Hi! I'm just getting started in writing, and I'm posting some of my experiments and other short stories here. Offline, I'm working on building my "rejection slip collection" with other stories.

Please enjoy the short stories and writing experiments I've posted here. I always enjoy constructive criticism.

I'm very interested in improving my abilities as an author, and I like to experiment with different genres and story ideas when I write. A lot of what I'll be posting here will be somewhat unfinished, I figure I'd rather post and learn what I can than have something never get written because I fret too much about how it will turn out.

Thanks for coming!

05 January 2009

Under the Vines-Chapter 1

What secret is best, but one that is shared with another?
Terra walked along the dirt avenue that crossed just in front of the sheriff's office. She was a queer looking girl for the time. She wore the trousers for the men of the time and had her hair golden brown hair in a simple shoulder-length cut. She paused in front of the door of the office, then opened the door and walked inside. Terra blinked after she shut the door, letting her eyes grow accustom to the sparse lightning. A man behind a desk glanced up and greeted Terra with a smile.
"Hello, Miss!" he said. "Can I help you?"
"Oh, yes please, if you wouldn't mind, sir," Terra answered brightly. "You see, I'm a traveller, new to this town and all, and I was hoping-?" Terra paused.
"You were hoping for some guidance and some tips on where to stay and eat, yes?" the man responded. Terra nodded and smiled. "Well, the inn in town, the only one I might add, is the best place to stay. The horseshoe cafe has some mighty good food, presuming you don't mind spending a little extra. Otherwise, the inn and the Drooling Dog sells decent food.
"I'm the sheriff, so if anyone gives you trouble around here, you just sally over here and let me know."
"Thank you very much, Sheriff. Good bye, then!" Terra turned and began to open the door. Her hand was briskly knocked aside from the door as a woman flung open the door marched through. Terra rubbed her nose, which had been bruised when the door was flung into it.
"Mr. Sheriff!" the woman exclaimed. "I would like to have you know-" Terra quickly slipped out the door and closed it quietly.
"I hope the rest of the town isn't as impolite as her," Terra muttered. She looked up from her nose and glanced around. Her eyes rested on a building just across the street. "And there's the inn!" she said.
Terra took a step off the boardwalk onto the dirt road, then quickly jumped back on as a horse-drawn cart went speeding by. Terra slouched and stared blankly forward for a moment, then straightened, looked both ways, and finally crossed the street to the inn. When Terra had stepped back onto the boardwalk, she glanced back at the Sheriff's office. The impolite woman had exited the building and was flouncing away haughtily. Terra smiled slightly, then returned to her task at hand.
The inside of the inn had a warm, comfortable atmosphere; the sort of atmosphere you might expect from the house of grandparents. Terra stood quietly, drinking in the smells of warm food and rich drinks.
"Hallo, Miss!" an man that looked aged, but not old, called to her from behind the bar. "What can I do for you?"
"Hello, sir," Terra replied, "I was wondering if I could trouble you for a room?"
"A room, eh? No trouble at all, no trouble at all. We've got a good one just up stairs. Let's go take a look, shall we?" The man pulled down a ring of keys, then began to hobble toward, then up the stairs with Terra not far behind. "Any bags I should be havin' me boys grab, Miss?" the man asked as they walked up the stairs.
"No, sir. All I have with me is what I have in my pocket, sir."
"Fine, fine. A very logical-minded woman, you are, I can see."
"Thank you, sir."
"Ah, here we are now!" The man stopped in front of a door. He quickly stuck a key into the old lock, then popped open the door. "Here you are, Miss! The best room in the house, I should think! Seeing as this is the best room, the rates for it will be on the side of a little extra..." Terra looked suspiciously over the rather ratty and dingy looking room: the bed sprawling in the corner looked to be the type alive with small, parasitic animals, the floor appeared to have been forgotten about all together, and the rug in front of the bed looked to be the remains of a late, domesticated pet.
"Sir, if this is your best room, then I'd hate to see your average one," Terra said. The man looked affronted.
"Are you saying that we don't take good care of our guests?" The man gasped. Terra broke.
"Well, maybe I am, sir, but that would presume that you take care of them at all to begin with!" Terra stomped out of the room fuming, then stomped down the stairs for good measure.
"Is something wrong, Miss?" Terra looked up from her stomping toward the voice behind the bar. The owner of the voice was a kind looking young man who appeared to be the son of the aged looking man, not because of looks, but because when the man reached the bottom of the stairs. he exclaimed, "Son! Talk some sense into this young lady!" The young man looked surprised. "I offered her our best room, and she begins to tell me how poorly I treat my guests!" The young man looked carefully at Terra, smiled, then looked back at his father.
"Our best room? But father! Our best room is down here!" the young man feigned innocence at what his father said. The aged-looking man looked startled.
"No, no, Kevin! Our best room."
"Oh, that 'best room.'" The young man, apparently Kevin, winked at Terra.
"Yes, yes. That best room-" the aged-looking man began.
"I thought we saved that room for rich idiots," Kevin exclaimed. The aged-looking man stared in disbelief at his son, then ran his hand along his face.
"Well, since Kevin seems so inclined, I guess you can have the other best room." The aged looking man sighed, and hobbled out of the room. Terra turned to Kevin and said,
"Thank you." Kevin smiled at her.
"No problem. My dad's always trying to sucker people. Now, let me show you the room." This room was much cleaner: the bed had fresh linen and the floor had been swept recently.
"Much nicer. I think I'll take it."
Terra was taking a walk around the town, which took her to the front of the Sheriff's office. She paused in front of the door to think for a moment, then opened the door and entered the office. She looked around the inside of the office and saw that the Sheriff was not there. She decided to lean against the wall to wait for him. Not long after, the sheriff entered with another man.
"So let me get this straight," the sheriff said, "You will pay me if every time someone comes in to complain about one of your boys giving them trouble, I just ignore them?"
"Yes, Mr. Sheriff," the other man, who looked like a very rich man, said.
"If your price is high enough, Mr. Black, I think we can do business." The other man smiled, then started to speak, but was interrupted by Terra.
"Sheriff!" she exclaimed. "You filthy, rotten, slimy liar!" Terra promptly turned on her heal and started to march out of the building. Terra heard a loud clicking noise.
"I wouldn't do that, if I were you, Miss Terra," the Sheriff said. Terra turned around slowly to find a gun pointed at her face. Terra narrowed her eyes.
"How did you-" Terra began.
"Know your name?" the sheriff finished for her. "Well, it would appear that you have a file on how you tend to interfere in matters what don't concern you, such as this one here. It would seem that there are many people who wants you dead or alive for a hefty reward." Terra reached into her pocket. The sheriff started to pull back his trigger.
Suddenly, time seemed to slow down. But Terra continued to move at a normal speed as her foot flew up to knock the gun out of the sheriff's hand. Terra spun around as she heard a long, drawn out click. She grabbed Mr. Black's wrist and slammed it against the door frame. Mr. Black dropped the gun with a yell. Terra shoved her palm into Mr. Black's nose. The sheriff grabbed Terra from behind, then yelled at Mr. Black to hit her. Terra slid her feet out from under herself and made the Sheriff hold her whole weight. The sheriff staggered and let go of Terra. Terra took the opportunity to fling the door open and start running.
Terra ran into the inn. She paused to throw a quick look at Kevin when he gave out a cry.
"Hey! What're you doing, running in here like that?" he ejaculated.
"I'll be in my room," Terra said quickly as she darted into said room. A few seconds later, the sheriff and Mr. Black ran huffing into the inn.
"Hey! Just what do you people think this place is? A race track?" Kevin yelled.
"Kevin, my boy!" the sheriff said, "Where did that girl in trousers go?" Kevin's eyes narrowed.
"Why?" Kevin asked.
"She's a wanted criminal."
"Oh, really?"
"Yes." Kevin and the sheriff stood glaring at each other for a minute, then,
"She's in our best room."
"Thank you, boy." The sheriff and Mr. Black ran up the stairs. Kevin grinned after them, then walked over to Terra's room. He opened the door just in time to see Terra leap out the window. Kevin raised his eyebrows. He looked up towards the sound of the sheriff and Mr. Black yelling in anger.
"Kevin, you-" the sheriff spit out a few swear words. Kevin stepped outside of the room just as the sheriff and Mr. Black got off the stairs.
"I told you the best room." Kevin shrugged. The sheriff sputtered:
"Everyone knows what you call your 'best room.'"
"Yes? So how can I differentiate for you what my father calls the best room from what the real best room is?" The sheriff snarled something and stalked into the other best room.
Several hours later, Terra reentered the inn at a normal pace.
"Hello, Mr. Kevin!" she said brightly to Kevin. He grinned up at her.
"Gave the sheriff and Mr. Black the slip, eh?" Kevin asked. Terra nodded. Kevin's features knotted into confusion. "Who are you? Whys the sheriff chasing you around?"
"I'm Terra, and apparently I interfere." Terra walked into her room and shut the door. Kevin frowned slightly.
Inside of her room, Terra began to empty her trousers' pockets. What she set on her table were what looked like a small, rounded triangular face mask, a wide black band with a short red cylinder in the center, and a heavy, but small, rectangular box. After looking at the three items for a minute, she lifted up the black box and began speaking into it.
"I found another one. He's s rotten as the others I've found."
"Yes, but what of the common folk?" a tinny voice in the box asked.
"A man working with the sheriff was offering compensation for feigned ignorance on the part of the sheriff. The local temporary habitation renter is dirty, too. His son seems all right, though. Oh, yes. There was a woman who wasn't very polite, either."
"One out of five isn't good. The other colonial habitations weren't doing well, either, were they, Terra?"
"No, they were as bad as this place is turning out to be. Maybe, we could just take the good people out?"
"You know why we can't do that, Terra. They will be tainted as well, and we can't afford to have our civilization tainted by them, can we?"
"Then continue your research." There was a faint clicking sound. Terra ducked. A shot was fired and the bullet hit the window at the level at which Terra had been standing. Terra sat up quickly to grab her things. Another clicking sound. Terra pressed the red cylinder on the wide black band. Time slowed down. Terra opened the door a crack, then swung it hard. It ricocheted off something behind it. A man hollered a slow yell. Terra ran out from the room. Someone behind her grabbed her arm and jerked her to a stand-still. She spun around to see the aged-looking man grinning triumphantly. Terra brought the black box into contact with the man's nose. The aged-looking man reeled back with a drawn out howl.
Time sped up.
The man who had been shooting at Terra through the door lunged forward at her with his fist cocked. Terra crouched down and rolled forward. The man who had been attempting to punch Terra hollered as he stumbled and tripped over her.
Terra popped up, saw the man she had just tripped aim a gun at her feet. She jumped forward and landed on the man's hand just as he fired his gun. The man howled and clutched at his now broken wrist and hand. A third man popped up from behind the bar with a shot gun and took aim at Terra. The aged-looking man lunged into Terra and knocked her off her feet.
"Well, now, Missy," he said, "It looks like it time to pay you back for my broken-" The black box met with the man's eye. He yelled and straightened up, then fell over backwards.
Terra got up quickly, and upon seeing the man with the shot gun begin aiming at her again, leaped forward and up onto the bar. She stepped on the rifle, then kicked the man in the face with her other foot. The man stumbled backwards into the shelves of beer and wine behind him. He groped around on the shelves, then grabbed a bottle and threw it at Terra. Terra tried to move, but the bottle slammed right into the middle of her chest, knocking her backwards off of the bar. The bottle bounced off of her chest and landed on the floor to shatter just as Terra landed on the floor.
Terra closed her eyes and stood up as quickly as she could. She opened her eyes and grabbed the shotgun. She aimed at the man behind the bar and fired a shot into the middle of his head. Terra spun around and fired another shot into the chest of the man whose hand and wrist she had broken. Terra turned the gun on the aged-looking man, but he was rolling on the ground yelling about his eye.
"Where can I go to learn to fight like that?" Terra spun around to aim the shot gun at Kevin. Kevin looked at the gun, then grinned up at her. "You know, that thing can only be fired twice. Besides, I don't want to kill you." Terra dropped the shot gun, and stepped slightly to the side of Kevin.
"Hey, you're all cut up! Let me get some bandages," Kevin suddenly said. He turned around and went into the back room, out of which he had apparently come. Terra sighed heavily, stumbled over to a wall, then leaned heavily against it. Kevin returned out of the back room with various antiseptics and a bundle of bandages in his arms. He walked over towards her.
"You'll probably want to sit down," he said. Terra slid down the wall and upon sitting down, stretched her legs out in front of her. "Losing a fight to a teen-aged girl; what a humiliation." Kevin grinned at her, then began applying some of the antiseptic to her cuts. Terra jerked up and grabbed Kevin's wrist. She moved his hand away, then began picking at a piece of glass sticking out of one of her cuts.
"Antiseptic won't do any good if there's still something foreign in the wound," Terra murmured. Kevin looked at her for a long moment, then began pulling glass out of her cuts.
The next morning, Terra woke up aching. She glanced down at her bandaged arms and legs. She sighed, then stood up and began putting her clothes on.
"I'll need to go to the train-station, today," Terra muttered. Soon, she had opened the door of her room. She walked past the bar quietly, hoping not to disturb Kevin from his sleep. When she reached the front door of the inn, she was startled to hear a loud yawn. She twisted around to see Kevin finishing a rather large yawn.
"Probably going to get some more customers today," he said sleepily. "Train is coming in." Kevin yawned again, then stumbled into the back again. Terra smiled slightly. He'd known exactly what had been on her mind. She turned back to the door and stepped outside. She glanced around quickly, then hurried towards the station. It was still fairly dark outside, so the sheriff would hopefully still be asleep. In a short time, Terra had reached the train station. She found a bench and resolved to sit patiently on it until the train showed up. Terra sat motionless for three hours while the sun rose and while the train drew steadily closer to the train station at which she waited. Soon, Terra could make out the sounds of a steam engine and a whistle. The train pulled up to the station and slowly came to a stop. Terra stiffened. She slowly turned her head and saw the sheriff looking at her. He tipped his head politely, then turned to look at the train.
"What are you planning, Sheriff?" Terra muttered. Soon, people were filing off the train to their various destinations. Through the gaps in the people milling around, Terra caught glances of a tall man in a trench coat walking up to the sheriff, conversing with him briefly, then turning to look at Terra. He would have looked handsome, had it not been for the twisted grin he had on his face. He reached into his trench coat.
Terra didn't even wait to see what the man was pulling out of his coat before she stood up and started to move away. She pushed at the throngs of people, trying desperately to get away from the man with the twisted grin. She glanced briefly back to see the man gaining on her with a gun in his hand. She looked forward again and tried to push past a couple of ladies in fancy, fluffy dresses. As she shoved, one of them turned to look at her.
"Boy!" the lady screeched. "Take my bag-" she thrust her bag into Terra's arms, "-and come with me! I need to find a cab." Terra dropped the bag and poked the lady. Terra then side stepped the baffled and angry woman and slipped between a couple more people. Some one grabbed Terra's arm. She gasped and turned to look the twisted grin man in the face.
"Now, Miss Terra," he said, "My name is Mr. James. I have been called to kill you. But I like a bit of sport, so I'll give you until you're off the station. Off you go, then." Mr. James tipped his hat to Terra, then let go of her. And stood straight, waiting for Terra. She stared a him in fear, then turned away and started to shove her way through the crowd. She glanced back occasionally and saw Mr. James following a ways behind with the same grin fixed in place on his face.
Finally, Terra reached the edge of the stations boardwalk. She jumped down, then dropped to her knees and began to crawl under the station. She wove her through the supports with out looking back, already knowing that Mr. James had also gotten off the station and was currently looking for her.
"Ah, there you are, my dear!" Mr. James said. Terra kept crawling. "Now, don't think that just because you are under the train station, that what I said still applies!" Terra heard a click. She scrambled behind one of the supports. She heard the gun fire, then watched as the lead from the bullet bounced along the dirt next to her. "Only a warning shot, my dear! I believe I'll come in to get you now!" Terra sat up from her crawling position and stood in a half crouch. Then she began a crouched run, weaving in and out of the supports. Bits of lead continued to bounce around her as Mr. James continued to fire shot after shot at her. Mr. James' firing was apparently noticed by the people above them, as some women began screaming. Sounds of frantic running then followed.
Terra finally popped out from under the boardwalk. She scrambled onto the wood, and ran into the ticket room. She flung open the window and jumped out just before Mr. James stood up from under the boardwalk. He stepped onto the boardwalk, then glanced around. He walked past the various doors and rooms of the station, but didn't find Terra. Mr. James tipped his hat to the now empty station.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" he exclaimed to the open air, "For now, she has out smarted me! So I will go find some lodgings and plan for our next meeting."
Terra ran up to the back of the inn. She glanced around at the wall in front of her and upon sighting the window into her room, jogged up to it, pried open, and scrambled through. She glanced around her room, then walked up to the door.
"Hey!" Terra went into a spinning kick aimed at about where she expected a head to be. She saw Kevin standing behind her and tried to stop her kick. Kevin jerked his hand up and caught Terra's foot before it hit his face. "You're back. I was wondering when you'd be." Kevin pulled her foot along his side, then released it, forcing Terra to stumble forward into him. He wrapped his arm around her middle and tilted her head up to look at him.
"How are your cuts doing?" he whispered softly. Terra brought her hands up to Kevin's chest, then shoved hard against him. He released her and stumbled back. Terra stumbled back a few steps, then straightened.
"I came to tell you that I won't be needing this room any more." Kevin's eyes widened slightly in surprise. Then his looked softened into a smile.
"Your face is red." Terra tilted her head away from Kevin, then proceeded to climb out the window. "Father's eye is done for." Terra paused. "He's still running the inn, though. Some man just showed up and got a room practically for free by showing Father his contract to kill you." Terra lowered her head slightly.
"Thank you," she said, then climbed out the window. Kevin watched her receding figure as she walked to the edge of the town. The door behind him creaked. Kevin turned around to see Mr. James grinning gleefully in the door way.
"Well, now," Mr. James said. "This makes things much easier! I'll simply follow her now." Mr. James walked up to the window. But was stopped by Kevin, who had stepped in his way. Mr. James looked at Kevin for a long second. "Very well," he said. "I'll use the proper door." He turned on his heel and walked out the door.

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