What I Write
Jin hugged the wall on the edge of an alleyway. Loud music and conversation filtered down from the Old Town night market two blocks away, but nothing moved nearby.
The ancient coin Auntie Bai Wei had given her hung on a thin leather cord around Jin’s neck. It pulsed with a steady throb that felt as if it should be audible, but she knew from experience that she alone could sense it.
Jin walked this path every day on her way to the cannery where she worked, when it was a bustle of activity. But by night, the darkness pressed heavily on her. Though not a soul broke the stillness, it felt like someone was watching. A tingling sensation spread between Jin’s shoulder blades. Yao had told her that when the bullies chased him that morning, a strange man in a dark suit—unheard of on this side of the river—had watched it all with predatory eyes. It had upset Yao even more than being thrown in the refuse bin, again.
Knowing her deceased mother’s spirit wouldn’t approve of her illicit ventures into thievery, Jin had ignored the coin’s pull for three days but Yao’s fear and the fact that she couldn’t protect him during working hours had driven her out into the night. She needed the _yuan_ that Auntie would pay for the trinket the coin had chosen, and she needed it now, before registration for the tech school on the other side of the river closed.
She inched forward, crouched low. A solitary electric light burned inside the jeweler’s shop, back beyond the showroom. Its soft glow caught on the figurine that drew the coin’s attention. A white jade lion, shot through with deep, blood-touched red inclusions in its mane and paws. One paw stretched forward, its claws bared, and its jaw gaped wide in a roar. It was a rare piece of stone and a rare craftsman who pulled the beast from its depths. Jin would be sorry to sell it. Undoubtedly, its owner would be sorry when he found it missing.
_Don’t think about it._ She drove away the image of the jeweler, and his smiling eyes behind their wire-rimmed spectacles, when he waved to her every day. Would he smile tomorrow? Would she smile back, as if nothing had happened?
Metal grates guarded the door and windows. She turned the corner and spied a window high on the wall, just within her reach if she jumped, open a crack. It had been unseasonably warm. Had the jeweler opened it for some ventilation and forgotten to shut it again, since it was so far into October that open windows should be a thing of the past?
No matter. It made her work easier. No need to pull out her makeshift lock pick, carved out of an old knife, secreted in a breast pocket.
She backed across the space between that building and the next, then sprinted forward and launched herself up, her fingers catching on the bricks at the window’s base. With a tug, she pulled the window open wide, then walked her feet up the wall and slithered through head-first. The floor was a long way down, but she kept one hand on the window-ledge and twisted her body until she hung down the wall, then dropped. Her knees bent, absorbing the impact, and minimizing any sound.
Jin froze for a moment, listening. The jeweler lived above his shop. She couldn’t risk being caught. Yao would be sent straight back into the Orphan Care Authority dormitories and the predations of his peers. At twelve years old, he was four years her junior, and she’d only recently earned enough to take him under her guardianship in a ramshackle apartment where they subsisted on O. C. A. nutrition bars. It wasn’t much, but at least she could begin fulfilling her promise to her mother to watch over him and give him his best chance to make something of his life.
After a silent count to a hundred, Jin decided it was safe to move on. She had dropped into the jeweler’s workshop. The worktable sat in the center of the room, littered with tools and coils of silver and gold wire. Jin padded past, guided by the light in the hallway, then slipped into the showroom.
A spirit-bell hung over the entryway, but Jin resisted the urge to ring it, despite the intensifying feeling that she was being watched. Spirits weren’t going to turn her over to the police. People would. Besides, it was probably nothing more than her own guilty conscience. Even now she could hear her mother’s ghostly admonishment. _Find another way. I’m ashamed to see my daughter is a thief._
“I’m sorry, Mother,” she whispered, hardly more than an exhale. “There isn’t another way.”
Excerpt from “Guardian.” You can find the rest for free at https://grantvillegazette.com/wp/article/publish-555/ or as an ebook available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook retailers.
|What I Write||
I write fantasy and science fiction. I love to explore character and voice.
“Are You Receiving?” in Nature, forthcoming
“Kindle My Heart” in Fantasy Scroll Magazine, forthcoming
“Life Out of Harmony” in Perihelion Science Fiction, June 2014
“To Walk the Earth” in Perihelion Science Fiction, January 2014
“The Underground” in Every Day Fiction, October 2013, also Podcast in Every Day Fiction, June 2014, read by Folly Blaine
“Quarantine Summer” in Perihelion Science Fiction, September 2013
“Three Red Roses” in Every Day Fiction, June 2013
“Guardian” in the Grantville Gazette: Universe Annex, January 2013
“The Memory of Huckleberries” in Penumbra eZine, September 2012, also in Best of Penumbra, Volume 1
“Moon Lantern” in Abyss & Apex, 2004 (as Rebecca A. Willman)
My Write-a-thon Goals
My goal is to write for a minimum of six hours each week though, of course, more is better. Challenges are fabulous greasers of the imagination, and I’m excited to see what the Write-a-Thon will bring.
More than nothing!