’m diving into. I’m excited to hear your thoughts!
In the center of Middlestone rested a massive boulder. It spanned two or three houses wide, yet it came to a jagged point on top where a lone raven liked to perch and keep watch. Sailors and fishermen compared the Stone—as everyone called it—to a giant shark tooth, though most people had never seen a shark, let alone a shark’s teeth. It didn’t matter. The Stone was so obscure and so out of place that it didn’t seem to be of this world. But, for the most part, the concrete-minded and hardworking townspeople paid it little attention. It was simply there—just like them.
On a brisk damp morning at the end of winter’s thaw, three boys chased a fourth through the twisting alleys and side streets of Middlestone. The boy being chased wore a patched-up tunic and trousers while those chasing him were buttoned up to their chins in heavy woolen sweaters. More importantly, the boy on the run clutched a warm loaf of bread.
“Get him, the thief!” Brandon O’Keefe yelled, the eldest and tallest of the three brothers.
The frantic chase spilled out into the main square in town, around a couple of empty food stalls, and then toward the Stone.
Simultaneously, a man wheeling a cart came around the bend. The boy with the bread crashed into him, flipped over a crate, and landed on his back with an Ooomph! Before he had time to get up—or even register what had happened—the boys were on him. The cart-man, who stunk like a cloud of alcohol mixed with strong onions, cursed under his breath and continued on his way.
“Sorry…I think I squished your bread,” the thief managed as the boys dragged him to his feet. They pinned him against the Stone.
Brandon’s fist met the thief’s abdomen, causing him to keel over. The other brothers—Milo and Billy—forced him upright.
“Do it again, Sidney,” Brandon said through gritted teeth, “and see what happens.” He punched him—this time in the nose—causing a sickening crunch. Blood flowed freely, spilling onto Sidney’s tunic.
The boy dropped to the hard-packed earth and clutched his face. Tears streamed down his cheeks. A final kick met his ribs. He let out an anguished breath and curled into a fetal position, protecting his head.
“River scum,” Brandon spat.
Before they left, they were kind enough to rub some dirt onto the bread and lob it at him. “It’s ruined anyway,” Milo muttered.
Sidney pressed his tunic firmly against his nose to stop the flow of blood. He glanced at the bread out of the corner of his eye. “You better taste good.”
Before he gained any further unwanted attention—half a dozen adults were now gawking at him, the beat-up street urchin—Sidney picked up the dirty loaf of bread and hit the alleyways. He knew this town and all of its shortcuts like the back of his hand. Within a minute, he slopped along a muddy side road that would take him the long way home.
He didn’t mind. A broken nose was enough trouble for one day.
Thank you very much for reading the opening to my young adult work-in-progress, The Middlestone Murder. It falls under the genres of fantasy and murder mystery (that’s what I’m calling it, anyway).
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Based on the first page or two, is this a story you’d continue reading or put back on the shelf? I know there isn’t a ton to go off of here, but I’m still curious to hear. No hard feelings either way.
What projects, stories, or different forms of writing do you work on outside of Substack? I’m interested to hear about what else you have going on!
Thanks to all readers and writers for another fun turnout for Fifties by the Fire. In case you missed it, please feel free to check out the stories here.
I appreciate you being here at Along the Hudson, and I hope you have a wonderful week!
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