by Wendy Altshuler
GENRE: YA Fantasy Horror
When an amnesiac girl who thinks she has been born without a heart utters a prayer, she is met by a mysterious angelic stranger from her forgotten past. Together they embark on a journey to recover her removed heart, but enter into battle with an Evil Voice on a rampage to remove the hearts of an entire generation of children - and replace them with stones.
There was nothing in sight. No sleds, no dogs, no weeping mothers, nor the woman who had clawed hysterically at her neck as her child was whisked away. Not even the horse that Georgeonus had left at the mound entrance to the underground. There was only a soft, peaceful accumulating snow.
She had been through the strange doorways before, but had never opened them. Nor had she been given a key and instructions on how they opened. She only knew that they were not of this world, the world she had known on the farm where venturing over a hill led only to the village, or to the goats she tended, or to the well that held their water. The forest in the distance had always been a mystery, but she could only assume that beyond the trees were more hills much like the ones she knew. How could she have imagined these other worlds, places whose lands housed properties, elements, seasons and peoples so foreign, so alien to hers, that she came to wonder how she could have been taught that all the wider world was like her own.
Georgeonus had instructed her to travel through two worlds to an island. Nadia was to fly straight out from the portal, and not to stop until she found the island. He had ordered her to take the suit, the key, and to go, and not to travel alone.
Their destination was a land named Utsiket Sorghåven, Georgeonus had called it, ‘Place of Sorrowful Harbors,’ a land almost completely covered in water. How could such a thing be? The most collected water she had seen was after the rains, or in the small pond by the blacksmith’s shop. Where would so much water come from?
She had watched Georgeonus take out the silver key from a compartment in his suit. Like the miniature closet in the chariot, the key hung on a hook inside of it. It had a formal Roman ‘L’ engraved on it, perhaps for the Land of Silence. But there remained another key on the hook inside the compartment: a gold one with an ‘E’ engraved on it surrounded by ornate leaves. She needed one key for the first door, to get from the ice pond into the Land of Silence. And two keys for double doors for the Trees Above the road. She would not be returning to her village—she was going somewhere else.
There, in the middle of the ice was the Door: the two birch trees they had passed through less than twenty-four hours before. The doorway opening was a phenomenon she could not get used to, and she was convinced that the people in the village had never witnessed such a doorway. Sometimes it was akin to a black hole that ate at the air amidst a fury of wind, increasing until the space between the trees formed a square as a temporary entranceway.
Turning Georgeonus’ silver key in the invisible keyhole, white wisps gently formed in the cold, building into a thick, dry, and mist-less cloud that engulfed them. They walked through into the bright quiet, a glare that sourced no sun, and all sound disappeared.
Wendy Altshuler is a writer-producer who explores myth in new media. She writes fantasy novels and creates works in stop motion animation. Her credits include award-winning screenwriting and WGA-accredited representation. With a degree in psychology and a Master of Arts from Columbia University, Altshuler documented the work of international choreographers and wrote and produced regional programming. Her short plays have been performed at Boston Playwrights' Theatre, at regional schools and most recently, Puppet Showplace Theatre. Altshuler's young adult book series has been hailed as "emotionally moving, uplifting and wholesome," and "spirited and haunting. . .with much symbolism and beauty."
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