An Extra Piece of My Heart

1 September 2017

Hello everyone,


I pulled up into my parents’ countryside driveway. I parked on the grass next to my sister’s Jeep. My heart was in my throat. My stomach was weak. I gazed over, through the driver’s window, and gulped at the sight of the family dog standing by my car, panting, happily waiting for me. I smiled, and as I got out of my car, I tried to ignore the fact that Sailor was only walking on three legs. I forced the excitement into my voice as I pet him like crazy, buttering him up with sweet words of encouragement and love: “How’s my little Sailor boy? How are you doing? Are you happy to see me? Huh?” His long tail wagged, tongue lolling, chocolate brown eyes lit up with joy despite the pain he probably felt in his leg. That day would be his final day on this Earth, and he didn’t even know it…


Several days before, my mom had called my cell phone to give me unfortunate news. Sailor didn’t have a broken leg, but rather, he had bone cancer, and it had already spread throughout his body. There was nothing the vet could do. Two days before that, my mom had called me to tell me our family’s old Shih Tzu poodle dog, Holly, had died in her sleep. Two dogs in one week. I was crushed. Even more of a crush was wholeheartedly deciding that I was going to be there with Sailor, alongside my sister, as they put him down. It was THE hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Watching the light fade from his eyes gave me have an even more profound sense of devotion, love, and adoration to animals. The excitement and joy and love that he showed before that first shot made me feel guilty later for having to put him down. I do not regret being there, though, no matter how hard it was. He needed to see us and be comforted by our presence. He was only six years old.


Those deaths, ontop of other things, has made it an interesting summer. It has really made me appreciate God, though, and the time I got to share with my loved ones. Life is short, and we are never guaranteed tomorrow. Every moment is precious, and every person in your life is designed by God to be a special presence in your life. Be grateful for the small things, don’t get angry about things that won’t matter on your death bed, and always pray your very hardest. Live for God the way the Bible requires, not any way that people tell you to, and always work your hardest with those loved ones and those careers and hobbies that matter the most to you. Don’t take anything for granted, because tomorrow, it may not be there.


Tragedy can make the sanest person go mad, but only if we let it. If we have God on our side, draw comfort and strength from Him and never give up, only then will we succeed. Too often in this world we see suicide rates continuing to go up. Whenever I hear about that, I always think about how tragic that is, because life is precious, and nothing, no matter how bad it is, should ever lead you to that level. Those of you who are hurting today, rely on Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He will lead you through, but only if you believe in him and trust Him. Have faith that He will pull you through and will lead you through better tomorrows. He has a unique and wonderful plan for each and every one of our lives, and if we daily read & study His Word and learn from it, we will be comforted, we will succeed in our endeavors, and we will receive God’s wisdom & guidance to do and say the right things at all times. This is my daily prayer. My dogs’ deaths will always stay with me, but I look forward to the future, of loving others, especially our cats and future dogs and cats just as much or even more so as Holly & Sailor. I still miss them terribly. But I will never forget the memories we have. Most of all, I will never forget the comfort God gave me when the going was tough, all because I relied on Him.


Holly & Sailor, you will always & forever hold a special place in my heart.


Have a great week!! 🙂




My Book Got a Bad Review – Now What?

4 August 2017

Hello everyone,


First of all – let me start off by saying that the best and happiest route in the publishing business is getting published through a literary agent. Then, the publisher they get for you should be the one doing the main promotions of your book. Doing so yourself is up to you. But if a publishing company tells you that you and you alone are responsible for promoting it, that just has red flags all over it.


Regardless, though – what happens when you do get a bad review? What should you do, if anything, and how should you react?


Well, the first thing you should remember is that the reviewer doesn’t know you personally and is not criticizing your life, your personality, etc. They’re simply telling you what they think about your book. And doing so doesn’t mean that you wrote a terrible book. Your book is awesome no matter what! Don’t forget that – YOUR BOOK IS AWESOME NO MATTER WHAT! You put your blood, sweat, tears and valuable time and resources into this masterpiece. So yeah, when a bad review occurs, it hurts. But don’t focus on the bad – focus on the good. If such popular authors as JK Rowling and Kate Morton and Stephanie Meyer gave up on their first book due to bad reviews, think how different we all would be! Harry Potter would never be finished! Of course it’s difficult to believe, but I’ve looked on Amazon, and such famous authors DO get bad reviews. And yet, their publishers and agents still sell thousands of more copies of their books! And why is that?




See? The good reviews are what really matter. And then there are the bored bad reviewers – those who haven’t read your book but they just wanted to leave a cruel review. I’ve known people like this, because they’ve admitted on their review that they didn’t even like my book. Such people are heartless and cruel, and have no other time on their hands other than try to get you upset with such awful reviews. Once again, ignore these people and simply focus on the good reviews. These are the ones that truly matter and also the ones that will get you incredibly far in life, where you will sell hundreds of thousands of books, because people love reading good reviews!


Of course, it isn’t supposed to be about reviews or how many books you sell. It’s really about making a true difference in the story you’ve told. SOMEONE NEEDS YOUR BOOK. Don’t forget that. You will change someone’s life with your book one day.


And you know what? All that hard work will pay off and will be so incredibly worth it. Never give up! Never surrender.


Have a good week! 🙂


JMK~ 🙂



Offering Editing Services 

Hello everyone, 

Beginning today I’m offering editing services for anyone who needs something edited! 😀😀 Please share this among yourselves, and let me know if you have questions! 🙂 

Editing Services

Are you looking for a professional to write and edit something of yours? A poem, short story or manuscript or any other documents? Are you on the verge of sending something into a publisher and need another’s eye about what you have written? You’ve come to the right place! I will edit and proofread your documents while providing free feedback and criticism to you at a single cost.

Why Me? 
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with an emphasis on Writing. I also fourteen years of my own experience, including college, to professionally give you a good writing and editing approach.

How does it work? 
You contact me via email or social media with your attached document you would like edited. If it is a short story or manuscript, I will provide free constructive criticism in comments throughout the work. Constructive criticism is nothing personal against you or your work, but something critics give on a regular basis. It is not mean feedback, but honest, creative, and direct feedback. I will give you honest and creative approach that will be most beneficial to you and your work. Examples of things I’d comment on is research done for something in the story, or POV aspects.

What do you look for when editing?
Sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, spelling, POV within paragraphs, and that the paragraphs are indented correctly. When editing, I will also determine what readers would like about certain parts.

What is the cost?
Manuscripts; books of poetry or short stories – $50
Individual poems or other documents- $20
How do I pay?
Through PayPal, find my account under name Jenna Kinzler (brown hair with black sweater and scarf), and send to this account. Otherwise, I can give you my address and you can send a check. 

How long will it take? (Depending upon project):
Manuscripts- 2-3 weeks
Other – 3-5 days

I will not accept material about or eluding to the erotic or sexual nature which includes bestiality, rape, incest, or alternative lifestyles. Also, please only submit works that carries as little profanity as possible. If you have any questions about these, since there may be exceptions, please contact me. It is better to ask questions than to miss out on an incredible opportunity for your work to be edited professionally.

Need more info?
Please contact me via one of my social media pages seen here, or by my email:  

Thank you! I look forward to working with you all! I promise you it’ll be a rewarding and exciting experience for both of us! 


Words from a Wise Family Man~

Words from a Wise Family Man~

Hello everyone,


Sacrifice, hard work, and living life to the fullest has never come easily for me. As a teenager, I struggled with these things especially, mainly about who I am. I have always been a quiet person, but it wasn’t until I learned more about a late uncle of mine that I really began to understand the meaning of life and God’s purpose for us living in all of it.


He was 23 years old when he died, under the deep waters of Costa Rica. His name was Jerome, my mother’s younger brother and a great influence in my life. Everybody in my life, of course, has been a great influence, but the words he spoke to me in a speech of his that I found was what made me really admire who he was. To this day, I wish I would’ve met him, but he died several years before I was born.


One of his greatest passions in life was agriculture. He grew up on a farm, raised in the beauty of hard work, caring for animals, and learning the good and bad elements of every part of crop and farm life. He adored 4-H and FFA, so much so that he made it a career. While on a mission trip in Costa Rica with his 4-H mates, he’d had so many plans for how to influence as many countries as he could through agriculture and how to be better farmers. His next goal had been to explore Panama. But God had other plans.


While out swimming with one of his friends, his friend lost control of his swimming and drifted afar off into sea. Jerome leaped into the water to save him, and his friend safely made it to shore. However, Jerome did not, but instead drifted farther and farther away; ultimately, to his death.


I share this story not out of confusion or for you to feel sorry for me for an uncle I never knew that died. But by reading his final given 4-H speech, I discovered that I was more like him than I thought, and furthermore, I discovered the art of really knowing him through such a profound speech. Below are the main points given in his speech. They’re brief, but they signify not only how we should love each other, but how God loves us. This speech persuades us to be positive for our futures, but to also not expect a future, for God has an ultimate and beautiful plan far beyond all of our imaginings. I hope you enjoy this speech as a testament to him, and I hope you learn something wonderful and beautiful because of it.


**The most enjoyable journey is to meet someone halfway.
**You’ve got to love life, love things and love those around enough to show them. It’s a risk, but if you aren’t afraid of yourself, your life can really get better each day.
**If you start saying love and thinking about the things you love, your whole day will become a positive experience.
**Replace something negative with the positive like: “I may not hit the baseball, but I love the way you pitch” or “I hate getting up this early–but I love the sunrise and the singing birds.”
**Find something new each day to live. Don’t miss all those things that make life lovable and livable. Don’t miss life. Grab for it. Live each day and each moment. Some people live like there will always be a tomorrow, like they will never die. “Oh I can enjoy life tomorrow, right now I’ll just survive.” Love it now. There may never be a tomorrow. The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it. Leo Buscaylia says, “I don’t see death as a villain. I have happily accepted death as a challenge.” I agree. It lets me know that I have to live.
**I see death as a positive force. It tells me I have a limited time. It plays no tricks. Death has been a possibility since the time I was born. It has never hidden itself…unless I hid it. Choose the present. That’s what really matters. Rid yourself of no and can’t and impossible. The world is full of negative. We are full of it. Say yes to life. Try yes and possible and hopeful. Embrace life.
**Are you foolish enough to imagine that you automatically deserve success in an field or activity? Then why do you believe you automatically deserve success in marriage and family relations unless you work at it? Look at the way you treat each other in your family. With silence. With screaming. You ignore their feelings. You hide your feelings. Or you try to. The boss yells at you. You go home and yell at your spouse. Your spouse yells at the kids. The kid kicks the dog that bites the cat that urinates on the rug. Where does it all start? Why is it that the people we love the most we support and reinforce the least?
**We too often criticize. We don’t give our family the benefit of the doubt. We expect the worse. Grandma used to say that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. So why concentrate on the vinegar?
**”My parents did this and that to me.” You know what your parents do for you. The best thing they know how to. Maybe the only thing they know how to. They give you what they know. God bless them. They may not be perfect. But then, no one teaches a person how to be a parent. You suddenly have a baby and there you are. The sad part and maybe the reason you are so disappointed is that you believed your parents were perfect. And they let you believe it!
**It’s your responsibility to become the most loving, wonderful person because that is what you will be giving to your children–to all you meet.
**Sidney J. Harris says on rearing children: Parents who expect or want their children to ‘appreciate’ what they have done for them usually find that the children feel resentful when they grow older.
**Telling people you love them means you have to get out of your way. You’ve got to take a risk and expose your feelings. “I’m too cool. I don’t need to tell you what I feel.” We need love, we tell people we love them, and we need to do it now. We can’t put it off. We don’t know how much time we have.
**Love life–reach for life and stretch your mind. Love yourself–don’t be afraid. Don’t stand in your way. Love those around you. Give them the best you there is, and then they can become the best.
**No earthly happiness would be possible without our gracious God. The thought of eternal happiness with Him makes our joy here almost meaningless in comparison–to make our earthly life meaningful he has some suggestions like this: Be an instrument of peace: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love…where there is injury, pardon..where there is doubt, faith…where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console…to be understood as to understand…to be loved as to love…for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
**Carry those thoughts–console, understand, love and give–have a wonderful life!!****


Have a good week, everyone! 🙂




When Life is Unfair

When Life is Unfair

2 June 2017

Hello everyone,

The Bible gives us all sorts of good life lessons from real-life stories of people who have fought through the worst, and survived. My favorite apostle of all time is Peter, because in the beginning of his relationship with Jesus, he was very charismatic and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He loved Jesus, don’t get me wrong, but he was always questioning Jesus’ motives and reasons for doing things. I think he did so, not because he didn’t trust Jesus, but because he wanted to understand the right thing to do in these situations. He was a man who fought his faith, and who saw Jesus’ miracles hands on. He was also kind of a troublemaker, such as denying Jesus 3 times and cutting off a soldier’s ear to defend Jesus. I could almost picture Jesus looking at Peter when he did that, pretty much saying, “Peter, come on.” The story that really sticks with me, though, is the story of, when Jesus walked on water, Peter didn’t have enough faith to trust in Jesus to walk on water, too. As charismatic, courageous, and adventurous as Peter was, in that tiny moment, fear and distrust of faith got the best of him.

Such a story tells us that even when the apostles saw Jesus in actual physical form in front of them, they still had a lack of faith, such as not trusting when they were in a boat with a sleeping Jesus in a middle of a terrible storm. Nowadays, we trust Jesus completely. But the instant a trial hits us – a loved one dies; a dream disappears; we don’t get an expected answered prayer – we instantly turn into the “why God? Why me?” person. We are all human, but God expects us to trust Him. That is who He is. He is amazing.

A couple months ago, I saw the movie, “Is Genesis History?” It was really a tell-all story of God’s creation and how amazingly He created this earth, more than we can possibly imagine. We know that God created everything and made every human uniquely different, but did you know he made every single living thing unique too? From the biggest animal like the elephant to the tiniest ant – God knows every single one of them and made them all differently. And He cares for every single one of them, too! Isn’t that amazing? Then why is it that when a trial hits us, we forget about that and focus on the trial, as if we are all that matters, as if God doesn’t care about us, as if what we want matters more than what He wants for us.

Faith is a troublesome thing. When life is great, you may have a strong faith in God. But when life is sour, you forget about God and lose complete faith in Him. But we need to be faithful, because of the storm. We need to praise Him in that storm (yes, you read that correctly) and we need to trust that for whatever reason He’s letting the trial happen, no matter what, He has a unique plan for every one of us. He doesn’t have the same plan for somebody else. Just like there’s nobody else in the world with the same personality as you and I, there’s nobody who will ever have that same God-designed plan. Because we all handle life differently, act different, and are different! We are unique as God has blessed us to be, and to dive toward that beautiful plan instead of running from it will give us blessings instead of sorrows.

Recently, and still, I’m going through a personal trial. It is a trial of my faith, of trusting the Lord. My endless fear had been that God will not provide me with specific blessings in my life, or else He would make them different than how I’d like them to be. For months, I struggled with this, in denial that I had no faith problem. I read countless Bible reading plans and devotionals that gave me comfort. But finally, I realized that I needed to trust and accept that God would provide. I had to be courageous to accept that, and I needed to be wise to know how to accept it, and I’m still praying for these things. But because of this trial, I’ve actually drawn much closer to the Lord than I ever thought I could be, and not only that, but I’ve trusted the Lord much better, harder, and stronger than I ever have before, and I’ve been happier and more accepting of life because of it. God may not provide exactly what you want, but He will provide something that’s beautiful, wonderful, and much better than you could ever imagine. Even much better than what you wanted! You may have wanted something wonderful, but God provided something even better than that! All because you didn’t give up hope and kept your focus on the Lord. For example, when my late sister died, my parents blessed me with three more sisters. When a sheep epidemic hit our family’s farm one year, God not only healed the epidemic but blessed us with far more sheep than we ever thought of. God always comes through for us even when all seems hopeless.

You may think that your life is stuck in a rut and not going anywhere. But right now, God is using this time where time in general seems to be running agonizingly slow as you wait for His answers to your prayers. He’s using this time to train you in patience, gratitude, and overwhelming trust and love for Him. He’s using this time to help you grow in trust and love for Him and with your loved ones. He’s not just sitting there waiting. He’s growing the seed in your heart that relentlessly wants to stay put! He’s watering and watering and watering. And soon, you’ll be ready to receive these blessings. Will they be what you really wanted before? Probably not. Will it be exactly as you imagined it would be? No. But will it be worth the wait? Ohhhhhhhhh yes!!!!!!!!!!!

You may be stuck in a rut of growth, just like me. But hold your horses, partner. God has something beautiful planned for your life, something that will make the long wait worth waiting for, and something where you’ll be incredibly glad you trusted in Him all along. So trust in Him, friend, and trust as hard as you can. It will be a stunning sight of heaven when it is all over.

Oh, and don’t forget these three very important verses along the way, something to keep with you at all times, particularly every time a sliver of doubt assails your mind:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not onto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

So is life really unfair? No, because God’s got it covered. All you need to is sit and wait and trust.God will provide, in accordance with His will, in His good time. And it will be beautiful.

JMK~ 🙂


TMS: Part 2: Chapters 13-End


Twenty years earlier

She hadn’t known that it would happen. There was hardly an explanation either—except that the magic suitcase had brought her here, of all places, to the busy town of London, England.

The magic suitcase had brought her back to life.

Marilyn Jackson peeked around the corner of a big brick building as she stood inside one of the London alleyways, in complete shock. She’d squeezed her eyes shut when the lit stick of dynamite had reached the end of the line, but instead of feelings of pain or even seeing the beautiful land of Paradise, she’d opened her eyes and had been laying on the ground beneath her. It was the strangest thing—perhaps the magic suitcase was much more than she’d ever imagined.

She didn’t know where her three children were, but she also was not worried. There was no doubt that they were safe. But now, she must continue to go on, for the mysteries of life were lying straight ahead. Now that she was presumed dead to the rest of the world, God still had a special plan for her.

Marilyn took a deep breath as she strode down the alleyway and toward the busy downtown area. All kinds of people roaming around her. Reporters, artists, drivers, and the average London citizen: adult or child, were hurrying around the streets of London. A boy was on the edge of one street giving away newspapers and, curious, Marilyn took one that he handed her and studied it.

She gasped—she was in the future! According to the newspaper’s year date, it had been exactly twenty-some years since she’d been in Morwick, witnessing her husband die, watching her daughters disappear inside the magic suitcase, leaving her baby to Cornwall Reaves for him to protect forever. She’d died inside the coal mining tunnel – but the magic suitcase had revived her. Her fate had been sealed that awful morning, and yet, she’d still awoken to find herself alive.

As Marilyn strode down the downtown London streets, not knowing where she was going but also not caring, she thought of her parents, particularly her father, who had so deeply loved her mother – who in such a short time had been the best mother Marilyn had ever known. If either one of them were alive today, what would be their thoughts of her life, of how the magic suitcase had saved her?

She walked faster, feeling determined and also a little anxious to discover what will occur next upon her. She’d probably never know where the suitcase had brought her children, and she’d also probably never find out. But by now, they were incredibly happy living their own lives, and that was all that truly mattered above anything else. For she trusted the magic suitcase.

Suddenly, though, as she gazed amongst the people and wagons hurrying down the streets at fast paces, she stopped—and froze. Her blood ran cold with shock, and then, tears welled up in her eyes – tears of utter, complete happiness.

There, across the street a little ways from her, stood a man holding his own newspaper, frowning at it in confusion. Marilyn could recognize those high cheekbones anywhere—those pale blue eyes, the dark, wavy hair, the beard that curved around his jaw, even his sun-browned skin. He was a man who had worked in the coal mines since age twenty-one, a man who had loved his career until his dying day in which he’d dissolved in that coal mining tunnel like mere dust from the ground. She’d gazed into those pale blue eyes every day. He was the father of her children, her best friend, and every reason that she’d ever chosen to live in her past – and every reason for needing to continue to live the rest of her life until the Lord called her home for good.

Tears sprang from her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

“Henry!” she screamed at the top of his lungs, waving her arms. “Henry!”

Henry looked up, since he recognized the voice as well as his own, and his pale blue eyes searched the crowds until they found her. They widened, and he dropped the newspaper.

“Henry!” she exclaimed, rushing through the crowd of people and wagons. “Henry, Henry!”

“Marilyn!” he shouted, his booming voice sounding like the most beautiful roll of thunder. He began to run toward her.

She ran straight toward him as soon as she reached the other side of the street. He stopped, tears in his own eyes, and extended his arms with a big smile on his handsome, weathered face.

Giant sobs overtook her as she jumped into his arms, feeling his arms collide around her, perfect as always, and Henry swept her feet off the ground, holding her and cherishing her. She buried his face in his shirt, smelled his wonderful scent of pine and home. Her love for him was powerful, as was his own love for her, the greatest and best treasure either of them had ever known.

Finally, Henry set her down, pulling back only to cradle her jaw in his large palms, tears damp on his face.

“Is it you?” he whispered, in tears as she fingered the waves of his hair with tenderness. “Is it really you?”

Nodding, Marilyn beamed, and then kissed him with a deep passion, and he kissed her back. Their arms stayed linked around each other’s bodies, their hearts once again united.

And from that day forward, through death and eternity, that link would forever remain.




Dear friends,


Thank you for choosing to read this book. It means the world to me that you would support me in my endeavors. One day this Part 2 might become published, but not now. May God continue to bless you always.




TMS: Part 2: Chapters 11-12


Two Days Earlier

With his usual clipboard in hand, Henry strolled through the early morning breakers of Coal Mountain. His job as superintendent was important: he had to make sure the work was completed the way the law required. He stretched the rules a bit, too, but with only one thing: making it optional instead of mandatory for young boys to work in the coal mines. He did it for the sole purpose of taking care of Morwick’s family’s children.

Besides, in his generous opinion, boys were far too young to be scouting through the coal mines, destined to be follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Henry reported to the state on a regular basis via telegram, telling them about the status of the coal miners and the work being done.

Typically, by the time the coal miners first came to Coal Mountain, they were in their early thirties and usually either newlywed husbands or beginning fathers. While their wives awaited at home to make sure they came home without a scratch, Henry stayed alone in the mine, pondering how to tell one of the miners’ wives their husbands had been injured. Either that, or the worst—which he had to deal with two years ago for the first time—telling a miner’s wife her husband would never be coming home again.

Henry remembered that terrible day. It had been a day like any other. The runners, laborers, drivers of the coal carts, and regular miners were working about like normal. Christopher “Scout” Taylor had approached Henry, asking about his wife and daughters, and then joked about how his then-pregnant wife “grew bigger and bigger by the hour.” Scout had always joked with Henry how his wife should “stop eating so many pies.” Scout, like everyone else in the mines, had been a devout husband and father. His wife, Patsy had been expecting their second child. They’d already had a little boy, not quite three years old at the time of his father’s death, oblivious to it all. His name had been Christopher Junior.

Henry, with the help of the miners, had decided they needed to blow up a certain coal tunnel because there was bound to be much better coal to dig into on the other side. For some reason, however, the dynamite wires hadn’t been connected correctly. Without waiting for anyone else to volunteer, Scout had—to replace the wires—and then once he did, the rest of the men, including Henry, had witnessed Scout disappear into the dust of Coal Mountain.

The last image Henry had glued in his mind of Scout haunted him sometimes, remembering his victorious big smile once he’d successfully replaced the wires of the dynamite.

He and Cornwall Reaves decided they would have to leave the mountain to tell Patsy her husband hadn’t survived. He remembered the happy look of greeting on Patsy’s face—quickly changed to grave horror—and Henry and Cornwall had said nothing but only bowed their heads at her, hats in their hands with sympathetic eyes.

Henry remembered the blame, remembered how for weeks afterward, Marilyn coaxed Patsy to not be angry with Henry. It hadn’t been Henry’s fault for the incident—it had been Scout’s choice. But Patsy, disbelieving her friend and turning against the entire town, took off with her mother and father only a few weeks following the second child’s birth—a baby girl. She’d had enough of the Jacksons and of Morwick.

It’d taken a long time for Henry to forgive himself for the blame, and also to stop believing over and over that Patsy’s words were correctly stated. It’d taken all of his family’s love and much, much prayer with God for him to finally accept the truth: it hadn’t been his fault. It had simply been an accident.

After Scout’s death, however, Henry had changed things on Coal Mountain. He switched security of the outside of Coal Mountain by hiring Xander Prick—which nowadays had become closer to being a huge mistake. He also altered the hours of labor the men were to work. They would not be allowed to work past eleven p.m. They were commanded to go home every evening to get no less than six hours of sleep. As superintendent, Henry had gone above and beyond for his coal miners and the others workers, for he cared deeply for them. This was his dream career after all, and he did not want to see it diminished by his own actions.

Henry abided by the laws of the state with all of his might, and he took extra precaution to make sure every man understood the regulations. After all, he needed to make sure another man did not suffer the same consequences as Scout Taylor had. His children would never know their father, so alas, Henry needed to prevent reoccurrences of the past as much as possible.

Coal Mountain’s work started at strictly five-thirty a.m. every morning. Every worker had been assigned to be there no later than five-thirty a.m.—and no earlier than five a.m. Every morning, Henry kissed his beautiful sleeping wife on the cheek, threw on his work shirt and trousers, kissed his girls on their sleeping heads, and went off to work at Coal Mountain. First, he made sure the walls were secure to mine and second, that nobody had been left behind during the night to sleep in one of the mines. Although, the men were pretty good at abiding by his orders.

The runners, also known as the conductors who took care of the loaded coal cars and who directed the drivers of the cars, were the first ones there every morning, next to the drivers. The laborers’ jobs were to load the cars of coal once the miners had blasted through the tunnels, bringing about as much coal as before, usually. They blasted no more than ten times a day—according to Henry’s orders—but the explosions also varied due to the thickness and security of the mountain walls.

Henry wished he paid the workers more, too. The biggest pay he gave equaled to no more than a dollar and sixty-five cents per hour, according to state laws. The state commanded strict regulations, though, and as the superintendent he of course had to abide by them. But even though he was also the mayor of the town, no job as mayor came as important as taking care of the safety of his coal miners and the other workers of the mountain.

Having a family of his own, he understood how hard it felt for Marilyn and the girls—particularly Marilyn—to not see him for sometimes, days at a time. Those times were only when a big storm came, and Henry did not let his men work on rainy days because of the fact that they may become sick. During the rain, if they were permitted to work, it turned into harder labor and few meals, although the wives were all warned ahead of time to pack their men extra food in their lunch bags to keep their bodies’ nutrients up. Long days such as those were hardest on the boys who decided to work in the mines, and Henry kept an extra eye on them.

No matter how hard it became for Marilyn and the girls, he also trusted first and foremost that his family understood the importance of the work and the fact that his workers could not get through a single work shift without his help. He valued their lives, safety, and happiness. Most of them liked working in the mines, although the work still remained quite difficult. For the boys, they at least had much easier jobs compared to the men, such as bringing the workers supplies and being there in case they needed to hold something for one of them.

Henry stepped out of the coal mines and into the fresh air, marking off the attendance of the miners on his clipboard. He felt guilty when he went out into the fresh air, but his job didn’t include being in the mines as long as they did. Although he did help them on a regular basis, he did not always need to.

As he walked toward the small, wooden supply house where all the mines’ extra supplies—and his paperwork—were located, he passed the front which the Prick family’s men daily guarded. Xander Prick fell into step with him. His three sons, the other security guards of Coal Mountain, were at his heels.

“You know, Henry,” Xander complained as he followed him. “I’m getting tired of standing outside this stupid mountain, waiting for nothing to happen.”

“Is that so?” Henry lay his clipboard upon the ledge of the shed, and turned toward him. As he did, Cornwall Reaves came out of one of the holed mines of Coal Mountain, announcing that he planned to take his break, where Henry nodded at him.

“It is.” Xander crossed his arms, glaring at him. “And come to think of it, I’m getting tired of how you’re running things around here.”

Hearing this, Cornwall Reaves, drinking water from his canteen, frowned and strode over to where they were.

“Look, Prick.” Henry crossed his arms, copying him. He stood a couple inches taller than Prick, and stronger-looking, too. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking myself lately. Seems that in the past few months, you and your family have been causing nothing but trouble. It’s bothering a lot of Morwick’s residents, in fact.”

Xander crooked an eyebrow. “Oh yeah, Mayor?”

“Yes.” Henry shook his head. “Look, we really appreciate everything you and your family have done for this town. We are grateful for the work you’ve all contributed—you and your family—in making this place a home for all of us.” He sighed. “But I’m afraid you and your family have become too much of a nuisance. It’s time for you all to leave.”

That caught Xander off guard. His gaze filled with hatred and heavy bitterness even more as he stared into Henry’s face.

Cornwall, after washing his face with the water from the canteen, wiped the water over his forehead as he looked on.

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.” Xander turned around and then began pacing the ground before them. “You’re telling me you’re going to give up the security this pathetic excuse for a coal mountain needs, all because my family’s a big ugly nuisance?”

“You know exactly what sort of havoc you’ve been causing for the good people of this community.” Henry’s voice etched out strong and stern. “Now I’m giving you and your sons two choices—leave town with the rest of your family, or become coal miners.”

“Become coal miners!” Xander screamed, his fists erupting at his sides. “Well, I have news for you, Jackson! This is war! You hear me? This is war!” He came right up to Henry and stared him straight in the face. “This time, you’re not going to get away with anything. This time, you and your family’s lives are going to be ruined forever!”

Without any warning, Xander lurched forward and punched Henry in the gut.

Henry, shocked, bent forward, just as Xander shoved him to the ground. He fell, and abruptly, all three of Xander’s sons sprang into action.

“Henry!” Cornwall called out, hurrying forward, but Sid Prick shoved the end of his gun into Cornwall’s stomach, where he also fell like a rag doll.

Xander kicked Henry in the face, and he collapsed to the side, where Prick kicked him again, several times. As he did, Xander screamed at him: “You are no longer mayor and commander of this town, Henry Jackson! You are no longer in charge of any of us! Do you hear me? Any of us!”

Spitting blood from his lips, Henry lay on the ground still, but conscious, his eyes squeezed shut to block out the pain slamming through his body.

Then, as Jude Prick hurried over to tie up Henry’s hands behind his back—in turn, Sid and Zayn pinned Cornwall against the ground as he struggled against them.

Turning toward Cornwall then, Xander pointed his shotgun toward the younger man, pressing it against his forehead firmly—so hard, in fact, that he cried out in pain.

Then, sneering with anger, Xander cocked his shotgun.

No!” Henry screamed out then, getting up so fast Jude had to lay ontop of him to keep him from moving. “Please, Xander, no! Please! Don’t do this!

“Why shouldn’t I?” Xander growled over at him. “He’s your friend, isn’t he? Plus he’s seen everything here.”

“He has a family!” Henry shouted out, his dark hair messy and his face coated with stark grief.

“And you don’t have a family?” Xander glared down at him. “Let me get something straight with you, Henry. You’re not in charge of any part of this village anymore. Is that clear?” He smiled. “That means every person who takes your side—every single person—will suffer the consequences—including your own family. Especially your family.” He chuckled.

Breathing hard with growing anger, Henry glared up at him, his shoulders tight and the veins on his neck bulging with anxiety and deep anger.

“In fact…” Finally, Xander removed his gun from Cornwall’s forehead, causing him to breathe out in relief. “I’ve made a new plan, boys.” He glanced over at Sid and Zayn. “You two, I want you to tie that man up and then—go out and get Cornwall Reaves’ family—his wife and his two young sons—bring them here so we can hold them hostage…and show them we really mean business!”

Staring at Xander in shock, Cornwall—enraged—fought against Sid and Zayn. “No!” he shouted. “No! Please, no!”

“Shut up!” Xander snapped at him, and then glanced over at Jude. “Now, Jude—I want you to go find your mother and sister.” He gazed straight into Henry’s face, as if he sensed his next words would destroy him. “Tell them we are ready.”

Henry glared at Xander. “Ready…for what?” he demanded in a growling tone.

Xander, pure evil, did nothing but smile. “Ready to kill off the entire village.”

Shock encompassed Henry’s face. “What?” he whispered.

“That’s right.” Sneering, Xander raised his eyebrows and told him the stark truth that would be the worst thing he would ever hear upon his life: “Henry Jackson, you are never going to see your wife and daughters—again!”










          Six hours later

“Now, I will remind you, Jackson, that you’re treading a steep line.” Xander scowled over at Henry. “A very dangerous, steep line.”

They were standing outside one side of Coal Mountain, beside a long, narrow tunnel that appeared like it had no ending with the length of it. A mess of hard rock and clay were both inside and around the tunnel as well, because the tunnel had been created for Xander’s own reasons the day before. No doubt he was planning something that would shake all of them, not to mention destroy everything Henry and his family had worked so hard for.

Except for the Reaves family and Henry, all of the coal miners were sitting outside the coal mountain, farther away with Xander’s sons, Zayn and Jude. They in turn stood beside them with shotguns as a guard them to make sure they stayed where they were. All the coal miners were gazing with anger toward Xander Prick, and all were completely tied up in ropes, their filthy coal-mucked clothes and faces a drastic appearance from the rest of them.

Henry, his hands tied up behind him, stood beside Xander. He would be helpless to whatever came next. Nearby, the Reaves family stood. Cornwall Reaves leaned against a smaller part of the mountain with one arm around his wife Anna. Anna Reaves had both hands on the shoulders of her young sons, ages thirteen and nine, Nathaniel and Joshua, and she fought back tears. Jude Prick had his own shotgun pointed at them.

“You’ve decided you’re going to take over Coal Mountain,” Henry demanded, sweat at his brow. “Not me. So why am I running this so-called steep line?”

“You’ve never given anyone else the chance to be, as it could be said, team captain.” Xander grinned as he strode over to Henry, and then shoved a tight fist into Henry’s stomach.

Henry let out a loud cry, squeezing his eyes shut and causing Anna Reaves to wince, while her sons hid their own faces against her.

Henry breathed hard as he bent over, pain stark on his dirt-smothered face.

“You think I’m playing games here?” Xander clutched Henry’s hair and tugged his head up, forcing him to look at him straight in the eye. “I’m going to take over this village, this mountain, and this great and wonderful investment. I’m going to watch my wife and daughter return after drowning all of the women and children in the river…and if one of your daughters, or even your wife, returns here alive, I am going to make you watch me burn them…alive!”

Breathing hard in determined anger, Henry glared at him. “My wife is the smartest woman in the village, even smarter than your wife, Prick,” he snarled, and then spat in his face. “She wouldn’t let any bad things occur at that river.”

“Just you watch!” Xander slapped one hand across Henry’s face, and then started to turn away, when a familiar voice called out, as sweet as heaven: “Henry!”

They all turned, and a big smile swept across Mrs. Reaves’s face as all the women, led by Marilyn, appeared outside the mountain. Many were holding lanterns to light their way, and Nova and Ulsa were nowhere to be found.


Marilyn could not keep from staring at her husband’s face as she stopped walking, followed by the rest of the village women who had agreed to come with. There were a lot of them. Ronald, though, had taken his sweet wife home to grieve.

Henry’s face filled with warmth and hope, but also with some blood marks, as if Xander had been beating him.

“The girls?” he called out.

Marilyn smiled. “They and the other children are all safe with Mrs. Price and Mrs. Crest in town.”

Frowning, Xander trod over to the women, all exhausted from walking, and peered into Marilyn’s glaring gaze. “All right, woman. Where are Nova and Ulsa?” He gazed toward the other women, where most of them glanced away as if they were terrified of him. “Well?” He stepped closer to Marilyn’s face, causing her to flinch and tighten her grasp against the soft linen of her dress.

Not getting an abrupt answer, Mr. Prick wrapped his hand around her neck. “Tell me, woman!”

“They’re dead,” Marilyn replied.

Mr. Prick froze. He let go of her and then, cautious, he straightened to glare straight into Marilyn’s face, who looked at him, unafraid.

“I am sorry, but Mr. Jenkins shot Nova in self-defense, after Nova killed Lena, his wife.” Marilyn did not feel sorry at all. “They were going to drown all of us. Ulsa ran away, and we found her dead in a snake den on the way back here.”

Henry shook his head, his face a mixture of shock and true sadness.

Xander clenched his fists at his sides. “They were supposed to kill all of you! I commanded that!” he screamed into Marilyn’s unwavering face. “You fool! How could you have done that?”

Marilyn glanced behind her at the other women, desperate to protect them at all costs, and then glared back over at Xander.

“You’re all going to die now!” Xander yelled out, backing away. “I am going to destroy this village and all of its inhabitants! Mark my words!” He marched over to Zayn. “Zayn, bring all those men to their feet! The men need to see this!”

Zayn and Sid forced all of the coal miners to their feet, while Xander cut loose Henry’s tied hands. “Henry, you’re going to be a part of this, too,” he proclaimed, scaring the women. Walking past the women and the Reaves children, he burst out, “All of you will watch this!”

He strode straight over to Anna Reaves and grabbed her by the arm. As she shrieked, he pulled, half dragged her toward the huge hole of the deep coal mine tunnel.

No!” Cornwall shouted, but Jude held him back as he struggled against him while both Nathaniel and Joshua ran away to the women in safety. “Prick! You leave her alone!”

“Shut up!” Xander demanded. “Jude, make sure you secure him, or he’ll be next in this extravaganza.” At Jude’s curt nod, he glanced at Anna, who stared at him in shock. “Now listen here, woman! I want you to walk down the tunnel, as far as you can, without looking back!”

Shocked, Marilyn and Henry exchanged glances of pure fear.

“I’m not going down that tunnel!” Anna cried out, trying to jerk out of his grasp. “It’s too dangerous!”

Sid shoved a gun to the edge of her back, causing her to cry out. “You’ll do it!”

Cornwall rushed forward, but this time, both Jude and Sid grabbed him hard, pulling him back. “No! Please, Prick, don’t hurt my wife!” he yelled, his face contorted with pain.

Sid pointed his shotgun over at him. “You wanna die, too?”

Cornwall, fear stark on his face, breathed hard against the strong men.

Xander pushed her forward. “Start walking, woman! Come on! Now!

“Stay back, ladies!” Mother commanded in a loud, trembling voice, knowing with all of her heart what may happen next.

Anna’s forehead was sweaty and pale in the light of the lanterns, and she swiped her hands on her dress before, terrified, she grabbed onto the edge of the mountain with trembling hands. She walked into the dark tunnel. She tripped over one of the rocks inside, whimpering, her hands holding onto the walls narrowly leaning in on her.

Faster!” Xander commanded, and Sid cocked his shotgun.

Shrieking, Anna hurried down the tunnel faster, her hands clasped to tight fists against the walls.

Xander hurried over with Zayn and his gun at his heels, and then shoved Henry forward, causing Marilyn to gasp. “Now! You’re going to make a choice. You’re going to choose on whether or not you will save this lady by risking your own life!” He glared. “What will it be, Henry?”

Speechless, Henry glanced behind him toward Marilyn.

Marilyn stared after Anna’s retreating back in shock, unable to believe what was happening before her.

But then she glanced at her husband…and gasped. Tears welled up in her eyes as she stared at him.

Henry glanced back at the tunnel, the woman’s whimpers echoing against the walls as she went deeper and deeper into the tunnel at a careful run.

Finally, Henry gazed, and when he did, Marilyn swallowed hard at the rough emotion on his face, filled with such apology and love.

Then, he said brokenly: “I love you, Marilyn.” Every word was noted with such emotion, such power, that tears sprang to Marilyn’s eyes.

She gasped again. “No!” she screamed.

Henry spun around, clutched onto the mountain wall, and then heaved himself inside the coal mine tunnel.

“Hold on!” he yelled to Anna, who peered back to see him hurry toward her as fast as he could. “I’ll help you!”

“You can’t help her, Henry!” Xander shouted. “Give up! There’s no use in making things right! I’m the one who will take over Coal Mountain! I will! I am!”

“Henry, no!” Cornwall squeaked out, his hands clenching into the soft dirt beneath his fingernails, shock on his face.

“Hold on, Anna!” Henry exclaimed, several feet away from grabbing onto her hand. “I’ve got you!”

Marilyn backed away from the scene, sobbing, and shook her head back and forth.

“Henry!” Anna cried out. “I don’t understand what’s going on!”

“We’ll be all right!” Henry demanded, his voice echoing inside the narrow cave. “I promise! I won’t let anything happen to you! Take my hand!” He extended his big, strong hand, determination on his face—when suddenly, out of the corner of Marilyn’s eye, there became a spark of fire.

Holding the lit match in his hand, a smile large and tart on his cruel face, Xander Prick announced: “My town…my rules!”

He lit the stick of dynamite in his hand, and threw it—to everyone’s astounded belief—into the tunnel where Anna and Henry were.

No!” Cornwall screamed at the top of his lungs, before Sid punched him, bringing him to the ground and then holding him back. “No! Please, no!

The dynamite landed near Henry’s feet with a soft thud, the flame disintegrating the line.

Henry glanced down at the stick of dynamite, and then, eyes wide with shock and disbelief, glanced back. “No!” he shouted.

Anna’s screams were earsplitting as she fought against Henry to get back toward the tunnel opening, but it was too late—screams of the village echoed around the area as everyone ran from the scene as fast as they could, including the Pricks and Cornwall. Everyone ducked for cover, and Marilyn, after pushing Cornwall to the grass, collapsed to the ground with her body protecting him.

The explosion went off, detonating the entire area. As everyone hid their heads, bits of rock flew everywhere, piercing everyone’s ears. Dirt and rock hit people’s bodies, and smoke rose up from the shifting, large rocks.

The tunnel collapsed, drowning what was left in its midst, taking away all of the air from it, and sinking the entire village’s hearts.

The cloud of smoke was all that remained of the explosion, filling the entire area.

It felt like several minutes before finally, most of the smoke had left and the sounds of rocks collapsing around them completed.

As soon as Marilyn straightened, she looked up and discovered that the tunnel was no longer there. She gasped. “Henry!” she screamed, hurrying toward the collapsed wall, but she felt Cornwall’s hands hold her back. “Henry, no!

But Henry was gone, and so was Anna.

Xander smiled over at the mountain wall which was now a huge pile of rock debris, and then, he started laughing, like he’d achieved a mighty goal. He stood, but as he turned around, two men came over to him.

“You think you can eliminate people’s loved ones like they were nothing?” one demanded. “What gives you the right?”

Xander chuckled, holding up his hands. “There’s nothing you can do about it now, boys. I’m in charge now.” He took out his gun from his holster, as fast as lightning, and shot both of the men in the chest.

Screams echoed around the entire huge crowd of men, women, and the Reaves children.

The two men crumpled to the ground like rag dolls.

“I will take all of your wives and children!” Xander stormed from the top of his lungs, his voice bouncing around them, making him sound like a monster. “I will strip the food and water from your houses! All of you will die!” he pronounced, gazing up at the night sky like he was king of the universe.

Marilyn’s skin trembled, cold with stark grief.

Nearby, Cornwall lay stomach down on the ground, his shoulders shaking in quiet sobs. Close by him, Nathaniel and Joshua sat on the ground as well, their faces both filled with incredible sadness and deep loss.

“You’ll never get away with this,” Marilyn snapped at Xander, although her voice still shook, and she glared at him. “You will be sorry when you stand before the Lord one day—”

“Trust me, woman,” Xander snarled, pointing his pistol straight at Mother’s forehead. “If anything, you will be the one who’ll be sorry!” He put down his pistol. “I could kill you right now, woman, both you and your unborn child! Not to mention your pathetic children!”

Marilyn slapped him. “Don’t you dare touch my children!”

Xander studied Mother hard, the anger growing even more intense beneath his gaze. “I will do,” he growled, “whatever I so desire anytime I want! Nobody will stop me!” He began shooting recklessly at the mountain, scaring all of the men and women around them.

“Come, ladies,” Mother whispered, although without much of a voice. “Let’s go home.”

By her side, some of the women wept as they made their way away from them, along with some of the rest of the men, women, and the Reaves children, glancing behind them on their way out to make sure Xander wasn’t following them. But soon, other families left Coal Mountain too, leaving Xander and his sons behind them to run their lives.


The following day

Cornwall Reaves stared into space unseeingly as he sat on the sofa inside his home, one arm around his son Joshua as he cried quiet, gentle sobs against his side. Nathaniel, his older son, walked over to his other side from the window.

“Papa,” he whimpered, fear on his small face. “Papa, what happens now?”

Cornwall peered over at him, and then rustled his hair. “We’re going to be okay, boy.” He gave a sad smile. “We’re going to be fine.”

Suddenly, the front door burst open, and Marilyn appeared.

Cornwall bolted upright, and then stood. “Marilyn!” he exclaimed in a shocked voice.

Marilyn glanced behind her, her hands full. Then, she set down her belongings next to the sofa: a small brown suitcase and a basket with a blanket covering the top of it.

“Cornwall,” she said as he stood. “I need you to take this.” She grabbed his hand at his side, and then planted a piece of paper inside it. “It will get you and your boys exactly where you need to go. Listen to me!” She clasped his shoulder. “They’re coming for me, all right? I need you take this suitcase and basket, and get out of here. Quickly! The Prick sons are coming to take me away, and they’re going to burn you and your sons inside this house…alive!”

Nathaniel gasped as he stared up at Marilyn, shocked.

“Marilyn…” Confused, Cornwall shook his head. “Marilyn…where are the girls?”

But Marilyn only shook her head. “There’s no time.” She glanced behind her as the sound of footsteps became obvious on the Reaves’s front porch. “But you need to trust me, all right? Trust me and read the letter! It’s the only way to get you and your sons to safety!”

Cornwall snagged Marilyn’s arm. “Marilyn!” he demanded. “Where are the girls?”

Marilyn frowned at him, and then studied him straight in the eye. “You have to trust me!”

Just then, all three of the Prick sons hurried inside the house. Zayn and Jude grabbed onto each of Marilyn’s arms, pulling her away from Cornwall.

“Trust me, Cornwall!” Marilyn cried over her shoulder as the men carried her out of the house. “Trust me, please! Please, you have to trust me!”

After they disappeared from sight, Sid came straight over to Cornwall. In turn, he stood protectively in front of his two sons, studying the younger man hard.

“Well, well.” Sid grinned a decayed-tooth grin over at him, and then looked him up and down. “Cornwall Reaves.”

Cornwall glared at him, furious anger stark in his blue-green eyes.

“You’re all going to burn.” Sid came up to him and looked at him straight in the eye. “And don’t you even try escaping!”

Grinning, he tossed a lit match to the floor as he exited the home and slammed the door. Cornwall hurried over to the lit match, and stomped on it hard.

But it didn’t matter—there sounded the clinking sound of chains coming about the house door, and then, the sloshing of liquid as the Pricks threw buckets of petrol around the house.

“Father!” Joshua called out as Cornwall ripped open the note and read through it. Then, with a look of disbelief on his face, he glanced over at the suitcase, then the basket.

Nathaniel bent down next to the basket. He then lifted the top blanket—and gasped.

There, nestled beneath other blankets, squirmed a beautiful newborn baby. On the front of the basket, near the infant’s legs, lay a leather-bound book.

Shocked, Nathaniel glanced up at his father. Joshua looked over into the basket, too, and his mouth popped open.

However, smoke seeped through the bottom of the front door. There erupted the sound of laughter, and then, the engulfing of flames.

“Papa!” Nathaniel cried out, panicking.

Suddenly, Cornwall tossed aside the letter. Then, grabbing one of the kitchen chairs, he rushed over to the back window and threw the chair through the window, shattering the glass.

Both of his sons stared at him as he came over. Then, Cornwall knelt before his eldest. “Nathaniel.” He clasped the boy’s shoulders. “I need you to leave! Exit through the broken window there and escape!”

“But where will I go?” Nathaniel cried out, terrified.

“Walk until you reach the nearest town. There, you will find a train depot. I want you to wait there. Help will soon be provided for you after that. All right?”

“But Papa!” Nathaniel exclaimed. “I’m scared!”

“So am I.” Clamping his hands to his son’s face, Cornwall kissed his son hard on the forehead, emotional but with the strength of an ox. Then, after glancing around him at the fire beginning to sweep inside the house, he smiled over at him. “Son, we need to separate so they don’t find us.” He took the book inside the basket, and gave it to him. “And I need you to take this and keep it safe. Do you trust me?”

Hesitant, Nathaniel nodded.

“Do you love me?”

Nathaniel nodded again.

Cornwall smiled. “I love you, too.” He blinked hard. “I’m proud of you, son. I always have and always will be. You’re my eldest son, and I’m very, very proud of you.”

Nathaniel choked on a sob. “But Papa, what if I don’t survive?”

“You will, son. You will.” Cornwall swallowed hard. “Because you’re like me.” He clasped his shoulder. “Now go!” He shoved him forward, and Nathaniel hurried toward the broken window, glancing back only once to see Joshua staring at him, in whom he may never see again.

After he climbed out of the window, he stood near the house—and peered inside.

Cornwall lifted the Jackson’s baby from the basket. As if the baby sensed danger, it started crying, but Cornwall kept it secure to the close of his chest, and then, bending over the suitcase, unlatched it.

The suitcase’s top flew open—and revealed beautiful, magical colors of the rainbow, colors of the sky and birds, colors beyond Nathaniel’s wildest dreams. Shocked, he gasped as, without hesitation, his father said something to Joshua.

Joshua stared up at his father in fearful confusion. Then, taking a deep breath, he jumped inside the suitcase, and disappeared.

Nathaniel gasped in amazement.

Then, Cornwall peered around him at the fire creeping inside the house he’d shared with his wife for many years. Finally, he covered the baby’s head with one hand, and jumped inside the suitcase, too.

Cornwall and the baby disappeared—and then, so did the suitcase, right before a flash of fire took hold of the sofa and engulfed it into flames.

Nathaniel gazed around him, and then stared straight toward the big hill behind their house. Swallowing hard, he stepped forward, and ran up the hill as hard and as fast as he could. He ran and ran, terrified of the Pricks finding him, and terrified of what his life could possibly hold after this.

Once he reached the top of the hill, Nathaniel looked down at what remained of Morwick. The railroad cars in front of Coal Mountain were silent. People were running about, screaming and taking hold of their families as the Pricks set fire to another house, then another, causing pain and misery around the village.

Then, after one final look, Nathaniel turned and hurried down the opposite side of the hill, toward his future and the miles of green trees and land that lay before him. He couldn’t stop—and didn’t stop—for that he should only obey what his dear father had commanded him to do.