Beyond our wildest imaginations, other worlds and dimensions exist that are vastly different than ours. These worlds beyond both fascinate and frighten us, but more importantly, they have the potential to bring a great good we never could have envisioned.
In this intriguing collection of stories that explores the ramifications of encounters with beings from the beyond, the appearance of a bewildering and elusive visitor to an eleven-year-old resident brings an unusual gift that turns his entire town inside out. Two young siblings-whose parents have just left them for a year with their callous aunt and uncle-soon discover they have an angry ghost to contend with as well. As a family moves into a strange house, they find the house a lot stranger than they bargained for. When a boy finds his school filled with the ghosts of fellow students and teachers, he is mystified when he sees these same people still alive in the flesh.
From Beyond to Here is a compilation of stories for young fans of the supernatural sure to entertain and raise questions about intriguing parallel worlds.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.72(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 11 Years|
Read an Excerpt
From Beyond to HereMerendael's Gift and Other Stories
By Andrew Marr
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Andrew Marr, OSB
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMerendael's Gift
* * *
I felt something strange and exciting in the chilly spring air as soon as I opened the door. The same dreary scene I saw every morning when I started out to school gave me no reason to feel anything like that: small, plain houses; the gas station at the corner; and the industrial park that dominated our neighborhood. With spring coming late, the trees showed no sign of sprouting leaves. Surely nothing magical was about to happen no matter how much my body tingled. Not that I've got much in the body department. I'm just an average eleven-year-old with a freckled face topped by washed-out blond hair that doesn't scare anybody with the name of Eddie Peterson.
I was just a few steps from my house when a flickering, like little dancing lights, caught the corner of my eye. I turned my head toward the parked cars on the street, but the flickering was gone before I really saw it. I guessed it was only the sun's reflection on a car's windshield until I realized it was too cloudy for the sun to be reflecting off anything. I tried to shrug it off, but my body was tingling more than ever. I looked all around me but still didn't see any more flickering, just browns and grays and colors too drab to be real colors. I shrugged off the tingling as best I could, concluding that I was having delusions of grandeur from reading too many fantasy books about boys who save the world. Of course, saving the world would be a lot more interesting than going to school in a dull neighborhood like mine.
I'd gotten halfway down the block when the flickering caught my eye again. This time, I turned my head slowly to try to catch out the flickering before it disappeared. The little squeak I made at the amazing sight just a few feet away would have been embarrassing if any of my friends had been around. There's no way I can describe what I saw, but I have to try. I saw a conglomeration of sparkling lights zooming in all directions like a little space ship. Several fire-filled eyes popped out at me, and wriggling shapes that could have been arms or legs or tentacles reached out to me. When I took a couple of steps backward, the thingamajig started to look more like a white horse prancing on somebody's front lawn. Then the horse dissolved into a shape that looked something like a twisted human being dressed in white with a billowing purple cape. Something like a horse's head swirled into the mix so that I could have been seeing an alien human riding a horse, but just as I settled on that notion, the arms and legs and tentacles multiplied so fast that it could just as well have been a giant squid. In short, I was totally disoriented, thrown for a loop, and turned upside down.
Do you—Do you see me? I felt the creature ask.
The words buzzed in my bones more than I heard them with my ears.
"I see you," I said. "Who are you? What are you doing here? Where do you come from?"
I am Merendael, answered the flickering being. I need—I need help. I want to give you a Gift. I need to give you my Gift.
"Where do you come from? What is your Gift?" I asked.
Something about the way Merendael said Gift made it feel like a capitalized word.
I come from my home, Merendael answered. A wave of sadness washed through me. I want you to receive my Gift. You must receive my Gift before it is too late.
Merendael's eyes made such wild circles in his other circling shapes that I wasn't sure if I was being asked to receive the Gift or being ordered to take it. I was about to say something like "Sure, bring it on," when I remembered that I had to make sure I wasn't helping an evil being take over the planet or destroy it by giving me a bomb.
"What do you want to give me?" I asked.
"Hey, Eddie! Who're you talking to?"
Brian Morton's voice doused Merendael faster than a waterfall putting out a campfire. He was like that. My insides turned a somersault when I thought of what was about to happen to my reputation now that Brian had heard me talking to an invisible creature. His vote always counted double in every popularity contest and triple in every unpopularity contest. Brian's dark, cold eyes made his square, handsome face look hard. He wasn't the biggest kid around, but he was the bossiest. The bull's-eye sewn on his dark gray windbreaker by his mother added to this effect. A single mother, it seemed she spent all her spare time doing everything Brian asked her to do. I'd been so absorbed by Merendael that I hadn't realized I'd been surrounded by Brian Morton and some of the other guys I hung out with, but maybe not for much longer unless I could do some fast talking. I looked around the ring of faces that had closed in on me for the kill, the fate of any kid who fell out of step with everybody else. Charlie Parker and Peter Newton stared at me exactly the way Brian stared at me, while Mel Ryan looked puzzled.
"Do you need some help?" asked Linda Sweeney.
She had stopped just beyond our circle with Molly McDonald and Sally Jones, the tallest and most athletic girl in our class. With her long, light brown hair that fell into place naturally, Linda was good looking without trying to be. The problem with her was that she was always trying to be so nice. Whenever I saw her coming, I ran away from her faster than a speeding bullet.
"The best way you can help me is by getting as far away from me as you can get as fast as you can," I replied to Linda.
Her face crumpled. I might have felt sorry for her, but Molly, with her dark hair framing her even darker eyes, gave me a poisonous look for hurting her friend. Neither of them seemed to understand that a boy did not dare say anything nice to a girl in front of other boys.
"Sorry, I forgot that the male race doesn't believe in caring about anybody," said Linda stiffly. "I'm sure that a kind and sensitive boy like Brian Morton will help you recover from seeing whatever frightening sight you just saw."
"What makes you think I just saw a frightening sight?" I asked, worried all the more that my reaction to Merendael, or whatever that thing was that I had seen, was so visible to so many kids.
"Usually, one's eyes don't open wider than a dragon's maw while asking who or what somebody is unless there is a cause that brings about that effect," said Dominic Boulanger, the class nerd, geek, genius, and weirdo. As usual, he was standing at a distance from everybody else. His long hair was all mussed up just to prove he was different. Dumbinic, as we called him, was staring at me in a way that made me feel like an exotic exhibit in a museum and made him look like he was wearing three pairs of glasses when he didn't wear glasses at all. What else could anyone expect of a kid who pronounced his name Boo-lawn-zhay? We called him Booboo when we weren't calling him Dumbinic. My only hope was to turn Dumbinic's unpopularity to my advantage.
"What makes you think you know more about cause and effect than anybody else?" I asked him.
"My superior brain's conformity to modern and postmodern science," Dumbinic replied.
Brian looked over at Dumbinic with a frown. My tactic was working! But then Brian looked back at me. My tactic had failed. Brian decided to stay on my case. I was juicier meat this time.
"Eddie, who were you talking to when there wasn't anybody around to talk to?" Brian demanded.
I was starting to feel that the whole sixth grade had formed a lynch mob around me. I wasn't used to that. What few fast-thinking skills I had were slipping out of my head like sand. One option was to tell the exact truth. Yeah, right. I looked about in case I saw Merendael flickering. I didn't, so I had to go for Plan B: lying.
"I was practicing for the tryout for the school play," I replied hastily.
The looks I got from my friends—assuming they were still my friends—reminded me that trying out for the school play was about as cool as talking to a strange creature that nobody else could see.
"What kind of part are you trying out for?" Brian asked. "Somebody who sees creatures so strange he doesn't know what they are?"
Not good. Charlie and Peter laughed at me. They had heard too much of what I'd said to Merendael.
"Uh—it's a play about somebody who sees a strange creature from outer space," I answered. "He has to try and find out who he is and what he wants."
Molly jerked back so quickly it made me wonder if she, too, had seen something like what I'd seen.
"Sounds like a dumb play," Charlie scoffed.
"Yeah, that's what I'm starting to think," I admitted, snatching at the chance to pretend that I didn't think trying out for the school play was cool any more than my friends did.
"Glad to hear you're starting to think," said Peter.
That stung, considering that Peter Newton was twice the airhead he needed to be to fit in with our little gang.
"The school play has nothing to do with space aliens," said Mel Ryan, a blond kid with a few freckles and a bleached face who sometimes made me suspect him of using his brain behind our backs. I was about to turn the tables on Mel by asking him how he happened to know anything about the school play when Hubert Hendricks, a plump boy with a fat lip who wasn't much good at anything, better known at Hopeless Hubert, lumbered up to us.
"What do you think is wrong with Hopeless Hubert today that isn't wrong with him all the time?" I asked.
All eyes turned toward Hopeless Hubert. As I had hoped, mocking Hopeless Hubert was a bigger treat than grilling me about my little conversation with an invisible friend.
"Hubert!" Brian called out.
"Your butt's sticking out."
Hubert instinctively turned around before realizing how absurd the wisecrack was.
"Well, what else can you expect from a kid named Hubert?" asked Peter.
That added to the laughter, but Molly and Linda gave me dirty looks that made me feel like a criminal. This time my tactic had worked. Brian and Peter and Terry kept up a string of creative insults for Hubert as we started walking the rest of the way to school. I thought I was going to be left in peace, but just as we reached the school, Mel held me back and gave me a sad, hurt look.
"You've never picked on Hubert like that before," said Mel in a low voice.
That was a real shocker. Mel knew better than to show concern for another human being in Brian's vicinity, or mine for that matter.
"So?" I flung back at him.
Mel flinched more than a boy should and shook his head sadly. "I thought you were better than that."
Another shocker. What in all the galaxies long ago and far away had I ever done to make a boy like Mel Ryan think I was too good a person to encourage Brian and the other boys to turn on Hubert? What in all the galaxies long ago and far away had I done to make Merendael pick me to offer his Gift to?
* * *
Nothing happened during school except the usual: boring explanations of boring stuff by teachers, paper wads flying about the classrooms, a carton of milk dribbling down a girl's back, and teachers scolding me for not paying attention. This time I wasn't paying attention because I couldn't get Merendael's flashing eyes out of my mind. Neither could I stop wondering who Merendael was and what he wanted to give me so badly. I kept waiting for that tingling feeling to come back, but it didn't. That made me worry that Merendael had given up on me and was going to appear to a nicer person. I couldn't blame Merendael for that.
After school, I met up with Brian and the other boys I hung out with. I could tell by the way everybody looked at me that the guys who hadn't seen me talking to an imaginary creature had heard all about it three times over. I would have to be careful not to make another misstep. Our first stop was the convenience store two blocks away. Everything looked normal, but nothing felt normal. The sun had come out during the day, and every time its reflection on cars and windows caught my eye, I feared and hoped it was Merendael.
"Hey, Eddie, what're you looking at?" Peter asked me.
"You look like you think the space aliens in this play you're trying out for are going to nab you any minute," said Brian.
Charlie suddenly grabbed me by the shoulders. "The space aliens have caught up with you!" Charlie cried.
"Bug off, will you?" I said. "I'm only afraid that Mrs. Ford's going to capture me and drag me into acting in that stupid play."
"We'll protect you," Brian promised me, giving me a rough pat on the shoulder.
The other boys smirked at me as I entered the convenience store. I threw out a silent dare to Merendael to show up in a place like this. He didn't take the dare. The woman at the cash register eyed us suspiciously the way she always did. Linda, Molly, and Sally Jones followed behind us with some other girls. In the crowded space, I had to battle elbows and shoulders to snatch up the treats I wanted and get them to the counter. The cashier looked at the candy bars, potato chips, and soda and threw a dozen daggers through my heart with her eyes. She took my money, but I could tell she thought I was stealing something from her just because some of the kids I hang out with did it all the time.
I pushed against the press of other kids to get myself out of the store as soon as possible, but a flickering light among the cars parked outside stopped me in my tracks and knocked my bag of corn chips out of my hands. Maybe Merendael hadn't taken my dare to enter the convenience store, but invading the store's parking lot was pretty close! The flickering petered out, and I stooped down to pick up my bag of corn chips, but I'd barely gotten my fingers on it when the flickering images of Merendael hit me full in the face. As before, I had no idea what I was seeing. This time, I thought I saw a mane of long, flowing hair, but it billowed like a long purple cape. The fiery eyes—if they were eyes—looked yellow and then red. I got the feeling Merendael was upset with me for badmouthing him and denying his existence. There was no mistaking the sun's reflection off of cars and windows for this vision.
Are you seeing me now? Merendael asked me. The question shivered through my body. Before I could answer, Merendael lifted his hooves to trample me for what I'd done and hadn't done. I shrank back but then fell forward under the weight of a body plowing into me. The corn chips crunched under my shoes. Mel caught me before I fell flat on my face and eased me back to a standing position.
"Why'd you stop like that? I almost spilled my Sprite," Peter complained.
"Sorry," I answered.
"Then why did you stop so suddenly when I was right behind you?"
Why did you back away? Merendael asked me. I am only trying to give you my Gift.
"I'm sorry, I thought you were mad at me," I replied. "You can give it to me now."
"Talking to your invisible friend again?" Brian asked me. "Or is this another invisible friend of yours?"
Again, Brian's voice had made Merendael disappear. Merendael had made me lose all track of where I was and who was around me. Nobody else showed any sign of having seen Merendael except Molly, whose eyes were wide as if she'd seen something, but if she had, she didn't admit anything in front of the other kids any more than I was going to. Dominic was standing at the edge of the parking lot staring at everybody with his usual poker-face. I decided the best way out of the situation was to play my zany humor card.
"Oh, I was only talking to a monster I saw passing by," I said.
"O-o-o-oh! I'm scared!" Peter cried out in mock horror.
"How come you can see it when we can't?" Brian asked.
"Because my eye doctor just gave me a monster lens implant," I replied.
"What does the monster look like?" Peter asked.
"Uh—something like a giant horse with about a hundred eyes," I replied.
"Sounds like a space alien to me," said Charlie.
"Does the space alien want us to take him to our leader?" asked Peter.
"Are you going to build a space ship in your backyard to help little E.T. get home?" Brian asked in a mock sympathetic voice.
"I don't build spaceships for lost space aliens," I answered.
"Did you hear any weird music when you saw what you think you saw?" Mel asked me.
That stopped me cold. Brian gave Mel a look that should have made him squirm, but he didn't. If Mel was tuning in to Merendael and getting some of the same signals from him that I was, then maybe Merendael was real. I sharpened my ears, daring Merendael to sing to me, but he didn't call my bluff.
"I didn't hear any music," I said stoutly. "I think the sun reflecting off everything is making me see funny things, and I think the traffic noise is doing something to your ears."
Something seemed to collapse inside of Mel. Maybe I'd hurt his feelings, but he wasn't supposed to have feelings that could get hurt.
"You play your clarinet too much," said Brian in his most dismissive tone.
"Hey! You guys!" the counter clerk of the convenience store called out from the door. "This isn't the place for school assemblies!"
"All right, we get the message," said Charlie.
Brian took the lead in moving our group away from the convenience store, taking care to go off in a different direction from the one the girls had taken.
"Is the alien following us?" Charlie asked.
"He's gone," I replied.
"Is your invisible friend really gone, or is he hiding?" asked Brian.
"I can't see him," I said. "Satisfied?"
"Are you hearing any more of that music?" Brian asked Mel.
"Do you really think it's a space alien?" asked Peter.
"Or are you just going crazy for the fun of it?" asked Brian.
"It's nothing," I said, hoping that was the truth but fearing that it wasn't.
* * *
There were a couple of reasons why I always had trouble concentrating on my homework: 1) my sister, Beth, and I had to do it at the dining room table, where Mom and Dad could keep an eye on us to make sure we didn't goof off, and 2) we were constantly distracted by the television blaring just thirty feet away with our older brothers, Tom and Wally, planted in front of it and arguing about whatever they were watching. Dad always had papers from the city council spread out at one end of the dining room table. Mom constantly went back and forth between Beth and me, checking our homework so many times that it took all the longer to get it done. Beth always had her books spread out so far afield that I was lucky if I had enough room to open my notebook. I didn't bother saying anything, because for some reason I wasn't supposed to need any space for anything because I was the youngest in the family. Those were the usual reasons I couldn't concentrate on my homework.
Excerpted from From Beyond to Here by Andrew Marr Copyright © 2012 by Andrew Marr, OSB. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Ghost of Swiss Castle....................95
A Wand Full of Golden Leaves....................135
Haunted for a Time....................174
The Dark Window....................213
The Buyer of Hearts....................263