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

No comments:

Post a Comment