Title: Taking Angels
Author: CS Yelle
Publisher: Staccato Publishing
Genre: YA Fantasy
Britt Anderson went along with everything the doctors said for nearly four years, but she was still dying at eighteen. The cancer had won leaving her without a future, without any options, and without control. No control, except for how she would leave this world. As Britt tries to end her life by going into the frigid waters she realizes her mistake. She struggles to get back to shore, to cry out for help, but her atrophied muscles are useless and the frigid water steals the breath from her chemo-scarred lungs. Despite her father’s attempts to reach her, she flies over the waterfall.
When Allister Parks finds Britt’s fragile body on the riverbank something calls out to him. Ignoring the warnings of his sister, Allister brings Britt back from the edge of death. The only problem is that an Eternal like Allister isn’t allowed to touch those who have already passed from this world. It is forbidden; an infraction punishable by death.
As Britt relishes her new cancer-free life and senior year of high school, her very existence threatens Allister’s place in this world. Allister struggles to keep Britt a secret from the Eternal Council and out of the hands of the only Eternal who already knows the truth: the one who stole her guardian angel.
C.S. Yelle was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MN, the “almost” middle child of six. He attended Grand Rapids Senior High School where he enjoyed music and sports. He received his BS in Chemistry from Mayville State University, Mayville, ND in 1987. He taught 7-12 Science and coached for six years in several North Dakota schools and currently works as an Executive Account Manager in the Water Treatment Industry where he has been for over eighteen years. He is the father of four and grandfather of one. He writes novels, screenplays, and an occasional short story. He has been writing seriously for over 15 years and plans to continue until his fingers are unable, maybe longer. He currently resides in a Minneapolis, MN suburb with his wife Jennifer.
Eighteen and dying. My reality sucked the big one and I’d had enough.
The movement of the canoe hypnotized me while I lay in the bottom of the aluminum craft, the waves creating a hollow pinging sound as we cut across the lake. I kept my eyes closed against the bright sun baking my face, the light breeze keeping me from feeling the burn.
Spending most of my time in hospitals under the dull fluorescent lighting with its incessant hum had left my skin pale and white. I’d rather be out here instead of taking chemo or radiation, anyone would. This felt like heaven; a place I’d spent far too much time thinking about lately.
“Britt, you’re getting sunburned,” Mom scolded as she paused in her paddling to stare back at me. “Put your chin down so your hat can block the sun.”
“Let her be, Mary,” Dad sighed.
“She’s going to get burnt. It isn’t good for her skin, Jim.”
“What will it do besides make her uncomfortable?” Dad argued.
He paused now and again to drag the paddle in the water, steering us towards his goal across the lake. I didn’t remember which lake we were on; only that it was part of the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota.
I pulled the large-brimmed hat down over my eyes and went back to listening to the rhythmic waves. I moved my bony butt on the metal support of the canoe, trying to get comfortable. Without any padding, it wasn’t
5happening. Still, it beat the hospital beds and the sterile linens.
Shifting again and looking to where we headed: tall pines reaching for the blue sky, little white clouds floating overhead; I remembered the place. It was a nice campsite with good fishing and a waterfall leading into the next lake. The mosquitoes were murder on that trip six years ago. I hoped they didn’t like the taste of my blood as much this time. Maybe the chemo could stop something.
“Not much further, Britt,” Dad said. “Getting
“Yeah.” I nodded, shifting a little more.
My parents kept paddling, steady and strong. I closed my eyes again, recalling how Mom and I used to take turns paddling up front. Now I couldn’t lift a paddle, much less use one. Soon sand and rock crunched against the bottom of the canoe bringing us to a sudden stop, jolting me hard against the metal frame.
“Land ho,” I cried as loud as my chemo ruined lungs allowed. I breathed like a severe asthmatic or someone who’d smoked all her life.
Mom began unpacking our supplies while Dad pulled the canoe further onto shore and I went along for the ride. The smell of pine hit me and the sound of the waterfalls reached my ears.
“I want to go in the water.” I forced a grin from under my absurdly large brim.
Dad nodded as he lifted me in his arms and carried me to shore. “You need to get your suit on and we have to set up camp first.”
“I have my suit on.” I showed him, pulling my shirt up with a thin hand.
He chuckled. “We have to get things set up before it gets too dark though, Britt.”
“Can I just sit in it up to my waist?” I pleaded, glancing at the outlet and the water flowing over some nearby rocks.
He stopped and turned to Mom who stood with her arms crossed, listening to our conversation. She opened her mouth to object but looked at my face and her expression faltered. She gave a resigned nod.
“Yay.” I clapped as Dad set me down.
Mom helped take off my shorts and top leaving the baggy one-piece to cover nothing anyone would want to see. Dad picked me up again, walked down the bank, and began to set me in before I stopped him.
“Hey, I want to have some current flowing over me,” I protested. “Closer.”
He glanced at me and then back to Mom. Sighing, he took another dozen steps or so closer to the small waterfalls. A light rumble reached my ears as the water struck rocks out of sight and felt the mist drift over us. A bigger fall lay just beyond these.
The cold, fresh water made me shiver as he put me into a spot between two large rocks, worn smooth from centuries of moving water. I gasped and tensed until my body began to relax, acclimating to the temperature.
He looked down, impatient, as I grinned up at
“What?” “Is that enough?” “No, I want to sit a while.”
“Britt, I need to set up camp.” “Who’s stopping you?” “I can’t leave you alone.” His eyes were wide and
anxious. “I won’t be. You and Mom are only a few feet
away, I’ll be fine.” He stared at me, cocking an eyebrow and crossing
his arms over his chest. “Go on, I’ll be fine,” I reassured him. His eyes narrowed as he leaned his head to one
side and frowned. Without another word he walked back to camp, looking over his shoulder every few steps, making sure I wasn’t going to slip off somewhere.
The funny thing is...that’s exactly what I planned. The four years of treatment, the endless hours in a hospital bed; I wouldn’t allow any more. I would slide myself into the current and let the water take me away from here, from this world filled with nothing but pain and suffering. The decision didn’t come easy. My parents were wonderful, my friends, the ones that stuck by me, very supportive. I would miss them all, but to watch their eyes cloud with sympathy and sorrow as I became a hollow shell was something I didn’t want to put any of us through. Not anymore.
I glanced over my shoulder at the camp. Mom was setting up the tent with Dad. I waved at her, putting on the smile I learned to use when she needed to feel better. If they knew my plan, of course they’d try to stop me. What parent wouldn’t?
She waved and turned back to the tent and my smile melted away.
Inching my butt forward, closer to the current tickling at my toes and ankles, I slid down further, pushing off from the smooth boulders. My suit hitched up, but I didn’t care about a wedgy before floating to my death. I grinned at the thought. After all those months in a hospital bed, sliding down as my underwear crept up wasn’t even a worry. It ended today, now.
Stealing another look at the campsite revealed them collecting firewood around the edge of the camp’s clearing. Their backs to me, I took my chance.
I thought it would feel different, somehow, when my body floated off the rock. The panic I feared would seize me at that moment didn’t come. The urgency to reach this point melted away. I leaned back, my head rested in the water. An eagle drifted above me gliding on air currents while it searched the water for fish, captivating me with its elegance and majesty. I’d forgotten the beauty of this place. For the first time in over a year, I felt my world around me, caressing me, stimulating my senses which had gone stale and making me feel...alive.
A rush of fear gripped me. What was I thinking? I wanted to live, I wasn’t a quitter. I wanted to fight until I couldn’t fight anymore. But the realization that my choice in the matter was gone hit me as I slid into the current, my head above water for a split second before the sounds went muffled. My silly hat with the big brim pulled away from my hairless head.
I expected them to try and reach me, hoping they would be too late. Now, I prayed that they would come. Paddling with all the strength in my atrophied muscles, I fought the current. It tugged, hard, and carried me away.
Mom screamed and Dad shouted right as a loud splash hit the water upstream.
I opened my eyes in the hazy water as a dark shape darted past, too late to catch me. I hit something hard and was airborne, the sound of the falls rumbling in my ears. The feeling was like nothing I’d experienced before. The air and the water mixed to frothy foam and then I plunged underwater again, the sounds going muffled. My body hit the rocks and debris at the bottom of the falls, jarring me and forcing the warm air from my lungs to be replaced by cold, crisp lake water. Spinning over and over I lost my sense of up and down as the churning water kept me lurching from side to side. My head throbbed and my lungs bucked. The water pulled me along and soon black spots filled my vision. The spots spread until the blackness enveloped everything. Then, the pain was over and the next stage of my existence, if any, began.