In Greenwood, fitting in is a matter of life and death.
Cynical seventeen-year-old Lycia wakes up in the dark, twisted town of Greenwood, unable to remember how she got there. Aside from her mother, who is trapped in a coma-like sleep, Greenwood’s only other inhabitants are the hostile and eerily identical students who attend the school.
Lycia befriends the school outcasts; the eccentric Aster and his shy companion, Meg. Together they discover a trapdoor into a bizarre, dream-like underworld called Bassisha. When the violence in Greenwood escalates to deadly new heights, Bassisha seems like their only hope of freedom. But Bassisha has dangers of its own.
As madness sets in and reality crumbles, Lycia, Aster and Meg must find a way to escape from a nightmare of their own creation.
Beneath her boots, encrusted with dust, was a green trapdoor. A shimmering emerald light seeped through the edges. The door was painted with shining green enamel, as smooth as glass. Snaking from its golden hinges were thin, glittering vines. The vines coalesced in the center of the door to form a circular handle. Lycia brushed the dust away and stroked the surface of the door. It was warm. It made her fingers tingle.
Meg called out again, this time more frantically, and Aster’s horrid laughter ceased.
“Over here!” Lycia said hoarsely. She heard them scramble through the wreckage toward her. They crested the last mound of metal and stood over her. They gaped at the trapdoor in stunned silence. Lycia studied the pattern of vines and furrowed her brow. She fumbled in her pocket and pulled out the key Morgan had given her. The vine patterns on the key were almost identical to those on the door.
“Could it… maybe?” she whispered.
Aster leaned forward and snatched the key from her hand.
“Did you find this in the rubble?” he asked.
Lycia didn’t answer.
“Pretty grimy key for such a fancy door,” he said, and held the key out to her. “Go on, open it.”
Lycia looked at him uncertainly. Aster urged her on with a nod. Lycia put the key in the keyhole. It turned with ease. The emerald light poured into the warehouse as she lifted the door and the three of them were pulled down into the void.
- Excerpt from How To Disappear Completely by Annika Howells
Her slim stature lacked the feminine curves of other girls her age. Her face was plain and expressionless. Her eyes were small and gray, her lips thin and pale. It was the kind of face that would have gone unnoticed in a crowd had it not been for her vibrant shock of red hair. She dressed herself in chunky leather boots and a wide belt dripping with chains, augmenting the permanent air of hostility that she had cultivated to keep people at a distance. She had always formed barriers between herself and others, and she had no intention of changing in this new town.
Greenwood stretched out around her in all its decaying glory. Rows of identical box-like houses lined its streets. Beyond the houses, Lycia could see the jagged roofs of warehouses forming a barrier around the town. Dark clouds hung low and dense in the sky, like a ceiling threatening to collapse and crush everything below. Lycia’s chest tightened. She felt as if the town was closing in around her, trapping her. She shrugged off the sensation and continued up the street, scanning the houses ahead for some sign of life. There was nothing. There were no lights on inside, no cars in the carports, no dogs in the yards. The houses were empty, silent and dark.
Why did Aster ask that? Did it matter how much attention she paid to moving here? Moving is moving. Every time it was the same. Every town was the same. Every day was the same.
Do you really remember?
But this town wasn’t the same. There was something profoundly and deeply wrong with Greenwood. Why were all the students so similar? Why were Aster and Meg so different? What had Morgan and Simon done to make Aster and Meg fear them so much? So many questions whirled around inside her head as she waited long into the night for her mother to appear. And the more she thought about it all, the more it seemed that nothing made any sense. But it was Aster’s final question that plagued her the most. As the sky began to lighten, with no sign of her mother ever coming home, Lycia found her answer.