A/N: Good morning everyone! (or good afternoon, if you rather, as it’s practically lunch here in my snowy corner of the world).  This year, I have endeavored to start off by writing little bits and pieces everywhere that I can. Open Skies  is one of those things. as this blog is due for a new fiction serial. It introduces you to several foster kids under the guardianship of Big Momma and chronicles the adventures that they end up stumbling into. It will be in my usual style of fantasy fiction. Enjoy the new snippet. Let me know what you think or if there’s something you’d like to see in there. Happy reading!

first strike

 

 

OPEN SKIES | PART ONE

Big Momma knocked on my bedroom door, her smile strained when she entered a scarce minute later. “Jaden, this is your new—sister. She’ll be staying with us for the next couple of weeks until her aunt and uncle can take her in.”

I looked up from the bed, snapping the Nintendo shut before either of them could venture any further into the room. It helped that there were a few neat piles of half-folded laundry—but I should have finished those by now.

“Uh hi.”

“Maddie, this is Jaden. I’m sure you two will get along just fine.” Big Momma’s smile wavered before she backed out of the room, her dark eyes focused on Maddie just a second too long for comfort.

My foster mother—Big Momma, as we kids called her—had the sixth sense in the worst kind of way. I’d learned to make sure to check the color of her eyes before speaking—every single time.

“Hi,” I tried again, for lack of something sensible to say “Uh, did Mom say where you’d be staying?” I waved a hand a moment later, when she didn’t respond.

She stood unnaturally still, her fine pointed face half-hidden by a thick, wavy curtain of pitch black hair. There were too many bracelets on her left arm and the right sleeve of her shirt was torn.

“Maddie?”

One golden eye snapped up to glare at me.

I choked in the seconds that followed before my brain caught up to the reality.

She’d blurred across the room in a burst of speed and pinned me up against the dresser, her skinny fingers digging sharply into my throat. “Call me Madison,” she hissed. “Or you’ll be sorry!”

Trying to pull her hand away was easier than I thought. I shoved her away with nearly all of my strength when the first push barely moved her.

She stumbled back with a cry, cradling her left arm, the bracelets glowing faintly. The golden eye had opened wide and there was pure fear reflected back before it grew hard. “Just—stay away from me, okay?” She slunk out of the room, managing to exit without turning her back to me.

I stared after her.

That had come from absolutely nowhere.

My neck ached and throbbed. I prodded it, lightly, before inching over to the door, wishing for the nth time that it had a lock.

Wedging it shut was definitely not an option, but there were other ways to keep unwanted visitors out. Nudging a pile of clothes over to it would help it stick if someone tried to barge in again. Especially if there were thin socks near the bottom.

Standing in front of the full-length mirror near the dresser, I squinted at my neck. It was hard to see in the dingy light of the room, but her hand had left a definite imprint—and from the way my skin had prickled, I knew she was definitely an Abnormal—just like me. My senses weren’t always the sharpest, sense-wise, but her hand on my throat had sent every single ounce of self-preservation screaming to the surface.

I turned away from the mirror, crouching down to the outlet where my Nintendo wall charger was plugged in. Tugging it out, I jammed my fingers at the tiny holes in the plastic cover, until they began to shift and twist, fitting into the openings.

The welcome jolt of electricity came racing up my arm and pouring into my body, rushing to heal the minor injury. It took a few minutes and then I had to  ease my hand out of the cover and watch the fingers reshape themselves.

Grotesque and oddly fascinating in the same instant, I flexed them carefully, testing that the exchange hadn’t done anything differently than I’d expected it to.

Yep. It’d worked.

Except for the faint tingling sensation left behind from where Maddie’s hand had dug into my neck. Those had been sharp fingernails. I hoped they weren’t poisonous or anything.

I scooped up the Nintendo from the bed and tucked it into my pocket. Toys like this were treasures and few foster kids had them, but the aunt that had promised to come back for me, had sent it as my ninth birthday gift—four years ago.

Big Momma had smiled sadly when she’d seen it and told me I could keep it, as long as I took good care of it and I wouldn’t have to share it—so as long as I kept it in my room.

The following week, I’d been moved into a little room of my own and given a new list of chores to complete.

Two years later, the letters had stopped coming. So had the money. I guessed that was my Aunt’s way of saying she was sorry, but not coming back for me after all when a dozen black roses had accompanied the final check.

Big Momma had actually hugged me that day and made my favorite dinner. She’d also assigned me as a tutor to the younger kids to help with their homework.

That was now the ‘rent’ I paid for staying on as I did.  That and of course, a dozen other odd jobs. There were two other kids that were Nents—or permanents, as we called ourselves, that had found our way under Big Momma’s feathers and stayed.

We had nowhere else to go and as Abnormals, there were few that would take us in. Even less that would care whether we grew to be useful citizens or even to legal age.

I knelt on the floor by the window and pried up the metal grating on the air vent in the floor. “Vince, you there?” I called down, softly.

(c) S. Harricharan

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