This month’s Round Robin is to share a flash fiction story, a short story, or to present an excerpt from one of our books. Well, I’ve chosen one excerpt from my upcoming release Snow Spirits: Children of the Wild Book 2. This book has been more than two years in the making. I had hoped to release it before Christmas, but best laid plans . . . It was a challenge to research (hours and hours down the rabbit hole) and a challenge to write. It was workshopped and then sent through another beta crit readers group. The result, in my opinion, is the best book I’ve written so far. If you enjoy shapeshifters and far off lands, love stories, and adventure, watch for Snow Spirits late January/early February 2020.
Not quite human, not quite animal, and isolated in a tiny village in the Qílián Shān mountain range, Lin Xuě just hopes to survive and live in peace.
When her parents insist she marry Kwan Bao, a young man from a neighboring village, her life is overturned. Bao is handsome, gentle, and unlike any man she’s ever met.
But, with the Great Famine in full swing and Chairman Mao’s oppressive presence felt in every inch of China, Xuě and Bao find themselves running for their lives across the Asia continent with the People’s Liberation Army hot on their heels.
They stepped outside into brilliant sunshine, and all of the hairs on her body stood on end. Something wasn’t right. Loud, angry voices filtered back to them from the direction of the banquet. She recognized her father’s voice, but not the other male.
Xuě looked to Bao. His entire body tense, he grabbed her arm. Their gazes met. Without a word, she motioned for him to follow her. They circled around the back of her parents’ hut and slipped into the forest.
Retreating farther into the trees, they sneaked around the village until the banquet area came into view. A truck with eight to ten soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army with rifles at the ready stood next to the vehicle. An officer stood at the front of the soldiers and looked around the village as if searching for something. Her heart raced, and she shrunk back. Slipping her hand in Bao’s, she pulled them behind a tree and crouched down in the melting snow. A pit opened in her stomach.
Why were they in her village? Soldiers only arrived to take something, or someone, away.
Even from the distance, their conversation echoed loud and clear in her ears.
“Where is she? Where is your daughter?” the officer asked.
She peeked around the tree.
Her father bowed his head and said, “I don’t know.”
The man stepped closer to her father, towering over him, and scowled. “I don’t believe you. Tell me where she is, and you won’t be punished.”
Her father stared at the other man, his expression giving nothing away. “I don’t know.”
The officer stared at her father. “I will only ask one more time: Where is your daughter?”
“I don’t know. She went for a walk early this morning with her new husband, and she hasn’t returned yet.”
“You lie. This is their banquet feast. They wouldn’t miss this.” He turned to two of his soldiers. “Check their hut.”
“No,” her father protested. “They’re not there. I told you they left early this morning for a walk.”
The officer raised his arm and struck her father, who reeled and crumpled to the ground.
She gasped and rose, almost giving away their position, but Bao pulled her back, whispering in her ear, “No. They’re protecting us. The best thing we can do is leave.”
“If we’re gone, then your father isn’t lying. The officer may not punish him. We must leave before the soldiers find our wedding clothes.”
Fear rocketed through her. “The clothes will prove Father has lied.”
“No, they will prove we were married, but not when.” He pulled on her arm, and she turned to face him. “We must leave now.”
“Xuě, we must. What do you think will happen when they confront you?”
Xuě paused. She would freeze. Her yukihyō instincts ensured that. All of her life, she’d battled those instincts. Not once had she won, but maybe this time . . . “We can save them.”
“No, we can’t.” He grabbed her shoulders and captured her gaze. “Why do you think they’re looking for you?”
Her heart stuttered in her chest. Somehow, Mao knew. They knew about her. If they knew about her, then they knew about Bao, too, and possibly all of the others. Mao’s government had proven to be no more kind than the Japanese. Mao might kill them, but he might also do as the Japanese had done and experiment on them. He was right. They had to leave.
Behind them, someone said, “Zhōngwèi, the old man is telling the truth. They aren’t in the hut.”
“Then they are somewhere in this village. Search all of the huts,” the lieutenant ordered.
When they didn’t find them in the huts, they would search the forest. At least, the snow had melted enough to hide their tracks. And she knew this forest better than anyone.
“Come.” Bao’s whisper, a breath on the air, tickled her ear.
Xuě bowed her head and nodded. With one last glance at her parents and the village, she sprinted after him into the trees. He surged ahead of her. She picked up her pace. Their footfalls barely a murmur above the silence. Some minutes later, he stopped and turned to her, his eyebrows raised. This territory belonged to her. He could only lead them so far.
With a nod, she ran ahead through the trees, heading toward her hunting ground and the cave she used to get away from everyone to think.
A few gōnglǐ away, the cave would be a perfect hiding place. Above the scree, in a rock outcropping, it nestled between two large boulders. From a distance, it looked like the other rock formations around it. Not even an experienced tracker would find them let alone regular soldiers. They would disappear into the mountains, like ghosts.
In a few days, still unable to find their quarry, the soldiers would give up and move on. Then they could return to the village and check on their parents.
Her spirits lifted, and she smiled. Plans of returning home and then continuing on to Bao’s village spun in her head. The comforting sound of her husband’s light rasping breath urged her forward.
They’d covered about a quarter of the distance to the cave when a shot rang out. Its echo ricocheted through the silent forest. A second shot followed by a third and a fourth then multiple shots reverberated in her ears. Xuě stumbled. Bao caught her and pulled her into his arms, turning her to press her face into his chest. She clung to him.
The unasked question hung between them.
She looked up into his face. All color had drained from it. He nodded. She didn’t need to witness what had happened. In her heart, she knew. Her entire village was dead because of her and what she was—what the Japanese had made her and her new husband. Because their family had protected them, their blood now seeped into the earth, their lives but a memory.
Her knees buckled. Bao clasped her to his chest, supporting her.
“We can’t stay here. We must leave,” he said, but he didn’t move. Instead, his arms tightened around her. His chest expanded and shuddered under her cheek.
She closed her eyes. “I know.”
Her whispered words caught on a sob, but she couldn’t cry. She didn’t have time to cry. Once they reached the cave and they were safe, she would let her emotions take hold, but not now. Now, they had to escape.
Do you have a favorite book? Please let me know in the comments.
Please visit the other authors who are participating in this month’s and find out how their characters come to life: