ORCHARD OF SORROWS is an upper middle grade SFF that takes place in an alternate world and is told in dual POV. Complete at 68,000 words, it is Beautiful Blue Worldmeets The Lie Tree with a dash of The Maze Runner.

Twelve-year-old Benu knows he doesn’t have a future outside of the Orchard, a forced labor camp for Marred children; those who have a star-shaped beauty mark on their face. As prisoners to the elite Haute, he and the other kids tend to their precious pomme trees.Benu has the added responsibility of protecting his cheeky, little asi, Ife. Each night he comforts Ife with a story about Lizzy—a Marred girl who’d lived in a utopic village before they were interned.

Perfectly round and resistant to bruises and blemishes, the pommes are valuable to the Haute. He and the other Marred are strictly forbidden to eat them. So, when one of the pommes falls to the ground, flawed by a tiny hole, Benu’s curiosity gets the best of him, and he tastes the forbidden fruit.

Haunting whispers rise from the trees and a mysterious Marred girl appears outside the Orchard’s perimeter claiming to know of a sanctuary. A disease spreads through Benu’s section of the Orchard, and hundreds of scarred pommes litter the ground. When Benubecomes the prime suspect, he plans to escape with the mysterious girl to seek a better life. Refusing to confess, the Haute threaten Ife and take her away. Benu must make a choice—either stay and rescue Ife or flee to find sanctuary for all of the Marred children.

Lizzy lives with her perfect family in her idyllic village where no one’s ever wanted to leave. She dreams of exploring other places, like the progressive kingdom, Embliss, that she recounts in a fable to her younger abo. But it doesn’t exist.

No one’s ever found Lizzy’s village and the name isn’t spoken aloud or printed anywhere. Only the people in her society know the name and carry it in their souls—except for Lizzy. Without the knowledge of the name, outsiders can never find their secret home. Until Collin crash lands a hot air balloon in Lizzy’s backyard. And the best part is, he claims he’s from Embliss!

Collin is welcomed into her family and feels at home in the village. He speaks of mistreatment by the king and is haunted by his apa’s death. But soon after his arrival, Lizzy’s ama gets sick and only the king has the elixir that can cure her. Lizzy gets her wish to visit Embliss but without the village name she may never find her way back to save her ama. Unless Collin leads her, but in doing so his secret could put her and the rest of her people in jeopardy.

I attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and performed Shakespeare for over fifteen years. My love of writing began with poetry. One of those poems, MADE FOR ONE, won the Milford National Poetry Contest and was published in High Tide magazine.

Kind regards,

Dawn Michelle Mancarella

 

CHAPTER ONE: BENU

Snip, snip, twist, pluck. Repeat.

Snip, snip, twist, pluck. Repeat. 

Benu never questioned authority in the Orchard. He thought it strange that the pomme trees he cultivated flourished in the harshest conditions. But he didn’t dare ask how they survived. He taught his asi, Ife, to do the same—work hard and keep her head down.

Dreary days. Rainy nights. Snow-shrouded soil. It didn’t matter. The trees thrived and always bore fruit.

Spending too much time alone with the mundane task of pruning and picking played tricks on his mind. Sometimes, amongst the trees in the Orchard, whispers rippled through the branches. Or was it just the wind caressing the leaves? He couldn’t say for sure. And sometimes when he plucked a pomme from the safety of its branch, it spat at him and he could’ve sworn the tree groaned like the pangs of an ama separated from her child.

Snip, snip, twist, pluck. Repeat.

Snip, snip, twist, pluck. Repeat.

All of the fruit were perfectly round, without a blemish to tarnish their garnet-armored skin. He didn’t know what made them so precious to the Haute. No one did. Only that the Marred were forbidden to eat them. Being one of the Marred, he kept his curiosity to himself.

As dusk swept across the sky, Benu went about his business, snipping and twisting and plucking. Without warning, a pomme loosened from a nearby branch and plunked to the ground.

He froze and stared at the fallen fruit, mouth agape, not sure of what to do. None of the fruit had ever been weak enough to drop on their own. He and the others who tended to the trees assured they were healthy and fertile.

When Benu overcame his shock, he stumbled off the ladder and scurried to investigate the rogue pomme. A hole the size of his fingernail blighted the smooth landscape of the fruit’s fibrous pelt. He squinted as a silvery stream of light poured out of the hole, tempting him to peek inside.

Would he be blamed for the damaged pomme?

Glancing over his shoulder, he made sure none of the guards were watching, then picked up the pomme—a familiar, daily companion on the outside but the inside had always been a mystery.

When he pressed his eye against the opening, the blinding light obscured his vision with pulsing silver rays. He jerked away but the lingering brightness bespeckled his view causing silver stars to dance across the dusty twilight.

“What you got there, kid?”

Benu jumped and turned to see who had snuck up on him. Engel.His startling eyes bore into him bluer than the sky on a good day.

Engel clapped him on the shoulder, his grip firm and reassuring and Benu was grateful for his close relationship with the guard that spanned the years of his forced relocation. Still, he wasn’t sure how Engel would react to the imperfect pomme. Or, to Benu’s snooping.