Authors: Kenya Wright
Tags: #Fantasy, #Young Adult
By Kenya Wright
The right of
the artist to be identified as the owner of her work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988.
Copyright by Kenya Wright
Published by: Vamptasy Publishing
An Imprint of Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it was published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Cover by Rue Volley for Vivid Designs
Police tape surrounded my mom’s studio apartment.
I stared at
her feet as she hung, lifeless, from the mango tree. Sunlight hit her pale skin. She’d painted her toenails teal and used a marker to draw smiley faces on each one.
It’s funny how people notice the craziest things in times of shock.
Each moment the wind blew, the branches swayed, and her dangling body twisted and turned. Death’s decaying fragrance hovered around her.
Don’t cry. She didn’t love me anyway.
Tears streamed down my cheeks. I rushed to wipe them away. So many emotions bogged down my brain. Grief suffocated me. I breathed in and out, but couldn’t calm down.
You’re an abomination!” My mom stumbled after me and held the worn-out leather belt in her hand. Her bushy chestnut hair bounced with the movement. “Lizard girl, I should have killed you when you were in my womb.”
I stood among the crow
d in disguise as an earth witch, with almond skin instead of my pale, scaly complexion, curly black hair in place of my white bushy strands, and fuller breasts versus my nonexistent ones. Usually, the silver X brand embedded in my forehead identified me as a mixbreed and informed everyone that I had parents from different species. Human doctors had tagged me with the brand at birth, like all the other supernaturals. To help my disguise, I plastered an illegal brand cap with an illusionary spell over my X. When people saw my forehead, they spotted an upright triangle with a line going through it. It was a witch’s brand.
“That’s the crazy
lady who talked to ghosts,” a woman whispered to a tall man.
“Too bad the ghosts never talked back.” The man covered his mouth with a folded newspaper to quiet his chuckle. “They would have told her to wash.”
Even in your death, people make fun of you.
I tossed a pebbled candy in my mouth, sucked on the sweet cherry syrup, and struggled with not crying or showing pain on my face.
Would Mom have cried for me if I died? I doubt it.
I balled my hands into tight little fists. My nails dug in my skin. Instead of savoring the candy, I crunched it up into tiny pieces and then swallowed them.
ng has she been up there?” someone asked another.
“Don’t know. They found her there this morning.”
I checked the two guys out from my peripheral view. Neither one looked familiar. They could have recently moved into the apartment complex. I’d run away from home three years ago, when I was fourteen. Every morning since I escaped, I walked by my mother’s house in another person’s image to make sure she was okay. I’d done my best to hide from Mom in this little caged city, and did a good job with avoiding her, until three months ago when she found me. It had been a big argument. I’d stood on the losing side, receiving her insults and abuse. It took a friend of mine to pull her away from me. As I raced away, she’d threatened to never leave me alone.
But, I didn’t think you would kill yourself.
I edged away and bumped into the one person that I didn’t think I would meet on this end of Oya District.
e towered over me. His short, sandy-blond hair brushed against the middle of his ears and blew in the wind, getting in the way of his unique eyes. The left one was emerald green, the right one sapphire blue. Although, only two years older than me, he looked more like a man than a teenager. He had a lightweight boxer’s frame, taut and curved but without all the bulk. Thousands of girls would’ve drooled at his feet if it weren’t for his trench coat. Patches of dried flesh formed the garment. Every time Wiz fought and won, he carved out a square of the loser’s skin and sewed it on. The coat hung below his knees. Were-lion fur bordered the hood.
“Excuse me.” I stepped around him
and wondered if I could trick him this time. For some reason, he always knew it was me, regardless of what image I mimicked.
Wiz’s arm shot up and blocked my way. His citrus scent filled the air.
Jagged scars covered every knuckle on his hands. Above each scar, black runes decorated his tan skin.
“Cameo, I have a job
for you.” Sunlight shined over his X brand. “Let’s go to the playground over there.”
In all the years that I knew him, I never told Wiz where I came from or who my mother was.
Maybe he knows why I walk by this way every day.
“How did you know it was me?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” He flashed me a crooked grin that displayed silver fangs. He’d had the fangs added by a guy that did black market enchantments. “Are you going to start hiding from me?”
.” I headed toward the playground. “I would never hide from you.”
met Wiz the first month I ran away. It was during one of Santeria City’s notorious tropical storms. The whole supernatural city was encaged inside a large barred ceiling that shot up thousands of feet into the air and covered the city like a ceiling. Metal-bricked walls surrounded the whole place. We could never see the human cities that existed freely outside of ours. So, when it rained, Santeria flooded.
That night, t
he downpour had beat down on my head while I sat in a semi-flooded dumpster and shivered. I’d worn the image of a Hispanic boy. Out of nowhere, Wiz jumped into the dumpster, pulled me out, and carried me to one of the many small rooms he rented around Santeria. I figured he was going to hurt me, but I was too sick to put up a fight.
But he never hurt me.
He wrapped me in a pile of fluffy blankets the rest of the week and declared I had a fever. And that was how he discovered my power. Because I was ill, it was difficult to maintain a disguised form. I passed out in Wiz’s arms and transformed from a little Hispanic boy to a pale teenage girl right before his eyes. We’ve been in business together ever since.
“Did you happen to be in this area, or were you looking for me?” I entered the playground and propped myself on the closest swing.
“A little bit of both.” He stood in front of me. His lips formed into a straight line. Worry creased his face.
“Did you know that woman?” Wiz gestured to my mom as the Habitat Police cut the rope from her neck and pulled her down.
“No.” I rocked back and forth in the swing.
Wiz remained quiet for a few seconds.
I moved my attention to the ceiling that covered my caged city. Gray clouds trave
led north beyond the steel bars that concealed the sun. Thunder boomed in the distance far outside the habitat to where the humans lived in Miami. Only supernaturals lived in caged cities. These barred places were called habitats. The one I lived in was named the Santeria Habitat and based on the Santeria religion. All humans resided outside of habitats, in their own cities with no caged ceiling or bars to trap them in.
Cool raindrops landed on my skin.
When I’d run away from home, the weather had been exactly the same—chilly, gray, and with a certainty of rain. Another Habitat Police car arrived and parked in front of my mom’s apartment.
I need to get out of here.
“So, what’s the job?” I continued to gaze at the ceiling’s bars. “Does another jock want me to take the Supernatural Scholastic Aptitude Test? I’ve been studying the Math section. I can probably get somebody a perfect score.”
Wiz leaned back on the graffiti-covered fence behind him. “You don’t have to take this job.”
What are you saying? You said you had a job for me?”
He gestured to my mother’s apartment.
“Like I said, I don’t know the dead woman.”
adjusted the trench on his shoulders. “This job isn’t an academic test. I need you to impersonate a chick who doesn’t want to go to her debutant ball.”
I groaned. High society supernatural jobs sucked. I never understood how to properly act. “How mu
ch do I get?”
“A thousand dollars.” He watched the emergency unit put my mom’s body onto a stretcher and conceal her with a white sheet. “I’ll put ten percent away for your college fund, give you half now, and then the rest later.”
I nodded, placed my finger on one of the holes in my jeans, and fingered the blue threads jutting out from it. That money would keep me in the room I was renting for a month, get me some new sneakers, comics, and a couple bags of groceries. I wanted to tell him to just give me the ten percent and forget about the college fund. Wiz forced me to save money for college and assumed I was smart.
“You’re more than a
street kid or cage punk,” he always said. “You have the type of brain that can take you off the streets and get you a better life.”
“That’s a pretty high amount just to avoid a debutant ball.” I held a few blue threads between my fingers and tugged at them. “Why doesn’t she want to go?”
“She didn’t say. Anyway, the girl you are supposed to mimic isn’t the contact person. It’s her sister. I’m not happy about that.” He grimaced. “I always like to meet who you’re supposed to mimic.” His emerald eye glimmered to bright green. “I almost didn’t take the job, but we do need the money.”
“And I want us to take a break for a while after this job.”
“How long of a break?”
“Don’t worry how long. I’ll provide for you.”
“That’s not an answer, Wiz.”
“Back to the job. I made the sister agree to have me as your limo driver for the whole event, just in case. We’ll take our limo.” He glanced at an area behind me. “I just can’t shake this weird feeling in my stomach.”
“The full moon is coming. T
hat could be why you’re on edge.”
“Regardless, be careful and always stay where I can see you
. You’ll have a date the whole time, so don’t talk much. Just nod and look pretty.”
I blew out a long breath. Anytime Wiz felt weird about a job, something crappy usually happened.
But a thousand dollars is worth the risk.
I gazed at my mom’s apartment. The habitat police, or habbies as most called them, jumped back in their cars and sped off. They didn’t even close my
Mom’s front door. There would be looters and homeless vampires in her apartment by dusk.
The habbies consisted of human convicts forced to do their probationary years in supernatural caged cities. Instead of protecting and serving, they spent their time taking bribes from vampire cartels and shapeshifter gangs.
“You sure you’re down to do the job?”
Wiz’s green eye dimmed back to normal. “We can always cancel.”
I want to stay busy. Keep
Mom off my mind.
“I’ll do it.”
I grabbed some candy pebbles from my pocket, rubbed off the lint, and then tossed them in my mouth. The sugar bit at my taste buds. I flinched a little and then relished in the mixture of sour apple and grape.
He handed me the debutante’s photo, a flask of her blood, and a sheet with her body measurements.
Curly hair fell down to her shoulders.
I noted the shade—honey blonde. She had average blue eyes with no special flecks of different color.
Nothing too hard to duplicate.
I could copy eye color within seconds. My normal eyes were light green with black slit pupils, just like a lizard. They made fitting into kindergarten unbearable, which was why my eyes were the first part of my body I learned to alter.
“Sorry about the amount of blood.” Wiz pointed th
e flask. “The sister said that was all she could get.”
should be fine.” I tapped the smooth metal with my thumb. I could replicate characteristics by studying a person’s face and body, but drinking lots of the individual’s blood was the best method. It helped me quickly reproduce the image and guaranteed an exact mimic—from scars to pimples, skin texture to smell. I also preferred blood transformations because that way my brain could store the DNA for later use.
“The dress and shoes are at my place,” Wiz said. “You’ll change there, and then I’ll take you to her house for the switch.”
he emergency unit drove away.
And just like that, my mom was gone. I closed my eyes for a few minutes
and inhaled Wiz’s citrus scent to calm me. A chilly breeze rushed by. My black curls brushed against my face.
“I didn’t move the money. Please,
Mom,” I whimpered.
Those gray eyes
of hers bore into mine. She seized my neck and slammed me into the wall, the chemical odor of vodka was always on her breath.
“I would never touch your money
, Mom.” I concentrated on the eight-year-old kid I’d babysat earlier that night. Guilt filled me. I’d taken the boy’s blood with a syringe while he was asleep, drank the blood, and returned home. I scanned my brain, searched for the boy’s DNA, found his two strands, and yanked out the genetic data.
“I had lots of
cash under that mattress! Where is it?” Mom slapped my face.
A stinging pain spread across my cheeks. My bottom lip swelled. The fast pace of my heart drowned out her curses as she slapped me again. Boom
! The back of my head crashed into the wall. I blocked her next strike with my arms. Mom paused from beating me, took a swig from her cup of vodka, and then slammed it down on the table behind her. The clear liquid spilled out the edge.