Peacock Swamp: Book 1 | The Nine
In 2064, The Nine are preparing to assemble. This board of individuals is President Madame LaFonte’s solution to an ailing nation in search of medical care. While it seemed ideal at first, the folks of the borough are quickly discovering it isn’t quite what it seems. The lucky ones are issued a red gown and another chance at life. That’s the happy ending. However, not everyone gets a red gown. The others have to make their own second chance at life–if they’ve got the heart to do what it takes.
When the superstitions of the swamplands run just as deep as the mud, every little bit of luck helps. They named her Vitalia, a name that means life. But her name was the only advantage that she had. In need of a heart transplant, Vita leaves Peacock Swamp behind to stand before The Nine. With her family by her side, they run into the dangers that government healthcare has created: an underground medical clinic that services the rejected citizens…for a price.
Her whole life has been a struggle. Why should her death be any different?
Peacock Swamp- Excerpt Two
On November 1, in the year of 2064, a public service announcement was issued to those living in both the city limits its swampy outskirts. Prefaced with high pitched sirens and interrupting the evening newscast, it was delivered under the direction of Madam President Elias LaFonte.
“Good evening citizens!” the digital, genderless voice began. “You are receiving this gentle reminder that The Tribunal of Health and Wellness will be assembling in nine days.” Images of a noble looking group of men and women flashed on the screen. They wore colorful silk sashes across their chests and proud grins on their faces, as they combed through thick medical journals. “If you will be attending this year’s Tribunal, you may wish to make your travel arrangements at this time. If not, we congratulate you on another month of health and wellness, no doubt the result of your meticulous efforts to proper body maintenance.” The screen showed a man with broad shoulders and muscular legs running down a wide and empty road, the next image showing a clear skinned woman with shiny auburn hair savoring a bed of salad greens. “Remember dear citizens, if you are unable to attend this Tribunal, you will not be allowed to petition again until the 9th of next month.” With this the images of strength and health vanished, and the image of a mother hovering over the bed of her ill child took their place. “We thank you for your attention, and we look forward to assisting you at this month’s Tribunal. Have a healthy and happy day!” The screen then went black for nearly a minute, before returning to the evening news.
“Vita…Vitalia it is time to wake up baby. I hear the swamp and it is a callin’ my name!” Vita’s mother searched the house for the net, only to find it tossed and tangled on the closet floor. “I swear! Doesn’t anything ever stay how I left it around here?” She pulled the netting out and started to pick through it with her thin fingers, picking out the knots that made it a jumbled and unusable mess. Vita sat up from her bed and squinted, scrunching her nose in distain.
“It seems so early Marmie, let’s wait another hour,” Vita said, as she fluffed the pillows and prepared to melt back into them. While she knew how important it was to be the first ones to arrive at Peacock Swamp, she wasn’t interested in leaving a cozy bed to do so. However the thought of everyone in the borough heading towards the muddy waters dragging their nets behind them agitated her. She did not want anyone catching turtles that could otherwise be snared in her net, so as she slowly drifted back down to the puddle of blankets she convinced herself that they would not find them, that there would be plenty of turtles left when she arrived.
Marmie finished picking the last knot from the net and tossed it onto the floor. The smell of musty foul water wafted in their noses and the dried muck crackled and scattered like ants. She walked over to Vita, now burrowed under her covers and picked up her hand. Holding Vita’s hand in hers she examined it closely, looking over her fingernails with squinted eyes. She brushed away the dirt and grit from the previous day’s adventures revealing a bruised and purple nail bed. Vita’s young hands were wrought with fragility and paleness, and small patches of deep blue were scattered around her wrists. Marmie brought her hands to her lips and kissed them gently.
“Alright, alright I am up,” mumbled Vita. Stretching from under the white sheets she looked like a ghost rising eerily from its shroud. Her thin frame was highlighted by the morning sun creeping into the window. A linen camisole hung to her bones and seemed to blend in with her creamy skin, a sharp contrast with the hair that draped her shoulders. Charcoal and wavy her locks hid her bones well, like black velvet curtains masking a dark secret.
“Maybe you are right Vitalia,” Marmie said with doubt, “Maybe you should rest another hour. I am sure you are still exhausted from all of the work you did yesterday.” Marmie brushed the hair away from Vita’s bony shoulders, and gathered the blankets to cover her back up. “It is not good for you, all of this chasing turtles and running after butterflies. Your body just can’t keep up with it. Now be still, you rest now.”
The thought of lying in bed for the moment seemed tranquil to Vita, but the thought of lying in bed instead of running the swamps? Misery. “Too late, I am up now.” Vita said. “Besides the smell of the net woke me up long ago. Eck. I will be ready in a few minutes.”
Katie Femia took a leap of faith several years ago and left her career as an elementary school teacher to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. She now enjoys the day-to-day musings of writing for a variety of blogs and websites as a regular contributor. She covers topics such as home finance, DIY projects, money saving strategies, and everything in between. While a number of manuscripts still slumber in a kitchen drawer, Peacock Swamp | Book One: The Nine is her first published novel. She lives in South Bend, Indiana with her husband and three children, where they enjoy the typical Hoosier summers of chasing fireflies in their bare feet. When she isn’t writing, Katie can be found making over vintage furniture pieces and scouring local thrift spots.
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