Powers: A Novelby John B. Olson
“Bury me standing. I must be buried standing.”
Powers, the follow-up to John Olson’s Shade (“a must-read for those who enjoy Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti” Publishers Weekly), introduces a sheltered Gypsy girl named Mariutza. Her grandfather utters a mysterious last request before dying in her arms after/i>/i>/i>
“Bury me standing. I must be buried standing.”
Powers, the follow-up to John Olson’s Shade (“a must-read for those who enjoy Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti” Publishers Weekly), introduces a sheltered Gypsy girl named Mariutza. Her grandfather utters a mysterious last request before dying in her arms after being shot by ten cloaked men.
Those same men die before her eyes, but strange powers continue to pursue Mari through the swamps of southern Louisiana where she has always hidden from “the Badness.”
The whole world seems to join in the chasehelicopters, soldiers, government agents, and the police are all trying to kill her. Mari’s only hope of survival is to find Jaazaniah the Prophet, the mythical hero of her grandfather’s bedtime stories. But she has never been outside the swamp or known other humans besides her grandfather and one teacher. How can this lone girl survive the bewildering world of men long enough to find a prophet who might not even exist?
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By JOHN B. OLSON
B&H Publishing GroupCopyright © 2009 John B. Olson
All right reserved.
Smooth moonlight, Soft and timid as a sleeping babe's breath, seeped through the forest canopy, painting Old Man Oak's mossy beard with twisting ribbons of silver and shadow. The swamp folks were full awake now. All stoked up with joy, singing hallelujah for the tolerable coolness of another summer night. Bachelor bullfrogs barked out their steady bass against a piercing cicada threnody. Crickets and peepers and creepers hollered their praises full on top of the other, singing out to the Lord for the blessings He hath made.
It was a glorious song, filled with deep magic and considerations of awesome wonder. It made a body thankful to be alive. Squish-squashing through soft cool mud. Hop-scotching dead wood and fresh fallen branches. Pausing to look out across dark star-dusted waters where the proud Cypress sisters, skirts hitched high above dark bony knees, waded through reflections of ringing light. Swaying and sighing to the night music. The sounds of blessed freedom and sweet never-ending joy.
Mariutza let loose with a wistful sigh and felt her way through the dark forest. Purodad would be getting home soon. He was going to be mad as a dirt dauber when he learned she'd run off again.
But she couldn't just sit there in the wagon and let him lock her up. She was a proper lady now, a full-grown woman-Miss Caralee said so herself. Proper ladies didn't hold to being locked up in diddlecars. Proper ladies had work to do. Washing and cooking. Tending to the nets.
Gradually, step by step, the forest opened out into a moonlit clearing. Mari tiptoed around a sun-burned vegetable patch and ran for the cover of a gnarled old oak tree. Miss Caralee would take her side. Purodad was getting superstitious in his old age. She'd said it herself. She wouldn't stand for any more of his nonsense. That's what she called it: utter nonsense.
"Yoo-hoo! Miss Caralee?" she called out from behind the old oak. "Don't shoot. It's me, Mariutza."
She peeked out at a ramshackle hut pieced together with drift-boards from the storm. "I'm coming out now. Just me alone." Stepping out from behind the tree, she hesitated. The cook fire wasn't burning and there weren't any candlelights shining through the windows. Caralee couldn't be off visiting. It was long time past dark. Had she already gone off to bed?
"Here I am. Walking to the door!"
A scrape sounded inside the shack. The clank of metal against metal.
"Don't shoot. It's me!" Mari put some wind behind her words. Miss Caralee's eyes were sharp as stickers, but her ears were starting to wear thin.
A strong voice, dry and weathered as sun-bleached driftwood, called out through the screen. "Lands, chile. What you doin' out the door? Night's most black as soot. Don't just stand there gawping like a catfish. Come on up!"
Mari ran up to the shack and sat down on the smooth old stump just outside the narrow door.
The screen flared bright as a match struck against the jamb post. Hollow cheeks and soft dark eyes. The flame flickered and steadied as it took hold of a tallow candle. Miss Caralee pressed it against the screen and peeped outside, squinting into the darkness like it was light.
"Your grandfather know you out this late?"
"He said he was going to lock me up. Keep me in the diddlecar till I learned some sense."
"Mmm-hmm ..." The ancient woman sighed. "That man! What have you gone and did now?"
"I was just looking. Didn't nobody seen me. There haven't been any hunters since spring."
"Lord have mercy. Spying on the road again. Don't you have work to tend?"
"No, ma'am. I done finished it. But if Purodad locks me up, I won't be getting nothing done. He thinks he can do it all himself, but you know he can't. He's got town folk to visit. Healings to tend."
"Hush up, chile. Ain't nobody locking nobody up, but you listen to me. You a grown woman now. Time is for you to be telling him what to do. If you want to go running your skirts through the pluff mud, that's nobody's business but your own-so long's your work's done-but laws ... spying on the road? I told you that myself. If Mr. Jonah say it ain't safe, it ain't safe."
"But if they don't see me-"
"You think your grandfather don't know what is? Folks all around paying him good money for his sight, and you too good to listen?"
"No, ma'am." Mari looked down at the ground and tried to put some respectful attitude in her voice. "But I was just-"
"Just say you're sorry and don't do it no more. That's all he want."
"But, if nobody seen me-"
"If? That's what that little white spot say? If?" Caralee jabbed a gnarled finger at the screen.
Mari caught her breath. She was pointing at her chest. Had Purodad told her? It was supposed to be a secret.
"That's right. That little white spot on your chest. You was the one what prayed a healing? That how you know so much more'n Mr. Jonah?"
"I wasn't saying ..." Mari's throat tightened, choking off her words. "I didn't mean to ..." Her eyes filled with tears. "I-"
"You a sweet girl. I know you don't mean nothing by it, but you got to listen to your grandfather. Mr. Jonah's got the sight. If he say it ain't safe, it ain't safe."
"Yes'm." Mari hung her head and blinked her tears onto the ground.
"That's right. Maybe he ought to lock you up. Running off in the middle of the night and scaring a body half to death. That how I taught you?"
"That's right. Now get on to that fancy diddlecar wagon of yourn before he sets the hunters on you hisself."
Mari nodded and looked up at her teacher. The old woman's mouth was pressed firm, but her eyes still had the laugh in them. If she wasn't too angry, maybe she'd be willing to-
"Go on. Get going. And don't peep out of that wagon till Mr. Jonah say it's safe."
"Maybe if you come with me, he won't be so-"
A scream blasted through Mari's senses, sending her staggering into the screen. Another scream. Another. They were inside her head, dozens and dozens of them, clawing and scratching like possums in a wire cage.
"Lord have mercy. What's gotten in you, chile? What you going on?"
"Don't you hear them?" Mari swung around and searched the shrieking darkness. The whole forest echoed with ringing silence. The frogs and peepers and creepers, they were still as the deep waters. Even the mosquitoes had left off their buzzing.
"Lord have mercy." Caralee jangled with the latch and pushed open the screen. "Come in the door, chile! It's the Badness. It's the Badness for sure!"
A hand closed around her arm and tugged her back toward the door.
"No ma'am, please. I can't!" Mari twisted free of her teacher's grasp and jerked away from the doorway. She was being ornery and obstinate and desperately wicked, but she didn't have time to put on the respect. The Badness had found the woods. She was supposed to be making for the hiding place.
"Come on, chile. This ain't no house to fear. Get in the door!" Feeble hands pawed at Mari's back. "Get in the door now!"
Another scream rattled up her spine, filling her head with the rabble of a hurricane. She weren't a baby no more! Miss Caralee didn't know anything. A real Standing didn't go inside. A real Standing wasn't supposed to be afraid!
"Chile, please." Caralee whimpered in her ear. "Come in the door. Mr. Jonah'll understand. He just want you safe ..."
Mari twisted away and pushed across the cook yard, leaning into the dark waves crashing against her mind. She had to get to the hiding place. It was in the training. She had to get to the hiding place now!
Pale blue moonlight appeared before Mari's eyes. A patchwork of branches, bobbing up and down. The soft glow of a distant lantern set in a shuttered window. Their diddlecar! The Badness had found it!
"Purodad!" Mari broke into an all-out run. Through the garden, across the clearing, dodging in and out between the shadows of phantom trees, she leaped and twisted and splashed through the roiling blackness. Jolting moonlight flashed inside her head. Cloaked figures, maddening screams, the slap of raking branches.
The Badness! The swamp was drowning in it. Suffocating, choking, soaking deep into her soul. A dim shadow swept past her, catching her arm and spinning her around. Tangles of grasping vines, sucking mud, splashing water.
"Purodad!" The forest shifted around her. "Purodad, I'm coming!"
The weight of a hundred staring eyes pressed into her brain. They knew where she was. They would destroy her, suck the marrow from her bones. She was theirs now. Helpless and alone. There could be no escape.
Clawing at her face and hair, she threw herself to the ground, rolling over and over across the bracken. It was in her head. Pouring out from deep inside her filthy heart.
A gunshot sounded against her screams. Distant shouts.
"No!" Mari fought to her feet and stumbled forward, ripping through clinging stickers, pushing through clacking reeds. She was running now, faster and faster toward the distant light. The diddlecar pounded and jolted into view. A light jumped and flared in the window. "Purodad?"
Throwing open the door, she dove inside and rolled. Onto her knees, grasping at the swinging door, she slammed it shut and yanked down on the bolt. She scoured the interior of the wagon with darting eyes. Her grandfather wasn't home yet? That meant he was still-
An exultant scream shook the wagon, sending Mari crashing into the floor. A chorus of answering howls jolted like lightning through her body. Purodad was out there. He was out there with them.
Holy One, please ... I can't do it. A tremor shuddered up her spine, sucking the heat from her body. I know I can't. She climbed unsteadily onto her feet and slid back the door bolt.
Blackness pushed into the wagon, filling her mind with a muzzy haze. Help me. She tumbled out of the wagon and landed in a heap on the ground.
Another howl rattled into her brain. Mari's stomach seized up. She was on her hands and knees. Her stomach heaved, over and over. The Badness buzzed in her head like a swarm of cuckoo bees. Filling her, surrounding her, covering her skin with stinging pain.
Holy One, please ... She pushed onto her feet and tottered forward. He was out there. Out there with the Badness. Her gentle, crinkly eyed grandfather! She broke into a run, faster and faster, charging through thickets, plunging through rending, tearing thorns.
Another gunshot rang out. Another and another. Flashes of sparking light.
A jolt slammed into her, knocking her onto the ground. Tongues of burning darkness licked at her skin, coiling around her arms, forcing their way into her mouth and nose. A scream convulsed her body, but the Badness wouldn't let it escape. She was drowning in it. Couldn't breathe.
A sudden explosion of blinding light ripped through the forest. Shining through her eyelids, into her skull, penetrating deep into her brain. The swamp shook beneath her, sending her skittering across the ground. The earth was moving, tilting onto its side. Mari grabbed at a sapling, clung to it with both hands as she was tipped out over the inky blackness of the night sky far below.
The light faded slowly and finally winked out. Suddenly the ground was beneath her again and the sky was back in its rightful place. Silence rang like a bell. Its throbbing echoes reverberated in her ears. Something had happened. Something deep and awesome in its all-consuming terror. She rolled onto her back and lay, panting and trembling, at the bottom of the deep moonlit night.
"Purodad?" Her whisper shouted against the silence.
A thud sounded in the distance. The crackle of dry leaves.
"Puro-" Her voice caught in her throat as a rustle shook the undergrowth nearby. Something was moving toward her. Something big.
Mari rolled over and tried to climb onto her feet, but her legs were heavy as wet shrimp nets. She couldn't move. Couldn't lift herself from the covering weeds.
A gurgling rasp sounded from the edge of a clump of trees. It was getting closer. Mari struggled onto her knees, but she could only stare. A low shadow was creeping through the foliage. Panting breaths. Sputtering gasps.
The figure broke through the leaves and collapsed at the base of the trees.
"Purodad!" Mari jumped up and stumbled toward her grandfather. "Purodad!" Her eyes filled with tears. She collapsed in a heap at his side and clutched at his hand.
A dark stain slowly spread across the old man's stomach. He was coughing now. Gasping for breath.
"No!" Mari pushed off the ground and knelt at his side. "Stay right here! Miss Caralee'll know what to do."
"Quiet!" her grandfather barked. "Listen to me!"
"But Miss Caralee ..." Mari clasped his hand to her chest. "I'll be right back. She'll pray a healing. You'll see. Everything's going to be fine. I'll be-"
"Listen to me! This is my time. Nothing can stop it now."
"Grandfather, no! We'll pray-"
"You're no granddaughter of mine!" the old man rasped. "No relation at all. Hear?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" A sob wracked her body, sealing off her throat.
"No relation at all." The man's face tightened and his head lolled back onto the ground.
"I'm sorry," Mari blurted through her tears. "I tried to hide. I didn't think they seen me. I-"
A wheezing sigh cut her off. Her grandfather's eyes were still open. His lips were trembling. He was trying to talk.
Mari leaned closer and shook the tears from her eyes. His breath was coming in short gurgling gasps. Finally he took a hiccupping breath and let it out in a long sigh.
"Find him. I want you to promise me. Find him first. Then find the others."
"Find who? Miss Caralee?"
"Shhhh ..." Purodad's face tightened into a grimace and gradually relaxed with another sigh. "Dig the grave yourself. Round. Two and a half feet wide. Hear?"
"No!" Mari shook her head. "You're not going to die. You can't. You're the prophet-"
"Hurry. They're gone now, but they'll be back soon." His eyelids fluttered and slowly drifted shut. "Bury me standing. I must be buried standing."
Jazz took a deep breath, letting the smoke-laced air slide across the mic in a long, rasping sigh. E minor. He switched keys, blending the Steinway's plaintive tones to the sound of his breathing. A high-pitched buzz rang in his ears. The room was starting to spin again. He shut his eyes and pressed his chin against the microphone, a solid anchor against the gently swaying room. The murmur of distant voices lulled him. Gulf waves crashing against a distant shore. Soft, soothing. A balmy breeze on a warm winter afternoon.
A woman's tittering laugh shocked him back to the present. Had he quit playing? He glanced up at the manager of the club. Gerard was leaning over the bar, talking to a brunette in a neon pink top. The whole building could burn down and Gerard wouldn't notice. But the customers ...
Jazz blinked the grit out of his eyes and upped the tempo, hammering at the old ivories, left hand battling the right in a discordant duel between majors and minors. One by one the murmuring voices died away, leaving the bar frozen in silent expectation. Jazz could feel their confusion, the building sense of anticipation. He took another breath, filling his lungs with burning pain. His right hand hammered harder, faster, building to a last frenzied gasp before collapsing under the weight of the throbbing bass. C washed away by E minor. Hope swallowed up by despair.
"Washed, washed away with the waters ..." Jazz's rasping voice slurred in and out through the tumbling notes. "Many lost ... many more, many maybe ... many more waiting to be found." The lyrics scraped past raw vocal chords. Two hours tops. It was all he had left. "Washed, washed away with the waters ..." He flung the words into the room, letting them splash like a pounding tide against startled concrete faces.
"I remember, I remember, when I was young I remember most of the time ..." Jazz pressed his face to the microphone, filling his senses with the cold taste of metal and stale beer. "The sun so shining-bright on your face ... in the memory of moments we stole from this place, I can see that the ages will never erase ... most of the time."
Excerpted from Powers by JOHN B. OLSON Copyright © 2009 by John B. Olson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
John B. Olson holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin but left his job as a director and principal scientist at a major scientific software company after eight years to pursue full-time writing and speaking. He has since won several awards for his books. Olson lives with his wife and two children in San Leandro, California.
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POWERS I really enjoyed this book. It has a mixture of romance, mystery, suspense and a bit of paranormal/supernatural that would appeal to most any reader. It is also categorized as Christian Fiction and I hope any non-believer won't let it deter them from reading this book. While it has biblical nuances, and includes some references from the Bible which is the basis of the story line, it is a work of fiction and you won't be disappointed when you read it. Mariutza, aka Mari, is a naive young woman that was raised in the swamps of Louisiana as a gypsy, having never lived in a structured building or even been outside the swamp, but is also educated to some degree as well as trained in fighting techniques. Jazz, is a musician that seemingly has no place to call home and suffers from nightmares that he thinks are drug induced and visions of a beautiful girl he has yet to meet. The two are drawn together as Mari is sent on a quest from her dying grandfather to find a legendary hero, Jaazaniah, the prophet. I love trying to figure out the where's, why's and who's of a mystery and this book was not disappointing in my attempts, but the author keeps you guessing until the very end before he reveals the answer. I loved that!! He does however leave some questions unanswered and it is my hopes it was because he has another book coming that will reveal them. I like following characters in a series as they are developed into the core of the story line. While Powers can be a stand alone book, it is a follow-up to Shade and is also built upon a passage of scripture in the Bible. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars simply because of questions left not dealt with, but I think you will enjoy this book and will be anticipating a follow-up to it.
Powers by John B. Olson is the sequel to Shade, but you don't need to read that volume to be completely hooked by this compelling thriller. Mariutza has been raised in seclusion by her grandfather, taught to fight, to use her mental abilities to outwit the enemy, and to fear the outside world. But when he is killed by mysterious hooded figures, she flees from the swamp that has been her only home to the city of New Orleans to seek the mysterious prophet Jaazaniah. Jazz Rechabson is just trying to make enough money to make the rent playing piano at a music club when he has a vision of a man surrounded and killed by strange beings. When he comes to, he finds himself being pursued by those same beings and the emergence of strange abilities he has no idea how to control or use. The two must pair up to find out the secret that binds them both and just may hold the key to their survival. The first 50-75 pages were a bit of a rough read for me. While the action was intense, I couldn't figure out if this was our world or a world similar to ours and just what was going on. Then I relaxed and just let the story flow, and pretty soon the hours flew by, and I couldn't put it down. The reader is much like Mariutza : in a strange world, disoriented, with no grasp of the circumstances. Olson dribbles out the information in enticing tidbits that keep the pages turning. A sure-fire hit with fans of urban fantasy or the supernatural, as well as regular thrillers, this weird, astonishing read is a true treat.
Mariutza's grandfather, Purodad, and beloved teacher, Miss Caralee were murdered while Mariutza stayed helplessly hidden. Before her grandfather died in her arms, he told Mariutza what she must do. She had been kept hidden in the swamp and cared for by her grandfather, but now she was alone, and being chased by the Badness. She had to get out of the swamp and find Jaazaniah the Prophet. He was the only one that could help her now.... As soon as the book arrived, I was eager to start reading. Between the cover art and the blurb on the back, it looked like a fantastic read. I was not disappointed. From the first few paragraphs, I was drawn in, and had a hard time putting it down. I loved the characters of Mari (Mariutza) and Jazz (Jaazaniah) and found myself cheering them on. This is truly a page turner full of suspense and surprises, twists and turns, and even some conspiracy thrown in. "Powers" is the sequel to "Shade", but could easily be read as a stand alone book. Highly recommended!!
I'm a professional freelance editor, so I have a very hard time finding a novel that I can really get into and enjoy just for pleasure. With most books I read the first one to three chapters and put them down. But not this one! John Olson has written a captivating story with characters I cared about in intriguing situations, and lots of great plot twists. Can't wait to read the next John Olson novel!