Little Sister

Little Sister

By:  Crystal Lake Publishing  Completed
Language: English
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1943. Soviet Union is under attack as WW2 is raging. Fighting in the doomed battle of Kursk, Andrei finds himself in a strange city where Svetlana, a girl he has never seen but who looks eerily familiar, saves him from a fist-faced creature. When Svetlana’s family is lost, the two embark on a harrowing odyssey across the snow-covered plain, battling deformed former humans and taken prisoners by the army of black stars. Against impossible odds, they reach their destination where they discover a secret that will change history.©️ Crystal Lake Publishing

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16 Chapters
The Lost Notebook
THE LOST NOTEBOOKTHE DAY HER father was arrested, Svetlana lost her notebook.The notebook was important because all the latest definitions were there, written down in her careful round script. She searched for it everywhere: under the roll-up top of her desk, where balls of blotting paper nested like spider eggs; at the bottom of her satchel where she discovered an ink-stained white ribbon; on the floor of the classroom, crawling between the rows of desks until she was chased away by old Aunt Sonya, the cleaner.She could not find the notebook and went home downcast. She could always ask her best friend Tattie. But Tattie lived five streets away and the winter day was drawing to a close—the sky was like a dusty bowl filling with darkness. It was at night when the oborotni came out and prowled the streets. Though the Patrols of Light were there to protect the workers coming home from late shifts, children were strongly discouraged from venturing outside after dark. Even if, li
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The Eyeless
THE EYELESSWHEN SHE CAME TO, sluggishly and reluctantly, she found herself lying on the family’s shabby sofa. Andrei was sitting by her side. A sparse dawn bled through the window.“Mama,” she whispered.“She went after them,” he said. “I told her not to . . . It’s not a good idea. But she would not listen.”Svetlana stared at him. His face looked dusty. She noticed, distantly, a half-healed scar on his cheek.“They took my Dad, too,” he was saying under his breath. “A month before the war started. They said he was a cosm . . . cosmop?”“Kosmop,” she said. “It’s a kind of vermin.”“This is what they said. I can’t even pronounce it.”“My father is innocent,” Svetlana said dully. “It was not . . . it wasn’t him. Somebody made a mistake. I need to go and talk to them. Now!”She tried to get up but fell back onto the sofa again. Her head was spinning, blue spots rotating in her field of vision.“Hey, hey,” Andrei pushed her back.“You need to eat,
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The Sealed Floors
THE SEALED FLOORSTHEY FOUND THEMSELVES in the dirty darkness, faintly diluted by the anemic light dribbling from an unshaded electric bulb. Svetlana was momentarily surprised by the fact that there was electricity in the sealed floors but then realized it was necessary to keep whatever was breeding here in check.The light was so dim, though. Would it even work?She looked around. She had not been to the upper floors since she was a child and remembered little of them. Ahead of them, a flight of concrete stairs disappeared into the gloom, littered with desiccated insects and mice droppings. There was a shed to the right where the janitor’s tools used to be stored when the entire building had been occupied.Andrei looked back at the door that shuddered but held as the fists of the eyeless hammered at it.“Funny neighbors you have,” he remarked acidly.“Don’t you dare.” Svetlana turned on him, her cheeks blazing with indignation. “Those are good people. Good workers. The Enemy had
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The Speak House
THE SPEAK HOUSETHE STREETS WERE empty the next morning as they trudged through the shivery frostbite of the crystal air toward the Speak-House. Svetlana was so cold that even her thoughts seemed frozen in her head. She clung to one certainty—she needed to talk to the people in charge and tell them what she had seen. Hopefully, then her parents would be restored to her, and everything would be as it used to be.But what about Andrei? He marched by her side, his face set in a frown. He was her witness. If her story of the eyeless was doubted, he could lend his support. Would he be believed? Wouldn’t he be suspected of being in the service of the Enemy? How could she know for sure that he was not? Okay, he could not be an Enemy himself; something deep inside her insisted on his humanity, but what if he was a foreign infiltrator of some kind?When they had woken up in the office, she had been unable to move, her limbs seized with the paralysis of chill. The fire had gone out in th
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The Train Station
THE TRAIN STATIONTHEY HAD GONE back to Svetlana’s apartment because they could think of no other place to go.The door was sealed with a black spider-star, but Andrei unceremoniously kicked it in. It was freezing inside because the central heating had been turned off. It was routinely done when an entire apartment block had to be written off as a nest of the Enemy.Otherwise, her family’s possessions had been left untouched. There was food in the larder, and the kitchen stove still worked. They made giant mugs of tea and ate bread and sausage, huddling under heaps of blankets.Svetlana had lived in this apartment since the day she was born. Her textbooks still lay in an untidy heap on the desk in the corner of the living room that doubled as a dining table when her parents were on different shifts and the family did not eat together. The paper flowers she had made, scorched by the power of the Voice, drooped in the vase made of a jam jar. She could see into the kitchen where
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Comrade Krasnov
COMRADE KRASNOVSHE WOKE UP when the rocking of the train suddenly stopped. Muzzily, she lifted her head, marveling at the empty space around her. Then, she realized she had almost half the berth to herself because Andrei was gone.She was instantly alert, her heart hammering. The people below murmured uneasily. The twins on her berth still huddled together, keeping as far away from her as possible. The naked bulb above swayed in the smoky air but at least electricity gave some protection against the Enemy who might be hiding in the mass of the passengers.“Where are we?” she asked the twins, but they did not respond. They merely stared at her as if she had spoken in a foreign language.Where was Andrei? Had he left while she was sleeping? Svetlana bit her lip, torn between relief and consternation. Since their twilight meeting, her life had been a string of disasters, and she still was not sure of who he was. Not one of the Enemy, this was certain, but her previous explanatio
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The Fists
THE FISTSWRAPPED UP IN their outer clothing again, they followed Krasnov and Vadim into the hush of the village. It was not evening yet, but the glassy air had a subtle admixture of darkness in it like ink dissolving in water. The sun was a pale pink smear on the white sky.Krasnov was explaining the situation in the village and Svetlana listened with pleasure, reassured by the firm cadences of his speech. It was blasphemy to compare any man’s voice with the Voice, but she thought, privately, that if anybody’s could measure up, it would be Krasnov’s. Perhaps it was better not to dwell too much on what he was saying. It was just too grim.“We fulfilled our grain and milk quota early in the fall. Everything was just fine. And then . . . this disease. People dying. We requested help from Blue Meadow—that’s the regional center—and they promised to send people but then . . . communication lines are down. I personally fried one damager, but who knows how many are
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Into the Wastelands
INTO THE WASTELANDSTRAINS DID NOT run anymore.They had spent a day at the Little Wells station, huddling around the small tin stove that filled the waiting-room with soporific heat. Outside, the ragged icicles were melting and dripping, fat drops of water drumming on the asphalt. The air smelled raw and tender. A thaw had come.They spoke little. After the confrontations with the Fists, Andrei seemed to have withdrawn into himself. He spent most of the time cleaning and reassembling the black fire-stick that he called the Nagant.Svetlana was repulsed by its oily sheen that resembled an Enemy’s skin, its aura of sly darkness. She had seen how deadly it could be, but Andrei told her that it only held two more shots to fire. What use was such a weapon compared with the generosity of Light? But Svetlana did not tell him that. The distance between them seemed to be growing with every empty minute they spent waiting for the train that did not come.Krasnov, laid up in his shabby
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The Pit
THE PITTHE COILING STEAM closed around them like a fog bank—a suffocating blankness that stank of hot iron and rust. They groped through, holding hands.Svetlana’s face burned with the heat.Then the blankness ended abruptly. They stepped out and found themselves on the lip of a large excavation surrounded by a belt of raw earth. There were several skeletal watchtowers around the excavation, each topped with a revolving searchlight. Their illumination looked like a mockery of the buttery warmth of electricity: harsh and lifeless. The howling seemed to come from these towers or rather from the searchlights, as if this dead glare screamed its own unnaturalness into the night.Svetlana’s fingers closed convulsively around Krasnov’s electric torch, but she did not turn it on. The sense that they were being watched by mocking and hostile eyes was overwhelming.She lingered, frightened of approaching the excavation, seeing what it contained. Andrei stepped forward and looked down.
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TRAITORSTHE CELL WAS FILTHY.There was dry vomit on the floor where its previous inhabitant had emptied his or her guts. The bucket in the corner filled the tiny space with stench. At least, it was too cold for flies. Svetlana could imagine the cell buzzing with insects in summer.She sat on the edge of the bunk that held a scrunched-up dirty blanket which she refused to touch, overwhelmed by the disgust toward its no-doubt-dead-now previous user. It was as if the blanket crawled with the detritus of the body that refused to recognize its demise.She was cold, though, so cold that after a while the idea of snuggling into this corpse-blanket began to appear rational. Why not? Would she be better off frozen to death? Didn’t she owe it to her city, her family, and the Voice to survive and learn as much as possible? A three-candles girl, almost an adult, there were more important things in life than getting a little dirt over her clothes, which were not the cleanest to begin with.St
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