Annelise loved the outdoors, animals, and art. As a teenager, her days were spent lying in the grass drawing her cat, or up in the trees studying the bugs that made their home in the leaves. She wanted to do them justice in her artwork. The young artist also loved to paint the flowers in the garden. Annelise captured everything in her sketch book except the horses in her life. As far as her equine friends were concerned, there was no time to sit and draw; time with them was far too precious to waste. Her day at the barn flew by, brushing, feeding, bathing, and most important, riding.
Now, years later, it saddened Annelise not to have a sketch some of her equine companions. Horses, like most other animals, rapidly disappeared during the early part of the twenty-first century, long ago cast out as an expensive nuisance and as a danger to the survival of humanity. Horses, no longer viewed as the sport of kings and a helper to man, were in danger of becoming a food source. Those seeking the perfect planet had eradicated the wondrous creatures that once lived freely and had such a symbiotic relationship of service with humanity.
One law after another was enacted. First no animals within city limits, and then no animals within three hundred miles of any population center. Zoos were outlawed because they created too much pollution and used too much water. The only way to see a real animal, exotic or domesticated, was to drive to four central locations, mostly in the plains of the Midwest and the deserts of the far West. Animals were now kept in a handful of sanctuaries. Where had all of these crazy laws come from?
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Read an Excerpt
A Tangeled Web
REJECTING TECHNOLOGY'S ASSAULT ON MOTHER NATURE
By M. P. Zarrella
Abbott PressCopyright © 2013 M. P. Zarrella
All rights reserved.
The dew-covered spiderweb in the tree outside the bedroom window sparkled like a diamond necklace under a jeweler's bright light. It caught Annelise's eye, as it did most mornings.
Years ago, while washing windows, Annelise found the perfect web in a big oak tree outside her bedroom. The nature lover abandoned her window washing that day to watch the tiny spider build a work of art. He seems to float as he creates his food-catching masterpiece, she thought in awe. It is more beautiful than anything I could paint. Annelise had studied art in college. Her creative eye noticed the beauty in nature that busy people missed. She knew the web and its builder would soon disappear, like so many other objects of nature; the modern world would take its toll on this intricate and beautiful handiwork.
Weeks later, knowing the job had to get done, Annelise began the window-washing project again. When she saw the web, Annelise realized the tiny spider had not been around for several days. She knew his work of art would also vanish if something wasn't done to preserve it. The thoughtful mother decided to save the spider's creation. That afternoon, when James got home from school, his mother greeted him at the door. "Jimmy, come out to the big tree with me. I want to show you something." She took her son by the hand and walked him around to the side of the house where the big oak tree stood, shielding their home from the elements with its long, strong limbs. "See that spiderweb? Isn't it beautiful?"
"Yeah, Mom, it sure is big! Hey, where did the spider go?" The youngster had obviously been watching the tiny creature as well. "I saw him wrapping his silk around a leaf the other day. What do they do with the things they trap?"
"I don't think it was a leaf, Jimmy, it was probably a tiny bug. He wraps it in silk until he needs food. Then when he's hungry, he eats the bugs he's got stored in those silk pouches." She moved a bit of scraggly hair from Jimmy's face. "Do you want to help me save this web? I haven't seen the spider for several days. This web is so beautiful, and if we never see another spider, I want to be able to save at least one piece of their handiwork."
"Sure, Mom, I can help you. Are we going to mount it like you do your pictures?"
"Oh no, Jimmy. I want to preserve it right here in the tree. Let's go to my studio and find a backing board and some spray lacquer. You'll enjoy this project."
The two nature lovers worked together. First they found a ladder so James could climb safely while protecting the full eighteen-inch diameter of the web with the cardboard backing. James held it steadily behind the spiderweb. The cardboard was supported by the ladder's supply shelf and leaned against the ladder's top. Annelise painstakingly sprayed the web with several light coats of clear lacquer, making sure not to spray too much and overwhelm the silk creation.
Their work paid off. Five years later, Annelise and James still enjoyed its splendor. She often caught James, now almost thirteen, standing at her bedroom window and admiring their beloved spiderweb.
Thinking of the day she and James toiled over that web brought a warm smile to Annelise's face as she stretched quietly on this Saturday morning in 2040. Her husband, Dan, lying next to her took the sleepy woman's attention away from the window. He turned to face her and stretched out his arms, choosing to cover his face from the sunlight rather than take it in like his wife. Annelise touched his arm. She wanted so much to wrap it around her and snuggle, but he had been very distant since his return from Japan three weeks prior. "Let's lie here in bed and ignore the world," she suggested as he pulled away.
"Why not?" was his reply. "The house is quiet." He rolled onto his side to distance himself from her and tried to go back to sleep. He adjusted the T-shirt that had become his nightly attire since his most recent work trip to Japan; he had had a bad fall while hiking, he'd told her. Dan said he was sore and badly scraped, and he did not want his wife to worry about it. Seeing him in that T-shirt made Annelise feel an emptiness. In all their years of marriage, he had never worn clothes to bed, and this injury was the first time she'd been asked to stay away. They had always cuddled at night, and she would nestle in his arms to catch up on events of the day. As a wife and mother, she was used to taking care of her men; it did not happen often, but when James or Dan got hurt, they came to her. Watching him turn away from her hurt and made her wonder how much longer it would take him to heal from that bad fall and come back to her physically and emotionally.
I miss you, Dan.
Annelise sighed and adjusted the pillow to get a better view of the glistening web. While Dan slept, she enjoyed the simple solitude of the morning, trying not to disturb their sleeping son, who, at almost thirteen, now preferred to be called James.
* * *
The murmur of electronics in the house did not mask the melody of her life-giving breath. The sound of appliances was the only daybreak music heard in 2040. Annelise missed the morning chorus that greeted her as a child. No longer did chirping birds or barking dogs make up the morning's song. This day, like so many others, the hum of the alarm clock and the click of the ceiling fan were the only music she heard. Life in the modern world was certainly different from the days of her youth.
Suddenly, earth-shattering screams of terror broke the morning repose. "Mom, come quick! Dad's hurt!" What? thought Annelise, Dad is right here with me.
At that moment, Dan grabbed her wrist and glared with a menacing look of hate. "Not a word from you. Hear me?" The other hand reached behind his ear and pulled hard.
Annelise froze, not knowing what to do. Paralyzing fear ran through her. Who is this stranger in bed? Watching the veins pulse in his neck, she could not breathe for the pounding in her chest. Her heart was working overtime, and her lungs were unable to do their job as she gasped for breath. What is happening? She was frozen as her mind raced over the details that resulted in this moment.
For several weeks, Dan had been cold and distant, and acting strangely. Annelise had tried hard to figure it out; maybe it was the stress of work, constant travel, and his new boss. He had always been the neat person in their household, but overnight he had become very messy. That was not the only change in her husband of seventeen years. The couple used to enjoy simple things, like the color of the sunset or the sound of rainfall. Now those things simply annoyed him, which disappointed the earthy, nature-loving woman. So much had changed, especially since his latest trip to Japan, to bring Annelise Gilroy to the confusion of this morning. Petrified, she could not stop thinking, What is happening?
As he pulled, a flesh-tone mask ripped off his face, revealing he was not her husband.
"Mom, come quick!" James shrieked again, shaking Annelise back into the moment.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" One tear trickled down her left cheek as she demanded answers from the stranger in bed with her.
He sat up, freeing her hand as he did. "Do you think we would let you keep tending that herd of disgusting creatures? You think we don't know what you and your ridiculous associates are up to?" His tone was low as his eyes focused on the scared woman, staring at her with a penetrating glare full of malice and deep loathing.
As he reached for her arm, Annelise moved as far away as she could while still on the bed. She then turned to face him. "Where is my husband?" She was incensed by the audacity of this intruder, and without realizing the gravity of the situation, the words flew from her mouth.
"Didn't you hear your boy, you foolish whore? He must have gotten away from the guards and found his way back here. You have done a good job of keeping him in the dark, haven't you?" He tried to slap Annelise but missed when she ducked to the left. Her body was strong and agile from the lifestyle she so loved.
"What is shared with my husband is none of your business. What do you want from us?" Annelise stepped quickly off the bed. As she looked toward the door, she screamed, "Honey, I'll be right down. Is Dad breathing?"
"I want—no not I—we want," the stranger continued, his forehead now shiny with sweat as he reached out. Trying to grab her wrist, he leaned forward and onto his knees.
"Yeah, Mom, he's breathing and opening his eyes. Where are you? Come quick!" Fear punctuated each word.
At that moment, Annelise's flight reflex kicked in, giving her the agility to spin around and face the door without falling over. Adrenaline coursed through her veins, and her mind raced, looking for something with which to defend herself. She spotted the heavy lamp that sat on the nightstand: it was made of an old chunk of wood with metal accents. She grabbed it, spun toward the bed, and hit the stranger in the face as he groped in her direction. Annelise was on autopilot, making no conscious decisions and using instinct and adrenaline to get down the stairs and out the front door, which thankfully James had left wide open. Annelise felt her heart pumping like it never had before. She prayed the lamp had hurt the stranger enough to immobilize him until she reached her child and figured out what to do next.
She found James hovering over a body collapsed beside the bushes in front of the living room window. "Honey, don't ask questions. Just go bring the car."
"Mom?" James was obviously scared and confused by the request, knowing the security cameras on the streets of town would see everything. "You said I can't drive till I get my license." The only child was used to doing what his parents expected of him; they were fair and kind, so he had no reason not to. "I'm scared, Mom."
"James, listen to me. Don't ask questions. Just go!" The frightened youngster ran around to the side of the house where a carport housed the family vehicles. Annelise returned her attention to the man beside the bushes, who appeared to be Dan, though he was so dirty and covered in what looked like blood she could not be sure.
"I am sorry, Annie," the voice did sound like Dan; it was quiet and weak.
"What do you mean?" Her right hand stroked his hair, feeling the skin behind his ear. After witnessing the transformation of the stranger in her bed, she had to know there was no mask. Her left hand groped for somewhere to support him without causing pain.
The sound of the car getting close grew louder. From their position in front of the bushes, she looked up through the window and saw the stranger entering the upstairs hallway from the bedroom. He was awake!
"Tell me later. Quick, can you stand?" Annelise knew they had to get out of there immediately.
"Not sure; I think they shot me." Dan gasped for air as he tried to stand.
"Come on, let me help you. We've got to get to the car."
Thankfully, the active lifestyle Annelise loved meant lots of heavy lifting of hay, feed bags, and the like, so helping Dan stand and move was not that difficult. James reached over and opened the back door as his parents hobbled to the car. Annelise helped Dan into the back seat, and he scooted across the car. The car slowly rolled forward; with James focused on the activity in the back seat, his foot slipped off of the brake onto the floorboard. The youngster realized immediately what happened and smashed down on the brake, bringing the car to a sudden stop. His mother managed to stay partially inside the slow rolling vehicle. When it stopped, Annelise pulled herself in the rest of the way and slammed the door shut.
She nervously asked her son, "Do you feel comfortable driving to the depot where I leave my car? Don't worry about the cameras." James had done a wonderful job getting the car out of the garage. Thank goodness we let him practice on the driveway.
"Sure, Mom, I think I can." At almost thirteen, James was not yet a legal driver, but right now that did not matter.
"Well, go as fast as you can. Drive." With that, Annelise returned her attention to Dan, who seemed to finally be coming out of the fog.
"I don't know what is going on," he said. He could barely speak. "When I was in Japan, they kept asking me about you. I was supposed to be there to talk about James's idea for that digital dog game." He stopped to take a breath as her fingers fumbled behind the driver's seat to find a tissue and water bottle, to clean him. She found a bottle of hand lotion, which was good enough. With paper towels kept in the seat compartment, the milky white liquid did a good job of cleaning off some of the blood, allowing Annelise to see how badly injured he was. "They just wouldn't let up. They asked what you do all day."
"Sweetheart, relax, take a breath" she said.
Dan gasped as he tried to sit up and let her reach the back of his neck to continue the makeshift sponge bath. "They kept harping on you. Why are you so different from other American women they've met? Your tanned skin is different, your manner is different." Dan clenched his fist and then pulled her hand off of his arm and held it tightly. His hand was so cold. "They studied you, Annie—a lot. It made me furious hearing them talk about you; they know way too much about your life." He coughed and cleared phlegm from his throat. "I told them you've always been independent, and you like to be outdoors a lot, so you are tanned and fit. So what?" Dan suddenly pushed his wife's hand away and glared at her. "Why are they so interested in you anyway? What the hell is going on here, Annie?" Annelise thought her husband, having caught his breath, finally looked like himself. He was no longer void of color. His skin tone was back to normal and was no longer ashen. Blood flow brought a pale pink color into his lips. He was gaunt. His cheekbones cut a silhouette under the skin of his face, and his body was thin, weak, and worn. She wanted nothing more than to hold him and let him feel safe.
"Who are 'they'?" said Annelise. Her brain was trying to make sense of so many things. She was still focused on the man who had looked and sounded so much like her husband.
"My new bosses, the ones we had dinner with before I went to Japan last month. You remember? The two men working on James's Digidog idea."
"You mean Cyberdog, Dad," muttered James, annoyed by his father's comment while fumbling for control of the speeding vehicle. He was obviously taking in every word that was being said in the seat behind him. "It's Cyberdog!" the teenager grumbled again as he swerved to avoid hitting the curb.
"Sorry, son. Yes, it's Cyberdog" Dan acknowledged his only child, which was so normal for him even in this stressful situation. This is my Dan, no doubt about it, thought Annelise. Then she asked him, "Are you talking about the men who came for dinner before your last trip to Japan? I never saw them before that night and have not seen them since. I got the creeps from them. Remember that one guy who insisted on using the bathroom upstairs? I was happy when they left—I did not like them!" She worked to calm herself.
"I think you scare them, Annie. They aren't used to women like you who have a mind of your own. These Japanese men seem to think you still have pets. The entire flight back here, they sounded paranoid, telling me you've stashed animals away somewhere, and they were going to find them. They're crazy. We don't have any animals—we can't have animals here because it's the law. I told them you see your horse once in a blue moon; he's on the God damn reserve, like the rest of them. All we have are these digital things, for Christ's sake!" Dan coughed, almost choking on his own saliva. Annelise leaned forward, unsure about what to do to help him. He pushed her back into the seat and cleared his throat. "I was fed up with the interrogation and tried to get back to the digital dog game. We were still on the airplane. That is all I remember. Then I woke tied up in a storage room with this big goon watching over me; he didn't speak English like the others. I haven't seen the others in almost three weeks." Dan rubbed his face as he spoke, as if to bring forth the memories from deep within his psyche.
Excerpted from A Tangeled Web by M. P. Zarrella. Copyright © 2013 M. P. Zarrella. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 2040 animals were legislated out of normal life, only permitted to live in government sanctuaries. Plants were frozen in suspended animation. Food and water supplies dwindled as the world population continued to increase. Most people were immersed in technology including robotic pets and lost sight of nature, but not all. A small group of people secretly preserved animals and planned to move to a deserted island to live in harmony with them in a natural environment. Sadly there were pitfalls, among them disorganization and discontent, threatening the success of the project. Does Zarrella give us a realistic peek into our future, or is this just fiction? You decide.
This book was an excellent read. It made me think about how this really could happen. I was able to identify with several characters in the book and that made the book come to life. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves novels about life, family, animals, being outdoors and adventures!