Behind the Tangle Trees
Middle Grade Science-Fiction/Fantasy
Word Count: 52,000 (WIP)
Ten-year-old Kenton has a secret: he’s a refugee from The Company. Sworn to secrecy, he carries the lie of where he is really from around like a weight. A month after moving to Clib, he gets a new secret when he meets an Ulu in the dark, twisted tangle tree forest. The nocturnal creatures are alike, yet very different from the colony legend. Alongside his best friend Spryte, he works to communicate with the natives that live behind the tangle trees.
Sleep deprived, Kenton falls behind in school and falls asleep at dinner. His parents grow concerned, threatening to end his nightly trips to the Ulu village. When Clib’s leaders discover they don’t have enough tanglestone to make the colony’s winter payment, a representative from The Company visits Clib with interest in buying out the colony. Kenton suspects The Company is not only interested in acquiring the sole rights to tanglestone, but in reacquiring his family too.
Kenton is forced to decide between turning to the Ulus for help or keeping them secret from The Company who would exploit the gentle creatures. When he and Spryte overhear his parents talking about tanglestone stolen from the harvest, they hatches a plan to save the colony and keep the Ulus hidden, but they only has two days and everyone’s a suspect.
Chapter 1 – A Smooth Landing
Kenton jogged to the back of the old shuttle. His baggy brown ship suit billowed out behind him like a parachute. He couldn’t wait to climb a tree and eat fruit grown in actual soil. More than anything, Kenton wanted to run with the wind in his face. He wanted to let his feet pound the ground until he couldn’t breathe, not until the timer beeped on a treadmill during recess. He hadn’t done any of these things in over a year.
“Dad, it’s time,” Kenton called. His father’s the towering figure bent over to zip the duffle bag shut.
“Ready,” Dad said and straightened. He looked Kenton over with a critical eye. “Hmmm, your brother’s clothes are way too big on you. Here.” Dad reached into his bag, pulling out a webbed utility belt. “Put this on.” Kenton flushed and wished he hadn’t outgrown his own clothes.
“Jerry! Kenton!” Mom called from the front of the ship. “Are you coming?”
Dad glanced at Kenton, his brow wrinkled, then toward Mom’s voice with a longing sigh. He didn’t like to keep her waiting.
“Go ahead, Dad. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Coming.” Dad hurried away.
Kenton fumbled with the belt, getting it hung up in the loop on the back of his ship suit. No matter how he pulled, it was stuck. The voices outside grew louder as he fought with his clothes. Twisting and wriggling, he pulled the ship suit around until he saw the snag. Dad’s hearty laugh carried to the back of the ship. Kenton had just freed the belt when he thought he heard someone call his name. With a groan, he stared at the offending belt and considered chucking it.