Who else is just as excited as I am for Krista & Becca Ritchie’s very first YA, traditionally published, sci-fi romance!? I’ve got a fantastic excerpt for you below, so check it out!
On the cobblestone walk of a city sheathed in ice and snow, I slam my frostbitten fist against a Plexiglas cashier win dow. “Excuse me!” I call out for assistance that never arrives. Five minutes till closing, and the bank has already snapped the blinds shut.
“Excuse me!” I shout again. “I’m dying tomorrow!” I bang harder, my frustrated breath smoking the chilled air. My wool coat, missing four buttons and brandishing more than a few torn holes, warms me less than my irritation. Which grows with the incoming silence.
I’m truly dying tomorrow, but death is normative. I die. You die. We all die. The only difference between the bankers and me—I will die at seventeen.
I die young. They die old. And so it goes.
I spot a bulky camera positioned on the brick of the Bank Hall’s outdoor window. You see me, don’t you? They just refuse to an swer. “I’m allowed my Final Deliverance check! Do you hear me?!” I yell up at the lens while simmering in place.
Behind me, men in sleek tailored suits and fur-lined wool coats amble along the alabaster-white sidewalk. Their hot, disparaging gazes heat my neck. They can act all miffed by me, but Fowler Street, Avenue ThirtyFour contains every shop for every type of person: hair salons, dentists, pubs, quaint overnight inns, and most importantly for me—the only bank.
And all the grand streets—all the ones with cigar parlors and highend fabric shops that smell of rose petals and fig—hug the grimy ones. The streets with cheap apartments, crumbling brick, and foul, pungent odors with each step past. So in the end, the rich clothed men have always seen as much of me as I’ve seen of them.
We just might not end up in the same place.
I watch some strut ahead, careful on slick cobblestone, scarves bundled up to their lips. They disappear past the warmth of a stone pub, nestled on the corner of Fowler. The opulent Catherina Hotel is only one block away, and by the men’s attire alone, I imagine that’s their true destination.
Really, they’re not a priority to me. Not today. Most definitely not tomorrow.
With numb fingertips, I dig in my pocket for my identifica tion. I raise the card toward the camera lens. “I’m Franny Blue castle,” I declare, possibly speaking to no one. “Can you see my deathday?” I point at the print beneath my name. “I’m dying tomorrow.”
A shadow passes behind the window, someone stirring. Blinds rattle and I press my nose against the chilled glass, scraping my fingers down. “Please! I’m on time!” Backbiting insults and curses nip my tongue, and I swallow them, going down bitter like blood.
The blinds suddenly spring upward, and I’m met with russet curls, thin lips of boredom, and stern, auburn eyes.
I speak before the fortysomething woman can. “I need to collect my FD check. In bills.” I keep a watchful eye on the old me chanical drawer beside the window. She has to dispense my cash, and once the drawer opens, it’ll finally be in my hand.
Most plan out their deathday to the finest detail. At six years of age, I watched my mom die.
I traced her steps around her bed, a singleroom apartment above a butcher shop. The scent of slaughtered pig clung more to our wellworn clothes than to the musty air.
She lit candle after candle and hummed to the gods, casting smiles back at me. Youth sparkled in her gaze.
And I’d known, like any stranger could see, that we did not match. It wasn’t only my cool, beige skin and silky black hair— but the differences of our eyes, the heart shape of my face to her squared, and as I grew, I didn’t develop curves or a chest like hers. Even knowing she’d die by twentyfour, my mother found the will and courage to provide me a home when she was just eighteen. She adopted me as an infant, and I always knew that I’d say goodbye to my mother in only a handful of years. She prepared me for the day, so I’d be at peace with her.
And I was.
Moments after her smile, she blew out the tender flames and crawled onto the squeaky bed.
“Be careful of how you die, my little Franny,” she told me. “You can set your terms but not the day.”
Without question, I nodded in reply.
When we’re born, we all know the day we’ll die. It’s been this way for over a thousand years.
Maybe someone solved a mathematical equation.
Maybe a scientist drummed up this revolutionary discovery.
I can’t recall our history front to back like an Influential. I never attended school or read their books, and I didn’t really care to listen.
I only have so much time to live, so why waste it on a history that won’t be mine for long?
My mom snuffed the candles, avoiding Death By Fire as her ending. In my country of Altia, people about to experience their deathday must follow Injury Prevention Laws. Like me tomorrow.
Stay away from large groups of people. Relax. Stay calm.
Be at peace.
Defying the first two could lead to mass accidents.
A boy of fourteen dumbly and selfishly took a joyride around Bartholo’s packed and icy city streets on his deathday. The car spun out and collided with Mr. Rosencastle who was innocently locking up the butcher shop.
Since Mr. Rosencastle won’t die until he’s seventyseven, all he lost was an arm. Not his life.
And ever since I witnessed my mom’s death—the serenity in her upturned lips, the warm flush in her cheeks before her heart slowed to a stop—I’ve dreamed of my own deathday.
I might have planned it poorly, but I dreamed well.
I imagined using the last of my money for a onenight stay at the Catherina Hotel. Where harpists welcome guests through re volving doors, men in tuxes offer goldfoiled chocolates and sweet liqueur, where feathered pillows and satin sheets blanket beds made for five bodies.
At the orphanage, I sleep on a narrow bunk, coiled springs bruising my back. Only with my Final Deliverance check can I afford this singlenight luxury. I’ve only heard stories, never seen it with my own eyes, but I still dream.
I want to lie against those sheets and gaze up at the handpainted ceiling mural and smile as I drift off, as my heart slows or as my brain shuts down, as the gods take me.
The banker presses a button, and her monotone voice crackles through the speakers. “We’ve closed out today. No more trans fers, deposits, or withdrawals until tomorrow at six o’morning.” She reaches for the cord to the blinds.
“No wait!” This is not how I end. “You can’t botch this for me! Listen to me. You have to listen to me.” My desperation curdles my stomach, and I claw at the window, my hot breath fogging the glass. “I need this money now. I could die at midnight.”
The banker scrutinizes my long hair: black roots growing in among vibrant blue and green knotted strands that contrast her natural hue. She homes in on my silver piercings: stuck along my black brow, a ring beneath my nose and another hooped around my lip.
It’s possible that she ignored me because of the bright dye and piercings.