Strange Tidings (paperback) by Jim Stein

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    The apocalypse didn’t arrive with nuclear war or a plague of zombies, just a quiet virus that sterilized most everyone and put humanity's future in jeopardy. Fifty years later, seventeen-year-old Ed Johnson plies his musical talents in New Philadelphia, jumping at the chance to help launch a coworker’s band. But Quinn, their beautiful bassist, is inexplicably cold toward him, and other strange things are afoot.

    In spite of a growing unease, Ed shrugs off being stalked by a crazy, old Native American and a frightening crone. But when nightmare creatures threaten his sister, Ed discovers he is bound to the strangers. To get out of this mess, he must enlist the help of his friends and Quinn, who harbors her own dark secret.

    But there is little time for Ed to discover the true power of music and save them, himself, and perhaps the future of the human race.

    Rating: Sweet
    Page Count: 312
    Word Count: 79625
    978-1-5092-1876-9 Paperback
    978-1-5092-1877-6 Digital


    “How dare you call challenge to Him!” The tiny woman’s inflection capitalized the pronoun. She stomped toward me, and I swear her skin sparkled, or maybe sparked.

    “Hold on, little…lady.” I flung my hands forward, palms out to try and calm her down. Why the hell was I backpedaling?

    “He doesn’t owe you anything!” She continued toward me in a rush.

    I couldn’t help it, after weeks of working with my music, there were certain songs stuck in my head. Seeing this impossibly small force of nature rush me, her leather-and-wood boots kicking up clods of broken lawn, made my favorite Black Sabbath song blaze bright in my mind.

    “You’re wearing boots,” I whispered.

    “What?” She snarled, fists balled by her sides, clearly irate.

    I couldn’t help myself. My left palm opened toward the woman, my flashlight again illuminating her small frame. I tried to stop as more lyrics flowed into my mind, but my head bobbed to the beat dum…dah-da…da-dum; dum…dah-da…da-dum. I wanted to laugh, to cry, to scream. It was all so…impossible.

    My fingers flew wide and the song’s title exploded from my mouth. “Fairies Wear Boots!”

    The woman staggered back, and the sparkle on her skin winked out as a stray cloud passed over the moon. “You struck me.”

    “What?” I looked at my hands to assure myself they hadn’t left my arms. “No, just a stupid song. Look.” I held my palms up, flashlight dangling loosely between two fingers.

    She stumbled back behind Koko, wrapped her arms around his leg, and peered at me from the position of safety.

    “Enough!” Koko commanded. Though it was directed at the woman, the imperative also encompassed me. He nodded into the silence. Then his gaze settled on the ravaged lawn and swept up the front my house to the damaged roofline. “Ah.” It was a simple statement of understanding. “You must have questions, Edan.”

    “Damned right,” I retorted. The woman’s face shifted from fearful back to fearsome in a flash. I had to admit that I was being rude. I pushed down my jumble of anxiety and emotions. “Let’s just say that I really need to know what’s going on,” I amended in what I hoped was a more respectful tone. “My sister is gone, someone tried to break into my house…again, and you are in my dreams explaining stuff you can’t possibly know about.” Steady. “Will you please just talk to me?”

    Something in all that made him smile. He puckered his lips in thought for a moment before replying. “Dream-speak is safer, but little stands before the impatience of youth. What would you have me tell?”

    At that point, I no longer wondered if the old man might know what was going on. He clearly did. I ticked off my short list, eying the little woman and hoping these sounded like requests rather than demands. “Who or what took Piper? Where is she now? What happened to my house? And for a kicker, what the hell are you doing in my dreams?”

    “Reasonable questions,” Koko said as he knelt to inspect the torn grass.

    “Bah,” the woman spat. “He misuses sorcery. Turn him over to the hunters, Lord.”

    The woman stared daggers at me again. I surreptitiously slid the flashlight into my back pocket. Superstitious little thing, bad magic, flameless fire, geez! And what was that crack about the hunters? The old man rubbed a pinch of mud between gnarled fingers, nodding absently to himself. I figured he hadn’t heard her.

    “Perhaps you should apologize to Brightness,” he said without looking up from his examination. “And, Brightness, perhaps you should accept. As with us all, the boy is what he is.”

    Things were getting stranger by the minute, but it was a simple request. If it got him talking, I was happy to comply. “Uh, Brightness? Sorry for being impolite, and…” I didn’t even know what I was apologizing for doing. “…everything,” I finished lamely.


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Strange Tidings (paperback)

Strange Tidings (paperback)

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