Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Jeremiah Watkins and the Four-Year Space Adventure - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

            “Alright, the hidden camera man is ready to go,” said Goaty from inside Jeremiah’s closet. Only a portion of his head showed through the door crack.
            “Your sister is going to kill you when she finds out you took her iPhone,” said Myra who held her promise to keep the meeting a secret. She sat on Jeremiah's bed.
            “No, she won’t. I got plenty of juicy information from her texts with Cal—enough to blackmail her for a whole year,” responded Goaty with glee.
            “Myra, you have to find someplace to hide,” interrupted Jeremiah. He paced around his room rubbing the sweat from his fingers.
            “I don’t want to hide,” said Myra.
            “You have to!” said Jeremiah. “If she sees you here, she’ll get upset.”
            “She? Don’t you mean ‘it’?” asked Myra. “Does this alien chick have a name?”
            “Jessenia,” said Jeremiah.
            “Jessenia?” responded Myra. “That doesn’t sound like an alien name. This might just be some crazy stalker sneaking in through your window.”
            “I guess since you snuck in through the window twenty minutes ago, you must be the stalker,” said Goaty who smiled at his own cleverness.
            “Look, here—you’ll fit right under the bed,” said Jeremiah ignoring his friends’ bickering. They hadn’t let up on each other since their meeting at Goaty’s house.
            “Ugh,” groaned Myra who made sure to express her disapproval as she slid beneath Jeremiah’s bed.
            “Okay, shush—it’s almost time,” said Jeremiah turning out the lights.
            He jumped into bed.
            “Ow! Watch out!” yelled Myra.
            “Sorry, I forget I’m a lot bigger than I used to be,” said Jeremiah apologizing.
            “If you guys keep making noise Jeremiah’s mom is gong to walk in,” said Goaty. “You have to be more like me—the ninja of cinematography!”
            “Shut up, Goaty,” said Jeremiah and Myra together.
            The room went quiet. Moonlight crept in through the curtains, casting shadows everywhere. Jeremiah examined the familiar shapes around him: the old dinosaur poster he put up in fourth grade, his school books on the desk beneath the window, the basketball hoop shaped hamper his mom got him the previous year. Everything seemed normal, but he didn’t feel that way. He still hadn’t gotten used to his new body and he couldn’t go anywhere without people whispering and staring. Lots of his old friends stopped talking to him. Even the teachers shot him odd looks when they thought he wasn’t looking. Now he laid in bed waiting for a being from out of space to help him figure out why everything changed. The world just turned upside down.
            Jeremiah’s eyes landed on a frame hanging from the wall. A heavy shadow kept him from making out the person in the photo, but he could perfectly recall the image in his mind. He even had a picture of it in his phone so he could look at it anytime. Though Jeremiah had never met his dad, he often wished he’d never left him and his mom alone.
            The moonlight seemed to glow brighter, revealing the dark features of the man in the photograph.
            “I think something’s happening guys,” said Goaty with a slight quiver in his voice.
            “Be quiet,” whispered Jeremiah. “Remember not to make any noise.”
            “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap,” said Goaty. “This is happening!”
            “Shh!” hissed Myra from her hiding spot.
            The brightness of the room grew so intense Jeremiah checked to see if his mom had flipped on the light switch. A high-pitched whine filled his ears and then died down after a few seconds. The room fell back into near total darkness. A purple glow emanated from the foot of the bed. Standing there was Jessenia.
            Her violet skin radiated. Silky straight black hair fell to her shoulders, framing her facial features like pulled-back curtains. Eyes bluer than the sky sat atop her high cheekbones. She wore a tight, dark suit with metal guards on her chest, arms and legs. Every part of her emanated a soft, purple light.
            “It’s time to go,” she said in a voice that made Jeremiah want to jump up and join her on an adventure.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Jeremiah Watkins and the Four-Year Space Adventure - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

            “Is she pretty?” said Goaty.
            “Pretty? What does that have to do with anything I just told you?” said Jeremiah.
            “I don’t know about you, Jer, but if a strange alien girl is visiting my room at night I would be freaking out…unless she was pretty,” Goaty added, a goofy smile spreading on his face.
            Jeremiah sighed. His best friend somehow found ways to miss the point of most serious conversations. In fact, Jeremiah wasn’t always sure why he and Goaty remained friends, but they had been since Kindergarten. At least Goaty had one good quality: the ability to keep a secret.
            “She said that the universe depends on me and I have to go with her,” said Jeremiah.
            Goaty laughed out loud. His chubby cheeks giggled with the rest of his body.
            “That’s what she said!” said Jeremiah, defending his statement.
            “Look, man, are you sure you’re not dreaming all of this up?” asked Goaty. “Don’t you think it’s a little ridiculous that some alien girl is coming to your room at night saying you have to leave with her to save the world?”
            “The universe.” Jeremiah corrected.
            “Whatever. The point is that you’re probably hallucinating all this. Maybe all the medicines you’re taking are getting to your head,” replied Goaty.
            “Then at least hide in the room and you could see for yourself,” said Jeremiah.
            “Fine, but if I’m doing this, I’m going to videotape it. If this is true, I could be famous. I’ll be the first person in the world to prove aliens exist!” said Goaty wide-eyed.
            “And I’ll finally figure out why I look like a geeky seventeen-year-old.”
“Better than a geeky thirteen-year-old,” said Goaty. “Anyway, come on. I bet my mom’s done cooking dinner.”
            The pair got up from Goaty’s beanbag chairs. Their body types strongly contrasted with one another. Goaty’s head only reached Jeremiah’s chest. His yellow and orange striped shirt barely covered his pudgy belly. On the other hand, Jeremiah stood tall and lanky. His clothes hung off him like a rag on a mop stick.
            Jeremiah swung open the door leading to the upstairs hallway.
            “Ow!” said a girl’s voice as the door bounced off something hard.
            The boys opened to see whom they hit. Myra, Goaty’s sister’s friend, lay propped against the far wall rubbing her forehead.
            “Myra!” yelled Goaty. “What are you doing? Were you listening to our conversation?”
            “I can do whatever I feel like,” she said defiantly, brushing a strand of dark brown hair from her face.
            “Tell me what you heard or I’ll tell my sister you snuck a peek at her diary,” threatened Goaty.
            “If you do that, I’ll tell everyone at school that you sniff your own dirty underwear.”
            “Ew! That’s gross. I don’t do that,” said Goaty.
            “I don’t care. Every one will believe me,” said Myra with a smug look of victory.
            “I really hate you; you know that?” said Goaty.
            “Good,” said Myra.
            “Come on, Goaty. Let’s just go. I’m sure she didn’t hear anything,” said Jeremiah, grabbing his friend’s shoulders and urging him forward.
             The pair reached the top of the stairs when Myra called out, “I wonder what your mom will say when she finds out you’re leaving on a space adventure with some stranger that sneaks into your room.”
            Jeremiah froze mid-step. He jerked back to face Myra. “You wouldn’t tell her. She wouldn’t believe you,” said Jeremiah.
            “Maybe. Maybe not,” she said. “I guess we’ll find out.”
            “You can’t. I need to find out what happened to me,” explained Jeremiah.
            “Fine,” said Myra, “but only if you take me with you.”
            “No way, Jose!” said Goaty, piercing Myra with a furrowed-brow stare.
            “Fine,” said Jeremiah.
            “Wha—” began Goaty, but his friend put a hand up, stopping him mid-sentence.
            “But you can’t tell anyone,” finished Jeremiah.
            “You have my word,” said Myra pretending to lock her lips with a key.
               Goaty shook his head. “This is going to be a disaster,” he mumbled.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Jeremiah Watkins and the Four-Year Space Adventure – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

           Jeremiah Watkins hung his head as he walked out of a doctor’s examination room for the 132nd time in the previous three months. The doctors kept saying nothing like this had ever happened in the history of anything. As far as they could tell, he didn’t have cancer or progeria or any other life threatening illness. They ran tests nearly everyday hoping to figure out what was wrong. The only thing anyone knew was that one night Jeremiah went to bed like any other normal thirteen-year-old and woke up the next day looking like a seventeen-year-old.
            Imagine his surprise when he opened his eyes and saw two enormous feet hanging over the foot of his bed. At first he thought maybe his older brother, Max, crawled into the wrong room and fell asleep next to him. His hands swatted the spaces beside him looking for the rest of Max’s body but no one appeared. Jeremiah’s brain grew into a jelly-filled mush of confusion while the large, knobby feet just hung there.
            It wasn’t until he sat up that he realized the feet moved with him. When he thought about wiggling his toes, the curly digits waved at him. Jeremiah snapped out of bed and ran to the bathroom mirror. He nearly tripped as vertigo sabotaged his senses. Every object in the room seemed smaller, as if he had eaten Alice’s special cake from Wonderland.
            The mirror didn’t help his sense of shock. Islands of dark hair skirted his heavy jawline. Sharp cheekbones jutted outward beneath his familiar green eyes. A thick, wavy swath of oak colored locks framed his rugged features. Although clothes he’d never seen before covered the rest of his body, he could see muscle definition where none had existed.
Despite noticing his own resemblance, Jeremiah felt like a stranger stood before him. So, he did the only thing any thirteen-year-old grown man would do at that point.
            “Mom!” he screamed.
            At first, his mother, Daylin, thought a burglar had snuck into her son’s room. She yelled, desperately racing to find a phone to call the police. After much pleading and begging on Jeremiah’s part, Daylin stopped to look. Slowly she discovered the features of her little boy hidden behind the teary-eyed teenager kneeling before her. Not long after, they jumped in her car. She couldn’t stop staring at him on their way to the hospital. After convincing the nurses they weren’t getting pranked, Jeremiah saw a doctor for the first time since his transformation.
             Sometime after the 47th hospital appointment, Jeremiah received a surprise visit. The visitor literally appeared while he lay in bed one night, claiming to know exactly why Jeremiah had aged so quickly. It turned out the visitor wasn’t from earth. In fact, she wasn’t from the Milky Way galaxy either. More importantly, Jeremiah Watkins quickly found out this wasn’t her first visit.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mia - Untitled (Chapter 2)

** I've come back to this story several times, feeling like this might be the one I'll flesh out all the way through. It's tough deciding what character features will appeal to a YA audience. Still, I'm enjoying the process. I suspect these chapters will look very different in the end. If you have any thoughts about direction please feel free to comment. You can find Chapter 1 here.

Mia - Untitled

Chapter 2

            I wish I hadn’t agreed to serve on the Back-to-School Greeting Committee. As if the first day of seventh grade wasn’t hard enough, now I had to be at school an hour early and with my cheeriest voice—as Mrs. Bruce liked to emphasize—tell the sixth graders to ‘Have a happy first-day of middle school!’ What I should probably do is urge them to run back home before the older kids chew them up and spit out their bones.   
Somehow I survived sixth grade, but if it hadn’t been for Julia and Khareem, I wouldn’t have. They had moms they could run to on bad days; I didn’t. I only had them, and my dad, I guess, but he and I seem to speak different languages. Some days I wish I could just lie in my comfy pink bed and never get up again. But at least I would get to see my friends today and that beats sitting in my room all alone.
When I finally arrive downstairs, the smell of burnt toast suffocates me. My dad had, once again, decided to cook breakfast even though I urged him not to—for obvious reasons.
“Good morning, Caterpillar. You ready for the first day of school?” says Dad. He runs from one side of the kitchen wearing oven mittens on one hand and holding a sizzling pan in the other.
“Could you please call me something else? I’m not six anymore,” I respond.
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot. You’re twelve now and too cool for your dad,” he says.
“No, Dad. I’m just not six,” I say, staring at the charred bacon strips on the plate he places before me.
“Are you not excited to see your friends again?” he asks.
“I guess,” I say gloomily. “I’m just not excited to see everyone else.”
“Well, maybe you should perk up. Let people see your smile and they’ll start liking you.”
“I wish it were that easy,” I say.
“Just try a little harder, Caterpillar.”
I don’t even respond. This is where most of our conversations end, with me getting blamed for not trying hard enough.
“Do you want Mary-Ann to take you to school? She’s on her way to the clinic, which is in the same direction.”
“No, it’s okay,” I say, wondering whether I should skip breakfast altogether.
“You sure?” he says.
“Yes,” I say, getting up and placing my plate on the counter.
I grabbed a piece of toast, the least-burnt I could find, gave my dad a hug, and walked toward the door.
“Oh, hi, Caterpillar. You’re leaving for school already?” says my stepmom as I walk past her on the staircase.
            “Yep. Bye Mary-Ann,” I say, closing the door behind me without looking back.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Currently Untitled: Chapter 1

Currently Untitled
(Based on the drawing “Lepus constellation”)

Chapter 1: The Moon Glen

She prowled beneath the massive wolf’s chest, crouching on her knees and elbows. The caw of the Black Crow snapped her into high alert. Slender, pale, and naked, covered by nothing but her long, flowing chestnut-blonde hair and a small pelt of rabbit’s fur, Lepus Luna felt safe beneath the sinewy beast. She sensed the warmth flowing from his thick, dark fur furl around her like a heavy cloak.
The Wolf pointed his ears in the direction of the screech to gather information. His long snout carefully drew in clues from the still air. He did not fear the Black Crow. He thought only of his singular devotion: to protect the gentle being hiding below him. Standing seven feet high while on all fours, few monsters posed any threat to the Wolf, but the phantoms that called the Immortal Forest their home used many tricks to capture prey.
In the distance, the caw of the half-bird, half-man poltergeist bounded over trees, carried on by the graying skies, to reach the Wolf’s ears a second time. The whimper of the delicate forest nymph cut through the guttural sounds coming from his throat. He snorted.
She stood up, standing behind the Wolf, staring past his bared teeth in the direction of the sound. Her tiny heart beat like the flap of fairy wings. Bright, blue eyes widened with fearful anticipation. Few times had Lepus Luna heard the call of the Black Crow, but each time marked the death of a woodland being.
The Wolf nudged her face with his long snout. Sensing his thoughts, she grabbed onto the fur around his neck, pulling herself onto his back with great agility. Her body sank into his thick coat, completely covered except for her face, which she held up, staring in the direction of danger. The Wolf sped away, anticipating the forest rather than seeing it, jumping over fallen trees and avoiding overhanging branches. The pair fled to a safer part of the woods, but soon, such a thing would not be found.

Lepus Luna sprang off the Wolf as it skidded to a halt near the hills of the Moon Glen—miles from where they heard the Crow’s call. Bright green moss and grasses covered the mounds of dirt and shale prominent in that part of the forest. Some of these formed large hills, peppered with oak, ash, and cherry trees, as well as unknown species native to that region. Paths and trails cut through bushes and undergrowth, which the pair now followed toward the brook that split the glen in half.
Tiny, white bunnies sprang out from the grasses as Lepus Luna glided by. They bounced beneath her, vying to touch her gentle skin. The Wolf ignored his desire to snatch them into his greedy throat. A bulky, green mound, the size of a cabin confronted them, and the girl put her hand on it. The grass around her hand sensed the warmth of her skin and stretched like tendrils toward it. Lepus Luna closed her eyes and muttered soft words that few could understand.
The hill awoke. The ground moved and quaked. Surrounding mounds of dirt and grass dislodged themselves, trees still rooted to their backs, revealing the underbelly of the glen. Eight legs of rock and soil lifted the wilderness, like a mountainous, earth-spider carrying a chunk of nature on its back. The mound Lepus Luna touched now formed part of what appeared to be a head, staring down. The glen shuddered, then roared at the visitors, sending the tiny rabbits scurrying beneath the Wolf.
The pair did not flinch. They watched as the mass of earth stood, revealing a shallow indent in the ground that the brook filled with diverted water from its stream. The water took on a silvering glint, yet it reflected nothing. The girl and the wolf walked toward the tiny pool, waiting for the surface to settle into a sheet of glass. Lepus Luna jumped in. The Wolf followed.
The world around them turned an amorphous white and gray. A cool breeze blew across the plain landscape, shifting the pale colors that hung in the air like strands of hair. Nothing recognizable appeared—no sky, no ground, and no forest. The Wolf and the girl marched through the nothingness. In the distance, a form, like a descending bird, appeared.
“Luna,” the form said as it took the shape of a woman clothed in gray.
At the sound of the woman’s voice the Wolf shrank to the size of a pup. A bunny that had somehow managed to stowaway in its fur jumped off in fright, multiplying in size until it landed with a thud as if a boulder hit the ground. It bounced away on massive hind legs. Lepus Luna, who had worn nothing but a tiny pelt of fur across her back, now wore a metallic, flowing dress. A thin tiara crowned her fragile, beautiful head.
“We heard your cry, Luna. What torments you?” asked the woman with a voice like a choir.
Luna watched the figure approach. It seemed as if the edges of her shape fluttered whenever the cool breeze strengthened.
“Madame Magdala, I heard the call of the Black Crow again today. I heard it twice,” said Luna. Her voice shimmered in the space between her and the lithe figure.
“From what direction, Dear One,” Magdala responded.
“From the North,” said Luna. “You must come help. I fear the Crow-Men have finally gotten what they have been after.”
“You know we can no longer take form in the Forest. The Black Crow has seen to that.”
“Then help us find the White Horse and his Rider. He shall rescue us.”
“Do not be so na├»ve, Lepus Luna,” said Magdala sternly. “They have not known our world in ten thousand years.”
The timbre of Magdala’s voice sent the pup-Wolf scurrying beneath Luna’s dress.
“But you know how to reach them,” coerced Luna.
“Speak no more of that. You shall find the place from which you heard the Black Crow and follow their tracks to the Moby. Steal back what they took from the Bloodless Ones.”
“But Madame, no one has ever penetrated the Crow-Men’s nest.”
“We do not need you to tell us what we already know. Follow our command, since for that reason you exist. When you have retrieved the Opal, return here at once.”
Magdala’s form took the shape of a cyclone. She moved over Luna and the tiny Wolf who whimpered loudly. Luna shielded her face from the harsh wind, closing her eyes and falling to her knees. The wind suddenly stopped. She felt the grass beneath her and the heavy sound of the Wolf’s breathing beside her. They were back in the Moon Glen.
Luna rose, feeling a gentle touch of light rain on her exposed skin. The silvery dress had vanished and the Wolf returned to his typical stature. Around them, the glen appeared untouched, as if nothing had occurred. Some of the bunnies returned to play around Luna’s feet, birds sang mating songs in the canopy, and the brook gurgled a spell of peace, but none of this beauty registered in Luna’s mind.
She grabbed the Wolf’s mane and pulled herself up once again. She turned her head toward the North. Danger lay in that direction. If the Black Crow had managed to penetrate the temple of the Bloodless Ones and stolen the Opal, then no creature would be safe. The Opal held the power to transform—to create and destroy life. Not even she, a messenger of the gods, would have the strength to restrain its reign.

Somewhere deep inside Lepus Luna felt the returning desire to ignore her obligations. She shook her head and sighed. Uttering an imperceptible, high-pitched sound, the Wolf sprang to life, dashing past blurry green and brown shapes. They would arrive at nightfall.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mia - Untitled

**In the midst of working on the next short story, this came to me after hearing a devastating clip on the news about something a child accidentally did that took the life of a loved one. The target audience for this would be middle school aged children, especially those that carry heavy burdens. Clearly it's not finished, but was curious what some might think about the following:

Mia - Untitled

Chapter 1

     Every kid in my middle school seems to have some great claim to fame. Take Sandra’s dad. He works at the radio station. Sandra makes sure to remind us every morning during breakfast in the cafeteria: “Did you hear my dad’s new catch phrase?” “There must have been hundreds of people calling my dad on the show this morning.” “That joke he said about the dusty banana…I wrote that for him last night!”
     My best friend’s claim to fame is her stuffed dog. When Emily first told me about Fluffy I thought she owned a large toy dog. I even sat on it one day at her house, admiring how realistic his fur felt. Turns out the dog belonged to her parents when they were young and had a taxidermist preserve their dead pet; I nearly fell over. But for whatever reason, all my classmates think owning a dead dog gives you special status.
These things don’t just make you famous; they help kids deal with the hell of middle school. Khareem has an uncle who wields nunchucks professionally. For a guy, that’s about as cool as you get, which is why no one makes a lot fun of his really thick glasses. If Khareem didn’t wear his glasses, he would probably need a seeing-eye dog. That would only make him more popular.
Jaimee, of course, never gets picked on. She has everything: good grades, good looks, good parents. When we were in the sixth grade every single eighth-grade boy asked her out to the end-of-year dance—literally every single boy. They stood in a line out in the baseball field after physical education class one day and took turns inviting her. Of course, she said no to all of them except for Howie who uses a wheelchair to get around school. She’s just too perfect.
What do I have? Nothing—except for the nickname “Banshee.” It stuck when we learned in English class that a Banshee is a demon fairy that appears before someone dies. So everyone calls me that now, even some of the teachers. “There goes Banshee. Don’t let her cry around you or you’ll die next!” The teachers don’t actually say that, only some of the other kids, but I’m pretty sure everyone thinks it.
            They gave me the nickname when I first moved to Gettysburg from Hayden, Ohio. Somehow the whole school found out I was that two-year-old that appeared on the news crying in a shopping cart at a Walmart. A store clerk found me wailing, tears soaking my face and neck, but I wasn’t one of those abandoned babies. My mom was there, but she had passed out and lay sprawled on the floor. She died that day, and since then I have felt like the unluckiest girl ever.