To celebrate the launch of my debut novel today, The Apollo Illusion, I’ve decided to do something fun! For the next five weeks, I will publish, FOR FREE, sneak peeks of the first 10 chapters of my book (one chapter per post). And I’m starting today by publishing THE WALL, my first chapter!
The Apollo Illusion is a story for the hackers, the techies, the seekers, and the rebels of the world. A dystopian suspense for young adults and millennials, it’s now available through Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, and paperback via Amazon.
So, without further ado, I present to you, the first chapter of The Apollo Illusion …
Its presence has loomed over me since birth, but my eyes have never looked upon it—until today. The moment feels surreal, like it’s happening to someone else, and I find myself consumed by disbelief.
My bike is parked against the tree beside me, and I tilt my head toward the sky until the soaring Ponderosa pines disappear. The Wall towers over them all, far surpassing the woods surrounding it like some dark lord overlooking its peasants, and it mesmerizes me.
I could reach out and touch it, feel what mysteries are hidden within, the secrets I’ve been drawn to discover since I was a child—what’s on The Other Side—but the Wall’s authority stops and reminds me: You’re forbidden to venture beyond this point.
Andrew. I hear his voice calling my name, floating between Aspen and Ponderosa branches.
“I’m over here!” I yell.
We are mountain biking together through the forest in Apollo, like we do almost every Saturday when the weather warms enough to melt the snow and ice. I’ve been pushing our starting point further each week, asking Andrew to drive an extra ten miles here, five miles there, before pulling our bikes from the back of his car and pedaling into adventure. Today, my efforts paid off.
I hear Andrew’s tires cracking over broken branches and the gentle panting of his breath as he swoops in behind me. I turn around and smile, watching him swing a long leg off the mountain bike and lean it against a tree.
“I thought we agreed not to go off-course,” he says, approaching me in a slow stride, his dark eyes piercing through mine in that evocative way. A thrilling chill grips my core and I try to concentrate on anything but Andrew’s delicious looks.
“I thought you knew me better than that,” I say. “Since when do I follow the rules?”
I try to ignore the wistful pit developing in my gut, and I worry my face reveals too much. Andrew has been my friend since we were eight years old. He was my only friend then, and is my only friend today, at nineteen. I don’t intend on ruining our history because of some stupid, fleeting attraction.
Andrew smirks and approaches me, playful but intense—too intense, and I realize I’ve stopped breathing. He leans against the tree trunk, trapping me, and lowers his gaze to meet mine.
“Now, how will you get away?” His voice grows deeper and I smell the mixture of sweat and cologne; we’re so close now, only inches apart. Worried that my rapid breath might reveal too much, I yank away and spin around.
“Like that,” I say.
As I’m staring at Andrew—admiring his thick, disheveled hair—I notice his gaze rests on something behind me. I turn around, only to confront the Wall once again. While joking with him, I’d almost forgotten what I had come across.
“You found it?” he asks.
“Not on purpose.”
“Bullshit.” Andrew pauses for a moment, lifting an eyebrow. I know he doesn’t believe me.
“Flora, you ask about the Wall too much.”
I reach into my back pocket and pull out a crumpled map littered with red squiggles and black Xs. “I swear to you, Andrew, I didn’t find it on purpose,” I tell him. A little white lie never hurt anyone. “Do you have a pen?”
Andrew winces—I can tell from the nervous twitch in his hand that he’s uncomfortable here—but he pulls a pen from inside his jacket anyway.
“Here,” he says, handing it to me. “Where’s yours?”
“I’m not the writer.”
I stand still and absorb our position for a few moments, taking in the possible location of our morning ride, and I lower my eyes toward the map, estimating where we had drifted. Andrew watches me in silence as I draw a solid black circle around the southern edge of Apollo.
“Do you really think it’s a good idea to mark it?” he asks.
“We mark everything,” I tell him. “It’s our map, Andrew. We’ve never omitted one of our discoveries before. Why should we start now?”
Andrew lets out a laugh, but it’s forced. “You know why, Flora.” He begins to back away from the Wall, looking like an intruder who encroached upon enemy land. “We should get out of here.”
“Who’s going to know?”
But Andrew shakes his head. “We need to leave. Now.”
He jogs back to his bike and swings that long leg over the seat. I sigh, disappointment washing over me like a flash flood in the mountains. Reluctantly, I fold our map and shove it into my back pocket before following Andrew’s lead and grabbing my bike.
As I’m pedaling away, however, the Wall seems to beckon me. I glance back over my shoulder, and I swear I see the thing smiling.
Stay tuned for the next chapter, WORLD HISTORY, publishing next week on Tuesday.