The night was dark and cold. My eyes burned tired while I flicked through my emails and opened one from Joanna Penn. An unlikely opportunity gazed back at me from the screen. A chance to join J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon on an overnight train journey from Chicago to New Orleans, followed by a week in NOLA learning to collaborate and write with other authors.
Hmm. What did I have to lose?
The notion was like a wildcard to someone like me. Especially since I am based in Australia and new to the wonderful world of publishing and writing. Surely I’d be passed up.
I was wrong. And the rest, as they say went down as history!
Eight authors rendezvoused with our hosts in Chicago having never met before, some of us from other countries. What a fabulous manifestation! I think back now and the week was like an exquisite silky bubble that burst way too soon. The experience was rich with transparent content, unrestricted shared knowledge and a wealth of information. Exploring New Orleans and learning about the city’s history has captured a part of me I’ll always be fond of recalling. And the company – the people involved made for something truly special. I wouldn’t have changed a single glorious moment.
The end result was published back in January with Dark Shadows: Vampires and Ghosts of New Orleans (An Authors on a Train Short Story Collection), and some lifelong connections I’ll forever treasure. I can’t thank these two guys enough.
Me with J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon
Did we actually write on a train?
Indeed we did. A piece of flash fiction you’ll find below if you’re interested enough to keep scrolling.
Want to find out more?
The guys are doing it again in 2018. Check it out here!
Flash fiction on an Amtrak Train:
The Bronze Statue
Carly’s breath appeared like a puff of smoke as it combined with the chilly air.
‘Here it is!’ She grabbed Helen’s arm and dragged her toward the bronze statue.
‘Finally! I’m over walking this cemetery,’ Helen moaned.
‘Stop whining; this statue is famous. Haven’t you always wondered about your death?’
‘No,’ Helen scowled, pulling her arm free.
They stopped in front of a bronze figure, falling silent and crooking their necks as they took in its inscrutable image. The statue loomed tall. Its moss-cloaked arms almost concealed the hard etch of its face as it peered out gravely.
Carly nudged Helen. ‘Go on, look into its eyes. Tell me what you can see,’ she murmured.
Helen rolled her eyes and buried her chin among the shaggy material of her scarf.
‘Then can we get out of here? It’s cold and I want to warm up at the bonfire party. Besides, I really need to pee.’
Carly grinned. Her brown eyes sparkled as she contemplated the statue.
‘Sure. Let’s just see if anything happens. Legend has it, not only will you see your death in this statue’s eyes, but they say there is an evil entity waiting for the right soul to come along to swap places. That poor person will forever be trapped behind those bronze eyes.’
‘You’d believe it snowed in summer if Ryan Willis told you so,’ Helen sniffed.
‘I’m going to ignore that remark. What do you see?’ Carly said behind her.
She rolled her eyes again. Best get this over with. Her thick boots squished into the soggy grass as she stepped closer to the statue. When her eyes met the inky black wells of the figure, she was overcome with a tide of eeriness. She squirmed, screwing her nose as she scrutinized the dark icon.
She shrugged at her friend.
‘Nothing. Your turn,’ she said, stepping aside. ‘And hurry up, something doesn’t feel right; this thing is funky.’
Carly laughed as she took her place in front of the statue.
‘What did you really think will happen? Now who’s letting all that death and soul-trapping talk spook you,’ she teased.
‘Just hurry up already.’
Helen watched as her friend lifted her chin. She pushed out her chest, and pulled back her shoulders as she stood with her legs apart and gripped her hips. She stared unblinking at the giant statue.
Carly’s focus seemed to deepen as her eyes locked into the figure. A deep silence fell over the cemetery, broken only by the flutter of wings as the birds fled from the trees, and the tiny pattering footsteps of the scurrying squirrels. Helen’s heart began to thump. Her eyes darted wildly about the cemetery. She could feel something shifting. Her tongue clung to the roof of her mouth as a lump wedged in her throat. An ominous suspicion twisted and corrupted through her.
Her ears pricked as Carly’s high-pitched scream reverberated around her. She swung around in alarm as she saw her friend convulsing uncontrollably. Carly’s body was shaking violently, yet her feet were rooted into the earth like an entrenched tree trunk. Her eyes remained wide and spellbound against the soulless face of the statue.
Helen rushed over to quell the fit but was unable to stop her quivering nor move her in any way. Horror coiled around her and through her like a venomous serpent, while her cries for help echoed vainly among the gray tombs that littered the desolate graveyard.
Her fingers twitched as she frantically searched her jacket pocket for her phone. She clasped the phone, and paused as she blinked at her friend. Carly’s convulsions had subsided and her eyes were shut as a quietness permeated her.
Helen frowned and ventured toward her friend. She encircled an arm around her.
Carly’s eyes flew open and she turned her head toward Helen. Hollow black eyes pierced her.
Helen gasped and reeled back under her friend’s stare. She clutched at her chest.
‘Carly?’ she asked again. ‘Are you okay?’
A wide smile erupted over ruby lips. ‘Oh, I’ve never been better,’ Carly said.
She tossed her golden hair up and began to flounce away.
‘Are you coming? We have that bonfire party to get to, remember!’
Helen’s brows furrowed as she trailed Carly down the cemetery road toward the entrance. She glanced over her shoulder at the statue, unaware of the wild silent pleas from its freshly bronzed brown eyes.
Inspired by this spooky thing in a Chicago cemetery.