Mary of the Aether is a Young Adult novel now available from Whiskey Creek Press!
A tale of mystery and magic. Mary Lanham lives an unremarkable life in an unremarkable small town, until the day a man in a long, gray cloak creeps out of the forest, and a centuries-old mystery begins to unfold. What is the terrible secret Mary’s father is hiding, a secret that has put both of their lives in danger? What is the truth about Mary’s past that has awakened a great evil? And how can she win the heart of the boy she loves when the whole world is falling apart?
Aiden turned the knob and managed to force the door open about six inches before it gave a great squeal of protest and stuck in place. He slipped through, and she went in after him.
Beyond the door was a small den of dark wood paneling. A couch sat against the far wall, the stuffing bursting through the frayed upholstery, beer cans nestled in and among the cushions. Cobwebs draped from the corners like old curtains, and the whole place stank of musty decay. When Mary stepped inside, Aiden pushed the door shut behind her and set the deadbolt. Then he led her across the room to a narrow hallway, where they found more ruin, including a large hole in the drywall, a crumpled up t-shirt on the floor and a pile of trash. The floor was soft here; Mary felt it bowing under her feet with every step.
“I don’t like this place,” she said.
“Yeah, maybe we lost her already,” Aiden said. “Let’s take a peek into the living room and see if we can see her through the front windows.”
The hallway ended in three open doors. The one of the left led into the bedroom with the broken window. The one on the right led into a kitchen that was an absolute horror of filth, trash and even a couple of dead rats on the countertop. Straight ahead was the living room, an open space with peeling wallpaper and an old busted television on the floor, face down in a bed of its own glass. Windows on the far side of the living room gave a wide view of the front yard, the crumbling fence and Main Street. Cars passed, including the sputtering Studebaker of Thad and Ethel Fenster, who had apparently finished their chicken dinner at Cholly’s and were now driving home at a snail’s pace. There was no sign of Iris.
“She’s gone,” Mary said, feeling not quite relieved. Even if she was out of sight, she was there somewhere, and the traces of aether meant that Mary could never really get away. Papa had not prepared her for this. What was she supposed to do with all of these awful Lookers?
Aiden crossed the living room and stood at the window, gazing outside.
“I don’t see her,” he said. “I figured she wouldn’t follow us in here, an old lady all prim and proper like that.”
“She didn’t look prim and proper to me,” Mary said, skirting the fallen television to stand beside Aiden. “She looked horrible and mean.”
“Wonder what she was looking for,” he said. “Figure she wanted to rob us? She didn’t seem like the type to need money, but you never know. Maybe the big fancy black dress is all she has left in the world.”
Mary didn’t answer. She didn’t know what to say, and she wasn’t willing to outright lie to him. Tell him the truth, then, part of her said. He’s already a part of this. He needs to know.
But Aiden was already moving to the front door. A chain latch was in place, so he undid it and grasped the doorknob. “Let’s get you home,” he said and opened the door.
And there she stood, framed in the doorway as if she had been waiting for them. Her hands were still neatly clasped in front of her, and she had a little smile on her face. Mary screamed and stumbled backward, her feet slipping on bits of glass. She went down hard, hit the edge of the television and rolled onto the floor. Aiden cursed and tried to slam the door in the woman’s face, but she shouldered her way in, and the door merely thudded off her bony arm and flew back.
“Children should not play in abandoned houses,” Iris said. “They might get hurt.”
Available in trade paperback and e-book formats from Whiskey Creek, Amazon, Nook and Fictionwise. All links can be found at my website – jeffreyaaronmiller.com