The Shielded Realms
© 2013 by Elayne Griffith
All rights reserved. Copyright under Berne Copyright Convention, Universal Copyright Convention, and Pan-American Copyright Convention. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the author.
Cover and illustrations by Elayne Griffith
I dedicate this book to everyone
who helped make this dream
I would like to give my deepest thanks to my loving, supportive family and friends: my amazing parents, aunt, cousins, and grandma (including all my adopted ones); Donna Bach and family, the Johnston family (thank you Eric!), the Douthit family, Tom and Sue, Jenny, Lynne, Chris and Marie, Dave and Violetta, John and Faith, Terry and Shirlee Busch, the “wolf-pack” (Awoo Kristen!), my Sonora peeps, Long Beach and Hi-Hill peeps, Humboldt peeps, Doug and Richelle, The Urquharts,
and my besty-best friend who rode unicorns with me
when we were young.
To my writing coach, Bruce McAllister, a teacher and inspiration throughout my journey; to all my writing allies (you know who you are), Hugh Howey for “nodding,” Jeremy Laszlo for his computer-magic, Julie Mcnair and the helping hand of Uncle Sam, J.K. Rowling, Sonora Joes for keeping me well caffeinated, the random person that first discovered coffee, and to all the bookstores and coffee shops where my muse and I liked to meet up.
I would like to thank author James P. Hogan
for telling me to, “go for it!” (R.I.P.)
Sincere thanks to Alex Grey for being such an inspiration in my artistic life, and for giving me love and blessings on my creative path.
If I didn’t mention you, it’s because
I ran out of space on the page, not in my heart.
This is for everyone who has always been there for me and always shown me a life of love, laughter, and joy.
The words echoed in Shawna’s head like rattling chains.
“When she turns sixteen...they’ll come for her.”
The worst part wasn’t the terrible secret between her parents that she’d overheard, it was that she turned sixteen today.
Startled, Shawna dropped her apple. Her friend, Tara, was waving her arms like she was signaling a rescue plane. “How was space? You back now?”
Shawna nodded. Despite the day being warm and beautiful at Bozeman High, a chill prickled up her skin.
“So, anyway,” said Tara, “your mom and dad found you? Did I really just hear that?”
“That’s, um.” Shawna forced herself to swallow the bite of apple she’d been chewing on for the last minute. It tasted like wax-paper. “That’s what I heard them say.”
“And your mom kept you cuz you were a ‘sign’”—Tara made asterisks in the air with her black Lick-Irish fingernails—“and your dad was desperate?”
Shawna nodded again, tucked a rebellious strand of blonde hair behind her ear, and felt her throat constrict.
“You only wanted her because of that thing,” her father had said, “that hallucination.”
The conversation she’d overheard that morning between her parents, or who she thought had been her parents, endlessly looped through her mind.
“What does that even mean?” asked Tara. “Where’d they find you? A manger?”
“That would explain things, wouldn’t it.”
“It would definitely explain why your mom’s a psycho.” Tara rolled her eyes and applied some more Dusk-Plum gloss to her lips.
Shawna decided not to divulge what her father, or not-her-father, had said about her turning sixteen. Maybe if she didn’t repeat it the horrible thing wouldn’t happen; those things wouldn’t come for her. A couple of freshman boys were watching them across the quad. She shifted her seat on the bench so that her back was to them.
“Man,” said Tara. “I can’t believe they never said anything about you being adopted. That sucks.” She clamped her over-glossed dark purple lips around her straw and vacuumed up some more tapioca pearls floating in her milk-tea.
For some reason, Shawna wasn’t feeling much better after confessing to her best friend. Her mind felt blank as she stared at the black eye-balls in Tara’s drink.
“It was a sign the way we found her.”
She took a deep breath, trying to forget. “Those’re gross,” she said to Tara, trying to keep her voice normal. “How can you drink that? They’re like fish eyes, or squid bal—”
“Hey, beautiful,” said a voice.
They looked up to see one of the boys, scrawny and pimply, grinning down at them.
Shawna raised an eyebrow. “Oh, are you lost? Cuz Gracey Elementary is that way.” She pointed over the boy’s shoulder. “This is high school.”
Tara cough-laughed on a fish-eye-squid-ball, and Shawna immediately blushed. Geezus, I need to calm down. But in front of Tara she just kept her eyebrow raised and blinked slowly, daring the hormonally-challenged youth to retort. He frowned, shifted his stance, looked over at his laughing friends, then walked back to their taunts and back-slapping.
“I like this eviler, meaner side of you.” Tara grinned. “You are truly one of us now, muahaha!”
The lunch bell sounded, making Shawna jump off the bench like she’d just been electrocuted. She half-heartedly laughed at herself and reached for her backpack, then remembered that she’d left it in the hallway at home. She hoped to God her parents hadn’t noticed her forgotten backpack.
Tara joked as they walked down some steps. “Now I won’t be the only one in I-have-a-troubled-home-life-so-let’s-share-and-eat-lollipops-and-pretend-I-care counseling.”
“Wow,” said Shawna, “they really broke through to you, didn’t they?”
Tara laughed and Shawna tried to say something else witty, but her thoughts were held hostage by those disturbing words.
“They’ll come for her.”
Tara was looking at her with concern. For a moment she dropped her playful, sarcastic, nature. “Are you really okay? What’re you gonna do? Can you give them a”—she made a rude hand gesture—“and thank them for all the fish-sticks?”
“I don’t know. I’m still a minor, so I doubt it.”
“Oh, whatever. Just come live with me and my evil cat. And don’t forget your towel.” The usual manic glint came back to Tara’s eyes as if seriousness was too much effort. “You can always run away with my circus. That’s my evil plan. I’ll ultimately take over the world with an army of gunslinger ninja gorillas in disco suits…”
Shawna smiled. She appreciated her friend’s effort to keep things ‘normal.’ If she could just pretend she hadn’t heard anything, wipe her memory, rewind everything.
Tara rambled on, “…Then you’ll have to kill Jarred’s girlfriend and club him stupid, otherwise you’ll have to go to prom with that freshman.”
Normal. Everything’s normal. It never happened.
“At least,” said Shawna, “I’m not an old spinster that was held back in first grade. Hope you don’t trip over your date’s walker.”
“At least I’m not a hitch-hiking bum cuz I can drive to school.”
“Yeah, well, If I had to stoop any lower for friends I’d be licking the pavement.”
“You mean like how you lick the pavement wherever Jarred has stepped?” Tara swooned.
Shawna playfully pushed her away. “Or maybe you’ll find a date at the preschool. Cuz why do you still have that?” She pointed at the sparkly unicorn-head keychain on Tara’s button-laden backpack. It bounced next to a thank you for not being perky button and an ill-sewn come to the dark side we have cookies patch.
“That’s Rainbow-Barf!” She stuck her pierced nose in the air. “Just cuz you’re too cool.”
“I’m not ‘too cool,’ I grew up. Maybe you should try it.”
“Should have left her.”
She felt her heart speed up at the voice of her not-father repeating in her head.
“You really don’t wanna join my circus?” Tara asked as she threw her empty cup towards the trash can. It sailed right into someone’s open backpack instead, splattering its contents.
“Goooooaaaaaal,” Tara whisper-yelled, pumping her arms in the air.
Shawna smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Okay, theater-geek, go back to your happy-padded-place now.”
“You gotta tell me more after school, okay,” Tara called as they parted ways. “That’s totally crazy they never said you were found like a stray cat, or something.”
She nodded as Tara waved, turned the corner, and was gone.
With her head filled with unsettling thoughts throughout class, time painfully crawled by like a slug-pulling-a-glacier. As Mr. Emery droned on about algebra equations, her thoughts drifted back to the morning.
Sapphire by Elayne Griffith / Fantasy have rating 2.2 out of 5 / Based on35 votes