Okay, so I’ve heard a mixed bag of reviews about this Wattpad platform and how useful it is for writers to gain credibility, and more importantly, notoriety by using this site as a launching pad for their book series. I’ve decided to give it a go (despite all the warnings regarding plagiarism) and am going to be uploading chapters for my next book series Out of Vegas on my Wattpad account.
I may not leave this series up permanently free on this service but I am hopeful I can make some great connections with readers and get feedback on my chapters while they are live. Ultimately I am hoping that when and if I query for this saga I will be putting my best foot forward and be able to use the comments I collect on Wattpad as evidence for the popularity of the books. Wish me luck everyone!
P.s cover art concept for my current WIP The Unseen Forest which is a dark fantasy stand alone book. Why? Just for fun.
P.p.s An excerpt from this WIP as well. Why? I freaking love feedback. It helps me grow as a writer and that’s the only reason I am putting myself out there on all these social media apps, so that I can hone my craft and one day make this my legit career.
The Unseen Forest
A mother’s heart-breaking journey from this world into the next.
M. A. Thomas
As an Australian Writer I would like to pay my respects and acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this land on which I gratefully work and live, and also to pay respect to the Elders both past, present and emerging, in particular the Iutruwita (Tasmanian) peoples whom I mention in this book. Where possible in my fictional novel The Unseen Forest I have endeavoured to use the traditional namesakes of the locations I’ve mentioned. And I thank the nomenclature board for recognising the dual names in signage in those regions as this is vital in preserving the states heritige.
The unslightly creature squeezed its lumpy hairless grey body beneath the colourbond fence and crept through the darkness of the yard towards the small cottage soundlessly. A thin layer of fog still clung to the air despite the threatening dawn. The window made a slight groan as two thin arms with gnarled hands forced the pane upwards and then with the tiniest creak the grotesque form slid over the sill and into the rosey hued nursery adorned with floral decals and lace dream catchers upon every wall. In the corner of the room, furthest from the window, was a crib carved from spalted myrtlewood and inside the intricately carved frame lay an unprotected human infant, fast asleep clutching her softest plush teddy tightly against her little body. A long ashen arm snaked between the rails and with a gentle tug removed the toy from her tender grasp then pulled back the sheet that lay across her tiny form. The child cringed in response to the sudden chill and her hands reached out for the comfort of her stuffed animal finding nothing but the crisp air. Within moments her lip begun to quiver as her mind begun to stir. Before the child could even so much as whimper and alert her slumbering family to her distress her kidnapper had clambered into the cot, lifted that sweet little bundle up and over the rail and swiftly exited through the open window, returning to the dark forest that loomed beyond the well-groomed yard. The little girl, now awake, stared quietly at the strange being that had hold of her, she felt no fear at being in the arms of this strange, somewhat humanoid thing.
“Back to sleep now little one.” A raspy voice whispered, gently stroking the bridge between her bright shimmering brown eyes.
“Gaap will keep you safe on your journey home” and the Imp stepped through the softly shimmering fork of a tree, still clutching little Claudia Douglas in his arms tightly as she was lost to this world.
My mother told me endless bedtime stories, when I was still young enough to fit in her lap and snuggle soundly in her warm arms. Often sleeping in her loving embrace safely through the night. What she never told me was that all her tales of magic and tragedy were real.
Those beautifully crafted fables she burned into my mind from such a tender age were not in fact sweet little fantasies to delight my youthful imagination but her own experiences with the magical creatures with whom we occasionally share our world.
That other realm she had spoken of so animatedly as I listened enraptured upon her knee began to bleed through into every facet of my life shortly after I turned twenty-four, starting with the abduction of my youngest son, George.
I almost walked right over Ainsley as I emerged through the woods into an open clearing, still distractedly calling out for George.
“Have you seen my two-year-old?” I asked her, offering a hand to help her stand. She’d clearly been enjoying an afternoon siesta between herding sheep.
“No, and I’ve been here a while.” she answered with a smirk as she dusted off her jeans.
“He’s clearly good at hiding.” I smiled back at her before looking back to make sure my other child emerged through the trees to join us.
“I’ll help you look too then.” She suggested and before I could waive off her offer she was already walking back towards the highway calling his name.
“We’ll take the fence line back Linky,” I told my eldest son in the cheeriest voice I could manage. “he must be in the toilet block there and we missed him.”
Ainsley arrived still calling out Georges name and as she took in my crestfallen face she stopped dead.
I took out my phone and called 000.
How long had I already been searching? Why didn’t I call the police before now? I knew the answer to that. I didn’t want to talk to Shaun. That didn’t matter now though. I have to find my son.
“What do you mean he’s missing!” my husband screamed at me through the phone. Loud enough that the police officer standing on the other side of his vehicle could hear and I noticed his body shift away uncomfortably. I squeezed Lincoln, my eldest sons hand a little tighter as I repeated again the details of Georges disappearance.
“We went to the park and we were playing hide and seek together on the play ground, I could hear him giggling from behind the big oak tree so I pretended to look for him for a bit first and then when I finally checked behind the tree he just wasn’t there. I called out for him but he didn’t answer. No one else is here, it’s just us, we’ve walked through the whole park now and haven’t found him anywhere. I called Shaun at the station to come out.”
“I’ll be right there.” and Thomas hung up on me. I pocketed my mobile and looked my ten year old square in the eyes.
“Link, stay here with Shaun, I’m going to go through the park again and make sure George isn’t hiding anywhere.”
“Yep.” and he headed around to the other side of the Hilux where Shaun stood quietly, our eyes met and I felt my face burn with shame as it did every time I was in his presence.
“Can you call my mum and get her here for Link?” I asked him. No need to give him her number, I knew he’d have it. He nodded and I took off to find my wayward toddler.
How far could a two year old go? I checked inside the slide, calling his name, behind the tree where I was sure he’d be, just standing there, smiling proudly and looking at me to praise his excellent hiding skills. Nothing but dirt and leaves. Not even an imprint of his shoes on the ground to indicate he’d ever hidden there at all. I called his name all through the park, attracting the attention of more than a few farmers who upon realising the severity of my plight joined me in searching the grounds. I called the Myrtle Creek Camping Office again hoping desperately he’d been picked up by some well-meaning tourist and this horrible afternoon would mercifully end. He hadn’t been brought in but both the caretakers are heading to the park to help the search effort now as well.
There was sixteen extra bodies standing beside Link and Shaun by the time I had looped back to them, I saw the look of hope on my first born sons face fall when he saw me returning without his baby brother safely in my arms. I couldn’t bear it and I avoided his eyes as I searched the group for the only other faces that mattered to me now. Neither my husband or my mother were among the people who had arrived. I refused to let the tears overcome me and I grabbed out my phone and dialled the only other resource I hadn’t yet made contact with in my efforts to locate George.
“Mount Arthur Rangers Department, this is Travis.” He answered on the first ring.
“Are you in town?” I asked, not bothering with any polite formalities.
“Can you drive through the Rivulet park grounds, look out for my two year old as you go.” I told him and I hung up. I don’t think George could have made it over to there without assistance, but It’s been an hour since I last had eyes on my son and if there was any chance he’d made it to the creek I needed someone to be looking there.
“What do you need us doing?” Clare asked and both she and her son Evan looked at me expectantly.
“I haven’t walked up towards the church yet.” and she headed off with her boy, each taking a separate path towards the All Souls Anglican Centre.
“I’ve got the volunteer brigade headed out to Hill road.” Shaun told me, breaking my gaze away from my best friends retreating form.
“Kay.” I replied, unable to meet his eyes. The piercing knife in my heart was going to overwhelm me and I’d be of no use to George if I let it. I knew this.
“The staff from the Nunamara station are coming up now as well, I called them to look as soon as Jake got off with you at dispatch.” I could only nod. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe. I felt Links hand worm its way back inside my own before I had steadied myself.
“We haven’t checked the bus stop yet.” came his raw choked voice as I wrapped him in a hug.
“We’ll make our way there over now.” I heard a young man declare, I think it was a Holders boy who spoke. Craig or Jeffrey.
“He was just behind the tree.” I said as the tears begun to fall, they erupted as soon as I saw Thomas’ car arrive.
“We’ll find him.” Shaun told me, I felt his hand cup my shoulder and I stiffened involuntarily. Not because it felt wrong, but because it had been so long since he had touched me I was shocked by the sensation. He removed his hand quickly.
“You haven’t got him.” Thomas yelled questioningly across the growing crowd. It had doubled in size since my last head count, even with the groups that had set off calling for George as they went.
“I asked Travis to drive to the creek, is my mum with you?” I asked hopefully.
“I came straight here from work.” Thomas blurted, annoyance and frustration straining his voice noticeably.
“Did you call her?” I asked Shaun, meeting his eyes for only a fraction of a second as I walked over to Thomas, Link’s hand still firmly interlocked in my own.
“She didn’t pick up, I’ll keep trying.”
“Get out there and look for my son.” Thomas boomed and a stunned silence came over the gathering of neighbours who were watching the scene unfold before them.
“We are mate.” Shaun responded calmly.
“We’re not fucking mates.” Thomas yelled back as he grabbed the arm Link wasn’t holding and pulled me away from him.
“How long before you noticed him missing?”
“Not even a minute, I could hear him hiding behind the tree.”
“Where haven’t you looked?” He asked, the desperation in his features was painful to see up close like this.
” The Highway, The Forestry Trails.” I said without hesitation. We had man power combing every where else.
“He’s two he wouldn’t make it there without being seen.”
“Maybe there’s a fence down somewhere.” I offered, not sure why I was trying to send Thomas off on a wild search when I knew in my heart all to well that George couldn’t get that far alone either. I had to piggy back him just to walk down here for a play because he was complaining the walk was breaking his legs before we’d even reached the gate on our property.
“What was he wearing?” Naomi asked, interrupting our discussion, her ear pressed to her mobile.
“Uh.” I blinked and I couldn’t even remember.
“He had a red spider-man shirt on with a pair of blue pants and blue and orange sneakers.” Shaun told her and she relayed that information back to whoever was on the line. He was right, that was what George had on this afternoon. He’d started the day in a white shirt but he’d spilt yogurt all over it when we had afternoon tea and I changed it. That shirt was now sitting in a bucket of cold water in the laundry sink. I didn’t have enough whites yet for a load.
“I’m going to head through the Dales property.” Thomas declared and he released my arm suddenly. I felt the blood rush back to my capillaries and my nerves erupted in a painful burn down my forearm and into my fingertips. I rolled my wrist, then clenched and released my fist a couple of times to try and get circulation back to normal. I watched as my youngest sons father collected his UHF from his ute and made his way over the road. I knew looking that way was pointless. Link was hiding beneath the slide and I was pretending to search for my sons in full view of the road and the tree line when George disappeared. No way I couldn’t have seen him.
“I know you’ve said you barely took your eyes off him, but…” Shauns voice trailed off, he couldn’t bring himself to ask if I wanted to change my story now that George still hadn’t reappeared.
“He was right there.” I repeated, feeling deflated. Was he, or did I just think I’d heard his highpitched giggles and snorts as I announced every hiding spot I could as I made my way to the tree I’d watched him duck behind. Was it even that tree?
“He wasn’t even trying to hide his laughter from us.” Lincoln answered when my silence had gone on uncomfortably long.
“I’m going to get dogs out then.” Shaun said with determination and he continued to stare at me as he retrieved his phone. I’d forgotten how deep set his eyes were. I looked away and grabbed my own phone out to dial my mother once again.
She didn’t answer me. I phoned Clare.
“You’ve found him.” Her voice answered, her heavy breaths filling the silent.
“No, and you haven’t,” the tears begun then, “either.” I finished with a sob.
“I haven’t met up with Ethan just yet.” She said and I could hear her voice growing more breathless as she sped up her pace towards the Anglican hall.
“I’ll call you if the dogs find him here.” I told her before ending the call.
“They’re on the way now.” Shaun told me and I blinked back the tears that were threatening to erupt and gave him a nod before trying my mother again.
Thomas came back from the adjacent farm with no news. No one had him seen George over there and before Thomas returned he helped Kelvin and Nora search all through the machinery shed and along the track down to the bore just to check he hadn’t got stuck in the mud somehow. The Dales wheeled a generator over with them shortly after Thomas had returned.
“Have you got anything of George’s in your truck?” I asked him.
“No,” Thomas responded through clenched teeth, “why?” he finished with less anger.
“They’re getting dogs out.”
Thomas turned on his heel without another word to me and left with a flurry of dust in his Ute.
He must have gone over 200 km a hour up the road to return as fast as he did, with Georges pillow and blanket in hand.
The Launceston K9 squad arrived not long after, Thomas held the pillow out first for them to catch a scent and they got excited fast.
All the dogs made a direct route across the play ground to the big Oak tree he’d hidden behind, just before the forest begins, and then they ran into the woods about fourteen meters from where he’d been hiding and they stopped. No one could understand it, they’d clearly picked up a scent only to lose it immediately. I realised as I stared at the forked **maple? tree** where they’d lost Georges scent that I’d run along this exact same path with Link as soon as we’d noticed George wasn’t with us in the playground. No one else had been there then. No one had came out the other side of the clearing either according to Ainsley who we’d met on my first loop through the woods in my initial, dare I admit, more casual search for George. I grabbed my phone again and tried calling my mum. Why hasn’t she returned my calls? Why hasn’t she come down here? I looked at the handlers who were leading the dogs back up the way we’d come to take another run at the search using the blanket this time. Where the hell is my son?