Title: THE HOLLOWED HEART
Category/Genre: YA Science Fiction (LGBT Elements/Ownvoices)
Word Count: 80,000
Is your main character hot or cold?
Caleb Bryar’s positivity never bends even when he’s sent to an asteroid prison for murder. Burying toxic emotions, trauma, and less-than-ideal thoughts is his main defense against anything that threatens his cold exterior. But a boiling hotheaded character is waiting underneath.
When the realities of an isolating juvenile detention center wither away his armor of optimism, the lockbox of repressed emotions and memories consume him. His cold exterior melts into a character that becomes erratic and dangerous. Caleb tries to find a balance between his two personas throughout the story.
When sixteen-year-old Caleb Bryar murders his boyfriend after a night of designer drugs, he’s sent to St. Moria’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Center—an asteroid prison for criminally defective youth. He doesn’t remember that night, but like all inmates, he’s implanted with a sensitizing psychomod that makes him repeatedly relive his crime.
At first, these memories come in pieces: an argument, a gunshot, someone screaming in pain. Finally, Caleb sees the entire murder, and has a startling revelation: he didn’t actually kill his boyfriend.
When Caleb insists he’s innocent, the staff claims he’s insane. Memories of the crime devolve into visions of faceless creatures, and Caleb wonders if the staff is right or if these strange visions are part of a conspiracy to keep him locked away. With his sanity in question, Caleb must unlock the truth about these visions and prove his innocence, or stay imprisoned forever.
First 250 words:
An optimist is always free. The adage clung to Caleb even as a robot guard dragged him into a dim holding room. Until his first day in high court, he hadn’t known a prison on an asteroid in the Kuiper Belt existed. Even now, on that very asteroid the idea sounded ludicrous.
A prison. For teens. Sitting on a chunk of space rock near Pluto.
He thought for sure he would be sent to a state prison—something more tame, more safe. But as two sentry robots surrounded him, clanking under a halo of yellow lights, he knew everything would be okay.
“Welcome to St. Moria’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, inmate 1013979,” a humanoid robot said, entering the room. Metallic sounds grinded with each of his consonants. “Sit down.” A glass mask of a human face expanded over the robot’s head. Projections of a man’s worn skin, hard eyes, and thin mouth glared inside the mask. “I’m Uglov. From Earth. I wear this robot’s body. Explain to me your crime.”
Caleb dug trembling hands into a jumpsuit pocket, where microbots congealed into a small ornate music cube. He cursed under his breath, trying to disassemble it as his mother’s lullaby spilled out, “Oh my angel of the star, sleep forever in the dark.” He didn’t mean to play it. The cube was his secret keepsake, a reminder of Earth.
“Hand it over,” Uglov said. “NOW.”
And like the rest of his former life, it was taken from him.