Campaign has ended. This book was not selected for publication.
We will let you know if this book becomes available on Amazon. Want to know if this book becomes available on Amazon?
Back to top

First pages

Chapter 1: Falling Stars

Wendy Darling had just plucked the last olive from her slice of pizza when the second child went missing. Her fingers squeezed around the shriveled black thing as her eyes fixed on the TV mounted on the wall of the restaurant. A bright red graphic with “AMBER ALERT” written in white lit up the screen. The news anchor began to speak:

 

An Oregon AMBER Alert has been issued for three year-old Ashley Ford who went missing from her mother’s front yard today at 6:30pm.

 

“You know,” Jordan said across from Wendy through a mouthful of pizza. “You could just order the combination without olives instead of picking them all off every time. It is your eighteenth birthday after all, so they’re kind of obligated to do whatever you want.”

Wendy didn’t respond. She was too busy staring at the picture of Ashley Ford that was now glowing from the TV screen.

 

Ashley has blond hair and brown eyes. She was last seen in the front yard of her house wearing a white and yellow checkered shirt and blue pants. Authorities haven’t commented on whether or not the disappearance is related to Benjamin Lane, the missing boy reported earlier this week --

 

“Wendy? Hellooo?” Jordan waved his hand in front of her face.

“Don’t do that,” Wendy said, swatting it away. She nervously ran her hands through her short, sandy blonde hair. She always kept it short, never letting it grow past her chin. She couldn’t stand letting it get long or tangled.

“Are you okay?” he asked for the fifth time that day while taking another bite of pizza.

She normally didn’t enjoy her birthday, but this year, it was weighing especially heavy on her. Jordan was her best friend -- not that she had many options -- and she knew she could talk to him about anything, but some things were just better off left unspoken.

She leaned forward and pointed to the screen. “Look…”

Jordan turned in his seat as the news started to list off the number of the local police department and a hotline that had been set up for any leads or reports.

“That’s the third kid to go missing this week,” Wendy said in a low tone. Her stomach gave a queasy churn. She pushed her grease-spotted paper plate away.

“Yeah, it’s…” Jordan shifted uneasily in his seat, “odd.” He cast Wendy a side-long glance. She knew he was thinking what she was thinking: In a small town, kids don’t just go missing without raising a panic. Behind him, two of the waitresses, who had also been watching the news, stared at Wendy. They cupped their hands around their mouths and whispered.

Wendy tried to sink lower into her chair. She wasn’t very big to begin with, but right now she wished she could just disappear. Her cheeks burned hot.

“What are you--?” Jordan started before noticing the two waitresses. He scowled. “Seriously?” he said before turning back to Wendy. “Just ignore them. There’s no way this has anything to do with you.”

The words but what if it does? bubbled in Wendy’s throat. She swallowed them down. She didn’t want to talk about this. Not now, not here, not at all. It felt like bad luck, as if they spoke about it, something terrible would happen. A shiver ran down Wendy’s spine. “Maybe we should just go,” she said. Wendy’s eyes were trained back to the TV. She was starting to feel claustrophobic, like she needed to get away from the news, but, still, she couldn’t look away.

“Wendy, what are you doing?” Jordan asked.

Her eyes felt glued to the screen above his head. The picture of Ashley was staring right back at her. “I’m watching the news,” she replied curtly. Honestly, what kind of question was that?

“No, Wendy, your hand.” Jordan reached across the table and caught her hand. She hadn’t noticed it scribbling back and forth until he pulled the pen she had used to sign her check out of her hand. “What are you drawing?” he asked, frowning.

Wendy looked down. Two napkins were splayed under her hand, covered in black ink. Wendy felt her stomach drop. She wasn’t surprised. This had been happening to her since the first kid went missing last week. It was a drawing of a boy sitting in a tree, one leg in mid-swing draping over a branch, the small hint of dimples in his cheeks. His messy hair drooped over his eyes, obscuring some of his features. The second napkin had an unfinished sketch of an old, twisted tree with gnarled roots and no leaves. “It’s nothing,” Wendy said, crumbling them up into balls.

Jordan looked at her, his face read confused and concerned. “I’ve never seen someone draw that fast, and you weren’t even looking down,” he said slowly. “I didn’t even know you knew how to draw.”

She forced a laugh. “Yeah, weird.” Her heart beat slammed in her chest. “I just idly doodle sometimes,” she lied. The truth was that, ever since the first kid in town went missing, she had been drawing pictures of this boy, and that tree, everywhere. At home, her trash can was filled with them. Overflowing, in fact. On pieces of paper, receipts, napkins. She couldn’t tell Jordan that her bag was filled with even more drawings just like those. Sometimes the boy was lying on his back in a field, sometimes it was just his lips quirked into a grin, or a set of dazzling eyes that never felt accurate or complete. She knew they weren’t quite right because she had seen him before in her dreams.

“Who are they of?” Jordan asked, he tried to pluck a balled up napkin out of her hand, but she pulled it back.

“It’s no one, it’s just…” Wendy trailed off. She knew he’d never shut up if she didn’t tell him, but if she did tell him it was very likely he would tease her and she would not hear the end of it for a while.

Teasing Jordan was only slightly less annoying than Whiny Jordan.

“It’s Peter Pan,” she muttered under her breath, stuffing the rest of her belongings into her bag.

“Peter Pan?” Jordan repeated, his dark eyebrows pulled together. “Peter -- wait, you mean the guy from the stories your mom tells?” he asked.

When Michael was born, John was three and Wendy was five. Their mother told them stories about Peter Pan every night before they went to bed, about his adventures with pirates, mermaids and his gang of lost kids. Wendy, John and Michael spent their days in the woods behind their house, running around pretending to fight off bears and wolves alongside Peter Pan, and their nights huddled under a blanket with a flashlight while Wendy told stories about Peter and the fairies. He was a magical boy who lived on an island of make believe in the sky and, most importantly, Peter Pan could fly and he never grew up.

But after what happened to her brothers, Wendy only spoke about him during story time at the local hospital where her mother worked. She and Jordan volunteered there together. Most of the time, Jordan would play board games with the older kids, but sometime he would listen to her stories along with the rest of the kids.

“I’ve been having dreams about him, too,” Wendy added, unfolding one of the napkins to study the unfinished drawing. “Sort of, anyways. I always forget what happened when I wake up, but I remember small things like wet jungles, white beaches and acorns.” She shifted in her seat uneasily. “A few nights ago I started sketching what I thought he’d look like.” She didn’t mention that her hands seemed to draw them on their own accord. She had no idea she was doing it until she looked down and there was another sketch on the closest piece of paper.

“What about the tree?” Jordan asked.

“I have no idea, just a tree, I guess.” That was the truth. She’d never seen the tree before, in person or in her dreams. It was just appearing along with sketches of Peter Pan for some reason. There was something unsettling about the tree, though. Something that always caused goosebumps to run up her arms.

She didn’t like thinking that her brain and hands were capable of conjuring things up without her noticing. Was that normal? Or did only crazy people have piles of mysterious drawings appearing out of nowhere that they couldn’t explain?

Jordan was quiet for a moment, carefully looking into her eyes. She hated when he did that. She felt like he could always tell when she was hiding something. “Maybe you’re feeling old and just want to stay young forever, like this Peter Pan guy your mom invented,” he suggested. “Maybe run away with him to Neverland?” A smile was starting to creep across his lips.

Wendy threw the balled up napkin at him, which he easily deflected. “Ha, ha,” she said, sarcastically. She was thankful he wasn’t pressing the matter.

Jordan laughed and glanced down at his watch. “We should probably head out,” Jordan told her. “I need to go to work soon.”

Wendy looked outside and the sun had just set below the jagged ridge of mountains to the west. The lingering rays of sun tinted the far off woods a red-ish purple. She inwardly groaned. She hadn’t meant to stay out this late.

Jordan waited for her to stand up and then followed her outside. In the parking lot, they walked to where Wendy’s car was parked. It was an old, run down, robin’s egg blue truck with splotches of rust coming through that was older than she was. Wendy was antsy to get home and was about to open the door when Jordan leaned against it. “You okay to get home?” he asked, hazel eyes squinting in the waning sunlight.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” she said. She just wanted to get home.

“Sorry I had to work the night of your birthday,” he said. Jordan had to leave for his night shift at the only non-Starbucks coffee shop in town.

“It’s fine,” Wendy said, casting a glance in the direction of the fading light. “Don’t really feel like celebrating all that much.”

“Get home safe and text me if you need anything, alright?” Jordan pushed himself away from her truck and mussed a hand through her hair. She could tell by the forced grin on his face that he was trying to ease her tension, but it wasn’t working. She tried to smooth down her hair and shot him a scowl.

He walked her to her truck, gave her a tight hug -- the kind that lifted her feet off the ground and made her back pop -- a toothy smile and a parting “Happy Birthday, Legal Eagle!”

 

Wendy hated driving past the woods at night. She sat with her hands precisely at ten and two on the steering wheel. She drove along the dark road that led from the main part of town to her neighborhood. Nestled against the hills, logging roads splintered off from the paved road. In winter, massive tire tracks left gashes deep in the mud, stretching out into the woods and disappearing into the trees. The gaps in the road got caught in her headlights as she drove past, like gaping mouths. In the summer, the dirt hardened into stiff peaks. They were nearly impossible to drive through in a normal car, and easy to get hopelessly lost in. Many of the logging trails crossed and circled each other, creating a maze with plenty of roads stopping at a dead end in the middle of the woods. For as long as she could remember, she had been forbidden to go down those paths. Her parents had always warned Wendy and her brothers to never explore the logging roads. Not only could they get lost, but unsavory people sometimes camped out on the logging roads, and others used the woods to hunt, or used the side of the hills to practice shooting again. Sometimes, she could hear a rifle go off deep in the woods from her backyard.

To her left, the land sloped down to the twinkling lights of town, while on her right, the woods raced past her. Branches of the overgrown trees reached out and brushed the passenger side window even though she hugged the center divide. Her gray eyes, wide and alert, directed furtive glances at the woods. Her fingers, dry and cracked, flexed on the steering wheel, turning her knuckles white. The keychain hanging from the ignition thumped rhythmically against the dashboard.

She just wanted to get home, maybe read a book for a while, and then go to bed so that her birthday would be over. Wendy glanced over at her bag on the passenger seat as it bounced with the movement of the truck. She was usually very tidy and kept things in a neat and organized fashion, but her bag was another story. It had a blue ink stain on the bottom corner from a pen that had leaked, the edge of the top flap was frayed and the adjustable buckle had turned from its once shiny brass to a dull gray. But she loved the thing because her brothers had hand-picked for her without their mother buying it for them. It was the first and last birthday present they had ever gotten her.

Stuffed inside the bag, were more drawings of Peter Pan and the mysterious tree. Why was she drawing them? Why didn’t she realize when she was doing it? And why couldn’t she stop?

It was a hot night and the cab was stuffy, but Wendy didn’t want to roll down her windows, and the A/C in her beat up Ford hadn’t worked since probably before she was born. She leaned forward in her seat and felt a trickle of sweat run down her back. She turned up the volume of the crackling speakers. The sound petered in and out before suddenly breaking into loud static. Her eyebrows knitted together. She peered at the flickering backlight of the stereo.

Wendy knew every twist and turn of the road and could drive it with her eyes shut, so she gripped the wheel tight with her left hand. She banged her right fist against the radio. This usually fixed most of the truck’s problems, but nothing except loud static continued to fill the cab.

Wendy clenched her jaw and glanced up. She knew that the wide bend was coming up. She looked back to the radio, fingers spinning the dial but not a single station would come in. Her finger was about to punch the AM button when all noise coming from the radio cut off, leaving her with just the steady rumbling of the truck’s engine.

A branch slapped the passenger side window. Wendy jumped in her seat and looked up. A black mass dropped onto the windshield, blocking her view. It was inky black and something like looked like a hand dragged its fingers across the glass.

Wendy screamed and the dark shadow slipped off the hood just in time for her to see a mass in the middle of the road illuminated by her headlights. She let out a shout and slammed down on the brake pedal. Gripping the steering wheel, her body tensed as she swerved to the right. The tires spun over loose dirt and the truck landed in a small ditch between the road and the woods. It jerked to a stop and Wendy stared out the front window into an entanglement of branches. She panted heavily, adrenaline coursing through her veins, her neck and temples pounding so hard they hurt.

What was that? She pulled her stiff hands from the steering wheel, they patted down her chest and thighs, making sure she was in one piece. Then she buried her face into them. That was so stupid of her, she knew better than to look away from the road for that long while driving, especially at night.

Then she remembered the mass in the road. Her breath caught in her throat. It could be a dead animal, but in her gut she knew it wasn’t. She twisted in her seat and tried to try to see out the back window, but the red glow of her taillights hardly lit up the outline of whatever she had almost run over.

Please don’t be a dead body.

Wendy struggled with shaky hands to untangle herself from her seat belt. She stumbled out of her truck and immediately looked to the woods. She took a few steps back, watching them carefully, but they were silent and unmoving in the heavy summer air. Her truck was sloped in the ditch, but looked relatively unharmed and was still running.

Wendy jogged back to the dark figure in the road, trying to balance on the balls of her feet, for some reason trying to make as little noise as possible. She slowed to a careful walk a few yards away. She took each step slowly, willing her eyes to open wider, to adjust to the dark so she could see what it was. She stood on her tip toes and craned her neck to get a better look, just as a cloud above shifted and a silvery glow was cast over the figure of a boy lying on his side.

A shudder racked her body and she ran the last few steps, falling to her knees beside him, the gravel pressing through her jeans.

“Hello?” Her voice shook and her hands trembled, hovering over the person, not knowing what to do. “Are you okay?”

Are you alive?

Her stomach gave a sickened lurch.

He let out a pained groan.

She jerked her hands back, clasping them to her chest. “Oh my God.” Wendy quickly scrambled around to the other side where the boy was facing, knowing from her mom to never move someone you found unconscious.

He was lying on his side with his arms splayed out; it almost looked like he was sleeping. He was dressed in some sort of strange material that wrapped around his shoulders, torso, and down to his knees. She couldn’t tell what it was in the dark, but it had rough, jagged edges and it smelled like leaves she dug out of the gutters in spring.

Bracing one hand on the ground, Wendy leaned in closer. Slowly and carefully, she reached out with her other hand and pushed his wet hair back from his face.

A gasp escaped her lips.

He looked much younger than she was, with rounded features and fuller cheeks, but there was something about the slope of his nose and the curve of his chin she almost recognized. She tilted her face closer to his and brushed her thumb over his forehead. There was something about the way his freckles ran across his nose and under his closed eyes. Almost familiar, like someone she had seen in a dream once.

Was he one of the children who had disappeared from town? Was that why she recognized him, from the news? But no, that wasn’t possible because they were all much younger, she was pretty sure that the oldest of the three missing kids was only six.

Suddenly, his eyes opened and focused on her. Her natural inclination was to shrink back, but she couldn’t move. Even with only the moon to light up his face, his eyes were astonishing. A deep shade of cobalt with crystalline blue starbursts exploding around his pupils.

This was impossible. It couldn’t be --

“Wendy?” the boy breathed, the smell of sweet grass brushing across her face.

Wendy scrambled back from him. At the same time, the boy’s eyes of cosmos rolled back and fell closed again.

Wendy’s hand was clamped tight over her mouth and breaths that shook her shoulders escaped through her nose. What was going on? Who was he? How did he know her name? She couldn’t have recognized him. There was no possible way that the boy she was looking at was the boy in her drawings. He couldn’t be! He wasn’t real! Peter Pan was just a story her mother had made up when she was little!

But then why did every fiber of her being scream to her that it was him?

It didn’t make any sense. Her imagination was getting the better of her. She needed to get him help.

Wendy tried to focus and ignore the swimming of her head. She dug her hand into her pocket and pulled out her phone. The screen was blurry and in the back of her mind she realized her eyes were watering, but she was able to speed dial #5 for the local police station.

As soon as the ringing stopped, before the dispatcher could say a word, Wendy choked out, “Help!”

Chapter 2: Peter

“What’s your name, Miss?”

“Wendy Darling,” she said, leaning to the side, trying to see the still unconscious boy as the other paramedics put him on a stretcher.

“Do you know where you are?”

“Of course I do, I’m a mile from my house, sitting here with you.” She jerked her hand back as he tried to feel her pulse at her wrist.

“I’m Dallas, I’m a paramedic.”

“Obviously.”

“I’m just going to do a couple of tests to make sure you’re all right,” he continued. Two ambulances had showed up. The first went right to the boy, like paramedics were supposed to do, then the second truck showed up and they maneuvered her away to ask her questions.

“I’m fine, Dallas The Paramedic,” she said, pushing the penlight he was holding out of her face.

“Do you feel any pain anywhere?”

“Just my butt because you’re making me sit on the side of the road and answer these dumb questions,” she told him, again craning her neck to watch as the other paramedics put the boy into the back of the ambulance. It made loud, clacking noises and she wanted to yell at them to be more careful.

“Did you hit your head in the accident at all?”

“It wasn’t an accident, I’m fine, my truck is fine. There was no accident.”

“Okay, Miss,” he said, standing up and putting his stethoscope back into his bag. The doors to the ambulance carrying the boy slammed shut and the two paramedics got inside.

They were taking him away. Wendy felt a swell of panic. She needed to see him, needed to talk to him, needed to find out who he was. He couldn’t be Peter Pan, he was just a boy who had somehow gotten lost in the middle of the road. It wasn’t possible.

“I want to go to the hospital,” Wendy blurted out.

“What was that?”

“The hospital. I want to go. Can I follow? Like I said, my truck is fine, it’s just on the side of the road.” She felt like she needed to follow the boy to the hospital. Wendy couldn’t explain why but she was certain that she would regret it if she didn’t. The knot in her stomach only grew more persistent as the ambulance started to pull away.

Dallas frowned. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to drive if you think you need to go to the hospital to get checked out--”

“No, my mom works there, I want to see my mom, she’s a nurse,” she told him. The lights of the ambulance were disappearing around the bend.

“Oh.” He blinked. “All right.” He hesitated and looked back to his partner who was in their own ambulance, talking on the radio. “Hey, Marshall,” Dallas called. “Tell the officers to meet us at the hospital.”

Officers. Great. She’d have to talk to the police. The hairs on her arms stood on end even though she could feel sweat seeping through her shirt.

Dallas looked back at Wendy and added. “Are you sure you don’t want us to give you a ride there instead?”

“No.” Wendy looked him straight in the eye. “I have all of my mental faculties and am refusing care and transport,” she recited.

His eyebrows pulled together. She knew he was new because she hadn’t seen him before in the ER, where her mother worked. He sighed and pulled out his metal clipboard. “Sign here acknowledging that you--” Wendy whipped it out of his hand, quickly scrawled her name on the line before shoving it back at him. He fumbled to grab ahold of it again.

“We’re still going to follow you there, Wendy,” said Marshall Higgins as he leaned out of the door of the ambulance and gave her a narrow eyed stare.

Wendy squinted against the headlights and rubbed her hands on her jeans. She knew Marshall well enough from the hospital. “If you have to.”

Dallas squinted, reading something on her license before holding it out to her. “Happy birthday, by the way.”

“Yeah, thanks,” she said. Wendy jogged back to her truck. She revved up the engine, backed out of the tangle of branches and headed back to down, the woods disappearing behind her as the lights of the ambulance glinted in her rearview mirror.

 

The emergency room was small and not so much a room as a lobby, ringed with a U of rooms. Less than half were occupied, the drapes pulled closed around them. She walked straight up to one of the hand sanitizer dispensers attached to a wall, putting exactly three pumps into her hands before rubbing them together vigorously. It made the cracks in her fingers sting.

Wendy set herself in a plastic cushioned seat, directly facing the room he had been taken into. She could just see the feet of the nurses and doctors. She kept telling herself that if she could just see the boy again, she could see that he was just that -- a boy, a stranger, someone who had gotten himself lost in the middle of the woods. It was dark in the road, she couldn’t see him properly. She was just tired and stressed and her mind was just piecing together crazy ideas. She just needed to get home and get some sleep.

But first she needed to see him.

“Waiting for your mom?” one of the nurses asked behind the front desk. “She’s in the break room, should be out in a few.”

“Thanks.” Wendy came to see her mother so often that none of the staff thought that seeing her there was strange or cause for alarm.

The police arrived moments later, walking through the sliding doors with Dallas and Marshal. Dallas handed one of the officers some papers and nodded in Wendy’s direction.

She pulled her feet up onto the seat of the chair and hugged her legs close, but kept staring at the drapes. Wendy didn’t like police officers. After what had happened to her in the woods, she didn’t trust them anymore. They had done nothing but scare her and ask her the same questions over and over. They never believed her when she said she couldn’t remember anything. And they failed to get her brothers back.

She could hear the clacking of their loaded belts and the squeak of their boots on the speckled linoleum. They came to a stop in front of her and Wendy relaxed the muscles in her face and continued to stare straight ahead.

“Miss Darling?” His voice sounded too gentle. He was in the wrong profession.

She hummed in acknowledgement.

“We just have a few questions for you,” said the other as he pulled out a notepad. His stomach sagged over the edge of his belt.

“I already talked to the medics,” she said flatly.

“Yes, well, we have a few more questions.”

“Shouldn’t you guys be out looking for those missing kids instead?” Wendy regretted saying it almost as soon as it left her lips.

A deep scowl set onto the officer’s face. “Yes, we should. Which is why you should cooperate with us so we can determine if this boy was a victim.”

Wendy swallowed hard. She raised an eyebrow. Well?

The heavy one coughed and cleared his throat. “You said something fell onto the hood of your car?”

“Yes.”

“Like a tree branch?” he continued.

“No -- not a tree branch, it was like…” Wendy thought about the strange black mass. It wasn’t solid enough to be a branch. She could almost see through it and it moved and swirled, like a dark shadow.

But how on earth could she describe that to the police?

“I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t a branch,” she said, trying to sound firm.

“The medics said there were no signs the victim --” Wendy grimaced at the word, “was hit by a car. And you said he talked to you. Did he say what had happened?”

“No.”

“You said he knew your name,” the soft voiced officer added. “Do you know him?”

She opened her mouth to say “no”, but the word stuck in her throat. She hesitated.

Wendy’s eyes shifted to the nurse’s desk. The nurse behind it looked startled, seeing the two officers talking to Wendy. He got up and walked quickly in the direction that Wendy knew the break room was located.

Her grip around her legs tightened a bit. Her breathing quickened and she hoped they didn’t notice. “No.” But she didn’t sound as confident. She wasn’t confident. But she couldn’t tell them that she thought that she almost ran her truck over a boy she only knew from make believe stories. The police -- and everyone in town for that matter -- already thought she was crazy, or at the very least a liar. Wendy didn’t want her sanity questioned anymore than it already was.

She was starting to get a headache.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

The plump one’s beady eyes narrowed. “Do you know how he ended up in the middle of the road?” he asked. “Did he come from the logging roads?”

Wendy tilted her chin up, finally looking directly at the faces of the two officers. She smiled, squinting her eyes. “Maybe he fell out of the sky?” Better to be sarcastic than tell them the truth.

The rotund officer pressed his lips together, something she could only tell by the way his moustache ruffled and wiggled. The pretty one rubbed the back of his neck, careful not to disturb his carefully groomed hair, she was sure. He opened his mouth to speak again. “How does he know your name, then?”

“What’s going on here?” The voice was quiet but stern.

Wendy’s mother appeared between the two officers. “Mom.”

Mary Darling was in a pair of faded blue scrubs, her hair (more of a light brown compared to Wendy’s dark blonde) was done up in a messy bun. Her hands were at her sides, fidgeting, as her sharp brown eyes looked back and forth between the two officers expectantly. The dark circles under her eyes and her pale skin took away the sense of intimidation Wendy remembered her mother used to have.

Wendy stood up, pushed herself past the two officers and stood by her mother’s side.

“Are you all right?” Mrs. Darling asked, giving Wendy a quick, sidelong glance. “What happened? Your father--?”

“No, I’m fine,” Wendy said quickly. Her mom could sort this all out, she could make sense of all this. “There was this boy--”

“Mrs. Darling, we need to talk to your daughter,” Tubby cut in.

“And why is that, officer?”

He took off his hat, clearly ready to launch into explanation.

“Wendy!”

Everyone turned. The blue drapes around the boy’s bed rustled. Nurses ran behind the veil.

“WENDY!”

She couldn’t make out what the doctors were saying over the frenzied shouts of her name. There were two loud bangs as something metal hit the floor. The noise startled her so badly that she felt like she had been shot in the chest.

She looked around and everyone was staring at her. The nurses, the doctors, the officers, her mom.

“WENDY!”

Her head was spinning. All other sound came to her muffled and garbled, like she was hearing everything underwater, except for his piercing yells that cut through her head.

This felt like a nightmare. Her chest heaved up and down, but her hands curled into fists. She walked toward the curtained bed.

“Wendy.” This time it was her mother, lightly placing a hand on her shoulder, but Wendy shrugged it off. She stepped slowly, her arms wrapped around her middle. She passed nurses who openly stared at her and moved out of her way, both things she was well used to in the hallways at school. But there were more looks of pity and concern than the whispering lips of teenagers behind hands.

“WENDY!”

She was close enough now to reach out and grab hold of the plastic drape. She hesitated, noticing how hard her hand was shaking. She yanked it back.

Nurses darted back and forth. Men in blue scrubs on either side of him tried to grab hold of his arms. His legs thrashed under the waffle knit linens. There was a doctor with a needle and small glass bottle.

But then everything stopped and it was Wendy looking at him, and he looking back. She could see now that his hair was a dark auburn, glints of red showing even in the dull hospital lighting. The color of late autumn leaves. He was in blue scrubs. They’d obviously cut him out of the weird clothing that he had been wearing. The strange clothing made of fooliage was sticking out of a bag next to his bed.

“Wendy?” He wasn’t yelling anymore. He squinted at her. His head was tilted to the side like a dog.

She couldn’t find her voice. She had no idea what to say. Her mouth was open, but nothing was coming out.

A wide smile curled across his lips, revealing a gleaming smile, a small chip in his front tooth and deep dimples. Those starry eyes of his lit up, ones that dozens of her mysterious drawings just couldn’t get right. But that just wasn’t possible...

He gave another tug against the two men holding him back, the smile never leaving his face. He was probably the same height as her, but if the struggling nurses were any hint, he was quite strong. “I found you,” he said, sounding relieved and triumphant.

The doctor stuck the needle into his arm and pressed the plunger down. “No, don’t!” The words flew from her mouth, but it was too late. The boy flinched but couldn’t pull away. Almost immediately, those brilliant eyes of his grew glassy.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Aiden Thomas an avid reader and lover for the outdoors. In undergrad, she double majored in English and Psychology, and has a MFA in Creative Writing. Much of her inspiration comes from the vast, lush wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. If she's not hiking in the woods, she can be found writing at the local cafe. Her particular interests lie in monsters and hauntings, both in the literal and metaphorical sense. She currently resides in Portland, OR with her dog, Ronan, and cat, Figaro.

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
Ever since I was a kid, I've loved fairy tales, and Peter Pan was my all-time favorite! When I was in high school, I read the original novel by JM Barrie and was blown away by how dark and sinister it was. It inspired me to explore the darker themes and complicated psyches of the characters.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
"The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller changed my life! So much so that I got a tattoo inspired by it. It has some of the most beautiful prose I have ever encountered. I'm a huge fan of Maggie Stiefvater and her Raven Boys, and "The Foxhole Court" series by Nora Sakavic is phenomenal.