A story of finding where you belong, even if it involves time travel, shape shifting, and hacking.
Helen Silverwood, fourteen, is sick of life on the run with her mom and her younger brother. Nothing makes sense. She doesn’t understand why she has recurring dreams of shape-shifting creatures, why her mother is always disappearing, and how her brother can draw things that haven’t happened yet. Most of all, Helen longs to know what happened to her dad—is he imprisoned, a fugitive, or gone forever?
When someone blows up the apartment where Helen lives, the stories of the ancient Silverwood clan—and her role in it—begin to unravel. All Helen wants is to feel like there’s someplace she belongs—but getting there will prove very, very complicated.
SILVERWOOD EXCERPT I: HELEN SILVERWOOD
(This is the opening of the book)
Helen Silverwood, fourteen, sits dangling her legs from the roof of a twenty-story brick apartment building. Her boot heels bounce off the wall in rhythm as she swings her feet.
The noise of the city echoes from below. Helen’s straight black hair flies across her face in the wind. She peels it off and pulls it back behind her ear with one hand.
With her other hand, Helen carves a symbol into the brick with a folding knife. It’s a circle, with a square in the middle, and a spiral that goes from one corner of the square out to the edge of the circle. Once it’s done, Helen admires her work.
She folds the knife’s blade into its handle. The knife was a gift from Helen’s father, Gabriel. It’s really much than a knife; the handle sports a variety of buttons and a tiny screen. One of the buttons, when pressed, lights up red and blinks on and off. This is the button that Helen uses to record her journal.
Helen recorded her latest journal entry a few minutes ago on this roof:
Hi Dad, It’s Helen.
Sorry it’s been a while, we were moving. Again. And I didn’t have a roof to get some privacy so we could talk.
Currently, I’m sitting on top of our lovely apartment building in this, our latest greatest home. It’s grimy and wet up here, and you have to avoid the puddles. I’m going to do the customary carving of my little symbol up here somewhere, like I do everyplace we stay. I like the way it says: Helen was here. Helen was somewhere. Since I’m sure I’ll be gone again soon. I’m not from anywhere.
When I woke up this morning, I thought the bio reader in the handle of my knife was lit up and I almost fell out of bed. You know, the reader that’s supposed to go on when you come near. Well, the light from the window hit it, I think, and for a split second it looked lit up. But it wasn’t. It’s never lit up.
Mom has been gone every night this week, every night since we moved here. She seems really edgy. The kid brother Henry says so too.
I wish I knew what mom was doing at night. All she ever says is, she has to go to work. And that her job is to keep us safe, and that’s why she does what she does. When she comes home in the morning she looks pretty rough, like she’s been fighting. I’m sure you know all about it, but since this is strictly a one-way conversation, I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me much. Mom is going to have to tell us herself. That is, if we don’t figure it out first.
I have my theories. Theory one: She’s a bodyguard for some mob boss or musician and they tour around and we have to follow. Theory two, which is better: She’s a repo-woman. You know, a person who goes out and takes people’s cars back when they haven’t paid for them and if they fight she kicks their butts and takes the car anyway. Whatever she does, it involves combat skills I’m pretty sure.
Henry has theories too, but his approach is to interrogate mom which doesn’t get very far. He’s only nine, so you have to excuse him, but he’s as smart as any grownup. I think that bothers the grownups.
I’ve got to talk to mom about Henry. He’s having a really hard time. I mean he’s always had a tough time with all this moving around, and he cries every time we pack up and leave. It makes my stomach hurt when I hear him cry.
At his last school Henry got in a lot of fights. And now he’s really quiet. I don’t know, something gives me the feeling he might try and run away. I’m worried about him. And he’s making more drawings of stuff that looks… bad. That’s all I can think of to say.
I say to Henry, someday we’re going to stop moving around, and we’ll have a real home, and dad will come live with us. And we’ll have friends. And a real bed, not just some stuff on the floor. Someday, we will be from somewhere.
I don’t want to be too dreary, so I’ll end on a positive note. Mom always tells me, say something positive. She says she got that from you.
So here it is: At least when we move, I get a break from the dream I always have about the big ugly Tromindox creatures. You know, the ones with the black scales and the tentacles. They look like if I could smell in my dreams, they would smell really bad.
The Tromindox dreams don’t show up for a few days after we move to a new place. Not that it’s all that bad. The dream is the same every time – this slimy thing shows up, and I turn it into a person, and they say thank you about a thousand times and then they leave. That’s it. It’s not a terrible dream, it just happens over and over. I get tired of it, even though the people are different. It’s nice to have a break when we move.
That’s my positive thought for today. No dreams. Maybe instead I can dream about flying for once. Until the Tromindox catch up with me again.
That’s it from the roof, and Dad if you ever get this, I hope I see you soon. We miss you.”
Betsy Streeter grew up on a steady diet of Star Trek, The Muppet Show, Atari, and musical rehearsals in her family’s living room. Her habits of making up stories and drawing and painting on everything within reach eventually led to degrees in art and communication from Stanford University. She has worked in film and video production, design, and video games, and has served as president of a community theatre. She and her family are voracious consumers of books, music, movies, art, action figures, and musical instruments, resulting in inadequate storage space. Betsy has published single-panel cartoons, comics, art, and short fiction in paper, digital, graffiti, and tattoo form. She lives in Northern California with her husband, son, daughter, two peculiar and disruptive cats, and a mellow but hungry tarantula.