If you’ve been reading the “beta” version of The Dark Ship on Wattpad, thank you SO much! If you’ve been waiting for the “real deal” to be published, then you are in luck! You won’t have to wait much longer! My hope is to get TDS out by the end of THIS WEEK! If that turns out to be impossible, then at the latest, my hope is to have it out by the end of next week. I sent my final edit off to my editor yesterday. As soon as I take a look at her final suggestions and make my changes, I’ll be able to format and then…publish! I’m one of those
masochists awesome folks who loves doing my own formatting, so I’m actually excited about putting on some fun music and diving in when I complete the manuscript. My ebook cover can be seen in this post. I’ll go ahead and publish in ebook as soon as I’m ready and print will be coming out a little later.
For those of you who are just now hearing about The Dark Ship, here are some details. This will be my third published work and it belongs to my Primoris System universe. The story takes place on Juneau One– a moon that orbits the planet Kirovna. It falls within the sci-fi and paranormal categories. It is appropriate for young adults and adults alike. If you enjoy vampire stories, romance, and general weirdness, you’ll probably enjoy this novella. Warning: there aren’t actually vampires in this story, but if you like that kind of thing, you’ll probably like the content of this book. 🙂 It is a novella that clocks in at about 37,000 words.
Without further ado, here is a sneak peek of the first part!
Peering down, I smoothed the wrinkles from my newly pressed and laundered dress. I twirled about in the small confines of the ship’s cabin. After waiting hours to wear it, I relished the feel of each fold against my skin. Looking in the large vanity mirror, I smiled at the almost pretty girl staring back at me. She had orbicular lavender eyes that were somewhat disproportionate to her angular face. Long brown curls cascaded around too-pale cheeks and spilled over the grey fabric of the dress. Of course the girl was me, but I always pretended that I was looking at someone else in the mirror. It was a game I had started as a child.
The bellow of the ship’s horn caught my attention and I secured my room key about the cord on my wrist before exiting my cabin. In my hastiness, I nearly plowed into one of the crewwomen who pushed a cleaning cart about the narrow corridors.
“’Scuse me, miss,” she muttered, curtseying hurriedly before continuing on her way.
I apologized for ramming into her and smiled before skirting down a branching hallway towards the stairwell that led to the dining halls. On my way, I bumped into Violet. Cursing my own clumsiness, I rubbed my temple where I had hit my friend’s head.
“Ow! Lyra!” The other girl gaped at me.
“Sorry, Violet! Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she snapped, a smile betraying her formerly affronted attitude.
“Good. Are you going to dinner?”
“I was going to stop by my room first,” she said, peering over my shoulder and down the halls I had just come from.
“Leave something?” I inquired.
“Mmm, my makeup!” she giggled.
I winced. My mother never let me wear makeup. She said it wasn’t “proper” for a young lady until she was formerly introduced into society. Violet’s parents were more neglectful of her upbringing than mine. My parents were wealthy socialites from Bolkhovisch and hers, equally prestigious, hailed from Artusk. My papa made his money years ago selling off the last bits of Juneau One’s mined silverlet ore and now traded in precious jewels from the same mines. It was a wonder our moon had any treasures left at all after the colonists began delving deeper into the soil and stripping it of its minerals, gems, and ores. Apparently, Violet’s father was wealthy at birth and his sole purpose in life was increasing his family’s “old money”.
I watched Violet once we entered her cabin. She flitted about like a butterfly until she found her mother’s makeup case resting on the mahogany counter.
“Are you sure you’re allowed to touch that?” I asked.
“Of course, silly,” she laughed. “My mother lets me all the time.”
I rather doubted it. Violet unbuttoned the satin pouch and drew out several expensive-looking vials and boxes. I sighed as I observed her frivolous behavior. My fingers itched to take one and try some for myself. Once she had finished painting her face with rouge and kohl, she extended a brush to me. The bristles were tipped with fine pink powder.
“Do you want to?” she asked, holding the tempting offer out to me.
I shook my head. I was a coward.
She shrugged and resituated her mother’s makeup case so that it appeared as if nothing had been touched.
“Come on!” She grabbed my hand and we left the cabin, flying back up the stairs to the dining halls.
The ship had three dining rooms—one for the upper class, one for the middle class, and one for the lower class and children. Though Violet and I were both fourteen, we had to dine with the lower class. Our parents could not be bothered with us at their table. It was loud inside and noisy as children ran past our small table multiple times throughout dinner. Even though it was obnoxious having to sit around such chaos, I rather liked the diversity amongst the lower class. It was interesting to watch the affairs of other families—especially those in which the mother and father interacted with the children.
My parents had not voluntarily interacted with me since I was seven months old. At that age, I was promptly foisted onto a well-qualified nanny. I grimaced remembering the hateful old woman. Thankfully, Yvanna had not come with us on this trip—claiming that she was not my mother and had no business being with me twenty-one hours a day, nine days a week. Her thoughtless comments hurt my feelings, of course. Still, Yvanna was most likely right—I was too old for coddling. To my recollection, however, I remembered no coddling or any other nurturing affection from my parents or the “well-qualified nanny”. I wondered if Violet had been raised by someone other than her mother as well. Just as I was about to ask her, the ship’s horn roused me from my thoughts.
“That time already?” I asked Violet
“It appears so,” she shrugged.
The horn signified the end of dinner and I stared mournfully at the plate that housed my half-eaten raisin cake. The ship specialized in delicacies that were once enjoyed on Ancient Earth—or what the chefs supposed existed on the humans’ old home world. For supper we had enjoyed noodles smothered in a delectable cheese sauce with bits of a lobster caught in the Bastian Sea—on which we now sailed. I enjoyed food immensely, but pressure from my mother’s snide remarks about my unseemly figure kept me eating only three-quarters of my plate at any meal. Still hungry, I stood up and pushed in my chair to join Violet at the stairwells. For the last three nights, we had made it our custom to walk the ship’s upper deck and gaze at the suns setting. Bypassing the stairs this time, we bounded over to the private lifts. The sleepy lift worker barely noticed us as we sauntered in, giggling.
“Do you think we’ll see him?” Violet asked me, her underlying excitement bubbling out.
“Who?” I asked.
“Gregory!” She swatted my arm. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the chap who made eyes at you all evening last night!”
I did not remember Gregory or any of the other men she traipsed up to during the next hour and a half. Violet was far more forward with men than I would ever be. At fourteen, it was not unheard of to start attracting a suitable beau, but Violet made a sport of it. I was far too shy to even say “hello” to half the people she introduced me to. I spent much of the evening walking alone. When I tried to get Violet to come and play a game of cards in the cabin, she just waved me off and told me that she had no time for games. I would have been upset by her remark normally, but she winked and raised her eyebrows. Apparently she was getting on rather well with a lad that was, in my opinion, far too old for her.
Sighing, I walked to the forward section of the ship and took the staircase to the very bottom guest floor. Silence permeated every inch of the deck. I saw no crewmen, women, or guests about. There was a show going on in the theater several floors above and I knew that most of the adults would be there, including Violet’s and my parents. It was nice and solitary and I enjoyed the freedom of walking about the lushly carpeted floors and admiring the pieces of artwork that hung on the mahogany walls. Catching a glimpse of the clock that hung on the wall near the female restrooms, I sighed. It was nine thirty. My parents didn’t care what time I got back to the cabin, but I liked to go to sleep around ten so that I could get up early in the mornings and watch the open Bastian Sea and the glaciers that dotted the horizon.
As I turned to head back up the stairs to my cabin, I noticed a gilt mirror at the end of a platform between two staircases. Black, shimmering spots popped out all over it—from age I assumed. Mirrors had always fascinated me, so I tiptoed to it and peered at my reflection. My heart fluttered in my chest after a few moments. The reflection looked like me I thought…but something about my appearance had changed. Squinting, I glanced more deeply. My face appeared older and more beautiful. I tried very hard not to be vain about my appearance especially after being disgusted at my own mother’s superfluous attention to hers, but I knew enough about my own looks to know that I was not nearly as pretty as the woman I beheld in the gilt mirror.
I reached out my hand and the image did as well—mimicking me. Laughing, I chided myself for thinking the mirror held anything but my own visage. It was just silly to think otherwise. Perhaps I had grown an inch or two over the course of the cruise, I reasoned, but then I knew that was impossible also. The face in the mirror had been done up with makeup and the body was undoubtedly curvier. I shook my head and looked away. The old looking glass must have been some trick-mirror meant to entertain the guests. Despite that logical conclusion, I was drawn to that mirror. Unable to help myself, I extended my hand again. Just as my fingers were about to brush the speckled, silver surface, the nearby clock chimed out the hour—ten bells. How was that possible? I snatched my hand away and looked at the clock face. Sure enough, I had heard correctly.
How had I wasted thirty minutes in front of a mirror?! I was ashamed of losing track of the time on something so preposterous. Lifting my skirts, I bounded up the stairs to the cabin I shared with my parents. They weren’t there when I arrived, of course. My parents likely wouldn’t return until close to dawn. Extricating myself from my party dress, I put on my frilly night gown. Sleep escaped me. When hours passed and all that filled my mind were thoughts of the mirror, I rose and crossed the room to the balcony. As the night passed, I sat and watched the black sea roll by my railing. In the sky, the great planet Kirovna loomed huge and bright, lit up by the suns’ distant light. Nearby in the heavens our twin moon, Adlheid, filled a portion of the sky. Stars dotted the rest of the black space surrounding the celestial bodies. Eventually my eyes drifted shut as I pondered Kirovna and Adlheid…wondering what sort of people lived there and if all the children were as lonely as me.
I awoke in my bed, warm beneath a mound of covers. Glancing up, I saw the steady slumberous rise and fall of my parents’ bodies. They did not stir in their sleep. I must have dozed off on the balcony. My heart fluttered a bit at the thought that my parents had cared enough to tuck me in. Uncustomary warmth filled my chest. Laying my head down, I fell back asleep and this time, I had vivid dreams. I dreamed of a black-haired man with strange, dark eyes. He stared at me in the vision, sending shivers through my spine. Something about his gaze unnerved me and I awoke moments later. Dawn spilled into the small cabin through the glass balcony windows. A bit of crusty drainage mucked up the corners of my eyes and I cleared it away, blinking excessively.
My parents’ bed was disheveled and empty. They had left without waking me again. Turning back to the bed, I suddenly remembered the strange man from my dream. The vision must have unsettled me, for my covers were thoroughly soaked with sweat. Bounding out of bed, I quickly forgot the dream as I dressed and exited the cabin to cavort about the ship. Violet never rose before ten, so I knew I had plenty of time to go to the bottom guest floor and visit the mirror again. I don’t know what aspect of the thing interested me so, but I was compelled to see it one more time. The corridors were quiet and still. Adults would have all gone to the dining rooms to have their breakfasts. I cared nothing for the morning meal—especially with my mother’s comments about my rounding figure. I only had a week left of the ship’s journey until we made port in Trikla and I was determined to spend my mornings exploring.
I found my destination deserted yet again. There was an odd, desolate quality to the floor despite the lavish furnishings and inviting artwork on the walls. An ominous aura lazed about the space and I quivered. Brushing away the cloudy thoughts, I skipped over to the mirror. Its surface sparkled slightly in the light of the gas lamps that hung in sconces on the walls. Cocking my head to the side, I pondered my appearance. Today, I looked more ordinary in the mirror—much more like myself instead of the strange adult-like creature I had beheld the night before. Sitting down, I reached out my fingers towards the speckled, grainy surface. Again, I was interrupted before I could touch it. This time it was not by the clock, but the mirror’s image. My reflection morphed before my very eyes into a shapely, comely version of myself—complete with developed features and makeup again.
The mirror confused me. How could it do something like that?! I had seen no other extraordinary mirrors on the ship. Why should this one be so unusual? I frowned. The woman in the mirror frowned back. I scowled and turned my head away. Probably some magician’s trick! The crew probably kept the mirror so far down below decks because it upset people. If only I really looked like the images it produced…
I refused to look at it for several minutes. During that time, a foreign, humming sound began to thrum about the room. It seemed to carry weight and elicited an odd reaction in my body. It was the sort of feeling that one gets when one dives too deeply into a pool of water. The pressure nearly had me running from the room. As soon as I returned my gaze to my own altered reflection in the looking glass, the terrible sound and sensation of heaviness stopped. My heart beat furiously in my chest and I began to grow afraid—afraid of the mirror and of what it was doing to my mind.
Though I was not yet an adult, I was also not a child anymore. I knew that mirrors were not supposed to be capable of striking fear into the heart of the onlooker. I stood up and brushed my skirts off. This time, the unpleasant sensations did not return. As I walked away from the gilded frame, however, a phrase slipped into my mind of its own accord…Look at me. I was sorely tempted to turn back; but feeling that the situation had grown entirely too creepy for my tastes, I kept walking—this time to the lifts. The lift operator yawned as he let me in and mumbled something I took to be “Which floor, miss?”
“Seventh, please,” I returned; Violet’s floor.
Faithful to his duty, the liftman took me to floor seven and I exited in a rush—ready to find Violet and get her awake. It was absurd for anyone to sleep as late as she customarily did. I knocked on her cabin, number 783, until I heard grumbles and stomps behind the door. Violet flung open the door and I saw she was merely wearing her night gown and a purple dressing robe. Her appearance bespoke disarray and untidiness. I smirked. It felt good to be the “better looking” one for once.
“What the devil are you doing banging on my door at this ungodly hour!?” she demanded.
“It’s seven-thirty in the morning. Hardly an ungodly hour.” I smiled.
“Come in,” she huffed, running her hands through her tangled curls.
“Late night?” I inquired, brows raised.
“Stefan and I stayed up until four this morning talking on the upper deck! It was marvelous,” she swooned, raising a hand to her forehead for effect.
She crossed to the vanity and picked up a comb. Turning towards the large non-threatening mirror over the counter, Violet crammed the comb through her corkscrew curls. Wincing, I took the comb from her hands and took over the tedious job. Succumbing to my ministrations, Violet sat and gushed over her previous night’s consort.
“He was so kind and smart, Lyra! We talked for hours about the plane he’s building. He says it’ll be space worthy within a month!” Violet giggled.
“I highly doubt that,” I murmured, turning her head to the front when Violet craned her neck around to make eye contact.
“I bet it’s true!” Violet insisted.
“There hasn’t been a space worthy craft created since the Endeavoring Star landed centuries ago,” I reminded her.
“They must be getting close! Didn’t you hear about the airplane that was just built over in Russinka? I heard it nearly reached the upper atmosphere…wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in all that black up there? I heard that on Ancient Earth, people used to live in orbiting satellites. That would be the most romantic thing…” Violet sighed.
“We do live on an orbiting satellite,” I prompted her. “Juneau One orbits Kirovna, you know.”
Violet scowled, “That’s not the same thing. We live on a moon, not in a space station.”
When I was finished with her disastrous mane, I helped her into the complicated day dress her mother’s attendant had laid out. Violet’s family was wealthier than mine but not by much. I saw no reason to wear all the frills that she did during the day. I only liked to dress up at night. Violet said it made her stand out—as though her beauty and personality would not already achieve that goal for her. She stood up, pulling me from my thoughts, and sauntered out the door. Smiling and shaking my head, I followed her into the hallway.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked.
“Let’s go to the parlor,” she whispered.
“We’re not allowed in there.”
“We can spy from the top balcony,” she told me.
“Oh, alright,” I sighed.
We walked through the corridors of the ship’s seventh floor and came to the balcony that overlooked the ladies’ parlor below. I saw Lady Abakumov with her daughter, Ms. Abakumov. They were easy to pick out, because they always wore hats with enormous peacock plumes sticking out in front. I pointed them out to Violet and she put a hand to her mouth. They did look rather funny. Then I caught a glimpse of my mother—Mrs. Mara Garin. My mother was the epitome of beauty and social graces. Everything she did was meticulously calculated to please everyone around her and to show off her good breeding. I envied her terribly, but I knew I would never come close to being as socially competent or eye-catching as she was. I indicated her to Violet. She pointed her own mother out to me—Baroness Ixtalva. She was almost as pretty as my own mother with dark curls falling past her waist and a circlet of diamonds and white gold on her head.
We watched the ladies perform their conversational dances and sip their teas. I knew my own mother preferred coffee to tea but she would not dare drink something different from the crowd’s chosen beverage. After a roar of gay laughter, I was able to catch snippets of conversation.
“And how is your daughter, Baroness?” Lady Abakumov asked.
“She is lovely, Charlotta. You’re a dear to ask after her. Halvis and I have placed her in the finest schools in Artusk and expect her to make an excellent match there when she’s old enough,” Violet’s mother chimed.
I looked and saw Violet’s vibrant blush at her mother’s praise. I wondered if anyone would ask my mother about me. I did not have to wait long. Baroness Ixtalva turned to my mother and asked, “Don’t you have a daughter about Violet’s age?”
“Mm,” my mother replied, setting her teacup down on the intricately painted saucer. “Indeed, we are traveling to Trikla in order to enroll her at St. Xavier’s School for Girls.”
I caught several gasps and exclaimed whispers such as, “St. Xavier’s! My word!” and “She must be very bright.”
“Oh yes,” my mother boasted. “Our Lyra is very bright and studious. She is also exceedingly social—we often have to schedule family time around her many activities.”
I frowned and turned away. My mother was lying; not about St. Xavier’s—that was unfortunately true. She lied to everyone by saying that I was social and active. I didn’t have a single friend except for Violet and I had only just met her on the ship a few days ago. It was embarrassing. All it would take would be one person to see me with my parents to know how awkward and incompetent I truly am in social situations.
Violet must have sensed my unhappiness. She put her hand on my forearm. I shrugged and slunk away from the railing. I could no longer stand the ladies’ obnoxious laughter and forced conversations. I headed toward the staircases. After a few moments, Violet caught up with me and her steps fell into rhythm with mine.
“Lyra?” Violet whispered. “Are you alright?”
I stopped and pursed my lips before speaking, “I do not want to go to St. Xavier’s. I’m not what she says I am.”
“My mother lies about me, too,” Violet offered.
“Doesn’t it upset you?” I asked.
“Of course, but I don’t let it bother me too much. It’s not my fault she goes on and on about me. She barely sees me,” Violet admitted, a bitter glint entering her eyes.
“It’s like we’re the third class trophies from some great game and they’re trying to fool people into thinking they won first place. They dress us up and make us sound ridiculously better than we really are,” I scowled.
Violet linked her arm with mine and said, “Not to worry. You’ll knock St. Xavier’s dead and I’ll find the rich man of my parents’ dreams and live happily ever after!”
I had to laugh at her pluck and spirit. She giggled and we walked arm in arm to the lifts and went to the lower dining room for lunch. We were fortunate enough to get a window table and I spent much of the meal looking out over the blue-black Bastian Sea. Violet and I didn’t really talk much as we ate. We were consumed with our own thoughts. I kept reimagining what my first day at St. Xavier’s would be like.
I would be a second year in Superior School and, despite my mother’s assurances to her high society friends of the contrary, I knew I would be socially ostracized. I was painfully shy around new people (it took me two days of seeing Violet to work up the courage to speak first in our conversations). I was not very pretty, nor was I very bright. I was also “rounding out” according to my mother’s vicious, snide remarks. I was destined for misery at my new school and I knew the only reason I was going was so that my parents would be rid of me for eleven months out of the year.
The ship’s horn signaled the end of lunch and I snapped to attention. Violet stared at me with a strange grin on her face.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
“It’s alright,” she waved her hand. “I understand how you feel.”
We left the lower dining room and took the lift to the suns deck. All three suns were out today and they shone brightly through the purplish glass roof. I dared a glance in their direction and spied the largest sun, Adden, immediately. It was huge and orange-red, outshining the other two stars which were much smaller by comparison. Violet stretched herself out on a lounge chair and closed her eyes, soaking in the filtered suns’ light.
I copied her and lay in the chair next to her. Musicians played soft stringed instruments from a nearby platform. People, laughing and enjoying the day, talked over the music around us. It was loud, but the sheer wealth of noise helped to drown out my negative thoughts. Soon my mind was far from St. Xavier’s, my mother, and Trikla. Apparently I had fallen asleep. I was startled awake by Violet’s shakings and I yawned rudely when I rose. The cleaning crewmen shuffled their feet nearby. They waited politely, staring at the ground, as Violet and I left the lounge chairs. I forgot that they cleaned the cushions in the middle of the day before the adults came out in the nighttime to socialize.
We left the suns deck and loitered in the corridor for a moment before Violet sighed and leaned back against the wall.
“I’m bored,” she grumbled.
I had an idea. “Come with me.” Taking her two hands in mine, I pulled her towards the staircase.
“Where are we going?” she whined.
“Just come on. Follow me,” I commanded.
She rolled her eyes, but she came with me. I led her down to the bottom guest level and as I suspected, it was deserted. It was strange that the bottom floor always seemed devoid of inhabitants except for me. I looked around to be sure but as soon as I ascertained we were without company, I walked over to the mirror. Careful not to look at myself, I stood off to the side and faced Violet. She walked over with a puzzled look on her face.
“A mirror?” She lifted one eyebrow.
“Not just any mirror,” I corrected. “Have you ever seen a mirror like this?”
“It’s just an old golden mirror; an antique. My grandmother has a similar one in her powder room.”
“No, I meant on the ship.”
Violet thought for a moment, “Now that you mention it, no.”
“Strange isn’t it?” I suggested.
Violet shrugged. “Is it?”
“Why don’t you take a look?”
Violet walked right up to the mirror and started fixing her hair and primping. I didn’t notice any extraordinary reaction to the reflection she saw. Feeling far too curious, I came round and saw that instead of looking done up and womanly, Violet just looked like Violet and I just looked like myself. Frowning, I listened with my ears for the strange humming and tried to sense the pressure I’d felt earlier. There was nothing. It was just an ordinary mirror after all. Perhaps the stress of my young life had driven me slightly mad. I had fooled myself into thinking that the looking glass was some mysterious instrument.
“Something wrong?” Violet asked.
“No, it’s nothing. Let’s go,” I said, pulling her hand away.
“It is awfully pretty,” she admitted, looking back at it with a curious glint in her eyes.
Immediately, a jealousy I could not explain overcame me. I snatched at her hand and jerked my head in the direction of the lifts.
“Okay, okay,” Violet grumbled.
I thought about my reaction in the lift. The lift operator said nothing and Violet had a file out, ministering to her nails. Why had I gotten jealous? The mirror certainly didn’t belong to me, neither had it shown Violet the strange enhancements that it had shown me. I shook my head and quivered. I was beginning to greatly fear that mirror. It made me feel strange and almost frightened. Still…later that night when Violet had taken up with some lad on the upper deck under the stars, I slipped away.
I found myself drawn to the mirror in a dangerous, maniacal sort of way. It was as though I needed to see that beautiful reflection of myself—that self that I never could be on my own. As soon as I reached the mirror’s floor, I took in the low light and the beautiful mahogany walls. Empty—as I’d hoped. My heartbeat practically screamed of its presence in my ears and the thrumming sound began again. It was as though by being in the same room, my body could sense the mirror’s presence. I took a few steps closer and the noise in my head grew louder, more insistent. When I reached the looking glass, I sat down.
The woman in the reflection sat just like me. She moved her hands when I moved mine. She cocked her head when I tilted mine. When I smiled, she smiled back—though her grin was far more alluring and enchanting. I had worn my best dress tonight, just to see what I would look like in it as a beautiful woman. The humming had lessened now that I was directly in front of the glass. I did it then, I reached out my hand and it shook as I neared the surface of the speckled mirror. There was an incredibly intense impulse to touch it. I looked away as though I was afraid of what would happen when my fingers made contact with the cool veneer.
Look at me.
I snapped my head back and watched the woman bring her fingers to meet mine. As soon as our finger’s touched on the silvery surface, I felt a jolt shoot through my body and instead of the glass being hard and cold as I’d originally thought, it was a warm viscous liquid. My fingers went straight through the surface. I gasped, snatching my arm back and cradled my hand to my chest. My whole arm felt tingly—as though it had been shocked. Without thinking I stood and ran to the stairs and fled several floors up. There was no hum or sense of pressure anymore, just a creeping, harrowing notion that something was utterly wrong about the gilded mirror. I returned to my room and went straight to bed. In my sleep, I tossed and turned…for there in front of my eyes was that man again—the dark eyed, black-haired man reaching out his hand to me whispering… “Look at me…”
If you enjoyed the first part, stay tuned for information about the official publishing launch of The Dark Ship! Won’t be long now!