Here is a sneak-preview of the Prologue and first two chapters of the second Anna's Worlds book
The Glass Bear
Anna's Worlds: Book Two
Two young people walked slowly through the snow-covered park. Christmas lights twinkled in the windows of all the surrounding village stores, shining out onto the white winter day. Three dogs of miscellaneous variety and in various states of bedraggled decrepitude trailed after them.
“Alex, you can’t keep adopting every stray dog you run into,” Anna said patiently, not for the first time.
“But they need me.” Alex said. “Jessie! Come here boy!” he called to a big, white sheepdog, who happily trotted to his side. “That’s a good boy. You’re much happier with a warm bed and food every day, right boy?” he asked giving the big dog affectionate pats. Jessie just wagged his tail and licked Alex’s face, nearly knocking him off his feet. “See?” he grinned at Anna.
Anna and Alex were best friends. They were only fourteen years old but had been through more adventures than most people experience in entire lifetimes. The previous summer Anna discovered that she was different from other girls. The Earth was sending amazing powers through her that she was only starting to understand, like her sudden ability to talk to animals.
Anna and Alex had learned last year that the Earth had a mysterious “sister” planet, Thera. The harmony between the two planets was vital to the survival of each world and all life existing on those worlds. But an evil being known as the Dark Lord, was being drawn to Earth from Thera and if he succeeded in crossing through the gateway between the worlds, it would unbalance the connecting harmony, destroying both worlds. The Earth, weakened by centuries of thoughtless human destruction of her ecosystems, had chosen Anna to help her block the Dark Lord from crossing through the gateway between the two worlds. Anna and Alex had managed to disrupt the Dark Lord’s plans last year. After their adventure, Alex, to his great joy, discovered he could also understand animal speech and, on rare occasions they did speak to him.
But today, Christmas Eve, Anna and Alex were walking slowly through the park to discuss an ominous feeling they both had experienced.
Chapter One -- A Warning
“Tell me your dream once more,” Anna demanded in a hushed voice as a group of children raced past throwing snowballs at each other with shouts of delight.
“It was so weird,” Alex said. “It was like I was back on Thera, beyond the waterfall with Gowan and Shammon and the others, at the place near the ocean, where the Lady’s tree was.”
“Yes, yes, I know. But you said that Ramou was not there and that everyone was very upset, right?”
“Yeah, it was as if he had died or something. Anna, it was so real. I’ve never had a dream like that before.”
“The scariest part is that I had the very same dream. Alex, I’m so worried. Something awful must have happened to Ramou but I don’t know what to do about it.”
“Maybe we should go back to the waterfall,” Alex said. “Maybe the Gateway to Thera is back now.”
Anna just shook her head. “We’ve been back twice. The rockslide completely destroyed that part of the canyon. The waterfall has gone underground – there is no more waterfall.”
By this time they had reached Mr. McCreedy’s drugstore. As they opened the door, Christmas music and bubbling happy voices filled their ears. Shoppers were seated at the soda fountain counter drinking hot cider and cocoa, sharing peeks at their gift purchases. Mr. McCreedy beamed at Anna and Alex and waved them to two empty seats at the beautiful, antique soda fountain counter. Wonderful aromas of freshly baked brownies and cookies filled the air. Festoons of candy and lights were strung around every surface. Christmas was Mr. McCreedy’s favorite time of year and he entered completely into the spirit. He even looked like Santa Claus, with his snowy beard and apple-red cheeks.
“And how are my two favorite customers this special Christmas Eve?” he beamed as he plunked down two mugs of steaming hot cinnamon chocolate.
“Fine, Mr. McCreedy,” Anna answered. “The store looks beautiful,” she added as she and Alex sipped their hot chocolate.
“Do you like it?” Mr. McCreedy laughed. “Well let me show you the latest addition,” he said bouncing around the end of the counter and eagerly tugging them over to a huge Christmas tree that was sparkling with lights and beautiful hand-blown, antique glass decorations. Anna and Alex stood happily gazing at the beautiful tree, looking at each intricate decoration, tiny animals, elves, people and toys.
“These are beautiful,” Anna said. “Wherever did you get them, Mr. McCreedy?”
“You know, that is the oddest thing,” Mr. McCreedy said, scratching his head. “Mrs. McCreedy and I were clearing out the attic the other day and ran across an old wooden crate filled with these amazing decorations. Must have been left by the previous owner and we just never noticed the box. Pretty incredible, considering that we have completely restored this building,” he added in a lower tone.
Anna nodded and was about to turn back to the counter when she saw something out of the corner of her eye, a tiny jewel of a decoration shaped like a bear. “Mr. McCreedy,” she asked. “Do you mind if I look at that little bear decoration more closely?”
“Why, certainly Anna. Here, if you really like it, I would like you to have it. It is the least I can do, seeing what you have been through child,” he said, gently removing the tiny glass bear from the tree and handing it to her.
“Oh, I couldn’t take such a special gift, Mr. McCreedy. It might be very valuable,” Anna answered reluctantly, even though she longed to rush out of the store with it so she could examine it more closely.
“Anna, my dear, I insist that you have this one small gift. Let’s consider it a first installment for what we all owe you for saving our town,” he said as he bounced away to assist two elderly ladies who were selecting a set of embroidered dishtowels.
“But, how would he know about that?” Alex whispered softly to Anna as they left the store.
“I have no idea,” Anna said as she carefully stored the tiny bear in a safe pocket of her backpack. “But I need to be getting back to Mom with this wrapping paper and tape. Lets talk about it later. Can you come over this evening?”
“On Christmas Eve?” Alex said, eyebrows raised.
“Alex,” Anna whispered. “That glass decoration looks exactly like Ramou. I think it could be some sort of warning or sign.”
“What, that little decoration? Wow! That’s incredible!” Alex shouted causing several shoppers to turn and smile at the two young people.
“Shhh,” Anna said softly. “Let’s see if I can get Mom to invite you and Peter over for a short time. I know, Mom is making a special hot cider. Maybe you can come over and share it with us.” Peter was Alex’s sixteen-year-old brother who had helped Anna and Alex save Long Valley a year ago.
“I agree with Anna,” Jessie said, looking straight at Alex.
“Oh! Jessie! Wow . . . gosh, er . . . okay,” stammered Alex, nearly tripping over the bikes in the park bike rack. “Anna! Jessie just talked to me!” Alex shouted, hardly able to contain his excitement.
Anna laughed and got on her bike, ready to head back home, the three ragamuffin dogs trailing after her in a happy bunch. “Come on, Alex, it’s getting late,” she yelled as she sped away.
Alex shook himself and scrambled to get on his bike, racing after her. “Hey! Wait for me!”
Anna waved at Alex as he turned into his driveway followed by the three dogs and headed on up the street to her own house that was set apart from the other houses on the street. It was one of the older homes in the village and was surrounded by an ancient orchard that stretched down to a stream behind the house called Kipple Creek.
The sky was rapidly growing dark and snow began drifting down over the old trees as Anna ran up the back stairs into the big, warm kitchen.
“Hi, Mom,” she said, giving her mother, Kathryn a hug and taking a chocolate cookie still warm from the oven. “Can Alex and Peter come over for hot cider?”
“Well, I’m sure their mother has made plans for them darling,” Kathryn said with a smile as she brushed melting snowflakes from her daughter’s hair. “After all, it is Christmas Eve,” she continued, trying to keep her voice from trembling.
“But I really need to see them, Mom. It’s important,” Anna said between bites of cookie.
Just then two small animals barreled into the kitchen and rushed over to Anna. A small otter named Link, who had come across the gateway from Thera last year, leapt into her lap and a big, orange, tabby cat called Tomkins jumped up onto the table and rubbed against her. Kathryn watched her daughter cuddle the two animals for a few moments and made a decision. “I’ll call Alice Johnson and see if Peter and Alex are able to come over for a few minutes. I’m sure it won’t be a problem.”
“Thanks, Mom, that would be great,” Anna beamed. She knew this was a very hard time of year for her mother. Her father had died on Christmas Eve two years ago. There was still a sad, lonely place in the house and in their hearts, especially at Christmas.
When Kathryn’s cell phone began ringing, she went out to the hall to get it.
“I have to talk to both of you and Peter and Alex as soon as possible,” Anna whispered to the two animals after her mother left the room. The two animals nodded their heads and snuggled closer to her.
“Well, that was quite a coincidence,” Kathryn said coming back into the room. “That was Alice, inviting us to come over for dinner. I said we would be happy to come, so you can see Peter and Alex at their house. I hope that’s alright?”
“Great, Mom. Can Link and Tomkins come too?” Anna asked giving Kathryn a soulful, appealing look.
Kathryn sighed and then smiled gently. “Of course. I guess if Alex can bring those three dogs over here all the time, you should be allowed to bring an otter and a cat to his house.”
“They will be very good, Mom,” Anna laughed as she watched Link munching the last bites of her cookie. “They will be on their best behavior, right guys?” Both animals nodded gravely but Kathryn didn’t notice as she busied herself looking for a thermos for the cider.
Chapter Two -- Snow Storm
Dinner seemed to drag on for the three friends and they all sighed with relief when the adults moved into the living room to enjoy hot cider in front of the fire.
“Let’s go into the family room,” Peter said, taking charge as usual, being the oldest. “Now, what’s all the excitement? Alex has been on pins and needles since he got home and these three mutts have been driving us all crazy,” he said, after they settled down, glaring good-naturedly at the three dogs, who kept nudging them with their noses.
“Well, both of us have had a really weird dream,” Alex began, feeling a sense of pride at being able to tell his older brother something important. “Anna thinks it might mean that something bad has happened to Ramou, right?”
“Right,” Anna continued. “The dreams really worry me. Then, when we were in Mr. McCreedy’s drugstore this evening, I saw this.” She removed the tiny glass bear from her backpack and set it on the coffee table. All three of the dogs immediately began to whimper and Link let out a small cry. Tomkins jumped up onto the table and sniffed the tiny crystal bear carefully.
“Anna,” he meowed. “I don’t understand but this small object feels just like Ramou.”
“It is Ramou,” Link cried piteously. “He is trapped in there.”
Alex picked up the small bear and examined it closely. “It sure looks like him, I can even see his eyes,” he said in awe handing it to Peter.
Peter stared at the tiny glass bear. “Wow, this looks so real, it almost looks like it’s trying to talk. But, Anna, this obviously can’t be Ramou, it’s just a very good representation of a bear standing on its hind legs,” he said, handing it back to her.
Anna took the bear and held it so that it stood in the palm of her hand. As they all continued to watch the tiny bear, a faint light began to pulse inside it. The dogs whined again, Link cried in terror and Tomkins arched his back, his fur bristling. Anna’s eyes were locked onto the glass bear standing in her hand as if mesmerized by it. Peter reached over and picked up the bear and Anna slumped back onto the couch with a groan.
“Anna!” Alex cried softly. “What happened? Are you okay?”
“Link is right,” she whispered. “Ramou, or at least part of him, is trapped in this crystal figure. It’s just like what happened to Tor, the Dark Lord has captured him. We’ve got to save him!”
“But what can we do?” Alex asked.
“We’ve got to get back to Thera. We have to find Ramou and restore the part of his spirit locked inside this crystal figure,” she said staring fiercely at the others. “We need to go back to the place where the second waterfall used to be. That is the only gateway I know into the other world.”
“But, we’ve been there several times since you came back,” Peter said. “There’s nothing there, no more waterfall, just a big landslide. Even the bridge is gone.”
“I know,” Anna nodded. “But maybe we just haven’t gone far enough”. At that moment, they heard their parent’s voices calling them from the hall. “Let’s meet tomorrow afternoon and try again,” she said quietly as they started out of the room.
“Okay, we’ll try one more time,” Peter said doubtfully. “We’ll meet you down by the stream after lunch.” Anna and Alex nodded and the dogs wagged their tails happily. “But I still don’t understand something. If that glass figure really has part of Ramou’s spirit, how did it get here?” Peter continued quietly.
“We’ll need to be very careful,” Anna whispered. “One of the Dark Lord’s servants must be here somewhere.”
Alex choked on the last of the cider he was drinking. “Here! Not one of those guys again,” he whispered.
Even as he spoke, all the lights went out and a blast of cold wind hit the house.
“Oh no,” Alex whispered.
“Just stay together,” Anna said. “Maybe it’s just the snowstorm.”
Anna, Peter and Alex felt their way into the living room, now lit only by the fire in the fireplace. All the animals crowded in after them.
“Come on over to the fire, kids,” Joe Johnson called. “Looks like the storm knocked out the power. Pete, maybe you can help me locate the flashlights.”
“Sure, Dad,” Peter said, shaking himself out of his momentary shock. “I think two are still with all the camping gear in the garage.” He headed toward the back door.
“Hey, Dad, something seems to be blocking the back door,” he called, as he tried to open the door, pushing with all his strength. Joe Johnson, holding a large flashlight, pushed at the door and then shone the light out the kitchen window into the back yard.
“You’re right, Pete. Looks like the old elm tree has fallen against the house. Let’s use the front door. We’ll have our work cut out for us tomorrow,” he said.
But the front door was also completely blocked. When Joe shone the light out the front door window all they could see was snow.
“Wow!” Peter whistled. “It hasn’t been snowing that much has it? Where did all that snow come from?”
“Must have been blown up against the house by the wind,” Joe said shaking his head. “I’ll call Jim Danson to get the Fire Department snowplow to come dig us out,” he said, pulling out his cell phone. Peter went back to the others waiting in the living room.
“We’re trapped!” he said. “Marooned in Long Valley. I hope you have lots of provisions, Mom. We may be stuck here for days.”
“Oh, don’t be silly, Peter,” his mother said as she bustled back into the kitchen. “I’ll just get some coffee to tide us over till the snowplow gets here.”
“I’ll give you a hand,” Kathryn said and both women went out to the kitchen.
“What if this wasn’t a natural part of the storm,” Anna whispered when they were alone with the animals. Peter was just about to say something sensible to reassure the two younger kids when Jessie started growling. Soon all three dogs were making low growls as they faced the living room window. Anna pulled back the curtain to look outside and gave a small gasp as she jumped back away from the window.
“There’s someone out there. I could see a dark shadow against the snow,” she whispered nervously.
“Lady Anna,” wailed Link. “It’s the dark servants. We must hide,” he cried, trying to scramble under the couch.
“Honestly, Link,” Anna said trying to regain her composure. “How do you know that? It could be one of the firemen. It just startled me at first, that’s all.” She picked up the trembling otter and held him closely, feeling guilty at having frightened everyone.
Peter was now peeking through the curtains and shook his head. “I don’t like this. If it had been the firemen, they would have knocked or called to us somehow. And besides, Dad just called them a minute ago. They couldn’t get here that fast.” At that moment another blast of cold wind hit the front window and Peter jumped back in imitation of Anna.
“Whoa!” he yelled as all three dogs began barking.
Joe Johnson and Kathryn came running in at the noise.
“What’s all this ruckus about? Alex, make these dogs be quiet,” Joe said as he shone the flashlight around the room.
“Hey, come on guys,” Alex called, grabbing Jessie’s collar and pulling him away from the window. “Hush now, we’re okay. Calm down, Toby. Come here, Patch,” he said trying to sooth the three agitated dogs. “Sorry Dad, we saw something out the front window and it got them started.”
“Well, try to keep them quiet, son. We don’t need to add more aggravation to the situation,” Joe said as he peered out the living room window. “I don’t see anything except a lot of snow but I was able to get hold of the sheriff and the snowplow will be here shortly. We’ll be back to normal in no time.”
“Maybe we could sing some carols while we wait?” Kathryn said. “After all, it is Christmas Eve.”
“That’s a good idea, Mrs. Brighton. Alex, you have the best voice, why don’t you start?” Peter said, taking charge as usual.
“Okay,” Alex said, still feeling a bit tense and he began singing, Silent Night, one of the old carols everyone knew by heart. Soon the house was filled with the simple melody as everyone joined in.
When Toby started barking again, Joe got up to look outside.
“Well, what did I say? The snowplow is here.” By this time, everyone could hear the engine and the shouts of the firemen working to remove the snow from the front door.
Soon, there was a knock at the front door and Sergeant Danson’s voice could be heard from the entry hall as he stamped snow off his boots. Everyone came out to the hall to meet him and began asking questions at once.
“Hold on, hold on,” Sergeant Danson laughed as he held up his hands. But when he saw Kathryn and Anna standing behind the others, he frowned slightly and turned to focus on what Joe was saying with a strained look on his face.
“It must have been a freak wind that piled the snow against the front of the house, Joe, Sheriff Danson said. I had better check the whole neighborhood. Kathryn, I think I better give you and Anna a ride home just to be on the safe side,” he added gravely.
“That’s a good idea,” Anna agreed, nodding her head, trying not to think of the shadowy figure she thought she had seen in the front yard earlier.
“Of course. Thank you, Jim,” Kathryn agreed. “Anna, lets get our coats,” she said and turned to thank the Johnson’s for their hospitality.
Soon Kathryn and Anna, who managed to hold both Link and Tomkins in her arms, were walking to the Sheriff’s car parked in front of the house. There was only a light snowfall, everywhere except the front of the Johnson house, which was nearly buried to the eaves.
Suddenly, all three of Alex’s dogs burst from the front door where the Johnson’s were still standing to watch Anna and Kathryn leave. They rushed off down the street barking furiously. Alex started to run after them but was called back by his father who waved at Sergeant Danson.
“Don’t worry, Jim, they always come back. Probably after some innocent garbage man,” he laughed as he put his arm around Alex who gave Anna an agonized look. The firemen all laughed but Anna just nodded at Alex.
“I’m sure they’ll come right back, Alex. See you tomorrow guys,” she called, trying to sound excited rather than intensely worried.
Sergeant Danson drove them slowly up the street, still frowning slightly as he looked at all the houses on the street covered by less than a foot of snow.
“It certainly is odd,” Kathryn said, laughing nervously. “No one else has any deep snow.”
“Yes, it is strange,” Sergeant Danson said quietly. “I’m sure Joe is right. It was just some freak weather pattern. We’ll probably read all about it in tomorrow’s paper,” he added as he drove up into their driveway and got out to open their doors. “I’ll just walk you to the door to make sure this young lady doesn’t have some idea of running off after those mutts,” he said, shaking his head at Anna, although unable to suppress a grin.
“Thanks again, Jim,” Kathryn answered gratefully, trying not to sound as relieved as she felt. “Would you like to come in for some hot cider. I still have some left.”
“Sure, er, thanks, Kathryn . . . I’d like that” Sergeant Danson said, smiling shyly at her.
As they came into the kitchen he said, “it looks like the power is off here too. Maybe Anna could help me make a fire in the living room.”
“That’s a good idea. The house is freezing,” Kathryn agreed as she set some candles on the table.
Anna nodded and picked up one of the candles, leading the way to the living room, Tomkins and Link trailing after her. She knew that Sergeant Danson was very worried and was going to give her another one of his lectures.
“You probably think I am going to lecture you again,” he said, reading her thoughts.
“Yeah,” Anna nodded, looking at the floor.
“You’re right . . . not that it will do any good,” he sighed running his hand through his hair. “Anna, if you have any idea what happened tonight, please tell me,” he continued trying to keep from sounding desperate. “I still haven’t recovered from what happened last summer. I almost lost both of you,” he said very softly.
“I am not sure what happened, Sergeant. Just what everyone said . . . there was a lot of wind, some big crashing noises when the lights went out and then the doors were blocked,” she said looking up at him earnestly. She didn’t mention the shadowy figure or anything about Ramou. No one knew about Ramou or the Dark Lord’s servants except Alex and Peter and the animals. She knew better than try to explain that to the adults.
“Why did Alex’s dogs go racing off like that? It looked like they were chasing something . . . or someone?” Sergeant Danson asked, still looking very seriously at Anna.
“I really don’t know, Sergeant,” Anna answered, hoping that she sounded sincere. “Sometimes dogs do that sort of thing, right?” Just then Kathryn came in with a tray of steaming cider mugs.
“That’s not much of a fire,” she laughed setting the tray down and coming over to help lay the fire.
“Oh, right,” Sergeant Danson said, quickly kneeling beside her. “I was just asking Anna about what happened at the Johnson’s. And to tell her not to go tearing off after those fool dogs,” he said, trying to look stern but giving up as he watched Anna snuggling Link against her face.
“I agree,” Kathryn said anxiously. “Anna, you must listen to Jim. Please, no roaming around on your own . . . please, darling.”
“Okay, Mom, don’t worry. If we go anywhere, we’ll go with Alex and Peter,” she said, giving Kathryn a quick hug and then racing out of the room followed by the two animals.
* * *
“I’m not sure that is much of an improvement,” Kathryn sighed and then laughed at Jim Danson’s worried face. “Jim, please don’t start worrying too. Between the two of us, we will turn her into a nervous wreck. But, I am grateful that you are here. Thank you,” she added putting her hand on his arm.
A few minutes later, Sergeant Danson got into his car and drove slowly away, his heart still pounding with the memory of holding Kathryn in his arms. He failed to see three shaggy dogs sitting under an apple tree in the front yard.