I'd been riding the stagecoach from Bend, Oregon, on my way to visit my cousin, Patrick Swit, in Settler. I saw the Gold and Swit Peaks in the distance and the Cascades beyond, and knew we were getting close. Mid May, it rained for most of the five hours we'd been on the rutted muddy trail.
I stared out at the high desert scrub, my head aching horribly from the constant bouncing and jostling. The danged Whip seemed to make no attempt at avoiding the potholes. You can bet I'd be making a complaint to the Stageline. I'd barely had time at the swing-station to relieve myself and grab a Johnny Cake from the station keeper.
While waiting for my cake to be wrapped, I peeked through the wall slats at the coachmen. They were definitely up to something. A battered trunk went in the boot and a strange looking box stowed under the Whip's seat. New men with shotguns positioned themselves atop the coach. Even more strange, they wore glowing green aviator goggles around their necks and tin foil hats. Then when being handed back into the coach, a young scoundrel opened my reticule and tucked something inside. Didn't he know that pickpockets took things, not gave them, for heaven's sake?
Once our journey recommenced, I opened my reticule and pulled out my 'gift.' A wad of paper contained something wrapped inside. I peeled the paper back to reveal a green crystal rock and leather-bound journal. My name, Cordelia Swit, was etched into the cover in fluorescent green. Strange, because I didn't keep a journal.
I must admit, the rock was breathtaking. I smoothed the paper it was wrapped in, a waybill I had seen inside but paid no mind to. I laughed when I read it. Dinosaurs and other such creatures on the loose. I ask you, who believed in that kind of ridiculous malarkey? Balderdash! And the journal was fast stuck together and wouldn't open. Curiouser and curiouser.
In all the dictionaries, I wasn't prepared for what came next. Creatures erupted from the wayside, in all the colors of the rainbow. Purple, red, and blue. Some with yellow eyes, others with pink. The hangers-on up topside began to shoot. The Whip sped up, cracking his reins for the horses to go faster. We raced through the turnpike and took the corner too fast. Next thing I knew, we rolled, over and over. When I came to, dust clouds still enshrouded the coach, and I lay on what was the ceiling. Creatures leaned in to search the interior. I was the only passenger to occupy the coach, yet they didn't seem to see me. I lay still, hardly daring to breathe, until they left.
I sat up gingerly, surprised to find I had no limbs or body. The shock sent me scrambling through the door and falling out onto the ground. The green rock once grasped in my palm fell onto the dirt. And then my limbs were back. I retrieved the rock and my body was gone once again. A magic rock of some sort that allowed me to disappear like a ghost. Did the young lad earlier know that I would need this?
The creatures were gone. The Whip and the riders once topside lie in death heaps. Well, I'd not scoff at the lad's gifts again. I retrieved my reticule, leather-bound journal and ghost rock and made my way toward the town. I stayed for the rest of my days. Became the town librarian. And joined The Rifters.
And look at this! I'm pretty sure this is the remains of the wagon that Cordelia left behind that day.
|Photo by M. Pax
And then we saw something that made me think that maybe, just maybe... there was some truth to Cordelia's crazy journal story...
|Sculpture & photo by Kirk Chapman
|Sculpture & photo by Kirk Chapman
(NOTE: This post is in participation of M. Pax's release of The Rifters and the fictional town Settler where it takes place. The Rifters is available for free. The second book in the series, The Initiate, will be available October 20, 2014. It’s up for preorder for a special price at iTunes, Amazon, and Nook. Check HERE for links. Giveaways and events are ongoing through October 31, 2014. Check HERE for details.)
The Gold Rush trickles to a fool’s quest and a string of stagecoach heists. In 1888, Earl Blacke decides to make a new start and become a better man. He escapes into the mountains, heading north. In the wilds of Oregon, a rift inside an ancient volcano opens and sends him into the future, into the present day. It also shaves forty years off his age, forty years to live over again and atone for what he’s done.
Starting over is hard to do. In current day New York, Daelin Long’s dream job at a publishing house goes the way of the dinosaurs her sister chases. With no money and nowhere else to go, Daelin accepts the librarian position in her sister’s dinky town in the middle of Oregon. Nestled inside ancient volcanic peaks, the town of Settler holds onto many secrets. Residents roam the streets with weirdly fashioned devices, and odd lights pulse in the night skies. People whisper of a phantom outlaw and start dying, murdered and missing their heads. On top of it all, Daelin’s sister is missing, and Daelin doesn’t know who to trust.
Earl knows more than he’s saying. He shares a notorious history with the phantom, one he’ll see remains buried. Keeping Daelin’s sister’s secrets is his only chance at redemption, and the only way to keep this world safe.
(This post is in participation of M. Pax's release of The Rifters and the fictional town Settler where it takes place. The Rifters is available for free. The second book in the series, The Initiate, will be available October 20, 2014. It’s up for preorder for a special price at iTunes, Amazon, and Nook. Check HERE for links. Giveaways and events are ongoing through October 31, 2014. Check HERE for details.)
M. Pax is author of the space adventure series The Backworlds, plus other novels and short stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and the weird beckons to her, and she blames Oregon, a source of endless inspiration. She docents at Pine Mountain Observatory in the summers as a star guide, has a cat with a crush on Mr. Spock, and is slightly obsessed with Jane Austen. Learn more at mpaxauthor.com.
An Excerpt from The Rifters:
Earl’s vigil ended. His girl came home. It had to be her. He stood, ready to run down into the clearing and embrace her, but the angle of the head gave him pause. Silhouetted by the blue energy, the arrival had a long beak. Yes, a beak. Definitely not Charming.
“No.” Earl slumped to the ground and scrambled behind a boulder. Once concealed from the visitor below, he raised his binoculars.
The figure came into focus illuminated by the moon and the rift. It wore a mask with goggles over its beak. Green mist poured out of it in a breathing rhythm, and it had the tail of an eel. The thing stood like a human with two arms and two legs in the usual places. It set down a gyroscope, a metal orb of rings, some full rings, some partial, before the gateway. The gyroscope spun, siphoning energy from the pillars, energy reaching for a crystal in its center. It spun faster, faster, faster until the crystal began to glow. A disturbing shade of green.
The beaked thing from the rift shrieked, which came out as a bubbly burp, an odd sound to go with an odd sight. It kept burping, stopping periodically to sniff at the wind. It continued with its strange behavior until the moon started to set, which deepened the shadows of night, stretching them to distorted patches.