Monday, July 11, 2011

Skeleton Key Blogvel: Chapter 6

Skeleton Key is a YA "round robin" novel or "blogvel," with each chapter written by a different blogger. It was conceived by the imaginative and unparalleled Michelle Simkins, aka Greenwoman. This week is my turn to throw a new twist (or two) into the thrilling plot! Below, I give you chapter six.

To catch up with what's happened so far, visit the earlier chapters.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

The full posting schedule can be found here, Table of Contents.

Chapter 7 will be posted next Monday 7/18 at Hey Now.

Chapter Six

This time, the journey by fire wasn’t instantaneous. As I clung to Ax, I could see fields, mountains, cities whipping below us. Both our bodies were wreathed in flame—as if together we were the wick of a candle, our bodies melting and melding together….

Stop! I thought to myself. He couldn’t see me blushing thanks to the red-hot flame that likely made me as attractive as a beefsteak tomato. It’s not as if we’re soulmates or anything. I snorted out loud and noticed that even my breath felt fiery hot in my nostrils. How was that possible?

“Where are we going?” I yelled over the roar of the flames.

“The next embassy,” said Ax, his breath adding to the gust of heat that surged around me.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what happened when one was intimate with such a mate—would I be crisped like a shish-kebab? What a way to go. There. I’d gone and thought about that again. It was downright embarrassing to daydream about making out with a dragon. And disturbing.

There was something I hadn’t mentioned to Ax, however. I already had a boyfriend. Dex wore glasses, read sci fi and fantasy novels and comic books, and kept newts in a glass tank. My sister Ashley had always called Dex a nerd; she’d even said he was lame. (I hadn’t spoken to her for a few days after that.) But Dex made me laugh. He took me ice skating in the park. He loved the smell of my jasmine perfume. And he was an exceptional kisser.

I tried to picture Dex and Ax battling for my heart. Poor skinny Dex wouldn’t have a chance against…um…the most powerful supernatural beast on earth. I almost laughed out loud at the thought of Ax gobbling up Dex’s poor newts. (Did Ax like to eat newts? I had no idea.)

Right now Dex was probably weeping because he hadn’t heard from me all day. And cradling his newts. Okay, so maybe he was a bit lame.

“What?” said Ax.  My face must have given away my thoughts.

“Nothing.” I didn’t feel like sharing the whole boyfriend thing right now. Was exclusivity expected in the dragon community? What would Ax look like if he got jealous? I pictured him swelling up to an enormous size, the steam pouring from his ears, his eyes a fierce yellow. Maybe he’d start to resemble his brother, Skynjar. The thought wasn’t pleasant. At least Ax didn’t wear glasses.

“I was just thinking about my sister,” I lied. “Wondering if she’s worrying about me.”

“She is older than you?” said Ax. I noticed that our flight had slowed dramatically, so that we seemed to be hovering within the flame. Maybe Ax wanted a little “alone time” with me up here, so we could get to know each other.

“Not older. The same. We’re twins.”

“Twins. She is a perfect match to you?”

“I don’t know if I’d call her a match—we’re impossibly different. She’s completely flighty, and I’m pretty calm. As you might have guessed by the fact that I’m not screaming my head off right now as we ride around the earth in a glowing ball of fire. But we’re identical, like two peas in a pod, if that’s what you mean—”

Ax’s eyes glowed an even fiercer yellow and he breathed in deeply, sucking some of the flames in with him. When he did so, we dropped precipitously.

“Yikes!” I said. “I’m not that calm!”

“We must go and claim this sister,” said Ax. “She will be vitally important. She is in New York City?”

“Yes,” I said. “Wait. No, no, no. You don’t understand. Ashley’s not like me—she’s going to freak out! She doesn’t have any supernatural powers or anything! The only kind of Hummer she would be able to comprehend is the gas guzzler. She has panic attacks and she’s scared of spiders and she only cares about clothes and shoes! She has 65 pairs of shoes! Like pumps and sandals and boots and all sorts of shoes.”

I was babbling. I couldn’t imagine the expression on Ashley’s face when she saw Ax. Calling my sister “flighty” was the understatement of the year. Ashley was about as stable as a butterfly.

Ax wasn’t listening. He clutched me tighter and the heat rose and roared around us. The next thing I knew, we were smack in the middle of Times Square. Crowds surged around us. I heard the blare of a trumpet, and the banging of drums. Sweaty bodies pressed against us, tourists lunging to get a good photograph.

“Oh great,” I said. “Times Square? During a parade?”

Ax grunted in reply.

A fat tourist knocked me off my feet, and I fell to my knees. I was nearly tramped by a phalanx of baton-twirling teenagers, all wearing little white skirts and spangly leotards. Ax caught my arm and hauled me out of danger.

“I can survive flying in a ball of fire, only to get squished in some kind of Pride Parade,” I said. “What are these people marching for, anyway?”

Someone in the crowd shouted: “Go Meat!” I saw a banner for Hormel sausages fluttering above me. It was a carnivore’s parade? Only in New York! Or maybe Germany.

“Your sister,” said Ax. “Where is she? We must find her.”

“Why?” I asked. “What is it about us being twins?”

“Identical twins have great power, because of their bond. They are forged from the same egg. United, then divided. Divided, but still united.”

“I see you took Biology 101,” I said. I realized I was getting a bit snippy.

“And the prophetess saw you in a vision,” added Ax. “What if it was your sister she saw?”

“Oh.” That thought hadn’t occurred to me.

I sighed. He wasn’t going to take no for an answer. He’d quickly see that Ashley was about as useless as a Fourth of July sparkler in a snowstorm.

“She’s at her job,” I said. “She works for a women’s magazine only a few blocks from here, called Chic. She’s, um, the fashion editor. The youngest ever in the magazine’s history.”

Ax frowned when I said “fashion editor.” Maybe, just maybe, he was realizing how ludicrous this whole venture was.

“We will go there,” he said. “You will go in and get your sister out. But we must hurry. We have wasted enough time. The killer is out there, and he will not stop.”

This time it was me who led the way. I took Ax’s hand, noting how warm and solid it felt. How strong. He kept an easy pace with me as we wove through the crowd, past a chorus line of men in sausage costumes and a woman dressed as a burger patty. Ax sniffed the air, as if all the celebration of meat was making him hungry.

“When was the last time you ate, anyway?” I said.

He started as if I’d bitten him. “No need. Not hungry.”

That made me wonder: What did Ax eat, anyway?

We reached the offices of Chic magazine, which were housed in an imposing, glass-fronted building. I had no idea what my sister would say when she realized I’d lied to her about my supposed vacation to Tonga, and that I wanted her to join us on a crazy mission to defeat a monster killer. A monster killer with a skeleton key, who was going to mess the whole world up really badly. Maybe if I mentioned that her shoe collection would be threatened…?

“You'd better stay out here,” I told Ax.

I was about to ask the man at the desk to call my sister and let her know I was here, but there was no need. Ashley was coming down the escalator, along with a parade of interns, fashion assistants, and camera people. And standing next to her on the descending escalator was a very tall, pale, and beautiful woman. The most beautiful woman I’d probably ever seen. She had astonishingly sleek, black hair, red lips, and long limbs. There was something terrible about her too, though. She reminded me of a spider.

Ashley saw me right away and darted over to me—we were always like magnets to each other. 

“Beck!” she said, astonished. “What are you doing here? Did you know we have a shoot with Angelica today? She’s the latest new model, just came onto the scene. I literally discovered her. She came to my door, out of nowhere! How strange is that? She’s going to be big.” Ashley’s eyes looked strange and giddy, like when she had too many margaritas.

I stared again at the gorgeous woman, unable to tear my eyes away.

But she wasn’t looking at me. She was looking over my shoulder, and her eyes narrowed like a feral cat’s. I heard her hiss.

I turned, and there was Ax, standing in the foyer of the building. He was staring at the woman called Angelica. And for the first time since I’d met him, Ax looked afraid.  


Justin Holley said...

"Attractive as a beefsteak tomato." lol, now that's colorful prose :)

Riley Redgate said...

Oh, this is awesome! Love all the new elements - the identical twins, the scary model lady (I always thought models looked terrifying.), the awkward newt boyfriend... XD Too much laughter for one chapter!

cherie said...

A. W. E. S. O. M. E.

You rock, Pony!

Anonymous said...

This is SO AWESOME. But you already knew I thought so. Thanks for participating!!!

kacimari said...

Yay! You left me a great spot to write from! Awesome job!

KellieM said...

What a great chapter! I am getting more and more nervous for when my time comes. What great twists to the story!

Anita Grace Howard said...

What a most excellent chapter! You are a talent, my friend. This is shaping up to be a great blogvel!

T.S. Welti said...

I got so into this chapter that I burned my grilled cheese. Damn you! *shakes fist*

Catherine Stine said...

Love that Dex cuddles his newts.

J. Lea Lopez said...

Great chapter! Everyone keeps upping the ante and leaving off with these great cliffhangers. My turn's coming up soon and I'm getting nervous! lol hopefully I can live up to the standard.