READ EXCERPT from Brooklyn's Fairy Tale
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 – Witch Rising (excerpt below)
Chapter 2 – Lotus Tea
Chapter 3 – Magic Beans
Chapter 4 - Gingerbread House
Chapter 5 – The Witching Hours
Chapter 6 – Haunted
Chapter 7 – Cauldron Magic
Chapter 8 – A Gnome's Pious Robe
Chapter 9 – Shadows in the Castle
Chapter 10 - Rain Chant
Chapter 11 – Giants
Chapter 12 – Nettle's Sting
Chapter 13 – Winter
Chapter 14 – Breadcrumbs
Chapter 15 - Stone Soup
Chapter 16 – Aphasia
Chapter 17 - Mirror, Mirror
Chapter 18 - Spring
The Witch's Magic Bean Dream
Ilustration from Chapter 3 by Elisabeth Alba
Chapter 1 - Witch Rising
Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me.~ Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
At the boarding house, something always hobbled the Witch’s walk, but one night in the wilding wood her crooked steps leave the forest floor. Her cloak fluttered and she drifted to shore in the jagged pattern of an uneasy spirit. The lake winked through the dark. Its deep waters kept the Witch from flying over it.
Brooklyn and River followed, stealing under boughs along a creek’s trickle to the inlet. Their trick-or-treat glow sticks shone alien green on autumn leaves and boney root fingers. Scorched trees gathered on the margin of the lake, and the Witch summoned them like disciples.
Her voice rounded the curve of her velvet hood and her words rose to into ink-blue clouds spilling across the gray sky. She sang in languages no one understood at home. “It’s a Tibetan dirge,” she’d say if anyone asked. Or a Welsh love song. Or a Russian lullaby about a wolf pulling you off the bed’s edge into the woods. But this night there was no music in her words, and the two followers thought her language might be spoken by an ancient tribe in a desolate land.
The Witch wasn’t just the woman who ran the boarding house anymore. Of the many names in life, one might change things forever. Brooklyn and River knew they’d never forget the Witch’s name - Valentina Maltemps.
Blue radiance poured from the Witch’s fingers and ringed the skipping stones she drew into the lake. The stones grew and cut a tottering path floating all the way to Twin Tree Island, a small island with conifer sentinels on each end. She crossed the path, and the bent impression of the Witch’s body dissolved on the island.
Beyond the island were the rolling hills of Tindale Farm. Scurrying chickens nibbling fodder at dawn were now snug in their coops, and the gentle grazing sheep safe in the barn. The enchanter didn’t disturb this rural peace, but her passage over water barbed the children’s eyes.
“You saw that too, right? Jinn can do that,” Brooklyn whispered, pressing her small, trembling hand against a tree trunk.
River’s mouth twisted in confusion, “Come again?”
“Jinn and tree ghosts come at night. They’re in my aunt’s garden in Bengal. They lurk in the branches and behind the flowers, and sometimes they sneak into dark hallways in the house. Jinn are hidden. It’s in the meaning of their name,” she said, biting her tongue too late.
If there were any more hallucinations at school, Brooklyn’s counselor would send her mother an official referral for Spinster’s School for Troubled Children. Spinster’s was a converted warehouse with pews salvaged from a demolished 18th century church serving as students’ chairs. It was a mangled, nearly windowless, suffocating container not suited for growing kids.
Bordering the turbulent, rocky river flowing from the North, Spinster’s was remote from the more populated areas of town. There were rumors that Spinster’s School kids, if they didn’t turn normal, were left at the edge of Troll’s Hollow to find their way back home alone, and sometimes they never came back.
Maybe, Brooklyn thought, she should’ve kept her musings on the sight of a woman walking over water to herself. It grated her nerves how the incongruity of things always kept her from fitting them neatly into place. She was like that too. She didn’t fit in. River wasn’t exactly citizen of the year, but at least nobody at school said he was crazy. The other kids never believed her – sometimes even River didn’t.
River’s gaze settled on the lake. “You’re not seeing things,” he said.
Spindly pine needles brushed Brooklyn’s arm, and their balsam scent smelled too sweet. Maybe the gaatchh bhoot were in the trees of the Black Woods after dusk too.
“Or maybe it’s fairy magic,” Brooklyn’s thoughts of fairies drinking the scent of mango, and the nectar of night-blooming rojoni-ghondha blossoms just tumbled out. Quietly, snakes slithered into the fruit-laden trees in her head.
“A fairy?” River’s voice thinned.
“Fairies like night-time and they can make magic.”
“You’re so gullible,” River replied matter-of-factly.
“This is like a top-secret reconnaissance under the cover of night, but I don’t guess Valentina’s on a noble mission.”
“You mean like a World War II spy or a WWPO agent like my dad? No way! But I wonder what she wants with that island. There’s a violent whirlpool on the other side of Krater Lake where no one goes fishing anymore. Mom wrote an article about it in the Gazette. A high school kid drowned just past the danger buoys. Another fisherman spotted the boat tipping over and threw him a lifeline, but the whirlpool swallowed the boy.”
“Hey, let's head back before anyone notices we’re not home. We can’t get on that island anyway.” River’s eyes narrowed on Brooklyn.
The choice, Brooklyn thought, wasn’t land or water now; it was something in between, something unknown. She didn’t want to go back home, not that home was really home anymore. She grinned from a rush of adrenaline and edged closer to the lake. “The stones are still floating, aren’t they?” she said, a little scared, but excited.
“But what if they won't float for us? We’ll drown.” River replied.
“The stones won’t sink – at least not until Valentina comes back this way,” said Brooklyn, crossing her arms doggedly.
"And they say I’m a trouble-maker. This might be scary for a girl, so I’ll come with,” River said, knowing he was stoking Brooklyn’s Joan of Arc sensibilities and enjoying it.
“Wait here, River. I’ll go first and test it out.”
"What?” River shrieked. “I mean, let’s go together – at the same time. You know, ‘cause you might need someone to rescue you,” River jabbed, offering his hand.
"Remind me again why I let you hang out with me?" Brooklyn laughed.
"Chivalrous charm, good looks, and we're stuck in a boarding house together?"
Brooklyn took River’s hand. They rocked the stones beneath their feet, but gingerly stepped forward by the firelight of the stones. The lake was calm until they neared the island’s beach, where eddies from the whirlpool crashed and soaked their galoshes. The white trim on Tindale Farm’s red barn and the grain silo dome were shining faintly, and a sea of crop fields stretched ahead of the island.
The last floating stone pitched. Steadying her flailing hands, Brooklyn leapt onto the island. But River was frozen. “Come on, River! Jump! I think that last stone’s about to flip again.”
River’s head was spinning. Nausea clogged his throat. He had never learned to swim, and even a good swimmer might struggle against this churning water from the whirlpool whose scream boomed far into the woods, a wild thing loosed. Bubbles popped on the water. Bloop-bloop, blippity, ploompa, plink. It wasn't gurgling fish, but fishy eyes - startling neon green eyes staring at River. The water nymph giggled playfully. Her white dress undulated in the water; her slender arms swayed inviting him in.
Brooklyn called to River. “Don’t look into the water. Think P.E. class, River. You got the best broad jump score in the class. Do it again now! Jump over to me.”
Brooklyn’s voice broke through the thick haze of his horror. The spray of the rushing waters awakened River’s senses and cooled him.
“No, River, come to me!” said the green-eyed woman. “I shall take you to the City of Lost Dreams where you belong. It’s just on the other side. Only a water nymph can grant you entrance to a City beyond the whirlpool.”
“But I can’t swim,” River said, gaping into the water. He blinked hard and shook his head, but the nymph's hypnotic eyes, held him fast and he couldn't clear his mind.
The water nymph flipped to her side. Her back was finned, laced with spiny, fish-white bones. Her hair, braided, neatly framing her sober, pale jade face, was twined in a net of golden thread and seaweed.
“Come, child! Ride a moonbeam through the whirlpool where the glorious City awaits.” The nymph words were like an angel’s harp, but her music sank, watery and dark. And Brooklyn’s voice still called, lost in tangles of fog creeping over the lake, echoing before piercing River’s ears.
“I’m coming,” he called to Brooklyn, but didn’t know if he was answering her or the water nymph. He leapt to a curtain of fog obscuring the bank of the island.
His long legs sailed, but before he hit the island’s beach something caught him. Teeth hooked his foot, and plunged him into the lake. Dragging River down, down, the nymph swam deeper and deeper until the glow of the stones at the surface vanished and only the twinkling lights of a city upon a hill lit the lake's murky deep.
The nymph’s words softened his mind and his muscles. He wouldn’t drown if she guided him through the whirlpool where there was a palace, high in golden sun and silver air. But he had no breath. He held it inside waiting for the entrance to the City beyond the whirlpool to open. There – just up ahead - was the blue door to the City of Lost Dreams. There he might live a new life. How much longer did he have to wait? A life where he wouldn’t need his father who was never home or his mother who left them. He choked. His lungs constricted. Panic torpedoed into air bubbles.
The nymph sang a lullaby. “Children drowned in lake, river, and sea, they come to the white palace to be free. A living new child-king’s rule they await, oh drifting spirits o’ the pool. King River, it’s this way! Come, they pray, they prey in the City of Your Lost Dreams.”
“River?” Brooklyn cried, scanning the lake’s surface. Their story wouldn’t end like this. She burned with determination. A frightening energy shot through her veins coursing with a sense of impossible power she only felt before in dreams. Dreams where a jinni from the Starry Garden chased her down the dark, long hallway tiled with cold ceramic, gritty with remnants of city dust scratching her bare feet. At the end of the hallway, she leapt onto the windowsill like a panther. Suddenly, she flew out of the wide open, unlatched window overlooking a pond where white waterlilies shimmered under a crescent moon.
Deep in the lake River was screaming, “I can’t swim!” but the words were only in his mind. He couldn’t speak at all.
Brooklyn felt the gravity of the moon in her hands, and its bright, silvery light in her mind. She found River in the dark depths of Krater Lake. She wouldn’t let him go.
The water nymph's teeth loosened from River’s foot, but he was sinking fast, giving up. Before River reached the sludgy lake bottom, his body stopped, jolted back and flowed into an upward current. He was being sucked into the whirlpool, he thought. This was the end.
His head broke through the surface, his curly mop dripped. Was he on the other side of the whirlpool with the other children? Spewing a mouthful of water over dizzying lapping waves, River’s double vision caught the water nymph circling him. Everything went black. His limp body surged, shedding heavy sheets of lake water, turning in the chilly air. The nymph watched him, still eager to catch her prey.
“Who is she? You’ve brought a witch to help you?” she hissed, baring sharp teeth. “You’ll never be king in your land, River!” She shook her fist and jackknifed far into the mouth of the whirlpool, her neon eyes fading into brilliant froth.
River dropped to the island with a thud. A breeze quelled the heat of passing danger, a reward for surviving the treacherous water. Homer, who’d sat on Brooklyn’s shoulder, pecked River’s head, hopped down, and paced back and forth in bobbing pigeon strides, cooing tisk-tisk.
"What just happened?” River sputtered between wheezing coughs. “In the water – that lady with the fish eyes . . . She thought you did it. She said you were a witch.”
“Witch? What a nice thank you that is for saving your life, River. Why didn't you tell me you can't swim? I freaked when I thought you were drowning."
River backed away from Brooklyn. He pointed to a glimmer at her neck, and Brooklyn snatched at it, startled. They lumbered over to an erect boulder on the island and huddled together catching quick breaths.
“It’s my father’s moonstone ring,” Brooklyn said, dangling the charm on a gold chain she always wore. “It was mined in India and set into this ring for good luck before he left home. He asked me to keep it safe.”
River shuddered and examined the luminous frost-blue stone. “There’s more than luck in this ring. How did you do it, Brooklyn?”
“I don’t’ know. I can’t see how I got you out of the lake. I only felt it. I got feverish for a minute and it just happened. I’ve never seen this moonstone glow before. But you don’t believe in superstitions anyway, do you?”
A dazzling yellow autumnal moon loomed large in the sky. The Witch entered a low cavern overhung by a mossy mound on the island.
“I don’t believe what I can’t see,” said River, with a cursory look at the tiny island before they resumed tracing the Witch’s path, “but ever since the teacher made me sit next to the quiet girl in class I’ve been seeing a lot of weird stuff. You’re a magnet for weird. In a good way sometimes,” he sniggered.
The top of the cavern was so low River’s head was only a foot below it. Water dripped. The cavern walls grew narrower until orange light fell on two steps from an elliptical crevice. The opening flickered like the pupil of a snake warning intruders to keep out. The Witch slipped into the eye. In a niche by the opening, Brooklyn and River crouched, waiting.
END OF SAMPLE
Chapter 2 - Addie Kim-Ly
Move and the way will open.
~ Zen Proverbs