When the Sky Fell on Splendor(5)

The wind stopped. The humming cut out.

Droog stilled in the yard. Everything fell silent except us, our breaths.

All six of us had started leaning toward the window, waiting. Like we expected something to happen. Time went sticky as molasses.

And then, a sudden shriek of metal tore down the length of one of the towers across the street, something exploding into sparking shards.

Then everything went quiet again.

For a beat, we just looked at each other, stunned by the sudden silence.

Arthur broke for the stairs first.

The rest of us took off after him.

When we hit the porch, Droog leapt up and bounded after us across the road.

“Wait—” I shouted as I noticed the yellow DANGER: HIGH VOLTAGE sign on the substation’s fence, but Arthur was already halfway up it.

The power surge must’ve knocked out the charge.

“That’s private property!” Sofía warned, but Nick and I were on the fence now, and Remy and Levi were close behind. I heard Sofía groan then start up behind me.

We landed one by one on the far side, and I threw a glance back at Droog, who was whining anxiously. I stuck my finger through and touched her nose. “Stay here,” I told her, then chased the others across the dark lot.

“Are falling stars worth anything?” Arthur asked.

“Like money?” Sofía whispered. “They’re basically rocks.”

Arthur’s near-unibrow crinkled. “Why are you whispering?

“Only neighbors this place has are corn and cows,” Nick said. “Feel free to shout.”

“Besides.” Arthur grabbed Remy’s shoulder. “We’re here with the sheriff’s son. What can they do?”

Remy shook Arthur loose. “Ground us.”

We crept toward the metal tower where we’d seen the rain of sparks. The top looked like it had been bitten off, the metal twisted and torn like it was nothing but a giant Twizzler chomped in half. The beheaded part was caught between the base of the tower it had come from and the one next to it, forming a twisted bridge between the two structures. The metal groaned as it slid lower along them.

“Look,” Sofía whispered.

White sparks were still leaping off the loose piece of the tower, darting out and back in along a set path like a strike of lightning being played, then rewound, then played again.

Arthur led us closer.

The metal shrieked, and we all lurched backward as the broken piece came loose and crashed to the ground.

The light was still there, as if it were growing out of the metal then withering into it. But it wasn’t coming off the metal at all. It was coming from the disc-shaped object balanced atop it, the thing that must’ve hit the tower in the first place.

“What is it?” I breathed as we circled around it.

Levi lifted the camera, shining light on the plate-like object. We hadn’t seen the disc from farther back because it was transparent, a little cloudy, like a rounded-out block of ice. The light came from within it, streaking back and forth along the same veins every time.

“It must be heavy to have done this kind of damage,” Sofía whispered.

“Do you think it’s like . . . part of the comet?” I asked.

Arthur stepped closer. I could already see where this was going. My brother might be the type to obsessively remind me to drink water or take my Mace when I rode my bike to work, but he was also the type to try LSD alone and give himself stick-and-poke tattoos during math class.

He did not have good impulse control.

“Arthur,” I whispered. He ignored me, reaching, slowly, as if in a trance. His fingers spread, the blue-tinted light diffusing between them. “Art!” I hissed, lunging to grab his shoulder. “Don’t––”

He thrust his hand toward the cloudy light.

The last thing I felt was his worn-thin sleeve in my hand.

The last thing I heard was an earth-shattering CRACK!

Like the world splitting open. Like my eardrums bursting, my sense of balance and direction coming apart like a piece of fabric being unwound in every direction.

Everything—every sound, smell, taste, and sight––was lost in a blinding white.

And then I was lost in it too.





Fran! Fran!

Do you hear me—

Dammit, Franny, just fucking say


I tried to blink the light away. My ears were ringing. My head throbbed. The light ebbed back, but not enough. A star-pricked sky should have appeared; night-drenched electrical towers and coils and switches should have resolved around me.

Instead I found early morning pinks and oranges, streaks of gold filtering through cotton candy clouds.

Every sign of night was gone.

“Thank God,” Arthur gasped. His hands were on my shoulders, gripping so tightly I might be bruised later. My arms were cold. And damp.

“Are you okay?” Arthur’s eyes were ringed in white. His blond hair stuck to his forehead in wet clumps.

A chorus of dim murmurs drew my gaze to the field behind the substation. Cows. Black-spotted cows packed tight along the fence, fur damp and mist hanging around their baby-pink nostrils. They were agitated, mooing and jostling against one another, and behind them, the rest of the field was empty.

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