Dawning Life - Mitzi C - ebook

Dawning Life ebook

Mitzi C

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Opis

THE WORLD WILL BURN AT LAST... Kandi knows the destruction of Earth is inevitable. An army of Demigods is coming to annihilate humans and melt the Earth's crust, along with all that dwells upon it. Now that Death is dead, she is the only being that stands between the gods and humans... while her true identity remains yet unknown. Juan has undying faith in Kandi. As her powers continue to expand, he becomes increasingly aware of how helpless he is by comparison. Most of humankind is either dead or mutated, and the world as he knew it has already ended, but he has hope. Hope may be all they need to survive the coming storm. In Dawning Life, Kandi must accept what she is and embrace her divine destiny... while Juan must grow more in tune with his powers to prepare for what lies ahead. **this is a sci-fi/fantasy novel suitable for mature young adults, ages 14+**

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Mitzi C

Dawning Life

The Edinön Trilogy: Book 2

This book is dedicated to Mom (of course), the upcoming Apocalypse, and sleep.BookRix GmbH & Co. KG80331 Munich

Title page

Dawning Life

MITZI C

© 2017 Mitzi C

http://mitzicbooks.com/

All Rights Reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Published by Kindle | Direct Publishing https://kdp.amazon.com/

Cover Art by Damonza https://damonza.com/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This book is dedicated to Mom (of course), the upcoming Apocalypse, and sleep.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real events or real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

THE WORLD WILL BURN AT LAST...

KANDI knows the destruction of Earth is inevitable. An army of Demigods is coming to annihilate humans and melt the Earth’s crust, along with all that dwells upon it. Now that Death is dead, she is the only being that stands between the gods and humans... while her true identity remains yet unknown.

JUAN has undying faith in Kandi. As her powers continue to expand, he becomes increasingly aware of how helpless he is by comparison. Most of humankind is either dead or mutated, and the world as he knew it has already ended, but he has hope. Hope may be all they need to survive the coming storm.

In DAWNING LIFE, Kandi must accept what she is and embrace her divine destiny... while Juan must grow more in tune with his powers to prepare for what lies ahead.

Table of Contents

PROLOGUESarah: The New Name

Apr. 18, 1997

She only knew silence and darkness before her ears detected distant beeps and high-pitched hums. White light began to penetrate her eyelids, forcing them apart. As her mind feebly attempted to absorb her alien surroundings, the beeping increased in frequency. She curled her fingers into the fabric beneath her and screamed as panic surged through her. In response to her outburst, two females appeared from a rectangular opening in the wall to her right. One female checked the beeping machine beside her while the other injected a chilled fluid into her left arm. Her fingers relaxed, and the beeping noises steadied to their former, slower pattern. Her gaze remained unfocused on the ceiling. She became conscious of her breathing and realized the air felt different. Different from what, she could not tell. She could not remember.

A sonorous voice interrupted her drug-induced reverie. Towering at the entrance to the unfamiliar room was an unfamiliar face. A male with short, golden hair and glowing green eyes smiled compassionately at her.

The male addressed the females in the room, and the females departed. The strange figure then walked toward her and sat in the seat adjacent to the beeping machine. His hands clasped together in his lap as he watched her, an expression of warm affection stretching his perfectly designed features.

“Iden,” he said, his voice eliciting a quiver in her bones. “I am Death, your Guardian. We have arrived on Vuen. Vuen’s sentient inhabitants in your vicinity call this planet Earth and themselves humans.” Death placed his palm upon her forehead. A bright emerald light filled the room as she felt languages, images, histories, and trivia flood her mind. She gasped and focused on sorting the new information Death was transmitting.

“Here, you may call me Jeremy,” Death told her, removing his large hand from her head. As the emerald light died, his smile grew. “Your human name is Sarah Vale. Welcome to Earth, Iden.”

***

CHAPTER 1

Kandi: The Attack

Feb. 14, 2018

My surroundings perplex me. The floor is a rivulet of red, the walls are making faces, and the ceiling is on fire. Nevertheless, I keep moving as though I am moving toward something, albeit nothing lies ahead. Each step is more taxing than the last. Something is pulling me forward, but something else is holding me back. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what it is.

With difficulty, I glance over my shoulder. It is a hand. Someone is grabbing me.

My knees unexpectedly lock and collide with the sticky floor. I feel like I’m in quicksand.

“Kandi! Snap out of it!”

Suddenly, my body floats off the ground. The entire world is stained a deep scarlet. I taste copper and stomach acid. I moan and attempt to spit the sour flavor from my tongue, but a liquid is already dripping from my lips of its own accord. I close my eyes, tightly squeezing the same liquid through my lashes. It burns.

Moments later, I feel hot water raining down my face and soaking my hair. My eyes open, and my lungs spasm. I cough up a chunk of red and collapse on my hands and knees, shaking violently.

Large hands run through my hair. My eyes soon detect colors and shapes other than vermillion and warped, animalistic faces. I realize I am in a public shower, and the hands scrubbing my hair belong to a human hybrid. A male. I can smell him through the blood in my nose: sweat combined with a unique spicy smell that tickles my nostrils. That scent belongs to only one person I know.

My hands give way beneath me, and my face smacks against tile. The world rapidly fades from red to black.

***

The next time I open my eyes, I am lying on a flat bedspread, tucked snugly underneath several thick comforters. The ceiling is faintly illuminated by a small lamp in the corner. My eyes rove the closet-sized room: the blank walls and a white door with a brass knob to my left. Against the wall in front of me stands a boy at about 5’11’’ with tousled black hair and eerie ebony eyes. The dim yellow-orange light does wonders to his tan skin. He looks like a cover model for a teen fashion magazine, minus the fashion. (Although I have grown fond of his holey blue jeans and blood/sweat-stained t-shirts.) The shirt today is blue featuring an image of a wolf howling at a full moon.

“Buenos días,” he murmurs softly.

My mouth is parched. Good morning, I respond in my head. I can’t help but smile self-consciously. The way Juan looks at me makes my skin tingle – for once in a non-painful way.

It has been approximately seven months since Jeremy died and Time disappeared – along with any shred of optimism I may have possessed. It took two weeks for Leyla to acquire enough of my blood to begin countrywide distribution. The cure was a success. No strange side-effects occurred until global distribution finally accelerated in December, which was difficult because most of the world was comatose by that time. Entire cities, even cities as populous as Dallas and London and Sydney, were dying in their sleep.

Two months later, those who were cured of liquid death (about a third of the world’s population) either gained superpowers or an unquenchable thirst for the blood of the former. Governments no longer exist. The Internet no longer exists. Phones no longer function. Mobocracy reigns where anarchy doesn’t.

In Sunny Days, Leyla Hendricks has labored tirelessly to maintain a semblance of order and stability. It hasn’t entirely been in vain. We are surviving a harsh winter, everyone has daily jobs to perform, and I have only witnessed seven instances where unstable Patients break down and use their powers to damage people or things. However, this is not going to last long. The mobs in this city are growing, and with all the Patients consolidated in one place, we are the cornucopia at a Thanksgiving feast.

“Want to grab something to eat?” Juan asks quietly.

I slowly shove the blankets off of me, bracing myself for room temperature. I grit my teeth and use the wall for support as I rise to my feet. Juan walks around the blankets on the floor to assist me.

“Can I ask you about last night?”

My nose is level with his sternum. That special scent of his invades my nasal passages and soothes me like a drug. I nod.

“How long have you been having these... episodes? Last night was... rough, to say the least.”

Episodes? Oh. Since I was a baby. It normally occurs once a year but has been occurring more often since I turned twenty, as my body’s way of maturing.

“So it isn’t harmful?”

I shake my head. “But it is quite excruciating.”

Sunny Days employs the same lunch ladies that provided students with abundant, nutritious meals before. Food comes from food storage and whatever Leyla could salvage before the world crumbled around us. There was a legitimate concern amongst these survivors that our food supply would run short of feeding everyone through winter. I have a feeling this structure Leyla is working so diligently to uphold for the sake of survival will fail before we reach the point of starving.

Due to the close quarters one is required to endure when standing in a line, Juan always offers to gather food for us both while I find a place to sit. I never asked him to do it, but I am extremely grateful that he does.

When he finds me at a wall-facing table, he slides my tray in front of me and sits two seats to the right.

Thank you. I look at him and force a smile. He forces one in return. Did you sleep at all last night? I ask him.

He scoops up a sporkful of eggs and crams it into his mouth. “Not a wink.”

I want to dunk my head into a pool of lava. I am so sorry.

“It’s all right,” he concedes. “It isn’t your fault. I haven’t had a full night’s rest in months.” His eyes sweep over the busy cafeteria while he chews.

Any specific reason why?

He shrugs and continues eating.

I could...

“No,” he interjects, his left fist gently, but firmly, hitting the table.

Ever since I revealed to him my ability to alleviate pain via skin-to-skin contact, he has not allowed me to touch him, no matter how much he is suffering. He doesn’t think I can handle his pain, so he keeps it to himself. If he allowed me to touch him, I could erase his chronic fatigue. I am thinking of doing it anyway, against his wishes. I would rather feel his pain than helplessly watch him endure it.

I stare at him for a minute, unaware that I haven’t taken a single bite of my food. My appetite is waning.

“You should eat, Kandi,” Juan says.

Something about him is... off. He usually isn’t this cantankerous.

Just as I am about to pick up my spork, however, a familiar, unwanted presence approaches our table.

“Juan, Kandi,” greets Kyle, slapping Juan’s shoulder affectionately. He has been calling us by our given names since we returned to Sunny Days following Jeremy’s death. I suppose we aren’t “mere Patients” to him anymore. We’re good friends. Juan cringes under Kyle’s hand, then whips around. Kyle’s grin weakens. “Doctor L needs to see you in her office after breakfast.”

“Why?”

“I suspect it has something to do with beefing up security around here.”

Juan brushes Kyle’s hand from his shoulder. “We will see Leyla at a time we deem convenient for us.”

Kyle smirks and snorts. “Whatever, boss.” He raises his hands and walks away.

We are standing in Ms. Hendricks’ office, which is not as homey as it once was. Her desk is covered with stacks upon stacks of papers, her file cabinet is disorderly, with files protruding from a few open drawers. Small bits of paper, wrappers, an empty plastic water bottle, and tracks of dirt cover the floor. Her window is barred and her shutters are crooked. Scattered streams of sunlight filter through the cracks.

Doctors Q, Y, and C (otherwise known by Juan and me as Quinn, Yvonne, and Chris), are poring over a map of the school and discussing, as Kyle predicted, new security measures. Patients 7, 30, and 105 are sitting on the sofa twiddling their thumbs. 7 is a 14-year-old Chinese girl named Ran with the ability to teleport, 30 is an 18-year-old boy from Idaho named Wyatt with the ability to see more (more on this later), and 105 is an 11-year-old boy named Nigel who is unnaturally persuasive.

Leyla takes off her glasses and rises from her desk. “The mobs are growing in number. Our only hope if we are going to survive this is to organize ourselves – and make sure we are prepared to face an attack. You five,” she gestures to us Patients sitting/standing around the couch, “are here because we have chosen you to lead the security teams posted throughout the building.”

I notice Juan dozing off beside me and send a tiny electrical pulse to his brain to wake him. He blinks and shakes his head, seemingly surprised he had fallen asleep.

Chris steps away from the map to address us. “Do you mind, Leyla?”

Leyla waves her arm, giving him the floor.

He clears his throat and points at the map. “Ran, your team will be posted at the front doors, where you can easily zap in and out to make sure the entrance is clear.” Ran nods. “Nigel, you will be on Wyatt’s team, which will monitor the roof, okay?”

Nigel and Wyatt nod simultaneously.

“And, Juan, you and Kandi will be posted outside by the gates.” Ms. Hendricks had built a large, barbed-wire prison gate around the school before the economy disintegrated.

Nobody but Juan and I know what truly happened to Doctor J, nor is anyone aware of the incoming invasion of immortal extraterrestrials, who are all as unfeeling toward humanity as my father was. It makes these meetings and talks about “security” and “preparedness” seem utterly pointless.

Juan looks to me for confirmation. Then he nods for Doctor C. Nobody knows Juan can read minds, either, but they have accepted Juan as my official voice.

The meeting continues, and my interest diverges to the empty water bottle’s faded label on the floor. Sweeter Springs... Delicious.

I look up briefly to find Leyla staring me down from across the room, arms folded, lips pursed. I make eye contact and emit a mental pulse just strong enough to induce a migraine. She immediately cringes and pinches the bridge of her nose, shutting her eyes. Juan gently squeezes my shoulder.

Juan and I return to the cafeteria for lunch a few hours later. Kyle wastes no time invading our space. He comes to me directly, dressed in green plaid and skinny jeans. He smells like Pine Sol.

“Hey, Kandi,” he drawls. “How was the meeting?”

Juan pushes him back, perhaps more aggressively than necessary.

Kyle’s posture stiffens. “If that’s how it’s going to be...” His signature smile stretches into more of a grimace than a grin as he mock salutes and stalks away.

Juan is gritting his teeth. He sits back in his seat and runs a hand through his thick mop of hair. “I wish he would just... drop dead already.”

The anger I sense from him is so palpable I can feel it like a rock in my throat. I recall the beginning of last year when Kyle was my aide, and his job was solely to escort me wherever I needed to go in order to ensure I went untouched throughout the day and to inject me with power-suppressing Theratocin every two hours. Where had that Kyle gone?

Kyle kissed me, just like Zach... though, unlike Zach, he was never really cured, was he? Jim was a prime example of a mortal who fell prey to the effects of prolonged exposure to me. Fun Fact: I actually share this irresistible trait with Love, the Immortal. Love is forbidden from personal contact with mortals for this reason.

I look at Juan, scanning him from his shoulders to his neck to his mouth, and finally to his eyes. Why are you so angry? I ask him.

He chews on his green beans slowly, not looking up from his tray. “I don’t know,” he replies at length, coughing into his fist. “I’m sorry I’m so... out of it today.”

I sip my water.

“Do you think what L is doing will be enough to protect everyone from an attack?"

Few of the Patients have much practice in using their powers. L has dulled their senses for so long they barely remember how to dress themselves. I lean forward and whisper, “The humans out there are organizing themselves specifically to destroy the Patients. Alone they won’t stand a chance.”

Juan drops his utensil. “What are you suggesting?”

“Hey, Juan!” Perfect! An interruption! We both turn around to watch Brock and another powerful Patient named Daniel weave through the milling crowd, large smiles plastered on their faces. Brock has gained thirty pounds since my last admittance into Blue Skys. His face has filled out, and his pale skin has regained a pinkish glow. Without Theratocin perpetually flooding his system, he exhibits much more control over his pyrokinesis. It is quite impressive. Too bad he is a sociopath.

Daniel, on the other hand, is naturally reserved and shy, but over the past couple weeks has grown more comfortable around Juan and me. He has a round face, bulbous nose, freckles, red hair, and severely crooked bottom teeth. I believe he will turn sixteen in March. He accidentally shocked his older brother to death before he was admitted as Patient 55.

“Hey, Brock,” Juan responds, warmth painfully forced in his tone. “What’s up?”

My eyes flick to Brock as he brushes his dreadlocks from his face. “We’re on your team.” He corrects himself: “We’re on the day shift.”

“Cool, man.” Juan smiles and asks Daniel, “How’s your shoulder, Dan?”

He shrugs and absently rubs his right shoulder. “It’s all right.” Since the ‘cure’ worked its magic on the Coma Contagion, Ms. Hendricks has not used my blood to heal minor injuries, such as the injuries suffered by Tim and Mac last year when they attempted to prevent Juan from communicating with me. She is saving the blood she has left for more critical injuries and illnesses, sparing me the hourly blood-drawings to which she subjected me as a Patient. Yes... she is very kind and considerate.

Brock licks his lips and steals the seat to my left. My limbs immediately lock into place, stealing my breath. “So you guys heard about the explosions downtown?”

“Brock, give Kandi some space, please,” Juan says. Brock hastily obliges, claiming the seat on the other side of the table. “Thank you. Now tell us more about the explosions.”

Brock rubs his hands together excitedly. “Two gangs have risen above the rest, and now they’re fighting for power over the city. One of the gangs attacked the other gang with bombs yesterday, decimating half of Jefferson Street. Rumor is they are going to surrender and join forces to overtake Sunny Days. That’s why L is so concerned with improving security. She’s expecting an attack.”

“How big are these gangs?” Juan asks.

“Big enough to occupy the city. Or, so I’ve heard.” He winks at me. My stomach does not appreciate the attention.

I can feel Juan looking at me, so I turn to meet his gaze. A thought is just about to form in my mind when the building quakes. Ceiling dust rains upon our heads.

“Holy crap!” Brock exclaims, ducking under the table.

Screams erupt in the cafeteria. Leyla appears at the doors, shocked and panicked. “Everybody take cover!” she yells. Her wide eyes find me standing amidst the sudden chaos.

Juan, I am going to help. Stay here.

I erupt in a vortex of black flame and transport myself to the perimeter outside the school. An army awaits around the gate, with bolt cutters, knives, a bulldozer, guns, grenades... I count 213 men and women armed and thirsty, savagely tearing through the fence and firing their weapons into the blue sky.

They spot me almost immediately. I am the fountain of youth, an endless supply of immortalizing blood. I am what they want.

They stare at me, cocking their heads and sniffing. I can hear their hearts beating nearly as fast as my own.

“Coward,” Jim murmured as he skated the knife across my abdomen. “And Jeremy calls you the Deinon... a miserable, skinny girl at the mercy of a peasant like me.” He chuckled and plunged the knife into my side. My back arched, and I screamed through the gag, waiting to blink out of consciousness any moment. “Are you going to fight me, darling? Are you going to beg for mercy?” He dipped his head to the wound in my side and licked the blood as it spurted onto the kitchen floor. “Look at me. I want to see the fear in your pretty green eyes.”

I looked at him, at his blood-stained lips and his dilated pupils.

“Why did your father leave you to me, Kandi? Doesn’t he care about his special daughter?” He threw the knife over his shoulder and straddled me. “I doubt he is capable of caring since Hope died. What is Death without Hope?” Jim grabbed my wrists and pinned them behind my head. I shut my eyes, praying the next time they opened it would be morning. “What are you but a means to an end? A bargaining chip in exchange for our lives back home?” His hand suddenly grabbed my chin, sticky fingers digging into my face. “All the power in the universe is at your disposal, and you don’t lift a finger against me.” His laughter was the last thing I heard before my lights went out.

A man in the crowd aims his gun toward my face. He falls unconscious with a glance, and I squeeze my hands into fists, summoning black flame to the surface of my skin. My abdominal muscles flex at once as my body prepares to release energy. This feels so natural and easy to me, like blinking or swallowing.

The school entrance behind me bursts open. “Kandi!”

Juan...

The mob has torn through the gate. I extend my right arm and channel my energy through my right palm, blasting it toward the fence in time to fry several charging humans. The flame sticks to the asphalt and blazes across the parking lot to form a massive, toxic wall, forcing the mob to retreat or die from burns or asphyxiation. I move my hand, directing the fire further until it spans the entire east side of the fence.

Juan catches up behind me, covering his mouth and nose with his hand. I sense concern and bewilderment from him.

Don’t breathe, Juan. Get back inside.

His eyes reflect confusion and trepidation.

“Go.”

He watches the mob scream and protest behind the wall of violet-black for half a minute before his diaphragm spasms, compelling him to inhale. While he turns and retreats inside the building, I espy a crowd of Patients clustered behind the door, shocked expressions pressed against the glass.

I briefly study my flame-engulfed fingers, then return my attention to the mob. I should probably surround the entire school in fire until we can come up with a better way to deal with future mob attacks.

About an hour later, when I have finished nabbing the grenade-packing stragglers from the mob and completing the wall around the fence, I teleport back into the school building next to my closet, which is a few classrooms down from the bathrooms.

Lo and behold, Juan Chavez is in my closet waiting for me.

He immediately stands up and gives me a wide, toothy grin. I smile, pleased to observe his mood has improved. “What you did out there, Kandi,” he says, shaking his head, “was amazing. Everyone witnessed it. We’re all pretty stunned. I mean, I’ve seen you do the fire thing before, but never on such an epic scale.” He emphasizes his point with a sweeping hand gesture. “What gave you the sudden confidence to do that?”

Everyone witnessed it. Ugh. Instead of answering the question, I present him with one of my own: “Where is everyone?” I am trying to speak more often, but so far I can only speak when Juan and I are alone. I’m working on it.

Juan shrugs and scratches the back of his head. “I think they’re all gathered in the gym talking about Earth’s bright future, or something.”

I press my lips together, cringing. Should I tell them? I query.

“About the army of alien demigods after you?” He laughs. “I don’t know. What would that accomplish? Could they help us?”

Well, my father did release Zidivin for a reason. And it wasn’t to needlessly wipe out the human race.

“Yes, his plan was to weed out the weak humans and create an army which he could use to...” His eyes light up. “Are you suggesting we use the Patients as weapons against the Edinön?”

My gaze finds a crease in the sheets to analyze. I remember the single swing of my arm that killed my father - how effortless it was to dismember him. How had Dad fallen so easily? Maybe he allowed me to kill him. Maybe he realized his plan would fail because of my refusal to join him, and he would have rather died than face punishment for his transgressions.

“You think I am ‘destroying the human race,’ when in reality I am preparing them.” My father told me this in relation to his reason for coming to Earth in the first place. Had he known of Earth’s existence all along? Had he lied about stumbling upon the planet after floating in space for thirty years? I hadn’t believed him when he told me initially that his plan was to save the human race... Perhaps that part was actually true.

“You really think all this was for our protection?”

I rest against the door and stare at the ceiling. “I don’t know.”

“How do you know the Edinön are going to destroy the planet, anyway? Time didn’t seem very threatening to me. He was more helpful than anything.”

I haven’t told Juan that I am an abomination, and the Edinön will happily annihilate an entire planet if it means annihilating me.

I hear people coming. “You’re an... abomination?”

I summon black fire to my index finger. My father possessed green eyes and green fire. Where my kind is from, green is the color of Death. Black symbolizes Time.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

I leap toward Juan when a knock sounds on the door. Juan rolls his eyes and steps around me to open it. Brock stands anxiously in the hallway with a small group of Patients behind him. “No, Brock, it isn’t safe to go outside yet. Not until Kandi puts the fire out.”

Brock’s brows furrow. “How’d you know I was going to-?”

Juan slams the door in his face, then immediately turns to me. “So you have the eye color of Death, and the fire of... of Time.” His right hand rests in his back pants’ pocket. He doesn’t seem satisfied with the way he worded that sentence. “What does that mean?”

I extinguish the flame in my palm as my spine straightens. We are less than a foot apart. “Nothing has changed since my dad died, Juan,” I expound in a raspy voice before clearing my throat. “I am supposed to be Death’s heir, yet nothing has changed. It means I am not Death. It means... I don’t know what I am. If I am not Death, I do not have a place in the Bloodline. I am a threat to the natural order.” I scan his face for signs of comprehension. “Do you understand?”

Juan’s eyes are fixed to my mouth. He nods, lips apart, then swallows and blinks. “Y-yes. I understand.” His eyes gradually rise to meet mine. “How are you feeling, by the way?”

I am taken aback by the question. No one has asked me that with such genuine concern since my mother was alive. I’m... fine. How are you?

“A little tired, but, uh... Pretty good, considering.” He clears his throat and inhales, chuckling on the exhale. “You... stood up against two hundred people today. That’s just...” He continues until tears spring from his eyes.

I smile and shake my head at his insanity. “What is Leyla doing?”

Juan’s chuckling diminishes as he wipes his eyes. “Oh, you know. Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, counting inventory. The usual.”

We should help.

“After what you just did?” He examines me up and down. “Couldn’t you use a break?”

No, no. I put my hand up. I feel better when I use my energy than when I don’t. This is me at my peak.

Juan rubs his chin. “Wow. Okay.” He smiles and gestures to the door.

I look at him blankly as I flick my wrist, blasting the door from its hinges. The door cracks and splinters, sparking along the edges. Smoke rises from the floor. Some passersby in the hallway screech and fling themselves against the wall.

I step over the minor wreckage and look back at Juan expectantly. His eyes are as large as dinner plates, but he wisely follows me anyway. We are ten feet from my closet-room when he finds his voice. “Are we going to just... leave that there?”

I stop, feeling people staring at us. Shocker! Leave what where? I ask.

Juan glances behind him, astonished to find the door closed and in perfect condition. “Should I even ask how?”

***

Later that night, after a long day of organizing food storage, cleaning kitchenware, and repairing the damage left by the small detonators on the roof, Juan joins Brock in a basketball game with several other boys. I head to the restroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, beyond exhausted – not because of the energy my body consumed today, but because of the never-ending human contact. I need to be alone more than anything right now. My head is so cluttered that the result is wavering equilibrium. I can barely stay on my feet.

The bathroom, is, of course, packed with girls and a few women lining up at the stalls and sinks. As soon as I enter, all attention is on me. I keep my head down and my hair in my face. Obviously this doesn’t turn me invisible. I am 100 percent positive my face is beet red. Gosh, my hands are shaking.

“Hey, guys, make room for Kandi, would you?” a woman urges, shooing the people in front of me aside. If I had a voice, I would tell the woman this isn’t necessary. I can wait in line like anyone else. Except... In an abrupt panic, I grasp the woman’s sleeve. My blood is draining to my feet. My stomach drops with my knees.

The woman catches me, and the girls surrounding me immediately stop what they’re doing to assist the woman in dragging me to the nearest stall.

“Kandi, are you with us?” another woman asks. She is a portly blur in the corner of my eye.

Too... many... bodies. I clutch my gut as it roils, wincing. A whimper escapes against my will. The room is spinning.

Get it together. Get it together.

“Someone go find her boyfriend,” the first woman orders. I vaguely realize she has dragged me in front of a toilet. I can smell the toilet water. My sight is currently not reliable.

My blood runs cold. My fingertips tingle. I grip either side of the toilet bowl and vomit.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“Is she okay?”

“Should we get Doctor L?”

I vomit again. And again. One would think after a lifetime of chronic nausea and heaving, I would get used to this. But... nope. It is worse every time.

And... Wait. Did that woman just refer to Juan as my boyfriend?

When my body has finished ejecting everything it needs to survive, I sag against the open stall door. My limbs are completely numb.

A young girl roughly fifteen or so kneels beside me to wipe my face with a warm, damp rag. Sensation gradually returns to my face. I reach up to take the rag from her, forcing my lips to curve upward in a visible display of gratitude. She scoots back and blends in with the other girls lining up at the sinks. I squeeze the rag against my right cheek, dumbly recognizing the fact that my body will not stop shaking. My arms are covered in goosebumps. The nausea hasn’t dissipated, either.

My sight eventually clears in time for me to witness Juan entering the woman’s bathroom behind a pair of teenage girls. They lead him to my stall, where I am quivering on the floor like a sick animal.

Juan has never looked more angelic. His shirt collar is soaked in sweat, his forehead is glistening, and his black hair is an uncomely mess. As soon as he sees me, he scoops me into his sweaty arms and whispers, “Relax. I’ve got you.”

***

CHAPTER 2

Juan: The Red Moon

Feb. 15, 2018

I carry Kandi across the hall, through the gym to the women’s locker room, peeking inside to ensure it is unoccupied.

I set her on her feet, standing behind her in case she falls. She releases a long-held breath. “Thank you, Juan. Thank you.” She stumbles into a sink and pulls her teeth-brushing supplies from her jacket pocket. I realize now why she was in the bathroom with all of those girls. It wasn’t because she was sick; being around people is what made her sick. She simply wanted access to water so she could prepare for bed. She probably thought she could handle the crowd and realized her mistake rather quickly.

She pauses while brushing to look at me through the mirror. You can go back to your game.

I notice the unsightly state of my hair in the mirror and quickly comb it with my fingers. “You sure you’re okay?”

She nods and spits in the sink, rinsing her toothbrush under the faucet.

I am slightly reluctant to leave her alone, but I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. “All right, then. See you in a bit.”

In the shower, my mind begins to wander, as usual, and I ponder what Kandi said. She is contemplating the possibility that her father came to Earth to prepare it for the upcoming invasion, though she had previously believed the invasion was occurring because of him.

I start to wonder what Edinön are really like... Are they human? My mother seemed very human to me. I never witnessed anything that would suggest she possessed supernatural abilities, although she could have suppressed any glaring differences with alcohol and other drugs. Looking back, I realize she rarely, if ever, turned the lights on in the house. Can she see in the dark?

I haven’t seen her in three years.

I turn the water off and dress quickly. It is true what I told Kandi this morning. I haven’t slept more than twenty minutes a night since I found her in Trapper Creek. Tonight won’t be any different. I just played two hours of “basketball” with mentally-disturbed Patients not in full control of their powers, so it is going to take all night for my body to cool down. My overactive brain will take twice as long to settle.

I creep into Kandi’s room, carefully shutting the door behind me so it doesn’t make a sound. She looks like Sleeping Beauty on the floor, blankets tucked under her chin, sunny blond hair framing her perfect face. I reach down to turn off the lamp and lie on top of the blankets beside her. I know Kandi likes me near her while she sleeps because she feels safe with me, but after today I’d have to say the reverse is truer. I have never felt safer with anyone than I do with her. It is amazing to think this small, fragile-looking chica next to me could kill me without blinking.

By the time Kandi and I had returned to Doctor Hendricks following the incident on the Pacific island, half of the world was comatose. Because next to no one was immune, including world leaders, many parts of the world were already in a state of anarchy. Other countries, such as the United States, had taken more precautionary measures, so they were able to rapidly distribute the cure once it became available. The cure was given to everyone with access. Kandi’s blood is addictive to the infected, so about 60 percent of those who received the cure for Zidivin infection became blood-thirsty monsters, like a cross between zombies and vampires, except they are nearly impossible to kill. We call them Drinkers.

A third of those cured of the Coma Contagion awoke with newfound gifts, just like the Patients of Blue Skys, so we call them Patients. According to Kandi, their blood can immortalize Drinkers. It could take anywhere from as few as five Patients to as many as fifty Patients to do so.

Everyone is calling this the Apocalypse, or the End of Days, or simply the “End.” Kandi, the idealist that she is, has reminded me more than once that this is nothing compared to what we will face if the Edinön decide to extirpate humankind.

So we have a lot to look forward to.

My eyes adjust to the darkness. I turn my head to watch Kandi sleep. I don’t know how many more nights I can endure lying next to her without physical contact.

How. Will. I. Survive.

I face the wall. All I have to do is pretend she isn’t there. Simple, right?

I yawn and close my eyes.

I walk through a chain link fence. My foot falls into a puddle as I step off the curb. It has rained recently. The sky is various shades of gray, and the air tastes metallic. The buildings appear abandoned, but I can sense life in some of them. Hiding. They are hiding from something. But what?

I am in San Diego, South 43rd Street. I continue walking, recognizing this environment from my childhood. The palm tree next to the Mexican restaurant has collapsed into the road, ostensibly struck by lightning.

I pass a car wash, where two cats are fighting over a pile of garbage. At the next corner, I turn onto Redstone Avenue, the street where I used to live. It is even dumpier than I remember. I find my house at the bottom of the hill, ransacked... but not empty.

“Help!” a woman cries. “Help me, please!”

I hear growling. Then crashing.

“Mom!” I hear myself yell, storming through the front door to find my mother crouching behind an overturned sofa, hands shielding her face. Seven men reach for her at once, teeth bared, knives glinting in the evening light.

One of them is just about to gut her when my eyes fly open.

My heart is beating ten times a second. I wipe sweat from my forehead and take several deep breaths. What just happened? What time is...? I check the clock as the second hand ticks over the twelve, making it exactly 3:30.

I have had more nightmares of my mother in danger than I can count, but this was different. I can still feel water soaking my shoe after stepping into that puddle. I can still hear my mom screaming.

“Kandi,” I breathe, unable to clear the vision from my mind. I peer down at her sleeping form, gently pressing her shoulder. “Kandi.”

Her eyes barely crack open, puffy with fatigue. She moans, “Hm?”

I feel bad for waking her, but I don’t think this can wait. “I just... saw something.”

She turns over, propped on her elbows. What?

How am I supposed to explain this? “I think my mom is in danger.”

***

Kandi was incredibly supportive when I told her about my vision. She agrees that we should leave right away. It doesn’t matter whether my vision was accurate or not, my mom is still out there. I need to find her.

I imagine Leyla won’t be too thrilled Kandi and I plan to leave. Luckily, I don’t care.

I find Brock in the cafeteria around noon at a table with two other boys, including Dan, and a girl my age named Carla. I truly loathe being in close proximity with these kids – their thoughts are often so dark and loony that I have to internally meditate for an hour after ten minutes of listening to them.

Carla spots me first and waves. She is a spunky black girl from Oregon who has only been a Patient for a year. She is also one of the few Patients who still has both of her parents after the liquid death outbreak.

Brock catches her waving and turns in his seat to join her in the gesture. I awkwardly wave back. “Hey, guys.”

“How’s Kandi?” Brock asks, glancing around me in search of her.

“She’s good.” I absently glance at Dan’s shoulder brace, then return my eyes to Brock’s hair. “Any news from Doctor L yet about the goings-on outside?”

Brock frowns and shakes his head. “It has been real quiet since Kandi scared the mob away. We still haven’t been able to go outside.”

I hiss. “Right.” Kandi’s perpetually-burning fire expends an invisible, virulent smoke. “Look, don’t tell anyone,” I continue, leaning in and whispering. Brock’s excitement-level reaches that of an energetic puppy in response to my conspiring tone. “But Kandi and I will be gone for a few days. Kandi is going to let the fire outside burn until we get back, to keep everyone safe. We need your help in ensuring everything’s in order while we’re gone.”

He bobs his head. “No problem, bro.” As I turn around, he asks, “Where are you going?”

I keep walking.

I return to Kandi’s room and shut the door softly behind me. Kandi has finished packing a duffel bag and is twisting her long platinum hair into a ponytail.

I bend over and grab the bag, then strap it over my right shoulder. “Ready?”