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Rebecca L. Fearnley

Doorway to Nowhere: Prequel to The Nowhere Chronicles

Doorway to Nowhere: Prequel to The Nowhere Chronicles

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Doorway to Nowhere

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She's done an unforgivable thing. Now, she's on the run ...

Annie can't stay in her sleepy little town anymore, with her brutal father and the oppressive rules. She has to escape. So when the mayor and his followers come to punish her for committing a terrible crime, Annie flees through the gate at the bottom of the garden, a gate her father has long kept locked. A gate that leads to another world.

But when Annie makes it to the land on the other side, she discovers it isn't the refuge she'd hoped it might be. Trapped, confused and alone, Annie must learn to survive in this dangerous environment. And there's a monster here that shadows her every move, determined to devour her.

Because Annie is angry. Furious. She can't shake this terrible rage, and rage is exactly what draws the monster.

Doorway to Nowhere is the prequel to the dark, portal fantasy series, The Nowhere Chronicles. If you love strange worlds, dark magic, and mystical animal sidekicks, you'll love this origin story.

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Read the First Chapter!

Trigger Warning

This book contains references to domestic violence right from the start. If you find this causes you undue stress, please stop reading and seek help.

You matter, and your recovery matters.


The gate at the bottom of our garden leads to a different world. I know this because my Daddy forgot to lock it once. He’d been staggering about on too-much-drink and I followed him round the house as he locked up every other precious thing but forgot the gate. The gate he always locked.

’Course I was down there quicker than a rabbit down its bolthole. Any chance of escape, and I promised myself a long time ago, I’d take it. But there’d never been one ’til then. I’d waited, eyes wide, ’til that last half-empty glass slipped from his fingers. I’d been ready with a cloth to catch it so it wouldn’t shatter and wake him. His snores were gentle, peaceful. He’d seemed almost harmless slumped there in his chair. I knew better. I left the glass in the sink, slipped out the back door—didn’t even bother with shoes—and went straight to the unlocked gate.

I’d expected it to stick or be too heavy and I’d have to heave and fight it. It’d been closed for so long after all. But no. Swung open like a mother’s arms, as if it had been waiting for me all this time. And I didn’t hesitate. I ran straight through it, marveling at the world on the other side. I was free, tearing through that forest, laughing like I’d lost my mind.

Oh, it was beautiful! The colors. The smells. The creatures and plants …

No idea how Daddy knew I’d gone through the gate. Maybe there was some alarm on it or something, but he was awake in an instant and rage sobered him up pretty quick. Didn’t have a chance to lock the gate behind me, did I, so he came through it, too, searching for me. I heard him bellowing through that magic forest, saw his face so purple with fury that his eyes were popping outta his head.

Annalise Amaranth Aluna!” he screamed. Made my whole name sound like a curse. Which it is, really. A curse he gave me. Another thing I got from him I can’t never change.

I ran. ’Course I did. Wouldn’t you? But he caught me. I screamed so hard the flowers wilted and the trees bent and the sky changed color.

That’s the day he left me with this scar: the one running from my left shoulder all twisting across my back to my right hip. Thought he was gonna kill me. Think he did too. But I survived. I always survive.

I’m surviving right now, while I sit by Daddy’s deathbed and gently mop the froth from his mouth, hush him as his body jerks with spasms and his eyes roll about in his head. It’s nearly time. Won’t be long ’til I can take the keys right off his belt and not be scared of his fist. I’ve been brave enough to do what Mum never could.

I was always more like Daddy than Mum. You can see it in my face an’ all. I got Daddy’s scorch-black hair, cut short at the shoulders. I got his smoky eyes. I got his mottled, pale skin, that never seems to turn, even after days in the sun. I got his meanness. His scowl.

He got those eyes on me now, as he chokes and splutters. They bulge outta his head, all rage and fear, and I think how strange it is I’m in control, for once. I remember that mouth twisted in cruel amusement when I’d lost my temper as a kid, smashing plates, tearing sacks of flour open, punching my little fists into the fresh bread Mum had baked. And he’d laugh and laugh while Mum sat in a corner and cried over both of us.

“That’s my Annie,” he’d say proudly. “Just like her Daddy.”

I ain’t never wanted to be just like him. Maybe he can see that now, as he realizes this ain’t no accident. As he realizes his own little Annie slipped him something.

They’ll come for me, ’course they will. Every kid round here knows that it don’t matter what your Daddy does to you, you don’t put root poison in his drink and watch him thrash about as he dies. That sort’a behavior requires punishment and this town delights in punishment. They get inventive with it. A kid’s job is to suffer. And later, to make herself feel better, she can visit that suffering on her own kids. That’s how it works.

But I ain’t worried. I got the best hiding place any orphan can think of. I got a doorway to Nowhere.

Dawn light pours through the grimy bedroom window as Daddy gurgles and chokes in his bed, eyes popping but seeing nothing. That rickety old bed creaks beneath him, his thin mattress covered in grime. I wrinkle my nose. Stinks in here. Stinks of death, and the peeling walls and warped floorboards make the whole place feel like a prison. I sit on an old, wooden chair, as far away from Daddy as this narrow room allows, and nudge the metal bucket toward him with my foot. Something slops in the bottom. Don’t wanna think about that.

He reaches for me, that great, meaty hand that so often meant me harm now begs for comfort. I sigh. I want to flinch away from him, want to stuff myself in the corner, as far away from him as I can, until he falls still. But he looks so frightened. His mouth works desperately, maybe trying to say something, maybe just gulping for breath. He’s huge, a great mountain of a man who stomped about, crushing and terrorizing everything, dominating with size and power. But he can’t stomp or crush this. All that strength and he don’t know where to throw it. I almost feel sad for him. But I don’t regret. I can’t.

Instead, I reach back towards his hand and let my own small fingers hold his. We’re almost the same after all, ain’t we? Even though I hate him with all the hate I got to give. I watch him suffer, watch his eyes shine with every kind of fear he ever caused. He’s a monster, my Daddy. The scariest monsters always look like men.

He squeezes my hand but his grip is weak. His eyelids droop. His feet kick loosely at the blankets. It’s nearly time.

I reach for the keys on his belt. His face contorts. A semblance of the cataclysmic man I’ve known all my life. He swipes at me, but he’s so weak he can’t manage any more than a kittenish paw at my hand. He groans. He fights. But he’s already lost.

I don’t smile. I unhook the keys and I do it slowly, just to show him I can. To show him I ain’t scared of him now. Those days are done. Mum was scared of him. That’s why she ran away, left me here to die under his fist rather than take me, too. But I’ve all run outta fear. Just anger left in me, now, beating like a drum behind my eyes. His anger. Like father, like daughter.

I meet his gaze at last, his eyes bloodshot and yellowing, the pupils misting over. They dart and roll but it’s obvious he can barely see. He tries to focus on me.

“You …” he gurgles, but he’s overcome by a hacking cough. I push his shoulders against the thin mattress and he don’t have the strength to resist.

“Quiet,” I say. “It’ll hurt less if you’re quiet and calm. Nearly there, now.”

He don’t know how to be quiet and calm. He don’t know how to submit to the inevitable. He ain’t never been anything but the strongest, angriest, scariest person around. So he won’t be quiet and he won’t be calm and now it’s taking ages.

I flop back on the chair, fiddling with the keys. I’d thought I could wait ’til he passed. I’d sit with him, my last dutiful act as daughter, while his frightful soul finally fought its way free. I’d make sure he was really gone.

But the hammer on the door makes me gasp and even in his terror and agony, Dad gurgles a laugh.

“Ha! They …” but he can’t say more.

I clench my jaw and glare back towards the door. It rattles in its frame.


It’s the mayor. He’s drunk. Why are the men round here always drunk? But he ain’t on his own. There are other voices along with his, raised in anger and fear. Someone’s wailing. Probably the Churchman’s wife. I scowl at Daddy. Foul man can’t even die quietly. All his spluttering and howling must’ve alerted the neighbors. I hoped I’d have more time than this.

“Annalise! Let us in!”

I scowl. I ain’t letting no one in. I’m no fool.

Something smashes at the front of the house. Glass clashes to the floor. Someone’s wrenching at the door.

I swear under my breath, turn back to Daddy, now choking in earnest.

“I ain’t got time to watch you die, Dad,” I tell him. “But you go ahead and do it anyway. Just know I won’t miss ya, ’kay?”

He don’t answer. His spasms become slow. His eyes close, his breath growing shallow. I ain’t got time to stay and make sure. Cries from the front of the house tell me someone’s already inside. I glance towards the hall. No way I’ll make it to the back door without getting caught first. I grab a thick scarf from the foot of the bed, along with Daddy’s heavy coat.

I lift the chair and drag it towards the window, trying to keep my breathing steady.

“Annalise! Annalise!”

The crowd chants my name now. They burst into the house. Someone cries, “Evil girl! Cowardly girl! Come here and face your fate!”

Like hell I will. I heave the chair as high as I can and hurl it at the grimy window, ducking as the glass explodes and the chair tumbles away into the garden. I throw the thick coat over the splinters of glass still sticking up from the frame and clamber out. Hot pain rips into my foot and I bite back a yell, falling in a heap out of the window and bashing my head on the chair. I scramble outta sight, hiding beneath the window frame and trying to ignore the grazes on both knees. My foot throbs. There’s a thick wedge of glass stuck in it. Wrapping the scarf over my hand, I grit my teeth, grip the glass wedge and pull.

Pain and blood, the grass is red with it. I let out a sob, then slap myself across the face. None of that. No time!

Back in the house, Daddy’s bedroom door smashes open and there’s an almighty howl of anguish. They’ve found him, either dead or close enough that it’s already too late. The women shriek. The mayor cries, “Find her!”

Shouts for my blood fill the air as the rest of the mob floods into the house. They’re not careful now. Now they know he’s dead, they’re smashing things, wrenching doors off cupboards, hacking at the curtains with kitchen knives, just in case I’m behind them.

Huddled beneath the broken window, outta sight, I snatch Dad’s coat from the shattered frame, my ruined foot slipping in the blood-soaked grass.

The gate is waiting for me.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
Excellent Fantasy Novella and Start to a Series!!

Doorway to Nowhere is a young adult portal fantasy filled with “dark, angry magic.” Annie’s childhood home consists of an alcoholic, angry father, a mother who left her, and a locked gate she cannot open. When she commits an unforgivable crime and needs a quick escape, Nowhere positions itself as her only escape and happily swallows her up.

Annie’s time in Nowhere reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, if Alice had murdered someone, fell into Wonderland while escaping the town mayor, and had a seemingly intrinsic anger. Nowhere has the same “nonsense” feeling of Wonderland, though to a less extreme degree and with a much darker, angrier twist. While in Nowhere, Annie picks up several not-so-angry companions, including an adorable owl-like creature and an unexpected human boy. To survive Nowhere, Annie and her friends must battle more than just Nowhere’s monsters; they’ll also have to tackle Annie’s rage, anger, and guilt.

If you enjoy Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, Doorway to Nowhere should be right up your alley.

Kerry Taylor-Gorman
Exciting and dark adventure novella

Doorway to Nowhere is a delightful prequel novella to the Shadow and the Scream, detailing Annie and Sheb's tragic and traumatic histories. You're thrown right into the deep end from the start, and it's a dark and fast paced adventure. It's a creative journey of two strangers becoming friends, managing trauma and anger, and how they survived and adapted to their new world with each other and the quirky creatures that surround them.
The world building is creative and the story is dark, but it's an excellent tale and helps set the mood for the rest of the series, or can be read a short standalone adventure.

Sophie Higgs
Doorway to Nowhere: a great introduction to the chronicles

I read the ebook version of this book last year but when I heard it was being released in paperback, I had to get it and reread! I enjoyed this book so much as it sets up the world and the characters for the Chronicles very well. I am excited to read the Shadow and the Scream to find out what happens next to Annie and Sheb.

Daisy Jervis
Dark. Gripping. For Fans of Alice in Wonderland X Neil Gaiman

I loved this book because of these reasons:

*It opens hard. It literally sucks you into Annie's harsh reality then spits you out into the most sinister, intriguing world.

*The world building is ridiculously good. I mean... I was obsessed with the different creatures and which ones would kill or be kind.

*Annie is such a great MC - fierce, feisty and has so much depth and heart.

*The book had me with the emotion monsters alone.

*The exploration of anger and arguably self is so well done.

I also love that this book can be read alone but I do think it's a great prequel to The Shadow and the Scream series because it gives you Annie's backstory and beginnings of Nowhere.

Louise Cook
Full of emotion and peril

A gorgeously written, absorbing tale about tackling the darkness within.

I just adored it – full of emotion and peril, I found myself really rooting for the prickly, feisty Annie who flees her abusive homelife and finds herself wandering in Nowhere, a strange and beautiful land beyond her back gate, picking up quirky companions and battling monsters.

I actually read this before The Shadow and the Scream and it works beautifully as a standalone, as the starter book in the series or to go back to after TSatS to find out how the story started. Loved it!