Today is the release day of Shards and Ashes, an anthology of dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories that I was fortunate enough to participate in. It was edited by the fabulous Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong, and the contributing authors are amazing. It’s like a YA author explosion of awesome.
To celebrate the fact that the anthology is finally here, I’m putting up this excerpt from my short story, which is called “Hearken.” My story is about a girl, Darya, who gets a brain implant to hear the music of the dying in the midst of an apocalypse. In this scene, she’s riding a bus with her father.
"You know, when I was young, people didn’t like Hearkeners much," her father said.
Darya watched the man across from her. His eyes remained steady on the floor. She could hear his breaths through the slats in the mask—not loud, but louder than unfiltered breaths.
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because they were seen as an unnecessary expenditure," he said, "Not worth the cost, I mean. But the people over at the Bureau for the Promotion of Arts were very insistent that music would help a troubled world. And then when people started dying…" He shrugged. "Everyone started to understand why Hearkeners were so important."
"Why are they so important?"
"Because what they hear…it’s like hearing something beyond us. Something bigger than us." He smiled down at her. "It reminds us that there’s so much more going on in this world than we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands."
Darya didn’t quite understand what her father meant, but she knew there was something beautiful in it all the same.
Then she heard something—quickening breaths from the man across from them. She saw a bead of sweat roll down the side of his forehead. He looked so harmless—he was short, with salt-and-pepper hair and a white, collared shirt. His slacks were pressed, creased. He was not a killer. But the peculiar blend of fear and determination in his eyes was enough to make Darya’s breaths stop completely.
As the man in the mask moved to get off the bus, he took a canister from his bag and dropped it on the ground. It was an object she had only seen in pictures—dull metal, about six inches long, as thick as her wrist, with an opening at one end to let out the gas.
(“Hearken,” from Shards and Ashes, 19 February 2013)
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