Sixteen-year-old Dara Adengard would rather read graphic novels than do her homework and prefers the freedom of skateboarding to the restrictions of life with her military father. Stung by the recent death of her mother, Dara conceals her mom’s picture under a square of grip tape on her skateboard. But no matter how much Dara tries to keep a foothold on the past, she can’t ride away from her own destiny.
One evening, she discovers a silver and gold armlet with mysterious powers in the shadowy water of the swimming pool. Forged from an ancient meteorite metal, it possesses the power to heal or wound. When Dara holds it, it emits a light that seems to have been ignited by a star’s ray. Moments later, she is stunned to find that someone’s broken into her apartment, her father has vanished, and a dead body lies sprawled in the courtyard.
Evading the police, Dara escapes on a perilous quest for her father and begins to uncover her mother’s hidden past—and starts to realize the shocking truth about herself. Accompanied by a stray dog, Dara soars to sudden fame on the wings of a YouTube video that shows her using the Jyotisha to heal the handsome Diego of a gunshot wound. When the video goes viral, and when a famous TV talk show personality connects with her, Dara is propelled from homeless runaway to worldwide sensation.
Read the first chapter:
Dara’s father slammed the windows to keep out the odor of smoke. “Looks like fire season’s started early,” he said, powering off the TV’s live coverage. “I’ll try to make it home for chow, but just in case there’s enchiladas in the fridge.” He slapped a yellow Post-it onto the microwave. “Heating directions right here.”
Her dad was good at leaving notes to guide her through meals, chores—things she was capable of doing without any reminder. Whenever she objected, he’d say, “If you showed a little more responsibility I wouldn’t have to tell you, right?”
“And keep the door locked,” he said. “Going outside?”
“I guess.” Her fingers toyed with a thin strand of streaked, lime-green hair.
“Then you better stay inside the apartment building perimeter.” He shot her the I-mean-it look.
“Gimme a roger?”
Her dad talked Navy Seabee. Rules were regs, Costco hot dogs were tube steaks, and boundaries were perimeters. Usually, that meant one square block, between Fir and Garden.
But that’s when she wasn’t grounded. Now it was: the courtyard—no street, no alley. Oh, yeah. Way more adventure than she could handle. She shot a quick glance at her skateboard, propped near the front door.
“Can you put down that comic book and unplug those while I’m talking to you?”
She tossed Naruto aside and tugged an ear bud cord. “I heard every word you said. Perimeters. Okay?”
After her father left for the night shift, Dara waited a few minutes, then grabbed her skateboard and headed for the street.
Heat waves rose from the scorched asphalt.
She knew her dad had enabled his own cell phone to track hers, but figured she wasn’t more than a few yards outside the stupid perimeter of the apartment building—not enough for him to notice.
Over the distant hills, black smoke clouds billowed into the sky.
She ollied off the sidewalk, and her board clattered onto the asphalt. She repeated this several times before she saw him across the street—a stranger wearing yellow knee-length Lakers shorts, flip-flops, wraparound sunglasses, and a black T-shirt with a chrome-colored Apple logo. Twenty-something. Ponytail and a beard. A large colored tat wound around his leg.
He was checking her out.
Dara pushed off on her board toward the curb and was in midair when the man took a step towards her, a slight smile on his face. Perv, she thought. But it threw her timing off, and she lost her balance in midair.
Her knee smacked the pavement.
Through gritted teeth she sucked in breath, pushed back her hoodie, and looked down at her knee. Shredded jeans. Ripped skin. Nice move, she thought, and winced at the pain.
Her eyes swept the street. No sign of the creep in the Lakers shorts—but she noticed a man near the end of the block to her left. He strode towards her, wearing a long dark sweatshirt. No one she knew.
Dara sat on the cement curb, her good leg straight out, her other leg bent while she held it, and wondered what to do. Blood soaked through her jeans, turning the blue denim into a soggy purple.
She stared at her skateboard, which lay upside down in the gutter like a bug on its back. One of the wheels still spun, and the deck looked helpless, exposed. Vulnerable.
There was a noise behind her, and she cast a nervous look over her shoulder.
But it was just Vadoma. Dara hadn’t heard the door open and wondered how long Vadoma had been standing there.
light runner 3
Dara knew Vadoma’s name because they’d received her mail by mistake a few weeks ago, after Vadoma had moved in to the Buena Gardens. She lived in the apartment right below theirs, and Dara had taken an instant dislike to her—a feeling that seemed to be mutual. The woman now stood outside the locked, double-glass doors to the lobby and stared down at Dara.
Vadoma was short and had long gray hair with traces of white, tied back in a tight bun that seemed to make her eyes bulge. When Dara was in the courtyard practicing kickflips on her board, Vadoma would come out of her apartment, stand at the railing, and glare at her with mean-looking fish eyes.
Dara bit her lip and stared at the red shoelaces of her ankle boots.
Vadoma took a tentative step over the curb and scrutinized Dara’s skateboard. Dara’s hair. Her bleeding knee. Vadoma’s fish eyes squinted. She was dressed in thrift store chic and wore a faded, oversized black concert T-shirt. On the front of the shirt, it said, “Genesis Reunion Concert Tour—Turn it On Again!” in pale red letters above a picture of a big electric guitar.
Dara figured Vadoma was going to tell her something like, “Serves you right—skateboarding and making all that racket.”
But instead, Vadoma reached out a hand to pull her up. It was a tiny hand, with a silver ring on every finger—even her thumb. Her fingers were old and weathered.
The ring on her index finger was a slim, silver snake, and Dara could feel its curved coolness against her own palm as Vadoma grunted and pulled her up.
“Come,” Vadoma said, in an accent Dara couldn’t quite place. “I can take skating board. Help you up stairs.” She jangled a set of keys out of her pocket.
Dara still felt a twinge of apprehension about the man with the Apple shirt she’d seen across the street, but knew she had to take care of her knee.
Once inside the apartment building, Dara gripped the railing with her free hand and hop-hobbled up the stairs beside Vadoma. When Dara stumbled once, Vadoma’s fingers gripped Dara’s wrist to steady her.
Philip Brown, YA contemporary fantasy author, is motivated by the power of words to change lives. He teaches high school and is inspired by his students, many of whom struggle to overcome difficult social and personal issues. He believes the classroom is a place filled with brilliant and amazing stories.
Before he began writing fiction, Philip wrote a couple of astrology books. Cosmic Trends was published by Llewellyn Worldwide in 2006 and was a finalist for the Coalition of Visionary Resources Award. His widely read AstroFutureTrends blog was turned into the book, On the Cusp: Astrological Reflections from the Threshold.
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