Hey all! It’s been a few weeks now since I finished up posting the preview chapters for Part 1 of my work-in-progress novel Outcasts & Runaways. I have to say, there were some definite positives to the experience!
One of the primary positives was viewing my work from the perspective of actively sharing it with people. I have reread my own stuff numerous times – and made numerous changes – but going over each chapter before posting, knowing people (including my sister and my niece, yay :D) were going to read it, helped me see spots that needed a bit more editing before posting. There were multiple scenes that I was just about to post and then went, “Ehhhh… this doesn’t sound QUITE right.” I ended up moving parts of a whole chapter around – and I really hope it wasn’t confusing, those last three chapters from the Earth side of things and how they were split up by the jumps back to Barrenger’s side of things. I know it’s not the most orthodox way to start a book, jumping back and forth between two different realities, but I was really encouraged to see a number of people coming back week after week. =) I even got a few new followers and a couple nice comments, which I really appreciate!
The biggest con of posting in this format is that I can’t REALLY be certain how well the overall story up to this point was received – Likes petered out over the last few chapters, leaving me hoping I didn’t lose too many people who were following along, and wondering, if I did, what exactly caused it. That’s the disadvantage of not having designated people to act as beta readers with the goal of giving you direct feedback (although again, much appreciation to my sister Laura, who caught many typos! :D) But overall, I think the fact that I got some quality edits done and even made progress into more of Part 2 of the book (including figuring out more of what should actually HAPPEN – I am not an expert at plot outlining and I was stuck for QUITE a while) made the experience worthwhile. It got me excited about my book again, which is invaluable as a writer – especially one as slow as I am, because it can be really tempting to wonder if I’m ever going to finish this project of mine.
As it stands, I am currently nine chapters into Part 2 (which, wow, is a lot farther than I thought!) and still have quite a ways to go. Please let me know your thoughts so far, I would love to hear them! In the meantime, read below for a sneak peak of a scene from Part 2, Chapter 20. Also, keep an eye out for a new short story (not O&R related) I’ll be posting soon! I might also share the idea I got last week for a murder mystery novella involving mirror dimensions and vampires. XD Man is it nice getting fresh inspiration, even if it’s ALL OVER THE PLACE (but that’s nothing new)!
Please enjoy, and have a great week!
Maybe it was his thirst talking, but Barrenger decided that creek was one of the most beautiful sights he’d ever seen. The rippling music of running water and the fresh scents of wet moss and mud filled the clearing with a welcoming peace. Great, he thought, letting Jenny slip off his back to join her friends. We rest for a few minutes, get a drink, and it’s shallow enough to cross—
“Thank you, God,” Mercury suddenly gasped, and walked straight into the creek. She dropped to her knees in the shallow water and scooped up a handful. But instead of drinking, the girl paused and stared, seemingly transfixed by the water trickling out between her fingers.
And then she giggled. The giggle broke the oppressive silence that had hung over their group all night, like the water rippling over stones in the creek. It grew until it echoed off the trees around the clearing.
Brock, the little dark-skinned boy, and Lyra, the braid-wearing audible with the whispery voice, broke out of their surprise first. They ran in after Mercury, also plopping into the water, Brock whooping and Lyra splashing excitedly. But they were barely drinking the water, just playing in it like… Barrenger shot glances at the others, and found to his further befuddlement that Shannon and the shapechanger boy (Mickey? Mikey?) stood back from the creek, stiff and wary, as if the water were a wild animal that had wandered out of the woods. And Dirk… Dirk looked ready to threaten the water at knifepoint.
It was as if they had never seen a creek before.
“Guys, it’s totally safe!” Mercury laughed, for once forgetting to keep her voice down. “Come get a drink! This is a stream, or maybe a creek, they flow into rivers!” She spoke as if instructing these kids on basic topography were a normal activity for them. Unsure what else to do, Barrenger walked to a part of the creek a bit downstream from the others, taking the opportunity both to observe his strange companions and to wash a bit of the blood off of his skin… well, his fur. To his surprise, Jenny stayed close to him, although she was smiling shyly at the sight of the other kids playing. He felt a brief ache for her to join them, but she seemed determined to stick by his side.
“Hey, watch this,” he whispered to the little girl. Jenny watched him moon-eyed, her strange pink creature copying the expression from her shoulder, as Barrenger showed her how to cup her hands and lift the water to her face for a drink. She giggled and bent to try and scoop the running water herself, giggling louder when she couldn’t get it to stay between her fingers. Barrenger caught a glimpse of Mercury smiling over at them. He looked away, still a little unsettled by… well, all of them.
“It’s… dirty, though… isn’t it?” Shannon ventured, finally coming to the water’s edge and looking down at it doubtfully. “Are you sure we can drink it?”
“I mean, yeah, it’s not purified,” Mercury conceded. Then she splashed the water in Shannon’s direction, startling the girl into zipping backwards in a foot-long flash of light. “But it’s cold and refreshing and it feels great!”
The shapechanger boy joined Shannon, and the two finally reached down and started scooping the water cautiously into their mouths. Dirk continued to hover nervously behind them, never letting go of his glowing energy knives. Mercury sighed. “Dirk, you can make more knives in a second. You don’t need to get in, just get over here and take a drink so you don’t collapse on us.” She nodded in Barrenger’s direction. “Look, even that guy thinks it’s safe!”
Dirk scowled at Barrenger, but let his daggers disappear before cautiously kneeling and scooping up some water. Silence descended again for a few moments, apart from the sounds of slurping and splashing. Barrenger thought he saw a flash like a bright yellow fish swim around Jenny’s feet, but it was gone too fast to grab. His stomach rumbled.
“Llllloooookkk.” The whispery voice of Lyra. Everyone looked at her and saw that she was pointing up, her dripping braid trailing down her back. Her eyes shone even in the shadows, bright and awed. “Ssss… ssssttaaarrrssss… aaaannndd tthhhhheee mmmmoooooooonnnnn…”
They looked up together to see that the cloud cover had finally started to break apart. A half-mast moon poked shyly from behind the curtain, and around it, sparkling gems of light flickered in the canvas of black. Barrenger’s breath hitched. It must be true, then. The damned realm wouldn’t have stars. He had never thought the sight of a normal night sky would make him want to cry.
Perhaps he wasn’t the only one. The splashing stilled as seven “human” heads stared into the sky as if transfixed. It was, to more than just Barrenger’s surprise, Dirk who broke the awed silence.
“They’re… a lot farther up than I thought,” the dark-haired boy whispered, staring upwards in his dirty white clothes. His voice sounded uncharacteristically small. Voices murmured agreement in the stillness.
Then the music began to play.
Barrenger didn’t have to guess where it came from; the stream had gone quiet, and they had an audible in their midst. Lyra was playing the sounds of the stream into song. The music was simple, inexpert – but quietly beautiful, deep with chords of sorrow and joy. A song by a natural songmaker with pain in her past that resonated with Barrenger’s soul in ways he couldn’t explain.
This time, he wasn’t the only one who struggled not to cry.
Lyra’s tune to the night sky faded after a few minutes, and the bubbling of the creek returned. Several people coughed or cleared their throats. Mercury stood up, wiping silvery streaks from her face. “Come on, guys,” she wavered. “We need to keep moving.” After a pause, she added in a voice almost too quiet for Barrenger to hear, “Thanks, Lyra. That was beautiful.”
Before they moved on, Barrenger was puzzled by something Mercury did. The girl stuck her hand back into the creek and closed her eyes in a look of deep concentration. He could have sworn there was a glimmer like metal in the water, dimly reflecting the moonlight. It raced like streaks of silverfish up and into her hand.
Barrenger said nothing, falling into line at the end of the group as before. The drink and the wash, however brief, had him feeling marginally refreshed, leaving his mind a little clearer to muse over these mystifying children. No selah was strange. But being amazed by normal things like creeks and stars… that was strange in another way entirely. And who were they escaping?
Who… and what… are these kids?
He had a funny feeling that, when it came time to swap stories, theirs might actually rival his for strangeness.