When I was ten years old, I fell in love with the idea of having a pen pal. Email didn’t really exist back then – the internet was something I’d heard of only in abstract conversation. We certainly didn’t own a computer at home and those we had at school were hulking white boxes with bulging screens and the processing power of a slice of bread. You weren’t allowed to type on them unless you’d written your work out first. The written word was key.
I had excellent handwriting. I prided myself on my small, neat lettering. And I loved to write – I loved to fill a page with words! I loved ruling up margins and tables. I was probably a very strange child.
But when I read about the idea of having a pen pal in a wonderful book called The Haunted Trail, I thought it was the best idea ever. It sounded so romantic, somehow – talking to someone you’d never met, someone from the other side of the world. Plus there was the excitement of getting letters addressed to me in our letterbox. (As I said, I was a strange child.) Apart from my subscription to a kid’s science magazine, everything that came was for my mum and dad – and they were never happy to receive mail.
It took me until I moved out of home – and got an electricity and gas account, phone account and internet account in my name – to understand this aversion to mail. You start to hate envelopes with your name printed on them when they’re stuffed with pieces of paper telling you how much money you owe!
The science magazine that I had a subscription to ran a little column in the back for people looking for penpals, so I wrote in to them. And, miraculously, a letter arrived for me one day in a pink envelope. Her name was Emily and she lived in Queensland.
I don’t remember what we wrote about. I can’t imagine my life was particularly interesting at that stage, and, eventually, inevitably, we stopped writing. But anyway, thinking about it now in this world, where everything has changed, it seems almost bizarre.
It wasn’t that long ago, but the world has changed. Communication is immediate, now. There’s no waiting. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I love it. I can’t imagine how I used to live in a world without home computers and mobile phones.
I don’t know how I would do my work these days if I couldn’t email it through as soon as it’s done. Or if I couldn’t look up reference photos for paintings. Or type up my writing, as I am right now, on my laptop. But it’s something we often don’t think about. And I wonder how many kids these days have actual pen pals. I wonder if it’s as exciting to find a new message in your Inbox as it is to find a pink envelope in your letterbox, knowing it’s travelled physically across the country rather than being reduced to pixels and shot off through the ether. I wonder if maybe, in gaining this immediacy of communication, we’ve lost something else.
Across the Bridge of Ice
The Bridges Trilogy
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Hague Publishing
Date of Publication: 31 January 2015
Number of pages: 175 pages
Word Count: 55,000
Cover Artist: Ruth Fox
In 'The City of Silver Light', Keira Leichman spent the night lost in a wild snowstorm that struck Cassidy Heights. But what really happened that night? Not even Keira can be sure. What she does know is that she's been having strange dreams since the accident, and now she's stuck with a broken ankle and the possibility of never playing soccer again. That is, until she finds Jake's telescope, and is drawn across the Bridge of Ice to Shar.
Now Keira is marooned in the City of Silver Light with Daniel, Jake’s younger brother, with no way to get home. But that is the least of their worries, for the secrets they discover in Shar are more dangerous than Kiera could ever have imagined. And the fate of both their worlds are in their hands.
Excerpt 3 – Chapter 6 (460 words)
THE strange dreams come again, full of sharp white ice. It slices my skin whenever I move. Those voices, a woman’s and a man’s, echo in my ears.
‘... will be sentenced to time in the cell beneath the Chambers. It’s the only solution.’
‘I don’t like the idea ...’
‘But she’s broken the Edict! She needs to be punished.’
‘We can’t use the –.’
I don’t understand what they’re talking about.
I wake up a zombie. Mum has the day off and she makes me breakfast. It’s a rare treat, usually I’m left to fend for myself. It’s hardly gourmet food, just toast and vegemite, but it doesn’t taste quite right.
I push my plate away. It’s hard to care about food right now. All I can think about is the telescope and what happened last night with Molly. The telescope must have some kind of strange power.
But then … what happened with Baz? I touched his hand before Jake dropped the telescope. And those weird dreams have been happening for ages, ever since I hurt my ankle.
There must be something I’m missing. The best thing to do, the only thing to do, would be to ask Jake. But I can’t. He’d know I took his telescope if I did that. So once Mum leaves for work, I hobble back to my room feeling as if the telescope is calling to me.
I pick it up and run my fingers over its surface. I examine the imperfect circles of glass in both ends. I put my eye to it and aim it at the walls. I run it over the ceiling. I peer at my desk and the bits of lint on the carpet. I turn to the window.
And I gasp.
I’m looking at the sky above the hedge between our neighbour’s house and ours, and I’m seeing something that’s impossible. There are buildings and towers stretching up like the delicate pale fingers of angels, linked by a cobweb of bridges as fine as lace. I can’t believe it. It’s an entire city hanging in the sky.
I lower the telescope and blink my eyesrapidly.
Nope. It’s definitely gone but … I know it’s still there. And, somehow, it seems perfectly natural for it to be there.
Something inside me tingles. The sensation runs down through my injured leg and pools in my ankle, prickling the skin.
There’s something else ... the buildings … I’ve seen them up-close. I’ve stood beneath them, climbed their stairs, walked through their cavernous rooms. It’s almost like … I can remember what it’s like to be there.
In the city.
The white light from my dreams, it’s not white at all. It’s silver.
About the Author:
Ruth completed a Bachelor of Arts/Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing in 2006. Her other published works include “Monster-boy: The Lair of the Grelgoroth”, Book 1 of the Monster-boy Series, and “Sand Dog”, an illustrated picture book for younger readers. Both are available from Amazon.com.
Ruth has been an avid reader her entire life and, inspired by the books that engrossed her as she was growing up, she aims to create stories that can draw readers in and enthral them for days or weeks. She writes every day and lives in Ballarat, Victoria, with her partner, her cat, and an ever-expanding library of books.