Blackbird Fly (Umbrella Man Trilogy Book 2)Willow Rose
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In One Fell Swoop - excerpt
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Copyright Willow Rose 2017
Published by BUOY MEDIA
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
Cover Design by Damonza
Special thanks to my editor Janell Parque
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Remember that your children are not your own, but are lent to you by the Creator.
There is no death, only a change of worlds.
Only an open heart will catch a dream
AMERICAN NATIVE PROVERB
THE BURNING BOY
O n the twenty-first day of July, fourteen-year-old Robert Bloom—or Gubba—slipped out of consciousness and left the world. Chained by his mother to the big live oak tree in the backyard of his childhood home, the sun burned his light albino skin so badly there was no saving him from sinking into the deep darkness and never waking up.
At least not in this world.
In another, he soon opened his eyes with a loud gasp.
But there was no mother. There was no live oak tree either and no chains holding him down. His skin, however, was still burnt, and as he touched the blob on top of his hand, the skin peeled off.
Where am I?
The strange part was that he knew exactly where he was. Except he didn't really recognize the place. It was so different from how he remembered it. As a child, Gubba had always been attracted to the cemetery outside of Bushlake, and would often play between the tombstones, playing with the dead, pretending they were alive. He knew all the names because they used to be his friends.
But the names were different.
Where was Eileen Spanks? And Brett Dover? They used to lie on each side of that tree over there. And Stan Moore? He was most certainly lying next to Ed Childs. Ed was there, all right, but the date on the stone wasn't the same. This one said he had died three years later. How was that possible?
Could it be a different cemetery somewhere else?
Gubba rose to his feet, pain shooting through his body. He felt so fragile. Like he was made of glass. The sun was burning him from the clear blue sky above. It felt painful on his skin. He was so thirsty; he had to find something to drink. Not worrying anymore about where he was and what happened to Eileen and the gang, he stumbled across the cemetery to the water fountain at the entrance, which he had been drinking from for as long as he could remember.
Gubba gulped down water. He tried to splash some on his sizzling, burning skin and then screamed in pain. The sun was still right above his head, his pale skin blistering and peeling off, leaving nothing but the red unprotected flesh for the sun to blaze.
Oh, my God, it's like I’m on fire!
He stumbled onto the road, towards the city, grumbling, groaning, and crying out in deep pain. He passed the city limit sign and moved onto Main Street, which looked nothing like he remembered it. He spotted Donna's Farmer’s Supply Store and noticed that it was now called Ronnie's, but didn't have the time to care. He walked right in and found the place empty, the bell dinging above his head. The cool AC soothed his burning sensation. Gubba closed his eyes. Someone yelled from the back.
"Be right there."
Gubba had no money, he realized. And he couldn't let anyone see him. They might tell his mother. She would only try to kill him again. Or call the police on him. Lock him away for good like she always wanted to. Gubba spotted a corner with umbrellas, grabbed one, and before this Ronnie-fella could come out, he was out of the store.
Out on the street, he opened the umbrella to shade himself from the sun, and maybe protect himself from anyone seeing him properly. He spotted a little girl on what looked like a brand new bike. The look on her face told him everything he needed to know.
He was a monster.
Gubba turned and hurried away, the umbrella leaning on his shoulder. As he walked, he looked at the houses and buildings, wondering what had happened to his town.
At first, he wasn't sure it was such a good idea to go there, but he need
ed to know if his childhood home was still the same, and most of all, he needed to know if his mother was still there.
Gubba hurried down First Street, his heart beating fast as he got closer. In his kick of adrenaline, he almost forgot the excruciating pain he was in. But he never forgot who had put him in it.
Rage rose in him as he stopped in front of the old house. He stood behind the white fence and looked at the porch. The big live oak was still standing tall behind the house. The tallest tree in town, known to have been used to hang blacks during the Bushlake Massacre.
A sign outside told him the house was for sale. It looked empty. As a matter of fact, it looked like it had been empty for a very long time. The windows were covered with plywood. Gubba gritted his teeth through the pain when thinking about the town and especially his mother. He felt dizzy and had to sit down on the pavement to not faint. Then he started to cry. The salt from the tears stung when they rolled across his peeled off skin.
P arked so it took up two spaces in the empty parking lot outside the Woodshed Pub, was a filthy beat-up—mostly red under the dirt—pick-up truck. It had three bumper stickers on the back. ONLY GAY COPS GIVE ME TICKETS, one read. The other said: REHAB IS FOR QUITTERS. And lastly, the biggest one said: LEARN FROM YOUR PARENTS’ MISTAKE—USE BIRTH CONTROL.
Ethel Turner, or E.T. as her drinking buddies called her, emerged from the double doors and zigzagged towards the truck. She dropped first her purse, then her keys more than once, as soon as she had managed to get them pulled out of said purse. E.T. laughed, trying to keep her balance, and headed towards the truck. Her face was bloated, her stomach bulging. Her skinny arms and legs made her stomach stand out even more, making her look eerily like the alien from the movie she was nicknamed after but had never seen herself.
She cursed when trying to open the car with the key, missing the keyhole on several attempts, and scratching the door instead.
When she finally succeeded and got inside, she caught a glimpse of herself in the rearview mirror and touched her hair. It desperately needed a new dyeing. The roots were growing out and you could see all the grays at the bottom.
"You look like a darn witch," she told her own reflection, then grabbed her skin and pulled it back to see what she would look like if she had a facial lift. It wasn't any prettier, she thought with a sigh, then let the skin fall back in place and removed her glance from the mirror.
She started the truck and it roared back to life. At first, she forgot to put it in reverse, and drove up onto the porch of the Woodshed Pub, knocking over a plastic chair with an oops accompanied by an annoyed growl. She finally found reverse, the taillights turned on, and she backed out of the parking lot so fast she almost lost control of the truck. She hit drive, then stepped on the gas and roared onto the road, heading towards Bushlake, the town's big water tower guiding her like that star guided those darn wise men.
She passed the city limit sign but didn't slow down to thirty-five like the sign told her to. Ethel rushed through Main Street, almost hit Hannah Charles on her new bike, and waved at her out of the window, cigarette burning from the side of her mouth.
The girl waved back, her eyes wide open, on the verge of crying, but holding it back. E.T. stopped at the supply store on Main Street, slalomed inside, grabbed a six-pack, and threw a twenty at Ronnie behind the counter, smoke hitting her eye as she stretched out her hand to receive the change.
Back in the truck, she opened the first beer before returning onto the road without even looking for traffic. Her tires screeched as she took a turn on First Street, Mrs. Richardson grabbing her pre-school children and pulling them to the side, so she wouldn't hit any of them.
She sped down First Street towards her house at the end of it, when she saw something that made her instantaneously hit the brakes.
What the heck?
On the pavement in front of the old abandoned house was a young boy, not more than maybe fifteen, holding an umbrella. He was bent over, crying.
Usually, E.T. wouldn't stop for someone crying or even in distress; heck, not even if they only wanted to ask for directions, but something about this boy made her stop the truck. It wasn't the blistering skin or the fact that he was an albino—an African-American albino. It wasn't the umbrella either, even though she had to admit it was kind of strange with the sun shining and all. No, it was something else that had caught her attention.
It was the flickering. The boy on the pavement was flickering.
One moment he was there, then the next he was almost invisible, just to return the second after. While most people—ordinary people—would think something was terribly wrong with themselves, that they were seeing things, that something was wrong with their eyes, Ethel didn't. She knew exactly what it meant. And it was what she had been looking for, for a very long time.
G ubba blinked. Once again, he found himself waking up in a place he didn't recognize. A face appeared to him. An elderly woman, who reeked of alcohol, smiled while looking down at him.
"Wakey, wakey," she said. Her crooked teeth looked like they had been shoveled into her mouth.
He sat up in the bed. The woman looked at him with anticipation. "Where am I?" he asked.
"Bushlake," she said. "Where did you assume you were?"
He looked at her, his nose wrinkled. "Bushlake, where else?"
The woman tilted her head. She looked like a crazy person with those mad eyes of hers. It made Gubba feel uncomfortable. How did he even end up in this place? This house?
Gubba threw a glance around the room. It was messy. Books and newspapers everywhere. The couch he had been sleeping on felt greasy and was worn on the arms and corners. The wooden walls were dark and made the living room gloomy. The windows were behind closed thick curtains like the woman was trying to keep the light out.
"Sleep well, hmm?" she asked and handed him a cup. The wording on the side read: THERE'S A CHANCE THIS IS VODKA.
He looked at it.
"Coffee," she said. "To get you going."
His head was hurting when he took it. He sipped it and then coughed. "That's really strong."
"You need it," she said, her eyes still scrutinizing him.
"How did I end up here?"
"I found you. In front of the old abandoned house down the road. The one that has been for sale for years."
Gubba nodded and drank again. He remembered the house and the sign. He also remembered feeling like he was going to die. Had this woman saved him somehow?
"You were unconscious," she said. "Been out for three days. Thought you might never come back. Kept sliding in and out."
She smiled widely. "A first-time traveler, huh?"
He wrinkled his forehead. "What do you mean? I haven't traveled in my entire life. I grew up here in Bushlake…only now…everything is different."