"I was stuck. Stuck in an endless dream, watching a terrible future I was powerless to change.
Or was I? What if I could change the future? Could I ignore that kind of power?
And if I did—what would I become?"
Caleb Swift knows he's a complicated guy. He sees the unseeable: winged beings that haunt both his dreams and his waking visions. He knows the unknowable: horrifying visions of countless unspeakable futures he feels powerless to prevent. And if that weren't bad enough, these potent revelations might be driving him insane.
Who needs that kind of trouble?
Not Caleb. He's doing his best to live a totally uncomplicated life, to ignore the visions of doom that hound him relentlessly. But no matter what he does, one particular vision still plagues him. The one with the girl. The girl who's in mortal danger (or will be soon). The girl only he can save.
Now Caleb has a choice. To ignore his gift, to live the ordinary life he so desperately desires, even if it means letting her die...
Or to act. To interfere. To become extraordinary. And let one girl's future turn his present completely upside-down.
Fans of Harry Potter by JK Rowling, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker, Ghosts I Have Known by Nhys Glover, and Going Bovine by Libba Bray are sure to enjoy The Channeler.
You'll love Jenna Ryan's Continuum Series if you enjoy reading:
- YA Fantasy
- New Adult Fiction
- Young Adult Fiction
- About magic, clairvoyance, angels and demons
Read an Excerpt
There are things about the universe we may never understand.
I've been told I'm a complex person, that I think too much. I don't disagree with that; I've been having an existential crisis every day since I left my mother's womb twenty-one years ago. My head is always busy, always wondering, always curious. I think some people, like me, just happen to be born with minds that go into overdrive.
But in their head, there's a whole world separate from the one they live in. People like us — people like me — just think differently.
I always believed something was out there, in the vast unknown. I wondered what went on beyond the borders of our planet, or our galaxy, or whatever is outside our galaxy. Was there life on other planets? Was it anything like what we see in sci-fi films, where different species fight for survival? Are their lives anything like ours? What about parallel universes, or worlds that are alternate versions of our own?
I also think about what is outside the universe. Is there an afterlife, or are we just gone once we're "gone?" Is there a God? Multiple gods? Is the whole universe some ancient, all-powerful being that runs the whole damn show?
Or is there nothing at all?
This is the profound topic I'd settled on torturing myself with while getting dressed for class one autumn morning.
I jumped, startled from my thoughts by my aunt's obnoxiously high-pitched voice. I rubbed my eyes and groaned, trying to talk myself into leaving my bedroom.
"I'll be down in a minute, Nikki!" I called out to her, reluctantly sliding a blue T-shirt over my head. I stepped out into the narrow hallway and dragged myself back into the bathroom to finish getting ready. I looked in the mirror and scowled.
Standing at six feet tall, I could only see from my mouth down in the glass, the top of my head cut off by its frame. I ducked a bit to be more level with my reflection, and an exhausted college undergrad stared back at me. I examined the terrible shadowy bags beneath my electric-blue eyes, dark bruises I bore every day of my life, a constant reminder of my insomnia. I was a light sleeper, so every bump in the night, every creaky stair and floorboard in this godforsaken house caused my eyes to snap right back open. I never really knew why I was like that. I always assumed it was because of the random drop-ins from my unearthly winged friend, Gabriel.
And he wasn't the only one of them I'd seen.
I'd never been able to figure out what they were exactly — Gabriel and the creatures like him. The first one I'd ever seen was Gabe, and he first came to me was when I was a toddler. And I remember it all vividly, because it is the first memory I have of anything.
It was late in the day, sometime in the evening. I was in my footie pajamas, the kind that have snaps down the leg, and I was standing on my tippy toes trying to peek out the window. It was snowing hard on the front lawn, and I could just barely see the main road. My mother was making dinner for us in the kitchen. I think it was macaroni and cheese, because she'd kept reminding me not to go near the stove.
It had always just been my mother and me for as far back as I could remember. I never knew my father, but people my age being raised by a single parent was simply the social norm. My mom did her best to be happy all the time, but I had always felt my father's absence. No one ever spoke of him, and after my mother died I didn't care to ask. I always resented him for abandoning me and leaving my mother alone.
So, obviously, I was beyond confused when some random man — Gabriel — made a sudden appearance for the first time in my home that cold, winter evening.
Like a ray of sun through open blinds, I felt an intense heat on the left side of my face. It wasn't painful, but it wasn't quite pleasant, either. I turned in the direction of the warmth and saw a man, an unfamiliar stranger, towering above me.
He was by no means, however, an ordinary man. He was lean, muscular, and wore an ancient-looking set of armor that could have been fashioned only by a blacksmith sent from the gods themselves. And yet, his attire was nothing like I'd read in storybooks or seen in those cartoon gladiator movies. He had dark eyes, and I could feel the wisdom and experience they carried. But the strangest, most incredible aspect of this man in my home was the enormous pair of silver-feathered wings growing out of his shoulder blades.
An overwhelming sense of calmness filled the room. He smiled, his face chiseled and perfect, not a crevice or scar to be seen. I could sense he was as confused as I was; who was he, and how did he get into my house?
The winged man's voice was so deep it vibrated in my chest as he said my name. I blinked and teetered on my feet, losing my balance briefly. The man chuckled and kneeled down to my height.
"You can see me." His statement sounded more like a question.
"Yes," I squeaked. "Hi!"
This time, he laughed heartily, his voice rattling my chest again.
"Hello. My name is Gabriel." His brow furrowed, and he tilted his brown-haired head curiously. My gaze traveled to the silver, shining wings on his back. The feathers looked light but tough, each one perfectly placed next to the other.
"Can I touch?" I reached my hand toward his wings.
He smiled and nodded, taking my tiny hand in his. He leaned close and placed my hand on a group of feathers.
They were soft on my skin, but I could tell they weren't the feathers you would find on a bird. As soon as my fingertips brushed against them, they held a type of power that surged; it was almost as if they were coated in something protective, like the wood sealer my mom used on our kitchen table she built. Smooth but unscathed. The feathers were firm and strong, and they didn't bend or break apart. My eyes widened.
"Wow!" I dropped my hand.
I peered over my shoulder, hoping wings would sprout, then looked back at Gabriel, whose face was still full of wonder and uncertainty.
"I have to go now, Caleb Swift." He rose to his feet. "I must return home."
I grimaced impulsively, staring at the floor, so the man wouldn't see the disappointment in my eyes. He was leaving already, and he had only just got here.
Gabriel placed a hand on my shoulder. "I can try to come back sometime if you would like." He smiled down at me.
My head snapped up, and I grinned widely. "Okay."
He nodded, gave a little wave goodbye, and vanished from right where he stood.
The warm feeling was gone, and goosebumps crawled up my arms. I shuffled over to the kitchen for dinner.
"Mommy." I tugged on her sweatpants.
She gazed down at me and smiled. "Dinner's almost ready, sweetie. Who were you talking to?" She bent down and lifted me into her arms.
I touched the side of her face, and she leaned into my hand.
"Gabe!" I exclaimed happily. "Gabe had wings."
She giggled and kissed the palm of my hand. "That's nice, baby." She carried me over to my booster seat and placed me inside it, ruffling my hair.
That was the first and last time we ever had a chance to speak of Gabriel before my mother died. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer just after I was born, and she passed after I turned five. I've held on to the memory all this time, not only because of the mysterious winged man who arrived at my house so unexpectedly, but because it is one of the few memories I have left of my mom.
Since that first day I met him, Gabe would come by unannounced, often when I needed him most. He showed up at the funeral when my mother died. When I was eleven, he was at the hospital when Aunt Nikki took me to get stitches in my lip after hockey practice. And there was one time in high school, when I came home after I bombed my calculus test, and he was waiting in my bedroom, asking if I wanted to talk.
But no one except me could see Gabe. I can remember asking him about that at my mom's funeral after I'd wandered away from the crowd.
"When I came to see you the first time, it was an accident," Gabriel had explained. "I didn't know I would be meeting you that day. It just happened." He gripped my shoulders firmly but gently. "Listen to me, Caleb. You are special in ways you can't even imagine. Something caused me to appear in your home that evening. Something causes you to see me, where in other instances, I purposely and knowingly reveal myself to others. Whatever this force is ... it is beyond my control, and I cannot explain why."
My face wrinkled in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Gabe shook his head. "Caleb, you're the only human who has ever seen me without my intending you to." He paused. "Think of it as me being able to hide, but you can see me no matter the hiding place. It's hard to explain to you, boy. I wish I could. But I am not sure what ... this is. I hope to understand it better as time passes, but for now, all I know is what I am experiencing." Gabriel looked to the side slightly then, as if someone called his name. He glanced back at me as he stood. "I have to leave now, but be assured I will try my best to come visit. I feel we were supposed to meet for a reason."
"What?" My voice cracked. "No, you can't leave me now. I'm all alone." Tears flowed from my eyes. "Everyone left me. Not you too!" I covered my face angrily.
Gabriel reached down and pried my hands off my face. He placed them on his wing, just as he had the very first time we met. I stared at the feathers and rubbed my thumbs across them.
"You are not alone, Caleb," he reasoned softly. "You will never be alone. And I will do my best to watch over you and stop by whenever possible."
I looked him square in the eye. "Promise."
He nodded and placed his hand on my head as he stood. "I promise."
Gabe kept that promise; I had seen him many times throughout my life. Sometimes he visited often, and other times, I wouldn't see him for months.
But the older I got, the more I noticed how many winged creatures — beings like Gabriel — were hidden all around me. And the more I grew, the more I realized I shouldn't really talk about Gabe to anyone, because people might think I was hallucinating. At some point, I started to wonder if he and the others were actually there at all.
Until I started having the visions.
"Cay!" Nikki called again. "I refuse to pay your tuition if you don't show up to class!"
"Gavin texted me that he's running late anyway!" I shouted back.
I leaned against the wall behind me and poked at my swollen eyes, feeling a familiar dull ache in the back of my head. I tried to ignore it and shook out my messy hair. Ignoring the pain didn't help at all; in fact, the pain only got worse, as it always did. My heart jolted, and I clutched my chest. I gasped and struggled to breathe for a moment, trying to force the feeling away.
It was happening again.
I staggered to the sink like a drunk, my head bumping against the mirror. I gripped the sides of the sink, shivering, my eyes squeezing shut. I silently prayed that this one wouldn't last long.
Different pictures filled my brain, flashing scenes of things I didn't understand, things I really couldn't explain even if I tried to. I could see some things quite clearly, such as a grassy area shaded by the trees of a forest, and a quick flicker of a girl who looked about my age. Other images were pretty ugly as well. The girl in the forest sometimes stood with her blood-spattered hands splayed out in front of her, face frozen in horror. I could see scenes of red liquid sprinkling onto the grass and other visions of an empty casket in an open grave surrounded by people crying. Unbearable things.
A deafening, high-pitched noise like a kettle whistling mixed with nails on a chalkboard filled the air, a sound so loud it caused me to let go of the sink and clutch my ears. I couldn't get away from it. I could only hope it would all just stop.
And it did.
Everything came to an abrupt halt, as if I never suffered that headache and chest pain and took a wild trip on the crazy train. I opened my eyes cautiously and observed my surroundings. I was on the white-tiled bathroom floor, on my knees, panting and shaking. I tried to regulate my pulse, breathing in and out repetitively at a slow pace. After a few of those deep breaths, I relaxed a bit.
I removed my hands from the sides of my head and cursed. They were stained red from the blood dripping out of my ringing ears. I could feel more of it moving from my nose to my lips, and I swore again, scrambling to my feet. Still shaking, I turned on the faucet and rinsed my hands and face and wiped my ears with the towel before any of it spilled onto my shirt. I looked in the mirror and tried to fix my wet, rumpled hair again. I really wanted to take another shower, but I knew I had no time. So, I let my hair lazily flop over my eyes as I wore it every day, and I brushed my teeth, trying to wipe the images in the vision from my mind.
Yes, it was true — I was clairvoyant. But I hadn't always been. The visions started the summer prior to my junior year in high school, when I was sixteen, and they only got worse as time passed. The first time I'd had one of those visions, I'd been lying in bed on a regular school night, casually tossing a tennis ball up and catching it. Then, out of nowhere, came the chest pain, I had started seeing all those deranged things, and gravity had caused my seemingly harmless tennis ball to whack me in the face. I had seen so many images, felt so many emotions, and after about ten seconds, all of the pain had ended with that same screeching sound echoing in my ears. I had snapped out of it to find blood staining my hands and my clothes, just as it had this morning. Just as it had after every bad vision between that first one and now.
Once I had that first "attack," I was terrified something was wrong with me. Sometimes, the visions would come with no warning. Not long after the first one, I started seeing other visions, little blips of things here and there, things I ignored for fear of accepting that I must be insane. If I pretended they were hallucinations, like Gabe, then I could at least try to live like a normal teenage kid.
That wishful thinking was short lived, though, because the visions started to come true.
When I finally talked to Aunt Nikki about it, she suggested maybe I should see a therapist. She thought the trauma of losing my mother so young and that I never had a father had resulted in me having some suppressed emotional issues that were arising in the form of hallucinations. She found me a therapist; someone kind who always nodded at every word that came out of my mouth. After a few sessions, nothing had changed. Nothing improved. I still wouldn't break down over my mom and dad, I still hung out with Gabriel, and I still kept seeing the future.
Once, when I was eighteen, I kept seeing numbers — the same foggy numbers behind my eyes, over and over. It was disorienting, and it got to the point where I couldn't even focus at school. So, I did what any guy my age would do with a repetitive set of numbers, and I played the lottery.
I won. One thousand dollars.
On three separate occasions.
Nikki finally believed I had a "gift" after I handed her that first winning stub, and she pulled me out of therapy.
Some visions I had over the years were positive, like that one, or insignificant and uneventful. But others were so bad, I could do nothing to prevent them. These visions were impossible to stop from happening, like the bus crash in the next town over or when Nikki's father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I tried my best to ignore those kinds of premonitions and live my life as normally as possible. Aunt Nikki never forced me to talk about my ability, allowing me to continue living a regular and comfortable life. I cared about what happened to people, and I felt guilty when I knew things ahead of time that other people didn't, but just because I carried this burden didn't mean I was obligated to use it or anything.
I was just glad I wasn't losing my mind, and Gabriel was probably real. I still kept him secret from Nikki though, just in case for some reason he wasn't.
A few of the images I had seen this morning were ones I had actually seen many times before, during previous vision fits. This one had come to me more frequently lately, showing me the same forest, the same girl, and a lot of blood. Something about her and this vision didn't sit right with me.
"Caleb Michael Swift! Your ass is going to be grass if you don't get going!" Aunt Nikki shouted to me a third time. Knowing her temper, it was going to be the last time she called me before she came up and dragged me downstairs herself.
I ignored her call and went back to my room to grab my school bag and swing it onto my shoulder. I slipped on my sneakers and went down the hall to the stairs.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Channeler"
Copyright © 2019 Jenna Ryan.
Excerpted by permission of TCK Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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