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Works in Progress

Excerpt from current middle grade novel in progress, working title: Seeds of Ersura

Chapter

Tangle of vines, thick and ropey… The filthy boy climbed them, his wiry arms and legs strong from years of practice. Sitting in the crook of a gnarly branch, he gnawed on long, plump, vine leaves. Sucked out juicy pulp. Listened to sounds around him. Caw, cree, and cheet-cheet-a-dee… Whispery shi-shoo of leaves brushing in the breeze… Till he thought of other things. Shiny things. Things that rats knew how to find.

He shimmied down the tangle to the leaf-strewn ground to stalk a particular rat, find its hiding place—and the shiny thing… the shiny thing…

But drooping leaves… tendrils dangling … He swatted them aside, poked through mounds of rock and rubble with a broken vine stalk—and found the rat hole. Excited, the boy pulled back twigs and stones. Exposed the rat. Its sharp teeth bared, the rat leapt at him. But the boy was quick. Jumping aside, swinging his stick at the rat, he grabbed the shiny circle from the rotten nest. Clenched it between his teeth, the way he’d watched the rat do—then he bolted.

The rat squeaked with rage, chased after him, nipping his heels. The boy screeched, shimmied up into the gnarly vines, fending off the rat with his stick till the scrambling rat lost its footing, and tumbled, skittered, bumping downward through the vines. The boy listened till he heard the rat hit the ground, scurry away. Then, the boy climbed higher. So high that sunlight glinted off the shiny thing he held between his fingers now.

“Cree-cree! Cheet-cheet-a-dee!” he cried in triumph. Then he leaned back into the tangle, made the whispery shi-shoo sound of brushing vine leaves. And scratching, squeaking rat sounds. He was good at that. But he didn’t like rats. No, not rats. Rats that chased him, nipped him. He shivered at the thought of that rival rat. So he made the scary, high-pitched eee-yaaa and aho-o-o sounds he sometimes heard in the distance. That would scare away rats. And for good measure, his fiercest cry— “Mmm-a-a-a! Mmm-a-a-a!”

He turned the shiny circle—his shiny circle now—over in his spindly fingers; puzzled over tiny marks that twined around it. A vine tendril circled his skinny shoulders as he peered through the circle’s hole. He drew the tendril closer, threading its pointed tip through the hole in his shiny circle. He nudged the tendril. It loosely looped around his neck, once, twice… He tapped the tendril’s tip till it twined around itself, securing the shiny circle to dangle just over the boy’s heart. Then the boy broke the tendril from the vine, making it his own.

He held the circle up to the light, squinted through the hole. At the sky…at the birds… At the far away mountain poking up through the vines.

He hummed the vine hum as the world grew dark and the long vine leaves wrapped around, cocooning him. All is vine…vine is all… they whispered through the sleepy boy, lulling him into a dream of long ago voices calling to him, Rico, Rico… and white-white falling all around him. And when dark gave way to light again, the boy woke, his dream forgotten.

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