~ Excerpt by Chris Malburg
The young SEAL slowly raised his right hand in salute. All 243 of America's Squadron saluted their President at the same time.
"Oorah, son," said the President.
The young lieutenant hadn't expected that from America’s chief executive. "Oorah, Mr. President," he said back in a loud and proud voice that did justice to any man or woman who ever wore the uniform.
"Oorah," thundered 243 voices behind him.
The President stood in the summer sunshine of Washington DC. At this moment, he realized there was no place on this earth that he would rather be than right here. The finest examples of courage and bravery in the American people he had the privilege of serving stretched before him. These people had taken time out of their busy lives to come here to the White House to see him. About what the President still couldn't say. But he could smell the ribs already beginning to smoke next to the hastily erected canopies that shaded picnic tables off to the side near where they land Marine 1, the presidential helicopter.
A White House staffer had already brought a microphone and plugged it into the permanently installed outlet. They often used this spot for events when the weather was nice. The President stepped up and said, "America's Squadron, I salute you and the American people salute you. I am..." he bowed his head for a moment as it slowly began to dawn on him why they might be here. "...I am humbled that you have taken the time to come here to what is truly your house. You have fought for it and have bled for it. Your families have paid dearly for it. I am just its temporary caretaker. But make no mistake, it is yours and by God always will be yours."
God's Banker SYNOPSIS
Publication date: May 14, 2014
Cardinal David Caneman took just three years to engineer his ascension into the CEO’s office of Vatican Bancorp. His cabal of fundamentalist zealots now quickly moves to seize the world’s largest institution. First by publicly assassinating the Pope. Next by replacing him with Caneman. Finally by giving the masses a common, everyday object—unquestionably used by their savior—to rally behind. For centuries, folklore has claimed the sacred item laid in wait sealed within the Church’s lost treasury vault. Caneman races to unearth the vault—if it exists. He has bet everything that he can find the blessed object, surely buried within. He intends using it to sweep the faithful from their ungodly ways and into his personal standards of piety.
The Taliban took just two years to overthrow Kabul. Armed with over a billion faithful worldwide and a $200 billion war chest—and the sacred Broom Of Formia—Cardinal David Caneman figures it will take him just half that time to conscript the hearts and minds first of Europe, then…
Jackson Schilling enjoys his happy, early retirement. He attends minor league ball games near his home in Elkhart, Indiana. He’s an amateur chef. And Jackson Schilling is a hunter. Then the SEC drafts him. Come on, Jack. One last audit. It’s mandatory after an attempt on the Vatican Bank Chairman’s life. But Jackson Schilling is no ordinary auditor. And it was his Commander in Chief who personally ordered him drafted. Schilling exhaustively uncovers Caneman’s deadly purpose. First he must stop a professional assassin from completing his mission against the Pope. Now the hard part—derail a fundamentalist faction led by a brilliant, ruthless [and some would say] saint to over a billion faithful. Jackson Schilling battles a force growing faster and more deadly than the Crusades, the Inquisition or the Taliban ever were. Legitimate governments will surely topple, becoming answerable to one man and his band of strict fundamentalists if Schilling fails.
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Chris Malburg is a widely published author, with work spread over 11 popular business books--includingHow to Fire Your Boss (Berkley) and Surviving the Bond Bear Market (Wiley, March 2011). In his other life, Chris is a CPA/MBA, a former investment banker and now the CEO of Writers Resource Group, Inc., providers of professional financial literary content to corporations (www.WritersResourceGroup.com). That’s the professional side of Chris’ career. The fun side began when UCLA’s Writers’ school taught him to transition from biz-speak to fiction. GOD’S BANKER and the first installment in the Enforcement Division series, DEADLY ACCELERATION, both combine Chris’ natural talent for story telling with his professional command of the high-stakes investment world and what money and power do to some people.
GOD’S BANKER came to fruition from Chris’ hospital bed while recuperating from an athletic injury. As a long-time endurance athlete, Chris is no stranger to the surgeon’scalpal. Over 130,000 words later,GOD’S BANKER was complete. “It just poured out me,” says the author. “I carried my note pad to physical therapy; made plot notes during the hours in the gym doing rehab; even while on my long bicycle rides through the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean where we live. Slowly endurance returned and with it, GOD’S BANKER.”
Chris Malburg lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Marilyn. Their hobby is raising service dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind. As of this writing, they have raised eight Labrador retrievers and have had three make the cut for placement with their disabled partners.
My experience and my fascination with mental powers fueled the writing of my characters in my paranormal suspense novel, A Hidden Element. Several characters have mind powers: telekinesis, mind control, healing. All have different perspectives on using them: one to feel all-powerful, one to sacrifice and help others, one to find belonging, one to save her family.
Charlie, a teenager, has difficulty controlling his power to move objects until Adrian brings him into his fold and shapes his power to be used to control others. Laura has given up her powers to provide her son with a normal life, until she is faced with rescuing him from the evil that brainwashes him and she must use her powers once again for good and evil. And Caleb uses his healing powers to save others, but can never free himself from his own prison of pain.
So what exactly is telekinesis? It’s the action of mind over matter, in which objects are caused to move as a result of mental concentration upon them. Is it science or fraud? Akin to seeing spirits or not? And if one believes in ghosts are they inclined to believe in other paranormal phenomenon too, like telekinesis?
Another term grew from telekinesis: psychokinesis. PK, as it’s known, encompasses a wider group of mental force phenomena that telekinesis now falls under. Did you know that PK Parties were a cultural fad in the 1980s? Groups of people were guided through rituals and chants to awaken metal-bending powers, or perhaps it was just another excuse for a party! Either way, you can read about it from PK party founder, Jack Houck. Real or fake? You decide.
Ouija boards were also a PK fad. When I was eleven years old a friend and I channeled an “evil spirit” through the board who levitated the ouija’s movable indicator. The spirit told us to find a boulder in the woods with an “X” on it where we would find hidden green treasure. We found the boulder but the only green treasure we found was the angry, green icy flow of the raging creek that nearly swept us away that February day. That was my last attempt to play with a ouija board! Read about more of my paranormal experiences as a child here.
Most scientists believe that the existence of telekinesis has not been convincingly demonstrated. I’m not sure what I believe, but I do think there are amazing discoveries about how the brain works to still be found. I do know I will never touch a ouija board again.
I believe we can do so much more with our brain powers. What do you believe?
ABOUT A HIDDEN ELEMENT… NOW AN AMAZON BESTSELLER!:
Evil lurks within…
When Caleb Madroc is used against his will as part of his father’s plan to breed a secret community and infiltrate society with their unique powers, he vows to save his oppressed people and the two children kept from him. Seven years later, Laura and Ben Fieldstone’s son is abducted, and they are forced to trust a madman’s son who puts his life on the line to save them all. The enemy’s desire to own them—or destroy them—leads to a survival showdown. Laura and Ben must risk everything to defeat a new nemesis that wants to rule the world with their son, and Caleb may be their only hope—if he survives. But must he sacrifice what he most desires to do so?
PRAISE FOR A HIDDEN ELEMENT:
“Chilling and dark…a twisty journey into another world.” —J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of When Shadows Fall
“Fascinating…a haunting story…”—Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author of The World Beneath
“Will keep you up long past your bedtime…a pulse-pounding read.”—Allan Leverone, New York Times and USA Todaybestselling author of Final Vector
Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery with a dash of steam as well as middle grade adventure fiction. She is the author of books 1 and 2 in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, A Human Element and A Hidden Element, the short story collection The Dark Inside, and Joshua and The Lightning Road (Books 1 and 2, 2015). She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks, fireplaces, and stink bugs, but she’s still wishing for a castle again—preferably with ghosts.
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Purchase Book 1 in the Element Trilogy, A Human Element: http://amzn.to/1mNcyCO
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With the help of her police contact, she’s on the case of what appears to be a random string of high-profile suicides sparked by guilty consciences. But there’s something strange about the suicide notes: They all say, “I deserve to die.” Olivia is determined to break the story that the deaths are the work of a serial killer.
She gets her big break when the killer commits a sensational double murder. “The Punisher” is on the hunt, and adulterers among the elite of Washington, D.C. are his prey.
The further Olivia pursues her story, the more her life unravels. And the more she uncovers, the more she begins to think that solving this case will also lead to discovering the truth behind her best friend’s mysterious disappearance two years earlier.
Willing to do anything to unveil the identity of the psychopath who is behind the successive murders, she finds herself embroiled in a psychological game, and it’s become chillingly personal. A stalker has been breaking into her home and sending threatening messages. Someone is trying to scare her away from her attempts to bait The Punisher with her news stories—someone close to her. It’s a dangerous game she’s playing, and it all leads up to a magnificent twist ending. Will Olivia’s search for truth turn up anything? Or will her tenacious investigation cause her to lose her job, or her marriage—or her life?
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After gaining her B.A. in broadcast journalism from Texas Tech University in 1998, Melissa Wren moved abroad to London, England and began her career in advertising, which eventually took her to Dallas, Texas and then to Monterey, California. She spent more than four years on the West Coast before relocating to Washington, D.C. to work in communications and with the press for a government agency for four more years.
Wren recognized her God-given passion for creating stories at an early age, finishing her first novel when she was 12 years old. During her time in the nation’s capital, she wrote the psychological thriller Serial Vengeance, joining such organizations as Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Washington Independent Writers and Thriller Fest.
She currently lives in her hometown of Granbury, Texas, and works as a freelance writer/editor for hire, penning anything from professional business copy, human-interest stories, magazine articles, poetry, creative fiction to non-fiction.
She’s written for Lake Granbury Living, Erath County Living, andGranbury Showcase magazines, as well as for the Hood County News. Currently she’s a member of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW).
Wren also compiled and published Cancer Chronicles: One Man’s Journey to Glorify God Through Illness, released in 2013.
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Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery as well as middle grade adventure fiction. She is an International Thriller Writers Debut Author of the paranormal suspense novel A Human Element, the short story collection The Dark Inside, and the forthcoming Joshua and The Lightning Road.
An avid reader as a child, Galanti grew up in a nurturing environment, immersed in books such as The Hobbit, Little House in the Big Woods,The Island of the Blue Dolphins, My Side of The Mountain, Call of the Wild and White Fang. “My favorite author was Roald Dahl and my favorite book of his was Danny the Champion of the World,” says Galanti, whose dark imagination ran wild from the start.
From her early years in England to her later work in Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer, Galanti always dreamed of becoming an author. She wrote her first murder mystery screenplay at the tender age of seven. She had a career in writing for marketing and communications and ran her own resume writing service, but it wasn’t until her mother died five years ago that she began writing novels out of her grief. Eventually, that grief turned to peace, when she fully realized what it was she truly loved to do: becoming a storyteller. In addition to being a full-time author, Galanti also works part time as a freelance copywriter for an advertising agency.
“I write from the dark side with a glimpse of hope. I am drawn to writing the hero’s journey – more so the tormented hero, and tormented villain. I enjoy creating empathy for both by blurring the lines between good and evil,” states the author, whose first two books in The Element Trilogy, A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books, August 2014) are both full of murder and mystery with a dash of steam, and both have their own tormented hero and villain. “I slay my own demons through my writing – and I highly recommend it!” she says.
A Human Element, just released by Imajin Books, is the thrilling, unrelenting page-turner story of Laura Armstrong. Her friends and family members are being murdered and, despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite in her hometown, where she eventually unravels a terrifying secret that binds her to the killer.
The book has already garnered excellent praise from New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry and international bestselling author M.J. Rose.
Galanti lives in an old farmhouse – sadly, with no ghosts – with many fireplaces where she often curls up to create her page-turners. Other times she works in her office overlooking the woods. Throughout the year she meets weekly with a women’s writing group at a café where they write together and share advice and their success stories.
“When I am creating a new book I love to sit outdoors overlooking the woods with a pen and notebook and handwrite my ideas. My thoughts are slowed down this way as my brain connects to pen in hand, and it opens my mind up to brainstorm,” says the author, describing her creative process. “There is nothing more freeing creatively to journal story ideas and throw all sorts of ‘what if?’ questions out there to find the kernel of a good story you want to pursue. Then I create character worksheets and type up a ten page synopsis of the book. I do all this before I write that first word of the story. And I always create a title first! It’s what drives my inspiration for the story.”
Galanti began writing A Human Element seventeen years ago from a vision she had while driving to work one day. She wrote two chapters and shelved them for over a decade. When she finally decided to continue the story, she wrote Monday through Friday from 4:30am to 6:30am. After seven months she typed THE END.
All writers have their stronger and weaker points, and for this author, revision is her favorite process. That’s where she can make her story shine. “Knowing how important this process is has been one of my strong points,” she says. “There are many layers to a story to be found after you write that first draft, and that’s what I love to do: peel back the layers.” One area she struggled in for a long time was to slow down her writing. She can be a very fast writer, creating pages and pages of words that often would need to be trimmed down. She has since then learned to slow down her writing and craft her words with care as she writes them, so she doesn’t have to spend so much time on revision.
In an era when small presses, the good, the bad and the ugly, abound, Galanti’s experience has been nothing but positive. “My experience with Imajin Books has been amazing!” she says of her Canadian-based publisher. “Imajin Books is dedicated to working with me to help my books succeed. The owner, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, is a bestselling author in her own right.” Imajin Books was very responsive and provided in-depth editorial guidance as well as marketing plans, not to mention fantastic book cover designs. The publishing industry is notorious for being slow-moving, but in the case of The Element Trilogy, Imajin Books made the process quick and efficient.
As with many authors, Galanti finds starting a new book most challenging. The first blank page can be a scary thing, until the story takes over, propelling your main character into his new unbalanced world toward the ultimate end. However, being an author can be extremely rewarding. “When it comes to readers, there is nothing more thrilling than reading wonderful reviews about your book that you spent months, or years, creating and shaping,” she says. “It’s from that private place in your heart, where you love the most – and hurt the most – that you pour out pages to show the world. And it’s all worthwhile when you discover that others have been touched by your story, just as you were touched while you were writing it. Second, it’s rewarding to pay it forward to up-and-coming authors. There is a wonderful feeling that comes from speaking to writers about your publishing journey and sharing advice and techniques on how to find success as an author, and hope that they do.”
Galanti is currently working on the idea for the third and final book in The Element Trilogy called, A Healing Element, and gearing up to release book 2, A Hidden Element, on August 28th. A native of upstate New York, the author now lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks, fireplaces, and stink bugs, but she’s still wishing for a castle—preferably with ghosts.
Connect with the author on Facebook , Twitter and her Blog.
This profile was originally published in Blogcritics.
Title: Shiloh’s True Nature
Author: D.W. Raleigh
Publisher: Hobbes End Publishing
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When 12 year-old farm boy Shiloh Williams is sent to stay with his estranged grandfather, he discovers a mysterious new world inhabited by ‘Movers’. The Movers live in symbiotic harmony with one another, except one extremely powerful Mover who has stolen the town’s most precious artifact, the Eternal Flame. Shiloh investigates his supernatural surroundings, makes new friends, and begins to think of the town as home. However, just as soon as he starts to fit in, he realizes his newfound happiness is about to come to an abrupt end. One decision and one extreme consequence are all that remain.
Shiloh Williams walked along in the late-afternoon heat, on his way home from the town of Salem. The lanky twelve-year-old brushed his sweat-soaked, brown hair away from his blue eyes with one hand while trying to finish the ice-cream cone he carried in the other. His bare feet were relieved to step off the asphalt main road and onto the narrow, shady dirt path leading to his home.
The dusty, dirt lane was flanked by a vast cornfield to one side and towering black willow trees and intertwined brush on the other. Shiloh inhaled the sweet scent of honeysuckle as he licked the cone, gazing toward the two-story, white Victorian house in the distance. The house was his home, and the cornfield part of his family’s farm. One of the few farms left in the area, his father always liked to mention.
Shiloh was in a good mood: partly because he had spent the day in town playing with some friends, but mostly because this was his first actual vacation day of the summer. Until today, he had been working on the farm all day every day, since school ended. When his father told him he was receiving a two-week break, Shiloh decided he was going to make the most of it and be thankful he didn’t have to work another day in the brutal July heat.
As he strolled along the dusty path, Shiloh heard something rustling in the brush beside him. He turned his head and saw two large black birds only a couple of feet away. The birds cawed as they boldly jumped from branch to branch trying to keep pace with him. He assumed it was the ice cream they were after, so Shiloh tossed the remainder of the cone toward the brush and watched as the birds descended upon it.
Farther along, Shiloh spotted an expensive-looking, black car in front of the house. It was parked next to his father’s battered, old pickup truck, which made any other vehicle look nice. There was a man leaning against the rear of the car wearing a black suit and cap. Shiloh found that strange, considering he was dressed in a white T-shirt and shorts and had been sweating since he stepped outside that morning.
As he drew closer to the house, Shiloh realized his hands were sticky with ice-cream residue. He wasn’t supposed to be eating sweets this close to his suppertime, and knew his mother would scold him if she found out. So he slipped into the cornfield to let the giant stalks conceal his five-foot frame until he could reach the back of the house to wash off undetected.
He quietly snuck through the field and came up behind the giant stack of hay bales perpetually piled at the rear of the house. After glancing around to make sure it was clear, he crept up to the porch and over to the rusty, old spigot. He winced as he slowly turned the squeaky faucet handle, hoping the noise didn’t make it through the kitchen screen door just a few feet away.
As Shiloh cleaned his hands, the aroma of his mother’s cooking filled his nostrils, while the sound of arguing voices filled his ears. When his hands were no longer sticky, he quietly moved over to the back door, and stopped when he could hear the discussion in the kitchen. He immediately recognized one voice as his father’s, but there was another, unfamiliar, rough-sounding man’s voice. It must have been whoever came in the black car, he thought.
Listening intently, Shiloh was startled when something rubbed against his leg. It was one of his cats, Lovie. The gray and black tabby mix rubbed her face against his anklebones as she walked figure eights between his legs. Shiloh knew if Lovie was around, his other feline, Cheepie, couldn’t be far behind. He looked over his shoulder toward the faucet and found the other gray tabby, one that looked like a miniature tiger, entranced by the remaining water droplets dribbling from the nozzle.
His attention returned to the kitchen door when the rough voice said, “I don’t know how you’re keeping this farm productive when all the others in this area have gone under, but whatever you’re doing is going to fail eventually. So you might as well sell it to me before I decide to withdraw my more than generous offer.”
Shiloh imagined the scowl on his father’s face as he heard him answer, “You’ve been trying to get your hands on this property for years, but I’m not going to give it to you. Not now. Not ever. Not at any price. And if there are problems with the soil around here, you need only look in the mirror for the cause.”
“I’ll not be insulted by the likes of you, Joseph Williams. Good day,” the man huffed.
Shiloh heard footsteps, followed by the front door slamming. He was curious about this unfamiliar man, so he leapt off the porch and ran up along the side of the house. In his haste to see the stranger, Shiloh slipped on some pebbles and fell just as he reached the front corner of the house. The man immediately turned toward Shiloh scowling. Shiloh looked up at the stranger, but the bright sunshine kept him from distinguishing any of his features. The one thing Shiloh did notice was, like his driver, the man was dressed all in black, except for a hideously bright orange tie.
The man’s gaze was broken as two black birds descended and began attacking him. The man quickly ducked into the rear of the car, the birds turning their attention to his driver, who ran around to the other side to enter. As the car pulled away, Shiloh noticed it had a peculiar, black license plate with orange lettering reading HAINES.
When the vehicle left his sight, Shiloh returned to the back door, but again paused by the screen door when he heard his father’s agitated voice. “The crops looked a little off today. We definitely need to get some cash together for fertilizer. They could use a dusting too. And on top of that, I haven’t paid Rikki and Peco for a couple weeks. I’m glad I agreed to let them stay in the old barn. Otherwise they might’ve left by now. I’ll need to find a way to make it up to them.”
Shiloh heard the oven door open and close, followed by his mother’s voice, “Are you having second thoughts about Haines’ offer, Joe?”
“What? No! I’ll work the fields alone and eat dirt before I let that man get his hands on this land, Mary,” Joe stubbornly declared.
Mary scoffed. “Okay. Well, I’ll see if I can round up some recipes for dirt . . . just in case.”
Joe chuckled slightly and Shiloh smiled to himself, thinking about the easy way his mother was always able to diffuse his father’s anger.
Joe then noted, “By the way, I spoke to Doc and he said it would be all right. In fact, he suggested it before I even asked.”
“He’s not going to be happy about it,” Mary sighed.
Shiloh frowned, wondering what they were talking about, as Joe continued, “Well, that’s too bad. A vacation is a vacation. He’s almost a man now, and he needs to learn that part of being a man is having to do stuff you don’t want to do.”
Mary snorted sarcastically. “Say it just like that, Joe. That’ll make him feel better about it.”
Joe chuckled again and said, “Give me a break, Mary.”
“I won’t give you a break, but I will give you dinner. Go wash up,” Mary replied with a giggle.
Shiloh heard a chair slide across the kitchen floor and waited until the footsteps faded before opening the screen door. When he stepped through the doorway onto the black and white tile, he found his mother’s tall and slender frame at the sink. As Mary washed her hands, her long sandy-blond hair was illuminated by the sun shining in from the window above the sink.
After she dried her hands, Mary turned to open one of the nearby wooden cabinets and said, “No . . .” pointing in Shiloh’s direction and downward. Shiloh looked around in confusion. “. . . I’m making dinner and those two are not coming in here,” she finished.
Shiloh looked down and realized she was referring to the cats lingering in the doorway.
“One keeps trying to drag dead mice in the house. And the other keeps eating bugs, which wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t throwing them up all over the place afterward,” she continued.
A tight-lipped smile rolled across Shiloh’s face as he turned to shoo the cats back out the door.
When he turned back around, Shiloh found himself face-to-face with his mother. Her chestnut-colored eyes stared straight into his baby blues with a smirk. “What’s this?” she asked, pointing to his chest. “Ice cream?”
Shiloh looked down at his T-shirt to see a couple of stains from his earlier treat. “Oh . . . that was from earlier this afternoon,” he replied with a wide grin.
“Really? Because it still looks wet,” Mary noted, returning his smile with a shake of her head. “Go wash up. Dinner is almost ready.”
The family dinner was relatively quiet. Shiloh tried to stuff himself so he wouldn’t be lectured by his mother about eating ice cream before supper. He avoided eye contact with his father, because after hearing Joe grumble about all of the farm’s problems, he feared he might lose his time off.
When he finished, Shiloh took his plate to the sink and tried to make a hasty retreat out the back door without saying a word. However, it wasn’t to be. “Hey . . . take a seat,” Joe called, pointing to Shiloh’s empty chair at the dinner table.
Shiloh walked back to the chair feeling certain his father was about to revoke his vacation time “for the good of the farm.” He looked up to see his father leaning forward with his elbows on the table and his large callused hands folded. Joe was a tall, muscular man with perpetually unkempt, light-brown hair, piercing blue eyes, and his face always appeared to need a shave.
Joe stared at Shiloh for a moment before asking, “How would feel you about spending some time with your grandfather?”
He was taken off guard by the question, but shrugged and answered, “Okay, I guess.”
“Good,” Joe smiled. “He’ll be by to pick you up tomorrow.”
“What?” Shiloh responded in shock.
“You’re going to spend a couple weeks with your grandfather,” Joe answered pointedly.
Shiloh’s disbelief and agitation spilled out of his mouth in rapid succession. “A couple weeks? Why? I’m supposed to go swimming at the pond tomorrow! The carnival is in town next week! My birthday is in two weeks! I don’t want to go!”
Joe leaned back in his chair, shaking his head, “You’ve been complaining about having to work the fields all summer. I’d think you’d be glad to get a break from it.”
“Yeah, I wanted a break to have some fun with my friends. Not a break where I’m sent away to some strange place . . . I’m not going!” Shiloh’s voice shook with anger.
Joe, not the kind of man to listen to long protestations, replied, “You are going. End of discussion.” He returned to his meal.
Slamming his hands on the table, Shiloh rose from his chair, and walked toward the back door. “Get back here,” Joe called, as Shiloh forcefully pushed open the screen door.
He heard his father yell, “Shiloh!” but he ignored him and ran into the immense cornfield. He ran through the field until he grew so tired he had to walk. He continued walking until he found himself on the far edge of the field, where he stepped out onto a narrow dirt trail that surrounded it.
Shiloh looked back to see how far he had come and the farm’s old horse barn caught his eye. The faded, maroon monstrosity had fallen into disrepair, but the barn’s current residents, Rikki and Peco, loved it for some reason. It was their big, red dilapidated mansion.
When his gaze drifted across the field, Shiloh saw his home in the distance. The towering cornstalks obscured all but the top half of the house. Taking a couple of steps backward, trying to find a better view, he suddenly lost his balance. He began tumbling down a slick embankment covered with reeds and into the swampy marsh that separated his family’s property from the Delahanna River.
Shiloh was uninjured by the fall, but landed on his backside in the mud. He sat for a moment to catch his breath, gazing toward the river stretching out in front of him. He saw some Great Blue Herons standing nearby in the marsh. The large gray birds were motionless, with their S-shaped necks pointing up into the distance.
Following the herons’ gaze, Shiloh saw the large factory to the south. He knew the factory was there, but never paid it much attention. It was practically invisible due to the thick cluster of hickory trees lining the rear of the farm. The factory’s most distinguishing feature was an enormous cylindrical brick smokestack with a giant, orange H on its side. The huge tower emitted a perpetual gray smoke that seemed to linger in the air.
Hearing voices in the distance, Shiloh turned back toward the river. An old fishing boat was anchored just offshore with some young people frolicking around the deck. He watched as a young man jumped from the deck into the river. “It’s freezing!” the young man hollered, emerging from the water.
Shiloh smiled, remembering how he used to love the crisp bite of the river water on a hot summer afternoon. His parents wouldn’t allow him to swim in the river anymore. They said it was too polluted and dirty.
Straight across the river were some lights from the town of Old New Castle. Just beyond that was Pike Creek, where his grandfather lived and where he would apparently be going the next day. This made him think of the things he’d be missing in the next two weeks: going swimming, the carnival, spending time with his friends.
Thoughts of his impending departure made Shiloh feel sick to his stomach, so he tried thinking of something else. He looked around and noticed several gray puddles of water with a number of long-stemmed, gray wildflowers growing out of them. He frowned because he couldn’t recall ever seeing a gray flower before. He plucked the closest one and thought it was a wild daisy of some kind.
Another flower grew out of the puddle right before his eyes, taking the place of the one he picked. This second flower was not gray, but golden yellow with a black center. Though startled, Shiloh scowled and dismissed the peculiar occurrence, recalling how he’d seen colorful mushrooms grow right before his eyes while working very early in the morning on the farm.
As the sun began to set, Shiloh climbed the embankment, deciding he had better return to the house. He chose to walk back through the cornfield instead of the path along the edge of the field, because it was shorter. He came to regret that decision when the sunlight faded and the tall cornstalks blocked out what little light was left in the sky. To make matters worse, it was a new moon, so there was no heavenly light to guide him.
In the darkness, the size of the farm became more apparent than ever. Shiloh walked and walked, seeing only dark rows of corn ahead of him. He knew he would escape them eventually, but not knowing exactly where he was made him uncomfortable. The odd collection of noises echoing out of the darkness only added to his discomfort.
Shiloh dismissed some fluttering and flapping sounds, thinking it was probably one of the Great Blue Herons he saw earlier in the marsh. He then heard an odd, thumping sound, as if something was running around. He tried to dismiss that as well, remembering his father had mentioned seeing red foxes in the fields. Shiloh had never seen a fox on the farm, but supposed one could be the source of the noise.
The thumping sound seemed to grow closer and closer, but every time Shiloh stopped to listen, it would cease. The louder the noise grew, the more Shiloh’s heart raced. He tried to ignore the sound, focusing into the distance to locate his house. When the thumping became so loud it seemed just a step away, Shiloh panicked, breaking into a run.
He sprinted along until he tripped, falling forward onto the ground. Shiloh remained still and listened for a moment, but the only sound he could hear was his pounding heart. Looking behind him, down the corn row, he saw an indistinct dark mass just a few feet away.
Fear gripped Shiloh, who now thought only of escape. He turned his head around, thinking if he could just stand he might be able to outrun whatever was back there. He was shocked to discover a second dark figure blocking his path. The second shape was lower to the ground, with glowing eyes, and it was growling.
Shiloh didn’t know what to do, but figured whatever it was would have to start with him being on his feet. He took a deep breath and readied himself to stand, but before he could, the second dark figure charged him. He placed his hands over his head, preparing for an attack. However, no attack came. The figure leapt over him, chasing whatever was behind him down the corn row. Shiloh stood and sprinted away as fast as he could.
As he neared the edge of the field, he could hear a loud, fierce growling and tussling behind him. Resisting the temptation to look back, he broke through the edge of the cornfield and ran straight into the house.
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