Jude Sprocket has been a pirate her whole life. Taken in by a man who found her alone on a distant planet at the age of seven, all she has to remember of her past life is the loss of her hand – the vague memory of a race through the woods and a bloody aftermath.
Now, her father recently dead, seventeen-year old Jude has inherited his spaceship – Hourglass. Determined to get off Earth and continue her father’s legacy of piracy, she assembles a crew and takes to the stars.
But more than abandoned ships and hidden treasure await Jude in the vast void of space. She’s haunted by dreams of a distant land, children hiding in the shadows, and a little girl she somehow feels the need to find.
When Jude and her crew stumble across an uncharted planet, curiosity gets the better of them and they land, unaware of the dangers that wait. Suddenly, Jude’s worst nightmares are coming true. The monsters she feared in the dark, the children that haunt her mind, the little girl from her dreams – and the planet she was never meant to leave.
BUY THE BOOK
Spaceships and Stars
“Second star to the right,
and straight on ‘till morning”
- J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
The monsters hide in the dark. In the spaces between trees, between boughs, and under the water. In the spaces between fantasy and reality, the monsters hide in the dimmest corners of my mind. I know this as I run through the thick woods, the dark enveloping me from every side, my imagination taking flight and filling my mind with images and scenarios too horrible to dwell on. So I run faster, as if I can outrun them.
He used to tell us stories. Tell us of the monstrosities, the evil and malicious things that made up the spaces your eyes couldn’t see. How the dark not only hid but created the monsters, how the dark was the most evil thing we could ever know. And yet the dark was his playground.
I race through the trees, faster this time, although I have no idea where I’m going. Where can I go? It’s too dark, too thick, too small—there’s nowhere I can go. I fumble through the dark, wishing my eyes to see something, anything, and yet there’s barely a moon outside, no light at all, nothing to see. But then my foot catches on something—a root, a rock, a log—and I skid to the ground, my palms stinging as they scrape against the rough underbrush. I cry out but then clamp my teeth together so hard they hurt, bringing a hand to my mouth. He’s here. I know he’s here. I scramble to my feet, trying not to make a sound, not to step too loudly, not to breathe. I patter across the uneven ground, my bare feet aching as they brush across rocks and thorns and brambles.
And then something grabs my foot and I scream, all the ghoulish images of his monsters appearing in my head. Their hideous faces, their claws, fangs, hunger for blood. I’m still screaming, every muscle alive with frantic terror and adrenaline as I claw at whatever has its hand grasped around my ankle. My fingernails dig into something soft, smooth—skin—and I hear a noise—somewhere between a moan and a word, and I realize that it’s no monster, but it’s him. He’s here, he’s found me. My veins light on fire as I yank my ankle free and scuffle through the dirt before getting to my feet. I dart through the woods, my breathing too loud to tell whether he’s behind me or not, so I keep going. Finally my lungs feel like they’re going to give out, so I slide to a stop, clinging to the tree nearest me, leaning back and sinking to the ground. I try to slow my breathing, straining my ears for any hint of movement.
And then I hear it. He’s calling my name. He says it in such an awful way. It drips with syrup, the kind that’s too sweet, the kind that kills. I don’t hear his footsteps. He’s too quiet, he always has been. I squeeze my eyes shut, feeling the urge to whimper. I feel it gurgling up my throat, so I smack my hand to my mouth, trying with all my might to hold it inside me.
“Jude,” he whispers and I feel his breath brush against my ear. I shriek and dodge away, but I don’t have time, I don’t have time. I see a light flash out of the corner of my eye, something bright and glorious, something that stirs hope fluttering through my chest like a breath of air in a room without oxygen. But I can’t quite remember what it is...I’m hoping for. He sees it too, the light shining, coming close, almost reaching him and I can hear the tone of his voice changing, I can imagine the curl of his lip, the darkening in his eyes. “You don’t get away that easily,” he snarls, reaching for me, any part of me. I swirl away, dodging his grasp. But there’s something else. Something sharp, something I don’t recognize before it’s too late. He swings blindly at me, fury coiling around his every movement and suddenly I feel pain. Pain so fresh, so strong, so blinding. The air is knocked out of my lungs. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I can barely register anything as warm blood coats my arm and my torso.
My hand falls to the ground. And I scream. The covers around me are warm and sticky and it takes me frantically long seconds to realize its sweat and not blood coating my bed sheets. My chest heaves, my heart beating like a ticking time bomb, faster and faster. I pull both of my hands out from under the blankets and hold them up in front of me in the dim lighting. Both there, only one of them is real—pulsing with blood and living flesh. I stare down at my prosthetic hand, black and matte. I still don’t remember what happened to the real one. I just have vague dreams of something horrible, something I expel from my mind every time it tries to worm its way back in. Even my parents don’t remember. Or...didn’t.
Suddenly I feel like I can’t breathe and I jump from the bed, the cold air hitting me like a wave of ice. I run across the room, flicking the lights on. I go from wall to wall, to the bathroom, to the entryway of my small hotel room, until every light is turned on, glaring brightness into the tiny room. I cradle my hand—the fake one—against my chest, closing my eyes and biting my lip. Dad always told me it must have been an accident. That I must have fallen, or that something had smashed it. I wish he was here now.
I crawl back into bed, pulling the covers up over me. I stare at the light on my bedside table. Dad used to sleep in the bed across the room from me. He snored, but I never minded. The ship we lived in was so small that families only got one room each. And he used to leave the lights on even though I know it bothered him. I wonder at how he got any sleep at all. At least one light would always be burning throughout the night—a light I could see if I ever woke up. Lights everywhere, in every hallway of the ship.
Because he knew I had always been afraid of the dark.