by Kim Richardson
Sixteen year-old Kara Nightingale’s ordinary life is suddenly turned upside-down when she dies in a freak accident, and she wakes up in a strange new world with a new career—as a rookie for the Guardian Angel Legion. Kara hurtles towards dangerous missions with the help of her Petty Officer and friend, David.
But when she discovers a Mark on her leg, the entire Legion accuses her of being a Demon spy. Angels are dying, and David begins to pull away from her. Can Kara prove her innocence as she becomes the Legion’s only hope?
It’s going to take a miracle to save the Legion, and Kara’s luck has just run out...
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Excerpt: "Marked" by Kim Richardson:
“Wait for me!” Kara jogged along Saint-Paul Street. She pressed her cell phone against her ear with a sweaty hand. “I’ll be there in two minutes!”
“I can’t believe you’re not here yet,” said the voice on the other line. “You had to pick today of all days to be late.”
Her black ballet flats tapped the cobble stones as she avoided oncoming traffic. She jumped onto the sidewalk and ran through the crowd. Her portfolio swung at her side.
“Okay, okay! I’m already freaking out about the presentation. You’re not exactly helping, Mat.”
A laugh came through the speaker. “I’m just saying…that this is supposed to be the most important day of your life. And you, Mademoiselle Nightingale, are late.”
“Yeah, I heard you the first time—MOTHER. My stupid alarm didn’t go off!” Kara dashed along the busy street. Her long brown hair bounced against her back. The smell of grease and beer from the pubs reached her nose. Her heart hammered at her chest.
Thank God. I can see it now.
Over the heads of the crowd, Kara could just make out the sign, Une Galerie. Stencilled elegantly in bold black letters, the name hovered above the art gallery’s majestic glass doors. She could see shadows of people gathered inside. She was only a block away now.
“You know, the presentation won’t wait for you.”
“I swear I’m gonna kick your butt when I get there!” Kara growled into the phone.
She thought about getting off the sidewalk and running along the edge of the street. She looked back to see how bad the traffic was.
Then her heart skipped a beat.
Less than a half a block behind, a man stood motionless and indifferent to the wave of humanity that flowed around him. He was staring at her. His white hair stood out against his dark grey tailored suit. Kara frowned.
His eyes are black, she realized.
A chill rolled up her spine. The man melted into the crowd and vanished, as though he were a mere trick of the light. The hair on the back of Kara’s neck prickled.
“I think I’m being followed,” Kara spoke into her cell phone after a few seconds.
“You always think you’re being followed.”
“No! I’m serious! I swear—this guy is following me—some psycho with white hair. I—I think I’ve seen him before. Or at least my mother has—”
“We all know your mother is a little nutty sometimes. No offence, I love your mom, but she’s been seeing and talking to invisible people since we were five. I think it’s rubbing off on you.”
“Listen. I was with my mom yesterday on Saint-Catherine Street, and she said we were being followed by someone. What if this is the same guy? Maybe she’s not as crazy as everyone thinks.” She wondered if there was a little truth in her mother’s visions.
Mat laughed. “Are you serious? It’s bad enough that your mom sees spirits and demons. If you start believing in all that, they’ll lock you up.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Remind me why you’re my best friend again?” Kara decided to drop the subject. She focused on the gallery sign as she ran. “Okay—I can see you now.”
Mat was leaning against the gallery’s brick exterior. His head was turned toward the glass doors. He pulled his cigarette from his lips and blew smoke into his phone’s receiver. “I think it’s starting. Hurry up!”
Kara felt her cheeks burn. Her heart pounded in her ears and muffled the sounds around her. She took a deep breath, hoping it would calm the fluttering in her stomach, and she sprinted onto Saint Laurence Boulevard. Her cell phone slipped out of her hand. It hit the pavement.
“Crap!” Kara crouched down to grab her phone.
A flicker of movement appeared in the corner of her eye.
“WATCH OUT!” Someone shouted. She stood up and turned around.
A city bus hurtled towards her. She stared, transfixed. The bus kept coming.
An arm reached out to her. She saw a split second image of two monstrous head lights.And then it hit.Thirteen tons of cold metal crushed her body. She didn't feel any pain. She didn't feel anything at all.
Everything around her went black.
A moment later, Kara was standing in an elevator.
A moment later, Kara was standing in an elevator.
At first, streaks of white light obscured her vision. She blinked and rubbed her eyes. She shook her head. The elevator was elegant—three sides appeared to be made of handcrafted cherry panels decorated with golden-wing crests. The smell of moth balls lingered in the air, like her grandma’s dusty old closet. When her eyesight improved, she realized she wasn’t alone.
On a wooden chair, facing the elevator's control panel, covered in black fur, and wearing a pair of green Bermuda shorts, from which protruded two hand-like callused feet—sat a monkey.
It spun on its seat, wrapped its feet around the backrest of the chair, opened its coconut-shaped mouth and said—in a British accent—“Hello, Miss.”
Kara's jaw dropped, and she swallowed the urge to cry out.
His hairless face crinkled into a grin, so that he looked like an oversized walnut. His square head sat directly on powerful shoulders. He raised his chin and looked down upon Kara. His yellow eyes mesmerized her. She couldn't look away.
He looks like Old Man Nelson from the hardware store, she thought wildly.
After a minute, Kara was able to force some words out of her mouth.
Her throat was dry. She tried to swallow, but all she could do was contract her throat muscles.
“H…hey there, little talking-monkey-person,” she croaked. “How's it going?”
“I have to remember to tell Mat about this tomorrow,” she whispered to herself.
The monkey frowned. Then he growled. “I'm not a monkey, Miss. I'm a chimpanzee! You mortals are all the same. Monkey-this—monkey-that. Might as well call me a dog!” A splatter of spit hit Kara's face as the words escaped his lips.
Kara retched as she wiped the spit from her face. It was yellowish green and smelled like a bad case of gingivitis.
She rubbed her hand on her blue jeans. “Gross! This is really nasty—it’s all sticky!”
The chimp glared at Kara with disdain. “Chimp Number 5M51, if you please.”
He then began to scratch his behind and only stopped once he noticed Kara’s disgusted expression.
“You'll be arriving at your destination momentarily.” And with that, he turned his attention back to the control panel—hands away from his butt.
Gradually, Kara began to feel more awake, as though she had woken from a long sleep. Reality slowly crawled back in. She bit her lower lip as she told herself to think.
“Um, what destination? Where are we going?” she asked.
Chimp 5M51 turned his head and smiled, exposing rows of crooked yellow teeth. His eyes locked onto hers. “To Orientation, of course. Level One.”
“Yes. All mortals who have passed must go through Orientation. That's where you're going.” Chimp 5M51 clamped his feet around the edges of the chair and extended an abnormally long arm in the direction of the elevator's control pane. He pointed to the brass buttons.
Kara leaned over for a better view. The panel read:
3. Miracles Divisions
4. Hall of Souls
5. Department of Defense
6. Council of Ministers
7. The Chief
“OUCH!” cried Kara, “Hey—what the—?”
Chimp 5M51 had picked a flake of dry scalp off Kara's head. He popped it in his mouth and swallowed. “Mmmmh. My apologies, I couldn't help myself. I am a primate, after all.”
“Freak,” mumbled Kara crossly, as she rubbed her scalp.
A feeling of dread slowly rose up inside her. “This—this doesn't make sense. I—I'm dreaming. This is a dream!”
Kara shut her eyes and pressed her back against the elevator wall, trembling. “It can’t be happening. It just can't! I need to wake up now!”
“You're dead, Miss.”
Kara opened her eyes. The word dead echoed in her ears. The weight of his words started to pull her under. She fought against the sick feeling of panic.
“I'm not dead!” she hissed, “I'm right here, you stupid BABOON!”
“—Chimpanzee!” Spat Chimp 5M51. “Think what you must,” he said, as he lifted his chin. “But, think about this. Can you remember events before this elevator?”
Kara floundered, trying desperately to remember. Bits and pieces flashed inside her brain: a white light…metal… darkness…
Kara dropped to her knees. The city bus had hit her—pulverized her core and crushed her like a tomato. But then she remembered something else, something that didn’t make any sense. It was coming back to her now, like a faded memory sharpening into a clear picture. It flicked before her eyes. She saw an arm reach out and touch her during the bus crash.
Someone tried to save me?
“See? You're dead,” said the chimp, matter-of-factly.
She pressed her hand against the left side of her chest.
“Oh, my God! Oh my God!” Kara couldn't feel a heartbeat. She pressed down on her rib cage. Nothing. She clasped her wrist. No pulse. No beating. No movement at all.
“See. No beating. No heart—you're dead,” declared the chimp again.
But before she could start freaking out, she was thrown off balance as the elevator stopped abruptly.
“Level One. Orientation!” The chimp announced.
“Wait!” Kara pushed herself away from the elevator wall and wobbled up to the chimp. “I don't understand. What's Orientation?”
With his finger still on the button, he turned his head. “Orientation is where all the new GAs are categorized.”
Kara stared stupidly into chimp 5M51’s yellow eyes. “What are GAs?”
Kara heard the swish of doors opening. A hint of a smile reached the chimp’s lips. He raised his arm and pressed his hand on her back—
She flew out the elevator.
Buy "Marked" by Kim Richardson: Amazon
About Kim Richardson:
I grew up in a small town in Northern Quebec, where I developed a wild imagination because—let’s face it—there was nothing else to do. I surrounded myself with art/books/animation and fell in love with fantasy novels and movies like, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. I loved to be transported to other worlds.
Years later, I left my little “hick town” and moved to the city of Montreal, where I studied 3D Animation. I became an Animation Supervisor for a VFX company, and stayed in the field of animation for 14 years.
Now, I’m a full-time writer, enjoying the country life with my husband and two Bernese Mountain dogs, Simba and Maggie. My children.
I write stories geared towards children because, let's not tell lies, I'm still a 13 year-old at heart!
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