"This is a modern, slightly dark fairy tale with the focus on characters rather than action. The writing’s excellent and well-edited, the characters complex and interesting, and the empty village populated by fragments of lost stories is nicely eery. A compelling exploration of the positive and negative aspects of creative imagination." Catherine, Goodreads
On a summer night in a sunbaked desert city, the wandering land appears. A fairytale village nestled in dense forest, it is a place of ruined castles, abandoned treasures, and strange creatures living in the shadows. Brought together by this impossible place are five visitors: failed painter Eli; art professor Amal; young lovers Darcy and Wes; and mysterious, haunted Coyote. Together they explore their own secret village, an entire world hidden in plain sight.
But there is darkness beneath the magic, a force pulling the visitors deeper and deeper into the place’s mysteries. As the boundaries between the secret land and the outside world begin to collapse, each of the visitors is confronted with visions of an otherworldly child, a child whose existence holds the key to understanding everything about the place that has drawn them together.
Who is this child? Why did she choose them? And will she ever let them go?
As she walked, Coyote glanced up over the lip of the riverbank. There should have been a stand of cottonwoods stretching black against the sky, but instead the stars had nothing to hide behind. She paused, cocked her head, listened. The sounds were wrong on this side of the wash, too soft, with none of the cicadas who thought they could drive her mad with their songs but didn’t know she was too clever to fall for that old trick.
Coyote climbed the bank, smooth river rocks shifting under her hands and feet. She whispered an apology for disrupting their sleep.
She felt no confusion about what she saw when she came up over the edge. The moon had come out bright and clear to yawn at her, after all, to show her everything. It was a little graveyard, flat smooth headstones surrounded by a stacked rock wall. Vines and brambles climbed over the outside of the wall, strained to get in, but inside the graveyard looked perfectly kept. No weeds grew, no earth was disturbed, and a single pale lily rested against each headstone.
From beyond the graveyard, the breeze carried the smell of cool, wet leaves where there should have been cactus and dust. Past the rock wall, Coyote saw fields and cottages where there should have been mesquite trees and a paved street leading away from the park. Where there should have been a desert city, there was forest.
Voices chattered at Coyote from all directions. Some told her the place was bad and wrong and she must get away now. Others said it could not be all wrongness if they took such care of their dead. Still others murmured under the rest, saying, you know this place, don’t you, Coyote, you know if you go just past the graveyard you’ll find the church and the statue and the Maze House and the Fox Woman’s Garden and the Caverns of the Queen. You know you know you know you know—
The weight of the voices dragged Coyote to her knees. Her guitar slipped from her fingers. Motion from the ground before her caught her eye. As she watched, two crumpled bits of paper worked their way up through the soil like night-blooming flowers. She unfolded the first, then the second, and held them side-by-side in moonlight bright enough to read by.
The first, in flowing copperplate, read, You and the others should run from this place. If you walk these roads, she’ll never let you leave.
The second, written in an awkward, blocky scrawl, said, You have to lead the others to her. Show them the way. Together you can save her. The first trial is to find each other.
Coyote looked up from the two notes to the graves that had birthed them. The headstones were different shapes, different sizes, but each bore the same single word.
About the author:
Jamie Killen’s short stories have appeared in numerous speculative fiction magazines and anthologies. She is also the writer and producer of the acclaimed audio drama SPINES. She is currently developing a new supernatural audio drama called The Six Disappearances of Ella McCray.
Author's Giveawaya Rafflecopter giveaway