The Forest Beyond the Earth by Matthew S. Cox
Publication date: February 6th 2018
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Synopsis:Under the watchful eye of the Mother Shrine, twelve-year-old Wisp ekes out a simple, but challenging life with Dad, foraging for food and losing herself in old books from the world that came before. She loves the Endless Forest ― except when the Tree Walkers come for her.
In ages past, the great rain of fire and ash destroyed the Earth, wiping out the ancients and everything they had made. Nature has reclaimed much since then, spreading out in a vast forest full of wonder and dread. Ever in fear of being taken away, she follows Dad’s rules without question while learning to survive off the land.
No longer a small child, she accompanies Dad on one of his treks, her first time more than a few steps away from the cabin. A day exploring with him is the happiest time of her life, but joy is short-lived.
A monster follows them home.
Safe in her Haven, she hides while Dad goes outside to confront the beast. She wakes alone the next morning, and waits. Alas, her hope of his return fades with the daylight. Desperate, she breaks his strictest rule and goes outside alone. Not far from the cabin, she discovers his rifle abandoned next to the monster’s strange footprints.
Afraid but determined, Wisp sets off on her own into the Endless Forest to find Dad ― before the Tree Walkers catch her.
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Wisp stood in the middle of the cabin, arms slightly raised to either side as Dad walked around her rubbing his chin. She lifted and lowered her toes, twisting her head to watch him. He stopped, tapped his foot for a moment, then disappeared into his room, the metal door banging shut behind him.
When he returned, he took a knee in front of her and held a slab of leather up to her right thigh, the top about touching the hem of her skirt. He fidgeted at it for a few seconds before smiling. Wisp waited while he tinkered at the worktable for a little while, then carried the leather thing back over, now with a bunch of thin black strands hanging from it. Again, he pressed it to her thigh.
She put a hand on it, examining a narrow pouch on the outside.
“These will clip in place. It’s probably going to feel strange at first, but you’ll get used to it. They need to be tight enough to hold it on, but not so tight your leg feels funny.”
Dad pulled the thin nylon straps around her leg and clipped plastic parts together with a sharp, but quiet snap. He repeated it for the lower set, but neither one had any real grip on her leg. It took him a bit of fiddling with another section where the straps twisted around metal clips, but he snugged both loops smaller and smaller until they squeezed into her skin. He tried to get his fingertip under one, couldn’t do it, then loosened it a little bit.
“Does that hurt?”
“Let go, see if it stays there.”
She removed her hand, and the leather object remained stuck to her leg. Dad nodded, crossed the room to the shelf long enough to retrieve a knife similar to the cooking-and-hair-cutting one, but somewhat smaller. He slipped it into the leather sheath and closed a small loop over the handle to keep it in place.
“Jump up and down a bit. Try to make it fall.”
Wisp examined the knife hanging on her leg, unable to figure out if she liked or disliked the sensation of having something tied to her thigh. Eventually, she decided she had no opinion either way. She bounced on her toes a few times, then jumped a couple inches off the ground and came down hard on her heels. The sheath slipped straight down her leg to the floor.
Dad chuckled and brushed a finger at a faint mark where the strap had been. “Well, I suppose that’s good for now. It’ll get a bit easier on you once you have some shape.”
“Huh?” She peered up at him.
“You still have kid legs.” He made a double-chopping motion in the air. “Like asparagus stalks. No shape.”
She raspberried him.
Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.
Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.
He is also fond of cats.
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