Here it is finally! Chapter 1 of This is a Book Too, the unlikely sequel. I hope you enjoy 🙂
Chapter One: Moby Dick
I press my forehead against the cold metal railing, watching over the ship’s ledge as rough waves rush up against the side of the craft.
I’m a pirate, a dead-(ish) pirate, and now I am seasick. For the first time in two hundred and fifty years I can satisfy the hunger pains in my stomach and it doesn’t matter. Anything that I try to keep down just keeps swimming back up. Seasickness: it’s humiliating.
What a shame it’s not my stomach that’s missing.
The thought of missing organs makes my chest cavity ache, and I have to resist the urge to reach my hand into the empty space beneath my new navy blouse. The humans wouldn’t understand. Strange, gaping holes that expose one’s ribcage aren’t exactly…
I sigh, a gust of wind tangling my hair around my face. Nothing is normal anymore, not since I met Mary. No, before then, not since the aliens attacked my father’s ship and killed us all. Again.
“For a ghost, you think an awful lot.”
I don’t turn around or jump, I’m much too exhausted from all of the near-puking over the rail.
“Hello Randy.” I can’t help but sigh again as he sits down next to me, his eyes avoiding mine as he swings his legs out over the ledge, cradling one of the railing’s metal posts between his knees.
“I don’t mean to sound rude,” he starts, “but it seems odd to me that a ghost is getting seasick. Besides—” I bite down on my lip, aware of what he is about to say. “—weren’t you a pirate?”
My nails dig into my palms, carving half-moon shapes into the skin. “Yes, something like that.”
“Oh.” He doesn’t say anything else. It’s strange that he can see me now, and even more bizarre that he’s speaking to me. He hasn’t said a single word to me since we left London (and, of course, he couldn’t even see me before then). Still, the strange looks he directs toward me when he thinks I’m not paying attention make my skin crawl.
“What do you want, Randy?” I’m not in the mood. In fact, I’ve hardly been in the mood to speak to anyone since meeting Sebastian again. He’s my fiancé. Or, at least, he used to be hundreds of years ago. And then he got my entire ship killed when the aliens attacked. It kind of puts a damper on the whole “marriage” thing.
My mind flashes to my father and his crew. I wonder what they are doing now. They’re probably still searching London for loose coinage that has accidentally found its way into the ghost world; the usual. I wonder if they are missing me after all this time.
I can feel my cheek muscles pulling down into a frown. Most likely not. It’s not the pirate’s way to miss anything. Well, nothing but gold and rum.
“—think it’s safe?” Randy is saying. “For Mary, I mean. She is a wanted assassin.”
“Well,” I say, “I don’t know much about the society of Americans other than the two of you.”
A wave with a white tip and an apparent desire for revenge slams into the side of the ship, and my stomach hurls upward. Perhaps literally. I prod at the empty space. No, not literally, though it certainly feels like it.
“They’ll kill her if they find her.”
“Yes, but isn’t the city of New York rather, um, large?”
Randy nods, his chestnut hair flapping sideways. “Extremely.”
“So won’t that make it hard to find her?”
He shrugs. “That’s the plan, I guess.”
“What’s the plan?” Mary pops up on my other side and I do my best not to allow my surprise to turn into a mess of vomit.
“You’re awfully chipper,” I growl. I’m not sure what it is, but ever since we boarded the ship, Mary’s smug face has made me instantly unhappy.
“Did you hear? I’m going home. Away from you bloody Brits and into the light of the Americas! For real this time.”
“I hate to burst your bubble,” I say, though I know it’s not true, “but I will still be here.”
Mary’s shoulders move upward in a quick gesture of nonchalance. “Yes, well, details.”
Randy clears his throat. “Every government official in America still wants to kill you. I really don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Maybe not, but it’s better than an alien invasion, which is exactly what is going to happen if we don’t find this, um… this, um…”
“James,” Randy starts.
“Frogg,” I finish.
“Yes, well, that guy.”
“I will destroy all of you! Bewar the kra-a-a-ken!” The words are a shriek, echoing out over the rough ocean as red scales surface in the water a few hundred feet behind the end of the ship. “I am Kra!” it shouts again, and I send a look of annoyance in Mary’s direction.
“What?” the assassin asks innocently, shrugging her shoulders. “It wasn’t my idea to have her tag along.”
“It was your idea to let her out!”
Mary lifts her hands, waving them as if to brush the thought away. “On the plus side, the humans can’t see her. Or hear her.”
“See what?” Randy prods Mary in the side with his finger, something he would never attempt with me—whether or not it is due to the fact that I am mostly dead, I don’t know—and Mary swats his hand away.
“She’s a figment of our imaginations that doesn’t seem to be getting the hint.”
He frowns. “Like how Rose was a figment of your imagination?”
Mary huffs, crossing her arms over her chest. By the look of sheer irritation on her face, I guess they have been over this many times before. “No, Rose was—is—a ghost, but a real ghost. The Kra is—”
“Going to kill you all!” it cries, its beastly head surfacing long enough to gulp down a lungful of air (if it, indeed, has any lungs—I can never be sure), before disappearing back into the deep blue water.
“So,” I say, my hand clinging to the rail until the knuckles on my fist turn white, which is odd since, as far as I can recollect, I don’t have any blood. “What’s the plan?”
“I don’t know.” Mary pops a piece of chewing gum in her mouth—rainbow sorbet flavor. “I guess the pixie guys will reappear when we get there. The squish said he knew where to find this Frogg guy, right?”
I grit my teeth. “So that’s your brilliant plan? We wait for something to happen? What about you? All those people want to kill you—are you just going to sit around and wait for that to happen too?”
Mary snorts. “What’s with you today, grumpy?”
“I just feel like something’s… missing.”
Mary lifts an eyebrow. “Something like your heart?”
“Your sass is unnecessary. And, no, that’s not it. I guess I’m just wondering what all of this means. What are we missing? There’s something that’s just not right.”
“I don’t think anything about an alien invasion is right.” Mary stands abruptly and Randy slowly moves to join her, his gaze focusing on me for no longer than a split second, but split second longer than it ever has, and something in my gut jumps—or maybe it is just my stomach again. I lean farther over the rail. “But it’s not like we’ll find any useful information sitting here moping with you. What say you, Randy? Shall we go hunt down some pixies?”
“Hunt them where—?” Mary’s glare cuts him off and he nods briskly.
“Yeah, imaginary pixies. Right.”
“Rose, are you coming or are you just going to sit there looking strangely, um, green?”
“Fine, be like that. Come on, Randy, let’s go find some more enjoyable company. Who knows, maybe we’ll be able to have a party with our pixie friends.”
They walk away arguing, once again, about whether these “figments of Mary’s imagination” are really a healthy alternative to facing her fears of being an assassin on the run. This, Mary asserts, is complete cockamamie bull.
I stare out at the ocean, the dark blue reminds me of the waters right before a storm, only the sky is surprisingly clear for such rough waters. Maybe the clouds have yet to blow overhead, or maybe I have spent too much time in the horrendous city to remember life on the sea. Two hundred years is a long time.
Only, I do remember—I remember enough—and this isn’t right.
I struggle to my feet, making sure that the wind, which cuts briskly against my skin, does not catch hold of my blouse, exposing the vast nothingness where a proper sternum ought to be.
“Your gills are turning moldy,” the Kra shouts at me. “Moldy gills are a sign of high class!”
“Moldy gills? What is that supposed to mean?”
“Green, they are looking green like the mold which—”
Oh. Green around the gills. “Only you would be able to butcher such a simple expression,” I say, though the words get sucked away by the wind.
I ignore the Kra who continues to ramble, but it doesn’t seem to be too offended by this fact, and I focus my eyes at the horizon which has become a little too blurry for comfort. I don’t know much about what is happening to me, but I do know that I am far too dead to be poisoned, and even fatigue can only affect me so much.
With uncanny speed, the blur on the horizon sharpens, becoming a shape, and then, closer still, a shape I recognize. The ship’s mast holds the wooden wings of a Pegasus, stretching outward as if they can make the whole thing fly. The white sails are ratty and stained, but they flap in the wind with a gusto that is ignorant of their poor condition. As it speeds closer, my seasickness grows less intense. Or maybe it is simply that my amazement is blocking it from my mind.
No, my stomach is no longer leaping into my hollow chest. It is like my semi-living lungs can breathe again. The ship draws ever-closer, until people on my own vessel could begin to notice, only they don’t—they won’t—and I know why. Within seconds it is pulling up alongside the modern steal-and-engine ship, the prow of the wood-and-sails cargo vessel dipping and curving with the waves.
“Ahoy there,” a deep voice calls, and I smirk up at a pair of mischievous blue eyes that make my stomach roll for a reason that, I suspect, has nothing to do with the ocean.
“Hello William.” I smile. “Long time no see.”