Noël Manning

My main character's father loses his job, and she is led to believe that her parents can no longer afford her. As a result, she scrambles frantically to find work for him, trying to rescue her family from being severed by poverty.

Gerri Pyker

My main character's name is Gerri Pyker. She is a quiet, clever, devoted young Christian, with dark brown hair that has natural black streaks running through it. Gerri often keeps her hair bundled back with an extra shoestring, because they come in handy for climbing trees and such... although she has found that you can't trust them with all your weight, even when Gerri comes in at about 73 lbs. soaking wet.

For someone like Gerri, who is opposed to social gatherings and would rather be talking to squirrels than strangers, she does surprisingly well when interracting with senior citizens. In fact, Gerri prefers the company of older people to that of kids her own age. She is very mature, especially for a ten-year-old.

While Gerri is kind-hearted and compassionate, she is also stubborn and determined. Once her mind is set on something, nothing can deter her... except, of course, her parents, whom she loves more dearly than anything in the world.

Gerri shares a special bond with her mother and father. They trust each other, enjoy each others' company, and, above all, love God. Gerri tries her hardest to obey them, but sometimes she still sneaks a cookie (her favorite activity of the day is eating) or neglects to clean her room.

One of Gerri's favorite places to be, in the whole world, is at the top of a tree, overlooking vast meadows with silver creeks, or resting at the foot of a towering mountain, gazing up the rocky slope. Gerri has a knack for climbing things and wedging herself into tight, precarious places, but always being able to get down.

She is very practical, too, never venturing into someplace without first being certain she has a way out. Really, Gerri tries to be practical about life. She likes asking questions (her favorite is "Why?") but she sometimes overthinks things, or takes difficult situations and accidentally blows them way out of proportion.

Gerri's first reaction is to try to solve her own problems, which occasionally leads to them growing bigger and her having to get some help, but if someone offers their assistance without being asked she is eager to accept (especially when her own methods have just failed).

Her biggest pet-peeves are brainless people (which explains why she likes to be alone with trees and squirrels), and June bugs. Gerri is traumatized by June bugs. The first time one flew at her, Gerri screamed and fainted and almost got a concussion from hitting her head on the ground. Now that her mother is equipped with June bug-resistant shields (made of cardboard boxes) Gerri can go outside in late spring without fearing for her life.

She has a knack for many things, like climbing trees, eating, and being practical, but Gerri's real talent is thinking. It sounds strange, but it's true. Gerri is a quick thinker who can solve almost any problem, and not just in math. She likes imagining up solutions for real-world conundrums (which there are plenty of) and then testing them out for size. Sixty percent of the time they work.

And there you have it.

Gerri is a good and sensible kid.

Except when June bugs are about.


My story takes place in a small Virginian village called Preen, nestled comfortably up against a towering, tree-dotted mountain and laced with silver creeks. Given that it's extremely remote (the nearest nonlocal store is at least one and a half hours away), each house can afford to be spread far apart, giving the owners plenty of privacy and space.

Although Preen has an unusually tiny population (averaging around nine to thirteen), the residents have somehow managed to "expand" the community, resulting in great confusion as to how many people actually live there. Much of the "expansion" comes from citizen-run businesses, which consist of:

"Deak's" - the convenience store.

"Comfy Cookies" - the bakery.

"Stitch" - the fabric shop.

And, "Skinny Road" - the church.

Everyone knows everyone, and while the occasional disagreement still arouses, they all get along pretty well.

Sometimes, on holidays, they throw massive parties around Bina, the wizened old oak tree that acts as a centerpiece for the town. Everybody contributes, whether it be food or colorful quilts, and the handful of children run laps around Bina and jump over the nearby stream.

As it turns out, jumping over streams isn't the only way to burn off extra energy.

Preen has a whole miniature forest tucked away behind The Shack (a deserted old house that the children are forbidden to venture in), which is where they go to climb and swing from branch to branch.

Another good playing site is the boulder graveyard. It stretches around the treeless-half of town and occasionally trickles by the houses, creating a giant, unmovable maze for the locals.

Given that Preen rests at the foot of a mountain, they tend to have all of their weather coming in from the south, as the summit blocks most elements from reaching the town. Usually it's very cool and misty, but in the summer it heats up until the sun sinks behind the mountain, casting a shadow over Preen.

One of the downfalls to this charming village is its excessive amount of June bugs. They come early and leave late, never fizzling in between.

Patch Lide

Patch Lide is loud, abrupt, and silly, always enjoying a good joke, especially if it's delivered with a straight face.

Although he dresses like an orphan-- from tattered jeans to a shunken T-shirt-- his father is one of the "wealthier" people living in Preen, given that he's the only experienced doctor for miles around.

Patch has a knack for getting into trouble and then using his smooth ways to get out of it. Really, though, the folks are just suckers for the brown-eyed, missing-toothed, nine-year-old prankster, and he cheerfully uses this to his advantage.

Despite all that, however, Patch is a good boy at heart. He loves animals, and hates seeing anything get hurt, although he will put on a tough front and pretend that he doesn't care to supposedly impress people.

One of Patch's favorite past-times is climbing up things and jumping off, especially if there's a mud puddle at the bottom. He is consistently filthy, and, like most young boys, abhors bath-time.

If he isn't tumbling around in the boulder graveyard, Patch can most likely be found stuffing his face with food from the bakery... or, on rare ocassions, he just likes to sit and talk with his friends.

It depends on the friends, though.

Patch enjoys making up wild stories and acting them out for all the townsfolk. He refuses to accept anyone as an acting partner because none of them are up to his high standards, although he secretly hopes that a decent person will come by someday, so that he doesn't have to play all the female characters

In general, Patch is a kind-hearted boy with a crazy streak, and while he always has just a little too much energy, he makes a wonerful friend to whoever is willing to put up with his shennanigans.

It helps if the friend has shennanigans, too.


A large tear rolled down her cheek. It was warm inside the car, and the engine hummed along with the steady throb of rain as it pounded on the roof. Gerri curled her feet up under the blanket. Outside, through the darkness and deluge, she caught glimpses of towering, tree-dotted mountains. They loomed over abysmal valleys, with their delicate traces of fog hovering bleakly amidst the blackness.

The tear clung to her chin, trying to decide if it wanted to fall or not. It reminded Gerri of the wet beads on her window. They had a way of trickling down the glass smoothly for a while, and then halting, quivering as they pondered which course to take.

Gerri decided for the tear, and gingerly wiped it away with the sleeve of her shirt. A dark spot was all that remained.

She cast a doleful glance at the front seat. Her mother's slender fingers rested on the steering wheel, illuminated by the colorful dashboard lights.

More tears.

Gerri didn't bother with them.

Instead, she let her head sink into the spongy depths of her pillow, listening to the soft sounds that enveloped her.



Gentle breathing.

And then Gerri was gone.


Gerri-in-the-dream found herself in a most unusual atmosphere. It consisted of walls, a floor, and extensive amounts of gymnastic equiptment.

The equiptment was arranged to form a kind of obstacle course. Which was nothing new to Gerri. She had done plenty of obstacle courses in her time. The unusual part came in the form of a hippopotamus.

Gerri watched in amazement as the hippo zig-zagged through cones, teetered across a balancing beam, tumbled down an incline mat, and hopped through five hoops that were all too small for her.

Once the hippo was done, she dusted the gunk from her gold shirt and grinned at Gerri.

"Hi!" the animal exclaimed, approaching her with a cheerful laugh. "My name is Hippy! I haven't seen you around here before. Are you new?"

Gerri blinked a few times, unsure of how to reply to such a query. Was she new here? Where was here? Why was the hippo asking her questions? How did the hippo manage to speak in the first place? Torrents of uncertainties flooded her brain, and with a great shrug, Gerri decided that Hippy seemed friendly enough, and so pushed aside her worries and returned the smile.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I am," Gerri replied. "My name is Gerri. I, uh... didn't know hippos could talk."

"Of course they can!" beamed Hippy. "We are a much more elite species than people give us credit for. Which reminds me... are you hungry?"

Gerri chuckled. "Famished."

"Good! Because I'm starving!" Hippy plodded eagerly towards the door. "Let's go to Smokey the Bear's Burger Place!"

"Alright," agreed Gerri, finally perking up as she followed the hippo down a broad walkway. "Is it very far?"

"No, but I'd like to stop by the deck to see my brother, Micah. He might want to come with us."

They tramped on, passing many bright, colorful rooms before reaching the staircase. Hippy climbed them first, with Gerri at her heels, and emerged onto an immensely spacious platform.

"Hey, Micah!" called Hippy, making her way towards a slightly larger hippo with black hair. "I'd like you to meet my new frien-"


The three companions were sent sprawling back onto the wooden planks.

"What was that?" Micah cried, scrambling to his feet and helping his sister up.

"I don't know," Gerri murmured shakily. She peeked over the edge of the cruise ship and saw, to her horror, a massive pirate ship making its way steadily towards them.

It was so alarmingly close that Gerri could make out the two people planted resolutely by the stern. One was a young man dressed in ragged attire, who held a harsh, commanding air about him. The other was a similarly clothed teenage girl, with wind-blown, golden curls that framed her turquoise-blue eyes.

Both grasped swords.

"OH MY GOODNESS!" shrieked Hippy, galloping around the deck in a panic. "PIRATES! IT'S PIRATES! WHAT'LL WE DO?!"

"Shh!" ordered Micah, pulling Hippy protectively behind him. "Don't worry, I'm here. Everything will be okay." He looked at Gerri, who was fiddling with an old cannon she had uncovered in the corner.

Gerri grinned. "Rather convenient, eh?"

"Does it work?"

"Should." She patted down her pockets. "Anybody have a match?"

"Yep." Micah dug one out and tossed it to her.

Gerri caught it between her fingers, and began hurriedly striking it against the walls, the floor, the railing, and every other wooden surface in sight. At last, she found favor in a nearby barrel, and carefully held the flame up to the wick.

It caught fire much quicker than she expected, and so, chucking the match into the ocean, Gerri, Micah, and Hippy dragged the cannon into position.

A fleeting look of panic crossed the pirates' faces, but it was short-lived. The young male shouted something to a crewmate, and in no time, a group of men hauled over another cannonball. Dropping it down the gaping mouth of their own weapon, they retreated quickly to their stations. The man turned to his female companion.

"Penelope," he smirked, "light 'er up."

She obliged with a mischievous grin, and in no time, orange sparks could be seen dancing about the string.

Reality struck them, and with a frantic scramble, Gerri, Micah, and Hippy took shelter behind the sturdy mast.

"How long 'till they go off?" quavered Hippy.

Micah squeezed her paw. "I don't know."

While the two hippos crouched behind their shelter, Gerri slunk out to witness the explosion. Either way, they would probably die, and she decided that she could at least have the satisfaction of seeing the pirates go down while she was at it.

Huddled behind a broad bench, Gerri peered around the corner. She plugged her ears, watching as the wicks grew shorter and shorter. It could be any second now, Gerri realized. I just hope the pirates aren't better with cannons than I am.


The noise reverberated off the deck, rattling in Gerri's ears as she gaped at the scene before her. Two black spheres, rocketing through the sky, collided directly above the gap of water which seperated the two ships.

The sound was terrific.

Clouds of fire and black smoke erupted over their heads, and Gerri stared in awe as the flames transformed into a cluster of emerald ice shards, which held suspended for a moment before raining down on everything in sight.

She shielded her head with slender arms, but it was an unnecessary precaution. The instant the ice shards made contact with any surface, they turned into water, so that when the shower ended everything was sparkly and green and wet.

Gerri chuckled.

So much for pirates.

She went to look for Hippy and Micah, but when her foot touched the floor, it vanished, and she found herself standing on a tiny circular platform, encircled by total blackness.

"Whoa," Gerri uttered, rubbing her eyes. It didn't help, though, and as soon as the echoing subsided, she felt the darkness pressing against her from all sides, swallowing her up, pulling her down...


Gerri-not-in-the-dream woke up. It was a gradual come-to, and she could hardly supress a smile as she felt the squishy down of her pillow under her head.

But the smile vanished when she opened her eyes.

Sitting straight up, Gerri gripped the corner of her blanket, gasping softly as she took in the strange room about her.

Where was she?