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The Journal in the Jug
The Journal in the Jug
by K.G. McAbee
The Clockwork Pirates series
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Release: October 2012
Editor: Nancy Bell
Line Editor: Greta Gunselman
Cover Designer: Charlotte Volnek
‘When the paintings seem to glimmer, then the portals start to shimmer…’
Twelve-year-old Noah Macgregor can’t get that ridiculous line of poetry from an old journal out of his head. And he certainly didn’t plan to get his older sister Holly, their dog Gilbert and himself trapped.
It was an accident. He and Holly were just following Gilbert through the dark hallways of the old house that had belonged to a pirate two hundred years before. They find Gilbert just in time to see him run full speed into…and it looks like, through…a painting. Naturally, they follow their dog; wouldn’t you? And Noah has at least a vague idea of what might be on the other side, thanks to stuff he’d read in that same old journal he’d found inside a jug.
But on the other side of the painting, he and his sister find themselves in a strange sort of colonial South Carolina, where animals do some pretty surprising things and men made of brass and bronze walk and talk. And it gets worse. Captain Ambrose Craven is alive and even badder than expected.
And worst of all: they’re not exactly sure how to get back home…
Noah joined his sister, but something made him look down at the floor. “Uh, Hol?”
His sister turned around, a questioning look in her blue eyes.
Noah pointed down. In front of the tall picture, damp footprints glistened.
Dog prints, of course. Gilbert’s. And they ended two feet or so from the painting.
As if the dog in question had taken a leap…into the painting.
Noah remembered, with an icy feeling, the things in Great Uncle Enoch’s journal last night. They couldn’t be true, could they? Not really.
“Now how in the world did G-bert’s footprints just disappear…and where did he go?” Holly asked. She shook her head, and looked at the painting. “Noah, look at that!” she breathed. “There’s a wet patch right there at the bottom—see it? Gilbert must have rubbed against it.”
Noah grabbed his sister’s hand. “Holly, no!”
But he was too late. Holly’s tissue had already touched the painting—and soaked up the water on it.
“Noah Macgregor, what is the matter with you?” his sister snapped. “Let go of my hand this minute.”
Noah turned her wrist loose. He reached out a hesitant finger and touched the painting himself.
It felt like…paint. He let out a breath he hadn’t even known he was holding.
Still felt just like paint on canvas, solid, real, though it did give just a little when he pressed harder.
“Careful, Noey, sometimes those old canvases get pretty fragile. Don’t stick your hand through it,” Holly warned.
Gilbert had gone through it, Noah knew without really being sure how he knew. And if G-bert went through then there must be a way to follow…and maybe some of the weird things he’d read last night were for real.
That irritating poem popped into his head, and without even realizing it he said it out loud:
When the paintings seem to glimmer and the portals start to shimmer,
If you rush against the battlements, you’ll batter down the door.
But linger just a bit, out of fear that you will hit,
And the surface will be solid and the passageway no more.
“What is the world is that supposed to mean?” his sister asked, sounding an odd mixture of grumpy and scared. “Noey, are you all right?”
“Don’t call me Noey,” her brother said automatically. “Holly, you saw Gilbert take a run at this thing, right?”
“I saw him take a run, and he was certainly heading right at this painting, but he must have gone…” her voice trailed off. She turned around slowly.
“Gone where, Hol? Where? We can’t find any kind of an opening, and you just saw for yourself the painting was wet. Wet, Hol, just like G-bert.”
“Noah, what are you suggesting?” Holly’s blue eyes looked huge in a face gone pale.
“That poem. I read it last night in Great Uncle Enoch’s journal. Hol, he talked about…going through paintings to another, uh, place. I think that’s what G-bert just did.”
“Noah, don’t be ridiculous!” But Holly didn’t sound like her heart was in her favorite phrase, not this time. “It just can’t be. Besides, we just touched the same painting and neither one of us went through it. We’re missing something, that’s all, some other place that Gilbert went to.”
“Some other place is right, Hol, and I’m starting to think I know where, and maybe how. He ran, Hol. The poem says: ‘If you rush against the battlements, you’ll batter down the door,’ right?” Noah could feel his heart speeding up. He didn’t like what he was thinking, but he didn’t have a choice. He had to go after his dog, didn’t he? But he didn’t have to put Holly in danger, especially if this crazy idea of his didn’t work. “I think I have to, well, run straight at the painting to get it to work the way it did for G-bert. And I’m going to try it. You watch, and if anything weird,” he laughed and continued, “if anything weirder happens, you go get Mom and Dad, okay?”
“Noah, don’t even think I’m going to let you try this. You’ll knock yourself senseless, as if you’re not already.” But the tone of his sister’s voice didn’t match her determined words.
“Hol, what’s the worst that’ll happen? I’ll bump my nose. Big deal.”
“Well…” She was wavering.
Noah pressed his advantage. “Hol, we don’t have time to argue. I’ve got to go after G-bert. Look, we’ll know in a minute if it works. I’ll either—go through, or I’ll smash my face. Got to try, though.”
“Okay, but you’re not going to try without me,” Holly said. He opened his mouth to reply, but she held up a hand. “Don’t even say it, Noey. Either we both get bloody noses…or we both go after Gilbert. I’m betting on the blood. Here, you better take one of my tissues.” She handed him one.
Noah knew it was useless to argue with his big sister. Actually, he was kind of glad she insisted on going with him…and he was sure now that they were going to, well, go somewhere. Pretty sure, anyway.
“Okay, Hol, you win.” He grinned at her, but he didn’t think the grin was too successful. “Here’s the plan. We stand as far from that painting as we can, just like G-bert did—then we run flat out for it. Deal?”
“Deal,” Holly said. “Nothing’s going to happen, but if this is the only way to convince you, I guess it’s worth a bloody nose and a damaged canvas. I don’t much like that picture and this shirt is ruined anyway. But Noah, I warn you…”
“No time for that, Hol. We need to do this thing…before we chicken out, okay?”
He took a deep breath, and heard her taking a matching one.
She let it out to whisper, “This is so stupid. Why in the world I let you talk me into these things, I’ll never know.”
“Run!” Noah shouted.
About the Author:
K.G. McAbee has had more than a dozen books and nearly a hundred short stories published. Her work has won a variety of awards, including the Dorothy Parker Award of Excellence, Writers’ Journal Fiction Contest, Independent E-Book Award for Best Reference Book, and the Dream Realm Award for Best YA Fantasy; she is also a Derringer Award finalist in mystery. She writes steampunk, science fiction, pulp, mystery, horror and fantasy of various varieties including heroic, dark, paranormal, and young adult. With Cynthia Witherspoon—they write as Cynthia Gael—K.G. is co-author of, among other things, BRASS AND BONE, a steampunk novella published by Carina Press, an e-division of Harlequin. K.G. lives in upstate South Carolina in a log cabin built in 1816 with a gorgeous husband, two spoiled dogs and an ever-burgeoning supply of books. She’s a voracious reader of everything, and is also extremely partial to scifi, horror and historical movies, comic books and conventions where she can dress up as her steampunk persona, Lady Abigail Moran. For more information, visit her website at http://kgmcabee.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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