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Miranda F Stork

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Conner
by Miranda F Stork   

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Category: 

Horror

Publisher:  Lulu.com ISBN-10:  1409272699 Type: 
Pages: 

328

Copyright:  March 2009 ISBN-13:  9781409272694
Fiction

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A werewolf horror for the twenty-first century, breathing new life into the horror genre, and reminding people what monsters really lurk around us...

A werewolf novel that will have you gripped till the end, not following the usual patterns of most modern horrors around werewolves. Erin is a normal, hard-working psychologist, who has just gained an interesting new patient, Conner. Amid his many problems, he believes himself to be a thing of legend-a werewolf. She is quickly flung into a world between our own and one of the past, seemingly drawn by the mysterious Conner. As she tries to convince him he is not what he thinks, she remembers pieces of herself that tell her otherwise. Both of them will go on a journey that will pull them together and force them to confront their diffcult pasts, all while questioning their own sanity. Erin believes she understands everything that is happening around her, but she is soon to find out that Conner is not all that he seems, as the racing darkness grows closer... Only suitable for readers age 16 and above

Excerpt
North Yorkshire, 1751

The cool night breeze tossed the branches together, making them whisper to one another, as though they were the only ones with a secret tonight. A light aroma of sweet summer flowers drifted through the small clearing where a shadowy figure breathed heavily. The clearing was lit by a single ray of silvery moonlight piercing through the trees, fireflies dancing in its glow, while the unsettling silence weighed heavily on the cool summer night air.
The figure shifted slightly, causing excitement amongst the fireflies, and causing a change in the heavy silence. Peering through the frame of trees and branches in front of him, he looked across at the woods and well-used, dusty road. Slowly, he moved through the grass until he was only a few feet away from the edge of the road, his amber eyes glowing, his hair ruffling in the soft wind. He could hear the steadily-getting-closer rattle of carriage wheels. The scent of the woods was now mixed with the strong aroma of horses, and the conflicting sweetness of a lady’s perfume.
His heart began beating faster, the blood in his veins pumping faster as his muscles readied themselves for the sprint he knew was coming. His breathing grew ever faster as the rattle and clapping of horse’s hooves and the carriage grew ever closer.
A long thread of saliva stretched from the side of his jaw. He knew he should try to fight these feelings of excitement and overwhelming power, but it was so much more thrilling to let them take over. After all, he pondered as his victims unknowingly rose towards their fate, isn’t that what separates us from the animals? And that was indeed an interesting question to ask in his present state…

York University, Present Day

“And that is the basic framework of the schizophrenic mind. Next week we’ll be discussing why people become schizophrenic; or rather what could be possible triggers of it. I’ll see you all next week.” Professor Erin Miller began neatly collecting her papers from her desk as the class began to leave, a loud murmuring of conversation filling the room as they began to file out.
“Erin! It’s been a while!”
She looked up quickly, her long brown hair swaying across her face, her light blue eyes staring across the lecture theatre.
“Professor Whitfield, hello!” Erin’s tone was polite but without being cordial. “What a surprise! What brings you down here from the practice?”
The ‘practice’ she referred to, was a private surgery the professor had opened as a place for him to see his patients who had psychological problems, but no financial problems. Erin thought it was unethical to choose who received help with their problems based on the size of their bank balances. Having said that, Erin had occasionally done work for Professor Whitfield when she had needed to pay the rent.
“Well, I’ll get straight to the point.” He paused for a second, as if collecting his thoughts, scratching his white beard thoughtfully, looking like a serious, understated Father Christmas. “We have a patient at the practice who is a little…” Here he paused again. “A little ‘non-textbook’.”
“Really, in what way?” She cleared some of her desk, and sat on the wooden top, eyes attentive to what was being said.
Professor Whitfield smiled, tiredly. “He believes he is a lycanthrope.”
“A what?”
“A lycanthrope-a werewolf.”
Erin looked at him in surprise, a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. “And where do I come into this?”
“You are the leading expert in the county in schizophrenic and related cases. And I’d like you to take this case.” He peered at her expectantly, head slightly cocked, like a dog waiting for a treat.
Erin sighed, slid off the desk, and walked around it to the back. She shook her head slightly, and then looked back up at him. “I don’t know. You know I don’t believe in private practices Frank…and besides, I have so much to do here.”
“Look, I know how you feel about my practice, and I wouldn’t ask, but…” He sighed, and pulled a chair in front of her desk, sitting down heavily. “He has been one of our patients for six years now, and we haven’t made any progress with him. He continues to act aggressively towards nurses; he’s even seriously injured one of them.”
Erin gasped. “What happened?”
“Well, the nurse went into his room alone, to give him his dinner. She has told us that he was sat quite calmly on his bed, reading a book. He then told her he wasn’t hungry, and would she please take it out. She refused, and said she would leave it on a table for him, as is procedure. He then asked her again in an aggressive tone and began making growling noises, but this was usual and she ignored it.” He looked up at Erin, pausing, as if his next words were an unpleasant pill he had to swallow. “From outside, there were two other nurses who heard an unearthly screaming. They hit the alarm and raced to his room. They ran in on him ripping out the nurse’s throat with his teeth.”
A hand flew over Erin’s mouth. “That’s horrible! Is she alright?”
The professor nodded slowly. “Yes, well…she’s physically alright, but…” he trailed off.
“And you want me…to go in with this maniac and talk to him? This is way beyond anything else I’ve dealt with and-“
“You would of course be watched over by a nurse as you were talking to him. Also, there’s something else.” Professor Whitfield continued. Raising himself from the chair, he slowly paced across to the window and back again. “He has specifically asked for you.”
Erin looked, puzzled, at the back of the professor. “Asked for me?”
“Yes.” Frank Whitfield turned back and looked squarely at her. “It would appear you have a fan.”
“Well…”
“Look, I’ll leave you his file, look over it, ring me in the morning.” He smiled, placing a pink paper file on her desk. He then turned and walked quietly out without another word.
Erin looked down, doubtfully, at the file.

*************************************************************************
Erin paced across her warm living room, the soft glow of her electric fire reflecting off her red sofa. It had been playing on her mind since Professor Whitfield had left the pink file on her desk.
It sounded so intriguing, but it was also going against her principles. She sighed, and heavily flopped down on a chair, picking up the folder that she had carelessly thrown onto her mahogany and glass coffee table.
Fingering the sharp spine with one finger, Erin sighed, studying the file. She was curious, but at the same time, she knew she would want to carry on this case if she looked at it.
“Oh, what the hell-just look, Erin.” she muttered to herself impatiently. Taking a deep breath, she opened the file to reveal carefully typed case notes with a Polaroid photograph paper-clipped to the first page.
The photo showed a young man in his mid to late twenties, with soft black hair cut short, and an infectious smile. But the most strange-and also the most striking thing about him-was his eyes. They were brilliant amber, looking straight at the camera, a strange mix of coolness and warmth.
Erin stared for a moment at the photo, and then carefully laid it aside. She continued to look through the file. The first typed sheet was simply detailing when he was sectioned, and to which ward. The second sheet seemed more interesting, it listed his symptoms. Erin pulled it out and began to read it aloud to herself.
“Delusions of being able to change into a lycanthrope, aggressiveness, growling noises, socially inept, egocentric…”
Erin shook her head sadly, as she read down the list. She did wonder why Professor Whitfield wanted her to take this case; this sounded a lot more like clinical lycanthropy rather than schizophrenia, but she reasoned that they had some similar tendencies. When she had finished, she set it aside with his photograph gently. She then leafed through endless sheets of medication lists and daily reports until she stopped, and slowly took out one paper. It was hand written, not typed, and it was almost all written with an old fashioned hand, except for a few sentences at the top. Erin began to read.

‘Whitfield Institution, August 2003

This is a small piece written by the patient Conner Woods, this shall be used for psychological evaluation only. This shall be in his own words and it shall be a personal statement.

Dear reader, I am sure you will know nothing true of me until I have finished writing, so please do not make up your opinion from what you hear from others, judge me from my own words.
My name is Conner Woods, and I was born in the village of Tuftwerpe, in North Yorkshire in 1707. I was born in December, a cold yet beautiful day, my mother always told me. I was one of six, having four sisters and a brother. My brother was younger than me, and I loved him more than anything. I was his protector, his warrior, and his best friend.
Their names are not important, and they have blended so far into the fog of time it would make no difference. I simply remember what I felt, and that is all.
I was always different. All my siblings had fair blond hair, like my father, with soft brown eyes. I had my mother’s raven-black locks, and-strangest of all-amber eyes bright as an owl’s. My father always treated me differently-not without love, I never had want of that-but with a slight anxiety, as though I might snap with a violent temper at a moments notice.
We lived very comfortably at that time, quite happy. My father was a doctor and also owned most of the village, from a large fortune that had been handed down to him. Our home was a large white-washed farmhouse, with several acres of woods and land. I seem to remember my childhood with a rosy glow, warm and safe.
Everyone has a distinct point in their lives where everything in their lives changes, be it for better or worse. For some, it is when they become parents, others; when they find their soulmate, or realize their destiny. For me, this turning point came when I became eighteen.
For the first time in my life, it was a stressful time for me. My tutor had announced that it was time for me to learn a trade or go to University. My father had grown ever distant and he barely spoke to me.
I had gone for an evening stroll after dinner; in the sky a weak, early moon tried to compete with the brilliance of the setting sun. The grass shushed at me as I walked through it with its long stalks. I had been walking through the woods for quite some time, when I suddenly came across something that made me stop.
It was a small wooden hut. Its rotted door hung from ivy hinges, and moss crept into every little crack in the aged wood. A memory from childhood crept into my mind. I had come across it once before, at the age of six or seven, and ran to my mother, lagging behind, delighted at my discovery. As I told her, her face fell. “You must never go there again, never!” She grabbed my arm and pulled me back along the path, sobbing and upset-at what, I wasn’t sure.
As the memory faded, I looked again at the small hut. I should have walked away, but something compelled me to go forward, to answer this unknown question in my mind. I took a deep breath and pulled the rotting door open.
Inside, to my surprise, there was a single wooden bed and a mahogany bookshelf along the far wall. There was a small, well-used, wooden desk below the dusty window, and a threadbare rug adorned the floor. I walked over to the desk, where a long-ago-written letter lay on top, tied with a faded pink ribbon. I sat down on the bed, coughed at the clouds of dust that rose, and carefully untied the letter.
‘Dear Lucius,

This is the last time you will hear of me, for our affair must end. I love you more than life itself, but it cannot be-I am married now, although I would throw that away in a moment; but I also love my daughters, I cannot leave them. And please don’t say I could bring them, it would never be right, because of your affliction.
I am with your child, who shall always remind me of you, but you cannot see him. Please respect my wishes, it must be this way, but I shall never forget you.
Yours eternally,
Rosa’

Rosa. That was my mother’s name.
The shock hit me in an icy wave. Affair? With child? Affliction?
I ran back to the house, time standing still as I angrily clutched the letter in my fist. I don’t remember how long it took, and I don’t remember bursting into my mother’s sewing room in fury.
She was alone, and looked up at me in shock. I threw the letter at her feet, and glared furiously at her. There was a moment’s pause, before she slowly bent and picked up the note.
“So you know then?” she quietly asked. The words echoed deafeningly in the silence.
“Yes, I know!” I hissed. “How much of it is true?”
She sighed, and walked over to the window seat. Taking a second to look out into the night, she sat down.
“I met your father-your real father-when I was a little girl. He lived in the village and was like an older brother towards me. When he became old enough, he left for war. He returned many years later, when I was still young but married to your father with your three older sisters.
To cut a long story short, we fell in love, and began our affair. I later found out he was a…well, this may sound unbelievable, but he was a…werewolf.”
“WHAT! That was his affliction?”
“Yes.”
“But…but…they aren’t real! They don’t exist!” My voice trailed off, and I shook my head in disbelief.
My mother spoke gently. “Darling, I’m afraid they do exist, and your father-your real father, that is-was one.”
“The hut in the woods was where he and I would meet. You were conceived there, under a full moon. You are also like your father, a werewolf.”
I gasped, and backed away, as though to escape her words. “But…but, it can’t be, I would have noticed before now…” My voice trailed off.
My mother smiled, kindly. “Darling, your father, well- your stepfather-is a doctor. I sedated you every night of your life so you would never awake and find out.
“And my real father?”
“Is Lucius O’Neil. He was an Irishman born many, many years ago, in Ireland. He moved here when he was a small boy.”
Those were the last words I ever heard my mother speak. Trembling, half in a trance, I ran downstairs and outside. I ran through the village, hearing the shouts behind me, and I didn’t stop running until it was quiet and I no longer knew where I was. I collapsed in some long grass, sobbing and shivering.
I never saw my family again.
Over the years I travelled from place to place, getting a few jobs here and there to pay my way. I changed into my wolf form many times, but I was disgusted at myself, and would hide myself away, instead of becoming the monster I knew the world would see me as.
I changed my family name to Woods, and I can no longer remember the one I had for all of my childhood.
So that is my story, and you may judge me.
Conner Woods.’

Erin stared sadly at the pages for a moment, collecting her thoughts. She lifted the file off her knee, and placed it back on her table. Raising herself off the red and gold armchair, she walked over to her house phone. Taking a deep breath, she quickly dialled a number, and raised the receiver to her ear.
“Hello?”
“Hello, Dr Whitfield?”
“Erin? Have you considered my offer?”
She took another deep breath, realizing there was no way out if she agreed. “Yes.”
“Wonderful! I’ll see you tomorrow, at the surgery. Bye for now.”
“Okay. Goodbye.”
Erin replaced the receiver, and glanced across at the papers still laid on the arm of the chair. She walked across, and picked up the young man’s photo again. Smiling, she shook her head at his frozen expression.
“It’s strange.” she murmured to herself. “It seemed so real.”


Professional Reviews

A Biting Tale
Kopek Publishing, March 2009
Whilst the story is told from a young woman’s perspective, it certainly didn’t put me off. I think that this book will successfully cross the genders in it’s appeal.

The allure of the werewolf, which I think is in us all, helps identify with some of the main characters. Despite his bestial behaviour I was rooting for Conner from almost the first introduction.

The story leads you a merry dance from the present, to the past, and back again, each piece smoothly interweaving with the other. Every chapter reveals a tantilising piece of the jigsaw, dropping clues of what is to happen in the future, along with what has happened in the past. A past that Erin slowly pieces together on her journey, which culminates in a shocking truth.

I enjoyed the slow building of tension within the story. There was just the right amount of information released as the story progressed, to keep you turning the pages in a quest to discover the conclusion. I also enjoyed the way Miranda tackled the moral aspects of the current problem with world climate change. She points the finger of blame for the state of the climate and the planet, at the people of Earth, yet it is the darker characters of the story that have the best interest of the planet at heart.

Conclusion:
This is not the usual werewolf story, and I think it is successful in introducing an unual twist. I think this would be very well recieved by the older teen readers, but it is a book that adult readers would also enjoy.

I would buy this book, and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for the sequel. I can see Miranda going from strength to strength in her writing.




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