Stranded in an icy wasteland seven mysteriously gifted teens find an abandoned church where a gathering of ghosted orphans has been trapped in limbo for one hundred years. To free these ghosts, all that has been forgotten will need to be recovered and to do that, this group of misfits will need to face the secrets that have tragically haunted their own lives. It is the only way they can source their gifts. It is the only way they can escape the Shadow. It is the only way they will survive. And time is running out…
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An abandoned church, a shadow, and too many secrets.
Blackwater no longer exists, well, except in the icy, wasteland of no-time, where sixteen-year-old Daffodil, who has escaped The Institution, and carries with her a history of secrets that would make the discovery of the Holy Grail seem mundane, finds herself stranded with six others from the Secret Society of Gifted Teens. On discovering a gathering of ghosted orphans in the abandoned church she is plunged into a battle for survival – for the lost souls, for herself, for her companions, and for the future.
Even death cannot release Madame Glisznort from her lifelong obsession to free her Lost Children and so she has trapped these teens here is manipulating their fears until they use their gifts and do what she has been unable to – after all she has more than a vested interest in the outcome. If only the Shadow – a teeming mass of hatred which formed when mysterious sightings began appearing in Blackwater 100 years ago – wasn’t threatening to destroy them all.
As Daffodil realizes that they are moving away from the natural world, she manages to get this group of misfit teens to face the secrets that have tragically haunted their own lives. It is the only way they will source their gifts and save the ghosts. It is the only way they can escape the Shadow. It is the only way they will survive. And time is running out...
~A Fast Bus to Nowhere~
There was something very wrong with this whole venture.
Santu was woken from his insipid sleep by the hammering rain, only to find himself back in the stormy night on the same lurching bus, going nowhere, fast. The vehicle was rattling violently in the torrential downpour, hurtling at an alarming speed. Every now and then, its wheels would slide on the the slick road making Santu’s stomach twist. Musty dank air filled his nostrils and the freezing cold air was making it difficult to think – but it didn’t stop the visions.
Outside, past the clammy windows, the highway was dark and empty save for the black silhouettes of leafless trees ebbing from a low eerie mist. Thunder ached in the deadened gloom like a far-off warning, and lightning flashed in bursts across the sodden, starless sky. Why hadn’t they told him he was going somewhere this damn cold?
Santu’s gaze slid up to the full moon – he could swear it had a face. Its distant light shone on his dark Spanish skin and shoulder length black curls. Shivering, he huddled into his leather jacket to keep in whatever warmth he could and tried to concentrate on the visions. They had been growing stronger and more controlling since he had agreed to this ‘research mission’ but in his heart, he knew the truth had already been seized and locked away.
Santu skimmed a look at the others on board: Six other duped kids that had somehow managed to abandon their lives to attend a Secret Society Program – all of them masters of their own secrets; all of them masters of a skill unusual enough to be accepted by the clandestine group.
None of them seemed to be interested in making eye contact or conversation. If his visions were anything to go by, they’d have to talk eventually.
He wondered if any of them could match his skills: Santu was an anomaly; a glitch in the human strain; a genetic aberration that had already seen his mother die. The reminder forced his anger to surface so he tried to bend his thoughts back to the unacceptable cold.
As he rose to complain to the uninterested and apparently unaffected bus driver, the vehicle abruptly lurched to a halt. The unexpected shift threw Santu forward, smashing his face into the back of the seat in front of him. As his face struck the metal railing he heard a horrible crack: His nose had broken. As blood trickled from his nostrils the horrible stench of mould and death filled his mind before a shrill voice erupted from the front of the bus.
“I am Madame Glizsnort,” screeched the woman who had just alighted. Dressed in a long, gray, woolen skirt, short high-heeled boots and a gray jacket which displayed two looping ‘G’s’ on its lapel, she exuded cold indifference. “For your stay on this trip you will be under my guidance.” The woman’s piercing gaze regarded everyone from the front of the bus.
With her pale eyes, gray complexion and high silver bun, Santu thought she could have been an ice-sculpture hung with clothes and a wig. Motioning to complain, he felt himself being forced back into the seat.
“Sit down!” Madame Glizsnort shrieked. “I will not have insolence in my presence!”
And probably for the first time in his life, Santu felt uncertain. Apparently he was not alone. Furtive glances darted from one to the other across the bus – eye-contact finally, mused Santu to himself. But the worry was creeping around him, icy fingers curling across his skin. He was not getting any visions from this strange woman and that scared him more than he cared to admit.
“Now,” Madame Glizsnort continued, trying to sound just a little less harsh. “I am to be your guardian and tutor for this undertaking.” Her tone was practiced, almost calculated. “I know you have all come from far away, some further than others.” Her icy stare focused on the girl with the messy blond hair and patchwork clothes: There was something about her.
Daffodil thought her heart may freeze instantly with the intensity of Madame Glizsnort’s gaze. In fact, Daffodil was from a very long way away and had a history of secrets that would make the discovery of the Holy Grail seem mundane. As far as Daffodil knew, absolutely no one had a clue about her past – except her parents, and they couldn’t tell anyone, obviously. But right now it felt like this strange woman with the cold silver eyes was staring into her brain, reading her very thoughts, seeing into her memories and exhuming her life; bit by bit.
“Your name girl?! What’s your name?!”
“D..Daffodil, Madame,” she replied, her Australian twang sounding broken in the silence.
“Try to remember it then!” The ice-sculpture shook her head.
Daffodil nodded, her big, brown eyes, wide and unblinking. If Madame Glizsnort hadn’t finally moved her stare to the back of the bus Daffodil would have vomited. Not a good start to her first Secret Society mission. Had her escape from The Institution been a foolish decision? Was the whole research thing real? Had her grueling admission been a sham? Blinking a few times, she let salty tears wash back over her burning eyes.
Madame Glizsnort seemed disgusted with them all. “There will be an introduction ceremony once we reach our destination,” she continued determinedly, “and then we have a very demanding schedule of advanced research. After this, you will put your abilities into action.” She paused for a moment as she eyed each of them. “And remember, I am not interested in cry babies! The quicker you follow the imperative and perform, the quicker you will be finished!”
Santu didn’t like the way she emphasized the word ‘finished’. If his nose hadn’t throbbed so badly, he may have tried to focus on his visions, but the pain was making it impossible for him to judge just how serious this situation was.
And then a flood of arctic water rushed through Santu’s brain. It felt like time had stopped, as if all the knowledge he had ever accumulated was suddenly dissolving into nothingness. Just before everything began to fade, a few thoughts pushed themselves to the frosty surface of his mind: In the freezing cold midnight hours of this strange rain-soaked night, how had this gaunt, shrew woman managed to stop a speeding bus and alight without a single droplet marking her clothes?
As this thought formed, another whole, and completely overwhelming notion, swelled in his mind. And that’s when Santu noticed Madame Glizsnort was staring straight at him.
And a small trickle of blood oozed from his damaged nose.
Blackwater Herald Moon Tribune
Tuesday, September 5th, 1939 – One penny
WORLD NEWS HEADLINES
WAR DECLARED BY BRITAIN AND FRANCE
At 11 O’clock, September 4th, Great Britain declares war on Germany. Six hours later France follows. Britain and France state their determination to fulfill to the uttermost, their obligations to Poland in this full scale attack. Page 3.
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
MYSTERIOUS SIGHTINGS CONFOUND LOCALS
After the First Great War and terrible period of Depression we hoped there would be a long time of peace, but the fervent attacks do not augur well for any of us. Just days after the terrifying announcement that Germany has invaded Poland, Blackwater has made a discovery so unsettling that it brings the ghosts of suffering home to us again.
Our Herald Moon Tribune journalist, Mr. Henry Frienly, has discovered a rather strange mystery. With help from Miss Grace Durand of Marchenby Street, Mr. Frienly has uncovered a strange tale indeed.
According to his information, it is believed a group of nine children has been seen lingering around the town. They are very hard to keep track of, even disappearing whilst being followed! They tend to move as a group, which makes it even more remarkable that they have not been caught, and they do not appear to have any guardians present. This strange group appears to be unaware of the attention they are receiving. When Miss Durand calls out to them they are oblivious to her utterances and their immediate escape seems uncanny.
The children were noticed on September 1st, by a visitor to the area, Mrs. Agnes McReady of Bluberry Falls. Mrs. McReady immediately reported it to the police whereby Constable Macalister Glizsnort took all the details.
In a rather curious turn, Constable Glizsnort states to the Herald Moon Tribune, that after considerable research, he has discovered that similar sightings were reported in the area about 20 years prior. This just adds to the peculiarity of the situation. Constable Glizsnort also speculates that it is no coincidence that the sightings have begun again just as the Second Great War has been declared.
Even though the Constable is unsure whether these children are of an unearthly nature or not, he affirms that he will not give up trying to locate them despite the obvious difficulties. He also suggests there may be many a reason why these children have no homes. In such circumstances, he says, those being of the war and all, there are a variety of events that would allow these young people to find themselves in very difficult circumstances. “It is quite possible that these children are vagabonds or worse.” At this stage he is not prepared to commit either way. Constable Glizsnort insists that once the children are located they will be treated with kindness and compassion before being judged. “It is the Godly thing to do,” he said.
However, journalist, Henry Frienly, concedes that others in the community do not see it so simply. Many have expressed concerns regarding their own safety and it is believed that the kind of lenience the Constable affords will give the children open opportunity to commit crime.
Enid Highly of Plain Place Road suggests: “They may try coercion or even thievery; or they may attempt to inflict physical harm on the people of the town – the population should be afraid!”
Even more negative correspondence includes alarming implications that these children may be creating some kind of gang and that they plan to steal the offspring of the neighborhood to expand their group.
“It all reeks of sinister undertones!” Miss Maimsbun of Hawkesmeade Avenue cried when interviewed.
But Mrs. Lightbottom of January Court, believes, “We should take them in and care for them as a community. Obviously no one else is concerned about their whereabouts.”
Miss Maimsbun replied with a curt retort about Mrs. Lightbottom being unable to have children of her own and added, “Mrs. Lightbottom’s opinion should be ignored as she has obviously displeased the Lord for she has been rendered barren.”
Mrs. Lightbottom refused to reply to these allegations.
However, as Constable Glizsnort reminds us, until we actually catch these children, it is all speculation. Miss Durand would like any person aware of their whereabouts to pass the information on to her at 132 Marchenby Street (call exchange B243).
And a very interesting story it is.
Blackout time tonight is 6.57pm.
EVENING EDITION CHANGE
Due to the declaration of war, our standard edition will now be an evening publication only. Therefore, the paper has changed its name from the Herald Tribune to the Herald Moon Tribune.