Authors: S.J. West
The Alternate Earth Series
List of Watcher Books in the Watcher Series
The Watchers Trilogy
The Watcher Chronicles
Aiden’s Story (
A Bonus Novel
The Redemption Series
The Alternate Earth Series (A Jess and Mason Bonus Adventure)
Uprising (Summer 2015)
Other Books by S.J. West
The Harvest of Light Trilogy
The Vankara Saga
War of Atonement (2015)
©2015 S.J. West. All Rights Reserved.
and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
The dream always starts out the same way.
I find myself standing on a pile of concrete rubble in the middle of an otherwise- barren city street. My attention is drawn skyward, where a red moon hangs in a dust-filled sky like a harbinger of ruin. I look over my left shoulder to see Mason and my other friends who were chosen by God to come back with me to this alternate version of our Earth. All of the other vessels have made the arduous trip, as well as Malcolm, Jered, and Tristan. My gaze is drawn towards the darkness behind us, where the silhouette of a solitary figure stands hidden deep within the shadows. I try to focus on the person’s face to discover who it is, but everything about this nameless figure remains distorted.
“Who are you?” I demand, desperate to know the identity of the last person who will complete our party and open the way for us to return to this alternate reality. As in every variation of this dream, the shadowy figure remains stubbornly quiet, either unwilling or unable to reveal his/her identity to me.
Irritated, I return my gaze forward and study the black banners hanging from most of the skyscrapers surrounding us. They’re embroidered with a strangely-shaped red dragon. Oddly enough, it isn’t the red moon, lonely city street, or even the menacing banners that disturb me the most within my dream world.
It’s the silence.
It surrounds us like a blanket of death, an ominous warning of what’s to come. I attempt to take a deep breath but, no matter how hard I try, I find the simple task impossible. It’s as if the silence is slowly suffocating me, from the inside out. Fear invades the chambers of my heart, making it pound so hard it physically causes me pain.
I sense the presence of something looming behind me, but I’m too scared to turn my head and face it. I hear a scream, but it isn’t a solitary one. It sounds like the culmination of a million screams, all voiced at precisely the same moment. Their terror forces me to stow away my own and face whatever horror is approaching. I turn around, finally finding my voice only to scream.
“Jess, wake up!”
I open my eyes and realize I’m sitting up in bed, firmly gripping the comforter on my lap with both my hands.
Mason rests one of his hands on the middle of my back, trying to bring me comfort as I struggle to steady my breathing. The look of worry in his eyes twists at my heart. I’ve seen the same expression on his face a hundred times before, ever since the dreams began.
“I’m all right,” I tell him, trying to reassure the man I love of something we both know isn’t true.
Mason doesn’t say anything. He simply pulls me to him and lays us both back down on our bed. As our heads come to rest together on his pillow, Mason wraps his arms around me even tighter, as though such an action will chase away the demons of my dream world.
“Maybe today will be the day,” he whispers, but I hear the uncertainty in his voice.
I close my eyes and sigh, “Maybe.”
“She’s the only person we haven’t tried to take with us,” Mason reminds me.
“But I don’t want it to be her,” I confess, feeling the sting of unshed tears burn behind my eyelids. “Michael doesn’t, either.”
“If Lilly is the missing piece, then that’s just the way it’s meant to be,” Mason tries to reason. “It won’t be your fault, and it will finally put an end to your nightmares.”
“No, it won’t, Mason. It’ll just mean my nightmares will become real.”
Mason remains silent, knowing I’m right.
When I open my eyes to look at him, he asks, “Do you want to stop trying? If that’s what you want, all you have to do is say the word, and we’ll stop.”
I slowly shake my head.
“You know I can’t stop,” I tell him, resigned to my fate. “Not yet, at least. I don’t think I would be having these dreams if the resistance on alternate Earth didn’t need our help. Anyway, God practically said we were supposed to go back. We just haven’t figured out the right combination of people yet.”
“If Lilly isn’t our missing member, I’m not sure who else to try,” Mason confesses. “She’s our last option.”
“But I don’t want it to be her,” I say, gracing myself with a moment of sadness and allowing myself the freedom to cry.
“Oh, Jess,” Mason says, leaning in to kiss my forehead. “I know you don’t.”
Mason doesn’t say anything else. He just lets me cry out my sorrow and frustration.
For the past few years, we have tried every combination of Watchers we could think of to fill out the party meant to travel back to alternate Earth. Each time we tried someone new, we would have that person stand in the middle of our vessel circle. If they were allowed to travel into our inner realm, we assumed they were meant to come with us. Malcolm and Mason were the only Watchers who appeared in my dreams at first. Jered had passed the test from our random sampling, but none of Caylin’s other chosen made the cut. Jered was the one who suggested we check Tristan. Surprisingly, he was allowed to enter our inner realm.
I desperately didn’t want our missing member to be Lilly, because she had already been through so much during her life. It just didn’t seem fair to ask her to travel to a strange world, where danger would be lurking around every corner. She had five children and a husband who needed her in this reality. Surely, God wouldn’t force her to come with us when that was the last thing she wanted to do.
“Hey, I know something that will make you smile. I’ll be right back,” Mason promises, kissing me softly on the lips before letting me go and getting out of bed.
I wipe away the tears on my face and sit up as he walks out of the bedroom.
A minute later, he returns, carrying a small plate that has a jumbo marshmallow on it with a lit match sticking out of the top.
“Happy Birthday!” he says with a smile.
Despite my melancholy, I can’t help but laugh at him and his version of a birthday cake.
“I hope you didn’t make me a marshmallow birthday cake for my surprise party,” I tell him as he walks back over to the bed and sits down on its edge.
“Who says we’re giving you a party?” he questions, holding the plate out for me to take.
“Because you give me one every year,” I reply, taking the plate and staring at the matchstick’s flame. “It’s not exactly a surprise anymore.”
“Well, it’ll be good for you to have everyone you love all together,” Mason says. “Now, make a wish and blow out your candle so it’ll come true.”
“You know what I’m going to wish for,” I say. “I’ve made the same wish for the last five birthdays.”
“Then try wishing for it again,” he urges. “Maybe it will finally come true this year.”
I close my eyes and wish that we find a way back to alternate Earth, but I amend it by adding that I don’t want Lilly to be the key to us finally getting there.
When I open my eyes, I blow out the matchstick.
Mason takes the plate out of my hands and places it on the nightstand beside him.
“Is it bad of me to hope that your wish doesn’t come true?” he asks, turning back to me. Before I know it, he has me lying on my back and is kissing the side of my neck. “Mama Lynn and George said they would keep the kids tonight after everyone else leaves.”
“Have our evening planned out, do you?” I ask, sighing from the pleasure his lips have always been able to bring me.
“Yes, unless your wish actually does come true.”
“I won’t complain if it doesn’t.”
Mason lifts his head and looks me straight in the eyes.
“No, you won’t,” he assures me with a cocky grin.
I know his boast isn’t an empty one, and smile back.
“And now that you’re smiling,” he says, brushing his lips against mine, “why don’t you go take a shower while I get the kids up? They told me they wanted to make you breakfast this morning.”
Mason leans in and kisses me one more time. Just before he gets out of bed, I reach out and grab his arm.
“I love you,” I tell him as my heart constricts of its own accord with the depth and truth of my words. “I wouldn’t have been able to keep my sanity the past few years without you.”
“You’re so much stronger than you think you are,” Mason tells me. “You always have been, Jess. I’m just the lucky man who gets to remind you of that fact every once in a while. There isn’t anything you can’t do, with or without my help.”
“It’s a lot easier with it,” I confess, squeezing his arm to emphasize my words.
“And you’ll always have it,” he reassures me with a wink.
I let go of his arm and watch him stroll over to the walk-in closet to find some clothes to wear.
I push the covers off me, regaining a new determination to have a happy birthday.
After my shower, I slip on a pair of jeans and a white polo shirt. As soon as I walk out of the bedroom, I hear Mama Lynn and George’s voices come from the direction of the kitchen. When I walk in, Mama Lynn is placing some of Beau’s cinnamon rolls on a platter on the kitchen table.
“It’s not Wednesday,” I point out, staring at the unexpected surprise.
“I asked Beau to make them for your birthday,” Mama Lynn tells me, setting the empty pastry box down and walking over to give me a hug and kiss on the cheek. “Happy Birthday, sweetie.”
“Happy birthday, Mommy!” Brynlee and Max say at the same time.
“Thanks,” I say, looking over at Brynlee as Mason helps her use a spatula to flip an egg over in a pan on the stove.
Max is setting the placemats down on the kitchen table, and I notice he’s setting out eight of them.
“Who else is joining us for breakfast?” I ask, taking a cinnamon roll to munch on while my family finishes cooking breakfast for me.
“Zack and Faison are coming over,” Mama Lynn informs me. “You know, I’m so glad Zack was willing to move here after he and Faison married. I don’t know what I would have done if she had moved all the way out to California.”
“Well, you can thank Mason for chasing away Ms. Margaret from across the street so they could have a house in the neighborhood,” I say jokingly.
“It wasn’t my fault those Watchers attacked us,” Mason says in his own defense.
“Yes, but, after what you put on her lawn, the poor woman was traumatized for life,” I remind him.
Mason shrugs. “I didn’t have anywhere else to put the heads.”
After the night Mason and some of the other Watchers fought with the Watchers under Lucifer’s command, Ms. Margaret declared that she couldn’t live in a neighborhood where decapitated heads were considered lawn ornaments. A few weeks later, she moved out, and we bought her house to help control who moved in across the street from Mama Lynn and George. Mason and I gave the house to Faison and Zack as a wedding present, when they decided to live in Cypress Hollow. It would have been easy for Faison to find a nursing job in California, but I think Zack knew how important it was for her to remain close to her family.
The doorbell rings.
“I’ll get it,” I tell everyone as they continue to prepare breakfast.
When I open the door, I find a very pregnant Faison and proud Zack standing on my porch. A fleeting pang of jealously flits through my heart at the sight of Faison. Ever since Brynlee was born, Mason and I have been trying to build our family and have a third child. I didn’t think it would be a difficult thing to do, but after almost five years of trying, the wish for another child seemed like one that might never come true.
“Hey, there, birthday girl,” Faison says happily. I watch as she sniffs the air, resembling a hound dog on the trail of something good. “Why do I smell Beau’s cinnamon rolls? It’s Tuesday, not Wednesday.”
“Mama Lynn had him bake up a batch for my birthday,” I tell her, holding up the half-eaten roll in my hand as proof of my claim.
Without any further ado, Faison walks in and makes a beeline for the kitchen, without giving me her customary hug.
“Don’t take it personally,” Zack says as he walks in so I can close the door. “Food has become the fourth member of our family the past few days.”
I laugh. “She’s in the home stretch now. These last few weeks the baby will be doubling its weight. Just keep her fed and you should have a happy wife until the delivery.”
“You’ll be there for that, right?” Zack asks desperately. “I’m not sure I can handle it alone, Jess.”
“I’ll be there,” I reassure him, even though I silently wonder if either of us will be present for the birth.
If we’re able to reach alternate Earth tonight, I have no way of knowing how long we’ll be needed there. My hope is that we can do what has to be done quickly, but it isn’t a promise I can make.
Zack and I walk back to the kitchen together and find Faison sitting at the table, licking icing off the tips of the fingers.
“Wow, you already ate one?” I ask in surprise.
“Uh,” Faison looks a little sheepish as she admits, “actually I ate two; one for me and one for the baby.”
“Just remember that excuse only works while you’re pregnant, Fai.”
“And I’m going to use it to my advantage for as long as I can,” Faison replies with a guilt-free smile.
I shake my head at Faison but don’t make a reply. I’ll let her enjoy her gluttony until the time comes after the birth when she complains about her butt being too big.
I’ll remind her about this little conversation.