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Correspondence from the Front: WIP Excerpt

Hey folks! In honor of Teaser Tuesday, I've decided to post a scene from my current work in progress, which has the working title THE IRON WOOD. I’ve chosen a scene out of the middle of the book, but it's an action-y sort of scene that hopefully doesn't require too much context.

All you need to know is that Lark, our heroine, has untapped and previously unknown magical abilities and is on the run from the scientific Facility that wants to turn her into a magical battery for the rest of her life. She's discovered that in the wilderness lie pockets of highly concentrated magic, which serve to camouflage her from the Facility's machines: half-magic, half-clockwork creations called pixies. When she steps inside the magical, violet-tinted pocket to escape, she discovers a forest unlike anything she's ever seen. Lulled by its beauty and the sense that for the first time in weeks she's at least temporarily safe, she falls asleep...

When I woke, night was falling outside the barrier. Inside it was dark, only a faint violet sheen to outline leaf and twig, gilding it with purple light. I thought at first that it was this change in the light that had awakened me, but then I realized what had changed.

The forest had gone silent. Absolutely quiet, not even the faintest whisper of a sound. Well, I thought to myself, attempting to shake the uneasiness settling over me, perhaps all the animals go to sleep when it grows dark. But that didn’t ring true to me. Weren’t forests supposed to be hotbeds of nocturnal activity? There had been a passage in one of our textbooks in which the cacophony of noise that erupted after nightfall had kept a prominent explorer from sleeping during the night.

Then there was a sound, a tentative, plaintive whoop. It was cut off mid-cry, ending in a horrible gurgling wheeze. Above and some distance to my right, I saw the branches leap and wiggle with movement, the leaves hissing against each other wildly.

I pressed my shoulder-blades back into the tree against which I was leaning. I had managed not to think too heavily about the stories we had been told as children, about the things that existed beyond the Wall. Terrible things. Deadly things.

I listened as hard as I could, but I heard nothing else, only the slight creaking of wooden tree trunks as if in a breeze. I closed my eyes, trying to hold absolutely still, breathing shallowly. Perhaps whatever had attacked that thing was full, now, but I couldn’t take that chance.

Suddenly I found myself thinking that perhaps the pixies were better than spending the night in here.

The wooden creaking grew louder, and a sudden realization made the hot pit of fear in my gut turn to ice. It wasn’t windy.

Above me, the branches were moving. Not rustling as if the wind or an animal were jostling it, but moving from within, with deliberation, with dexterity. As I watched, a branch disentangled itself from one of its neighbors and very delicately plucked a curtain of moss from itself. On either side of me, the wall-like roots that had been such a comfort were now arching toward each other, enclosing me.

I screamed and threw myself out the rapidly dwindling opening, dragging my bag with me and tucking my head so that I rolled when I hit the ground. I lurched to my feet and looked behind me.

The tree loomed over me, huge and dark and inescapable. Its branches enclosed me, and as I stared, rooted in fear, the trunk opened in a huge, gaping maw. The faint light coming from the barrier above edged in violet row upon row of tiny, razor-sharp teeth. They pointed backward, lining what would have been its throat. I saw no end to them.

A touch on the back of my neck shattered the hypnosis holding me in place. I shrieked again and flailed out with all my strength, and felt the branch that had made a grab for me snap. A wooden groan issued from that gaping hole in the trunk. I flung myself away and sprinted headlong into the dark forest.

As far as I could tell I was near the center of the pocket. I had thought that the further I got away from the edges, the less likely it would be that the pixies would be able to sense me. Had I had time, I would have cursed my own stupidity. Instead I just picked a direction at random and threw myself through the wood.

Roots tripped me, and I rolled and kept going. Branches whipped my face. The groaning of carnivorous trees was all around me, above me. Wooden claws tore at my hair, my clothes, my skin. The ground sprayed earth up at me as roots freed themselves and sought my legs.

The fabric wrapping my feet fell away, leaving them unprotected. Now and then I felt shards of wood pierce my skin but terror kept me moving, and I felt no pain.

Just there--ahead of me. The faintest glimmer, a lighter patch among the hungry blackness of the tree trunks. The end of the magic.

Though my chest and my legs felt as though they would burst into flames if I continued even a second longer, I sucked in a lungful of air and pressed forward. The patch grew lighter, larger. Definitely the barrier. I would make it.

I was only a few yards away when a tree crashed down in front of me. Its mouth was inches from my face, all its teeth bared, its razor-lined throat hungry and moaning. My momentum would carry me straight into its jaws. I threw my hands up, felt my guts roil and clench, and something snapped thickly and loudly deep in my chest. A burst of blinding light, a clap of sound so loud it left my ears ringing, and the tree exploded into shards. My momentum carried me forward, and I half fell, half threw myself through the barrier.

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Well, now that you've made me feel bad about my own writing abilities...

Just kidding. Sort of.

This was AMAZING. Like, I have chills right now!!!

Ughughughhg why are you SUCH a goddamn good writer? I hate you.
Awww. Thanks, Sarah. I hate you too!! <3 <3
WOW. I agree with Sarah. This was amazing, and I love the voice. :)
Thank you so much! I know I'm not supposed to admit it, and be all aloof and cool, but I had the best time writing this part of the book.

I'm SO glad you enjoyed it!


I've been doing extreme landscaping with railroad ties, and that teaser gave me flashbacks! Great job!


Re: Sweet!

Bwahaha! You make me miss Odyssey classtime. In real life there's no one sitting at the desk next to me making wildly inappropriate puns at the worst (best?) possible moments. Wah!

Re: Sweet!

Hmm. So you're saying that without my Tourette-inspired babbling you would have learned more at Odyssey? Oy, the guilt I feel.
This leaves me longing for more... And quite possibly afraid of trees now.
Hey, they're scary things. All big and inscrutable. Can't tell what they're thinking.

Thank you for reading!
I would love to see more of this!
Thanks! It was partly seeing your excerpt that convinced me I should try something similar. :) Never done it before, so definitely fun to try! Thanks for reading it. :D
Aagh! Scary! o_o Really vivid; I like it a lot! I approve of this posting excerpt business. 8)
Aww, thanks! I've been told I should excerpt something more central to the story rather than something so episodic, so if I do it again I'm going to try that. Though it's hard to lift those sorts of scenes out of context and have them still matter... Hrm.