Read an Excerpt
The Krybosian StairpathMagnetic Reversal
By S.R.R. Colvin
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 S.R.R. Colvin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Tale to Tell
"The morning wind ripped through my jacket with the ease of a knife slicing through water. I was near exhaustion, but knew I had to keep going. The climate grew increasingly desperate with each passing hour and, come nightfall, the entire world of Krybos would be uninhabitable. I knew that I'd become the only hope of reversing what had been set into motion earlier that day." Rocky Terrence paused briefly as if to contemplate a different outcome, then leaned forward in his chair and continued his story.
"I stretched my collar up as high as it would go and pressed on toward the tunnel entrance to Mount Zaltana. Mourgla, the evil mastermind of this impending destruction, trailed only minutes behind me, and he planned to stop me. That's when it happened."
"What, Grandpa? What happened?" Mica Terrence begged for more of the story. His enthusiasm for Grandpa Rocky's fabulous tales never waned. Mica loved an adventurous tale of mystery and terror. Oh, what he wouldn't give for an adventure of his own!
"Great gophers," Grandpa said. "I'm afraid we'll have to finish this one later, Mica. Your sister needs us over at the library."
Not far away, eleven-year-old MadisonTerrence found herself in a bad situation, not realizing it could easily have been much worse. Her anger and emotional desperation generated a powerful, invisible signal that crossed the small town of Cavern City, Virginia to reach Grandpa Rocky and Mica.
"Gees," Mica said, shaking his head in disappointment. He knew they had to get going because he had also received his older sister's call for help. This remote sensing ability to know when others were in danger came from Grandpa. He'd learned it during his youthful travels and had recently begun to instruct Mica and Madison on how to master it.
However, this ability came with a warning that it must always remain a family secret. And that's just what Madison didn't want, or need. More secrets!
Soon, Madison would find herself on a collision course with her family's mysterious past, and her own ultimate destiny. It had all started earlier in the day, with that substitute teacher....
Chapter TwoDead Time
They must be dead! Madison thought. She'd never seen the hands on a clock move so slow that they seemed stationary. Come on-move! She tried to wish it back into service.
With the clock on the classroom wall stalled at four minutes to 3:00 PM, Madison squirmed in her desk as if the seat scorched her bottom. She loved school, and usually dreaded summer break, but this year was different. Madison had a mission. She planned to spend the entire summer solving what she called the "Terrence Family Mystery" that had surrounded them for years.
Odd and sometimes unexplained occurrences shadowed her whole family. Because of it, Madison endured an endless onslaught of taunting and ridicule by her schoolmates, and by the town locals. Some people even seemed to be afraid of the Terrences.
Part of this mystery involved Madison herself. She had always been targeted by the kids in town because of her uncanny intelligence. But this year seemed, to her, to be the worst ever.
Madison ached to be normal. She couldn't help it if she remembered everything she ever saw or read. She didn't know why; she just could. Her teachers thought it was odd, but wonderful. Classmates thought it was really weird, and persecuted her because of it.
When Madison tried to disguise her gift, it always backfired. If she pretended that she didn't know the answer to a question, someone would say something so incredibly stupid that it caused her to blurt out the correct answer, just to put a stop to the nonsense.
The one person who did not think it odd at all was Grandpa. But he had a reputation for being a little eccentric, so of course he'd think it was normal. It was Grandpa Rocky who, in his youth, built the Terrence family fortune on the old rock quarry he ran at the end of the street still named for it. But, the quarry had flooded some fifty years ago leaving Grandpa no choice but to lay off the workers and barricade its entrance. Strangely, fifty years was exactly how long those mysterious stories and rumors had circulated about the Terrence family. Madison thought that was long enough.
This summer she intended to unravel the mystery, starting with a search of the school library archives. She knew there must be a local history book, newspaper article, or some sort of record that would reveal a clue.
"Stop it!" Madison demanded. She twirled in her seat to see what the warped kid behind her was doing now. As she spun around, her head snapped to a sudden stop and she yelped, "Ouch!"
"What?" Jacin Means asked innocently. He leaned back holding his hands up and trying to look genuinely surprised by her outburst.
"I didn't do nuttin'," Jacin said to the teacher, but the crooked smirk on his face revealed his true pleasure in having tied Madison's hair to the slats in the back of her chair.
The classroom erupted in laughter as Madison tried frantically to free herself.
Jacin chose the seat behind Madison on purpose because he enjoyed making her life as miserable as he possibly could. When she tried to switch seats at the beginning of the school year, the teacher wouldn't allow it.
If only that bell would ring. Madison refocused her attention on the clock that appeared to click off years instead of minutes. She wanted to get as far away from Jacin as she could, as quickly as she could. Three more minutes, Madison thought.
With the countdown commencing, she took a deep breath and pressed her shoulders against the hard wooden back of her desk chair. She slid down in the seat, trying to be invisible until she was free for the summer.
A tall woman with poofy hair, styled like the girls' in old Elvis Presley movies, stood at the front of the class. Madison thought this substitute teacher wore too much makeup, and a purple dress too long out of style, for a woman in her twenties. To Madison at least, she seemed out of place-or out of time. Unusual as it was to have a substitute on the last day of school, Madison was glad. Maybe, being a stranger, this woman wouldn't be singling her out to answer questions in front of everyone.
Moving to the blackboard, the teacher pinched the chalk in her fingers and drew a symbol on the smeary, streaky mess remaining after a week of writing and erasing chalk. After only a few strokes, Madison recognized the drawing as an ancient religious symbol of mysterious origin.
Great, Madison thought. She cringed in disbelief. No way anyone in this room will guess this one.
With the drawing complete, the substitute rotated on her heels and stopped to face the class. "Who knows what this is?" She extended her arm toward the symbol and turned her palm up as she lightly gripped the chalk, using it as a pointer.
It became obvious to Madison from the wave of bowed heads moving across the room and the sea of blank faces surrounding her that no one knew what it was. No one, that is, except her.
I'm not going to answer. I'm not going to answer, Madison repeated to herself.
Teachers always depended on her for facts and information. She liked 'knowing things,' but hated that it made her look like the teacher's pet. Not just a teacher's pet, but every teacher's pet. She tried ducking her head whenever a teacher asked a question, hoping to go unnoticed, but they knew where she sat. So when no one else could produce the answer, Madison would hear her name called. Instantly every head in the room turned to glare at her for being a know-it-all. Madison hated the attention.
But this time, she thought she enjoyed anonymity. The substitute didn't know her, and she would escape the final humiliation of the 2009 school year.
"No one knows?" The substitute scanned every face around the room as she maneuvered through the rows of desks. Suddenly she halted, and said, "I'll bet you know."
"Yea, book-babe, what's the answer?" a voice chided Madison from across the room and stirred another round of laughter at her expense.
Madison glanced up in disbelief. The odd-looking teacher leaned in and stared her square in the eye. It was the kind of stare a person could feel like a laser burning a path through its victim. Mesmerized, Madison struggled to regain control of herself. That's when she saw the teacher's hand inching toward the chalcedony crystal dangling from her necklace.
"Well...." Madison's voice trailed off as she wrapped her fingers protectively around her gem, and leaned away from the intruder.
What is going on here? Madison wondered. She couldn't be sure whether the woman meant to steal her gemstone or simply admire it. After all, it was a rare treasure. What Madison found really amazing was that a complete stranger had managed to single her out.
Rrrrrrrrring! The final bell of the school year sang out.
Instantly, the classroom became a whir of noise and movement as students ran clamoring for the door, with Madison in the lead.
Chapter ThreeMadison's Treasure
"I'm outta here!" Mica proclaimed as he darted past his sister, hoping not to get stopped for running in the hall. He was on his way to meet Grandpa Rocky, who waited on the sidewalk in front of the school. Mica and Grandpa were going downtown to play video games at the arcade.
"Whatever." Madison barely acknowledged him as he flashed past her. She had no interest in games and had never even been to the arcade. So, while they ventured into town, she headed straight for the school library and its archives. She would meet up with them later at the public library, just down the street from the school. But first, she would spend some time mining for information before the library closed for the summer.
"Ah-choo!" Madison sneezed and sniffled as she sifted through every paper and magazine in the archives, including some blanketed with a thick layer of dust. It seemed like no one else had touched this collection since the school library was built. And yet, nearly a year's worth of the local newspaper was missing.
"Miss Slonaker?" Madison leaned out of the archive room looking for the librarian.
"Child, it's the start of summer break. Why are you still here?" Sylvia Slonaker was more of a bookworm that Madison, but even she knew there were others matters just as important.
"I'm doing some research," Madison said. "I noticed that most of the Cavern City Gazette from 1959 is missing."
"That's strange-very strange," Miss Slonaker replied. She shifted her eyes upward from the book she'd been trying to repair and peered over the rim of her bifocals.
"Great, another mystery," Madison said as she slid her book bag off of the table and slung it over her shoulder. She waved her hand above her head as she left the library.
"Have fun this summer, but don't forget to keep reading!" Miss Slonaker stood and leaned toward the door in an attempt to force her voice down the hall.
By the time Madison emerged from the school, the parking lot was almost empty except for several teachers' cars. Students and parents alike had wasted no time leaving the grounds that day. Madison turned and made her way toward the public library, dodging sidewalk cracks and pondering the process that makes concrete expand and contract. Madison liked to analyze everything. She wanted things to make sense to her. If they didn't, she read and researched until they did make sense.
Suddenly, a weird feeling crept up inside Madison. It was a feeling that someone might be watching, or worse, following her! Without missing a step, she turned slightly to peer back over her shoulder. For a moment, Madison thought she saw a shadowy figure dart behind a building, just beside the school. She continued on her way, but was beginning to be very rattled by the creepy feeling that haunted her. Every few yards Madison turned her head to be sure that no one was following her. She thought she caught a glimpse of a tall figure, wearing a dark purple robe and hood, as it vanished into the surroundings. She stopped and scanned behind her, but saw no one.
Okay, that's weird. Madison thought. Nobody dresses like that around here, especially not in a warm month like June. She shrugged it off as a trick of the light, playing in the shadows cast by the tree leaves. She thought this was a reasonable explanation. However, Madison's scientific approach to earthly matters left her ill-prepared, and in constant danger from other-worldly forces. The events of this day had been leading Madison toward a sinister encounter.
A dangerous shadowy menace was drawing closer to her. It lurked behind one of the large oaks that grew in a neat, grassy row, separating the sidewalk from the road. The figure had crept up just behind Madison and threw back its hood to reveal a nightmarish face. As it reached for her throat, she stopped in her tracks.
"Freak!" blurted a tall, thin boy as he stepped out from behind a shrub and into her path.
"Uneducated jerk!" Madison shot back.
"I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to your freakazoid friend, behind you," Jacin said. "Good grief! I mean, that was too weird, even for your family!"
"What are you blabbering about?" Madison whirled around and surveyed the length of the sidewalk as far as she could see. There was nobody there.
She'd carried this feeling of being stalked all the way down the street, only to find Jacin blocking her way to the library. Jacin could always be counted on to cause trouble, and he always seemed to be causing it for her. Naturally, she assumed he was the explanation for her creepy feeling, so-with that mystery solved-she thought no more about it.
"What worse fate could possibly befall me today?" Madison's voice oozed with sarcasm.
Then she heard it. Clink! The clasp on her necklace broke and her beloved gemstone fell to the sidewalk, landing at Jacin's feet. Before she could react, he snatched it up in his bony hand.
"You give that back!" Madison demanded. She gritted her teeth. Her long blonde ponytail and neatly pressed clothes offered no clue to the fury that lay within. No one was as skilled as Jacin when it came to bringing it out of her. Not one to play games, she boiled with rage to be targeted by the meanest kid in her school. She thought he just might be the meanest kid on the planet! It seemed to her that everyone at school made fun of her uncanny intelligence and the Terrence family's peculiarities, but it was Jacin who enjoyed doing it the most.
"You give it back or I'll take it back."
Madison repeated her demand in a voice that climbed to a shrill pitch. It did that whenever she became angry or frustrated. And at that moment she felt angry, frustrated, and dead serious. Of course, she was always quite serious. A no-nonsense, straight-A student, her idea of an entertaining afternoon was reading college geology textbooks.
"What's the big deal? It's just some stupid rock." Jacin smiled with pride.
He smirked as he held the necklace with its bright green and red speckled stone high over his head, far out of its owner's reach. Jacin was very tall even for a 5th grader, and he used that to his advantage whenever he could. "Maybe this dumb ol' rock has some of those secret powers I've heard folks talking about," Jacin teased. He lowered the necklace slightly to take a closer look at the strange red flecks embedded deep inside. "It sort of looks like your friend's face."
"What friend would that be, you mush-brained moron?" Madison asked. She reasoned that since he was picking, it was more than fair for her to pick back. She had no idea who, or what, Jacin had seen sneaking up behind her just a few minutes earlier.
Excerpted from The Krybosian Stairpath by S.R.R. Colvin Copyright © 2009 by S.R.R. Colvin. Excerpted by permission.
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