This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
If there was one thing Alexa Haywood hated with the whole of her eight-year-old heart, it was shopping with her mother. It was bad enough that at eight she was too big to ride in the cart and too small to push it, and so had been relegated to “Walk behind me and don’t touch anything.” status. What made it far worse was that her brother’s daycare on the washed out corner of their little satellite town had recently been closed and the building converted to a nail salon, meaning that they no longer had anywhere to dump the little nuisance. Meaning that Alexa had to look after the monster and make sure he didn’t break anything her mother would have to pay for.
That was the only other thing Alexa hated about her short life. Her brother Patrick was six years old with chubby pink cheeks, golden ringlets, and bright blue eyes. He could easily have leapt out of one of those prints that came in new picture frames, but Alexa was well aware of how quickly those blue eyes could change from spiteful mischief to hurt innocence and the self-same voice that whispered,
“Don’t tell mommy about this or I’ll put a spider in your bed.” could just as easily shout,
“Mommy! Alexa’s being mean to me again!”
That one word was all it took. “Mean” could be construed as anything from withholding a piece of candy to disemboweling his favorite teddy bear and leaving its head on the lawn. What it always meant that it was Alexa who got in trouble, even when it was Patrick who was to blame for whatever catastrophe had distracted her parents from job or laptop.
Needless to say, that July day Alexa was trying her very best to ignore the screaming human missile as he “vroomed” in circles around the shopping cart, knocking things off the shelves and into the cart, which Alexa then had to replace on the shelves, and she was not even a little distressed when he “vroomed” around the corner and out of sight. In the sudden silence, she happily watched the methodical movements of her mother as she found each of the items on her grocery list and placed them carefully in the neat stack at the bottom of the cart. She chatted aimlessly on her Bluetooth as she walked, suit jacket folded over the blue plastic handlebar of the cart, eyes looking at someone and somewhere far away from her daughter and the shopping cart. It was not until nearly ten minutes had passed and they had reached the toiletries aisle that Alexa’s mother noticed the absence of her youngest child. She hung up and lifted her eyes from the yellow sticky note dangling from her left index finger. Alexa got a funny sort of feeling in her stomach as her mother’s slightly pink eyes flicked left and right before she pursed her lips and turned them on Alexa.
“Where is your brother?”
Alexa shrugged and grabbed a box of Swiffer Sweeper refills from the shelf. They hadn’t been on the list, but the maid had told her they had run out a few days ago and the kitchen floor was looking a bit grimy. Her mother grabbed her small shoulder roughly and bent down to stare straight into her face. Her mother’s hands were bony and hard like a bird claw and made Alexa’s shoulder ache.
“I thought I told you to look after him!” she spat angrily. Then her phone’s brisk buzz filled the aisle and she let go, pushing the girl away, and stood. Her eyes were far away again.
“Go find him. I’ll be in the produce section.”
With that, Alexa’s mother left the aisle, shoving the cart as if it had personally affronted her. As she turned to head towards the large crates of organic fruits, Alexa heard her greet the person on the other end of her call in her business voice. Alexa was left alone. She clenched her small fists tightly and vowed to get Patrick back for ruining the outing. But first, she would have to find the little demon.
It was easy. Really all she had to do was stand very still and very quiet and listen for the noise of racecars or tanks or war airplanes.
“Boom! Boom!” the shouts came from somewhere a few aisles over, but the small voice was unmistakable. Alexa took off running on small legs, scabbed knees just brushing the hem of her white dress as she scrambled around corners and dodged old women in tatty housedresses and harried water-eyed nannies.
Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed bouncing blonde curls and a Power Rangers t-shirt as she passed the canned food aisle. She skidded to a halt, sneakers leaving black marks on the linoleum and darted back into the aisle. Patrick was gone. Under her breath, she whispered a word that her father had once said after stubbing his toe on the baseboard. She was breathing hard and she knew her face was red. She ran to the end of the aisle and shouted at the flash of bright blue going into another aisle,
“Patrick!” She got a loud raspberry in response and shot off after it.
Alexa didn’t know where they were. The fluorescent bulbs flickered in this part of the store, the shelves were overstuffed and unorganized, and it smelled like old cardboard and Styrofoam peanuts. Up ahead, Patrick’s youthful energy was flagging. It was about his naptime, although their mother had not known that when she brought them out, and it was beginning to show. He was clumsy, tripping over his half-tied shoelaces and running into boxes overflowing with bubble wrap.
“You can’t run forever, you little monster!”
Alexa called after him. At least, she sincerely hoped he could not run forever. She, too, was tired and there was a burning at the side of her ribs that she was not used to. Suddenly, he put on a burst of speed and turned a corner, leaving her sight.
Alexa roared, pumping her legs faster to catch up. And then the resounding boom of a heavy door slamming shut filled the room.
Alexa shouted, this time in fear. Something about that sound filled her with foreboding, like the kind she had felt before realizing that her cat was not going to get up from his place on the back porch. She turned the corner at a run, then stopped abruptly.
The door was large and made of grey-painted metal. It had a horizontal bar across the middle instead of a doorknob, like the doors in her school’s gym, and was marked with illegible writing in black sharpie. It seemed, all of a sudden, that the only source of light in the whole room was the illuminated green “EXIT” sign above the door.
Alexa whispered into the suddenly stuffy air. She approached the door slowly, feeling very small next to the expanse of metal.
“Patrick, are you in there?”
She could barely hear her own voice, although the room was eerily silent. Hesitantly, she brought trembling hands up the bar. It was warm, as if it still held Patrick’s body heat. She pressed down and the door made a squeaky noise as the mechanism inside turned and compressed and opened.
The door swung inwards slowly, smoothly skating over the ivory sand that covered the floor of the room beyond until it caught on something. It was open just enough for Alexa to wriggle through sideways. As she did, the eyelet overlay of her summer dress snagged on the rough metal. She was only partway through the door and pulled with all her might. The material was strong and completely stuck. Alexa yanked until, with an audible ripping noise, the front of the overlay tore entirely off and she fell headfirst into a pile of sand.
She sat up, spitting and rubbing her eyes and took stock of her surroundings. This room that the door had opened into was not like any room she had ever seen. The ceiling was high and as blue as any summer sky. There were clouds too, clouds that impossibly seemed to be moving across the roof. The sun was huge and gold right above her, casting its rich light over the bright white beach and the expanse of turquoise water. It was like a picture in a magazine, one of those islands that her parents always said they would visit over vacation when they had the time. In a moment, all thoughts of lost brothers and angry parents left her. It was impossible to worry in a place as beautiful as this. Alexa’s face broke into a wide grin. She stood up and laughed, spinning around in her torn sundress until she was giddy, then kicking off her shoes and sprinting down to the ocean to let the cool water wash over her small bare toes. She giggled again and splashed through the water, which was clear up in the shallows, not caring that the hem of her dress was getting wet. It was ruined anyway; she doubted that the maid could repair the front of the dress, even if she brought back the overlay. Alexa turned back to the door, wondering if the overlay was still caught where she had left it, but the door was gone. In its place a thick forest grew out of the pale sand and right on the border where beach met trees, the Green Man stood.
Alexa’s smile slid from her face as she regarded the tall old man. He had a clipped silver beard and hair, emerald green eyes, skin as tanned and lined as her father’s wallet, and long tapered fingers. He was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt so faded from the sun it could have been any color to begin with. Somehow, though, Alexa knew it had been green. He was the Green Man, after all. The Green Man stared at her with an unwavering gaze for several moments before finally speaking in a voice that was like her grandfather’s, but very unlike as Alexa’s grandfather had never made her feel cold and frightened.
“You are lost.”
“No,” Alexa replied quietly, looking down at her foot tracing shapes in the sand. She did not want to contradict him, but a sudden desperate need to get her brother and leave this place made her forget her caution.
“I’m looking for my brother.”
A long moment passed, the soft whoosh of the ocean and the rustling of the trees the only noises on the whole island, before he spoke again.
M. Drewery: I did think I would be reading just another Atlantis archaeological adventure story when I came across this book. However I think it's fresh and very different to other approaches to the same historical mystery. The first chapter drew me in brilliantly. I'm not great at spotting technical writing...
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...
Deleted User: This is a very clever story in the style of 19th century (and turn of the century) Gothic writing, very reminiscent of Stevenson's The Body Snatchers or even of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (less so of Frankenstein itself, since the author is more minimalist than Shelley's florid, Romantic rhetoric). ...
: This is a very interesting book - mostly because the heroine is quite charming and well rounded, and has very real issues to manage in her life. Most of all,. I loved the view inside of the life of a South Asian girl/woman, the emotional self-talk, the customs and preferences, the expectations a...
Guywithgunz: Vanessa's saga has been an ongoing labor of love for the author and her core gp of fans.The saga as a whole is a must read for fans of Adventure / SciFi stories. The uploads here are in need of a final look by an editor for the spelling and grammatical errors that have crept in somehow into the f...
Chris Rolfe: BOY!!! I sure love what Aer-Ki Jyr did with this series. IMHO he captured the essence of what stargate is all about. Thru out the Stargate stories Aer-Ki wrote Stevens and John Shepard some of the main characters in his stories are pursued by a corrupt I.O.A.. All the while Stevens is changing in...
Tiffany Thomson: This story is not something I would normally pick up and read but I'm so glad I did, I wasn't able to put it down and my husband was yelling at me at 3am to put it down and go to bed (just waited for him to doze back off before picking it back up) I really hope Natalie brings out another book eit...
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."