By: S J Davis
Genre: paranormal YA
“It’s a good day to die.” My mother holds my arm fiercely. “But as you grieve for me, listen for the voices. Then, you must get the ink.”
Sparrow stumbles between two worlds – light and dark, love and hate, what is real and what is in her mind. When her mother dies on the Reservation, Sparrow’s world is shadowed with anger and narrowed by pain. The voices arrive, but are they real? And how can a tattoo make her stronger?
Mateo arrives to guard Sparrow, but from whom? Layne holds on to Sparrow, but why? As the voices grow stronger and her pain expands, Sparrow finds that the shadows in the corner and the voices we fear most are the ones inside ourselves.
The icy sadness of winter bled the color from my life. By the summer, even my dreams were in black and white. The imagery in my sleep lures and repels me. I run through rooms painted in intricate earthy patterns, I see faces with faded yellowed eyes peering from behind blackened masks; thorny vines crawled across my arms and legs. These dreams set my nerves on edge; except for one which happens every night so I know it has meaning for me: an owl sitting on my windowsill, a white feather floating above my bed, and four swirling smoky circles rotating above the floor of my room as they coalesce in the middle.
Something whispers in my ear, “That image is not for you”.
He saunters down the street with a slow, but agitated gait; his eyes dart from side to side under the umbrella of his long lashes. Stopping in the shadows outside of the 9:30 Club, his gaze never leaves mine as he leans against the bricks to finish his cigarette. I remember him from last night’s dream, his warm breath on my neck, “I’m here, Sparrow.” His golden eyes, unblinking, hold still in the night air. Somehow, I am not afraid.
He can’t help you. Again, who whispers?
Later that night, he comes again as I sleep, he smiles and his eyes glow as if hot embers lurk inside. His black hair skims his collar and shimmers like liquid. Tall and smooth, his ochre skin reflects the moon while the dampened smell of pine envelops me. I can feel him, too as I sleep. His presence bleeds warmth as his hands twists gently into my hair. I miss him when I wake up.
The next night, another strange voice, from another girl, lurking in the corner of my room. “This one,” says the girl’s faraway voice, “seems not afraid.” My eyes, half open, squint to see her. Her form gradually develops, like an old Polaroid photo. Her pale, blanched skin accentuates her pointy features. She looks like a newly hatched baby bird, all angles and bony white. “She’s strong, Istowun-eh’pata.”
“I hope so.”
“It’s almost time. Her mother passed it to her.” A violet haze surrounds the girl. Vines and flowers creep up her arms and snake through her hair. “You come here every night. You must be sure.” She walks closer to me like a predator, her hands clasped together with twisted fingers.
“I think Sparrow could be ours, but it’s too soon to tell.”
“Yes,” says this bird-like girl. “But she is changing already. See?”
See? See what? I wonder. I roll over to face my bedroom wall.
“Fire,” she disappears into my wall. “She has the fire inside.”
Chapter One ~ The Beginning and The End
You wouldn’t expect the turn signal to work, but it does. Still clicking like a metronome, the sound indicates the right turn that will never be made. The metal sides of the car are peeled back, the doors are torn, and the windows are shattered. Wheels and hubcaps are either twisted or missing along the roadside as gas leaks from the car. The smell of turpentine and blood hang in the air. Billy Idol’s White Wedding is still blaring on the radio, through the dust, through the horror, through the blood stained seats. Yes, it would be a nice day to start again.
I look over at my mother and see that the whites of her eyes are almost completely red. Her mouth is frozen, with her lips parted. She looks at me, but there is nothing. No maternal softening in her eyes, no smile forms at the corners of her mouth. Her blood seeps through her shirt and makes a small puddle underneath her, becoming thicker as it mixes with the dirt and dust alongside the road. One of her legs is unnaturally crooked and I can see the bone in her right upper arm. Her tattooed skin and muscle are skewered back from the impact.
This must be a dream, this can’t be right. This cannot be my mother. She was driving me to school like every other normal day. The air was humid for February, but I felt the cold as the blood dried in my hair. Sticky, matted, damp. My left arm is contorted, but I can’t feel it as the wind covers me with a veil of sandy dirt. I lay back, waiting to wake up. Please wake up!
“Is she alive?” I ask the paramedics as they hurry from their ambulances. I can’t move, but I need to be next to her. I claw the ground in her direction and my agitation makes the younger paramedic nervous. He looks at the older man beside him. Their eyes lock. Finally the older man says, “The mother is in cardiac arrest. Severe internal bleeding. Bring the girl over, this might be it.” Two other paramedics work frantically over my mother, putting in intravenous lines and bandaging her deepest cuts. Her shirt is ripped open and all I want to do is cover her.
My mind races back to earlier in the day. It was the morning we both raced to her old Firebird.
“Do you want to drive?” she asked.
“No thanks, Mom. I still need to put on mascara.”
“How about some BBC News this morning?”
“Oh, come on,” I whine. “How about something to get us going? Hip-hop? A little Alternative?”
I don’t remember exactly how, but the Wave of the 80’s radio became the compromise. We buckled and I started to make my lashes as long as humanly possible. When I am satisfied, I glanced into the passenger side mirror at the road behind me. The lines on the road hypnotize me as they whiz past.
The rest I am not sure is really the truth, because afterwards, the only thing I clearly remember, is death. As I look up at the sky from where I lay, I realize the truth is like the bright sun beating down through the holes in an old rusted tin roof. Part of it shines on you, but you have to go outside and search for the rest. One day, when you feel the blunt force of it, you can own it. Or maybe it owns you.
I am brought next to Mom, on the side of the road. Her eyes are dull and her lips pale, her shiny hair is dusty. I can see her hands reach out for mine. “It’s a good day to die,” she holds my arm fiercely. “But as you grieve for me, watch for the voices. Then, you must get the ink.”
“The ink?” I sputter in confusion. “What ink? A tattoo? Watch for what voices?”
“Istowun-eh’pata. Packs a knife. Trust him.” Then nothing. There will be no more from her.
I can’t bear to look at her anymore. I wonder what the moment between her life and her death was like, was there a choice? Was there a sudden spark or did everything simply go dim…
Now her words are all I have. I look up into the bright sky as the sun shatters into a million shards of brightness. I pray, for her sake, that it is a good day to die.
I am completely numb. My legs are nothing, but road rash. I am strapped down and loaded into an ambulance as the paramedic smiles at me, “Hang in there, honey. Hang in there.” And I do. For now.
SJ Davis is the daughter of an ex-patriate British mother and a Southern Baptist ex-CIA father. As a child, she spoke in silly accents and recounted outlandish tales of fantasy over afternoon tea and to this day it remains her favorite activity. Born in Long Island, NY, she was raised in the suburbs of Washington DC and went to school for a very long time (University of Virginia and George Mason University), married an all-around wonderful man, had two kids (smart, funny, full of opinions), moved from Virginia to New Jersey to Philadelphia to Chicago, and began her writing career. She is a believer in fate, an avid tea drinker, a stiletto aficionado, Doc Marten worshipper, punk rock listener, and lover of flip flops and cardigans. She has a terrible sense of direction, loves gummy bears, and is a Johnny Depp fangirl.
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Disclosure: This Excerpt was provided by the Author as a part of the Bewitching Book Tours. I was not compensated to write a positive or favorable review. This is Keeping Up With The Rheinlander’s personal opinion.