Wednesday, October 21, 2020

WIP-It Wednesday for October 21st

Posted by: Nicole Luiken

  Welcome to our new feature, WIP-It Wednesdays where any of the authors of HERE BE MAGIC might drop by to give you a glimpse at one (or more) of our Works-In-Progress.

 Nicole Luiken here: Hi! This snippet is from the first few pages of a paranormal romance called Where Lost Things Go. I'd love to know what you think of it. Enjoy!

Chapter One

Miranda froze at the wheel. Her mental rehearsal of her upcoming interview hiccupped to a stop as the world outside jumped into sudden sharp, and horrifying, focus. 

No cliffs loomed, no axe murderers blocked the road, but the dull residential street ahead was utterly unfamiliar. She couldn't spot a single landmark or street sign.  

She was lost. Again. 

On the whole she would have preferred an axe murderer. She could have run him down and kept going. 

The car's digital clock read 3:47, only thirteen minutes before her appointment. Her stomach hollowed out. Her eaten-on-the-run lunch of soda crackers and Cheez Whiz churned in her gut. “Whatever you do, don't be late,” James had warned Miranda when he'd finagled her the interview for a plum receptionist job. “J.D. likes everything to move along at a fast clip.”

 Miranda hunched over the steering wheel of her twelve-year-old Mazda, the red leatherette hot and sticky under her fingers, and pleaded with the Universe. “Can I take a rain check and get lost tomorrow? Or her next day off? That would be ideal, but really any day but today.”         

She loved the idea of the world being a mysterious place with many unexpected nooks and crannies, but this made the sixth time she'd become lost this month. She’d always had a slight propensity for getting lost—okay, okay, a major talent—but her record hadn't been this bad since her teens.

At the next street corner, Miranda slowed to a crawl in the vain hope of reading the street sign. If any such sign existed, it was totally obscured by a large weeping birch. Half-wishing an axe murderer would show up so she could borrow his hatchet and do some chopping, Miranda kept driving. 

It had been sunny when she started out, but here in the Place Where Lost Things Go perpetual twilight ruled.

Hang on. You don’t know for certain yet if this is The Place Where Lost Things Go. Maybe she was still in Edgeport. Maybe this was just an older area of the city she’d never stumbled on before.

She turned left at random at the next intersection, but nothing changed. The sidewalks were mazed with cracks—stepping on them would have meant breaking not just her mother's back, but every bone in her body. Weeds poked out of the crevices, but even the dandelions appeared sickly and stunted. The yards were unkempt, either full of dead grass or swallowed up by six-foot tall hedges. The houses all looked the same: bare of paint, the colour of dirty athletic socks. Derelict.

The whole neighbourhood was... spooky. Whenever she tried to get a better look, or catch a house number, the buildings seemed to waver as if made of folded shadows instead of ordinary brick or wood. Most damning of all, she had the road completely to herself. The only car in sight, parked on somebody's front lawn, was a rusty blue 1950s-era pickup missing its driver-side door. 

Miranda glanced at the dashboard clock again. Only six minutes remained now. Even if J.D. Enterprises miraculously appeared around the corner, she’d be cutting it close.

Something flickered in her peripheral vision. Had that been a fox? No. When she turned her head she saw an Asian girl in a pale yellow dress, running.

Relief coursed through Miranda as potent as brandy. In all her trips to the Place Where Lost Things go, she’d never seen another human being—and animals only rarely. Thus, she’d either been only ordinarily lost or she’d driven out of it.

She drove past, spirits high, expecting at any moment to see another car or a cyclist. Even the beginnings of rush hour traffic would have been welcome. Instead the same empty streets greeted her. She still couldn't spot any street signs, and—Miranda’s pulse jumped—she didn't see any street lights either. 

Every street in Edgeport had street lights. Every city, town and hamlet in the country probably had them. She was still in the Place Where Lost Things Go. What the heck?

Despite the whine of her car's air conditioning, sweat trickled down the back of her neck. Tendrils of curly dark hair had fallen out of her French roll to tease at her cheeks. No doubt her flowered sundress would soon sport sweat stains. So much for her carefully cultivated interview look.

The position was for receptionist. Miranda had already filled in once for the woman going on maternity leave and knew she could do the job in her sleep. James had sworn she would be a shoo-in. And when he’d asked her point-blank about her bank account, she’d been forced to admit it could use some beefing up. And she had been looking for a change from waitressing. And it was only for three months. She could put up with playing human voicemail machine for that long.

“Why today?” Miranda asked the Universe. Callously, the Universe didn't answer, but inside she knew the cold truth: the day didn't matter. She'd gotten lost yesterday, too, and probably would again tomorrow.

It was getting easier to get lost and harder and harder to find her way out again.

Desperate, Miranda tried to remember what she'd done as a child. Back then she'd had complicated rules for getting un-lost, like Always Go Forward, Never Go Back. Usually that was enough to do the trick, but in the face of the ticking clock—only four minutes left now—she needed to bring out the big guns. Time to try Rule Two: Find Something.

The rule sounded like nonsense. Find what? Where and how? But once Miranda started looking her gaze was immediately drawn to a splotch of yellow in all the drab gray. 

It was the girl in the yellow dress again. She kept glancing behind her as if worried. She would break into a trot, then slow after a few steps, exhausted.

The hair along Miranda's nape lifted. How had the girl gotten ahead of her? She was only driving 25 mph, but still much too fast for the girl to have caught up. Her shoulders tightened.

She slowed even more as her car pulled abreast of the child. Up close, the girl looked to be around seven or eight years old and had a mix of Asian and European features with epicanthic eyefolds, a snub nose and straight black hair split into pigtails. Her shoulders were hunched as if she'd been walking for miles. The sheer hopelessness on her thin face reminded Miranda of photos the Great Depression. The pale yellow dress was dusty, and the ribbon at the back was untied, the ends dangling and forlorn as if the girl had no mother to tie them up.

Whether or not she was still in the Place Where Lost Things Go or not, Miranda couldn't drive past her, not again. She was firm believer in Fate and this had big, heavy, karmic fingerprints all over it. She stopped.



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