Yes, “The Mutts” is the official title for my Steampunk book. Here is a bit of the first chapter 🙂 Hope you enjoy!
The word screamed through the freezing air, and Arrah heard. But she did not stop when she heard her name being called. Head back to Headmistress Strom for curfew of your own free will, when you could be out in the autumn sky Airskating? Never!
But the fun only lasted for so long. Sooner than she would have liked, the familiar drone of a Floater – flying machines built for only a single occupant – came up behind her. She groaned and looked down. Beneath the fog underneath her she could see the tops of London buildings – colorless except for the spots of light she knew marked gas lamps to allow citizens to see in the gathering dark.
She sighed. “Hey, Carter.”
There was no answer – only a glare from the Mutt whose job it was to chase her down – a duty which he performed every night, unless Arrah was sick and therefore unable to stay out past curfew. His orange eyes flickered above the breather he wore around his mouth and neck – implanted into his lungs in order to pump oxygen into him.
He was huge; his muscles like knots and ropes under his skin. The black muzzle that kept him alive was large, but was enabled with a speaker to allow him to communicate without smothering him. Thin tubes from it ran from the bottom and into his chest, the throat-latch buckled at the nape of his neck, pushing down the mane of wild tawny hair that started at his forehead and ran in a thick strip down his back.
Arrah slowed the stolen Airskate down with an inaudible sigh, turning around to follow the Floater. It was better to co-operate – if you didn’t you’d be keelhauled, which meant having your Airskate attached to the Floater by a chain and dragged along behind.
She had done it once – and had gotten her hip rammed into the side of Big Ben, which she secretly thought Carter had done on purpose. He had never said.
They arrived at the London Orphanage for Children at 10:16, Arrah read by her watch. She grinned as she stuffed it back into her vest pocket. One minute later than average. One day she hoped to break eleven o’clock – being out an hour past curfew! Wouldn’t that be something to tell the other kids!
Carter marched her inside, where Headmistress Strom was waiting, her arms crossed. Her raven black hair was down, as usual, but it did nothing to soften the harsh lines of her face as she glared at Arrah. “You’d think she’d have gotten used to it by now,” Arrah thought to herself.
“Bread and water must suit you,” spoke the Headmistress, her voice as sharp as nails.
Arrah shrugged her thin shoulders, glancing over at Carter, who stood a few feet away as unmovable as the rock of Gibraltar.
“I guess,” said Arrah.
“Get to your dorm,” Headmistress Strom snapped, her eyes spitting coals at the girl.
Arrah quickly turned around and flew up the huge, red-rugged mahogany staircase that ran throughout the ten-story orphanage. The London Orphanage for Children was one of the biggest buildings in London – not just because it was ten stories tall, but because it was so big around. Looking down on London from an Airskate or a Floater, your eyes were drawn instantly to the Orphanage.
Her legs were tired by the time she reached the eighth floor where her dorm room was. It was a large bedroom, but there was not much inside. A large bed, big enough for her and her roomie, Elisha, a small bedside table. That was it, unless you counted the huge glass window that took up nearly the entire outside wall. Arrah liked the window – it let her see out into the city and watch the Floaters and Airships and Zeppelins and the occasional Airskater.
She pushed the huge door open and looked into the bedroom. There was a lump under the covers – Elisha was in bed on time, as usual. “Psst!” she hissed, keeping her eyes on the sleeping body.
“Hey!” She moved closer, wincing as the door creaked and closing it behind her as softly as she could, shutting out the light from the lit hall lamps.
She snuck around to Elisha’s side of the bed. Her nose was visible from underneath the covers, as well as a bit of her long, black hair spilling out from underneath the threadbare blanket.
Stifling a giggle, Arrah tugged a tiny feather from out of the hole-filled down comforter and tickled the visible part of Elisha’s face with it. Not even a twitch. She tried again – still nothing.
Arrah put her hands on her hips, frowning thoughtfully at her roomie. Then, in one decisive action, she shoved the feather halfway up Elisha’s nose.
“Ah-choo!” Elisha sat up and pushed the blankets off, blinking her large, sleepy violet eyes as she looked balefully at the younger girl. She rubbed her nose vigorously until the tickling sensation passed, then flopped back down onto the bed, her face embedded in the pillow. “Hwrmfsdm?”
Arrah blinked as she took off her newsboy cap and vest covered in a rainbow of multicolor patches. “Huh?” she asked, climbing into her side of the bed and pulling the covers up to her chin as cold autumn air blew in through the window. The girls had pushed the bed so it was right in front of the glass wall, the foot of it facing the door. They liked the view and called it the Glass Wall.
Elisha groaned and pulled her head up out of the pillow. “I said, ‘how late were you this time?’”
Arrah grinned happily, watching shadows play on the ceiling above her. “Half an hour.”
“Yeah. I don’t think Car-“
“Did you take your shoes off?”
Arrah sat up, startled. “What?”
“Did. You. Take. Your. Shoes. Off.” Elisha’s voice was soft with sleep, but still firm. “You always forget, you know.”
“Oh.” Arrah pulled her covers back and kicked off her dirty boots. The left one was wearing a hole through the toe, so Arrah stuffed it with newspapers every evening she remembered. “Sorry.” She pulled the covers back up and snuggled close to Elisha, trying to capture some of the other girl’s body heat.
Elisha rolled over. “Now.” She sighed. “What were you saying?”
Arrah found that she had just grown tired, all in one instant. “I… uh… oh, yeah, I don’t think Carter was happy with me. That’s all.”
Elisha snorted. “I don’t blame him. He has to chase you down every night.”
Arrah smiled and gave a dreamy ‘hmmm.’ “I guess so. G’night.”
“Mm-hmm,” said Elisha, and both girls fell asleep, oblivious to the faint droning of an engine that came and went later that night.