A Tall Tale by Kailey Ann – Written by a Millennial, for Millennials!

I’ve put my heart and soul into this novel over the last two years. Already, as of the last time I looked at my KDP dashboard, 129 copies have either been sold or downloaded by readers on Amazon Kindle, or in Paperback/Hardcover editions! I can’t believe so many have already invested in Mily’s story. She and I thank you all, new readers and old, for that incredible show of support!


Every aspect of my book is my vision, down to the typefaces and page setting. Awesome artwork by Thom J. Berger. Here’s me, authortok-ing and fishing for reviews 🙋‍♀️♠️ #booktok #magicalrealism #fantasy #metafiction #climatefiction #talltales

♬ Theme from “The Chronicles of Narnia” (Only the Beginning of the Adventure) – Movie Sounds Unlimited

Help me keep this train going! Soon I’m going to be doing a Q&A about my writing process, the book, and any/everything you want to know about where this story is heading in the future!

ORDER ON AMAZON in Kindle eBook, Paperback, & Hardcover!

Check Out this Excerpt from Chapter 7 – “Ordeal”


A pivotal conversation between Mily (the Millennial) and her dad, Jack Dog Yoder ♠️ From my new book! FREE Kindle eBook (for a limited time) and available in print editions on Amazon! Link in bio! #authortok #whatstrump #MILYTHEMILLENNIAL #dialogue #excerpt

♬ original sound – Kailey Ann

If this story speaks to you, please share it 🙏

*Will update post with video soon*

Hi, I’m Kailey. 

This video that you decided to watch 

         is something I’ve been avoiding for…

         A long time.

I know there’s a lot of us talking amongst one another right now,

And we’re all quite upset about the recent attacks 

         on our right to privacy

         and bodily autonomy

So yeah, this is another one of those videos –

So if you don’t make it to the end, thanks for stopping by –

         And if you do watch all the way through, thank you –

Because I’ve been suppressing all these feelings ever since

Something happened to me in back April 2020.

*Sensitive Content Warning*

Most of you probably haven’t seen this news story:

“Naked Man Wearing Only Homemade Face Mask Invades Kirksville Student’s Home”

which was published after midnight following the incident 

on April 7, 2020 in Kirksville, Missouri.

That Kirksville student? 

Yeah that was me.

It was my first semester as a Master of Arts in Leadership student

         at Truman State University, where I was specializing in 

Intentional Writing and Creative Nonfiction.

*Spring 2020*

And WHAT a time to decide to go to grad school!

Most colleges and universities in the country, including mine,

had just made the decision to close campuses and 

         move to virtual learning for the rest of the semester –

And I was sort of rocked by that in general at the time –

My introductory & foundational coursework for Leadership was

         focused heavily in organizational theory & decision-making,

Which quite frankly became both fascinating and absolutely terrifying

as each and every system and body I was studying was absolutely 

just like – ripping apart at the seams:

I remember starting a lot of writing assignments in those days like




Anyway, my professors were great, 

and they gave us all a LOT of Grace, especially in those first days

. . .

April 7th was a Tuesday. 

I was just getting the hang of Zoom,

Which all of us understand Now,

Was so utterly new and alien to most of us,

No matter which generation was dealing with it 


And it was sunny, and 72-degrees,

         and there was a light breeze,

         and I spent all afternoon pumping myself up,

         sitting in the sun on my front porch,

         talking with classmates about our Reading Journals –

Here’s an excerpt of mine from that week

Definition of Literacy in a Digital Age” expresses NCTE’s position on a variety of developing curriculum standards. They say that, eventually, “learners need to move from content consumers to content curators to content creators.” I think that’s why there’s lots of us feeling shook right now: we have no idea what to do, but we know that we all have to step up soon, most of us whether we want to or not. This isn’t the school we hoped for, but at least we chose to be here; there’s agency in that. I think about those K-12 kids and the questions burn. It’s time to get loud. Now what do I say?

I’m rambling, I know. It’s just that I can hardly stand the people who keep acting like there’s nothing frightening about all this. […] I’m a graduate student and barely know where to look for answers. Can you imagine being nine?

By Kailey Ann, ENG 507G – Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing | March 31, 2020

That Tuesday was a good day.

I was just getting the hang of things.

I talked to my parents later that evening,

         first my Dad and Bonus Mom,

         then my Mom on FaceTime. 

I had asked my family to share some stories about our family 

         because we were practicing writing memoir and 

         biographical texts in that class, 

         Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing –

And on that FaceTime call, 

         Mom and I talked about my Great-Grandma, 

         Mamaw Maggie,

         While I sat on my front porch in Kirksville,

         and we laughed,

         and after all that,

         right at 9-0’clock,

 I told Mom I was going to pick up my books and crap 

         and then watch AJ (my husband) on the News at 10 –

*Hoosier love you, love you, love you too, talk to you soon, okay love you bye*

That’s the closest TikTok sound I could find to what I heard

         right after hanging up –

I whipped my head around, and there was Buck

         (that’s what I call him)

Standing in the shadows – A complete and total stranger

         BUCK ASS NUDE

Sneaking up behind me in our side-yard.

I stood up at once, turned square to face him –

         I was roughly 3-feet off the ground on the porch –

Balled my fists, and hollered, 


Buck Ass took off running through my back yard.

I called 911.

So it all happened very fast.

I hung up on 911 in panic and 

Ran out of the house through the front door –

I made sure to slam it tight behind me –

And listen, in that state of mind,

         Survival Mode: Fight or Flight,

I was able to analyze things very quickly.

I shut the door tight because I knew it was hard to open:

         It had one of those old latches so to open it from the inside,

[You had to turn the knob and the latch above it at once]

         For it to open – And I knew that would give me more time –

I was just deciding which way to run –

         That decision took milliseconds –

         I was Captain of the Track team in high school –

         I know how to TAKE-OFF –

When, to my utter horror, I heard the door opening behind me –

Remember realizing Buck Ass KNEW how to open my front door from inside –

And I decided to turn around and face him instead of running into the dark street –


FIGHT was the right decision because

         As I pivoted I saw Buck Ass – Full Frontal – 

         Light blue mask covering the lower half of his face –

         Hurtling with his arms wide –

He meant to tackle me but I dropped to my tailbone like a stone –

         I broke it actually – 

But that was better than Buck tackling me 

         BACKWARDS off the porch –

I pulled my knees and elbows to my chest to kick him,

         But at that point he was on top of me,

I mean,

         Bare balls on my knees,


         And he locked his arms around my shoulders and

         Tried to pick me up.

I stared Buck Ass dead in the eye,

And he never made eye contact with me – NOT ONE TIME.

And I was bellowing “HELP!” –

         I got it out five times when –

I watched his eyes shift up – to the road

         and he let go, straightened, and leapt off the porch,

Ran straight past the group of five fellow Truman students

         who responded to my shouts from the house across the street –

And Buck Ass plowed straight down S Fible Street,

         Never To Be Seen Again.

*Deep Breath*

Hey, I’m Okay.

I’m Alive Today.

The Cops came and AJ,

         who was the evening news anchor at the time,

had heard our address on the police scanner at the station

and was home like, right after the police got there even though

         he drove quadruple the distance –


That’s what happened.

Scary, I know.

But the worst is what came after, because I was…


Not many people know that long before all that,

I battled with PTSD — For reasons unrelated to the Masked-Invader event,

         and that I’m not lead to share at this time 🙂

And the reason that’s significant to me is,

         I had just completed 9-months of CBT

         *Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*

         Which thanks to my counselor was

         A wildly successful experience for me;

         So I started grad school feeling Powerful, Healed, Metamorphic –

         Feeling like this fully functional, capable, joyful person –

         The person I’ve always been and had been trying so hard to 

         Get back in touch with –

I was ready – To study. To learn. To apply myself to the great challenges facing our nation and world as the first wave of the Pandemic wrought so much havoc – Feeling so properly placed, so grateful to have chosen the program I did – 

And then some Naked Guy had to go and ruin it all.

It wasn’t just that it was my first semester in grad school; it wasn’t just that I was totally new to virtual learning; it wasn’t just that there was a Global Pandemic so, all the businesses, schools, and public spaces closed; it wasn’t just that I had nowhere to go so I sat feeling trapped where *Something Worse Might Have Happened*; it wasn’t just that all my Cognitive Behavioral Therapy didn’t prepare me to get stuck in FIGHT when I’d only ever warred against FLIGHT; it wasn’t just that when news of the break-in spread, people made cruel jokes in the comments on Facebook like how ‘defenseless and stupid I must be to just curl up and scream’ like that’s anything like what actually happened it’s just how certain people read “fetal-position”; it wasn’t just that I couldn’t fall asleep without the distinct feeling of being struck by lightning – which I have been before actually; it wasn’t just that the President was Impeached in the House but not the Senate, or that our Government was so busy with the Trial that they missed the Planning stage of COVID-19 Crisis; it wasn’t just that every time I tried to get on the Zoom class and read the books and write the papers, I just kept running to my typewriter and hacking out the ever-storm of thoughts and flashes tearing me limb-from-limb internally 

*I had some psychosis at that point in time*

as all the stress of everything exacted too-high a tax on my mind and my body and my spirit —

In April 2020, I weighed somewhere-abouts 140-pounds. I remember that because I was so, so proud of myself for getting healthy at the Dunes all 2019, losing 70-pounds over the course of the year, eating better, hiking, traveling to see AJ and our cats on the weekends while he job-transitioned to Missouri, and I finally joined him full-time to pursue my Masters degree –

But that last thing didn’t happen; I had to drop out.

By my 27th birthday in July 2020, I weighed only 107 pounds. 

That’s when I said DAMN TO ALL THE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS because I HAD to go home and let my parents cook for me because I COULD NOT EAT, I COULD NOT SLEEP, and I was WITHERING AWAY and felt absolutely, completely powerless to stop it. 

I wasn’t helpless. I have a loving hero of a life-partner named AJ, 

And we survived this.

And I have avoided talking about all this because

I didn’t know what I wanted to say

Trauma rains; I’ve overshared on many occasions

But never had it all out like this –

I’ve dismissed a lot of early drafts I’ve written

         addressing topics like violence against women and stuff

Because, I never felt like I was saying enough,

Never felt like it was really adding to the conversation,

         Like I was really helping others understand that as women,

         The issue we face is that the world isn’t safe,

And it places undo burden on us, who

         Now, factually in the United States

Don’t the same Equal Rights as… many of you.


See, I hate to play the ‘What Might Have Happened’ game –

It can be dangerous for people like me,

         Who suffer things like

         hyper-sensitivity, heightened anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and

         Let’s say, ‘Baggage’

         Like environmental and situational triggers,

         worsened by stress, and rest, and everything else –

To tread down the “WELL IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE” road –

Even so.

It could have been worse.

Buck Ass could have tackled me from behind if I hadn’t turned to fight,

         and I might have fallen face-first off porch,

         three-feet down into the bushes,

         on a dark street in Kirksville, Missouri,

And Buck Ass could have done a lot worse to me.

Praise J, it didn’t go that way.

But I don’t think it’ll take that big of a leap for most y’all to get that,

         I’ve already walked down that “What If” path more than was good for me,

         And my hope here is that others will think about how,

When Systems We All Tend to Agree Are Broken

(We Just Don’t All Tend To Agree On the 5 W’s and H)

Make Backwards Decisions About What Half Our People are Allowed to do

         to Safeguard Our Own Mind, Body, and Spirit…

Well, We ALL have to STEP UP and FIGHT.

Because losing protections like we just did with the Supreme Court’s overturning

of Roe vs. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022

Does not ‘save lives’ no matter what Five out of Nine Justices said.

         Stripping away a woman’s right to a safe abortion is 

         Not an Act of Valor –

         I mean it’s ludicrous –

If something like what happened to me –

         That whole thing about the MASKED NAKED MAN who

         Targeted and sexually assaulted me I just told you all about?

– happened NOW to someone else in Missouri –

         A State where, like many states,

         There were pre-existing Trigger Laws in place,

         Which took effect between ‘INSTANTANEOUSLY’ and ‘DAYS-LATER’

         Making the practice of medical abortion ILLEGAL,


It is alarming to me if the audience can’t make the jump to my point from here.

I just want to share a few things I’m thinking.

I think that women should reserve the right to their own Personhood.

“What a tragic thing” is not an appropriate or adequate response 

         to a survivor of sexual violence; 

Prioritizing the ‘personhood’ of an unborn fetus 

         over the life of a fully-manifested Person bearing the injuries of their survival 

         before their healthcare provider, is despicable; 

We need Agents and Allies for Change,

Because we need to address the problems we’re really facing,

And guys, this is just one win for the Evangelical State,

         Who are at this moment threatening the lives and safety of our People

         Here in the United States – 


I must confess,

If it weren’t for my PERSONAL SAVIOR, J –

         There’s no way I’d be telling this story,

         Or saying any of this for that matter.

I ain’t trying to SAVE anybody,

         In fact, 

and this is as humanly tactless as I can be:

There are Radicals in the Christian Church,

and there are ‘Christian’ organizations and leaders

who are responsible for making grabs

at Our Free Peoples’ Entitled Rights & Liberties,

         and these Actors manipulate slews of folks in pews,

using ill-conceived notions of Righteousness,

and FALSE teachings and meanings of Scripture,

to make $$$ and force their agenda on people who,

despite a Constitution which MAKES PLAIN


Seek to install Government Leaders who’re ‘ON THE SAME PAGE’

So that Church&State become one and the same,

So their beliefs are upheld before any ‘divergents’

In spite of the fact that our Founding Fathers 

who were undeniably also ‘Christian,’

Expressly wrote that the separation of these systems was vital

To our very survival.

And it seems to me if THOSE FOKES like MOST OF THOSE WHO CLAIM





I hear, loud and clear.

         I’ve got the Holy Spirit INSIDE of ME, MY Person, heard?

         So I’ve got any and all conversation on-lock.

And I do not require assistance our outside review.



Thank you all for listening to my TEDtalk.

Author Made in Indiana, USA.

Follow @bykaileyann on social media for frequent writing updates!

Fear for Queer

Fear for Queer

Quit finding lines and crests
Betwixt others’ thighs and chests –
Search for the person right off –
Request and recite all given names, honorifics,
I-pronouns, and epithets –
She’s Jane
He’s John
They’re Jack Doe –
Bother to be certain whom and speak to –
Permit eyes to hold gazes –
Realize hunting for sex grazes
And lingers shameless
Leaving traces of baseless assignments and conscripts –
It’s defining defiance of the purpose
For objective terms and phrases –
How might fixed body types and expectations change
The shape of human-being,
Or make shallows of new-thinking?


Dear Emmanuel 2

SECOND, My Authority to Write on Behalf of the Spirit –

And just who might I be, to claim Authority of my own Word?

Truly, one who is instructed by the SPIRIT to do so.

It is the Word of my Testimony which gives me license to write freely,

Because the LORD knows my intents as well as my shortcomings,

And still the SPIRIT enlivens my hands to tell the Whole Truth.

I wonder, as one might who makes a living by writing:

How many drafts did Matthew go through?

And how many scribes might he have employed?

I am no copyist; I am an Author –

A call I have always feared,

For it is the SPIRIT’s own Craft I wield.

I did not understand my role at the start,

But Grace has been a good shepherd through age.

I am not yet wise, though I do actively aim to be kinder;

Because I recognize my Word has power,

I strive to raise chins and meet eyes

So others know I mean them no harm

When my language fails to rise to the *Occasion.

Isn’t it true that I am called to give Testimony?

For what purpose otherwise am I baptized in the WORD?

Some will definitely hear this work and shake their heads,

But then this message isn’t meant for them;

I write because it is the mode the LORD chose,

Bestowed to me with Purpose in mind:

How to describe what it’s like – 

Inviting the divine SPIRIT inside –

So my skeptic neighbor who thinks my ‘faith’ or ‘religion’ are well and fine

For me, but believes there’s no Science in it;

The SPIRIT didn’t charge me with convincing others of my Existence,

But said to do good in his NAME and to go tell of it.

I am urged to write by the same SPIRIT who stirs the sermons,

Where many of late have squirmed in their seats

Leaving confused and discomforted.

They are restless with repentance and none the wiser,

Mixed-up with a sense of missed context, 

But unable to put their finger on Why.

Right and Wrong are not expository facts,

But become known through resolution:

Plucking Scripture from its place is therefore 


As well as tasteless,

Because it robs the audience of the Whole Truth – 

A lot of folks don’t know what prompted the SPIRIT to say 

This, that, and the other’

But rather trust Pastors and Leaders who read the WORD more

To provide meaningful summary and draw conclusions

Rooted in relevant Evidence from the Bible.

I write to remind You of LIVING TRUTH:

Even so withheld in our Versions,

The WORD is Unbound:

I am writing Now.

———–END (Part 2 of 7)———–

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

THIRD, My Confidence in the Gifts of the Spirit –

———–(Soon To Follow)———–

Dear Emmanuel

So help me LORD,

I wish to do you Justice in the telling.

Will you please lead my keystrokes

So I might do Just that?

FIRST, My Testimony of the Spirit –

My name is Kailey Ann, and I am Saved.

I am Saved by the Spirit of Jesus,

Who over the course of Three Key Events1.) 2.) 3.)

Made me just as I am.


At age Eleven I ‘Prayed the Prayer’ toward the end of one Sunday Evening Message,

Holding a hardback copy of Order of the Phoenix on my lap.

I said to the LORD, “Please come into my life and make me more like you,”

But I didn’t look up when Pastor Eddy asked me to –

I was afraid – even though I thought I prayed the prayer right,

I didn’t wanna admit how many times I’d prayed it already in my life –

Always wondering whether it counted if

I doubted right away

Or if I kept asking for Proof.


I was Baptized in 2006 right after my little sister –

We got dunked in the Name of the FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT by Pastor Marion,

Who’d performed my parents’ wedding ceremony that very same school year.

I was wearing a maroon gown which could’of fit three of me,

And a silver cross necklace my Mom put around my neck that morning,

And my hair was in a ponytail because it always was –

I tried not to feel shame about the fact that I was older,

And my little sister was getting dunked first –

My parents said being Baptized was my choice,

And I’d said, “If she’s ready, I am!”

Because I Twelve and not ‘Out’

And I could not bear the secrecy

Of seeming Unsure whether I was Saved

Any longer.


In July of 2008, It Happened:

I spent the summer saving money so I could go to Supercamperific,

And my Mom spotted me half the funding I needed to go because

She loves me, and Thirteen isn’t old enough to make minimum wage.

At the tail-end of Pastor Terry’s first Evening Message, he explained:

“Salvation is a Gift: All you have to do is take it.”

And then, Out of Nowhere –

Terry Foster called My Name:

“Kailey, would you come up here for a minute?”

The Camp Nawakwa amphitheater

At McCormick’s Creek was abuzz –

I stood in front a great sum of campers,

Joined my church camp pastor center-stage,

And he held out his hand:

And I saw –

In his upturned palm:

A face – Sakakawea smiling:

At me!

Her eyes flashed:

Made contact!

And Terry said to Me so All could hear:

“It’s a Gift: All you have to do is take it.”

So I did * I have this token of Wisdom with me always, wherever I go.

———–END (Part 1 of 7)———–

SECOND, My Authority to Write on Behalf of the Spirit –

———–(Soon To Follow)———–



Read the Book In-Progress:


♠ ♥ ♣ ♦

“Regularity should be observed in dealing, and no party should receive from the dealer,
in any round, more than the number of cards given to the eldest hand.”

The American Hoyle

♥ ♠ ♦ ♣

What might life’of been like if none of it had ever happened?

Emjay Womack Wood-Yoder could not imagine. They could only play Pretend.

“Pick it up,” Will ordered Dog.

Dog chuckled. “Clubs it is,” he said, taking the King into his hand and replacing it with something unknown, downturned on top of the kitty. Dog set the stack to the side, ready now for the first round to start.

Emjay met their dad’s gaze with raised eyebrows. “I lead right?”

Dog nodded. “Left of the dealer leads,” he said with an air of good-natured challenge.

Emjay considered their five-card hand, looking over each one carefully before deciding what to play. It wasn’t a bad deal, not by a longshot. But whatever they led would set the bar for this trick all four that came after it. They knew Will always said to count on your partner to win at least one. A team only needed to take three tricks to score. Emjay bet their brother had at least two in-hand, prob’ly even more, since he’d named trump.

Emjay held back their grin and plucked the Ace of Spades from their hand, placing it upturned in the center of the circle table.

“Your turn, Mom,” Emjay said like it was nothing, hiding the butterflies.

Bird, wearing a perfect euchre face, laid a Ten of Clubs alongside the Ace that was led.

“You have to follow suit,” Emjay reminded her.

“Only if I can follow suit,” their mom said.

Emjay went back to staring at their own hand.

Will played a Queen of Spades and gave Emjay a sideways grin as if to say, Cheer up, this is only the beginning.

Then Dog tossed a King of Spades on the table, and Bird hooted in victory. She gathered the four cards in the middle and pulled them in a single stack to her side of the table.

“Your lead,” Will told their mother.

Bird considered her four-card hand with care. Most fokes didn’t dare to look at the cards for so long, preferring to keep the game moving. But this, Emjay knew, was part of Bird’s strategy. She liked to make others sit and simmer while she considered – or at least while she pretended to.

After a few moments, Bird led with a Queen of Hearts.

“Sorry Mom,” Will said, following up with a Nine of Clubs.

Dog exhaled long and slow out his nose. “Tick-for-tack,” he sighed in a resigned way, spinning a Ten of Hearts into play.

Emjay threw an Ace of Hearts on the table too hard, and it sailed across the tabletop and fell into Will’s lap. He picked it up and pulled the rest of the cards toward him. Without a moment’s hesitation, he drew a card from his hand and slapped it on the woodgrain.

The Jack of Clubs.

“Knew ya had to have the Right,” Dog said, shaking his head.

Emjay grinned over the table at Will, and he smirked back – Their dad tended to get real competitive, especially when it was something silly, like a card game. Out of Dog’s hand came the card he’d been made to pick up at the start the round: He laid a King of Clubs alongside the Bower and waited for Emjay to play next.

Frowning, they set the card down nice and easy this time: an Ace of Clubs.

“Dealt our daughter three Aces, Dog,” Bird said over her hand.

“Lotta good they did me.” Emjay meant to sound light-hearted, but they were just about as competitive as their father was.

Bird threw off-suit with a Nine of Diamonds.

Emjay hadn’t been playing euchre long, but they’d watched others at it for as long as they could remember. While Will pulled their second-won trick to the side, Emjay thumbed their pocket to fiddle with the silver-starfish shooter stashed there.

A King of Diamonds was led.

Dog went with a Jack of Diamonds next. “Be a different story if we’d called it Red,” he said, smirking at Bird over the one card left in-hand.

Emjay played a Ten of Diamonds, hoping Bird couldn’t top a King.

She could.

“I’ll take that!” Bird declared, putting an Ace of Diamonds face-up for half-a-second before sweeping the trick beside the first one she’d won. Then she led a Jack of Hearts.

Will followed-suit with the King. Dog gave his son a look, and then without breaking eye-contact, played a Queen of Clubs.

“I think that’s a Euchre,” Dog bragged.

“Fat chance!” Emjay laughed. All three players turned and stared wide-eyed as Emjay flourished a Jack of Spades.

“Stopper!” Will cheered. He pushed the trick to his sibling, who gathered it up, cheeks a little pink with pride at the surprise win. It was Emjay’s favorite card of them all, even if it was only the Left – they didn’t care. Something about the Jack of Spades helped Emjay find their strength.

“I was saving it,” they said in a self-satisfied way.

“Good choice,” Bird praised. “Okay! Your turn to deal Mily.”

Everyone stared hard at Bird except for Emjay, who buried their face in their lap. Their mom realized her mistake at once and was all-apology.

“Honey I – I’m so sorry I – ”

“It’s okay Mom,” Emjay said. Even though it hurt, it also intensified the self-satisfied feeling brought on by the appearance of the Left Bower. No matter what anybody said, everyone thought of Emjay as the same person they’d always known. It was a huge comfort to know that for sure.

Besides – Emjay was done running. They would never put their parents through that worry ever ever again, they’d promised.

To break the awkward silence that followed, Will added a point to the scorecards.

Emjay shuffled the twenty-four card deck. Once they felt it was mixed-up enough, they slid it to the right and offered it to Dog to cut if he wanted.

He tapped the top card with two fingers, which Emjay knew was a way of saying, Pass.

Three-then-two, they thought to jog their reflexes, doling out the cards in two rounds going clockwise: Three to Mom, two to Will, three to Dad, two to Me – Two to Mom, three to Will, two to Dad, three to Me.

Bird, Will, and Dog gathered the cards they were dealt and fanned them out. Emjay turned the top card of what was leftover face-up before looking at their own hand.

A Nine of Spades was optioned.

Bird passed fast. Will was just as quick, knocking on the table, staring hard at his hand. Dog pondered the Nine for a while, looking back and forth between his cards and the kitty like he was at an impasse. “Pick it up,” he said, sounding confident in whatever it was he’d been considering.

Emjay fought grinding their teeth. I wanted to call it, they thought, staring at a Jack of Clubs in their hand, impressed that they’d somehow landed the Left Bower again. Picking up the Nine of Spades, Emjay traded it with a Nine of Clubs, hiding the card with their palm and leaving it facedown on the pile so no one could see.

“Your lead Mom,” Emjay said, oozing encouragement so Bird would know she was forgiven for dropping the Dead Name.

Bird’s eyes were shiny when she smiled. She forewent her usual time-consuming consideration and led with a Nine of Diamonds.

Emjay thought it was odd to lead with such a weak card, but Bird and Dog had played euchre forever so, Emjay let it go. Will made a tut-tut with his tongue and responded with an Ace of Spades.

“Alright,” Dog raved, casting his Ace of Diamonds into the mix.

Emjay had no choice but to follow-suit with a King. Will took the trick grinning and played an Ace of Hearts to start the next bid.

“Sorry bout’cha!” Dog commented while laying a Ten of Spades beside the Ace.

Emjay had to follow-suit again and gave up another King – Hearts this time. Bird returned to stalling, looking at her cards so long that Dog, her own partner, coughed as if to remind her, Trick’s mine already. Bird was a lover of drama. She rolled her eyes and, oh-so-slowly, scooted a Ten of Diamonds out to the center.

Dog led with the Right Bower.

Deciding to try a trick out of Bird’s book, Emjay held their hand very close to their eyes and considered all three cards carefully, letting it go on quite a long time. Will was the one to interrupt the charade this time.

“Just play your lowest card,” he said. “Everyone knows you can’t top that Jack.”

“I know how to play,” Emjay snarked back. “I was just deciding what to get rid of.”

Will made a face like they were a total idiot.

“What!” Emjay exclaimed, hurrying to play the Nine of Spades in their hand.

“No table-talk, remember?” Bird giggled, dishing out a King of Spades.

Then Emjay got it. Delaying that particular play had basically told everybody that their whole hand was Spades. Heat crawled up Emjay’s neck to their cheeks as Will tossed out a Ten of Hearts and fixed his sister with forewarning stare. Be smart, it seemed to say – Quite a tone-shift from the last bid, when he’d been totally forgiving of Emjay’s tenderfooted euchre play.

Dog started the next bid with a King of Clubs. Emjay smirked, plucking the trump Queen from their hand and sliding it out to meet the King with their index finger. Evidently, Bird had to play what was led, so out came a Queen of Clubs – and Will, looking a little less stressed, went with a Jack of Hearts.

Sparing Will the narrow-eyed look they wanted to shoot back, Emjay turned to Dog instead and said, “Two tricks each. My lead?”

“You bet,” Dog said with a twinkle in his eye that told Emjay he found their brother’s ruffled feathers as funny as the kids had found his.

“You asked for it,” Emjay said, and with a flourish exactly like the previous hand, presented the Jack of Clubs for all to see.

Will’s smile grew wider than ever. “Okay, okay, my bad Emjay. I won’t doubt you again! You euchred’m!”

Bird, Will, and Dog threw their last cards at Bird without giving Emjay enough time to see what they were. It didn’t matter – the Left Bower was the strongest card left in the round, and they all knew it.

While their mother shuffled the deck, Will added two more points to his and Emjay’s scorecards.

The game went on for quite a few rounds, and Dog and Bird did gain some ground. The kids’ and parents’ teams were neck-and-neck, both sides having found their way to six – Each just four points off from and winning.

“Loner Range,” Dog said when he took three out of five tricks to tie the game.

♣ ♣ ♦ ♦

♣ ♣ ♦ ♦

♣ ♣ ♦ ♦

It was Will’s turn to deal. He clucked his tongue and shuffled the cards bridge-style. He pointed his eyes at the ceiling, tapping the cards even and sharing them in the usual pattern, clockwise three-then-two. When all four players had five cards each, Emjay scooped their hand up and absorbed the hand –

It was all Nines and Tens.

Emjay peeked at the expressions of the other three, but their faces gave nothing away. Fighting the urge to sight-see, their eyes travelled to the upturned card: It was a Jack of Diamonds.

No way, Emjay thought, declaring, “Farmer’s hand!” before their dad had said whether he wanted Will to pick up the Jack or passed.

“You’re kidding,” Bird breathed.

“I’m not,” Emjay pressed. Fanning the cards wide, Emjay laid the hand down flat so their family could see the truth.

“Well I’ll be darn’d,” Dog said.

“Cards in,” Will exhaled, tossing his own into the center.

Everyone followed suit, Emjay sliding their hand to the throw-in heap and gathering the rest into a neat pile before pushing them in Dog’s direction.

“I like that rule,” Emjay commented while Dog took to reshuffling the deck.

“That’s a Diana rule,” Dog said, mixing the cards hand-over-hand. “Try call’n that over in Purchase, you’ll be tossed right outta the game.”

“How do you know?” Will asked.

“Your dad was thrown out of a tournament for trying his hoosier tricks,” Bird answered. “Isn’t that right Dog?”

He grinned back in that humbled way that meant Dog had a story on the brain. “We’re not playing that hilljack crap!” He quoted, tone dripping judgment. “This is a one-strike club ya Hoosier, so don’t come back!”

Emjay’s eyes grew. “They really said that to you?”

“Oh yes,” Dog said laughing. “They take their Euchre real serious out West.” Once he’d finished reshuffling, Dog slid the deck his son’s way. Will made a cut four cards from the bottom and slapped the smaller half on top. Then Dog dealt again.

“Well why’d they call you ‘Hoosier’ like that?” Emjay asked.

“Like they were call’n me a name you mean?”


“We like to call ourselves Hoosiers here,” Dog said with a shrug. “But someplaces, I guess, hoosier means th’same thing as Redneck.”

“Well that’s mean,” Emjay said. They crossed their arms, not quite sure why it was so bothersome.

“Language is funny,” Bird said forgivingly. “Some words are universal, and some have regional meanings. Hoosier is a term of unity and identity for us. But, people in other places might not know we call ourselves that. It means something else to them.”

Bird always had a way of explaining things that made sense to Emjay. But in this case, they didn’t like understanding.

“So if I call myself a Hoosier someplace else,” Emjay said slowly while Dog dealt. “People won’t know I’m saying I’m from Diana? They’ll just think I’m saying I’m a redneck?”

“Most likely,” their dad said. “But you know what’chya mean, and that’s all that matters. Just don’t call someone else a Hoosier if they’re not from Diana.”

“Well I wouldn’t,” Emjay said indignantly. “Because if they don’t live in Diana, they’re not a Hoosier.”

“Sounds like your definition is clear enough,” Will said, inspecting his hand.

Emjay shrugged. The others were now all looking at their cards, ready to get back to playing the game.

Dog turned over the top card and revealed a Nine of Diamonds.

“Pass,” Emjay said.

A knock from Bird.

“Pick it up,” Will said at once. “I’m going alone.”

Emjay was stunned. “What does that mean?”

“Remember when Dad said Longer Range?”


“Well, that means if I take all five tricks by myself, we get four points instead of two,” Will explained. “And we win the game.”

“I didn’t know that!”

“That’s a universal rule,” Bird said, wearing a bemused look like maybe she was impressed. “My lead. Let’s see what you’ve got, William.”

“Well what do I do?” Emjay asked before anyone had moved.

“You lay your hand facedown,” Dog said.

“I don’t get to play at all?”

“Not this time,” Will said. “It’s part of the game.”

Emjay felt left out but wanted to see how ‘Going Alone’ went, so they just said, “Okay,” and put their cards facedown on the table like their dad had said to.

Bird led with a Jack of Hearts.

Will smiled sideways so big his right eye squinted. Then he played a Jack of Diamonds.

“Worth a shot,” Dog said to Bird, tossing a King of Spades into the fray.

Will took the trick and then did something strange: He laid all four cards he had left in his hand on the table in one go: A Ten of Diamonds, a Queen of Hearts, a King of Hearts, and an Ace of Hearts.

“You yank’n my chain?” Dog interrogated, grinning greatbig. “Farmer’s hand followed up by go’n alone? What are the chances of that?” His eyes found Bird’s on the last question – both of them seemed to think it was really funny.

“Just have good luck I guess,” Will said.

“So we won?” Emjay asked just as Will moved to make the scorecards say so.

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

♣ ♣

“We sure did! Want to play again?”


Emjay and Will turned to look at Bird, who was suddenly pink in the cheeks. Then they swivelled their heads to look at Dog, who was tapping the deck straight even though it was already as square as it could possibly be.

“We have some news to share with you,” Bird went on more evenly. Her face lit up, and she looked back-and-forth between the two kids faces without saying anything else.

Emjay got a funny feeling.

“Good news,” Dog added.

The parents stared at each other, smiling. Will and Emjay met each others’ gazes a few times, appraising the situation while they waited for either Dog or Bird to get on with it.

“What is it?” Emjay finally asked for the two of them.

“Well,” Bird said, taking a deep breath. “Will, Mil – Emjay – you’re going to be Big Siblings soon.”

Emjay met their mom’s eyes and was surprised to see that they were shiny again – but this time it looked like joy.

“You’re having a baby!” Emjay cried.

“Yes!” Bird cheered. She looked relieved by her daughter’s warmth. “I am. Not for a few more months though. Your little sibling still has quite a bit of growing to do.” Bird patted her belly with two hands. “I know there’s been a lot of change lately, but, I hope this is one we can all be excited about.”

“Of course we’re excited Mom!” Will almost shouted. He looked at Emjay, making sure they really felt the same way and, seeing that they did, went on and asked, “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“It’s a girl!” Emjay shouted.

“Well, we don’t know for sure yet,” Bird giggled.

“I do!”

Bird’s mouth squirmed, a question on her lips held back by her very wide smile.

“You think so?” Dog said.

Emjay saw it all flash before their eyes – Novah! She’s coming! She’s coming in March! – A head full of black hair with white-frosted ends, a little girl swaddled tight in a yellow blanket, sleeping through a blizzard while Bird snored in the bed beside her.

“I know so! March Ninth!” Emjay asserted. Their mind was racing with excitement. It wasn’t a dream! It was real! It wasn’t pretend! Little Novie is real!

{ So it’s true!

“Can – Can I tell the twins?” Emjay asked, wanting to talk about it at once since E already heard the news.

Bird was blinking rapidly. “Soon,” she responded, cocking her head to the side like she might be confused. “My…” Bird shared her bewilderment with Dog across the table, who stared back seeming equally at a loss for words. “My due date is March Eleventh.”

“Well she’ll come sooner!” Emjay said.

“Well if the baby’s a girl,” Dog said. “We think her name will be – ”

“Novah!” Emjay revealed. “Her name is Novah!”

“How did you know…” Bird blinked a few more times and then set Will with an asking stare, but her son was clearly just as astonished as Dog and Bird were.

That struck Emjay dumb for a few moments. The big grin froze on their face, gaze hopping from face to face to face… Oh. There was no other way to explain – It was time.

Emjay had to come clean.

“I’ll tell you everything,” they said. “But first you have to answer one question.”

Bird, Dog, and Will exchanged looks. Then all three turned to Emjay with the most bewildered expressions any of them had ever worn. For only a second, Emjay was torn.

Then they took a deep breath.

{ Are you seriously about to –

“What are queeries?”

* * * * *

/ n o t a r e

Dick, W. B. (1874) The American Hoyle; or, Gentleman’s hand-book of games. [New York, Dick & Fitzgerald] [Pdf] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

© Kailey Ann



Read the Book In-Progress:

♠ ♥ ♣ ♦

“While Liberty’s bright natal star
Shines twinkling on her own domain.”

The Hoosier’s Nest

♥ ♠ ♦ ♣

Mily was lost in time.

Each and every pipt and faced person in Lockdown was looking out for the Million-Dollar-Daughter. The lost child belonged to the family of the Left Bower, and the fact made this search and rescue a top priority. Four suited Aces stationed teams at key places where the kid was bound to be located. Keepers worked in pairs on watch-duty around the clock, sweeping the whole compound.

It was all talk.

Prudences befell the undground. There wasn’t a person there who wasn’t aware of the missing minor in question, and the disappearance was clearly top-of-mind. People exchanged worries and hopes of a sure and safe return, for the family. In stead of taking to the tunnels with flashlights and ropes, most only turned to their neighbors and asked whether they had heard if there was any news.

Mily’s name was not disclosed so hardly anyone knew it. Politeness stole their tongues. It would have hardly been appropriate to call attention to certain things in light of the current circumstances. They all agreed that the child’s life was priceless, no matter their worth in rumors.

After the first day, her whereabouts became harder to discuss. Most fokes were new to the place and new to each other, so over-minded in the way they spoke to one another about the girl who got lost in the Spokes. ‘Any word?’ / ‘Any sign?’ / ‘Any progress?’ took the place of her name in their smalltalk. Nobody wanted to offend, but after twenty-four hours a lot more doubted the Search was still ‘and rescue.’

After the second day, her story had lost touch with what was really going on. Mily was fine and what was more, she was going to be – It’s just that she still had to do Something.

In the meantime, she heard every type of talking there was to be had in Lockdown. Listening inside long forgotten access tunnels running underneath loading decks in the Spokes, Mily overheard the garbled gist.

That’s how the tall-tales of the Millennial started.

Some people were awful cruel, so Mily did her best to tune those out; the assaults on her parents’ character were hardest to overlook, as if it’d been their fault that their daughter decided to run away and stay lost. She shook her head, remembering what the Deer Serpent said:

Pay Little Mind For What They Might Say

Mily knew the words were wise because they worked when she applied them in practice. The only way to win this trick was with mind over matter. She reminded herself as much while climbing down a mossy ladder, following directions given to her back in the cavern:

You Must Go Your Own Way

It was strange, but Mily knew where she was heading even though she’d never been there. She supposed that must be the Creature’s magic at work. Discerning eyes found passages worth taking, railroads hidden in rubble and entryways left unrecollected in newer maps.

Keepers didn’t bother with the old routes. That was partway how Mily knew she was on the right tracks; she was looking for a place that had been unseen for many many years.

The Twins knew she was alright, but their word wasn’t much in the face of such worry. When Esa asked why they weren’t allowed to tell anyone their cousin’s name, Dog, Bird, Aunt Elaeagus, and Uncle Earn decided it was time for the kids to know the Whole Truth of What Happened.

She plugged her nose from time to time while passing through the maze of an old wastewater system. It had long been dried up, but some of the earth still stunk. She’d claimed the abandoned water treatment office for the evening and found someone’s minifridge still plugged-in and running, stocked with canned drinks and preserved snackgoods.

Mily ate next to nothing but chocolate pudding that night.

The Truth of What Happened didn’t feel like the whole story. Will and the Twins may’of been satisfied by their parents’ telling, but Mily just wasn’t. When she woke on the third day of being Missing, she got the Sense that everything was going to come together here real-soon.

But she must do her best to be there by Noon.

First she dusted herself off and stretched out the pains of sleeping on the floor. Then she opened the office door and continued on with her exploration of Lockdown’s patchwork underground.

{ Please say today’s the day

Today is the day! Mily promised E. She was quite far along already when she spotted another ladder and felt her heart miss a beat. Almost made it, I can tell!

{ Emjay –

You swore!

{ Okay-okay

Three entire days – That was what they’d agreed, and Mily didn’t intend to go back on their deal. If she couldn’t get to the place she intended by then, she would give up the search and tell the Twins how to find her.

Mily was sure there would be a real shock when she was finally discovered. From all the talk, it seemed like her still being unfound made the people in charge look bad; fears of cracks in the halls and bottomless pits in off-limits places fell listlessly from families’ lips. Mily disliked being a source of so much stress, but she was thumbing the pulse of a discovery that was much more important.

Testing the ladder by pressing her palms to the lowermost rung, Mily felt sure this was the right way to go. Stepping and reaching, she made it halfway up and held on tight while she looked around. Giant metal rings fixed together with slabs of concrete ran forwards and backwards into darkness.

“We sprung a leak somewhere and don’t know where it might be,” Mily heard somebody say up above, where an old steel hatch was propped open, likely left ajar after someone was done working a long time ago.

I know where, Mily told the air. The Aces kept sending Keepers to look in all the wrong places, which couldn’t be helped since the place they were looking for wasn’t recorded and was frankly quite hard to find. It sure seemed like the flashfloods rose from some lower level because water was gushing up from the grates under trains in half of the main Spokes… but she knew that wasn’t the case.

Kind of like how she had mistaken the Deer Serpent’s antlers for branches, Mily knew things weren’t always what they seemed at first glance. It was a quick way for her to have learned that life lesson.

At the top of the ladder, Mily paused to get her bearings. The stench from some tunnels was starting to affect her breathing. It wasn’t just that it smelled bad – the scent was sharp metallic. It stuck to her nosehairs and dried the skin out inside, leaving her follicles feeling stung.

One at a time, Mily wiped her hands on her dusty pant-pockets and finished the climb. Her head popped out of the open utility hole and found the air somewhat more pleasant. This tunnel was so low-ceilinged that she would have to duck while she walked. Mily clapped once and heard the twack! echo much further than she’d imagined it would. But that was alright. Butterflies twittered in her stomach. She was positive that this was perhaps the last leg.

The Creature’d said all she had to do was trust her gut – At least, that’s what Mily thought was meant by the phrasing:

Wisdom Will Full Fill Your Understanding

Mily passed another utility hole in the floor, though this one’s cover was sealed shut. She kept walking a few paces, but something made her hesitate. Stepping back towards the metal door, she took a good look at its spinner knob handle.

The hole-cover diameter was a few inches wider than her shoulders. It appeared to be older than the one she’d crawled out of a ways back – It was tinted seafoam green, the same color as Lady Liberty, which told Mily it must be made of copper. Righty-tighty-Lefty-loosey. Fixing both hands to the knob, she gave it a firm shove counter-clockwise, but the hatch wouldn’t budge.

Mily shook out her fingers and refastened her grip, using her thighs to put her weight behind the next push. This has got to be it, Something told her. It was a fluttering in her gut, the feeling she’d decided to trust. It had gotten her this far, after all.

There was no way of knowing for sure, but Mily felt the time running short.

Now or never.

She shoved with all her might – And the wheel began to turn.

It was slow-going. Mily had to take a break twice to let the blood back into her hands. But each time she started again, it spun a little easier. She made three full circles before hearing a hiss which meant the seal had been broken.

A sulfuric smell flooded the tunnel. Mily’s head spun. She pulled her shirt collar over her nose and pressed forward hard as she could – And the latch stopped.

Sweat dripped down her forehead. Her shoulders ached. Mily was too young to have thought about rehydrating much the night before. Her vision was curvy, and she suddenly wished she’d had something to eat besides all that chocolate pudding.

After another deep breath, she grabbed the handle like a steering wheel at Ten and Two and lifted the lid wide on its hinge. Once it was open, Mily had to retreat a ways to keep from breathing in the haze of rotten-eggs. She sat down and crossed her legs, letting her wrists rest on her knees. Eyani, Mily pinged when she’d started to catch her breath.

{ Yep?

If you don’t hear from me –

{ Mily!

Just listen! If you don’t hear from me in six minutes, send help to the Old Spokes.

{ You’re in the bunkers?


{ But I thought those were underwater?

Maybe they were. Mily stood up and stretched. The odor had settled throughout the passage, but it wasn’t getting any worse. She took a few steps back to the open hatch and peered into a deep dark gloom. They might flood again soon if I don’t hurry.

There was a long pause in which Eyani didn’t respond. Mily waited, wanting him to confirm he understood her instructions before she descended. In the time it took for her cousin to gather his thoughts, she saw that the ladder hung down further than she could see. And its rungs were all rusted.

E? Mily called after a while.

{ You better’of got a good reason for doing this

I do.

{ Then you got six minutes

{ Better get going

On my way. Wish me luck.

{ I’m wishing alright

Sure to test each rung with the ball of her foot before taking it, Mily headed down with her eyes Wide Open. There was no light at all to see by, but she could anyway. Something about her encounter with the Creature linked all her greater Senses together. It was the Silence of the chute which would have stirred a sense of unease if she hadn’t had a goal in mind to hold her focus.

A whispered word could’of shattered the stillness. But it wasn’t difficult to count the seconds passing; Mily set a steady pace, and her heart beat in-time. Step by step, Mily sank lower into the long forgotten reaches of Lockdown.

It was the sort of pitch blackness that inspired fear – A darkness so complete that time and space seemed more theory than real. Despite the swallowing chasm spanning far-far away towards a bottom she really hoped was there, Mily kept her cool. It did no good to be afraid when something much worse was on its way if she didn’t make it to the Place in time to fulfill the Deer Serpent’s task.

Mily tried her best not to think about falling into that black oblivion. Staring below showed nothing but clandestine murk bereft of brightness. Would anyone ever find her if she slipped, or would she be lost to the obsidian void for the rest of her days on planet Erath?

Stop that, Mily ordered. What good did it do to dwell on What-Ifs? She needed to keep her head – Lowering herself into this dense and precarious channel of nothingness was enough to overrule her Sense. Mily took a beat and fixed her eyes on the pinhole of light now very high overhead. She had to’of been at this for three minutes or more already.

Give me two more minutes, E.

{ Emjay that’s not the deal

Eyani Please.

Eyani didn’t send word, but Mily heard a { pop } that gave off the same disgruntled tone as a scoff. Mmph, she returned without meaning to. Her cousin wasn’t giving her the confidence she wanted, but she understood that this was the last time she should try his patience. Everybody was beyond worried…

Oh well most of them think I’m a lost cause already anyway.

Mily ventured further inward.

The ladder was sturdy. She needn’t have worried about the rust, as the descent was smooth all the way down to rock bottom.

I made it. Feet on solid ground again, Mily took stock – The copper piping didn’t extend to touch the bedrock, unlike the iron ladder bolted into the floor. There was just enough room to duck under the edge of the chute to see what was in store for her beyond it.

Pressing her right cheek and chest flat to the earth, Mily peered into the room –

E um – Eyani yew – you oughta ferget what I – forget the extra minutes E – I…

Her mind rambled with panic. It barely registered the returned radio-silence.

I mean it – E! Send some – send somebody to come – tell em ta take the elev – elevator down to Subway One-One-One and then fol – follow the railroad tunnel to Stop Forty-Two – part of it is uh busted so tell em they have to walk – RUN – tell em they have to run till they see a big CROSSING sign – thers a hole um no wait – was that be…fore or af…ter the unlocked door that says ACE NO FACE on it…?

Mily was still pressed flat to the earth, her heart thumping in her throat. Every nerve was on high-alert. What she was seeing made no sense – She’d never seen anything like it.

It was a boneyard. Fishes, rodents, persons. Mily saw some of every single kind of skeleton that ever lived it seemed like. There was even a mammoth. Its tusks were huge, each one long as three of her wing-spans put together. And there was writing on the wall, written in rusty red ink, which made her think gruesomely – Is it blood?

She would have to crawl out if she wanted to see more, but Fear locked her bent arms and legs to the uneven floor. Her eyes darted between cracked skulls and splintered femurs and fragmented ribcages. If not for the fact that not one bone-being rose from the dead since her eyes found this feast for time, Mily might have stayed frozen there forever.

But nothing did. Not one finger or toe so much as twitched. The graveyard was utterly unmoved by her presence.

Okay. Okay. I can do this. It’s just bones. Like at the History Museum. Just like the dinosaurs. You like those. This is the same. I can do this. Be brave. I promised I would.

Wits Will Not Stray Far From Faith
Summon Your Fates

Mily squeezed her eyes shut and rolled out from under the utility chute.

She squinted to peek and was dumbfounded. What the Creature’d said was Truth. Oggling at the ceiling, an open-mouthed grin filled her cheeks. Wits blew through her head and chest with a gust of recognition –

Guts took Mily to just the Place she’d been looking for.

* * * * *

/ n o t a r e

Finley, John. The Hoosier’s Nest: And Other Poems. United States, Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1866.

MILY THE MILLENNIAL | The Eighth Chapter


Read the Book In-Progress:

♥ ♠ ♦ ♣

“And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”
NIV 1 John 5:6

♠ ♥ ♣ ♦

What exactly happened while Mily was underwater, she could never comprehend with a hundred-percent certainty.

When she broke the surface, it was March the Ninth, and the year was Two-Thousand-and-Two. How she knew, Mily never-ever understood. But it was true. She did remember.

Mily remembered Everything.

Underwater, there was Song.

The music started the second she saw Something – Mily heard the first notes as the undertow drew her down to the bottom of the lake.

Do-re-mi, do-re-mi

Somersaulting, the riptides yanked her further out.

Far-so-la, fa-sol-la-si

Mily knew how to swim and she tried with all her might, but it took all the breath she had left to curl in her four limbs and slow the topsy-turvy spinning.


Why is there singing ?

La-si, fa-si, re-mi

Waters shifted and twisted Mily’s head into the sand.


She was either dreaming or dying; Mily’s thoughts were rugged, but her gut said it had to be either-or.


She wished it was a dream – anything that meant this wasn’t the way she Went.

Si-la-mi, la-si, la-mi-fa-sol-re-si-do

Help ! !


Dad ! ! E ! ! Will ! !


Anybody ! !


Please Save Me


Mildred Junegrass faded.

Bird appeared in the Infirmary in a whorl of worry, wildly piloting a scruffed-up wheelchair aimed for Mily’s bedside.
It was lucky they were both in the Recovery Wing because Bird really shouldn’t have been going anywhere – After all, she had just had a baby. Mily tried to sit up straighter, but she just sank squat into the old cot springs and ended up huffing when Bird landed alongside her.

“Are you all right?” Mily’s mom asked, full of foreboding.

“I drowned Mom!” Mily expelled. “They said I did, but I lived!”

“Thank Goodness. Are you hurt?”

“My chin hurts, and my voice does. And I’m really cold but my skin feels like it’s burned.”

Bird gave a tense nod. “You’re still cold Sweetie because you were hypothermic, but it’ll go away soon. Your skin hurts because you got frostnip.”

Mily gulped. “But not frost-bit, right Mom?”

“No, no frostbite. I’m so glad you’re all right.”

Mily tried not to sqirm because it made her skin sting way worse. But her fear of frostbite was longstanding, ever since she’d seen pictures of Uncle Earn’s little toe… She couldn’t get comfy on the lumpy cot and thought about crying anytime the sheets touched her body anywhere. “You promise I don’t have frostbite, Mom?”

“I promise. All your skin is still skin-colored, Doctor Moormen told me so himself.”

“No charcoal toes?”

“None whatsoever. He said he checked twice. I’m sorry it hurts though Sweetie.” Bird sank back into her wheelchair and slouched. Sweat dotted her brow, and Mily thought she looked a little green in the cheeks. The wave of illness lasted only a few seconds before her mom’s braveface was back in place. “We’ll both get better soon. And you can stay with me in my room!”

Mily’s eyes went wide. “With you and the baby?”

“Yes, if you’d like to. I know your little sister would love that.”

Mily beamed and wailed as her lips ripped in a couple of places – Her nerves felt as fragile as perforated trimmings of a wellworn spiral notebook. The salt of her tears stung in the small cracks and wounds.

“I – I – ” Mily sobbed, trying to hold the crying in. “I mi-might cry m-more than my n-new sis-sister does.”

Bird giggled and put a hand on top of hers, which somehow didn’t hurt. “She won’t mind, Silly M – ”
Doctor Moormen materialized from behind a privacy curtain. He wore a long white coat and a stethoscope around neck, and some of his gray, wispy shoulder-length hair was trapped beneath the tubing. He’d brought Mily a sugar-free sucker – She could see its wrapping poking out the top of the doctor’s breast pocket.

“There you are, Wood Women!” Doctor Moormen said when both Bird and Mily had only smiled in response to his presence. He had that effect on people, often setting patients so at ease that they forgot to speak or greet him.
Mily’s brows drew together in the middle. She looked down and caught sight of the waxpaper intake bracelet taped to her wrist:

ID#: 50003024
DOB: 1993-07-20 | BT: O Negative

That’s how she remembered she was not called ‘Mily’ anymore. She turned the bracelet around so she wouldn’t accidentally see it again.

My name is Emjay.

The blackhole Mily had fallen into while sprinting through Lockdown spit her out at the edge of an underground spring. There was a babbling stream which stemmed from cracks and fissures in one side of the cave wall. Water dripped down and ran through narrow gaps in the rocks and pooled near the other end of the cave, where Mily found herself displaced.

It was light enough to see just fine. The light was strange, steady and blue, and she thought for a second that pool itself was glowing, making that cobalt hue.

But then Mily spotted them.

Those tunneling crayfish Eyani had wagered might live this deep underground covered the boulders and slick cragstone from floor to ceiling.

The mud daubers were glowing bright blue.

Mily stood up. She was wet with mud, and a couple of crawdads were latched onto her shoelaces. They had some mighty pincers but looked friendly enough. She attempted to detach one by pulling gently on its hind end, and another reached out and pinched the bent knuckle of her index finger.

Mily giggled. It didn’t hurt one bit.

I guess you can all hang-on if you want.

Her shoes were soaked straight through. She slipped them off and wrung out her socks on the ground. All the mud daubers released her laces as soon as her feet left the soles. The stone floor was spotted and bumpy, but it didn’t pain her feet to walk across it. Leaving her socks and shoes to maybe dry out some, Mily walked a few steps toward the edge of the spring, and the l’il lobsters crawled after her.

The pool was a perfect circle with one massive stalactite suspended above the very center, where a single column of sparkly droplets rained straight into the spring. Rippling rings stretched their circumferences to the pool’s edges. Mily stepped closer so her toes just touched the tiny waves as they splashed against shale and limestone rubble.

Mud daubers piled on top of each other under the surface, each one gleaming very blue, as bright as neon glowsticks, making the pool look like living glass. As she absorbed the stunning sight, Mily hardly noticed the water climb over her ankles, the wake grow wide and uneven, or the waves break in mist which coated her shins.

Like she’d been punched in the gut, Mily became suddenly conscious of the water level rising super fast. She whirled around but couldn’t identify any kind of exit, not even the hole she knew she’d been spit out of. Panic spread like icemelt throughout her whole body. Her gaze followed the ripples and swirls back to the center of the pool, where a whorlpool was forming.

The spring was bubbling right out in the middle.

The Maternity Wing was too cold. Mily couldn’t sleep. Bird and baby Novah were both snoring. Novah’s snores sounded more like a soft simmer – the grinding breaths belonged to their mother, resting with her mouth wide-open, propped up by so many pillows.

Ignoring the sting of her frostnip, Mily rolled off her cot. The bed Bird’s nurses moved into the room for Mily to sleep in was way comfier than the one they gave her in the Recovery Wing. But the sheets did nothing for the chill. She was shivering.

But that didn’t matter to Mily. She was having trouble staying away from Novah’s cradle for any great length of time. Minding her mom’s IV, she tip-toed to the edge of her little sister’s tiny bed.

‘Hi, Novie,’ Mily mouthed. Novah was swaddled tight in yellow blankie, but the matching knit hat had fallen off, revealing a headfull of black hair with white-frosted ends. Bird had said it was really uncommon for newborns to have so much hair already. Mily didn’t think it strange – She just thought Novah was beautiful.

Her baby sister didn’t stir. She seemed utterly at ease. Mily was right when she thought she might cry more than the infant did. She had. But watching Novah sleep settled her brain and helped her not think about how much her frostnip hurt.

‘I know you don’t know words yet,’ she went on silently. ‘But I want you to know my real name, okay? My name is Mily. I know you won’t remember, and… and it’s okay for you to say Emjay but – just so you know – I’m really Mily.’

Novah hiccuped and woke herself up. Big brown eyes, still cloudy from birth, which Bird said was normal because most babies couldn’t see well for a while, widened. She watched as spittle dribbled and blew into an impressive bubble and popped. Then Novah blinked and drifted straight back to sleep.

Mily thought maybe her sister did understand what she’d told her.

The water had risen to Mily’s knees, and she couldn’t see the floor anymore. She was afraid to move – The bubbling water was frothing and tugging, and a few times the current nearly knocked her off her feet.

Mily stood firm. Blue-lit mud daubers spun in spiraling arms, shooting stars on the water. She high-knee marched backwards until she hit a big rock and slipped a few times trying to clamber on top of it.

{ Emjay
{ Come in Emjay
{ Can you hear me?

E! E! I can hear you! Mily clung to her rock, which might’of been a stalagmite that got its top lobbed off at some point – it was awfully steep. Eyani! Can you hear me?

{ Yes! Yes!{ I hear you too!{ What is your location?

No idea, Mily thought back, watching the churning springwater prowl steadily higher. But I think I’m in trouble.
As quick as the thought sent, the water’s rise began to slow down. Mily expelled the air in her lungs and stared at the bubbling center of the spring – and held back a scream.
Something’s in the water!

{ Water?
{ Where?
{ How do we find you?

No time to explain!

Whatever was in there seemed to be letting the water out of the cavern. Away it all drained faster than it had risen in the first place, funneling round and round, dragging hundreds of mud daubers down what looked like the opening of a very large pipe.

Whatever it was, it was huge.

Mily remembered thinking of snakes during the truckride to Dune Park Waystation and felt punched in the gut again. It knocked the wind right out of her.

The digital clock above Bird’s Maternity room door said 4:32.

Mily still hadn’t been to sleep. She had been chugging dixiecups of water one right after the next, and everytime she thought about crawling back onto her cot, she had to use the bathroom and wound up wide-awake all over again.
Night sky outside the window was navy, but the horizon line glowed brightest blue. Snow was still falling, but the blizzard had passed. The sun would be rising soon.

Besides the frequency of Mily’s calls-of-nature, sleep evaded her because of the flashbacks. When she closed her eyes, she was back There.

She didn’t want to be but – try as she might – Mily kept going back.

Out of the spring rose what looked like two massive tree branches made of solid silver. They had perfect symmetry, every bend and twist of their metal mirroring their opposite. Reflected in the water, the boughs trembled and shimmered till the whole pool turned to quicksilver.

Mily was stunned. Was it magic?

She peered through the sterling backscatter underneath the branches and determined it must be some sort of magic or miracle.

Mily was struck dumb. A pair of gold eyes were watching.

* * * * *

/ n o t a r e

Excerpt from the New Testament – 1 John 5:6 (NIV)