Pop Up Books – No Recourse
So I used to love that show called Pop-up Videos. The one where as you watched the music video, pop-ups would appear to tell you all the little secrets and unknown bits about the book. I thought that might be a fun thing to try each time I have a new release, so as No Recourse is coming out at Liquid Silver, I thought I’d do my own version of Pop-up Books with the prologue and chapter one of the story!
Prologue (I’ve probably rewritten this prologue a hundred times–no lie. I also entered it, one line at a time, in the Karin Tabke First Line contest)
The piercing pain in her chest grew worse, but she couldn’t stop running. A flash of lightning split the darkness once again, temporarily blinding her. Thunder roared in her ears and her racing heart felt as if it would burst. Again, the pounding of the horse’s hooves beat the dirt path behind her. Closer this time. He was closer. A high-pitched scream sliced through the night, the horrible sound quickly swallowed by the thick mist. “Erin!” she yelled. “I’m coming.”
The cramps in her legs intensified and she stumbled over a rock in the path, but caught herself before she fell. She could not keep up this insane pace much longer. She had to get to Erin before the dark man on the horse caught her again. More lightning, another crash of thunder. Blinded by the rain, she stumbled through the brambles. The wind howled as she struggled forward against its gale force. “Aaaa!” she cried as she tripped over a tree root. Another faraway scream, another flash of lightning. (This is how far I made it in the Karin Tabke First Line contest before Liquid Silver contracted the book and I had to drop out.)
Dragging herself back up, she felt the hot breath of the horse against the back of her neck. Two callused hands lifted her up through the air. Out of time–he’d caught her again. The sound of familiar laughter was beside her now. Another scream–farther away this time–barely perceptible. She’d failed again. “Erin!” She kicked out with all her might. “Erin!”
The man beside her laughed harshly, whispering in her ear familiar, terrifying words. One last scream–this time coming from her own lips– trying to drown his words, his laughter. The rough hands began to shake her. Shaking her so hard her teeth rattled. Fight back, she thought. Fight back.
“Hayley, wake up! Wake up!” Hayley opened her eyes adjusting her vision to the dark room. Bright light from the hallway poured in from the open doorway and she felt disoriented. (Hayley Garland’s name came from the poster of The Sound of Music that hung in my bedroom as I was growing up. Jack Haley and Judy Garland’s names combined)
“Yes. God, Hayley. Wake up!” She shook slightly as her friend patted her hair and murmured comforting words. “You’re awake now. You’re safe.”
Hayley sat still for several moments, silently willing the trembling to stop. She hated the look of absolute panic on Tori’s face. “I’m okay. Really.”
“That was a hell of a nightmare. I heard you all the way down the hall.”
Hayley shrugged nonchalantly though her hands shook as she tried to untangle herself from the sweat-soaked sheets.
“I thought you said you didn’t have nightmares anymore. How long have you been having these?”
“Awhile … just since she disappeared,” Hayley whispered, her voice hoarse from screaming.
Tori looked unconvinced. “You need to talk to someone about them. It’s not good for you to have such violent dreams. You know, I bet my mother knows someone who could help you.”
“A shrink?” She felt calmer and her wits were returning to her. “No, thanks, I don’t think a psychiatrist is going to be able to do anything about a silly nightmare. Besides, I tried it before, remember?”
Tori crossed her arms over her chest and raised her eyebrows angrily. “Two months, Hayley. You tried it for a total of two months, and then you quit when some progress was being made.”
“She was a hack and it was a waste of money. I work hard for my paycheck, and I resented giving it to her so she could blame all my problems on Marian. It’s just being here, Tori. It brings everything back.” At Tori’s incredulous look, she deepened her lie. “I’m fine at home.”
“Right, you don’t have these dreams anywhere but here?”
“No, well, maybe a couple of times right after I went home last summer, but not since then.” She hoped her light tone made her lie more convincing. Truth was she had endured bad dreams since she was a child, but the nightmares had become more frequent and frightening since last June. A year. She still couldn’t believe it had been one year. She’d spent the last twelve months in a fog, simply going through the motions of living.
Tomorrow was her best friend Erin’s birthday. (Erin’s birthday is June 21, summer solstice. That plays a part in the time travel idea). It was also one year to the day since Erin had mysteriously disappeared without a trace. The June girls were together again for the summer, minus one very special member. Erin, Hayley and Tori had spent every summer together since they were ten years old. The first ten summers were spent at Camp Spring Rock (Camp is based on the summer camp I went to EVERY summer of my life, as camper and as counselor. Met my hubby one year when we were counselors together–ahh, summer love!), then last year here at Tori’s family estate, Fernwood (Named after the Street where my mother-in-law lives) Grange, in Dover, England. They had penned themselves the June girls during their first summer at camp as all three of them had June birthdays, and they had remained friends through the best and worst times of their lives.
Hayley was spending a couple of weeks at Fernwood Grange with Tori. It was only her second vacation since beginning her job as a counselor in a women’s abuse shelter in St. Louis two years earlier. (Hayley’s job is the same as my best friend in high school and college–social worker in St. Louis). Tori, an elementary school librarian, was spending her entire summer break at the Grange, and Erin, until her disappearance, had traveled the United States with her band Delancy’s Dreamers.
Tori disrupted her thoughts. “We should have gone somewhere else this summer.”
Hayley reached for her friend’s hands. “No, Tori. I wanted to come back, to spend time with you. Besides, I’ve been thinking that perhaps time and distance may help us solve this mystery. There are some things about last year that have been bothering me and I thought we could run down some of the leads that weren’t fully explored.”
“Are you kidding me?” Tori yelled. “Dammit Hayley. I didn’t come back here to start the search up again. There are no leads to track down.”
“I’m just not sure the detectives followed up as much as they should have.”
“Will you just stop it, Hayley? She’s gone. Erin is gone. I thought coming here might help us heal.”
“Yes, heal, let go of the past, move on. I know those are pretty radical concepts, but they’re something you might want to try sometime.”
Hayley felt her friend’s words like a blow to the chest. She knew she had a tendency to carry around her ancient history like well-worn luggage, but Tori, of all people, should understand why she did so.
“I–I don’t think I can–”
“Aw hell, Hayley. I’m sorry. So sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, but dammit, I can’t drudge all of this up again. We have to get past it. We were both in such a daze at the end of last summer. I haven’t been back to this house myself since then. Despite my mother’s nagging, I spent Christmas with my cousins in Liverpool (My hubby is from Liverpool). I didn’t think I could face the demons here without you.” Tori’s voice broke. “I came back, hoping we could find closure. I miss her so much.”
Hayley reached for her friend, holding her as Tori cried. She didn’t think this trip would help either one of them. They were ghosts of their former selves, and although she found solace with her friend, it wasn’t enough to counteract the guilt and pain she felt over losing Erin.
As Tori quietly cried, Hayley realized she hadn’t cried since Erin’s disappearance–not once. Instead, she lived in a hollow cocoon, feeling cold and empty all the time. Her childhood with a tyrant father taught her from an early age that emotions showed weakness, and–having learned that lesson the hard way many times–she refused to be weak.
Gradually, Tori regained control of her emotions and looked up guiltily. “You had the nightmare, and I’m the one who’s falling apart. Isn’t that always the way? Erin was so much a part of us. This last year it’s felt like we were missing a limb, but we’ve gone on. We’ve both been successful in our jobs and we have each other. There are still good times to be had and I really don’t think Erin would want us to wallow in self-pity and misery. Remember the time Tuck Mathews fell into the lake?”
“As I recall, he didn’t fall in. Erin pushed him.” Hayley laughed at the memory.
For the next hour, the two friends reminisced, sharing laughter and tears as they talked about the wild adventures of the June girls at camp.
Finally, Hayley said the words that never completely left her consciousness. “The worst thing is not knowing.”
Tori nodded, clearly understanding what she meant.
“I think that’s what hurts the most. It drives me crazy sometimes, Tori. Just wondering, never knowing for sure she won’t walk through that door any minute with some crazy tale of her lost year.”
“Wouldn’t that be great?” Tori said. “Actually, I think deep down inside, I hoped we would come back and find her here. Isn’t that silly?”
“No, it’s not silly.”
“Sometimes, these past few days, I’ve actually felt like she was here.” Tori shivered. “Maybe I need to see the shrink?”
“No, I’ve felt her too. I thought it was just me.”
Neither of them spoke for several minutes as they considered what it might mean to feel Erin’s presence–her spirit in the house–until Tori, shaking off thoughts of her friend’s possible death, stood quickly. “That’s it. I’m for bed again.”
“Me too. Rough day tomorrow. Her twenty-third birthday.”
Tori paused in the doorway. “Tonight helped, I think. I’m stronger with you, Hayley. Sweet dreams?”
“Tonight helped,” she repeated. “Sweet dreams.”
She listened as Tori returned to her room, then got out of bed and crossed to the window seat. Curling up on the blue brocade cushion, she felt bad for lying to her friend about the nightmares. Erin and Tori were her best and only friends. After her mother, Marian, divorced her alcoholic father, she and Hayley moved frequently from one run-down apartment to another, usually trying to escape bill collectors or the latest in a long line of Marian’s seedy boyfriends.
Because of the instability of her home life, Hayley became a loner. Growing up, she watched her mother cower under the demands of her abusive father and then a string of other unsavory men. Determined not to be like Marian, she had difficulty fitting in. She was strong-willed, with a quick temper and an independent streak a mile wide. Her tendency to speak her mind tended to make others uncomfortable, and she had never trusted anyone until she met the June girls.
Tori and Erin were loners as well, although for different reasons. Erin’s isolation was the result of lifestyle, not choice. She was an only child traveling with her father and a folk music (I LOVE folk music. My favorite singer of all-time is Nanci Griffith) band comprised entirely of adults. Despite the lack of other children to play with, she was vivacious, beautiful and made friends easily. Tori lived a life of privilege with wealthy parents. The problem was they were both extremely successful workaholics, who left the rearing of their only daughter to a string of nannies.
Shaking herself back to the present, she decided sleep was beyond her. Looking around the room, she decided to read the romance novel Tori had loaned her earlier that afternoon.
“Damn,” she murmured after ten minutes of searching. “I must have left it outside.”
They’d spent the afternoon under a large oak tree at the edge of the Grange property. It was close enough to the shoreline that they could listen to the sounds of the English Channel as they relaxed. The tree had been a favorite gathering place for all three of the girls last year.
However, today, she’d found herself unable to concentrate there. The tree was the last place Erin had been seen, and Hayley was the last person who had seen her. The memory of that day served to increase the feelings of guilt she had suffered throughout the year. She’d left her friend alone, unprotected, and that fact ate at her insides like a cancer. In her haste to escape the tree this afternoon, Hayley must have forgotten her book, as well as several other things, now that she thought about it.
Wide awake and too antsy to sleep, she decided a brisk walk to retrieve her belongings would do her good. Decision made, she began to pull on the jeans and the green (my favorite color) blouse she had worn earlier in the day. Taking a quick peek out the window, she could see it was a clear night. A walk might be the trick to driving out the dark thoughts that were overwhelming her senses and leaving her so restless. She knew Tori didn’t want to continue the search, but Hayley couldn’t give up the idea that perhaps with a bit more effort, this time they could solve the mystery.
Besides, if she was being truthful with herself, she was simply unwilling to risk sleep with its terrible images. Lacing up her tennis shoes, she tip-toed past Tori’s bedroom and out the front door. Taking a deep breath of the fresh air, she felt a tremor of fear and for a moment considered turning back to the house. Shaking it off as unwanted weakness, she started down the dirt path toward the tree.
She had almost reached the spot when she was startled by the sound of thunder somewhere in the distance.
“Damn, I hope it doesn’t start to rain.”
Looking up at a clear night sky twinkling with stars, she wondered where the thunder had come from. The light of a full moon lit the path ahead of her, and the walk was easy and relaxing. She loved walking at night. While she knew night sounds and eerie shadows frightened others, she took comfort in the darkness, refuge in the peacefulness, and loved the shelter it provided. (Not me–terrified walking around at night–LOL).
Again, she heard a crash of thunder, louder this time. Glancing toward the shore, she wondered if a storm was blowing in from that direction. Increasing her pace, she cursed herself for being a fool, tramping through the woods in the middle of the night for a silly romance novel (Romance novels are NOT silly!). As she approached the giant oak, she glanced around looking for Erin.
“Erin,” she cried to the stormy night. “Where are you? Why can’t I find you?”
She bent down trying to pack up her forgotten backpack in the darkness. Rushing lest the storm began, she hastily retrieved her book, water bottle and sunglasses, then started to place the pack on her back.
Suddenly a bright flash of lightning struck the tall oak tree, throwing her back onto the ground where she lay stunned. Every hair on her body was standing straight up, and every nerve felt as though it had received an electric shock. (I could describe this from personal experience. I was frighteningly close to lightning that struck a telephone pole I was only a few feet away from. I did fall back and the electric shock feeling is very real). Dazed, she looked up at the tree. It had split right down the middle all the way to the ground. Amazingly, it was still standing. The two halves were pointing outward at sixty-degree angles, but they had not fallen to the earth.
An unexpected movement on the other side of the tree caught her gaze. Through the opening in the oak, she could see a man on a large, dark horse looking straight back at her. He was wearing a large cloak with a hat pulled low over his face–rainwater gushing off the brim.
The dark horseman from my dream, she thought with panic as she looked at him. Glancing quickly at her surroundings, she considered running, but realized–as her recurring dream had repeatedly proven–she would never be able to escape him and his horse in the dark. The saying “the best defense is a good offense” popped into her mind and she decided the only course of action would be to stand her ground.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t standing on the ground, but sprawled across it due to the force of the lightning strike. Rising slowly, she tried to get a better look at the man. Occasional flashes of lightning served to cast even darker shadows across his face. The moon had deserted her, leaving a bleak darkness that allowed her to see the outline of his colossal form on the horse, but no more than that. However, even in the dark, she could feel him staring at her, his gaze burning into her.
Taking a deep breath, dusting herself off and leaving her backpack on the ground, Hayley cautiously approached the split in the tree. The man from her nightmares had been chasing her for years; however, the horse had been a new addition, only appearing since Erin’s absence. She had no idea what that could mean.
Seeing this stranger led her to wonder if she were actually dreaming once again. Yet somehow, deep inside, she knew for certain the broken tree, wild storm and strange man were very real. Cognizant of the possible danger he presented, she searched the ground looking for a broken branch or anything else she could use as a weapon. She feigned amazement in the rent the lightning had caused, stepping closer to the tree, hoping to draw him into conversation. For some reason, Hayley needed to hear his voice. Needed to be sure it wasn’t the same one that laughed in her ear–that whispered those horrible, terrifying things–even though she knew that was impossible.
All her concerns about the man quickly diminished as she began to sense a strange stirring around her, like a powerful wind was blowing somewhere nearby, but not touching her. Glancing around, she tried to determine where the sound was coming from. It was eerie, frightening and unlike anything she had ever heard before. It was as if every bee on earth was hovering overhead. The surrounding air was extraordinarily calm, yet seemingly alive.
Looking back at the stranger, she took one more tentative step toward the tree and was violently thrust into a whirlwind of vibration and noise. She felt as though she was caught up in a tornado. Painful, powerful strokes lashed at her body, while a million high-pitched voices shrieked inside her head. She tried to scream, but couldn’t hear the sound of her own voice over the roaring around her. Her body was tossed and turned like a feather in the wind, and the world exploded in bright, flashing lights–blinding her, searing her eyes with fire and heat. Desperate to save herself, she reached out trying to grab something, anything, that could pull her back to safety.
Suddenly, she felt large, callused hands grab hers–pulling her out of the chaos, away from the noise and pain, the light and heat. As quickly as the cyclone had captured her, it released her to the rough hands that held hers tightly and silence fell again. Weak and exhausted, she looked up into the concerned eyes of a man she had never seen before, and then the world went blissfully black.
So I’ve looked back and those pop-ups are probably completely annoying! Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained! What do you all think? Worth trying again? Everything Nice comes out on June 3–LOL!