I released Eat the Ones You Love a month ago, and SURPRISE! I'm almost finished with Blood Day. So I thought to celebrate, I'd show you all a little of this new world. It's dark and goth-y and I've had so much fun writing it. Below is the first few pages (unedited, so some wording may change), and probably my favorite character I've written ever, Sia Aoki.
If you like it or are curious, please don't hesitate to put Blood Day on your Goodreads list. It will be available for pre-order on Amazon in the next few weeks, I think. I'll let you know when that happens.
Without further ado...
Sia shivered as something cold brushed against her cheek. She tried to open her eyes but her skull exploded with pain. She felt fingers touching her mouth and sluggishly realized they were hers. She strained to remember something, but her eyes and teeth ached. She kept her fingers at her lips as if she were a young girl reliving her first kiss. But her lips were cold, colder than her fingers, and her mouth tasted of copper and Slack. And she was no girl. She wasn't even herself anymore. She was used up, dry and brittle. She couldn't even remember what it felt like to be a girl.
Slack. She had done it again. Sia squeezed her eyes shut tighter. She couldn't remember anything, but she knew she had used. She must have gone to Trey's house, he was the only one left that could still get it. Steeling herself as much as she could, she forced her eyes to open. It was almost dawn, she could tell by the feel of the night. She was leaning against something warm, her body grateful for the heat. Reaching behind her, she touched whatever it was that was holding her up. It was hard and rough. And hot. Her muscles screaming, Sia looked behind her.
A tree. Since when did trees give off so much heat? Sia rested the back of her head against it, looking up. Through the leaves and branches she could see a barely-lightening sky, clear and cloudless and perfect. Something fell on her face and it was the same kind of something that had brushed against her cheek, waking her. She took it between her fingers. It was soft and cool and she let it rest in her palm. In the light of a flickering streetlamp it looked black, but she knew it must be a deep dark red. Because in the light, in the dawn, under a tree that gave off heat like a man, the petal that she held in her hand looked so much like blood.
Sia blinked hard and the hallucination disappeared. She was holding a petal in her hand. A dark petal that had fallen from a tree that was probably warm because she had no doubt been resting against it for hours. She moved her cramped legs and felt something move against her boots. She looked around her for the first time and was sure she was hallucinating again.
She sat in the middle of a street. Apartment buildings rose up around her, cutting into the sky. Resting against a tree. In the middle of the road. The objects she'd felt against her feet was rubble where the tree had forced pieces of asphalt to crumble around it. Fighting the need to retch, Sia pulled herself to her feet, using a low-lying branch to pull herself up. The branch was alarmingly warm in her hand and she let go as soon as she had gotten her balance.
“What...?” she rasped. Her head was pounding, her mouth so dry that her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. She noticed again the taste of copper. She tried to lick her lips, but there was no moisture. Her lips tasted even stronger of something sweet and metallic. There was a smell that made her flinch. Something sweet and savory at the same time. Something wrong. Sia pushed her hair out of her face and the smell grew stronger.
The sun was pushing up toward the horizon and the blue of the sky was visible. The streetlamp flickered off but Sia could still see that she was covered in something that crinkled dry when she touched it. Something that smelled sweet and metallic. Something that looked black just like the petals of the tree.
There was so much blood.
“Oh my God,” Sia whispered. “Oh my God.” She felt a tear well up in her eye and roll down her cheek. It was cold by the time it dripped onto her hand. Cold and red. Sia touched her cheek where the tear had fallen down her face and her fingers came away dark and flakes of something fell away.
There was a noise in the distance. Sia's eyes moved toward it slowly. A motor. A car. She squinted. Two pinpoints of light cut into her head and she staggered against the warm tree from the pain. Headlights. Not a car. A black van.
She looked up into the headlights. The buzzing was so loud. It wasn’t inside her head. It was a car. She knew she should run. She should feel a sense of urgency now. But she didn’t have anything left. She was weak and lost and covered in blood. And now the Movers had found her.
The headlights switched off and she heard voices. She blinked in the sudden darkness and it seemed to her for a moment that the stars had fallen down from the sky. Then there were feet in front of her, attached to legs, attached to a jumpsuit. Sia squinted her eyes to make out some letters.
“Paine,” she said slowly.
“That’s me,” said a voice. Long legs folded and now there was a face in front of her. A long, stubbled jaw and eyes that smiled even though his mouth was a stern line. “What’s your name, love?”
“Sia Sia, Sweet Sia,” she sang. Then she flinched. She hadn’t heard anyone sing those words in such a very long time. Not since another lifetime ago when a man had loved her and written songs for her and covered her with kisses.
“Well, sweet Sia,” he said, “my name is Desmond. It’s lovely to meet you.” He held out his hand slowly, like she was a wild animal.
“You’re a Mover,” Sia whispered.
“Yeah. That’s one word for it,” he said, smiling eyes crinkling. “But don’t hold it against me, sweet Sia.”
“Please don’t take me away,” she said, a prickle of tears behind her eyes. “Please don’t. Just let me stay here. Let me die. It won’t hurt anyone. Just another Slacker.”
Desmond Paine’s eyes weren’t smiling anymore. He looked sad. But that wasn’t right. Movers weren’t sad. They crept up on you in the night. They took you away. They took your children away. They grabbed you and no one ever saw you again. But everyone knew you weren’t dead. Even Sia knew that. The Revs wouldn’t kill you, that was too kind. They hooked you up to machines and pumped you dry for the rest of your life. Those were the stories, but Sia believed them. No one ever came back once the Movers came. She sat up straight, her back cold without the warmth of the tree.
“I would be happy to do that for you, Sia,” said Desmond Paine the Mover, “but I don’t want you to die.”
“It’s too hard,” said Sia. “It’s too cold. Everything’s cold now.”
“There must be something you like about living,” he said.
“Not anymore,” said Sia. “Everyone’s gone. And there’s no music.”
“You miss the music?”
Sia felt around by her feet and her hand wrapped around a large chunk of asphalt. She squeezed it hard in her hand.
“The music was my life,” she said.
“Paine!” said a brassy voice coming from the van. “Come on, what’s taking so long?”
Sia’s breath caught in her throat. He wasn’t alone. If she got away, his partner would chase her. And her legs felt like they were full of water instead of bones.
“I’m handling it,” he said over his shoulder, sounding irritated.
“Just tranq her and let’s get out of here,” the voice said.
Sia tried to stand, but she fell back again.
“Sia, hang on,” said Desmond Paine. “It’s not like it used to be. They want to help you.”
“So they can drain me,” said Sia, a note of panic in her voice.
“Not forever, though,” he said. “Not anymore. Just clean you up. Make you better.”
“I was better!” she said. “I was perfect before they came. I had everything.”
“We’ve all lost someone, love,” said Desmond Paine. “Don’t do what you’re going to do. Don’t try to run. Please.”
“Let me go,” she said.
“I can’t. They’ll take me if I do.”
“Then kill me. Please. Please.”
“Oh Christ, Paine,” said the woman’s voice again. Sia heard the squeal of hinges as the van door opened. Sia scrambled to her feet and grasped a branch on the tree, pulling herself to her feet. This time she managed to stay upright. She still held the piece of road in her hand. Desmond Paine stood up and Sia felt a sharp pain in her shoulder, then her vision, tenuous as it was, blurred even more.
The woman was standing next to Paine now. She was holding something that looked like a thin gun.
“Easy peasy,” the woman said.
Sia fell back again and when the woman bent over her, Sia swung the arm with the rock. But the woman caught it easily with strong fingers and the asphalt clattered to the ground.
“What’s with all these trees lately?” she said cheerfully to Paine. “All over the damn city.”
“I dunno,” Paine said, sounding defeated. “Maybe a prank?”
The woman was pushing up Sia’s sleeves. “Christ, she’s covered in blood.”
“It’s a brutal world,” said Paine.
“You sound like you feel sorry for her,” said the woman. “Just trash is all. Junkies.”
“We were all junkies before,” he said. “State mandated, remember?”
“Times change, Paine,” she said. Sia tried to focus on her. Her hair was short and curly and she was strong and broad, wearing the same dark jumpsuit Paine was. “When’s your Blood Day, honey?” she said to Sia, speaking loudly. “I can’t find a mark on her.”
“They won’t get my blood,” said Sia, her tongue thick in her mouth.
“They’ll get it,” said Paine. “Whether we like it or not.”
“Never had a Blood Day,” the woman said. “Can you imagine? Must be nice.”
“I don’t reckon any part of her life has been nice,” said Paine. “Not in a very long time.”
“Cry me a river,” said the woman. “Help me load her up, will you?”
Sia felt them lifting her, carrying her. Then she was somewhere warm and dry and she heard a door slide shut. She couldn’t open her eyes. She felt herself slipping into unconsciousness. But before she was completely gone, she heard a voice in her ear. A whisper.
“I would have let you go if I had the chance,” said Desmond Paine. “But I would never have killed you.”
Sia could have sworn she heard music as she fell into sleep.