E. Paige Burks
Sneak Peek: The Time - Traveler's Cat
We're now a week into NaNoWriMo! It's challenging and fun, and not too late for you to join it too! Just head over to their website and get started!
As a special treat, I want to share with you the prologue and first chapter of The Time - Traveler's Cat! I hope you enjoy and I'd love to hear your feedback!
The sky was black. Shadows danced between the trees that surrounded Piper as he dashed through the brush. He could feel brambles and twigs grabbing at him, as if they were gnarly fingers, trying to trap him. Panic was filling him as he struggled through the dense forest. He could smell smoke and he finally caught himself around a tree, turning to look at where he’d come from.
A tall machine was leaning precariously, sitting in a small crater in the earth. The trees around it had been smashed and broken, and Piper stared at the door. Inside, bright lights flashed, a siren sounding loudly, echoing throughout the forest. The machine didn’t fit at all in the wooded background, and neither did Piper, his white lab coat protecting him against the bitter wind.
He drew a ragged breath, trying to decide where the hell he was. Had his machine worked? He looked around the forest and lifted his eyes to the sky, astounded by the number of stars in the black night.
Piper wiped sweat from his brow. He definitely wasn’t in Crystalline City anymore, and this definitely was not the year 3088.
A sudden screech made him jump, and he held tighter to the tree he hid against, swinging around. Unfamiliar sounds began to echo through the woods, making Piper tremble. He glanced back at the machine, knowing that he had two options: stay and die, or run and maybe survive. He chose to run.
Dashing like a madman, Piper ran through the tangled mass of trees until his lungs burned and his legs felt like lead weights. It felt like he was running in circles, all of the trees looking the same. Finally, unsure of how long he’d been crashing his way through, Piper staggered toward a fallen tree, collapsing on it.
He let his head fall into his hands, his breaths haggard and wheezing, tears filling his eyes. How was he going to get out of this?
The smog was heavy today. From the fortieth-floor window, Piper could barely see the lights of the other city buildings. He sighed as he sipped at his drink, grimacing at the taste.
“What the hell is this?” he asked, turning to look at his girlfriend as she flitted around the kitchen.
She paused, her long auburn hair falling over her right shoulder, teased on top and flipped to the side, the left side of her head buzzed in the latest trend. She pinned him with an annoyed look. “I told you, baby,” she said, her voice pitching to an octave that Piper found irritating. “It’s a nutritional shake.”
Piper scowled as he set it down on the coffee table. “What was wrong with plain old coffee?” he griped, walking back into the bedroom. He stood in front of a floor-length mirror, fiddling with his tie. He looked up when Charlie appeared in the mirror behind him.
“Are you excited?” she asked, crossing her arms as she leaned in the doorway.
Piper frowned. “About what?” he asked. He turned when she came closer, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Tonight is our six-month anniversary,” Charlie said, pouting softly.
“Oh,” Piper said, his brow rising and his eyes becoming distance. On the inside he was kicking himself. Did people really celebrate six months together anymore?
“Don’t worry,” Charlie said, smiling mischievously. “I’ve planned it all out.”
“Oh,” Piper said more confidently, his hands resting on her hips. He watched as she twirled a strand of her hair around her finger.
“I got a little something for later,” she said suggestively.
Piper caught her face in his hands, kissing her gently. “I wish I could stay home and see it,” he said, having a pretty good idea what she was alluding to.
Charlie laughed then, stepping back from his grasp. “You should get going,” she said, nodding toward the TV. “It’s getting late.”
Piper looked at the morning news, scowling. “Shit.” Sports was on. Piper knew if he made it that far into the broadcast, he would miss his train. He grabbed his coat and his shoulder-bag, rushing to the front door. “Bye, babe!” he called as he opened the door.
Charlie poked her head around from the kitchen. “Bye, love you!” she returned as he waved and closed the door. She shook her head and laughed to herself once he was gone. She loved Piper, but he could be so scatter-brained sometimes.
Piper pushed the button quickly to the elevator, sighing impatiently. He knew he was going to miss the train. He didn’t know why he was bothering waiting for the elevator. It was possibly the slowest elevator in Crystalline City, and it had to take him forty-five floors down to the train station.
He turned to look out the hall window, seeing that the smog was thickening beyond the glass. He debated on whether he should try to catch a cab instead, pressing his hand against his forehead. On days like this, when he was scrambling to decide how he could get to work on time, he wondered what it would be like to go outside and walk the few blocks to the building. He knew the idea was ludicrous; the smog was so dense and deadly that anyone in it for more than a minute would develop cancer and other horrible diseases pretty quickly. It was too bad that the city hadn’t finished repairs on the underground walking tunnels yet.
Finally, the stupid elevator dinged, and Piper jumped inside, accepting that he’d just have to wait for the second train and resigning himself to the fact that his boss would tear him a new one. He leaned against the wall as the elevator began its slow crawl downward, rolling his eyes hard every time it stopped to pick up another passenger. To try to keep his head from exploding, he pulled a small device from his pocket, pressing a button on the side to turn it on.
He used his thumb to scroll through it, finding his lab partner’s contact information. He held the phone up, hitting the record button. “Hey Daniel,” he said quietly, trying to ignore the others in the elevator. “I’m going to be late. Try to stall Bobby, alright?”
Once he was done, he hit the send button, a little swoosh confirming that his message had been sent. He drew a slow breath as he leaned against the back of the elevator, knowing there was only so much D could do to keep the Master of Rage busy. And, most likely, it would only make the Rage Monster worse when Piper finally arrived. He figured that, at this point, the only reason he still had a job was because his work was really important.
He was the lead on his team as an astrophysicist. His mother had asked once what he did all day at his job, and the best he could explain to her was that he worked on computers and wrote code, but it was a lot more complicated than that. Piper was the most knowledgeable in his field, and their most recent project was sponsored by The Free People’s Chosen. It used to sound silly and science-fictiony, but now it was really happening – Piper was helping his team build a machine that could travel through space and time.
It was still in its infancy, and it had a lot of bugs, but most of the advancements they’d been able to make were because of him. Piper had known from a young age that he was weird; he never saw the lessons in school the way the teacher or the other students did. He used to have bad grades because of it, but, over time, he realized it was a gift. More often that not, Piper saw the solution when everyone else only saw endless questions. He often wondered how he knew what to look for when his co-workers were so stumped.
The elevator finally shuddered to a stop, drawing Piper from his thoughts. He felt anxiety rise in him as the throng of people that had amassed in front of him began to shuffle slowly into the tunnel. He wanted to start elbowing people out of the way, but he clicked the button on his hand-held device, seeing the time. He’d missed the train by five minutes, and it would be another ten before the next one came.
Piper sighed shortly as he plopped on a bench to wait. He unlocked his device to open some sort of bubble-popping game, when it dinged, alerting him that D had responded. He swiped to the message.
Daniel’s face appeared on the screen, his eyes wide and his hair a mess. He normally looked that way, but this felt different. “Dude,” he whispered into the camera. “I can’t do anything for you today. Did you forget that the higher-ups were coming??”
Piper felt his heart sink into his feet, his breath leaving him in a whoosh. His ass was grass.