Young Adult Fantasy

Catalyst: The Union Saga Part One

By

This book will launch on Sep 30, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

Morgan James appeared to be just another kid starting his Senior year. From a distance, he was much like any other boy his age; busy with work and track practice. Perhaps a bit of a loner, and cursed with parents who were truly awful; that was hardly a rarity these days. Yet, unbeknown to Morgan, or anyone else around him, he was very much unique.

This critical fact was appreciated by only one, but he was not from our world. The wise Dyer, Alevi, knew Morgan carried a fate of staggering gravity. This simple boy from the mountains of Colorado shouldered nothing less than the survival all peace-loving beings from two worlds.

Given this destiny, it will then come as no surprise, that the epic tale of Morgan James began with the arrival of a girl. Not just any girl… rather THE girl. That one true match who sparks a thermonuclear catalyst of heart, who redefines one’s soul so completely as to make possible deeds of extraordinary greatness.

Andalynn’s arrival was more than fortuitous, as it preceded Morgan’s first glimpse of the monumental fate that lay ahead…. the Union was upon them, and with it, the ending of their world.

Girl of Fire

  Prologue


“Hopeless! All will come to ruin at the failings of this unknowing, unperceiving boy!” Fin’s long tail slapped the ground with a loud crack, the soft stone-gray fur on his heavy brow bristled as he growled in exasperation. Atop his large head, his illuminated horns blazed with energy like pure white embers releasing soft pale flames. His eyes were blinding points of opalescent radiance fueled by an immense power within. He gritted his muscular jaws shaking his head and long neck as his light diminished. The golden hues of his irises returned, revealing the burden of gnawing doubt.

           “Rest yourself, Fin… it is not his fault. The boy’s mind has never been opened beyond the small reality before him; we are like stars shining beside the sun,” Aelvi’s aged voice responded without breaking from his concentrated focus. His upward curved horns blazed far brighter than Fin’s; their flames carried upwards, lifted by the power that flowed from him as a gentle breeze.  An immense inner brilliance pushed against the veil of his closed eyelids like thin parchment concealing the brightness of day. The long bleached hairs under his chin and velvety fur of his face danced in the twisting wind emanating from within his weathered figure.

           “Is that supposed to grant me some sense of easiness?” Fin’s voice was laced with genuine fear. “Darkness looms over us, inescapably, and you ask me to rest?” The massive Dyer stood and stretched his wings, spanning sixty feet, as if to release the tension of his mind.    

           “Calm yourself, we are getting closer.” Aelvi opened his glaringly bright eyes, they gleamed like sun spots and engaged Fin’s attention. He knelt back down slowly and sighed with a deep hollow breath. “You must understand, my friend, the eyes of his soul have slept all his days. They are now just waking up.  We will soon be within his view, enough to guide him to the cave and the protection of the mountain. Do not let doubt fill your mind…. find your faith in him. There is more to this unknowing boy than you can fathom.” The side of the old Dyers mouth creased with a confident smile. “His light may well be our brightest hope in the uncertain world that awaits.”


Chapter One


           “Storm’s coming….” Morgan’s voice was swallowed in the rushing of a sudden wind. His eyes moved skyward toward the mountainous white clouds inhaling the warm air of late summer. They grew into the indigo sky, rising at a perceptible rate; their tops like great heads of cauliflower bulged into the upper atmosphere creating silken sheets of pileus. The foundations of the cloud, dark and heavy, lumbered just above the stone peaks on the north rim of Cold Creek Canyon.

           “I’d better head back.” He grabbed his backpack and stood up. From somewhere beyond his senses, a perceived presence captured his awareness. He panned the rugged landscape. Around him, there was only the quiet isolation of his favorite refuge; a large smooth boulder set amidst the high alpine slopes of Lone Peak. The feeling of company was so intense, he half expected to see someone standing at the tree line watching him. The empty silence was disconcerting. To dissuade the growing uneasiness, he laughed awkwardly to himself. His mind took hold of logic; it was the day before school started, eleven thousand feet up, and miles from any trail. There was no way anyone would be up there with him.

           He pushed the impression from his mind and jumped from the boulder; the five-foot drop to the ground landed hard with a coarse thud on the loose shale. The past three years as a prominent member of the track and field team endowed his strong legs with the ability to absorb such impacts. Morgan jumped from rock to rock, sliding only occasionally on the small thin stones as he maneuvered himself down the aggregated slope. Though just over six feet tall and large in stature, he was capably agile.  

           Once at the tree line, he glanced southward, up toward the bald summit of Lone Peak gleaming against the darkening sky. Being little more than half a mile away, it would have seemed a preferable view to the large boulders on the upper slopes, but the summit offered nothing of interest to him. From there he could clearly see the wide Lone Peak Valley and the city of Meadowville sprawled out within it, and he had no interest in observing the place from which he was escaping. This was his place, watching over his familiar canyon, where he had worked and explored for much of his life. He knew every corner, ridge, and trail thanks to his late mentor and coach Mr. Allen. Since his death, several years ago, Morgan clung to it as his only real friend. The familiar ache of loss arose in his chest. He sighed and pushed the flood of sadness from his mind.  

           He started down the trail leading to the main road and the five-mile walk home. From the small gaps in the trees, he kept watch on the mass of dark clouds moving steadily southward. How quickly the weather can change, he thought, remembering the same sky being cloudless during his hike up the mountain. A bright flash arced from behind the trees, like a flashbulb of the Gods. Within seconds a deafening clap of thunder tore through the silence, bouncing and rolling off the steep walls of the landscape. He expected the thunder, but the magnitude and power behind the rumbling sky sent a shot of adrenaline though his system. With an excited grin, he paused to watch the frightening majesty of the late summer thunderhead now pressing against the stubborn granite spire of Lone Peak.

           The air rising from the slopes of the canyon shredded the once smooth lower base of the dark cloud. Claw-like streamers of condensing vapor extended toward the face of the mountain as if to prepare for battle against the stone sentinel impeding its path. A ribbon of light flashed again as lightning struck the far eastside of the summit. The tendril of energy stretched up into the flattened anvil top where it was lost in the brightness of the upper cloud. The crackling thunder seemed to topple down from the canopy before booming over the landscape in deep angry growls.  

           You can fight it all you want, that mountain’s not going anywhere, he thought, watching the titanic forces squaring off.

           Amused, he continued down the trail. On the long rainy walk home, his mind worked back to the reality that his senior year started tomorrow. Although nervous and uncomfortable, this first day of school was a little easier, being it was his last “first” day of high school.

           Preoccupied by the thoughts of school and beyond, he soon found himself passing the familiar maple tree in front of Mr. Allen’s old house. He noticed a few of the leaves were beginning to lighten. The thought of the majestic old tree burning bright with yellow leaves warmed his heart.

           From within the house, now occupied by a young family, the loud chatter of laughing children carried through the walls. Morgan smiled, noticing the scattering of plastic toys across the uncharacteristically neglected yard. At least the home was being lived in, he thought. Seeing the life inside made it a little easier for him to deal with the emptiness associated with Mr. Allen’s absence there.

           At the walkway to his house, he could hear the sound of a football game through the windows. He struggled with the loose and failing front doorknob, which seemed to work more like a combination lock, requiring just the right amount of pull and twist.

           “Hey, Mo, been out looking for a new place to live?” his father stated with a tone of feigned levity, his gaze unmoving from the television screen. Morgan answered with silence.

           “Oh, give him a break, he hasn’t even graduated yet!” His mother slapped his father’s leg as she stood up from the couch.  

           “It’s never too early to start preparing!” his father snickered to himself.   

           “Mo, there’s some pizza on the table if you’re hungry.” His mother offered as she passed him on the way toward the kitchen.  

           “Thanks!” Morgan said, sighing quietly in frustration as he took off his coat and hung it by the door. He had expressed many times how much he hated being called Mo. Unfortunately, he had his new track coach, Mr. Ingersoll, to thank for it. The overweight coach who probably never actually ran track, hated using names with more than one syllable, so any poor student whose name was longer than a few letters, received a very uncreative and rather insensitive nickname. He had stopped by the house at the end of last year to drop off a certificate and enlightened his parents to the option. They haven’t stopped using it since.  

           He was struggling to untie a knot in his shoe when his mother returned from the kitchen. She had two beers in her hands, one of which she gave to his father as she sat down at the couch and re-engaged in whatever game they were watching. Morgan made his way through the vacant living room that separated the family room from the kitchen. It was a neglected space occupied by old dusty chairs piled high with faded newspapers and Sports Illustrated magazines. In the dated and messy kitchen, was set a heavy wooden kitchen table, thoroughly worn from years of use long before it found its way into this house. Atop the table was a pizza box with four pieces showing from under the partially opened lid. He started heating the pizza in the microwave and grabbed a root beer from the fridge.

           With the slices finally heated, he sat and started picking the peppers and onions off; his parents had yet to order a pizza with toppings which he liked, but he was used to making do. Eating lazily, his mind wandered back to the old maple tree and its brilliant yellow leaves. A memory flashed to mind of his eighth birthday, the day he first met Mr. Allen.

           “Storm’s coming….” Morgan’s voice was swallowed in the rushing of a sudden wind. His eyes moved skyward toward the mountainous white clouds inhaling the warm air of late summer. They grew into the indigo sky, rising at a perceptible rate; their tops like great heads of cauliflower bulged into the upper atmosphere creating silken sheets of pileus. The foundations of the cloud, dark and heavy, lumbered just above the stone peaks on the north rim of Cold Creek Canyon.

           “I’d better head back.” He grabbed his backpack and stood up. From somewhere beyond his senses, a perceived presence captured his awareness. He panned the rugged landscape. Around him, there was only the quiet isolation of his favorite refuge; a large smooth boulder set amidst the high alpine slopes of Lone Peak. The feeling of company was so intense, he half expected to see someone standing at the tree line watching him. The empty silence was disconcerting. To dissuade the growing uneasiness, he laughed awkwardly to himself. His mind took hold of logic; it was the day before school started, eleven thousand feet up, and miles from any trail. There was no way anyone would be up there with him.

           He pushed the impression from his mind and jumped from the boulder; the five-foot drop to the ground landed hard with a coarse thud on the loose shale. The past three years as a prominent member of the track and field team endowed his strong legs with the ability to absorb such impacts. Morgan jumped from rock to rock, sliding only occasionally on the small thin stones as he maneuvered himself down the aggregated slope. Though just over six feet tall and large in stature, he was capably agile.  

           Once at the tree line, he glanced southward, up toward the bald summit of Lone Peak gleaming against the darkening sky. Being little more than half a mile away, it would have seemed a preferable view to the large boulders on the upper slopes, but the summit offered nothing of interest to him. From there he could clearly see the wide Lone Peak Valley and the city of Meadowville sprawled out within it, and he had no interest in observing the place from which he was escaping. This was his place, watching over his familiar canyon, where he had worked and explored for much of his life. He knew every corner, ridge, and trail thanks to his late mentor and coach Mr. Allen. Since his death, several years ago, Morgan clung to it as his only real friend. The familiar ache of loss arose in his chest. He sighed and pushed the flood of sadness from his mind.  

           He started down the trail leading to the main road and the five-mile walk home. From the small gaps in the trees, he kept watch on the mass of dark clouds moving steadily southward. How quickly the weather can change, he thought, remembering the same sky being cloudless during his hike up the mountain. A bright flash arced from behind the trees, like a flashbulb of the Gods. Within seconds a deafening clap of thunder tore through the silence, bouncing and rolling off the steep walls of the landscape. He expected the thunder, but the magnitude and power behind the rumbling sky sent a shot of adrenaline though his system. With an excited grin, he paused to watch the frightening majesty of the late summer thunderhead now pressing against the stubborn granite spire of Lone Peak.

           The air rising from the slopes of the canyon shredded the once smooth lower base of the dark cloud. Claw-like streamers of condensing vapor extended toward the face of the mountain as if to prepare for battle against the stone sentinel impeding its path. A ribbon of light flashed again as lightning struck the far eastside of the summit. The tendril of energy stretched up into the flattened anvil top where it was lost in the brightness of the upper cloud. The crackling thunder seemed to topple down from the canopy before booming over the landscape in deep angry growls.  

           You can fight it all you want, that mountain’s not going anywhere, he thought, watching the titanic forces squaring off.

           Amused, he continued down the trail. On the long rainy walk home, his mind worked back to the reality that his senior year started tomorrow. Although nervous and uncomfortable, this first day of school was a little easier, being it was his last “first” day of high school.

           Preoccupied by the thoughts of school and beyond, he soon found himself passing the familiar maple tree in front of Mr. Allen’s old house. He noticed a few of the leaves were beginning to lighten. The thought of the majestic old tree burning bright with yellow leaves warmed his heart.

           From within the house, now occupied by a young family, the loud chatter of laughing children carried through the walls. Morgan smiled, noticing the scattering of plastic toys across the uncharacteristically neglected yard. At least the home was being lived in, he thought. Seeing the life inside made it a little easier for him to deal with the emptiness associated with Mr. Allen’s absence there.

           At the walkway to his house, he could hear the sound of a football game through the windows. He struggled with the loose and failing front doorknob, which seemed to work more like a combination lock, requiring just the right amount of pull and twist.

           “Hey, Mo, been out looking for a new place to live?” his father stated with a tone of feigned levity, his gaze unmoving from the television screen. Morgan answered with silence.

           “Oh, give him a break, he hasn’t even graduated yet!” His mother slapped his father’s leg as she stood up from the couch.  

           “It’s never too early to start preparing!” his father snickered to himself.   

           “Mo, there’s some pizza on the table if you’re hungry.” His mother offered as she passed him on the way toward the kitchen.   

           “Thanks!” Morgan said, sighing quietly in frustration as he took off his coat and hung it by the door. He had expressed many times how much he hated being called Mo. Unfortunately, he had his new track coach, Mr. Ingersoll, to thank for it. The overweight coach who probably never actually ran track, hated using names with more than one syllable, so any poor student whose name was longer than a few letters, received a very uncreative and rather insensitive nickname. He had stopped by the house at the end of last year to drop off a certificate and enlightened his parents to the option. They haven’t stopped using it since.  

           He was struggling to untie a knot in his shoe when his mother returned from the kitchen. She had two beers in her hands, one of which she gave to his father as she sat down at the couch and re-engaged in whatever game they were watching. Morgan made his way through the vacant living room that separated the family room from the kitchen. It was a neglected space occupied by old dusty chairs piled high with faded newspapers and Sports Illustrated magazines. In the dated and messy kitchen, was set a heavy wooden kitchen table, thoroughly worn from years of use long before it found its way into this house. Atop the table was a pizza box with four pieces showing from under the partially opened lid. He started heating the pizza in the microwave and grabbed a root beer from the fridge.

           With the slices finally heated, he sat and started picking the peppers and onions off; his parents had yet to order a pizza with toppings which he liked, but he was used to making do. Eating lazily, his mind wandered back to the old maple tree and its brilliant yellow leaves. A memory flashed to mind of his eighth birthday, the day he first met Mr. Allen.

           It was nine years ago, and his eighth birthday had been especially disappointing. He had his heart set on a compass at the hardware store; he found it while accompanying his father on a tool buying trip. For weeks he had dropped hints, in rather blatant ways. However, in a most meager of celebrations, he was instead given a baseball bat and a stale, evidently unclaimed, cake from the local grocery store bakery with the name scraped off. The baseball bat could be considered an acceptable gift for a boy of his age, but Morgan did not have a baseball, or a mitt, or a group of kids to play with. So, it may as well have been a stick, evident by his father’s comment, “Now you can smash all kinds of stuff.” To salvage the occasion, he was determined to get something cool for himself… and he knew just what it would be.  

           In the absence of friends, sports, or other extra-curricular activities that usually occupied the attentions of boys his age, Morgan depended upon his own imagination to bring adventure and wonder to the mundane world around him. For years, he fancied that the trees of their neighborhood were all part of a great tree kingdom. Every Maple, Spruce, Oak, Cherry, or Pine competed with one another to be the tallest, the fullest, the most colorful, or even the most popular with the birds and squirrels. Their position in the kingdom hinged on the quality of their appearance. It was a rather vain competition, but trees don’t have much to do aside from looking their best. As the primary judge of the kingdom, Morgan was highly respected by the trees; and had come to know every one of them throughout his suburban landscape. More importantly, he was keenly aware of where they ranked in the pecking order of the arborous kingdom. It was a daunting effort, that occupied a great deal of his time.

           To assist him in the ranking, he kept a collection of beautiful leaves and pine cones gathered from the top 20 trees in the kingdom. Of all of them, there was one undisputed king that reigned supreme. Just down his street stood a most magnificent Sugar Maple tree. It had smooth stone-gray bark with tufted branches both tall and wide. It towered above all the other trees, and in the Fall, every one of its leaves would ignite into a brilliant yellow that could be seen for miles. He always had a leaf from this tree in his collection, however, the leaves on the lower branches were much smaller than the ones at the top. He was determined to collect a leaf that reflected the magnificence of this kingly tree.  

           This year for his birthday, he would pluck a giant yellow leaf from the top branches. To him, this was an adventure which offered a worthy prize, and a level of risk. Though, he had climbed many of the trees throughout the kingdom, this one was much harder. It had widely spaced branches, the lowest of them could not be reached without something to stand on.    

           The Saturday after his pitiful celebration, he secretly took a folding chair from his garage and set out to claim his leaf. At the base of the mighty tree he positioned the chair, so he could just reach the lowest branch. With a firm grasp on the smooth bark, he swung his legs up and pulled himself onto the thick round beam of wood. Looking up from inside the canopy, the glaring sun ignited the yellow leaves, surrounding him in a blaze of amber glow. The sky beyond was a saturated blue from behind the boughs of glowing golden leaves.  

           “Whoa!” he said, pausing momentarily in awe.

           Though beautiful, he was not to be distracted from his aim, and continued to climb. Successfully navigating himself up several branches, he quickly realized the next branch was farther away. Climbing out from the trunk some ways, he could see a section of the upper branch which swept down closer to him. He tried to grab hold of it. Fully outstretched it was just too far for him to get his fingers around. He peered down at the concrete sidewalk now nearly twenty feet below. With a deep breath and a determined look, he took aim and leapt up to grab the branch.

           Overestimating the distance, he jumped just a little too far and his arms hit the branch just below the wrist. As the smooth bark slid across his hands, his fingers couldn’t grip. He fell backwards trying helplessly to grab something. Falling, he slammed into a lower branch which hit him across his upper back. The impact catapulted him forward onto another branch which he caught painfully across the chest. Disoriented, and a little relieved to not be lying dead on the sidewalk below, he could hear someone yelling at him.

           “What the devil are you doing, boy?” An angry voice came from the house adjacent to the tree. He tilted his head around the branch, on which he was precariously hanging, to see a man in a park ranger uniform walking toward him.

           Noting that the boy clinging to the tree was now paying attention, the man continued with a more amused tone, “Are you trying to get yourself killed? That tree is way too big for you to be climbing.”

           Awkward and a little embarrassed, Morgan began working his way down without saying anything. The man watched carefully as he hung from each branch and caught the lower branch with his feet. When he made it to the lowest branch, the man moved the lawn chair and stood below with arms up to help him down.

           “I gotcha, I gotcha,” he reassured.

           Releasing the branch, the man caught him by the rib cage. The pressure from the man’s grip made it painfully clear that his ribs were bruised from the fall, but Morgan didn’t react fearing the man would think him hurt. He was embarrassed enough already.

           “Now, what were you doing going up in that tree?” The man stared down at him with concern.

           Morgan eyed the man cautiously considering his response. He was older, with hints of gray hair showing from under his flat-brimmed hat. There was a youthfulness in his countenance and positivity in his expression, like someone who genuinely smiled a lot. His skin was tanned, unlike most people his age. He had dull blue eyes which contrasted against his dark complexion and the overwhelming green from his uniform.

           With a quiet defeated tone, Morgan confessed, “I wanted to get one of the big leaves from the top branches.”

           “Really?” The man looked quizzically at the young boy then paused for a moment. “You’re Morgan James, aren’t you?” he asked suspiciously.

           “Yes?” Morgan answered hesitantly, unsure if he wanted to claim the answer.

           “I’ve seen you around the neighborhood catching bugs and collecting things.” The Park Ranger observed him with analyzing blue eyes.  “You like to be outdoors don’t you?” Morgan nodded meekly. “You know; those leaves aren’t really that big.” He motioned toward the top of the tree.

           Morgan’s brow furrowed, inaudibly arguing the statement. “I can show you some much bigger leaves if you’re interested,” the old man offered, trying to sound aloof.

           “Really, where?” Morgan was now curious, suspecting the uniformed man likely possessed knowledge of trees and plants far greater than his.

           “Let me walk you home, and if your folks are okay with it, I’ll take you there.” The man smiled warmly. The fascination of seeing new and different trees was almost enough for Morgan to forget about his parents.

           “Uh…. I don’t know if they’re home,” Morgan stammered, his mind racing with the uncomfortable idea of the man interrupting his parents. It was college football season, and every game was an event for the James’. On one occasion a poor salesman came to the door distracting his father during a key play. He was chased off the property with a barrage of old unopened newspapers and colorful language. Morgan could only imagine their reaction to a man in uniform bringing their son home.

           “Well, let’s just go and see,” he insisted and started down the sidewalk. Anxiously, Morgan followed behind the man toward his house.

           “I’m Mr. Allen,” the man said looking back at Morgan, trying to keep him engaged while they walked. “I am a Park Ranger in the canyon, you might have seen me before at the entrance? I work the gate quite often.”

           “I’ve never been to the canyon.” There was an obvious tone of regret in Morgan’s voice.

           “What?” Mr. Allen stopped and turned around. “How can you live five miles from one of the most beautiful canyons in the world and never have seen it?”

           “My Dad says he’s seen it already and that he couldn’t think of a more boring way to waste his time,” Morgan answered with youthful honesty.

           “Is that so?” Mr. Allen laughed. Morgan remembered the many times he’d asked them in vain to go to the canyon. His eyes lowered and focused on the ground conceding the error of his father’s opinion. Feeling the sentiment, Mr. Allen turned and continued on saying to himself, “Well, we’ll see about that.”

           They arrived at the walkway to Morgan’s front porch, he could see Mr. Allen evaluating the several dilapidated cars parked on what was once a lawn, and the faded, peeling blue paint on what was once a beautiful house. From inside the open windows, he could hear hooting and hollering amid the whistles and crowd roar of a college football game. The volume was obnoxiously loud and carried well into the street. At the front porch, he rang the doorbell. Morgan stood timidly behind him to hide from the scene that would soon unfold.

           Through the window he could hear his father yelling as though no one could hear him. “Come on, we’re trying to watch a game here! Who could it be anyway?”

           “Probably no one important, just forget it,” his mother answered irritated.

           Mr. Allen looked at Morgan standing uneasily behind him and smiled with a chuckle. He rang the bell again.

           “All right. All right.” Morgan’s father’s voice boomed through the window. “Don’t drink my beer!” he snapped to his wife as he stood up from his squeaky recliner. The door flew open revealing a slender man in torn jeans wearing a dingy white shirt marked with numerous grease stains. His dark hair was short and slightly curly exposing his furrowed brow. Realizing the person standing in front of him was in uniform, Morgan’s father’s taut square jaw and stern look quickly softened.

           “Hello Officer!” he said with a patronizing cheerful tone.

           Mr. Allen smiled. “I’m not a police officer. I’m a Park Ranger Mr. James.” His father suddenly noticed Morgan standing behind the man.

           “What did he do?” His tone was now angry and pointed sharply at his son.

           “No, he hasn’t done anything. In fact, I was wondering if he could help me with something, with your permission.” Mr. Allen’s expression was cheerful, which had no effect on the stern figure in front of him. Morgan’s father stood tense, as if awaiting an outrageous total on a repair bill. “I work in the canyon and am going to be starting a catalog of plants and animals to track population sizes and movements. I need a young person to help me out on weekends, someone who can climb trees and hike up hills to collect samples. I think Morgan would be perfect.” He reached back and moved Morgan in front of him putting his hands on his shoulders, as if presenting to Mr. James his remarkable son. Behind his dark brown eyes, Morgan’s father seemed skeptical, determined to find the fine print that he was sure to regret.

           From inside the house, a shrill voice broke the silence. “What’s taking you so long?” His mother appeared from behind his father. At nearly six feet tall and wearing bright red high heels, she towered over her husband. Her pretty face was overlaid with heavy makeup and her blonde bangs stood like a wall concealing a purple ribbon pulling the rest of her hair into a ponytail. She looked down at her son, positioned at the foot of the park ranger who was smiling politely at her.

           “Hi, Mrs. James, my name is Thomas Allen, I am a park ranger at the Cold Creek Canyon ranger station, and I wanted to see if I could borrow Morgan on weekends to help me with a project. I think he would really enjoy himself up there, and I could really use his help,” Mr. Allen spoke professionally.

           She felt almost complimented by his warm smile and kind voice. Instinctively she assumed anyone in uniform was about to write her a ticket, so she acted overly friendly to sweet talk her way out it. “Well Mr. Allen, if you want to put him to work that would be just fine, he certainly doesn’t do anything around here, and we could use a little time without the distraction. We don’t have to pay you or anything now do we?”

           Before he could answer Mr. James interjected, “Pay anything? Caroline, what are you talkin’ about, how much is he gonna get paid workin’ for you Mr. Ranger?”

           Trying not to chuckle Mr. Allen answered, “Unfortunately, the government cannot pay anyone under the age of 18, so this would be strictly a volunteer position. But I could provide him with a simple uniform; shorts, shirt, and a cap.” From inside the house, the sound of a roaring crowd carried from the television in response to some major play.

           “Awe man, what happened?” His father turned angrily and stomped back into the house.

           “Yeah, sure that sounds great Mister, as long as he doesn’t get into trouble,” his mother stammered readying to close the door.

           As she closed it, Mr. Allen added, “Great, I’ll pick him up next Saturday morning.” The door slammed before he finished. “I guess that’s a yes,” he said to himself. He turned to Morgan and stooped down to look into his now beaming face. “So, what do you think, Morgan? How would you like to work with me up in the canyon every weekend? I can show you all kinds of different plants and animals that you never see here in the city.”

           “Really?” Morgan answered with sheer excitement. He couldn’t believe he would finally get a chance to see a new world beyond his familiar neighborhood.

           Mr. Allen stood up trying to conceal his pleasure at seeing Morgan’s happiness. “Well, don’t thank me quite yet, it’s a lot of hard work looking after a canyon as amazing as this one; it’s not all fun and games you know.”

           “I can work!” Morgan insisted trying to reassure the old Park Ranger. “Besides, I’d rather be working up there than playing down here.”

           “Alright then, next weekend you’ll be an official Park Service volunteer.” Mr. Allen smiled putting his hand on Morgan’s shoulder. “Now, let’s go see about getting you a leaf off that maple tree.”

           “Yeah!” Morgan shouted and started running down the walk.

           Mr. Allen laughed and yelled after him, “Now, don’t even think about climbing it this time, you won’t be any help with a broken leg.”

           Mr. Allen’s voice faded to the sound of the television in the other room. Morgan breathed in deeply with the sweet memory giving way to the present reality. In front of him, the partially eaten pizza was now cold. He forced down another bite then quickly cleaned the dishes and returned them to the cupboard. Readying for bed, and the impending start of school, his heart became heavy. It had been two years since Mr. Allen died of sudden onset cancer. Here, alone in the quiet of his room, he dreaded the coming day. There seemed only emptiness awaiting him at the school where he had spent so many hours training under the expertise of his old coach and friend.

           The start of the off-season training had always been an exciting time where Mr. Allen would set some ridiculously high goal and start an insanely hard workout schedule to make it happen. Though they were challenging, it was comforting to know that someone cared enough to push him so hard.

           Morgan sat at his small desk and opened the lower left drawer. He pulled out one of three small black boxes and carefully opened it. He examined the shining gold medal contained within; it read, “Colorado State Finals - Javelin, First place, New State Record 236 ft.” A smile formed across his lips remembering the tough old coach tearing up when he received his first state champion medal a month before he died. Gently returning the box to the drawer, Morgan paused to look at a picture hanging on the wall of the two of them. It was taken the first time they summited Lone Peak; he was ten and on top of the world. Mr. Allen’s familiar smile felt reassuring and Morgan sighed with renewed resolve to get though the next nine months, so he could move out and move on.

           The cruel buzzing of the alarm clock turned Morgan’s stomach, reminding him the first day of school had arrived. After struggling for a moment to remember his morning routine, which he had happily forgotten over the summer, he quickly ate a bowl of cereal and headed off to school. With a light bag filled only with blank notebooks, he walked along the familiar sidewalk toward the school eight blocks away.

           In the distance beyond the city’s edge, his eyes settled onto the mountains, back-lit by pale peach tinted sunlight irradiating the feathery clouds rising like steam from the rain-soaked flanks. Taking it in, he suddenly recalled the presence he felt up on the mountain. Strangely, it seemed to be there again. Unnerved, he looked around at the darkened homes, figuring there was someone staring at him. With no one in sight, he picked up his pace toward school. The persistent presence in his mind was soon displaced by the bustle of teenagers migrating toward the heavy red doors of old Meadowville High School.

           Morgan entered the low-lit main corridor and was met with the distinct sound of lockers, bantering students, ringing cell phones, and squeaky shoes echoing off the brick-lined passageways. Preceding through the crowd, a voice rose from the cacophony and caught Morgan’s ear.

           “Hey Mo!” He recognized the voice of a younger teammate from the track team.

           “Hey Nate!” He waved back casually.

           Arriving at his locker, he paused for a moment trying to remember the combination. Finally opening it, he hung and unzipped his backpack pulling out his lunch and his class schedule. Looking over it, he was not at all excited about his curriculum. He had taken the last of the biology and science classes last year, and aside from Calculus and Intermediate Art, which were transferrable toward college, his courses were essentially filler for graduation. He sighed grudgingly and returned the schedule to his backpack, then headed to first period.   

           Before long, he found himself relaxing into the familiar routine of school. It was third period, and he was facing the daunting curriculum of his Calculus class. He expected it would be a lot of work. He thumbed through the textbook while the teacher covered the syllabus and immediately felt intimidated by all the unfamiliar symbols and formulas. You should never read ahead in a textbook, he thought to himself and abruptly closed it.

           The class ended, and he packed up the thick heavy textbook and papers into his backpack and headed to his locker to grab lunch. He had been making his own lunch since age nine; for one, he knew better than to expect his mother to do it, and two he generally preferred eating his own food outside on the bleachers, than paying for questionable school food offered alongside the noise and chaos of the cafeteria. Walking through the crowded halls, he focused his eyes on the ground while he thought out his training plan for last period.

           As he approached the first hallway in front of the library, a flickering glow caught the corner of his eye. He looked up quizzically to see a pure white light pouring out of the corridor opening. The radiance was soft but powerful; casting heavy shadows off the people moving through the passage. It was odd and unnatural; more so, that all caught in the brilliance seemed to be oblivious of the intense illumination pouring over them.

           A deep, low roar, somewhat like the pounding of a waterfall began to emanate from within the hall. He walked slowly as amazement and uneasiness began to swell within him. His rational mind struggled to accept what he was seeing. The intense sound and extreme light grew to a frightening level, when from behind the corner broke whipping white flames and unimaginable luminescence; like a burning alabaster sun manifesting amidst the crowd.

           At its center was a girl of pure fire, searing in blinding white. His eyes squinted to make out the figure in the immense glare. Around her, wild flames ripped and twisted driven by gale force winds tearing from a frightening power concealed within her frame. Her skin shone softly like soft linen veiling the midday sun. Her hair was blown by wind and fire, appearing silvery in the direct light and fading to polished gold between the splintering rays. The blacks of her eyes were blinding beams of unfathomable illumination, the only apparent escape for the impossible energy.

           Overcome with astonishment, his mind raced between fear and exhilaration trying to comprehend the vision his eyes were reporting. Before the thunderous power vibrating his chest and the burning rays piercing his eyes, he seemed to shrink a minuscule nothing before it. Then through the intensity, his focus discovered her face.

           Under her celestial magnificence, he could see the kind, gentle face of a beautiful girl. It was lean but soft and her expression was cheerful, carrying a smile that almost overshadowed the surrounding brilliance. Noticing her, he became conscious of the two girls nearly invisible alongside the sun-like being burning in the middle of a crowded high school hallway. They were talking to her as if she were just another student. No breeze disturbed their hair, no glare of brightness squinted their eyes.

           He stared wide-eyed in utter shock, his mind balking at the impossible spectacle before him, when unexpectedly, her piercing white eyes suddenly rose to meet his. He gasped, and blindly tripped over the rolling duffle bag of a passing student. He fell awkwardly, nearly taking out the two people next to him. He ended up on his back with the contents of his bag emptied across the floor.

           Without thought, he quickly looked up to regain visual contact with the scene his mind could scarcely believe. Now, standing in place of the girl ablaze, was just…. a girl. Her big brownish green eyes were staring at him and her face beamed with a laughing smile that numbed his perception of the fact that everyone in the hall was now gawking at him. He tried to glean some evidence of the fiery being of just a moment ago, some flicker of light in her eyes or some wind in her curly blonde hair which framed her face in a perfect tangle. All he could now see, was how the subtle paleness of her soft skin contrasted the pink of her cheeks. There was something almost familiar about her face, the crease of her smile, her eyes; he couldn’t put a finger on it, but it was though he knew every feature.

           She blushed and turned her eyes away, awakening his senses to the echoing laughter of the surrounding crowd. He pulled his attention toward his dumped items lying across the floor and began to gather them, pausing every few seconds to glance up at the girl who was still watching him with confused focus while she continued past. She turned her head as she walked and smiled a little bigger to reassure him after his little tumble. With their eyes locked in curious connection, she walked blindly into the back of a girl stopped in the hallway. The impact knocked the books from the bystander’s hands sending them crashing to the floor prompting laughs again from the surrounding crowd of students.

           “Oh, my gosh! I’m so sorry!” Her voice resonated in Morgan’s ears, drowning out every sound around him. It was soft and clear and seemed to be felt as much as it was heard.  Her face was now red and flushed. She quickly helped pick up the books and returned them to the irritated girl, then glanced back at Morgan with a bashful smile. He returned a comforting grin with his eyes locked on hers while he stood motionless in the now busy traffic of the main hall. His intense gaze was unrelenting, which strangely kept her from looking away.

           Reluctantly, she turned, looking for her two companions, who were now some ways down the hall. She headed toward them. After a few moments, she turned again to see his intense hazel eyes still focused unwavering on her. She brushed a lock of curly golden hair from her face, shyly placing it behind her ear. Her eyes of warm auburn surrounded by flecks of emerald, connected with his, a grin forming gently on her face. The perfection and beauty of her expression ignited his chest with a fire deep from within, unlike anything he had ever felt before.  It welled up and radiated to every extremity of his being. The wave of emotion rested on his face in a most purely honest smile. Her gaze lowered slowly, and she turned disappearing into the crowd.

About the author

I am a writer, engineer, artist, and storyteller. I draw from a life of unique experiences; swimming warm Caribbean seas, exploring teeming jungles, scaling granite mountains, and basking in the shadows of ancient forests, to bring to life fanciful realities of adventure, love, and grandeur. view profile

Published on September 30, 2020

80000 words

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Enjoyed this review?

Get early access to fresh indie books and help decide on the bestselling stories of tomorrow. Create your free account today.

or

Or sign up with an email address

Create your account

Or sign up with your social account