maisie awoke in a strange city. it looked like a circus but she felt that it was not.
it was something darker, more mysterious.
it was disturbing. she did not use the term lightly.
she had been planning the wedding of her dreams before disaster struck.
she came to a bridge. a twisting staircase on one side of the bridge led down to a river. and another one on the other side led to a street with a dimly lit cafe.
she remembered riding on a bus. but where was the bus station?
she felt like a little white button, lost on a big red sweater.
the dark fascinations that she had kept hidden for so long had returned, she knew, to overwhelm her.
out of the secret openings in her brain the wurgs had returned - with murder in their hearts.
on the other side of the river she saw a little wooded park. would she be safe there?
suddenly a small, squat figure appeared at the other end of the bridge. a wurg!
one of the white buttons on her sailor suit began to vibrate and emitted a low, beeping sound. she pressed it and the beeping stopped.
a voice emerged from the button.
"listen closely," the voice commanded.
"who are you?' maisie gasped. "what do you want?"
"i am your darkest desire. you must do as i say."
maisie stood transfixed. the wurg at the other end of the bridge also remained still.
"we have been watching you," the voice from the white button continued. "we are your only true friends, your only hope. you must do as we say."
"we? there are more than one of you?"
"yes - your dark desires are many. very many."
"but i was planning the wedding of my dreams."
"you must forget all that - forever."
"no! i can never forget jeffrey."
"jeffrey was a figment of your imagination, as you, my dear, are but a figment of ours."
"no, no! i loved jeffrey!"
"did it never occur to you that he was a little - too good to be true?" the voice chuckled malevolently.
maisie heard footsteps behind her and whirled around.
a couple of clowns were approaching, arm in arm.
they looked like clowns the whole world over - big red noses, baggy polka dot pants, battered black hats askew on their round heads.
but they were wearing black shoes - highly polished black shoes!
were they wurgs disguised as clowns? were they going to kill her?
the clown on the left raised his hat and bowed.
"we meet again, miss maisie."
"again? i am sorry, sir, but i do not believe i have had the pleasure."
"oh, but you have." the clown smiled with his big green grease-painted mouth. "we met in general parker's bunker - after the second nuclear war."
"i - i don't remember you. i don't remember any clowns in general parker's bunker. you must have looked different then."
"indeed i did, miss maisie. i looked very different on that long ago occasion."
"then you were - "
"i was general parker."
"oh my god! i don't believe it."
"but it is true."
"then you must know what happened to jeffrey!"
"jeffrey, my dear child, is the least of both our worries." the erstwhile general parker laughed with a deep booming general's laugh. and his fellow clown laughed also, and tooted a few blasts with a little red ribber horn attacked to its belt.
"are you telling me to forget the wedding? but it was all planned, down to the tiniest detail," maisie wailed.
"you must stop this foolishness at once," the second clown barked suddenly in a shrill voice. "and i do not use the term foolishness lightly. you must stop being a silly little lovestruck noodle and get your act together or we all up a deep, dark creek."
"please tell me what is happening," maisie pleaded. is this some kind of crazy circus, an amusement of the evil gods returned forever? is there no hope? and who, by the way, might you be?" maisie gazed sternly at the second clown.
"you mean, who was i? since you ask, i was jane forthright, the war correspondent who followed general parker to a thousand hells and back in his crusade to save the universe. surely you remember me?"
"of course i remember you, miss forthright." maisie flushed. "and not always kindly, if i may say so."
"that is all very well," the clown replied. "but this is not the way to brown our bread. and this is no time to let bygones be bygones either. those wurgs are starting to stir, and we have to mosey on out of here pronto!"
like a terrified prisoner facing a firing squad, maisie divined that miss forthright spoke true - the head of a wurg appeared at the top of the staircase leading down to the dim lit cafe.
miss forthright pointed her little red rubber horn at the burg and blasted him to wurg heaven with a death ray.
"let's go!" the clown who had identified himself as general parker cried, grabbing maisie by the arm. "move out!"
the two clowns hustled maisie over the body of the now headless burg and down the staircase to the street and cafe below.
maisie heard footsteps racing on the bridge above - the unmistakable slurping footsteps of wurgs!
i'm a little white button now, she thought, and i may never find my red sweater again...
she gritted her teeth. i made it through one nuclear war, she told herself, i guess i will just have to make it through another...
they were in front of the cafe. a curiously white doorknob gleamed on the green glass door.
general parker tried to turn it. it was locked.
"no time to stand on formalities!" cried miss forthright, and kicked the door in.
the two clowns dragged maisie through.
she shook them off once they got inside. "no need to drag me any more. i'm ready to fight!"
"good girl!" the two clowns exclaimed in unison.
"where are we?" maisie asked.
without a word general parker pointed to the back wall of the cafe.
maisie saw two more twisting staircases - one on the left going up, the other on the right going dowm...
"which way?" miss forthright asked. but maisie already knew the answer.
wurgs were underground creatures.
upward and and onward!
they raced for the left staircase...
suddenly a pair of feet appeared on the top visible step.
feet encased in heavy, highly polished black boots!
was it one of the watchers?
but there was no turning back now...
it was time to call on the demonic forces within herself
all the demonic elephants and snake gods and knife throwers and chameleonic clowns
forget fair play and all that… it was time for murder
the polished shoes came a little further down the stairs
revealing a watcher in evening clothes
with fear and hatred spreading like a cosmic white lilypad on his monocled face
it was her old enemy doctor flanders!
recovering his customary bonhomie and savior faire to some extent, he looked down on maisie with undisguised loathing.
"we meet again, doctor," maisie flung her words at him with biting contempt. "i am sorry to see that the last disaster you imposed upon an unsuspecting world did not include you in a tally of the casualties."
"and i am sorry to see that up survived as well, my dear. do not think that i have forgotten what you did to my most valuable disciple - how you broke his heart and flung him aside - a young man i loved like a son."
suddenly a cry sprang from the grease-painted lips of general parker and miss forthright-
"maisie, look behind you!"
maisie whirled. what she saw defied her wildest nightmares in a mad race to the ultimate apocalypse...
she doubled down on the savage demons within her...
but it was to no avail...
with flashing claws and blazing teeth she advanced on the streaming horde of wurgs who were pouring through the door of the cafe...
the two clowns grabbed her arms and tried to hold her back.
were they trying to save her, or were they in league with the watchers and the wurgs?
who could she trust...?
a white haze of pulsing rays and spinning electrons enveloped her...
jeffrey... jeffrey... where are you?
this was to be our wedding day...
sources: the invention of wings, by sue monk kidd
gray mountain, by john grisham
all the light we cannot see, by anthony doerr
personal, by lee child
big little lies, by liane moriarty
the target, by david baldacci
the fixed trilogy, by laurelin paige
the blood of olympus, by rick riordan
top secret twenty-one, by janet evanovich
killing patton, by bill o'reilly
unlucky 13, by james patterson and maxine paetro
edge of eternity, by ken follett
shadow spell, by nora roberts
these were listed as the 13 most popular books of 2014 by amazon (u s)