Entry Nickname: Mini Mutants
Title: Hunted Souls
Word Count: 65k
Genre: YA high fantasy with sci-fi elements
When eighteen-year-old Bixby codes in a hospital, his soul takes a detour to Centerra, a world where giants hunt humans for magic, harvesting it from their blood to gain temporary super powers. Prisoners are kept as specimens for experimentation, as giants seek to make magic permanent, since the gods stripped it from them as part of an ancient Punishment. If humans in Centerra, all eighteen and under, rescue any of their friends, giants retaliate by killing another prisoner. They call it "insurance."
A band of teens and kids adopt Bixby into their system of underground forts, so long as he follows rule number one: Don't be a hero. His choice is to hide below the forest floor when giants' hunting parties pass through, doing nothing for those who get captured, or risk expulsion from the group. The art of fitting in will determine his survival, and he's already an odd one out given he can't seem to discover his own power. His hopefully soon-to-be-girlfriend, Otsu, shares his powerless anomaly, so he swallows his pride, obeying his overprotective leader and ignoring taunts.
But love makes one do stupid things. His house mate, Sacheen, shared a hospital floor with him on Earth, where he watched her suffer and die. When the giants take her, he knows he can't live with himself if he does nothing. Otsu agrees, but insists on rescuing everyone; saving only Sacheen would result in another's death. They travel towards the giants' developed territory, and when they reach the castle, they hear rumors of four humans who will possess powers capable of destroying the giants' race. These four will be identified by a delayed manifestation of specific abilities, so by entering the castle before discovering their hidden strengths, Bixby and Otsu have just given the giants a key to their survival.
Bixby stared at the world through a fish tank. His body clenched in pain while delirium hazed his senses. The bed shook passing over an elevator crack, flooding his throat with nausea. Doctors pressed his abdomen.
"What's your pain score?"
Meh, a one. His sarcasm gurgled into a groan. At eighteen, he refused to forfeit his battle against cancer.
A chill ran through his right forearm, and he watched white bubbles form beneath the skin. Perfect timing for you to blow, IV. I don't need drugs. A nurse dug a needle in his left wrist, failing to find a good vein. Please, take your time. He mentally told her off with a slew of words that would send his mother running for soap. Mom. She here? He sunk deeper into the aquarium, pain clogging his ears and eyes. His mother kissed his cheek, rubbing her hand on his bare head, tears spilling over his face. The deep tugged at his chest. Don't leave her. Damn it, fight!
Bixby’s eyes blinked open, his brain struggling through the fog of deep sea dreaming. A forest of maroon oaks cloaked in purple mist blurred into view. The scent of fresh soil filled his nose. Something tapped his forehead. A small creature with spiky, black hair and velvet moth wings hovered before his nose. Her fingers poked at his skull.
"Wake up! Giants are here!"
Alarmed, he sat up. The fairy fluttered to a sleeping girl with milky skin, slanted eyes, and pink lips.