[The Book of Westmere is Kerry Marie Sloan's first young adult fiction novel. You can read the first chapter by visiting www.amazon.com and using the "Look Inside" feature. Below is Chapter 2 . . . If you enjoy reading, or know someone who does, please consider supporting the author with your purchase.]


Opening Day

A beautiful day was dawning over the town of Westmere. However, at Westmere Academy, the flurry of activity that had begun several weeks prior was only now nearing completion. The academy had been turned upside down and inside out in preparation for what some thought was to be the most spectacular event at the school since the days of Augustus himself, the 200th Opening Day.

A beautiful day was dawning over the town of Westmere. However, at Westmere Academy, the flurry of activity that had begun several weeks prior was only now nearing completion. The academy had been turned upside down and inside out in preparation for what some thought was to be the most spectacular event at the school since the days of Augustus himself, the 200th Opening Day.

Despite the promise of fair weather and the near state of perfection reigning at the school, Mr. Albertson was in a foul mood, and his normally un-furrowed brow was creased with worry, just as it had been for the past several days.

“Why am I so worried?” Mr. Albertson demanded sharply, as he stood outside the old library. “Opening Day,” he muttered, in answer to his own question, “the bane of my existence.” He let out a sigh as he walked aimlessly down one of the many paths that crisscrossed the grounds. “The only traditions at Westmere Academy that I abhor are the pranks of Opening Day! One would think that on this day, the 200th Opening Day of the academy, the students would forego their pranks, but I know them better. I know something unpleasant is going to happen, despite all of my efforts to the contr…”

Mr. Albertson’s solitary conversation ended abruptly as he suddenly realized he was not alone. In his abstracted state of mind he had not noticed Mr. Morlock, the academy’s aged groundskeeper, standing directly in front of him. In fact, Mr. Albertson had almost walked into the old man.

“Ahhh, Mr. Morlock, excuse me” said Mr. Albertson shortly, slightly embarrassed that he, the rational, no-nonsense administrator of the academy, had been discovered talking to himself.

“And to what do I owe this unpleasant surprise…” began Mr. Albertson, his disordered state of mind betraying his thoughts. “I mean pleasant surprise, of course,” he added awkwardly.

As Mr. Albertson waited for Mr. Morlock to speak, he noted with some amusement the image of the man that stood before him. Mr. Jaspar Morlock was a gnarled, stooped creature who seemed to be in a slow state of decay. This decaying quality was further reinforced by his clothes, which looked as if they had been recently retrieved from a lengthy storage period in the garden. This morning was no exception, and Mr. Morlock was arrayed in a brownish-green, ill-fitting suit that was slightly damp with the morning dew, and was, as a matter of course, already be-speckled with dirt.

Mr. Albertson had known Mr. Morlock for many years, but he had never exchanged more than a few words with him. Morlock had been the school’s groundskeeper for as long as Mr. Albertson could remember, and he was one of the strangest employees at the academy, rarely speaking to anyone. However, Jaspar Morlock was without question the best groundskeeper the school had ever had, as the remarkable beauty of the surrounding landscape attested.

It took several moments for Mr. Morlock to respond to Mr. Albertson, and when he did, he appeared to be awakening from a deep sleep, his normally creeky, guttural voice sounding even more garbled than normal. “Oh, yes, of course, Mr. Albertson, I didn’t see you there. Right, right, must stop getting in the way of other people. I certainly won’t do that again.”

“That’s quite all right,” said Mr. Albertson, amazed that the normally taciturn Mr. Morlock had answered his question. “And what finds you out here this early in the morning?” Mr. Albertson asked.

“What am I doing out here?” Mr. Morlock repeated, almost as if asking himself the same question. “What am I doing, hmmm...” he said thoughtfully. “Oh, yes, of course,” he said suddenly and with obvious satisfaction that he had remembered. “I was just checking up on the Great Hall here again, Mr. Albertson. You know how the students can be at this time of year. And I know you don’t want to have any problems today.”

“Ahhh, yes,” said Mr. Albertson darkly, as his thoughts again returned to the student pranks of Opening Day. “Very good of you, Mr. Morlock. Please, by all means, keep up the surveillance. We need all of the help that we can get today.”


Later that same morning, all of the new and returning students of Westmere Academy were seated quietly and expectantly in the Great Hall to celebrate the 200th Opening Day of the school. Mr. Albertson, along with Dr. Cromwell, Mr. Bradleigh, and several other important trustees of the academy, were seated on a raised platform at the front of the hall, enjoying the Grand Procession of faculty and staff (another tradition from Augustus’s day), which was almost finished. As soon as the last instructor was seated, Mr. Albertson breathed a deep sigh of relief. Traditionally, the Grand Procession was a favorite time for student pranks. In Mr. Albertson’s mind, the fact that nothing had happened during the procession was a very good sign.

“We seem to be doing well so far,” whispered Mr. Albertson hopefully to Dr. Cromwell and Mr. Bradleigh, who were seated on either side of him. The traditional singing of the school song was just beginning, and Mr. Albertson had a few moments to relax before he was due to make his yearly speech.

“Yes,” said Dr. Cromwell in a whisper, “although that mule that walked in with the faculty members last year was a sight to see. It makes you almost wish that something like that would happen again this year, don’t you think Bradleigh?”

Mr. Bradleigh suppressed a laugh. “I agree! Why, do you remember when we were fourth year students and we managed to get that elephant into the…”

“Bradleigh and Cromwell,’ interrupted Mr. Albertson in a sharp whisper, “I would appreciate it if the two of you would keep quiet! I have a speech to make in a few minutes and I do not want to be distracted by the thought of mules, elephants, or any other animal.”

“Of course my dear Albertson, we’ll be as quiet as church mice,” giggled Dr. Cromwell.

“I’m sure he didn’t mean to say mice,” added Mr. Bradleigh, trying unsuccessfully to suppress a loud laugh, which, unfortunately, coincided neatly with the ending of the school song.

Mr. Albertson glared at the two of them. “Keep quiet!” he hissed at the pair, before he arose from his seat and began walking towards the podium to begin his speech.

“Ahem,’ Mr. Albertson began, “I am sorry for that slight disturbance,” he said, turning around to glare at his two friends again. “I trust there will be no repetition of any such noise during the remainder of the opening ceremonies.”

Mr. Albertson, before beginning his actual speech, glanced around the hall at the students and instructors, all seated quietly, patiently awaiting his speech. It was almost impossible to believe that anything could mar the serenity of the scene that greeted his eyes. With that comforting thought, Mr. Albertson began his speech in earnest.

“Students, both new and old, instructors, staff, and administrators of Westmere Academy, welcome to the 200th Opening Day ceremonies. I am sure Augustus Westmere would be proud to know of the impressive accomplishments of the academy since its founding. Therefore, I will now refresh all of our memories with some of the most remarkable historical events that have transpired here in the past 200 years….”

Dr. Cromwell was only just barely able to suppress a groan. “We’re in for a long one,” he mumbled to Mr. Bradleigh. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it took him 200 years to finish the speech,” responded Mr. Bradleigh.


The first half of Mr. Albertson’s opening remarks passed peacefully enough. He had just reached the fourth, but by no means last page of his speech, when a minor commotion began in the hall.

“Look, a goat!” laughed a student.

And, as Mr. Albertson looked sternly up from the pages of his speech, he saw an unpleasant looking animal noisily making its way up the center aisle. Students were unsuccessfully attempting to suppress laughter, and even a few instructors looked slightly amused, if not somewhat relieved. Mr. Albertson actually felt relief as well. Goats, as student pranks, were completely uninspired. In fact, only two years before, Mr. Albertson had handled a goat much larger and more intractable than this one. A goat, as a student prank, was nothing to worry about.

“Students, please calm down. This animal,” here Mr. Albertson paused to direct his famous glare at the unfortunate goat, “will be removed from the hall shortly. And the perpetrators of this unpleasant occurrence will be punished accordingly. However, we now have an Opening Day to focus our attention on, and I would like to get back to my speech…” As Mr. Albertson was speaking, Mr. Morlock, and Mr. Smigley, a new instructor at the academy, were already well on their way to leading the stubborn animal out of the hall. And, as Mr. Albertson watched, a fourth-year student jumped up to help the two men. Mr. Albertson silently congratulated himself on the ability of his subordinates and students. Mr. Morlock, despite all of his eccentricities, was invaluable. Only a few moments had passed since the goat first appeared and order was already restored in the hall.

Mr. Albertson was just about to begin his speech again when another disturbance interrupted the recently restored calm. This time a scream, a piercing, ear-shattering scream, echoed through the vast hall. Mr. Albertson looked up angrily.

“What is the meaning of this!?” he said, attempting to determine the nature of the interruption.

As he looked out at the students in the hall, a young girl in the first row of the assembly jumped up onto her seat and began screaming in terror. Almost immediately thereafter, several more students joined in the screaming. Shouts of “rats” and “mice” could now be heard distinctly.

Mr. Albertson sighed as he looked disapprovingly at the terror-stricken students. A rat or a mouse, although an unfortunate interruption to the events of Opening Day, was certainly not a student prank. Despite strict standards of cleanliness at Westmere Academy, the unfortunate mouse or rat would every so often find its way into one of the buildings, only to be aggressively pursued to a very unpleasant death by Mr. Morlock.

“Students!” Mr. Albertson began in a loud, commanding tone. “Settle down! Please control yourselves so that we can deal with this…”

Mr. Albertson suddenly felt his voice die in his throat as more and more screaming resounded throughout the hall. Students and instructors were jumping out of their seats, and screams of “rat,” “mouse,” and even “snake” were increasing in intensity. Pandemonium had broken loose. People were running about, panic stricken, climbing onto chairs and benches, desperately trying to keep away from the creatures that had suddenly and inexplicably infested the room.

Mr. Albertson, who was not a fearful man, suddenly felt a feeling grip him such as he had never known before, a feeling of complete and total horror. The hall was now filled with hordes of despicable creatures of every shape, size, and description. Huge rats with ragged dark fur, mangy mice with red beady eyes, and black scaled snakes swarmed throughout the room. Where had they all come from? As Mr. Albertson looked on, the sight filled him with such dread and loathing that he had to struggle to remain in his place at the podium.

Suddenly, he noticed something strange…one student had remained silently seated in the middle of the room. Only now, when completely abandoned in a sea of swarming snakes, rats and mice, did she begin to move. Mr. Albertson saw the student slowly stand up and raise her arm. Then everything went blank and he remembered no more of that day.


In the aftermath of the terrible disaster of the morning, all of the festivities of Opening Day were forgotten. It was evening by the time Mr. Albertson had a moment to reflect on what had happened in the Great Hall. By that time, his memory of the events was cloudy and confused. In fact, no one at the academy seemed to be able to remember clearly what had happened.

It was now evening, and Mr. Albertson was in the old library again, gazing out one of the many windows that overlooked the grounds of the academy. The place was largely deserted and Mr. Albertson stared out the window absently, trying to recover any memory of what had happened that morning. His attention was suddenly arrested by the sight of two shadowy figures standing quite still on the hill overlooking the school. It was getting dark, and the two were a short distance away. There was nothing remarkable or particularly sinister about either of the pair, yet they filled Mr. Albertson with a strange sense of unease. He turned away from the window quickly. The chaotic day was making him a nervous fool and his eyes must certainly be playing tricks on him. After a few moments, Mr. Albertson looked out the window again, and the two strange figures were gone. “Just my imagination,” he said to himself, with a sigh of relief.


The dusk was casting deep shadows over Westmere Academy and the surrounding countryside. Despite Mr. Albertson’s doubts, he actually had seen two figures standing on the hill overlooking the school. And contrary to his befuddled senses, they were not gone. By some trick of the darkening light, the two had only melted deeper into the shadows.

The pair consisted of a young girl and an older gentleman. The man was quite tall and thin, although well built. The marks of time had only touched him lightly and it was difficult to tell his exact age from his unlined face. Only his eyes, which were wise with time, and his silvering hair gave away the fact that he was much further advanced in years than first impressions would indicate. He had a kind, gentle air about him, yet, at the same time, strength and power were apparent in his bearing.

The young girl with him was clearly related in some way; the family resemblance was quite marked. The same strong, clean lines could be seen in her face and figure. Unlike her awe-inspiring companion however, the girl seemed unremarkable at first glance. Although she had inherited the well-built grace of her older relative, a lack of confidence was apparent in her bearing, in strong contrast to her companion’s obvious self-reliance. The girl’s eyes, however, were her redeeming feature. The same calm, unshakeable wisdom of her relative could be seen in their depths.

“I’m sorry for what happened today,” the girl said. “I didn’t mean to cause any trouble.”

Her uncle, for that is who he was, turned his gaze away from Westmere Academy, where all of his attention and energy had been focused.

“Do you remember what I said before I allowed you to come here?” he asked her gently.

“Of course I do, and I really didn’t intend to interfere, but….”

“You know that you are only at Westmere Academy to watch, observe, and report back to me,” he interrupted. “That is all. There is nothing more for you to do here.”

The girl sighed and began again, “I know, but if you had only been there...”

“There are no excuses for any action whatsoever. It doesn’t matter what is happening to whom. Is that understood?” her uncle said firmly.

“Yes uncle…watch, but don’t interfere,” the girl said, in a downcast tone.

“Good, I am glad that we understand each other,” he replied gently.

“But uncle,” the girl began timidly, “what really happened today?”

“My dear girl, you said yourself just a moment ago that it was no more than surface tricks…a chance for someone to show off, but nothing more than that. You are sure of that aren’t you?” he added quickly.

“No, that’s all it was,” answered the girl, hesitantly.

“You don’t sound as certain as you did a moment ago,” her uncle said.

“No, no, that’s all it was. I think it just scared me. That was the first time I’ve ever faced anything like that,” she said.

“That’s true,” said her uncle thoughtfully. “And I’m sure it won’t be the last. Perhaps it’s time that I should give you something I’ve been holding on to for quite some time now.” As he said this, he pulled a small, shiny object from his pocket. “It’s been in the family for many generations, and it is rightfully yours.”

He held out the object, a small gold ring, and slipped it onto her outstretched hand. As the ring was placed on her finger, it seemed to take on a deep glow of its own, and sparkled strangely in the twilight for a few moments before returning to its normal pale luster.

“Thank you,” said the girl quietly, as she stared at the ring, transfixed. “It’s beautiful.”

“Beauty may be only one of its features. Perhaps it will prove useful to you in the future,” he said thoughtfully. “Wear it well, my dear,” he added softly.

“I’ll treasure it,” she said, looking gratefully at her uncle.

“And you can feel reassured about Westmere. I’ve been watching the academy for most of the day, and there is no activity. It seems we’re only dealing with an amateur…a perfect first assignment for you.”

“However,” he added, “you must not interfere again. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, uncle, I understand, no more interference, I promise.”

[The Book of Westmere is Kerry Marie Sloan's first young adult fiction novel. You can read the first chapter by visiting www.amazon.com and using the "Look Inside" feature. If you enjoyed reading these samples, or know someone who will, please consider supporting the author with your purchase.]