Here's a sample of my self-published novel, Loveless
Deep in the heart of Ontario stands a small town called Loveless, uncharted by cartographers and unknown by the public unless driven through. It is a seemingly happy little town like the ones you see in movies, where everyone knows everyone else’s business and where local girls marry local boys. Main Street is where most of the shops can be found. The townspeople pride themselves on their creativity and craftiness. Sure there are shops devoted to everyday needs, including food, clothing, auto maintenance and home care, but generally the shops sell homemade items, crafts if you will. There is one shop, however, completely devoted to the mystical and mysterious. This one shop has stood on Loveless ground for over four hundred years and has not moved from its original position. This shop generates a good amount of income for the owners, as it is not only an interest, but a way of life.
Loveless was founded in 1677 by a band of gypsies. They had been on the run since they banded together twenty years earlier. No one but the gypsies and whomever or wherever it was they were running from knew why. But one thing is for certain, they were on the run because they had done something terrible.
The gypsies settled in a wooded area about six hundred kilometers northwest of what is now known as Kirkland Lake, Ontario, where they were certain no one would ever find them. Who, after all, would travel that far north to chase after rogue gypsies? They settled quickly and carefully so as to make themselves look like a real confederate settlement. The gypsies cared for no one but their own, hence they called their settlement Loveless. Little did they know that their legacy would carry on for many generations and their settlement would keep secret all the while.
The gypsies learned to grow their own food in the fertile soil and raise their own livestock. In the previous towns they had visited they traded for food and other goods, but now that they were on their own they would have to provide for themselves while keeping themselves hidden to the world around them. The women learned where the best berry bushes were and how to harvest the food they grew and the men learned to slaughter the animals they found in the woods (close to the settlement of course) and kept for livestock; they also learned how to build their own homes and barns. The men, of course, provided nightly watches for their protection.
The band stayed close throughout the rest of their days on earth, and even grew larger with the birth of children. They had no marriage, just polygamous relationships like they always had, where the men were able to take on as many partners as they liked and the women bore his children and each took care of each other's children. To them Loveless was perfect and sacred, but only for them. They would allow no visitors, no one would receive lodging if even just passing through and no one outside the band were to live within five kilometers of their settlement. They trusted no one and believed that anyone who chose to build a house near them was spying on them and would eventually turn them in to pay for their crimes. They taught their children this belief and it continued on with every generation after that. The gypsies did whatever it took to keep Loveless their own, even if it meant doing the unthinkable.
Chelsea Hawkes stared gloomily out the window as the rain poured down all around her family’s Ford. She had been stuck in the backseat for nearly five hours now with only two rest stops behind them. It would take another three hours to get to their destination. Chelsea was crammed into the left side of the backseat with only some of her family’s possessions; more were in the trunk and the moving truck behind them.
Though she was only seventeen years old Chelsea had attended ten schools in the past nine years. Ever since her father had gotten his job at Bancroft International, a prestigious law firm based out of Chicago, Illinois with branches worldwide, they had been moving around a lot. Wherever her father was needed, that was where they went. Chelsea was never in the same place long enough to make friends because before long her family would up and move yet again. It was something she had gotten used to by now, or you would think she would have gotten used to by now. But it became harder and harder to be the new girl all the time. At first she enjoyed being able to meet new people and live in different cities, but she knew she needed something more stable and that was what this move was supposed to be about.
The move, this time, was not because her father was being relocated. No, he had made a substantial amount of money off that law firm that he was coming close to retiring early. And where did he feel the best place to move his family would be? A small town surrounded by forests where Chelsea could make friends but still have a quiet life. Dale Hawkes managed to find a small tight-knit community in which he and his wife, Susan, could finish raising their daughter while providing her with more family values and a love for small town life.
The town they were moving to was surrounded by trees and was practically unheard of, actually it was unheard of. It was sheer accident that Dale stumbled upon this town. He was driving across the country from one of Bancroft’s buildings to the next when he drove through this town. Its welcome sign was barely legible, but after getting out of the car to study it he was able to make out what it said: Loveless. It sounded beautiful to him, like the perfect place to live. After all, if the name of the town had ‘love’ in it, it had to be great right? He also found the perfect little house. It was smaller than what they had been used to, but it was big enough for the three of them and their dog Dodger, who was also stuffed in the backseat with Chelsea. As Dale drove through Loveless those many months ago he noticed the children riding their bikes down the sidewalks of Main Street with their parents nearby watching and laughing amongst themselves.
Chelsea’s face was pale in the dim light coming from the gray clouds above, which were illuminated from the sun behind them. The raindrops trickling down the window reflected on her milky white skin. Her eyes had not blinked in three minutes and she could feel them beginning to dry out. She finally blinked once and then proceeded to watch the rain fall from the blackened sky. There was a sudden burst if lightning, which did not phase Chelsea, but when followed by an echoing clap of thunder not only did Chelsea jump in her seat, Dodger, her ten year old Golden Retriever, did as well.
“Scare ya?” Susan Hawkes asked with a chuckle. Susan loved thunderstorms and thrived on loud thunder. Chelsea on the other hand, was quite a timid girl and hated loud noises. You can imagine how she felt every time the weather man predicted a thunderstorm.
“Yeah,” Chelsea answered quietly and reached over to scratch Dodger behind the ears. She knew that he was not too fond of storms either. Dodger seemed pretty pleased with the scratching and opened his mouth to let his tongue droop out. His panting was loud but Chelsea found it endearing.
“I don’t know why you’re so afraid of thunder, Chels,” said Susan. “It’s not like it can hurt you. It’s just noise,” she said reassuringly.
“I know, but lightning can hurt you. Just ask the seven hundred thousand people who get struck each year,” she retorted. “Oh, wait, you can’t, half of them die.” Chelsea had a thing for statistics. As long as she knew what the odds were of anything occurring at any giving time, she was ok. Statistics made her feel like there was some kind of explanation for things that happen whether miraculous or ordinary.
Susan just sighed and turned her attention once again to what was going on in front of her. She did not know why Chelsea had to be so afraid all the time. She could tell her ten times a day that the odds of something bad happening to her were very slim, but that did not seem to help matters. That was probably because Chelsea understood she knew more about statistics than her mother did. For every fake statistic her mother gave her, Chelsea threw the real one back at her; it was the way they fought.
“How much longer?” Chelsea asked her father. Her legs were beginning to cramp up again and Dodger would need a stretch and a walk soon…to do his business. They had been cooped up in that Ford for two hours straight now and everyone was getting impatient.
“Just another couple of hours, Chels,” Dale answered.
“That’s what you said two hours ago,” Chelsea replied. “And Dodger hasn’t gone to the bathroom for three. Maybe he’s sick.”
“He’s not sick, Chels. We’ll be there soon,” said Dale.
Chelsea huffed and threw herself back in her seat. She folded her arms across her chest and leaned her head back. If she had two more hours then the least she could do was get some sleep. The whole family had been awake since five A.M. when they immediately began to pack up the rest of their belongings into the car. Dale had insisted that they would need an early start if they wanted to get to Loveless at a decent hour and with the seven hour drive getting up at five in the morning was necessary.
It was not long before Chelsea was fast asleep with her hand propped up on Dodger’s head, but not scratching. Dodger whined brought his head down on Chelsea’s lap, bringing her hand down with him.
She tossed about as much as she could while being restrained by her seatbelt. Her eyes thrashed about wildly beneath her closed eyelids. Dodger could sense something was wrong and he lifted his head, making a whining sound and cocked his head. Chelsea groaned and Dodger barked loud enough to shake the whole car, but neither Susan nor Dale bothered to turn around in their seats to see what was going on.
“Shhh, Dodger,” said Susan as she waved her hand in the back seat trying to pet the dog’s head to calm him. All she ended up doing, though, was smacking him upside the head a couple of times causing him to whimper softly.
In her dream Chelsea was standing on a deserted, tree-lined dirt road with blackened clouds looming overhead. They threatened rain, but the rain never came. The wind blew roughly and stripped some of the trees of their leaves until they were bare. It was like she was experiencing the transition of autumn to winter at a super-high pace right in front of her eyes. Overhead crows flapped their wings violently and squawked ferociously, warning of imminent danger.
She was barely able to turn around before an even stronger gust of wind nearly snapped her small frame in two. All of a sudden out of nowhere came a laughing so maniacal it gave Chelsea goose bumps and caused her whole body to shake on the spot. She looked everywhere but could not find the source of the freakish laughter that caused her insides to squirm.
Chelsea put one foot in front of the other and began taking short, careful steps southward down the road. The trees towered over her measly five feet and five inches, promising to continue to make her uneasy. It seemed like she had been walking for hours and still was not getting anywhere. The road stretched out in front of her forever without any promise of civilization.
She knew she was dreaming but could not bring herself to wake up; she even tried shouting to her sleeping bodice to open her eyes and realize that it was all just a dream but nothing worked, so she continued on.
Dream Chelsea looked down at her feet, which seemed to be swollen and were visibly throbbing. There was no pain, which she knew there should have been but she was not complaining.
Waitaminute…what was that? Chelsea’s eyes swam back to the left and tried to focus on what she had just seen. It was a figure, a very tall figure but not one of the trees. It was completely black except for two red eyes atop its perfectly round head. She stopped in her tracks and felt her heart beating faster and her pulse quicken. She was trembling once again and decided she would like to get out of there but could not move her feet; she was glued to that spot and there was no hope of moving them again. The figure was getting closer and closer with each breath and Chelsea could feel its breath on her ear – and she could smell it too; it did not smell very good. As she tried to decipher what exactly its breath smelled like thoughts of peril raced through her mind. Questions arose that she had never asked herself but were becoming more relevant to her current situation.
What was this thing gliding toward her? Would she live through this? Why could she not wake up? These were all questions that summed up her fear. Chelsea’s brain switched back on and she finally recognized the smell. She had smelled it all the time when she lived in New York. It was like the smell from the fishing docks that wafted through the city in the early morning hours; something was beside her. A warm breath grazed her left ear and Chelsea shuddered.
It became cold, colder than it had already been. She looked around frantically but the thing that she had seen moments earlier had vanished. But if it had vanished completely why could she still feel its breath on her ear? Those breaths were the only warm thing about her dreamland now and dream Chelsea began to shiver. She brought her arms up to hug herself and began rubbing her arms to try and keep warm. She took more small steps without getting anywhere or seeing anything promising on the horizon.
All of a sudden Chelsea could not move; her feet seemed to be stuck where they were. This was getting freakier by the second. Still trying to keep herself warm, Chelsea’s head swiveled from side to side, her eyes looking panic-stricken. But before she could take one more breath the hooded figure appeared right in front of her. It was no longer worried about hiding itself out of her direct line of vision but had decided that now was the time to do what it had come to do. Inside the hood she saw no face, just a depth of darkness she had never seen before. It did not have feet and was suspended off the ground. The smell of dead fish returned to Chelsea’s nostrils and she wrinkled her nose even though it did not help.
As the thing got closer it got bigger. Soon Chelsea was face to face with whatever it was, if you could even call it face to face since she saw no signs of eyes, a nose or a mouth. It raised its cloaked arm to expose a bony hand and wrist. Its fingernails were painted blood red and must have been three inches long. It brought its hand to its hood and slipped it off. Chelsea really was face to face with the thing now because it actually had one. It was the skin and bone face of a woman whose wrinkles could never have been covered up with even the most expensive of makeup. The irises of her eyes were covered with white, which in people usually meant blindness, but she seemed to glide with the ability of someone who had twenty-twenty vision. Her nose was long and pointed at the tip; her lips were thin and black. The hair on top of her head was white and stringy. It looked like it had not been washed in years.
Chelsea tried to scream. She kept straining her vocal chords until she could swear she felt warm blood filling her throat. She could taste the iron at the back of her throat and the blood slowly rose to fill the crevices in her mouth, trickling down her chin. The woman looked deep into her ocean blue eyes with a kind of pleasured look covering her ugly face. Chelsea brought her hands up to her throat, clutching at her blood filled esophagus. The blood in her throat gurgled when she tried to speak, which was only making things worse by sending even more of the red liquid up her throat and down her face.
The woman opened her mouth to speak, still with that twisted, sadistic smile across her dry lips. Chelsea’s eyes widened and her ears seemed to tune in only to the scratchy sound of the woman’s voice leaving the whistling wind out of earshot.
“Stay away,” bellowed the woman. Her voice echoed throughout the trees surrounding them.
“Why?!” Chelsea replied, confused as to why the blood had emptied from her throat and her voice returned. The woman cocked her head and looked confused that Chelsea had responded to her.
“Stay away,” the woman said slightly louder than before.
“Why?!” Chelsea said back using the same tone.
“AWAY!” the woman yelled once more before vanishing in a bright flash of light unlike the lightening that was already causing a ruckus.
Chelsea looked around scared and confused. Who was that? She was more than ready to wake up now; she did not care to dream anymore. Testing her abilities, Chelsea lifted her right leg and found that she could move once again.
“Wake up!” Chelsea yelled into the unforgiving gray sky above her. “Wake up! WAKE UP!!!” she screamed over and over but could not get it through her own head. She decided to walk some more to see if she could now get somewhere, anywhere, after what she thought would be the only scary part of her dream.
And she was right in choosing to do so. She did get somewhere. Chelsea came to a fork in the tree lined road, which gave her the option to either see what was in the full length, gold trimmed mirror on her right, or continue on the clear road on her left. Being the curious girl that she was Chelsea stepped closer to the mirror and witness her reflection getting bigger. She waved to herself and smiled. Nothing bad was happening so she brought her fingers to her mouth and pulled at the corners and crossed her eyes. She giggled childishly and began to sway from side the side. When that ceased to amuse her she began strip teasing for herself and got quite a good laugh out of it. This dream was no longer frightening and she longed now to stay asleep so she could continue to be the sexy scarlet she had always wished to be.
Chelsea’s dark chocolate brown hair, which ended in a point in the middle of her back, blew wildly in the wind, which was nowhere close to blowing her over and her smile was brighter than ever. She was quite a pretty girl, naturally, who accented what she thought of as her good features with a little bit of makeup. She was a girl who liked to think herself as fashionable even though at every school she had been to the popular girls liked to tease her about how her clothes were “so two months ago”.
Now Chelsea was singing loudly into the microphone she was pretending was in her hand. She did not care how bad she was, it just felt great belting out the latest hit according to her favourite radio station from back in New York. She was having a blast pretending to be a pop princess who just won a Grammy and was now performing in front of millions.
“Thank you, New York!” she yelled after she was done singing.
The ground began shaking beneath Chelsea’s size eight feet, which came as a shock considering just two minutes ago everything was fine and the sun had even started to peak through the clouds. Now the sun was gone and the clouds were even darker than ever. The rumbling continued for another five short dream. She looked all around, including behind her, and was glad to see that everything was still intact. Whatever that was, she hoped it would not be happening again. Chelsea turned to look back in the mirror and was shocked and terrified to see the face and cloak of the woman who had already terrorized her staring back at her. There was a maniacal grin on her face like she knew something was about to happen.
The woman’s face disappeared and Chelsea was back to looking at herself again. The rumbling began again and was growing more and more violent; she could barely keep herself on her feet and if she had not fallen on her butt those two times she would have been able to make it to one of the trees and hold on for dear life. Finally standing again on her own two feet Chelsea gazed back into the mirror. Slowly the image of herself was deteriorating; patches of skin were being torn from her body as her clothes were stripped off by invisible hands. Her reflection writhed in pain as the real Chelsea stood and watched in horror. She tried closing her eyes but as tight as she tried to keep them shut she would find them open soon after. Where the skin flew from her body bits of muscle would be exposed and bright red blood would leak from the wounds. The reflection still cried out in pain silently but as much as it cried no help came and the skin was still being taken. It did not take long for the entire body to be rid of skin and the muscle covered bones to be all that was left. The blood was now seeping off her reflection and onto the dirt road beneath it.
Right when Chelsea thought the torture was over it began again. Strings of muscle were being pulled off one by one by an unseen force whose strength seemed greater than any human being’s. Even though Chelsea was horrified by this Hollywood effect she could not help but recognize the strings of muscle as looking like spaghetti noodles covered in a rich tomato sauce. There clearly was no stopping whatever was happily providing her exact double with pain and suffering. This little bit of unpleasantness lasted much longer than the removal of the skin, like it had not meant for the first half of the torture to go by so quickly. Chelsea noticed that her reflection had given up on calling out for help and was giving in to the hopelessness of it all. The reflection was crouching and made to sit down as the last muscle fiber was being slowly pulled from the bones. The skeletal figure collapsed onto the ground and shattered into a pile that faded away before her very eyes.
With a gasp Chelsea awoke from her nightmare covered in a cold sweat. Dodger began licking her face vigorously, probably just happy that his best friend was alright. She looked down at her hands, which were trembling as well as her legs. She was panting and took a deep breath whenever she could bring herself to do it. Her parents still did not turn in their seats to make sure their one and only daughter was okay. She leaned to her left to take a look at the clock above the CD player. One hour had passed since she had fallen asleep.
Wow, she thought, a hell of a lot happened in an hour. At least there was one good thing about having an hour pass as quickly as it had seemed: they only had one more hour to go.
“Having fun yet, sweetie?” Susan asked sweetly; Chelsea just rolled her eyes.
“Loads,” Chelsea lied convincingly. She was concentrating more on why she had just had that dream than she was on having a good time on the never-ending road trip.
The sun peered from behind the dark clouds and chased them to the south. The inside of the car warmed up a bit as it filled with light making every passenger feel a bit more at ease. Chelsea ran her hand through Dodger’s thick golden fur enough for him to lay his heavy head on his paws and nod off to sleep. As she strained her neck to get a view of what was ahead of them, sick of looking out the side of the car, something immediately caught her eye. Chelsea could see two tall oak trees on either side of the road with their branches reaching across to form a canopy. As they got closer Chelsea could see that the two trees were followed by more and more oak trees as far as the eye could see. When the Ford reached the first set of trees the sun was lost above them to the merciless leaves. It got dark both inside the car and out. Dale had to switch his headlights to high beams just to get a good look at where he was going.
Chelsea recognized this stretch of road; it was the same stretch she had started out on in her dream. She grabbed the pillow she had placed on the opposite side of the car for if she decided to take a nap. She held it close to her body on her lap and prepared herself for the worst. She knew that any minute now the cloaked woman would appear and her vocal chords would burst open. But ten minutes into the secluded road nothing happened. However, she was not about to hold her breath. Just because nothing had happened yet did not mean nothing would.
Chelsea sighed in relief and tossed her pillow back to the side, which hit Dodger on the head lightly and woke him from his twenty minutes of sleep.
“Almost there, Chels,” said Dale whose voice had trembled with excitement.
“How does no one know of this place?” Chelsea asked out of genuine curiosity.
“Well that I don’t really know,” he said. “But I do know that it’s very hard to find. I came across it by pure luck.” Chelsea looked to her side and could not even see the farmer’s field that had been there not even a half an hour before.
“Bancroft had me visit Moosanee to head off the company’s booth at the job fair up there and I decided to take a shortcut. When I turned off this road I saw a sign in the bushes that said ‘Loveless’ Population: 921,” he continued. “I drove through and it was beautiful.”
“So you brought Troy up to look at the house then, huh?” asked Chelsea who was speaking of her family’s devoted real estate agent.
“That’s right, kiddo,” Dale chuckled. “Turns out Troy’s never heard of it either. He thought he saw everyone glaring at him as he stepped through the front door behind me,” he said. Dale had an eyebrow raised and a grin on his face.
“Well that’s more than a little ridiculous,” returned Susan with a laugh. “I’m sure everyone will welcome us with open arms.” Again, Chelsea rolled her eyes. Her parents were way too optimistic about everything for her liking. Suddenly the car jerked and Chelsea realized that they had stopped moving. Before she could ask her dad what was going on she could feel the car begin to go forward slightly. They were going very slowly.
“Don’t worry Chels, just goin’ slow to make sure we don’t miss the turn off,” said Dale.
It had either actually taken five minutes or Chelsea’s concept of time had been so distorted by how slow the car was going that it seemed like five minutes, but it had taken forever to reach the turn off to Loveless. Chelsea peered out the window on her far right and saw the sign her father was talking about. When he had said the sign was in the bushes he failed to mention how deep in the bushes it really was. The healthy dark green colour of the leaves cast shadows upon the letters. She could barely make out what it said but she could tell from the ‘L’ and the double ‘s’s that it was Loveless.
At the bottom of the sign, which was very weatherworn, there were wooden tiles that each held a number, which Chelsea knew had to be the population. There was a tall lanky old man with bad posture and a bald head. The only hair left seemed to be the greasy, stringy beard that hung from his chin. As their car drove past he turned his unusually bumpy head to look at them. He gave them a stare out of his squinty eyes, one of which was nearly shut by no fault of his own, that would send chills down even a vampire’s spine. Though she could not hear him she could tell by the shape of his lips that he was snarling at them, bearing his crooked, yellow teeth. After showing the new arrivals just how unpleasant he would be (even though Chelsea had no clue who he was) he went back to flipping the tiles so the numbers now read: 924.
They drove through another lane trimmed with trees, but a shorter road this time, much shorter. In no time the family Ford was cruising along what had to be Main Street from what Chelsea could tell. It was not much to look at, but it seemed easy enough to navigate through. On the right side of the road stood a small library, bookshop and general store (it was all she could see clearly. There were more atop the slight incline) and to the left there was a tea room, clothing shop and… ‘Crusty Joe’s Tavern’. Chelsea had no desire to ever know why he was called ‘Crusty Joe’ or why he chose to promote it. As she took in the new scenery Chelsea realized why she had not been able to see the fields; it seemed that they had driven into a forest and were now in the heart with trees everywhere you turned.
Streets branched off Main Street for the whole length of the road, which was not that long. They turned down the fourth street in with a sign that read: Avery Avenue. The street ended in a circle at the top with houses lining it. At the very top of the circle sat a much smaller house than what Chelsea was used to. Normally they lived in five bedroom homes and this house clearly had only two. At least it was not a one bedroom home that would have her sleeping in the living room.
Standing outside the house looking positively delighted was a husky man in a black suit wearing a bright pink shirt underneath the jacket. Around his neck was a gold chain and on his left wrist was a gold Rolex. His hair was slicked back and his face was clean-shaven. He stood there clapping his hands as they approached the front yard. Dale put the car in park and turned the key in the ignition, stopping the car.