Susan Cope

Award-Winning Writer

What On Earth?
by Susan Cope

Homebound Publications, Fall 2022

MERRY and her brother MAX are visiting their old treehouse and its upstairs neighbor OWLIVER, when a shuddering jolt hurtles them on a journey to the future. Who can they trust? Is the shimmering neighbor who offers them help an artist, a fortune-teller, or a witch? What ugliness, devastation and cruelty hide beneath the sparkling surfaces and brilliant technology of the city? Are there glimmers of magic afoot? Will friends, some new, some old, be able to help? Will Merry find her own magic powers? Their lives, their neighborhood—the fate of the earth itself—all hang in the balance.

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“Come on, Merry—let’s see if he’s home,” said Max. He began climbing, up, up, up, above the treehouse—Merry right behind him—avoiding the white streaks staining the trunk, until they were eye-level with an enormous nest. Twigs, bits of string, and unidentifiable stuff poked out everywhere. What a mess! Almost as bad as Max’s room. The nest’s current occupant was in residence: a large—and at the moment—sleepy, Horned Owl.

Max greeted him like a buddy. “What’s up, Owliver?”

Merry hadn’t even thought about Owliver in months. Owliver appeared to have wasted equally little time thinking about her. He responded by opening one eye. A blink or two, then it was back to sleep.

Had it been worth all those hours, those accumulations of agonizing minutes, spent creeping up the tree to court the owl? Though she had been repulsed by rodents and equally  disgusted by the idea of animals eating other animals alive, she had spent her entire allowance each week at the pet store on “pinkies,” live baby mice to offer as bribes. Offerings to the owl. Yes, she thought, it was worth it, though she had a hard time explaining why, even to herself. Just now, a shiver had run down her spine when Owliver opened one eye and connected with her, then accepted her so completely he could go back to sleep.