(For more short tales from Prospero's twisted history, check out our four previous trips to Prospero.)
Click here for Four More Trips to Prospero, Part 1: Miracle Fever
Click here for Four More Trips to Prospero, Part 2: Heroes
Click here for Four More Trips to Prospero, Part 3: Let's Scare the Babysitter to Death
For today's story, Mina Todd is fourteen, and has a date.
If You Must Know
By F.J.R. Titchenell
Mina - Two and a half years before the events of Splinters
It was probably a trick.
Want to hang out sometime when we’re not trying to compare and contrast something? Let me know.
So said the note slipped into my locker, followed by Shaun’s name and number.
Well, Shaun’s name and someone’s number. I hadn’t had the nerve yet to test it. All the way through the two classes we’d had together after lunch yesterday, after the note, he hadn’t looked at me, and I hadn’t been able to determine whether he was deliberately not looking at me, the way someone who had slipped me that note and meant it and might even be slightly nervous about it might not look at me.
Or the way someone who was pretending to be the previous sort of someone might not look at me.
Or simply the way most people didn’t look at me, if they were decent enough not to find any sport in it, and if they weren’t currently assigned to a group project with me the way Shaun had been last week, when we maybe, possibly had what people call “a moment” while jointly making fun of Madison Holland’s interpretation of The Scarlet Letter.
But probably not.
I’d stolen a page of notes (for a test we’d already taken, of course) out of Shaun’s backpack during gym class and spent far too much of last night neglecting my Splinter suspects lists and studying handwriting analysis instead.
The note in my locker matched the page of his notebook.
Which left me with three possibilities.
1: Shaun, one of the nicest, smartest, most passionate beacons of reason and decency in Prospero Middle School, the boy who sometimes caused me to make up Splinter-hunting excuses to spy on Speech and Debate Club just to hear him speak, had been replaced by a Splinter who meant to use his identity against me.
2: Shaun wasn’t what I thought he was and had concocted some kind of sadistic prank for me.
3: Shaun liked me.
I could not have said which of these possibilities disturbed me most.
Not for the first time, I found myself wishing I could talk to my mom about this sort of thing. Or anybody, for that matter, other than my twelve-year-old best and only friend, Aldo. I had a pretty good idea how he’d feel if he knew I was considering dating.
There was only a semester left until our grades would separate us again in school, and that would be hard enough. I wasn’t going to put him through telling him about this until I knew what there was to tell.
I arrived at school too early, dressed in the cleanest of my practical black t-shirts and jeans, with a spare set in my backpack (the best all-purpose line of defense against possibility number two), determined to find that out.
Shaun was on my Probable Non-Splinter list thanks to his dad’s position on the Town Council, but probable was only that, probable. If this turned out to be possibility one or three, I was going to have to guess which.
I didn’t like guessing.
Rummaging around my locker and waiting as the morning crowd filed in, I knew Shaun’s voice, and his brother’s, from across the hall.
“I did,” said Shaun proudly.
“In her locker? It’s so high school.”
“Yeah, well, in case you haven’t looked up from your SAT prep manuals long enough to read the sign out front,” Shaun shifted to an exaggerated stage whisper, “that would put me ahead of the curve. Besides, what was I supposed to do, go up to her and ask for her phone number so I could text her to ask her out? Even if she didn’t go through phones like candy-”
“Did it have checkboxes on it? Like, ‘do you like me, yes, no, maybe’?”
The sound of an affectionate backhand against a clothed shoulder. “No! What is this, second grade?”
“But same general idea?”
“So what did she say?”
The gentle bragging went out of Shaun’s tone. “Nothing yet.”
Footsteps stopped short at the sight of me.
None of this did anything to rule out any of the three possibilities, but the urge to gather evidence from Shaun’s expression overrode the one to avoid engaging in a way that might put me in the position of having to guess before maximum evidence was available.
I looked at him.
He didn’t go back to avoiding my gaze, not immediately, just stood there, hands in his pockets, hopeful smile, floppy blonde hair parted a little straighter than usual, and shrugged in the way people do when they ask,
I watched the way his slightly too-large Adam’s apple betrayed the privacy of a small nervous swallow, and when I’d watched and waited and searched for more clues for too long, he nodded as if I’d given an answer, shrugged again, and turned to move on to his own locker.
Out of time. So I guessed.
He turned back when I called, his brother retreating just far enough to watch from an almost discreet distance, in spite of the fact that he must already have been running late to finish up his morning volunteer work here before biking over to Prospero High. I pulled Shaun’s note out of my pocket while they both watched, entered the number into my phone, and texted it.
Shaun’s phone buzzed immediately. So the number was his.
His face did what could easily be described as lighting up when he opened the one word I’d sent him.
Whether to date in a town where almost anyone might have been replaced by one of the shapeshifting monsters that took my dad was conundrum enough. How to date as a fourteen-year-old Splinter hunter in a town with one diner, one movie theater of extremely limited selection, a handful of fast food restaurants staffed by too many people from school and higher quality restaurants only adults would go to, no mall, and Splinter ears in every proverbial wall turned out to be an intricate puzzle of its own.
Shaun and I texted back and forth for half the school day before settling on the theater option, Saturday night for one of their sci-fi irony fests. I wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to hurl adequate wit and vitriol at the screen the way Shaun had described the tradition, but it would start late enough that I could see Aldo home safely first and then check in with him from my room for our usual evening info swap.
It would mean being out late enough that I’d have to tell my parents where I was going, though.
I waited for Mom to retreat to her home office after dinner to catch her there. Whatever I said would probably make its way back to the Splinter of Dad soon enough, but I wasn’t going to hand-feed the Splinters any more information about my activities than I needed to.
Mom sat up straighter when she heard me enter, tensing for a fight. The most reasonable expectation. I had to remind myself that, for once, what I needed from her had nothing to do with the Splinter hunt she wanted me to abandon. There was no reason for this to be a problem.
“Can I stay out late on Saturday night?” I cut to the point.
Before she could finish the scoffing sound in her throat to shoot me down, I explained, “I have a date.”
Mom spun around in her office chair to look at me, stunned. Then she burst into laughter.
“Your excuses are getting worse,” she gasped after several seconds.
I’d prepared for this.
“I don’t expect you to take my word for it.”
I unlocked my phone, opened my texts with Shaun, and handed it over.
Purged of plenty of other data I’d load back onto it later, of course.
Mom read through my entirely unedited exchange with Shaun, which included some moments...
Mina: I want you to know I didn’t make you wait because I’m trying to confuse you, or because I’m not attracted to you. I needed to think because it’s no exaggeration to say that my life is extremely complicated.
Shaun: Lol, straightforward. Straightforward is good. I’m just glad you said yes.
...moments that twisted my stomach a little to think about her looking in on them, but it was worth it for the look on her face, transitioning slowly from skepticism to embarrassment to guilt.
“Sweetie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say you couldn’t get a date,” she backtracked “I just didn’t think you were interested yet.”
“I know that, Mom,” I said in the self-possessed, dispassionate tone that seems to be the only one adults are capable of hearing. “Can I go? Please?”
“Of course. Do you need me to drive you?”
“If you have time, it would help.”
Mom pulled me into our first hug in years. “Congratulations.”
I counted ten seconds to avoid appearing ungrateful before pulling away, and added a “thanks” on my way out.
“And sweetie,” Mom stopped me at the door. Her guilt was evaporating fast. “I want to see a ticket stub when I pick you up.”
Homemade stun guns and flamethrowers. Protection for him, or from him.
Repurposed tracker to plant in his phone or wallet as soon as I could get close enough, for the same two possible purposes.
Ankh necklace I’d bought to test its potential protective properties, easily the prettiest thing I owned.
The only non-black shirt in my dresser, a green one I’d hoped would blend into the forest better than it did.
I could honestly tell my queasy stomach when Mom dropped me off in front of the Canterbury Theater that I’d done all I could to prepare.
Not that it listened.
Shaun was already waiting, standing in line for tickets, and when I walked up next to him, in that moment when a person in line has to acknowledge a newcomer as part of the same party to allay suspicions of line-cutting, he reached out and held my hand.
I could feel Mom’s smirk as she drove away as distinctly as I could feel the warmth of Shaun’s fingers.
Standing in line wasn’t easy. With no puzzles in front of me, no surveillance feeds in my ears, nothing to focus on but the boy next to me who was causing that queasy feeling, my brain quickly started drifting into one of its hazy thought loops that make it hard to say or do things that make sense.
Shaun’s first words after “Hey” brought me back.
“One what?” I asked.
Shaun nodded at the posters that lined the outer wall of the theater. “One thing from those two posters that could beat everything else in a fight.”
The two posters he was looking at were old fashioned hand-drawn ones for two of the ancient sci-fi movies from the Saturday night rotation.
“I haven’t seen them,” I said. “I don’t know what any of them are capable of.”
“That one’s a giant robot, and those are giant ants,” said Shaun. “And the rest are screaming humans. That’s about all you need to know.”
“Okay,” I studied the posters until Shaun laughed nervously,
“It’s not a Poe versus Hawthorne essay. You’re not going to be graded.”
“That one,” I pointed.
“No, an ant that size would collapse under its own weight before it could fight anyone,” I said. “The one climbing its leg.”
I pointed out the one small human clinging to one of the ants’ knees for dear life instead of running away.
“Him against that?” Shaun pointed at the robot on the other poster. “It would step on him.”
“Bipedal robots can barely walk when there’s nothing lumpy to step on.”
Shaun laughed a little again, maybe at me, but he kept hold of my hand.
“You know, it’s called science fiction. What if the ant didn’t collapse, and the robot worked perfectly, like an engineer’s dream of what a robot could be?”
I thought about that, then pointed to the same guy.
“Humans are tenacious,” I said.
Shaun smiled at that and nodded as if he accepted this explanation.
“Okay, yeah, but why him? Why not her?” He pointed at the one identifiable female between the two posters, whom I’m sure he picked for that reason alone. She had a scream face wider than any of the other humans’, a floor-length slitted dress and six inch heels.
I raised one eyebrow to let him know I was deciding on whether he was making fun of me.
“Because a science nonfiction bipedal robot could outrun her on a flat surface,” I said.
For every pair of posters on the way to the ticket booth, we picked our champions and argued on their behalf. When Shaun declared it boring for me to bet on the humans every time, I chose a mound of strawberry-colored slime and soon found myself explaining with the help of rather dramatic gestures how difficult it is to fight something that’s only mildly inconvenienced by being ripped in half, as if that were funny.
To Shaun it was funny, and his laugh was contagious.
It was one of the hardest, easiest, and altogether strangest things I’d ever done, just standing there and talking to him, accomplishing nothing, fighting nothing, worrying about nothing more than the nervous flutter in my stomach whenever we looked too long at each other, and even that nervousness had a weirdly relaxing side effect in all my limbs, a feeling like a deep breath I hadn’t realized I needed.
I didn’t know how long the clarity would last, especially once the lights went down in the theater, so I bought a giant bag of pull-apart Twizzlers at the concessions stand to keep my blood sugar up and keep me busy if necessary before we went to find seats, and when I opened it and started peeling the first rope into strands before the pre-show even started, Shaun described the activity as both “un-Twizzling” and “unconscionably cute.”
Better yet, I soon found myself describing it as “unnecessary.”
The bag soon sat wedged in the very narrow space between my right leg and his left, both of us munching from it in the rare lulls when we remembered it was there.
I doubt either of us would have chosen the monster of the evening to bet on in a hypothetical brawl. The expanding, wriggling hive of carnivorous earthworms (the script’s words, not mine), worked its way through the homes of the characters, whose names Shaun already knew.
After a while of laughing along with his suggestions for how they could part with their ill-conceived lives a little less quickly, when one of the breathless starlets exclaimed, “Why is this happening?!”, I shouted back without thinking, “Because we’re dumb enough to pay to watch it!”
And Shaun wasn’t the only one in the dark auditorium who laughed. Just the only one who mattered.
If that was a little unlike me, the length of time I ignored the incoming texts vibrating against my leg, just because I didn’t want to see them, was the opposite of like me.
12:05am: Carrigan is on the move, near the trailheads.
12:07am: Christ, she’s been advertising night hikes. She’s luring someone.
12:11am: I know you’re out of bed, Little Girl. Move your ass.
How badly I wanted to keep ignoring them even after I snuck a glance… I didn’t want to think about what kind of person that was like.
“Shaun,” I leaned in close to him, and he leaned his ear immediately closer to listen. “Why did you want to go out with me?”
He turned to look at me, trying to smile. “After tonight, you have to ask me that?”
This was a long way past being a joke.
“I have to get out of here,” I said.
Shaun’s face fell, and he immediately pulled on the jacket he’d tossed aside across his far armrest. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I really thought you were having fun.”
There was no way to explain that I was having quite possibly the most fun I’d ever had, not with what I had to do now and how quickly I had to do it.
But I could do the two things I’d been thinking about all evening in a matter of seconds.
I grabbed both sides of Shaun’s jacket as soon as it was on him and did both at once; I slipped the tracker through that hole near his pocket and into the lining, and I made him my first kiss.
Shaun kissed me back with some confusion but no hesitation in his posture, wrapping his arms all the way around me. His lips were softer than I’d imagined and still tasted of Twizzlers, and though it was the last thing I felt like doing, as soon as his grip on me loosened for a moment, I pulled back.
“Sorry,” I said. “I warned you it would be complicated.”
I picked up my bag and ran before he could say anything more.
I ran across the vacant interstate to follow the forest’s edge up toward the nexus of the historical trailheads toward all the supposed Miracle Mines, feeling lightheaded, lightbodied, and in serious danger of tripping.
Or maybe skipping.
The Old Man was going to test me for this, I knew it, and he was going to make sure it hurt. He was going to use the real Taser, the big, modified cop one, I didn’t know how many times before he’d be convinced that I hadn’t been taken and replaced by one of them, and then I was in for hours of lecturing about the dangers of love and friendship and distraction and how untrustworthy even human boys could be and how I wouldn’t be able to fight anymore if I got knocked up.
I was getting shivery already waiting for it, but what was even scarier, I thought it might be worth it. Nothing had ever felt worth the risk of disappointing my one and only adult ally, the only adult who’d ever seen fit to be honest with me about the evils of my town and how to fight them, but this, I didn’t want to take this back.
At least, not if Shaun was going to forgive me for tonight.
Maybe even if he wasn’t.
I scoped out the trailheads from a safe shadow behind the Historical Society headquarters. Mrs. Carrigan, an Effectively Certain Splinter and one of the volunteer housewives who mostly ran the place, was indeed waiting there, surveying a small, growing group of hikers, mostly young couples.
Unchecked, most of them would be Splinters by morning.
Time to get back to work. But first, now that I had her in sight, I stopped to open the tracker app on my phone.
Shaun had wandered a little way from the theater, but by his stillness, he’d either lost track of me or hadn’t fully decided to try to follow. Hopefully, he’d turn back and finish the movie or go home, somewhere safe, soon enough. As long as I could watch and make sure he wasn’t anywhere near the forest where Splinters were made, I’d know he was okay. At least as okay as he had been when I’d decided to guess he was okay, and that was all the guarantee of okay I was ever going to get. I’d hold onto every ounce of it.
I circled around through the trees, stepping as quietly as I could while testing the ground for loose rocks until I found one the right size, about twice the size of my fist, put it in my bag and made the climb up the rope ladder The Old Man had helped me install behind one of the redwoods near the trail nexus.
From twenty-five feet above, at the entrance to the web of ropes we’d rigged for inconspicuous movement up here, I pulled out the rock and lined up my shot. Satisfied that if sudden wind or an imprecise release on my part caused me to miss, I’d do so in the direction of the empty ground instead of the hikers, I dropped it right on target.
The rock glanced off Mrs. Carrigan’s skull, leaving a dent over her left ear, and crushing her shoulder. She dropped in a heavy heap, to gasps and screams from her prospective victims. One couple rushed forward, the man tentatively examining the gash, the woman fumbling her phone unlocked to dial 9-1-1. She hadn’t quite made it when Carrigan’s involuntary Splinter reaction began.
The thing that looked like the fresh corpse of an enthusiastic Historical Society volunteer twitched and rippled with angles not found under human skin, parts snapping back into place with the creaks and cracks of breaking wood.
The Good Samaritan couple backed away, and someone screamed.
Carrigan got up as soon as her human consciousness returned, brushed herself off and put a hand over her heart, as if she were as shocked by all this as anyone else could possibly be. The courage of the night hikers to face the forest of miracles and monsters was wavering, ready to be shattered. I grabbed the branch above me, braced my feet against the one in front of me, and shook the tree with my full if somewhat insubstantial weight.
It was enough to startle the hikers again, especially when I ran one of the homemade noisemakers from my bag along the trunk, making a clicking, whining sound somewhere between insects in spring and heavy machinery being repaired.
“Monsters,” someone said very breathlessly from below.
The Old Man didn’t like me using the legends to scare people out of the woods. He said it would just spread the mystique and make more people curious to explore them later, but I liked to hope that if it made people curious enough, someday maybe the kind of people who don’t get called crazy would come out here and find something undeniable, and we’d finally get some serious outside help.
I shimmied my way along one of the ropes to the next tree and rustled its branches, glad for the physical excuse to expend some of the wild, skipping energy, did my best imitation of Splinter talk, a set of random clicks and pops at the back of my cheeks and in my knuckles, and then on a wild inspiration from the skipping feeling, I added a feral, canine howl and surprised myself with its realism.
That sent the hikers running, or in some cases, ambling with attempted nonchalance back down the road into town, in spite of Carrigan’s protestations that the wildlife was more afraid of them.
All except two, a middle aged man and woman I hadn’t seen before, out-of-towners, who ran deeper into the woods instead of away, raising their expensive-looking cameras in front of them.
Two was better than ten.
Waiting for them to lose track of where the sounds had come from, I took out my phone, brightness turned down, to check on Shaun.
He wasn’t back in the theater, or on his way home. He was still standing somewhere between the theater and the tree line, far too close to these hills where Splinters came from, and where I’d just cheated them out of a batch of victims.
That was when the branch above me moved.
The creature dropped onto my hand and dug its fangs into my wrist. It was small, a fragment of escaped Splinter matter about the size of my foot that looked like it had copied its shaped from a bat and then added human-ish fingers and a nose, and it squeezed my hand until the phone slipped out of it and shattered on the rocky ground, making the camera couple turn a full circle and then freeze, listening.
I slammed the Creature Splinter repeatedly against the tree trunk until its imitation of a skull finally caved in, loosening its grip long enough for me to peel it off and throw it out of the tree.
The branches above continued to move more than my brief struggle should have caused, and I looked up to see the glint of dozens of eyes between the redwood needles.
Carrigan had brought backup.
I grabbed the next rope, wrapped my legs around it, and pulled myself to the next small platform, closer to the camera couple so I wouldn’t lose their silhouettes in the trees.
The Creature Splinters started attacking the rope behind me, some trying to cross it on spider’s legs set too far apart, others gnawing on it with leech mouths. One in the shape of an owl with rubbery, mask-like feathers flapped its way over to me, barely able to stay airborne but with fangs like a rattlesnake’s protruding from both its beak and wingtips. I drew a stun gun and shocked it out of the air.
The next thing I needed wasn’t in my bag. I was all out of smartphones, no way to check the tracker app and make sure Shaun stayed human tonight.
I could let it go, try not to think about how being around me draws Splinters to people like flies on honey, or how he was only wandering around this part of town aimlessly at this time of night because of me.
I grabbed one of my disposable prepaid flip phones and punched in Aldo’s number.
Almost one in the morning. He answered on the first ring.
It wasn’t a casual, introductory inquiry like “What’s up?” He meant, literally, “What terrible thing is happening now?”
“I need you to watch the tracker I planted on my possible new boyfriend to make sure he doesn’t get taken tonight,” I came clean all at once. “I’m texting you the link.”
Aldo was silent a few seconds before, “Wait, back up.”
“I know what I said, and I’m sorry I didn’t say it sooner,” I said. “But it happened fast and I didn’t know if it was real and I was worried about what you’d say, and now he could be in trouble.”
“New boyfriend?” Aldo repeated.
“Possibly,” I repeated in kind. “And I promise,” that wasn’t enough. I needed to say something crazy enough to make my point fast. “I swear on the unjust nonexistence of my dad’s grave, it won’t change us. Nothing will change us. But I think...” something really crazy. “I think I really like this guy, Aldo, and I’m begging you-”
“I’m on it, jeez,” said Aldo. “Have a little faith.”
“Thank you,” I said, and I would have sighed with relief if I’d had time before shocking another Splinter-bat out of the air. “Thank you so much.”
“Don’t thank me too much, your possible boyfriend is headed right for you. I’m guessing that’s not good news.”
“Damnit, why?” I thought out loud.
“Have you been surrounded by the sound of terrified or anguished screaming recently? That’s usually a siren call for the boys you like.”
I fished one of my cheap, tinny Bluetooths out of the side pocket, the only one that would sync to these prepaids, so I could put the phone away and start climbing after the couple.
“How close is he?” I asked Aldo.
“Maybe a hundred feet.”
I hated to do it, but it was the kindest thing that might make the couple turn back in time for me to shepherd them past Carrigan and still meet up with Shaun before he could get himself in trouble.
I took one of the spare lead weights from the front pocket of my bag and threw it at the expensive-looking camera.
The viewscreen shattered, and the woman looked up barely too late to catch me retreating behind another tree trunk, braced in the air between one rope and one branch.
The frustrated argument broke out instantly, the couple trying to gather together the pieces of the camera and finding mostly glass, some from the viewscreen and some from my phone.
“Well, there’s nothing we can do here now!” the woman finally snapped, marching back toward town, sucking blood off one of her fingers, the man following her irritably with an armful of parts.
I half expected Carrigan to stop them by force, but with two of them intent on leaving and the abduction plans already disrupted, they must not have been worth the risk.
That, or she was too busy signaling the Splinter in the branches behind me.
A cold, rubbery grey hand clamped over my mouth, not quite stifling my sound of surprise.
“You okay?” asked Aldo. “Mina? He should be in sight of the trees by now.”
That was the last I heard from Aldo before I threw the Splinter forward over my shoulder, successfully dislodging it but losing my Bluetooth, a clump of hair, and my balance along with it. I slipped out of the tree, barely managing to slow my fall by grabbing onto the trunk, which allowed the Splinter that hit the ground ahead of me to re-form itself before I’d even finished scraping my elbow on the rocks and glass.
It wrapped its rubbery, boneless hands around both my wrists.
This one was a humanoid replacement, disguised to hide the identity of its victim, gray and nearly featureless and barely as large as I was in spite of its bulging, bald head, and it dragged me through the dirt toward Mrs. Carrigan, who strolled deeper into the woods to meet us.
“Mina Todd.” She didn’t need to get close enough to see me to know who I was. “Does your father know you’re out past your bedtime?”
As soon as the gray Splinter slowed, I did a back roll into it, knocking it on its face and landing on top of it, crushing its skull into the rocks with my knees until it released my hands.
It wouldn’t die, not without a lot of fire, and for some reason The Old Man didn’t allow me to kill them outside his hideouts, but it was incapacitated while it self-repaired.
Carrigan lengthened her squat body with splintering pops and extended one of her arms into a grasping, barbed tentacle to reach for me, her permed mop of hair shedding away as her face contorted into the same gray mask.
I had to duck one swing from the tentacle before I could get my hand around a fresh stun gun.
I was inches from connecting it with her warped shoulder when the rock I hadn’t thrown connected with her head.
I knew before I heard his shaking voice.
“Mina? Are you okay?”
“Shaun, get back!”
Shaun didn’t, and it was too late anyway. The Splinter whose head I’d crushed had recovered and launched itself at Shaun, its blank gray body stretching and distorting to wrap around Shaun like a straightjacket.
Carrigan bounced back from the glancing blow much faster.
“Not that one!” she shouted at the other, her voice as distorted as her face, throaty, raspy and popping. “He’s-”
“He saw us!” the one wrapped around Shaun protested.
“He saw nothing,” Carrigan replied forcefully.
“Brace yourself,” I warned Shaun. “And sorry.”
I jabbed the Splinter that was working on enveloping him with the stun gun.
It shrieked and seized and rippled with involuntary shapes, and yes, I took advantage of the unavoidable opportunity to note that Shaun, though writhing violently, was not changing shapes at all.
Another point toward me being right about him.
When the Splinter was weakened enough, I stopped the charge, yanked it off of him by where the scruff of its neck should have been, and threw it at Carrigan.
“BACK OFF!” I maneuvered myself between Shaun and the Splinters, drew my flamethrower and pointed it at Carrigan. I didn’t want to break any more of The Old Man’s stupid rules tonight, but I would if I had to.
Carrigan backed up a step but no more, dragging her semi-conscious accomplice, a grudgingly placating smile on her lipless grey mouth.
“You heard me, get out of here! Tell my ‘dad’ whatever you want, but if you try to take us now, someone will get hurt!”
She didn’t seem to doubt that part. Finally, she gathered the other Splinter over her shoulder and retreated with a nod she must have thought gave some dignity to her exit.
Once they were gone, I offered Shaun a hand. He let me help him stand, shaking from multiple forms of shock, but he didn’t seem tempted to run.
“I’m mostly sorry you had to see that,” I said.
“See... what was that?” he asked.
“Those were Splinters,” I said, “and I hope you like me a lot, or they’re about to make your life hell for nothing. Sorry. I would have warned you if you would have believed me.”
Shaun leaned heavily against me, exhaling a post-adrenaline laugh and wrapping me in both arms in a way I hoped meant “yes.”
“Welcome to my complication,” I said.
There's something rotten beneath the small town of Prospero, California. For over a century, the town's history has been rich with tales of monsters, miracles and mysterious disappearances in the surrounding woods. It’s a town where everybody has something to hide, especially those who may not be entirely human.
Sixteen-year-old Mina Todd knows about the otherworldly shapeshifters that secretly run Prospero and has dedicated her life to fighting them. Ben Pastor, in town to attend the funeral of his missing childhood friend, Haley Perkins, has never believed any of the strange stories about what happens in Prospero. When Haley turns up alive and well at her own memorial service, Ben and Mina are forced to work together to uncover what happened to her. Though they may not always understand each other, Ben and Mina’s unlikely friendship may very well be the only thing that can save the town, and possibly the world, from its insidious invaders.
When autumn descends on Prospero, California, Ben Pastor hopes that the normality of the new school year may offer a reprieve from the town’s horrors. Mina Todd knows all too well that there are no reprieves and no normality in Prospero, especially after she starts having crippling, unexplained hallucinations of the dead. But even she can't prepare for what the coming year holds.
On top of the Splinters' brewing civil war threatening to make humanity its battleground, inside the walls of Prospero High, Ben, Mina and their expanding Network must face a Splinter campaign to destroy their friendship, a newly human Haley Perkins struggling to readjust to life after the Warehouse, and a Splinter assassin of untold power picking off human rebels. Ben and Mina’s one hope rests with a mysterious figure hiding in the woods outside of town, a living legend who may know how to stop this dangerous new breed of Splinter. That is, assuming he doesn’t first kill everyone himself.
Coming June 16th, 2015!