Date Published: 1/5/2016
It's been 133 years since the Specters invaded Earth. Like ghosts they haunt the planet, devouring anyone foolish enough to venture outside the last remaining protected cities. For some, venturing out isn't a choice--it's a necessary evil to prove yourself to your clan as you come of age.
But when a team of ambitious youth—New Adults—undertakes a mission deep in Specter territory, they discover a terrible secret. Everything they've learned may be wrong ... and Earth is in grave danger.
Suddenly, the area all around her began to glow, as if some sinister light was slowly coming to life. Thin pine and tupelo trunks were painted in a fiery red light, bright enough that each tree cast a bloody shadow. The creature was near. She ran left, thinking about her family and blinking away stinging hot tears. She hoped to see them again. She hoped to tell her husband and her daughter how much she loved them both. Her body, numb, expected death at any moment but she refused to give in. Ahead, she could see an end to the forest. And something else . . .
A fence! An old fence whose links were being pulled earthward by heavy vines with thick stalks and fat, crescent-shaped leaves. And beyond the fence: a dim pool of white light illuminated a squat building at the far edge of a barren lot. The building must be an emergency supply depot, no doubt running solely on stored energy from the solar panels attached to the roof, slanted up at the sky. The depot would contain emergency equipment and maybe some kind of weapon. It would have a communication system, too.
She could jump the fence. She could take one step on the constrained chain links and reach the top and hop over. She could reach the building. She could survive. She’d carried a child in her womb for nine months, seven days and an additional fifteen excruciating hours of labor. Her back had endured. Her legs had endured. This pain she felt in her shins now? It was nothing. It was an annoyance.
She could do this. She could send a warning.
Skye took a deep breath, held it, then forced it out quickly between her pursed lips. The loud whistle seemed ear-splitting, jolting her nerves — too late to change her mind now, she twisted her body, her boots digging into the gravel as she fell back and faced the farming contraptions. She lifted her rifle, seeing the Specter’s strange glow change, move, and then without warning its crocodile face emerged from the body of the large machine. Its mouth opened. Cleo fell back, screaming. A claw phased through, reaching out for Skye.
She fired her rifle. The blue proton bullet tore through the creature’s arm, sending yellow sparks fluttering like butterflies into the air. The Specter’s mouth opened wide, revealing sharp, finger-length teeth, so close that Skye could see their serrated edges.
The Proving is Ken Brosky’s newest YA sci-fi adventure. His first series, The Grimm Chronicles, ran from 2012-2014 and is available on Kindle. Ken received his MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.