Posted by: Caitlynn | August 10, 2009

Excerpt Monday — August — Collision

Once again, Excerpt Monday has arrived! Due to slightly unforeseen circumstances, I don’t have another snippet from my novel, Wings of Shadow, Wings of Light, to post.  (World-building is taking me longer than I anticipated, and I haven’t been able to press forward with more revisions since…well…since last Excerpt Monday.)  So instead, here’s a short story I wrote recently. I’ve written another story with this particular character since then, and will most likely continue writing about her in short stories to come.

So, without further ado…

——————————-

“Collision”

“Gracious,” Maria exhaled as she watched the steam-powered locomotive slowly come to a rest at the station. “I never realized it would be so large.”

She continued watching as people of all shapes and sizes stepped out. Children clinging to the hands of smiling parents, serious and straight-faced elders, women dressed in the latest fashions, and eager young men with the glint of hopeful expectation in their eyes…all were present and accounted for.

“Yes…yes, this must be the way,” Maria thought, taking a few more deep breaths. “I’ll escape for sure this time.” Now all that was left was to figure out how to obtain passage on it. She knew it would cost money, but thankfully, she had managed to save a few coins. She prayed they would be enough.

Looking around, she tried to determine the procedure for getting on board, but to no avail. Too many previous passengers were still getting off, greeting loved ones and hustling about, and soon she lost track of who had gotten off and who was looking to get on next. Confusion gave way to impatience, and impatience gave way to panic, until, finally, she decided to ask someone.

“After all,” she mused, “it’ll only be one person. I’m sure I’ll be fine.” She swallowed hard before calling out to the nearest person, “Excuse me! Ma’am! I have a question…”

The woman either did not hear her, however, or chose to act as though she didn’t. Maria tried a few others, but each responded in the same manner.

“Well!” she cried, stamping her foot on the ground. “People nowadays sure have gotten rude!”

It was then that she heard a chuckle from behind her. “That’s an odd way for a young miss like yourself to speak,” said a man who appeared to be in his late thirties. “You sound as though you’re an old woman.”

She turned red and looked down. “I wasn’t aware that anyone could hear me,” she mumbled.

“It certainly doesn’t seem as though anyone is listening, I’ll grant you that. But try not to hold it against them; I’m sure they’re just eager to get back to their friends and family,” he replied, his eyes becoming glassy as he finished. “Speaking of which, I really must be getting back to mine. Good day, miss.”

Maria stiffened as he began walking away. “Wait!” she called after him. “Please! I need to ask a question, and you’re the only one who has even acknowledged me so far.”

The man paused, then hesitantly turned back towards her. “Very well,” he answered. “What is it?”

“How do I…” she trailed off, suddenly unable to find the right wording. “Well,” she began again, stumbling. “I need to go…on…uh, that…” She pointed to the train, mentally scolding herself for forgetting what it was called. “Uh…how…that is, what do I need to do…”

He laughed again, in a similar manner as before. “Are you sure it’s a wise idea for you to take the train when you don’t even know how to buy a ticket?”

“Please, sir,” she said earnestly. “It’s important.”

The man sighed as if in understanding. “Ah, I see. Well then, see that man over there?” He pointed towards a uniformed gentleman standing behind a counter. “He will sell you a ticket. Furthermore, he should be able to answer any other questions you have about riding the train.”

Maria beamed at him in response. “Thank you, sir!”

He smiled and placed a hand on her shoulder. “My pleasure,” he returned. “Good luck to you now, and stay safe.”

But as he released her and walked away, a sudden shock passed through her body. “No,” she thought, pleadingly, “not again.”

The images started to develop before she could stop them, however. A rapidly moving carriage. The man standing in the middle of the road, paused, distracted. Dazed? The startled horse.

Collision.

The dark pool of red…spreading out…the only thing moving at a moment when time seemed to cease.

Strangers, dressed in black. A fragile woman, shaking, her eyes swollen and red. Two small children in her embrace, weeping. A family. A broken family. His broken family.

The future. His future. And his end.

Maria blinked furiously as the images subsided, their intensity still seared into her rapidly beating heart. She looked around; the man had already disappeared from sight. Without thinking, Maria chased after him, not even sparing a backwards glance at the ticket counter.

The crowd was huge—had there always been this many people here? Her eyes frantically searched for the doomed man. It seemed nearly impossible. She eventually broke out into the street, and her heart nearly stopped: there he was, just standing, the same dazed look on his face as he had in the vision. She could hear the quickening –clop–clop– approaching. Her feet moved with its rhythm, and her arms extended until, finally, they made contact with the man, who stumbled out of the carriage’s path. His widened eyes were the last thing she could recall before the sudden pain shot through her and she plunged into darkness.

When Maria opened her eyes, it was a different sort of darkness that wrapped around her—that of night. She looked around at the unfamiliar room of the unfamiliar house, made even stranger to her in the dim candlelight. Voices murmured from a neighboring room. She strained to listen.

“Rest, darling,” said a woman. “I can keep watch.”

“No, I can’t sleep.” A man’s voice. Familiar…of course! The man from earlier. “It’s my fault she’s like that, after all. It’s my life she saved.”

“And it’s a favor we all owe her; we would have been lost without you.” The woman’s voice shook, obviously filled with emotion. “I’m sure she’ll wake up soon; I’ll fetch you when she does. But you need your rest, too. You’ve been up and around all day, and it’s nearly midnight.”

A surge of panic welled inside Maria. Midnight. She shot out of the bed and bolted for the door, ignoring the spinning room and willing her uncertain feet to move steadily in the dark. Without stopping to greet the hospitable strangers, she left, running in the direction she thought the train station might be in.

Truth be told, she didn’t have a clue where she was going, and she knew it. Just as she knew she’d never make it there in time, nor would she even find a train available to her even if she did. Yet, she ran, fast as she could until the midnight bell tolled and the air around her chilled significantly. Her feet stopped, against her own will; she was frozen in place.

“Well,” came the smooth, mocking voice of a woman, “another failed attempt, I see.”

From the shadows emerged a tall, thin woman with porcelain skin and ornamental dress. “Celene…” Maria muttered.

The other woman smiled. “It’s midnight, Maria. Your day is up.” Celene let out a short, shrill laugh. “It’s all a part of our bargain, remember? You have one day a year to escape from me. If, at the end of that day, I cannot find you, then you’re free for good. Otherwise…” she waved her long fingernails and chains appeared around Maria’s hands, feet, and neck.

“Yes,” Maria choked out, “of course.”

“Pity…” Celene laughed. “Did you even get his name this time? Or did you just sacrifice your chance at freedom for some nameless stranger?”

Maria averted her gaze as the chains tightened and started to glow. “He had a family. I couldn’t…”

“For all you know, he could die within the month.” The witch came closer. “That would almost be as tragic as how things turned out with the first person you sacrificed freedom for.”

Maria made no reply. By this time, she, too, had begun glowing faintly.

“I remember it perfectly. Oh, you were so in love with him. Then one day, you foresaw his death.” Celene grabbed Maria’s face and forced her too look her in the eye. Maria fought her own emotions, refusing to weep. “‘Please, please, save him!’ you cried. ‘I’ll do anything!’ And so we made our little pact: in exchange for his life, you would only be allowed to live one day a year.”

Maria let out a cry, but not in sadness. And then, as before, she felt a sudden burst of pain followed by a deep darkness. But before she fell into numbness, she heard the witch’s voice finish the story.

“I’ll never forget your face when you found out, that following year, that your beloved married only shortly after your disappearance. It was wonderfully wretched…”

Moments later, Celene began the walk back to her home, carrying a small doll with sad eyes securely in her grip.

——————————-

Thanks for reading! Look forward to another excerpt from WoSWoL next month (hopefully)!

In the meantime, be sure to check out more posts from other Excerpt Monday participants:
Dara Sorensen, Historical Paranormal (PG 13)
Babette James, Fantasy Romance (PG 13)
Julia Knight, Fantasy Romance (PG13)
AJ O’Donovan, Poetry (PG13)
Stephanie Draven, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
RF Long, YA Paranormal (PG13)
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG)
Shawntelle Madison, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Jeannie Lin, Historical Romance (PG 13)

…And the complete list at: Excerpt Monday

Note: I have not personally screened these excerpts. Please heed the ratings and be aware that the links may contain material that is not typical of my site.

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Responses

  1. You already know what I think 🙂 I always find something new when I’m reading it too!

  2. Cool…I like it, you really set up the tension and conflict. Drat I wanna know what happens and if Maria finds her man!

  3. This really has a hold of my curiosity. I’d definitely read more. Very kewl!

  4. Oh this is great! I definitely want to continue reading this.

  5. Very nice, Caitlynn. The ending when you realize this is all going to happen again in another year was well done. I’d like to see her break free, but it works well as it is.


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