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Publisher Royal Colours Ink
Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy
eBook Kindle Edition
Hyalee Smith is dead, she just doesn’t know it yet.
Her short life was devoted to love and to hate. Love of the man who stole her heart, hate for the man who stole the world. Murdered by the government she swore to destroy, fate has given her another chance to make it right.
Heir to a legendary power, Dephon Johnson is the only threat to the government’s rule. And on Trepton, all threats must be eliminated. Dephon's only chance of survival is to enlist the aid of the greatest warrior the world has ever known. The only problem is, she's been dead for 13 years.
Dephon’s father had a power--a super power. Singleton Johnson had the amazing ability to blend seamlessly into the sofa.
Dephon wasn’t sure if it was due to his father’s fourteen-plus years of practice or some innate ability, but on days when his father wore his cream cardigan, beige cargo pants, and faded white socks‑‑which was everyday‑‑he almost disappeared. Dephon could always tell his father was there from the black remote gripped tightly in his hand.
As far back as Dephon could remember his father had always been on the couch. So of course, on March 26th, when he entered their two-story home through the underground passage, he wasn’t surprised to find his father disappearing from the world‑‑on the couch.
“Hello, Dephon. How was school?” his father asked, his eyes still glued to the television set.
Dephon really wanted to tell him the truth, that school was a nightmare. The thugs on the football team had filled his locker with urine again. Kerry Dorsey thought it would be hilarious to put a dissected frog from the Biology lab on his seat during English class. And to top it all off, he’d gotten a D-plus on his Math test.
Dephon hated everything about school, except for History. But instead of telling his father any of this, he simply responded, “Fine.”
“That’s good. Do better in Math.”
“Yeah, okay.” Dephon mumbled, rolling his eyes. He knew from experience that their father-son time was over. What he had yet to figure out was how his dad always knew what grades he got without him ever saying a word.
He trudged up the stairs, careful to avoid the broken third step. Entering his room, he tossed his backpack on the floor, then made a bee-line for the well-worn selection of history books in his bookcase. He plucked his favorite volume from the shelf.
Dephon turned to the first chapter, a detailed account of the ancient American civilization. He couldn’t help smiling a bit ruefully as he thought of the different types of people that had founded the country. The only people allowed in Trepton IV all looked just like him, blond-haired and hazel-eyed. He desperately wanted to leave the city so he could finally experience the cultures he had only read about in books.
Over the next few hours, he explored ancient battles, thriving cities, and long-vanished traditions. His eyes closed soon after midnight, book still in hand. As always, he dreamed of the end of a long and brutal war, a beautiful woman with blue hair, and the death of a hero.
On the afternoon of March 27th Dephon returned home, tired and wet. The football team had pushed him, fully dressed, into the varsity swimming pool, and his homework had mysteriously disappeared from his third period History class. So far, a pretty typical Tuesday.
But what happened when Dephon walked through the passageway and into the living room, was far from normal.
“Hey, Dad!” he called as he trudged toward the stairs, his shoulders slumped in defeat.
No response. Dephon stopped, turned, and looked at the couch. It appeared to be empty. Where was his father? Dephon walked over and examined the fabric to make sure the couch hadn’t somehow swallowed Singleton Johnson, which seemed much more likely than him having left on his own.
Despite the fact that he had never actually seen it happen, he knew his dad had to leave the living room occasionally. There was always breakfast on the table and food in the refrigerator. Someone had to shop for it. So maybe his dad had left on his own, but where had he gone?
As if things couldn’t get any stranger, he heard arguing in the kitchen.
There was never any arguing in the house. It normally required more than one person to have an argument and the Johnson family, like most law-abiding Treptonian families, never had visitors‑‑not even for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or birthdays. But unless his father had gone crazy since breakfast, he was definitely arguing with someone. But who?
Dephon crept toward the kitchen and pressed his ear against the wall. He heard two voices. The male voice was definitely his dad’s, and the other voice was a woman’s. Her voice was melodious and reminded Dephon of wind chimes rustling in the breeze. Despite the loud quarreling, the stranger’s voice had an immediate calming effect on Dephon; his anxiety vanished and he slipped into a relaxed, almost trancelike state where he wasn’t quite sure if he was awake or asleep.
“You have to tell him,” the woman said. “He’s going to find out soon enough. Hyalee’s birthday‑‑”
“Don’t say her name!” his father’s bellowed. Suddenly the house shook with the force of an earthquake, the chandelier in the living room fell, and all the furniture skittered across the room.
Dephon dashed to a nearby closet and positioned himself under the door jamb. He had never experienced an earthquake. He didn’t think Trepton IV even had earthquakes. The shaking stopped, but Dephon was too afraid to move.
“Is that a new power?” the woman asked calmly.
What was she talking about?
“Dephon, go to your room,” his father said.
Dephon gasped. How did his father know he was listening? He hadn’t made a sound. The woman’s voice interrupted his thoughts, “Come in here, Dephon.”
Dephon felt a brush of wind wrap around his arms and legs, and his thoughts became so fuzzy that he could barely hear his father yelling for him to go upstairs. He followed the sound of the enchanting voice. When he entered the kitchen, the day went from strange to downright bizarre. The woman standing in front of him had an appearance that couldn’t be further from his and his father’s fair skin, blond hair, and hazel eyes.
Her complexion was the creamy color of chocolate. Jet-black braids hung loosely down her back. Her eyes were a deep, rich brown with a diamond-like sparkle. She wore a red cloak, like the one Little Red Riding Hood had worn on her trip to grandmother’s house. Hieroglyphic earrings dangled from her ears.
She didn’t look like anyone he’d ever seen in Trepton IV. He’d heard of such people in History class, but wasn’t sure they actually existed--at least, not anymore. He knew they weren’t allowed in Trepton IV since the Division Act of 2022 was made into a law over eleven years ago.
For some unknown reason, Dephon felt strangely drawn to this mysterious visitor. He suddenly found himself standing directly in front of her, with no memory of how he got so close.
“Don’t you dare use your siren call on my son.”
The woman ignored his father. She leaned forward and clasped her hand under Dephon’s chin. “You look just like your mother, but you have your father’s piercing eyes... and those dimples. God, you’ve grown. It’s great to see you,” she said, engulfing him in a hug.
Dephon was overwhelmed with a feeling of warmth that he missed the moment she pulled away. There were actually tears in her eyes when she released him.
“You know my mother?” he whispered in a tone of reverent awe. His dad never talked about his mother.
“Of course, I knew her. She was the bravest myst--”
“That’s enough,” his father thundered. The house shook violently. The windows shattered and the floor tumbled out from under Dephon’s feet. He reached out wildly. His hand wrapped around the woman’s outstretched wrist.
She pulled him to her and held on to him until the ground grew still. He felt safe, comfortable, and secure in her arms. She squeezed him one last time before releasing him.
“Why don’t you go up to your room? We wouldn’t want to make your father angrier than he is already. I’ll see you soon.”
“No, you won’t,” his father said.
She smiled as though she knew differently. “Goodbye, Dephon.”
He turned to leave the room, but found it impossible. The house was in shambles. Chunks of the fallen ceiling covered the stairs. Shards of glass from the chandelier and the windows littered the hall. The furniture had all shifted or tipped over during the quake. Everything from bookshelves to his father’s high school football trophies covered the pathway. His exit was completely blocked.
“I’ll take care of that.”
“Don’t,” his father yelled, but it was too late. The woman made a graceful, sweeping gesture with her right arm and suddenly ribbons of blue and black light mingled together, lifting the debris from the ground. The bookshelves righted themselves. Books flew from the ground, alphabetizing themselves onto the shelves. Furniture slid back to its rightful location. Glass and fallen plaster pieced itself together like a jigsaw puzzle. Within the span of ten seconds the entire house was more organized than it had been when he had left for school that morning.
Dephon gawked in disbelief. He turned back to look at the strange woman who had more power than the Treptonian Army. He had a thousand questions to ask her, but before he could open his mouth she said in a kind but firm voice, “Goodbye, Dephon.”
He was instantly in a sleep-like trance. As he headed up the stairs he skipped over the third step, although it was no longer broken. He ended up in his room again with no recollection of how he had gotten there.
Dephon willed himself to think clearly. He ran to the vents near his bed frame. The woman and his father had resumed arguing loudly below. Dephon lay flat on the frayed multicolored rug by his bed, and placing his ear against the ducts, he listened intently.
“Do you really think they’ll leave him alone because you’re hiding? In ten days he’ll receive his powers and they’ll come for him, whether you’re ready or not.”
“You don’t know that. We didn’t receive our powers until we were seventeen,” Dephon’s father said, a trace of bitterness in his voice.
“You two were a special case.”
“Clearly we weren’t special enough,” his father bellowed. The room shook. Dephon grabbed the bedpost to steady himself. The lamp by his bed wobbled precariously, but didn’t topple over.
“You need to control that power.”
“And you need to get out of my house. You’re not even allowed within the city limits.”
“You and everyone else might be perfectly willing to remain in fear of Du‑‑”
“Don’t say his name in my presence,” his father snarled.
“What about Samee, can we talk about him? Did you know he just joined the Treptonian Army? And he’ll probably be the one sent to kill Dephon.”
“Are you deaf? I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Everything is off-limits? Fine. Bury your head in the sand, but you’re going to lose the only family you’ve got left.”
“I’ll die to keep my son safe,” his father said with more passion than Dephon had ever heard before. He was shocked that his father loved him. All these years, Dephon hadn’t been sure.
“Then why don’t you live for him instead? Stop pretending you spend all day on the couch and actually live a life. Continue the fight, Hyalee would have--”
“All right, I get the picture. Everything is off-limits. This conversation isn’t getting me anywhere. Your son will soon be facing the largest army in the world’s known history, and with your cowardly attitude, he’ll be doing it all alone. At least invite me to the funeral.”
Dephon heard the door slam and realized the beautiful woman hadn’t used one of the many secret passageways, but had walked out onto a public street filled with Treptonian guards. No one risked walking outside in Trepton, not those who wanted to live, anyway.
Dephon ran to the window and lifted the shade an inch, staring down into the darkness. He was searching for any sign of their red-caped visitor, but the streets were clear. The only evidence of life was three armed guards, who kept the streets anything but safe.
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