Ella grabbed a handful of jute, took a deep breath, and stepped off the catwalk. Fire exploded through the rigging. Her compatriots screamed as they burned. With a pained grunt, her shoulder took the brunt of the force as she hit the end of the rope and swung toward the cockpit. Toward Baron Wakefield. She landed with a clang, her boots skidding on the plated metal deck. “Face me, you bastard,” she yelled above the roaring flames.
Baron Wakefield turned slowly, a sneer curling his scarred upper lip. “Captain,” he chuckled humorlessy, “It’s time we finished this, don’t you think?”
The city groaned under its own weight, people rushing here and there and everywhere. Skyscrapers towered to the skies and winds whipped through the manmade canyons. But here and there some people kept the faith. Small secret gardens bloomed: some humid and heady and others just a few wayside flowers. But those little green spaces and the guardians who tended them anchored the city to the earth and gave the city its soul.
The sun glinted off the shiny copper tubing that comprised the circulatory system of the old airship. Citrine squinted trying to see the docking station attached to the Tower of London. It had been 150 long years since she had set eyes on her beloved home base. She had heard in her absence the Sentinels were having trouble holding the city against the Robathions, robot warriors from the north intent on taking London by force.
Citrine heard a voice calling her name. Turning towards the sound she spotted her sister, Magenta, running towards her through the waiting crowd. She opened her arms just in time to catch Magenta as she leapt into her arms. She hugged her right and whispered, “I’m home. I’m finally home. “
Steam bellowed into her face from the engine of her thirteenth attempt at an engine for his majesty’s latest contraption. How she was supposed to raise his small ship to the clouds was a feat which had kept her up at her tiny desk, pencil in hand, through the night. “Laurette?” Her brother called from the entrance of their workshop. “The king is almost here!” He was panicked and had every right to be. She shoved her plans at him as she dashed to her hiding place. “What progress have you made, Lord Bruntwood?” The king barked from the door.
“Death by Snail”
The town was abuzz at the arrival of Snailcraftsman, Shelley Joransbergen. Her giant snail slithered down the main drag. The shell of the snail was bronze, the light from inside shined through like stars, from the many windows, into the night. Atop stood Shelley, an accomplished tinker-woman. The snail came to a halt in front of all the townspeople, and Shelley descended to the dirt ground. They were waiting for her to speak. She swiveled her brass horn from behind her ear to her mouth. “Prepare to die!” she shouted. All the snail shell windows turned to canons, firing.
Ellie closed the hatch and wiped the sweat from her forehead.
“Grandpa would be proud of you, Ellie. You get your smarts from him.”
Ellie patted the boiler with her gloved hand and smiled. “Well, little brother, it looks like that crook, Marshall Coggins won’t be getting the Crescent Queen after all.” Ellie grinned. “Hear that, Billy? The paddles will be turning soon. Get Georgie to untie us from the dock.”
“Ellie!” Someone screamed from the open hatch above. “He’s coming, Ellie! What do we do?”
“Hold on tight, Billy. Looks like the dock is coming with us.”
Crunch-Grrr. I can picture it, the creature behind me. Its cloven feet, bifurcated tail and mangy coat are bearable next to the sound of its breathing. Part grunt, part whistle and all disgusting, I can’t stand to listen to the noise as it eats Dan’s bones and breathes through its mouth at the same time. If I lie still, maybe it won’t notice me. It can’t smell with that shoved-in nose, can it? Crunch-Grrr. Crunch-Grrr. Honey, why did you have to go camping in the Devil’s kitchen on a cryptid hunt for your 40th? Crunch-Grr. Crunch… It found me.