The rain had stopped, and as the clouds parted a bright orange sun burst
from its hiding place. The rays shone in through the railcar’s window
and lit Jeremy’s eyes as he spoke. “We should be coming up on it
soon,” he told her, “You’ll see the peaks of the houses way back
there in the forest.” He pointed at a hill in the distance, where Anne
saw only unending green. “No one lives there. The houses are all
falling apart and the forest has grown right into ‘em.”
Anne stared hard at the flock of trees Jeremy had called her attention
to, willing a sliver of rooftop to appear. He studied her, still
smiling, and continued. “People used to live there, of course…back
in the old days. Used to be a really nice place with all those big,
fancy houses.” He joined her line of sight as the hillside came nearer
their view. “But then one day they just all up and vanished.”
“Vanished?” Anne could not tear her eyes from the greenbelt.
Beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! “ATTENTION, AMTRAK RIDERS WITH
WOODLAND WASHINGTON DESTINATION. YOUR STATION IS APPROACHING. PLEASE
PREPARE BY GATHERING YOUR BELONGINGS.”
“Hey, isn’t that you?” Jeremy asked.
“What? Who?” Anne was still staring at the nearing hillside. She
imagined dozens of peaks emerging from the trees like iceberg caps with
empty bellies hidden beneath the waves of green. “Did you say
When she finally paused to look at him, Anne found Jeremy had risen and
was unlatching the wide ivory bin mounted over their seats. “Your
stop. It’s coming up,” he said.
“Oh! Crap!” Anne joined him, fishing her lavender backpack and an
old tweed suitcase from the bin before he lofted his own bags back in.
The suitcase belonged to her father and she felt a pang of sadness rip
through her as she gripped its handle. She’d never been separated from
her parents for longer than a day or two. Three months without them
would be unbearable.
Jeremy latched the overhead compartment closed and resumed his place by
the window. As Anne gathered her things and pondered a proper farewell,
he began gyrating in his seat like popping corn. “There! Right
there!” he called, pointing wildly out the window. “I can see one of
Anne abandoned her bags and rushed to his side. “Really? Where?” She
gawked at the vast forest as if expecting a fireworks display to begin.
“I don’t see it. Am I looking where I’m supposed to?”
“Ha ha, gotchya!” Jeremy was clutching his quaking belly, his
pointer finger now aimed squarely at her. “Oh man, you should’a seen
your face. I totally got you!”
Her face twisted in a knot as Anne steadied herself against the bench
opposite his and the train lurched to a stop. “Goodbye, Jeremy,” she
said with a short little snarl, returning to her luggage. She marched
down the aisle way and out of his sight, but she could still hear him
A large wooden sign at the head of the terminal read “Welcome to
Woodland,” but as Anne stepped off the train and met the three sour
faces of her relatives, she felt anything but welcome.
Anne’s uncle, Pat, was dressed head to toe in camo and a foot-long
beard covered the better part of his chest. It fell in a furry pool onto
his beer belly, where it parted like the Red Sea. “Get on over here,
girl, and gimme those bags,” he called.
Anne forced a smile and made up the distance between them at a slow
pace. Her aunt, Claudia, studied her approach with a noticeable sneer.
“Just look at you,” she greeted, bugging her blue-shadowed eyes,
“All growed up and travelin’ across the country in style.”
“I don’t know that I’d call it style,” Anne admitted, handing
her bags off to Pat. “Or cross country.” Her aunt embraced her in an
awkward hug that smelled of cigarette smoke.
“Well, go on,” Claudia encouraged, already releasing her niece.
“Hug your cousin.”
Anne’s cousin Lexie was standing behind her father, attention fixed on
the iPhone in her palm. It had a neon pink case with rubber rabbit ears,
and as she tapped it over and over again with her thumb, its little ears
quaked. “Hey Lexie,” Anne greeted, walking towards her with all the
enthusiasm of a death row inmate on the Green Mile.
Lexie lifted her head as if it were very heavy. Her eyes stayed glued to
the phone. “Oh yeah, hey.”
“Dammit, Lexie! Put down the damn phone and hug your cousin!” Anne
could feel warm breath tickling the back of her neck when Claudia spoke,
as though a fuming bull was looming just over her shoulder. Somehow that
contempt infected Lexie, who seemed a willing host. She screwed her
mouth into a snarl and stalked towards Anne, squeezing her without as
much as a word. As they parted, her pale blue eyes lingered and she
smiled far too sweetly.
It was a short walk to the car but Anne kept a distance from her
relatives such as she would have from strangers. Her uncle’s SUV
smelled of chewing tobacco and the floorboards were caked with dried
mud. Trapped in the backseat with her cousin, Anne directed her full
attention outside, studying the downtown storefronts as they passed.
Though they lived “in the sticks” (or so her uncle said), the town
of Woodland was small, and they’d reached the tan rambler in under ten
minutes. The house was dim and unkempt. It felt neglected, as if its
hearth and heart had gone cold for lack of tending.
“You’ll be bunkin’ with Lex,” Pat explained, pointing towards a
door at the end of the entry hall where a NO TRESPASSING sign hung
beside a pink and purple plaque that read ‘Lexie’s Room.’
“Great,” Lexie moaned as she passed them and continued down the
hall. Anne followed with heavy footsteps, cursing her parents all the
way. Nearing Lexie’s room she spied a gruesome skull leering at her
from the ‘O’ in the NO TRESPASSING mandate. It had a veiny eyeball
popping from its left socket and a snake twisting from its right. Anne
stepped past it with a degree of caution, but as she made a move to
cross the threshold, Lexie’s arm blocked her path. “Okay, kid,”
Lexie began, “If you’re gonna stay in my room, there’s gonna be
rules. You see all this stuff?” Lexie fanned her hand wide past heaps
of clothes, a teetering tower of CDs, peeling posters, and an unmade
bed. “All this stuff is MINE. And that means you keep your snotty
little paws off it. No looky, no touchy. Got it?”
Lexie had one hand on her hip and she wagged her head as she went on.
“And while we’re at it, let’s add no talkie to that list. It’s
not my fault your stupid parents dumped you here, and I’m not gonna
babysit you and have you ruining my summer.”
“I’m not a baby, ya know.” Anne’s face flushed. “You’re
what, two years older than me?”
Once, on an episode of Wild Kingdom, Anne had seen a lioness watch as a
hyena stole the dinner it had taken her a full hour to catch. The same
eyes that had burrowed through that weak little hyena stared back at her
now. “It’ll be three next month,” Lexie growled. “Assuming I let
you live that long.”
Claudia appeared behind Anne just as she was bracing for an attack.
“Well, you don’t look like you’ve done much settling in. Guess
you’ll have to do it after dinner. Pizza is nuked and on the table.”
Pizza had never sounded quite so inviting. Anne trailed close behind her
aunt without a second look at Lexie.
Gathered around the oak dining table, Anne examined the shriveled olives
on her pizza and wondered how old they were. “So, what kinda mischief
you lookin’ to get up to this summer?” her uncle asked just as
she’d begun scraping them off.
“Errr, ummm…I dunno.”
“Well, there’s all sorts around here.” Pat’s eyes twinkled as
Anne met them. “Good fishin’ down on the river and there’s a
swimming hole not a stone’s throw from our back pasture.”
“Oh Patty, girls don’t care nothin’ about that,” Claudia
interjected. Her open mouth was bursting and Anne recoiled as a
pepperoni slice shone through her teeth like an eclipsed moon.
“She’d probably rather head out shoppin’ with Lexie and her
Lexie was sneering as Anne chanced a look at her. “Oh no, that’s
okay. I’m not a big shopper,” Anne stumbled behind a forced smile.
“See Claude, she’s the outdoorsy type!” Tiny flecks of Parmesan
cheese peppered Pat’s beard and fell like snow as he spoke.
Anne imagined herself drowning in camouflage and hunkered beside him in
a hunter’s blind. “Well, maybe not that outdoorsy,” she piped.
Claudia had swallowed her mouthful, but as she spoke an olive chunk
wedged between her two front teeth. “So you’re not gonna shop and
you’re not gonna fish. What are you gonna get up to? Can’t have you
sulking around the house all summer!”
Anne wracked her brain. “Well, umm…there was this kid on the train
and he was telling me about a town close to here that sounded pretty
neat. I might like to check that out. That is, if it exists. I’m not
really sure if he was pulling my leg or not. He was kind of a jerk.”
Pat drained his Budweiser bottle and leveled his eyes at Anne. “And
what town was that?”
“You talkin’ about Kalama?” Claudia asked, her lined eyebrows
arching into perfect crescents.
“I’m not really sure,” Anne confessed. “He never said a name. I
think maybe he called it Nowhere Town.”
Pat set his bottle down with a thud. “Oh no, that’s no place you’d
wanna visit. That’s no place for a young girl, or anyone with half a
mind for that matter.”
“Damn straight.” Claudia had freed the olive and now fixed all of
her attentions squarely upon Anne. “I don’t want you goin’ around
that town at all this summer. You got me?”
Anne dumbly nodded, her mind contesting her head.
“Oh jeez. What’s the big deal?” Lexie was staring at her lap. The
light from her cell phone screen shone upwards, casting her like a
jack-o-lantern. “Ooooh, boo…the big, scary Nowhere Town. Everybody
hide! It’s gonna getchya!” She snickered, never raising her head.
Across the table Pat was tearing another slice of pizza from the pie.
“The town ain’t whatchya got to worry about. It’s all the bums and
felons that camp out there. They’ve been squattin’ in those old,
abandoned houses for years now. Place is a filthy, dangerous mess and
chock fulla fellas that mean nothin’ but harm to some dumb girl
wanderin’ around out there.” He took a massive bite and glanced at
his empty beer bottle with a look of longing.
“And I ain’t gonna be the one to call your folks and tell ‘em to
come pick you up in pieces!” Claudia announced, snatching the last
piece of pepperoni from the greasy cardboard Dominos box just as Pat was
“Oh my God, you guys are so friggin’ paranoid!” Lexie exclaimed.
Finally interested enough to give the conversation her full attention,
she set her darkened phone on the table and took a swig of diet cola.
“You make it sound like the boogeyman lives out there or something!”
She rolled her eyes and looked straight at Anne. “They’re just
tryin’ to scare you.”
“We’re trying to keep her from getting chopped up into teeny
bits!” Claudia grumbled.
“What-ev.” Lexie shot back, briefly locking eyes with Anne. “I
think it’s kinda cool that she’s into that stuff.” For a moment,
it seemed a connection was made, though Lexie soon scooped up her phone
and redirected her attention there. Anne’s gaze lingered, perhaps
hungry for a long-relished taste of something she’d only had teasers
of over the years. She studied Lexie’s honey-blonde highlights and
porcelain skin; the way that her pretty, pink lips pouted as she passed
over words on the screen. It wasn’t until later on that evening in her
bedroom that Lexie revealed she’d been reading a text from her friend
Brittany, who had decided to head to her father’s house in New York
for the summer.
“I’m totally bummed,” she whimpered, drawing a pink-and-white
polka-dot pajama top over her head. “We were supposed to hang out this
Anne looked out the open door, down the hallway into the bathroom and
wondered if Lexie would think her prudish if she ducked out to change in
private. “Yeah, that sucks.” When Anne turned back to feign a potty
break, Lexie had her phone in-hand yet again.
“Oh cool!” Lexie’s eyes lit as she looked up. “We’re all gonna
hang out tomorrow. Big send off before Brittany leaves.”
Anne smiled, glancing at her PJs. “Neat.” She snagged them and
turned to make her way towards the bathroom.
“Hey, you wanna come with us?”
Play it cool, Anne. Play it cool. “Yeah, sure.” Anne spun around and
eagerly returned to Lexie’s bedside as if she were taking a seat at
the popular kids’ lunch table. Squeezing her eyes tightly closed, she
shed her t-shirt and replaced it with the pajama top.
“Cool.” Lexie plugged her phone into its charger and collapsed onto
the bed. “Best part is, we’re headed to Nowhere Town.”
Excerpted from "Forests of the Fae: Devlin's Door" by K Kibbee. Copyright © 2016 by K Kibbee. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.