With a strong Lovecraftian bent, this is the continuing saga of ordinary human resistors who must sacrifice their normal lives in favor of fighting for all humankind
When autumn descends on Prospero, California, Ben Pastor hopes that the normality of the new school year may offer a reprieve from the town's recent paranormal horrors. Mina Todd, however, knows all too well that there are no reprieves and no normality in this town, especially after she starts having crippling, unexplained hallucinations of the dead. But even she can't prepare for what the coming year holds.
On top of a brewing civil war that threatens all of humanity, inside the walls of Prospero High, Ben, Mina, and their expanding network face a sinister campaign that aims to destroy their friendship, a newly human Haley Perkins struggling to readjust to life, and an assassin of untold power who is picking off human rebels.
Ben and Mina's one hope may rest with a mysterious figure hiding in the woods outside of town; a living legend who may know how to stop this dangerous new breed of supernatural foe. That is, assuming the figure doesn't first kill everyone himself.
About the Author
F. J. R. Titchenell is the author of Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) and several young adult, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror short stories. Matt Carter is the author of various horror, sci-fi, and young adult fiction. They are the coauthors of Splinters, the first book in the Prospero Chronicles. They live in San Gabriel, California.
Read an Excerpt
The Prospero Chronicles II
By F.J.R. Titchenell, Matt Carter
Jolly Fish PressCopyright © 2015 F.J.R. Tichenell and Matt Carter
All rights reserved.
Marian Kelly died in a one-car accident near her home in Turtle Lake, Montana, on August twentieth, at the age of forty-two.
Marian is predeceased by her parents, Rand and Millicent "Millie" Kelly, and her brother, Christopher.
Marian was born in Prospero, California, and studied Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. She held black belts in multiple martial arts and was an accomplished member of the Turtle Lake Hunting Club.
I skipped the details of Marian's perfunctory funeral service, put the newspaper clipping back in the plain, unstamped envelope it had arrived in, and filed it out of sight; not that this did anything to clear the smudged print from my vision. Alone, it was unsettling. In a stack of six other recent obituaries of other Splinter hunters, in six other anonymous envelopes with my name stamped on the front, it sent a very clear message.
I'm no stranger to death threats. And at the time of Marian's death, it had been less than a month since the Splinter who poses as my father told me to my face that if Ben or I fought back again, if we even tried to run, the humans would be wiped out of my infested little town of Prospero completely.
I'd fact-checked each obituary as it came in.
Every one of the hunters had died under circumstances that looked very much like suicide. Most of the obituaries didn't say so, exactly, but after the few that did, omissions of the cause of death and euphemisms like "one-car accident" and "chemical overdose" were easy enough to decipher. Sometimes, when the deaths had been a little more bizarre or had occurred on slow news days, there were more details to be found when I looked up the rest of the news sources in the area.
These weren't suicidal people. They weren't quitters. Wondering how someone could possibly have made it appear as if Drake Tymon had slit his wrists and throat alone in an industrial freezer that was later found barricaded from the inside was filling my head quite effectively with distractingly disturbing scenarios.
But the thing bothering me most about the obituaries was the fact that all seven of their subjects were currently loitering around my bedroom.
Sometimes, if I stared directly at them for long enough, they seemed to remember that they were supposed to be dead and vanish accordingly, temporarily. Otherwise I could see them, silently and blankly watching me work, as clearly as I could see my bookshelves, my bed, and the stark beige walls and end tables that, until recently, had held my very large and very useless anti-Splinter amulet collection.
Nightmares are no more new to me than death threats. That's not what these were. A hunter would die and join the rest of the hallucinations in my room the day after the obituary arrived, and then another one would die and join him without fail. If things carried on this way, my room was going to become unmanageably crowded quite soon.
It wasn't even as if I were going to miss the hunters. A few of them, like Drake, I'd known pretty well years ago, but I'd stopped assuming they were still alive — never mind still human — long before they'd turned up dead. Others, like Marian, I only knew by reputation in the first place.
Not knowing them well only made it stranger that they were here, after everything I'd lived through and lost without having suffered from any sensory distortions before.
Ready? The text scrolled across my phone's screen after Ben's name.
Almost. I texted back.
I wasn't looking forward to conducting the upcoming meeting for my entire Network, a roomful of people who had nothing in common other than their knowledge of Splinters and their confidence in my judgment and clarity of perception. Ben had insisted, though. A lot had changed, and people needed to be brought up to speed.
Billy was gone, lost to the Splinters, if we had ever even had him. Whatever had been passing for my absentminded ally had been using us to breach the peace, such as it was, for no one knew how long.
Ben hadn't even met some of the others yet. Our discovery of portals to other parts of the world in the Splinter Warehouse had put an end to the Effectively Certain Non-Splinters list, or at least had reduced it to a uselessly small number of people. The only people in town I could really be effectively certain of anymore were myself and Haley, since we'd both recently been ripped directly out of replication pods. That wasn't enough to work with, so I'd had to downgrade my entire Network to Extremely Probable Non-Splinters and start training myself to live with that because the alternative was not getting anything done at all.
Ben was still stubbornly under the impression that Haley's presence on the list alone qualified her as a Network member. I disagreed.
Most important, we now knew more terms of the Splinter-Human treaty and exactly how precarious our position was. Two human-on-humanoid Splinter kills by the same human would mean all-out war, and Ben and I each had one strike already. And no matter how careful we were, Billy and any like-minded Splinters would find a way to incite that war sooner or later. We were counting on an unforeseen miracle to make the human side a significant power before then.
As someone who doesn't believe in miracles, this wasn't news I would enjoy delivering, even on my best day.
I finished up some new touches on the map over my desk — the new world map I'd posted under the map of Prospero to track probable Splinter activity at the other portals — and blinked hard, hoping the illusion of the hunters would fade out at the usual time. Their faces were already getting blurry around the edges, right on schedule.
That was something, at least. I was going to be able to function for another day. If my Network, the few humans still invested in finding or building that miracle, found out what was happening to me, it would probably be the end of what hope we had. They would give up on the one thing they all agreed on, my reliability, and maybe they'd be right to do it. I'd probably do the same in their position.
But even if I couldn't see a difference between the walls and furniture that constituted my room and the dead people that my brain had decided to superimpose in front of them, at least I still knew the difference. I still knew what was rational and what wasn't. Before the first hunter had appeared, the evidence of my senses had been the basis for almost everything I thought and did. It was going to be difficult to get used their new fallibility, just like the fallibility of the ECNS list. As long as the inner workings of my mind were still in order, it was worth at least trying to do my job.
At least, that's what I told myself for the thirty-seventh time when I recognized Ben's knock on the front door above.CHAPTER 2
WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION
My life flashed before my eyes.
More than anything, I regretted how little there was to flash.
"Brakes, brakes, BRAKES!"
In Mina's defense, she did hit the brakes before she could knock over the stop sign, but not before she drove the front right wheel of my mom's SUV up onto the curb. The car jolted to a stop, and, not for the first time since Mina had asked me to show her how to drive, I was glad I was wearing a seatbelt.
After a second's consideration, she said, "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. You're still learning," I said.
"Not very quickly," she grumbled.
She was having another one of her bad days. She was having them more frequently, days where I could tell she hadn't slept and she was more on edge than usual. It had to be what happened to her in the Warehouse, some kind of post-traumatic stress. I still remembered yanking her from that pod, watching the tendrils that had burrowed beneath her skin, into her mind, trying to make Mina one of them, dissolving away in trails of green slime.
Splinters. The word brought up feelings of disgust and hatred. They made her this way. They broke her. I couldn't fix her, not yet. That was bound to take a lot longer than the nearly-healed gash in her side and the burns on my legs. But at least I could try to make her feel better.
"Yeah, well nobody's perfect. My mom's been driving for more than twenty years and I'm still amazed they haven't taken her license away," I said. "You should've seen us driving up here. She tried to steer the U-Haul into a drive-through and ran down a guy dressed like a chili dog. Squashed him like a bug."
She goggled at me for a moment, then said, "You made that up."
"Replace 'ran down a guy' with 'barely clipped a guy with her side view mirror,' 'squashed him like a bug' with 'ran over part of the sign he was carrying' and 'chili dog' with 'chili cheese dog' and you've got it," I said.
Much as she tried not to, I caught a hint of a smile sneak through.
"Maybe if we want to make it to Kevin's on time and alive and without having to explain to your mother how you allowed an unlicensed driver to damage her SUV, you should drive," she said.
"Fair enough," I said. We got out and switched positions. Though the SUV made a terrible clunk when I reversed it off the curb, it still drove just fine. So neither my mom nor Mina would kill me. Not today.
That just left the rest of Prospero, California, to look out for.
Back when Mom and I were just visiting, that was a stress I thought I could live with. Now that we were effectively imprisoned here for the rest of our lives, surrounded by Splinters, I hoped I could handle it. I was pretty sure I could handle it. Whether or not I actually could was something I'd yet to figure out.
The Splinters' plan for us was working, so far. Shortly after our break-in at the Warehouse, they'd made a job offer to my mother. Nothing too flashy, a clerical position at the town hall, but she jumped at the opportunity as a way of getting out of her rut in San Diego. They even lined up a nice, affordable little house for us that coincidentally happened to be right across the street from the Todd family. I'm sure this was Mina's father's way of keeping an eye on me.
We made it to Kevin's place a few minutes after I took over. Compulsively, I looked to the backseat. The bags of binders I'd so meticulously put together were still there. In them was everything we knew about Splinters: all of Mina's notes and lists, the brief history of them we'd been able to put together, and a world map of other possible Splinter cities we had seen linked to the Warehouse. Spread out among the group, at least everyone would know everything.
Mina caught my hesitance. "There's no reason to be nervous. Everyone here already knows of the existence of Splinters. You don't have to win them over."
"I'm not worried about winning them over. I'm worried about winning you over," I said as I began to get out of the car.
"You know I know about Splinters," she said, getting out and helping me gather up bags.
"You know that isn't what I meant," I said.
She said nothing. I took that as a yes.
The meeting was all my idea. Mina's Network was a loose collection of individuals who knew about Splinters and helped her undermine their efforts. Until this point, Mina had kept all of the members on a need-to-know basis, distributing only scant bits of information as she saw fit. When it became clear we were facing the possibility of an all-out war with the Splinters, I argued that it would be a good idea to get everyone as prepared as possible to put up a unified front.
Eventually, I was able to talk her into at least this one get-together so I could meet everyone.
Kevin had made it clear that he was providing his parents' backyard for the meeting strictly as a friend and not as a Network member. His claim of neutrality didn't set the best tone for our purposes, but it was the safest place we had.
We had just started up the walkway to his house when we heard it. A god-awful squeal of metal and gears mixed with what sounded like a machine-gun coughing. An ancient sedan that looked to be held together by rust and duct-tape rounded the corner, followed by a cloud of blue, black, and white that occasionally belched out of the tailpipe. Whoever was driving was doing a rather remarkable job, considering that the driver's compartment was murky with white smoke.
"Ah. They're here," Mina said. The car lurched to a stop within inches of my mom's SUV. Then it jolted forward, tapping the bumper hard enough to rock the vehicle back and forth. I winced as I jogged back to the cars.
A tall boy with shoulder-length black hair and an old army jacket stepped out of the driver's seat, looking first at the van, then at Mina. His red-rimmed eyes and easy smile reminded me uncomfortably of Billy.
"Hey, Mina, hey ..." he said, snapping his fingers.
"Ben," I said.
"Yeah, Ben, cool. This your car?" the boy asked.
"No, my mom's," I said.
"Oh sh-, oh darn," he said, correcting himself as if I were a child. He looked at my mom's SUV appraisingly. "I think you're fine, really. Barely kissed ya. I know a guy who could buff it out if there's any real —"
"I'll be fine," I muttered. "I don't really think —"
"Wait, you're the Eagle Scout, right?" he asked, that easy smile disappearing astonishingly fast.
"I never made it that far," I corrected. This didn't improve his mood. He looked to Mina.
"How can you trust this guy? You do know that the Scouts in all their forms are the earliest levels of indoctrination into the New World Order's personal strike force? This guy could be —"
The passenger door opened, nearly falling off and letting out a wall of white smoke. A sickly sweet, high-pitched voice called from within. "Oh come on, Greg, that's no way to make friends now, is it?"
Out of the passenger side came what was easily the most patriotic Goth girl I had ever seen. She was fairly tall — though, that might have been her knee-high platform boots — wearing a black tank-top cut high enough to show her belly-button ring and a tight black micro-skirt that would have left little to the imagination if she were still sitting. Her skin was even paler than Mina's, probably helped along by a fair amount of white makeup, and her hair was platinum blonde, mostly, though her pigtails had been dyed bright blue and red, much like her lips. She smiled a broad, toothy smile when she saw Mina and me.
"Don'tcha worry 'bout Greg there, Ben," she said, striding over to me and hopping slightly to put a friendly peck on my cheek. "He gets grumpy and super paranoid when he's high. Hard to deal with, but still a big teddy bear, I swear!"
"I prefer the term 'aware,' Jules," Greg clarified as he reached through where there should have been a rear passenger window and pulled out a grocery bag of snacks.
Greg Nguyen and Julie Kaplan. Mina had warned me they were a bit eccentric. She almost smiled as she approached them, refraining from rolling her eyes as she too received a red and blue kiss on the cheek.
"Are Billy and Aldo already here?" Julie asked, pulling a stylized, almost antique umbrella from the passenger seat and opening it to shade herself from the sun.
I looked at Mina. "You didn't tell them?"
"Tell us what?" Greg asked.
"I thought that was what this meeting was for," Mina said.
"But this was something pretty important; you could've gotten it out of the way first," I said, irritated.
"Tell us what? Are Billy and Aldo okay?" Julie asked.
I looked to Mina, she looked to me. Neither of us wanted to say it right away.
"Aldo's fine," Mina said.
"Billy's more complicated," I clarified. They both looked confused. "We'll explain it when we get inside."
"I can't believe we're doing this here. This is enemy territory," Greg said as they followed us up the walkway to Kevin's house.
Mina tried to change the topic. "So did you have a good Fourth of July, Julie?"
"Why is this enemy territory?" I asked.
"Yeah!" Julie said brightly, twirling one of her pigtails. "But I'm really looking forward to Halloween. More my colors."
"Kevin's a part of the Prospero machine, his dad's got his fingers everywhere," Greg said.
"Black is a much better color," Mina said a bit louder.
"Kevin saved our lives," I said.
"It is, but we really gotta do some proper shopping for you one of these days," Julie said.
"And that absolves him how?" Greg asked when we reached the front door.
I wouldn't go so far as to call Kevin Brundle one of my favorite people, but he was a good guy, and Mina believed in him. Hearing Greg trash him put me on the defensive.
Thankfully, seeing this argument about to explode, Julie pressed the doorbell.
"Please be presentable, love?" she pleaded.
"I am presentable," Greg sulked.
"Not now you're not," she said.
He forced an almost cartoonishly wide smile. She nodded her approval.
I looked to Mina. She simply confirmed. "This is normal."
Haley opened the front door seconds later. Seeing her, healthy, mostly happy, and mostly smiling made any bad feelings I had go away. She had had some unsteady days after we brought her out of the Warehouse, rehabilitating her and telling her everything that had happened. She had an even harder time pretending that she remembered everything since her "return," but she was a good actress.
Excerpted from Shards by F.J.R. Titchenell, Matt Carter. Copyright © 2015 F.J.R. Tichenell and Matt Carter. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press.
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.
Table of Contents
1 — Psychological Warfare,
2 — What I Did on My Summer Vacation,
3 — Things I'll Never Say,
4 — Home of the Poets,
5 — The Catalyst and the Class President,
6 — Courtney's Story,
7 — Too Close to Ignore,
8 — Some Scum, Hold the Villainy,
9 — New Assets and Other Necessary Evils,
10 — Homecoming,
11 — A Better World's Priorities,
12 — Two Legends for the Price of One,
13 — Splinters, Slivers, Shards, and the Other Things Under Our Skin,
14 — Second Worst Month of My Life,
15 — The Second Worst Night of Mine,
16 — Day of the Dead,
17 — All Hallow's Eve,
18 — Getting the Band Back Together,
19 — My Kingdom for a Digital Video Recorder,
20 — Looking for Help in All the Wrong Places,
21 — The Need-to-Know Newsletter,
22 — Thanksgiving,
23 — My First Christmas Party Invitation From Hell,
24 — Cry Havoc,
25 — The Bogeyman,
26 — Leverage,