Naliyah by Shauna Kelley
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Lenora Scheid can tell you much of human nature. After more than a century of traveling from warzone to warzone, she has experienced more than she can handle of mankind’s thirst for blood and power…she cannot, however, tell you what she is.
Not exactly human, but not precisely vampire either, Lenora’s whole life has been spent under the watchful eye of her father. With only her dreams of a mysterious blue‐eyed man as company, she has little choice but to follow her father across the world despite his refusal to help her understand her true nature.
As Lenora reaches the end of her tolerance with their life of travel and death, she comes face to face with her blue‐eyed man and everything changes. Can this man save her from a life of brutality? Or will the secrets kept from her for so long destroy them both?
“Highly imaginative, captivating, and rich in characters and story… a must read.”
--Tia Bach, author of The Tala Prophecies
What does it mean for mankind that, in the one hundred years of wandering that followed our time in Africa, I was never hungry again? From the Ivory Coast, we sailed north, moving through Egypt on foot or horse.
“You should see Cairo,” my father had said, “and Giza, where our people helped to design the great pyramids.”
“We’ve been around that long?” I asked.
“Longer,” he said.
Having just fed, we were able to walk the dessert in the daylight, and marvel at the wonders of man long dead. However, after just a few days of the beating sun, I began to understand father’s warning that this would make us hungry faster. I began to eye our guides, kind honest men, longingly. At the end of each day, my skin took on a purplish tint and I could hear each and every beat of each and every heart around me.
From Egypt, it was onto another ship, through the Red Sea and the Arabian. We reached India and found no shortage of the dying in Bombay, where poverty plagued the city as brutally as any war could. The plague had ravaged the population, leaving it with a broken and defeated feeling. In darker corners, bodies still lined the street.
“Just be careful,” father warned as we moved through alleys full of moaning and desperate people. “The blood of the dead becomes poisonous to us the instant they die.”
“But the plague in their blood will not hurt us?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “It might make us feel a bit sluggish, but still better than not feeding at all.”
During the days in Bombay, we slept in downy beds in a hotel that was inexplicably cool amidst the sweltering heat. We awoke at dusk, often travelling to some temple or other architectural wonder that my father wanted me to see.
I found both the trip and the city dissonant and confusing. There were amazing and beautiful things to see if only I could not see the poverty and desperation that surrounded them. Whereas Baltimore had been loud but with sounds of those happy and thriving, Bombay was a cacophony of struggle. I tried to talk to my father about these observations, but he waved them off as though I was simply a silly girl thinking silly thoughts.
“Let us go to the market,” he declared one day.
I followed obediently, my eyes fixed to the ground. Soon however, we arrived at a bright and happy bizarre that lifted my spirits instantly. I wandered through a myriad of stalls of beaded shoes, spices that smelled so strong they made my head ache, and beautiful cloths.
“Pretty lady,” one older gentleman called to me perfect English through a mouth that contained almost no teeth, “come here and see my pretty things.”
I glanced around for my father, who was a few stalls back speaking intently to an older man. Deciding he wouldn’t even notice my absence, I moved towards the toothless man.
His stall was full of fabrics of all colors. He had silks of deep turquoise, stunning purple, and vivid orange that seemed to beg for my touch. They are all richly embroidered and stunningly beautiful.
“A pretty lady needs pretty things,” the toothless man declared, picking up a bright yellow shawl and wrapping it around my shoulders. It was covered in a pattern of sunbursts, and made me feel instantly cheerful.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, feeling a bit of wonder at being called a lady. Only a few months prior, I had been just a girl. My father’s predictions about my aging had proven correct, and I had already advanced to looking like a young teenager.
“You should buy it, pretty lady,” the man said.
Suddenly, my father appeared behind me. “She should have one,” he agreed, “but not that one.” He reached beyond the man and picked out a deep blue shawl, covered with stars. “This one,” he declared, handing the man an exorbitant sum of money.
“Yes, sir,” the man declared, wide-eyed over the money in his palm. “Thank you sir.”
I wrapped myself in my shawl, saddened by the loss of the sunny yellow one, and followed my father out of the stall.
“You gave him so much money,” I said.
“Yes,” he agreed.
“How do we always have so much money?” I asked.
“From various places,” he said. “When you’ve been alive as long as I have, you can wait for investments to pay off.”
“But what investments?” I persisted.
“Lenora, you shouldn’t ask me about money, just know that we have it and leave it at that.”
I fell silent, following him out of the market. A growing unease was settling across me, though I could not quite name its source.
“We are leaving soon,” my father said after a moment, leading me down a darkened street that was far from our hotel.
“Have we fed enough for another sea journey?” I asked.
“We’re about to,” he said.
I glanced around, but found no bodies on the ground in this part of the city. However, a murmuring behind me filled me with dread. Father and I both turned and found a group of perhaps eight men waiting for us at the mouth of the street. They instantly began shouting at my father in Hindi.
“What are they saying?” I asked.
“They are demanding I give them my money,” he said. The men advanced on us.
“Are you going to?” I asked.
“No,” he said, instead giving me a knife.
As the men attacked, we stabbed and slashed until they were on the ground. My beautiful blue shawl was torn and covered with blood by the time we began to feed.
Once full, we moved back towards the hotel.
“You showed off your money in the market because you knew they would follow,” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
“But why them? You’ve said we eat the dying and they were alive,” I said.
“There are many forms of dying,” he said. “Had we not killed them today, most of those men would have starved to death or died of malaria within the next year. This city has more people than it can support, and men like them add violence to the mix.”
“But how can we be sure?” I said. “Perhaps one of them would have left this place and become a doctor and done good in the world.”
“The chances of that are very small,” he said. “And you have just learned a lesson.”
“And what lesson is that?”
“That a healthy man can be a dying man, too.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shauna Kelley lives near Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and beloved mutts. Dedicated aunt, adventurous baker, and action movie fanatic, she spends her days writing, teaching, and crocheting.
Kelley’s first novel, Max and Menna, was a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award finalist for Young Adult Fiction in 2010. Naliyah is her third novel. Kelley delights in the opportunity to interact with readers. Find her online at www.mmshaunakelley.blogspot.com.