I challenge you to fall in love, one word at a time…

Echoes Cover

I challenge you to read the first four chapters of my book today and try not to be intrigued.  The first four chapters will captivate you, I’m sure of it.  Echoes is free on iBooks, Barnes and Noble and Kobo for a limited time, and $0.99 on Amazon (I’m asking them to price match).  Come read book one of The Pria Chronicles and fall in love, one word at a time.

 

Chapter One

Michael Hilton on the topic of His Flair

 

Like the creatures living incognito amongst the human race, so will I remain anonymous as I write my experiences. I stopped drawing the monsters I see in my notebooks; it was freaking out my teachers and my parents. They seemed to forget them pretty quickly once I stopped, but it didn’t mean that the monsters were gone. I have to get this burden off my chest since seeing creatures is just the tip of the iceberg.

Some people can climb mountains using only their knowledge of the area, spiked, steel-toed, hiking boots and mere nylon ropes to keep them tethered to the rock. Yeah, those nylon ropes are said to be strong, difficult to cut on sharp rocks, but you wouldn’t catch me up there trusting my whole life to them. Others can diagnose the most disgusting ailments without throwing up. I just google some of the ailments and my stomach churns… Imagine touching and prodding and poking around… I’d throw up for sure.

I have heard of people in Niagara Falls walking on tightropes or going over The Falls in a barrel. Crazy? Yeah. But they have courage that far surpasses mine any day. I am envious of those who can act on stage, memorizing all the lines, enveloping the role as if it were second nature. Man, I see spots when I have to present something in front of my classmates. I just don’t have that sort of stage fearlessness.

Have you heard of those who can count the number of matchsticks simply by glancing at a pile of them scattered on the floor? Truly remarkable, yes. But what in the world would that power serve?

I have some abilities that are, in my opinion, way cooler, maybe even unparalleled. I, unfortunately, can’t flaunt them to impress girls; in fact, only a few…er…beings in my world even know I have them. One of those is a cat. Go figure. And believe me… Henry isn’t impressed.

My mom tried to get me talk to her; she knew there was something wrong with me the moment I left that hospital when I was six. My avoidance and fear of going outside made her worry that I had anxiety or depression or something like that. Symptoms of withdrawal and seclusion aren’t always indicative of a depressed person; I just couldn’t talk about the changes which had taken place. I left the hospital as a completely different six-year-old kid than I had been when I had gone in. As years passed, I found it harder and harder to cope with these changes.

I wanted desperately to talk about them, but I didn’t welcome rubber pants and padded rooms, chains and bars. I was terrified and kept the changes secret for a long, long time. But when Henry discovered my ability to read his mind, it proved to be a cruel joke but the joke became much more ‘hilarious’ the day he learned of my ability to understand and converse with him. And from that day on, I have been, relentlessly, tormented by the stupid cat. But as it turned out, he became the least of my worries.

I learned fairly quickly that the strange voices in my head were, in actuality, the thoughts that were running through people’s minds around me. Fun times.

And if reading minds wasn’t bad enough, I began to see things. And feel things, too. When I am in the presence of certain people, my senses are affected.

My mother has sparkles shimmering in her hair which I still find mesmerizing. My dad smells of brown sugar which makes me crave apple crisp.

I had a friend whose gentle eyes would change colour depending on his mood, smoldering like coals when he was angry, the molten lava traveling in circles around his pupil. When they were yellow, I hit the road, avoiding him until they returned to blue. Nothing could calm the beast when his eyes were yellow.

My grade seven teacher made ringing sounds while she walked which made it impossible for me to concentrate.

I have always called what I see, feel and hear in the presence of people their ‘Echoes’, trying to find a word that described how it feels to have those energies swirl through me like waves. So like the echoes of a voice in a cave that resonates against the walls, the energies of people seem to resonate like waves in my body and soul. It doesn’t help that I can read the minds of people when they are emotionally strained, whether temporary or life-long. I find that being able to feel the echoes of those around me as I read their minds affects my ability to function. Echoes. Sometimes they give me strength. Sometimes they batter me to the ground. It’s like a high or low of emotions for me…lingering.

When it comes to those who affect my olfactory sense, nice people tend to smell sweet like candy or flowers while mean people smell rather rotten or putrid. These same people, I imagine would taste the same as they smell, but I certainly don’t make it a habit going around licking people. I wouldn’t stick my nose in a smelly, dripping dumpster, or be curious about what it might taste like. The same goes for those who smell like a dumpster; I have no overpowering curiosity to taste those who smell like one. No matter how curious you are about how my sense of taste may be affected by people, I will not lick anyone for you. For those who smell– and probably taste– bad, I avoid them altogether.

When it comes to my auditory sense, there are some people who tend to make ringing, whistling, squeaking, clicking and chiming sounds, softly, only sensed by me. I have yet to figure out what in the world it means or how I can use it to my advantage; it tells me nothing about their personalities. I guess the lack of a sound, when the person typically makes one, might mean they are upset or angry. But I have never put my finger on it.

The most common way that I am affected by those around me is through the way they make me feel, and the things that I can see when in their presence. Although the first time my senses were affected by echoes was in the hospital, it was after I had been released that I realized that children’s echoes are not usually scary and all children have them, without exception.

I have seen children who spring small rainbows from the tips of their fingers or from the ends of each hair on their head when they are excited.

I have seen firefly light shows dancing around their bodies, or glitter trailing behind them. I have seen bubbles appear when a child laughs.

Once I saw a child dragging a heavy weight of grey ribbons as if it were telling his terrifyingly sad story.

Adults often have strange visuals too, depicting their character or personality, and sometimes it can be comical while other times it can be unnerving and distracting. Be it golden highlights in someone’s hair, eye colour changes, gold specks on the surface of one’s skin, white globes or orbs spinning around one’s body, skin texture changes, ice sprays, beams of light or any other thing you can imagine, I have seen pretty much everything.

But it’s the way people make me feel which causes me to either navigate towards them or avoid them. People’s energies can make me feel exhilarated, empowered, anxious, or uneasy. Sometimes their energies can linger within me for minutes, hours and sometimes even days. It can be a problem if I have to face a person who is truly ill-mannered because their energies seem to swirl within me for such a long period of time, in a sharp, painful way. Sometimes the energies linger so long, having such a great toll on me that I need time to recuperate. I avoid those people… always.

And now, I see the creatures living amongst the human race that once were hidden for me like they are for you. Things in the trees, things traveling incognito in the wind, things in the streets mimicking stray animals and even beings like humans with strange, unusual powers. They were always there, but after my hospitalization, I was able to see them for what they really were… are.

I can’t vibrate my eyes (that would be gross anyway), turn my eyelids inside out (grosser still) or make that drum roll sound with my tongue (that would be way cool). I don’t know why anyone would want to walk a tightrope across the Niagara Falls, but since I am afraid of heights, I wouldn’t dare attempt it. Sensing echoes, reading minds and seeing creatures living incognito, amongst the human race, well, it makes my life… interesting. So, I will be the first to admit it; my life is tricky but never boring.

I’ve been writing about my experiences online for a year or so, trying to get some of these things off my chest. And then, without warning, a literary agent requested a meeting with me. She was persistent. The money she offered just to meet with her was intriguing, so I accepted. If she was willing to pay me that much just to meet with her, then what she wanted to talk to me about would, no doubt, be important. I couldn’t resist. And I was also very curious as to how in the world she had learned who I was. I hadn’t covered my tracks well enough.

It did cross my mind to mention it to my parents, but I was afraid they’d say no, and I would lose the money.

When she arrived, her flaming hot hair made me nervous. It smoked and lapped at the air. Her eyes were a colour that I never seen before, a pink tone against her olive skin. Her complexion was unnatural. And she smelled of freshly cut grass which was unexpected and it made me feel like I’d sneeze…but I didn’t. I knew she wasn’t human right away. She probably wasn’t a literary agent at all. But still I felt the need to hear her out.

The way she spoke was eerie, hypnotic almost and then a tingling in my brain suggested that she was using some kind of power to persuade me. It was as if I was wired up, out of control and simply nodding my head at her…agreeing with her.

The quote-unquote literary agent had an idea: to invite me and a few others from my school to write about a variety of topics of her choice. At that moment, images flashed in my mind that I felt were things she was thinking about. It was strange. I had never had it happen before. It was like I was reading her mind but in pictures. The two people she had chosen to write the book too surprised me at first, and then I knew that she was up to something. One of the two was a girl I had fallen in love with that I had written about online and the other was her (gag) boyfriend. I had talked about him, too. He was the reason I couldn’t be with this girl. This red-haired woman had been reading my blog entries a long while if she had learned about them.

She had thought a lot about this idea before approaching me. She had outlined rules that the three of us would have to follow if we agreed to write. A contract would be signed which we would be bound to follow. We were not allowed to read each other’s point of views. We couldn’t discuss the books. We would write until the story was complete… she would tell us when she felt it was the right time to end it and we couldn’t make that decision without a consultation.

My mind wandered during the conversation as I pondered the details. How would she stop the three of us from speaking to each other about the books? Would she make sure we didn’t by using her powers? I had a feeling it was exactly what I thought…Mind control. And as my mind drifted to other questions I had, it seemed to be zoned back in, as if forced by her power to make me focus on her words.

She was proud of herself. I could tell in her smug expression and she said, “Ok. Here. Write your thoughts down all the time. I will send you topics to discuss. I will collect the entries weekly, and then compile them. I will do the editing.”

I flipped through the lined paper booklet she had given me. A list of topics were on the pages.

She continued, “I want you to write just like your online entries. Everything from this day on. As you see, I have given you a few topics to cover. So your job is to write about the echoes you face every day… the sights you see, the things you feel, the sounds you hear when you’re around people. Oh, and don’t leave out the creatures you sense. Talk about that droning sound you hear coming from the trees and those creepy hairless things that hover and lurk at windows. The chuckling wind. Talk about the girl you like, and her boyfriend, specifically your theories about his abilities.” Yep, she had been stalking me a long time. Maybe for the entire year.

A cold shiver traveled up my spine at the thought of agreeing to this, but without warning, I was signing. I wasn’t even eighteen yet. Didn’t she need my parents’ signatures? Their consent? Apparently not.

As she walked towards the door, she said, “Oh, and include Henry. He makes me smile. The readers will love him… even if you don’t.” She winked. She knew about Henry too?

My mind drifted off to think about Henry, a very nosy and sarcastic striped tabby cat. Cute as he looks, he is a typical cat with attitude. I love the cat, but sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship.

Before my hospitalization, he used to hide my toys, steal my food, and yes, even urinate on things but I never dreamed that he had done it on purpose…I mean, he’s just a cat. But when I got home, after I learned that I could read his mind, and as a result, was, unfortunately, able to converse with him, he told me that he does everything to bug me… and for no reason whatsoever.

Even though parts of my powers are difficult to cope with, Henry sort of gives me that break from my reality…that comic relief I need in my life. He makes me laugh, and I love bantering back and forth with him. What would I do without him? Really? Well, he doesn’t always recognize that there is a time and place for bantering and bugging. Put it this way, I tend to find my toothbrush in the toilet just as I am getting ready for school and little fur ball presents on my comforter just as I am crawling into bed. Timing is everything, he tells me.

I felt the same strange tingling in my neck, bringing me out of my train of thought about Henry, and she said, “Oh, and get those entries off the net immediately. I’ve already compiled the topics I want you to write based on those.”

I had no opportunity to say that I wanted to sleep on it. Yes, money is good, but the feeling I was getting from her made me think that I needed to put some time into it.

“Don’t worry. Your names will be fictitious to protect you. You are seventeen after all.”

So she did know that I’m a minor. She closed the door, leaving me with my thoughts.

I am not embarrassed to say that for a seventeen year old, the sound ka-ching is too overpowering. She probably didn’t need mind control to persuade me after she told me the amount.

Opening the door again to peer in at me, her eyes brightening into a sunset of colours, the red in her hair like fire, she said, “And in the end, no one will know where you are anyway. You won’t be in this world.”

What the heck did she mean by that? Did she have the power to know the future? Say no! I told myself. I tried, but I couldn’t say no.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

Michael Hilton on the topic of the Affects of a Hospital Stay

 

My childhood was ordinary and uneventful until I was six. I was born and then raised in the most beautiful little town in Kentucky called—err, I can’t tell you…makes it way too easy for you to find me. My mom grew up here and my dad joined her when he fell in love with her, first, and then, second, the Historic properties, his favourite being the Ashland building. He now says it is the symmetry of the building that caught his eye. My mom loves the museums but I didn’t find them interesting at all.

I loved camping at the State Park and fishing at Salt River. My mom was an avid birdwatcher which was incredibly boring, but the picnic lunch was worth it. I loved bowling at the Center especially when my dad played the arcade games with me which was always followed by sodas at the Wheels Roller Rink.

My Dad used to take me to the Flea Market to help me find vintage toys. See? Ordinary. The trees, the gardens, the streets full of the prettiest little shops run by the friendliest of people was something to be desired, but when I left that hospital, the beauty of my home was stripped. Overrun by creatures. The town lost its luster for me. And birdwatching after that was unnerving because lava-like creatures lived in the trees along with those birds my mom was pointing out to me.

My life was turned upside down after the night when I woke to a feeling of impending doom and astronomical pain. The doctors couldn’t explain the pain, the escalation of symptoms or the abrupt end of it. I woke in a bed, fourteen days later, feeling very, very tired. My body ached. The bright, flickering light of the television hurt my sensitive eyes.

“Mom?” I whispered, coming out of my grogginess.

My mom screamed, sent astronomical pain, as if my heart would burst right out my chest, and then my parents mauled me… literally mauled me as if they thought I was going to die from what hospitalized me. My adrenaline ran through my body, the heat traveling through my veins to my extremities, pooling pain at the tips of my fingers and toes. When my mom began to calm, the pain did, too. I felt the need to get up and move, to shake it off and then my next thought was, let me go home.

After the doctor checked me over, I questioned my mom about how long I would have to wait in that bed, and her answer saddened me. Just a few days to make sure I was all right, my mom assured me.

She grinned at me with such fierce admiration and love that, for some reason, I felt, once more, pain as if it were from her emotions. I needed to get out of this place. Something about it made me feel uncomfortable and edgy.

Stranger still, when my mom would leave the hospital room, I felt better which confused me. Why did I feel better when my mom was out of the room? And why in the world would my mom put glitter in her hair when her son was in the hospital. And why did my dad eat my apple crisp; it must have come with my dinner. I smelled it, but it was nowhere in sight. I love apple crisp. Thanks Dad. And why in the world would my dad continue to watch such boring television when his son sat in the hospital bed, bored to tears. He gave me a comic book to read when I complained.

“I wanna see this,” he said. “They’ve been looking for this girl for two weeks! I am so glad that they finally found her.” Strangely, I thought that he had said it twice, but later, I realized that I had read it in his mind first, and then he said it out loud.

I stared at the screen as the reporter welcomed a little girl home who had been held captive. Looking back, I realize how selfish I was when I silently wished that I was home, too. The news reporter went on to say that her saviour was a stranger…a seven year old boy. I had a strange feeling about the story and for some reason, for a long time, what I remembered most about that hospital stay was the blond girl’s face in the picture on the television screen. I dreamed about her often; I felt that I knew her somehow.

I heard him say in his mind, “Thank God,” as he walked to the window and opened the curtains. I saw a cat-sized creature staring in at us, its grey-skin the colour of a shark, its bones protruding, making clicking and grinding sounds as it moved. Its deep-set eyes were wide in bewilderment, only narrowing when they focused on my dad as he stood there. Its claws were sharp, I could hear the squeaking as it clawed at the window glass.

Another joined it, pushing and shoving to see better. My dad turned out the light in my room so that I could rest but then, as if it made it hard to see into the room, a beacon of light from the creature’s eyes beamed into the room, scanning like a lighthouse directing a ship.

My heart rate escalated which brought the nurse into the room. What the heck were those things watching me? But when I traveled down the hospital halls during that stay, I saw them at all the windows. One or two of them, pushing the other to get a better look. The dark rooms had flashlight beacons shining in like those of a prison. I averted my eyes from the windows but they remained unnerving because I could still hear their scratching.

In the rooms with opened windows, I could hear them clicking their bones as they moved. Click, click, click all day and night. I asked my parents to keep my windows closed and blinds pulled.

The pain never subsided during that stay. It felt like waves of overwhelming adrenaline rushes, hitting me like the turbulence of the ocean, throbbing and persistent.

When people are sick, dying or sad, their echoes affect me. And it changes person to person. While I lay in my hospital bed, the sick or sad strolled by my room. Their echoes felt like pins and needles, as if my arms and legs were falling asleep. Some made me feel like my limbs were being twisted. Sometimes the echoes felt as if my eyes were threatening to burst from the piercing light even from the regular light in my room, depending on who was sharing the space with me.

My nurses and doctors checked my blood pressure constantly. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Finally, my mother told them that she thought it was the place that was causing my anxiety. So they eventually let me out.

“Right after lunch,” my dad had said.

The sad look on my face surprised my mom. “Don’t worry, I will get you out and about this morning. Then in a few hours, we will get you home.”

As she wheeled me into the halls in a wheelchair, I noticed things crawling about on people. Or strange sounds emanating off people. Or strange smells accompanying them.

Every person that walked by me had noises, or smells or any physical echo you could think of. Lights and colours. Dark entities crawling or smoke. Banana or pumpkin smells. Decrepit smells. Sweet smells. Pain. Relief. All of my emotions were pressing against my insides, as if my body had no idea how to counter the echoes or cope with them.

The mass number of smells felt like I was in a candle store…my head pounded from them.

In the corners of the dim rooms, dark entities crawled, tar-like creatures roaming, sliding in and out of dark shadows, like snakes. I see these in the trees now. They still make some kind of low rumbling, droning sounds.

What can only be described as zombified people, strolled down the halls with machines and tubes with black and grey objects hovering over them. Echoes depicting their moods felt by me in either pain or empathy. Some had chains dragging along behind them, heavy and loud, the scraping. Some had dark shadows twisting and wrapping their bodies like a mummy. Hair falling like ashes to the ground. Dark ribbons twisting and sporadically moving behind them.

I became someone new the moment I opened my eyes in that room filled with flickering lights, quiet beeping and medications. Sometimes the effects are minimal, barely noticeable and not at all bothersome. But there are some people whose effects are upsetting and irritating.

Once outside the hospital, they were not as crowded, crammed into a small space. I see them around, but it’s not overpowering.

But back then, I would only catch little fleeting glimpses of movement in the trees or in the streets. But then they began to come out of the woodwork, appearing everywhere from sitting on my window sills to scavenging in my backyard.

I figured, even at that young age, that it was better for my sanity to avoid looking directly at these creatures because I would rather live in comfortable denial with no complete certainty whether we are being stalked or merely watched. It’s just plain creepy and although I am certain that they have always been there, I don’t want to let on that I have the power to see them now. I have gotten used to some of them, but once in a while, as if they have traveled through a portal or from another dimension, I see new ones. And the nightmares begin again until I get used to the sightings. Around and around we go.

I used to find those grey bony creatures haunting my sleep. I have woken in my bed, drenched with sweat, after dreaming of these creatures; dreams that end in their acknowledgment of my ability to see them… and their subsequent anger and need for revenge. But for the most part now, I just have gotten used to them.

And now, I notice the wind chuckles sometimes as it travels. I know there is a creature living within it, invisibly. It doesn’t affect the trees, the leaves, anyone else’s hair but mine. And with it, it can spread the smells from where it has traveled. So gross… I haven’t figured out what they are doing. Maybe someday I will.

And those black lava blobs that were hidden in the shadows, slinking around like snakes in the hospital, for the most part, they live in trees now. They move about like a lava lamp, slow and predictable. I’ve seen them reach down and grab onto girls’ hair and lap at the air like fire. I don’t walk under the canopy of the trees anymore…when I can help it. And Henry stopped climbing trees unless I do a quick check for the sloths.

Anyone out there jealous of my abilities? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

Michael on the topic of Ghosts

 

Among other creatures, I also have the ability to see ghosts. Lucky for me, they don’t really bother me like the ones in the movies do. I’ve seen no evil spirits. But my best friend growing up is a spirit.

She lives at a park near my school. The park was a place of peace for me growing up. A baseball diamond, swings, sand box, lots of green space… the typical park for children and family pets. But one thing about this park was quite atypical. Josephine.

She is a spirit of a girl who lived long ago (her clothing signaling early 1900’s) and this is where she chose to live, I guess. She told me only once that she had died after being tossed to the ground by the horse she was riding. She had ridden that horse for years…it got spooked. A freak accident. She misses her mom and dad. It was too sad to ask for any more details than that.

When I first met her at the age of six, she appeared out of thin air on the swing next to me.

She said, “Hello, Michael. Once again, we meet.”

I screamed, fell off the swing and she stared down at me, in confusion.

“What did you say? How do you know my name?”

“I see you here. But this is the first time you have been able to see me.”

I was terrified, my heart beating fast, but after a moment, her echoes warmed me, soothed me and made me feel at ease in her presence. Zen. Bliss. She was far less scary than some of the other creatures and beings I had met along my journey and after spending quite a bit of time with her, I got to know her mannerisms and sense of humour. I enjoyed her company.

We learned we could speak telepathically, which was cool because then my parents stopped staring at me, wondering who in the world I was talking to.

Over time, she and I spoke about the creatures that I have the ability to see. She declared that she could see these creatures, too. I was shocked. And then relieved. She was the only person at that time who I could talk to about my powers. This place became a calming sanctuary for me… a place where I could go to feel normal… to feel like I wasn’t the only one… I wasn’t alone. And Josephine, after spending decades without someone to talk to, now had me.

Her hair is long, silky like a waterfall and the colour of maple syrup, golden. Her eyes are almond shaped, a colour called hazel, dappling of browns and greens. She has a small round face, gentle hands and a smile so sweet that it calms me just to see her happy. She wears a long grey, old-fashioned dress and hiding underneath are a pair of very ticklish little feet as Henry has determined.

“Weren’t you wearing shoes the day you died?” I once asked her.

“I never wore shoes. And I really wish I was wearing my most favourite dress instead of this one that day. Now I’m stuck in eternity in grey.”

“I like your dress. It would have been my favourite,” I told her which made her smile.

She really likes Henry and luckily, he is able to see her. They play a lot of games together.

I learned not to be sad that she was unable to leave the park and unable to play with me in any real capacity because she wasn’t sad. She looked at the bright side of everything, and I learned a lot from her. I loved her as a friend, or even as a sister. I was an only child, and I needed that companionship. I liked and still like this girl. I visit her at least once a week, these days.

The last time that I visited Josephine, I brought her an origami crane to play with. I began to twist a strip of paper into a star.

“I love that you create with paper. It’s such a splendid little toy.”

“Thanks, Josephine.”

“Helps to keep the echoes away?”

“Calms me.”

“I like it when you leave a few behind. The children that come and play find them. They love them. It gives me something to watch later.”

“Oh, do they? That’s cute. I should bring a jar of stars. Bury it in the sand.”

“Oh, they’d love the magic in that.”

I gave her a quick smile. The paper puffy star was done, and I glanced at her and then tossed it near the tree.

She smiled. “I wonder who will find it. How did you learn to make them?”

“My mom taught me years ago. I make quite a few a week. Sometimes I leave them for people like my mom and my teachers. I keep the ones I don’t give away in a jar at home. I have four full mason jars now and starting a fifth.”

“Bring one. We will bury it sometime.”

“You got it.”

“Where’s Henry?”

“At home. I will bring him around later.”

“Ok. I’m missing the little guy. I need a game of hide and seek.”

“Henry’s spoiled by you.”

“I really like playing with him.”

“I don’t mind sharing.”

 

 

 

Chapter Four

Michael on the topic of Avery

 

The literary agent gave me a large list of topics. She could have given me any number of topics that I had covered online including my silly cat, the creatures or the echoes which haunt me or empower me. Seeing as how a book more or less about the cat would be quite lame (despite what Henry says), most of the topics cover that girl I mentioned earlier. Remember? The one with whom I’ve fallen so deeply in love and who, for reasons I cannot imagine, was taken before I had the chance to make her mine. The girl? Avery Simmons. My adversary? Greyson Sloan.

I saw Avery for the first time years ago and I am so obsessed that…well, let’s put it this way, I have been caught up in blob-free trees watching her more than once.

“Just getting my cat,” I’ve told those who catch me. It’s embarrassing when Henry is not with me. “Oh, I guess he got down already. He must be here somewhere.”

When I first noticed Avery’s echoes, I thought I had my powers basically figured out, with fewer surprises and had tried to prepare myself for new situations…that is, until I saw her at the grocery store when I was younger.

I felt a rush of heat go through me, an echo that was so strong and invigorating that it made me gasp and I lost my balance for a moment. I tried to grab onto the side of the apple display, but I knocked a dozen off, and they rolled every which way.

I was so embarrassed when I saw that she had witnessed my cool move. She watched me as I picked them up. And as I placed them back on display, more tumbled out and rolled under my feet. It took forever to get them all. I feel badly for anyone who bought those apples…bruised and dirty. Avery laughed at me.

An involuntary inhalation brought a scent so sweet…baby powder. Boy, not only did this girl make me feel heat resonating against my bones, the sight of her was breathtaking. Beautiful gold and green swirling lights were bouncing and spiraling around behind her, not unlike wings. As they disappeared, new ones emerged and bounced and danced all along the walls and floors, and against the customers around her. I was paralyzed for a moment as she disappeared around the aisle.

The baby powder scent lingered and her echoes left the back of my neck tickle, my heartbeat pounding like a hammer. Until that day, I had never, ever felt an echo more exhilarating than hers. I had to meet her. I followed her around like a stalker the entire shopping trip. She caught me watching her a few times. It was embarrassing, but I couldn’t help myself.

If her echoes weren’t stimulating enough, she was simply the most beautiful creature—err…girl—I’ve ever seen. She has the cutest face, sweetly heart shaped and perfect. Long blond hair, soft waves. Her large, bright blue eyes are mesmerizing.

I spent years following her when I could, finding a reason to walk by her house. When I left my Middle School, and on our way to the town’s high school, I hoped, hoped, hoped to have classes with Avery. I had only one with her that first year.

I sat at the back of the room to distance myself from most of the students. Some guy walked towards me, I saw, peripherally, and took the seat next to me. He said hello and I nodded at him, taking a moment to look at him. His shaggy hair reminded me of…well, Shaggy, and his long face looked as nervous as I was. He pushed his glasses up and that’s when I noticed just how big HIS hands were. I told Henry about it later but he said it was impossible for this guy to have bigger hands than me. I turned from the lanky, freckled kid to look for Avery.

I wasn’t sure if I could even speak, to tell you the truth; the echoes taking a great toll on me. The only thing I could think about was Avery. I knew she was supposed to be in my class. I waited, but my heart raced. I think the guy next to me asked my name and when I looked up at him, as he waited for my answer, I said, “Michael. Yours?”

Lucky for me, I had guessed his question correctly and he answered, “Austin.” I nodded, forced a smile, and then the warning bell rang, signaling two minutes until class would begin. Students began to pile into the room, taking spots in front of me. I asked Austin a question about his elementary school, to be nice and to distract myself.

But as he spoke, there was a sudden change in energy in the room that could only be caused by Avery. The room brightened, the waves of her echoes hit my shirt like a wave of water, pushing me back against my seat.

Afraid of being too obvious, I raised my head, and sucked in a breath and held it. She had the most blazing, powerful and amazing echo and I never tired of seeing them. Her swirling lights brightened the room and even the fluorescent lights flickered above for a moment. Her wings stretched out so much further than usual, and were making some kind of snapping sound to show her excitement. Luckily for me, the snapping stopped when the teacher asked her to find a place to be, as he put it, as he passed her to get to his desk.

She wore a tight, light pink sweater, wide neck to reveal her shoulders, blue jeans frayed at the knee, and a brown belt to match her boots. They drove me crazy, those shoulders. I can never keep my eyes off them. She was so cute. Truly the cutest girl at the school. She brushed her long hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ears. Her eyes were perfectly mesmerizing, lashes long to canopy the brilliant shades of blue. Her skin was a glowing, flawless canvas, illuminated by the extra lights she had dancing about her. That mouth! Her thin lips wore a subtle pout, making them so irresistible. Her teeth were picket fence perfection. She could be on the cover of a magazine. I loved her and she didn’t even know me.

Apparently, I was not good at keeping my utter admiration for her a secret, because Austin followed my gaze and then said, “That’s Avery.” As if I didn’t know.

“Oh?” I said, trying to seem as if I didn’t care…but I did. The way she moved mesmerized me, and I felt unable to look at Austin, unable to look away. She was graceful.

“Yeah. She’s hot, but taken, man,” he told me, and my heart sank like a rock. It was as if my mind hadn’t quite realized that there was no way in hell that this girl wouldn’t have been taken by now. My heart didn’t have a clue either and continued to thump as if to alert me that something was amiss.

“Taken?” I repeated, reworking the word in my mind, unable to hide my disappointment.

“Greyson Sloan. You will see him soon. They are rarely apart for more than a minute. They are always together. It’s a real shame.” I never saw her with a guy. When did he make his debut?

First day of grade nine and she was already taken? Are you kidding? How fair is that for the rest of us? Sure enough, Austin was right. As if I were re-enacting this in some kind of movie, my mind tried to be humorous and shouted, “Announcing Greyson!”, and in he walked, playing the unfortunate role as her boyfriend, and took his place next to her. Would I play a role in this movie or would I remain a part of the audience with the rest of the suckers in the room?

She beamed at the sight of him and put her arms around his neck, lights dancing along his arm and off his back. Greyson’s echoes were quite astonishing (gag) too, not visibly so, but more emotionally felt by me. He had some sort of calming quality. I felt calm and relaxed and I just knew it was because of him. I could tell his personality through his echoes: Strong, charismatic, gentle, kind and smart…intelligent. He was an obvious choice for someone so beautiful.

I’ve often wondered what my echoes would ‘look’ like or ‘feel’ like if I could, indeed, feel or see my own? Would I have anything on this boyfriend of hers? Physically, I think I could take him on. No, I don’t mean, physically, as in with my fists. I mean, I’m not ugly and physically, I think I might be better looking.

My hair is so black, my eyes so blue that I always get second glances and then frequent stares from girls. I am not oblivious to this fact. Greyson gets looks too, his hair long (girls love that…so I am growing mine longer too) and sandy blonde. And his eyes are blue too, deeper blue than mine, but mine are more rare to see. He was taller though, by quite a few inches, but that’s about all he has over me. Pun intended. Oh, and he fills that shirt out better than me, but I am working on that, too. Lifting weights while Henry makes fun. I still think that I have what it takes to, metaphorically, push him off that pedestal she has him on.

It’s the envy talking, but I hate that Greyson got my girl before I did. They sat together, and as he looked around, as if he could sense my stare, he noticed me (probably because of my hanging jaw and the drool hanging on for dear life to my chin). He held his eyes on me for a moment, making me uncomfortable so that when he nodded a hello at me, I looked away. I felt so stupid. I guess he would have to get used to the guys staring at her. Blond hair, almost to her waist, smart style, shapely legs, manicured hands and cute smile; there was nothing I saw that wasn’t appealing about her… that is, except for her boyfriend. Stupid ‘charismatic’ Greyson.

When she and Greyson walked out of class, I got the scent of toffee. Was that Greyson’s echoes? Really? That’s not even cool. I thought he would have something cooler than that.

With her at the same school, I just couldn’t get enough of her; she was all I could think about. It was just so hard to love her from afar when all I needed was her. All I wanted out of life was her. As high school carried on, everyone worried about the normal things of teenage-hood like pimples (lucky for me I had none), acceptance to clubs, peer pressure, getting that next A, getting a driver’s license but I was only worried about one thing. How in the world was I going to get Greyson out of her life? He was relentlessly infatuated with her.

Recently, I snuck a piece of paper folded into a rose and left it on her desk. I recalled being pretty proud of myself. There. Take that, Greyson. I know… it was a pathetic attempt.

This is how my relationship with Avery has blossomed into a nice acquaintance-like relationship. I managed to give her a folded up piece of paper. Wow. Took me months to do that, too. I’m on a roll. Nice, eh? I am now 17 years old, still in love with Avery and will do anything to just get a glimpse of her. Did I mention that I love her? Sigh. Seeing her first thing in the morning is like oxygen. I need it.

Avery works at a local cafe which helped because then I wasn’t always hiding in trees. Everyone and anyone could go into the cafe without looking suspicious, right? So I practically lived there.

So it goes without saying that I stopped in earlier when I could muster the courage but Greyson showed up, smelling so strongly of toffee. It made me crave English Toffee Cappucino, so I ordered hot chocolate instead.

Avery sometimes brings me hot chocolates. I only hoped that Greyson was getting annoyed by her attention towards me, but he never seemed to care. I mean, she worked at the cafe and probably got them for free but still. Well, Greyson always got one too, mind you. But he didn’t care that I was getting that same attention as he. Well, not the same attention. I got hot chocolate. He got to sit with her, and talk to her, and more than once, I saw him kiss the top of her head. He got to hang out with her rather than having to resort to stalking her at work or from the canopy of trees.

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Review for Book Seven by Drop Dead Design

This book is so much like the first two and it gave such closure. Michael Avery and Greyson are back along with Henry and are hilarious. You won’t believe who the new character is and his power rocks. Best one yet.

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Review for Book Six by Drop Dead Design

Nope. This is my favourite one. Creepy tense plot line in another world. A bunch of new characters that you just love. Glad Rieger decided to write this. It is a third person magical story. Completely unexpected. Wow

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Review for Book Five by Drop Dead Design

A love story. Absolutely loved the change in point of view. Answers given. The ending had me bawling. I can’t imagine if I had to wait to read book six. Glad it’s available because I wouldn’t be able to sleep. My favourite in The Pria Chronicles so far. Great job Rieger.

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Book Review for Book Four by Drop Dead Design

Oh poor poor Greyson. I cannot describe the emotions I felt. The ending is creepy. The storyline is unique and absolutely not predictable. Loved this one. I need book five. Now

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Review for Book Three by Drop Dead Design

This book you find the gang in University. Creatures are swarming and an unlikely One comes to save Michael. Ghostly encounters. Daughter born. Marriage. Devastation. It has it all. Oh and the cliffhanger had me in tears.

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Review for Book Two by Drop Dead Design

Oh Henry, I love you. And Greyson? Marry me. Dean, I love to hate you. This book brought anger, excitement, fear and laughter. Read in two days flat. The ending… Let’s just say, Rieger knows how to pack a punch. What a cliffhanger.

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Review for Book One by Drop Dead Design

All I have to say is the relationship between Michael and Henry is absolutely hilarious. Couldn’t imagine the book without them. Oh, and I’m in love with Greyson. The plot line is unique and captivating. I am afraid of Kritch. The way Rieger describes her in chapter five had chills running down my spine. Must read.

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Three More Five Star Ratings on Goodreads!

Sometimes people don’t have the time to leave a comment, but when they can simply rate the book, it lets others know that they loved it.  Thanks for taking the time Amy, Kathy and Jan!

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Three more ratings

Three Five-star ratings on Goodreads for book one!

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