The World of Karov by Elyse Salpeter

Elyse Salpeter
By Elyse Salpeter December 17, 2012 12:41

The World of Karov by Elyse Salpeter

Summary:

Adam and Alec look like identical twins, but their personalities are as different as possible. Adam is gentle and kind, whereas Alec is the essence of nightmares. Always jealous of his twin, Alec does everything he can to destroy his brother’s happiness, including kidnapping Adam’s fiancée on their wedding day and disappearing with her deep into the Canadian mountains. Adam searches for them for months, but he never finds them. Just when Adam is at his most grief-stricken point, a stranger appears and offers him a chance for a new life in a land filled with magic, gems, and powers unimaginable; a world mysteriously led by a special tribe of children who have hidden themselves away from a great evil that is seeking to destroy them. Adam takes the chance and goes with the stranger, but his past is never far from his mind. Eventually, reality comes back to haunt Adam, resulting in a final showdown with his brother…. and this time, only one will win.

According to the author, this book contains domestic violence.

The author has rated this book PG-13 (questionable content for children under 13).

Book video:

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

It was the smell that woke me from my troubled dreams. That distinct, metallic scent of an animal when it’s been run over by a wagon and left to die in its own filth on a dirt road riddled with the excrement of horses. Since this smell was in my room, it terrified me.

It was late; so late the hens were still fast asleep and the insects had ceased their incessant chattering for the night. Even the passing horse carts, which brought their furs and goods between the villages, had silenced and gone to bed for the evening, only to resume in a few hours to start their barter dance once again.

I couldn’t bring myself to open my eyes, fearful of what I would find. I listened for my twelve-year-old brother’s labored breathing, listening for the snores that accompanied my twin’s dreams. I heard nothing and it meant only one thing. He was up and waiting for me to discover what he’d done. I could feel his anticipation like tingles on my skin; feel his eyes boring through the patched quilt as they tried to see how I’d react. I knew him like I knew myself because we were intrinsically linked by more than just this shared bedroom. We were linked by the bond of blood. We were identical twins and shared an unbreakable connection most twins did, but one which was horrible and twisted. We were as different as they came. My twin harbored a soul so mutated he couldn’t be called human. He lived to cause misery to others and nothing made him happier than when he was bullying younger kids, hurting small animals, or stealing from the local merchants. He was the vandal who stole the poor farmer’s eggs and smashed them on their houses for fun. He was the one the villagers’ thoughts turned to when their beloved pets went missing and the one people feared so deeply they tried their best not to ever look him in the eye and cause him any reason to seek them out. They stayed silent through all their fears, knowing if they ever said anything, my brother would come to visit worse atrocities on them in retribution.

Gulping down my dread, I raised my arm and laid my hand gently on my chest. The sticky fur stuck to my palm and though I tried my best not to scream, to make any sound, I just couldn’t stop it. A horrified moan escaped my lips and I opened my eyes. I could practically hear Alec giggling under the covers.

The moon chose that moment to come out from behind the clouds and illuminate the little stray lying across my chest. She had been choked with a piece of rope we used to tie up the goat in the backyard. Rivulets of congealed blood stained her delicate little nose. Wide brown eyes stared at me, wondering what she had possibly done to deserve this, wondering what in heaven’s name could have possessed the boy who had taken her in and lovingly cared for her only days before, to turn against her. Although I knew the face she saw as she died was mine, she would possibly have had no idea it really wasn’t me, but a terrible evil, which walked the land in my own likeness.

Shaking in anger, I bundled the cat together with my ruined blanket and sat up, holding it accusingly as I stared at the mound of covers that shook gleefully on the bed across the room from me.
“You didn’t have to do this.” My words fell on deaf ears. He wouldn’t answer me, the same way he didn’t answer me for any of the other hundred accusations I threw at him. How I hated him.
We should have been best friends and closer to each other than anyone else on this Earth, but we weren’t. We had always been dirt poor, residing in a ramshackle three-room house replete with poorly patched holes in the walls from where my father had punched his fists through them from one violent fit or another. There was the requisite dilapidated barn and a patch of farmland long since gone to seed. My father occasionally sobered up just long enough to take the occasional odd job helping other farmers with their crops or herds, but those jobs came few and far between because the villagers were scared of him and his rantings when he had too much to drink. The job never lasted long and he usually was never asked back.

When my father fell into one of his weekly drunken stupors, the rest of the family became the targets of his irrational ale-fueled fury. Since we were little, Alec and I bore the brunt of his beatings, but they were most fierce when my mother would occasionally intervene. Then things would get ugly. My mother would always end these sessions cowering in the corner of the kitchen next to the kettle, that night’s dinner remains scattered on the floor and a swollen cheek and black eye she’d have to hide from the villagers during the next week. I was old enough to know they recognized what was happening and still did nothing about it.

After each of his tantrums, I’d escape into the silence and peace of the forest, trying to understand why my father did what he did. Alec’s reactions to my father’s outbursts were drastically different. He’d leave the house for hours on end, sometimes disappearing all night. The next day we’d hear about some farm catching fire, or a new baby sheep being mysteriously killed.

Unfortunately, in my town, people always looked the other way and refused to become involved unless something was happening to them directly. They saw me as a smiling, happy twelve-year-old boy on the outside who always helped them with their packages, helped them find their lost animals, and the one who always did well at school. That is, when I wasn’t staying home nursing a black eye or tanned backside, which would cause too many questions if anyone thought to speak up.

I could have blamed my mom for not stepping in more, but she was a simple, timid woman. I was told by the town gossips on more than one occasion she had married the first boy who paid her a compliment when she was only seventeen years old. After she had given birth to Alec and me only a year later, she tended house. My father, her prince, quickly went from shining knight to her worst nightmare, but by that time, she had nowhere to go and didn’t have the guts to leave with her boys. Imagine if she had been brave enough to teach us there was more to life than potatoes and bread for dinner for weeks on end, or the end of a belt as a bedtime story?

Because of our upbringing, Alec had so much hate built inside him. He directed it at me, convincing himself I was the reason for all his problems. I was the first-born, and came out healthier, whereas Alec was smaller and sickly at birth. As we grew, I was always stronger and more coordinated, while Alec struggled with even little things. Games were hard for him because he simply couldn’t keep up with the other kids who were bigger and faster. We were both deemed smart by our teacher, but Alec didn’t have the attention span to sit down long enough to do our lessons and they were a torture for him. Don’t ask what happened when the teacher sent home notes from school asking my parents to try to help him with his lessons. They were never good nights.

Making friends was nearly impossible for him, because he had a really horrible way of relating to people and as a result, no one ever played with him. So he channeled his frustration at me. Never did it cross Alec’s mind that if our father had been loving and kind and had worked to provide for his family, perhaps our lives would have been better. Maybe had he been the father he should have been, helping us with our homework, playing ball in the backyard, anything, it would have changed things. Maybe if our mother had been stronger, things would have been different.

I stared back at the kitten. This was the fifth stray animal this year I’d taken in and nurtured back to health and the fifth one to come to an untimely death. I knew my days taking in strays were officially over.

Silently, I left the room and made my way out to the rear of the small barn. There was a small patch of garden I had planted with wildflowers and in the back of a spray of hollyhocks and cosmos, in the dark of night, I buried the little lost cat, who had done nothing more in this world but look for food, for love, and for someone to take care of her.

It mimicked my life, for that was all I wished for, too. A place to feel needed and loved. A place to feel accepted and safe. A place where I could be all I could be.

Just anywhere but here.

Copyright© Elyse Salpeter. All rights reserved.

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Elyse Salpeter
By Elyse Salpeter December 17, 2012 12:41
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