SF novella opening (1000 words)

luriantimetraveler

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Hi all! First critique (kind of nervous! And excited!). This is the opening to a SF novella I'm working on. I know I have a tendency to meander in my openings, so would definitely appreciate feedback on places to tighten this opening, along with any notes about questions/areas of confusion that throw you out of the story (as opposed to questions that pull you in and keep you reading).

Thanks in advance!

****

I could begin with horror: the way the blooms opened across our skin in furls of angry red, bruised purple, noxious orange — clusters of fungus first on skin, and later in the throat, stoppering speech, and then the lungs, fluttering the breath into stillness — and all along, in the brain, the parasitic wings arced through the delicate folds of the mind, leaving us witless, drooling and incontinent and unsure even of our own names.

That is one horror, one way to begin.

Another horror, another way to begin: a man I love — my brother-self, twin — behind glass, a deep red bloom like a moth’s wing spread across his throat, reaching below the neck of his grey scrubs. There is silence before we press our buttons to open a com-line. In that silence is a vast distance only he and I can understand — although I think you, too, may come to understand it. He and I are the only twins to have been born since humans left earth; the distance between us now is made infinite by the fact of our closeness before.

But is this how I want to introduce you to the world: with horror?

Noah would begin with curiosity; that was Noah’s strength. Ruth, he would say, don’t you ever wonder...

The Chariot would begin with what is and what was and what will be, because her understanding of reality and time are not ours, not human. Chronology is a choice, she would say — she probably will say that to you, at some point, if she hasn’t already. And perhaps you will believe her, you who will live your whole life inside her, on this journey I have set you on.

But I think it is better to start with a song, with the story of a song. Our* father was a genetic historian onboard the Genesis Space Station; fifth generation, with the long limbs and narrow face of the space-born. He loved his work and often read to us from the histories he wrote: they were histories of genes, lines of ancestry not just of people but of our vegetables, our fish, our fruit. This is the story of silver scales, he would say; this is the story of a quickness to anger...

He loved his work, but his true obsession was the Terran Beacon. We knew it first as a bedtime story of a message wrapped in so many layers of protection, only the true recipient could reach the message within. A message from far-away, unimaginable earth. We learned about it in school, too. A faint radio signal. Telemetry tracked from earth. The uncrackable code, a digital Voynich manuscript. Noah picked up his enthusiasm. Until we were nine, Noah and I were one — I know this will be hard for you to imagine. Until we were nine, Noah and I were one voice, one movement. We had a language all our own that had risen up from within us without any conscious decision — it was simply the language of us. A verbal pair of hands, clasped together.

And then Noah became obsessed, in a way that surprised even our father. Noah had already connected the Terran Beacon to the Chariot, although none of us understood the connection then. He rushed through his homework in order to work on the the Beacon’s message. Often, after dinner, I was left alone — for the first time in my life — as father and Noah debated possible decryptions of the garbled text.

I was reading a novel on my tablet — a historical fiction novel about a real woman, Rosalind Franklin, who helped to discover DNA thousands of years ago. In the novel, Rosalind complained about her colleagues calling her Rosy, which was the name of her aunt — a woman with anise breath who found fault with everything. I wondered what anise was, what it smelled like, and turned to ask father when I heard Noah.

He was speaking our language, which at the urging of our teachers we had stopped using except late at night, when no one but us could hear.

“It’s a series of numbers, coded in these repeating words,” he said, switching back to English.

“Of course!” father replied.

“Do you think these are another cipher?”

Father shook his head. He began to hum as he tapped his finger against the screen where the message scrolled. “It’s a melody.”

“They sent us a song?” I couldn’t help interrupting. How improbable it all seemed — that Noah would have solved a seventy-year mystery, that it would be a song that sounded like our Passover songs, like the song we sang on the anniversary of Mother’s death.

Father’s hum was slow, heavy, climbing through low notes towards a mid-range and then falling again.

“It sounds old,” Noah said.

“I'll have to check,” father replied, “but it sounds like it could have come from the same era as the Ashir Shirim.”

Noah and I both waited for him to explain: This is the story of...

“A song from Babylon, from almost six thousand years ago; traditionally it was played on a lyre — a stringed instrument.

“You think that someone on earth sent us a message with a six thousand year old song?”

“I didn’t decode it wrong.” Noah’s voice was stiff, distant. My disbelief had hurt him.

The song became the background to everything Noah and I did: our homework, our walk down the echoing corridors between the ha’kafer, where we lived, and the central hub where we went to school. He hummed it so constantly that it became a part of us — so that when he dropped off, I picked up the next note without thinking.

I even hummed it later, when I got my first internship in the human gestation labs, monitoring hormone levels in the tanks. Little fishes, I called them — the fetuses, fingers and toes curled in their watery wombs, and I hummed the song to them. I did it without thinking. The other interns picked it up too, and when I was appointed a permanent position in the lab, I kept humming it.
 

sule

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I think this is a good opening. It is a little rambling, in my opinion, and there are a few problems I had while reading it, mostly with phrasing and information. I also felt that much of her relationship with her brother was told to us and that when we actually had a scene where they interacted that the relationship between them felt different than what had been said by the narrator.

But is this how I want to introduce you to the world: with horror?
she probably will say that to you, at some point, if she hasn’t already. And perhaps you will believe her, you who will live your whole life inside her, on this journey I have set you on.
I was a little confused at this, wondering at the narrator's intended audience. Does the narrator have a specific person or people in mind for who they are telling this story? If so, is there some way you could indicate this? Otherwise, it feels like a strange way to address an anonymous audience at the start of a story.

Until we were nine, Noah and I were one — I know this will be hard for you to imagine. Until we were nine, Noah and I were one voice, one movement. We had a language all our own that had risen up from within us without any conscious decision — it was simply the language of us. A verbal pair of hands, clasped together.
I wasn't a fan of the interruption of the narrator, "I know this will be hard for you to imagine" before continuing on as though they hadn't interrupted themselves. I felt either the interruption shouldn't occur or the narrator should change their explanation to account for their expectation of the audience not understanding. Also, I felt that "a verbal pair of hands" sounded clumsy as a metaphor.

Noah had already connected the Terran Beacon to the Chariot, although none of us understood the connection then.
I felt this might have been a good place to interject a small explanation of what the Chariot is. When you introduced her the first time I took it as a character and explanation that would happen later when the characters encountered her. But if Noah is already making connections involving the Chariot, I would like at least an explanation of what the narrator at that time knew of the Chariot. Otherwise, for me this sentence meant nothing because I had no idea of what the Chariot was or what sort of connection he could have made to it.

He was speaking our language, which at the urging of our teachers we had stopped using except late at night, when no one but us could hear.
What did he say? I would have thought the narrator would know what he was saying since he is speaking their language, but you brush past it so quickly that I was confused.

“You think that someone on earth sent us a message with a six thousand year old song?”

“I didn’t decode it wrong.” Noah’s voice was stiff, distant. My disbelief had hurt him.

The song became the background to everything Noah and I did: our homework, our walk down the echoing corridors between the ha’kafer, where we lived, and the central hub where we went to school. He hummed it so constantly that it became a part of us — so that when he dropped off, I picked up the next note without thinking.

I even hummed it later, when I got my first internship in the human gestation labs, monitoring hormone levels in the tanks. Little fishes, I called them — the fetuses, fingers and toes curled in their watery wombs, and I hummed the song to them. I did it without thinking. The other interns picked it up too, and when I was appointed a permanent position in the lab, I kept humming it.
These last two paragraph transitions felt very awkward to me. First, you jump from the narrator's skepticism about the song immediately to how the song became a lifeline between her and her brother, then the next paragraph jumps an unspecified number of years to when the narrator has an internship and the song remains but the brother is forgotten. These parts felt unconnected to me, or at the very least strange in their treatment of the passage of time.

I thought that this is a very good beginning to an intriguing story. The voice of the narrator was good, and I liked a lot of the foreshadowing that happens at the beginning of the passage.
 

JS Wiig

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Disclaimer: opinions follow, take them for what they’re worth.

The writing I felt was very good.

However, I felt the story was mostly telling backstory with little showing of what the characters were doing or thinking, and why I should care about them.

I would definitely continue to read though, as I felt there was a good setup of conflict with a fungus ravaging her twin brother.

And yes it was a bit meandering. I would say pick an important bit, say the fungus or her relationship to her brother or the decoding of the signal and put me into the action in a character’s head. Show me what is happening and let me decide what I think of it.

Also just a personal preference, I don’t really like being addressed as “you” while I’m reading and being told what I should or might think about something.
 

Metaluna

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I like the writing very much. I also like the way the story is constructed. Getting a story to flow through a world which is very different to the one we know is always difficult - a balance between the introduction of a new reality and those hook points that keep us reading. It's the sort of writing where the reader has to be a little bit patient, allow the writer to construct a new world. For me it's a bit like a mosaic being constructed, one small piece at a time, the picture slowly being revealed. I think it's written with the confidence, style and talent needed to succeed.
 

HareBrain

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Here you discover the chief danger to be navigated in critiques, because unlike @sule, I didn't much like the foreshadowing at the beginning. These kind of openings feel to me like the writer is strewing around hooks because they fear that the actual start of the story isn't interesting enough. The disease hook and the question of what is Chariot are effective, and they would have kept me reading anyway, but personally I would prefer the story to start with the line "Our father was ..." It might seem a fairly bland, even old-fashioned opening, but to my mind challenging or surprising opening lines are often overrated. What I like is something that lets me slip easily into the story.

Your current opening "I could begin with horror" to me invites the train of thought, "But clearly you're not going to, or you would have just started with it. Why mention it then?" which isn't helpful. But I don't know if that's just me and my jaded reading sensibilities.

Anyway, from the "Our father" point I don't really have any comments. It reads well and is intriguing, which is all you need at this early stage.
 

Wayne Mack

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For me, this did not work well.. I never felt engaged with the POV character and I felt mentally overwhelmed with various unexplored starts of plot threads. The early paragraphs did not hook me and I ended up skimming the majority of the intro.

Although this is in first person, the POV seems to be superfluous to the story. The POV comes across as an unemotional narrator, often speaking directly to the reader. The early paragraphs have the POV speak directly to the reader while the OV explicitly ponders how to start the story. The POV speaks of horror, but doesn't show any feelings of horror. The POV speaks of love, but does not show any feelings of love. It isn't until the final paragraph that there is any hint that the POV is anything more than a purely external observer.

The opening also seems to set the stage to tell the story as a sequence of flashbacks. If that is the intent, then the current day thread needs to be made stronger. Is the POV observing his (her?) twin brother enduring a plague and reminiscing on childhood memories?

I also had a trouble accepting the apparent ages. Unless given some other indication of genius-level ability, I was not able to accept that a nine-year-old would be involved in decrypting signals that had baffled specialists. This threw me out of my suspension of disbelief.

Consider whether this is being presented from the correct POV. The current one appears to be little more than a fly on the wall observer. Perhaps Noah or the father would be a better POV. Both of them seem far more interesting to me as a reader than the anonymous 'I.'
 

Brian G Turner

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A lot of writers struggle with their openings, but honestly just start at the first sentence instead of writing something to the effect of "the story will start in a moment."

Also, your main character should be pretty active from the start. We want you to raise questions that will make us think, and conflict and stakes to create some tension.
 

Bren G

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@luriantimetraveler

I like the mystery of the opening since curiosity is a big element that determines if I am going to commit to reading on for a bit to look for more clues as to whether or not I will buy the book. I also think you're on to something with how your narrative flows. THere's a nice style to it that appeals to me. That said, I found the opening passage was too wordy and complex for me. I had to reread it two or three times to grasp the meaning (and any subtleties you might be planting here), and still left it confused. The second paragraph seemed to clarify things a bit more, but the reference to brother, self-twin, confused me more. That might be left for explanation later on as I think you can convey the closeness between the two people in other ways.

Coming from a sample size of one mind you, I'd look to simplify the prose while maintaining your style focusing on the experience without sacrificing the reader's ability to comprehend the narrative.
 

CTRandall

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I liked the style and, while it does ramble, there was a good combination of mystery scattered with touches of the familiar. I agree with @HareBrain that you don't need the horror opening. It's a distraction from the real beginning and it feels like it's been put there to try to raise the stakes, It's almost like you're telling the reader 'I know this part is slow but you'll get all sorts of drama if you just hang in there'. You don't need that. A gentle introduction to the characters and the world is fine.
 

Saiyali

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I could begin with horror: the way the blooms opened across our skin in furls of angry red, bruised purple, noxious orange — clusters of fungus first on skin, and later in the throat, stoppering speech, and then the lungs, fluttering the breath into stillness — and all along, in the brain, the parasitic wings arced through the delicate folds of the mind, leaving us witless, drooling and incontinent and unsure even of our own names.
As mentioned above, and I agree - I could begin with... so why don't you? How about Let me begin with...
Too many definite articles IMO, when I see the_ I generally want to know which? or what? If enigmatic is an aim, use more zero-articles here: blooms opened across our skin... / fluttering breath into stillness... / parastic wings arced through delicate folds of the mind...

I could begin with horror: the way the blooms opened across our skin in furls of angry red, bruised purple, noxious orange — clusters of fungus first on skin, and later in the throat, stoppering speech, and then the lungs, fluttering the breath into stillness — and all along, in the brain, the parasitic wings arced through the delicate folds of the mind, leaving us witless, drooling and incontinent and unsure even of our own names.

That is one horror, one way to begin.

Another horror, another way to begin: a man I love — my brother-self, twin — behind glass, a deep red bloom like a moth’s wing spread across his throat, reaching below the neck of his grey scrubs. There is silence before we press our buttons to open a com-line. In that silence is a vast distance only he and I can understand — although I think you, too, may come to understand it. He and I are the only twins to have been born since humans left earth; the distance between us now is made infinite by the fact of our closeness before.
Re. there is / there are / there was / there were / in the _ was a_ etc.
I'm possibly over-conscious of this in my own writing but generally I prefer instead of there was a _ doing _, something with a structure like, _ was _-ing. It's more concise (which is always good) and decreases separation between the reader / observer and the things being observed. For example, In the silence before we press our buttons to open com-lines, sits / lies / broods a vast silence only he and I can understand.

But is this how I want to introduce you to the world: with horror?

Noah would begin with curiosity; that was Noah’s strength. Ruth, he would say, don’t you ever wonder...

The Chariot would begin with what is and what was and what will be, because her understanding of reality and time are not ours, not human. Chronology is a choice, she would say — she probably will say that to you, at some point, if she hasn’t already. And perhaps you will believe her, you who will live your whole life inside her, on this journey I have set you on.
This sounds like The Chariot will begin with everything, ever! ...might begin with almost anything picked from past, present or future, because... might give a more vague and less overwhelming impression. And never underestimate might for some degree of possibility, instead of would or could.

But I think it is better to start with a song, with the story of a song. Our* father was a genetic historian onboard the Genesis Space Station; fifth generation, with the long limbs and narrow face of the space-born. He loved his work and often read to us from the histories he wrote: they were histories of genes, lines of ancestry not just of people but of our vegetables, our fish, our fruit. This is the story of silver scales, he would say; this is the story of a quickness to anger...

He
loved his work, but his true obsession was the Terran Beacon. We knew it first as a bedtime story ** of a message wrapped in so many layers of protection, only the true recipient could reach [it] the message within. A message from far-away, unimaginable earth. We learned about it in school, too. A faint radio signal. Telemetry tracked from earth. The uncrackable code, a digital Voynich manuscript. Noah picked up his enthusiasm. Until we were nine, Noah and I were one — I know this will be hard for you to imagine. Until we were nine, Noah and I were one voice, one movement. We had a language all our own that had risen up from within us without any conscious decision — it was simply the language of us. A verbal pair of hands, clasped together.
You could get rid of the bolded bits, and mention the Silver Scales and Quickness to Anger where I've put **.

And then Noah became obsessed, in a way that surprised even our father. Noah had already connected the Terran Beacon to the Chariot, although none of us understood the connection then. He rushed through his homework in order to work on the the Beacon’s message. Often, after dinner, I was left alone — for the first time in my life — as father and Noah debated possible decryptions of the garbled text.
Again, the bolded bit isn't needed, if you add below something at ** like I realised they were still trying to decrypt their pet text or something. That way, it's general (debating the text) ->specific (decrypting it) which possibly draws the reader into the lore you're hinting at a little more slowly.

I was reading a novel on my tablet — a historical fiction novel about a real woman, Rosalind Franklin, who helped to discover DNA thousands of years ago. In the novel, Rosalind complained about her colleagues calling her Rosy, which was the name of her aunt — a woman with anise breath who found fault with everything. I wondered what anise was, what it smelled like, and turned to ask father when I heard Noah.

He was speaking our language, which at the urging of our teachers we had stopped using except late at night, when no one but us could hear.

“It’s a series of numbers, coded in these repeating words,” he said, switching back to English. **

“Of course!” father replied.

“Do you think these are another cipher?”

Father shook his head. He began to hum as he tapped his finger against the screen where the message scrolled. “It’s a melody.”

“They sent us a song?” I couldn’t help interrupting. How improbable it all seemed — that Noah would have solved a seventy-year mystery, that it would be a song that sounded like our Passover songs, like the song we sang on the anniversary of Mother’s death.

Father’s hum was slow, heavy, climbing through low notes towards a mid-range and then falling again.

“It sounds old,” Noah said.

“I'll have to check,” father replied, “but it sounds like it could have come from the same era as the Ashir Shirim.”

Noah and I both waited for him to explain: This is the story of...

“A song from Babylon, from almost six thousand years ago; traditionally it was played on a lyre — a stringed instrument.

“You think that someone on earth sent us a message with a six thousand year old song?”

“I didn’t decode it wrong.” Noah’s voice was stiff, distant. My disbelief had hurt him.

The song became the background to everything Noah and I did: our homework, our walk down the echoing corridors between the ha’kafer, where we lived, and the central hub where we went to school. He hummed it so constantly that it became a part of us — so that when he dropped off, I picked up the next note without thinking.

I even hummed it later, when I got my first internship in the human gestation labs, monitoring hormone levels in the tanks. Little fishes, I called them — the fetuses, fingers and toes curled in their watery wombs, and I hummed the song to them. I did it without thinking. The other interns picked it up too, and when I was appointed a permanent position in the lab, I kept humming it.
They sent us a song could remain internal: A song, I wondered. It sounded improbable... - nobody answers anyway, and a few lines further you repeat: "You think that someone on earth sent us a message with a six thousand year old song?” Only one actual verbal mention of the song is needed IMO, and I'd keep the second.

Perhaps we don't yet need to know the name of the place the character lives: ...the echoing corridors between home and the central hub... is probably enough this early in. There's plenty of time for a character to name the actual place to another character, later - or to see a notice or pick up a letter etc showing the name.

I hummed the song to them without even realising I was doing it: Does there need to be a whole separate sentence?

Anyway these are minor points and I liked this intro. Leaves questions, shows character, places the action, establishes relationships.
 

luriantimetraveler

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Thank you to all who have taken time to leave feedback! I so appreciate your eyes and thoughts.

@sule I think you're totally on point that her relationship to her brother is being told, rather than shown. Thank you also for pointing out the spots that didn't flow or were confusing.

@JS Wiig Glad the fungus/brother was enough of a hook that you would keep going! And yes — I think my meandering is often me working out backstory that doesn't necessarily need to end up in front of the reader ;)

@Metaluna Thanks!

@HareBrain Danger! Danger! :LOL: The more I look at this opening and think about the feedback here, the more I think the "I could begin with horror" section is just me working out Ruth's voice, rather than where the story should really start for the reader.

@Wayne Mack That's interesting feedback re: unemotional. I'll have to think about how I might want to address that; as a character, Ruth (the POV) is more analytical than emotional (part of her problem to work through, actually), but if it's unemotional to the point that the reader feels disconnected, that obviously has to be addressed. Re: the ages — I'll also have to think about that. The message is actually sent by Ruth (the narrator), who travels back in time, so it would be something that only she or her brother could decipher. But obviously a reader doesn't know that at the start!

@Brian G Turner I think, at this point, this 1000 words is going to be scrapped for parts and I'm going to start somewhere else (in scene! With stakes!)

@Bren G Thanks for that reading! This is very early drafts, so it's helpful to know the spots that are difficult to get through.

@CTRandall "I know this part is slow but you'll get all sort os drama if you hang in there," also translated as, "I am still figuring out the voice of the story and what's going on, so I'm going to throw all kinds of stuff in here!"

@Saiyali Those first two edits (omitting the articles and combining the silence sentences) are great! I do think there are places where I resist being "the most concise I can be" in service to rhythm, repetition, and emphasis (e.g., "I did it without thinking" — the song is going to affect the fetuses, but she can have no way of knowing that at the time).

Again — really appreciate all of the feedback and encouragement!
 

CTRandall

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One quick addendum about the 'I could begin with horror...' stuff. If you find that helps set up the mood of the piece, perhaps just a brief hint of the horror would be enough. I get how the pestilence colours the mood of everything that comes after but a shorter version might be less distracting and let you get into the main part of the scene quicker.
 

Cosmic Geoff

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I fear that I did not find the way the story opens to be satisfactory. It seems to have a number of false starts that just feel confusing. Only when we get to "He loved his work, but his true obsession was the Terran Beacon." did I feel that the story had started, and was conveying a message in clear.
 

msstice

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My thoughts in bold.


I could begin with horror: the way the blooms opened across our skin in furls of angry red, bruised purple, noxious orange — clusters of fungus first on skin, and later in the throat, stoppering speech, and then the lungs, fluttering the breath into stillness — and all along, in the brain, the parasitic wings arced through the delicate folds of the mind, leaving us witless, drooling and incontinent and unsure even of our own names (This last bit weakens things. Can be left out).

That is one horror, one way to begin.

(There is a disconnect between this opening para and the rest that follows that could be made smoother)

Another horror, another way to begin: a man I love — my brother-self, twin — behind glass, a deep red bloom like a moth’s wing spread across his throat, reaching below the neck of his grey scrubs. There is silence before we press our buttons to open a com-line. In that silence is a vast distance only he and I can understand — although I think you, too, may come to understand it. He and I are the only twins to have been born since humans left earth; the distance between us now is made infinite by the fact of our closeness before.

But is this how I want to introduce you to the world: with horror?

Noah would begin with curiosity; that was Noah’s strength. Ruth, he would say, don’t you ever wonder...

The Chariot would begin with what is and what was and what will be, because her understanding of reality and time are not ours, not human. Chronology is a choice, she would say — she probably will say that to you, at some point, if she hasn’t already. And perhaps you will believe her, you who will live your whole life inside her, on this journey I have set you on.

But I think it is better to start with a song, with the story of a song. Our* father was a genetic historian onboard the Genesis Space Station; fifth generation, with the long limbs and narrow face of the space-born. He loved his work and often read to us from the histories he wrote: they were histories of genes, lines of ancestry not just of people but of our vegetables, our fish, our fruit. This is the story of silver scales, he would say; this is the story of a quickness to anger...

He loved his work, but his true obsession was the Terran Beacon. We knew it first as a bedtime story of a message wrapped in so many layers of protection, only the true recipient could reach the message within. A message from far-away, unimaginable earth. We learned about it in school, too. A faint radio signal. Telemetry tracked from earth. The uncrackable code, a digital Voynich manuscript. Noah picked up his enthusiasm. Until we were nine, Noah and I were one — I know this will be hard for you to imagine. Until we were nine, Noah and I were one voice, one movement. We had a language all our own that had risen up from within us without any conscious decision — it was simply the language of us. A verbal pair of hands, clasped together.

And then Noah became obsessed, in a way that surprised even our father. Noah had already connected the Terran Beacon to the Chariot, although none of us understood the connection then. He rushed through his homework in order to work on the the Beacon’s message. Often, after dinner, I was left alone — for the first time in my life — as father and Noah debated possible decryptions of the garbled text.

I was reading a novel on my tablet — a historical fiction novel about a real woman, Rosalind Franklin, who helped to discover DNA thousands of years ago. In the novel, Rosalind complained about her colleagues calling her Rosy, which was the name of her aunt — a woman with anise breath who found fault with everything. I wondered what anise was, what it smelled like, and turned to ask father when I heard Noah.

He was speaking our language, which at the urging of our teachers we had stopped using except late at night, when no one but us could hear.

“It’s a series of numbers, coded in these repeating words,” he said, switching back to English.

“Of course!” father replied.

“Do you think these are another cipher?”

Father shook his head. He began to hum as he tapped his finger against the screen where the message scrolled. “It’s a melody.”

“They sent us a song?” I couldn’t help interrupting. How improbable it all seemed — that Noah would have solved a seventy-year mystery, that it would be a song that sounded like our Passover songs, like the song we sang on the anniversary of Mother’s death.

Father’s hum was slow, heavy, climbing through low notes towards a mid-range and then falling again.

“It sounds old,” Noah said.

“I'll have to check,” father replied, “but it sounds like it could have come from the same era as the Ashir Shirim.”

Noah and I both waited for him to explain: This is the story of...

“A song from Babylon, from almost six thousand years ago; traditionally it was played on a lyre — a stringed instrument.

“You think that someone on earth sent us a message with a six thousand year old song?”

“I didn’t decode it wrong.” Noah’s voice was stiff, distant. My disbelief had hurt him.

The song became the background to everything Noah and I did: our homework, our walk down the echoing corridors between the ha’kafer, where we lived, and the central hub where we went to school. He hummed it so constantly that it became a part of us — so that when he dropped off, I picked up the next note without thinking.

I even hummed it later, when I got my first internship in the human gestation labs, monitoring hormone levels in the tanks. Little fishes, I called them — the fetuses, fingers and toes curled in their watery wombs, and I hummed the song to them. I did it without thinking. The other interns picked it up too, and when I was appointed a permanent position in the lab, I kept humming it.

I would read a little more, perhaps a page, there are things to be curious about. Can't tell without reading the rest. The first para tells me it's maybe going to be survival horror, but I really can't tell and as I mentioned before the first part is jarringly disconnected from the rest and a smoother transition could be better. The writing is great, smooth, keeps the story flowing. Lot of telling, but that's ok, it's a first person narration after the fact and that's how it'll be.
 

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