Author: Heather Hildenbrand
Genre: YA (Fantasy, Mythology)
Synopsis. The Cherokee believe when a person dies, their soul is reborn. Life is repeated. An endless cycle of lessons to be learned, love to be found, destiny to be fulfilled. For the past six months, in every flower, every bird, I’ve imagined my parents, relieved of their human forms.
Now, after five months at the Skye View Wellness Center, it was summer. A time for parties and friends, but that’s the last thing I want to do. So when my best friend Erin convinces me to attend a bonfire at Eagle Point, I can’t handle the crowd full of sympathetic stares or drunken class clowns who would use my tragedy as a way into my heart – or my pants. The solitude of the woods offers an escape, until I stumble upon a boy, unconscious and bleeding, his pockets stuffed not with identification but with poetry illustrating the beauty of dying. I’ve seen enough death. I will not leave this boy’s side.
Even after he wakes, when the only thing he can remember are visions of events that haven’t happened yet…
ExcerptI took a deep breath and held it in my chest for a moment before letting it out. I tried to push all the bad out with it. I exhaled, and a strange noise came from farther up the trail. My head snapped in the direction of the sound. I froze, listening.
The sound came again, a low moan that was definitely not the night bird from a moment ago, and leaves rustled.
I stood, gripping the handle of the flashlight in both hands and trying to decide what to do. It was probably an animal foraging for a meal, but then the moan came again … That wasn’t any animal I recognized. It sounded almost human.
I took a step toward the noise and then glanced around, unsure. Maybe a couple from the party had slipped away to be alone. I did not want to walk into something like that.
More rustling. Then the moan began to change into something else, and I began to make out words.
“H-help … me …”
The voice was definitely male. I took a step closer.
It faded and the rustling stopped. Something inside me recognized an urgency in the silence, and I pushed ahead. I stepped off the trail and clicked on the flashlight, scanning. I didn’t see anything at first. I kept moving farther into the underbrush. A moment later the flashlight caught on something near the ground, and I gasped.
A boy lay in the leaves, his body tucked halfway underneath a thick bush of thorns and vines. His jeans were torn at the knees and his hooded sweatshirt didn’t look, or smell, very freshly laundered. His dark hair covered most of his face; the cheek closest to me, the one exposed, was covered in blood that trailed from somewhere on his forehead. He wasn’t moving.
My heart pounded as I dropped to my knees and carefully reached for his wrist. The flashlight slipped out of my hand and rolled. My fingers searched for the correct spot on his wrist, and I held still, unable to breathe.
Oh, Lord, please let there be a pulse.
I didn’t know what I would do if he didn’t have a pulse. I couldn’t handle confronting death again. Not like this. Even for a stranger, especially one so young; he couldn’t be more than a year or two older than me.
What would that be like? To watch a life slip away right in front of me and know there was nothing I could do to stop it?
Underneath my fingertips, I caught the faint thump of a heartbeat and choked on a sob. I dropped the boy’s wrist, hating how cold it felt, and groped for my cell phone. The screen blazed to life. I wanted to scream in relief that it had a signal. I dialed 911, then waited for what felt like a thousand years before the call connected and the operator picked up. My voice shook as I gave them my location.
“And you have no idea what happened to him?”
She’d identified herself as Miriam when the call began. That fact kept repeating itself in my mind, like some insane loop. Miriam. Her name is Miriam.
“No, I don’t know,” I said. I tried not to cry, to stay cool. “He was calling for help, but when I got here, he’d already passed out.”
“And he’s bleeding?”
“Y-yes. On his head. I can’t really see how bad it is. His hair’s in the way.”
Far in the distance, sirens wailed.
“All right, hon. Help is coming, don’t you worry. He’s going to be fine,” Miriam said. The way she talked, her tone almost a croon, comforted me.
I nodded even though I knew she couldn’t see me. “Okay.”
The sirens grew louder.
I scooted closer to the boy and stared down at him. Miriam continued to ask me simple “yes” or “no” questions. Was he breathing? Were his eyes open? Probably more to keep me calm than anything else. I answered on auto-pilot.
Very gently, I reached out and brushed the hair away from his face. His eyes were closed, his expression so calm he could’ve been sleeping. Even in the yellow glow, I could see his skin was deeply tanned. I wondered if it was from the sun or if, like me, he had Native American blood.
I slid my hand into his and squeezed lightly. There was no response. I stared down at him, willing him to move or breathe—something to prove he was inching back toward this side, the side of the living. But there was nothing.
About the Author
Heather loves Mexican food, hates socks with sandals, and if her house was on fire, the one thing she'd grab is her DVR player.
Heather is a co-founder of Accendo Press, a publishing group she operates with fellow authors: Angeline Kace and Jennifer Sommersby. Accendo (a-CH-endo), A Latin word, means “to kindle, illuminate, inflame, or set fire.” This is something Accendo strives to do inside a reader’s imagination with every title released. For a complete list of titles and author bios, visit www.accendopress.com.