Seventeen-year-old Alex longs for the day when he graduates from high school and leaves his abusive parents’ house forever. But before that can happen, Fate intervenes. . . . One night, during a tense family dinner, Alex notices a gremlin crouching in the corner of his parents’ dining room. A moment later it suddenly disappears. Alex finds himself questioning his sanity and wondering what he really saw that night. Over the next several weeks, he catches sight of several more bizarre entities.
These strange sightings are a glimpse Alex has been given into a hidden reality where a war is being waged between demons and legendary creatures of the Natural World. And the demons are winning. Nearly all beings from the Natural World have been caged up, and Mother Nature and the God of the North Wind have been considering what resources they have left to combat their foes. But they are not entirely alone. Three long dead heroes have been stirred from their complacency in the afterlife and are ready to seek out someone they can train to fight back against the demons and inspire hope among humanity. Alex’s newfound ability to see gremlins has piqued their interest.
This debut novel by Rob Snyder offers a rich and elaborate world of complex characters and an engrossing plot.
Targeted Age Group:: 16-45
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to write a story that encompassed elements of mythology but was set in the modern day world. I was interested in exploring multiple points of view and building out characters with depth and complex personas. I felt inspired to build an immersive world where the reader would be engaged in the characters' lives and the story itself.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I begin creating my characters by thinking about who the character is at their core. How would I describe this person in a single sentence that would give somebody the clearest idea of what it's like to be around them. I then build them up from there. I imagine how they'd react in different scenarios and how they'd interact with other individuals. I add on flaws, eccentrics, and mannerisms. Once I've flushed them out, I ask myself, is this person believable enough to exist in real life? Or have I created a cardboard archetype/stereotype? If the latter, it's back to the drawing board.
It was early evening. The sun had not yet set, but a three-quarter moon was out, waning peacefully in lonely isolation, hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth.
Daphne glided through a meadow just beyond a forest. She wore an eggshell-white blouse that glowed in the twilight and a lavender skirt that flowed and billowed about her ankles. Her hair was long and straight and shimmered a golden green where the starlight caught it. In the evening shadows it darkened to a rich brown. Vibrant primroses slowly emerged from the ground wherever her feet brushed against the soil. The flowers unfolded their dew-covered petals like a litter of young kittens yawning as one.
Daphne was a nymph, a maiden of the evening, a child of the moon. She sang quietly to the flowers of the darkness, blessing them with life. The meadow she had come across had been left uncared for by the Natural World for years, probably decades. It needed love, and she decided to claim it herself and revitalize the earth here.
Her highly sensitive ears caught the far-off sound of someone giggling. The noise carried with it a sensation of innocence.
Curious, Daphne slid across the meadow, covering a mile in seconds, her amber eyes shining with wonder as she emerged from her green haven. She was at the top of a hill looking out over civilization. A city was before her: a little neighborhood of storefronts and homes at the edge of her meadow. It had been decades since she had last seen a human settlement.
More giggles. Daphne stepped forward cautiously, stopping just to the left of a maple. There were children playing in the grass not far from her—a boy just past eight by the look of him and a girl a year or two younger. They were running around, laughing and enjoying the early spring evening. The girl had plastic barrettes in her hair that were shaped like butterflies; her face was round, with dimples in the cheeks. The boy had a skinned elbow and a thin white scar at his jawline. His hair was shaggy and uncombed. They reminded her of fey children with their shrieks of happiness and carefree manner. Daphne leaned against a birch tree and watched them, smiling. She blended with her surroundings, invisible to the children, and took joy in listening to their laughter, watching their short legs pump as they raced around in circles, their giggles bringing her warmth.
She saw the rock jutting out of the ground just before the boy caught his foot on it. He went sprawling, twisting his ankle and scraping his knee against the ground. The girl, oblivious, jumped on him, laughing all the while. “I got you! I got you!” she shrieked.
The boy whimpered and the girl went quiet, realizing he was injured. “What’s wrong? What happened? Why are you sad, David?”
“I hurt myself.” His voice came out cracked and high-pitched. He wiped at a tear on his face with a dirt-covered hand.
“I’ll get Mommy.”
“No, she’ll get mad if she finds out we were here. We weren’t supposed to cross the street.”
Daphne wondered which street the boy meant. Even at this distance, Daphne could tell that the houses were dilapidated, with boarded-up windows, crumbling chimneys, and sagging porches. The businesses mixed in with the houses did not leave her feeling any better about the place: Redagon’s Tobacco, Value Liquor, Quick Cash, Gold X-Change.
The girl’s lip stuck out and started to quiver as she stood looking at her brother. “Don’t cry,” he told her. “I’ll be okay. It was just a stupid rock.” He smacked it with his palm. “Help me stand up.” He reached out a hand and she helped him get up. But he gave another cry as soon as he tried putting weight on the foot, then fell back down. “Ow,” he said, biting his lip and squeezing his eyes shut for a second. “It really hurts, Zip.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t know.”
Daphne emerged from behind the tree, gliding over the grass like evening mist. Both kids scrambled back. Daphne could hear their heartbeats quickening. She smiled at them, and their expressions went from anxious to calm. “I can help if you’ll let me,” she said.
“Who are you?” David asked.
“My name is Daphne. I live near here, among the trees. Sometimes I travel and help people.”
“We was playing, and I tripped over that rock,” David told her. “I’m bleeding now, and my ankle hurts. I can’t stand up.”
“I know. I saw. You looked like you were having fun.”
“Please don’t tell our mom. She wouldn’t be happy with us, and I didn’t mean to get hurt like this. I always tell Zip we have to play safe. This was just an accident.”
The girl nodded in agreement, looking at her. “You’re very pretty,” she murmured.
Daphne smiled again and held a finger to her lips. “Thank you. Now hush.” She knelt by David, her skirt flowing out around her. An arc of fresh spring water sprang from her palm and splashed against David’s cut, washing out the dirt. Daphne kept her palm open, and the water continued to pour out until she was satisfied the cut had been cleaned. Then she reached toward the grass, calling to the earth, and tender, green vines pushed up from the ground, rising to her hand. She plucked their leaves off and rubbed them between her palms until they became damp and clumped together in a thick paste. She pressed the paste against the wound.
“Hold this on the cut for a minute,” she said to the boy. “It should dull the pain, making it easier for you to walk. Once you’re in bed tonight, you can pull the paste off and throw it away. The medicine will have soaked into your leg and can work overnight. It will hardly be noticeable by morning.”
“How did you do that?” David asked her.
“She’s a fairy,” Zip announced.
“She’s not a fairy, Zip.”
“No.” Daphne shook her head. “I’m not. You and I are unlikely to meet any fairies in our lives.” Her voice was sad, and she looked away from the children as she spoke.
“I don’t understand where the water came from,” David said.
“It was like. . . .” He scrunched up his forehead and looked at the sky. “Magic,” he murmured to himself.
Daphne nodded and gave his shoulder a squeeze. “It’s a skill of mine. Now let me look at that ankle.” She moved her hands down to his foot, pressing her fingers lightly against the skin, feeling the bones and ligaments. “You twisted it, that’s all. I can wrap it and make you a crutch.” She pulled out a strand from the vines and began wrapping them tightly around the boy’s ankle. He winced but kept his leg steady. With the ankle bound, Daphne fashioned him a crutch from a length of birch and handed it to him. “Use this instead of your foot to support yourself,” she said. “You know how?”
David nodded, taking the crutch from her and clumsily working his way to his feet. He leaned awkwardly on the stick and hobbled forward.
“The vines and crutch will only hold firm for an hour. Then they will wilt and fall apart. Hurry home, and then stay off your ankle.”
“Uh-huh, I will,” David said. He and his sister made their way down the hill, back to their house. Daphne stayed kneeling on the ground, watching them go. Zip turned before they were out of sight and, catching Daphne’s eye, rushed back, throwing her arms around Daphne’s neck and hugging her tight. Daphne froze, caught off guard, but put her hands around the girl and hugged her back. Zip released her hold and turned around to run after David.
Daphne felt a flutter in her heart and raised a hand to her chest, touched by the tenderness of the children. For a moment, Mother Nature’s words came back to her: Be careful around humans. They are too easily influenced by demons. Daphne shook off the warning. These children were full of innocence. There was no danger here.
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