I just completed my final edits for Beyond the Pale, the final book in my teen time travel romance. It's now with my formatter. Next week it will be published.
For those who want a taste now, I'm posting the first chapter below. But first, some disclaimers and explanations.
I know Grigory Rasputin was a real man, and if he still has posterity walking the earth--I apologize to them for demonizing him. Remember, this is a work of FICTION, and I'm absolutely positive that the Rasputin in my novel has very little semblance to the Rasputin of the real world.
The trail head to the Catskills is in reality about a 2 hour car ride from Tarrytown, N.Y. I have no idea how long it would take to ride a bike there, especially if you had to carry someone on the handlebars.
There really is a Haunted Halloween in Sleepy Hollow. You can read about it here: http://visitsleepyhollow.com/halloween-in-sleepy-hollow/ They even have zombies.
Finally, remember, I'm a storyteller. I don't pretend to be a Biblical scholar. I'm not trying to preach doctrine of any sort. Sure, I tried to tie in things from the Bible, but only as it supported my story. I have never had a near-death experience, nor have I had visions of a pre-life or even an after-life, although I do believe in both. I'm pretty sure my views concerning Hell don't coincide with traditional Christian teachings. Anyone familiar with Dante will recognize (somewhat) the Kiev labyrinth, but since Dante died about the same time as Emory, I'm sure he won't mind.
“I am nothing more than a son of Purgatory—trapped between Heaven, Hell and Earth. I have chosen Earth, but my stay is conditional upon Heaven’s grace.” EMORY
All Hollow’s Eve
Petra woke to screaming. She bolted up, pushed her hair off her face, and tried to read the landscape for tale-tell signs—anything that might tell her where—and more importantly in what century— she had landed. Wood smoke hung in the air, and the mist chilled her skin. The ageless moon looked down, stars winked, and tombstones that looked as old as the night sky had nothing to say. That, she decided, was the problem with time travel. She never knew where or when she might land.
Emory stirred beside her and she reached for him. “You okay?” she asked. His hand felt warm, solid, and real. As long as they were together, nothing else really mattered.
Another scream tore the night, and Petra twisted toward the sound. An old stone church engulfed in an unearthly orange glow stood on a hill, its steeple pointing toward Heaven. Petra wore jeans and a dark hoodie, but Emory, in his breeches and white billowing shirt, looked like he belonged in a living history museum. Which one of them would look out of place in this place and time?
“I am okay.” Emory slipped into her 21st century vernacular, gave her a crooked grin, and stood. “But someone is definitely not.”
The screams, followed by maniacal laughter, tore through the air.
“Do you think they need help?” Emory asked.
Petra climbed to her feet, drawn to the sound. “We should go and see.”
“Any idea where we are?” Emory brushed dead leaves and grass off his clothes as he headed for the hill. “Or when?”
“I think we’re still in the Tarrytown cemetery.” She considered the deserted graveyard. A skin-pricking feeling that said they weren’t alone tickled Petra. She squeezed Emory’s hand as they walked toward the glowing church.
“Do you think the ale worked?” Emory lifted the flagon they had taken from Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow ghosts. Who would have guessed that Kip/Rip Van Winkle’s story was more fact than fiction?
Petra paused at a wrought iron gate attached to a stone wall. Blackened by moss and lichen, it looked old and squealed in complaint when Emory pushed it open. A shiver ran through Petra.
Horses thundered past, and Emory pulled her behind a tall obelisk. They waited in the dark night with their backs pressed against the monument for the sound of falling hooves to fade. Petra peeked but only caught a glimpse of a swirling black cape.
“Irving,” Emory breathed.
Petra nodded. The last time, only moments—or maybe centuries—ago, they had seen Irving, he had looked exactly the same. “I guess we’re still in Tarrytown.” She blew out a breath of frustration, and glanced around the dark cemetery.
“But where is Ichabod Dane?” Emory stepped out of the obelisk’s shelter. “He must be here, as well.”
Petra shivered again, remembering their last clash with the greedy school master. “I’m glad he’s not.”
“Still, we must be vigilant.” He pulled her through the gate, and she trailed after him, keeping a hold of his hand.
Petra thought about telling him that in 2010 no one under the age of eighty used the word vigilant, but remembered that they probably weren’t in 2010 so he could use any word he wanted.
Sounds of screaming, harsh laughter, and galloping horses came from over the hill. Emory glanced at her and she tightened her hold on him. Up ahead, lanterns lined the dirt path.
“Where did the lanterns come from? I don’t remember those,” Petra whispered. Why was she whispering? She didn't know, except for the creepy, not-alone feeling. She glanced at the ground. Was the path too perfect? No meaningful rocks, no potholes. What was on it? Sawdust?
When a creature draped in gauze jumped out from behind a crypt, Petra screamed.
Emory cocked his arm and punched the ghoul in the face, sending him flying backward. Swatches of gauze floated and fluttered midair. Petra caught sight of a pair of Toms shoes and Hurley shorts.
“Oh my gosh, Emory, stop!” Petra ran to help the ghoul-guy to his feet.
With his white makeup now smeared with the blood pulsing from his nose, the ghoul-guy sprawled on the ground. His coal-rimmed eyes blinked open in surprise. “Whatcha do that for?” He sat up, grabbed his gauzy costume and held it to his face to staunch the bleeding. “Man, I don’t get paid enough.” He glared at Emory through narrowed eyes and lowered brows. “What are you? Some sort of moron?”
Emory stood, his clenched fists dangling at his side, his mouth open as if he wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure what.
“So sorry.” Petra tried to fill the awkward pause. “We thought you were someone else.”
“Someone else draped in a white sheet and hanging out at Hollow’s Halloween?” The guy turned his glower toward her, and sarcasm laced his voice. “Yeah, I can see how you could make that mistake.”
“Look, he’s sorry.” Petra sent Emory a pleading glance.
“I am, indeed.” Emory stepped forward and offered his hand. “Please accept my most heartfelt apologies. If I can make restitution—”
“Restitution?” The guy crab-crawled away from Emory before bouncing to his feet and addressing Petra. “You look normal enough. Why are you hanging with this psycho?”
“Psycho?” Emory muttered.
The guy untied the rope belt that hung at his waist and threw off his costume. “I should call the cops.”
“Please don’t,” Petra begged. “I know… I mean, I wouldn’t blame you if you did…but please—we really did think you were someone else.” Petra scrambled in her bag and drew out a gold coin. “Look—for restitution.”
The kid took it and turned it over. “What is it?”
“It’s gold from 1810.”
“Are you freaking kidding me? This has got to be worth a mint!” He handed it back to her. “If it’s real. Which it’s not. Look, just stay away from me. I don’t need this.” He turned away. “I’m outta here.”
Emory waited until the guy had disappeared into the dark woods, before he said, “Petra?” Her name held all of his questions.
She took his hand and pulled him close. Not wanting anyone to overhear, she whispered, “It’s Halloween. We’re still in Tarrytown, but it’s 2010.” Glancing around, she added up the evidence. The starry sky was dimmed by refracted light, traffic sounded on a distant road, and the air smelled different—less like a farm and more like a city laced with exhaust and fumes. She tried to lead Emory toward the town. “We’re home.”
But Emory dragged his feet. “Why was that youth dressed as a goblin? Why was his face painted? Do the men of this age wear face paint?”
“No, at least not most of them.” She laughed and shrugged, so relieved to be back in her own century, she couldn’t care less about anything else. “Some do, but not very many.” She took a deep breath and launched into an explanation of how Washington Irving had made Sleepy Hollow famous. “And now every October it’s a tourist attraction.”
“But why would anyone want to attract these unfriendly tourists?”
When a woman shrouded in black emerged from the shadows and sidled up to Emory, he flinched away with a puzzled look on his face. “This is what I don’t understand.” He waved his hand at her. “Why? Pray tell—why are you dressed thus?”
The Goth girl’s gaze ran up and down Emory and snorted. “Hey! My costume is way better than yours.”
He turned to Petra. “Is this common attire?”
Petra grabbed his arm, sent the Goth girl an apologetic smile and drew Emory away. “No! People pay to come here and be scared,” she whispered.
“People pay money to be scared by hoydens dressed as phantoms?” Emory planted his feet and refused to move. “And why would anyone be scared or surprised if they paid money to be scared or surprised?” His gaze went over her shoulder. “Although, I have to say, that is surprising…and horrifying.”
Petra turned and saw the carnage. Creatures dressed in rags feasted on corpses lying on the cemetery lawn. Blood dripped from their blackened lips and stained their hands and clothes. They lurched from one torn body to the next. “Zombies,” Petra told him.
“I beg your pardon?”
Petra rolled her eyes. “Those are people pretending to be zombies.”
“And what is a zombie?”
Really? They finally arrived in 2010—an age of amazing technological miracles—and she had to explain zombies? She took his arm and led him toward the graveyard gates. “Never mind. When we get home I’ll show you Night of the Living Dead. I can probably find it on Hulu.”
“How am I to pay this no mind?” He waved a hand at the bloody scene behind them. “The Living Dead? And what is a Hulu?”
“It’s a TV show.” And now she had to explain TV. “It’ll be easier to show you than tell you.”
“Where are we going now?” Emory asked.
Emory followed Petra into the church. Inside, away from the revelry and boisterous crowd, the quiet chapel quieted Emory’s unease. Aside from the strange, blue lighting radiating from under the eaves, the sanctuary looked nearly the same as it had two hundred years ago: stain glass windows, wood floors, soaring buttresses supporting the distant ceiling.
Petra dropped into a pew and Emory followed, his gaze flitting across the room. They were alone, but the noise of the crowd seeping through the windows and doors reminded Emory that he was a stranger in a strange time and place.
Petra pulled out her contraption and pressed a button. It buzzed and lit up. She must have noticed his puzzlement, because she said, “It does more than make music. So glad it’s still got juice.”
Emory nodded as if he understood. She had carried the thing to both Dorrington, England, 1610, and Tarrytown, New York, 1810. He didn’t remember seeing it with juice, nor did it look as if it held liquid.
“It’s a phone.” She sighed when she must have realized he didn’t understand what a phone was. “Never mind, I’ll explain Alexander Bell to you later, but for right now—a phone is like having a ginormous library in your pocket. It can tell you almost everything you could ever want to know…although you have to be careful, because not all of it’s true. And there are definitely some things you do not want to know. But right now, we do need to know if we can get back to New York, or if we have to wait for a morning train.”
“Of course. But New York is at least a day’s journey. ‘Twould be foolish to travel so far— ”
She smiled and shook her head.
“No, it’s less than an hour train ride.”
“Ah. I am anxious to ride this train. Is it pulled by horses?”
Petra laughed. “No. It’s…I’m not sure what makes it go. Electricity? They used to have steam engines, and coal. I’m pretty sure it’s electricity now.”
When she saw his blank look, she said, “Wait—you should know about electricity. Benjamin Franklin and his kite?”
“Benjamin Franklin, the statesman, had a kite?”
“Didn’t he? We learned about him in school—how he flew his kite during an electrical storm and got hit by lightning.”
“He never mentioned it.”
Petra held up her hand to stop him. “Never mind. It’s after midnight.”
“Tonight—shall we ask a farmer if we can stay in his barn?”
“No.” Petra grinned at the thought. “People don’t do that in 2010. A farmer might be seriously creeped-out if you asked if you could sleep in his barn with his animals.”
Emory wanted to ask about creeping out and what it meant, other than the obvious of creeping outside, but Petra continued.
“Besides, there aren’t very many farmers around here.”
“There are not?”
“No. Tarrytown is a commuter town with way more investment bankers than farms and barns.”
“’Tis more than one bank?”
Petra blew out a breath. “Right now we don’t need a bank—we need a place to stay.”
Emory watched as she pressed a series of buttons on her phone.
“There’s a Days Inn close by.” She met his gaze. “You can stay there during the night—it’s not just for daytime.”
“Of course, I understand that.” He hated that he knew so little and Petra, with her magic phone, seemed to know everything. “Although I will admit that there is much I do not know.”
Petra bumped his shoulder with hers. “No worries. You can ask me anything, and if I don’t know, you can always look it up.”
She showed him how to connect with a person named Siri. “Watch me. Siri, how do I get to the Days Inn?”
His mouth dropped when Siri replied, “Head south on U.S. 9 S/Broadway toward Harwood Ave for 1.8 miles then turn left onto 15/Benedict Ave. Continue to follow Benedict Avenue. Destination will be on your left.”
“Where is this Siri?”
Petra laughed and slipped the phone back into her carryall. “I don’t know.”
“Perhaps we should ask her. Does she not mind being bothered so late at night?”
Petra laughed again. “No, I’m sure she doesn’t mind. She’s not a real person, you know.”
“No. I did not know.” It seemed that what he did not know could fill a universe.
“Let’s go.” Petra stood, and Emory followed her out the door. She paused on the stone steps before following Siri’s instructions.
“Do you want to try it?” Petra asked as they followed the road that led out of town. She fumbled in her bag for the device. “Go ahead. Ask it a question.”
Emory held the phone and shook it to hear the juice. It didn’t sound as if it held liquid. It felt small, fragile, and incapable of answering any questions at all, let alone any question he could think of. He mentally sorted through all that he didn’t know. What now? Would they find the Kidd Pirate’s treasure? What happened to Dane and Annie? What, exactly, would he do in the year 2010? Finally, he chose the question most puzzling of all.
“Siri, why does Petra love me?”