Silverwood by Betsy Streeter
Publication date: March 15th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
A story of finding where you belong, even if it involves time travel, shape shifting, and hacking.
Helen Silverwood, fourteen, is sick of life on the run with her mom and her younger brother. Nothing makes sense. She doesn’t understand why she has recurring dreams of shape-shifting creatures, why her mother is always disappearing, and how her brother can draw things that haven’t happened yet. Most of all, Helen longs to know what happened to her dad—is he imprisoned, a fugitive, or gone forever?
When someone blows up the apartment where Helen lives, the stories of the ancient Silverwood clan—and her role in it—begin to unravel. All Helen wants is to feel like there’s someplace she belongs—but getting there will prove very, very complicated.
A young couple stumbles out the back door of a nightclub into a narrow alleyway that would look a whole lot worse in the daytime. Distant streetlights reveal a hint of the garbage strewn around, and the shadows mask the dilapidated state of the surrounding buildings. The door itself sits in the mouth of a giant, cartoonlike face spray painted on the wall.
Deafening music and red-orange light shoots out the door while it is open, bouncing off the alley walls, and muffles again as the door closes to just a crack. There is no knob on the outside of the door; someone has wedged in a piece of wood to hold it open.
The couple start out laughing and joking, leaning on each other – their shape is all skinny jeans and mohawks mixed with the glint of jewelry – but shortly their voices turn more argumentative. Maybe someone committed an offense, perhaps there’s a breakup in progress. Soon the young woman breaks away from her date, pries open the door, and storms back into the club. Loud music and lights again, muffled and dark again. The young man leans his back against the wall, his arms crossed in anger. He needs a minute to collect himself.
A lone figure comes down the alley. Unusually tall, dressed in a dark coat, crushing garbage under its motorcycle boots. Lit from behind by the street lights, it resembles a shadow that has come loose from the wall. The young man is too distracted with replaying the conversation of a few minutes ago in his head, trying to figure out what he said wrong, to notice that the figure has come within a few feet of him.
“You know you really ought not to be out here at this late hour,” the figure says.
The young man jumps, then regains himself. “Yeah, whatever.” Who is this guy telling him what to do. The only people who go out back by themselves are the ones who want to be, by themselves.
Before the young man can add anything – like a string of expletives – a needle-like protrusion shoots out from the figure’s forearm and directly into the young man’s abdomen.
The young man freezes, stares straight ahead, then looks his assailant in the face. It’s a pale face, the face of a Tromindox that has not fed in some time. The victim tries to push off from the wall, but the venom deadens his arms and legs. He slides downward into a sitting position. His skin turns black, his spiky hair becomes a mass of tentacles.
Soon there is nothing left of him but a terrified pair of eyes in a puddle of writhing black.
The Tromindox reels in its prey, like a glob of oil pulling in a wayward drop.
Satisfied that it has the upper hand, the creature takes on a more humanlike form, turns and shuffles away. It is already buzzing with energy from all of these new thoughts.
The door scrapes open again, the bright light temporarily blocked by a fat man in an undershirt heaving a huge bag of garbage into the trash bin. He takes a quick look up and down the alley, wipes his hands on his pants, and goes back in.
Later, the young woman will come back out and see that her date has left. She will take this as a sign that they have broken up, and will not call him for a week. It won’t be until he has missed several days at work that someone will unlock his untouched apartment, see that no one has been there, and file a missing persons report.
Betsy Streeter grew up on a steady diet of Star Trek, The Muppet Show, Atari, and musical rehearsals in her family’s living room. Her habits of making up stories and drawing and painting on everything within reach eventually led to degrees in art and communication from Stanford University. She has worked in film and video production, design, and video games, and has served as president of a community theatre. She and her family are voracious consumers of books, music, movies, art, action figures, and musical instruments, resulting in inadequate storage space. Betsy has published single-panel cartoons, comics, art, and short fiction in paper, digital, graffiti, and tattoo form. She lives in Northern California with her husband, son, daughter, two peculiar and disruptive cats, and a mellow but hungry tarantula.
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