Harry’s Secret Place

Harry’s Secret Place


(If you’ve read The Sundered, you’re good to go. Otherwise, head back to the short stories for safer fare.)

Nobody’ll find me here.

Grandfather yelled. He broke everything and he said I could never be a Iskinder.

I am too a Iskinder.

He said daddy’s not coming back and it’s my fault because I’m bad.

No. I am not bad! I’m not coming out, ever. I’ll go find the Hope all on my own and nobody can say I’m not a Iskinder no more.

I miss my daddy.

My face feels scratchy and my hands are dirty. The canals are really dirty here, on the inside round parts where I’m hided. I thought the Sundered Ones kept it all clean, but they didn’t do a good job!

I got to be careful. If I sleep here, I might fall down, and the black water will get me.

“You must indeed be very careful, Harold Iskinder,” says somebody so close, and I jump pretty bad.

There’s a guy in here with me, in the dark. He’s really dark, too. I can’t barely see him.

Oh. He’s just a Sundered One, and he’s kind of sticking to the wall like a bug. Haha!

The Sundered guy leans in, and… wow. He’s pretty. I’ve never seen a pretty one before. “Are Sundered Ones strangers? I’m not allowed to talk to strangers,” I tell him, so he knows.

“I am not a stranger, Harold Iskinder,” he says, sort of soft like he likes me or something.

He’s really pretty. It’s weird. “You look like a girl,” I tell him.

He smiles, and he’s even prettier. But his orange eyes are scary. They glow. If anybody sees that, they might let people know where I am. I wriggle away from him, so maybe when people look over to see the orange light, they’ll see him, but they won’t see me. Iskinders are smart!

“Are you afraid?” says the Sundered guy.

“No.” Iskinders are never afraid.

“Harry!” somebody shouts above us. They won’t fool me. I won’t even yell back that I’m not coming home, because they’d hear.

“You should be afraid.” The orangey-eye Sundered guy looks at me sideways, like he’s asking a question. “You know enough to be.”

“Shhh, guy!” I make the shh-face at him. “You’re gonna tell them where I am!”

He nods, all serious, and though I didn’t claim him, he’s doing what I say. Of course he is. I’m a Iskinder, and we’re special.

The Sundered guy looks away from me, like he’s sad.

“Why are you sad?” I say.

When he looks at me this time, it hurts, in my head. “You are less than what you ought to be. Already, they have reduced you.”

Huh? “You’re weird, even if you’re pretty,” I whisper.

He whispers back. “I cannot risk you, Harold Iskinder. I dare not. Risking you risks too much.”

“Huh?” Can Sundered Ones be crazy? He’s talking crazy.

“Is he there?” somebody as they go running by the walkway over our heads.

The black Sundered guy is still staring at me.

“You’re a weirdo,” I whisper, because his pretty makes me feel weird.

He laughs really softly. “Indeed I am,” he agrees, and he touches my face, and his hand is so hot it bur –

Oh, no! I fell asleep! I could’ve fallen into the black water! I got to be more careful than that!

I dreamed something, something about… I don’t remember now.


I know that guy’s voice. It’s my teacher! My teacher came for me! “Doctor Parnum?” I shout at the top of the canal wall.

“There, down there! Careful, don’t startle him!” Doctor Parnum shouts, and light fills up the canal, and shows how dirty it is, though Sundered Ones are supposed to keep everything clean. Well, this isn’t clean, so they did a bad job.

“There, there, little one,” says the Sundered lady who climbs down to me, a funny furry lady, with big soft furry… um, everything, and a smile-mouth that goes all the way to her ears. “Come to my arms. Yes. There we go.”
She’s shaking, and that makes me scared, but she doesn’t drop me. She climbs back up and gives me over to Doctor Parnum, and I’m a big boy, I am, but I’m scared.

Grandfather will yell so much. He broke everything. I’m scared.

“Don’t cry, Harry. You’re safe now.” Doctor Parnum hugs me tight. I push my face on his shoulder so nobody will see me cry. His voice shakes like his Sundered lady was shaking. “You’re all right now. I’m taking you home.”

“I don’t wanna go home,” I whisper.

He doesn’t say anything for a minute. “I know,” he says, kind of scary-low, but he puts his hand on my head and I know he’s not mad at me. “I thought I heard voices down there. Were you alone?”

Of course I was. It’s my secret place. “Yea

“You’re safe now,” says Doctor Parnum again.

I am too a Iskinder. I’m gonna be the best who ever was.

Maybe. If Doctor Parnum takes me home, I won’t be so scared.


A three-times bestselling author, Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and been the keynote speaker for the Write Practice Retreat. Author of two series with five books and fifty-plus short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom and used up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon in the process. When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away. P.S. Red is still her favorite color.