Ripe Earth (The Ripe Earth Trilogy Book 1)

cover-Ripe-Earth

There is a place where everyone forgets.
It is called the Island.
‘Ripe Earth’ is the story of its king…
… and the girl who remembered.

Ripe Earth (The Ripe Earth Trilogy Book 1)
As Gwen Oluran approaches her 18th birthday, she can feel something changing, a call she cannot deny. And once she meets the destructively dashing Myron in Hyde Park on a summer’s day, she falls for his siren’s call. Gwen’s tale suddenly takes a shadowy turn when Myron’s true identity is revealed: he is king of a supernatural world of teenagers where no one ages and no one dies unless he kills them. Now Gwen’s life balances on a sword’s-edge, and she must find a way to escape. This suspenseful coming-of-age novel captures the peak of first love, and the abyss of being young forever.

Digital: April 2016, 124ppBuy-On-Amazon-Button
ASIN:
B01EVP28V8
Price:  $8.88 Amazon-UK /Amazon-USA/Amazon-Germany/Amazon-France/Amazon-Spain/Amazon-Italy/Amazon-Netherlands/Amazon-Japan/Amazon-Brazil/Amazon-Canada/Amazon-Mexico



FREE PREVIEW OF ‘RIPE EARTH’ BY ELIZABETH AMISU

(C) 2016 E. Amisu

For the lost ones,

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”

– J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

“In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope… In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream.”

– Michael Jackson

“…and then, in dreaming, the clouds me-thought would open and show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.”

– William Shakespeare, The Tempest 

 


CHAPTER 1 | Gwen

‘Had I been any god of power, I would have sunk the sea within the earth…’

So here it is – I’m mental. Not stab-you-for-no-reason kind of mental or run-down-the-street naked mental. Just – mental. The everyday, one-out-of-three kind. You’ve heard the statistic, that one-out-of-three of us has a mental illness, right? Or is that cancer?

Two times a day I take 600mg of a drug called carbamazepine to keep the crazies at bay. That’s what I call them – the crazies. Those feelings which make me want to jump under a train or catch a stray bullet. There’s an army of little people screaming in my ear. Still, people don’t like it when I call them that. But they’re mine and I’ll call them whatever I want. I’ve been on carbamazepine for two years and I’ve had a list of side-effects as long as my arm. It tastes like roasted garbage but I’m not going to complain because, compared to the Lithium it’s a dream.

Why do I take the drugs? Well, my parents want me to and unlike most teenagers I actually quite like my parents. I also have an awkward habit of dying on them: we were in Zanzibar the first time, mum, dad, the twins and me. I was nine and it was the best holiday of my life. We stayed on a delicious Island off the coast of Tanzania, the kind of place that has everything. Dad and I were chasing dolphins, about a mile out to sea when a storm hit. We were in a skiff, a cross between a dinghy and a raft.

The storm descended so fast it was like a sorcerer created it. There was no way anyone could have known it was coming. A freak storm, they called it. The boys running our ‘dolphin chasing’ experience weren’t the kind who owned high-end weather-watching equipment. We didn’t even have lifejackets.

The skiff was smashed to pieces a few minutes after the torrential rain began. I was thrown into the water and bashed by the waves. My lungs filled as I was pulled under. I don’t remember panic. Just marvelling at the wild sea.

“Oh! Gwen,” Dad said, after I spluttered back into life. “Never, ever grow up!” I understand now why he said it – my being so small was what saved me. It was the reason he was able to drag me to shore.

Up till that day I had loved to swim. Now every lake, river and shoreline is a bad memory. So as I sit in Hyde Park, eight years later, I watch the Serpentine from a safe distance.

There’s this disorder where people feel like they’re already dead, parts of them, that is. Ever since drowning I could swear parts of me were past their sell-by date. When I walked by graveyards I felt closer to the corpses than the mourners. Maybe I was supposed to die in the Indian Ocean and when I didn’t the whole world went off-kilter. I can’t help feeling I should be beneath the ground and not above it. That feeling only grew worse as I got older. When I was fourteen I died again.

I did it to myself this time. I wasn’t stressed. I wasn’t sad about anything. No one was bullying me. By this time I had simply decided not to grow up. A dozen therapists tried a dozen ways to pry the ‘answer’ out but none had any luck. Their only success was getting me to write.

It started with an exercise where I had to write the story of my life as a fairy-tale. I spent all my time in the psychiatric ward writing stories in journals. My therapists would read my journals and ask me if I felt more like the heroes or the villains. I said I felt like paper and ink.

Dad says ‘all life is storms we have to weather’. He said it when Mum and he came to pick me up from the hospital. I could see he wished I was small enough for him to carry to sanity or whatever it is that keeps grown-ups from going mad.

“I tried,” I wanted to say. “I tried not to get bigger but it didn’t work.”

I’m over suicide now. Really. It was just a phase I went through. I’ve done my A-Levels, am making an effort to be a fully-functional member of society. I come to Hyde Park in the summer to write. My favourite thing about it is the air. I like to think there are pockets of actual magic in the world, places where it floats. If you breathe really deep you can fill yourself with it. This hooded guy stops beside me, his hand on my shoulder, tearing me away from my writing. Overfamiliar doesn’t even begin to cover it. I look up. I’m not anxious. I’m annoyed.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Doesn’t look like nothing.”

“Who are you?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to intrude. It’s… I’m quite fascinated by daydreamers.”

“I wasn’t–”

What is with this guy’s voice? He sounds like – like a rock song orchestrated by a classical composer. I look around. Can anyone else hear that? He drops his hood: there’s golden curls, green eyes with bits of gold in them. Are they shooting a movie here today? Is he going to ask me to move along so he can shoot his starring role? No wonder he’s wearing a hood – a face like that’s got to grab attention.

“Myron.”

“Gwen.” I can barely speak my heart is beating so fast. Every line I’ve ever heard about falling in love comes pouring into my ears. I want to slap myself but there’s no way to without seeming mad.

“That is a beautiful name,” he says. I think this might be what is commonly known as a ‘come-on’. Short of second cousin Dale, I’ve never been ‘come-on’d by a guy before.

“And yours is…”

He sits by me and I can barely breathe. I tell myself I can do this. I tell myself to act naturally. This is fine. Strangers sometimes sit in parks and talk to one another. On occasion some of these strangers are overwhelmingly attractive.

I try to hide my crazies. I always think people can see them: my fingers tremble when I hold them out, I slur my words, and I’m slower than I should be at replying. Side effects. I take a deep breath and try to steady everything. So what? He’s good looking! It’s not like he’s the king of the world.

“What are you thinking about?”

“None of your business,” I bark. Why am I barking? Aggression isn’t the best way to make a good first impression.

“Please.”

“I was thinking about fate.”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t know what fate is?!” He shakes his head. What he gained in looks he clearly lost in brains. Ah, well! There had to be a shortfall somewhere.

“It’s this idea that some things are supposed to happen.”

“So you and I meeting… this very afternoon – this is fate?”

“Maybe.”

This is it. Dumb or not, he’s going to ask me out. Me? Gwen Oluran? I wonder how fast he’d be running if he knew. I’m already thinking of a good time to tell him. Should I slot it in just before saying goodbye or after the first kiss? Excuse me, before you slip your tongue in my mouth, thought you might like to know – I tried to commit suicide three years ago but don’t worry, I’m totally over it now. Now, I’m thinking about his tongue and my mouth!

“Tell me what you are writing.”

I pause, my burgundy journal so tight in my hand I might break it. I suddenly have an overwhelming desire to keep my stories safe. I don’t write them for anyone else. I look into his eyes blink and they’re in his hands. How did he do that?

“You write here,” he points to a page. “We are ceaseless. Why do you write this?”

“It’s silly, really.”

“Tell me!” Now he’s barking. Maybe it’s infectious. How can I tell him that I can’t – tell him? To tell would be giving away my biggest secret. I’m a whisper of a person, like a murmur someone wrote. I’m not even a girl. Take off my clothes and I’ll float right away.

“I wanted to stay like this forever. I wrote a world where perfection lasted longer than a moment. I don’t want everything to change. I want it to be as it is, always.”

His gold-green eyes shine. “Perfect.”

“Yes. That’s why I wrote it down. It feels – perfect.”

“Yes. Now you have told me a secret about you I will tell you one; something no one else knows. My birthday is the fifth of July.”

“So’s mine! What are the odds that we would be here on the same day, at the same time?” Okay, that is just plain unnerving.

For the first moment since I spluttered into existence on an African beach, part of me actually comes alive. This muscle pounding away inside my chest, pushing so hard that I can actually feel the heat of my own blood moving, telling me I’m here.

“I do not know.”

“A million to one!” I say. “See this – this Myron, is fate.”

Something very odd happens as Myron and I talk. It’s like taking Lithium pills for the first time. The sensation that someone’s wringing your brain out like damp washing. You touch your skin but you don’t feel it. You blink away light because the haze is too much. The world speeds up and you slow right down.

The strange thing is that this feeling, usually accompanied by a sense of losing control, is actually rather lovely. I immerse myself in a sea of forgetfulness. Who is Gwen? The tortured girl who writes stories? Who died in a storm and was born with dead parts where living ones used to be? I don’t know her.

Myron’s voice becomes the only sound I hear as hours pass and darkness falls. We float to a stranger’s doorstep and I have no idea how I got there. I become pages. I am paper and ink. I don’t worry about how smart he is or whether he can see my crazies. I have discarded my pills and handed over my journal.

When I stumble on the steps he catches me so quickly I don’t even have time to react.

“You must be more careful, Gwen.”

“Why?”

“Don’t you know?”

He holds me, pressing me against him. I don’t usually like people touching me, especially people I’ve known for less than a day. However, when Myron holds me I feel like I’m back in that storm, arms flailing. This time though, I’m safe. I’m not going to drown. I’m not going to die. Everything’s going to be perfect.

I sigh. I’m in Zanzibar again, watching a thousand boats, smelling salty crayfish from the harbour, tasting cold ice and coconut milk, hot sand under my feet.

I open my eyes. I see his. They are grotesque with pupils like glow-worms. From his gaping mouth flows a grey mist that curls into mine. Mad panic jerks me out of my reverie. I’m desperately afraid. For a second I remember everything – my parents, the twins, my home, my life. I have friends. I don’t really want to die. It was just a phase I went through. I’m over it.

His kiss steals my scream.

“I love you,” he whispers while I drown in his poison, amazed at how sweet it tastes.


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CHAPTER 1 | Myron
Sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.’

She is the one.

I have been watching a girl who sits under the shade of an oak tree. Her skin is dark as tree bark, her brown eyes gold as sunlight, her lips red as blood. She has the look they all have when they are ripe. It is ‘come-hither’, ‘take me’, ‘and have me’. It drives me mad.

No matter their homeland they are reduced to the colour of pure, unadulterated life. This girl loves hers. I can tell. Why shouldn’t she? She thinks it is a good one. Like so many, she thinks she has fulfilled her potential. She thinks she thinks. She knows nothing. I will be glad to educate her.

Soundah hovers by my ear buzzing incessantly. She does not like this one – she does not chose this one.

“No, Myron, no! Choose another!”

I bat Soundah aside so I can watch the girl watch her world. She seems spellbound. I can see what she sees – pockets of magic in the air. Hyde Park. My old hunting ground.

I have walked these walks and tasted this air for too many days. Here, time is a cancer; it covers like thistles and weeds. Then comes the acid rain, burning the skin, twisting the back, bending, then erasing the shadow.

I hate time.

It is a fire that burns all that is good. Time is a devil. I can feel it telling me to go home, pulling them to their inevitable deaths. So I fight back. I beckon. I give my gift, welcoming the best fruit to my garden. What they do with that gift, well that is up to them.

She lifts an arm, then another. She is more than ready for me so I shrug the hood over my head and begin my run towards her, swift, bounding over the grass, counting every single bright blade of green and navy and white until I am at her.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Doesn’t look like nothing.”

“Who are you?” I stifle a laugh. Who am I? King of a land that never dies, lord of a great court, saviour, reaper, bane of clockodials, wielder of the shadow-sword, tamer of enchants over-thrower of tyrants, and master of adventure. She might as well have asked the sun who he is.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to intrude. It’s… I’m quite fascinated by daydreamers.”

“I wasn’t–”

I drop my hood, taking all of her in. There is so much of her to appreciate. A touch of my hand is all it takes and I put it out to her, knowing what it means, that the trap is sprung. I am, in this and every season, a temptation. No mortal can resist me.

“Myron.”

“Gwen.” I hear her heart beating so fast, thrumming in her chest. Ah, yes. She tastes me. It is best to get very close. Let the breath mingle in the air. That is the surest way. Slowly at first, so it’s barely noticed. I am administering the cure for what ails her. Some interpret it as love, others dread, apprehension. It is all the same to me.

“That is a beautiful name.”

“And yours is…”

I sit beside her and catch breaths, sending them back to her, one after the other.

“What are you thinking about?”

“None of your business.”

Now, that is unusual – a refusal. If I were home and she, one of my subjects, I would grab her tiny throat and crush her face into the dirt. I might make her spend a few days in Clock Cove, while the beasts snapped at her heels. If I were having a particularly bad day I might even threaten to…

“Please,” I refocus my thoughts. Why, this is simply sport! My gaze pierces her. Ah! She is not so strong after all. She’s wilting already. There is a momentary tussle, mind against mind until, as I knew she would, she continues, unaware that she has saved her own life. If she had refused me, I would have killed her.

“I was thinking about fate.”

That ridiculous excuse grown-ups use to prove all the things they made: marriage, war, boredom, were inevitable. Fate is just another piece of rotting fruit.

“What’s that?”

“You don’t know what fate is?!”

“It’s this idea that some things are supposed to happen.”

“So you and I meeting… this very afternoon – this is fate?”

“Maybe.”

“Tell me – what was it you were writing when I stopped by?” It is not a question, it is a command. She pauses. My fingers burn. I’m itching to lash out. Soundah buzzes past my head urging me to calm down.

The girl stares. What is wrong with her? Why is she so unyielding? It makes me want to break her. Till this moment, beckoning has been easy: a smile, a touch, a kiss. For the first time I might have to work for it. So I do. I could never be described as patient but I have always liked a challenge.

I will her harder than I have ever willed anyone. I pour her into me, using my eyes, hands, smile, saying all the silent words she wants to hear. Most of them want to hear they are beautiful or loved. This one wants only to know that she is.

Finally, she gives in and I have her stories in my hands. They are warm, glowing with sentiment. This is the fruit of being young. She writes a story of a warrior. The tale follows an adventure to save a prince from the sea. It is so fantastic, that even Soundah is enthralled, resting on my shoulder to read.

“You write here,” I point to the very last page. “We are ceaseless. Why do you write this?”

“It’s silly, really.”

“Tell, me!”

“I wanted to stay like this forever. I wrote a world where perfection lasted longer than a moment. I don’t want everything to change. I want it to be as it is, always.”

This girl is more than simply another ripe one. She is a gift: feisty and imaginative.

She’s “Perfect.”

“Yes. That’s why I wrote it down. It feels – perfect.”

I decide then that she is to not just be a member of my Court but something far more. If, of course, she proves worthy. Soundah whispers into my ear and I repeat:

“My birthday is the fifth of July.” Any fragment of time feels rough on my tongue.

“So’s mine!” Gwen gushes. “What are the odds that we would be here on the same day, at the same time, born on the very same day?”

“I do not know.”

“A million to one! See this – this, Myron, is fate.”

No, this is design. My own blessed design, anointed by enchants and christened by stars. I continue to talk to her. This is a prerequisite bonding ritual. She inhales my breath and I learn about her past. It will be my responsibility to be her memory-keeper from now on.

Usually, I find this a terrible chore, smiling inanely, feeling the seconds itch as they crawl by. Not with Gwen. Her voice does not annoy me. Every story she tells is compelling: from her near-death experience in Zanzibar to her attempt at suicide. If I could only tell her that how she has felt, her distance from this world, is only because she was made for mine.

Hours pass. More hours than necessary. A mere exchange of a thousand or so words is more than enough. I give her whispers, lies, while I listen, watching her heart pump rich red blood, listening to strands of her black hair moan. She is a patchwork of living things, but not in a way I have ever known.

She entrusts to me her pot of pills, telling me she doesn’t need them. When she speaks her words weave coloured ribbons in the air. I sway on the tide of her, tickled by her laughter, brightened by the sun in her skin. I want her. I want to open a mirror and fill it with her. I have not felt this way in a very long time. I promised myself I never would again. Darkness is pressing us both towards the earth, where the graves are. I do not want her to stop but Soundah has begun to scream.

“Night! Anything but Night! We cannot be trapped here, Myron! Not again! Please, not again!”

I know Soundah is right. So I do what I must, taking her to my sacred place. Every Islander has one. A place from which they complete the ritual. Mine is a doorstep where the door has a brass knocker shaped like a lion’s head.

As she climbs the steps she stumbles and I catch her. She cannot break. I will not allow her to.

“You must be more careful, Gwen.”

“Why?”

I hesitate to answer. A king should not hesitate. Will the truth suffice? A truth that has taken me quite by surprise.

“Don’t you know?”

I hold her tightly and feel the flush of her skin, so ripe, ready for my world. I wish she knew how she shines!

“The window of harvest will close, Myron! There’s no more time!” Soundah yells. She could not bear to be left again. When I am distracted my spell is broken. Gwen pulls away, horrified and frozen with fear.

“I love you,” I say. Then my kiss steals her scream. She is the sweetest taste I have ever known.


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