|Brought to you by Chapters by Chapters Tours and Month 9 Books Publishing|
Author: Michelle E. Reed
Genre: Young Adult/Speculative Fiction
Check out on Goodreads!
Seventeen-year-old Dez Donnelly crashes headlong into fate on the side of a rural highway, her life ending in a violent collision of steel and screaming brakes. The train that delivers her newly departed soul to the crossroads of the afterlife won’t be carrying her to the sweet hereafter until she accepts her abrupt end and learns to let go of the life she’ll never finish.
Her new reality is conduct manuals, propaganda, and unrelenting staff, all part of a system to ease her transition from life to death, while helping her earn her way out of limbo. Atman City, beautiful and enticing, is an ever-present temptation that is strictly off limits to underage souls. The promise of adventure proves too strong, and beneath the city’s sheen of ethereal majesty, Dez discovers a world teeming with danger.
Welcome to Life, A.D. where being dead doesn’t mean you’re safe, and the only thing harder than getting out of limbo is getting through it.
Without a plan, I wander deep into the library’s stacks.
The silence and solitude offered by the thousands of books surrounding me is a welcome reprieve. Arms outstretched, I run my fingers across the spines of a multitude of tomes. I begin to relax as I transition from skimming the titles to scanning them with interest. The comforting scent of books fills my nose as my fingers come to rest on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
“I know how you feel, Alice.” I pull the book from the shelf and let it fall open to a random passage.
‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’
My laughter begins with a sputter, building from sporadic giggles to uncontrolled howling. Tears begin to roll down my face as I slide to the floor in a hopeless fit. Clutching the book to my chest, I gasp for breath, which sets off even greater peals of hilarity. The idea of gasping for breath after you’ve died leaves me with no choice but to give in to the absurdity of it all. Standing up and pulling myself together is impossible.
Finally, my laughter slows to a wheezing cackle. My fingers wipe the tears from my eyes, clearing my vision.
I have a spectator. He stands at the end of the row, watching me, the corners of his mouth turned up in a bewildered smile. I squeal like a boiling teakettle. My left hand darts up to cover my face.
He has jet-black hair and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. He’s slim but not skinny, fit but not bulky. He’s perfect. Too perfect, so I have to assume he has some major character flaw.
“This the comedy section?” Mr. Perfect asks, looking at the call number on the bookcase next to me. “I can never find anything in here.”
I peek between my fingers, too embarrassed to meet his gaze. The book is my only defense, held up in the hand of my outstretched right arm. “It’s the Cat’s fault.”
His eyes scan the title. “Feels a bit like that, doesn’t it?”
“That’s exactly how it feels, but our friend Alice got to wake up at the end.” Caught off guard by his perfect smile, my leaden hand falls from my face and into my lap.
“Well, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.” He seems mighty proud of that joke. Maybe he’s not quite perfect.
I roll my eyes. “Wrong book.”
“They made a book out of that?”
I stare at him, incredulous.
“I’m kidding,” he says. “Want a hand up? You look like you could use a friend.”
“We just met like a minute ago.”
“But we’ll be spending a lot of time together. May as well start now, right?”
“Wow, somebody’s pretty sure of himself.”
“I’m not going anywhere for quite a while. You just got here, so neither are you. It’s a safe bet we’re going to get to know each other. Besides, I’m pretty sure you’re going to like me.” He grins.
“Why’s that? Because, to be honest, I’m not having much luck so far.”
“I take it you’ve met my roommate. Short kid, dark hair, crappy attitude?”
“Herc’s your roommate?” He nods. “Lucky me, right?” He runs his fingers across a row of books. “He’s not nearly as bad as he’d like everyone to think.”
“If you say so. Just don’t let his charming personality rub off on you.”
“Me? Never. You ever hear of ‘Minnesota nice’?”
“You kidding me?” My thumbs point back at myself. “Wisconsin. Not nearly as nice.”
His laugh, carefree and life-affirming, is at total odds with this place and this situation. “It’s serendipity,” he says. “We were practically neighbors alive, and now that we’re dead, we really are.” He offers me his hand.
My hand slips into his. “Fine, you’ve convinced me.” He pulls me to my feet with ease. My heart flutters. My non-functioning heart is now fluttering? I really don’t need this.
“The name’s Charlie, by the way.”
“Dez,” I say as we shake hands. “So I’ve heard.”
He winks at me. My close proximity to Mr. Perfect Charlie and the fact he’s still holding my hand makes my face hot.
He looks down at our hands. He lets go and looks into my eyes. “Still getting used to things around here, huh?”
Trying to come up with a clever response, I’m struck by the obvious. I’m dead. Clever doesn’t mean much compared to that.
Our fingertips brush together again. Distracted, I drop Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the book hits the floor with a resounding thud. Full klutz mode takes over. I put the book back on the shelf, but knock several more over in the process.
My cheeks burn with embarrassment. I cover my face again. “This really isn’t my day.”
“Well, yeah, it’s not every day you die. Welcome to life, A.D.”
I drop my hands, puzzled. “In the year of our Lord?”
Charlie’s face scrunches up into a bewildered expression. “Huh?”
“A.D. stands for anno domini. It’s Latin for ‘in the year of our Lord.’” I glance at the shelf, pondering this strange place. “This seems more like ‘In the eternity of limbo.’ My Latin’s a bit rusty, so I have no idea what the translation would be.”
“Oh.” He seems a bit bewildered. “Well, here it stands for ‘after death.’ As in, you’re on day one, after death.” He takes my hand and looks down at my bracelet. “Today is the first day of the end of your life. It’s pretty much assumed it’s going to suck.”
About the Author
Michelle E. Reed was born in a small Midwestern town, to which she has returned to raise her own family. Her imagination and love of literature were fueled by a childhood of late nights, hidden under the covers and reading by flashlight. She is a passionate adoption advocate who lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, and their yellow lab, Sully.
Where to Stalk Michelle!
**Three (3) ebook copies of Life, A.D. by Michelle E. Reed (International)**
**One (1) signed paperback copy of Life, A.D. by Michelle E. Reed (US only)**