Soft science fiction. When a devastating epidemic strikes a colony of Earthlings on a distant planet, Lily Reynolds, age eleven, finds herself the oldest one of twelve survivors. She and the other children live with the hope that a promised starship will come to rescue them. Then tragedy strikes again as the youngest child disappears. Those who remain, grow up completely cut off from other human beings. Only the mystical Mansions of Karma, which appear in the sky periodically, remind the young people they are not alone, but forever a part of the great universal life force.
Pre-release. Publication date July 23rd. Sample for download available.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult and Young Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Many years ago I wrote a similar story in which one young girl was left alone on another planet after an epidemic. I couldn’t get it published, so I filed it away and almost forgot about it. When I needed an original idea for a New Age story, I pulled out the old manuscript, and gave it another try. I could see that the story needed more action and more characters, also more mystery, and the concepts of reincarnation and karma. So I set about re-writing. I have learned that a good idea for a story is timeless.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wanted variety, so I gave my characters different ethnic backgrounds and ages. They range from 5 to 11 as the story begins. I had fun getting to know them as they grew older and wiser.
It was an unusually happy day. Ann had told me she thought my eighteenth birthday was near, so I should pick a day to celebrate. Now the eleven of us were hiking to the waterfalls in the far hills. It was the most fun place we had found. Tish had helped Misty and Bridey bake a cake for me. They had stuck one big fat candle in the center. We were looking forward to cutting it after dinner that night.
Pisces was not the brightest star in the sky, but she had turned out to be so gorgeous, the boys were a little in awe of her. Ann had grown up to be tall and big-boned. She had a nice face and bigger boobs than any of us, but from the back she looked like a boy. Tish was tall and willowy with a flawless complexion and cinnamon eyes. She had chopped off her curly hair almost to the scalp, so that the perfect shape of her face was emphasized.
All the way up the mountain we teased each other and joked, and laughed until we had to stop and catch a breath. We were hot and sticky when we reached the pool below the falls. The sun cast a rainbow above the water as it cascaded over the rocks. We wasted no time in stripping down to our swim suits. As I slipped out of my jeans, I could hear Tish and Cal whispering together. Then suddenly everybody was grabbing at me and hauling me into the water, laughing. I began to scream, but my protests went unheeded, and I found myself tossed from the diving rock into the deeper part of the stream where the falls churned the water into white froth.
I plunged down and down, which would have been terrifying to someone who had not been here before. But I had gone to unknown depths in this pool many times and never touched the bottom. None of us had. When I popped up like a cork, gasping at the incredible cold, the others stood around on the rocks clapping their hands.
“Happy birthday, Lily!”
“You creeps!” I yelled at them, though I was not really angry and they knew it.
“Yea! Lily! Three cheers for Lily!”
And the whole gang gave three hip, hip hoorays, followed by the birthday song, while I climbed upon a rock to warm myself in the sunshine.
“In about two hundred more days, I’ll come of age too,” Ann said. “And so will Pisces around the same time.”
“Then Raman and Tish,” Pisces said.
“By that time we’ll be back on Earth!” Tish said.
“Last one in is a turd!” Pat squealed.
Everyone jumped into the water. All except me and Raman. He stood nearby in his swim trunks, watching the others splash around. At seventeen he was the tallest one of the boys, and with his coppery Indian complexion, dark wavy hair, and greenish blue eyes, the handsomest. As I looked at his muscular body, as tight as a drum, his biceps all but popping out of his skin, his brawny hands as big as shovels, I had to admit he was a far cry from that scrawny, stinky kid he used to be. I felt a sudden urge to run my hands over his chest.
Then he was looking back at me. He had caught me ogling his body. Our eyes held for a moment, until I turned away.
“Come on in,” thirteen-year-old Misty yelled at us. “The water’s almost toler’ble once you get your breath back.”
I glanced at Raman again, and found he was still looking at me. He had a teasing smile on his face. I averted my eyes quickly. I was wearing Linda Diallo’s turquoise, two-piece swimsuit. It was almost a bikini, but not quite. I was finally able to fill it out, and I had thought I looked pretty good in it when I put it on, but now I felt uncomfortable, and wished I hadn’t worn it.
“I think I’ll sit here in the sun for awhile,” I said to Misty.
“Come on,” Raman held out a hand to me. “Let’s jump in together.”
I just sat there, not knowing what to say. His hand remained outstretched. What was wrong with me? Here was Mad Raman, who frowned so often I hardly recognized him with a smile on his face, just trying to be civil, reaching out to me.
“What the heck!” I said, and jumped to my feet.
I took his hand and we waded to the diving rock, where we counted, “One! Two! Three!” and jumped feet first.
Down and down and down. As we began to ascend, Raman suddenly slipped his arms around me, pulled me close, and kissed me. I was so startled, I didn’t object. In fact, I kissed him back. We had to make do with a closed-mouth kiss to keep from drowning, but he did manage to slip his tongue briefly between my lips. He let me go before we reached the surface.
“Hey y’all,” Misty cried. “I got a joke for ya’. Why was the Egyptian boy confused?”
“Because his daddy was really a mummy!”
Everybody laughed. It was that kind of day. We would have laughed at anything.
“Where’d you get that one, Misty?” Cal asked. He stood on a rock above me, so that his dark, muscular shape blocked the sun from my face. He was sixteen, almost as handsome as Raman and ten times more likeable. To borrow a term from the twins, he was a brick.
“I read it in a joke book from Ann’s library,” Misty replied.
“It’s not Ann’s library!” Ann said. “It’s everybody’s library. I just wish you guys would have the decency to check books out, instead of stealing them!”
“If we’re stealing them, that means they belong to you!” Nigel said.
“So that makes it Ann’s library,” Clive added.
At sixteen the British twins were lean and graceful with fair skin and reddish-blond hair. Though they were identical, Nigel was still the best-looking. You couldn’t explain it.
All this time I was treading water, my mind reeling, my eyes taking in everything except Raman. What happened down there? Why did he do that? Why did I do that? Though every one of us was obsessed with sex and talked about it nonstop, the girls talked only to the girls and the boys talked only to the boys. There had been no sweethearts among us, at least not that I knew of. We had grown up like sisters and brothers. We had quarreled and cussed each other out. We had seen snot dripping from each other’s noses, and we had farted without giving it a thought. When we were little, we had bathed together and seen each other go to the bathroom. You don’t fall in love with somebody that familiar to you.
Now, Raman and I had kissed, and it was my first, but I hoped Raman didn’t think I was his girlfriend! Could you take back a kiss? I knew I was extremely naïve for my age. We all were. We had only each other to learn from. That old familiar ache for my mother emerged briefly, but it was more a memory than a feeling.
Raman was still eyeing me with that mischievous gleam in his eye. “Wanna go down again?”
I lay on my back on a rock and closed my eyes, hoping he would go away. But he didn’t. He sat near me and tried to carry on a conversation, while the others played in the water. I answered him with grunts and silence.
“Are you asleep?” he finally asked.
“How could a person sleep with you and your big mouth?” I said.
“You seemed to like my mouth awhile ago.”
I kept my eyes closed. He said no more, and soon joined the fun in the water.
After the initial burst of energy, everybody settled down to a lazy afternoon lounging around the falls. We tried to sing some of our favorite songs, but we couldn’t hear ourselves above the roar of the water. Misty and Bridey made a crown of wildflowers for me. Smiling happily, Bridey placed it on my head. At fifteen, she still seemed like a little girl in many ways. This day her golden hair was in pigtails. She had not resolved her strange muteness, but she managed to communicate with me and Misty through gestures and notes. The others had little or no patience with her.
“Thank you, Bridey,” I said, adjusting the halo of flowers. We were sitting near the rush of water, and its light spray was refreshing in the afternoon heat. “Does this mean I am a queen?”
“Or a princess,” Misty said, “at least for the day.”
Suddenly Bridey clutched my arm apprehensively. Her eyes were focused on the bushes at the edge of the falls behind me.
“What? What is it?”
She pointed, and I turned to see what had startled her, but I could see nothing amiss.
“What did you see, Bridey?” Misty asked.
Bridey still watched the bushes. She put both hands on her face and pointed again.
“A face?” Misty asked. “You saw a face?”
“In the bushes?” I asked.
She nodded again.
Misty and I glanced at each other. This was nothing new. Once Bridey had told us she saw an old man on the hill at daybreak. It turned out to be Ann looking for dew berries. Of course we never mentioned to Ann that she had been mistaken for an old man. Another time Bridey woke me up in the night, frightened because somebody was outside her window whispering. I investigated and found nothing, but she insisted on sleeping with me or Misty for the next several nights. She needed constant reassurance that there were no “others” out there.
“It’s okay, Bridey,” Misty said now. “There is nothing in the bushes. I promise.”
At that moment the sound of thunder rumbled in the distance, and a dark cloud was visible on the horizon.
“Storm coming,” I said to the group. “We should get home.”
“Let’s go to the Snout first,” fourteen-year-old Pat suggested.
“Absolutely not!” I objected. “That cliff is dangerous.”
“Yeah, let’s do!” Nigel said, as if I hadn’t spoken.
The boys immediately took off in the direction of the Snout, and Tish was not far behind. She loved to participate in the boys’ daredevil stunts. The others followed, with Ann counting the steps out loud. I tagged along, just to keep from being alone.
We called the cliff the Snout because it jutted out of the face of the mountain like an enormous nose. We emerged from the woods at the bridge of the nose. At the tip you could see a lon…ng way down into a gorge. I was jittery as I watched those morons walk out on the Snout. Standing far back in the safety zone, Bridey held Misty’s hand on one side, and mine on the other, and she kept glancing into the woods behind her.
Nigel, of course was always the first to tempt fate on the cliff, and so far, the easy winner at getting the closest to the tip. Clive would timidly go half way, then back up to safety. That day Raman gave Nigel a run for his money in the competition. Nigel would inch forward and grin at Raman, so Raman would inch forward and grin back. Clive watched the contest with a scowl on his face. The others were egging the boys on, some of them supporting Nigel, and some Raman. Surprisingly, it was Nigel who gave in first this time.
“I’m feeling dizzy,” he excused himself.
“Then get the heck away from there!” I hollered.
The boys laughed.
“Get the heck away from there!” Raman mimicked me. “You’re furious, Lily, and the only cuss word you can think of is heck?”
That made me even madder.
The storm was moving closer. Nigel and Raman backed up, and Pat stepped forward, pretending he was going to leap. At fourteen, his Native American features were becoming more prominent. He was going to be one hot brave.
“What did Geronimo yell when he jumped off the cliff?” he cried.
“ME….EEEE!” the gang yelled together.
Pat skidded to a stop only about a foot from the edge.
I gasped out loud.
Pat turned and looked at me. “Don’t be such a girl, Lily. Nobody’s gonna fall.”
“Yeah, Lily,” Raman said with a smirk. “Don’t be a pussy.”
That did it. I pulled away from Bridey and charged out to the edge of the cliff, even passing Pat by a few inches. Then everybody suddenly turned into girls.
I stood there looking at the horizon, not daring to glance down. A drop of rain fell on my face. Lightning split the sky, followed by a mighty crash of thunder. I spread my arms wide and screamed to the heavens, “Great Universal Spirit, please come for me! Don’t leave me here with these assholes. I can’t stand them another day!”
At that very moment a glint of something silver flashed from behind a dark cloud, then disappeared.
“Oh, my god! Did you see that?”
“It was metal!”
“It was a starship – or something!”
“They’ve come for us!”
And just like that, I was left alone on the cliff, as all the others rushed toward the trail. I made the mistake of looking down, and my knees turned to jelly. The gorge yawned below me like some murky thing in a nightmare, ready to swallow me. If I should fall, I would be dead of fright before I hit the bottom.
See where your temper got you this time, Lily?
I sank onto my butt and scooted backwards to safety.
Pre-release. Publication July 23rd. Sample for download available.
About the Author:
Ruth White grew up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. She attended college at Montreat and Pfeiffer, both in North Carolina, and worked as a teacher and school librarian. She has published thirteen novels for young people. Diary of a Wildflower was her first novel for adults, and Mansions of Karma her second. She lives in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, near her daughter, Dee Olivia, son-in-law, William, and grandson Pate, where she enjoys her roles as full time writer and grandmother.
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