When the Sky Fell on Splendor(8)

My hand went to my bare neck. No nautilus shell, no alloy chain.

I’d lost Mark’s necklace.

The sirens were wailing closer, and the others were already piling into the car, but I stopped dead.

“Fran!” Remy screamed when he realized I wasn’t right behind him.

“My necklace!” I turned, scanning the dew-dusted grass. “I must have dropped it.”

“I’m not going to jail, Franny,” Nick screeched at me. “Get in!”

“We’ll come back for it,” Sofía said.

I jogged across the yard, searching the grass for the smooth spiral of the seashell.

“Come on, Franny,” Levi yelled. He was already in the car, Droog’s muddy paws balanced on his mauve pants.

“We have to come back anyway,” Arthur yelled. “We’ll find it then.”

“Why do you keep saying that?” Nick demanded. “I’m not coming anywhere near this place again.”

Sofía smacked his arm. “Of course we’ll come back. Franny, just get in!”

Something glinted in the grass off to my left, just inside the range of trees at the muddy edge of the yard. I ran toward it, picked up the bit of metal before I even realized none of us had been over there last night.

My stomach jerked at the object’s cold weight. A bullet.

A handful more were scattered in the mud, in a spray along a series of boot prints.

My gaze trailed the prints from the woods and across the gravel road, where they vanished only to reappear on the far side and lead up to the fence, though further left than where we’d climbed it.

None of us had gone near these muddy prints.

My pulse spiked. Had someone else been here last night? Could they could tell us what we’d missed, what had happened in those six lost hours?

I scanned the length of the fence for any sign of life, but if anyone had seen what happened, they were gone now.


I tucked the bullet into my pocket and sprinted back to the car.

Remy peeled backward down Jenkins, then dropped back to one mile per hour under the speed limit once we were on the cross street. He tossed his phone at Levi. “Text my dad. Tell him we all fell asleep at your house. Hopefully we’ll beat him there.”

“If someone saw a bunch of teenagers trespassing at an electrical plant and called it in,” Levi said, already typing, “the sheriff will respond to that first. I’m sure we’re fine!”

Levi, as a rule, was as upbeat as his splashy wardrobe.

“All the more reason we shouldn’t be here,” Sofía said. She took a deep breath. “We broke the law.”

“Will someone tell Handsome Remy to speed up?” Nick yelped. “We’re not driving through the main hallway of an old folks’ home.”

“No,” Remy snapped, “but I am driving six people and a dog around in a tiny car, after breaking like four laws and missing my curfew. I’m not getting pulled over for speeding!”

To me, Sofía’s parents and Remy’s seemed like harsh disciplinarians, but once when I’d said that to Arthur, he’d scrunched his brow and scowled at me. “We used to have rules too, Franny, remember? It’s because their parents still give a shit.”

I’d done my best to forget that there was a before, a time when cussing might earn Mark a mouthful of soap, when riding our bikes home two hours after Mom had told us to be back for dinner would result in a weekend with a list of chores and no video games.

Now we didn’t have rules. We also didn’t have family dinners.

“Take this next turn, Remy,” Arthur said. “It’s faster.”

Sofía reached around me to roll the window down a couple more inches. A series of purple welts branched across her hand, the same kinds of burns Arthur and I had. Through the back of the headrest, a similar angry pattern spread up the back of Levi’s neck.

What had happened to us?

I touched the markings on my hand. They didn’t hurt. At least there was that.

I craned my neck to look one last time toward the twisted metal and misty gravel, and the towers gleaming in the early light.

It didn’t look malevolent, but something about it made my stomach turn, like my body was remembering what my mind refused to.

The siren faded behind us as we drove in silence. No music, just the whirring of the engine and the mourning doves cooing and Nick drumming out a restless pattern on the foggy window.

“It must’ve been a piece of the comet,” Sofía said finally. “Some kind of . . . trapped energy.”

“Right.” Nick’s accent thickened and his bulgy eyes rolled. “That explains everything.”

Remy’s gaze caught mine in the rearview mirror. His face was pale and drawn. He shook his head, but whatever he was silently communicating, I wasn’t getting it.

“Once everyone has breakfast, we’ll feel better,” Levi said. “I have donuts at my house. I’ll make a French press and—”

“Give it a rest, dude,” Nick said. “Not every occasion calls for a party at your empty McMansion! We just got, like, brain-melted by space junk, and some of us might not want to go watch Citizen freakin’ Kane!”

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