The Midnight Gardener

Town of Superstition: Book One

The Midnight Gardener cover art

A lonely teenage boy whose father has moved them too often for him to make lasting friendships.
A mysterious neighbor his own age who hums as he gardens... at night... surrounded by fireflies.

Superstition is the town Thaddeus Cane and his father, Nathan, have settled in this time, and every evening Thaddeus becomes more intrigued with his new neighbor. When Thaddeus finally works up the nerve to visit his neighbor, the crush blooming underneath surfaces, and he realizes that Teofil, the midnight gardener, is lonely as well.

When his father finds out where he's been spending his time, Thaddeus is forbidden from returning. But the attraction is too strong, and soon Thaddeus is back in Teofil's yard, leading to the revelation of long held secrets that upend Thaddeus' quiet life and sends him on the adventure of a lifetime.

Excerpt:

He had left his windows open a bit to enjoy the night air, and the sound of someone humming drew him to the one that faced west. Thaddeus peered down into their neighbor’s yard where the light of the moon bleached the color from the flowers and the grass. Someone was out in the yard, moving from flowerbed to flowerbed, humming an odd tune. Fireflies danced around the figure, and Thaddeus frowned as he watched them move along with the person. He’d never known fireflies to trail after someone like that. This deserved a closer look.

The grass was wet and cool under his bare feet, sending a shiver up Thaddeus’s legs. He crept along the tall, wooden privacy fence, looking for a space between the boards or a knothole he might be able to peer through. But the fence was solidly built, and Thaddeus couldn’t find even the smallest crack to try and get a glimpse of the mysterious neighbor.

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On the other side of the fence, Thaddeus could hear the humming gardener moving closer to the fence. A few fireflies drifted over the top and circled Thaddeus’s head, their lights flashing in rhythm. He moved a few steps back, and the fireflies spun around the place where he had been standing before rising up and slipping back over the fence.

Just as Thaddeus parted his lips to call a greeting over the fence, the skin at the back of his neck prickled, and he stopped. Someone was watching him.

He turned slowly toward the wooded area at the edge of their property. Just inside the closely spaced trees, Thaddeus saw something standing very still and staring at him. It was an animal of some kind, a big one, but he couldn’t tell if it was a dog or a wolf, or maybe even a cougar, as the moonlight didn’t reach far enough between the trees to illuminate it.

Chills rattled through him, stilling his voice and freezing him in place. He stared at the creature in the woods, trying to decipher form from shadow. It stared back, not moving or making a sound, and that was more frightening to Thaddeus than if the thing charged him.

The humming grew louder as the midnight gardener moved to a flowerbed just on the other side of the fence from Thaddeus. Thaddeus swallowed and tried to find his voice to shout a warning to his neighbor, but decided it would be unnecessary since his yard was completely closed in. Instead, he willed his legs to move and stepped backward toward the house. The shadowy creature remained standing in place, but it lowered its large head, and moonlight flashed within its eyes.

That sparked a reaction within Thaddeus, a thawing out of his fear, and he turned his back to run to the house, glancing over his shoulder every second step. Nothing pursued him, and he stepped through the side door and quickly closed and locked it behind him. Now that he was safe inside, shivers took him, and he stepped up and down in place to get them out of his system.

He crept upstairs, being quiet so as not to wake his father whose room was at the top of the steps. After pausing in the bathroom to wipe the grass and dew from his bare feet, he entered his bedroom and leaned out the window that overlooked the neighbor’s yard. The mysterious gardener was gone, and the fireflies now meandered around both yards, sparking and fading like normal insects. Thaddeus leaned a bit farther out of the window to see the place in the woods where the animal had stood and watched him. He squinted but couldn’t tell if the creature still lurked in the shadows.

With another shiver, he drew back inside and closed the window. After a second’s hesitation, he latched it even though his bedroom was on the second floor. Despite the excitement of his midnight sojourn, or maybe because of it, a yawn crept up on him. He slipped beneath the sheets and curled up on his side. He yawned once more before drifting off to sleep, where he dreamed of walking through a dense wood while a large creature followed him, both of them trying to track down the person who was humming a tune among the trees.

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