The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS column on Mondays and Wednesdays is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website showcasing books from a variety of fiction genres, with an emphasis on interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better.
Today, we look at AETHERBORN.
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the Worst Train Ride Ever
sweat starting to drip at the base of her back, forming a miniature pool and
staining her vintage leather jacket right through her tank. The train had been
stuck between stations for twenty minutes and there was no sign that it would
start moving any time soon. Ruby was beginning to regret her decision of not
snagging the last empty seat when she got on. This is literally the worst train
ride ever, she grimaced as she rearranged her camera bag. She cast an eye for
another people-free pocket on the train without any luck. Looks like it’s
standing room only for the rest of the ride.
smidge over five feet tall, Ruby could usually sneak by crowds of people
without any issues, and on any other day this claustrophobic train would not
affect her at all. Today, however, the weight of two cameras in her bag was
starting to take a toll, and she could not wait to get a glimpse of the sun
again. Her dark, brown hair was starting to get soaking wet from the heat and
she was using the side of her arm to side-swipe it out of her eyes.
here now. Might as well get comfortable. She shifted her weight from left to
right and almost knocked over the young girl next to her with the tripod. She
had originally strapped it to her back in hopes of taking up less space, but it
had since slid down her back and was now protruding from her waist like the end
of a bulky musket. Twenty-five minutes and counting.
bag to the ground and tried to reach for her camera without causing any harm to
anyone in her immediate orbit but the intention failed immediately. As soon as
she bent over, the tripod slid up her back, over her head and made a very
direct landing on the lap of the older man sitting across from her.
Ruby perked up, and tried to get the three-legged monster off his newspaper,
“The stupid thing will not stay put!” Ruby’s usually somewhat pale cheeks were
flushed with embarrassment. Her only thought now was a quick getaway.
problem, dear.” The man she almost impaled folded his paper and handed her the
tripod, “Do you want to take a seat? It might be a while longer, I’m afraid.”
thought; and honestly, if he had asked her a few minutes later she would have
accepted. Luckily for him, she was not yet so tired as to forget her manners
I’m sure it will get moving soon. I should probably take advantage of this
anyhow.” Ruby aimed her lens at the man and took a photo. Her airy giggle made
him smile, it’s not often a pretty young girl takes your photo.
her camera lens and started surveying the train. Her eyes darted through the
crowd with sniper-like determination. If she was going to be stuck here, she
was definitely going to make the best of it!
photography had been, as her professors would call it, an introvert’s daydream.
She kept to herself when working, and mainly photographed objects that could
not talk back. Her most recent series of rotting fruit had even won her a trip
to France, which would have been quite exceptional if she had not been expected
to spend ten days with a group of strangers. Unlike her parents, Ruby had not
inherited the social butterfly gene and had always preferred the company of books,
movies, and photos to actual beating hearts. No one was surprised when she was
accepted to the photography program at Westerlake University. If there was a
career that would allow Ruby to watch life and not actually live it, she’d be
years at Westerlake were great. Her professors unintentionally labeled her a
“young Man Ray” and she was left to her own devices for the majority of
assignments. But this year was different. She had begun to be complacent in her
work, and her lack of passion and enthusiasm was starting to get noticed. After
their last lecture before Thanksgiving break, her favorite professor asked to
meet her in his office.
Ruby.” His tone was different than usual. There was no intrigue, no
playfulness. Just a straightforward stare and a beckoning to unchartered
scoldings. His pale blue eyes narrowed, and when he took off his reading
glasses, she knew she was in trouble. Professor Tremblay saved that maneuver
for his troublemakers.
Mr. Tremblay?” She brushed loose pieces of hair out of her eyes. The trouble
with having mouse-thin hair was in keeping it from looking like an oil-slick
all day. Ruby had gotten used to having bangs in her eyes, but something about
this moment seemed serious. She tried to look as carefree as possible, but her
nerves were coming through every word, “is everything all right?”
leaning forward on his desk and staring directly at her. Despite being quite
small in build, his old age gave him a sense of superiority, which was likely
why Ruby valued his opinion of her work above all others. You can’t mess up
when one of the country’s best is teaching you. “Everything is fine, Ruby. I
just wanted to have a quick chat to see what your plans are for your thesis. It
seems like it’s shaping up to be quite interesting.”
good. I’m still trying to figure out the exact direction I want to take with
it…” she lied. She had no direction. She actually hadn’t even thought about
some advice?” He crossed his arms and continued rapidly without letting her
answer, “It might be time to try something different. You seem fairly
comfortable with your subject matter. I understand that it is easy to get
sucked into doing what you’re good at over and over again. But this is a
school. This is your one chance to try everything and see what sticks, without
repercussions or consequences.”
no idea where this was headed.
assignment for you for over the holidays. Photograph people. Photograph as many
people as you can and forget about the fruit and antiques and abandoned
buildings. Can you do that for me?”
coming from? Ruby had never photographed people. He knew she wasn’t comfortable
talking to strangers. Why would he ask this of her?
Mr.Tremblay. I just…” she chose her next words carefully, “I’ve never been
keen on portraiture, sir.”
precisely why I’m asking you to do this.” Tremblay leaned back in his chair,
his slightly more relaxed posture made Ruby breathe in deeply and lower her
shoulders. He’s just trying to help, she thought.
my thesis will not be good enough?” Her hazel eyes started to take on a deeper
shade as they filled with water. She might not have had any idea of what her
thesis was but that did not mean she couldn’t get defensive over it.
sure it will be as wonderful as the rest of your work! I just don’t want you to
graduate without having learned it all. Do you think you can try that?”
not try it? When your favorite professor asks you to do something for your own
development, you don’t say no. Yet, here she was now, forcing herself to
interrupt the train ride of the strangers around her, sweating buckets and regretting
agreeing to this little project in the first place.
and you can put your camera away.
across the crowd. Focusing on each passenger’s face and trying to figure out
why they were there. Where they were going? Were they in a hurry? Were they as
uncomfortable as she was?
the tin tube, her view landed at the back of the train on two men slightly
older than she was. Are they fighting? She twisted her lens to sharpen the
focus as one of the men leaned in closer to the other. He seemed to be
whispering something, something that felt forceful and predatory. His scowling
jaw locked tight and his eyes gleamed with pure hatred. He grabbed the man next
to him by the shoulders. To anyone else watching it would have looked like a
friendly pat on the back but Ruby saw better. She could see the fear in his
victim’s face. Something was wrong here.
move closer to the two, but she was trapped in place by the crowd. She put up
her lens and zoomed in. The attacker reached into his pocket. What was he
getting? Ruby couldn’t see, there were too many people around. She aimed her
camera at his hand as it moved out of his pocket and back towards his train
neighbor. Something small. A ring maybe? Whatever it was, he quickly buried it
in his palm and placed his hand on his neighbor’s chest. She could see terror
forming on the victim’s face. His entire body convulsing with fear.
screamed as loudly as she could. The entire car now shifted their gaze to the
awkward, sweaty girl with the camera. “Stop it!”
camera to her face again, what was he doing? Something flashed in the
viewfinder. She zoomed in closer. What is that? There seemed to be marks on the
attacker’s arms. Some sort of triangles and lines. Glowing blue like a propane
fire. What the hell is that?
a bit as the engines started up again. Some of the lights that were lighting
the advertisements across the top of the car flashed briefly and stopped as the
train began moving out of the tunnel. Ruby heard a woman’s scream coming from
the back of the car. She focused her lens at the crowd standing in a circle.
Her gaze shifted down at the train floor. The man she saw being attacked was
lying lifeless, face down on the ground. She moved her camera around the train
trying to find the attacker. Nothing. How could he get off the train? Ruby
lowered her camera to her side. She looked at the old man in the seat across
from her who seemed more interested in the crossword in front of him.
happened here? What did she just see?
inched towards a stop at the next station. The doors stood steady for a brief
moment then opened to let air into the train. People rushed out, pushing each
other aside. The crowd carried Ruby out of the train like a wave of water, a
tsunami really. She stood on the platform and watched as two officers made
their way into the car, with the doors shutting tight behind them.
passengers. This platform is currently closed due to an emergency situation.
Emergency responders are on their way. We apologize for any inconvenience.”