A gripping tale of best friends and romance, sorcery and survival, at the dawn of the Roaring 20s.
A young woman born in the wrong reality.
A destiny that will lead her into the past.
And a love so enduring it reaches across time – and existence itself – to bring her home.
Courtney is a lonely undergrad at secluded Braddock College in 2004, working a drowsy summer job in the Archives. Assigned to a new project, she becomes haunted by a college yearbook from the 1920s – filled with familiar faces and memories of times she never experienced. A chance encounter with a mysterious girl named Sadie – dressed in long-outdated clothes – alters her reality. But if you were never meant to be born, that reality can expel you like an infection – or kill you outright. While Courtney struggles against forces she cannot comprehend, a psychopathic stalker smells blood and closes in for the kill.
Sadie, now in 1921, races against the clock to save her friend, joined by some remarkable allies – an American combat sorceress and veteran of World War I, an enigmatic professor who specializes in piercing the veil between realities, and two young women who insist they’re Courtney’s oldest friends – one of them even claiming to be her truest love.
Time is running out for Courtney, and a terrifying wilderness – haunted by the dead from centuries past – may hold the key to her salvation. But none who enter have ever returned…
Cassandra Yorke’s groundbreaking debut brings Magical Realism home to the Midwest in an explosive new style, blending midwestern gothic and historical fiction with a warm lesbian love story to create a riveting, deeply immersive epic you won’t be able to put down. It’s the world of Boardwalk Empire and Gatsby, with an urgent, immersive narrative about what it means to belong, what it means to be hated, what it means to be loved, and ultimately what it means to come home.
Author Commentary: This novel is a memoir wrapped in fiction. While it’s a tale of time travel and sorcery, at its core are real events and real themes – haunted yearbooks in college archives, yearning for times long gone, battery and abuse, exile and homecoming.
While I hope you enjoy it, I promise you will never read another story like it. It’s from the heart, it’s gritty and lurid – and below the action, it’s real.
The crosswalk is the busiest place in town any time of the year, and even if Braddock has a fraction of the people in the summer, it’s still bustling. As I’m coming up, I spot a girl approaching from my left. She’s ghostly pale like me, with auburn hair cut in a short bob around her soft jawline. The most striking thing about her is her narrow, almond-shaped eyes. I’ve always thought chicks with eyes like that are really cute. They catch mine as I approach, and there’s a kind of click; two people in a crowd with matching energy. She greets me with a narrow, witty smile. I return hers in my usual unintentional way, soft and genuine and a little bit sad-looking without ever meaning to seem that way. And we stand there for a minute, waiting for the traffic to clear.
“Say, is it gonna be dry like this all week?” she asks.
“Um…” I wish I had a better answer ready. “I think so? I haven’t really checked the weather.”
“Why, I sure hope it is.” She stares back across the street at the shade of College Green. “Anything I hate is rain in the summer.”
Roll my eyes in agreement. “Ugh, totally.”
I sneak a look at her. She’s wearing a brown bell-shaped hat, the kind that were popular in the 1920s. She’s wearing a 20s style dress, too: green, knee-length, with a round-cut neckline and loose cap sleeves. She’s even wearing old-fashioned brown stockings and brown heels. It catches my eye and I stare for a second or two; it’s a hot day for stockings, especially the old-fashioned silk kind like that. And her shoes are really retro, like old church grandma shoes. She must shop at that vintage thrift store all the way up at the far end of Court Street; it’s the only place around here where you could get clothes like that, unless she goes thrifting in Columbus.
She’s standing here next to me, watching the street, not self-conscious at all. Like she wears stuff like that every day without even thinking about it.
Then she looks at me, glances away, looks at me again a little longer. Her eyes linger on my top and on my legs, and she looks away again, blushing. I’ve always been a little bit empathic and I can feel curiosity in her glance. And…attraction?
Nah, that can’t be right – girls are never into me. Maybe I look too preppy, I don’t know. I’m a D&D nerd, raised on video games from the age of five, but because I wear an Abercrombie hoodie or Hollister shorts or flat iron my hair, people assign me a whole package of expectations – Courtney is a bitch, Courtney’s stuck-up, Courtney’s a backstabbing gossip, Courtney’s rich. Courtney is heterosexual…? Look, I’ll be honest with you, I’m gonna have a hard time living up to all of that. Maybe not the bitch thing – because yeah, I’m probably a bitch – but the rest of it?
Sorry, no can do.
The traffic finally stops from the other direction. I give her one last smile – which she returns warmly – and step onto the street. A few quick steps take me to the other sidewalk. I stop and look at my slender Fossil watch, making a pretense to turn in her direction again for one last look. She’s awfully cute, and I love her chic vintage style. I wonder if she’d think I was creepy if-
There’s nobody there. I glance around to see if she took off in another direction. Nothing. There are plenty of people around, walking dogs, wearing flip-flops, riding bikes. But no girls with vintage clothes.
She’s gone. It’s like she was never there.
But she totally was there! I talked to her!
Unless I’m finally losing it?
I rub an eye with the heel of my hand, not really caring that I just stamped dry mascara on my skin. Maybe I need to get out more. Maybe I need friends. I stand on the busy sidewalk for a moment, completely disoriented, before remembering that I was looking for a place to sit down and eat my salad. But even as I make my way onto College Green and up toward the Civil War statue, looking for a place to sit, I can’t get that girl out of my head. Not just because she was cute. Something about her, that weird click when we saw each other.
Eh, maybe I’ll see her again. I shove a straw through the lid of my drink. Nobody just vanishes.
I wish you could just disappear.
Though I guess if you wanted to disappear, this would be the place to do it. Outside the city limits, the nights are dark and old, and people who vanish are never seen again.