This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
The door flew in. The room darkened. Before Dr Ian Millwell could even speak, the two creatures had him surrounded. They looked female and in many ways human. The doctor peered quickly at his appointment screen. His heart rattled. “Ah, Mrs Royd, and hello again, Aster.”
“I want to return this!” Mrs Royd was pointing at her daughter. “She’s faulty.” Mrs Royd was a giant. Seven feet tall at least, with another foot of metallic hair sticking up like confused aerials. She sat down at the desk and the chair whimpered.
“We talked about Aster just last week. Do you remember, Mrs Royd?” the doctor said. His eyes looked with kind fascination upon Aster, a nine-year-old, six foot two, wider than a doorway and rippling with muscles like a beefy wrestler. The floor creaked in unhappy agreement.
“She did it again!” continued Mrs Royd. “You told me to come back if she did it again. And she did did it again, didn’t you, Mrs Show-Off?” She prodded Aster, who took a quick step back. A cabinet rocked. A window splintered. The world moved out of the way. Aster’s face was a thunderstorm of embarrassment.
The doctor flicked through notes on the screen. “You mean the glowing episode?” He scratched his greying beard and a new wrinkle appeared around his smiling eyes. Whatever next was this town going to throw at him?
“Yes, Mrs Tablet-Teeth! We were at Plappbridge supermarket buying some gravel for tea and she wandered off and bumped into this big metal column thing. The whole roof fell down on her! What a mess! She should be dead! But no, not her; she just started glowing gold again and next minute she’s up, as if nothing’s happened!” She tutted and shook her pumpkin head in disappointment. “Obviously not human! I’m very, very dissatisfied. I want my money back! I’ll have a refund on her and get a proper kid, if you don’t mind. (But not a smelly one, or one that moans. Phone the hospital, they’ll tell you what’s in stock.) I’ve got that birth-certificate-receipt-thing some where…” Mrs Royd rummaged in her pockets and pulled out a crushed toilet roll. “Oh that’s where that went!”
“As I explained before, Mrs Royd,” Doctor Millwell said with a withering smile, “there’s nothing I can do about your, erm... very unique daughter.”
“Look, I’ll prove it!” Mrs Royd shouted. She grabbed a wooden box from the desk and threw it at Aster’s head. The box bounced off, but Aster barely flinched. A golden glow surrounded her and filled the room, fading gently.
Calmness drifted over the doctor like a fragrant summer breeze. He wanted to stay there, but he was suddenly back in the room with an agitated mother and a phased daughter.
He pulled himself out of his chair and went over to Aster. “Are you alright? What did that feel like, when you were... glowing?” There wasn’t even a mark where the heavy box had struck her.
“It tickled a bit,” Aster said with a shrug. “I liked it!” She almost giggled. “Do you want a go? The kids at school take it in turns. Richard threw a frying pan at me in cooking and got told off.”
The doctor put the box back on his desk and sat down again. “I really can’t help you, Mrs Royd. If you want my opinion, I think this is a blessing. What else could it be? Aster seems perfectly happy, and it would seem that nothing much can hurt her. Although it might be worth having a chat with the school about the bullying…”
Mrs Royd stood up fully, towering over the doctor, almost knocking the desk over with her own mighty heft. Her hair spiked into the ceiling. She wrenched it out. “You’re a waste of medicine, you are! Can’t you operate on her a bit? Just a few cuts here and there?”
“No. I can’t do that. Your daughter is very special person. I don’t want to change that and neither should you.”
“Well, if you won’t do anything, I will! Come on, you annoying lump!”
The door slammed, the ceiling cracked, at the heart of the galaxy the Star Seed waited for Aster, the Golden Child.
A pale, skeletal woman lumbered in, dragging a teenager by her hair. Frowning, Doctor Millwell flicked the screen to the next appointment. It was going to be one of those days – again.
“Mrs Sewage? And who is this?”
The woman snapped like an irritated crab. “Julie.” She pulled at the girl’s hair even tighter. “My daughter, Julie!”
“But according to my records, your daughter is nine years old. This young lady is about eighteen, maybe twenty.” Doctor Millwell went around the desk for a closer look.
“She is only nine! She’s a freak! She just keeps growing – twice as fast as normal kids. She’ll be older than me before long!”
Julie glared at her mother sideways. Her hair was dark, matted, like thick plant roots, skin a dark olive and eyes muddy green pits, glittering with hatred. But she didn’t struggle, she just hung there limply.
“You can let go of her, Martha,” the doctor suggested gently. “You’re probably hurting her.”
“No!” the mother spat. “She’s not human! I brought her in so you can put her to sleep! Give her one of those injections. This has to stop! She’s not my child…”
Julie didn’t react, except in her wet, frustrated eyes. The doctor went up close, crouched awkwardly and looked into them. He lifted up Julie’s limp left hand. A beautiful gold ring with a glowing, jade green stone sat on her middle finger. It pulsed hypnotically and he felt himself drawn in… a voice slapped him back to reality.
“She went missing when she was a baby. Only for an hour or so… There was this gold glow everywhere in the house, like a haze or fog, and then she disappeared from her cot. This… er… man found her in the garden. After I got her back, she started to grow really fast. And she had that ring on!” Martha was shaking with rage. Doctor Millwell was considering giving her the medication, not Julie. He went to touch the jewel. Martha knocked his hand away. “It’ll burn you! You can’t touch it. It’s not really a ring. It’s part of her! It’s growing out of her.”
The doctor frowned at the twinkling orb. It seemed to beat like a heart. He put his hand on Martha’s shoulder. “Why are you holding her hair like that?” he asked quietly.
“It keeps her calm. Shuts her down. She’s wild. If I let her go, you’d know about it! Do it now. Please. Give her the injection. She’s not natural, she doesn’t belong here! Something happened when she went missing… My real baby disappeared that day and I got this freak instead!”
“I can’t do that, Martha. She’s not an animal.”
“SHE’S NOT HUMAN EITHER!” Martha cried. Her hand waved and slipped. Julie’s hair writhed through her fingers like squirming tentacles. She was free.
In one swift somersault, Julie flipped backwards and stood by the door, staring at them with glowing green eyes. A low, groan came from deep inside her. She was baring her teeth like a dog, panting, hissing. Julie ran at them. She batted Martha aside with a stomach kick and pounced on the doctor, pinning him to his desk by his wrists, crouching over him, face to face. “She’s right!” Julie growled, boiling tears, volcanic breath, incredible strength. “If you don’t do it, she will!”
Julie’s eyes rolled up. She fell aside like a rag doll, her hair in Martha’s hands again. “Forget it!” Martha Sewage said to the panting doctor. “I’ll sort this out myself.” Holding her hair with both hands, she pulled Julie out of the room and slammed the door.
“Next!” Doctor Millwell straightened his tie, gathered his composure. His hands were shaking. Deep breath.
A tiny man tottered into the room. The screen said he was Marmaduke Nandor, but he didn’t match the description. Instead of being a strapping six foot-three, sixteen stone man, he was no more than three-feet tall, like a little boy, but with a face that was grizzled, lined with worries. His hair was greying. “Help me! I’m shrinking!” he said. “Every day, I’m getting smaller and smaller!”
Doctor Millwell couldn’t listen to any more of this. Something had gone badly wrong here in Plappbridge. Every day, the symptoms were becoming more and more bizarre. People who only wanted to sleep, who couldn’t stop juggling objects, whose diets involved gravel and mud: What was going on? How long before he caught it himself? Against his better nature, almost crying, he apologised to Mr Nandor, made some hurried excuse about an emergency and ran for the door.
At a roadblock on the edge of town, his push bike was stopped by armed soldiers. They gave Doctor Millwell a drink of some pink-fizzing water, then he felt much calmer, quite sleepy, and he went back home for a very long rest.
Hawkebat: Playing both Kotor I & II and Swtor I found the story line interesting and it held me until chapter 35 Very good story and plot flow until then, very few technical errors. I felt that the main character was a bit under and over powered, as it fought for balance. The last few chapters felt too f...
Charlie_8472: Recommended to me by a friend, I thought I'd give this a read. As a hobbyist blacksmith, the blurb certainly caught my attention. I found the sentence about them drinking, dancing and fighting a strange combination of activities, perhaps a reflection of the writer’s personality and humour. Howeve...
MavisMcQueen: "To Live Again" is a well crafted, highly engaging, heart vibrating tale surrounding our favorite Elven King. The author will keep you engrossed until the very end and by that time you will feel so strongly for Clara and the other characters that you will never want it to end...like ever. Thrandu...
ianwatson: The comedy is original and genuinely funny, I have laughed out loud many times reading this book. But the story and the plot are also really engaging. The opening two or three chapters seem quite character-dense but they all soon come to life and there is no padding, filling or wasted time readin...
Rebeccaseal: This was an almost perfect story that I would recommend to anyone. The only thing I would work on is painting a more realistic picture of Haiathiel. Somehow the environment seemed limited, and the land itself a bit unfinished. This can be solved simply by added descriptions to people and places. ...
Flik: Hi! ^.^ huge fan of yours on ff.net! When I saw the note about this contest on The Way We Smile, I couldn't help but rush over here, create an account, and vote! XD Seriously love this story and would recommend it to anyone! :D best FT fanfiction out there. Amazing story, amazing concept that wa...
summerstone: Seriously this is one of the best books I've ever read. The plot is intriguing, I love the narrative style. Its very descriptive and unique, with minimal cliches. It makes for a great read and the sequels are amazing. Totally worth reading. ^^ That's me trying to be professional. But in all hones...
Jasmine Chow: As I read this story, I was reminded some what of Terry Pratchett, especially some descriptions of politics and economics. The sci-fic setting is quite intriguing. Writing style is quite lovely and grew on me slowly. I was also slightly reminded of Mark Twain, especially his book A Connecticut Ya...
CookieMonster911: The story overall was an adventure that is appealing to any age. The way the characters develop adds a more human characteristic to the novel. The writing style itself is amazing because you can learn every character's thoughts and emotions. The awkward love triangle and jerk moments adds to the ...
dd1226: I love reading about other countries and I think this story about Cambodia after Polpot creates awareness of the tragedy that happened there and the actions of the U.N. to hold elections. The heroine of the story is easy to relate to, a modern, middleaged woman looking for an adventure, wanting t...
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."