The Lily Cafe is thrilled to present author Elizabeth Lo and her debut YA Dark Fantasy novel The Midnight Before Me!
Title: The Midnight Before Me
Author: Elizabeth Lo
Publisher: Westbrook Publishing
Publication date: October 9, 2019
Genre: YA, Dark Fantasy
HOW MUCH IS A LIFE WORTH? WHEN THE WORLD DEMANDS AN ANSWER WE ALL SCRAMBLE TO FIND ONE.
My name is Midnight Thunder. The town crazy person; the Demon Eyes girl. The girl whose existence rests on a curse that saves her from death yet sets her on a path to an inevitable end.
I live in a world full of magic: spells, curses, enchantments, and everything in between. It would be a whimsical place, but, like anything, it’s imperfect. Little by little, my own country has begun to fall apart beneath its own mistakes. The queen’s gone a little bit more than mad, our military has collapsed, and of course, the only way to break the deadly curse at the root of it all is to sacrifice… me.
“Come on, now… Midnight…” says the fiery-bearded old man through gritted teeth. As if he doesn’t even want to admit that I have a name.
There’s a knife in my hands. The instructions I was given prior to today flicker in and out of my head.
When I tell you, I want you to point the knife at this artery in your neck—that’s right, that one—and just sink it in there. The rest will all happen on its own.
But my hands shake, and the knife clatters to the floor. The pairs of eyes looking down at me are like spears telling me to surrender before my redheaded foe.
Why am I here? Why me? Why couldn’t it have been some other girl brought here? I never heard about this until yesterday morning.
How long have I been here? Trapped in this stuffy room, cornered. I have only one choice, and it’s a choice I don’t want to make.
“Do you need help, Midnight,” the man standing in front of me says for the nth time.
Everyone else, sitting in high theatre-like seats, look perpetually bored, each checking their watches or tapping their pens or doing some form of impatient twitching.
“Felicius,” one of them says. “Please stop wasting our time. You’ve been exiled for… what? A couple centuries, maybe? We’ll lift your sentence now, okay? No need to go to these lengths with this… ‘Arimean Eye Experiment’ stuff.”
A few more pen taps. A few more checks of a watch.
“NO!” Felicius shouts, startling everyone in the room. “NO! It… This isn’t about my exile, you blubbering buffoons! This is something… so much more…” His eyes shine with passion and greed. “This is about the course of humanity! This is about a new era of undying beings!”
A woman in the back slams her hands on the table and stands up abruptly.
“Mr. Harvey.” The frustration is as clear as glass shards in her voice. “We’ve been here for two hours, and nothing has happened. You shouldn’t tamper with the natural lifespan anyway—your own body is proof! Return this poor little girl to her parents, and please… just leave this whole case be.”
Felicius visibly shakes underneath his Ronumese robes.
“You Galvies just don’t understand! Neither you nor your dead Fantastique king!” he spits. “You’re all just afraid of change happening to your illusion of a perfect world! But it’s inevitable! We must work to further develop humanity as a whole! You all say it yourselves! ‘Preparation is key! Preparation is key!’ Then, let us prepare ourselves for the future!”
His voice is almost hysterical. His eyes a little too wild.
Even Mr. Harvey doesn’t seem to believe what he’s saying. Yet, why is he here, trying so hard?
A man in the front stands as well.
“Please. Calm yourself, Mr. Harvey,” he says coolly. “You’ve already… done whatever experiment to this girl… just get this presentation over with.”
A white-haired woman, sitting primly at the top of everyone, supervises the entire encounter. The Head Chairwoman of the Magic Council of Galviton, otherwise known as the Queen of Galviton, Glorieux Frost. Silver eyes that reflect all the light that hits them are dark with something more. Long, snowy hair drapes over her shoulders, and her face is almost ethereally beautiful. But it feels as if no one has noticed that she’s there.
No one will look her in the eye, just like they won’t quite look at me.
Grumbles flow through this room so well they could be confused with its natural acoustic. It’s only when they all silence themselves, as they lay their eyes on the silver knife slipping out from Felicius’s robes do I realize how hollow this room really is.
His feet squeak across the smooth marble floor. His robe rustles as he moves.
Sharp blue eyes tower over mine.
A streak of silver crosses my vision just as a deadly piece of metal drives its way towards my heart. My hands cross in front of me a few milliseconds too late.
The tip of his knife dips under my guard and slips through my ribs. I feel my breath cinch and see the knife sink into my flesh and tear through my chest.
Blood stains my formal dress and then paints the clean marble floor as he yanks the knife out, no longer shiny, but glistening with my blood.
“This is why I should have never released you or your God-damned brother!”
At first, I don’t feel anything. I simply watch the blood gush out of me like wine from a barrel.
Then the world goes dark at the edges while brightening at the same time as the marble floor tilts and smacks me in the face.
I wake up just a few feet away. I’m shaking. No, I’m bouncing. My head is electric. I can’t breathe, yet I’m breathing too much. The world is blurry… or maybe I’m spinning around too fast.
I’m naked, stripped of my dignity as well as my clothes. Exposed.
The shocked, silent stares of the people around me seem to stab me in the heart a second time. Why does Felicius’s grin go from ear to ear like that?
Stop it. Stop it, stop—
One pair of eyes brings my confusion to a ringing standstill.
That white-haired woman. The Queen. Her silver eyes, as shiny as the blade right before it pierced my chest, dance with some unknown emotion. Curiosity? Fascination? Pity? I can’t look away.
“See?” Felicius yells, a hint of madness glinting in his eyes. “She’s still alive, isn’t she? We could create a new race of humans! A superior race that can live beyond death!”
“How could you?” someone yells across the room.
“You killed her!”
“I did no such thing!” Felicius hollers, becoming more and more agitated.
But their voices sound distant to me over the thundering beats of my heart—my heart that isn’t supposed to be beating. The eyes. The eyes are what hold my attention. That make the thumping go faster and faster. All looking at me. Me, whom I thought was just like everyone else.
Some eyes that look at me are intrigued. Intrigued?
“But look… she’s still alive,” some mutter.
Still alive? Still alive?! I want to yell, but nothing comes out.
I can’t focus on anything. My knees slam the cold stone floor, and a slippery liquid touches my finger.
My head shakes as it turns.
Metallic, gunmetal hair. Wide open, ugly fuchsia eyes. A red rose of blood on the side of her chest and hair, soaking in a puddle of red, so dark it could be black. Her fingers start to glow and dissipate in the air, as if the world is erasing her existence already.
It’s me. But I’m over here.
A wail starts around the room. A scream that makes my ears hurt as I hear it.
It’s my own scream; I’m trembling so much that the world is out of focus.
They keep muttering. They keep staring.
Staring and staring and staring and staring and staring and…
Stop it. Stop staring.
“DON’T LOOK AT ME!” I scream, my voice bouncing on the walls.
All I see are their eyes, their eyes, their eyes. Watching me.
I can’t breathe.
I’m breathing too much.
My heart has stopped.
My heart is beating too fast.
Their eyes. Their eyes that form walls that press against me. Eyes that tell me, “You’re not human.” Eyes that say, “Monster.”
Trapped. I feel trapped.
Gasps and murmurs start echoing through the room, and soon, Felicius starts to bristle in anger.
They’re staring still.
Striking blue eyes meet mine and cast a chill through my spine as Felicius Harvey jerks my head up with a hand gripped tightly on my hair. The screaming stops and is replaced with whimpering. An embarrassing, pathetic sound.
“This was a mistake,” he says. “You were a mistake.”
And that was the day my world shattered.
Excerpted from The Midnight Before Me by Elizabeth Lo, Copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Lo. Published by Westbrook Publishing.
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The author of this book, Elizabeth Lo, retains all rights to the excerpt published above, which may not be copied, reproduced, modified, sold, or distributed without the author’s express permission. To contact Elizabeth Lo to request permission to utilize the above excerpts, please send your inquiry to Kat via the Contact page.
Thank you so much, Elizabeth! Your debut novel sounds fascinating!