This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
1995 Orick, California
Officer Randall flipped his lights on as he pulled up behind a posh black 1975 Camaro with tinted windows. Nothing pissed him off more than tinted windows. Unable to see if a driver was worth harassing was an automatic qualification for harassment in Officer Randall's modus operandi. Plus, he loved flipping his lights on and knowing the immediate spike in fear most people felt when they discovered the 5-0 was on their ass.
Pulling out his new tint meter, Officer Randall swaggered up to the driver window with his right hand resting on his sidearm. The driver had only lowered the window a small crack, with their license, registration, and proof of insurance card already sticking out the window.
"Please lower your window," Officer Randall said curtly as he took the proffered material.
"May I have your badge number and name please?" an older woman asked as she lowered her window another inch.
Great…some stupid lawyer. Probably has one of those portable phones.
Letting his tone grow colder, he gave the woman his badge number and name, which she wrote down on a legal pad. With a frown, he decided to check her information before interrogating her more. She was definitely outside of the demographic of people he was interested in harassing.
"Dispatch, I need plates run fo urinate, rectal, nuisance, for a 10-37" Officer Randall radioed when he returned to his car. Technically, he was supposed to radio dispatch before he approached the driver.
"Very funny, Randall," Susan rasped back dryly. "Remember what the Captain said about using proper phonetic spelling on the radio from now on."
"Fine…Union, Robert, Nora," Officer Randall griped into his radio. After some bored citizen with a police scanner took offense to their department's less than polite phonetic alphabet, the Captain had made a point of making everyone on the force practice the proper phonetic scheme.
"1975 Camaro registered to an Alican Moore," Susan spoke after a moment of radio silence. "No prior record. Insurance is current. What was your PC?"
"Tinted windows," Officer Randall replied shortly.
"10-4," Susan's voice had the professional tone that Officer Randall had come to recognize as her way of conveying disapproval.
Getting out of his cruiser, Officer Randal walked up and handed the information back to the woman.
"I'm going to need you to lower your window more to test the tint," Officer Randall told the woman firmly.
She lowered the window another five inches without replying. As he slid the tint meter over her window, he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. A young woman was walking down the opposite side of the street. She had some kind of goofy hat with earflaps and a pair of rose-tinted glasses.
He glanced back at his meter and grunted irritably. Thirty-five; right at the edge of legal tint.
"Thanks for your time, ma'am," Officer Randall said distractedly. "Drive safely."
Without a word, the woman closed her window and drove away.
"Bitch," Officer Randal muttered under his breath. His heart wasn't in it though. His mind was already focused on the girl as she passed him on the other side of the street. This was much better than some dried up old hag.
"Excuse me, miss," Officer Randall said curtly as he marched across the street to confront her. "We're conducting a search for an escaped felon in the area. Can I see your ID, please?"
She paused as he stepped in front of her and he had a moment to get a better look at her. She was shorter than he had realized, probably not even five feet. The part of her face that wasn't obscured by her goofy hat and glasses hinted at very striking features. Large breasts were prominent even under the thick white jacket she wore. Her feet were adorned with an odd pair of green boots that stopped just below the knee. Her toned thighs were covered in thin white leggings that made his pulse quicken.
"I'm sorry, did I make a wrong turn somewhere?" the girl asked in a musical voice. "I thought this was still America. I haven't made a point of carrying my papers with me since I left Nazi Germany over half a century ago."
"Unless you would like to be charged with obstructing justice, I suggest you produce some identification," Officer Randall said belligerently. "Lose the hat and glasses."
"Which part of the fourth amendment did you misunderstand while going to cop school?" the girl asked with a contemptuous twist of her mouth. "I'm guessing it was most of it, since it probably required a degree of literacy. What kind of moron do you take me for? There aren't any prisons in the area for a felon to escape from. Why don't you go find another law-abiding driver to harass? I'm sure there are more cars with tinted windows that are probably hiding several kilos of unlawful substances you need to inspect."
Officer Randall had tried to break into her tirade several times, but she had just spoken louder each time he tried to interrupt. With a growl, he grabbed her arm and pulled out his cuffs. A split second later, he found himself doubled over into a fetal position as a blinding white pain erupted in his groin. He let out a pitiful howl as he hurriedly un-holstered his pistol.
He looked around from his fetal position for the source of his near-castration, fully intending to put a couple slugs in the little bitch. He swung his head around in every direction without spotting her. With a pathetic groan, he rose to his knees and peered up and down the road. She had vanished without a trace. There was no way she could have run away that fast; the closest trees were almost fifty feet away from the road. He continued scanning the area with his gun half-raised, convinced she was hiding in the short grass somewhere. After almost five minutes of half-crawling, half-staggering around, he gave up and went back to his car.
With a vicious curse, he noticed his legs were wet with a significant amount of blood. She must have sharpened the toes of her boots to have caused so much damage.
"Dispatch, I need an ambulance at North Lake Road," he groaned into his radio's mic.
2014 Orick, California
Harmony sighed as she finished unboxing the last of the dishes. Now all she had left to unpack was the winter clothing, which would be needed quite soon if the cooler temperatures were any indication.
"Aunt Harmony, can we go exploring after dinner?" her ten year old niece asked excitedly.
"Sure, Aurora," Harmony replied with an indulgent smile as she observed her dark-eyed niece. "Just make sure and get your jackets from the winter box."
"Grandma Norella said there's a giant wall in the forest that nobody's ever been inside of," Aurora's eleven year old sister said with a determined grin. "I'll bet we can find a way in!"
"I'm sure we can, Serenity," Harmony laughed, getting caught up in their excitement. It never ceased to amaze her how fascinating the world was to young minds. "We'll just walk around it."
"You can't walk around it, silly," Serenity said reproachfully. "It's a big circle. Grandma Norella says it goes on for miles and miles."
"Ooooh…" Harmony gasped in mock amazement. "I'll bet there's all kinds of treasure hiding inside of it!"
"That's what we think too!" Aurora nodded eagerly. "I'll bet there is a whole bunch of Spanish gold inside of it."
"Well of course it would have to be Spanish gold," Harmony said dryly.
Aurora squinted at her suspiciously for a moment as she tried to figure out if Harmony was teasing her, or just agreeing in a very unusual way. She finally settled for agreement, spinning around and running for the last of the moving boxes.
"Were you just being sarcastic, Aunt Harmony?" Serenity asked disapprovingly. "Our teacher told us sarcasm is the refuge of a bitter mind."
"Well I definitely have a better mind, so I guess I was being sarcastic," Harmony replied with a straight face.
"Bitter not better, silly!" Serenity corrected her, stamping her foot for emphasis.
"Why would I have a butter mind?" Harmony asked in mock confusion. "Oh I see; you're saying people who are sarcastic have fat brains."
"Bitter!" Serenity shouted, stamping her other foot. "Bitter, bitter, bitter!"
Aurora came running back into the kitchen with two jackets, throwing one of them to Serenity as she climbed onto one of the bar stools. "Who's bitter?"
"Serenity said she wants some lemons to go with her dinner," Harmony told Aurora with a shrug. "She's got an even more bizarre appetite than a pregnant woman."
"She's lying!" Serenity gasped in amazement. "I can't believe you just lied, Aunt Harmony!"
"I'm an author," Harmony told her with a wink. "We're given artistic license when it comes to telling the truth."
"What does that even mean?" Serenity demanded indignantly.
"It means that while in this universe you may have meant something else, I was pretending that we were in another universe where you meant you wanted lemons with your dinner," Harmony explained innocently.
"But there's only one universe," Serenity declared insistently. "Otherwise it would be called an omniverse."
"Who told you that?" Harmony asked curiously.
"It was on Jet Li, The One," Serenity replied, pointing at their stack of DVD's.
"Well if it was on TV, it has to be true," Harmony nodded sagely.
"You're being sarcastic again!" Serenity said accusingly.
"That's because I have a butter mind," Harmony replied calmly. "And with a brain as fat as mine, I can be as sarcastic as I want."
"You can be so infuriating, Aunt Harmony!" Serenity complained shrilly.
"So I've been told," Harmony replied unconcernedly. "If you take notes, you'll be pro's before you know it."
"Why would we want to be pro's at infuriating people?" Serenity demanded exasperatedly.
"Because it's a lot of fun," Harmony replied with a smirk. "Can't you see how much fun I'm having?"
"I'm telling Grandma that you lied," Serenity threatened.
"Who do you think taught me how to do it so well?" Harmony asked with a raised eyebrow.
Serenity stood spluttering for several seconds, and then folded her arms and narrowed her eyes in a manner that would have been stern, if she were a decade older. Instead, it just looked adorable.
"I'm telling Grandma that you called her a liar," Serenity stated huffily.
"Okay," Harmony replied amicably. "I'll make sure and tell her you called her an old bag."
"But I didn't!" Serenity objected in confusion. When Harmony just kept smirking at her, her eyes grew wide in sudden understanding. "You're going to lie!"
"Don't forget, we call it artistic license around here," Harmony corrected her with a wide grin.
"You're unbelievable!" Serenity shrieked, glaring at her sister as Aurora started giggling.
"Now you're getting the hang of it," Harmony nodded in satisfaction. "All liars are unbelievable by default."
Serenity glared at her for a moment before settling for an affronted silence. Harmony shook her head in amusement as she started preparing dinner. She had only gained custody of her nieces a couple of days ago, and it was proving more fun than she had thought possible. It was the only silver lining to her sister's untimely death several months ago. Her nieces had been living with their grandmother while Harmony tried to decide if she could handle being their guardian. At twenty-three years old, she felt woefully inadequate at taking care of two girls on the verge of becoming teenagers, but leaving them with her ill mother was something she couldn't allow without her overzealous conscience keeping her up at night, sick with guilt.
By the time they finished eating and were preparing to go exploring, Serenity had forgotten that she was giving Harmony the silent treatment. The two girls were running into the forest behind their two-story house with reckless abandon before Harmony could even get off the back porch. With a grin, Harmony ran after them, thankful that she went running every morning and had the stamina to keep up with them.
After fifteen minutes of zipping through the trees, the girls were finally slowing down to a more acceptable pace. Harmony glanced at the horizon calculatingly as the sun sank behind some clouds near the mountains. They probably only had another half an hour of good light left. She glanced at her iPhone's GPS app, making sure it was marking their progress with breadcrumbs so that they could find their way back to the house. God, I love technology.
"Wow!" Serenity exclaimed in amazement. "It's humungous!"
Harmony put her phone away and looked up to see what they were so excited about. Then she saw the wall and gasped. It must have been three hundred feet tall! The enormous redwood trees around it were at least a couple dozen feet shorter. In a state of bemusement, Harmony slowly approached the giant wall. Who in the world would build something so massive in the middle of nowhere like this?
When she reached the base of the colossal structure, she reached a hand out to feel the surface. It was as smooth as glass. It had flecks peppering it that almost looked like granite. She pulled out her small pocket knife and experimentally tried to score some of the surface loose. The steel blade didn't even scratch the hard material. With a frown, she picked up a rock and tried pounding the butt of her knife against the surface of the wall. After a few taps, the blade of her knife snapped in half. Curiouser and curiouser.
She pulled out her iPhone to take a few close-up pictures. As she slid the unlock button on her iPhone's touch-screen, the screen suddenly flickered like it was possessed, then winked out. Just bloody great. Now I have to find my way back without breadcrumbs.
"Aunt Harmony, I can almost see over the top of the wall!" Aurora shouted excitedly from somewhere up high.
Harmony felt a sudden chill as she looked up and spotted Aurora several hundred feet high in the branches of one of the redwoods. Unlike the redwoods she was familiar with, these redwoods had branches that started at the base and went all the way up.
"Aurora, get back down here before you break your neck!" Harmony shouted urgently. She could tell the branches Aurora was on were getting extremely thin.
"It's okay, I climb trees all of the time," Aurora shouted back down reassuringly.
"I think you should come back down," Serenity called up to her sister from where she was perched about halfway up the tree.
"Listen to your sister, Aurora!" Harmony shouted insistently. "We are in a very bad place for a medical emergency."
"Fine!" Aurora sighed dramatically. "You guys are being babies though. I could climb this thing blindfolded-"
She cut off with a startled yell as a loud cracking noise reached Harmony's ears.
"Aurora!" Harmony shouted in alarm, hurriedly scaling the lower branches.
"I'm okay…" Aurora shouted in a much less confident tone. "Um…I think I might be stuck though."
Harmony felt her heart skip several beats as dozens of horrible outcomes flashed through her over-active imagination. "Hold on honey, I'm coming up."
"I think you better hurry," Aurora called back down. "I don't know how much longer I can hold on."
Harmony panted as she quickened her pace. She wasn't sure if her heart was beating so fast from exertion, or fear. She passed Serenity and kept moving as fast as she could. It only took her a few minutes to reach a point where she had a clear view of the situation. Aurora was hanging from a branch that looked way too small to support her weight, with one arm hooked around the branch while her other hand grasped another small sapling.
"My arm is starting to slip, Aunt Harmony," Aurora quavered, her voice tight with anxiety.
"You look like you could use a hand," a musical voice noted in amusement from several branches below Harmony.
Harmony looked down in surprise as a young woman quickly zipped past her like a squirrel up the tree. It was dark enough that she couldn't make out any of the girl's features, aside from a mass of brilliant long red hair. Harmony watched in amazement as the girl scaled the last fifty feet separating her from Aurora like an Olympic gymnast.
The girl calmly walked out onto a small limb just below Aurora and reached up to grab her niece around the waist.
"You can let go now," the girl told Aurora confidently. "I've got you."
"There is no way that branch will support both of you," Harmony said nervously.
"Nonsense," the girl replied dismissively. "I need you to trust me, Aurora. Now let go."
"Okay," Aurora took a deep breath and released the branch she was holding.
Harmony cringed as the small branch the girl was standing on bowed slightly as she lowered Aurora down. Somehow, the branch remained unbroken as it supported their combined weight.
"Now just wrap your arms and legs around me and we'll head back down," the girl instructed Aurora calmly.
Harmony watched in astonishment as the girl somehow balanced perfectly on the small branch while Aurora complied. She must be part squirrel!
"All right, let's blow this popsicle stand," the girl said with a grin in her voice.
As Harmony watched open-mouthed, the girl began hopping down the branches like she was walking down a stairway. She finally snapped out of her astonishment when the girl passed her in a blur of gravity-defying leaps down the tree. The girl was only slightly larger than the tightly clinging Aurora.
Harmony hurriedly began descending the large tree, shaking her head in disbelief at the impossibility of the situation.
"Who is that?" Serenity asked in bafflement when Harmony caught up to her. "And where did she come from?"
"Didn't she pass you on her way up?" Harmony asked in surprise.
"I didn't see anyone," Serenity replied blankly.
Harmony frowned as she looked down at the ground that was still a good seventy feet below them. The girl and Aurora were both already chatting at the base of the tree.
"Come on, let's get back down," Harmony said after taking another deep breath. She could still feel adrenaline coursing through her system from the intense fear that had filled her heart just moments ago.
The girl had her head tilted upward as she watched them descend the last dozen feet. As soon as Harmony reached the ground, she pulled Aurora into a tight embrace.
"Don't ever scare me like that again!" Harmony gasped as she felt tears spill down her cheeks.
"I promise," Aurora said contritely as she patted Harmony's back comfortingly.
Harmony took a deep, shuddering breath and turned to thank their rescuer. With a frown, she did a full three-sixty turn as her eyes failed to locate their heroine.
"Where did she go?" Harmony asked in confusion.
"She's right here-" Aurora broke off as she realized their mysterious rescuer was nowhere to be found.
"Hello?" Harmony called out uncertainly into the darkening landscape.
"Where is she?" Serenity asked as she jumped down the remaining few feet from the lowest branch.
"She just vanished," Harmony replied in puzzlement. "I saw her two seconds ago, then she was gone."
"Maybe she flew away," Aurora suggested, looking into the sky.
"What do you mean?" Serenity asked curiously.
"I thought fairies could fly," Aurora answered uncertainly.
"What makes you think she was a fairy?" Serenity asked doubtfully.
"She had pointy ears like a fairy," Aurora replied with a shrug. "Who else has pointy ears?"
Harmony frowned, remembering the strange points that were sticking up through the sides of the girl's hair. It had been too dark to see clearly, so she had just assumed it was unruly hair. There's no such thing as fairies. Might as well bring elves and Santa Clause into the picture while we're at it.
"Come on, let's get home," Harmony said briskly.
Aurora and Serenity grudgingly gave up their search of the darkening skies and followed her back toward the house. Holding her breath for luck, Harmony pulled out her iPhone and held the power button down for a few seconds. A small apple appeared on the screen as the phone came back to life. Thank god for small mercies.
Her nieces remained unusually quiet as she used the flashlight on her phone to help light the way back to the house. The breadcrumbs on her phone's map were still present, or they would never have found their way back in the dark woods.
"I think this calls for some ice-cream," Harmony declared as they walked through the back door.
"You mean rice-cream," Serenity corrected with a roll of her eyes.
"It tastes just as good as the real thing," Harmony said with a shrug. "And you don't have to feel bad about torturing cute cuddly cows when you eat it."
She took Serenity's silence as assent.
As they sat around the kitchen bar eating rice-cream, Aurora kept absently looking at the window.
"What are you looking at, honey?" Harmony asked curiously.
"I was just hoping to see the fairy flying around," Aurora replied vaguely.
"Sweetie, fairies don't really exist, except in movies and books," Harmony said gently.
"What if she lives inside of that big ring?" Aurora murmured, as if she hadn't heard Harmony. "What if it's a fairy ring?"
Harmony just sighed and let it pass. She'll get over it in a few days.
"How did she know Aurora's name?" Serenity asked suddenly.
"She probably heard us shouting it," Harmony shrugged.
Serenity didn't look convinced.
"Come on, let's get you girls ready for bed," Harmony said as they finished their dessert. "School night."
That was all it took to get their minds off of fairies. After several half-hearted objections, the two girls reluctantly began the nightly bedtime routine.
After both girls were securely deposited into their bedrooms, Harmony sat down at the desk in her bedroom and opened her laptop. Time to see what we can find out about that crazy wall.
It took almost five minutes of narrowing her search queries to even find any references to the enormous structure. Very few people even knew of its existence, with most of the information supplied from local Indian legends. Most of the legends were spawned by the Kalapuya Indians and passed on by neighboring tribes after the majority of the Kalapuya's were wiped out from European plagues. The fact that the Kalapuya had significant language barriers with the other tribes in the region made the legends even more difficult to interpret and understand.
According to the Indian legends, a Chepi, which was the Native American equivalent of a fairy, was the caretaker of magical creatures that once inhabited the Americas. After hundreds of thousands of years of coexisting peacefully with humans, the Elders of the largest tribe in North America betrayed the Chepi and began using the magical creatures they protected in rituals to steal their magic. The only way a Chepi could reproduce, was to bind herself to a mortal man and bear his offspring. The first child always inherited the mother's powers and was given the charge to protect the magical creatures in the land from evil spirits who would use their magic to take mortal form. Once in mortal form, the evil spirits would deceive the human tribes and initiate rites of human sacrifice to feed their twisted spirits and gain more power over the spirit realm.
The Kalapuya claimed one of the eldest of the Chepi found human men repugnant, and refused to bond with them. Since Chepi's only became mortal after bonding with humans, this Chepi remained in a state of perpetual youth. When all of the other Chepi in the land were deceived and their first-born children sacrificed to evil spirits, only the Chepi known as the hermit remained. She gathered all of the remaining magical creatures in the land and kept them safe from the Elders in her circle of dominion. All of the other circles of dominion in the land had decayed and been destroyed when their Chepi died. Only one circle of dominion remained, proof that at least one Chepi still lived.
Wiping her tired eyes, Harmony closed her laptop and flopped down onto her bed with a sigh. I can't believe even these natives believe in fairies. I guess some superstitions are just too good to keep on one side of the world.