BRIGHT DECAY Sneak Peek: Chapter 3

Author’s Note: BRIGHT DECAY is a superhero sci-fi about a girl who can stop time. As of June 2019, the 90k-word novel is available on Amazon. Right now, you can read the first three chapters for free, here on my website.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3   Mirage 

Skylar lived with her neighbor, and not by choice. It was the third house down from her actual house. As a minor, she couldn’t live alone when her brother Malcolm was away for college. 

Mrs. Kersey, the neighborhood grandmother, had been her guardian for the past two years. She was nice enough to take up Skylar as a charity case, though she got paid to offer Skylar food and a roof. As an empty-nester, she liked having one more kid but not the future responsibility of it. Skylar treated the house like a hotel. They tolerated each other with pleasantry and distance. 

Skylar was moving out today. She had already packed up her things in cardboard boxes. 

“Don’t throw the door,” Mrs. Kersey had yelled from the kitchen. Skylar obediently propped the front door open. A box in arms, she walked down the sidewalk and placed it in front of her house. It was identical to Mrs. Kersey’s, but it looked deserted. The dust and neglected flower beds completed the run-down look. She put the box down on the front porch and went back for another.

When she was moving the last box out, Mrs. Kersey was at the door, supervising. Skylar had once eaten out of her snack cabinet, which wasn’t included in the contract of two meals per day. After that, she was always nervous about Skylar stealing. 

“Come to visit me often.” Mrs. Kersey smiled a fake smile, ready to close the door.

Skylar wouldn’t visit her unless someone was pointing a gun at her, but she still nodded. 

Finding the key somewhere in her backpack, Skylar unlocked her childhood home. Nothing was the same but everything was the same. It was no longer familiar enough. She hated how she could smell the scent of the house.

She moved everything inside and into the guest room on the first floor. She minimized her need for air, but still coughed when she entered. Setting the boxes down also kicked up another puff of dust. 

When she had finished the move, she sat on the couch and turned the screen on. It was an old model, small and slow, but it worked. Skylar had it playing Uncommon Report while she at least attempted to clean the house. 

The show was a rather successful one. It reported all news about uncommon humans around the world, from serious to hilarious. 

Her wearable vibrated. She looked down at the beeping screen on her wrist. It was Malcolm. 

“Hi,” she answered the call. 

“Hey you,” came Malcolm’s annoyingly cheery voice. “Sorry about the ceremony. Couldn’t make it. Congrats though.”

“It’s fine. It’s just that, a ceremony.“

“I’m taking the train. Leaving Duskim at 11 pm, and arriving at 5 in the morning of the 19th.” He was used to talking fast. “Are you coming to the station? It’s okay if you don’t. I’ve …acquired a lot more stuff this year, and I need an extra hand.”

“I don’t have a car.”

“Ask Alysia.”

“Her car’s too small. Plus, she’s probably working.”

“Mrs. Kersey?”

“…No.”

“Fine. You can walk. It’s only, like, two miles.”

“Alright.” Skylar wouldn’t admit it, but she was excited to see Malcolm again. He was one of the few people in the world that she got along with. 

“Well, see you then. That’s next week. Don’t forget.” He hung up quickly.

***

Two days came and went. Skylar had sunk into the couch. The house became livable, and she didn’t seek to improve it more. She hadn’t gotten up for a while. Burying herself in blankets while the air conditioner was on, she set the temperature to make the house as cold as winter. Just as she liked. 

She read a novel, something cheesy about a superhero hiding his identity from his girlfriend. The screen in the living room droned on in the background. On and on about the uncommons taking all the common jobs, until the topic shifted to the uncommon human incident at the school. 

Skylar perked up. She patted the couch, found the controller and turned the volume up.

“…Luckily, no one was hurt. No living things—that includes students, that includes the lab rats, was affected by the transformation…” 

What?

“…Wilkin Hills High School, now more widely known as “the golden school”, will be opening in this coming semester. The structure was deemed safe by local authorities and D.U.R.M.A. It seemed like a result of new uncommon human awakening, though we are still waiting for confirmation from D.U.R.M.A. According to the school officials, Wilkin Hills has unexpectedly received increased enrollment of students coming from all over the nation. It’s not every day your local high school becomes covered in precious metal…”

Skylar stared at the screen, which continued to show the current state of her high school. It was covered in gold. The buildings, the walls, the cracked pavement. And then the classrooms, hallway, the tables, and chairs. 

“…during the summer. Police forces are stationed on the lookout for trespassing. Two were arrested yesterday, claiming to be students while attempting to steal a ‘gilded’ chair.”

Something must have gone wrong. Skylar wasn’t there to see it happen, but she was sure that it was Palmer’s fault. Perhaps he lost control of his power and turned his surroundings gold. 

He messed up, bad. But it was still good to know he couldn’t turn living things gold. If he could, D.U.R.M.A. would probably put a bullet in his head…if it could get through his skin.

She tapped on the wearable on her wrist. The circular screen lighted up. With a few swipes, she was calling Alysia. She prepared her sentences as the device beeped. “Did you see the news?” she was going to say. “Wilkin Hills turned entirely gold.”

In the end, Skylar couldn’t reach her. The line died when Alysia didn’t answer. When Skylar tried again, the call didn’t even attempt to get through. She sighed. Alysia probably forgot to charge her device. She always forgot.

***

Alysia was gone.

Alysia’s parents were carefree people, caught up in their art. They ran a studio on the side of the road, famous for selling paintings to random passersby. 

Skylar liked those paintings, but she liked Alysia more. 

Alysia was gone and they didn’t take notice, since “she’s an adult, she can take care of herself.” 

On the third day, they realized their daughter hadn’t come home. They hadn’t seen her since the morning of the graduation day, when she had told them no need to come to the ceremony, since she wouldn’t be there. They shrugged and agreed. 

They checked her room, no sign of anything. Everything was normal, even the degree of messiness. 

They called her wearable. The battery had died and they saw Alysia had left the charger at home. 

And finally, they went to the police. 

The local police force had their hands full with the gold incident. D.U.R.M.A. agents were in town, and there was a new uncommon human. The school had been shut down for deep inspection. An 18-year-old’s disappearance wasn’t too high on the priority list. Alysia had a car. She could be anywhere.

“She could be taking a spontaneous road trip, all by herself,” Skylar told the officer taking her statement. Yes, Alysia went away. But nothing worse was going to happen, Skylar thought. In fact, it was better that she was away from the stalker group who wanted her power. Alysia was safer away.

Skylar repeated the tale of what they did when they last met. The car crash, the ice creams, the tattoo. Skylar told them about the tattoo and showed them her wrist. It looked nothing out of the ordinary, though the officer scowled at it. He was probably thinking about “DIY skin infection.” 

Skylar made sure to leave out the part of Alysia being an uncommon. She had promised not to tell. What if Alysia turned up a day later, she’d be pissed if Skylar had snitched. 

Skylar wasn’t about to lose her only friend. 

Leaving the station, Skylar headed to work at the fast-food chain. It was a job she hated, but it gave her money and something to do. 

She was in deep thought when she rotated between flipping burgers and handling money. When the regular who stress-ate himself to obesity told her to cheer up, she realized the gut-wrenching anxiety was real. She stared at the double-double, as her heart slowly sank into her stomach.

Reality became clear of fog. 

Alysia was gone.

At night, she lay on the mattress and stared at the needle tattoo. Pressing on the eye of the needle, she willed it to come true. It was perhaps not a good idea. The needle fell off and stabbed her in the chest. She yelped and jumped up. She strained her neck, looking down. A bead of blood oozed out. Other than that, she was fine. She had not yet sighed in relief, when she realized the needle was missing from her wrist.

“Shit,” she muttered. She sat up in a stiff position, carefully avoiding movement. Scanning the entirety of her body, paying attention to the wrinkles on her pajamas, she cursed herself for being stupid. 

The needle was gone. Her mind raced to the worst-case scenario. What if Alysia was dead, and the tattoo was gone with her?

She found the needle next to her pillow, and put it back on her skin. Her heart was still racing when she looked into the bathroom mirror. Her wound was fine. It was like a paper cut, and even smaller. The blood washed off when she sprinkled some water. 

Everything was fine.

The next day, a cop car parked in front of her house and the same officer came knocking at the door. Skylar couldn’t help but feel like she had done something wrong. She wasn’t the last person who had seen Alysia…was she? She went with him to the station for more questioning. 

Mrs. Kersey was standing in her front lawn, and stopped watering her blueberry bush to stare at the cop car. Skylar sighed. By the end of that day, the entire elderly community would know that strange girl was going to juvie.

***

Sitting on one of the waiting seats, Skylar distracted herself by watching the busy proceedings in the station. The small-town police department had received unexpected attention during the last few days. People from the school, neighborhood, and media came in and out. 

Skylar bounced her crossed legs, looking around for the D.U.R.M.A. troopers. There were two of them standing guard outside of a conference room. They stood at a casual stance, aimed not to alarm the others. Still, their black body armors and half-face masks deserved sideways glances. 

The conference room door opened and closed. A fragment of conversation slipped out. 

“…though we strongly suggest you come with us to the Duskim HQ.” 

Skylar didn’t have time to digest what it meant, or see who was inside. She shrank back under the gaze of a D.U.R.M.A. agent. 

“This way, please,” he said flatly, turning around.

Skylar stood up and followed him. She was slightly trembling, she hoped because of the cool air conditioning.

They entered the conference room. The agent went down and sat at the oval table, next to the woman Skylar had seen at the crash site. On the other end were Palmer and his father, gazing curiously at her. Plenty of space in the middle. Skylar hesitated and took a seat, not sitting next to anyone.

“Do I need a guardian…or lawyer?” she asked, folding her hands on her lap.

“No need for that, Miss Griffin. We are just going to talk,” the woman said smoothly. “I work for the Duskim Division of D.U.R.M.A., Department of Uncommon Registration, Management, and Association. You can call me Inspector Maxwell.”

Skylar nodded and quickly rehearsed a series of pleasantries in her head. “If you don’t mind me asking,” she slowly said, “why am I here? I’m neither an uncommon nor do I know one. Unless you think I’m…”

“It’s alright. We have found no reason to suspect you,” Maxwell said, her voice calm. “At this moment, Alysia Sloan’s disappearance is classified as a runaway. There was no sign of abduction or murder.”

That was a relief, yet the way Maxwell said it so easily made Skylar queasy. 

“But…”

“All you need to do is listen as we explain our progress, and offer your insight if you want to.”

Skylar didn’t see why not, so she nodded.

“It came to our knowledge, that the two incidents could be connected.” Maxwell addressed the whole room, then turned to the parents. “Your son’s awakening and her friend’s disappearance both happened on the same day. They were both in the same grade, shared two classes out of five. Mr. Stevens, can you remember any clue why Alysia would want to run away from home?”

“We didn’t talk much.” He sounded deep and echoing, perhaps an effect of his new autonomy. “I don’t see why she would, but then again, we only ever talked about schoolwork when we talked.”

Maxwell nodded slowly. The agent took notes on a flip notebook, expressionless.

“As it is well known, new uncommons are quite unstable when it comes to controlling their powers…”

“We were here at the station the entire time,” Palmer’s father immediately said. “If you’re implying something.”

“We barely know each other,” Palmer exclaimed, despite the lack of emotion of his golden face, looking embarrassed by his parent’s outburst.

“I’m simply gathering information.” Maxwell smiled. “I’d like to know about how you turned your high school entirely gold, save for the living beings. The police report was rather vague.”

“It was an accident.”

“Becoming an uncommon can be quite exciting.”

“Listen,” Palmer’s father began. “My son–”

“Skylar, do you believe the incidents were connected?”

“I don’t know.”

“Somehow, I do remember seeing her in the crowd.” The Inspector tapped her jaw. “The hair stood out, and casual wear instead of the graduation gown. As I recall, she looked rather uneasy, and you two left the scene soon after. Any idea why?”

“We didn’t talk about it,” Skylar swallowed. “No offense, but maybe she was scared of what she just saw? The car turning gold and the portal was…unexpected.”

“You are certain that she is not an uncommon.”

“I am…certain.”

“Forty thousand people in this town and two are powered.” Maxwell agreed. “The uncommon population was quite sparse, so yeah, it’s unlikely to have another uncommon around.” 

“It is unlikely.” Skylar agreed. Uncommons were one in a million. 

“Let’s wrap up. Skylar, if you hear from Alysia, let us know. Otherwise, the police will be searching her house and workplace, as well as tracking down her car.” Maxwell looked at her while she was standing up. Skylar nodded and slowly retreated toward the door. She wanted to give them privacy as the Inspector talked to the family.

“As for you, Palmer. Go home and look at the brochure I gave you. Get adjusted. Since you already got registered, the choice is yours. Though I would say the Academy would be a wise decision, the resources…”

Skylar didn’t let the thought take root in her head. There were people with special abilities in this world. Most people were common. She had long since grown out of the fantasy of having a superpower. Her reality was what it was. It was…normal.

When the door was closing and she was free to go, Skylar heard the D.U.R.M.A. Inspector’s voice from within. “It is always a good idea to plan your future around your power.” 

Skylar scoffed. Some people could have their lives forever changed in just one moment. Some people couldn’t.


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BRIGHT DECAY Sneak Peek: Chapter 2

Author’s Note: BRIGHT DECAY is a superhero sci-fi about a girl who can stop time. As of June 2019, the 90k-word novel is available on Amazon. Right now, you can read the first three chapters for free, here on my website.

Chapter 1


Chapter 2    Needle 

Skylar left the ice cream parlor with a cone in each hand. The receipt was crumpled inside her palm. West Coast summer in the Pacific Northwest was usually more pleasant than this, but this lukewarm summer day was perfect for ice cream. She didn’t have to worry about them melting onto her hands. 

Alysia gladly accepted hers and took a generous lick. The two of them curled up on the car seats. The engine was off. The windows were down. They parked in the plaza, in front of the ice cream parlor. The lot was mostly empty. 

Skylar raised her legs to rest them on the dashboard.

“What do you think of the Golden Boy?” Alysia asked casually. 

“Palmer?” Skylar was caught off guard. “What about him?”

“Do you think he’s gonna join the Academy? I heard he had been planning to join the military. That’s basically the same thing, but more…uncommon.” Alysia giggled at her own genius. “Or, he could start a jewelry store, turning junk into gold.”

“He could learn more about his power,” Skylar pointed out. “Academy could be good for him.”

“There’s really not much to learn. I mean, he touches something, it turns to gold.”

“He could learn to…not turn everything to gold.”

“Is that even possible?”

Skylar took small bites of her Rocky Road. It chilled her teeth.

“Did you see him turning back?” she asked. “Or is he going to be stuck like that for the rest of his life?”

“No idea.”,

“Hmm.”

“There are worse-looking uncommons out there. He’s fine.”

“It’s still…kind of weird,” Skylar decided. “Some look completely normal, some could never blend in.”

Alysia thought about it. “Do you think that woman is uncommon? She looked normal, but she does work for D.U.R.M.A.”

“Not all D.U.R.M.A. employees are uncommons, I don’t think.” Skylar guessed. “Otherwise they would be a very small organization.”

“True.”

Their scoops were diminishing. Alysia twisted the key and turned on the air conditioner. Music blasted from the radio. Alysia turned it down.

“What’s the thing you want to show me?” Skylar asked, remembering the topic. 

“We can go back to my house, if you want.” Alysia looked around their surroundings. “It’s not exactly convenient to show you here.”

“Okay.” Skylar knew not to ask what it was. Alysia liked her surprises.

They pulled away from the lot and onto the road. Ravenmont had mild summers, though it got hotter into July and August. It was mid-June, the best days in Skylar’s opinion. The old sedan raced down the open road. Alysia drove it as if it was a sports car. 

“It must be kind of fun to have powers,” Skylar mused, rolling down the window.

Alysia glanced at her briefly, then fixed her eyes on the road.

“It must be.”

***

They arrived at a small one-story house on the edge of a neighborhood. Their town was calm and clean, located on the outskirt of the city. Their neighbors had well-trimmed lawns and American flags near the front door. It was almost July, after all.

Alysia’s family had lived in Washington state until the 5/25 incident that had rendered Seattle uninhabitable. That was four years ago. A terrorist group had attacked a family of uncommons, who defended themselves somewhat successfully. The collateral damage, however, laid waste to the city. 

Alysia and her parents had evacuated in time, and they left the state altogether. Ravenmont was located under Washington and above Oregon, so the state became their next choice of a home. They had been living in Wilkindale since. 

“Come in.” Alysia parked the car on the slope in front of the garage. She took the duffel bag and swung it over her shoulder. “My parents are at the studio.”

Each house that was not Skylar’s own had a distinctive smell. Alysia’s home smelled like a bird’s nest. Her parents’ artworks and supplies stuffed the place. Large canvases leaned against the walls. 

Skylar navigated the walkway, following Alysia to her room. Alysia kept her room dark with thick maroon curtains. There were no ceiling lights. She walked over to her desk and turned on the lamp, next to her collection of alien plants. Three pots in different sizes, but none larger than a palm. Two were obviously dead, at least to an earthling’s eyes. The other one was a blight sight, but flowering. Blue shimmering bulbs hung low.

“The greenhouse said they should all bloom,” Alysia explained upon seeing Skylar’s glance. “I don’t actually mind though. You get what you pay for.”

“How much are they?”

“A hundred bucks for all three. It’s a bargain.”

Skylar nodded as if she thought it was indeed a bargain. “Where did you get those?”

“A greenhouse. I already said it.”

Normal greenhouses didn’t stock alien flora. Skylar glanced at the plants again. They must’ve been from a questionable source, but she didn’t point it out.

Skylar sat down in her usual place near the window. 

Setting the bag on the carpeted floor, Alysia plopped down in front of Skylar and reached over to open the zipper.

Inside, there was nothing too strange. Sports clothes, like Skylar had guessed. Alysia took them out and threw them to the pile near her bed. 

A paperback book lay at the bottom. Alysia removed it without giving it a second glance. Skylar saw it was a science fiction. 

“Wait a minute.” Alysia stared at the empty bag, thinking. She then went back to the clothes pile and dug out a sweater. She unwrapped the bundle, revealing a bottle of ink. She set it aside and raised the sweater with both hands. It was in navy blue, the school color, with “WHHS” on the front. Wilkin Hills High School. 

“Can you believe it? I’m never wearing this shit again.” She let out an exaggerated sigh, then lowered her voice to a mutter. “Great.”

“That’s a bottle of ink.” Skylar glanced at the object. “That’s what you are showing me?”

“There’s more.” Alysia ignored her mocking tone. She reached into the pocket of the sweater and took out a pencil pouch. “Promise you won’t laugh, or get scared, or call the cops?”

“Sure.” Skylar let suspicion drip from her voice. “I promise.”

Alysia crossed her legs, one hand holding the ink bottle, the other holding the pencil pouch. She took a deep breath. 

“I have uncommon power,” Alysia said.

Skylar blinked. “Okay…” She slowly processed the information. “What’s your power?”

“I can—” Alysia began to speak. “Uh, let me show you.”

She set the objects down and lifted the hem of her t-shirt. Skylar’s eyes widened as she saw the flower there. It was a rose on a thin stem, inked on her rib cage.

“You got a tattoo?” Skylar asked. “And you didn’t tell me?”

“I’m telling you now.” Alysia huffed. “Now shut up and look.”

She touched the rose tattoo, with her thumb and index finger closed upon the stem. Nails quietly scratched the skin. 

Her hand pulled away, holding a real rose.

“You…”Skylar gasped. “Wow!”

The tattoo was made of dots and lines, but then it became the real thing. Three-dimensional, organic, real. Rose petals fluttered as Alysia lightly shook the flower. Instead of being red or white, or any natural color, it was tan like the color of Alysia’s skin. Other than that, it was every bit as real as something that grew from dirt. 

Skylar inhaled the air. A fresh fume, a pleasant scent. 

The tattoo was gone, turned into the real thing. Alysia let her shirt down, grinning cheekily. 

“What do you think?”

“This is magic.” Skylar decided. 

Alysia threw her head back and laughed heartily, the weight lifted from her chest. 

“I thought you’d think it’s creepy,” she admitted. 

“It is. Kind of. It’s way too cool.” Skylar was grinning. “So this is your power. Turning tattoos into real things?”

Alysia nodded. “I’m learning to do tattoos, look.” She grabbed an orange from her table. 

Alysia turned it around and showed Skylar the sketch of an origami crane on the skin of the orange. At first look, Skylar thought Alysia had drew it on there. Upon closer inspection, the dark lines were made of multiple dots. 

“I was practicing. They not only work on me, but other things as well.” She touched the crane, and the origami came alive and fell into her palm. The fruit became ink-less. Alysia pressed the origami to the orange, and the tattoo reappeared.

“You try it.” Alysia shoved the orange into Skylar’s hands. “It should work. I have a feeling.”

Skylar touched the orange and nothing happened. 

“It’s not working,” Skylar said. “Should I press harder?”

“No need.” Alysia stared at the orange.  “Just think of it becoming real. It should work.” 

It was peculiar how the orange paper crane just fell out of the curved surface and into her hand. Skylar stared at it with her mouth slightly open. She turned it around in her hand.

“Do your parents know?”

“My power? No.” Alysia scoffed. “They’d freak. And they’d tell me to get registered.”

“You don’t want to?”

“Of course I don’t. I did look up the registration process. There was fine print, saying technically D.U.R.M.A. could conscript you.” Alysia gestured as she spoke. “You saw what Carver was doing, right? His power is so convenient. His boss is probably laughing in his sleep, getting his hands on an uncommon like that. I bet he works all day, opening doors. He’s basically the D.U.R.M.A. Express.”

“There are other options,” Skylar told her. “Imagine what you can do. You can open a tattoo parlor.”

“Mm, that would be nice,” Alysia hummed. “People from around the world would come and visit my little shop. I would charge outrageous prices…” 

“Indeed.”

“Do you want one?” Alysia abruptly asked. “I have my tools here.”

Skylar hesitated. She never thought of getting a tattoo, but she didn’t hate the idea of getting her skin inked, either.

“It’s okay if you don’t,” Alysia quickly said. “I understand. It’s a bit weird, and not everyone likes tattoos.”

“Have you tried it on someone else?” 

“A teammate,” Alysia admitted. “Brea Harada. She always wanted a tattoo but she’s scared of the parlors. She read somewhere that a hand poked tattoo hurts less. I’m not sure.” Alysia played with the ink bottle. “She doesn’t know about my power, though. You’re the first one I told.”

Skylar nodded in appreciation. “But isn’t it kind of risky? What if one day her tattoo…falls off?”

“I gave her a star. A tiny, simple one. Here.” She pointed at her ankle. “Plus, it won’t come off unless she wants it to. Even though it does, I doubt it’d be much of a difference.”

Alysia let Skylar think for a moment. 

“Alright.” Skylar agreed. “I’ll do it.”

“Great! What do you want? I can… I have to do it life-like. But nothing too difficult.”

Alysia emptied her pouch. There were needles and threads, even a ruler. She pulled her notebook to her lap, a pen in hand. She was looking at Skylar with expectation. 

Skylar wasn’t going to back down. She scanned the room, looking for inspiration. Alysia’s belongings were quite ordinary, and she didn’t want the quirky ones forever on her skin. 

“A needle,” Skylar said.

“A needle?” Alysia arched her eyebrows. 

“Like one of those.” Skylar pointed at the tattoo kit. “But shorter and smaller. Like a sewing needle.”

“Ah.” Alysia sketched. A thin stick with a hole at one end. It should be easy to do. “Why a needle?”

“Why not?” Skylar knew why. They had met on the first day of an elective art class. The teacher was quite…experimental, and had the bunch of students take up sewing. Skylar had been sitting alone and couldn’t get the string through the hole. Alysia had taken up Skylar as a charity case since then. 

Skylar would never tell her that was the reason. She would laugh. 

After Skylar decided to put it on her inner left wrist, Alysia prepared the tools and got started. 

Skylar was trying to live recklessly, so she propped her arm out and waited. It was a moment so intense that she knew she would replay it in her head. She stored it in her head nicely, in case of future viewing. 

It didn’t hurt too much. Alysia cursed about her low-quality tools as she had to switch to new ones during the process. 

When it was done, Skylar examined the tattoo under the light. It was two inches long. A thin black line. Alysia was packing things away. Skylar attempted to help by cleaning the trash, though there wasn’t much.

“I wish I could just do this forever,” Alysia said wishfully, out of nowhere.

“Making tattoos?” 

“Mmh.”

“That’s nice. I bet people out there would like this. You can really make a living out of it.”

“Yeah…I wish.”

She stopped packing and just stared at the equipment by her hands.

“Alysia?”

“I don’t know, everything is so…strange. I’ve been hoping for this all my life, and now I have a superpower. But everything isn’t suddenly better. I don’t know what I was expecting, sunshine and rainbows?”

“What’s wrong?”

“There’s a group. They’re after me.”

“What? How?”

“They want me to arm their people. They have a militia or something. I don’t know how it happened. I’ve been careful. But they’ve been calling me and wanting to meet, and I don’t know how they got my numbers…”

“You should call D.U.R.M.A. They will protect you.”

“And be registered? And be used the same way?” Alysia growled. “You don’t understand. This group is dangerous. I know their kind. I’ve…I’ve seen them in Seattle.”

“But the Brigade is gone.” It was true. The Brigade had five uncommons and they all died during the Battle of Seattle. The common members were either dead or in prison. 

“Now they’re recruiting. Uncommons like me.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to run,” Alysia said. “Get out of state. Maybe to the East Coast. They’d have less influence there. I got a train ticket, and I’m leaving tonight.”

“Alysia…”

“You don’t understand,” she said gravely. “They showed up at my parents’ studio yesterday.”

Nothing good could last. Skylar knew Alysia would cut ties sooner or later. After all, high school was over and they both had to move on to the next stage of life. She expected Alysia to use an excuse because Skylar wasn’t as cool as her. She never anticipated this.

“You won’t tell anyone, right?” Alysia asked, somewhat insecurely.

“Of course not.” Skylar saw her visibly relax. “Unless someone’s torturing me for information. Then I would save my own life.”

Laughing, Alysia proceeded to swat her arm. 

“But seriously. Promise me you’ll keep this a secret. I’d rather not deal with the D.U.R.M.A. bullshits now.”

“I promise.”

The sun was setting. Alysia offered to drive her home. They quietly listened to the bad music on the radio. 

“Thank you,” Skylar told her when exiting the car. She was being unnecessarily formal. “For telling me about…you. And for the tattoo.”

“Thanks for being my test orange.” Alysia grinned, though she looked exhausted. “Now you have something to remember me by.”

Skylar was nodding slowly. Somehow this felt different. She imagined getting a tattoo from Alysia would be different than getting one from a parlor, and not because Alysia is an uncommon human. 

“I’ll find a way to call you,” Alysia said. “Or write a letter.”

The day of their graduation had become much more significant. Skylar watched Alysia drive away and disappear. 


Chapter 3

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BRIGHT DECAY Sneak Peek: Chapter 1

Author’s Note: BRIGHT DECAY is a superhero sci-fi about a girl who can stop time. As of June 2019, the 90k-word novel is available on Amazon. Right now, you can read the first three chapters for free, here on my website.

Chapter 1   Affinity 

The bell tower struck the hour, mainly for sentimental reasons. Skylar watched with mild surprise. The thing never actually worked. In her four years here, she had only heard it chime once.

It was a dull, growling sound. She had the misfortune to sit on the closer end of the field. The bell rang out throughout the campus, a low hum in her bones. Twelve o’clock never sounded so sweet. When the echoing faded, Skylar was free. Free to do everything and nothing with her life.

She stood from her plastic chair and sulked away. The Class of 2020 were throwing their caps into the air, reminding her to remove her own. She carried it in her hand. 

As she exited the stadium, she came across the small patch of garden and the stone plate, installed as a memorial to the Fallen One. The bell tolled for him, a depressed student who had wished to turn his life around. The only way he had known was to jump off the tower. 

He was two years older than Skylar, the teacher’s assistant in her Biology class. They had talked once or twice, not enough for her to shed tears at the memorial they held under the tower. 

Skylar eyed her classmates of four years. She was never one of them, never a part of something. They cheered and hugged each other. Their parents were coming down the bleachers. Some were sniffling with tears in their eyes, which was a bit too dramatic. The scent of perfume and fresh bouquets, the smell of new clothes and fabric, attacked her mockingly. 

Wading through the students and parents, she carefully avoided being hit by the caps. Apparently, not everyone threw them at the same time, and not all of them could catch their caps once they fell.

She walked across the lawn in front of the school gym, perhaps for the last time. The graduation was fun the first few minutes. By now, she had had enough.

Skylar passed through the exact spot where the body had splattered. There were no stains of any kind. A stone plate and that’s it. Few students slowed down when they walked past. Perhaps it was less ignorance, more that they didn’t want to color their big day gray. 

She didn’t realize she cared, but she had been there when he jumped. Far away, but she was there. She had slipped out of the classroom with the excuse of going to the restroom, and ended up sitting on the science building rooftop. 

It was a late afternoon. She had been staring at the highway. The bell tower was thrice taller. Dread and confusion took a hold of her when there were commotions underneath. The gym class arrived at the scene first, almost immediately after. A few girls screamed. They called the ambulance, but he was long gone. 

Zachary Duncan had taken a leap. If he had survived, he would gain superpower. If he had died, he would stay dead. 

Even as Skylar lived a lonely existence, she never felt the need to gamble on life. 

“Where’re you going?” 

Ah. She heard a female’s voice behind her. Crisp and pleasant, with a slight accent. Most importantly, familiar.

“Alysia.” Her voice was low and scratchy from the lack of use. Skylar cleared her throat to make it work. She turned around to greet her friend. “I thought you were ditching the ceremony.” 

“I tried. Turns out I can’t pick up my diploma unless I walk the stage,” Alysia answered nonchalantly. She had her hair tied up in a messy bun. 

“I didn’t see you walk.”

“I didn’t.” 

“But you’re here.”

Skylar had stopped trying to understand Alysia. She was a different breed. Skylar followed the rules because it was easier, Alysia broke them because it was easier. 

“I had to come to school, anyway. Forgot my stuff in the locker.” She wasn’t wearing the graduation cap and gown, but her usual t-shirt and the pastel blue pajama pants she wore to school. 

“Did you get it?”

“The custodian had clipped all the locks. I found it at the front desk,” she explained. “My soccer bag looked important enough that they didn’t throw it in the trash.”

Skylar glanced at the navy-blue duffel bag clinging on Alysia’s shoulder. It looked full but not heavy, probably containing her dirty laundry and gear. 

Sensing her curiosity, Alysia smirked and tugged the loose zipper closed. 

“There’s something I want to show you,” she said. “But later. We need somewhere private.” 

“Your house?”

Alysia nodded. “You wanna grab ice creams first? I’m literally melting.”

“Okay.” Skylar looked away. “Sounds great.” 

Her mind drifted. There was something important in that bag.

They were walking together, heading toward Alysia’s car in the parking lot. A white sedan she had bought two years ago. It had already seen three owners before her. The numbers on the license plate were legible, but not the state logo on that small, metal canvas. The silhouette of a blackbird looked gray underneath a layer of dust. Skylar knew the words written there: “Ravenmont” on the top. On the bottom, with a smaller font, read: “the ever-changing state.”

After Alysia unlocked the car, Skylar opened the passenger door and began peeling the black gown off of her. She wore a white t-shirt and dark shorts underneath. They were wrinkled, but not badly so. 

The traffic in the parking lot was horrible. They were stranded among a sea of mechanical machines, crawling forward now and then. Skylar turned on the radio. It was playing Top 40 Hits. The same old song she had heard a hundred times. 

They chatted mindlessly about the ceremony. Alysia had all the information about who was going to what college, who was going out of state, and who was working minimum wage at Lou’s Deli. 

Skylar didn’t care all that much. She knew what she was going to do. She had detailed plans of rotting inside the two-story house she grew up in. It had been left behind by her parents, so it was technically hers. She was going to watch bad documentaries on aliens, browse the internet, snack on grocery store junk food so she could avoid interacting with a food delivery person. 

“What are you going to do?” Skylar asked. “Didn’t you get into that college in Ridgewood?”

“I’m not going. My parents aren’t paying the tuition and I’m broke. RSU isn’t terribly expensive, but still,” she said absently. Fingers tapping on the steering wheel. “You?”

“Nothing.” Skylar was glad that she asked. “Just going to stay home, I guess.”

“Seriously?” That got her attention. “You’re wasting your youth, girl.”

“The house is paid for. Malcolm is in college and in debt. Not counting him, I got enough money to live frugally for the rest of my life.”

“You sound so old, Grandma. We should stop by Petshop and get you a cat. Or twenty.” Alysia wrinkled her nose. 

“Said the girl who dyed her hair gray,” Skylar countered, reaching out to pat her head. Alysia dodged away, giggling. 

“You’re seventeen. Do something with your life! I know normal high school graduates are excited about their future.”

Alysia let the car inch forward and stopped, almost touching the pickup truck in front of them. 

Police sirens fast approached.

“I’m doing fine, but…” Skylar drifted off.

A sharp honk interrupted the conversation. Tires screeched. 

“What the…” Alysia muttered, extending her head out of the window. 

A crash, the sound of metals crumpling. Someone cried out. 

The sirens rushed past and disappeared into the distance.

“I think there’s an accident,” Skylar told her, who was opening the door to have a look. People were getting out of their cars, curious and afraid of what had just happened. 

Alysia got out and locked her car—it wasn’t going anywhere soon. Together the two of them approached the crossroad.

A small car was flipped over, its wheels slowly spinning. Smoke rose from the hood and the jammed door. Another car was parked several feet away, with skid marks trailing behind. The front was smashed, but the car was otherwise intact. The driver was scared but uninjured. He struggled out of his vehicle and broke down among his friends. 

“A car accident,” Alysia agreed.

“A car chase,” Skylar told her what she heard from the crowd. “Didn’t you hear the sirens?” 

“A car chase in Wilkindale?” Alysia wrinkled her nose. “Are you joking? Nothing ever happens here.”

“Don’t ask me.”

Skylar quickly collected information from the gathering crowd around them.

“Looks like there was a cop car chasing some escaped criminal.” Skylar gestured at the flipped car at the intersection. “They almost hit that guy. He swerved and crashed.”

“Sucks to be him.”

Students and parents who had been crossing the road had gotten over the initial shock. They erupted into conversations. Others went about checking on the overturned car and hoping to get the jammed car door open. 

“That cop didn’t even stop to check on him. It’s their fault he’s in an accident,” Skylar commented.

“It’s a car chase. Do you see them stopping to check the collateral in the movies?”

Skylar thought she made sense. They stood on the side to observe. 

They watched the wrecked car slowly turn to gold.

Impossible. She blinked, and then blinked again. Not hallucinating. It’s real. Liquid gold spread from the top of the car on the pavement, and continued its way upward. It reminded her of a bucket of paint pouring down, but it was defiant of gravity and…it went up. The color washed over the machine, slowly and smoothly. Soon the entire car looked like a golden statue with a smooth coat, and a metallic reflection, shining under the early summer sun.

The audience gasped. Those standing too close were backing away, afraid that touching the gold would infect them.

“Is that…real?” Alysia said to herself. The crowd was murmuring things along the same line, eyes fixed on the brand-new existence. 

Skylar snapped out of the initial shock. It was something uncommon, no doubt. 

“Are you alright?” Skylar asked. Alysia looked like she could be sick.

She nodded, eyes fixed on the golden car. “What the fuck is that!” She scoffed. “I mean, it’s kind of cool, but what the fuck.”

“Look! The gold stopped spreading.”

Hearing the comment, Skylar studied the vehicle again. Indeed it was the only thing that turned gold. The asphalt road around it was still asphalt.

“Is it someone in the car who did it?”

“Someone activated their power, I guess,” Alysia muttered. “I never heard of power like that. It must be new.” 

Sirens approached. Someone had called the police. In the deafening silence, tires screeched against ground. Two police SUVs had arrived. Car doors swung open, and the cops came out running. They were wearing bulletproof vests and holding pistols in their hands. 

Red and blue lights flashed. Radio chattered. Directions passed through the ranks. Fire trucks and ambulances were on the way. 

A man exited from the back seat of the second cop car. He looked to be in his thirties, well-built and towering. In fact, inhumanly so. He unfolded himself to get out of the car, and strode confidently toward the scene. He was dressed like the cops but his uniform was sized larger. An orange-colored patch on his vest identified him as a powered individual. It was an equilateral triangle, with a small circle in the place of the bottom line, but the circle was small enough that it didn’t touch the triangle’s two sides. The Araesow Delta.

Standing among his colleagues, he was two heads taller than the tallest. From where Skylar was standing, she could see his eyebrows knitted into a frown.

Students and their families gathered on the sidewalk to watch. Some of them cheered upon seeing the uncommon human on the police force. 

“That’s Deputy Sheriff Wallace,” Alysia informed. “He’s an uncommon.”

“Yeah,” Skylar said. It was quite obvious but she wondered how Alysia knew his name. “I can see that.”

“He can punch through a wall.”

“Okay.” Skylar eyed his arm muscles. “I figured as much.”

“He’s the only uncommon on the police force. Wilkindale is too small of a town.”

“Figured.”

Wallace drew closer to the golden car. He carefully touched the top and then examined his hand. His hand didn’t turn. That was good news. The gold had solidified. He whispered to the sheriff, a balding man on the heavier side, humanly so.

The onlookers took out their devices to film the scene. The crisis was no longer life-threatening for them. No one was turning into a lifeless shiny statue. The display of superpowers entertained them. Theories were spreading, none of which were reliable.

Wallace pushed the car with his left hand, as easy as pushing a lunchbox across a table. He reached for the driver’s door and ripped it off. The gold was a coating. It didn’t reach the mechanical parts in the hinges. He bent down, level with the driver, blocking others from seeing who was inside. People craned their necks as the conversation continued. 

With an arm, Wallace helped the distressed driver out of the tangle of seatbelt and airbag.

Alysia sucked in a deep breath. The driver was a familiar face. A student in their graduating class. He was still wearing his gown, though his cap was missing. He looked unharmed, except that he had gold as his skin color. 

He looked like one of those street performers in downtown Duskim. But he was the real deal. He looked like a living statue without painting himself gold.

“Fuck, it’s Palmer,” Alysia swore. “Now he’s literally the golden boy.”

Skylar stared. The new uncommon’s facial structure had become more generic, but it was still easy enough to see him as one of the popular kids. Skylar remembered seeing him around the campus, laughing and talking loudly with his crews.

Wallace patted his shoulder in reassurance. The student seemed dazed, but physically fine. He looked at his hands incredulously. Flexing his fingers, he examined the golden coat with a neutral expression. Then the corners of his mouth stretched, slowly and numbly, into a smile. 

“I’ve never seen a person gain their power,” Skylar said, eyes still fixed on the scene. 

The deputy was talking to Palmer. The other cops held back his parents, who had been inside another car when the crash happened. It was for their safety.

“Well, it’s usually not this tame,” Alysia huffed loudly beside her. “The show’s over. Let’s go get ice creams.”

No one got hurt, but Skylar wouldn’t exactly call a car crash “tame.”

It was still unknown if the golden boy’s power would turn a normal person into a statue. He could turn inanimate objects, it seemed; and his power didn’t work on Wallace, who was an uncommon. It was known that uncommon humans weren’t exactly human. 

“Wait. See if he might turn back to normal.” Skylar took Alysia’s sleeve as she was turning away. “Otherwise he couldn’t live a normal life, could he? Everything he touches would become gold.”

“Guess he’ll be eating bricks from now on,” Alysia snickered, then her face fell. “And he’s gonna be rich. Shit. Why is everyone else excelling in life?”

“It’s not fair,” Skylar said, suddenly angry.

“Damn right it isn’t.” Alysia scoffed. “Wait, what’s not fair?” 

“Why does Palmer get power when he got into a car accident that won’t really kill him, and Zachary killed himself but doesn’t get it?”

“Well, that’s the way it is. People die. Otherwise, we’d all be immortal superheroes. The overpopulation is already bad enough.”

That was quite morbid. Skylar was going to say something, but was interrupted by a spark. She turned her head in annoyance, which quickly turned into horror. 

Something was cutting the air. She wasn’t exactly sure how, but a bread knife was floating in mid-air, slicing down and creating a blazing shape. The crowd scattered to get away. 

Alysia let out a squeak and evaded the space. The knife was directly behind her, cutting out a rectangle. Once the lines were connected, Skylar realized what it looked like. A door.

“Thank you, Carver.” A voice came from inside the suspended door. Everyone had stopped what they were doing and stared. 

A foot, wearing a black suede flat, extended from the inside of the door. A woman in a business suit appeared and stepped out onto the ground. She smoothed out her blazer, dusting off imaginary dust, and inspected the scene around her. She looked like she was in her forties, though appearing younger with her impeccably curled hair. 

The “Carver” was nowhere to be seen. Skylar saw a human shape ghosting beyond the door, but then the rectangle disappeared as if it never existed. The woman strode forward. The audience parted to make way. She tilted her head, seemed to throw a glance back. 

Alysia shifted her weight in discomfort. 

“Let’s get out of here,” she mumbled quickly and dragged Skylar toward her car.

“Wait—” Skylar saw the woman talking to the deputy and the new uncommon. “Do you know who she is?”

“Didn’t you see that pin on her collar? She’s from D.U.R.M.A.” Alysia said with disdain. “Golden Boy is a new uncommon. She’s going to take care of him now.”

“And the Carver?”

“You don’t even know who he is? Fine, he’s not that popular.” Alysia glanced at Skylar. “He also works for D.U.R.M.A. One of the precious assets. He creates these doors. They open to anywhere in the state.”

The crowd was clearing. A tow truck came and loaded up the golden car. The not-golden parents found it safe to hug their son and cry. 

The D.U.R.M.A. woman was telling the deputy to sign some document. They got into the cop cars and left for the station. 

“How do you know about all this?”

“I do my research.”

Skylar knew Alysia was secretly a nerd, but she wasn’t expecting this. Skylar herself knew about uncommons, though her knowledge was limited. She had only done school projects on uncommon influence on the society, had seen the viral videos of them displaying powers, had known the general few who had celebrity status. 

Carver seemed like a secretive one, working to open doors and not stepping through them. Alysia had probably done some serious research to find out about him.

Either way, school was over. Perhaps if she got bored of wasting her youth, she would go see the world. But now…

“So, ice cream?”


Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Get the full book on Amazon! It’s the best way to support a writer. My appreciation in advance and hope you enjoy 😀

Bright Decay is here

My debut novel is now live on Amazon. You can purchase a paperback now or preorder the ebook edition, which is coming out on September 16, 2019.

The cover of BRIGHT DECAY

Bright Decay is the origin story of a female superhero who can control time. It’s the first book of a trilogy and can be read as standalone.

Everyone knows there’s something off about Skylar, including herself. She wades through high school being normal, but ever since the disappearance of her only friend, her life spirals out of control. Humans with uncommon abilities live closer than she thinks. 

Skylar wants nothing to do with the government-sponsored superheroes that inhabit her world, yet a near-death experience makes her one of them: she can stop time with a thought. The entire world, frozen in stasis, can become her playground.

In the city of Duskim, she has to adjust to her new reality. Her powerful ability can’t save her from past regrets, though it attracts the attention of all kinds. If she wants a rank among the heroes, she must stop the resurfaced terrorists threatening to burn down everything she knew.

She may be powerful. She may be powerless. Who is she when it matters the most?


BRIGHT DECAY on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45032011

BRIGHT DECAY on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1093784865/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_tyXdDb89CXJFN


Want a sneak peek? Right now, you can read the first three chapters for free!

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

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