Writing Challenge Winner: Red Strings by Olivia Kasych

Olivia is a 15 year old writer who has participated in many of the library’s writing challenges, including last summer’s Voyager Writing Challenge and this spring’s Bad Guy Writing Challenge. Red Strings is the sequel to Olivia’s first short story, Neutral Zone, and dives deeper into the motivations of the tormented villain, Vic!

Read Olivia’s first story here:

Check out her sequel below!

“What makes you think I was gonna kill him?”

Vick can admit that he is not the best person, but he certainly is not stupid. He knew the oblivious, helpless person he and Terrace quite literally stumbled upon was not to be killed. He may want the end of the AWs, Alternate Worlds, but he is not that evil.

“You brought us here anyway,” Vick accused. The first AW was not his ideal battle terrain, mostly because anything multiverse travelers, like himself, killed there killed its counterpart everywhere else.

“No I didn’t! You did!” Terrace yelled back up at Vick. Vick smirked. Even if he was not suspended on a swing, he was still taller than the short creator.

“I don’t recall ever thinking to put myself at a disadvantage.” Vick was not happy. He lowered himself to the ground. He stared directly into Terrace’s ever changing eyes.

“It’s not like you don’t make mistakes,” Terrace said. “We’re both human, Vick.”

“Human, huh?” Vick spat at him. The red markings wrapped around his arms glowed with a fiery intensity. Vick scowled at Terrace. He felt his familiar red strings flow down from the marks to his hands. He shot them toward part of the back porch. The strings wrapped themselves around the poor porch and paused. He shot Terrace a crazed grin. “What part of me is human?”

He gripped his hand into a fist. He swung his arm at Terrace as if he was throwing a shot-put. The strings strained and yanked the porch out of the ground. In a blur of wood, the porch was on a direct course toward Terrace. It landed with a huge ​Crash!and…

missed Terrace. Vick knew that would happen, but was not in the mood. Terrace had teleported over to the fence gate.

“Missed me!” Terrace teased. Vick was fuming. He angrily directed his strings toward the nearest fence post, tore it out of the ground, and threw it at Terrace. He could not care less if he killed anyone else, he just wanted to wipe off Terrace’s smug grin.

He retreated his strings. Though he really wanted to make sure Terrace was at least scared, he did not want to stick around longer. ​Let Terrace take care of his own businesshe thought, teleporting away from the destroyed yard.

Now, one may expect Vick to have some sort of huge base where he would monitor the whole multiverse. That is not the case. Because of the stereotypical villain, Vick’s “base” is in a small cabin in AW 27, another “magic filled” AW.

Vick’s teleportation destination landed him in the kitchen of said cabin. He took a peek in the fridge for anything that looked edible. Believe it or not, destroying useless worlds worked up an appetite. Vick took the leftover pancakes from breakfast and closed the fridge.

“Back already?” Vick heard someone say from the living room.

“Not like you’ve been anywhere,” Vick grumbled. “Dumb creator teleported the both of us to the original. I gave him a bit of a job to fix.” Vick heard laughter. He made his way to the living room and found the new(ish) recruit, dressed in all black, playing with a knife.

“The original’s found out, huh?” Blood laughed.

“Yep. Scared the kid out of his skin. You should have seen it, turned him white on the spot.” Vick started gnawing on one of the pancakes.

“My turn?” Blood asked excitedly, his eyes flashing red as if to seal his intentions.

“Go aheath,” Vick said, half a pancake dangling out of his mouth. “Whehe’s Lethon?”

“Lendon’s probably in his room,” Blood answered. “Later!” Blood teleported out of the room.

Vick finished his pancakes and sighed. Blood joined them —that is, the team— about two years ago. Vick never thought about time because it did not mean much for a multiverse traveler like himself. It changes too much from AW to AW that Vick just stopped caring.

Vick never asked Blood why he joined the team, but Blood always seemed to know where Terrace and Cerulean were. Vick just went with it. He was sure Lendon knew —he was the head of the team and he knew just about everything about each of them.

Lendon was originally from AW 17, which also had magic. Vick does not know much about his origin either, but does know Lendon is pretty powerful. Vick has seen him

level a city in seconds. He has also fought Terrace and Cerulean to a stalemate, which Vick has yet to do. Vick is not patient enough for it.

“Yo, Vick!” yelled someone. Vick snapped himself out of his thoughts and looked up. He saw another member of the team. He wore a blood red sweater and black jeans. He stared at Vick with his cyan eyes burning through his shaggy black hair.

“What do you want, Dultin?” Vick grumbled.

Dultin took playful offense as he flopped on the couch next to Vick. “Why do you always assume I want something whenever I talk to you?”

“Because you do.” The day before, Dultin asked Vick to help him find one of his guns. Dultin claimed it was his “favorite” and “couldn’t live without it.” They almost got caught by the police in five different AWs and Vick came home sore.

Dultin came from AW 30. His father was a police officer and taught Dultin everything about guns. Dultin said it was his “calling” whenever he told the story. He claimed he brought a gun to “show and tell” in Kindergarten and accidentally shot and killed one of his classmates. Vick was wary about the credibility of the story, but did not put it past him to do so.

“Okay, you got me,” Dultin said, raising his hands up as if he was getting arrested. “I only want to know where Blood is.” Vick forgot that Blood and Dultin had bonded over the past two years.

“Fine.” Vick closed his eyes and searched the entire multiverse for Blood. Luckily, he had a good idea about where he was. “Upmost. AW 10.” Dultin was stood up to leave. Vick grabbed his arm. “Let him be for a bit. He’s playing with the original.”

Dultin seemed to understand and sat back down.

~~~~~~~~~

Blood did not come back in the next hours.

Vick started assuming the worst. He could barely think, mostly because Dultin was constantly assembling and taking apart one of his handguns. Vick grew tired of the constant clinking of metal. He stood up.

“Fine!” he groaned. “We’ll look for him. Get your things. I have a trap.”

Dultin shot up, giddy to leave. “You think it’ll work? It’s about 11 pm original time.”

“It definitely will. Terrace wouldn’t miss.” Vick opened a portal. “Come on.” Dultin hopped into the portal as Vick followed, sealing the portal after entering the location.

They ended up in a field surrounded by forest. The clearing was almost miraculous.

Occasional dandelions popped up every once and awhile. It was about noon in that AW.

“You’ve never seen me destroy an entire world, have you?” Vick asked Dultin. Dultin shook his head no. “Well, today’s your lucky day.” Vick’s markings glowed blood red. Vick knelt on the ground and put both hands on the grassy field. He again felt his strings flow into his hands, but this time they slipped out and into the ground like worms. Vick got up. “The trap’s set.”

“What did you do?” Dultin asked with genuine curiosity.

“Each world has a ‘soul,’ so to speak,” Vick explained. “My strings can locate and destroy that ‘soul,’ leaving the world to rot and disappear. The process takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Quick and efficient. The only flaw is that Terrace can sense when my strings are close to the ‘soul’ and can get rid of them the same way I distribute them. That is our opening.”

“Which world is this, anyway?” Dultin asked, loading a pistol with one of his homemade bullets.

“AW 2,102,” Vick replied. He rolled his eyes. “There’s too much of the same trash.”

“Darn right.” Dultin laughed.

The pair of delinquents were treated to a bright flash of light. When the light diminished, Vick saw four silhouettes. Two obviously belonged to Terrace and Cerulean. The third was the original, Vick figured. Vick could not figure out who the fourth was. He seemed to be part of Cerulean’s shadow, dressed in all black as he was.

Then he caught sight of his face. Vick stared at him, a spike of disbelief shooting through his insides. He wondered what happened in the last few hours that caused this.

Dultin started laughing. The laugh turned dry, shooting imaginary daggers into their adversaries. “Yes, Vick, the trap worked,” he said. He directed his now loaded gun at the “shadow.” “Alas, it worked too well. We caught a ghost, and now it’s time to dispose of him.”

Dultin’s smile turned toxic. “Goodbye Blood.” Dultin loaded and fired his pistol in half a second, aiming it directly at Blood. There was no time for Blood to dodge. ​Better off without himVick thought.

A mind-numbing screech of metal was heard. Blood had decided to deflect the bullet, using a knife to cut the bullet before it hit him. The two pieces of the bullet fell harmlessly on either side of him. Sadly, the pieces did not hit anyone else.

Vick did not waste time. Arms glowing, he sent his strings toward Terrace and Cerulean. They wrapped around their necks, daring to choke them to death. Vick pulled and their eyes grew wide with fear. They started choking and clawed at the strings to try to get air.

They were cut free soon after. Vick glared at Blood, who had freed them. Vick redirected his attention to Terrace. The short creator had eyed him and was holding his paintbrushes. “You got the other three?” Vick half asked Dultin.

“Can’t wait to kill that traitor,” Dultin hissed.

“Just don’t kill Derick.” Dultin scoffed. Vick could not worry about that. He had to keep Terrace from saving the AW. And he had a great idea. In the long time that he and Terrace have been fighting, he knew he put others as more important than himself. That was his flaw. Vick wondered if Terrace would ever learn after being exploited so much.

Vick’s strings shot toward Derick. The “poor kid” did not know what hit him. Vick pinned Derick’s arms to his sides and suspended him in the air. Vick shot Dultin a look. Dultin smiled, pointed another one of his “special” guns at Derick, and fired.

Terrace looked terrified. He froze and looked up at Derick in disbelief. Cerulean displayed similar emotions —even crying, to Vick’s delight. Blood just stared at Dultin. The gaze held back a hurricane of emotions, ready to be unleashed.

Vick watched as Blood almost doubled over, clutching his side as if he had taken the bullet. Vick smirked. “Dultin, what was in the bullet?” he asked playfully, getting everyone’s attention.

“Well!” Dultin responded excitedly. “That was one of my special concoctions! It locates magical bonds in the recipient and exploits the connection!” Dultin stared at Blood. “I wanted to use it on Cerulean, but you —you lying traitor— deserved it more.”

Derick started coughing. He was struggling to get out of the strings, but to no avail. Vick only tightened his bindings. Derick was staring at the ground in fear. “C-Cerulean? Why’s the ground red?” Cerulean and Terrace gave him a terrified look.

Vick smirked. “Looks like someone forgot why they were here. Forgetful creator,” he teased Terrace while shaking his head. Vick turned his attention to Derick and shot him a crazed smile. “That’s what a world looks like before it’s destroyed. Terrace was being slow, as always.” He nodded at Dultin. “Hope you all enjoyed your little late night expedition. I sure did.”

“Burn…in…hell,” Blood said, still holding his side in pain. “You know…you didn’t.”

Dultin’s instinctual course of action was to shoot Blood with another one of the special bullets. The bullet passed through Blood’s head without spilling any blood. Derick let out a strained yelp in pain. Vick dropped the now passed out kid from his strings. Terrace ran to catch the kid in time and, unfortunately, did. Vick almost signaled Dultin to leave when Cerulean also dropped. This shocked Vick. Any new connections like that shine like a beacon to Vick. ​That connection is nowhere near newhe realized.

He motioned at Dultin that it was time to leave. They both teleported out of there, just as the ground started collapsing. They arrived back at their base and just… stood in the living room.

“That traitor!” Dultin yelled, kicking over the living room couch. “I swear, I’m going to kill him after ghosting us like that!”

Vick was also mad. Blood was the last person he saw deserting and flipping sides. Honestly, he thought that if Dultin ever had therapy, he would be first. Dultin did what he did because he thought it was fun. Vick always saw that as a poor reason, so he always thought Dultin would desert.

He, Lendon, and Blood all had solid reasons, he assumed. As already mentioned, he did not know much about either of the two, but he pieced together that Blood has something against Cerulean. Vick did not know what, but after what happened with the bullets, he knew it was deep.

Lendon was still a mystery. Vick had no idea of how he even got so powerful in the first place. He just remembers when Lendon recruited him to his team. Vick could feel his power. It emanated from him like a radio signal that Vick could pick up and listen to. He remembered feeling uneasy as his fierce orange eyes stared into him as he spoke.

Vick was snapped back into reality as Dultin toppled the couch again. He was still angry about Blood. Dultin stormed off to his room. Vick figured he should go to his room also. He thought about telling Lendon, but Vick had a feeling he already knew.

Vick went up the staircase in the back of the room toward his room. It was the first door on the right. He opened the door to his bland room. He never bothered to decorate. He didn’t like clutter, and didn’t see any reason in doing so. He wasn’t in his room much anyway.

He was, however, exhausted. He plopped on his bed and went out like a light.

He was in a white and black area. He didn’t bother looking around. He knew where he was. The landscape swirled with the white and black colors, but nothing else could be seen. He also knew that. He did not know why he tried every time. Where was he? Well, he was home. His AW.

There was nothing. Vick did not know what happened, but what was supposed to be an actually livable space with other people only turned out to be him. He could not count the number of times he had false hopes about someone being out there and disappointed when there was not. Sometimes, the area would play tricks on him and the blackness would shape like a person and then disappear.

He always dreams of being here. He cannot remember ever having a “good” dream. He always looked at the other AWs in disgust. They had so much when he had nothing. That is why he is so numb.

He simply does not care.

He did not always have the marks, either. They were blood. When he was stuck there, he would often think and dream about death. That was the only way out he saw. He would constantly dream of killing himself and the like. One time, his dream did not go away and he found the markings on his arms. The strings were painful at first, it was like shaping his own blood, but he grew numb to it.

Leaving was a complete accident. Vick remembered wishing to be somewhere better and he was instantly in a forest. He instantly knew he was not home. He heard birds and excited shouts. He followed them to a campsite with about five tents. Kids were running about as parents watched loosely while conversing with each other.

Vick was mad. He did not know that was out there. Why did he not get any of that? Why did he have to live in that nightmarish landscape while they had everything? His markings glowed blood red

Vick stared up at his ceiling. That was the first world he destroyed. It was the 3,979th AW. He never regretted destroying it. He knew it had only been an hour. He could never sleep for long and hunger was never a concern for him. He could go a very long time without eating and be fine. Eating was more of a “hobby” to him, so to speak. He did not care if it was abnormal. Nothing about him was normal anyway.

He really only joined because he was tired of his place and he thought it would be interesting. He doesn’t mind working for Lendon but made sure to tell Lendon that it would be no deal if he could not do as he pleased at times. Lendon agreed to it and welcomed him aboard. Vick made a point to destroy the world they were in before following Lendon. That was AW 1,249.

Terrace was an almost immediate acquaintance after he left his AW, but before Lendon (which was almost one and a half years after he started). Terrace was very confusing to him. He did not try to kill Vick, but also reversed the destruction of the AW. Confusion turned to anger and Vick decked Terrace before teleporting away. He hit a few other AWs before going back to his home.

Vick was not patient. He was, however, very easily distracted by his thoughts. A few days could go by and he would not have noticed unless something happened to or near him. He called this one of his “trances.” He blamed it on his sociopathic behavior. He luckily never did this during a fight. Plus, he never liked patience. He saw it as useless and wasteful. If he wanted to wait around, he would not have left.

Terrace also lacked patience, in his eyes. Their fights never lasted long and he could tell by the way Terrace used his attacks. Surprisingly, Vick found that attacks say a lot about a person. Vick deduced that Terrace was an outgoing person and would never kill anyone.

Someone was saying his name. He got off his bed and sauntered down the stairs to the living room. “Look who decided to show up!” Dultin smirked. Vick saw both Dultin and Lendon looking at him. Lendon looked like he had a plan. He was wearing his normal green shirt, grey pants, brown boots, and orange gloves. His aura hung around him like a magnetic field.

Vick took his seat on the fixed couch. “What’s the plan?” he asked.

“Thanks to Dultin’s… experiment,” Lendon started. “We know three of our four adversaries have a magic bond of varying magnitude. Any magic bonds strengthen both/all participants, thus decreasing our chances of defeating them. If we single out the one without any magic ties to the others, we should be able to lure the rest into any trap we may set. For instance, if we kept Terrace locked up here, we could count on the other three coming to us. But, we would have to keep Derick out of it.”

“Why though?” Dultin asked. “He’s weak and inexperienced.” He pointed a finger gun at Vick’s head. “Just one well placed shot and—” He jerked his hand back in recoil as if he shot Vick. “Well, no more problem.”

“Dultin, he’s the original!” Vick hissed. “We can’t kill him.”

“We don’t know what he may be capable of,” Lendon continued. “I intend on finding out one way or another. After we successfully capture Terrace, we will be able to ‘take out’ Derick. I’m thinking of the Prison. Thoughts?”

The Prison was an abandoned military base near their cabin. Each holding cell had soundproof walls and security cameras. It was easy to monitor and there was no way to know if anyone else was in there with you. Vick saw it as perfect. He nodded his head in approval.

“Finally!” Dultin said.

“Very well,” Lendon said, looking between the two killers. “The plan will start as soon as possible. Places, everyone.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Vick was out again. He had the task of luring out Terrace, which would be very easy.

Another AW, another seed planted. Vick waited.

Terrace came alone. ​PerfectVick thought. Terrace did not have time to react when Vick strangled him enough to make him pass out. Vick dropped Terrace off in one of the cells in the Prison.

Not even a second later, Dultin came back with a passed out Derick. Dultin paraded him around down to his cell like a hunter carrying a deer he killed home. Vick thought for a second that Derick was dead, but they were all still there so it was not the case. ​Now, we wait, Vick thought. And wait they did. An almost 40 minutes.

Cerulean and Blood turned up near their base— glorified house. Vick could feel them coming in the Prison’s direction. He told Dultin to get ready. “This is exciting!” Dultin replied, playing with a switch in the control room of the Prison. The two entered the complex. Dultin and Vick watched them through the various security cameras placed in the maze-like hallways.

The moment came. “Now!” Vick shouted at Dultin. Dultin slammed the switch down and a sliding steel door slid between the two. The now separated pair tried to open/destroy the door, but nothing happened. They continued on their separate ways. Vick radioed Lendon: “He’s all yours.”

Lendon was waiting for Cerulean. He did not give any details on what he would do, so Vick and Dultin watched the security tapes intriguingly. Cerulean walked back the way he came. He took a left near the entrance and stopped at another crossroad. He took another left and a right at another crossroad. All along the walls are doors leading to cell after cell after cell. “Close the left door,” Vick told Dultin. At the upcoming intersection, the left door closed. Cerulean’s only options were right or backtrack. Cerulean took the right.

That was where Lendon was. Cerulean stopped and started backing away from him. Dultin was about to close the door behind him, but Lendon made a magical barrier, blocking Cerulean’s escape. Vick heard Dultin snicker. To be honest, Cerulean’s terrified face was hilarious, but Vick shut him up.

“Poor Cerulean,” Lendon sneered. “A weak shell of a human that wanted too much. Now look where that got you. Your so-called ‘friends’ are gone and it’s all your fault.”

“No, no!” Cerulean said, still deathly afraid. “I couldn’t have known!”

“Maybe,” Lendon smiled. “But, think about it. If you didn’t split yourself, maybe you could’ve found them and left by now. That’s not done by now because you’re weak and pathetic.”

“No… no!” Cerulean shook his head. Cerulean was frozen still by an orange glow around him. “That’s not true!”

“Oh, quit lying to yourself. It’s tiring, really.” Lendon walked toward Cerulean. Cerulean tried moving away, but the orange magic held him in place. Lendon tilted Cerulean’s head toward him so they made eye contact.

“No!” Cerulean tried looking away, but couldn’t. A blinding orange light filled the security camera. After blinking away the after effects, Vick saw only Cerulean in the corridor. He walked over to the dropped radio and radioed the duo in the control center. “Open the doors,” he said. He stared directly at the security camera.

They saw his eyes and immediately opened the doors. His eyes glowed the same orange as Lendon’s. ​Well, he can possess people now Vick thought. He cracked a smile. “He’s certainly full of surprises,” Vick said aloud.

“You bet!” Dultin said. “This just got better!”

“It sure did,” Vick said as they continually stared at the cameras. ​One more to gohe kept to himself.

Lendon was approaching Blood. Blood must have sensed him because he said: “What do you want, Lendon?”

“Blood!” Lendon said as Cerulean. “I found the switches to the doors and opened them. We should continue looking together.”

“I’m not a naive fool, Lendon!” Blood continued without turning around. “Leave me alone! I’m not going to be part of your team anymore!”

Lendon laughed. “That’s crazy Blood!” Cerulean’s voice said. “Why would I want you back? You obviously can’t be trusted.” Blood finally turned around.

“Cerulean?!” Blood shouted in surprise. Lendon stared at Blood.

“It would be easier to kill you now!” Cerulean’s voice took a dark turn as Lendon lunged for Blood’s throat. Blood sidestepped Lendon. He threw a knife in his direction. Lendon latched onto it with magic and used its momentum to fling it back at Blood. The knife destroyed the door behind Blood.

“No way!” Dultin yelled.

“What?” Vick asked.

“That’s where I put Derick! How did he know?!”

Cerulean did not convey any emotional reaction. Blood helped Derick out of the wreckage. “ ‘Really accurate hunches’, huh?” Derick teased.

“Hey, I got you out, didn’t I?” Blood responded. Blood shoved Derick behind himself. “Go find Terrace. I’ll deal with Lendon.”

“Who’s—?” Derick began to ask before he started glowing orange. He was struggling against the translucent bindings.

Lendon smirked. “You’re not going anywhere,” Cerulean’s voice said.

“Let him go, Lendon!” Blood threatened.

“Sure.” Lendon threw Derick against a wall. The wall was damaged on impact and debris went everywhere. Blood tried to protect himself from the blast, but Vick could see clear cuts in his sweats.

Derick was not unscathed. He had a huge cut on his cheek and Vick bet that he had popped his arm out of socket. He had many other minor cuts everywhere. He struggled to get up, using the wall as some sort of crutch. He looked at Lendon. “Why?” he asked. “Why Cerulean?”

“Cerulean’s not here,” Lendon smirked. Blood walked up behind Lendon and tried to hit him with the blunt end of his knife. Lendon froze him and sent him flying into one of the

other cells. “You’re very annoying, Blood.” He sighed. “It’s not like you’ll actually try to kill me. Though you might’ve wanted to kill him, you can’t kill Cerulean.”

The dust cleared and Blood was staring Lendon down. “… heh heh…” he laughed. “Who said I was trying to kill you?” Blood looked like he would drop down any moment. He threateningly raised a glowing red knife at Lendon. “By now, Derick’s been looking for Terrace. You really are unobservant idiots.” He eyed the security camera on the wall, which was directly at Vick and Dultin.

Vick was mad. He did not like that he was that easily distracted. “Where is he?” he wondered aloud while searching the cameras.

“There he is!” Dultin pointed at one of the screens. Derick was walking quickly; it seemed as if he already knew where Terrace was. Vick realized he was heading in the right direction.

“I’ll go stop him,” Vick told Dultin. “Keep watching Lendon, just in case something goes wrong.” Dultin puffed up in resistance, but did not make any moves to challenge Vick.

Vick teleported to where Derick was last seen. He did not want to accidentally hit Terrace’s cell while he tried to stop Derick, so he concocted a plan. His arms glowed red as he pursues Derick, who was getting dangerously close to the cell. He shot his arm forward, his strings lashing out toward their target. They grabbed onto Derick, promptly stopping his progress and incapacitating him.

Derick let out a surprised shout as he was yanked backward. Vick’s strings pulled him back like a fishing rod being reeled in. Vick grabbed Derick and teleported the both of them to the one place that Vick knew would do nicely.

The landscape swirled around their arrival. Nothing made a sound. The endlessness was welcoming Vick home. “Home sweet home,” he said.

“Where—?” Derick tried asking before a tight squeeze from his bindings shut him up. He seemed to be shaking from pain. Vick has almost forgotten about his injury earlier.

Vick laughed. “You’re lucky,” he said. “You’re the first to see this place. There is nothing here. This AW has no number anymore. Such a fitting place for someone like me.” Vick’s strings let go of Derick. ​It’s not like he can do anythinghe figured.

Derick hit the floor immediately. He used his right arm to help himself up as his left hung limp. He managed to get himself into a sitting position. “This… is where you’re from?” he asked. Vick shrugged, not interested in the slightest. “Do you have any family? Friends?”

“What part of ‘there is nothing here’ do you not understand?” Vick snapped. His markings glowed in his anger.

Derick flinched at the retribution. “So, you’re really alone here? That’s—”

“I don’t want your pity. I don’t care anymore.”

Derick looked a bit annoyed at Vick’s interruption, but thought a bit before talking again. “It hurts, doesn’t it? Being alone like this?”

“What did I say about pity?” Vick spat daggers. “And what would you know?”

“Nothing,” Derick shrugged. “I’ve never been secluded like this. As for my knowledge, only you have. Only you can find a way to deal with it.”

“It doesn’t affect me anymore.”

Derick laughed. “That’s like saying history is nonessential. Vick, being numb is not coping. It’s blatant ignorance. You can’t say you’ve moved on without, well, ‘moving on.’ It’s obvious you haven’t.”

Vick laughed. The longer it went on, the crazier it was. “That’s what Terrace has been saying all this time. I don’t need two of him.” Vick’s strings reattached themselves around Derick and lifted him into the air. Vick opened a portal back to the Prison underneath him. He slammed Derick down through it and jumped in after. Vick’s strings receded.

Derick hit the floor with the satisfying sound of bones breaking. Derick shakingly stood up and trudged over to one of the cells. Vick was about to follow when he saw Lendon, the real him, get flung into the cell Derick passed. The door cracked open and, well, curse their luck, Terrace jumped out of the cell. He caught notice of Derick and immediately generated his paintbrushes and painted him into some state of health. Derick looked surprised, but didn’t say anything.

Blood walked toward them with a limp. He had with him a non possessed Cerulean looking emotionally unstable. Blood devil stared at Lendon. “Don’t you dare mess with Cerulean like that again!” Lendon only hissed his denial.

Terrace looked between Vick and Lendon. “Your plan didn’t work,” he said. “Good job! Bravo!” he teased.

“Terrace,” Cerulean rolled his eyes. Terrace shrugged and teleported out of the Prison.

Cerulean and Derick followed, leaving Blood alone.

Blood stared at an overhead security camera. “You’re so lazy, Dultin,” he said shaking his head. He left promptly.

Vick sighed. He knew they lost. He caught Lendon’s smile.

Vick knew it was not over yet. Not as long as they three were there would it ever be over. Vick also smiled. He would be seeing them soon.

VERY soon.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Dilemma

The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

First line: It’s the cooling bathwater that wakes me.

Summary: Livia has been planning her fortieth birthday party for twenty years. She wants it to be perfect. Everything is in place and it looks like it is going to be a beautiful day. She does not want anything to spoil it. But she has a secret she has been keeping from her husband. She knows she should tell him but she doesn’t want to ruin the day. So she decides to wait until after the party.

Adam, Livia’s husband, wants Livia to have a great birthday especially since she has been planning it for so long. He has a big surprise for her but when he learns something that may ruin her life he has a dilemma on whether to tell her or wait until after the party.

My Thoughts: This wasn’t a thriller in the traditional sense. No one is murdered. It is just lots of miscommunication and secrets that cause problems throughout the plot. I really enjoyed it. I was very anxious about how it would end. I made myself not look at the end so I didn’t find out what happened. It was hard not to. I needed to know. This is a book that I really had to put down so I could sleep. Even after that I kept thinking about it. So immediately I had to finish it in the morning.

I did get a little annoyed with the characters and their misunderstandings. So many secrets involved in this. Lots of messed up relationships. But it gave the book a lot of shock factors. I know I gasped a few times. B. A. Paris is a really good author for a fast paced thrill ride. Give her books a try if you haven’t already!

FYI: My favorite so far has been Behind Closed Doors.

Writing Challenge Winner: In the Shadows by Marley Bowker

Marley is a 13 year old writer who participated in the Spring 2020 Bad Guy Writing Challenge. Below is her creepy and action-packed short story about a family plagued by a strange nature spirit that roams their house.

Chapter 1

It peered down on the family from the tall tree where it had been stationed for the past hour observing them. “Hold on, watch this real quick” says Lili’s dad. Laughs fade to silence, and eyes flick towards him, as he throws a piece of what looks to be plastic into the large bonfire. After only a couple of seconds, the fire bursts out into a beautiful blue color, with purple streaks and if you look hard enough, even a very faint tone of green.

Everyone is silent, observing the fire in awe as the colors fade back into the traditional array of warm colors. As the night takes over on the chilly evening in the town of Springwood Pennsylvania, the Locke family decides to head inside as their bonfire grows smaller. Lili, the second oldest child, with two younger sisters and an older brother, decides to stay out after the rest of the family for just a few minutes. She liked watching when their monthly bonfires slowly die out, especially towards the end of the fire when all the tiny flames dance in the glowing red pieces of wood at the bottom of the pile.

Lili found it very awing that the giant piles of leaves, sticks, branches, and the occasional piece of broken furniture from the home could turn into a way smaller mound of ash that could be disposed of by simply blowing it around the yard. As the last few flames danced in the breeze, she saw something amongst the treeline. Two balls of warm white light, like a reflection. She giggled, because she knew it was her brother hiding trying to scare her as he normally did. However, when there was no response back, she became skeptical. She saw the two reflections go away for only a second, then appear right back in the same spot, like they were blinking. At that point, she was certain it was her brother trying to scare her, and he had simply blinked because he didn’t realise that you could see the reflection of their eyes.

And that’s when the thought hit her- human eyes don’t reflect light, such as the light from the fire which was probably causing it. Lili saw the eyes slowly moving, as if the unknown creature was moving, and then the eyes disappeared into the darkness in the forest. Just then, she heard a large crash from the trees as she had turned to head back to the house. There was another one. Then another. She recognized the sound as falling trees, but there was no noise indicating someone had cut them down such as a chainsaw. They were also falling at a rate that no person could cut down that quickly. One right after another, there must have been two trees falling every five seconds. Spooked, she sprinted back to the house, and ran into the bathroom to shower and get the smell of smoke, which she had grown to love over time, off of her body and out of her long, brown hair. Lili was just turning the water on in the shower when she heard something downstairs fall and break, so she decided to brave the walk down the stairs and see what had happened.

Then she saw it- her mother laying in her husband’s arms. The floor was covered with blood, and there were two huge gashes on the backs of her calves. Lili’s mom, dad, and the kitchen floor were drenched blood spatter, as if something had come behind her and slashed her legs open. Her dad picked up the phone, and tried to call an ambulance, or someone that could help. Just as he had hit the call button, the phone just beeped like there was no service. The only other time she had heard that noise was right after a category 4 hurricane had hit near her home along the border of Pennsylvania, and torn the power lines right in half. How could that be? Lili thought, because the power was still on.

“Dad, I’m going to check on the lines outside to see if something happened to them. Try and figure out what happened to mom!” She grabbed the flashlight off the table, and ran outside to check. As the light flooded the darkness, she saw that a single part of the line was cut cleanly in half. The two halves were swaying as if there was wind that was blowing them around, but there wasn’t. The breeze had gone away. That could only mean one thing, Lili thought. The line had to have been cut very recently if they were still swaying like that. She shined the light around the lines looking for an answer. She didn’t see anything. She was shining the light all the way down both sides of the cables until the light could not shine any further. But when she flashed it back to where it was originally cut, there it was again.

That pair of eyes shining in the darkness. Again, reflecting the light, only this time, it was the flashlight and not the fire. Lili could not see exactly where the eyes were shining, but she felt that they were staring straight into hers. They blinked again, and the creature started moving. It began slowly, and then all at once, began leaping from one post to the next. She was in shock at how it could move like that, because all the posts must have been at least thirty feet apart from each other. Shining the flashlight towards whatever was jumping, she saw a large bony body, light grey in color, and it had almost looked transparent. Lili still had no clue what it could be, but one thing she knew for sure, and that was that it definitely could not be human.

She then ran as quickly as possible back into the house to tell her dad what she had seen. But when she tried getting inside the door, it was locked. She banged on it for someone to let her in, but within twenty seconds no one answered it. So she ran over to grab the ladder and come back in her window that she knew was unlocked. She set the ladder on the house, and climbed up onto a part of the roof, where she then pushed it back down so nothing could follow her, and ran to her window. She had always left it unlocked because the doors sometimes got jammed and they needed a way to get inside the house, but when she went to pull it open, it was locked. She tried every other window, but they were all locked too. Lili ran back to where she had put the ladder so she could get back down and try another way, but when she got there, she realized that she had pushed the ladder down, and she was now stuck on the roof.

Chapter 2

               Don’t think you’re getting away that easy, sweetheart. It thought. Good luck getting down without a ladder. You want to take my family away from me? Two can play at that game. My nest used to belong where your huge brick nest is that you’re constantly inside. Sleeping, eating, everything. Why your nest is so much bigger than mine was, I don’t know. But I’m going to take care of it. Once and for all. Good luck to you all, Locke’s.

The games have begun. It watched Lili scrambling to the windows looking for a way down, but there was nothing. Windows? Locked. Ladders? Tipped over. There was nothing she could do. The drop down from the first story section of the roof was still a nine foot drop. Curse you, country houses for having such high roofs she thought. Then she remembered she had a trampoline in her back yard. She tried running around on the roof on the first story, but it got blocked off before she was at the point she could jump. So she climbed up onto the second story section, which was very easy as part of it came down close to the first story roofing above the porch.

So she got up there, and eventually made her way around to the back of the house. Looking up from the trampoline onto the roof had not looked like that tall of a drop, but now that she looked where she had to land and how far down it was, she was hesitant. She had to drop nearly two stories and jump out six feet to hit the edge of the trampoline. It was very dark too, since none of the back lights had been turned on because they were motion sensors. This is the only way. I have to do this. For mom. She took a large breath, and jumped as she exhaled, pushing forward with all her strength. She landed on the trampoline, and fell through the padding onto the ground. Could’ve been worse. And then she got up- almost. She noticed that her leg was bent in a way it should not have been bending. That’s when the pain set in. Nothing hurt her until she realized that there was something wrong with her leg and that it was messed up somehow.

The pain quickly seared through her ankle and up to her knee. It was like someone had struck it with a metal club that was on fire. She tried to touch it, but she instantly regretted it as she had touched her ankle directly on the injury. She tried to pull herself to her feet from the metal framing of the trampoline, but when she got on her feet, she fell right back down. What am I supposed to do? Mom and Dad are in serious trouble and I can’t even be there for them! Lili thought, tears rolling down her cheeks, pale from fright. She eventually got on her feet again and began hopping on one foot, headed for the back door. She tried to stand on her hurt foot, but it could not yet support her. So she continued hobbling on her right foot until she reached the back door.

She pulled it open, and walked in between the counters and used them almost like crutches. She turned the corner into the dining room and saw that her mom and dad were still in the same peril state. She bent down and touched her mother’s head, making sure she knew Lili was there too. Her mother slowly looked at her, eyes red and wet. “Lili, honey, you know I love you right?” These words brought tears to Lili’s eyes as well, knowing what the next few following sentences would bring. She nodded. “You know that wherever I may go, I’ll always be right here with you, don’t you?” Her heart dropped. “Yes”. Lili looked up at her dad, who was trying very hard to hide the fact that he was hurting. But Lili could tell he was crying, both on the inside and on the outside.

It was at this moment she realized how much blood her mother had really lost. She didn’t have anything to say. She just bent over and gave her mom a hug. She didn’t care that her shirt was covered in blood at that point, she just cared that she was with her mother, while her mother was still with her. Her dad pulled out his phone to try to call someone one last time, and to everyone’s shock, it worked.

He called an ambulance and they were out in nearly ten minutes. They put Lili’s mom on a stretcher and took her away. At that point her dad quit trying to be strong. He grabbed Lili and held her, sobbing. She held him just at tight as he had. “I love you baby girl” he said. “I love you too dad.” Those were the last words they spoke to each other for the next twenty minutes. Eventually they got in the pickup truck, and headed to the hospital. They weren’t allowed in the ambulance simply because there would have been too many people, but nevertheless, they were on their way.

Chapter 3

               They arrived at the hospital half an hour later, and they sat down in the waiting room. This gave Lili time to think about everything. What it was, who it was, what it’s problem was with her family, and why it was trying to hurt them. It had nearly killed her mother already, who knows what else it could do. She tried to think about all the stories she’d read as a girl, about all these different kinds of paranormal and extraterrestrial creatures that may or may not exist. She’d always been a fan of stories and documentaries on the subject, but she never thought she would be living in one. She gave herself a list of things to figure out; what it was, why it was targeting her family, and what it wanted. She thought and thought for hours on end and never came up with anything. There was no lead. They hadn’t done anything spiritual that might have triggered it such as a ouija board. “Hey dad?” He looked over at her. “Have you ever seen it?”

“Seen what?”

“That creature, the one that hurt mom?”

“What creature? You know what did this to her?”

“I think so. I went outside to check why you couldn’t call anyone earlier, and I saw this thing on the power lines. It wasn’t the first time I had seen it either. Do you remember the other night when we had the bonfire in the yard?” He nodded. “Along the treeline facing the back of the house really far away I saw it then too.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t just someone from the other side of the tree line? There are a couple of houses on the opposite side like ours.” He asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Human eyes don’t reflect light, that thing’s did. I have no clue what is going on.” Lili looked down at the cast on her ankle and wondered why she jumped from the highest spot instead of hanging off the edge and dropping. She would have only been a couple feet off the ground. And it would have saved her a lot of pain. It was too late at that point, however. Her thoughts wandered back to her mom. She wondered when she would get to see her, and if she would be okay. About an hour of thinking later, she still had come up with no explanation, nor a place to start.

A nurse came into the waiting room from a door across the room. “Are the Locke’s here?” Lili’s dad shot up from his chair, and Lili followed. She giggled at the fact that there was an indention where her dad had been sitting, but the joke quickly escaped her mind when they walked through the doors into a long hallway. The nurse showed them where Lili’s mom was staying, opened the door to the room, and stepped aside so they could walk in. She let the door close behind them as she continued down the hallway to do her job. The room scared Lili, as there were multiple tubes coming out of her mom’s arms, and machines beeping, over and over. She felt trapped. She watched the heart monitor continue in the same path. With each beep, it would spike, then go back down. Then again, and again, and again. It never sped up, it never slowed down. Until it did.

“Hey mom, can you hear me?” No response. The nurse had told them that because of the medicine she had given her, she might be unresponsive because she was sleeping. Lili reached for her hand, and laid hers on top of her moms.

“I know you’re in there, mom. Keep fighting. Don’t give up on us. You can’t give up on us. I need you.” Silence followed by the beeping of the monitor. Then it began speeding up. A lot. Doctors burst into the room and ordered the family out. So they left the room in a panic. They turned to look from outside the window on the side, but the curtain closed on them. They could hear faint shouting coming from the other side of the room.

“Is she going to be okay, Dad? Please tell me she is going to be fine.” He did not respond for a few seconds.

“I don’t know yet, Tiger.” Tiger. She’d been called Tiger once before by her dad, and that was when she fell off of her bicycle when she was younger and broke her arm. That sent a wave of shock over her, and her heart dropped yet again. The same nurse began walking towards them from the direction she had left earlier, and ushered them to another waiting room. There were no people in this one, and it was much smaller. This room had to be four times smaller than the normal one, with only ten chairs and a small coffee table. A TV was mounted to the wall, and it was broadcasting some little kid show Lili had never seen before. Just like in any other waiting room, the volume had been turned down very quiet. In that room they sat.

One hour, two hours, three hours. The room had gradually become darker as dusk had set in. Finally, someone had come into the room. By that point, both Lili and her dad were dozing off, and the sudden burst of the door startled them both awake. It took them a second to realize where they were but once they did, the doctor took them to see Lili’s mom. The doctor said that she had a seizure, but that she was stable as of right now. Lili walked over to see her mother with bags under her eyes. Meanwhile, the creature was trying to find where the Locke’s were at. They were not inside nor outside the house. It had checked already. Maybe I finally got rid of that stupid family. They decided to take my family away from me, don’t think I’ve forgotten that easily. The creature posted up on the roof, scanning the surrounding area for signs of the family. But when nothing came up, it moved on. I’ll be back in the morning. Prepare yourselves Lockes. I will get my revenge. Don’t you doubt it for a second. And just as quickly as it had appeared, it sped off into the treeline.

Chapter 4

               As they drove away from the hospital, Lili’s mother began to speak. “I’m still so confused as to what happened.”

“Something attacked you, Mom. What do you remember? Did you see it? Hear it? Tell me everything.” Lili said.

“I didn’t see much, all I remember was that I was at the counter making sandwiches for dinner that night, and something knocked me to the ground. I could not see what it was, I just felt a sharp pain in the backs of my legs. When I turned around to see what happened, nothing was there. I tried to scream for someone to come help me, but I couldn’t. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t. Then I passed out and woke up in that hospital bed.”

Lili pondered on this for a bit. If that creature she had seen multiple times before was the culprit, it would make sense. Her mother said it was quiet, and she never heard anything. Lili didn’t hear anything when it was leaping away on the telephone poles. Her mom said it was so fast she could not see it. That thing had been pretty quick when Lili saw it. It all connected.

Okay, well at least I’ve got somewhere to start now Lili thought. I know now that the creature I saw was probably what hurt mom. I still don’t have the why, but at least I have the who. The Lockes got home, and at that point it was nearly two in the morning, so everyone went to bed.

When Lili woke up the next morning, she went downstairs to make herself some breakfast, thinking this whole thing would be over and done with. But after her parents did not come down stairs, she became skeptical. She went upstairs to check on them at about noon, which was way late for them to get up, as they are early risers and are usually out and about by nine. She opened the door to her parents room, but they were not there. Lili searched the whole house, but could not find anyone. She soon pulled out her phone, and called her dad. No answer. Then she tried her mom. No answer. She went outside to look for them out there, because sometimes they liked to go out to the pastures and groom the horses and milk the cows. But they were not there.

In fact, nothing was there. The cows were all gone, and so were the horses and chickens. She checked and even the eggs were gone from the coop. This had never happened before. She tried calling again, but there was still no answer. Eventually she began running back to the house, and called her mom one more time. This time, instead of hearing her own phone ring, she heard her mom’s ringtone going off in the distance. Confused and terrified, she called again and again, until she found the source of the sound. Lili found both of her parents’s phones laying right next to each other, perfectly straight. None of this made any sense. And then that is when she saw the eyes again. Along the treeline yet again, but instead of being at her house looking towards the trees, she was only yards away. They blinked, and moved forward. It was at this moment Lili realized how large the creature really was, towering above her nearly as tall as her house did.

“Lili, I see we finally meet face to face.” She heard the voice, it was deep and monotone. She did not see a mouth for a moment, because the creature was black. Really black. Darker than the night sky. When she did eventually find it, it looked like someone had attempted to stitch it closed and failed. Skin stretched between the lips as it’s mouth opened, making it even more terrifying than it was before. “Who are you, and what do you want with me? Where are my mom and dad?” Lili shouted at the creature.

“Me? I’m surprised you don’t remember me, Lili Locke.” A shiver ran down her back.

“Who are you!” She screamed.

“Oh honey, you shouldn’t be worried about me. It is your parents you should be concerned about. Do you know where they are?” Silence. “Oh, that’s right. I have them. You guys took my family from me and left me alone for years, so I am going to do the same to you, Lili Locke.”

“Why are you doing this?” She shouted at it, tears beginning to sting her eyes.

“You killed my family when you built this house. You took away the only people I have ever loved. So I am going to  do the same to you.” The creature pulled out an arm with long, sharp looking fingers, which only added to the terrifying aspect of this creature. It pointed behind the tree line, where there was an open area. It was at this point she saw her mother and father, wrapped in web-like material, from there feet to their necks. They were motionless and their eyes were closed. “What family are you talking about? Who did we take from you?”

“My mother, my father, and my brothers and sisters. When you burned down the forest to create this area of land to build your giant house on, you burned my family’s home. I was the only lucky one that was able to get out!”

Chapter 5

               “What even are you?” Lili asked.

“That doesn’t matter! Who do you all think you are, to come to my forrest, burn it all, and claim the land as your own? Why should you get to keep your family, but I lost mine?”

“Because I didn’t do anything to deserve to lose my family!”

“And you think I did? I was very young, I had known my family for less then a year! You’ve had yours way longer, and it’s finally time you feel what i’ve felt all along.” Lili went stiff as a board. She had no clue what to say.

“We aren’t the ones who burned your forest! This house has been here longer then any of us have been alive!” Even though Lili knew this was a lie, she had to try everything she could in order to save her family. Years ago, many before she was born, they had bought out the plot of land and burned it to make a new life here. They had hundreds of acres of forest burned down for them, and never replanted a single tree.

“LIES! I watched your father light the match and toss it at the tree! Don’t try and lie to me, Lili Locke, you WILL regret it.” the creature got closer to her face. This made Lili very uncomfortable, and she stumbled backwards.

“I’ve seen what your family can and will do to get their way. And I think it’s finally time they pay for that, don’t you?”

“Please, you’ve got to take piddy on me, I wasn’t even alive yet when it happened, please don’t punish me!”

“It’s too late. Begging isn’t going to do anything. I wish you would see that already.” The creature leaped over the tall trees back into the clearing where Lili’s parents were being kept. She sprinted as fast as possible towards them, and stood in front of them. She shook them aggressively, but they did not come out of their state.

“Wake up! Mom! Dad! Don’t leave me like this!!” she screamed, but it was useless.

“Move child, or you’re going with them.” The creature said. She did not budge. Lili simply stood there in between her parents, as if she was guarding them.

“Dang it kid, I said move!” The creature was now only half a foot away from her face. She could feel it breathing on her as she reached up and grabbed it’s head. She punched it multiple times, until eventually it threw her off of him. Thats when something happened that no one expected. Lili’s eyes shone bright green beams of light, and began rising into the sky.

“Let. Them. Go. Now.” She said.

“Silly girl, haven’t you realized by now-” he was cut off. The same green appeared in his eyes that were in Lili’s eyes.

 “Wha- Whats happening?” it cried. Lili watched as it began fading colors, shifting grey, then white, until it was nearly transparent. Thats when everything began to pan out. With the loudest BOOM Lili had ever heard, the creature was gone. The explosion sent her flying backwards towards the ground, and she blacked out. When she came to, she saw her mom standing over her. She sat up, wondering what had happened.

“Where am I?” she asked. Her mom simply giggled.

“Honey, you’re still in bed. It’s time to wake up, you’ve slept way longer than usual. Are you feeling alright?” Lili was just confused at this point.

“Wait, but how did you get out of the web nets?” Her parents now looked as confused as Lili.

“What web nets, you crazy?” Her mom said, laughing.

“The ones the creature wrapped you up in! You and dad were both stuck and when I tried to shake you awake, you didn’t wake up!”

“Sweetheart, I think you’ve been dreaming a lot lately. Come on, I made breakfast. It’s your favorite, scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon! It’s real bacon this time too, not the turkey bacon you said you didn’t like. But I don’t understand how you don’t like turkey bacon, I honestly like it more than normal bacon. Come down when you’re dressed.” She turned and walked away. Lili looked at the back of her moms legs as she walked out, and there were no signs of cuts. Not even any scars. She got up and looked in the mirror. Her eyes weren’t green anymore. Just her normal blue. Maybe it was all just a dream She thought. But it felt so real! It was like I was right there. Even now that I know it was just a dream, it still feels like i’m going to walk into the kitchen and see mom laying on the floor in peril again. Lili got dressed, and headed down stairs. Her mom greeted her in the kitchen with a hug, and handed her a glass plate to get her food. Lili looked at all the amazing food, and it smelled so good. She couldn’t wait to dig in, but she let her mom get her food first since she cooked it all.

“Hey, where is dad at? I haven’t seen him yet today.” Lili asked.

“Oh, he just went out to do some work around the pastures, fixing old broken boards and that horrible old gate. He went out to get wood and stuff last night to fix it. Said it should all be done around supper time.” Lili wondered if she should help him or not

“Do you think he would want any help? I don’t think I have anything to do today. I finished the replica you told me to build.”

“I’m sure he would love some help, honey. You can go out there after you’re done eating. Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah.” She was reminded of the dream again. She sat down at the dining table across from her mom, and began eating. So much happened in so little time, I still can’t believe it was only a dream.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Katheryn Howard, the Scandalous Queen

Katheryn Howard, the Scandalous Queen by Alison Weir

First line: Katheryn was seven when her mother died.

Summary: Katheryn Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, lead a very scandalous life before her marriage. She grew up as a charity case, living off of the kindness of family. However, she got the great chance of living with her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. While there she meets several men who she falls quickly in and out of love with. And then one day she earns a place among Queen Anna of Kleves household which puts her in the path of the King. She is delighted but when the King sets his sights on her she begins to worry that her past will catch up with her.

My Thoughts: I have enjoyed all of Weir’s Six Wives books. I think she did a great job bringing Katheryn’s story to life. Unfortunately the girl made some terrible mistakes and had to pay for them so dearly. I learned more about her earlier life. I was fairly familiar with her time in the Duchess’ household and in Henry’s court but before that was a mystery to me.

It’s sad that she was pushed around from house to house. It makes it easy for me to see why she was constantly looking for someone to love and love her back. Out of all the women I think her story is the saddest. She was so young. She was being maneuvered by her family into the King’s life. She had very little choice over her life. I am looking forward to the final novel about Katherine Parr.

FYI: There are several intimate scenes throughout her story.

Amelia’s Favorites: Shoot for the Moon!

Shoot for the Moon! by Corinne Humphrey

I picked this book out for Amelia solely on the cover. She absolutely loved looking at it, and I’d catch her browsing the pages when I wasn’t reading it to her.

This book is about a shelter dog named Rudy, and some life lessons we can all learn. Something that truly hit me was when it said “it doesn’t matter what kind of dog you are…you can create the life you want.” I thought that was so powerful. Amelia loved when Rudy saw his shadow, and was trying to balance on the ball.

This book was inspired by the real life story of a shelter dog named Rudy and his owner Corrine. The back of the book has a little bio about them which made me enjoy the book that much more.

If it’s any indication as to if Amelia liked this book, we kept it the full 3 week checkout!

What’s Ashley Reading?: Dry

Dry by Neal & Jarrod Shusterman

First line: The kitchen faucet makes the most bizarre sounds.

Summary: When a severe drought hits California people are forced to make extreme choices in order to survive. Cutting back on water usage sounds doable until the water runs dry. As people start to experience life threatening thirst they become animals. Life has become a war zone and people are going to die.

Alyssa, a high school student in California, is shocked when the faucets stop working. Her family try to stay calm and find new water sources. However, when they don’t return from a water run Alyssa decides that she has to take matters into her own hands to keep herself and her younger brother alive. With the help of the neighbor boy, and his prepper family, she thinks that maybe they will survive the Tap-Out until one night when the rest of the neighborhood turns on them.

My Thoughts: This story felt oddly familiar. I feel like in a way we are living this reality right now. People are scared. The world has changed. Life is almost unrecognizable. I don’t know if this made the book even more intriguing or scarier.

I have to say that I learned a lot about dehydration and how the human body needs water for survival. Hopefully this will never become a reality because it is terrifying. I found myself drinking a lot more water while reading this.

I enjoyed the characters. There were some I liked and others not. I liked how the author incorporated news casts, snapshots into other people during the crisis and then sometimes gave those snapshots bigger parts later in the story. My heart was pounding and I could not put the book down during the last 150 pages. I had to know if Alyssa and her crew were going to survive.

I love that Shusterman brings important issues to teens. Water conservation is something we need to be careful about and plan for at one point. I highly recommend reading this. It gives a scary but realistic view into what could be a future world disaster.

FYI: Also try Scythe by the same author!

*This is my pick for category #11 (A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) novel or book about a natural disaster) for the ReadICT challenge.*

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Half Sister

The Half Sister by Sandie Jones

First line: Kate sees the familiar nameplate on Dr. Williams’ office door and feels a knot in her stomach.

Summary: Kate and Lauren are sisters who recently lost their dad but each of them has a different idea of who the man actually was. Kate idolized him. Lauren’s relationship was more distant. Then one night at a family dinner a woman shows up who claims to be their father’s daughter. Everyone is shocked by the revelation but none more than Kate. She is determined to prove that Jess is a liar. Lauren is more accepting of her which leads to even more discord in the family. As Kate looks deeper into Jess’s story she finds that not everything is as simple as Jess claims.

My Thoughts: This book kept me reading! I kept telling myself just one more chapter. One more chapter. I loved the different viewpoints. I liked that each woman was completely different from each other. It made the story more interesting because of the conflict. Little clues and hints appeared throughout. Some were red herrings. Others were not. I flew through this book with my heart pounding waiting for the ending.

I do have to say though that some of the stuff seemed a little farfetched. There were some overreactions and wild theories from the characters. I rolled my eyes a few times because it got a little dramatic but it did not stop me from reading it. I was pleased with the ending. I would highly recommend this for fans of thrillers and fast paced novels.

FYI: Great for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.

Book Suggestion Super Heroes aka Librarians!

One of my favorite parts of being a librarian is helping someone find the perfect book. That book that calls to them when they have to put it down. The book filled with characters that become friends and family. The book that allows the person to escape for a time. It’s really good stuff.

I haven’t been able to do this as often in person lately but it doesn’t mean that I can’t help from afar! We have several options to help find you the perfect book for yourself or your child. So, jump in and put us to work!

Book Fix

Book Fix is a fantastic option set up by our amazing staff members to have you answer a couple questions and then we pick out up to 6 books for you based on that information. Then we pull those books, give you a call/email when they are ready, and you pick them up in the drive-thru! You can use this service for kids or adults. I got to put together a pile of books for a kiddo last week full of construction vehicles and monsters. It was so much fun! Click on “Book Fix” above to get started or find this service under “Readers Advisory” on our home page under “Services”.

Themed Book Lists and Award Winners

Looking for books all about the same theme? Or curious about all the Caldecott winners for a specific year? Need some help with potty training? Explaining divorce or other challenging issue?

We’ve got books for that. Click on the link above to see!

We’ve put together lists of books by theme. Simply click on the desired theme and you will be taken to the page for those titles. On that page will be a list of books that you can click on and then place them on hold. We pull the books from the shelves and then give you a call/email that they are ready. A trip through the drive-thru later and you have a new stack of books ready to go!

So whether you want a stack of surprises or the best books on insects we are ready to help! Books for littles, school age, teens or you, we would love nothing more than to put together a stack tailored to your individual house.

Love,

Youth Services @Derby Library

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Queen’s Secret

The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper

First line: After all the grand celebrations leading to my one hundredth birthday, I had feared dreadfully that the calendar day itself would be a disappointment.

Summary: Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, also known as the Queen Mother, took on an important role during the Second World War. Hitler even called her “the most dangerous woman in Europe” because of her popularity and determination to stop the Nazi threat. Using her position she helped Londoners get through the hard years of bombings and rationing. Her support of her husband and Winston Churchill made her a force to be reckoned with. She knew and participated in the most important plans of the war. But even as she was keeping the countries secrets she was hiding a few of her own.

My Thoughts: I am not a 100% sure how I feel about this book. As a story it was a nice easy read. I learned somethings about the time period and the role of the royals during it. It was interesting to see what life was like for them. Elizabeth sounds like a fascinating woman. She lived to be over 100 years old. She saw the world change drastically. I really would love to read a good biography on her someday.

But I had a hard time believing some of the secrets she dealt with from her past. When searching for any confirmation on them I only found one source which was a tell-all book from a member of the aristocracy. I don’t know how accurate it is but it made for an interesting story plot. And since the queen mother is gone it will not be able to be truly known.

I immediately wanted to watch The King’s Speech and The Crown after finishing this!

FYI: This is perfect for fans of The Crown!

What’s Ashley Reading?: Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

First line: Every house has a story to tell and a secret to share.

Summary: Maggie Holt has lived in the shadow of the book, House of Horrors, written by her father about the time they spent living at Baneberry House. She has no memories of their time there and cannot get answers about what really occurred there twenty-five years earlier. When she learns that she has inherited the house from her father she decides to go back, against the dying wish of her father, and try to find some answers.

My Thoughts: I think this is one of my favorite books by Riley Sager. He does a phenomenal job of creating a tense and thrilling story. I find it interesting that he always writes women but he does it so well.

From the very beginning I was hooked on Maggie’s story. I needed to know what happened just as much as she did. I could not turn the pages fast enough. I liked how the chapters alternated between “the Book” and Maggie in present day. The parallels made me want to keep reading with all the foreshadowing. There were several scenes where I had to set the book down and breathe a little bit to get past it.

This definitely has a The Haunting of Hill House vibe to it. A big scary house where a family it tormented. What could be better? But Sager does a great job of making this story his own. He has his classic twists and turns. I could not recommend this enough to anyone who loves a good thriller/ghost story.

FYI: Perfect for fans of The Haunting of Hill House, the Netflix show and book.