Bound by a dark act of hate and despair, high school freshmen, Andrew and Kiernan, learn that their untimely deaths did not bring an end to their pain, but only began the suffering of those left behind. While his lost memories return, Andrew must master seemingly impossible feats, both spiritual and physical.
As a dark spirit stalks Kiernan through the borderlands of life and death, he must also face the pain his actions have caused his loved ones.
To save both their souls, Andrew must convince Kiernan to return to life and open his eyes to the love and beauty which had always been there.
A Recollection of Death
—from Andrew Harowitz, Memories of the Living
My dearest Michael.
I still remember the moment I surrendered my broken heart on that last bitter, rainy day of October, burying it with a tattered piece of my soul beneath the cold, still ground.
You were there of course, dressed in your finest black suit and a matching dark tie, and I am sure you saw, as did I, the last traces of autumn fade to winter, in a cycle unbroken since the twilight of the Ice Age—in those ancient times when the last glaciers melted away from the northern continents and poured their essence into every sea and ocean of the world.
Great and small flocks of blackbirds and crows swept over us in their mysterious formations, some late to start their journey to the south, others simply launching into the sky—those that never leave our lands—they are like the keepers of death, winter’s closest ally. Tell me Michael, if you remember, did you hear them sing, as their melodies soared high into the heavens? It was a lonely sound like that of a train whistle before sunrise, or the roar of the long-trucks, rolling down the highways between cities late at night.
Did you know that it’s on the first day of spring that life truly begins for the newborns and young? It renews for the old still blessed to be with us, and for those of us caught up in the turbulent in-between years, it is just another marker of the slow passage of time.
We followed the long hearse that day in a car, black as coal, with windows tinted for the privacy of all. Your parents sat on the back seat beside me. Did you see them there? Listen to your mother’s cries? Watch your father’s falling tears? Did you look upon me, lost so far inside myself that I showed no emotion at all?
Our procession crossed the city of Fair Cedar on a journey spanning from the church to the cemetery. As has always been custom, we ignored the stoplights and stop signs on the way, cutting off traffic and slowing only for turns and bumpy sections of road.
When we at last entered the misty graveyard, the rust-shrouded iron gates squeaked as they swung open. I heard and even felt their haunting echo that followed us along the curving drive through the forest of tombstones and trees.
I saw yellow and orange lilies, and roses, both white and red, among the grave markers and stones. Did you see them dying in weather more unstable than crackling ice on a thawing lake? Looking past them, I saw statues of angels and saints, bright as stars, when brief breaks in the gray clouds let the sunshine pass down to the earth below.
I remember every bump in the road, Michael, as from my window, I watched the passing trees, without a leaf on their branches—they seemed naked in the cold, half hidden by distance, the thickness of the haze, but more so by the tears that refused to drip from my burning red eyes.
Our sad parade parked, stretched along the side of the road, and I lost count of those who stepped out from their warm cars to join us in the damp, cold air. I followed just behind your parents and they followed their parish priest. He was dressed in his cassock and robe and carrying his crucifix before him like an upraised sword. For reasons I still don’t understand, I think I cracked a smile at the oddity of it all, but it was gone before anyone else saw it.
Your mother and father walked close, their hands held tight between them. But I only held white roses, still on their stems, which I had done all too often, and everyone else clutched tightly to umbrella handles, sympathy cards, and bouquets of many colors.
I heard a haunting whistle that filled my soul with dread, but it was only the echo of the wind, blowing through the branches of the trees. It made me feel so alone, Michael, in a place all gray, empty, and almost silent. I truly wept then. I cried in those days and more times after that than I could ever hope to count.
Though it was cold, I wore only a black jacket and matching pants, no coat or gloves to keep me warm. My suit was an older one of yours that your parents let me borrow, not brand new like the one you wore that day. My arms were too short for my hands to even reach the ends of the sleeves. I looked silly and I wanted to laugh, but by then, I had forgotten how.
We came at last to a casket resting at the center of a large velvet cloth—it was the second I’d seen that day, Michael. Do you remember why? I think they were trying to hide from us the open pit beneath it, but we all knew the truth—the ever-hungry earth awaited on yet another feast.
I stayed near you and your parents throughout the entire service, but not too close. I was not their beloved son. They were not my heartbroken parents.
A fire burned inside of me, Michael. Twice, I think I nearly threw up, but I stayed steady and strong. I stood firm for the soul once belonging to the body resting in the mahogany box, too long for a child and too short for an adult, but just the right size for a fourteen-year-old boy. The lid of course remained closed. We both knew why, didn’t we?
Thunder rumbled far and near, and the crows cried out, launching from the trees in formation for reasons unknown. My world went hazy. I wiped the tears away with my sleeves, but they just kept flowing like a waterfall down both of my frozen cheeks.
I watched your mother and father, leaning on one another, as the stone-faced priest read from his prayer book. I wanted a shoulder for my weary head. I needed a hug or at least some sort of touch, but you would not even look my way. You only stared at the sky with your eyelids closed tight. No one, Michael, no one consoled me—my grief ran through me unchecked, a sorrow much too deep for an already grieving boy of thirteen years to bear alone.
A shadow of the approaching storm fell upon us. It grew dark. A strong wind ripped away flowers and stole umbrellas. Then it started to drizzle. And the drizzle became a downpour.
I opened my eyes wide and tilted back my head, with my mouth open. Do you remember when we used to catch raindrops on the tips of our tongues? We were younger then, and the drops tasted sweet, not like the bitterness I felt in those passing days of loneliness and death.
Your father, who had always been kind, offered me his umbrella, but I only shook my head. I wanted—no, I needed—to feel every icy touch of water, as it soaked through my suit. I shivered, but the fires of grief flowing through me remained. I burned inside, hot like an open flame.
The priest’s words seemed mumbled, but I am sure that it was a fine eulogy. My attention was focused on a coffin containing a boy only a year older than me. He was but a child stolen away by twisting metal, exploding glass, and the unquenchable thirst of a river swollen well past its banks.
Your mother lost it then, Michael, did you see? Did you hear her cries? She beat her fists against your father’s chest, and he just held her, whispering words of comfort for her alone.
I watched in tearful silence, as other wives, sisters, and daughters fell into the arms of their brothers, husbands, and sons. Their weeping seemed like a great and sorrowful symphony that only brought pain to my ears. There were no shoulders for me to rest my head upon, though, no one held me. You kept your arms at your sides, and you stared at the sky with your eyes shut tight.
I fell to the ground, and the sky unleashed a deluge. My knees splashed in the sodden muck, but I barely noticed. Then I heard a scream, a roar that knocked me flat. Michael, do you remember? I do. I’ll never forget. That scream was mine, from my own lips, but it came from somewhere much deeper.
I thought that you touched me then on my shoulder, and I thought I heard your gentle laugh, and even a whispering of your voice, sad and quiet. I looked up then, but it was only your father, reaching out to help me back to my feet.
I was all alone, Michael. You were there, but you would not meet my eyes. You didn’t even look my way. You only stared, as ever you will, into that mysterious beyond. I buried my heart that day, Michael. I buried my love on the last day of October, in the rain, when we buried you.
☆ Interview ☆
An interview with the authors by MC Michael!
Michael – Thanks so much for being here and for inviting me. I must say it was unexpected. But now, instead of me doing what ever your pen says I should do, and as you learned early on, that never worked, I’d like to instead ask you a few questions.
E – Go for it.
Michael – When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
A – I have always liked writing, whether poetry or stories. I have had some amazing teachers over the years and was encouraged to keep writing, even if it was just a line or two. I still don’t know if I’m good at it, but the little ones I’ve written for seemed to enjoy them. I have a decent imagination and often used it to escape some of the bad things life threw at me.
E – I knew I wanted to write when I was fourteen or fifteen and I discovered the realms of fantasy and sci-fi. I didn’t officially become good at it until a test reader fell in love with our current release (Upon Broken Wings).
Michael – Tell me something I don’t know about your heroes (besides me). What makes them tick?
A – Love, whether for family or friend, mate or other. Their actions are a direct result of how or who they love, and how others react to them.
E – Every person is a multi-faceted being and each of our heroes are a reflection of a different facet. They are in a sense a part of us.
Michael – What inspired you to write Upon Broken Wings? What were the challenges in bringing all of us characters to life?
A – We have lost several friends over the years who thought life was too hard, and I think, were afraid to ask for help when they were lost. Sadly, a former classmate of mine just took her life last week, after fighting for decades against her feelings of loss and loneliness.
E – The loss of a dear family friend many years ago—I had to come to terms with it, understand it, accept it. The greatest challenge initially was in letting go of the one we lost, but in the end, the hardest part about bringing this tale to life was in letting go of the characters I’d created when their tale ended.
Michael – What were your goals and intentions in writing Upon Broken Wings, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
A – Our main goal is to spread the word for people to seek help and support when life makes them feel alone. The teen years are the worst, because everyone is finding themselves, and it is so difficult to see that everyone else is struggling, too. If one person reads this and reaches out, we will have our goal. Until or unless we get some feedback from a reader, I don’t know how well we will have achieved it.
E – Greatest goal is to save at least one life and I’ll have to get back to you on how it works out.
Michael – What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A – Being lost in the grief and feelings of hopelessness of our characters. It has been a long time since I was a teenager, but one never forgets the journey through our own sorrows and how alone one actually is. We all must learn to reach for one another and realize that we can help each other stand strong. Remembering that after the darkest days, there is light makes it easier. Just keep looking forward.
E – As a writer, you become your work, your story, which includes both the good and bad. It tore me up being two characters in particular: the mortal bad guy, because through no fault of his own, he was one sick puppy and had to do some despicable things, but also the mother of the main character, when she had to tell her young son that she was dying and that she wouldn’t be there for him ash grew older.
Michael – Wow. That was harsh. I ‘m so sorry. How have you grown yourselves in knowledge or understanding of any of the subjects in UBW – autism, suicide, lack of understanding of those around you, the surprising support of others?
A – As a mother, I want to protect my children from all of the above. I also realize that the hardest days with my family have given me insight into all of the characters. Living with someone on the autism spectrum on a day to day basis, and realizing that many autistic teens have considered suicide, keeps me awake some nights. Knowing that I have done everything I can think of to keep communication open with him and being sure that he knows he can and should talk to me if he feels overwhelmed, makes me breathe a little easier. Having fought for his rights and helped him communicate with therapists, teachers, and other people who “know” how “normal” children should act and have no idea how he sees the world gives me a unique perspective indeed.
E – I have learned so much over the years spent in creating this story. About Autism, I learned from my two nephews, one by blood, the other by choice, that every moment of life is both a challenge and an adventure. About forgiveness, I have learned from everyone around me that to harbor anger is a surefire way to quicken our pace toward our final breath, but to forgive, is an uplifting feeling of such no other feeling can compare. Though a ‘note’ was used in our story, most times, when someone has lost their way and then found themselves standing at the edge of the abyss, they rarely tell us so directly. Our narrator for UBW, a fourteen-year-old who witnessed a tragedy when he was seven, taught me that we can get through anything life puts in our path. He taught me to forgive, and considering he is a part of me, it was a wonderful thing.
Michael – Wow. You two really took the idea of looking at everything twice seriously. I am so glad. It took forever to get Andrew to do that. Now, last question, I promise. What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
Both – We’re working on a three or four book saga of fantasy that follows a group of druids from their initial creation to modern day wars with forces of darkness. The first book is done, or so we thought – as we expand our notes for the other books, we keep finding ourselves returning to the source and making a change here or there. When? One thing at a time, but the first book, probably sometime this year.
Michael – Thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure.
E – You’re very welcome, Michael. Go on back and make sure everyone is okay.
Michael – Of course… It’s what I do.
The authors are giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour via rafflecopter: