Home > Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)(2)

Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)(2)
Victoria Scott

Or running from something.

I pull myself up and walk to the window. Outside, I can hear yellow-headed blackbirds calling. I rarely noticed stuff like birds in Boston. In Boston, we lived in a brownstone that wasn’t brown, and I had friends two doors down. Our family owned three floors of sparkling space, and we could walk to restaurants.

Here there are rocks. And a stream that runs near our home that’s free of fish. The sky is empty of rooflines and overstuffed with cotton-ball clouds. There are no neighbors. No girls my age to discuss the joys of colored tights with. A single, lonely road leads from our house into town. When I look at it, I want to strap a bag to a stick and limp down it hobo style.

Tall pine trees surround our house, like their job is to hide us from the world. I imagine running toward them wearing a hockey mask, swinging a chain saw over my head. They’d probably uproot themselves and squash me like a bug. Bury me beneath their twisted roots.

That’s how I want to go when it’s my time.

With a bang.

I slide the window open and stick my head outside. What I wouldn’t do to see my friends again. To get a mani-pedi or a blowout. Or a Greek salad. Oh my friggin’ God, Feta cheese and kalamata olives. I wallow in self-pity for another moment before remembering my brother. Then I spend exactly three minutes feeling like the World’s Biggest Ass.

We’re here for him. And I’d give anything to see my brother get out of bed and dance in the street like he did on Halloween two years ago. Or even just sit up for a few minutes without coughing.

I motorboat my lips and spin in a circle like a ballerina. I spin and spin until everything becomes a blur. When I stop, my room continues to rush past me, and I lunatic laugh that this is what I do for fun now.

My vision finally returns to normal, and my eyes land on the bed.

Sitting on my white comforter is a small blue box.


I snap my head from side to side, searching for someone in my room. But of course no one’s there. Then I realize what’s going on. Mom and Dad know how hard this relocation has been on me, and now they’re trying to buy my happiness. Or at least a break from my complaining.

Am I really this easy?

Please. They could have tied little blue boxes to the back of the moving truck and I would have chased after them until my feet bled.

I fly across my room and leap onto the bed, a smile spread across my face. I’ve spent these last nine months with no Internet or cell phone, and right now I feel like a wild dog eyeing its prey.

Holding the box to my lips, I tell it, “You’re mine, precious. All mine.”

I’m about to tear in when I stop myself. This moment of wondering what’s inside will be over so quickly. And once it’s finished, I’ll have nothing to anticipate. Perhaps I should postpone gratification, hold off until I can’t stand it any longer. I could be happy for days just knowing I have something to look forward to.

I pull the box away from my lips and give it a small shake.

Put the box down, Tella, I tell myself.

“Screw that,” I say out loud.

I close my hand around the lid and pull it off. Inside is a tiny pillow. I imagine all sorts of miniature animals using it in their miniature beds. But that’s dumb, because how would they ever find a pillowcase to fit?

My fingers pinch the pillow, and when I lift it up, I’m surprised by what I see sleeping beneath it. Flicking the pillow onto my bed, I reach into the box and grab the small, stark white device. It’s no longer than a nickel and curves in all sorts of funky ways. It looks … it looks like a hearing aid.

My nose scrunches up as I turn the device over in my hand. Then I nearly squeal with excitement when I see a raised red blinking light on the other side. Blinking lights are cool, I decide. They indicate technology and advancement and maybe a connection to the outside world — to my friends. Or maybe it’s music. Who knows what wild stuff they’ve come out with in the last year? I bet this baby holds, like, a billion songs. And I’m going to listen to them. Every. Single. One.

Vowing to give a solid, halfhearted apology to my parents and hoping I’m about to hear Lady Gaga’s latest, I stick the device into my ear. Hallelujah, it fits! I couldn’t be happier if my Boston boy toy just gave me diamonds.

I fumble for a second before my fingers land on the red blinking button. Annnnnd … give it to me, baby.

Once I’ve pushed the button, I hear a clicking noise. The sound goes on for several seconds. Long enough that I start to feel all kinds of devastated. But then the clicking turns to static, like someone on the other side of a radio is tuning in.

Jumping from the bed, I walk around the room, tilting my head like I’m searching for a signal. I feel like a moron, and it’s the most fun I’ve had in forever. I shoot straight up when I hear a woman’s voice. It’s a clear, crisp sound. Like this lady has never mispronounced a word in her entire life. My eyes fall to the floor in concentration. And I listen.

“If you’re hearing this message, you are invited to be a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. All Contenders must report within forty-eight hours to select their Pandora companions. If you do not —”

“Tella?” my dad asks. “What are you doing?”

I spin around and do a little happy dance. “What is this thing?” I point to the device in my ear. “Where did you guys get it? Because it’s fan-friggin’-tastic.”

“Get what?” My dad’s face goes from confused … to alarmed. For a moment, I feel like a little kid. Like, any second, I’m going to be placed in the time-out chair and fume while Cody flaunts his freedom like back when we were four and seven. “What’s in your ear?” My dad sounds strange. His words are calculated, slow to leave his mouth. “Give it to me.”

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