I'm a series of little obsessions, and for a while, I was obsessed with this place.
Between City Hall and the City Auditorium in my home town, there's a bridge.
Under that bridge is a secret forest.
The trees start twenty or more feet below the bridge and rise up on either side. A creek trickles underneath. Deer roam there, birds twitch in the leaves. In the winter, you can see a little bit of what happens so far below. But once the leaves start unfurling, you can't be so sure.
Anything could be down there.
Velociraptors. Fairies. Chupacabras.
In middle school, I was in a play at the Auditorium. While I waited for my mom to come pick me up, I would stare off the bridge and into the secret forest, wishing I could skid down the hill and explore it.
I never got to. And for a long, long time, I forgot about it. And then I drove by, and it caught my eye, and it became one of my little obsessions.
I couldn't help wondering. What if there was a big pipe down there? What if there was a door in the pipe? What if that door led to an abandoned hotel full of doors and a whole new world?
Umbra, I called it. It was a place where everything was in shades of gray, where the ruined air forced everyone into elaborate plague masks and dark cloaks. A place where octopi roamed on land and rats were venomous and anteaters walked on leashes.
The key to that world was a gray tabby cat named Inky, and a boy named Ren had a grand adventure.
That book didn't sell, unfortunately. I don't know why. I didn't ask for notes. And I'm still licking my wounds. On one hand, it's a failure, writing a book and taking it out and knowing it wasn't good enough. On the other hand, I know that one day, I'm going to find a home for it.
The secret forest has a story to be told. I called mine The Psychopomp of Umbra. One day, it'll come into the light.
And one day, I'm skidding down that hill, to see if it's true.