Wow. My absence from my blog has been long! But I promise, I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth. At least not yet! So, what happened to me? Well, to be honest, summer happened. Since the kids let out from school, I have been in an endless loop of driving to and from various activities--mostly baseball related--and spending as much time with them as I can.
While I haven't been very visible online, I have been hard at work on my next novel--sneaking in a few hours every day before the kids wake up. I am about three quarters of the way through and things are going surprisingly well.
If you've read my previous blog posts, you know that I don't write with an outline. I kind of figure out what I'm writing about as I write it. I've gotten to the part where everything needs to start winding to a close, and I had a revelation today that will really tie the whole thing together. So, I'm super excited about that.
In celebration of this milestone, I thought I'd share a bit more of Project Three (this unnamed novel's title.) Remember, none of this has been edited, so there will be mistakes. And more than likely this scene will change in some way or another before publication. But for now, enjoy!
A scuffing of dirt, like that of a sneaker sliding across sand, whooshed near the entrance of the tunnel and sliced through the quiet of the night. My eyes snapped open, and I glanced to the right. The tail end of a shadow flitted by, and my lids widened, peeling back as far as they could, but everything remained as it was, still and silent, except for the constant drum of my heart.
A giggle, soft and high lilted in the air, and I shot up from the floor and threw my back against the opposite wall. Another laugh. The sound seemed to come from within the air, wrapping around and through me. It wasn’t directional, it was…everywhere.
I stepped toward the exit but stilled when a long shadow crossed the threshold. “Who’s there?” I asked. The stream gurgled below me, and above me, a crow cawed, but no one answered.
I took another step, and the wooden plank groaned under my weight. The shadow moved again, and tiny prickles of fear jumped across my skin and settled in the space below my neck. Tickling, dripping, and tightening.
“If someone’s there, say something.”
A hollow clunk sounded against the wooden planks of the bridge behind me, a shuffle, like a scattering of leaves followed. I spun toward it, my chest constricted in fear, and a breeze rolled through, pushing my hair on either side of my shoulders.
“Ashhhhhlynnn,” my name was spoken on a whisper, and it slithered around me like it was made of oil. I looked up, left, right, and even down, but the sound had no beginning and no end.
I stepped back, and a pebble tumbled down the wooden planks, skipping toward me until it stilled at the toe of my shoe. It was smooth and dark brown. The bed of the stream that ran beneath this bridge had hundreds of them. Thousands. Duncan and I used to pick them out by the handful and skip them over the water, seeing how many times we could make them jump.
The sight of that rock made the button in my pocket burn.
My heart folded over inside my chest and ratcheted a beat that was both painful and poignant. I bent down and picked up the pebble. It was smooth as silk. Just like I remembered.
“Ashlynnnn,” the disembodied voice sang. It was not Duncan’s.
I glanced up, and at the far end of the tunnel, a figure appeared in silhouette. The pebble clinked against the ground and rolled to my right. Everything inside me told me to run, but my feet remained rooted to the ground.
“Who’s there?” The words trembled off my tongue.
“Näätko sää mut?” The voice was feminine and soft, but the words held edges that were sharp and pressed uncomfortably against my skin.
“Who are you?”
“You can see me,” she said more to herself than to me. Her shadow crept forward, but the steps she took glided too effortlessly. Like she was made of dust, capable of floating on the air. “You’re Ashlynn Drummond. Kuolleen pojan sisko.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know what that means.” The closer she came, the farther I wanted to be. Her steps were eerily silent, made only more pronounced by my heavy footfalls as I walked backward toward the bank. “Don’t come any closer.”
Her laugh trilled into the rafters and echoed back down. She sped up, and I broke away, my feet pounding against the wooden planks as fast as I could make them.
But it wasn’t fast enough.
A shadow rolled past me, and with it came a cold dense air. Gooseflesh bloomed on my arms and legs, and my hands tucked into my chest to ward it away. The shadow that seemed to be made of ice and wind slowed and reformed several yards in front of me.
I had no idea what she said, but I skittered to a stop—so quick that my hair parted and slung over my shoulders. “Shit,” I breathed, and my muscles popped and quivered beneath my skin. I stepped back, ready to run in the opposite direction, when the shadow flew forward, stopping inches from my face. Her skin was white, pale and glowing in the moonlight that filtered in through the cracked ceiling.
“Tiiätkö sää kuka mää oon?”
I jumped back, and her face came into focus, and my sharp intake of breath made a whooshing sound echo in the tunnel. Her eyes were a slate-grey that were very near transparent, and her hair, pale and almost ghostly white was braided over her shoulder.
“Tiiätkö sää kuka mää oon?” she asked again.
“What does that mean?” I asked backing away but unable to run. I was transfixed, staring at her ghostly perfection until her under eye turned a deep purple, and her skin greyed—sallow and sick. Another step back, and my knees wobbled like stacked stones. Her lips curled, mean, and her eyes hardened.
“I know you see me.”
She leaned forward and her breath, cold as ice, brushed over my face. A bubble beneath her skin popped up on her cheekbone and split. The wound opened, and I watched with disgust as her flesh peeled down to her chin, exposing the bone. Black blood ran from open veins and dripped from her mouth, staining her putrid skin.
Vomit rolled in my stomach, and the urge to run was fierce. I turned, but her bony hand gripped my wrist. Her nails had been torn down past the quick and scrapes marred her knuckles and arm. The cold that breathed from her was nothing compared to her touch. It was like being soaked in acid.
I pulled, but when I failed to shake her off, she smiled and inhaled through her blood-stained lips. Slowly, the inky black retreated and he hole in her face sealed, returning her skin to its luminescent white.
She let go of my hand, and I dropped to my knees, holding my arm against my chest. The pain was real and violent, and so consuming I couldn’t think about running, even when she knelt beside me.
She gave her pretty hair a shake. No. No. No. This wasn’t possible. She was dead. My gaze dropped to the dirty ground, unable to hold hers, and followed her hand as she collected the pebble I’d dropped.
“You know who I am. Now say my name.”
I looked up at her. So seemingly whole. So vividly real.
“Tilley.” The word came out on a breath and my arm continued to sting. “Tilley Layne.”
She huffed out a breath and leaned back against the wall. “Finally.”
As you can see, this is a bit of a departure from the things I've previously written, but it is something I'm pretty excited about. I have a good friend helping me with all the Finnish translations, so any mistakes transcribing them are mine. I hope you enjoyed it!