TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR

TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STARby Michelle Peart

The self-assured Edward has accompanied his father, famous explorer Herb Kemp, to Abaytor. Herb is on a mission to save Earth’s bee population, but Edward couldn’t care less and just wants the comforts of home. Burn, an off-kilter Abaytorian with a desire for change, is charged with escorting Edward down the Copper River to Herb’s spaceship. As they travel through perilous lands on a makeshift raft, they are in a constant battle with the river, themselves and each other. Edward’s problems with his father are laid bare as they are hunted, starved, almost drowned, and confronted by difficult choices. But, among the striking landscapes and colourful people of Abaytor, Edward slowly learns about trust, self-acceptance and love.

63300 words/248 pages
$5.95

Publication 1 November 2016

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SAMPLE TEXT

The problem was, simply put, that I didn’t feel what my father felt. In fact, I didn’t give a fuck about the planet with its backwards and frankly sex-obsessed natives and total lack of creature comforts.

My father waved once in farewell. I ignored him, tilted my head back, and rolled my neck. My head hurt and the annoying native boy’s humming added to the symphony of pain.

“Wave goodbye, Ed-ward.” Burn’s voice rang with merriment as he rammed his push pole into the sandy bank and heaved the Copper Queen into the twisting flow of the river. The raft jolted. I tumbled off the barrel, sprawled at Burn’s feet and looked up into his stupid grinning face. He flashed his eyebrows and laughed. I so wanted to punch him, but I couldn’t get off this hellhole of a planet without him.

I stood and my legs felt like pistons on the twisting deck. I looked back towards the Fire Glade. The sun was creeping up behind the Mountain of Bones, throwing long bronze reflections across the river’s surface. For a second, I forgot about the annoying boy and saw the beauty my father had talked about my whole childhood. A tiny stab of regret prompted me to wave goodbye but he’d already turned towards the crannog. He entered the dwelling and never gave the river, or me, a second glance. Maybe the famous explorer Herb Kemp was glad to be free of his problem, the embarrassing son. I was no chip off the old block.

Burn steered towards the calmer waters at the edge of the river. My guide appeared to be around my age, perhaps younger. He had a wild look to him with large eyes, cheekbones sprayed with freckles and hair the colour of the river. Long limbed and scruffily dressed, like badly pegged washing, with a bow strung across his narrow frame and an intricate pendant swinging from his neck. I assumed that all the furs in the tent must be the result of his hunting skills.

Burn winked as I caught his eye.

I curled my fists – fighting was always my go-to reaction. Everyone in the Fire Glade appeared to be bedding everyone else. If the bloody native thought he could try it on with me, then he had another think coming. I don’t do, and never will do, boys.

A look crossed Burn’s face as he showed me his open palms. “Lighten up, Ed.”

“It’s Ed-ward.” I sagged and gestured across the horizon. “What do you do on Abaytor? Why is it called that anyway?”

“Abaytor means second in our language, so that was the word your father chose. We call it Heras.”

Typical. Earthlings conquer and rename, whether it’s a tiny island in the middle of the ocean or a whole bloody planet.

Burn jabbed the pole into a shallow reed bed and shoved in the opposite direction. “I look after the bees. The ones your father and his companions have come to study.”

“A beekeeper?” I gave Burn a pitying look. He clearly didn’t aim high up the career ladder. I, on the other hand, was after the job of my father’s best friend – chief executive officer of the Westcoast Bank.

“Well, I suppose. They are rare gold-tipped bees only found in the Mountain of Bones. Their honey has healing qualities not found anywhere else on Abaytor or – ”

Zoning out, I stared at my wet feet. I missed my friends; they’d agree with me that my situation was pants and I had every right to complain. And my bloody mobile wouldn’t work; this godforsaken planet hadn’t invented the radio yet, never mind the telephone.

“What do you do, Ed, when you are not accompanying your father on his trips?”

I ignored him.

“Edward?”

Good God, the boy was persistent. “I don’t do anything and I don’t make a habit of accompanying him.”

“What is it like having a famous father? I understand he is well known on your planet.”

Fighting an urge to push Burn overboard, I said, “It’s just peachy,” before muttering, “My father’s not paying you to ask questions, just to take me to the Landing Plains.”

“Your father is not paying me at all.”

“You’re doing this for free? You’re mad.” Never do anything for nothing, is what my father taught me. Oh, and never let your left hand know what your right is doing. I still don’t know what that means.

“Having now made your acquaintance, I think I probably am mad.” Burn smiled and rammed the pole into a nearby bank.


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