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Archive for the ‘Nocturne’s Reaping®’ Category

Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

 

Chapter 10

 

 

Lark spent more than two months in a prison transport ship before being ushered into a smaller transport carrier. That carrier would take her the rest of the way to Prison Colony Beta. All of the prisoners had been kept in very small rooms — rooms that were the length of a small bed. Lark had thought that under the circumstances this was the only advantage to being small. Even so, the tight space began to wear on Lark. Still, when the prison officials came to deliver Lark to the vehicle that would deliver her to her final destination Lark felt as though she’d have been happy to remain in that coffin forever. But that wasn’t an option. The only options were to either stand up and walk out or be hauled away by force. Given that Lark wanted to avoid being noticed, she chose to comply. What good would the other option do anyway?

The seating on the transport carrier consisted of long metal benches. Every prisoner was chained to a spot on the bench. It was sort of unreal the way Lark was being treated the same way any other prisoner would be. One would have thought she was as imposing as the roughest of the men. Oh well, Lark concluded, this was the reality.

Lark noticed that the carrier was going through a sort of landing tunnel. The lights pulsated over her head. There was a strange reddish haze, sort of like a fine clay dust, surrounding the lights. It not only created an ominous haze — it also gave Lark a bad impression of the environmental quality of the prison planet.

Lark was tempted to look around to see how the other prisoners were reacting but then thought better of it and looked down. Suddenly, and without warning, the prison transport carrier stopped. The abruptness of the stop almost caused Lark to slide into the man next to her. Fortunately, she was able to brace herself before that happened. The chains were then unhooked from the bench yet remained on the prisoners’ wrists.

“Everyone stand.” a female prison guard stated.

Lark had her shoebox on her lap; she managed to hold it between her elbows as she stood. Still, Lark stood before the others. She then reddened. “Too eager,” she thought, “too eager and too visible.” She felt better when the others started to stand one by one as well. Eventually, even the most reluctant prisoner stood, and they were filed out of the transport carrier and into the hot barrenness of the prison planet outside. The prisoners were left, still bound, next to a large rock. Boxes, presumably of supplies, were left nearby. Then, the guards, weapons drawn, backed up toward the prison transport carrier. The hatch was finally closed.

Dust swirled around as the transport carrier lifted. The carrier then turned around, headed into the free-standing tunnel, and was gone. Lark was disturbed by the abandonment but didn’t dare ask anyone else what was happening. No one else bothered to speak either. Still, eventually someone would have to … then again, maybe not.

Then suddenly, the wind picked up, and the dust swirled again. Only, as it turned out, it wasn’t the wind. It was a gang of men on hover vehicles heading for the group. The one in the lead was a pale, rough, tall yet stocky teenager with a purple mohawk and various piercings on his face. His nose was wide, and his eyes were somewhat puffy. He was the first to dismount his vehicle and seemed to have a leader’s air of authority. He laughed as he approached the handcuffed group and proceeded to look over the lineup.

“Oh, poor things, still cuffed.” He laughed like a hyena.

Lark looked down and wrung her hands as the man approached. This wasn’t good.

“And look they’re thirsty. Two, give them some water.”

A lackey began spraying the crowd with a high-powered hose, which was attached to one of the hovercrafts. The gang laughed. Suddenly, the leader stopped right in front of Lark.

“What’s this? You’ve got to be kidding me!” the teen said in reference to Lark.

The others laughed again.

“I’d be doing this one a favor putting her out of her misery!” the leader joked to the others. “But the question is how to do it.”

“Go ahead and kill me.” Lark growled at him.

“What’s that?” The leader focused his attention back on Lark.

“Go ahead and kill me. You’re going to anyway.”

“Yeah right. Sure.” the leader scoffed.

Suddenly, the man put his hands on Lark’s throat and lifted her in the air. Lark looked down at him with intense anger and defiance. He stopped smirking and stared back at her with a cold yet curious expression. The man then dropped Lark, and she fell forcefully to the ground. Lark’s shoebox fell to the ground with her. Lark gasped as the newly-created mud flowed over the precious contents. She picked up her treasures as best as she could with her still shackled hands. But as she did, her emotions seemed to drift away.

“Leave her alone.” the leader finally muttered. “This girl, number twelve, as well as numbers eight, ten, thirteen and eighteen will come back with us. The rest we’ll drop off at the mines.”

The leader then stared at Lark until she looked up at him.

“By the way, little girl, you may call me Leader Monrage.” After saying those words to Lark, he quickly turned his attention back to the others. “All right, recruits. You are the lucky ones. This prison colony may be your home for now, but don’t get used to it. None of us are going to be here forever.”

What did that mean? Under the circumstances, it didn’t sound good.

“It’ll take hard work. People who don’t pull their own weight will be sent to the mines with the rest. We’re not just going to escape. There’s more to it than that. We will succeed. We will triumph. If you can’t help with that, you’re of no use to me.”

Lark let her eyes lose their focus; she stared straight ahead with a blank expression. Somehow, it gave Lark just the slightest bit of comfort to know she could go numb like this. It seemed to have a positive effect on those around her, too. This man Leader Monrage, in particular, seemed to leave her alone when she suppressed her emotions. His former fascination with committing violence against her was seemingly gone … at least for now. Apparently, Lark was to be almost an appendage, a tool to be used by him. At least there was something of value to being viewed as useful. Lark refocused back on the leader. Leader Monrage, meanwhile, was skimming the crowd. Eventually, his eyes fell upon Lark again.

“You are no longer who you were. Now, you are a member of our syndicate. You will be called the numbers that you were assigned from now on. Fortunately for you, the number twelve was available.” He smirked. “Anyway, you will no longer use your former names. You will not be a part of the rest of them anymore. Your past is dead.”

Lark didn’t react to that, though her eyes did shift. If he thought Lark was going to give up the mementos from her parents, he had another thing coming.

“I mean it, girl. You’ll now be known as Twelve.” Leader Monrage called out.

Lark looked down again. There was nothing left to say.

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

 

Chapter 9

Lark sat down in one of the pews while one of her former teachers from the Bible school class comforted her. Eventually, they moved into the church library. Once there, the woman prepared Lark some tea. By the time the tea was ready, Lark’s eyes had dried up.

“I don’t want to pry, but is there a concern about your being here … with your conviction, I mean?”

Lark looked off to the side.

“My sentence expired a long time ago. I just wasn’t expected to live that long.”

The woman clutched her cup. It was so strange to her that Lark was there. In some ways, the girl looked exactly the same. In other ways, it was almost as though the woman were looking at a complete stranger.

“I never understood why they would send a child there. We didn’t hear about it until after.” she said. She reached out her hand and placed it on top of Lark’s. “We would have been there if we had known. Still, I’m glad you’re all right.” she added.

Lark looked up at her. She took up the woman’s hand briefly and squeezed it gently. Then, she let it go.

“I didn’t do it.” Lark mentioned softly. “But I did lie … I did lie.”

The woman nodded slowly.

“Are you going to be here awhile?” she asked suddenly. “On Colony 9, I mean.”

“I don’t know.” Lark answered, growing uncomfortable.

Lark’s pulse began to race. She didn’t want to talk about her job — the reason she survived. Maybe it was silly, but she didn’t want anyone to think less of her. But then, her lying for her cousin had probably made them think differently about her. Why should their opinion bother her now? Then again, maybe it always had.

“Well, you’re welcome here anytime. I’m sure the pastor would love to see you.”

Lark nodded.

“Thank you.” Lark looked down. “I’ll keep that in mind, but I should go. They’ll be locking up soon.”

Lark stood.

“Thank you … for being here.” Lark told her.

“Yes, of course.” the woman returned.

Lark smiled. Then, she turned and headed out of the church and back onto the street. She walked swiftly back toward the docking port. Fortunately, she made it to the cruiser before curfew. On one hand, it was silly; the officer of the ship shouldn’t be locked out for being late. On the other hand, those were Leader Monrage’s orders. So, head cast downward, she headed past the guard and toward her room as fast as she could. She quickly opened the door to her room then locked it behind her. Once safely inside, she leaned her back against the door and breathed out heavily. Cinnamon stretched out and began heading toward her owner.

“I’m glad to see you, Cinnamon.” Lark offered. “I need you.”

Though it surprised Lark there was still water left in her eyes to cry with, tears were set to fall from them nonetheless. Then suddenly, there was a knock at the door of Lark’s room. Lark blinked the tears away then turned toward the door. She hesitated at the knob.

“Yes?” she uttered with some reservation.

“It’s me Captain Smithson.”

Lark opened the door slowly. She found that Captain Smithson was taken aback for some reason.

“What is it?” she questioned him.

“I just saw you rush in. I was concerned something was wrong.”

Lark looked down for a moment. Her left hand, which held the door open, began to shake slightly.

“It has nothing to do with the ship.” she responded.

“You then?”

Lark looked up at him.

“We all have issues.” Lark acknowledged.

“Yes, that’s true enough. I did hear there may be a meeting between Leader Monrage and someone soon. Maybe it has something to do with why we’re here on Colony 9.”

Lark just looked at him.

“I thought you may be as curious as I am about why we’re here in the middle of nowhere.”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t say that too often if I were you.” Lark warned.

“Just to you.” he said.

“Well, that’s good. Still, I wouldn’t think much of it. Leader Monrage’s plans are never easy to understand.”

“Yeah, I guess I’ll just have to get used to it then … for now.”

Captain Smithson looked as though he was about to turn away. Suddenly, he stopped.

“Oh, and by the way, you looked good like that.”

Captain Smithson smiled and walked away. Lark touched her face. In her rush to catch up with Celeste, she had forgotten to put her uniform on.

 

***

 

The next day, a message was waiting for Lark on her in-room computer. There was to be a mandatory meeting held by Leader Monrage in the control room. Perhaps this was what Captain Smithson was alluding to: the mysterious meeting between Leader Monrage and a contact on Colony 9. Still, if everyone was going to be there it seemed unlikely too many secrets were going to be revealed. It seemed more likely Leader Monrage wanted to make sure that none of the crew members were out and about today, so they wouldn’t see something they shouldn’t.

“Hmm … what are you up to here, Leader Monrage?” Lark asked herself. “Not that you confide your secret agendas to me.”

Lark looked over at her uniform, which she had laid upon a chair, with a certain sense of dread.

“What is the point?” she wondered. “It’s just a check-in, after all. No point in putting that stuff on just to take it off a little while later, right, Cinnamon?”

Cinnamon seemed to mew assent, so Lark dressed in her normal clothes and headed for the control room.

“Officer Twelve on deck!” one of the crew members called out when she arrived.

All turned. Of course there were a lot of surprised looks, but Lark pretty much expected that. Also, Captain Smithson had that same wide-eyed look from the previous night.

“About your business.” Lark announced.

Just then, Leader Monrage’s voice boomed out from behind Lark.

“What is this, business casual day?” Leader Monrage demanded.

Lark turned around towards him. Leader Monrage was glaring at her with intensity.

“What? You don’t appreciate who you are now?” he put forth. “You want to go back to that? Remember what happened the last time you were that person?”

Lark just stared at him unflinchingly.

“Then again, I’ve forgotten how much you resemble … sort of. Maybe you’d like to accompany me to my meeting. It might make things interesting. You know how I like to keep people on their toes. So, be sure to stay just like this.” Leader Monrage hissed bitterly. “By the way, that’s an order not a suggestion.”

Leader Monrage then turned to another man, who had accompanied him.

“Take the roll call.” Leader Monrage stated. “And the rest of you — you’re to stay on the ship today. No excuses. I won’t be pleased if I find out anyone has disobeyed me — anyone. That is all.”

With that, Leader Monrage stormed out of the control room.

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

 

Chapter 8

 

The questions were pointless; Lark didn’t know the answers. Yet, for some reason they were inclined to believe in her guilt anyway.

“This is good,” Lark thought. There was no point in both she and Celeste ending up in prison. It was the fault of that guy Celeste talked about and Lark’s fault for being a burden. Besides, Lark was just a child, and Celeste was an adult. Surely Lark’s punishment would be less severe than Celeste’s.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go well with the judge. Since Lark was not forthcoming with the location of the diamond broach, she was deemed unrepentant. Apparently, throughout Lark’s life she hadn’t been told how seriously theft, especially of high cost items, was considered by the government of this colony. Why would she have been made aware? Her parents had been capable of providing for her needs, and she was told stealing was wrong. Then, there was the fact that Lark had never even had access to anything as valuable as the diamond broach.

Panic began to set in as the judge pronounced the sentence. Lark would, in fact, be sent to Prison Colony Beta — an adult prison colony. There were audible gasps in the gallery, but an example was to be made. Lark’s generation had to be sent a message; she was going to pay.

Prison Colony Beta was another thing Lark wasn’t familiar with. Yet, the bright girl was quick enough to put it together based upon the reaction of those around her; Lark’s life was over. She would never leave Prison Colony Beta alive. As Lark was led away in cuffs, she looked around the gallery. Though there were many sympathetic faces, there was no one there for Lark. No one would intervene on her behalf.

Lark’s public defender had managed to obtain permission for Lark to take a few of her shoebox treasures with her — the ones deemed harmless.

 

***

 

Officer Twelve had left the blinds open, so the sun streamed into her room as it rose. She noted how much she missed the sunlight when she was in space.

“The light is truly beautiful,” she thought.

“Well, Cinnamon, I may as well get ready.” she spoke aloud. “I have to get those supplies before we leave here. Who knows when that will be.”

Officer Twelve climbed out of bed and proceeded to change out of her white nightshirt and into her uniform. After she locked up her room, she mixed in with the other crew members, who had come back on board the night before but were departing again.

One of the things Officer Twelve appreciated about the members of her crew was that they were used to her uniform. The same couldn’t be said about other people. Much to her dismay, every time she went somewhere new there would be stares. Still, somehow it didn’t seem as though they were staring at her.

Officer Twelve decided to put in the order for the supplies at a local store. They could assemble the order, and she could pick it up later. She figured it would be less awkward than maneuvering through a crowd of shoppers in her uniform.

“Now what?” Officer Twelve wondered as she stepped out of the store and into the sun.

Perhaps a walk would take up some of the time. Officer Twelve walked a familiar path down some streets, in front of some houses, and by a church. Unfortunately, any feelings Officer Twelve had about these places were buried so deep that she couldn’t feel them — or at least wouldn’t allow herself to feel them. It probably didn’t help that life had moved on without her. Officer Twelve sighed. It was about time to pick up the supplies. That is, after all, what she set out to do when she woke up that morning. Then, she’d head back to her ship.

When Officer Twelve had time off, she usually spent it reading reports and star maps. The research had proven quite useful over the years. She also liked to learn about places she might see one day. After the atmospheric regulators had been deemed reliable, new colonies were constantly being set up. It amazed Officer Twelve how every colony always had a distinctive feel. Even if the buildings and layout were the same, the people were different. Things always go a different way from the way you’d expect when people are involved. Such was the way with Colony 9. If a place got in your blood, then it became more important than it would be otherwise. Maybe there was somewhere else that Officer Twelve could attach to, somewhere without the memories. Well, at least she had her ship.

Officer Twelve boarded the ship about an hour later. As the night began to descend, Officer Twelve was surprised by how bright the streetlights had become. Not long afterward, crowds began to mill around. Officer Twelve went to the window and sat in the chair next to it. It occurred to her then that some kind of street festival was going on. They had strung multicolored party lights between the streetlamps. Cinnamon came up and jumped in Officer Twelve’s lap. Officer Twelve petted her as she watched the people go by.

It was then that she saw her. A flash of recognition caused a jolt of emotion in Officer Twelve. This emotion created an impulse to stand. She carefully set Cinnamon down upon the ground. She then ran from the room and out of the star cruiser. When Officer Twelve got out into the festival, the woman she had seen seemed to be gone. Officer Twelve looked around her for a moment. Then, she decided to head off in the direction that she last saw the figure going.

It wasn’t easy making it through the crowd, but eventually she caught sight of the tall, well-dressed blonde woman. Could it be she? But how? Had she been capable of turning her life around this well? Many a night Officer Twelve had feared what had become of her. She convinced herself that the woman would be all right somehow. Still, Officer Twelve never expected this much of a turnaround in the woman’s circumstances. Maybe things could work out. Certainly, she’d never seen the woman in such beautiful clothes before. Yet, Officer Twelve reminded herself that she had always hoped the woman’s life would turn out well. And Officer Twelve had purposefully stayed away, so that it would. She hadn’t wanted to mar the woman’s potential happiness with the realization of what had become of the girl. Why remind the woman if she had put it from her mind? Still, as she stood there, Officer Twelve couldn’t help but want to talk to the woman again. So, despite her intentions not to approach the woman, Officer Twelve began to mouth the woman’s name with the excitement of a child.

But then, Officer Twelve froze before the words could come out. The woman had turned to her left and smiled. A man came up to the woman, and she latched on to his arm. The woman then tipped her head against the man’s arm and walked with him that way. Officer Twelve had thought a lot about this man — the one who had been to blame for it all. If it hadn’t been for him, none of it would have happened. That’s why Officer Twelve had worked to piece together information on his identity. She knew there was a blood relationship between the theft victim and this man. It wasn’t hard to find his name and eventually his picture.

But she was with him — seemingly in love with him. How could she? Officer Twelve’s eyes began to water. How could she reconcile with him after what he did to her? Of course, there was the possibility that he didn’t do anything against the woman at all. The woman stopped and looked back just as Officer Twelve placed her hands upon her eyes and crashed upon her knees.

Officer Twelve sobbed there among the many strangers for what seemed like a long time. Eventually, she could hear those around her pondering whether or not they should ask her what was wrong. Officer Twelve stifled a sob then pulled herself up slowly. She couldn’t go back to the ship — not like this. There was only one place she could think to go — the church from her youth. Officer Twelve stumbled along the streets. The wind began to pick up by the time she reached the door to the church. Tiny drops of water — like daggers — plowed into her face. She just couldn’t breathe. She struggled with the knob.

“Help.” she mumbled.

Suddenly, the door opened.

“What’s wrong? Are you all right?”

Officer Twelve looked up pleadingly at the woman who answered the door.

“Lark? Lark Tampy, is that you?”

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

PART II

“The Life After”

Chapter 7

 

“Something on your mind?” the leader asked.

The girl looked at him.

“This place.” she stated.

“Oh, yes. This was the place you came from.”

“As if you didn’t know …”

“Yeah, well, that has nothing to do with why we’re here.”

“That’s good.” the girl replied. “I don’t want it to be the reason.”

The girl looked down.

“I do think it’s important for you to meet with this new captain right away.” the leader added.

The girl was silent.

“I consider you my best commander, Officer Twelve. That’s why I’ve given you the best: the best ship and the best pilot.”

The girl looked at him fixedly from the side, yet still said nothing. She knew he was exaggerating. Leader Monrage always kept the best for himself. Not that it mattered to her. Still, his desire for her to be grateful was annoying.

“By the way, I already met the pilot, remember?” Officer Twelve pointed out.

“Have you spoken to him?”

“No, what difference does that make?”

“Well, you’re going to have to talk to him eventually.”

“Yes, I would imagine.” the girl stated coolly.

The man and the teenager entered the control room of the star cruiser. It was a small, comfortable cruiser, but Officer Twelve had requested it because of its speed. It was important for her not to feel trapped. Officer Twelve had handpicked all of her crew members save one — the new pilot. She did wonder why her last pilot was transferred. He was dependable, though admittedly not overly skilled. Obviously, Leader Monrage had plans that required a pilot with swifter reflexes.

Officer Twelve looked at the man, this new pilot. He was leaning over the navigator’s shoulder, looking at the monitor. He looked up then, and he and Officer Twelve locked eyes. Officer Twelve then allowed her eyes to drift slowly downward. For some reason, she felt something when she looked at him. This emotion was a bit problematic for Officer Twelve, especially in front of Leader Monrage. Officer Twelve was careful not to show her feelings in front of him.

The pilot named Owen Smithson walked over to them then. Officer Twelve could feel his eyes upon her, but by the time she looked up again he was looking at Leader Monrage. Still, it gave her a chance to really look at him. He was tall, with fine-chiseled features and dark blonde hair.

“I’ll leave you in Officer Twelve’s capable hands.” Leader Monrage said. Then, to Officer Twelve he said, “I’ll be taking the shuttle back over to my cruiser now. After that, I’ll be in my cabin if needed. Give me fifteen minutes to disembark.”

Officer Twelve nodded.

“Jensen, has the shuttle pod left yet?” Officer Twelve asked after the fifteen minutes had expired.

“Yes, Officer.”

“Then, prepare to land on Colony 9.” she directed.

“Yes, Officer.”

“I guess that’s my cue.” Captain Smithson noted.

He headed back to the pilot’s chair. Officer Twelve took the large chair behind him. Her chair was elevated on a platform, and it was designated for the one in charge.

“Put the approach up on the monitor.” Officer Twelve stated.

“Yes, Officer.”

Officer Twelve kept her eyes on the monitor as the small planet became larger and larger. She had seen this scene briefly — only in reverse. That time, the planet had become smaller and dimmer. It was funny that in some ways the planet looked smaller as she was returning to it.

“Officer?”

“Let’s have Captain Smithson take us in.”

“Sure.” Captain Smithson acknowledged. “Prepare to fire the thrusters. Hold it steady. There is a small asteroid belt coming up.”

“It’s amazing that from space you have no idea what’s happening on the surface of a planet.” Officer Twelve muttered.

Captain Smithson turned his head slightly toward Officer Twelve for a moment then diverted his gaze back toward the monitor. As it turned out, the entry and landing were smooth and without incident.

“Good job.” Officer Twelve allowed. “All right, everyone is officially on furlough. But keep your radios on since you’re always on call.”

“Yes, Officer Twelve!” the crew chimed in.

Officer Twelve climbed out of her chair and headed into the hall. She was surprised when Captain Smithson caught up with her.

“What should I call you?” Captain Smithson asked.

“Officer Twelve would be fine.” she answered.

“I’ve always wondered about that — why that’s done in your organization. You must have had a name before you joined the leadership.”

Officer Twelve looked at him. Suddenly, she stopped.

“Did I offend you?” he wondered aloud.

“No, this is my room.”

“You’re not going to disembark?”

“No, I’ll be here if you need me.” Officer Twelve responded.

Officer Twelve headed into her room. The navigator, the man called Jensen, then came upon Captain Smithson as he lingered by Officer Twelve’s door.

“Heading out?” the navigator asked Captain Smithson.

“Yes.”

The two men headed for the hatch.

“It’ll be great being on firm ground again.” Jensen mentioned.

The hatch opened slowly.

“Yeah, but I prefer the processed air to this smog.” Captain Smithson put forth.

“Yeah, I guess there’s been more industrialization here in recent years.”

“The air from the atmospheric regulators always smells funny to me.” Captain Smithson admitted.

Captain Smithson leaned against the hatch door and watched the drizzle fall around him. Jensen, a short and stocky man, looked up at him.

“Catch you later.” Jensen offered. He pulled up his collar and headed into the drear.

Captain Smithson sighed then headed out as well.

 

***

 

Part of Officer Twelve’s uniform was a cape. She removed it. Next, there were the contact lenses; they made Officer Twelve’s large blue-green eyes look like slits — not unlike a snake’s eyes. She removed them. Finally, makeup that resembled a lightning bolt crisscrossed her face. She wiped it clean. Usually, Officer Twelve would then go straight to bed. But this time Officer Twelve looked at her reflection — at a face she hadn’t really looked at for years. On this occasion, though, it seemed appropriate. It was at that moment that Officer Twelve’s small brown cat came up to her.

“Cinnamon.”

Officer Twelve rubbed her cat behind her ears.

“I guess I’ll be spending a lot of time with you in the room. Yet, for some reason, it feels a little stifling today. It’s as though I’m trapped. I don’t know — maybe we can wander the halls together since no one else is here. I probably do have to get you some supplies in town. I don’t want to have to ask someone else to do it. There’d be too many questions. I don’t know.”

Officer Twelve pressed a button to open the window that was facing the street. She could see out, but no one could see in.

“I don’t even know how long we’re going to be here. I may never be back here again. Still, I wasn’t sure I’d want to come back, Cinnamon. I’m not exactly the same person I was. It’s better to let things stay the way they are, right?”

Officer Twelve looked down. She fought back the tears she felt welling.

“Tomorrow.” Officer Twelve said. “Tomorrow I’ll just go in for some supplies.”

 

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

Chapter 6

 

Things had changed a lot. It was sort of a blur for Lark. After her parents died, her life became a mixture of sadness and numbness. At first, things were made to seem almost normal. Celeste kept telling Lark to pretend that her parents were always just in the other room. Unfortunately, that didn’t work so well for Lark. Yet, she didn’t want to let on to Celeste that it wasn’t working; she didn’t want to disappoint Celeste and give her more stress. Celeste was the only family Lark had left. Because this new pretend life didn’t seem real to Lark, it was almost a relief when things changed again a couple of month later … almost.

The hardest part was losing the house. Lark and her parents had lived in an apartment before her parents’ deaths. She expected to lose that place when she moved in with Celeste. This was different — this was sudden. The house was also the last remaining place that she shared precious, tangible memories with her parents while they were alive. But apparently it couldn’t be helped. Lark was told there just wasn’t enough money to keep the house. There was nothing that could be done to change things.

Lark carefully packed up the items she kept from her parents into a small shoebox. She hoped that the items would allow Lark to feel that she was taking her parents with her in some small way rather than just leaving them with the house.

The house Lark and Celeste moved into was closer to Lark’s school but farther away from Celeste’s. It was a rental house — very small and in disrepair. Celeste didn’t let anyone come over, and she told Lark that she couldn’t let anyone come over either.

It was a little difficult in the evening. Celeste had a job in the kitchen of a restaurant at night. There wasn’t money for a babysitter, so Lark had to spend these hours alone. It could be scary at times. There was a lot of noise coming in from beyond the walls, but Lark told herself that nothing actually came of it. Besides, spending this time alone without complaint was the least Lark could do. Celeste had to work, so they could eat. Therefore, if Lark had to be a little scared from time to time when a storm moved through or angry voices called out, so be it. At least they were together — her and her cousin — some of the time.

The best part of the day for Lark was the after-school program at the church. It was nice to have people to talk to for those few hours after school. It also cut down on the number of hours Lark had to spend alone.

School was pretty good, too. However, Lark sometimes worried that her friends would ask to come over, and she’d have to admit that she moved. Celeste had made it clear that no one could know that they moved. It sounded as though Lark might be taken away somewhere if they found out. So, Lark withdrew and was alone a lot at school.

At the church, no one thought to ask about the move since they didn’t know much about Lark’s past life. Plus, some of the students were from the same neighborhood. Therefore, Lark figured if they weren’t taken away from their families then neither would she be. Lark learned a lot at the program. Plus, she did crafts, had snacks and played games. It also comforted her to hear about heaven and visualize her parents there.

Overall though, life was difficult. Still, Lark made the best of it. After all, as Lark would often remind herself, at least this way Lark’s surroundings matched the reality she felt inside. Lark wasn’t great at acting as though everything was okay.

It would be about a month after Lark and Celeste moved into the hovel that things would change once more. Lark had just returned to the house from the Bible school. It was darker than it usually was, for the sky was overcast. It had been drizzling steadily all day, and the air was damp and cool. The weather had caused the streets to be more deserted than usual, casting an additional gloom.

When Lark entered the shack, she left the door open, so that the dim light could flow in. Still, as she stood in the foyer of the one-bedroom abode, she shivered slightly. She walked a few steps into the house. She reached out a shaky hand and turned on the light of a nearby lamp. Celeste didn’t like to have the lights on most of the time, especially when she wasn’t in the house. Lark’s homework was supposed to be done during the day or at the after-school program. Yet, Lark couldn’t help, especially today, making sure that the darkness hadn’t entered the house while she was away. After checking around the sparsely furnished rooms, she was satisfied she was alone. She quickly headed to the front door then locked it behind her.

Lark then set out to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She took the sandwich over to the old chair next to the lamp and sat down. Finally, Lark shut the light off and ate in the darkness.

It was about an hour later when Lark heard a persistent knocking at the front door. It actually woke Lark from an uneasy sleep. At first, she didn’t know what to make of the noise and froze.

Then, she heard Celeste’s voice.

“Lark! Hurry! Open the door!”

Lark reached over and turned on the light. She then jumped up and out of the chair; she quickly went to unlock the door. It was an odd experience. Celeste had a key. Something must be wrong, Lark thought. Upon Lark’s opening of the door, Celeste rushed inside.

“Quick! Lock the door!” Celeste exclaimed.

“What — what’s wrong?” Lark managed.

“They’re after me.”

“Who?”

“I messed up. I shouldn’t have trusted him. He left with it. Now, they’re after me. But I did it for us. For you.”

Lark just stared at her. A strange numbness had fallen upon Lark. Suddenly, she was listening like a stranger would. Lark pondered the meaning of the sudden detachment. She waited for Celeste to draw to a point, knowing the words would eventually come.

“He stole his aunt’s diamond broach. Well, actually he had me do it. It was going to be bequeathed to him someday for his future wife. Anyway, he was supposed to split the money with me, but he didn’t. He took it.” Celeste sobbed. “And what’s worse, I think they saw me.”

“Who is he?” Lark queried.

Celeste hesitated.

“Does it matter? He’s gone now.” Celeste returned.

“Then, should we leave?”

Again hesitation.

Suddenly, there was another knock at the door.

“Open up!” a male voice demanded.

“Oh no! They’ve come for me!” Celeste screamed. “They’ll send me to one of the prison colonies. I’ll die!” she wailed. “If our parents only hadn’t died! I’m just not cut out to take care of you. But I tried! I’m sorry!!”

All of a sudden, the door was kicked in, and two men entered the house.

One man said to the other, “Search for the diamond.” He turned toward the girls. “We got a tip the thief came this way, yet the description of the thief was vague somehow. Which one of you took it? It’ll be easier on you if you fess up now. Otherwise, we’ll take both of you in as collaborators.”

Lark looked over at Celeste. Celeste’s eyes were downcast for a moment. When she eventually did look at Lark, her eyes were evasive yet pleading.

“All right. I’ll take you both in.”

“I did it.” Lark said. “It’s my fault.”

The man seemed surprised by this turn of events. He had been expecting a confession — but from the other one.

“You?”

“Yes.”

“Then, where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

Lark looked to Celeste for help, for Lark didn’t know the name of the man who took the stone. But Lark would get no help there. Perhaps it was best that Celeste not implicate herself, Lark concluded. Otherwise, Lark’s efforts to save Celeste would be in vain. Celeste, for her part, seemed grateful, but it was still too soon to know whether Lark could pull it off.

“Nothing.” the other man, who had been searching and just returned, said, “Then, take her.”

“Which one?”

“The smaller one confessed.”

Suddenly, Lark’s eyes fell upon her shoebox, which she kept on an end table. Lark rushed forward and grabbed the box of mementos before the two men could grab her. The man who’d done the most talking took the box from her and rifled through it. Then fortunately, he shoved it back into her hands.

“Nothing but junk.” he said. “Let’s get this over with.”

They each grabbed Lark from underneath her arms and dragged her from the house. Lark managed to keep a hold of her box of memories by clutching it to her chest with her bent hands.

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

Chapter 5

It was just after Celeste’s eighteenth birthday when Mr. Davis’s office called. He hadn’t been kidding when he told Celeste that the Tampy estate had become less of a priority once the money from the safe had been found. Still, Celeste was grateful that the call finally came through. With the food, the mortgage, the utilities, the housekeeper’s salary, and of course the tuition, it became clear that the money from the safe wouldn’t last forever.

When Celeste came into the waiting room that day, she was surprised to see that boy Frederick standing next to Ms. Springfield’s desk. He turned as though waiting for someone. When he caught sight of Celeste, he smiled. Celeste gave him a half-smile then sat in one of the chairs. There didn’t seem to be a reason to check in at the desk this time. Certainly, Celeste figured, Ms. Springfield had enough information to figure out who she was, and why she was there. Why wait around just to be told to sit down moments later?

As Ms. Springfield picked up her phone and began talking into it, Frederick came and sat next to Celeste. He exhaled as he plopped down into the chair next to her.

“So, you have another meeting with Davis, huh? Lucky you.”

“You, too, it would seem.” Celeste replied coolly.

Frederick noted that the pretty girl seemed more down than she had before. It intrigued him as to why. Certainly, she was no ordinary girl this Celeste. Most girls were giddy to have his attention. And why did she always come alone? She couldn’t be much older than he was, if at all. Perhaps she figured out that Frederick had been hoping to run into her — had been running errands for his father, so that he’d be at the lawyer’s office in the afternoons. Maybe Celeste really wasn’t interested, and, in fact, was annoyed by his efforts. Frederick rubbed the top of his legs with his hands nervously.

“I’m going to get something to drink. Do you want anything?” he asked her.

Celeste looked over at him quizzically.

“Miss Tampy, Mr. Davis will see you now.” Ms. Springfield announced.

Celeste managed a weak smile at Frederick. He smiled back. Then, Celeste stood and headed into Mr. Davis’s office. Darn, Frederick thought. Well, he’d wait for her return. At least he got a smile out of her.

“Miss Tampy, I have that information for you. First off, I have filed the paperwork necessary to have you declared your cousin’s guardian. I have also processed your parents’ remaining assets. Here, I’ve made an inventory. The monetary amount is listed at the bottom. Please have a seat.”

Celeste took the paper and read it.

“Are you kidding?” Celeste stammered. “Where’s the rest of it?!”

Mr. Davis was taken aback.

“Most of it was in the safe.” he responded.

Celeste reddened.

“Is there a problem?” Mr. Davis pursued.

“I just got the impression there was a lot more.” Celeste managed.

“I’m not exactly sure how you got that impression.”

Celeste glared at him.

“You said the guardianship papers had been filed. Is that really necessary anymore?” Celeste proposed.

“I don’t understand.” Mr. Davis returned.

“I don’t have a job yet. You said I needed one. Maybe she’d be better off elsewhere.”

“I could pull the petition. It is possible Lark could end up in foster care …”

No reaction.

Mr. Davis leaned back into his chair. He was really regretting taking Celeste Tampy on as a client. “And I would have to re-evaluate the assets.” Mr. Davis added.

“Why?” Celeste asked immediately.

“Lark is entitled to her parents’ assets.”

“What assets? Obviously my uncle squandered his money.”

“No, Celeste. The fact is most of the money in the safe belongs to Lark. Your father prepared a ledger with the division of assets. Your father and your uncle just decided to store the money in the same safe. Given that you expressed a desire to become Lark’s caregiver … maybe I shouldn’t have assumed. Anyway, the executor, which would have been you as Lark’s guardian, will manage that money now.”

“Well, there’s very little money left.”

“How so? You spent it all?”

“I paid my school tuition.”

Mr. Davis was flustered.

“I’m sure under the circumstances they may be willing to refund the unused portion.” he suggested.

“Then I’d be kicked out …” Celeste started softly. Mr. Davis just stared at her blankly. “Well, I’m not asking for the tuition back.” she concluded.

“You don’t think they’d give it back to you? I can write a letter of explanation …”

“I don’t know. I don’t think you understand me. I’m not even going to try. I intend to go to that school. I may not be getting that scholarship, but I’m going to graduate all the same.”

“You’re the one who doesn’t seem to understand. Most of that money doesn’t belong to you. Now that you aren’t going to take care of Lark …”

“Fine. I’ll take her.” Celeste returned.

Mr. Davis raised an eyebrow. His look was one of disdain.

“Then, I suggest you get that job we discussed. It sounds like you’re going to need it.”

 

***

 

Frederick was getting antsy. The meeting between Celeste and that lawyer was taking awhile. The longer it took for Celeste to emerge from Mr. Davis’s office, the more obvious it would be that Frederick was waiting around for her. In fact, Ms. Springfield was already giving him strange looks. Finally, the door opened. Frederick looked up with anticipation. Unfortunately, instead of a smile Frederick was greeted with a frenzied look. The girl Frederick had been waiting for was storming out of the office — never to return.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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May 7, 2017

Hello,

I have finished up my typing/ first round editing of Intermezzo. Now I’ve begun typing Grave — or I should say my mom is doing most of the typing while I dictate and edit with some typing. At this point, I am alternating between editing Intermezzo and typing/editing Grave. Grave is a bit more of a challenge since it wasn’t written in chronological order, and I have to put it in order. Plus, I put notes for future books in the margins, which have to be typed up.

I began writing Grave in earnest in August of 2014 — the August after my stroke. That is sort of interesting, at least to me. My mom mentioned my style is different than previously. She seems to like it better. My handwriting was certainly shaky back then, but all things considered it was remarkably legible. I was still getting used to using my right hand to write again. After my stroke, I couldn’t use either hand to do much of anything. Not to mention, in no time in my life was my handwriting ever going to win an award for beauty! A thank you goes to God and His Son Jesus for His mercy.

I’ve started writing five books at a time. I started Book 5 of Nocturne’s Reaping®, Etude, when I finished writing Grave. Plus, I recently started a whole new book. Initially, I wrote a page in two books one day then a page in the other three on a subsequent day. But writing in three books in one day proved to be difficult. So instead, I am doing two in a given day. I am repeating days for Labyrinth — a book that’s the first of a three-part dystopian series and is the one of the five that is the closest to being finished. Making slower progress on the others allows me to be open to new avenues and extend the pacing and length of the books. But once I get close to the end of a particular book, such as with Labyrinth, I think it is better to be more focused and revisit it more often in order to keep up the pace and momentum.

Lastly, I will be posting Prelude two chapters a month starting today. God willing, I plan to post two chapters on the seventh of each month. Chapters 1 and 2 were already posted. I’ll be posting these on Word Press and my website: http://www.jenniferalicechandler.com  or http://www.nocturnesreaping.com

My books will continue to be in e-book format on Amazon (Kindle) and in paperback format on Amazon/ CreateSpace. I won’t be enrolled in the Kindle Select or Kindle Unlimited programs any longer though.

Thanks for reading this!

Jennifer Chandler

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