A figure suddenly burst out of the crowd in George’s path, but the little boy could not see or feel him as he passed right through. The ghost walked in a straight line with no mind to any would-be obstacle, the foggy material of his body swirling in response to the contact without hindering his speed. When she took in her former partner’s furrowed brow, she had a fleeting reminder of her vision. Her concern was short-lived; the ghost’s annoyed voice cutting through the crowd told her this Peter could see her.
“Why did you insist on bringing the kid? You know they just complicate matters,” the ghost harrumphed, crossing his insubstantial arms across his chest once he came to a stop. Vi blinked the picture of the living Peter’s dejected form out of her eyes as he continued. “Not to mention, he doesn’t know anything about your abilities, so you’ll have to be on guard all the time again.”
“I couldn’t leave him behind,” she murmured, allowing the sound of the busy station to cover her hushed words.
“Of course not,” Bonnie assured her, unaware of the ghost’s presence. Vi moved her free hand so the back of it touched the other woman’s skin and Bonnie let out a knowing “ah” as the ghost came into view. It was hard to believe this was the same woman who’d slapped Vi across the face for even implying she could talk to the dead when they’d first met.
Viola Thorne was not amused.
If the average person found herself in the middle of a blank, eternal void, she’d probably give panic at least a few moments of her time. But the relapsed grifter simply put fists to hips, and painted on her best surly glare.
“I know I wanted to get a clean start, but this is ridiculous,” she grumbled into the emptiness.
A light breeze suddenly kissed her cheek and gently tugged at her clothes. The force of the wind redoubled, the darkness rippling in its wake as the nothing began the process of becoming something.
To the untrained eye, the silver platter simply floated across the room. No strings held it aloft, and nothing supported it from below, yet it made slow and steady progress hovering across the polished wooden floor. A seated figure watched from the other end of the well-appointed room, patiently awaiting whatever lay at its center and smiling at the strange parody of King Solomon and his magic carpet.
“Very good,” he said. “You get stronger every day, Mary.”
The ghost held her mouth in a firm line as she took another deliberate step. “Thank you, sir.” A tremor traveled through the tray as she spoke, and she puffed up her cheeks as she focused her energy on her hand. The mirrored surface of the tray flashed as she crossed into the pool of candlelight and it crashed to the floor.
“One thing at a time,” the man scolded as he rose from his leather chair. “Remember, throwing something in a burst of energy is much easier than being steady enough to carry things. But you are making excellent progress. Just think! You died less than a year ago and you’ve already come so far.”
“I want to be ready,” she simpered. “When the time comes.”
“And I’m sure you will be,” the man replied before stooping to retrieve both the platter and the folded slip of paper. “Now, what is this you’ve brought me?”
Vi had just finished giving them the final instructions when a disheveled Bonnie leaned on her shoulder. She directed a puff of air at the stray hairs falling over her face. “Now what?”
“Now, we pack.” The grifter turned the corner and darted up the stairs, the widow following close behind.
Once they were safely through the door of her apartment, her friend wheezed, “What? We’re running away?”
“Are you sure there isn’t any way I can talk you out of this?” Peter walked out of the wall and into the conversation.
“Not running away, my friend!” She waved the younger woman to follow her into the bedroom. The steamer trunk at the foot of the bed beckoned. The stray bit of clothes and papers were shoved aside and she threw it open. “For the first time in my life, I think I’m running toward something.”
Read previous excerpt
Read from the beginning
Army of brass is the Collaborative Writing Challenge’s seventh novel. For the past few projects, they have also included short stories in the same genre as the project.
The deadline for submissions is just two days away! Get your stories, 2500-3500 words, submitted by Aug. 31 to make sure you are considered for the contest. First and second place winners have their stories showcased on the CWC website. First place also has their story edited and published in the pages of Army of Brass this fall.
Visit the CWC website for the guidelines, and GOOD LUCK!
As the Army of Brass draws to a close, we at the Collaborative Writing Challenge are turning our eyes to the horizon. In addition to showcasing the people who write chapters for the novel, our releases also feature a short story competition. We are a volunteer organization that donates 10% of our earnings to charity, so we ask that participants donate $5 to help get Army of Brass, and the accompanying short story, out into the world.
Here’s the basic idea, but you can get all the details at the CWC website.
Deadline: August 31, 2017
Who can submit: Anyone. You don’t need to have been a contributor to Army of Brass to enter.
Word count: Between 2500-3500 words. It must be a self-contained short story, and it must be in the Steampunk genre. (This, of course, covers a wide range of topics. Check out my definition of Steampunk on the homepage below the meme for guidance.)
They will award prizes to the first and second place submissions.
FInd out more
With all the excitement surrounding No Rest for the Wicked, I’ve completely forgotten to post about Army of Brass. This fabulous collaboration started way back in December before I started this site, and has been simmering away on my back burner ever since.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Collaborative Writing Challenge, here’s the gist. Between 3-5 writers sign up to write a chapter each week. They get the full chapter that came before, as well as notes and summaries along the way. At the end of 30 chapters, we have a novel. As the story coordinator, it has been my job to select the chapter to include in the book each week.
Unfortunately, the project has been plagued with a number of issues, including lack of follow through from writers. Even though the story should be wrapping up, there’s too much to do with the timeline for the original project. In consultation with the CWC, I’ve decided to change our approach to the collaboration in order to create a finale worthy of the hard work a few dedicated writers have put in over the past nine months. I have no doubt that my “advisory committee” and I will be able to bring the book to a thrilling conclusion by the end of the month.
The CWC is a volunteer-run organization. They recently announced they would be postponing the next collaboration. With six books finished and Army of Brass nearly complete, they want to take some time to regroup and make sure they are doing justice to the books that have already been published. Because of this, I really have no idea when to expect a release date for the finished book.
Also, a heads up for all of my fellow scribes! There is going to be a competition for a short story to include along with the book. You don’t need to have contributed to the novel, just write an awesome tale. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the release, as well as the contest.
Have a whimsical day! And don’t forget, you always have a choice, so choose to be splendid.