Vi caught a glimpse of her reflection in the next shop window. The pale figure before her had lived longer than the shadow-self she’d watched a few days prior, the sun and inner turmoil both doing their parts to etch lines on her face when she wasn’t looking. She hadn’t experienced any more flashes of memory since that night with the book. But she wheeled away from her reflection, suddenly felt self-conscious about how she’d changed, and how she still seemed to be changing.
The ghost chuckled and leaned against the wall. “Got yourself some light fingers, eh kid?”
“I didn’t do it!” the little boy cried. “I swear!”
“We know you didn’t,” she assured him, then favored Peter with another glower.
“I was always getting blamed for things when I was your age, too. And you know what I did?” Peter whispered.
George leaned forward with rapt attention. “What?”
“I proved them right,” he said with a chuckle.
“Oh, excellent advice!” Vi interrupted.
The ghost just shrugged. “It’s true.”
“And look where it got you!” she spat.
“I thought I had you to thank for that.” His quiet words stunned her to silence even as he blazed clearer and darker before her, his pain manifesting in his spectral body. His sharp edges dissolved as he turned to the boy. “Anyway, Georgie. I figured as long as people were going to think the worst of me, I might as well live down to their expectations.”
“I figured it out,” Bonnie declared as she slid open the cabin door. George waited patiently in the hall, ready to tidy the room once the ladies left for the dining car.
Vi stood inside the cabin, doing a final check in the mirror of how much damage her sleepless night had done to her face. She gave her cheekbones a pinch to add color. “What did you figure out?” she asked eventually.
The other woman waited until she’d slipped out the door before answering. “Your secret,” she whispered mischievously.
“You’ll have to be a bit more specific than that. I’m a woman with many secrets,” Vi replied. She tried for a chuckle but it came out strained, her new and unpredictable ability weighing heavy on her mind.
Bonnie savored the moment as they passed to the next car. Once they’d shut out the rush of wind she smiled. “I know why you’re looking so grouchy.”
“Really. And why is that?” Vi asked levelly.
“Well, you keep trying to hide it, but I know the truth…” the little brunette trailed off suggestively, eyes shining. Finally, she announced, “Trains make you sick to your stomach!” Relief flooded Vi’s body, and she let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. Bonnie mistook it for admission of guilt. “Aha!”
“Yes. You’ve found me out,” Vi replied, applying just the right amount of remorse to her voice to sell it. Feigning motion-sickness was far more appealing than trying to explain the true source of her sleepless night. Bonnie may be proving more resilient than she first appeared, but there were limits.
Back in March, Bonsart Bokel invited me to a roundtable discussion with fellow podcaster Eric Fisk. On his website, The Fedora Chronicles, Eric posted an article entitled Requiem for Steampunk, and it got a lot of responses. The three of us have a long chat about the state of Steampunk, whether it is mainstream, and our hopes for the future.
Salty continued addressing the bandit as if she weren’t even there. “You see, I’ve got reason to believe that this here woman is a dirty cheat.”
“Don’t be such a sore loser,” Bonnie piped up. “Vi beat you fair and square!” One of Salty’s men leaned in at her menacingly and she let out a squeak. Caroline waited until his back was turned and made a rude gesture.
“Well, if’n she is, she’s got to be the worst cheat I ever saw,” the bandit said with a smirk, leaning back and opening his jacket to reveal his own pair of side-arms. “Honestly, I’d started to feel sorry for her. She hasn’t got any luck at all.”
“Are you sure about that?” the ‘businessman’ asked silkily.
“Vi!” Peter yelled. “Get out of here. Just get out of your seat and go!”
As much as she would have liked to heed his advice, Vi couldn’t tear her eyes from George struggling against the giant’s grip. Sure, she could run. But what about everyone else?
Jeb slowly rose to his feet. “You saying I’m too stupid to know when I’m being taken?” he asked darkly.
The world held its breath.
“He ain’t saying you ain’t too stupid!” someone hollered.
Later, no one would likely admit to being the one who said it, but once it was said the entire saloon surged into action. The poker table tipped over as men on all sides rushed to their feet and an assortment of money, cards, and glasses flew into the air. Vi ducked behind the table to avoid the first onslaught of fists and sweaty bodies tangling together all around her. It would be so easy to just slink out through the back door, but Caroline’s piercing shriek pushed the idea out of her mind.
I have just driven across the country in order to pick up my belongings. It has taken years of moving around, but I have finally signed the lease on an apartment and cobbled together a life in MI. Sure, I just sank all of what was left of my meager money in being able to move the stuff from MN to my new home. But it’ll be worth it to feel settled for the first time in several years. I’ve always been tied to the Midwest, and there are strong communities of people here who love Steampunk. What’s not to love?
24 hours exactly before the movers are schedule to arrive, my husband received an email. It is about a job posting that is absolutely perfect for him and his somewhat obscure, and highly specialized PhD. After something like 120 rejections over the past two years, this is an incredible find very, very late in the job hunt. This is the dream job, the one he’s been waiting for.
It is also in Germany.
And to make a long story about waiting bearably short, he got the job.
So, I find myself on the brink of moving abroad once again! Because of the aforementioned apartment, I will be splitting my time between the US and Germany for the first year of his appointment, which begins September 2017. And I plan to make several trips back every year to continue reporting on cons in the states. But starting sometime in 2018 I will be based primarily out of Freiburg, Germany.
I don’t know yet exactly what this means for me, except that I have no intention to stop writing. Fiction and nonfiction both mean a great deal to me, and in today’s amazingly connected world, it matters less and less where I hang my hat.
One really positive outcome is that I will have greater access to the world of European Steampunk. This means lots of chances to bring you something quirky, cool, and totally different while I continue to wander. I already have my eye on Weekend at the Asylum 2018 🙂
So, it certainly isn’t what I was expecting, but like any good hero hit with a plot twist, I’ve got to adapt and keep on striving. I’ll keep you in the loop as I find out more.
For now, have yourself a whimsical day!
“Are we ever going to start?” Hank’s whine cut through the quiet conversation. “It feels like we’ve been standing here forever.”
“I guess that’s what you get when you are dealing with women. Hassles, hassles, hassles,” Jeb replied, his cigarette dangling from his thin lips. His crew snickered in agreement.
“Does that explain why you’re all single, then?” she yelled back. Several of the people ranged around the scene oohed appreciatively.
“If you’re such a catch, where’s Mister Viola I wonder?” Hank cackled. Anyone who hadn’t been paying attention before was now being elbowed by their neighbors.
“You’ve got me there. I make a terrible wife,” Vi admitted. As the crowd murmured she milked the pause, then chuckled. “But it seems I’m getting awful good at being a widow.” The gnarled man turned pale behind his stringy beard and didn’t say any more. She jerked her thumb at him and called over to Jeb. “So, in the immortal words of this fine fellow, are we ever going to start this race?”