Three agonizing days passed after November Adams died, and then life returned and the child awoke. The adult Adamses, who had by some chance grown up in London attending the Catholic church, attributed the apparently miraculous resurrection of their child to the Christian god. Naturally they wrote books, they went on talk shows, and they sold film rights to their story. Comparisons were made to the resurrection of Christ, which also came three days late.
Young November, at only six years old, hardly knew what was going on aside from the fact that there was a lot of attention and candy involved. November hated attention and candy. Now, twelve years later, November still hates those things, and many others, but does quite enjoy the taste of liquor.
“Nova!” Orion pours icy water over the sleeping teen’s face. “We really fucked up this time.”
Perhaps more accurately, Nova is an alcoholic.
Mumble, mumble, go away. Nova’s mind objects strongly to all sound and light. Those things should simply stop existing, as that would make the world a much nicer place.
“I don’t feel like carrying you two miles, but we really need to get out of here and I cannot teleport.”
“Just let me sleep,” Nova whispers through dry lips. Water would be wonderful, but it’s so far away. All the way across the living room that doesn’t belong to them. All the way across the kitchen that also doesn’t belong to them.
“Can’t do that.” Orion picks up his friend and hurries out the back just as the front door opens. They’re now in a fenced lawn, and he gives the gate a solid glare. It swings open in response, and with Nova nearly slipping from his skinny arms he breaks into a ridiculous lopsided trot.
Their city park is a couple blocks away, so Orion goes there and hides his hungover companion under a bush. He crawls into another bush and peers out at the street.
“Well there go the sirens,” he whispers.
A few minutes later two police cars come screaming by, and that’s enough to get Nova up and swearing.
“I thought you were going to die and come back to life in three days,” Orion said. “You were so out.”
“Shut your bloody mouth.” Nova brushes away wood chips and dirt from the torn remnants of a shirt, along with a few final shreds of dignity.
“I had to carry you two blocks. Now it’s your turn to carry yourself, since you’ve forbidden me from using telekinesis on your body.”
Nova groans. “Why didn’t you stop me last night?”
“Right. I suppose that’s why my shirt looks like it belongs to someone who was eaten by a tiger.”
Orion pulls a wad of cash from his satchel. “In happier news, we not only got away with the hundred quid worth of liquor in our bellies, we also have a few thousand to spend.”
“I’d pay my share to make this headache stop.” Nova pauses to puke in the grass. “Let’s go home and get high and forget about everything.”
Orion shrugs and puts the cash away. Nova tugs the mangled fabric that used to be a shirt into a position of optimum coverage, and they set out across the park toward the house they share with a few other young people.
Gavin is the only one there when they arrive; he’s in the kitchen making a bowl of cereal and looking fine as always. Orion musses Gavin’s perfect hair on his way to the sink, and gets a glare in return. Nova drinks a shocking amount of water and then leaves, mumbling something about sleeping all day.
Gavin shakes his head and his hair magically resumes a state of perfection. “Where did you delinquents run off to last night?”
Orion drops into the seat across the table and grabs the cereal box. “Robbed a house around the corner from the park. Nobody was home and they had liquor. Nova got hammered and we had some fun on the couch before we passed out.”
“That was stupid.”
“Yeah, but look.” Orion tosses the wad of cash on the table and then shoves a handful of cereal into his mouth.
Gavin makes a disgusted face and puts his empty bowl in the sink. “I’ve tolerated your antics for too damn long. If you want to keep living in my house, you can’t be doing this. You can’t get caught.”
“We haven’t been caught yet—”
“But you will if you keep at it.”
Orion scoffs. “What could they do if they caught us, anyway?” He holds out his hand, floating the wad of cash in mid-air between them. “Shoot us? I’d make the bullets go right around me. Nova might get shot…and then come back to life in three days.”
Gavin leans on the table. “And then your faces would be in the news, and all of us would have to go into hiding and move to another planet, again, to escape the ensuing witch hunt.” He glances at the cash and it bursts into flames.
“Oy, stop burning my money!”
“If you don’t listen to me, you’ll lose a lot more than a few quid.”
Orion grabs at the ashes but they scatter away from his fingers. Gavin takes a small broom from the pantry and sweeps them into the trash.
“Think about growing up, Orion. I need to leave now, good day.”
Gavin vanishes by teleporting, his favorite method of transport, just quick enough to miss Orion’s grumbled curse.
As annoyed as he is with Gavin’s paternal attitude, he’s not too stupid to see the truth. The problem: being good is boring for someone with no life. He needs adrenaline and money.
Orion goes upstairs and peeks into the bedroom. Smoke drifts toward the open window from a small pipe that lies beside Nova’s naked body. Orion slips in and grabs the pipe, and sits on the edge of the bed to finish off the weed.
“Hey.” Nova’s voice is tired, awake, but barely.
“You know better than to leave your burning pipe on your bed,” Orion says.
“I feel mudge better.”
“I’m sure you do.” Orion takes a final draw and sets the pipe on the nightstand. Then he leans over and kisses Nova on the mouth, after which Nova tries to roll over but ends up merely flopping around.
“Enough weed? You certainly have.”
“Nooo.” Nova pushes him. “Enough playing around.”
Orion frowns. “I think you’re addled by drugs.”
“You never listen.”
Orion flops down beside Nova, beginning to feel the pleasant buzz of cannabis in his brain. A few moments later, the doorbell rings and he groans.
“Gavin can get it,” Nova murmurs.
“He teleported away in a huff already.” Orion goes to the window at the front of the house and looks down. “Oh father of the gods, it’s your dad.”
“Make him disappear?”
Orion plods downstairs and opens the front door a crack. He sighs loudly in greeting.
“Where’s Nova?” Mr. Adams asks.
“Renting a fuck you apartment on go-away lane in yousucktown. This concludes our business for the day.”
“Listen pervert, I don’t like the influence you’re having on my child, and if you don’t let me see—”
Orion makes a shooing motion. Adams flies backward across the street, trailing a string of angry curses until he lands with a grunt in the neighbor’s bushes. With a chuckle and a flip of his hand, Orion shuts and locks the door and returns to Nova’s room.
“Is my sperm donor disappeared?”
Orion looks out the window. “He’s standing in the middle of the street and shouting.”
“Bloody hell. I think I’m gonna fall asleeee…”
“Sweet dreams, then.” Orion leaves the room and decides it will be a good idea to play video games for several hours without a single break.
Nova passes out quickly and enjoys a long and deep sleep, and then awakens to a loud crash and the harsh ambience of an early summer afternoon.
“What the hell. What the absolute hell.” Nova struggles to get out of the tangled blankets.
Orion’s voice climbs the stairs, full of urgency. “Help me!”
“What’s happening? I’m coming.”
Nova falls on the floor, free of the tenacious bedding, and jumps up and runs out the door. A tremendous shock throws the floor off kilter; Nova crashes into the wall.
“What the hell, Orion? Shit, I’m naked again.”
Orion doesn’t answer, and then a tremendous quake tears the house apart. Everything is falling, all blurry dust and debris, and Nova is impaled through the chest by a splintered rafter. It’s a quick death, ideal if you’re going to wake up three days later remembering the entire fucking thing in exquisitely gruesome detail.
All goes quiet except Orion, who is still trapped beneath the bookshelf that fell on him when the first shock hit. He tries to shift it, but his head feels like it’s about to explode. All he can manage with telekinesis is tossing a few books in random directions.
“Nova?” he shouts. “Are you okay?”
Everything is books and boards and shards of sunlight. He hears no answer and struggles against the weight of the debris. Terrible pain forces him to stop. He thinks a few of his ribs may be broken. At this moment, for the first time in his life, Orion would welcome the sound of sirens. They are coming, but he never hears them.
The debris shifts and sunlight hits his face.
“Nova? Thank goodness…”
The face he sees isn’t Nova.
“Goodnight, false god,” says a soft and vaguely familiar voice.
Before Orion has time to think, a thin blade slides through his neck, severing his spinal cord and arteries, leaving him paralyzed as his blood flows away.
Three days later Nova wakes screaming, each lungful of air forced out in a violent spasm of pure terror. The house, the blinding sunlight, the rending pressure of being impaled, Orion’s voice, it’s all present and yet a fading memory. This room is dark and silent, with a dead body on a nearby gurney covered by a sheet. Nova lies on a cold metal table, naked, chest throbbing with deep shards of pain like splintering glass. A Y-shaped scar runs from shoulders to sternum to belly button, with the oval mark of the exit wound above it and slightly off center, like a morbid sketch of an olive in a martini glass.
People rush into the room, two of them. Their faces are pale and their expressions say they cannot imagine what to do. Nova screams, again and again, until voice fails and belly aches. The others cannot comprehend the horror, the pain alone would drive them mad.
Nova wants to be anywhere but here. Eyes shut, furiously wishing, the terrified teen envisions the park near home, the bench at the edge of the pond, site of the first kiss with Orion.
Leaves rustle in a cool breeze. Nova looks up, swallowing the fresh air in desperate gulps. The wooden bench presses against vertebrae and bony hips. An old man with a cane is walking by across the pond, and he stares a moment before shaking his head sadly and continuing.
Nova begins to collect some thoughts into a coherent order. Something destroyed the house. Orion was hurt and calling for help. Then that huge-ass piece of wood went through Nova’s body like a bamboo skewer through a banana. The pop and squish of being impaled, the sound and sensation of it is all horribly vivid, and it repeats, endlessly, searing the memory into the mind.
“Mom, there’s a naked person on that bench.”
Nova looks to see a woman and her daughter walking their dog on the nearby path. The mom glares, the daughter looks confused. Perhaps this isn’t the ideal destination, but it takes time for the sheer terror to die down to a mere panic. They can’t blame someone who just woke up from death for being a bit out of sorts and nude in public.
Closing eyes again, Nova imagines the backyard of the house. In an instant the ambient sounds change from rustling leaves and footsteps to traffic and a barking dog. Nova stands on the lawn and stares at the caved-in ruins of the house. It looks as if a small black hole existed at the center of the house for a tiny fraction of a second, like a bomb went off but the pressure pulled inward instead of pushing outward.
Nova’s entire body begins trembling, not from cold, not from exhaustion, not from trauma. Icy dread kicks out the horror of death, supplanting it with the sort of fear that chills you to the bone and freezes your joints. A helpless fear that devours your future and makes you regret your very existence.
From underneath a loose stone in the patio Nova retrieves a secret lockbox. A six-digit code cracks it open, and inside is a wad of cash. The only other contents are a set of keys and a folded sheet of paper, which bears a single line of text in Gavin’s handwriting: They found us. Orion is dead. Meet at the rendezvous location on Mars.