Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sad, Brown Eyes: Part 3

Juliana and Louise finished stacking books. It had been a week since Juliana met Carlo. She'd taken a day to lay in bed, feeling pain for her parents and what they were going through. She prayed that what Carlo predicted was true. They were alive. Held captive, but alive.
The women went to the front desk. Mrs. Goodwin was talking to two men dressed in silk suits and top hats. She saw the librarians from the corner of her eyes. “Juliana,” she called. She faced the men. “This is she.”
Juliana scanned the two men. One had a handlebar mustache. He sniffed with a scowl. “Juliana Russo?”
Y-yes,” she affirmed skeptically.
The clean shaven man walked around her; she heard clinking chains. The man pulled on her wrist. Handlebar Mustache said, “You are under arrest.”
A shiver went up Juliana's spine. Clean Shaven was locking her in iron handcuffs. She instinctively began to resist. Mrs. Goodwin protested. “Under what grounds?”
Trespassing on private property,” Handlebar Mustache simply stated.
Louise laughed in disbelief. “This is outrageous! Juliana wouldn't harm a fly, as the old saying goes.”
Juliana looked over her shoulder at Clean Shaven. “There must be some mistake. I've never trespassed in my life.” Not entirely true, as she and Nathaniel had sneaked onto private property many times as children. Still, she hadn't done so in years. Certainly not recent enough to cause her arrest.
We have complaints that you have, Ms. Russo,” Clean Shaven stated. He moved her forward. Panic rose in her chest. She yelled back to Louise. “Go get Nathaniel! Tell him what's happened! He'll meet me at the jail!” The two men led her outside and to a stagecoach. Clean Shaven sat in the back with her and Handlebar Mustache operated the horse Anichanical.
Juliana opened her mouth to plead her innocence, but Clean Shaven held up his hand. “Keep quiet, Ms. Russo. There's no point.”
The handcuffs were already starting to sting her wrists. She fidgeted and tried to stay composed. There was no way she could be punished for something she didn't do. Unless... she'd trespassed on Carlo's property. Would he have called the police on her? Why would he do that? Was he trying to keep her from going to New Paris? She'd thought of going on her own, but without the code it would have been pointless.
The stagecoach turned towards the cities zeppelin port. That was odd. She said, “The jail is the other direction.”
Clean Shaven said nothing. He kept his dark eyes forward. Juliana kitted her eyebrows. If this situation wasn't strange enough it just got stranger. She pressed her face against the window and tried to make out her surroundings. Where were they taking her?
The stagecoach clambered up the wooden bridge to the elevated port. Zeppelins were lined along dock after dock. Crates were being loaded and unloaded. Passengers were checking their tickets for a cruise. One zeppelin in particular caught her full attention. It was larger than even the cruise zeppelin. It was one of the few zeppelins made entirely of metals. Copper, iron, brass, and even gold reflected under the blips of sunlight escaping the shadow of clouds. At the top stood two cylinder smokestacks. Black smoke rose from them, an indication the zeppelin was ready for departure. On the sides of the round surface, Juliana made out the emblem of Black Industries. A black circle with a capital G in the center of it. The G was rough and ridged, as if clawed by massive talons.
The stagecoach stopped in front of the gangplank. Clean Shaven exited and turned back to help Juliana out. She stumbled on her way and he had to catch her. Handlebar Mustache snorted, wiggling his nose. “Clumsy girl.”
The two men led her up the gangplank. They weren't taking her to the jail. She dug her heels into the ice on the gangplank. The men each took hold of an arm and tugged harder. She was no match for their strength. They easily dragged her inside the metal craft.
The inside smelled like sweat and the bitter smell a coin leaves on skin. The men took her to the left up a flight of metal stairs. They climbed two stories before they towed her down a long hallway. They passed a few crew members, some coated in soot, but no one took note of Juliana. It was as if she weren't on board.
The men finally stopped in front of an iron door painted red. Handlebar Mustache unlocked the lock and opened the door. Clean Shaven moved her inside. She saw a row of cells. Clean Shaven unlocked her handcuffs and then shoved her roughly inside one. The clang of the door shutting brought a chill to her blood. Quickly, she whirled around on her heels and gripped the bars keeping her confined. “What do you want with me? I haven't done anything!”
The men ignored her and moved to depart from the horrid room. She gripped the bars until her knuckles turned white. “Please! With no right to hold me this is considered kidnapping!”
Only Handlebar Mustache spared her a passing glance. He had a sinister grin on his face that would forever live deep in Juliana's psyche. He then slammed the red door.

Three and a half hours surpassed. Juliana's throat felt raw from all of her shouting. The room only had one small porthole across from her cell so she had no idea which way they were flying. Even so, she could still see the sky and that gave her hope of escape.
Her mind reflected on the fact that this was clearly a Black Industries zeppelin. Why did Gerard Black's people want her? There was no way they'd learned about her little meeting with Carlo. No one except Alec knew about that night. Something else was happening here.
The cell had nothing to offer her as a weapon or tool. She would have to use her wits. She waited, staring out the round porthole. She could win. She could escape.
Another hour went by before a man came inside the room. She hadn't seen him before, but he obviously worked on the zeppelin judging by the Black Industries patch on his sleeve. He had a tin cup in his hand and passed it through the bars to Juliana. She took it with a grateful nod. “Thank you,” she said before downing the warm water. She smacked her lips at the taste. Her eyes peeked up to study the man in front of her. He looked younger than most of the crew she'd seen. The way he carried himself suggested he was bored of his mundane job. On his belt hung a ring of keys. Perhaps one would unlock her cell.
The man stuck his hand back through and she passed the cup back. He turned to leave. She quickly called out to him. This was her chance. “Wait! I have a question for you.”
The man faced her. “I am just the maintenance guy. I was told to bring you water and that's it.”
Thank you again for the water,” she said, trying to sound kind despite her frustration. She rested her forehead on the bars. “You know where we're going, don't you?”
He nodded.
And . . . you know why I'm here, I assume?”
He shook his head. “Don't care. Not my job to care.”
Just what she'd hoped to hear. She licked her lips seductively. The man's Adams apple rose and fell as he watch her. She wiped sweat from her forehead. “It's hot in here.”
He shrugged and she saw his pupils dilate. She removed her hat and tossed it in a corner. “I stole something from Black Industries. They want it back.” She made sure she still had his full attention, which she did. “I haven't told them where it is . . . but I'll tell you.”
The man gave an incredulous look. “Why?”
She giggled and stepped back from the door to the back wall. She pressed herself against it, her hands over her head. “Come in here and get it.”
He stumbled forward, unsure how to reply. She winked at him, her eyes inviting him in, hoping he'd take the bait. Come on, she thought. Open the cell.
He dropped the cup and went to the cell door. “Why?” he repeated.
She ran her fingers up and down her neck. “You don't have too. I can wait for my next visitor.”
His forehead creased and his fingers fumbled on his belt. Once he had the correct key, he inserted it in the lock and entered the cell. She waited, her heart pounding as he neared her. His dirty hands found her waist and he pulled her against him. They kissed. The entire time Juliana could only think about the open door.
She pivoted, turning them both around so her back was to the exit. She pried her lips from his and whispered in his ear. “You are a nice man. I won't forget you.” She gave him a hard shove. He fell backwards, hitting his head jarringly on the wall. The poor man shook his head in a daze. Juliana hooked her foot behind his leg and yanked his feet out from under him. He fell hard and bumped his head on the steel floor. Juliana darted out of the cell. Her hands were shaking so fast she found it difficult to shut the door. Using her body, she forced it shut and fumbled with the key in the lock. It finally obeyed her and clicked into place.
She stared into the cell at the man on the floor, waiting for a sign of life. Even though she'd meant to put him out-of-action, the idea that she could have permanently injured him made her sick. After a few seconds the man stirred slightly but didn't get up. That was good enough for her.
Juliana took a breath and peeked outside the red door. No one was coming. She went in the direction of the stairs and headed up. From the deck she would be able to see which direction they were flying and once they landed she would call out for help.
Ten flights of stairs later, she pushed open a door and shielded her eyes. The sun was shinning brighter than she'd experienced in a long while. There were hardly any clouds. When her eyes adjusted, she saw that the deck was rather empty save a few men who didn't see her. She went the opposite way and peered over the edge of the railing. Below was almost completely similar to New Tuscany, only she knew they were nowhere near New Tuscany. No. Not only did the hours of flight give that away, but her knowledge of the world's countries gave away clear clues.
Juliana wished she could remove her restricting corset. It made it even more difficult to breathe. She fell to her knees, well aware as to where they were taking her. What had she done to deserve this?
Hey!” a man shouted. Four sets of feet came charging at her from a few feet away. She stood up and tried to find a place to run and hide, but she'd lost time during her panic attack. The men surrounded her. One of them was Handlebar Mustache. He raised his gun on her. “Clever, clumsy girl,” he taunted. Or was it a complement?
She pointed over the side. “New Scotland? What is going on?”
Two men seized her. She didn't bother struggling; there was no point. Handlebar Mustache lowered his weapon. “Gerard Black needs to have a word with you.”
The men took her back to her cell.

End of Part 3

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sad, Brown Eyes: Part 2

Juliana tried to pay attention to Louise as she gossiped about two other librarians and Mrs. Goodwin, but she couldn't shake what had happened the night before and that morning. Her putting herself as well as her Anichanical grizzly in danger followed by getting caught for theft weren't the best things for a responsible woman to do.
She loaded some books onto the correct shelves and sighed. Louise stopped her chatter. “You're not even listening to me, are you?”
No, I am,” she lied. Louise took control of the now book-free cart and made her way down the aisle. Juliana followed. “No, I wasn't,” she admitted sheepishly. “I was thinking.”
You're always thinking,” Louise pointed out. “You wouldn't be you if you weren't.”

At the end of the day, Juliana headed home, skipping out on drinks with Louise and the other librarians that she'd spent the entire day grumbling about. Juliana stepped into the apartment and found Mr. Unsworth and his son at the dining room table. The Anichanical parrot greeted her with more obnoxious, robotic squawks.
The men stood as she entered. “I thought you were going out after work,” stated Mr. Unsworth. Juliana shook her head. She took off her hat and set it on a side table. She made her way to the back stairs. “I didn't have the best day. I'm going to read in the workshop.”
Nathaniel snickered. “Book Worm Juli.”
Juliana ignored him and went down the steps. Upon seeing her Anichanical, the vexations of the day withered. “Power on,” she said. The bear hummed to life. He trudged to her side. She fiddled with his harness straps and kissed him. “I hope you had a calm day, Alec,” she said as she went to a glass cabinet. She opened the doors and grabbed a blue book. This one she legally owned. The book was titled, The Earth, Then and Now.
She sat in the rocking chair by the stove, spending a few minutes heating the coals before she got to reading where she'd left off. Alec lay at her feet. She propped her feet up on his back and rocked slowly. The chapter she'd left off on reflected on an event known as the Freeze. Some called it the Ice Age.
It first became clear that something was occurring when the summers were abnormally chilly. Over time, summers had sleet and eventually snow. Scientists warned the world that the earth would eventually freeze over and they needed to prepare for this inevitable outcome. However, not enough people took it seriously. They claimed that weather fluctuated often and this would pass. Due to their arrogance, when the Freeze came it exhausted them. The cold and ice overtook everything. Many died, humans and animals alike. It blizzard for two straight years. Cities were buried. Food became scarce. Humans tried everything they could to stay alive.
By the end of the blizzards, too many animals had fallen to the frigid death. Re population was impossible. In the end, the remaining animals that had survived perished and the world became human dominate. Though humans were able to re-adapt to the new climate, digging out as many cities as possible, and rebuilding, the world missed the convenience animals once brought them. Food, clothes, tools.
Juliana turned to a past chapter in the book. It was about a man named Gerard Black. He was a brilliant inventor. He traveled Europe eighty years post Freeze with a marvelous idea. He'd created the Anichanicals. Each city he stopped in, he proposed his gadgets and showed off his prototype. Anichanicals could be used as transportation, home security, to power factories, or to just have for companionship. Effortless, free labor, clean. The world was enthralled.
Gerard Black didn't stop there. After the Anichanicals' high success, he developed special greenhouses for farming, which had become highly difficult in the harsh winter conditions. The climate inside the greenhouses perfectly stabilized the growth of wheat, cotton, fruits, and vegetables. Food had never been easier to come by. His magnificent designs changed the new world. Everyone knew his name. If and when a problem arose the world called to him for help. He could fix nearly anything. Juliana was personally exceedingly grateful to him and his magnificent mind. He'd given her the closest thing to an animal friend that she would ever get.
She set down the book and stood. Alec huffed, steam hissing from his nose. Juliana patted him. “I'm not going anywhere.” She went to another shelf and picked up a different book. This book had no cover for it had never been published. She ran her fingers over the penciled in name on the top page. Pietro Russo. Her father.
Pietro was a well known, wealthy historian and had been the one responsible for Juliana's fascination with history and animals. He decided to write a textbook on all the many former species of animals. Juliana remembered sitting in his study as a child while he worked. Sometimes he would stop to read to her and tell stories of human and animal encounters. Juliana had most loved the idea of grizzly bears. That was how Alec had come to be her Anichanical companion. He was a gift from her father on her tenth birthday. In fact, it was her father who had given him his name. Not many people knew that. Not even Mr. Unsworth.
One morning not long after that tenth birthday, her father had announced he and Juliana's mother were going on a research trip. They arranged for their daughter to stay with Mr. Unsworth for the couple weeks they would be gone. No one had anticipated they'd never return.
After months of investigating, the search for her parents came to an end. The trail had gone cold. No one knew what became of the Russo's. No trace of them could be found. Their home and everything in it had been auctioned off, leaving Juliana an orphan and homeless. Her once luxurious life came crashing down around her. If it weren't for Mr. Unsworth taking her in permanently she would have gone to an orphanage, possibly to rot. She owed him so much.
Years later, Juliana had been going through the few belongings of her parents that she'd been able to keep and found his manuscript. Inside the tattered pages, she'd come across a hand-drawn map. It lead to an X out in the hills of New Tuscany. That was why Juliana went out with her Anichanical so often. She was trying to find where the X indicated. Her father had created the map. Somewhere out there in those hills laid a clue to her parents' disappearance. She would find it.

After dinner that evening, Juliana excused herself and went to saddle Alec. She bundled herself up and left the workshop. She climbed on his back and he moved towards the border of the city. The guards intercepted them when they came near. “Miss Russo, please remember that the border will close at midnight.”
I understand,” she said. The guards were skeptical of her. She continuously left the city and no one ever knew why. After her parents had mysteriously vanished, each city in New Tuscany had set up a boarder control. People could come and go as they pleased, so long as they had an ID card indicating they were a citizen of said city. The only exceptions were supply shipments, mail, and police. Juliana's continuous adventures beyond the city perplexed the guards, but they had no reason to force her to stay. They allowed her to pass.
Alec began his run, going where Juliana led. She’d mapped out a new course. They would find where the X indicated. Tonight would be the night. They searched the hills for two hours, snaking up and down. When the sun began to set, Juliana opened the panel on the Anichanical’s shoulder hump. Inside were some switches and dials. She turned the one that activated the bear’s headlight eyes. The bright lights beamed over the snow and they pressed on.
After another hour Juliana was beginning to lose feeling in her fingers even with the fur gloves over them. Without the sun the cold became virtually unbearable. She rubbed her hands together but it had little effect. She grimaced as a sharp blast of wind slammed her face. The wind stung fiercely and made it hard to breathe.
Alec stopped running and stood stiffly on a downslope of a hill. For a moment Juliana feared he’d stopped working. She checked his gauges. They were all normal. “Why’d you stop, Alec?”
The Anichanical rose up on his massive hind legs. Juliana gasped and held tightly to his harness. “Alec!” she screamed. “What are you doing?” She lost her grip and slipped down his back, falling in the deep snow.
The bear fell back to all fours and gave a shake. His bright eyes turned to her. She flicked her wrists, getting rid of the powder from her gloves. She gave him a sour look. “Bad grizzly!” She shivered violently. Thanks to him and his antics she would have to turn home early or she would surely freeze.
She got to her feet. “I have no time for this, Alec.” She reached for the saddle, but he stepped
away from her. Now she was losing patients. “Stop this! What’s gotten into you?”
The bear ran the rest of the way down the hill, leaving a bewildered Juliana behind. She chased him. “Come back!” Would her old friend actually abandon her? He’d never done anything but protect her since she first laid eyes on him. The mere thought of him doing such a thing broke her heart.
The bear moved into some dense trees and she lost sight of him. “Alec, please!” Terror rose inside her chest. She would die out there if left all night. Her feet shuffled through the deep snow. Another blast of wind blew over her, knocking back her hood. She stopped and waited for the wind to die. When it did she scanned for the headlights of Alec’s eyes. “You stupid apparatus! Come back!”
At the end of her insult, the Anichanical came back into view. His gears shifted and he looked to his right. Juliana reached his side, less than amused, and curiously glanced where her bear looked. She felt her growing anger subside. Her eyes fell upon a log cabin nestled under some low-hanging branches. The windows all had green shutters. No smoke came from the chimney. If anyone lived inside she detected no evidence of it.
She patted Alec. “Good boy,” she whispered. This had to be the X on her father’s map. She moved to the front door and set her ear on it. No sound met her eardrum. “Hello?” she called, knocking four times. The wait lasted two minutes. She turned with a sigh. Abandoned. Maybe there was something inside. Maybe her father had used this place as a private area to study and write. She chewed her lip and went to a window. Tugging on the shutters did nothing. They were stuck tight.
A noise at the front door captured her attention. It was unlocking. Fear suddenly clenched her heart. She never should have come. The door opened and a man's head popped out. The man narrowed his eyes against the cold air and Juliana watched as his whiskered jaw dropped at the sight of Alec. “Upon my word,” he breathed.
Juliana held her breath, hoping he wouldn't look her way. The man stepped outside, wrapped in a thin, cotton blanket that looked ancient. The wind kicked up his thick hair. It was light gray with strews of black, like coal scattered across the snow. He studied the Anichanical grizzly with quizzical eyes. “Where have you come from, my friend?” He reached for Alec. The bear stepped back and looked to Juliana for guidance. The man followed the bear's bright gaze and spotted the obscure woman. His breath caught in his throat. His eyes full of wonder, he said, “My dear child.” Nothing more. They stared at each other openly. He finally added, “Does this Anichanical belong to you?”
Juliana nodded slowly. The man went back to his house but made sure to beckon her inside before he entered himself. Juliana knew there was no going back. She told Alec to wait for her and went in, shutting the door behind her. The inside was dark save for a few small candles on tables. An old couch and a couple chairs were haphazardly placed.
The man blew into his hands and asked, “What is your name?”
I'm Juliana Russo. I've come from New San Gimignano.”
His eyebrows raised, as if he realized something important. He stepped closer. “Russo? Pietro's daughter?”
Juliana's heart skipped a few beats. He knew her father. “Yes. I am. You knew him?”
The man gave a nod, his eyes becoming doleful. “I did. He and I spoke on many occasions.” He retreated to a back room and returned holding a framed photo. He passed it to Juliana. She saw it was a picture of this man and her father. Tears sprung to her eyes. He looked just as she remembered him. Wise, confidant, full of life. What had happened to him?
The name's Carlo Costa,” said the man. “How did you find your way to my cabin?”
Juliana lowered the picture and wiped her eyes on her sleeves. She quickly explained her father's makeshift map to Carlo and how she'd been trying to find the X. Carlo sat down on the couch, gesturing for her to do the same. She sat and Carlo said, “He should have left well enough alone.”
Carlo rubbed his scruffy face. “Your father asked me about something he had no business asking about. He'd heard about me from his research concerning Black Industries. He asked me countless questions and because of my disdain for Gerard Black I . . . slipped.”
Juliana gripped her gloves. She was tired of him beating around the bush. She leaned forward. “Tell me.”
Carlo scratched his cheek. “Project Reinisiate.”
Some answers and yet still so cryptic. She inhaled slowly. He chuckled. “I can already tell you are just like your father.”
What is Project Reinisiate?”
He finally got to the point. “Project Reinisiate is an experiment a group of scientists and I were working on in a secret laboratory beneath the streets of New Paris. Something special that would change the world. However, I sensed that Gerard Black was catching wind of it. I knew we would soon be found out. I advised them to abandon the work, but my fellow scientists weren't having the same worries. So I left; I moved out here. One day, I heard a knock at my door. Pietro had found me. That's when I slipped and told him of Project Reinisiate. For my mistake, I knew Pietro wouldn't give up until I told him the location of the lab. After I disclosed the location, I advised him not to seek it out.... I suppose... he went regardless.”
Juliana's head was spinning. Finally she had some answers. She now knew where her parents had gone. Still, she couldn't help wondering why her mother had gone with her father. She had no business being with him. He'd gone for research, not holiday. Most-likely she wanted to go just for his company. She had done trips like that with him before, Juliana recalled.
Juliana asked, “What exactly is Project Reinisiate? Why would my father want to go find out more?”
Carlo made a face, not eager to share any more information. One look at Juliana's serious eyes he knew he couldn't stop now. He rubbed his eyes. “Before the Freeze got out of control, scientists gathered DNA from every living animal still alive and from the bones they'd gathered. They knew the animals would die first. The world wouldn't be the same without them. The scientists planned to one day bring them back to the world.”
Clones,” Juliana deduced.
Clones,” Carlo confirmed. He closed his eyes and lowered his head. He had more to share. Juliana wanted to know everything, so she waited, ignoring her itch to push him. He cleared his throat and looked back at her face. “Gerard Black and his people could never find the lab on their own. Someone had to have told them. Someone held hostage, most-likely.”
Juliana knew what he was implying. She knew where his ominous words led. Still, she didn't want to believe it. “No. My parents weren't...” She covered her mouth, wanting to vomit. Her mother was never suppose to be there. She would have been safe, home, free to raise Juliana. For a moment, Juliana resented her father. He never should have let her tag along. Then, one glance at the picture of her father made her bitterness evaporate. She started crying.
Carlo made no move to comfort her. She tried to stop, but her emotions were through the roof. She wiped her nose and took a deep breath. Carlo waited for her eyes to met his before he said, “I believe they are still alive.”
These words brought her tears to an end. She furrowed her eyebrows. “How could you know that?”
Carlo rubbed his tired eyes. “I received a transmission a week after I saw Pietro last. It came from one of my fellow scientists. They were under attack. They informed me they'd gone into lock down.” He placed his hand on Juliana's. “Juliana... the only way to disable the lock down is to enter a code from the outside. I am the only scientist who left the lab and therefore am the only one who can free those trapped.”
None of his words made her feel any better. “So?”
They wouldn't kill your parents if they thought they could still be of use. Gerard Black's people knew your parents got the information on the laboratories location from someone, so they believe your parents may know the code. Although I never told your father the code, he does know where I am. They will hold your parents in hopes of learning my location.”
Juliana breathed deeply, calming down. He was right. They could still be alive. Perhaps tortured, but alive. She felt like she had the whole thing figured out. “If those people find you they will force you to open the lab and they will use the clones as profit like they do the Anichanicals.”
Carlo shook his head. “No. They have no need for real animals. Black Industries profits are main-ly the Anichanicals. They are their first product and what they're best known for. The idea of living animals threatens Gerard Black's livelihood. People could have living dogs as pets, with personalities and warmth. Wet noses and soft fur. Cows for milk. Chickens for eggs. If Gerard Black finds out the code he will get in and destroy the laboratory.”
Why doesn't he just blow it up from the outside?”
The lab is deep underground. The lab entrance where the code must be entered is above ground. No weapon could reach the lab. They'd destroy New Paris before making a dent in the structure. How would that help Gerard Black's reputation?”
Point. Gerard Black and his people had been holding her parents for the last seventeen years. They wouldn't risk being discovered now. Secretly hurting people wasn't the same as publicly doing it. She stood. “Okay then. Let's go enter the code.”
Carlo laughed. “I'm not going anywhere near New Paris. I'm safe here.”
But my parents!” They had to save them. Why wouldn't he help her? All he had to do was enter a little code. Her parents would go free, animals would return to the world. He had to help her. And yet, he wouldn't budge. She wanted to grab him, force him to help her, but she couldn’t. She wasn't a violent person. Another tear fell from her eye. “Please, Mr. Costa,” she begged.
He stood, wiping his hands on his pants. “I'm so sorry, my dear. I can't. Your parents are safer this way. They will live.”

She turned her back on him and headed for the door. She pried it open and flurries blew inside. Alec stood right where she'd left him. With one last look, she said to the man, “The world needs animals... and my parents need a good life. Think about that.” She left with her Anichanical bear, leaving Carlo's door wide open.

End of Part 2

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sad, Brown Eyes: Part 1

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen! Part 1 of my novella, Sad, Brown Eyes.

Sad, Brown Eyes

The Anichanical stampeded down the snowy hillside, sliding effortlessly on the ice. Juliana gripped the harness, cringing as the bitter wind blasted her cheeks. The fur hood she wore provided warmth, but it hardly matter at the speed she was flying. Her skirt billowed around her knees and her fur coat whipped behind her furiously.
The Anichanical reached the bottom and bounded onward. Juliana urged the mechanical grizzly bear to move faster. The gears in the powerful legs shifted audibly and the bear pounded through the high snow. Juliana tried to see if they'd cleared the border, but the ice and wind stung her brown eyes, fogging her vision. “Keep going, Alec!” she shouted over the wind.
She felt snow compacting on her Anichanical's metal frame. If they didn't make it back across the border soon its legs would freeze up and they would be stranded overnight. The Anichanical took stride after stride. Juliana closed her eyes, bowing her head against the wind. It had to be close. It had to be.
She chanced a look up and cheered when she saw the tower and its flame, marking the border. They made it. The Anichanical slowed to a trot. Juliana hacked at the snow with the soles of her boots. Her dress was freezing to the leather saddle she straddled. She had to dismount soon. “We're here,” she said, patting the shoulder of the machine. It huffed as if it had breath, steam hissing out of the mouth and nose. Despite the fact that the Anichanical ran on steam, he had been designed not to conduct heat. Something else would have to help thaw his frame.
Juliana rode on her bear's back until they reached the edge of the border. As expected, she was met by a guard. He held up his gun, aiming it at her. She held up her ID badge. “Juliana Russo, Librarian.”
The guard lowered his gun, but only slightly. He beckoned her forward. She followed his instruction, keeping her ID up. The guard pulled out a device from his leather holster, holding his weapon with one hand. He switched the device on and a blue light scanned the ID. It verified who she was. He lowered the gun completely. “You went out in this blizzard?”
Juliana and her bear stepped over the border into the city. She didn't bother answering him. She needed to get her Anichanical indoors before major complications ensued. They walked through the city, trudging knee deep in the snow. On days with weather such as this she wished women were allowed to wear trousers. A dress and tight corset made her adventures more complicated.
It took more time than she would have liked before they reached her home. They walked around the back of the old building and Juliana raised the metal security gate leading to the workshop. Flurries instantly blew inside as soon as the gate lifted. A male voice shouted obscenities from somewhere inside the workshop. Juliana ushered her Anichanical inside and quickly pulled the gate shut. The voice complained and demanded to know the identity of the intruder. Juliana announced herself. “My bear is coated in compacted snow!” She pulled off her hood and removed her gloves. The man the voice belonged to came into view. “Juliana, what have you gotten into now?”
She shook snow from her ebony locks. “Will you help defrost him before it becomes an even worse problem?”
The man chuckled and gathered the proper tools. “It still amuses me that you call the thing a he.” He lowered his goggles over his eyes and turned on his blowtorch. The heat instantly began thawing the bear. Juliana sat on a stool and unlaced her tall boots, wincing with every tug. Her feet were as numb as her face. She walked in her stocking feet to the stove. Sitting in a rocking chair, she propped up her feet. The heat from the fire radiated to her. She sat back and rocked, enjoying the warmth.
The man spoke to her from where he worked. “I'm waiting.”
She lifted her head. “It was nothing. Just . . . investigating.”
He snorted. “You are going to kill yourself one of these days,” he predicted. “I'm telling you, you end this childhood fantasy before it ends you.”
She rubbed her feet with a sour expression. “Mr. Unsworth, you can't expect me to do that.” She shook her head. She couldn't stop now. Mr. Unsworth grumbled under his breath and turned off the torch. “Pass me that towel.”
Juliana reached back and grabbed hold of the peach towel hanging off a workbench, giving it a good toss. Mr. Unsworth snatched it out of the air and mopped up the melted ice that had accumulated around the Anichanical's paws. The bear gave a shake, like any real bear would. Grinding followed the action, copper and steel scrapping together against the joints.
Your pet should be ready and raring,” Mr. Unsworth said with a facetious tone.
Juliana felt refreshed herself. She went to her bear, rubbing behind the small ears. “You feel better, Alec?”
The Anichanical nudged her with his nose. She kissed him sweetly. Her affection for the machine brought forth more of Mr. Unsworth's lecture. “Juliana, its not alive.”
She looked back at him over her shoulder. “I understand that.”
You're parents—”
My parents . . .” Juliana interrupted. “Yes, Mr. Unsworth. My parents would understand.”
The man ran his hand through his white hair. “I apologize.”
She rubbed Alec and said, “Power down.” The lights in the hollow eyes of the bear went out and the hissing and humming of the inter-mechanisms fell silent. Juliana collected her gloves and boots and told Mr. Unsworth goodnight. She exited the workshop up the side staircase to the apartment above.
The apartment was small, but she loved it. It had an old smell, like books and ink. Candles burned on a writing desk at the front window. She dropped her gloves and boots and blew the candle out. The room fell dark and cold. Juliana went to her bedroom and changed out of her clothes, which were now damp from the melting ice. She shook out her clothing and draped them over her clawfoot tub. She didn't bother washing. The days events had drained her and all she wanted was to sleep.

The next morning, Juliana bathed and dressed in her favorite olive green and maroon dress. She stylishly piled her hair atop her head before heading into the kitchen for breakfast. She stretched as she rounded the corner. Something greeted her, landing on her shoulder with a squawk. The sudden addition to her morning routine took her off guard. The Anichanical parrot flapped it's wings, knocking them against her cheek. Juliana heaved a sigh. “Nathaniel!”
A handsome, roguish man came out of the kitchen, holding a mug filled with coffee. “Morning, Ms. Russo.” He winked and sipped his coffee. With a whistle, the Anichanical flew from Juliana's shoulder to his. The parrot had wings, but they were for show. Propellers whorled under each wing as well as the tail to create its flight.
Juliana brushed by the visitor and grabbed a fresh loaf of bread. “What are you doing here?” she asked as she sliced it.
My father requested my help.” He leaned against the counter. “Even so, if I just wanted to pop by I have every right, considering this is his home.”
Juliana ripped her teeth into her bread slice. She'd grown up with Nathaniel Unsworth. Most days she felt like she still lived in her childhood with him around. That could be viewed as good or bad, depending on the day.
His Anichanical parrot squawked and repeated Nathaniel's words. “This is his home. This is his home.”
Nathaniel laughed and finished his coffee in one large gulp. He set down the mug, wiping his lips with the back of his fingerless, gloved hand. “You went out there again, so I heard.”
Juliana chewed her bread, turning her back on him. He stepped in front of her, arms raised out to his sides. He gave his classic, goofy, crooked smile. “I'm only making conversation, Juli.”
I'm not willing to talk about it,” Juliana stated.
Nathaniel dropped his hands. “Fair enough.”
Juliana finished her bread and grabbed her coat and hat. “I must dash. I'll see you around.” She opened the door and stepped out onto the icy steps leading from the apartment to the street. Most of the roads had been cleared so stagecoaches were moving about, pulled by Anichanical horses. Juliana stood along the street and hailed a cab. The black vehicle rolled to a stop and she climbed in back. “The New San Gimignano Library, please,” she told the driver.
She stared out her frosted window as the stagecoach moved. They rode passed a hill overlooking the countryside. She tried to picture the rolling hills covered in green grass instead of the stark snow. The snow shimmered like diamonds under the sun rays. It was a lovely sight, but not one that was suppose to happen in New Tuscany. At least not in July.
The stagecoach stopped and Juliana paid the driver. She hurried inside the New San Gimignano Library. People were already inside scouring through the many books. She went to the backroom and took off her coat. A girl came in behind her. “You are in so much trouble, Juliana.”
Juliana faced the girl. She gave her a puzzled look. “Why? Who's angry with me?”
The girl laughed. “You're joking, right? I know you well and know when you're making a joke.” She laughed harder. Juliana wanted to laugh along with her best friend but she honestly had no idea. “Louise, I'm not teasing.”
Louise rubbed her arm. “Mrs. Goodwin found your hidden stash.”
Juliana let loose a comprehending gasp. She ran by her friend and climbed the main stairs to the second floor. In the backroom there, she went to a supposedly locked trunk under a table in the corner. The lock wasn't broken but was indeed detached. She lifted the lid and felt her heart sink. Her books were gone.
Miss Russo. Can I help you find something?”
Juliana turned in a flash to face her employer. The woman stared at Juliana with her snake-like eyes. The skin around her eyes stretched so tightly Juliana wondered when it would tear. Mrs. Goodwin clasped her hands in front of her. She continued to play dumb. “Nothing has gone missing, has it? Not like many of the libraries un-checked out books.”
Juliana couldn't cover this lie. She sighed in defeat. “I am so sorry, Mrs. Goodwin. I know it was wrong of me to take the books without permission, but—”
The head librarian held up her hand to silence her words. Juliana pressed her lips together and hushed. Mrs. Goodwin gave her a disappointed look. “Knowledge is an amazing thing, Miss Russo. History is recorded so we may never forget. However, one can get too much.”
Juliana nodded to show she understood, at least on the outside. Inside she was screaming. Ever since she was young she'd had a fascination with history. Not only history, but with a particular part of it.
Her mind was filled with stories her parents had shared with her. Stories her grandparents had shared. Animals were like the Anichanicals only made of flesh and blood. These living creatures had all gone extinct a hundred years ago. But the memory of them lived on through the Anichanicals. The fur of her own coat had once been part of a living bison. She'd seen Anichanical bison, but feeling that warm pelt under her hands made her mind race. Something so large, so majestic, had once roamed the world. Such an idea consumed her.
Mrs. Goodwin could see in Juliana's brown eyes that she'd lost her. “Pay attention, Miss Russo,” she snapped. Juliana came back to reality. She nodded again. “I'm sorry, Mrs. Goodwin. I understand. I won't take the books again.”
I should hope not,” said Mrs. Goodwin. “You are a very bright young woman. I adore having you here. Please don't make me dismiss you for something as silly as hording private property. Should you want to read a book... check one out and return it when finished.”
Juliana got the message. Mrs. Goodwin raised a sharp eyebrow and slowly turned, taking her leave.

End of part 1

Friday, March 7, 2014

Update on New Novella

     I am really excited to announce that my first short story will soon be available here on my blog. I will be putting up installments of it weekly. I am anxious and yet excited about this. I have never put up work before. Not of this magnitude. I've put up essays and small poems but never prose like a short story. I already feel very attached to the characters and the scenery. To offer them to the public is very nerve racking. However, I feel that it will be well received. If you are a fan of Steampunk then this is the story for you! It is my first attempt at Steampunk so I hope I did it justice. I should have the first part posted as early as March 21.
     Adventure, danger, Anichanicals!
     Coming soon!