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It’s Launch Day! The Mystery on Lost Lagoon by Rita Monette is here!

This is it, Nikki fans! Nikki and Snooper are back for a fourth adventure in the Nikki Landry Swamp Legends series and this time they are investigating some strange pre-historic sightings on Lost Lagoon! Beautifully written and illustrated by the talented Rita Monette, this series is one not to be missed!


Legend has it… if you go onto Lost Lagoon, you never return.


Nikki Landry and her friends are off on a quest to track down the prehistoric-looking bird that’s been flying around a nearby swamp island. However, their plans get sidetracked when they meet a stranger in their small town who seems to have some secrets to hide.


The sleuthing group soon learns of a legend about a hidden lagoon. Is it all connected? Before they can find out, they are kidnapped by a mysterious scientist on a mission of his own.


Is there any truth to the legend that says if you go onto Lost Lagoon, you will never return? Is the eerie whirlpool that sits waiting to suck you in really a passage to another world?


Join Nikki, her friends, and one neurotic parrot, as they discover the truth behind the Mystery on Lost Lagoon.


Follow the Book Tour:


Book Details:


Age Level: 6-12

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing; 1 edition

Publication Date: November 17, 2017


 Purchase from Amazon

 Purchase from Mirror World Publishing


Read an Excerpt:


The August air was steamier than a pot of boiled crawfish. Tiny bugs danced like fairies on the gumbo-colored bayou. Cypress trees on a nearby swamp island dipped their moss-draped branches into the still water, trying to stay cool. I had been sitting in my new tree house for days, trying to catch a cool breeze and pondering on how to turn a plain old fort into an official club house, when I decided what it needed most of all was furniture. My friend Spikes had come over to help me build some. He was pretty good with tools.


“I saw that strange bird again.” Spikes stood beside me with a hammer in his hand.


“What bird?” I asked, busy with trying to arrange some old boards in the shape of a table, just before they collapsed into a heap. “Drats!” I folded my arms in front of me.


“You have to lay them on the floor, Tomboy,” he said. “We need to nail them together first.”


“So you have to build it upside down?” I wiped the sweat off my brow with the back of my hand.


Spikes’ real name was Spencer Sikes, but I’d never heard nobody call him that ’cept for his grandpa. He was twelve years old, a whole year and a half older than me. I couldn’t imagine being almost a teenager. Me and him argued a lot, but we always stayed friends. He told me once he only liked me ’cause I wasn’t like other girls, and could climb trees, and didn’t mind getting dirty. He sometimes called me Tomboy instead of my real name, Nikki.


He grinned, showing his broken front tooth. “Yeah.”


“We need some nails.”


He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of bent nails. “I was over at my grandpa’s yesterday. We took a boat ride out to Flat Lake, and I saw it flying around Pelican Pass, see.”


“Saw what?”


“The bird.” He sounded annoyed. “You know, the one that makes that screeching sound. The same one we saw over in Mossy Swamp.” He sat on the floor and began straightening the nails by laying ’em on their sides and tapping ’em with his hammer.


We had gone out to Mossy Swamp back in June trying to find out about a legendary monster, when we saw a big bird swoop down and make a horrible noise. Spikes had been bringing it up ever since…and I had been trying real hard to ignore him.


“Oh yeah.” I twirled the hair at the end of my braid. “The one you said looked like a dinosaur or something.”


“A pterodactyl,” he added. “Actually, the real name is pterosaur, see, which is a species of flying reptiles. So technically it isn’t a bird at all.”


“Why do you read all that stuff?” I sat on my bare heels across from him.


“It’s just interesting.” He squinted at me like it should be something I should be curious about.


Spikes was not very good at school work, and barely passed his classes, but he loved to read when it was something that caught his interest. In fact, he could become pretty darned obsessed on a subject he liked, usually ghosts or pirates. Seemed his new obsession was prehistoric creatures.


“So, what about it?” I asked, stacking my boards to the side. “I ain’t caring about no reptile-looking bird, unless it was to come after me or my dog.”


“I watched it fly in and out of the pass near Rabbit Island. I think it must have a nest near there,” he said, still banging on his nails. “And actually…according to a book I got from the library…their average wing span can get a little over twenty feet.”


“How big is twenty feet?” I asked, still not much caring as long as it stayed in the swamp where it belonged.


He looked around, then pointed. “Oh, longer than your houseboat, there.”


I poked out my lips. “You’re telling a fib, Buzzard. It wasn’t that big at all.”


“Well, it might just be a young one,” he said, “and you know what that means?”


I didn’t answer. He could go on and on forever, like he had something caught in his craw.


Buzzard was a nickname I gave him on my first day at Morgan City Elementary. He looked just like one sitting up on that great big branch of the coolest tree in the school yard. It was our first argument, on account of I had already claimed that branch for my own lunch spot. He learned real quick that I wasn’t the type to give things up that easy, and since nary one of us like to be called names, we only did it to annoy each other. Sometimes we could go for days using each other’s rightful names.


“That means its mama might be lurking around out there in that swamp, see.” His eyes got real big, like he actually wanted it to be so.


I gazed at him sideways. “Spikes you do know those things are extinct, don’t you? Miss Allgood taught us all about the dinosaurs last year. She said they’ve been gone since the Ice Age. That means it got too cold for ’em to survive. So there.”


“Well, I ain’t saying it is prehistoric or anything.” He nailed the boards together. “I just said it looks like one.”


“Oh, I see. Well, it’s probably just a big pelican anyway. Hey, can we stand the table up yet?”


“Not yet. We need braces on these legs so it won’t fall down. Go over to Nana’s shed and get me a couple smaller boards while I straighten some more nails out.”


Rita-studio pic cropped-croppedMeet the Author:


Behind Every Legend Lies the Truth!

Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. After retiring from her “real” job as an administrative assistant for the State of Michigan, Rita began doing what she always wanted to do…write and draw. Her stories are set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. The Mystery on Lost Lagoon is the fourth book in her Nikki Landry Swamp Legend series, which is based on her childhood. Rita now lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee.


Connect with Rita:  





Amazon US:


Goodreads Author Page:




The Wandering God by Joshua Pantalleresco is here.


Greater Worlds than These


Following the events of Stormdancer, The Watcher receives a vision in a dream of a city in turmoil. The dream haunts him, as does the voice that insistently repeats, ‘Help me,’ night after night. Leaving the safety of the tower of scientists behind, the Watcher and his friends embark on their final journey to locate the source of the message and come face to face with their most difficult obstacle yet: doubt. 

Though they trust the Watcher, Kristen and the others can’t help but fear that the voice in his head is driving him mad and leading them all to their deaths. Even the Watcher is afraid. He knows that listening to this voice risks everything he has obtained up until this point, but he can’t help but continue to follow it, driven forward by curiosity and an  instinctive need.


Beyond volcanoes, rock people, and deserts of nothing but crystal, lies the City at the End of the World. And there, the Wandering God awaits…


Tags: Young Adult, Poetry, Epic, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dragons


More info can be found on Amazon


Follow the book tour:


Praise for The Wandering God:


“I can say with no hyperbole that The Watcher by Joshua Pantalleresco is, truly, an epic epic.” ~Dirk Manning, author of Tales of Mr. Rhee and Nightmare World


“Joshua Pantalleresco paints a stunning and vivid world through poetry and takes the reader on an adventure that is well worth a read.” ~Christine Steendam, award-winning author of the Ocean series and Foremost chronicles


Read an Excerpt:


now I stand in this space in the dream 

I know this cannot be real 

watching this whole story play in my head 

feeling the presence of someone 


watching with me 


“Help me.” 


I know the voice when I hear it 

it beckons me to another place 


the vision shifts to a city 

like the one I saw at the beginning 

it still stands 

surrounded by barrenness 

it thrives in spite of the growing emptiness around it 

vibrant defiance in an empty world 

those same structures I saw in the dream remain 

pointing up at the heavens 

daring the Wandering God to find them 


somehow I know 

that voice will be there 



“Help me.” 


I wake up 

gasping back to life from slumber 

happy to confirm it was only a dream 


I look around at the others 

sound asleep 

at peace 

dreaming their tranquil dreams 


I am thankful they came for me 

it is nice to know that in this empty place 

you are not alone 


I am glad to be with my family 

I wouldn’t trade them for anything 

I close my eyes again I am not alone


Purchase Links:


Amazon CA

Amazon US


Mirror World




Meet the Author and the Illustrator of The Wandering God:

Joshua Pantalleresco writes stuff…and podcasts too. He writes poetry, prose, comics and other mediums as well as hosts his own podcast show Just Joshing available on Itunes. He lives in his own head most of the time, and likes ice cream and baileys.

The Wandering God is his third book through Mirror World Publishing. He lives in Calgary. His webpage is and his twitter is @jpantalleresco.


Florence Chan is an illustrator, designer and 3D modeller from Calgary, Alberta, now living in Toronto, Canada. She is the illustrator of Marilyn Marsh Noll’s ‘Jonathan and the Magical Broomstick’ and Joshua Pantalleresco’s ‘The Watcher’ and ‘Stormdancer’ and has contributed to Jason Mehmel’s comic anthology ‘Fight Comics’ as well as Damian Willcox’s ‘Dorkboy: 1995-2015 Two Dorkades and Counting’.



20 ways getting your book out there is #worthit

Writing can be a thankless and lonely profession at times. I’ve compiled a list of 20 reasons writing and publishing your book is worth all the trouble. Hopefully this list will help keep you motivated while slogging through that first draft or working on your edits and re-writes.

  1. You come across one of your books on a store or library bookshelf3f28e7fed7e49a2b07ba99c488cfc022
  2. Someone asks you to sign your book
  3. You flip through your book and remember ‘that part’
  4. Re-reading your own book years later
  5. A praise-filled review
  6. A constructive review
  7. Being able to talk about your world and everything in it with someone outside of your own head.
  8. Seeing it in print for the first time.
  9. Designing the cover
  10. Seeing the artist produce the cover of your dreams
  11. Seeing your name on the cover191456-Its-A-Long-Road-But-Its-Worth-It
  12. Finishing the first draft
  13. Finishing the last set of edits
  14. The ‘state of flow’ you get into when you lose yourself in the process
  15. How clever you feel when you come up with ‘a twist’!
  16. When someone tells you they are reading or have read your book.
  17. Google searching your name and finding all the book-related listings
  18. Just getting to call yourself an Author.
  19. Every sale.
  20. Your first royalty check, even if it’s not going to pay the bills.

What reasons do you have that make writing and publishing worth it? Let me know in the comments below!

The Terrible, Mighty Crystal by Sharon Ledwith – Part 1

You are in for a treat! While we read through submissions, you get to read a short story in roughly 10 parts by the talented and prolific Sharon Ledwith, author of The Last Timekeepers series and now the Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls series. This short story is a prequel to her fantastic time travel series and we’re sure you’re going to love it! Here’s part one:


“Please, children, don’t stand too close. The frequency will be too much for your young minds to handle,” Thoth said, waving a long, golden rod topped with a fashioned baboon head.

Shu-Tu stood at the back on her tippy-toes behind her classmates, trying to catch a glimpse of the large six-sided figure known to her people as the mighty crystal. All around them a sparkling metal—the color of storm clouds—lined the walls of the massive domed building to protect and ensure Atlantis’s safety from the crystal’s unpredictable vibratory forces. But even knowing this, Shu-Tu’s scalp prickled incessantly. She craned her neck. Heads—some the size of melons—bobbed up and down in front of her, obscuring her vision. She set her jaw, reached out and grabbed a fistful of red hair belonging to a tall girl with hunched shoulders, standing in the front row. Shu-Tu yanked hard.

“Ouch! Let go, let go!” the girl yelled, stumbling back.

“What goes on here?” a human-animal hybrid with the head of an ibis demanded. “The Crystal Dome is a place of respect!”

Shu-Tu pursed her full lips to one side. Her green eyes swept over the lowly hybrid—a servant of their teacher, Thoth. The hybrid’s long, hooked beak, beady yellow eyes, and s-shaped white-feathered neck moved back and forth in vigilance. Human hands gripped the looped end of a crossed-shaped ankh made of pure orichalcum—the sparkling copper-colored precious metal mined only in Atlantis. The hybrid ruffled his neck feathers, and made a severe clicking sound with his beak.

Shu-Tu shook her head. Her ivory tendrils swept across the back of her neck as she said, “I’m well aware of that. I couldn’t see, so I took care of the problem. There is no disrespect in trying to see my teacher.”

“See, no. But causing harm to others is not respectful, Shu-Tu,” Thoth said, moving through the group of parting students. “And what you give out, you get back, so in essence you are disrespecting yourself, young lady.”

“But…Shu-Tu has a point, Thoth. I couldn’t see either,” the brown-haired girl next to Shu-Tu blurted. “Someone had to move that red-headed giant out of the way.”

Few students giggled, but most remained silent.

“I was not speaking to you, Amiee.” Thoth wagged his rod at her.

“Shall I escort these two trouble-makers outside, Master?” the ibis-headed hybrid asked, bowing.

Thoth turned, making his dark, red robe swirl around his towering frame. “That won’t be necessary, Djeuti, unless…”

“Unless, what?” Shu-Tu interrupted, inclining her head.

“I do not hear an apology coming out of both your mouths,” Thoth replied, his sapphire eyes staring down at them.


Cover Reveal: The Mystery on Lost Lagoon (A Nikki Landry Swamp Legend)

That’s right! Book 4 in the Nikki Landry Swamp Legends Series is coming soon! You can pre-order it now from our store as a paperback or ebook. (Or get it now without having to wait if you are a Mirror World Member!!! Find out more about that here.) You can also pre-order it from Amazon, or your favorite major book retailer. The Mystery on Lost Lagoon by Rita Monette officially launches November 17th, 2017!

And here’s the cover…


Legend has it… if you go onto Lost Lagoon, you never return.

Nikki Landry and her friends are off on a quest to track down the prehistoric-looking bird that’s been flying around a nearby swamp island. However, their plans get sidetracked when they meet a stranger in their small town who seems to have some secrets to hide.

The sleuthing group soon learns of a legend about a hidden lagoon. Is it all connected? Before they can find out, they are kidnapped by a mysterious scientist on a mission of his own.

Is there any truth to the legend that says if you go onto Lost Lagoon, you will never return?  Is the eerie whirlpool that sits waiting to suck you in really a passage to another world?

Join Nikki, her friends, and one neurotic parrot, as they discover the truth behind the Mystery on Lost Lagoon.

Rita-studio pic cropped-cropped

Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. After retiring from her “real” job as an administrative assistant for the State of Michigan, Rita began doing what she always wanted to do…write and draw. Her stories are set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. The Mystery on Lost Lagoon is the fourth book in her Nikki Landry Swamp Legend series, which is based on her childhood. Rita now lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee. 

Now’s your chance to submit to us!

I’m going to try and make this short and sweet because if this post is for you, then you’re likely going to want to get busy putting together your submissions package and emailing it to us!

That’s right, as of RIGHT NOW our general submissions period is OPEN!!!

We’ve talked a lot about what we’re looking for, which you can find here. We’ve also talked about how we review submissions and what sort of things we look at when reviewing them. You can find that information here. And, of course, you can find pretty much everything you need to know on our submissions page, here.

What we haven’t gone into detail about on this blog yet is what you need to send; so here goes!


Please include a query letter with your submission. This can simply be in the body of your email. Your query letter must contain the following:

  • Your name
  • The title of your manuscript
  • The type of work (novel, novella, short story collection, graphic novel, ect.)
  • The genre (make sure it’s a genre we publish by checking our submissions page or our current list of titles.)
  • The word count
  • Your target audience (Adult, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Children’s, ect.)
  • A brief description of your overall concept for the book. This is called ‘The Hook’ If you need help with this part, check out our blog post on pitch-writing here.

If your query letter does not give us all the information we need, we will not be able to review your submission and will send a reply telling you as much.


Along with your query, please send us a one page long summary of your plot. Please make sure to include the following information:

  • The names and brief descriptions of your main characters
  • A brief description or explanation of the setting
  • The inciting incident (what change in your character’s life gets the story moving?)
  • A few examples of obstacles your characters face
  • The climactic moment
  • The ending (how is everything resolved?)

If your synopsis does not contain the information we need, we may not be able to detect if your manuscript is for us. Don’t make us guess, tell us what happens so we can make an informed decision.


Along with your query letter and synopsis, please send three sample chapters, or the equivalent so we can get a taste of your writing. When preparing this part to send, please take a good look at your sample to try and determine the following things:

  • Is your opening line intriguing?
  • Is your opening scene engaging?
  • Is your sample relatively error-free?
  • Does your sample make a reader want to keep reading the rest of the book?
  • Is your writing active and engaging?
  • Are there any points that might come across as confusing or unclear to a reader?
  • Is the exposition, or any background information, woven into the story in a natural way?

These are some of the things that may cause us to reject your manuscript. If we detect any of these problems, we will let you know, so you can improve in these areas in the future.
Ok! If you’ve read all this and followed the guidelines, then you are ready to put that package together so what are you waiting for?! Go ahead and submit to us!

Wrapping up 2017 – Here’s what you have to look forward to!

November 1st, 2017

images3‘Tis the season… for Submissions! Here’s another reminder, we’re opening our submissions season November 1st, so if you have a manuscript you think we’ll love, send it our way! We’ve written a whole blog post on this topic and what we’re looking for this year here, so go over and check that out or head over to our website to read over our submissions page. Our whole team is itching to start reading what you have to send us! Submissions will remain open until we’ve found our 2018 line up or the year ends, whichever comes first!


November 4th and 5th, 2017

This weekend we’ll be in London, Ontario for the Southwesto Book Expo! We’ll have our entire collection with us, so if there are any books you are looking to pick up and you’re in the region, this is a great opportunity to come out and see us! Also, we’ve been asked by the Expo and the London Writers’ Society to make ourselves available to listen to queries and pitches from authors, so if you’d like to speak to us or hand your submission in IN PERSON this is your opportunity to do so! Either way, we look forward to meeting you!


terriblemightycrystal-5101 (1)November 9th, 2017

If you’ve been enjoying the short serial fiction stories on this blog lately, you’ll be pleased to learn that Sharon Ledwith is the author of the next one starting November 9th! Titled The Terrible Mighty Crystal, Sharon’s short serial is a prequel to her well-loved time travel series, The Last Timekeepers.


wg1November 13th to 17th, 2017

As you may or may not know, we’ve recently released the finale to Joshua Pantalleresco’s epic series, The Watcher. The third and final book is called The Wandering God and is now available in our store and online wherever you buy books. And, on November 13th, we’re kicking off a blog tour for The Wandering God, so you can learn more about it, read excerpts, get sneak peeks at the art, and read guests posts and interviews from Joshua Pantalleresco about his epic journey in writing this epic series.


November 17th to 24th, 2017

Following the blog tour for The Wandering God, we’re pleased to be able to celebrate the launch and blog tour for the fourth installment in the Nikki Landry Swamp Legends Series! Nikki and Snooper are back and this time they’re on an adventure THROUGH TIME in The Mystery on Lost Lagoon! We’ll reveal the cover for this book next week on November 6th,  so keep your eyes open for that!

CMtitle copy

Date TBA, 2017

We haven’t yet hammered out an official release date, but we’re pleased to announce that Nate Friedman, author of The Coffee Monster, has another book coming soon! The Last Hockey Fight is a short chapter book for children who like both reading and hockey! Illustrated and written by the author and set in our hometown of Windsor, this book is sure to be hit this holiday season!


The Months of November and December, 2017.

It’s that time of year again! We’re hosting our very own holiday SALE!!! So if there are any titles you are waiting to pick up, December is the time to do it! Use code HOLIDAY2017 in our bookstore for 25% off ALL TITLES, paperbacks and ebooks alike!


Death Takes the Highway by David McLain – Part 9 (FINALE)

See the beginning of this tale here. Find David McLain and his novel The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum here. Then, read the rest!

They went to a movie that night, a big budget picture with lots of sword fights or explosions or something, William couldn’t remember which. They had a big bag of popcorn, and a soda, and a box of Raisinettes, and felt a little sick afterward. Then they went out to a club where they listened to loud music and drank cheap beer while they watched young women dance. William told two girls that he had just died, and that Death was Death, and then laughed when the girls said that they didn’t believe him and then watched as the girls went back to dancing with each other. Finally, they got a room at a motel, where they passed out watching television, and slept later than they should have.  In the morning, they got up early, checked out of the hotel, and drove off to the Grand Canyon.

Will had seen the Grand Canyon once, when he was young. For that matter, he was young now. At most, he couldn’t have been any older than twenty-six, maybe twenty-seven. Seeing it now, he felt the same way that he had felt the first time that he’d been there.  It was both as beautiful as anything could be, and almost completely barren at the same time. Suddenly Will thought of something.

“Hey, were you here when this was made?” he asked Death.

“What, the canyon?” Death asked.

“Yeah,” Will said.  “Do you remember?”

“I try not to think about it,” Death said. “But yeah, I was here. It was a sea back then. Ask one of the rangers, he’ll tell you.”

“So, you saw the dinosaurs?” Will asked.

“I saw the dinosaurs,” Death said. “I saw the dinosaurs, and the Woolly Mammoths, and everything that people have forgotten. I saw it all. That’s my job, to watch, and wait, and make sure that there’s room for the next generation.”

Neither he nor Death said anything. They just stared at the Canyon for about an hour, and then got back on the highway.

It was warm and sunny in the desert, and by mid-day the sun in the car was blazing. Death finally decided he’d had enough. “Pull over,” he gasped. “Let’s put the top down.”

“You think it’s warm enough?” William asked. (After all, it was still January.)

“Open it up,” Death said confidently. “Let’s get some fresh air.”

Driving an English sports car down a highway at sixty-five miles an hour is a little like being Superman, provided that Superman is afraid of heights and prefers to fly eighteen inches off of the ground. The air rushed past the car like it was a jet engine. Heading down a sand dune into the wastes of California, William shouted out like they were going down a roller coaster. Death stood up, and waved his arms.

“You’re crazy!” William shouted.

“Everybody needs to feel the need alive sometime,” Death said. “What am I going to do, die?”

Will had wanted to go to Vegas, but Death figured that by the time they got there they’d be too young to get into a casino without ID, and it would be difficult explaining why it was that Will’s driver’s license listed him as an octogenarian. So instead, they barreled across the open desert, with the top down and rock and roll blasting on the radio. They were young and it was good and everything was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. They laughed going through Death Valley (which Death admitted he didn’t much care for.) Past the distant suburbs of Los Angeles, and down into the city of LA. If William had to guess their ages, he would’ve probably put them both around twenty-four. They were at the beginning of adulthood, with their whole lives ahead of them.

They stopped near Hollywood and Vine, and looked at the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and at the footprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It was nice, but a little sad, and William could tell that they were just killing time. Finally, they got back in the MG, and drove on out to Santa Monica, where they parked the car at the beach, and walked on out into the water, just as the sun set. William had a feeling that if he asked, Death would tell him that there is nothing as beautiful as the Pacific Ocean, nothing in this world, or any other. They took off their shoes and socks, and watched as the waves hit their feet. Will felt like it was his twenty-second birthday. He felt incredible, but he knew it wasn’t meant to last.

“So,” he said, turning to his friend. “That’s it?”

Death nodded. “That’s it.”

William turned around, and looked back at everything that was behind them. He looked back at the expensive houses on the Santa Monica Coast, and back at Los Angeles and back at California. He looked back at their trip, and everything he’d seen. He looked back at life.

“I’m going to miss it all so much,” he admitted, and he knew that no matter what he looked like, he was an old man. A tear ran down his cheek, but only one. He brushed it away. He knew that the hard part was over. Whatever happened now, he could handle.

“I thought you might want to see it all,” Death admitted. “One last time.”

Will turned around and faced the ocean. The sun was just sinking into the horizon. Even now, you could see Venus, and some of the bright stars peaked out through the streaks of orange and red.

“What now?” he asked.

Death didn’t answer at first. Instead, he pointed westward, not quite toward the sun, but not quite away from it either, and William realized that wherever they were going, they were leaving the world behind.

“That way,” Death said. “First star to the right, and straight on till morning. It’s going to be O.K. Just trust me.”

“I really will miss it,” Will admitted. “It was beautiful.”

“I know,” Death agreed. “Are you ready?”

Will nodded. “Let’s go.”

Death Takes the Highway by David McLain – Part 8 of 9

You can find Part 1 here. Find David McLain here. Or check out his novel, The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum  in either paperback, hardcover, or ebook. Then, keep reading!

It took them about twenty minutes to get the tire off and put on the spare. (William was pleased to discover that they had a full-sized spare. He could only imagine that a dough-nut on the MG probably would have been about the size of a life saver.) They found their way back to the highway, and drove off toward Oklahoma City. They took a room at a Holiday Inn in Tulsa. Death promised that they would make it to New Mexico the next day, which meant leaving the last dregs of winter behind them.

By day break the next morning both William and Death looked like men in the prime of their lives. The gray was mostly gone from William’s hair and the crinkles around his eyes had disappeared too. His nose was less bulbous than it had been three days ago, and his eyebrows looked less like a national forest. He tried to put his pants on. They were too big.

“Look!” he said, and he held out the waste of his pants so that Death could see how big they were. “And I owe it all to you!”

“Mine too,” Death said, smiling. “Have you got a belt?”

“I do,” William admitted. “But they’re going to look stupid.”

“So, get rid of them,” Death suggested.

“How’s that?” William asked.

“You’ve got two other pairs, tear those up. I’ll do mine too. We’ll go hit the pool.”

They cut their pants off at the knee and used them as trunks, then went down to the pool. They swam a few laps, and then got into the hot tub. After what felt like a year in the cold car, it felt good to sweat. William got out of the jacuzzi feeling young and wonderful. They ate a light breakfast and got on the road. By mid-day, they were rolling through the plains of north Texas.

The flat plains of Kansas had made the night sky seem almost impossibly big, as if you were going to slide off of the planet, but this was nothing compared to the open skies of Northern Texas. It was a beautiful day, the heavens were filled with fluffy white clouds, and the air felt clear. At a rest stop, Death and William took off their coats. William tried to stick his in the trunk, but Death shook his head.

“We should dump them,” he insisted, and he put a hand on his shoulder.

“What, in the trash?” William said.

“Gloves and hats too,” Death said.

William didn’t understand. A part of him was still an old man who had spent a life time collecting odds and ends, and the idea of simply chucking away a perfectly good coat seemed ridiculous to him. “Are you sure?”

“You won’t need it,” Death said.

“We could give them to the Salvation Army,” William suggested. “Something.”

“No one wants the clothes of a dead man,” Death said. “And no wants my coat, period.”

They got back into the car. It took them until evening to cross into New Mexico, and even then, it would be another several hours before they made it to Albuquerque. Still, the weather was nice, and for the first time they found themselves rolling down the windows in the MG, and letting the cool air roll into the little car. Death found some jazz on the radio, and they told stories about all the places in the country that they’d been to. (In Death’s case, he’d been everywhere.) They got as far as Tucumari, a little way station in the middle of the New Mexico desert. They ended up spending the night at a youth hostel, where for little more than the change in their pockets they slept on the floor of a tepee in a pair of borrowed sleeping bags. Will was surprised at how warm it was. In the morning, they woke up with the daylight, and bathed in water provided by a hot spring in the ground. Anyone who looked at William and Death would have seen two men in their mid to late thirties- tall, lean, well built, in the best part of their lives, with middle age about to come on them. William’s high forehead might bother him one day, but that day was still several years off, and the very slight touch of gray at Death’s left temple suited him. Looking in the mirror that morning a thought came over William, one he hadn’t had in a long time- he was handsome. He wouldn’t have liked to admit it, but in his heart, this struck a chord, and for a moment he remembered the arrogance of youth- when the world seemed to be made for you to conquer, and reshape, and make into your own. The owner of the youth hostel probably wondered if they were gay, but never asked, presumably considering herself above such petty interests. They got in the car and drove west, toward Albuquerque, Arizona, and the American Desert.

People from Arizona were always eager to tell you how cold it was during the winter, and while William could see their point, these people hadn’t usually spent most of their lives in the frozen northeast. They pulled the car over in a dry plain on a mountainside, and took a whiz in a patch of pine trees.

“You want to race?” William asked.  He was lying in the dry Arizona grass, staring out at the horizon. There was a stretch of about a hundred yards of even ground in front of them.

“What do you mean, a foot race?” Death asked, and then he added. “I’ll win, you know that right?”

“Who says?” William asked.

“Everyone in the history of planet earth,” Death pointed out.

“I don’t care,” William admitted. “I just want to run. I haven’t run in years. I think it would feel good. I remember when it used to feel good just to run.”

They lined up, and ran, and William cheated, and Death fell, and he lost. “I’ll get you eventually,” he said, and he raised his hands up like a specter and went “OOOOOOOooooooo.”

By the time they pulled into Flagstaff that day William had lost all sense of age. He was, he figured, roughly two or three years younger than he’d been when his daughter was born, and younger still than she was now.  The world felt big and exciting, and William wanted to be a part of it. He wanted to mix up with things, he opened up and let out a mammoth scream celebrating his existence and the world and everything that is and everything that was.

“How do you feel?” Death asked. They were eating French Toast and milkshakes in a silver bullet diner that had probably been built in 1928.

“I feel great,” William said. “Better than I have in- well, just better. I feel wonderful.”

They had both taken off their sweatshirts, and were wearing t-shirts and jeans. A young waitress with black hair and breasts that smile had taken their order and was eyeing either Death or William, but they weren’t sure which one.

Death Takes the Highway by David McLain – Part 7

Find Part 1 here. Find David McLain here. Find David McLain’s novel, The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum here. Then, keep reading…   

The center of the country was still cold, although they were definitely heading south. By mid-afternoon they had left the suburbs of the city behind, and were heading through the rural heartland of the country. William had driven across the country, long ago, when he was young, but it was easy to forget how varied different parts of the United States were. The MG rolled along past farmland, which, while barren during the winter, was nonetheless impressive, and majestic to look at. William reflected how, much like New York, Illinois was dominated by a very different landscape once you left it’s principle city behind. It was late in the afternoon when he and Death crossed the Mississippi.

If you’re an American, there is nothing in this world like crossing the mighty Mississippi. By the time he got there, Will was a man in his late fifties. His hair was no longer white, but salt and pepper, and his hands were strong. The grip of the wheel felt good underneath his palm and his back was hurting less than the day before. Death looked better too. The two men pulled up to a respectable three star hotel in Saint Louis, tired but pleased with the progress they’d made.

“What do you do for fun?” William asked.

“Sometimes, I go find a poker a game and I convince some poor sap to play for his soul,” Death admitted.

“That’s terrible,” Will said, but he was laughing as he said it.

“I always let the guy win,” Death admitted. “He usually goes home and quits smoking afterwards.”

Saint Louis struck William as a grim and not entirely pleasant city. He and Death made the best of it by heading out to a pool hall and drinking cheap beer, while they tried trick shots and played a little nine ball. William discovered that once you were dead you didn’t care in the slightest who won or lost, but he had a good time anyway. In the morning, they found a bagel shop, and had sandwiches and coffee. After that they headed west, through the Ozarks.

Death had said he wanted to make good progress today, he’d grown a little tired of the cold weather, and was hoping to make it as far as Texas, perhaps even New Mexico. For the most part the trip went quickly, except that evening, somewhere near the Oklahoma-Kansas border, they got lost. In principle, even this would have been fine, except then something happened, and the car got a flat.

“Do you have triple A?”   William asked.

“No,” Death admitted. “I don’t have a cell phone either, not that there would be any service out here.” This was clearly true. They hadn’t seen anything that even remotely resembled a town for quite some time.

“We can change a tire,” William said confidently. At this point he was definitely in late-middle age. His hair was receding, his body was barrel-chested, his skin lacked the grayish tone it had taken on in old age, and his back felt strong. It occurred to William that he’d had back surgery about ten years ago to relieve the pain from a slipped disc. He had a feeling that if he checked, the scar wouldn’t be there any longer.

When they got out of the car William took a deep breath. It felt like spring. Early spring maybe, but it was definitely above freezing. The air felt good against his face. He was glad that they’d gotten the chance to get out of the car again. “Jesus,” he said, tapping Death on the shoulder. “Look at the stars.”

The car was so low to the road that William hadn’t really hadn’t gotten a chance to look up at the sky. They were in a stretch of rural Kansas, in what an Astronomer might have referred to as a ‘dark sky’ area, but what most people would have called to as “the middle of nowhere.” It was a clear night, and the Milky Way covered the sky from one horizon to the next. The whole universe was crystal clear.

“Impressive,” Death admitted, although he didn’t sound all that impressed.

Suddenly William thought of something. “Do you go to those places?” he asked.

“What,” Death asked. “The stars?”

“The stars, other planets, other galaxies, whatever,” William clarified. “Is there life out there?”

“I go to a few,” Death admitted. “But not as many as you’d think. Most planets are dead. Mostly, they’re empty lumps of rock and gas orbiting around globes of fire. Even most of the ones I go to are mostly barren wastelands. This place,” he pointed at the ground. “This is special.”

“Show me one,” William said. “One that you’ve been to.”

Death pointed up to a constellation.  “That one,” he said. “Saldabari, on the wings of Pegasus.”

“Really?” William asked. “There are aliens there?”

“There used to be,” Death said. “They’re gone now. It was a beautiful place though, oceans that were blood red and skies of a bright amber. There were creatures there that you wouldn’t believe. A world of brilliant minds and untamed possibilities.”

“Used to be?” William said, catching the sadness in Death’s voice. “What happened?”

“It didn’t last,” Death said.