Waves by T.K. Lawrence

small waves break softly
weak sunlight skims the surface
two dolphins surging

Note: Previously published by author in Issue 46 of Haiku Journal. Republished with permission of author. No copyright intended.

 

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The Inevitable Fate by T.K. Lawrence

Before passing through the veil to whatever world lies beyond life, most people can hear the whispers of the dead. For the old and for the younger soon to perish, the barriers between life and the next world already begin to crumble months before their departure.

Death–who did not always appear as a cloaked wraith as much of folklore and imagination would suppose–visited the soon-to-be-diseased precisely one month before their demise. It was merely a courtesy call to inform them, whether or not they believed Death or not. A courtesy call so that they might get their affairs in better order. If it was amusing, sometimes Death would informed those not long for the world of what the cause of their death would be and then give a chilling hair-raising chuckle (it was fortunate indeed that mortals were deaf to the noises of Death for most of their life) as the hapless mortal strove to evade Death.

Such was the case of one Alberto Smith: a crotchety eighty-two year old man with arthritis. Precisely on March 13, 1999, Death paid him a visit while he sat in his moldy leather armchair, slurping oolong tea.

“Hello, Alberto Smith,” Death whispered down Alberto Smith’s back. His breath embodied the essence of Death: cold and still.

“Demon! Evil spirit! Hallucination!” the man shouted wildly waving his arms about. “Be gone! I am but an innocent old man enjoying oolong tea.”

“I can never be gone, so long as Earth is broken,” Death replied. “You would be wise to listen, Alberto Smith. Heed my warning. On April 13, 1999 you will die of food poisoning.”

“I-I’m dreaming, hallucinating,” the man stuttered.

“Dismiss me as you well,” Death said, his ancient voice echoing and grating like stone against metal. “That will not stop me from coming for you when the time has come.”

With that, Death vanished to pay another person a visit who was doomed to perish in a car crash.

Alberto Smith chuckled. Death pay him a visit indeed! He proceeded to finish his oolong tea with a relish until the cup was drained. Laughing off the encounter, Alberto Smith continued with his life of equally grouchy cats and soap operas.

April 6prior a week to the 13tharrived. The old man had nearly forgotten his hallucination when he began to hear voices. His father, his mother, his younger brother, and his deceased fiancee all dead. The codger trembled and beads of sweat formed on his forehead. It was not happening. If he thought so, it would be true.

But the voices continued to haunt Alberto Smith up to April 13, 1999. The voices drove old Smith mad and he stopped eating. The only nourishment he consumed was oolong tea and a tea biscuit.

Knowing that the threat of Death was real, Alberto Smith fasted on the day of his death. No food or drink passed his lips in his waking hours.

Feeling immensely pleased that he had managed to evade Death, Alberto Smith took a long bath before turning in. As Alberto Smith tossed and turned, Death, furious with the impertinent mortal, sent the man a dream. In the dream, Alberto Smith rose from his bed, famished. He prepared a glass of oolong tea and drank. Unknown to him, the leaves, which originated from the time of the bubonic plaguefor Death was not bound by timehad been infected with a deathly bacteria.

In his dream-like sleep walker trance, Alberto Smith drank the infected tea. The bacteria took effect quickly. He fell and the mutant bacteria (spurred by a bovine-poultry origins) took effect.

For ten minutes, he labored under chills and fever before the mahogany spots appeared like splotches of paint. Like spilled water, the cyanosis spread over Alberto Smith’s face as he gasped for breath. Within an hour, as eleven fifty-nine passed, he died.

Death smiled. Let that be a lesson that none can evade Death.

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski | Book Review by T.K. Lawrence

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter KujawinskiTitle: Nightfall
Author: Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski
Series: N/A
Pages: 368 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (September 22, 2015)
Rating: 3.5 stars

 

Note: Previously published on the author’s blog Read It or Not Reviews. To view the original post, click here.

The novel, Nightfall, by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski tells a haunting story of an island where day and night come every fourteen years.

Around the island, night is rapidly falling. The air is becoming colder and the shadows are growing longer. Following tradition and superstition, the villagers are studiously rearranging and a their houses. Traditions must be followed and no one asks why.

Marin helps her parents prepare the house for the long night as they await the arrival of the farriers who will ferry the island’s villagers to the Desert Lands (her mother’s homeland) where night comes every three days. But Kana, Marin’s twin brother, has taken to his room after being plagued by terrifying visions and nightmares.

Every fourteen years, the ferriers would travel to the island and ferry the villagers to the Desert
Lands (Marin and Kana’s mother’s homeland) where night comes every three days.

But when Line–Marin and Kana’s friend–goes missing, they must find him before it’s too late, even if it means endangering their own lives.

GoodReads Synopsis

The dark will bring your worst nightmares to light in this gripping and eerie survival story, perfect for fans of James Dashner and Neil Gaiman.

On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and  Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

For a book that I expected to be more plot-oriented due to its survival-story synopsis, I actually thought that it spent a fair amount of time developing the three protagonists: Marin, Kana, and Line. It was an interesting decision, but despite the extra time taken to develop the characters, I still didn’t end up really connecting or liking any of the characters. Whereas in Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, I connected to both the protagonist while the suspenseful plot kept me turning the pages.

Overall I think Nightfall had about three major plot twists. I actually figured out two of the three before they were fully revealed. The first had to do with what was happening to Kana as the night was progressing and why it was happening. The second was what the ending would be like, which I really disliked and will explain why later. The third surprise plot twist, which I didn’t think was particularly creative, did nothing to enamor me to Marin and Line, and actually did the opposite.

Nightfall’s ending is my least favorite type of book ending: expected, happy with a tinge of bittersweet, concise, and abrupt–with emphasis on the last. I won’t spoil the ending, but once I read the plot synopsis and saw the book width I had a pretty good idea of how the book would end. My theory was correct and I finished the book feeling unsatisfied and still wanting to find out what happened to the three main characters even if I didn’t really like any of them.

Due to the several aspects I disliked about Nightfall, I’m giving the book 3.5 stars because there were some parts I did like. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy reading books by Neil Gaiman or James Dashner and are looking for books with unique and intriguing premises.