As promised in a previous post, I’m excited to share the results of my recent burst of inspiration. This is a rewrite of the first chapter in a YA vampire romance I began years and years and years ago, which has sat, undisturbed, in my files ever since.
I’ve no idea what drew me back to this story specifically, but I’m more than happy to indulge in this long-forgotten project.
I’ve found it quite interesting, given this is a YA project. I’ve been drawn to my Adult Fiction works for a long time now, so rediscovering a YA voice has been a fun experience.
Anyway, without any further ado, I hope you enjoy reading this little extract as much as I liked writing it. And as always, feedback is welcome.
The morning of my seventeenth birthday was supposed to be just like any other.
Therefore, I was quite alarmed to be waking up in a box.
Oh god. I’m dead.
It wasn’t an uncomfortable box, with it’s satin lining and cushioned sides, but it was certainly a little claustrophobic. I had all of 2 feet of space to wriggle around in; my toes could touch the bottom of it, and a twist of my head confirmed I had little room left in the other direction either. The lid, however, was mostly window. Beyond it, I could see a rather dimly lit, but most certainly unfamiliar ceiling.
“I’m not dead,” I whispered.
Dead people couldn’t move around and examine their coffins.
“I’m not dead!” Panic washed through me in an icy wave and I shoved against the window above me. I suppose I hadn’t really thought it would do any good, but it lifted on a hinge just enough to clatter back down in a deafening crash that echoed through my head.
Spurred on by the high of my almost-success, I pushed more firmly against the lid and lifted it – surprisingly heavy – until an unexpected gas strut relieved the weight.
Freed from my imprisonment, I started to notice many, many more… unnerving details. First, and possibly most frightening, was the IV line taped to into the inside of my elbow. A tube ran from it, out of the coffin, up to a medical bag hanging on a metal stand. A medical bag filled with a red fluid I didn’t really want to identify.
I’d never attended a funeral before, but television – and simple common sense – had taught me that people weren’t buried, or mourned, still attached to medical equipment.
Furthermore, sitting up confirmed that this was no funeral parlor or church or morgue, but strangely resembled… a bedroom… A very luxurious, gothic bedroom.
There was antique wooden furniture and all kinds of unnecessary velvets and silks and more in all shades of blacks and reds and purples. Wall lights resembling candelabras were scattered around the ridiculously large space, casting a dim glow that was strangely easy to see through.
“I’m not dead…” I repeated, with just a little less certainty.
This was not my room. Nor did it even resemble any room I’d ever seen anywhere before, except perhaps in an old gothic movie.
Voices echoed from another room, footsteps trotting nearer, “She’s awake! She’s awake!”
Was she referring to me?
I wasn’t sure how she would know I’d woken, unless of course I was under surveillance. That thought brought me, reluctantly, back to the details I’d attempted to overlook. Like the fact I was waking up in clothes I definitely didn’t go to bed in. Not that they weren’t nice clothes, just that the silky nightdress was without a doubt well beyond anything I, or anyone I personally knew, could afford.
And then there was the concerning lack of summer tan, which I had so carefully built up over the past two months. The hands I’d used to push open the coffin weren’t lightly golden, but rather… pale, pale, white…. And I wasn’t convinced even extreme blood-loss could account for that much loss of color – though it would certainly explain the IV line.
I wasn’t even going to address the change in cup size.
The dark double doors across the room both swung open with impressive synchronicity. In the arched doorway stood three… women.
They- or rather their attire, perfectly matched the décor.
It was almost as if I’d awoken in a gothic romance novel.
I stared at them, and they gazed back, looking… expectant… Crap. Had I missed a memo? I felt like I’d turned up to a class and suddenly I was expected to teach it.
After what felt like an incredibly long and drawn out period of silence and expectant gazes, the lady in front cleared her throat and moved into the room, “Well, it’s lovely to see you, but we can’t be sitting around all evening, come along!”
The other two trailed after her, sharing a mildly concerned glance. I could relate to that.
“I…” … Didn’t have a clue what to say.
Rather awkwardly, I crouched inside the coffin before swinging myself over the ledge to stand. Every muscle in my body shook with the effort, a wave of dizziness spinning my vision.
“My god, are you trying to break your ankle?” Lady-number-one scolded, picking up her pace.
I turned to face her, struggling to focus my eyes again. The woman, close enough to inspect now, was maybe 5 or so years older than me, roughly early twenties by my guess. Black hair, vibrant blue eyes, and… and… almost a foot taller than me?
Given my five-feet-nine-inches of height, that was… definitely not accurate. She was tall, yes. She had a good couple of inches over the women in tow, but I… This was definitely not my usual height…
Unless I’d dramatically shrunk overnight, this was not by body. This wasn’t my tanned skin, these weren’t my long thin fingers, these weren’t my toned muscles, and this certainly wasn’t my cleavage.
“I need to sit down…” Quickly. Before I puked absolutely everywhere.
The woman took my arm with one hand and my attached drip stand with the other, and quickly led me to a plush little stool before a vanity-
Full blown panic finally took hold at the sight of my reflection.
That wasn’t my flat caramel hair, those weren’t my brown eyes, and that wasn’t my oval face.
I turned in horror to the woman, a complete stranger who seemed utterly familiar with me, “I’m in the wrong body.”
The stranger paused, pulled back, and regarded me with concern. We stared at each other for a long stretch of silence as I desperately sought some kind of answer or explanation or reassurance from her that everything was ok, and her looking like maybe she’d lock me up back in that coffin.
Finally, when it seemed she had nothing to say, I whispered, “this isn’t my body.”
Her head cocked to the side, looking at me like duh, of course it’s not, “Yes… just as was discussed…”
With a furrowed brow, it took a very long time to manage any form of coherent thought, “… What?”
She put her hands on her hips, “Why are you confused?”
Why am I confused? Why was she not confused? In what world was it normal or worse, expected, that you wake up in a whole new body, in a whole other room, on your seventeenth birthday?
Had I… agreed to this? Was I missing some insane memory where I’d decided to trade in my athletic form for this weak midget? Never mind the fact such a thing wasn’t even scientifically possible!
… Was it?
Perhaps she read the panic in my face because she held up her hands, “ok, breathe. It’s ok. You’re ok. Maybe you’re just… Groggy…”
It was laughable. Maybe I really had died. Anything is possible when you wake up in a coffin, right?
The other two gothic-novel women had identical expressions of worry, but both had remained utterly silent this whole time. Clearly, I was the only person in the room without a god damn clue what was going on.
“I’m not groggy,” I snapped, “I’m in someone else’s god damn body!”
I normally had a relatively tame temper, but given the circumstances… well I think I could be excused for being a little snippy.
Gothic-number-one turned to Gothic women Two and Three and sternly eyeballed them, “you go and carry on like it’s any other day, understood? Not a word to anyone about the Princess’s state. Not one word. Understood?”
She really just used the P word. Oh hell.
Gothic’s Two and Three nodded solemnly and turned, leaving without ever having uttered a single word.
Gothic One turned her attention back to me only once the double doors had closed behind the two. She gave me a scary serious look, “please, tell me this is some foolish joke in poor taste.”
A little burst of hysterical laughter bubbled out of me, “Lady, I wish.”
Now it was her turn to look horrified, “But how could this happen?”
“Well to be perfectly honest with you, I was hoping maybe you would have an answer to that question.”
“We haven’t had the wrong heir in… well, centuries!”
I blinked at her, “heir?”
She hesitated, weighing her options, “well, yes… the… reincarnation of the royal line…”
I blinked at her some more, “reincarnation?”
Showing my intelligence well today. Not. Rather than answer, this time she began to pace. There wasn’t much I could do except wait for her to respond and try desperately not to look at the black curls and pale skin in the mirror.
Finally, goth-lady turned back to me and shook her head, “Nope, ok, get back in bed.”
“Bed?” I asked, “You don’t mean the coffin, do you?”
“Yes, get back in the coffin!” She snapped, “And go back to sleep.”
I stared, brow furrowed, absolutely bewildered, “You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, I am dead serious,” she snapped, grabbing my arm and pulling me to my feet whether I cooperated or not. She towed me, and the hanging ivy bag, back to the coffin I’d so recently escaped.
“What good is this going to do?” I demanded.
“Well,” she huffed, pulling over a stool for me to step up onto in order to climb back into the coffin, which sat on what appeared to be a solid polished black marble block, “You’re going to go back to sleep. And pray heaven, the next time those eyes open, it will be Skylar looking out.”
“Yes, Skylar, the reincarnated Princess. Now get in, shut up, and go to sleep.”
There was a note of desperation in her voice that told me all I needed to know about how likely this plan of hers was to work, but if I could accept that I woke up in the wrong body, and this concept of reincarnation, then I suppose I could give any plan a shot.
Yes. Wake up, in my own body, and this can all be forgotten. Nothing but a truly bizarre, scarily realistic dream… Yes…