Friday, August 10, 2012

PSC: Story and giveaway by Laura Anne Gilman

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Our guest post today is by the lovely Laura Anne Gilman. She's the author of several series but you will probably know her from her urban fantasy Cosa Nostradamus books, which include the Retrievers series (about Wren and Sergei) and its spinoff, the Paranormal Scene Investigations series.

Laura Anne is here today to celebrate the release of her fourth Paranormal Scene Investigations book, DRAGON JUSTICE, which was released on July 24. She's written a truly spooky story for the event that I hope you'll enjoy.

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Under the Bridge

© Laura Anne Gilman 2012

“You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do.”

The bridge curved over the water, high enough that you could paddle underneath without having to duck your head, even Ms. Caroline, who was really, really tall, but not so high that you got dizzy, if you leaned over the edge and looked down to see if there were any fish or snapping turtles lurking below.

It was made of wood that creaked when the cabin raced across on their way to swimming lessons, but there was concrete at either end, holding the planks into the ground. No matter how bad the storms got in the winter, when the camp was closed and nobody was around, the bridge was always there when camp opened.

There were stories about the bridge, though. How, if you stood at the very center at the right moment, under a full moon, and made a wish, that wish would come true. Or if you got kissed just as your canoe went underneath, that relationship would last all year. Things like that, traditions that grew every year, and people tried and sometimes wishes came true, and sometimes couples were still together when they came back to camp next summer, and sometimes they didn’t and sometimes they weren’t, and people still told the stories and maybe-believed.

But there was another story about the bridge.

A story about the cement that was used to hold the wood in place. The story said that there was a body in it. That someone had killed a girl, and thrown her body in to hide it, back when the camp was being built.

I didn’t believe it. Not that it couldn’t have happened; I knew enough that anything could happen, and people were just horrible enough to each other that the thought of someone being thrown into the cement and left there to die? Yeah, I could believe that. At my age, everyone’s crap to each other. Adults are crap because they’re too busy to worry about what you think or feel, and we’re crap to each other because… because we are, I guess. And I knew years ago that there were people, there are people, who think there’s only half a step between being mean and murder.

But dead is dead. Ghosts were our minds and memories playing tricks us on, or some wiggly atmospheric stuff sticking around for a while, or something, I don’t know. But they weren’t physical. They couldn’t really hurt you. Everyone knew that.

“You’re really going to do it?”

“Sure.” I shrugged. “I’m not going back and admitting I chickened out.” Being with the right group was important. It mattered. I wasn’t going to screw it up.

We were standing on the bridge, just past where it curved and started back down to the other bank. It was dark out – all the younger kids were lights-out already, and the older cabins were doing an overnight hike on Pine Mountain, the other side of camp. It was just us, and Ms. Joan and Ms Kathy thought we were in our bunks with the others, playing poker.

We weren’t supposed to play poker, and there would be trouble if anyone told, but it kept us quiet and out of trouble and we were only playing penny stakes anyway, so our counselors pretended we were reading, or writing letters home, or something the rules approved of.

“I mean, it’s not like they say she comes out of the block and murdered you or anything,” I said.

“No,” Meg said, chewing on the end of her braid like she was still nine, like wen we first met. “No, they don’t say anything at all about what she does.”

Meg always worried. But she was here with me anyway. Grace and Tish were on the other side of the creek. It was a full moon, and the sky was clear and bright enough that I could see them, Tish’s sunburn almost glowing against the shadows, while Grace was only a dark outline in jeans and a sweatshirt. They were there to make sure I went through with it. Nobody would trust Meg as the sole witness, not with this.

The others stayed in the cabin, covering for us. I’d been the only one willing enough to pick up the dare. It wasn’t bravery if you knew there wasn’t anything to be scared of. Well, other than getting caught, anyway.

“If you’re going to do it,” Meg started, then stopped without finishing her sentence.

“Yeah, I know.” We were wasting time, just standing here. I pulled my own sweatshirt off, and shimmied out of my shorts. Walking down to the creek at night was cause to get scolded, maybe grounded. If a counselor had seen me in a swimsuit after dark, I’d have been sent home tomorrow morning, no ifs ands or waitaminutes. And then my parents would kill me.

The water was cold, and kind of clammy against my toes. I wasn’t worried about fish, and only a little worried about the snapping turtles – I’d been coming to Camp Greenhill since I was ten, and nobody’d lost a toe to a turtle yet. But the familiar depths of the creek suddenly looked strange in the darkness, no matter how many times we’d tromped over the bridge, flashlights waving and voices raised either in song or gossip or shouts just to hear the echoes up the hill to where the cabins were.

“All right” I said, because I wasn’t going to back out now, not and face the ribbing I’d get all summer, not to mention the fifty dollars on the table back at the cabin. Fifty dollars, five from every girl in the cabin, including Meg. I’d give her share back, once I had it.

The water here was only to my ankles. It dropped off fast, though. I shivered, braced myself, and pushed off in a surface dive, exactly the way we’d been taught. Mr. Karl would have been proud, I don’t think I made a splash.

I knew that nobody back at the cabin thought I’d do it. That’s why they’d send Grace and Tish with me, to make sure it happened. Even Meg didn’t think I’d do it, that’s why she was with me, to see me actually swim underneath. I’d screwed up during swimming lessons last week, hadn’t been able to swim the entire distance underwater like I was supposed to. I thought I had, I’d been sure I’d gone far enough, but I hadn’t. I’d come to the surface, gasping for air, barely halfway there. None of them really thought I’d do it this time, either.

I would. I’d show them.

The creek fed into the lake where we had out swimming lessons, so I was used to the kind of weird taste to it, and I knew from canoeing that there was a current that would push me toward the middle, away from where I wanted to be. But the darkness still made everything weird, and when I opened my eyes underwater, I couldn’t figure out where I was.

Panic hit me, and I almost surfaced. But that would just mean having to go back underwater again, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do that. So I swam forward, and the thick shadow in front of me turned out to be one of the bridge posts. All right, I knew where I was then. All I had to do was turn left, and swim up to the concrete block. Then touch it, and call out the ghost. That was all.

The block was entirely underwater, maybe three feet down. It looked bigger than I’d thought, bigger than was really needed to hold a footbridge steady, but my dad always said they’d built every thing better, back when the camp was first built. It was a government project, when my grandpa was around. The cabins had been upgraded, and the showers, but everything else was still like it had been back then.

All that, stuff I already knew, stupid stuff, went through my head as I reached out and let my fingers rest on the concrete block.

It felt gross. Slick gross, slimy and rough. Knowing it was just algae and crap, same as was on the dock on the lake, didn’t make it feel any better.

My lungs were starting to hurt. I tried to figure out if I’d be able to get to the surface without losing touch of the block; probably not. I had to do it here, or lost the bet. But how would they know if I did it or not, if they couldn’t see me?

Duh, I thought. They wouldn’t be able to see me anyway: I was under the bridge.

I opened my mouth to say the girl’s name, and water flooded in. I coughed, and managed to mouth the words: Lucy Page.

Was it enough? I didn’t care. I scraped my nails against the slime, and let my body shoot upward, spitting out a mouth of water and gasping for breath like before, but triumphant this time. I’d done it.

“Lucy Page” I said again, out loud, just in case, just to show them.

There probably was no girl, killed and thrown into cement, haunting this bridge. And even if someone had died here, that probably wasn’t her name. Why would a teenaged girl be down here, back then?

They killed me.

Soft, the words were so soft, but right in my ear, like a game of pass-the-word. Wet, cold fingers on my shoulder, sliding across the back of my neck. No, it was just my hair, wet, falling across my skin.

They brought me down here and held me down and cut my throat and I could feel the cold fingers drawing across my neck, and suddenly I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t scream, couldn’t even croak out Meg’s name, even through she was only a couple of feet away, on the bank waiting… she was waiting, right?

They’ll wait the voice said they’ll wait to see what happens, and giggle, and be glad it wasn’t them.

Two other girls, standing up the hill, just outside the tree line. I could see them, even though there was no way I could see them, not from under the bridge. They were wearing skirts, not shorts, and the bridge was raw-looking, not the battered, weathered wood we walked over every day, but they were my memories, I knew them, I knew those girls, and I raised my hand to try and call them, to reach them. Why didn’t they come help me?

Slowly, I remembered. We’d been walking, up along the fire road. There had been two men. Young, good-looking. They’d invited us down to the creek. We’d giggled, knowing we shouldn’t be there, but it was an adventure, something mildly forbidden, and there were three of us so that was okay. Then… they’d said they only wanted one, and the others could go.

They hadn’t gone, though. Not far, just far enough to be safe, and then they’d watched, clutching each other. Watched as my throat went icy-cold, then hot, and then slowly slowly it all drained back to cold. Watched, and let me die.

Cold anger, burning hot in my guts, my bones. Coiled and ready to lash out, given half the chance.

No, I thought, trying to shake it off. I wasn’t dead. That wasn’t me. I tried to remember the feel of the water on my skin, the taste of it in my mouth, the sound of laughter as we were playing poker, talking crap about how brave we were, even though we weren’t old enough yet to do the overnight hike…

They threw me away. They left me to die.

So cold. So angry. Not at me, for me. For us. The fingers weren’t threatening any more, they held me, cuddled me, and there was a moment when that was all I wanted, and I wanted her to feel the same, wanted her to feel safe, and protected, and…revenged.

Let them die. Let them feel the knife, the cold, the long silence when everyone else leaves, abandons them…

Yes.

No.

Who was I? It was all hazy, like trying to see through the dark water. Nothing felt real, only the hot-cold voice scraping across in my brain., and that wasn’t me, it wasn’t…

The algae-coated fingers on my neck pushed in, under my skin, and I shivered. So cold. So cold and angry and alone.

“Sue?”

Alone, trapped.

“Sue, come on. Where are you?”

I knew that voice. I knew that name.

They left me alone. Hurt. Hurt them.

No. Yes.

There was a rustle of sound, more voices. They had come back to see. To gawk. Too late.

“She went under, and then I heard a splash, but she hasn’t come out.”

“Sue!” Tish’s voice, brash and hard. “Sue come on, this isn’t funny."

Yes, yes it is. It will be. Call them in, tell them you saw something. Tell them they have to see this.

“I-“ I tried to say, but my throat was still choked up by the water, the fingers against my throat.

Bring them here. Let them know what it feels like.

The anger drowned me where water had not. Snubbed. Ignored. Passed-over. Like at school, everyone else in on the joke, texting and giggling. I’d thought it was different here, thought they were my friends. But they didn’t think I’d do it. They came down here to see me fail. They watched me die. I could have died. I died.

“Over here!” I called. “You’re not going to believe this!”

My voice didn’t sound right, but they didn’t notice.

“Oh my god, you scared us!” Grace, and I could see her legs now, hear her splashing towards me, from the edge of the creek. “I’ve got a towel, and oh my god the water’s freezing, we’re going to get you some hot chocolate if I have to raid the dining hall myself, what the hell were we thinking? Get out of there, now!”

The water was warm. I stayed where I was, my fingers curled around something that hadn’t been there before, something hard and cool and sharp.

They hadn’t believed I’d do it. They’d laughed at me. They’d abandoned me, let things happen to me, and they hadn’t done anything.

People were crap. You couldn’t trust anyone.

My throat was filled with blood; I couldn’t breathe.

“Come on,” Grace said, just out of reach. “This was stupid. Come on, let’s get back to the bunk before you spend the rest of the summer sneezing with a cold and I feel even worse.”

She was almost within reach.

“Sue, come on.” Meg, splashing beside her, the water almost up to her hips, short as she was. “No, I won’t come out,” she said over her shoulder, to Tish. “If we’re all wet we’ll all get in trouble. That’s only fair.”

Yes. Only fair. Everyone suffers.

“Sue?” Grace’s voice, quiet, and her fingers touched my arm. “Come on.”

She was in reach. Two of them, within reach. Do it. The fingers resting at my throat tightened, the taste of blood all I could feel, and then it was just a knot in my throat, and my nose was running, and Grace’s arms were around me, and she was shaking, too.

My fingers loosened, and the knife fell away, and was gone.

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More about DRAGON JUSTICE:

Dragon Justice (Paranormal Scene Investigations #4) WE KNEW THE JOB WAS IMPOSSIBLE WHEN WE TOOK IT...

In my time with PUPI, formally known as Private, Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations, I've seen a lot. Learned a lot. And not all of it's been good. But what we do-make people accountable for crimes committed with magic-is important work.

Still. Even I need to take a break every now and again. Or so I've just been told (ordered).

So hey, vacation. Maybe I'll finally figure out what's going on with the "special bond" between me and the boss man, Benjamin Venec. Venec seems to like that idea-he's invited me down to join him on a jaunt to Philly. But no sooner do I arrive in the City of Brotherly Love than we're called in to look at a dead body.

And that's when life gets really complicated....

Jenn’s thoughts

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

More books by Laura Anne:

Paranormal Scene Investigations

Laura Anne Gilman Hard Magic Paranormal Scene Investigations #1 Laura Anne Gilman Pack of Lies Paranormal Scene Investigations #2 Laura Anne Gilman Tricks of the Trade Paranormal Scene Investigations #3

Retrievers

Laura Anne Gilman Staying Dead Retrievers #1 Laura Anne Gilman Curse the Dark  Retrievers #2 Laura Anne Gilman Bring It On Retrievers #3 Laura Anne Gilman Burning Bridges Retrievers #4 Laura Anne Gilman Free Fall Retrievers #5 Laura Anne Gilman Blood from Stone Retrievers #6

The Vineart Wars Trilogy

Laura Anne Gilman Flesh and Fire (Vineart Trilogy #1)Laura Anne Gilman Weight of Stone (Vineart Trilogy #2)Laura Anne Gilman The Shattered Vine (Vineart Trilogy #3)

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giveaway

To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Open

Ends Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
(like all of our Paranormal Summer Camp giveaways)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Laura Anne GilmanLaura Anne is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus novels for Luna, and the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy from Pocket, as well as the story collection Dragon Virus. In 2012 she will be dipping her pen into the mystery field as well, writing as L.A. Kornetsky.

A member of the on-line writers’ consortium BookView Cafe, she continues to write and sell short fiction in a variety of genres, selling most recently to Daily Science Fiction and the anthology DEAD MAN’S HAND.

Website | Google+ | Twitter

Jenn

Born and raised in the Toronto area, Jenn moved to St. John's, Newfoundland, eight years ago for school. She's still in school (thankfully on another degree!), now trapped in her dissertation. When she's not dissertating, which happens more often than it should, Jenn spends her time reading, watching movies, playing volleyball, travelling, and enjoying the local music scene. Her latest addictions: yoga and Almond Crunch cereal.

38 People left their mark' :

  1. Is it just me or is the rafflecopter form not there?

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    1. Looks like Jenn forgot to add it ehehe. Im emailing her

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  2. that's a spooky story!!!!! I love campfire stories as long as it's around a bright campfire :) I also love, love, love the retriever series. I need to catch up on this one though :)

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  3. Eek! Not a fan of scary stories, here, but I do love the PUPIs!! Great series.

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  4. That was great. I don't like novels that are spooky, but short little spooky stories are perfect.

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  5. I've loved everything LA Gilman has written so far. Of course, that means I have to keep buying and reading what she rights just to make sure I keep loving it. #DefinitionOfFanGirl

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  6. RIGHTS?? Okay, I meant what she writes. Because she writes right, i guess :-)

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  7. Don't have one to share because I don't like camping and never have. Sorry.

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  8. Ooh! That was good. just long enough and scary enough, without going over my "I don't like it too scary" line. Thanks, Laura Anne!

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  9. Wow, that was a great story. I sure don't have anything to top that. :D

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  10. Great story! I've never been camping so I don't have one to share. Thanks for the chance to win!

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  11. I've only went camping once and the most scary part was when we started sharing ghost stories we've heard. It was kinda kreepy because it was night and the stories seemed more sinister than they were.
    It says OPEN.. and stays like that, is it open internationally?
    thank you for the giveaway!

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  12. Nice short story. Eerily, that bridge reminds me of my childhood when my cousins and I would go swimming in the shallow water beneath a bridge in County Limerick, Ireland. We would dare one another to stay alone under there for as long as we could stand it.

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  13. I've never been to camp so I don't have any cool stories, but I would have loved to go when I was younger! I'll definitely be sending the kids when they get of age. Everyone should have a camp experience. Thanks for the giveaway! :)

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  14. One of my friends dads used to hide in the trees near the tents and pretend to be a mountain lion. Evenn though we were always pretty sure it was him, it still scared us.

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  15. I don't really have any scary camp stories to tell, but count me in anyway please! Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

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  16. A fabulous spooky story thank you.

    I don't have one of my own.

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  17. I love a creepy story! Thanks! :D

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  18. I read books one and two of pupi and how there is a book four must find book three and read NOW!

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  19. Not scary, but freaky!

    My girlfriend and I went camping at the beach for one night just before graduation. During the night, I swore that I saw a spark in the corner of the tent but then it was just blackness. There was a thunderstorm out there. In the morning as we were packing up, I noticed that the trees directly overhead of the tent had been hit by lightning! The top part of the tree had been snapped and was bent over and swaying, just waiting to fall. We sure had the creeps! And we are thankful that it never fell because otherwise...gives me shudders just thinking about it. I took a picture and still have it tucked away somewhere.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  20. Ive never been to camp but that was an awesome story :)

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  21. Thanks for that little tidbit. I've never been a fan of scary books, but I do love me a scary short story. I liked the story of how she died. It's sad, how mean people can be to each other.

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  22. Another non-camper here. I do like some spookiness, but not a big fan of scary.

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  23. That was a nice story. No camp stories to share.

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  24. What a great story! I don't have any stories of my own.

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  25. I really really hate spooky things. Also, camping is something I have never done, so no campfire either.

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  26. I'm a Gilman Fan Girl too. Never went to a summer camp, but friends have Frenchwoods summer camp for theater-arts-circus and it sounds like a wonderful place to spend a summer.
    Cannot wait for the next story, short or novel-length that Gilman produces, esp the Kickstarter stories!

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  27. Camping is a scary enough thing for me anyway, without added stories! :P

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  28. Great story! I dont camp so dont have any good ones.

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  29. Girl Scout camping trips always had someone with a copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark so that's what I think of when someone mentions campfire stories!

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  30. That was a little spooky, great though!! Thanks for the chance.

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  31. Very creepy but good! Thank you. :)

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  32. Great story. When I was in the girl scouts we tried to scare each other around the camp fire

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  33. Hi Laura, the covers and blurbs of your books are cool.>:D
    Hoping to read them soon..

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  34. I love scary stories around the campfire, in my opinion it's a must when camping! :D This story was really fun and spooky to read and I can't wait to read the next novel of yours, Thanks for the giveaway!

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  35. That's really scary!! I never have been in a campfire before but my grandpa used to scare the living breath out of us. We used to run and hide and them at night we couldn't sleep any at all! But when you remember that it's quite fun!

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  36. I was camping with my parents when we were visited by a very curious small black bear. It was scary but also very awesome.

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  37. I love her PUPI series. At that was a spooky story!

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