Fear My Mortality - Everly Frost

Chapter One

I never could watch anyone die.

Tricycle wheels flipped through the air. Brakes shrieked and metal crunched. The kid’s trike rattled all the way across the road and hit my foot. I froze at the curb in front of my house, school bag sliding off my shoulder, vision filled with the spinning wheels. I told myself to walk away, pretend I hadn’t heard the smash or seen the boy go under the vehicle. I should shrug it off like I was supposed to.

I should ignore the impulse to help.

I bounded around the broken bike and sprinted to the car in the middle of the road. A little arm extended from underneath the front fender, palm up, motionless. Biting my lip, I sank to my heels, wishing his fingers would twitch, fighting the tears that welled behind my eyes.

First death.

The silence was heavy after the squeal and crash. I hovered, not sure if I should pull him out. I hated my brother for leaving me behind. If Josh had driven me to dance class like he was supposed to, I wouldn’t be here now, staring at first death and not knowing what to do. I’d be going about my day like normal. No, I reminded myself. Today was not an ordinary day. Today was Implosion.

The driver emerged from the car with annoyance on her face. I flinched as she slammed the car door. Another woman ran from a nearby house, screaming into a phone. She raced to the driver and gave her a shove. “That’s my son! I’m calling the Hazard Police. You’d better be insured!”

The driver threw up her hands and backed off, slumping against the side of her car, clicking her fingernails together, and tapping her heels against the pavement.

I knelt down to the boy as his mother continued to yell into the phone. She paced up and down the road, her voice shrill. “How long will it take to get a recovery dome here? What—you’ve got to be kidding me. I’m already late for work.”

Wisps of his blond hair touched the side of the wheel like yellow cotton candy, all floating and soft. I wondered if his soul floated there too, inches above the hot road, waiting to get back to his body. I was glad I couldn’t see the rest of his head.

Before I touched him, something zipped past my shoulder.

The drone circled up and back, swinging close to my ear. Shaped like a metal cross no bigger than my hand, it skimmed the air in front of the car. Beneath the hum of its four miniature rotor blades came the chatter of shutters. It was taking shots of the damage: the boy’s hand, the wheel, a piece of tricycle jammed under there with him. Assessing the situation and relaying the information twenty miles west to the nearest Hazard Police station.

The information drone flitted from spot to spot, whirring around the car straight toward the driver, hovering and clicking, transmitting her image back to the police. The kid’s mother was next before the drone flew to me. A pinprick of light struck my eyes, and I stopped still, waiting for it to take the shot and move on, but the clicking stopped.

I frowned as the mechanical chattering died. Instead of taking my picture, the drone floated, paused for the first time. I stared back at it, waiting, a feeling of unease spreading through my chest.

Someone grabbed my arm.

My elderly neighbor, Mrs. Hubert, wrenched me to my feet, a pair of pruning shears wavering in her other hand. The camera clicked behind me—just once—and I imagined the blur of my body captured in the image. Before I drew breath, Mrs. Hubert’s strong grip propelled me several feet from the car. Her long braid—a sign of her age—slapped against her thigh as she strode away from the accident, taking me with her.

“Come away, Ava. You don’t need to get caught up in that.” She flicked her head in the direction of the scowling driver who looked as if she wanted to strangle someone. I guessed she didn’t have insurance, after all.

“But, he’s still under there … ” I threw a confused look at the boy’s mother. She still hadn’t checked him.

“Everyone deals with first death differently. You need to get used to it if you want to get through Implosion tonight.”

Implosion. When I get to see the color of my own blood.

She tugged on my arm again. “Besides, the Hazard Police will be here soon. They’ll take care of him.”

Behind