Suddenly the youth burst out of the deep shade and caught himself on the branch of a fir trunk. Before him the forest fell down a granite cliff and spread out in grand panorama, rank upon rank of forested hills and snow clad mountains. Dense, temperate rain forest stretched out, filling the valleys with the patchwork of untouched trees and timberland in various states of logging and re-growth. He leaned back against the moss covered snag and panted heavily, letting the magnificence fill his senses, leaving no room in him for anything else. A small part of his mind whispered that something was wrong about the feel of the decaying tree against his back but he banished it along with the rest of the voices, everything was wrong, that was why he came out here.
Once the youth had caught his breath he stepped out into the hot sun and shook out his sweat damp auburn hair. Though the thatch was cropped short it still refused most attempts to tame it. Wide set eyes whose color almost reflected the forest below were placed over a large nose that somehow just managed to balance his features. A wide expressive mouth served as the base of the mug. His shoulders were wide enough to suggest he was no stranger to hard work and his rough hands confirmed this, despite the fact that his frame still wore the awkward lankiness of multiple growth spurts.
Shaking out his limbs the youth started running again. He reentered the dense forest where a fallen tree had cleared a path and darted nimbly along the trunk. Laser focus on the path ahead of his feet made his footing sure, and ensured he failed to notice the snag he had leaned against silently collapse in on itself, shedding moss and insects as it flowed slowly into a rounded lump on the forest floor.
The path slanted down and for all that gravity was on his side, the return journey was always harder; requiring more attention to keep from charging headlong into cracked boulders and ragged branches. The animal trail widened as it joined a groomed hiking path and he let himself speed up. Spotting a particular leaning maple, he cut to the side and transferred the raw speed of the path into long leaps through the thick undergrowth. Just where the trees ended he slammed to a stop against the side of a freshly painted, red wooden barn.
Sun thinned paint sill protected the old siding from the elements, allowing the grain of the wood to dig into rough palms. Drake leaned against the wall gasping for breath. When he had regained his composure he slid his fingers into a seam in the wall and pulled. A panel swung open and he reached into a square hole and pulled a worn but clean rag out of a pile of cloth. He dried his sweaty hands and face and then exchanged his running shoes for a pair of soft moccasins. That done he sealed the compartment and trotted around to a door set in the front of the barn.
The interior corridor of the barn stretched before him, dim with the morning light filtering down through high windows. Just ahead a bold red pickup sporting more than a few decades of rust sat on cinder blocks surrounded by various tools of repair. Two rows of stalls that had once housed mule teams had been framed into individual rooms. A few of the newly added doors had been decorated with childish drawings and dotted with stickers, but for the most part they, and the rough hardwood walls that surrounded them were covered in posters displaying galaxies, the mysterious interior workings of trees, and the human body with its various layers revealed.
The youth let his hand trail along the wall and flicked a few switches as he passed the cracked and stained control panel. Seemingly satisfied with the results he headed for the last door in the row. It opened to a wide expanse of tile that his sister called pink-puke and his cousin called rose. Against the far wall a shower head was set over cracked and pitted bear claw bathtub. The flimsy modern shower curtain that ringed the tub looked pitifully incapable of containing the powerful spray of hot water that gushed out of the shower head when the youth turned the brass handles, and a small stream ran across the tiles to a drain that was just off center in the floor. One quick scrub down later the youth was brushing his teeth in front of an antique mirror that blotched his reflection where it needed reslivering. Drake Awigwa McCarty spat into the chipped enamel of the sink and gave his head one final rub with the towel before he stepped out into the main corridor.
“Donny! Em! Wake up!” He bellowed into an overhead vent before tossing the towel through another door.
He had swapped his running clothes for only slightly dirty jeans and a clean white tee and padded in his bare feet down the central aisle. His rough fist came up to pound on two of the doors in order but no response came from within. Shrugging he strolled over to the pantry and grabbed an apple. Then he jumped up into the pickup and stretched out in the roomy cab. Taking a bite out of the apple he leaned an elbow on the horn. The blast of sound that filled the barn shook dust down from the rafters.
A door bearing a hand scrawled “Do Not Enter” sign burst open and a plump bundle of rage came shrieking out. Drake gave a smug grin and very deliberately stretched his arms out to lock the doors of the truck. The boy who had exploded from the bedroom rushed the battered rig and assaulted the faded red paint for a few moments with pounding fists. The youth inside simply let the display of temper expend itself. A second door opened and a sleepy face poked out.
“Em? Are those more restricted access words?” the blue eyed boy asked curiously rubbing one eye.
The still hissing child abandoned the pickup and stalked towards the bathroom and the youth in the truck let off the horn.
“Yes they are!” spat out Em. “So don’t you dare repeat them to your sister.”
Donny flinched at the venom but nodded, watching Em stalk to the door with a flourish. Their two faces were similar in shape and form, but their complexions offered a stark contrast. Donny, who now stepped out into the main area was slight and Celtic pink, with a head that was only a few days grown out from a severe cropping but was still clearly bright ginger. Em was heavy set and tended to nearly black hair and pasty white skin. Their eyes shared the same shade of blue, but Em’s flashed where Donny’s only watched..
“Where’s breakfast?” came a shout from the bathroom.
“Lunch is whatever you make it,” replied Drake as he let himself out of the truck.
The round dark head popped out of the bathroom with a pout.
“You are going to make a twelve year old and a nine year old get their own meals?” Em whined.
“Yes.” Drake replied in a flat tone.
“You really should be reported to child protective services. You know that?” Em snapped petulantly.
The dark head disappeared back into the washroom unknowing or uncaring of the sharp and worried glances passed between the two brothers. Donny walked nervously up to Drake and wrapped thin arms around his waist.
“Did he really mean that Drake?” Donny asked.
“No Donny, he was just joking,” Drake replied with a scowl at the bathroom door.
“But why would he joke about something like that?” Donny asked.
“Because little bro,” Drake said with a tight tone. “some people just don’t take anything seriously. Now go get yourself something to eat while Sir Primps-a-lot makes himself presentable.”
He gave the narrow shoulders a friendly smack and the child trotted off towards the stairs.
Drake stretched again and moved down the corridor to the large open space that served as a combination living room, dining room, rumpus room, work room, and whatever else they needed it for. What had once been the main parking area for farm equipment was now filled with leather couches that looked like a deranged naturalist had tried do document comparative rodent tooth size in their materials, an old pool table that stood on legs that had been sanded down in a futile effort to hide bite marks, a battered ping pong setup, and three small, tarp-covered objects with vaguely car like shapes. The various paraphernalia of childhood were scattered around; from stuffed animals on the worn couches to haphazard papier-mâché solar systems hanging from the rafters. Centered in the room was an ancient and creased cedar log, ten feet in diameter at the base where a tangle of gnarled roots gripped the concrete floor. The top of the pillar met and supported the central beam in the dusty rafters. Next to its base stood an antique handcrafted woodstove, dormant for the summer and a circle of mismatched overstuffed chairs.
Drake reached a battered old hardwood table and began sorting the piles of textbooks and papers that covered it. Sounds of running water and annoyed voices told the story of what was going on behind him but he gave no reaction. By the time the two younger children came out he was sitting in front of a thick algebra tome working away. He pointed mutely at two other piles he had made. Donny only nodded and sat but Em gave a groan and flopped into a chair.
“Schoolwork on a Sunday? Seriously?” Em nearly howled.
“Just the homework you didn’t get done during the week,” Drake replied without looking up. “I’m doing mine too.”
“It’s all homework,” Em pouted. “Why can’t I just do it tomorrow?”
“Never put off till tomorrow what you could get done today.” Drake said in a bland tone.
“What is that? Some kind of Proverb?” the boy sneered putting a fist on his hip.
“Nope,” Drake answered, pointing to the papers, “it’s the extra assignment your attitude just earned you; in your best handwriting, on calligraphy paper, tastefully illustrated, and due before sundown.”
“What?” Em squealed indignantly.
Drake quietly raised his eyes and locked gazes with his cousin. Em held for one defiant moment then snorted and stomped over to begin his work. The steady sound of scratching filled the room as the sun crawled across the skylights.
Miles away through the dense forest a tree was walking. A glossy, black crow eyed the apparition curiously and ruffled its feathers, preparing to set up the racket that would summon both its brothers and their kin in the area to alert to forest to the strangeness. Before it could however a soft music began to pulse out from the oddity. The waves of sound washed soothingly over the bird and the iridescent feathers settled back as the crow resumed its hunt for food. The music changed notes, announcing pleasure that the distraction had worked as the creature wearing branches continued its slow movements.
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What does it mean when your human friend says “Watch This?”? Why does this simple phrase seem to terrify any alien that has first appendage experience with humans? #HFY #HumansAreWeird #HumansAreSpaceOrcs #EarthIsADeathWorld #EarthIsSpaceAustralia
Hey! The books are moving well on Amazon and now have 300 reviews and ratings! If you bought the book and enjoyed it, it would really help me out if you leave a quick star rating on Amazon. A review would be great but just stars would be a huge boost *****!
QUICK NOTE: RE: everyone who asked. The book is avaliable in Amazon regions US-UK-DE-FR-ES-IT-NL-JP-BR-CA-MX-AU-IN. HOWEVER The above link only takes you to the US Amazon site. The one indicated by the .com ending. If it says "not avaliable in your country" that just means that you need to click over to your Amazon region.
Of course if you want a signed first edition you can email me at the email on my website and I can ship you a signed Author copy of the first edition until I run out of first run books.