When the Sky Fell on Splendor(6)

Every single inhabitant had clustered along the chain link, the sun rising through the pinks and purples at their backs.

“Answer me, Franny!” Arthur shook my shoulders.

My eyes traced his right hand. It was burned, a spiderweb of angry red reaching from his fingertips to his forearms. The thing had burned him. “Say something!”

“It’s morning,” I got out.

I was standing in the same spot. The twisted piece of metal still lay on the ground, but the lightning-disc thing had vanished. The electrical towers were still silent, but dozens of birds now sat on the metal beams, fluttering their wings and making throaty caws as agitated as the cows’ mooing. My body felt like jelly, like my bones and organs had been liquefied and if I moved, I’d lose all semblance of shape.

The others all stood exactly where they’d been a second ago—not a second ago, I thought in terror, hours ago. Sofía’s arms were folded in front of her, her teeth chattering.

Nick shook his head, ran his hands over his bristly hair. “Swear to Gah,” he said hoarsely. He screamed it a second time as he turned in a circle, eyes bulging as he searched for understanding. “What the hell just happened to us? Where have we been for . . .” He checked his phone. “The past six hours?”

“The . . . the comet.” Sofía’s voice shook. Her dark eyebrows drew together. “The comet must’ve . . .” She pushed her hair out of her face.

She was wet too. So was Remy. We all were, and everything around us.

“Dew,” I said. We were covered in dew, as if we’d been standing out here all night.

So why didn’t I remember anything?

I clutched my stomach as a cramp shot through it. My mind spun, and I sank my fingers into my knees as something fiery rose through my esophagus. I vomited onto the gravel between my feet. Another spasm, another cough, but this time there was nothing but the impulse, the hot flash through my skull and an empty retch.

Remy gently touched my back, and a moment later, Arthur patted my shoulder like I was a dog. “You’re okay,” Remy said. “You’re okay. It’s all . . . we’re okay.”

Arthur gave a breathless laugh, like he’d just deboarded a roller coaster, not touched an unidentified falling object and lost six hours of his life.

Nick sank the heels of his hands against his eyes. A sob wrenched out of him. “What happened to us?”

Arthur laughed again.

Levi crouched and picked up the camera. I didn’t remember him dropping it. I didn’t remember anything. “Battery’s dead,” he confirmed.

Back by the fence, Droog let out a whimper, and a second later, the sound of police sirens rose in the distance.

“Shit.” Remy scrambled to get his phone out, and his brown eyes widened. “The sheriff called twenty-two times.”

Sofía tipped her head toward the mounting wailing. “Someone probably saw us here and called it in.”

“We . . . we shouldn’t be here,” Levi said.

Nick laughed coldly. “You think?”

“We never should have climbed that fence,” Sofía said. “For so, so many reasons.”

Arthur was still scanning the field with flushed, wide-eyed amazement. He broke off when he caught me watching. “Right,” he said. “Let’s get out of here.”

He led the way, and I followed behind the others. The thought of that white light made the nausea twist inside my abdomen again. I pushed the thought back and focused on my tennis shoes.

Just keep moving. Don’t think about it. Keep moving.

Something black and feathery appeared in my vision, and I stopped short.

A dead bird, crumpled on the gravel. I looked across the lot and gagged.

Hundreds of them, wings twisted at horrible angles, beaks cracked, blood on the pebbles where they’d hit. Scattered across the dewy substation like some biblical plague.

Sofía gasped, and Nick clutched his stomach, but Arthur stared in wide-eyed fascination. After a beat, he shook his head. “There’s no time,” he said. “We’ll have to come back later.”

“Come back?” Nick said.

Arthur took off, and we jogged after him. Droog hopped up, eagerly wagging her tail as Sofía reached the fence and started hauling herself up, followed closely by Nick, then Levi, then Remy.

I reached to follow, but a static shock leaped between the fence and me—not a full-on electrical charge, just a spark—and as I recoiled, I saw them:

Dark red scars spiderwebbed up my fingers, reaching halfway up my arm.

Burns, just like Arthur’s. The memory of pain and light shot through me so hard I stumbled. Arthur reached out to steady me.

I was trying to keep a lid on my panic, but my voice came out hoarse and high. “What was that thing, Arthur?”

He shook his head. The sirens were getting closer.

“Climb, Franny. No one’s going to do it for you.”

* * *


It was something Arthur had said to me five years before, right after the accident. The day we filmed our first episode.

Mark was in the hospital, and by then, we knew he wasn’t going to wake up. Between our parents’ tearful fights about what to do next—of which there were many—Mom had started to talk about going to stay with her sister in Cleveland.

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