The Renascent Effect, by Carryn W. Kerr
General Release Date: 31st August 2021
Word Count: 99,566
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CLEAN AND WHOLESOME
Of all possible outcomes, I never thought I’d say goodbye to you like this.
After the murder of Cassidy Jones’ mother and the sudden illness of her best friend Harriet, Cassidy must leave the safety of Petriville and brave the unknown both to find a cure for Harriet and the peace she’s struggling to achieve. Plus, only then will Gina release Eric from prison.
It’s a new time for the world and for Petriville. Cassidy yearns to find the truth behind her mother’s murder and to understand why Eric betrayed her to Gina Petri. Without these answers, she cannot move on. But for Harriet and many others, the longevity drug fails, and they age rapidly.
Gina, who’s in prison for the murder of Cassidy’s mother, knows more than she’s letting on. But neither she nor her daughter and successor, Susan, give Cassidy the truth. No matter how Eric tries to explain why he made a deal with Gina, Cassidy won’t listen. In her heart, she knows it was to keep her safe, but to admit that betrays her mother’s memory.
However, if she is to keep Eric out of harm and to help Harriet, she must leave Petriville and find the antidote. With this in mind, Cassidy, her brother Liam and friend Jonas head out to find what they need. If they fail, fifty-two lives are at risk and Cassidy will never find the peace she’s seeking or ever tell Eric that she still loves him.
Reader advisory: This book is best read as a sequel to The Renascent World. It contains violence, attempted murder, reference to murder and an emotionally abusive parent/grandparent.
I peered through my bedroom window at the dark, oppressive thunder clouds rolling across the sky. They seemed to mock me—a personalized manifestation of the cold vise gripping my heart. I slithered into the glossy black dress and smoothed the silky fabric. Ignoring the tingling sensation in my hands, I squinted into the dresser mirror, fingering bits of hair from my up-do and coaxing them into fine ringlets. When I lowered my vision to my face, an icy, haunted chill slid down my spine. But this wasn’t Mom—not her oval face or her deep blue eyes. No, it was me. Red lines mapped the whites in the mirror, the blue irises shimmering like the glistening black fabric of my dress. Except phantom-liquid glossed the dress, not tears. And those fell thick and fast. No matter how I swiped at them, more fell. On top of that, I kept fixating on the sixteen silver sparkle bangles Mom and Dad had presented me with two years earlier, and on my other wrist where Grandma’s wrap-around bracelet pen clung. Too many memories came with both, so I slipped them off and sealed them in my dresser drawer.
After composing myself enough, I left my room but halted on the stairs. Liam was waiting near the front door with Achilles and Yvon lying at his feet. My brother’s sleek outfit glimmered on the polished dark wood floor. He flashed one upward glance but refused to look at me. As I descended the stairs and crossed the hall to him, new tears blurred my vision. “Please don’t do this, Li.”
His otherwise-bright-green eyes dulled, and like mine, red lines streaked the whites.
He didn’t meet my pleading gaze, nor did he reply. I couldn’t leave it at that. “How long are you going to carry on blaming Eric and me for Mom’s murder?”
When I’d left the cage to face Gina, he’d said it wasn’t our fault—only because he’d thought Gina had meant to kill me. Since she hadn’t, he’d gone back to sticking Mom’s murder on us.
He finally spoke, but his voice had turned to stone. “It’s no different from how you blame Eric.”
A few days ago—in fact, the day after Gina had murdered Mom—Eric had broken my heart. “But it is different. Eric confessed to making a deal with Gina.”
Liam glanced upstairs and cleared his throat as Dad descended to join us. Dad wore a dazed expression, a black tie dangling around his neck.
I gulped a lump down my throat and gestured at the tie. “Can I help you with that, Dad?”
He managed one slow nod.
I approached him, raising his collar. “You’re looking thin. When did you last get something into your stomach?”
He gaped at me as if I’d asked the strangest question, and after a long pause murmured a simple, “I ate.”
My fingers trembled as I constructed the Windsor knot and patted it flat. I studied my father’s troubled eyes—the same vivid green as Liam’s. It brought a burning lump to my throat.
He touched my shoulder, his voice flat and neutral. “Mom would be so proud of you, Cassidy. Now please don’t cry. It rips my heart out.”
The pleading in his voice made me swallow the lump, but my harsh words burst out before I could stop them. “I don’t want Mom’s approval. I want her here.”
Dad jerked back, a hoarse whisper grinding from his chest. “My girl, I didn’t mean—”
Liam glared at me, his Adam’s apple bouncing. His words gushed. “Don’t snap at Dad, Cassidy! This is your fault.”
Our father amplified his voice to a broken grate. “Liam!” He blinked. “Please, guys. We can’t go on blaming each other. Gina took Mom from us, not Cassidy. In all fairness”—Dad directed his gentlest tone to me—“neither did Eric. Can either of you tell me in all honesty you’d have done something different in Eric’s place?”
Liam’s Adam’s apple continued to bounce, but fury burned through me. “Eric made a pact with the devil. He betrayed us!”
Dad shook his head in slow repetition, as if he wasn’t disagreeing, just sad I saw it that way. “Now, I think you know very well that he tried to protect you in the best way he knew how.” He laid an arm around both Liam’s and my shoulders. “We shouldn’t entertain those thoughts. Rather, let’s get through today, okay?” Then he let our tan-and-black Dobermans out through the back door.
I didn’t want to fight with my father. He needed us to stand together. Sucking my disagreeing words back, I nodded. Liam must have been thinking along the same lines, because an empathetic frown tugged at his forehead. After heading through the front door…he froze.
Mourners crowded the park over the curved walkway beneath waterproofed, Kaleidotonium umbrellas, which floated over their heads like a thousand black mushrooms. Kaleidotonium was Graham’s discovery and the reason we were alive. The indestructible shell had protected Petriville while we’d lived in Earth’s orbit. Regardless, I hated everything about this place and Gina. I was glad she wouldn’t be here today. Susan Petri had imprisoned her mother for Mom’s assassination, but even though she was imprisoned, I still loathed Gina.
I forced my mind to the present. Graham, the Winters and the Carter families waited on our front lawn. I found my attention flicking to the tall figure at the back of our party of friends. With gritted teeth, I swiveled away. This wasn’t the same as Liam blaming me. Eric had betrayed us all. I wanted to head over to him and tell him he should leave right away—demand that he never return. Not now, not in front of Dad. I’d do it later.
Liam laid a palm over Dad’s shoulder. He matched Dad’s height now. His rapid-fire speech emerged only a tad slower than normal, but as soothing as a melody. “Dad, would you like to lead the procession? Are you up to it?”
A vacant expression glazed our father’s features as he tilted his head at Liam, confused. “Do you think your mother would wish that?”
Liam didn’t skip a beat. “I do, Dad. Mom would like that very much.”
I smiled at Liam, grateful that he treated our father with such tenderness. He didn’t return it. I hung back and trailed them along the walkway. Mom seeped into every memory, looping through my mind, like when we’d arrived home together after Gina had discovered my friendship with Eric, her warm smile whenever I’d walked through our front door, how her ankles had stuck out below the hem of her jeans. Yesterday I’d gripped her beige cashmere turtleneck to my face and recalled my absolute contentment when she’d cuddled me against her. The wool still smelled of her. It broke me.
The nearest transparent intersection footbridge glowed in its reflection of rainbow colors. Behind Dad and Liam, I made for the inbound of the dual conveyors. As we rode the gentle upward slope, I scanned our hometown. Every digital billboard dotted along the conveyor from here to the town square showed images of Mom. Etched beneath her photo were her name, date of birth and date of death—of her murder, more like it.
Even more black umbrellas lined the dual conveyor than filled the park. Their wards stood in clusters between lollipop trees and Victorian street lanterns, while the rain beat a steady rhythm against the Kaleidotonium shells.
From behind, our closest friends ushered us toward the town center—something like a date extending his hand to the small of one’s back, offering support and encouragement. The rest of the funeral procession joined in after they passed.
We drifted beneath several glowing footbridges. The conveyor-ride left me alone with my thoughts for far too long, but finally the town square—or rather, circle—came into view. The large, shiny number two marked the end of the line. If I thought too many mourners had trailed us on conveyor two, even more poured into the town plaza. Thousands dismounted the twelve conveyor streets that, like the hands of a clock, cut wedge-shaped sectors into the area.
Crowds milled about the cobbled paving and the grassed areas, speckling the town center, only avoiding sitting on the wet park benches.
In silence, people cleared a path. We made our way to the far side of the square. I looked over my shoulder, landing on sector five—on Mom’s old-style stone office building. We’d spent many hours together there when she’d taken me on as an intern. Who will teach me now?
As we neared the glossy number seven, I looked up and right toward Dad’s office. Like with every building edging Petriville’s central circle, old-style stone bedecked the walls. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d visited him there.
Behind Dad, Liam rounded the large number and boarded the conveyor beyond. He didn’t turn to see if I’d kept up—my brother who professed to love me so much. I wasn’t sure which cut worse—me hating Eric or Liam hating me.
We sailed toward the graveyard on Petriville’s outskirts. After what felt like forever, I exited the conveyor onto sodden grass. Until now, only a single grave had occupied it. One! It wasn’t right that we were burying Mom in the second gaping wound, scarring Petriville’s soil. The realization hurt as if someone had ripped my soul through my chest.
A bleak, gaunt and hunched-over version of Dad faced the world these days. No longer did he hold his tall, lean physique with calm, erect confidence. Lines of wretched agony raked his prominent forehead.
After we spread out around Mom’s grave, Harriet moved beside Liam. She clung to him and offered me a heavy blink. At least my friend wasn’t siding with my brother in hating me. Her blonde waves hung limp and tears gushed down her face.
A Taiwanese priest from sector four stepped from the crowd, then faced us. He directed his sermon to Dad, Liam and me, humming Mom’s story in a gentle tone. Digital billboards around Petriville broadcast the sermon to those too far away to hear his words. “We gather here today to celebrate the life of Emily Jones, adored by her husband Peter and children, Liam and Cassidy.”
I surveyed the mourners and found Susan Petri. She lingered beneath a tree with Amanda and Gregory, her teenage daughter and son. I scowled, but Susan averted her gaze. Although my reasoning lacked logic, I detested her too.
And because I loved him despite his betrayal, I searched for Eric. He stood with Graham in a clearing. As he trained his gaze on me, I angled away. But I couldn’t keep from looking back. He shuffled his feet, dropped his chin to regard his shoes and wrung his hands. Black circles ringed his aquamarine eyes.
The priest continued. “The strength of an attachment formed over a hundred and thirteen years is incomprehensible. Our equestrian veterinarian, Marissa, can attest to bonds formed over fifty…uh…sixty years”—he surveyed the crowd for Marissa before going on—“having lost her husband, James.” He frowned and fumbled with the sheets of paper in his hand.
Liam glanced at me for the first time in days, and my mouth dropped open. Not because I thought he’d forgiven me, but because none of us had known that Marissa’s husband was the man who’d died all those years ago. No wonder she always looked sour. Harriet and I had still been attending junior school when the rumors had circulated about how he’d died in a kitchen accident.
The priest pressed the microphone into Dad’s hand.
With a long blink, Dad frowned, light creases raking his forehead. He looked so frail as he parted his lashes, skimming from person to person. “Emily,” he murmured, “my wife, my soul, Liam and Cassidy’s mother—gentle, kind, loving. Those words best describe the woman I adore.” He spoke about her school-life, her energy and savvy, her many academic and sporting awards and how a room sparkled when she walked in. He added things about my mother I hadn’t known. Had I neglected to learn about her life while I’d had the chance to discover who she’d been? Dad ignored the crowd and spoke to Mom in the softest croon. “I will love you forever, my most incredible and beautiful Emily.”
Tears streamed down his face and mine. I filtered my attention through the haze. Streaks marked the faces of Liam, Harriet, Jonas, Roger, Megan, Joshua, Caroline, Samantha, Paul and…Susan. Susan crying? It’s probably from guilt.
Dad handed the microphone back to the priest, who cleared his throat and gave Dad three roses—one red and two white. As the sermon concluded, Dad passed a white rose each to Liam and me. A soft whirring jerked the straps holding Mom’s coffin into slow motion, lowering my mother into the ground.
We approached and Dad let the red rose fall, his expression impassive. Liam followed, letting the flower waft out of his fingers. It landed with its stem crossing Dad’s, but when I freed mine, it set down several inches away. My head spun with something like vertigo, and before Liam had the chance to spin from me, I clasped his hand. Until that moment, I hadn’t planned on defending Mom’s honor.
My voice emerged thick, but my tone sounded resolute, giving me the courage to go on. “Our mother didn’t deserve to die. She did nothing wrong!” I fixed on Susan, who never looked away this time. “I want to know why Gina killed my mother, and not the rubbish you fed me about Gina thinking my mom had led the rebellion. As much as I hate her, Gina is not that stupid. I want the real reason.”
Susan’s face reddened as she averted her gaze. Liam released my hand, tears rolling down his cheeks. I thought he’d abandon me to my own embarrassing declaration. He didn’t. Instead, he hauled me to his chest, arms around my body and head, keeping me safe and warm. “Not now, Cass. Not now, little sister. Think of Dad.”
I focused on the priest as he proceeded with his closing words. Numb sadness took hold of me. I never noticed people dispersing. Once more, Eric fixed me with a look. Then he returned his attention to Graham as Susan, Amanda and Gregory joined them.
Liam didn’t pull away from me as we retraced our route along conveyor seven, though he opened a gap and encouraged Dad to fit in between us. I slipped my arm through my father’s and looked up at his fair, sculptured features. My heart fractured. Yes, for Liam and yes, for me, but more for the wonderful man between us. “Dad, tell me you’re going to be okay. Please tell me you’ll get through this.”
Dad blinked and angled his face toward me. “We must, my daughter. We have no choice.”
Susan held Mom’s wake in the town square. Although I didn’t want to, I couldn’t stop myself from scanning the thick flagpole rooted beside the wide Roman stairs. The tall spire rose toward the sky. At its pinnacle, the bright orange Petrician Enterprises flag wafted in the breeze.
I grimaced at the twisted morbidity, the memory slamming into me with the force of a wrecking ball—the scene of Mom’s murder.
When Petriville’s mourners finally dissipated, dusk settled. The antique-like stone of the municipal building which spanned sectors eight to ten awoke, the eerie glow of the amber lights growing brighter.
As Liam, Dad and I made our way home, wrapped in each other’s arms, new tears surged down my face. Drawing a breath, I wiped them away and made myself a pact. From that moment forward, I’d save my tears—for Mom and the few others who mattered.
About the Author
Carryn W. Kerr is a young adult fiction author. She has a deep love for all things relating to the English language and considers stories as the rainbows of a sometimes cruel world. Rather than creating characters, she believes they always existed. Hers was the privilege of meeting them. When writing their stories, words flow through her fingertips like a gushing stream. She finds pleasure in escaping to fictitious realms as they develop and grow in her imagination.
Carryn began the adventure of life in a small South African village in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working out in the gym, running, or trying not to fall off her horse as they train and compete in dressage.
For many years she worked in IT. Carryn lives with her husband and son in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her married daughter is on the beautiful island of Zanzibar.
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