I wish I could tell you that this story has a title, but it doesn’t. Not yet anyway. But it will. And I’ll have plenty of time to come up with one, too, given that I’ll send installments out in my newsletter every few weeks for who knows how many months.
What I can tell you is that this story will be a series of three novellas, and they will be published as Mystic Carnival Collective (aka MCC) stories. If you’re not familiar with MCC, I mentioned it somewhere on the blog last summer, and if you want to learn more about it, you can always pick up a copy of my novelette, Brody’s Banshee, at Amazon.com, Smashwords, and other online bookstores.
The carnival, or regulars from the carnival, will make at least one brief appearance in my stories. Of course, if you’re like my partners in crime, Debra Kristi and Melinda VanLone (the other two in this collective), you’ll enjoy their soon-to-be-released stories that take place almost entirely at the carnival.
What’s my new novella series going to be about? All I can say is that it involves the Civil War era (though not much about the war itself), time travel, and romance.
Here’s the first installment. As with Holding On To Yesterday, you need to be signed up for my newsletter to read the rest. 😀
From where he crouched behind the cover of the trees, Isaac Spencer could hear the soldiers laughing as they sat around the small fire. Nearing the end of October, the air had cooled off when night had fallen and they huddled close trying to stay warm. Their words slurred by the liquor they’d consumed – copious amounts if the empty bottles scattered around their booted feet were anything to judge by – sounded loud and boisterous in the otherwise silent countryside.
It would have been nice to have known what they were saying, but their words were muffled by the sound of his heart beating a rapid tempo in his ears. He could feel it pounding in his chest too, like it was trying to find a way to escape, and Isaac could only focus on keeping his breath slow and steady, or as steady as he could manage under the circumstances.
The terror that set in as soon as he realized his campsite was about to be invaded hadn’t eased the hours since, hours that crept by with agonizing slowness, seconds ticking away like his life didn’t depend upon their swift passage.
Since taking flight into the sparsely populated woods, only a dozen yards from his hated enemies, he’d waited for them to fall into a drunken slumber, yet they were only just showing signs that they might be tiring.
Just a little while longer, he promised himself, trying to ignore the rumbling in his belly. It had been days since he’d had more than berries and water to sustain him and he wondered if he would ever be able to eat enough food to fill the aching emptiness.
He tried to think of home, of his parents and sisters waiting for him in the big white house surrounded by lush green lawns and lovely flower gardens. A wave of longing washed over him, an aching need to turn back time, and then he pushed the memories out of his head.
The stories he’d been hearing, the ones that convinced him to turn back when nearly everyone in his platoon had been killed almost a week ago, scared him more than the thought of being caught.
The Union Army seemed to revel in their reputation as heartless, cruel monsters trampling everything in their path in their quest to bring the south to their knees. Burning and destroying homes, hanging men who had committed no crime, raping women…
These thoughts had given him nightmares for duration of the war, and now that it appeared there was no way to win, the situation was getting worse. With most of his regiment dead, and hope all but gone, he’d decided it was time to return to his family. If he had any family left to return to.
Mail delivery had been intermittent at best, but he hadn’t heard from them since July. It was now October, and a lot could have happened in three months’ time.
A snore so loud residents in the next county might have heard it startled Isaac back to the present and he peered around the tree to see five bodies sprawled out about the fire. They appeared to be sleeping, but he didn’t move, barely even breathed for another long while, until he was certain they weren’t playing possum.
When he was sure it was safe, he crept over to them, silently, as Ar-ke-kee-tah had taught him. Ar-ke-kee-tah. Another memory to be buried in the place where all sad and horrible memories belonged, never to be brought to the light of day again.
Squatting down beside a bulging saddle bag, Isaac gasped, his gut clenching in anticipation when he saw that it was stuffed full of potatoes. It didn’t matter that they were covered with dirt, or that he had no way of cooking them, he was taking the bag, along with one of the rifles, and a horse. Since he was probably already wanted for desertion, why not add horse thievery to the list of his crimes? If he was going to be hanged anyway, might as well make it worth his while.
Holding his breath, he untied all of the horses, and holding onto a handful of reins, led them a short distance from the campsite. He wished he could take the time to go back for a saddle, but he’d ridden bareback enough in his youth that it wouldn’t pose a problem now. The moment he was seated, the saddlebag thrown across the brown mare’s back, he aimed the rifle to the sky and fired it once.
The other horses scattered while he urged the one he was riding in a southerly direction. He wouldn’t push her too hard in the dark, only long enough to put a safe distance between him and the bluecoats – and then he intended to turn his attention to the potatoes. It might require the entire contents of the saddle bag to assuage his hunger, but for the first time in forever, he could eat to his heart’s content. And then he could rest for a while.
As near as he could determine, he’d been three or four days from home when he stopped earlier, but now the journey would over before the sun set tomorrow.
This would probably be a good time to remind you that these installments are basically first drafts with some quickly applied Band-aids.