Name: Kristen Clouthier (@kris_clo)
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Title: The Gatekeeper
35-word pitch: Seventeen-year-old Charlotte was raised by a grave robbing uncle, and the occasional smuggler manny; she’s understands difficult circumstances. But destroying an archaic evil without being corrupted— that’s a fight neither she nor humanity may endure.
The map almost had me believing in magic. It was a splotched and stained scrap of paper weighted with enough memories and coffee stains to keep me anchored every time the word run was whispered by my “uncle.” As long as I had my map, home could be anywhere— a tent pitched across the dunes of the Gobi Desert, an overturned boxcar opening up to a Kentucky plain, and as of late, a starless motel with a pay-by-the-hour standard and a rat colony with boundary issues. I never understood the urgency behind his command, but I’d grip tight the paper anyway and truck along beside him. When asked in polite company, Elijah was a dedicated archeologist. When dealing in back alleys, he preferred treasure hunter, or grave robber, or collector of unauthorized goods. Whichever title best conveyed the illegality and risk involved with his line of work.
It never left my sight. Here, it was taped to the mini-fridge I’d finagled out of the motel manager. The map was worn, folded so many times the lines had begun to tear. Texas was practically split in two, and we’d lost Cuba to a cigarette burn. Elijah had the idea to mark each spot we set up camp with a sticker; it was his way of making the nomadic lifestyle fun. A sparkly chicken was curling at the edges near Arizona; the first one I picked out at the age of four. I ran my thumb along the ragged ends, pressing the sticker back into place.
Staying behind wasn’t the norm, but after our digs in Egypt, Israel, and then Guam, I was desperate for a locale that didn’t require a redefinition of my personal hygiene. It was only supposed to be two weeks. We hit four this morning. After receiving the first package, I’d known Eli wouldn’t be leaving the sandbox anytime soon. The means to make illegal ends-meat were only sent when his excavations lacked an end date; news that always brought about a bittersweet smile. I missed Eli, but the extended stretch of solitude was worth it if meant I got to pay a visit to my favorite middleman and resident manny, Benjie. I was technically a player in the contraband game, but more like the water girl or equipment manager. I knew the ropes, but unloading pieces on my own was a rush had only when the meeting involved a face I’d once played peek-a-boo with.
I dug the package out from beneath the bed and ripped open the top in a way that Eli would’ve scolded me for. Then I saw the neon tee waiting inside and wished I would’ve ripped a little harder. It was a jarring yellow shirt depicting a group of melting snowmen having a Mexican standoff, each urging the others to keep their cool. It was one of a matching set. We’d be dressed to impress during our next pseudo-daughter/daddy outing.