NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 1

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 2

A Work in Progress by Larry Mike Garmon Copyright © 2010 by Larry Michael Garmon All Rights Reserved

For reprint information & permission: NEVRLANDOklahoma@GMail.com WAIT! Already read some chapters of NEVЯLAND? Use the following links to go to the chapter you want to read. If the hyperlinks within the document don't work, please let me know. Or, you can just scroll down to the proper page number of the next chapter. Part One—Яapture Chapter One – Page 04 Chapter Two – Page 23 Chapter Three – Page 41

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 3

NEVЯLAND A Work-in-Progress By Larry Mike Garmon Year One Part One: Яapture

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 4

Chapter One BL.01.01 {0121130506} I’ve been standing here for like an hour now—and the stupid red light won’t change! And there’s no traffic. I sense the Y Queens looking at me from their regal perch among the peons in front of Junebug Junior High—looking at me and laughing as I stand here waiting for this STUPID red light to turn green! I look brainless standing here on the curb, leaning slightly forward, and just waiting. There’s no traffic. None at all. On a normal day, Falcon Road is full of cars this time of morning rushing one way to the air force base and rushing the other way into town. On a normal day, crossing against the red light would mean ending up like grounded hamburger meat. My thumb numbs from jamming the thick semi-moon silver Pedestrian Cross button like a million times. I cinch the sweater I have tied around my waist. I put it on at home because I thought it was chilly. As I walked, I got hot. I was too far from home to return it, so I tied my sweater around my waist. I look good this way: cream button down Anouk-knock off sports blouse, Joey B plaid skirt, and baby pink sweater tied around my waist. EXCEPT – I look like a cow standing here waiting for a light to change, to give me permission to walk forty feet to the other side when there’s no traffic at all. I’m an eighth grader-soon-to-be-ninth grader, and I’m a slave to a rule—against crossing

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 5 against a red light—even if there’s no traffic. I slide my iPhone from my skirt pocket. “Damn!” Battery not charged again. The iPhone slips back in. I smile. Mom is standing in the middle of the street, pointing a twenty-dollar-a- nail- tipfinger at me, “My Sweet Baby Girl doesn’t use profane language!” I giggle. “Would you would prefer I fart in church during communion?” Mom frowns, turns, walks down the middle of Falcon, fades away. The Ys are waiting. Watching me. Laughing at me. I’m a cow standing in the middle of an empty field waiting for the grass to grow. Screw it. I cross.

BL.01.02 “What the Hell took you so long? You looked like an idiot just standing there.” Lauryn, Emperor-for-Life of the Y Queens. “Couldn’t wait for your leader to join you?” Lauryn frowns. “As if. More like serving wrench.” “That’s ‘wench’, Vomit-for-Brains.” A girl dressed all in black walks past us. Lit cigarette hangs from the corner of her mouth. Lauryn smacks her lips. Her face tightens. Then she says, “Who’s talking to you, Little Miss GothMo? It’s not only illegal for you to be smoking, it’s against the school rules. If Mrs. Patterson catches you, you’ll get detention.”

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 6 The girl in black turns. Steps up to Lauryn. She is shorter than Lauryn, her eyes coming only to Lauryn’s chin. Little Miss GothMo tilts her head, looks into Lauryn’s eyes. Lauryn steps out of the fashion pages of TeenVogue. Sammi Jones is a walking poster child for any horrorpunk slasher movie or book cover of one of those thick door-stopper teenage vampire-zombie novels—all black: fingernails, lipstick, thick heavy eyeliner, jet black hair with blonde roots, a black opal nose stud, and several black earring studs. I giggle: If it wouldn’t make her look like a redneck Okie, Sammi would have had her teeth blackened as well. Lauryn tenses. I swallow a laugh. I see Lauryn clench her right fist. Lauryn can’t fight her way out of an invisible wet paper bag. “You’re beautiful,” Sammi says. Her eyes lock on Lauryn’s. She puts the cigarette back in the corner of her mouth, turns, and walks toward a small group of trench-coated and studdedbracelet students. She disappears into a sea of black. Gray smoke curls skyward from the center of the darkness. “Weirdo!” Lauryn unclenches her fist. She turns to me and the other two girls of our queenly clique. “Of course I’m beautiful. That’s my job. It’s what I do.” She frowns and smacks her lips. “Don’t they make retard schools for rejects like her?” “Yeah,” I say. “GothMo Academy, where all the sad little Goths cry when they put on their black eyeliner!” We laugh. We always laugh. Even if the comment or insult isn’t funny, we still laugh. We laugh because goofballs and yahoos like Sammi and the other losers at JJ just don’t measure

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 7 up to the Y Queens. If the junior high had offered an elective course in BitchGirl 101, the Y Queens would be A-plus students instead of barely passing because we’re popular and because we’re all pretty. Yeah. That happens. Pretty girls pass no matter what grades we get. Ugly girls get the grades they earn. We don’t even have to wear those gawd-ugly and super heavy backpacks that make all the kids look like some sort of monster rejects in a bad horror movie—like The Hunchbackpack of Junebug Junior High or some stupid thing like that. We keep our books in our lockers, where they belong, and when we have homework, we go to one of the Geek-and-Nerd Chat Rooms, type a few silly flirting words to the Junebug Geeks and Nerds online, and Violá! our homework is sent to us, in a downloadable attached file, of course, so we can change the name on the paper and add a few misspelled words and wrong answers so none of the teachers get suspicious. If Sammi had been a Samm-Y instead of a Samm-I, maybe she would have been cool. Having a Y in your name didn’t guarantee you membership into the Y Queens, but it helped your chances. “Any of you guys know what time it is?” says Kymber. She is looking at her cell. “Phone’s dead.” Cynthea looks at her phone. “Mine, too.” Its screen is just as blank as Kymber’s. Lauryn reaches into her Dooney & Bourke leather satchel. Pulls out her phone. “God! I don’t know why I hang around with such losers. Don’t you know to charge your phones at night? How we gonna text in class if you bring dead phones to school?” She looks at the screen, frowns, and thrusts the phone back into her bag.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 8 I smile. Lauryn smiles in return and mouths, “Bite me.” “None of our phones are working?” Kymber says. “That sucks. No texting today.” “Send up smoke signals,” Cynthea says. She giggles. “Hey, where’s everybody?” Ravyn says as she joins us. Lauryn frowns at Ravyn. “Finally.” She looks at each of us. “Y Queen quorum now complete,” she says as though she is running a meeting. “Present business.” “Suppose to be old business first,” Cynthia says. “I’m Emperor for this month. I’ll tell you what business we’re discussing.” “You’ve been Emperor since January,” Ravyn says. She counts on her fingers: “Four months.” Lauryn flips back her blonde hair. “Naturally.” Lauryn is a head taller than the rest of us. She’s our age in years but at least two years ahead of us in body in every which way. She even gets into high school parties because she looks more sixteen than thirteen. “Wait a minute!” She scans Ravyn up and down. “What day is it?” “What?” says Ravyn. “It’s Monday,” Lauryn answers her own question. “On Mondays it’s plaid skirt with light colored blouse.” “So?” “You’re wearing a print blouse with a dark skirt! That’s Thursday.” “Mom didn’t’ wash my clothes, okay? This is all I had to wear, okay?” Lauryn rolls her eyes. “Your mom washes your clothes? You don’t send them out to be cleaned? They’re hand washed?”

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 9 Ravyn has it coming. Even if her Monday clothes are dirty and wrinkled, it is better than wearing the wrong clothes on the wrong day. Ravyn is the easiest of the Y Queens to tease and to scorn. She is the last to join our exclusive group. Kymber had been nagging us for months to create a little diversity in the Y Queens. Until Ravyn came along, all the Y Queens could be taken for sisters or cousins: all blonde haired and blue or green eyed. Except me. I’m red haired with blue eyes. Ravyn was “raven” in more than just name—except her skin is more like a rich fudge brown than black, but her hair is darker than night. Her family isn’t rich. They don’t live on the north side of town. Ravyn doesn’t live in a bad part of town. She lives in the average side of town, just not in the proper part of town. Lauryn took some convincing to let Ravyn join the Y Queens and she only did so when I suggested we take Ravyn in as our “scholarship” member. I speak up. “I vote we go ahead with the ‘Cinquo de Y-O’ day.” “You can’t vote until we’ve had a motion,” Ravyn says. “You and your stupid rules.” Lauryn frowns at Ravyn. “First, you’re late, and, second, you wear the wrong clothes, and third, now you want to waste time with stupid rules.” “That’s what Ms. Hammons says to do,” Ravyn says. Lauryn spits out a raspberry. “Dried up old speech teacher.” “I couldn’t help being late. Damien was gone and didn’t bring me. I had to walk. It’s at least like a thousand miles.” “You walked?” Lauryn is having a field day with Ravyn today. “I vote for ‘Cinquo de Y-O’, too,” says Kymber. “All in favor?” Lauryn pretends to be counting. “Passed anonymously!” I roll my eyes and swallow another laugh. Sometimes I can’t tell if Lauryn is being

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 10 purposely stupid or if she comes by stupid naturally. If purposely, then she’s smart to play dumb. If naturally—well, I just hate having a friend who’s a walking cliché—tall, blonde, gorgeous, and beautifully dumb. “When’s the stupid bell gonna ring?” says Kymber. “What time is it?” says Cynthea “Who cares?” Lauryn rolls her eyes. “We get more education standing out here making fun of the geeks than being bored in there.” She jerks her blonde-shrouded head towards the flatroofed building. My eyes follow her motion. Hmmm. A couple of the geekier nerds stands at the doors, hands cupped around faces pressing into the glass. One reaches down and pulls on the handle. The other geek pounds on the glass. Curious. I turn. Lauryn talks. The other Ys listen. I don’t hear what she is saying. I’m looking for Josh. He’ll know what time it is. Not that I care about the time. I care about talking to Josh. I see Josh standing with other jocks at the bus entrance near the large granite Junebug Junior High—Home of the L’il Scarabs—Erected by the Student Council 1994. “Where you going?” Lauryn says as I walk away from the group. “I’m talking to you.” I wave her off. “Gonna find out the time.” I hear Lauryn laugh behind me, and then I hear her say, “Making time with Josh. That’s what!” And the rest of the Ys laugh, too. I don’t care. I’m a few yards from Josh. His head turns. He sees me. He’s all smiles: eyes, lips,

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 11 cheeks, ears—even his nose. He welcomes me. A blur jumps in front of me. I stop short. “Hi, Laynie.” It’s Kern Collier. Nerd Boy Numero Uno. Standing right in front of me. Blocking my view of Josh. Stopping me dead in my tracks from reaching Josh. “Funny the bells haven’t rung yet, huh?” Kern on the Cob. “Hope they don’t give us tardies. Not our fault if the bells don’t ring and then we’re late.” Pop Kern. “You think they’ll announce the science fair winners today? I’d be happy just to place, although—” he smiles, but not a Josh smile, a Nerd Boy smile with flaming pimples dancing on red cheeks—“I do think I’ve got the best project. Actually, it’s the most sophisticated of the projects . . . .” Kern Chips. Kern Flakes. Creamed Kern. Kern Fritters. Kern Nuggets. Crispy Kern Casserole. Kern raises his arm and looks at his watch. I beam a Laynie-Wants-Something-from-Ya smile. A sunshine and lollypop smile with bright blueberry eyes and marshmallow cheeks. “What time is it?” “Seven fifty-three.” He falls into my eyes—Kern-plop. I bore through his boring browns to see Josh standing just beyond the back side of his skull. “The bell should have rung at seven fifty. I sure hope they don’t mark us tardy. I’ve got perfect attendance this year. Not like last year when I was sick all the time.”

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 12 “I need to ask Josh something.” I step around Kern. I touch his arm. Kern blushes. “See ya in English.” I smile. A kind smile, but not a Laynie-Loves-Ya smile. A Laynie- Got-WhatShe-Wanted-from-Ya smile.

BL01.03 “Hey, Laynie.” I am soft chocolate to Josh’s warm words. “What’s up?” “Enjoying the morning.” Josh smiles. My arms goose bump. My cheeks burn. “You’re the only person I know who likes Monday mornings.” “Chance to start over again.” I smile. My Laynie-Will-Follow-Josh-to-the-Ends-of-theEarth smile. I stand, one knee bent, the other leg slightly out to the side so I’m tilted a little. I’m glad I wore my low pumps today. Josh is not tall. I don’t want to be taller than Josh. “What did Kern want?” “Gave me the time.” “What time is it?” “Seven fifty-one. Probably fifty-two by now.” “How does he know the time? My phone’s dead. So is Aaron’s.” Josh nods towards Aaron. “Yeah. My phone’s dead, too,” Aaron says. “That’s weird—” I nod towards the Y Queens—“all our phones are dead, too.” The Ys are watching me. They giggle. Then Lauryn speaks, her hand cupped to the side of her mouth so only the Ys can hear her. The three drones laugh loud enough I can hear them. I imagine what

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 13 she said and I blush: she has a dirty mind when it comes to boys and girls. Probably comes from all the backstage gossip at the umpteen beauty pageants she’s been in. I turn to Josh. “It’s his granddad’s watch. An old wind up. It doesn’t even have a battery. You have to wind it up. His granddad bought it in Vietnam or the Gulf War or some kind of war.” “His is the only one working,” Aaron says. “Wonder why they haven’t rung the bell yet?” “Kern’s worried about being counted tardy,” I say without looking at Aaron, my eyes fixed on Josh’s eyes. His eyes are brown like Kern’s, but unlike Kern’s, Josh’s eyes dance. They don’t do math problems like Kern’s. Josh’s eyes are M&M dark chocolate brown. “Not a lot of people here today,” Josh says as he looks around. “I know. I haven’t seen any busses or cars pulling up. I crossed Falcon and didn’t see one car.” “Falcon’ll kill ya,” Aaron says. “I almost got hit last Friday by some old idiot who ran the red light.” “I stood there for like an hour, and the light didn’t change.” I laugh, sending sparkles from my eyes to Josh’s eyes. Josh receives them. He smiles back at me. “I don’t see any teachers, either,” Josh says. “Yeah,” Aaron adds. “Usually a couple of them out here with their coffee mugs bitching about students and standing duty.” We all laugh. I look around. “Curious.” “What?” says Josh.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 14 “I’ve got that history paper done if you want to copy it,” I say to Josh. I know the answers are good. I got them from Kern during a chat room cheating session last night. Josh smiles. “Thanks. But, I did it last night.” He pauses. “Mom made me. Watched me the whole time to make sure I did it.” “Can I copy it?” Aaron wants to know. I ignore Aaron. A pounding noise is heard, and we turn towards the front of Junebug junior high. Two of the Nerds are using their fists to pound on the metal frames of the doors. They’re shouting, “Let us in. The bell didn’t ring. Don’t count us tardy. I have a test.” I glance over at the Y Queens. They’re giggling, laughing. Pointing. I can’t hear them, but I know they are not using very nice words to describe the desperate Nerds trying to get into school. Such losers. “Geek squad is squirting their collective pants,” Josh says with a smile. He’s looking past me. I move slightly to the left so his M&M eyes are looking at me. I melt in his eyes and in his hands. I laugh. Josh. He’ll be varsity quarterback when we’re sophomores. He’s that good. Already has colleges looking at him even in the eighth grade. He’s not tall, not yet. His brother grew a foot when he got to high school. So will Josh. Plus, he’s fast. And he can throw a football a mile straight into the eye of a needle. All the movies and TV shows say that someone like Josh ends up with the head cheerleader. But I know that Josh doesn’t like cheerleaders. He thinks they’re stupid. Which they

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 15 are. All they do is jump around and yell nonsense. We Ys love making fun of them at the games. Josh will date me when we’re in high school. He’s not allowed to date now. His mother won’t let him. Lauryn says that Josh’s mom is crazy, that she’s taught Josh that all girls are evil and only interested in a guy for his money and/or his body. Really? That doesn’t sound crazy to me. What else would a girl be interested in? Boys were brutes, always running, crashing into things, punching each other, tossing each other around, seeing who can belch or fart the loudest. Only when a boy like Josh is around a girl like me is a boy ever really tame. Like now.

BL01.04 I have not seen a car all morning. Not on Falcon Road. Not in front of the school dropping off bleary-eyed, bored-face kids. No cars anywhere. I had forgotten that, standing there talking with Josh. The first and only car I see this morning is now heading towards us at ninety miles an hour. It’s weaving. Swerving. The tires are squealing like a sick cat. “Look!” Josh points at the car. It’s a blue car. An old car. A land yacht. A car that would have been a symbol of wealth and status twenty years ago but now was just an old, beat up car with as much rust as paint and with dented and scratched doors. “That guy’ll get a ticket,” Aaron says. “He better slow down before the cop sees him.” I look across the street. The cop who usually sits in his cop car across the street slurping

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 16 his coffee and gulping his donuts is not there. Curiouser. “Watch out!” Josh shouts. He pushes me aside. I fall on my elbow. Searing, sharp pain bolts up from the tip of my elbow to the back of my skull. I scream—as much in pain as in surprise. Josh yanks me up and begins to drag me. I kick my feet to feel solid ground, but Josh is so quick and so strong I’m unable to get any balance. My heels merely kick up clumps of grass and dirt. The car is heading straight for us. Faster. The front is all chrome teeth, gnashing to get a bite of Josh and me. The engine roars with hunger for someone to hit, to chomp, to kill. My shoulder flames with pain. Josh is pulling my arm so hard I know he will rip it from my body. Screaming. Children screaming. And running. Boys screaming like girls. Girls screaming like hurt rabbits. I dig my heels into the soft ground and push. I’m up. The pressure is off my arm and shoulder. Still, it burns. Josh pulls me. I follow whether I want to or not. I want to. Josh is taking me out of danger. He stops. I look into his face. His M&M eyes are large, round. Bright brown. No more dark chocolate. His mouth opens. I turn. The blue rusted car jumps the curb. Two kids run into the path of the stampeding car—not away from it. I scream as the two are spiked by the chrome teeth and then sucked into

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 17 the belly of the beast and gobbled up. The car smashes into the granite Junebug Junior High—Home of the L’il Scarabs— Erected by the Student Council 1994 sign. The front of the car crumples like paper. The granite sign explodes into a million pieces, each piece shoots into the air—pebbles with sharp edges, fist-sized rocks with sharp edges, head-sized clumps with sharp edges. And the sharp edges seek out as many kids as possible to slice and rip. Josh grabs me. He throws both of us to the ground as pieces fly at us like bullets. My head is under Josh’s strong arm. He covers my body. My hands cover my face. Screams fill the air. I spread my fingers to peak out. Blood fills the air like rain and splashes into eyes and mouths and ears. Faces are twisted and torn—some in terror; others by the flying sharp granite pieces. Jackets and shirts and hoodies are ripped and shredded. Kids fall to the ground. Josh jumps up. I’m exposed! I grab for him. He’s gone. I sit up. He is running towards the smashed car and the destroyed granite sign. I push myself to my knees. I look around. The front courtyard is spotted with kids and backpacks. Some kids wiggle on the ground, trying to get away. From what? It’s over. Some kids roll, moaning, their hands seeking their wounds, to ease the pain, to stop the blood. Those who can cry, cry out. Moans and howls fill the air. Those who cannot cry just lie still. The Y Queens are on the ground. They are too far away to have been hit. I see them all move. Lauryn stands and brushes clipped grass and dirt from her skirt. She looks put out, like she had just been bothered rather than almost hit by flying sharp granite. Ravyn helps Cynthea to stand. Cynthea pulls Kymber up. They brush each other off. Lauryn looks in my direction. I wave I’m-okay. Lauryn frowns.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 18 I turn. Josh has made it to the smashed car. He runs around the rear end and disappears on the driver’s side. The car is titled at an angle, the front resting on the smashed granite sign. I see a clumped, tangled mass of four legs, four arms, two heads, one body underneath. I gag. I stand and run to the car, to Josh. When I am there, I see Josh pulling on the driver’s door. He kicks it. Then pulls again. It swings open. He reaches inside. He pulls out a small man, his face and neck covered in blood. I step closer. His hair looks black—but it’s blood dyed hair —not black. I see the blond tips. “Help me,” Josh orders two other boys who have joined him. They carry the small man from the car and then gently set him on the ground several yards away. Josh kneels and bends over him. He presses two fingers to the small man’s throat. Josh is qualified in first aid. We both took the city’s youth corps’ first aid class the summer before, but I flunked out. Josh finished at the top of his class. “He’s alive,” Josh announces. “Someone get me some cloth to stop the bleeding.” No one moves. The air is still, except for the moans and the sobbing. Some kids are gagging and throwing up. I have my pink sweater tied around my waist. I pull it off. “Here.” Josh jerks it from my hand without looking at me. The little man’s leg is— He’s not a little man. He’s a sixth grader. I’ve seen when his mom drops him off in the mornings and picks him up after school in the rusty blue car. He is small, even for a sixth grader. The Y Queens call him Munchkin when he walks past us. Walked past us. Josh ties my sweater around Munchkin’s thigh at the top of the left leg. Munchkin’s jeans

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 19 leg is ripped open. I gag. Skin is pealed back like an over rippened tomato. Muscle is shredded like hamburger. Blood gushes like a broken water pipe. Our science teacher, Mr. Craven, points to the left thigh of one of those full-scale man muscle charts and says,“The femoral artery is one of the most vital arteries in the body. If cut, you’ll die within ten minutes.” Josh pulls both ends of the sweater, tightening the knot. My pink sweater turns maroon. The blood trickles. Munchkin’s face is dotted with sharp pieces of small glass. Blood seeps from both corners of his mouth and his nostrils. The skin on his forehead is peeled back, revealing his skull. Josh gently brushes the glass from the boy’s face. A small piece stabs the corner of boy’s right eye. Josh pinches the glass and pulls. The boy groans. “What the Hell!” Lauryn joins those standing around the boy. “He could have killed somebody! Doesn’t he know he’s too young to drive? He’s too little.” She bends over to get a better look. “It’s the Munchkin. No wonder.” “I need some alcohol,” Josh says to the crowd. “Too bad none of the teachers are here,” Lauryn says with a smile. No one laughs. Lauryn mutters an “Oh, gawd!” I grab Lauryn’s expensive satchel. “Will perfume work?” Lauryn yanks the purse back from me. “No way I’m letting you put my Miss Dior on Munchkin! You know what this costs at Sephora’s?” “Give me the perfume.” Josh’s voice is a growl. His teeth are clinched.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 20 Lauryn is about to say something when I yank the satchel back, jerk it open, and pull out the small bottle. I’m so quick that by the time Lauryn snatches her satchel back, I’ve already handed the bottle to Josh. Josh grabs the bottle, opens it, and pours the sweet perfume into his hands. He then cleans Munchkin’s face. The boy groans. As if on cue, screaming begins. I stand and look around. Kids who stand are swaying back and forth. Other kids sit on the ground, holding their faces. A few kids are crawling. Several kids are still. Three of the Nerds take large chunks of the broken granite sign and throw them through the glass of the school’s front doors. They kick the broken glass until no glass remains. They jump inside and disappear into the darkness. “Aaron, check the other kids. See who needs help,” Josh orders. “Someone get in the school and find the nurse.” “Come on guys,” Aaron says to a trio of eighth graders. All four sprint to the front doors. Just as the four reach the front doors, the three Nerds come sprinting out. One of them screams, “There’re no teachers in the building!” “What?” Josh yells back. “He says no teachers are in the building?” Aaron relays back. “What about the principal or the counselors?” Aaron turns to the Nerd. “No one,” the Nerd says. “No one’s in the building. No adults. It’s empty!” “MOM!”

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 21 We all jump at the Munchkin’s shout and turn to him. His eyes are wide, the whites tinged with blood. His pupils are so blown up his eyes look black. He sucks in air, his chest moving up and down like a piston. He looks around—at me, at Josh. “Take it easy,” Josh says in a calm voice. “It’s his fault this happened,” Lauryn says. “He’s going to jail. My dad will sue him and his waitress mother!” “Shut up, Lauryn!” Josh barks “Don’t tell me to shut—” “—up, Lauryn,” I say, a little more gently. Lauryn squints her eyes at me and then mouths, “Screw you.” She stomps her foot and crosses her arms. The drones behind do the same. I kneel next to the boy, Josh and I on either side of him. His breathing is choppy, like when a baby cries and loses his breath. “Mom,” the boy says, almost a whisper. “Gone.” “What?” Josh says. “Gone. All gone. Mom. All gone. No grown ups. All gone.” “What’s he saying?” I say to Josh. The boy looks at me. He swallows. His breathing slows. His eyes are not so blown up. They are normal. His eyes are hazel. He swallows again. He reaches up and touches my hair. “Gone. Mom gone. I saw . . . her . . . she . . . gone. All grown . . . ups . . . gone.” “He’s crazy,” Lauryn says. “He hit is head on the steering wheel, and now he’s crazy.”

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 22 The boy looks in my eyes. His fingers twist in my hair. He smiles at me. “They . . . all . . . left . . .we . . .we’re . . . alone.” He looks me. He stops breathing. A small puff of breath comes from his mouth. I smell his soul leaving his body. I smell death.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 23

Chapter Two BL.02.01 {0121130506} “No one’s in the building?” Josh asks Kern. “Go look yourself,” Kern replies. Josh looks at the dead boy and then at Kern. He stands, and I stand with him. Several of the girls and the younger boys are crying. I look at the boy. He looks like he’s sleeping—except for the speckles of blood from the broken windshield glass. Ravyn says, “If the teachers aren’t here, do we still have school today?” “Maybe this is some sort of April Fool’s joke,” Kymber says. “It’s May, you idiot.” Josh’s face is deep red. He points at the dead boy. “Does this look like a joke?” Lauryn smacks her lips, crosses her arms, tosses her head, turns, and stomps away, the others following. I stay with Josh. “Does anyone know what’s going on?” Josh says to everyone. Silence. “Has anyone seen any parents or teachers this morning?” The silence is thicker this time. Then a girl whimpers. A small boy sniffles. Heads shake No, and everyone looks at everyone else and then at Josh. “No parents or teachers?” he repeats. “Cops? Janitors? Bus drivers?” “No buses have come,” a boy from the crowd says. “I haven’t seen any cars this morning,” a girl adds.
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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 24 “I saw my parents last night when I went to bed,” another girl says. “I never see them in the morning. They’re always gone to work when I get up.” “I didn’t see my brother,” a tall boy says. He stands next to Josh. “He’s a freshman at the college. He almost always gives me a ride. He must have left early this morning.” “He’s not an adult,” Adrian says. “He’s eighteen,” the boy replies. Josh straightens. He tries to see over the crowd. He shouts, “Anybody see any adults anywhere this morning?” The kids look around. No one answers. Some shake their heads. Then I remember: I didn’t see the Crazy Poop Lady this morning when I was walking to school. I stopped riding the bus this year. I’m in eighth grade. I don’t ride buses. That’s for little kids. I walk. Unless my brother gives me a ride. But he was gone this morning when I got up. Or still in bed. I’m not sure. Like the other kids, my parents are gone to work when I get up to go to school. It’s only about a mile from my house to Junebug Junior High. And it’s mostly on pavement. Except when I have to cross Reservoir Park. I could walk around, but that takes longer. Crossing through the park saves me fifteen minutes. Sometimes the grass is wet with dew, and I hate getting my shoes and stockings wet. Dad gives me surgical shoe covers from the hospital, so I keep a pair in my purse and wear them when the grass is very wet. Every school morning when I walk through Reservoir Park, I meet the Crazy Poop Lady. I don’t know if she’s there on the weekends or non-school days. I stopped playing in the park

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 25 this year, too. I hate meeting the Crazy Poop Lady. No matter how hot it is, she wears an old wool knee-length jacket that at one time might have been very colorful but is now all dull and worn. And she smells like dirt mixed with BO. I try walking different paths through the park, but she always seems to know where I’ll walk and tries to stop me so I will talk to her. I’m not sure where she lives. Maybe she lives in one of the houses around the reservoir, but I don’t know. This morning I am in such a rush to get to school to talk with the Ys and Josh I don’t even realize I don’t seen her. She has a ratty looking toy poodle whose fur is always matted and dirty. The dog’s mustache is full of dirt, crumbs of food, and little bits of stuff I don’t want to think about. The dog wears a pink collar with large fake glass diamonds and is attached to a thin matching leash. The dog’s claws are painted bright pink. I wonder if the Crazy Poop Lady knows her mangy toy poodle is a boy? I never say anything to the Crazy Poop Lady because I don’t like talking to old people, and I don’t like the way she looks or smells. I try to avoid her, but she always seems to be right in front of me. “Just out walking little Moopsy,” she always says. “Oops! Little Moopsy has a little poopy. Can’t leave the little poopy in the park. Not good for children. Not good at all, is it dear?” She pulls a small white plastic bag from her jacket pocket, wearing it like a glove, bends over, and picks up the little poopy. She then folds the bag over the poop and puts it back in her coat pocket. I see other small balls of white plastic bags crowding her dirty purse. She looks at ratty little Moopsy. “That’s a good little Moopsy.” She picks up the dog and snuggles him,

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 26 kissing him on his matted and dirty poodle mustache. “Yes indeed: Little Moopsy did his little poopy. That’s a good little Moopsy. Yes he is. Moopsy loves his mommy and Mommy loves her Moopsy.” She holds little Moopsy next to her wrinkled face and smiles at me as if I care. As if I want anything to do with her or her mutt. How do the Crazy Poop Lady and little Moopsy know where I’ll walk so that the mutt just happens to drop his poop in my way? I don’t look at her. The first few times I see her at Reservoir Park I say Hi or Oh, but I keep walking, marking a wide circle around her. Then my brother told me that she was crazy and has been doing the same thing even when he walked to the junior high five years ago. So, I don’t say anything to her, and I walk faster. Still, she says the same thing every morning. Moopsy poops on time every morning. And every morning I wonder if she’s taking too much medication or not enough and why there’s not a place for crazy old ladies who find some sort of happiness in picking up dog poop and showing it to 13-year-old girls. Not this morning. The Crazy Poop Lady was not in the park. Neither was little Moopsy. Or little Moopsy’s poop. I hadn’t noticed. And no cars on Falcon Road. No cars in front of the junior high. No buses arriving. No cop car across the street. No moms or dads or big brothers or big sisters dropping off kids at the junior high. No cars anywhere. Except for the car driven by the sixth grade boy who was now dead.
“Gone. All gone. Mom. All gone. No grown ups. All gone.”

Did his parents leave him? I’ve heard of parents who just up and leave their kids by

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 27 themselves for the weekend. Just last year we had two parents in Junebug who went to Las Vegas for two weeks and left their kids home to take care of themselves--the oldest kid was ten, and she had to take care of her little brother and sister. The kids went to school and everything, and none of the teachers knew about it until the first grader got in trouble and the counselor called one of the parent’s job and found out the parents were on vacation. County Child Services was called and the kids were put in a foster home in another town. The parents were arrested and will stand trial this summer. It is the biggest thing to happen in Junebug since a fire burned down the old cotton gin when I was in fifth grade.
“Gone. All gone. Mom. All gone. No grown ups. All gone.” Sometimes I don’t see my parents for two or three days because of their work schedules and my school activities. Mom’s employment service is practically 24/7, and dad is one of two emergency anesthesiologists in southwest Oklahoma. He’s called out at all hours and days not only to Junebug County Regional Hospital but also to the little hospitals in this part of the state. “Why don’t the damn cell phones work?” Josh says. He is tapping at the keys of his cell phone. Not just tapping. Punching each key with his finger. “Anyone have a cell phone that’s working?” “It’s the air force base,” Kern says. “They must be conducting war games or something and used an electromagnetic pulse to kill all electronics.” “No they didn’t,” Aaron says. “My dad would have told me if they had a drill planned for today.” “Did you see him this morning?” Kern fires back.
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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 28
Aaron doesn’t say anything right away. Finally, “But he would have told me last night when we were watching TV.” “If this is an emergency drill, he’d be busted to airman for telling anyone, even his own kid,” Kern says. Aaron steps towards Kern. He’s a head taller than Nerd Boy Numero Uno, but Kern doesn’t move back or look scared. “My dad tells me everything. And he would have told me about an emergency war drill. He’s base commander, and no one can bust him down in rank.” Kern smiles. “I’m happy for your father-son bonding. But, something’s killed all the cell phones, and the only thing that can do that is an EMP. And the only thing that can create a citywide EMP is a military plane flying over Junebug. That’s all I’m saying.” “You say anything more about my dad or the air base you’ll be saying it with a mouthful of teeth.” “My mouth is full of teeth.” Aaron shoves Kern and is ready to hit him when Josh grabs Aaron’s arm. “Stop it!” Aaron jerks his arm away from Josh. “We don’t need any of this. We’ve got to find out what’s happened.” Josh looks at me. His eyes are no longer inviting chocolate candy. They are melted into something I’ve only seen in movies: fear and confusion. I shiver. Goose bumps pop out on my arms. “I’m going to my mom’s,” I say. I turn quickly. I’m about to cry. I don’t want Josh to see me cry. “Hey, Laynie!” I turn. It’s Lauryn. She’s sitting in the front passenger seat of her brother’s car, door open.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 29
“Eric’s taking us to our house. There’re no teachers or administrators at the high school, and everyone’s going home. No school today!” She laughs. From the back seat I hear the cheers of the other three Y Queens and then see their heads bobbing around. “Get in.” She moves out of the car to give me room to slide in next to her brother, Eric. “No, I’m going to mom’s business.” Eric shouts from the driver’s side, “Get in Laynie. Something’s wrong. You shouldn’t be walking around by yourself.” “It’s only a couple of blocks,” I reply. I point at a group buildings down the road. “Just over there. I’ll be okay.” “Com’on, Laynie,” Lauren begs. “We’re gonna have a party at my house. Just the Ys and a couple of Eric’s friends.” “We’re not having a party, Lauryn,” Eric says. He sounds like his dad. “I don’t know what the Hell is going on, but we’re not having a party.” Lauryn squeezes up her face and rolls her eyes. “You’re such a party pooper. Why shouldn’t we have a party?” “I’m going to my mom’s,” I say. “I’ll call you later.” It’s a habit to say that. I wasn’t thinking and remembering that the cells were dead. I turn as Lauryn yells after me to get into the car. I’m not listening. I look around. The junior high courtyard is nearly empty. I don’t see Josh or Aaron or Kern. I jerk my head away when I see the dead boy on the ground by the car and shattered school sign. I walk as fast as I can without running. I don’t stop at the curb to check the traffic. I’m trying not to think. I just want to get to Mom’s business and make sure everything is okay. I cross the street and then am headed to the small strip of buildings where mom’s employment business is. It’s only a

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 30
couple of blocks--more like five, really--and not too far, but it seems very far today. And no matter how fast I walk, I feel I am moving in slow motion. I don’t want to think about the dead boy, but his face keeps popping up in my mind. Tears are in my eyes. Blood spots where there should be pimples. His eyes wide and frightened. Then vacant. I bend over to throw up before I know what is happening. My stomach feels like someone has punched me with a steel fist from the inside out, and my throat burns like fire. I squeeze my eyes shut so I can’t see what’s coming out. It would only make me sicker. Even the sound of my retching and the sound of what’s splattering on the ground make me gag more. I finish, straighten up, wipe my mouth, open my eyes, and start to Mom’s again. My throat and mouth are dry and burning. My lips hurt. I cry. The salt of my tears tastes good. The sign reads: Price Executive Employment Service I run to the glass door, grab the aluminum crossbar, and push on it as hard as I can. My wrists snap back against the door, and I nearly fall to the ground. I grab the aluminum crossbar and jerk it. The door rattles but doesn’t open. I can see the deadbolt still sitting in the lock. I press against the glass and cup my hands around my eyes to better see inside. It’s empty. It’s not supposed to be empty. Maggie should be at the receptionist’s desk. Howard should be at the desk in the west corner and Sheila should be at the desk in the east corner. Mom should be in her office that sits between the two “employment counselors”, her door open, her eyes glued to her computer screen, and her fingers firing over the keys of the keyboard.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 31
But it’s dark inside. Not even the computers’ screen savers with “Price Executive Employment Service” bouncing across the screen are on. They’re always on. Every morning I walk by Mom’s business on the way to the junior high, but I don’t look in to see what they are doing. Why should I? When I first started walking to school, I would look inside and wave, but no one saw me. They are all too busy with their work to see me standing outside and waving like some little excited kid. So, I stop waving and just keep on walking. No one notices. Especially Mom. She is busy being successful. I don’t mind. Not really. A wave would be nice every now and then.

I feel myself getting ready to cry again. I rub my eyes to stop the tears. I should have gone with Lauryn and the other Ys. Maybe today is a holiday, and I’ve forgotten. But, would so many other kids forget and show up at school? I turn to face Falcon Road. Even on holidays, Falcon Road is busy with traffic. Not a single car or truck or anything. Home. Mom must be at home. Maybe she called in sick and told everyone else to stay home, too. I don’t remember Mom ever missing a day of work, especially since she started her own business. Where else could she be? She had to be at home. I run all the way. I feel my stomach pounding from the inside, and I gag as my throat tightens against what’s about to leap up from my stomach. I have nothing left to throw up. I cough and gag as I run.

BL.02.02

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 32 Nothing is in slow motion now. I’m fast. I’m on the junior high track team. Final leg on the 800 meter relay team. Coach said I might even get a college scholarship if I stay in track. Lauryn thinks sports are stupid. She told me once that the only sweat she wanted to feel was the sweat caused by stage lights at her beauty contests. I try not to think. The dead boy is completely out of my mind. He has become a blimp on the news, nothing more. He is gone. I am home. I push on the front door. It’s locked. Of course. I punch the access code on the door’s electric keypad. Dad had installed it when he added the new security system. He hates carrying things in his pockets, he says. Better to carry the key in your head, he says to me as he taps his head. It’s still locked. I punch the code again in case I made a mistake. I take my time and even say the numbers out loud. The right numbers this time. Still locked. I pull the emergency key from my pocket and unlock the door. Mom insisted I carry a door key anyway in case the electricity goes out or in case the door’s electric lock fails to work. Mom doesn’t trust Dad’s handiwork. “Mom!” I run to the kitchen. Empty. Just as I had left it an hour earlier. “Mom!” From the kitchen I run up the stairs to the bedrooms. Empty. Quiet. Only my heavy breathing fills the air and the pounding of my heart echoes through my body with an deep explosive boom in both my ears. “Mom!” I’m running down the front stairs now. I turn at the bottom and stare into the dining room. Empty. I turn and look in the front living room. Nobody. I run down the hallway into the family room. It’s large with a cathedral ceiling. “Mom!” My voice echoes back at me, and I jump.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 33 I run through the French doors of the family room and to the rear garage. I punch in the code to open the doors, but the doors don’t open. I punch in the code more slowly, saying the numbers out loud to myself. The doors remain closed. I have to stand on my toes to look inside the windows. I gasp and cry out, “What?” All three cars are still in the garage: Dad’s. Mom’s. Cody’s. All still there. I run back into the house. “Dad! Mom! Cody!” My heart pounds against my chest. My breathing is quick and hard. My head is spinning. I am dizzy. I sit on the couch in the family room. I pull out my cell phone. It’s still dead. I open the back. The battery looks melted, like a small chocolate bar sitting on a car’s dash board on a hot day. I pull out the battery and toss it to the floor. I run up the stairs and to my bedroom. My spare battery is in my vanity’s top draw. I yank the drawer open. “No!” The spare battery is melted into a plastic lump. I run to Cody’s room. Clothes are on the floor. His bed is unmade. His closet door is opened--more clothes on the floor with only two or three shirts on hangers. Typical Cody decor. His desk is cluttered with energy drink cans, candy wrappers, car and muscle magazines, and dirty socks. I push most of it to the floor. His cell phone is still in its charger. Cody would never go anywhere without his cell. The red charger light is off. Must be charged. Good. I grab the phone from the charger and press the on button. Nothing. I open the back. The battery is a melted lump. I run to Mom and Dad’s room. I stop at the doorway. Stunned. Confused. Their cell phones are still in their chargers. They never leave the bedroom without their cell phones hooked on their belts or glued to their hands. They’d forget to wear pants before they’d forget their cell

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 34 phones. I don’t check their phones. I don’t want to find more melted batteries. I run back downstairs to the kitchen. I stare at the oval spot on the wall next to the refrigerator where the old landline phone had hung since I was a baby. Dad had it taken out last summer because Mom said we didn’t need a landline anymore with all the cell phones. The landline was just costing us money. “Hey, I have an idea,” I say to Mom. “What's that?” Mom says as she put on her lip gloss at the kitchen bar. “You can put that money in my allowance.” “You don’t get an allowance.” “I know. That’s what makes this a good idea. You wouldn’t miss what you don’t have any way.” “I’m not sure I understand that logic. Besides, you can have as much money as--“ “I earn. I know.” I roll my eyes. My mom is under the impression that part of her parental responsibilities is to teach me the importance of money by making me work for it. All I’m learning is that Mom and Dad are like Scrooge when it comes to giving me money for anything. If not for Lauryn and the money she’s won in her beauty contest, I wouldn’t have some of the cooler stuff a young woman like me needs to fit into the upper circles of junior high society. I have never asked Lauryn for money. She just buys two of everything and gets lots of freebees from her beauty contests and then she gives the extras to the Ys as she sees fit. I get the most because I’m her best friend. “We ought to keep the landline,” Dad says as he reads the overnight news on his iPad. “We can afford it.”

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 35 “Why? We’ve got all these cell phones. Our Internet is from the cable company. It’s a waste.” “For emergencies,” Dad says as he glances over the edge of his iPad. “What emergencies?” Dad shrugs and sighs. “I don’t know. Emergencies.” “If we ever have an emergency where we couldn’t use our cell phones--well, that’ll be the end of the world.” Welcome to the End of the World, Mom.

BL.02.03 I remember the Marshes have a landline phone. An ancient landline phone that’s hung on the wall in their kitchen for like 40 years. The Marshes moved into the house next door when Mr. Marsh became a teacher at Junebug High in the 1970s, or sometime in the ancient past. Dad told me once that Mr. Marsh was old when he was in Mr. Marsh’s biology class, and Mom said that she’s never known either of the Marshes without gray hair. Mr. Marsh died about the time I was born and Mrs. Marsh took to watching the neighborhood kids after school while their parents were still at work. And she’s got an ancient landline phone hanging on the wall. (puke) Avocado green. One of those ancient phones that has a round plastic dial with circles instead of touch buttons. Dad says those phones are called rotary phones. When I was a kid, I thought those kind of phones came from the Rotary club Dad belonged to. The phone scares me, though. It has a long thin green coiled cord that looks like a

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 36 sleeping thin green snake. When I was a child, I was afraid to walk near it. Anytime Mrs. Marsh watched me after school while Mom and Dad were still at work, I’d walk in a wide arc to avoid going near that snake. Mrs. Marsh explained to me that it was just a long phone cord, but I didn’t like it anyway, especially the (puke) avocado green. Mrs. Marsh said that (puke) avocado green was quite popular in the early 1970s when she and Mr. Marsh were first married. She points to the matching (puke) avocado green stove and oven they bought with the house to match the dark green kitchen tile on the floor and walls. At first, I thought the old phone was just a toy. You lift the handset and the silver hook it sets in pops up—that means you’re ready to dial. The very first time I try to use it—I want to call Mom to come home because Cody had hit me with a one of those foam footballs. I end up crying instead because I don’t know how to make a call: the (puke) avocado phone with the snake cord had a funny looking plastic dial with holes, and inside each hole were numbers and letters. At first I try poking the numbers through the holes with my fingers, like I on a cell phone, but I all I hear is the dial tone—no electrical musical notes at all. I poke each hole harder and harder thinking I’m not pressing hard enough. I poke so hard my finger begins to hurt. I feel the tip of my fingernail pushing away from my finger. I cry instead of calling Mom to tell on Cody. Finally, Mrs. Marsh comes into the kitchen and explains that the phone is an old rotary phone, that you put your finger in the hole, and then turn the clear plastic dial clockwise until your finger stops at a silver hook. You do this for each number, and then you hear the ringing on

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 37 the other end. I never call Mom because Mrs. Marsh gets out some orange sherbet and tells me to sit at the table to eat a big bowl of it. Cody never gets any. I run out the front door and to the Marshes. I press the doorbell and then hear the chime —some old French tune Mrs. Marsh likes. I wait for several minutes and then press the doorbell again. I press it so hard I think I’m going to break it. I peer through the door window. The entry way is dark. I can see into part of the living room. The curtains covering the sliding glass doors are still shut; a sliver of light cuts through the narrow opening between the two curtains. I knock. I pound. I shout. “Mrs. Marsh!” Finally, I grab the door knob and turn. Locked. “Mrs. Marsh! Are you okay?” Mrs. Marsh never goes anywhere. She is a shut-in. Has been since all the neighborhood kids have grown up and don’t need after school babysitters. I sometimes see her from my second floor bedroom window when she takes the trash out to the dumpster in the alley in the afternoon. She has gotten grayer and even smaller. She’s always bent over like she is carrying some super heavy invisible backpack. She moves slowly and looks as if she won’t be able to open the wooden gate leading the alley. I always tell myself that I will visit her. Especially after I saw a film in Social Studies on shut-ins and Mrs. Turner, our English teacher, gave us the word recluse as one of our vocabulary words I never do visit her.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 38 I pound on the door again. I take off my right shoe and slam into the glass on the door. The glass shatters into pieces and then shatters again when it hits the tile floor of the entryway. I hit the glass again and again until only a small jagged edge is left in the large opening. I put my shoe back on. I reach through the jagged hole, twist the deadbolt, turn door knob, and open the door. I take one step inside. “Mrs. Marsh? It’s me, Laynie. Are you okay? Mrs. Marsh!” I breathe deeply and walk down the entryway and into the living room. I haven’t been in the Marsh home in nearly five years. Nothing is changed. The furniture and lamps and knickknacks are the same. The living room opens into the dining room. The kitchen is off to the side of the dining room. I see the (puke) avocado phone with its snake cord on the kitchen wall. I start to the kitchen, but I wonder where Mrs. Marsh is. The Marsh home is a single story. I turn from the living room and run down the hallway to the bedrooms. The Marshes’ bedroom is at the end. The doors to the three bedrooms are opened. I glance inside the first two, which are opposite of each other. Empty. I run into the master bedroom. “Mrs. Marsh!” I check the closet and then master bathroom. I look under the bed. Mrs. Marsh is gone. The entire house is empty. Maybe for the first time in forty years. I run back to the kitchen and yank the handset from the silver hook. I jab my finger into the holes—9-1-1. I put the handset to my ear.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 39 Nothing. I slam my other hand against the silver hook and push it down. It snaps up when I take my hand away. I spin the dial again—9-1-1. I listen. No static. No hissing. No dial tone. Nothing. I slap the hook—it pops up—I twist the dial— 9—1—1— Again—9—1—1— Again—9—1—1— No answer. I scream into the mouthpiece: “Where is everybody?” I beat the (puke) avocado phone base with the handset. The plastic dial cracks. A small part of it falls to the floor. The phone base cracks. The round ear part of the handset flies off. I jab my fingers into each hole again and again and again and slam the numbers— 9— 1— 1— Nothing. I throw the handset at the phone base. The phone base jumps from the wall and everything falls to the floor. The green coiled snake cord twists around the broken phone. I grab the coiled snake cord and twist it until it hurts my hand. I pick up the phone and throw it at the (puke) avocado stove and oven. The phone cracks the oven’s small glass window

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 40 and then falls to the dark green tile floor. Nothing. “WHERE THE HELL IS EVERYBODY?” I cry. Not sobbing cry. Screaming cry. My cheeks are on fire. I gag for air. Two thick globs of snot go from my nose to the top of my lip. I run from the kitchen. From the dinning room. From the living room. Through the entryway. Grab the door. Throw it open. I cry too hard—Salt stings my skin—Dirt is in my mouth—Blood explodes at the back of my eyeballs—Bombs destroy my ears—I gag for air—I cannot scream—Dark vision—I cannot breath—Shadow hands grab my throat—Jerk me from the Marshs’s house.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 41

Chapter Three BL.03.01 {0121130506} Two shadows. One large. One small. The large one has me by my throat. I swing my fists and hit rocky shoulders. “Stop hitting me!” the larger shadow says. The smaller shadow laughs at me. I know that laugh. An evil laugh. I hear it often enough when she makes fun of others. I hear it when she makes fun of me. I know it's Lauryn before I see her clearly. The larger shadow shouts again. “Stop it, Laynie!” My eyes clear. Eric. Lauryn is next to him. Laughing. At me. I'm weak and sick. I almost fall. Eric holds me up. The daylight is bright. My eyes hurt. I squeeze them to keep the light out. I swallow. I try at least. My throat burns. I cannot think. Lauryn laughs. “You just pissed your panties girl.” Did I? I want to check. I don't. Not with Eric standing in front of me. Not with Lauryn looking at me with those mocking blue eyes. Doesn't feel like I peed myself. I don't really know. I still can't feel much of anything. Except fear. “We've got to get out of here,” Eric says. He lets me go. I almost fall. Eric grabs me. Stands me up. “Are you drunk?” Lauryn laughs. She turns to her right.“Laynie's been drinking.” I hear

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 42 girls laughing. From a distance. I look in the direction Lauryn has turned and see a blur in my driveway. My mind clears. The daylight isn't as bright as before. My skin tingles. I feel stars in my fingers and toes. My body shakes a little. Then I know: I didn't wet myself. Lauryn is full of it most of the time. “We've got to get out of here.” I look at Eric. Did he say that before, or did I imagine he said it before? Am I becoming psychic? Eric turns and walks to his car sitting in my house's driveway. “Com'on, Laynie.” Lauryn puts her arm around me and pulls me to Eric's car. I'm easily lead. I'm still dazed. Confused. Unsure. Frightened. “Things are really crazy around here. It's like we all woke up this morning into a nightmare.” She laughs. But this laugh isn't the mocking laugh I usually hear. Her laugh is more like the laugh you hear in movies when the victim tries to act brave just as the insane killer approaches with the knife. Ravyen, Kymber, and Cynthea are in the back seat of Eric's Mustang. Lauryn pushes me through the opened passenger door and into the front seat. She squeezes next to me and slams the door. I'm forced to move over. Part of my butt is sitting on the hard plastic center console, and my hip is up against the gear shifter. “The both of you can't sit up front,” Eric says as he slams his door shut. “We're not fat!” Lauryn spits back. I wiggle until my butt is more comfortable and the gear shifter isn't stabbing me as hard. Lauryn then scoots under me, and I'm sitting in her lap before I know it. I still have the gear

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 43 shifter pressing into my left hip. “You can't put on your seat belt sitting that way,” Eric says. “Don't be such a nerd. We don't need seat belts.” “Damn junior high kids.” Eric starts the car. He grabs my butt, and I scream and try to jerk away my butt away. “I can't shift. Your butt's in the way.” I move over a little into Lauryn's lap. Eric grabs the shifter, the back of his hand pressing against my hip. He throws the shifter into reverse, and stomps on the accelerator. We fly backwards from the my driveway. Eric spins the steering wheel to the right, and I'm tossed to the left into his shoulder. Eric hits the brake. My right arm shoots out, pinning Lauryn back into the seat. I have to catch myself to keep from falling back through the two seats' opening. Lauryn's head snaps back and slams into the headrest. “Jerk!” Lauryn slaps my arm away and pushes on me, trying to move me over. “I can't help it,” I reply. “Not you. My jerk brother!” “I'm sitting in back.” I squeeze between the two seats and join the other three Y Queens, sitting between Kymber and Cynthea. Rayven has the window on the left. It's a tight fit, but it's better than sitting up front in Lauryn's lap with a maniac driver. Eric throws the shifter forward, stomps on the gas, and we all jerk back as the car leaps forward. The other three in the back scream and squeal. “Put your seat belt on,” he demands of Lauryn. He's speeding like a madman in a residential neighborhood. Lauryn instead turns to us. She talks at the same speed Eric is driving. “I mean it's really

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 44 crazy, Laynie. There's like no parents anywhere. We went home and everyone was gone. I mean, Dad's usually at work anyway and Mom's always gone somewhere, but their cars were still in the garage, so we went to Dad's business and no one was there. Mom was supposed to be at her aerobics class, but none of the flabby-arm squad was there either. It's really crazy! We went to their homes--” meaning the other three Ys “--but their parents are gone, too. Freaking crazy!” I'm watching Eric drive and trying to listen to Lauryn. All our parents gone. Like they had planned a trip and left us by ourselves in the middle of the night. Eric doesn't stop at any of the stop signs. Why should he? There's no traffic. None. Like when I walked to school this morning. Our neighborhood doesn't have straight roads. Each street is curvy. Dad doesn't like driving through our neighborhood. He always explains that at the time our edition was build it was trendy to build “scenic” roads in neighborhoods instead of straight roads. “A pain the ass to drive them everyday,” he always added. At each curve, we all slide into each other. Lauryn and the other Ys laugh like kids on a roller coaster. At one turn, Lauryn flies into Eric, causing Eric to jerk the wheel and the car to fishtail. Eric straightensthe wheel. Everyone laughs, except Eric and me. “Put your seat belt on!” Eric says to Lauren. “Stop being a jerk!” She turns back to us. “We're going to Sweet Pea's house. Eric thinks maybe Mom and Dad went out there.” “I tried calling--” I began. “All the phones are dead,” Eric says. “Everything. No cell. No landline. No Internet.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 45 Nothing. Everything's dead.” Dead? I feel a steel ball in my stomach. Everything's dead. Does that mean Everyone too? No, not Everyone. We're still here. The Y Queens and Eric. And those kids back at the junior high. But one kid is dead. “Sweet Pea will be surprised to see us,” Lauryn says. “Eric says we're gonna stay there until we figure out what's going on or until Mom and Dad gets back.” Ravyen says, “My mom doesn't know where your grandma leaves. How's she going to find me?” Lauryn frowns at Ravyen. “Everyone knows Sweet Pea Abernathy!” “My mom doesn't. I didn't even know your grandma was still alive.” Lauryn rolls her eyes. Then she fake smiles at Ravyen. Ravyen crosses her arms. Lauryn isn't prejudice or anything like that, but her family's social circle doesn't include people like Ravyen's mom. The only dark skin people Lauryn knew before Ravyen were the fake-baked girls at the country club. “That's not that stinky old cow farm outside of town, is it?” Cynthea says. Lauryn stares at Cynthea. “That's the smell of money, honey. Where do you think your hamburger meat comes from? And they're not cows: they're Angus.” “Yuck! It's going to smell like cow poop.” says Kymber. “I'm gonna throw up.” Lauryn rolled her eyes. “Sweet Pea's house isn't near the corrals. We'll have fun. Sweet Pea had one of the Mexicans clean the pool last weekend.” “I didn't bring my suit,” Kymber says.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 46 “I've got shorts and tees,” Lauryn says. We reach the end of Lake View. Eric doesn't stop at the stop sign. He spins the wheel, and we head right on Main Street. “Where we going?” I say to Eric. W're not taking Main Street and then Broadway. That would be the straightest and quickest route to Lauryn's grandma's farm. “I'm taking the business route.” “It's quicker through town.” Main and then Broadway. That's the way we'd go to the Abernathy's on a normal day. A normal day. “Industrial Drive will be safer. No traffic,” Eric says. “We can't go through town. Kids are driving cars like crazy up and down Main and Broadway.” Lauryn's eyes widen. “We almost got hit like a hundred times. We saw little kids driving cars. It looked liked those bumper cars at the carnival.” “There's no adults?” I say. “We haven't seen any,” Eric says. “It's like they all just left.” He reaches to the floorboard. “And there's this.” I lean forward. It looks like a lump of gray melted wax in his hand. “What is it?” “Dad's gun,” Eric says. He throws to the floor. “I thought we'd need protection. But his gun's melted. So are the bullets.” “Dad'll crap a carp when he learns someone has melted his Walther.” Lauryn's eyes are bright and shiny. Her smile is pleasant and happy. Does she understand that something terrible

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 47 has happened? Is Happening? Eric spins the steering wheel, and we're headed east on Industrial Drive. The business route around Junebug is full of tight winding curves, like our neighborhood. When my brother first got his license, he used to take me out there and drive very fast. Going around the curves was like being on a roller coaster ride. He stopped when he lost control once and almost wrecked. He wasn't scared that I'd get hurt. Dad would kill him if anything happened to the new Civic Cody got for his birthday. I look over Eric's shoulder. Eric is driving 60. Like Cody used to do. At each curve, I'm either squeezed by Kymber on my left or Cynthea on my right. They think it's fun. A game. They giggle each time. “Where's my party mix?” Lauryn says as she flips through a CD case. I say to Eric, “You think the parents just left us?” Eric looks at me in the rear view mirror. His eyes are clear, like glass, but blank. He looks back at the road as he takes another curve. “I don't know.” Industrial Drive is completely empty of any traffic. “Yeah!” Lauryn pulls a CD from the case and puts it in the CD player. Seconds later the roller coaster ride has its own techno dance soundtrack and all the Ys except me are seat dancing. Then silence. “Hey!” Lauryn screams. Eric has reached over and hit the eject button. Lauryn slaps Eric's hand as the CD slides out of the slot. Eric grabs it and throws it on the floor. “I can't drive with that crap playing.”

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 48 “You're a turd!” Lauryn folds her arms and sits back into her seat. Moments later, Industrial Drive's last curve turns to the south and smooths out into a straight four-land road. A short distance later, it intersects with Broadway. It's the only road that connects Main and Broadway. Eric doesn't stop at the traffic light even though it's red. He spins the wheel left. We all tilt right. The car fishtails, and the wheels squeal. I smell burning rubber. Eric jerks the wheel back to the right. The car fishtails again and then straightens out. We're now going east on Broadway near the edge of town. The town ends in about a half mile. Then we're in the country. Lauryn's grandma's house is about three miles east of town. The road is straight now, and Eric stomps on the accelerator. We're all pressed against the seats. The Ys are giggling and “wee-weeing” like Little Pigs going all the way home. I'm looking past the front seat and Lauryn's head, trying to see through the window. Everything outside of the car is a blur with hazy edges. I feel like I'm dreaming. I look the dashboard's clock. It's nearly 8:30. I should be flunking a geometry quiz right now. Lauryn snaps at her brother. “Slow down, Eric! I'm going to tell Sweet Pea how you're driving.” Just like the road by the junior high and the twisty Industrial Drive, Broadway is empty of any traffic. Eric forces the car to go faster. Kymber leans over to me. “This is getting scary.” “Maybe we can call some boys to come over,” Lauryn says. “This isn't a party!” I see Eric's hands on the steering wheel. They're white, almost clear. Blue veins poke out from his white skin. His arms are stiff.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 49 Everything outside of the car is blur. But, I know what to expect. I turn left. There's the Brubaker AutoMall car dealership. “Hey!” Kymber yells in my ear. “Stop here! I want to see my dad.” Eric speaks softly, but he can be heard above the roar of the car's engine. “Our parents are gone. All of them.” “No!” Kymber hides her hands in her face. We then pass Jones Implement and Farm Machinery. Cynthea begins, “Maybe my dad's—” “No,” Eric says. When we pass the Double-Bar B Meat Packing plant, Rayven doesn't say anything. Her mom works the midnight shift anyway. The very edge of Junebug has several old houses on both sides of Broadway just before Broadway becomes a highway. I glance over Eric's shoulder. The speed needle is pushing itself up to seventy. I am about to ask Eric to slow down. Everything goes black. I know my eyes are opened, but I can't see anything. I don't feel the road moving under me any more. I don't hear the car's engine anymore. I don't hear anything I try to raise my hands to rub my eyes. I can't feel my body. Something warm and sticky is in my mouth. I realize my head is pressed against the back of the front seat. My arms are hanging

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 50 down. My knuckles touch the floorboard. I jerk back to sit up. Bright light blinds me and my hands shoot up to rub my eyes. I don't feel anything. I don't know if I'm rubbing my eyes or not. All I can hear is my heart beating in my ears. It's pounding hard and fast. The sides of my head fell like they are going to explode. Something's in my nose and stopping me from breathing. I gasp for air through my mouth. Warm sticky air. The whiteness fades into shades of gray. I see the outline of the two front seats. I see Eric and Lauryn. Lauryn is leaning over, nearly on her left side. Eric is shaking her. Her blonde hair covers her head and face like a shredded blanket. I can tell Eric is shouting at Lauryn, but I still don't hear anything. His face is scratched and bloody. My ears pop. The girls are screaming and crying. Eric is shouting Lauryn's name. Eric turns to his door. I see the windshield is cracked like a spider web. Eric tries to open his door. It's stuck. He slams his shoulder into the door. It won't open. He punches the window with his elbow, and the glass shatters. He crawls out through the broken window. He runs to the front of the car. Then, for no reason, he staggers backwards and falls, as if he had run into a wall. He falls and disappears, as if the car had swallowed him up. I lean forward to see what happened to him. I touch Lauryn. She groans and tries to sit up. I help her. Two white plastic bags are in the front. Not plastic bags. The air bags. I look through the spider web windshield. The front of the car is smashed. Eric pulls himself up. He staggers, holds his head. Then he shakes himself. His eyes are

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 51 wide and he is frightened. His face is bleeding—small bloody scratches line his face. His eyes are puffy and black. Blood trickles from his nose. He grabs the door handle and yanks. The door remains shut. He kicks the door. Nothing. Then he runs around the back of the car to Lauryn's side. The door opens quickly. He pulls Lauryn out. He leans back inside and throws the front seat forward. His eyes are wide and wild. The bloody scratches and the blood from his nose and on his lips make him look like a insane killer. “Get out of there!” Cynthea crawls through, then me, then Kymber, and finally Rayven. The other three aren't screaming any more. Just crying and sniffling. “What happened?” Cynthea says. A bump is growing on her forehead. No one answers. Kymber and Rayven have bumps, too, and bruises are starting to appear on their faces. The three Ys limp to the back of the car where they huddle together, sniffling and crying. Lauryn is sitting on the ground, leaning against the car's back wheel. Eric is kneeling in front of his sister. “Lauryn! Lauryn!” He grabs her shoulders and shakes her a little. “Lauryn!” He brushes the long blonde hair from her face. Her face is swollen, scratched, and bloody. Her nose is twisted and blood trickles from her nostrils. Eric touches her chin. Lauryn's eyes pop open. Her hand shoots up and slaps Eric away. “Don't touch me, creep!” She moves as if to stand up. Eric puts his hand on her shoulder. “Don't move,” Lauryn grimaces. She groans and leans back into the car.

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 52 “What happened?” I'm surprised at the sound of my own voice. “Eric?” Eric stands and pulls up the bottom of his tee-shirt and wipes the blood from his face and nose. “We hit something.” I look at the front of the car. The front is wrinkled, smashed and broken. The front of the car hisses at us. A mean hissing. A little whiff of smoke twisting up through the metal wrinkles. I shudder. “Hit something?” “Yeah.” Eric kneels back down to Lauryn. I blink my eyes and stare at the front of the car. There's nothing there. There's no other car or anything for Eric's car to have hit. It's empty space. A blank. I walk past Eric and Lauryn to the front and stand staring at the road that leads out of town. A straight black ribbon of patched up four lanes leading to the next town fifty miles away. I look around. The air base is on my left. A cotton field is on my right. And in front of me is just the long straight road that leads 50 miles to Lawton. There's nothing for the car to have hit. I look down. Shattered glass sparkles in the sunlight. Greenish water leaks from under the car. I walk forward to look at the very front of the car. Something hits my face. Like a door. Or a wall. I cry out. Sharp pain shoots through my nose. I feel blood coming from my nostrils. I raise my right hand to touch my nose, but the back of my hand smacks into something hard—and invisible. I turn to look at the others. Eric is kneeling in front of Lauryn. “Don't touch me,” she says again, slapping Eric's hand again. Kymber, Rayven, and Cynthea are at the back of the car, holding each other and crying. I look back at the long stretch of road. I step back. I wipe the blood from my nose and

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NEVЯLAND | Year One | Part One—Яapture | Garmon | 53 lips. I put my hand straight in front of me, palm out. I step forward. My hand touches something. Something that's not there. Something I can't see. I rub my hand against it. It's smooth and cool—no, it's cold to touch, like ice. I raise my left hand and use both hands to push against it. It's like a wall. It is a wall. I pat the wall, thinking I'll find a window or a door or any opening. I move down the wall until I'm at the edge of the road. I fall into the ditch. The water in the ditch is muddy and smells like the sewer, and I'm sitting in it. I jump up. I punch in front me. I scream out when my fist hits the cold steel invisible wall of ice. I run out of the ditch and to the car. I shout at Eric, “What's happening?” Eric stands and stares at Lauryn. “Get up by yourself then,” he says to Lauryn. Lauryn looks at me. She smiles. She plants the palms of her hands on the pavement and pushes herself up. A snapping sound. Lauryn screams. Her right arm bends in half—bends forward. Lauryn continues to scream. She shakes her head back and forth so that her long blonde hair whips the air and smacks across her face. A small jagged edge of bone is sticking out of her right forearm. It's pinkish from the blood and flesh. The other Ys run to the front. They all scream and cry louder when they see the jagged edge of bone poking through Lauryn's forearm. Eric rips off his tee-shirt and kneels next to Lauryn. He shouts at her to be still as he tries to wrap her arm in his tee-shirt. I run back to the ditch, fall to my knees, and throw up.

ENTIRE CONTENTS COPYRIGHT © 2010 BY LARRY MICHAEL GARMON, ALTUS, OKLAHOMA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. FOR REPRINT IN ONLINE OR HARD COPY MAGAZINES OR REPOSTING RIGHTS CONTACT NEVRLANDOKLAHOMA@GMAIL.COM