Harry’s Secret Place – a Short Story

A short story taking place before of The Sundered. 

Spoiler alert.


If you don’t want spoilers (or you haven’t read the book and would thus be confused), turn back now.

Grandfather yelled. He broke everything, and said Harry would never be an Iskinder. Harry was too an Iskinder, so he ran away.

It made sense. He knew where to go; the canals were scooped in, sort of rounded, and if a little guy was really careful about sliding down, he could get his feet on the curved part, out of the way of the water, and also out of sight of the adults above.


Grandfather said that daddy wasn’t coming back because Harry had been bad, and this was awful news. Harry wiped his face; grit from the canals scratched him, but he was tough, and did not care. He tried to form a plan. He’d hide here, so adults wouldn’t see him; then he’d steal a boat (how would come later), and go find the Hope of Humanity himself. That would show everybody, and then maybe dad would come home.

His shoes skidded a little, and he braced himself, toeing his way slightly back up that concave space. He had to be careful here. The black water was inches away.

“You must indeed be very careful, Harold Iskinder,” came a smooth, gentle voice, and Harry looked up.

An upside-down person was hanging there, and it took Harry a moment to realize it was a Sundered One.

It was beautiful. Impossible to pin as male or female, long black hair sort of waving tantalizingly between Harry and the rest of the world, skin so dark Harry wanted to paint it, and bright, orange eyes that looked like fire. “Oh!” said Harry, and wobbled a little.

The Sundered One’s dark hand steadied him, against his chest. “Are you afraid?”

“No.” Iskinders were never afraid. (He could look at those eyes forever.)

“Harry!” someone above the canal shouted.

Harry scowled and scrunched against the concave surface.

“You should be afraid,” said the Sundered One, and slowly, gracefully, rotated around to float in front of him. The Sundered One’s hair flowed behind it all by itself! Waves, like a ribbon in water. “You know enough to be.”

“Are you a boy or a girl?” said Harry.

The Sundered One smiled.

“Harry!” someone else shouted above. Ugh; just how many people were looking?

“So,” said the Sundered One. “You are less than what you ought to be. Already, they have reduced you.”

“Huh? Hey. You’re pretty,” Harry informed it.

The dark one chuckled.

“Is he there?” cried somebody, running along the walkway overhead.

Harry stuck his tongue out in their direction and got canal-grit on it. He spent a moment spitting.

The dark Sundered One smiled. “I think you just might do, Harold Iskinder.”

“What?” said Harry, and then decided more observation was warranted. “You’re a weirdo,” he said.

The dark one laughed again, so softly. “Indeed I am,” he agreed, and touched Harry’s cheek.


Harry blinked. He was… something had just… what had happened? Had he fallen asleep? It was dangerous, to sleep here in the canal!

“Harry, come on, my boy. Reach for me.”

Harry looked up. “Doctor Parnum?”

His teacher leaned dangerously over the canal, backlit, and only his eyes showed his worry. “Harry, take my hand.”

The black water suddenly seemed so much closer than it had been. So much angrier. Harry slipped.

Parnum couldn’t reach him. “Here! Help!” he called.

And another Sundered One climbed down at once, a funny furry lady, with big soft furry everything, and a smile-mouth that went all the way to her ears. “Come to my arms,” she said. “Yes. There we go.”

She was shaking, which was frightening, but the water was worse; Harry went to her, and though she shook, she did not drop him. She climbed back up with all six arms and handed him over to Parnum.

Harry’s heart was pounding. He felt sick. The water had been so close.

“Don’t cry, Harry. You’re safe now.” Doctor Parnum hugged him, and Harry pressed his face to the big man’s shoulder so no one would see him do it anyway. “You’re all right now. I’m taking you home.”

“I don’t wanna go home,” Harry whispered.

“I know,” Parnum whispered back, sort of scary-quiet, but then put his hand on the back of Harry’s head as if to protect him. “I thought I heard voices down there. Were you alone?”

“Yes. It’s my secret place,” sniffled Harry.

Parnum swallowed. “Maybe another secret place would do better. I think you’ve outgrown this one.”

The water was so close. “Yeah.”

“You’re safe now,” said Parnum.

“Okay,” Harry whispered, and meant it, because if Doctor Parnum was around, everything would be all right.