Secrets of the Sleeper: True Nature Series: Book One

BOOK: Secrets of the Sleeper: True Nature Series: Book One
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SECRETS OF THE SLEEPER

 

 

A TRUE NATURE NOVEL

BOOK ONE

 

 

BY

KAREN LYNN BENNETT

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text Copyright © 2014 by Karen Lynn Bennett

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Biosense, Inc.

karenlynnbennett.com

Cover design by Robert P. Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To my greatest supporters
Edward, Lauren, and Brenna

 

 

 

 

 

“Even a soul submerged in sleep
is hard at work and helps
make something of the world.”


Heraclitus, Fragments

 

 

 

Prologue

 


I can’t believe you
did that! I hate you right now!”

Her daughter’s words echoed in her head as she turned the car toward downtown. Lydia wanted to talk about it, but she knew she would be wasting her breath until Tru calmed down.

So, she ignored her daughter, who fumed in the backseat, preferring to sit as far away from her mother as possible. Lydia imagined what she was thinking:
I have the most overprotective mother on the planet! You embarrassed me in front of all my friends! I’m the only person in my entire school who isn’t at that party.

Lydia took a deep breath and unclenched her hands from the steering wheel. Getting angry wasn’t going to help, and neither was feeling guilty. Sure, she knew the parents of the girl who threw the party. Sure, they seemed like a nice family. But, if she’d learned anything during her forty-plus years as a schoolteacher, it was that families were more than they appeared on the outside, and the really weird stuff happened in the “nice” families as often as they did in the more suspect ones. Didn’t Tru watch the news? Every time Lydia turned it on, another kid had gone missing, another girl had been raped, another college student had overdosed. She thought her daughter had more sense. Besides, she had told Tru she couldn’t go, and Tru had gone anyway. She knew the consequences. Now she was grounded. Parents had to follow through with their rules. Kids needed boundaries. Lydia loved her daughter, and even though it meant being the enemy for the moment, she would not let her down like Lydia’s parents had her sister.

Caroline. That was another reason Lydia wanted to keep Tru close right now. Who was she kidding? It superseded all the other reasons.

Lydia couldn’t believe Caroline was back from the dead. It had been over ten years since she had died. Since she thought she died. What was she to make of this? And Caroline was different, in a bad way. She seemed scattered and paranoid. They’d met in private. Caroline insisted that Lydia swear on their mother’s grave not to tell anyone about her. She said it was better if everyone thought she was dead. Who was she running from?

Perhaps the most jarring difference was how young her sister looked. Lydia was sixty-five and ten years older than her sister, but Caroline had looked as young as the last time she’d seen her over twenty years ago! She almost didn’t believe it. But then she had talked about things only her sister would know.

Lydia was positive she was doing drugs. But still… Maybe she was in some kind of pharmaceutical drug experiment. With Caroline, it could be anything.

And the things she had said. They were fantastical! Caroline had truly lost it. She rambled about her baby dying, about being “collected,” about someone forcing her to fix people, and running away. And then she said she had secrets, many secrets. Well, obviously! Lydia wasn’t sure she wanted to know any of her secrets. She definitely didn’t want her anywhere near her family. Caroline was certifiable.

Yet, as her only remaining relative—Lydia bit her lip, feeling guilty. No, she wouldn’t feel guilty. She had acted in good faith and she wasn’t going to ruin another life trying to fix one that was already too far gone.

Somewhere in their conversation, Lydia remembered Uriel, Caroline’s odd husband whom she had met only once or twice. When she asked if he was alive, too, Caroline denied it. Uriel was dead. Frankly, Lydia didn’t know what to believe. Caroline followed that news by telling her of a new man in her life. How she loved him. How he was her other half.

But Lydia knew her sister to be flighty and mercurial. She had drifted from one catastrophe to another their whole lives. Now it was up to Lydia to figure out what to do with her. Tonight she would tell James. She should have told him already, but some part of her had wanted to believe in her sister. It was silly. Now Caroline wanted to meet again, secretly. It had to stop. Lydia would be enabling Caroline if she allowed this to go on. Besides, if she figured out—well, no, that just wasn’t an option. The next time they met, James would come with her. They would convince her to go to the hospital. That’s just how it would have to be.

They were downtown now. It had been a short drive from the party. Lydia loved the sleepy little town of Scotts Valley. It was close enough to the ocean, but far enough away from the famous beach town of Santa Cruz that she didn’t have to deal with too many tourists. It was a family town in the middle of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and its constant smell of pine and redwood infiltrated the car windows, refreshing her, regenerating her as it always did. She pulled over to park along the street across from a yogurt shop.

“Tru, I’m just stopping to grab some newspapers for tomorrow’s class. I’m subbing for Mrs. Alvarez. She’s out on maternity leave. I’ll only be a minute.”

There was no response, and Lydia sighed. It sucked to be a parent sometimes. She hurried across the street toward a newspaper machine. There were still several newspapers in it. Thank goodness, thought Lydia. She didn’t want to prolong this little field trip longer than necessary. Even from the backseat Tru’s anger slammed into her like furious ocean waves. It would be good to get home to James. It wouldn’t be the first time he played buffer between wife and daughter.

Just as she reached the middle of the road, a car roared around the corner, its lights blinding Lydia.

 

 

 

It

 

“Alondrea!”

A ghostly plea, with the intangibility of a dream within a dream, induced a stabbing panic like I’d never felt before. It sounded far away, perhaps over that hill—the one I could barely make out through the smoky haze filtering through the thick trees. My heart pounded to one thought—

Dan-ger-Dan-ger.

“A-lon-dre-a!”

It was a woman’s voice, a terrified voice, and it was fading along with the clear blue sky above. I wanted that voice, and the woman it belonged to, but my mind was like the smoke slipping between the pine needles above me, unable to grasp the moment. I began to cough.

A dog howled, a ghostly entreaty echoing through my confusion. Fright stepped back as hope pushed forward. But a child’s hitched sobbing pulled me up short. Heavy paws thumped toward a small child. The dog…no…not a dog…a wolf opened up its toothy mouth and reached for—

My scream must have woken up Dad, because as I shrunk away from the image in my dream, I heard him say, “Tru! Wake up!”

Suddenly I was back in my bed, legs twisted in the blankets, and Dad clutching me to his chest.

“Hey there, Tru Lee I’ve got you.”

I breathed in his familiar scent, and sighed. I thanked God that my dad smelled like chocolate instead of mothballs like Principal Millard—aka “Mothballs Millard.” And even though Dad’s embrace was the same as the million or so preceding hugs I’d received from him over my sixteen years, these days I treasured each one so much more than I ever did, even more than Mummy, my stuffed animal that I’d had for as long as I could remember and which I still tucked into bed with me each night.

“They’re starting again, Tru Lee.” His hand gently rubbed my back. “I think we could use some expert help here.”

The gruffly whispered words scratched at the ball of remorse I kept locked away, just as his rough whiskers chafed my cheek, but they didn’t hurt, not like his words. I knew where this conversation was going.

“No!” I denied, intending to say it softly but unable to do so. It was more of a choking bark. I pulled abruptly out of his embrace and glared at him.

“I don’t want to talk to some psycho shrink! It was just a stupid nightmare! Geez.”

I instantly regretted it. He was trying so hard, and here I was, becoming that girl again—that spoiled, selfish girl I swore I was never going to be again. But I couldn’t seem to stop hurting the people who loved me the most.

“Tru, what you’re feeling is normal. You shouldn’t feel bad about talking to a specialist. I really think you just need to discuss it with
someone
.”

It
. That word encompassed so much. Did he and I even have the same definition of
It
? Doubtful. I closed my eyes, searching my mind frantically for a better argument than the snarky comment about to bust out of my mouth.
Look him in the eyes
, I thought. He couldn’t take my direct eye contact without backing down.

“I can’t, Dad—” I opened my eyes and froze, losing my train of thought. A raw, red scratch ran down the side of his weathered face.

I did that. Ah, man! I was such a loser.

I pretended that I didn’t see it—normal people wouldn’t see it. It was too dark. He let go of me and stood up, his gray hair sticking up all over the place. He looked old and worn out standing there in his wrinkled pajamas, and I felt a fresh wave of shame.
I
put those wrinkles on his face, that gray in his hair.

Taking a deep breath, I softened my voice. “I’m fine. Just a dream. No biggie. I’m going back to sleep. Big day tomorrow, you know.”

He pursed his lips, staring at me. I held my ground.

With a sigh, he relented. “Okay, kiddo.” He leaned in and kissed my forehead, unknowingly branding me a liar because I felt awful lying to him. I imagined a red letter “L” for liar bright and glaring on my forehead. I itched to rub it away but just mumbled good night and burrowed into my pillow. The mattress sprang back up as he stumbled toward the door, tripping over the land mines of clothes piled here and there.

I mumbled a “Sorry,” to which he said for the hundredth time, “You need to clean up this place.” He didn’t realize I was saying sorry for something else.

The door closed a second later.

Lifting my head for a second to peer at the clock on my dresser, I saw the glowing red numbers: 3:30 a.m. Why me? I tried to untwist my legs from the sticky sheets, but they held tight. Ugh! I kicked harder, gritting my teeth, battling the clingy sheets with panic. A few more angry flicks of my legs, and I was free. I shoved the sheets to the floor, trouncing them in retaliation. Giving them one last scowl, I muttered my way over to my window and ripped back my curtains. With a quick yank at the window, cool air flowed freely into the room. Goose bumps appeared all over my feverish skin. Ahh. I backed up to the middle of my room, pressing my hands against the sides of my face, rubbing my temples.

I didn’t want this to happen, not today. I needed to…to…what did I need? I felt disoriented, angry that I still wasn’t fixed, and guilty about my inability to make things easier for Dad. I was a bit of a mess.

Oh, I remembered. I needed to
not
look like crap on the first day of school.

I glanced toward my mirrored closet doors. Yeah, it was bad. Puffy brown eyes, pale cheeks, and hair clinging to my sweaty face. Long blond strands hung in tangles to the middle of my back. Great, looked like I needed to wash it again, with a whole bottle of conditioner. It was a Halloween wig gone wild.

The meager glow from the moon outside my window failed to illuminate the room; however, I could see almost as well as I did during the day. Not a “knack” I was willing to announce to just anyone, but convenient nonetheless. I’d found it to be alienating, so I hid it, a survival lesson learned as a kid.

Once I caught on to the fact that my special talent made me “odd,” I pretended to fumble for a light switch or walk into an occasional chair. You’d think a kid might want to play up the superpower angle, but I kept it to myself, shoved it under a mess of other secrets I was unwilling to share, sometimes even with myself.

At first, when I was really young, I didn’t know I was doing anything weird. My parents were proud when their toddler dressed in the dark and ended up with a head-to-toe matching outfit. They bragged to their friends and said I was a genius child. But eventually, when I never bothered to turn on the lights for anything, they began to get weird looks on their faces. I finally noticed that other kids couldn’t do those things. And I realized that “seeing in the dark” was making Mom and Dad upset. By the time I entered grade school, I figured it was easier to pretend otherwise. I started flicking on the light switch at night, commenting on the darkness, and keeping a flashlight near my bed. Eventually, Mom and Dad stopped looking at me like I was an alien.

The thing is, I knew I was different even when no one else did. And the more I worked to be like everyone else, the bigger pain-in-the-butt teenager I became, a tidal wave that could only be stopped by something equally cataclysmic, which is exactly what happened.

Now I had come full circle. You know that saying about hindsight being twenty-twenty? Well, it had all become painfully clear last year.

How I wished I could go back and change just one thing, something so simple, something so immaterial, I’d never really miss it. I could easily have lived without going to that party, even though my friends said I’d be toast if I didn’t.

But I couldn’t live without her. I was trying and failing…

Last year, the worst day of my life happened. And at the end of it, I was minus a parent.

Strangely enough, the bad dreams had started a week before that, after I had watched some show about famous people researching their family history. It had been fascinating to see how these movie stars came from pretty humble beginnings. I’d started asking Mom and Dad about their families. Unfortunately, they were almost the only ones alive on both sides. Mom’s only sister had died when I was a baby. Dad’s only brother didn’t really keep in touch, and didn’t have any kids. My grandparents were gone. I asked about Uncle Ira, but they reminded me that he wasn’t blood-related. He was more like a godfather to me, one I saw only occasionally. It was strange to think I was the only one left to carry on the line. I remember thinking,
Wow, hope I don’t screw up the whole family tree.

The dreams must have been a warning that my life would change forever.

After Mom…died, the dreams became worse.

Almost a year later, I still couldn’t think of her without losing it. I hadn’t spoken to Dad about it either. Over and over, he tried to get me to go to a doctor, but there was no way I was going to do that. He thought that if I just talked it out with someone, the nightmares would go away. He said words and feelings were just piling up inside me and found the only outlet they could—my subconscious. Sounded to me like he was the one who needed the shrink. How could talking about my mom make nightmares that had nothing to do with her go away? Yeah. Dad thought he knew what was waking me up at night. But he was so wrong.

My nightmares were like scenes from horror movies played over and over again—something chasing me, people dying, animals attacking, people turning into monsters. Yeah, messed up.

Then finally the nightmares had tapered off. I hadn’t had one in at least a month, at least none that had me screaming and waking up Dad. And because of that, he cancelled my appointment. Not that I would have gone, anyway. If word got around school that I was seeing a head doctor, my already pitiful reputation would never recover from “zombie girl” (yeah, I heard what they called me behind my back).

Maybe I was fooling myself that it ever would. Maybe it didn’t matter. I thought my life sucked before. But I had learned that things could always get worse, so I should be grateful for my stupid problems.

Didn’t mean I couldn’t complain, though. But not to my Dad, not anymore. Somehow, I was going to pull it together and turn into the adult my mom and dad had hoped for. Well, I was aiming for that, anyway.

Which brought me back to my room, and the mess in the mirror. I needed sleep. The image of a wolf chowing down on me wasn’t getting me any closer to what I needed just now. Time for “old faithful.”

I pulled out some scriptures Ruthie, my best friend, gave me. I had a bookmark in Genesis Four. That’s where I’d stopped the last time I needed help falling asleep. Yes, I was a scripture-reading teenager. However, my motivation wasn’t to get all
spiritual
—it was to get so bored, I would fall asleep. It was a tip from Ruthie—whose parents were super righteous. Ruthie called the scriptures her insomnia cure—a biblical miracle! Ha! Fortunately, it worked for me, too. I cracked the book open to Genesis Four.

 

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

 

Seriously, this Bible stuff could get pretty creepy. I wondered if I should break out my old children’s book of fairy tales instead. Actually, most of them were violent, too. I turned back to Genesis.

 

And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;

When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

Wow. But it sounded like Cain deserved it. I wondered what “cursed” meant. I yawned hugely. Almost there.

And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

 

Questions twirled in my brain, and the Bible slipped from my fingers. This time the dream was not scary. It was sad.

A woman dressed in animal skins ran frantically through a grassy meadow, up to a man’s body sprawled awkwardly on the ground. She fell to him, wailing, sobbing. A tall man with long, dark hair, braided down his back ran away across the meadow toward the thick copse of unusual looking trees, which seemed to be dripping, but actually had groups of long spear-like green leaves hanging from each of its long branches. Blue blossoms dangled from the tips of the leaves. Just before the man reached the trees, he cast a satisfied look behind him. The woman raised her tear-streaked gaze up and saw it. Her features pinched as she pointed toward him, her long, elegant arm seeming to spear him. Fear struck the man’s face and he made one final leap into the safety of the trees just as a burst of heat shot past him hitting the blue-belled tree. The woman screamed in anguish toward the purple sky, revenge still burning in her eyes. She pulled the slain man into her lap, whispering, “My love.”

BOOK: Secrets of the Sleeper: True Nature Series: Book One
3.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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