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DescriptionThe world's going to end in fire…and it's all Kyle's fault.
Kyle Wolfe's world is about to crash and burn. Just weeks away from graduation, a fire kills Kyle's two best friends and leaves him permanently scarred. A fire that Kyle accidentally set the night he cheated on his boyfriend Danny with their female friend, Shira. That same day, a strange new planet, Obscura, appears in the sky. And suddenly Kyle's friends aren't all that dead anymore.
Each time Kyle goes to sleep, he awakens to two different realities. In one, his boyfriend Danny is still alive, but Shira is dead. In the other, it's Shira who's alive...and now they're friends with benefits. Shifting between realities is slowly killing him, and he's not the only one dying. The world is dying with him. He's pretty sure Obscura has something to do with it, but with his parents' marriage imploding and realities shifting each time he closes his eyes, Kyle has problems enough without being the one in charge of saving the world...
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Excerpt:Danny’s deadSometimes I think dying would be easier than having to live two lives. Every time I close my eyes, I pray I won’t wake up. But whoever’s up there clearly doesn’t give a crap. Sometimes I think that maybe I’m already dead.I must’ve dozed off and for a moment, I’m in limbo, floating between two possible realities. The next instant, it all comes crashing down around me, and I have to deal with Danny’s death all over again. It’s like being on a roller coaster except I’m the only one riding it and there’s no getting off.One day Danny’s dead, then reality shifts, and instead we’re mourning Shira. And what do I get out of this life-jumping deal? Cold sweats and nosebleeds, and the joy of trying to juggle two dead friends. I’d do anything to make it stop.Today it’s Shira’s turn to live.We’re in Shira’s bed, tucked into the back corner of her mother’s trailer. Fairy lights dangle from the ceiling, a spiderweb attempt at making the room less depressing. It smells of Shira’s grapefruit body cream and patchouli incense. It smells like sex.“We need to talk,” Shira says.The sheet clings to my sweaty chest and dust swirls in the sun rays, stabbing through the broken blinds. Shira’s always talking, like she can talk away any problem. As if talking can undo the past.“About what?” I sit up, wrapping the sheet around my waist, already searching for underwear and socks. Beyond the dirty window, the sun’s just starting to slip beyond the horizon, turning the sky the color of spilled blood. Mom’ll expect me home for dinner soon. There’s an excuse for not wanting to stick around and chat.“Kyle, you know we need to talk about this. About us.” Her cheeks are stained from tears shed hours earlier. Her brown bob is a crow’s nest on her head. She’s examining her chipped nail polish, not meeting my gaze.“You don’t really want to talk about Danny and how you’re sleeping with his boyfriend, do you?” My words are bullets that shut her up. We both loved Danny, the three of us inseparable. Only difference now is that Shira’s lost him and in that other reality, I still get to love him.Shira looks up, her eyes intense and tragic as her bottom lip begins to tremble. It’s not fair putting it all on her. I kissed her, made the first move, but she never said no. We’re both guilty.She hiccups and her tears start again. Guilt hardens in my gut, turns to stone as I try not to feel anything, try not to love her, try not to hate her for being alive.When I’m with her, sometimes I can imagine she’s Danny, forget all the other crap and just let skin rub against skin. When her hands are knotted in my hair, her lips are on my throat…the fire and Danny’s death just feel like a bad dream. A reality jump later, I’ll wake up and it’ll be Shira who’s gone, her ashes scattered in the dust on the reservation.“I should go.” I pull my T-shirt over the scars. They’re still glossy pink, puckering the flesh across my ribs and chest, across my collarbone and shoulders, rippling up my neck, splashing up my jaw and cheek. I’m a total freak show.If the scars bother her, she doesn’t say. It’s just a pity fuck, her way of trying to make me feel better. Like anyone would choose to sleep with me looking like this. I’ll take the sex, regardless of how it’s given, over “It’s not your fault” speeches any day.“I’ll call you later,” I add, doing up my fly before pushing my feet into sneakers.“We still need to talk about our part in the memorial. Danny’s mom is waiting to finalize the program.” Shira looks so vulnerable, naked under the white sheets with raccoon eyes and black nails. The turquoise bracelet she always wears jangles softly with every movement.“I said I’ll call you later.” I’m being an ass and Shira deserves better.She’s so small for a girl of seventeen. As flat-chested as a twelve-year-old, with a pixie face. Tacked to the wall behind her, posters of horses are just visible beneath the screaming faces of Marilyn Manson and Slipknot. Dream catchers dangle feathers from her ceiling, the only evidence of her Native American heritage.“Dream catchers aren’t even Navajo,” she told me once. “They’re Sioux, but the tourists love them.”Dead roses and glittery strings of beads cling to the frame of her mirror, and stuck to a corner is the photograph of three smiling faces. The three of us at prom: Danny in his silver suit, me in blue, and Shira in black. Danny asked me to dance that night and I said no. Guess we’ll never have that dance, not in this reality or any other.Outside, the evening brings some respite from the heat of the day. Even Shira’s cacti are struggling in the drought. Some slouch like old men with hollow bellies while others have lost their limbs to thirst, their broken arms lying withered and forlorn in the dust. It’s June. There should be roiling thunderstorms every day, but instead there’s just dust and sizzling heat.A breeze ruffles my hair, and the stillness of the evening makes me think maybe things aren’t that bad until it’s shattered by the chorus of wind chimes hanging off Shira’s trailer. That’s her mom’s fault. She makes the damn things, sells them to tourists who stop in town for gas and Tex-Mex on their way out to Shiprock.My stomach rumbles. The bowl of cornflakes at breakfast is just a wisp of memory, but I don’t want to go home yet. Don’t want to meet my mom’s sad smile and my dad’s hurt eyes. You’d swear they were the ones who got burned. I’m the one wearing the scars, but they’re the ones ashamed.It’s a long walk from Shira’s at the edge of nowhere, up through the red rocks and crippled juniper, back to the dirt road that takes me into town. Coyote’s Luck, population 2,817.A lizard joins me, soaking up the last of the sun’s rays at the top of an outcropping. From up here I can see all the way across the emptiness of New Mexico. Yucca and creosote bush, rock and dust. Shiprock rises like an angry fist from the earth, fingers of breccia clawing at the distant sky as the sun dips beyond the horizon.Looking at that expanse somehow makes me feel less lonely.Lying back against the stone still warm from the day, I stare up at the stars. They’re brilliant out here, like someone scattered bright silver quarters into tar. One looks out of place though, and it is. It blinks blue where the others are white.They’re calling it Obscura; a planet about the size of Mercury that just spun into our solar system unannounced and took up residence between us and Mars. I don’t understand the physics of it all, but it seems the unwanted lump of rock has got herself stuck, forming this perfectly straight line with Earth, Mars, Mercury, and Venus. She’s fouling up the TV channels and interfering with radio broadcasts. There’s a bunch of doomsday nuts preparing for the end of the world as well. I don’t care about any of that. Bring on the apocalypse.The desert turns chilly and dinner beckons. Thoughts of Danny’s memorial replace thoughts of strange planets. Shira’s determined to involve me even though there’s little point to it. In this reality, Daniel’s dead. Asphyxiated by smoke and killed by falling beams, so says the coroner.They buried him a month ago while I was still on a morphine drip in the hospital. He’s rotting beneath the ground beside the bones of his uncle and his two-day-old sister. All the pretty words have been said. Can’t see the point of lighting more candles and saying more prayers.Besides, when I wake up tomorrow, it’ll be Shira who’s dead again.The night of the fire is a gaping wound in my memory. It might be because I downed a bottle of tequila before playing with matches, or might be PTSD amnesia. That night’s not a blur, but a brilliant canvas of flames. My only memory is fire. The heat: glorious, choking heat and tongues of orange licking at the rafters, a burst of cinders, and the screams. Then nurses and morphine.If I could just remember what happened, could piece it all together for myself, then maybe the world would go back to normal.Tomorrow will be better. Danny will be alive and I won’t be a half-melted monstrosity. Shira’ll be scattered ash, but at least she won’t demand so much of my attention. No memorial for her. Danny doesn’t expect me to dredge up more words, more lies and weave them into some poetic elegy that only offers a temporary balm for the living. The dead don’t give a damn.
Obscura BurningBy: Suzanne van Rooyen