Hidden away, four children are being kept from the outside world. What secrets do they know? Why are their lives in danger if they are discovered?
Caleb’s safe world begins to crumble when he starts to hear voices that no one else can hear. His mother disappeared after she heard the voices. Will this happen to him too? How can he protect his family? The answers challenge everything he thought he knew and change his future on the planet forever.
Star Light begins the story of the Fraser family caught between worlds, hunted by aliens and holding the key to the survival of Earth.
Available now at…
Read Chapter One Below
Caleb crouched low and ran, dragging his old plastic sheet to the middle of the paddock where he was hidden by the tall grass. The night sky shone clear. He quickly knelt to drop his backpack and pull out his star-gazing equipment: blankets, beanie, tin of biscuits and binoculars. He wished for the hundredth time that he had a telescope. Binoculars were all right but a telescope would bring the stars closer still. Caleb lay down and made himself comfortable. First, he looked for his old friends and favourite markers in the night sky. Orion’s belt sparkled out. Crux was harder with so many stars around it. He fell into space and floated at peace among the stars away from the farm and his family.
In the distance he heard a door slam. His muscles tensed. Was his father coming to the caravan? He wanted to get up and run back but he couldn’t risk his father seeing him. He rolled onto his arm and peered over the top of the grass. He could see a figure moving by the wood pile. His father was getting more wood for the stove. Caleb watched until his father went back inside. The door banged. Caleb breathed out. Safe.
He felt around for the tin of biscuits. The smell of chocolate chips reminded him of stolen nights staring at the stars with his mother. He munched on a biscuit and focussed the binoculars on Saturn. The rings swam into view. He grinned. He remembered the first time he had seen them. A warm voice had whispered in his ear that one day he would fly through the rings and see the other side. He looked for the biggest moon. Titan. Caleb’s moon, his mother had said. A thin cloud floated across his view. He frowned and shifted the binoculars looking for Crux. The constellation had been his mother’s
favourite. Her voice echoed down the years: ‘Caleb look up at the stars. There are so many. But you can always find where you are if you look for the important stars.’
More clouds drifted in front of him. They were just like his father. Getting in the way of the stars. Another cloud drifted in. It came with an old memory of his father shouting. Voice Devils. They had made everything wrong and frightened his mother away. He shivered. The wind came up. Clouds clumped and sped across the sky. No more stars tonight. He packed up and trudged back to the caravan. Another boring night in his boring life, he thought, as he climbed into bed.
Can you see the stars?
Caleb tried to shut out the words. The voices were coming back.
Caleb frowned. He had let himself relax. Stupid. He started counting factors of eight, forcing himself to concentrate on each number so he wouldn’t hear the voice again. A memory floated up. He was playing with his toys. His mother was in the kitchen. He could hear her talking to the pots like she always did. ‘You’re getting too close to them. Pull away. Remember they shift.’
‘Hannah, you’re doing it again,’ said his father walking into the kitchen.
‘Talking to no one! You need to go see a doctor.’
‘Alright, I’ll make an appointment.’
As always, any memory of his mother was followed by the bad one.
‘Mummy’s sick and she has to go away for a rest. Granma will look after you.’
‘When is she coming back?’ He had hugged his spaceship box to his chest, a last gift from his mother before she had gone away.
‘She’ll come back soon.’
His grandmother snorted. ‘Don’t lie to the children, Michael. She’s been taken away because she hears voices. She won’t be coming back.’
‘I hear voices,’ he had said. His grandmother had choked on her tea. He remembered his father having to slap her on her back. ‘I hear you and Dad and…’
‘That’s normal! Your mother was hearing voices that weren’t there. If you start doing that you will be taken away too.’
Caleb shuddered and started counting faster until he fell asleep.
The next few days on the farm were normal. Caleb did his farm jobs as usual. He helped Rachel make some more nesting boxes for the chickens. His father was ploughing a new paddock for feed, which meant Caleb was left to manage moving the young stock by himself. The young bulls were just like the twins, he thought, always haring off to do something else instead of going where he wanted them too. Caleb found the daily stock move more tiring than doing his usual morning milking round with their mothers.
The three days every week when his father left the farm to work as a mechanic in Featherston was like a holiday. Caleb could spend more time reading and helping Noah pull apart the old generator. His younger brother seemed to have a knack at figuring out what was wrong with machinery and fixing it. Caleb wished he could have a project that made a difference to the farm. All he seemed to do well was fix fences. He trudged along the track with a roll of wire on his shoulder. His father’s tool belt was tied up past the last notch. He hoped it wouldn’t drop off his hips as he walked.
Caleb stopped. He looked around to see who was speaking to him. There was no one in sight. The green paddocks on both sides of the track stretched down to the stream, winding through the hidden valley where their farm was. In the distance he could hear the sounds of the young stock but they didn’t sound like a human voice. He started counting numbers again while jogging to the fence he was repairing. Another memory surfaced of his mother talking.
‘David, I’m being followed.’
‘No, I can’t ambush them. I never leave the house without the kids.’
‘Can you come?’
Caleb had looked up from his Lego construction. His mother was talking to the pots on the stove again. He wondered which pot was called David.
She was mad and she got taken away. His Granma’s voice echoed in his ears. Caleb twisted the wire hard around the fence batten, forcing it into a tight knot.
He wanted the memories of his mother but they came with a sting. He didn’t want to hear voices too.
The next day the voice came again when he was trying to fix a leak in a trough pipe. The wind was destroying the tape bandage before he could get it around the pipe. He swore in frustration. Water dripped over his hand and down his boot. He shook his hands free of water and wiped them on his old coat. ‘Why am I always on my own trying to fix the junk on this farm,’ he growled at the pipe. He needed another hand to hold down the broken pieces. Caleb twisted his body to get some shelter from the wind and reached down for the roll of tape to start unwinding it for the fifth time.
Can you hear me?
Caleb froze. The voice was light. It sounded friendly. He almost answered back. The words were forming on his lips, when the wind blew the tape around his hand.
He was lost in the memory of being in the supermarket with his mother. He was pushing the trolley carefully. The twins were asleep in their little seats. His mother was talking to the shelf of tins.
‘Caleb is my failsafe.’
‘What’s a failsafe, Mum?’
His mother had blinked and looked confused for a moment. She smiled at him and put her finger to her lips.
‘But what’s a failsafe?’
‘You are so like David,’ she muttered. ‘Never let anything go.’
David was the name of her favourite pot, thought Caleb. That’s funny and he smiled.
His mother smiled down at him. ‘It’s a secret weapon,’ she said. ‘You’re my secret weapon. If I forget my shopping list you always remember what I have to get.’
‘I’m your number one helper.’ He remembered saying.
Eggs, butter, bread, milk, cereal… He could still remember the list.
‘I’m in the supermarket, David.’ His mother had snapped as she stared at a can of tomatoes. Caleb shivered as another memory popped into his head. This time he was hiding with Rachel under a blanket on the couch. His father was shouting. ‘Who were you talking to?’
‘No one,’ said his mother.
‘Then you’re a crazy woman. You need to see a doctor.’
‘I’m perfectly healthy. I’m just tired.’ One of the babies started to wail. ‘There, see what you’ve done,’ his mother said. ‘You’ve woken the baby!’ The other baby joined in. Caleb peeped out from under the blanket. His mother was rocking Tobias in her arms and glaring at his father. ‘Well, don’t just stand there. Sort out Noah.’
His father picked Noah up and put him on his shoulder. ‘I’m sorry I shouted. But you frightened me.’
Caleb began to dread his morning work round. He tried to block out the random words he was hearing.
Then the bad memories would start. He pushed himself to do more work so he couldn’t hear random words pushing into his brain. By the end of the week Caleb was running the track and counting loudly to see if he could block the voice. It never worked.
He started to look behind every clump of bushes to see if it was Noah or Tobias playing a trick on him. The voice was young, light, like a girl’s. But Rachel was back in the cottage making the bread. His searches for the trickster meant his morning round started taking longer. His father noticed and accused him of wasting time. Caleb shrugged and kept away from his father for the rest of the day.
‘Caleb’s getting bad tempered,’ said Noah at the breakfast table the next morning. Caleb glared at him.
‘Turning into the old man early aren’t you,’ said Tobias. Caleb saw Rachel frown at Tobias. She didn’t have to protect Tobias. He was old enough to wear the consequences.
Caleb growled. ‘It’s pretty easy to be mad at you,’ he growled as he stood up and dumped his plate in the sink.
‘What did I do?’
‘You know,’ said Caleb.
‘It was an accident. I didn’t mean to break the handle off the cowshed door. It wasn’t hanging right anyway.’
‘Not that,’ Caleb paused by the door to glare at his brother. ‘I meant following me every morning and playing tricks on me.’
‘I’m not!’ Tobias protested, flinging his hands out wide and nearly toppling the milk jug.
‘Yeah, he’s too busy breaking the handle off the cowshed door,’ said Noah, scowling at his twin. ‘Thanks so much, you liar. Dad thought I’d done it. You owe me dude!’
Caleb left the kitchen, slamming the door on his way out. He could hear the twins continuing the argument behind him.
If it wasn’t the twins and it wasn’t Rachel, who was talking?
‘She got taken away because she heard voices.’ His grandmother’s words rolled around in his head.
Caleb picked up a tree branch to use as a club when he was on the water trough round.
After a few days of waiting for the voice and holding onto tree branch clubs he began to feel stupid. The next day he ran the track counting loudly in his head. No voice echoed in his ears.
In the end Caleb decided it was just another weird memory.
The track stretched out in front of him. Seven green paddocks up to the road. Why did the settlers put the little cottage so far away from the road? He asked his father about it one day in the milking shed.
‘The original owners had the land in one big block all the way to the mountain range,’ his father said as they were milking cows. ‘It was easier back then to spread the farm workers around and give them a section to be responsible for. When the land was sold they just sold off sections around the cottages. This land was cheaper because it was further from the road. Not so easy to find.’
Caleb wondered about that last comment. He was about to ask why not being easy to find was a good thing when his father told him not to waste time talking. As he gazed down to the end of the farm, more words trickled into his mind.
‘You’ve got to disappear with the kids. I’ll come back.’
Caleb closed his eyes. This time he knew it was a memory. His mother had said those words. When? Why did they have to disappear? Caleb detoured to one of his favourite places on the farm: the old macrocarpa tree that had fallen down. You could sit on that old tree and pretend it was a rocket ship heading out to search among the stars. He made himself comfortable among the old roots sticking up into the air and tried hard to remember his mother.
One memory stood out. Five years ago. It had been a spring day. She had bought ice creams and they had gone to the park. The twins were four and running around playing chase. Everyone was laughing. His mother had hugged him. ‘Remember the stars,’ she had whispered in his ear. Soon after she was gone.
Granma came to stay. Life went on. His father didn’t laugh very often. Then they had moved here.
He looked around at the rolling hills heading up towards the mountain range. No one was in sight. The land was all shades of green from the grass to the native trees and then the forests on the slopes of the mountains. He strained to hear something different from cows. He tried to remember the last time he had heard another voice that was a friend. Years ago, he thought. Caleb picked up the stick and bashed the old macrocarpa with it. ‘Stupid. Stupid. Stupid,’ he told himself. You want that voice to speak so you can pretend you have a friend. Saying it out loud made him feel worse. ‘Suck it up, boy,’ he told himself. He gave the old macrocarpa a last bash with the stick and started back on his water trough round. It was a clear day. The only good thing about living back here in the hills was the great night sky he thought. He could see so much more than when he was little in the city. Another memory surfaced. He was lying on his back in the yard at night, his mother pointing out the Southern Cross.
‘You can always find where you are if you look for the important stars. What’s the most important star?’
‘That’s right. That’s our meeting point.’ Every night since she went away he had been waving to Crux Beta waiting for her to come back.
Book One is available now at….