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.

Writing Challenge Winner: Neutral Zone 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. Neutral Zone is a science fiction story that leads the main character through multiple universes to battle against his alternate self!

Check it out below!

Original artwork by Olivia!

Derick slouched in his chair. The seemingly endless babble of his History teacher discouraged any interest he had in the Industrial Revolution, which was none in the first place. He just wanted the class to be over and the weekend to start. He stared blankly at his History book, trying to make sense of it. His teacher was not even talking about the Industrial Revolution at this point, instead about a bet that he made with one of Derick’s classmates. It was something about a race around the school with Derick’s fastest classmate.

Derick shrugged and tried to fill out notes for the section. He hurried through them, barely reading the section, so he could finish before the bell, which was supposed to go off in five minutes.

When the clock was in the last minute, Derick could hear the sea of eager children quickly stacking all the stuff they had in messy piles on their desks. He was doing it too, so he had no room to judge.

The bell rang and Derick almost had to run out of the classroom to get to his locker before the hallway became too crowded. He shoved his stuff in his backpack, closed his locker, and was out the door before someone could count to ten.

“Hey, dude!” called someone from behind him. Derick looked over his shoulder to find his friend Chris running after him. “You’re taking me home today, remember? And what’s got you hurrying?”

“Sorry, I forgot,” Derick answered as he slowed down a bit for Chris to catch up. “And Mom’s got to go for her yearly check up today. I didn’t want to miss my chance.”

“You knew I was coming you dumb nut, and okay.” They both continued to run to Derick’s mom’s car. The red minivan was not hard to miss. Sprinting across the parking lot was not their best idea, Derick admitted, but they did get there faster than they would have any other way.

“Boys!” Derick’s mom exclaimed once they got in the car.

“Sorry for Sprinting,” Derick apologized. “But the car was over the Verizon.” He added gun fingers.

“Derick no!” Chris said, threatening to get out of his seat and leave.

“Derick yes!” Derick retorted. He loved to mess with Chris like that.

His mom sighed. “Can we not have one moment of peace?” she asked wishfully.

“Nope,” Derick and Chris said at the same time.

The drive home was a quick three minutes. Derick’s mom dropped them at the front door and drove off. Derick walked up to the door and rummaged around in his pocket to find the key to the house…

Of which he accidentally left in the long gone red minivan that belongs to his mom. He face palmed.

“You left the key in the car, didn’t you?” Chris asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yep,” Derick said.

“Dude, you have a problem. That’s the third time this week.”

“I know.”

“And your mom’s going to kill you next time you do it.”

“I know.”

“Just saying.” Chris sat down on the front step. “You know, that cloud looks like a dragon.”

Derick joined him. “No, it looks like a Star Destroyer from Star Wars.”

“You and your Star Wars.” Chris said, shaking his head.

Derick heard something that sounded like a bomb went off in his backyard. He noticed Chris was not put off by it. Derick wondered if he was hearing things, but he figured it would be safe to check anyway.

“Hey, I’m gonna go check on something,” he told Chris while trying to strain his neck around to see his backyard.

“Sure dude,” Chris shrugged and went back to stabbing the ground with sticks he found laying in the grass. Derick rolled his eyes.

Derick quickly climbed over his fence to see what was going on. He could not believe what he saw. There was a huge crater in the middle of his backyard. In the center was a short person, about a head shorter than Derick. He wore a tan short-sleeve shirt with one light green triangle in the center of the sleeve. The tan color matched the color of his skin pretty well, but his skin was a tad bit lighter. Under it was an orange shirt with sleeves that reached his elbows. It was matched with dark brown cargo shorts. He had light blue shoes on and a sash that contained little containers full of paint that was pretty much every color of the rainbow. He had dark brown hair, the color matched Derick’s, and different colored eyes which seemed to change every few seconds. Some black paint was splatted near where his nose was, but he did not seem to notice.

Derick only had about a thousand questions for him, but another person was hovering in the air. Derick looked again and realized that he was not hovering, but sitting on a swing made of blood red strings. The strings seemed to be coming from markings on his arms. He wore a black t-shirt with grey sweats. He had on black shoes. His skin was a dark brown and his hair pitch black. His crazed grin sent a shiver down Derick’s spine. He had a bad feeling about this.

“It’s all your fault, Terrace,” the person on the swing said. “If you let me do my job, we wouldn’t be here, would we?”

“If I let you do your ‘job,’ Vick,” Terrace said. Derick assumed that was his name because the other person said so. “There wouldn’t be anything left!”

Derick was glad both of them had not noticed him yet. They both looked piping mad at each other and he wanted no part in that. He tried sneaking back over the fence. It was going well, he almost made it over.

Almost.

Another chill went down his spine. He felt like he was being watched. He froze, not daring to move.

“Well, what do we have here?” sneered Vick. Derick could tell it was him because his voice was a lot harsher than Terrace’s.

“Gosh darn it,” Derick mumbled to himself. He turned his head back around. He saw both of them now staring at him.

Terrace had a terrified look on his face while Vick continued to smile. Vick pointed his hand at Derick and his markings started to glow.

“Don’t do it Vick!” Terrace yelled. “You can’t kill him! This is the original AW, don’t you know that?” He pronounced ‘AW’ as two individual letters.

Derick was confused. He had no idea what was going on.

Vick lowered his hand and his markings stopped glowing. “What makes you think I was gonna kill him?” he asked Terrace. “You brought us here anyway.”

“No I didn’t!” Terrace yelled back. “You did!”

Derick noticed that, at this point, their battle had been forgotten and they now resorted to bickering with each other. Derick used this time to finish making his way over the fence. He could not leave them like that in his backyard, so he used a crack in the fence to watch them.

“Hi!” someone exclaimed next to Derick. He jumped back and turned to look at the person. He was wearing a light grey t-shirt and dark blue basketball shorts. He had on light blue shoes, which matched the color of the scarf he had around his neck. His skin tone was the same as Derick’s, a tan color, light brown hair, and, to Derick’s surprise, green eyes. He had on a big smile.

“What are you doing here?” Derick asked. He had no idea who this person was. “It isn’t safe!”

“You mean them?” The person pointed at the fence, but Derick knew what he meant. “They always do that! That’ll be over soon!” He giggled. “I’m Cerulean by the way!”

Derick shook Cerulean’s outstretched hand.

“You know them?”

“Of course I do! Terrace is my friend! He helped create the multiverse and the AWs! Vick destroys the AWs.”

“Hold up, what multiverse? That’s just a dumb theory. It’s not real!”

“You better believe it! Where you live is called an Alternate World, or AW for short! Your AW is the first one and mine’s the second!”

“You’re bluffing!”

“Nope! Derick, everything I said was true!”

“How do you know my name?” Cerulean did not answer. “I don’t remember telling you.”

Cerulean took a deep breath in and out. “Derick, I-”

Something blasted the fence gate and destroyed it. Cerulean and Derick ducked for cover. When he looked up, Derick saw Terrace run over towards them. “Cerulean!?” he called frantically.

“I’m here!” Cerulean called back from behind a bush. Terrace looked relieved. “So is Derick!” Cerulean added.

“I’m over here!” Derick called. He and Cerulean got up from behind the bushes. Derick quickly looked at the damage to the fence gate. He could not even recognize that there was a fence there. He further looked around the wreckage into his backyard to check for Vick.

“What happened?” He heard Cerulean ask Terrace behind him.

“Well, Vick and I were arguing for a bit and, well, you know how unstable he is,

he…uh…” Terrace stumbled around for words to describe it. “Kinda wrapped his strings around part of the porch and threw it at me. I dodged and it hit the gate. Then I laughed at him for missing me and he tried to hit me with a fence post. He stormed off to who-knows-where.”

“Man! How am I going to explain this!” Derick exclaimed. “I’m home for ten minutes and my backyard looks like I was experimenting with nukes and accidentally exploded one!” Derick was freaking out.

“Derick!” Terrace yelled. Derick stopped. “I can fix this, just give me a sec!”

“Really?” Derick scoffed. “This is not a one man jo—” Terrace generated two paint brushes out of thin air and, with a determined look in his eyes, proceeded to draw Derick’s backyard back to its original state.

“How?” Derick gaped. He was in shock.

“Terrace is the god of Creativity,” Cerulean added.

“Oh.” Derick recalled Cerulean saying something like that earlier.

“Oh yeah! I was going to tell you how I knew your name!”

“I would still like to know.”

“Well, so, basically, I’M YOU IN MY AW!”

Derick was surprised. He did not see the connection until then. “So are Terrace and Vick?”

“Yes,” Cerulean said, with less enthusiasm.

“What’s with the nicknames then?”

“Derick, you are more important than you realize!”

Terrace started laughing, much to both of their surprise. They both looked at him weirdly. “What?” Terrace asked.

“Does he always do that?” Derick asked Cerulean quietly.

“Yes, but sometimes it’s a bit different. The other day, he got really mad at me for no reason. A second later, he apologized to me for it and claimed he didn’t know what got over him. I think he’s keeping something from me.” Cerulean whispered back.

“ ‘I got a bad feeling about this,’ ” Derick said in his best impersonation of Han Solo. Cerulean laughed.

“You want to see something cool?” Cerulean asked Derick excitedly.

“Sure,” Derick said, winking one eye and smiling.

Cerulean bounded over to Terrace. “Terrace!! Can we show him the place??” he asked.

“Which place?” Terrace asked playfully. Derick could tell Terrace knew which place Cerulean was talking about.

“You know what place, silly!” Cerulean smiled.

“Okay,” Terrace said. “I guess I can do that.”

“Yay!” Cerulean cheered. “Come on, Derick!” Terrace drew a big portal-like thing with his paint brushes, stepped in, and disappeared. Cerulean did the same.

Derick did not know if he wanted to go with some strangers to some place. Scratch that, he wanted to go, he just did not know if he should. He figured a few moments could not hurt, so he walked through the portal. ​Gotta trust myself at some pointhe sighed. ~~~~~~

Derick had to take a step back. The teleportation made him a bit queasy, but Terrace reassured him that it was only because it was his first time.

“Derick, welcome to AW 10,” Terrace said. “Or, specifically, to Upmost, Earth satellite and a hospitable place for humans.”

At the moment, Derick realized…

He was in space.

Derick had to step back to take in the breathtaking view of the Earth from space. He could see the sun peaking out from just over the horizon the Earth made.

“Wait, how can we breathe up here?” Derick asked.

“This place is covered by a sort of force field,” Cerulean explained. “I’m not sure exactly how it works, but in the building over there is a generator that generates oxygen.” Cerulean gestured toward a whitish-grey covered building in the distance. The building seemed to be laid out in sections and each section was connected by some sort of above-ground tunnel.

“Here comes the head man,” Terrace announced. Derick saw someone emerge from the building. He was taller than all of them and wore a white lab coat over a dark gray shirt. “Derick, this is Astro. He’s a future you that’s a scientist. He also runs things around here.”

“Hello,” Astro said. Derick gave him a small wave. Astro turned his attention towards Terrace. “Terrace, I don’t mind that you come here, but you have to tell me beforehand, got it?”

“Sorry,” Terrace apologized. “But I had to show Derick around, Cerulean begged me.”

“This is your one pass,” Astro said.

“Hey Derick!” Cerulean pulled on Derick’s shirt. “How about I show you around?”

“Okay.” Derick followed Cerulean inside the building.

Derick barely paid attention to Cerulean giving him a tour. He really was fascinated by the structure, but he was not feeling well. Shortly after entering the building, he heard a ringing sound in his ears. After a while, he also felt incredibly hot.

“Hey, Cerulean?” Derick started to ask. “Is it hot in here or what?”

“Derick, are you okay?” Cerulean asked. “This room is practically a big freezer for all the food here.”

“Nah, I’m fine,” Derick lied. His vision started to blur. His knees buckled and he fell forward.

“Derick!” Cerulean screamed, but Derick did not hear him. He had blacked out.

Derick opened his eyes. He seemed to still be in the building. The air was musty with the smell of blood. A strange fog covered the area, giving it an eerie feel. Derick started walking around. He saw a shadowy outline in the fog. After getting a bit closer, he identified the outline as Cerulean.

Cerulean was really beat up. He had generated some sort of weapon that hung loosely in his right hand. Derick made a mental note to ask about it later.

Cerulean noticed Derick. “What are you doing here? It’s not safe!” Derick heard laughter behind him. “Watch out!” Cerulean yelled. Derick turned around to try and identify what the threat was. He tried to move, but he was not fast enough.

He could feel the terrible pain of a knife piercing his side. His hands flew to the place where the knife was. He could feel his blood on it. In front of him, he saw another outline in the fog.

“Who—” Derick started to say but was interrupted by a coughing fit. He could feel blood trickling down from his mouth. “Who are you?” he rasped.

“Who am I?” The person stepped out of the fog. He was wearing a black hoodie and black sweatpants. His hood was pulled over his eye line and he held another knife. “I’m you, but everyone calls me Blood.”

Blood walked closer to Derick. “It’s so nice to haunt your dreams. Too bad you’re not actually here. This would have been so much more fun if so.” Derick only stared. He knew he did not have the strength to run.

Blood stood in front of Derick. He smiled. “You must have thought Vick was the only one.” Blood pulled out the knife that was wedged in Derick. The ripping motion reopened the wound and blood flowed out of it. Derick desperately tried to stop the blood flow with his hands and, while doing so, sank to his knees. He felt a hand grip his hair, forcing his head to tilt upward. He saw Blood’s merciless eyes staring back.

“Silly,” he laughed. “There are a lot of us.” Blood stabbed Derick again. “Goodbye, for now.”

Derick jolted awake. He saw Terrace and Cerulean staring at him. He grew a little uncomfortable. He seemed to be in some sort of infirmary. “Welcome back, Derick,” he heard Astro say. Derick got up from what resembled a hospital bed. He felt a weird pain from his side.

The pain was close to nothing, but it was enough to remind Derick about his dream, if it could even be called that. He could still perfectly picture the knife in his side and Blood laughing at him. He all of a sudden wanted to get out of the building.

Derick walked out of the room before anyone could say anything. Somehow, his feet remembered which way he entered from. He could hear Cerulean following him; Derick knew it was him because he was calling Derick’s name. He continued on.

He finally found his way to the exit. He was going to open the door, but his side started hurting more. He figured it was because he had been running, so he casted it aside. He tried to open the door again, but Cerulean caught up with him.

“Derick!” Cerulean yelled. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Derick said. “I just need some fresh air.” He reached again for the handle.

“That’s not a good reason why you bolted off!” At this point, Derick’s side was throbbing

with pain. Derick opened the door.

~~~~~~

Derick was planning on going through the door, but he did not. He took a step back and stared forward. ​Speak of the devilDerick thought.

“What’s wrong?” Cerulean asked. He also looked forward and flinched.

“Aww, this is so cute,” Blood said. “I actually get to kill someone.”

“When you said ‘for now,’ I didn’t think you meant in five minutes,” Derick said, trying to be funny for his own sake.

Blood was obviously not amused. “Your humor is stupid,” he said. He took a step forward. Out of the corner of his eye Derick saw Cerulean generate a slingshot. ​That’s what that wasDerick realized.

“Don’t come any closer!” Cerulean warned.

“Or what? You’re going to hit me with that?” Blood laughed. “You can’t aim!”

“Yes I can!” To prove his point, Cerulean flung a rock like object at Blood. It hit him in the face. It did not seem to hurt him, but it did surprise him.

Blood was furious. He generated a knife. “This has your name on it Cerulean.”

“Get behind me, Derick,” Cerulean ordered “So he can’t hit you.” Derick did what he was told.

“I already did,” Blood smiled. He snapped his fingers. Derick’s side started hurting as much as it did in his dream. Again, he imagined a knife in his side. He grabbed onto Cerulean’s shirt to try to stay standing.

“Derick!” Cerulean shrieked. He put his arms around Derick to steady him. Cerulean looked back at Blood “What did you do?!”

“No, Cerulean,” Blood shook his head “It’s ‘what did you do?’” Cerulean flinched. “You’ve kept the truth long enough. Heck, you’ve lied to keep the truth. Now what kind of friend is that?”

“Cerulean, what is he talking about?” Derick asked. He was skeptical about what Blood was saying but Cerulean’s reaction made it seem like it was true. “What truth?”

“It’s nothing,” Cerulean said. Cerulean did not make eye contact with Derick.

“‘Nothing’? I’ve been living ‘nothing’ my whole life?!” Blood spat. “I’m only here because of you! Do you know what it’s like to be made of someone’s insecurities? Huh?”

“I didn’t know it would turn out like this!” Cerulean said.

“Oh, so you ‘didn’t know’ you were lying about Terrace? Is that how this is going? And now you’re pulling not just another person, but the original into this?”

Derick was completely lost. The pain in his side subsided, finally, but Cerulean would not let go of him. Somehow, he felt like he needed to be strong for Cerulean. “I don’t get it,” Derick asked. “Who are you?” He directed the question at Blood.

Cerulean answered. “He’s me, Derick.” Derick just stared at him. “In my… our AW, people are born with the natural ability to do magic. Some are better than others. And you can be whatever you want to be!”

“But that’s true for everyone…?” Derick half asked.

“Well, I took it more literal than everyone else. I wanted to be the best me I could be by locking away almost all of my negative traits. It took almost all of my magic to do, but I was a better person. I loved it!

“Over time, all those negative feelings grew a literal mind of their own. First, it was just nightmares. Those nightmares gave me back my regret. And then, after a while, they had a body that followed me around like a ghost. He was stable at first. He gave me criticism, but I mostly ignored it.

“You actually heard me?” Blood looked surprised.

“Yes,” Cerulean answered. “Anyway, I met at Terrace one day. I showed Terrace around my home, and we became friends. When he asked if I wanted to go with him, I immediately said yes. He showed me his favorite places in the AWs, and we had fun. During this, I didn’t realize my negative ghost was gone. When I finally did, I was concerned, actually.

“Yeah right,” Blood scoffed.

”I’m not kidding. I was so used to the constant commentary that I felt weird without it. Well, the days went on and I met Blood, he was calling himself that, truly on accident. I recognized him instantly.”

“So you’ve lied about this instead of telling the truth?” Derick pieced together. “I know the truth is very important. While you were telling the story, did you realize Blood lost the insane look he had before?” Cerulean was stunned. So was Blood. “The more you lied, the more piled on Blood, the more crazy he seemed, and the more positive you were.” As a joke, he added. “Come on, you guys do magic. You’re, like, ten times more powerful than me.” Cerulean laughed. Blood chuckled a bit too.

“You are going to explain to him this one,” Cerulean said to Blood.

“Fine,” Blood took a deep breath. “Derick, you know you are the original, right?”

“Yes?” Derick said. He did not know why that mattered.

“You get certain powers because of that. The most important one is that if you die outside your AW, all other yous die and all AWs collapse and there goes the multiverse. You can traverse the multiverse without help and…um…”

“We don’t know all of those powers,” Cerulean finished.

“Wow,” Derick said. “That’s awesome! I have one question though.”

“Shoot for it,” Cerulean said.

“Are you ready to tell Terrace?”

“I don’t know. I’ll need time. I’ve known him longer and I don’t know if he’ll take it well.”

“We’ll tell him together, all three of us,” Derick assured Cerulean. “In about five seconds.”

“What?!” Cerulean and Blood said at the same time.

The door slammed open. “Oh my gosh! Did someone die?” Terrace demanded. Derick saw that he had his paintbrushes out.

“Everyone is alive!” Derick yelled back.

“Not while he’s here!” Terrace started at Blood. Cerulean stepped in between them.

“We have something to tell you,” Cerulean said.

~~~

It took a while, but the three of them told Terrace the whole story. Terrace took it surprisingly well.

“Do we have to tell Astro that Terrace broke the door?” Derick asked.

“Nah, Terrace will fix it,” Cerulean assured Derick.

“He was you the whole time?!” Terrace asked. Cerulean nodded. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to think less of me,” Cerulean admitted. “And I was ashamed of it.” “Cerulean, you’re my friend. I would never.” Terrace gave Cerulean a reassuring smile.

Derick was happy for the two. He could not help but glance in Blood’s direction. “So,” Derick started. “What will you do now? I mean, you have things sorted out with Cerulean, and you’re done with that knife trick of yours.”

“Who said I was?” Blood smirked. Derick felt a bit of pain from his side. He elbowed Blood. “Hey, I was kidding.”

“How do you do that anyway?” Derick asked.

“Magic.” Blood grinned. Derick glared at him. “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

“This may seem stupid, but what if you helped the multiverse?”

“Me?” Blood laughed. “I’m the literal opposite of the hero type.”

“Cerulean just admitted to being ashamed. Maybe you two share some emotions instead of trade them off.”

“Derick, I’ve killed a lot of people. How am I going to come back from that?”

“One step at a time. You’ll have to give yourself some sort of chance at redemption.”

“You are very hopeful.” Blood stared up at the stars. “I’ll consider it.”

Derick smiled. He noticed that Astro was coming out of the building. “Terrace! The door!” Derick shouted.

“Shoot!” Terrace exclaimed. He quickly repainted the door. It reminded Derick about his yard. For the first time during the trip, Derick felt homesick.

He chuckled to himself. “Man, my life will never be the same after this,” he said.

“Welcome to the club,” Blood said. “If Cerulean doesn’t throw off any more negativity, I can finally act sane for once. It’ll be nice.” He smiled.

“Derick! Are you ready to go home?” Terrace called.

“Not yet!” Derick called back. He looked at Blood. “After all you put me through, I’m going to miss you.”

“Heh, me too,” Blood said. “I might just have to invade your dreams again.”

“If you do, pick somewhere less creepy, okay?” Derick and Blood both laughed. Derick had a feeling that, deep down, something sparked in Blood.

“In that case, see you on the flip side,” Blood said. “Make sure you talk to Cerulean, it looks like he has something for you.”

“Okay,” Derick waved back at Blood before walking over to Cerulean.

“Oh, Derick!” Cerulean said. “Thank you for giving me another chance! I did a terrible thing and I told big lies to cover it up and I just went about it the wrong way and I really should have known better and—” Cerulean was almost in tears.

“Cerulean,” Derick said, cutting Cerulean off. He looked Cerulean in the eyes. “It’s okay. Making mistakes is what makes us human. It’s not healthy to beat yourself up about it. You have to accept that you did something wrong so you can move on.”

“I don’t think Blood will let me.”

“Yes he will. He’s as done with the lies as you are.”

Cerulean grinned. “Thank you, again, Derick.”

“Anytime.”

“That reminds me!” Cerulean held out a piece of paper. “It’s my number. If you need anything, just ask!”

Derick pocketed the paper. “Thanks Cerulean.” Derick turned toward Terrace. “I’m ready now.”

“Okay, give me a quick second,” Terrace created a portal. “See you, Derick.”

“Come by anytime, Terrace!” Derick smiled. He went through the portal and ended up back in his backyard. He waved at his new friends through the portal before it closed. He climbed back over his fence.

“Hey dude,” Chris said. “Did you see something?”

“Well,” Derick looked back at his backyard. “I guess you could say that.”

“Cool.”

~~~

Derick’s mom was disappointed with Derick. After she dropped Chris back at his house, she talked to Derick about being responsible with things that were not his. Derick promised to do better.

After dinner, when Derick had enough time to himself, he whipped out his phone. He took out the slip of paper in his pocket. He entered in Cerulean’s phone number. He was about to close the contact when he saw the words “dial (-) first” scribbled on the back of the slip. He completed the contact. He took a deep breath. He hoped it worked and he would not accidentally text some random person instead. He texted “Heya, it’s Derick.”

The response was almost instant. “Hi Derick! It’s Cerulean!” Derick smiled. He had a feeling he would see him again soon. Above everything, he was really tired. He had had too much excitement for one day. He said good night to his parents and went to bed.

It did not last long. Derick woke up to a crashing sound. He reached over to his light switch and flicked it on. He saw Cerulean tangled up in a cord. Derick was not sure what it was to. “Why are you here, Cerulean?” he said groggily. “It’s probably midnight.”

“It’s eleven,” Cerulean said. “And we need your help!”

“Why didn’t you call me?” Derick was not fully awake. He was not thinking straight.

“This calls for drastic measures!” Cerulean gave someone behind Derick a thumbs up.

In an instant, Derick felt a cold liquid poor down his shirt. That woke him up.

“What the—” Derick started to say. He looked behind him. He saw Blood laughing his head off. “Guys, my parents!”

“They’re fine,” Blood said. “Extra sleep won’t hurt.” Derick got the idea.

“So what is it?” Derick asked.

“It’s Vick,” Cerulean said. “He’s at it again.”

“Where are we meeting?”

“Upmost.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you there.” Derick took a deep breath. “I’m going to try it.”

“Be careful,” Blood said. He and Cerulean disappeared.

Derick had no idea how to teleport. Well, he had one. He cleared his mind and closed his eyes. He thought about the spectacular view of Earth from Upmost.

A second later, he opened his eyes. He found himself in the same spot he thought about. He pumped his fist in the air.

“Oh good! You made it!” Cerulean said.

“Cerulean was worried sick,” Blood said. “He wanted to go back to help you, but I told him you’d be fine.”

“How were you so sure?” Derick asked. Blood pointed to Derick’s side.

“We have a small link now,” he said. “Don’t worry, it can only do dreams and really good hunches.”

“How long will it be there?” Blood shrugged. All three of them laughed.

“We should probably get going,” Cerulean said. “Terrace is waiting inside the building.”

They walked towards the door. Derick felt ready. He knew that whatever Vick was doing would be stopped by the four of them.

He felt truly invincible.

Look out for Olivia’s sequel called Red Strings coming soon to the blog!

What’s Ashley Reading?: Elevation

Elevation by Stephen King

First line: Scott Carey knocked on the door of the Ellis condo unit, and Bob Ellis (everyone in Highland Acres still called him Doctor Bob, although he was five years retired) let him in.

Summary: One day Scott Carey noticed that he was losing weight but that his body was not changing. Each day brought on another weight loss. Even when he was holding something the weight was the same or less each day. There is no explanation for this strange occurrence. He has no interest in being a science experiment.

And this is not the only troubling part of Scott’s life. He has a small feud with his neighbors. They keep letting their dogs use his yard as a bathroom. While Scott tries to mend fences he learns that sometimes it takes more than just a kind word or an apology.

My Thoughts: This is such a sweet little book. The story is creative and uplifting. It is unlike most of King’s other works. It shows that he has a range of talents in writing. I sped through it in just a few hours. At the end I had to sit and reflect on the story for a bit to completely appreciate the story. I was not sure how it was going to end. I was a little shocked, saddened and happy with the ending. It was not what I was expecting at all.

I loved how the relationships changed in the story. How the characters evolved as the tale progressed even changing their prejudices. This is a wonderful read for anyone who likes a good story. If you need a quick book to finish off your reading goal for 2019 this should be it!

FYI: No ghosts, horror or mad dogs.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Recursion

Recursion by Blake Crouch

First line: Barry Sutton pulls into the fire lane at the main entrance of the Poe Building, an Art Deco tower glowing white in the illumination of its exterior sconces.

Summary: Barry Sutton is a New York cop who witnesses the tragic effects of False Memory Syndrome when a woman jumps from the forty first floor of a skyscraper.

Helena Smith is a researcher looking for a way to save and record memories to help Alzheimer patients.

As the world around them begins to unravel because of the mysterious FMS, they must team up to try and learn how to stop the phenomenon from continuing to plague the world. If they cannot not it can lead to the possible end of the world.

My Thoughts: From the very first page this story is off and running. There is no build up or major character development in the first twenty pages like most novels. Crouch puts us immediately into the story. This is by far one of my favorite parts of his writing. It is very easy to lose interest in a book that drags its story out too long.

When we meet Barry we also hear about False Memory Syndrome but it is not really explained. For a while it was difficult to understand what is happening to those that are affected. However, once I understood what the disease entailed it became obvious why it could be terrifying to contract.

There are several time hops which makes it very important to pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each new section.

I love how fast paced his story telling is. I was on the edge of my seat throughout.

I was never very good with science. Give me history or literature any day. Even though Recursion is very much a science fiction thriller it was not bogged down by the technicalities. When I tried reading The Martian by Andy Weir, the science is what killed the book for me. I just did not get it. But Crouch does a great job of having it as part of the story but not making it overwhelming for the everyday reader.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. Just give it a try. It is worth every minute you spend reading it.

FYI: Pick up Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It is just as thrilling!

From Reader to Writer: World Building Resources

Both readers and writers can agree that one of the best parts of stepping into an imaginative story is the immersive world building. From Tolkien’s Middle Earth to Rowling’s Wizarding World, the intricacies of creating an entire world are addictive. For genres like fantasy and science fiction that rely on otherworldly elements, it’s a writer’s ability to engage the five senses which hooks us into a story even more than writing plot or characters.

But when it comes to world building, the pressures of playing god can sometimes get really overwhelming. How do you keep it all straight? How do you determine the origins of your world, the climate, the geography, not to mention the cultures, races, plants, and animals that make your world not only believable, but habitable? How do you even know what questions to ask or what information is most important in your story?

As I’m working through my own writing, I’ve found that world building can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s immensely enjoyable to get lost in a world so different from my own, but world building is also an excellent excuse to create and create without really writing anything. I want to be careful not to risk getting “world builder’s disease,” an affliction that plagued even Tolkien where a writer creates every tiny, little detail of a world, inevitably running themselves into the ground and burning out.

To keep my thoughts organized, I’ve discovered this incredible resource. WorldAnvil is a free website that lets a writer, artist, or role-playing gamemaster organize an entire world in an encyclopedia format. The website has an article for various types of entries, and the articles prompt a range of questions that guide you through construction. WorldAnvil also has paid subscription options that offer access to more resources and functions in the website, but you can use the website without having to pay a thing.

I also found WorldAnvil’s YouTube channel and this video on tips for worldbuilding helpful. Beyond WorldAnvil, there are some great videos featuring advice from both seasoned writers and RPG game developers. This video on fantasy map construction is awesome!

Another amazing resource is best-selling author Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on writing. Many of his classes are available on YouTube including this one on worldbuilding.

When writing a story or even developing a world for a role-playing game, there are many elements and decisions to make. It’s intense and rewarding. Use this phase of your creative journey as an outlet to be eccentric and try things. When the real plotting begins, you’ll be so immersed in your story that much of the work will already be done.

Book Review: Wires and Nerve: Gone Rogue

Wires and Nerve: Volume 2: Gone Rogue by Marissa Meyer

First line: Almost a year has passes since we overthrew the wicked tyrant, Queen Levana, and crowned my best friend, Cinder—AKA Princess Selene Blackburn—as the true queen of Luna.

Summary: In the second installment of the Wires and Nerve graphic novels by Marissa Meyer we see Iko and Steele continue to hunt the blood thirsty genetically altered soldiers of Queen Levana. The soldiers have refused to return to Luna and accept that the war is over. With the planned trip to Earth, Cinder and her friends are worried about being attacked while celebrating the new peace treaty between the two nations. It is up to Iko and Steele to prevent this from happening.

Highlights: I loved the Lunar Chronicles. The fairytales intermixed with science fiction/fantasy were fun and exciting. I was happy to see that Meyer was going to continue and expand her universe with the Wires and Nerve stories. I am not much of a graphic novel reader but these were fun. The drawings were simple and monotone but still fit perfectly into the Lunar universe.

Lowlights: With graphic novels, the stories are usually short and very basic. I wanted more. I wanted to see more of my favorite characters. This is why I cannot read too many graphic novels. I like a fuller story.

FYI: Second in the series. However, you need to read the Lunar Chronicles before reading these!

Book Review: Renegades

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

First line: We were all villains in the beginning.

Summary: Nova is a villain. Adrian is a super hero. Nova was orphaned as a child when the group called the Renegades failed to save her parents from an assassin. Fueled by hate for the group of super heroes she joins a group called the Anarchists. When the plan to kill the leader of the Renegades fails Nova devises a plan to join the super hero force in order to bring them all down from the inside. But she did not intend to like the people she is meant to hate. Or even fall in love with the son of leaders of the Renegades.

Highlights: The cover is amazing. It is truly a cover for a super hero book. The bold colors and design are perfect for the story. This book falls in during the perfect time. Super hero movies and books are on the rise and this one great for readers of this genre. I liked that the characters. My favorite was a minor character, Winston (the Puppeteer). He is creepy and funny at the same time.


Lowlights: Most of the book is an introduction to the world and characters. The beginning is slower moving with most of the action happening at the end of the book.

FYI: This is the first of a trilogy. If you like this check out the author’s series, The Lunar Chronicles, a sci-fi fairy tale adventure.

I was lucky enough to attend an event at Watermark Books in Wichita when Marissa Meyer was promoting this book.  She was wonderful!  I loved listening to her talk about her ideas and plans for the book.  She has a great sense of humor and can tell a great story.  I laughed a lot while listening to her stories about writing.  I was really excited to get her to sign Cress, the third book in The Lunar Chronicles series.

 

November new releases

There’s definitely a chill in the air and we’ve seen our first forecast for possible snow (already?! it’s far too early for snow!). Break out the hot cocoa and some marshmallows, find a soft blanket to curl up in, and grab a good book! If you’re looking for something new, here are a few books scheduled for release this month (all of them before Thanksgiving!) that we recommend.

Nov. 7: Now is Everything by Amy Giles (young adult)
Hadley Macauley is at the center of this debut novel, told in alternating then and now chapters. Hadley’s family may look like a perfect family from the outside, but they are hiding a dark secret. Hadley is doing everything she can to keep her sister safe from their father, but after Hadley’s relationship with Charlie deepens, a violent incident at home changes everything. After Hadley attempts suicide, everyone wants to know what happened that day at home, and Hadley’s not saying a word.

Nov. 7: Renegades by Marissa Meyer (young adult)
From the author of the Lunar Chronicles comes the first in a new series about a syndicate of good guys who rose after society crumbled and chaos ruled—the Renegades. As champions of justice, they’ve brought about peace and order, which is appreciated by everyone but the villains they’ve vanquished. Nova is on a mission of vengeance for a villain who has the power to crush her, and when she meets Adrian, they both end up in danger.

Nov. 14: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive #3)
Brandon Sanderson does epic fantasy with the best of them, and the third installment in The Stormlight Archive series is no different. Humanity is facing a new Desolation in the Voidbringers. The violent Everstorm is sweeping the world with destruction. But nestled in the mountains above the storms, Shallan Davar unearths dark secrets in the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant. Previous books in The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings (#1), Words of Radiance (#2), and Edgedancer (#2.5).

Nov. 14: Artemis by Andy Weir
New science fiction from the bestselling author the The Martian is set in the near future in a city on the moon. Life in Artemis is pretty rough if you aren’t one of the rich tourists, so a little smuggling won’t hurt anything and certainly helps pay the bills. But when Jazz gets the chance to pull of a perfect crime, what could go wrong? Until she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy for control of the city itself.

Nov. 21: The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris (middle grades)—this book is on order so is not available yet on the catalog
Carter is a street magician. When he runs away to a sleepy New England town, he finds friends and more magic. After a greedy boss and some crooked carnies move into town, Carter teams up with five more kids who think like he does. They set out to rid the town of the bad guys, using magic and teamwork, and in the meantime, find friendship, adventure and their own self-worth.

Nov. 21: The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
From Goodreads: “A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.”

Book Review: Coming Home

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt

First line: When Alex Benedict graduated high school, his uncle Gabe, the only parent he’d ever known, provided the ultimate gift: a flight to Earth, the home world, the place where everything had started.

Summary: The year is 11,256 C.E. Earth is no longer the only inhabited planet in our galaxy. Thousands of years have passed and new worlds have been discovered but the artifacts from the Golden Age (early space travel) are rare and valuable. Many items have been destroyed or lost as Earth has dealt with flooding and other disasters. When an artifact is brought to Alex and his assistant, Chase, they begin to search how the item was just discovered and where it may have come from.
At the same time, a ship has been missing for 11 years. The passengers are believed to be dead. However, when the ship appears it is only available for a few short hours. For the passengers aboard they believe it has only been 3 days. How are all the people off the ship in such a short time?

Highlights: A very imaginative science fiction novel with a very intriguing plot. This was recommended to me and I was immediately interested. The idea of space travel and that items from our lives are considered ancient artifacts is fascinating. The science is not overwhelming which is perfect for me who has very little scientific knowledge. I liked the mysteries intertwining. I kept trying to think what I would do in the situation if I were stuck on a ship not realizing that 11 years had passed by in the blink of an eye. What would I be willing to do to get back to my family who have moved on? Highly enjoyable novel.

Lowlights: The book is part of the Alex Benedict series but he was in the story very little. It mainly followed the assistant, Chase. We never found out too much about him but those details may have been included in other books in the series.

FYI: Part of a series but can be read as a standalone. It has references to other books in the series but not enough to hinder the reading of this one.

Summer reading for grown-ups!

If you are a parent, you may be familiar with summer reading programs for kids. You know, you come into the library, sign your child(ren) up, and then spend the summer convincing them to spend time with books to log all their minutes reading or being read to, and hope that the weather in the last couple weeks before school starts is nice enough to use your free passes to the water park. It’s fun. No, really, it is! But admittedly, it can be a little bit exhausting.

Even if you don’t have children, you may think that summer reading programs are only for kids. And our summer reading program for kids is super awesome, but it’s not the only summer reading program we have.

We have a summer reading program for you! Yes, every single person who loves to read and is 18 or older can enroll in our adult summer reading program. Registration for the adult summer reading program opens at 9 a.m., Tuesday, May 30. You can register and track your books online or you can come in to the library and pick up a paper log. All books must be logged by 5 p.m. July 23.

Oh, and let’s talk about the prizes! We love to give away prizes! Each week, anyone who has read at least 4 books will be entered in a drawing for a library tote loaded with books and swag. Tuesday, July 25, we’ll draw three names to win grand prizes — a Kindle Fire HD and $50 Amazon gift card — from all participants who have logged at least four books . All prize winners will be drawn at random. 

The theme for all our summer reading programs is the same this year: Build a Better World. So help us build a better world this summer by participating in our adult summer reading program. And tell us in the comments below how reading helps build a better world for you!