Authors: Alex Fedyr
Tags: #no zombies, #fantasy adult, #fantasy contemporary, #no vampires, #fantasy action adventure, #fantasy and action, #dark fanasy, #dark action adventure, #urban adult fantasy, #fantasy 2015 new release
By Alex Fedyr
Copyright © 2015 Alex Fedyr
This book is a work of fiction. All
characters, events, and locales are figments of the author’s
imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To all of my teachers, both in the
classroom and out.
My parents, my friends, and the people
I’ve met along the way...
This book would not exist without
Kalei tried to ignore the
shouts that echoed in the back of her mind.
She could still see
those black-nailed fingers closing around her father’s
Excuse me, ma’am. If you
aren’t doing anything tonight, we are holding a memorial to
remember those lost on E-day. There will be a live performance
Kalei pulled out of her reverie and
realized that a young man in a nice pair of jeans and a button-up
shirt was trying to push a pamphlet into her hand. She barked, “I’m
on duty. Bug off.”
His eyebrows jumped slightly, but he
quickly moved off to find another victim.
Lost on E-day...”
The kid’s word choice was spot on. They couldn’t
exactly say, “Died on E-day,” when half the victims still lived
Downtown. They might as well be dead, though. Better to just finish
them all off and be done with it.
A car horn blared, and once again,
Kalei’s attention was dragged to the present. From where she stood,
leaning against the bank on Fifth and State, she couldn’t
identify the source in the mid-day traffic jam. The tendency of the
encroaching skyscrapers to amplify and distort sounds annoyed her.
Then again, everything annoyed her today.
Marley laughed and smacked her on the
shoulder. “Sleeping on the job, Officer Distrad?”
Kalei ignored him for a moment,
pushing off from the building and scanning the crowd clogging the
sidewalk. Professionals in suits, tourists with cameras, fanatics
handing out pamphlets, fashionistas prancing along in their
stilettos... for all appearances, it looked like just another day
on Fifth. But she could easily spot the locals in the crowd, the
anniversary weighing heavily on every one of them. Whether it
showed in the slump of their shoulders, or the grim cast to their
eyes, the screams of the past rang in everyone’s ears
Kalei replied, “Sleeping on the job?
Eh, no more than usual.”
She finally looked at Marley, a fairly
short figure, rounded at the edges, but not fat. Marley harbored an
impressive collection of muscle beneath that soft exterior. Once,
she had seen him throw down a man twice his size, just to make a
point to the rest of the bar as he arrested the brawler for assault
on a police officer.
Marley let the smile that always
lurked behind his eyes break out, making his round face light up.
“It’s no wonder SWORDE doesn’t want to hire a slacker like
Is that so? Well, I’m not
too worried. A numbskull like you isn’t going to be promoted
anytime soon. At least I’ll have good company.”
Marley laughed again. Kalei wondered
if he was trying to be extra cheerful to make up for her sour mood.
“C’mon, Slacker. We’re supposed to be on patrol.”
The pair made their way down the
sidewalk, cutting through the indifferent crowd. The day was
unusually warm and sunny. Between the shimmering skyscrapers, Kalei
spotted a narrow strip of bright, clear blue sky. The weather was
much too nice for E-day. For once, Kalei was grateful for the
perpetual gloom down on the streets. Even so, her hands sweltered
in their black polyester gloves. Regulations stated she had to wear
them at all times, but she didn’t see what good it did to wear
gloves when her short sleeves left the rest of her arm exposed. She
was about to say as much when her radio went off next to her ear.
“Estranged event reported at Sixth and Elm. Local units,
Kalei grabbed her radio and replied,
“Officers Distrad and Douglas on our way, current location
Fifth and State.”
Kalei got the rest of the details over
the radio as they ran: suspected Estranged, a young white female,
small grocery store, shots had been fired.
The once-indifferent crowd of
commuters and tourists stopped to watch Kalei and Marley run past.
Kalei ignored them, focusing on the path ahead, dodging those
pedestrians who didn’t hear her shouts to get out of the
As they neared the last turn, cries
rang through the air. A woman screamed, “Help! Please, my son is
Kalei and Marley came around the
corner, drawing their guns, alert for any sign of the attacker.
They found a woman clutching a man by the front of his suit,
shaking him, her eyes filled with tears, her voice filled with
desperation. A white and blue sundress clung to her body, stained
with streaks of blood. Sunglasses, forgotten, slid off the back of
her head, hanging on as one arm caught in a tangle of her curly
Kalei kept her gun pointed to the
ground, unsure if the woman was the victim or the attacker. The
sidewalk was empty, save for the struggling pair in front of the
store. A few pedestrians lingered at the end of the block,
watching; one young woman had a cell phone in hand, but the rest of
the foot traffic moved to the opposite side of the street,
studiously pretending they didn’t hear the commotion.
Still held by the woman, the older man
leaned back, a stethoscope around his neck, his hands poised to
push her off, although hesitant to touch her exposed skin. He
stammered, “Lady, please! I’m just an actor. I’m not a real doctor.
I can’t help ya.”
The woman’s hands were covered in
blood past her wrists, dying the man’s suit red where she held him.
She said, “He’s only five years old. Please, he needs help. If you
can just—” She spotted the officers and released him, turning to
Kalei instead. “Please.” She clasped her hands together and walked
toward the officers.
There was too much blood; Kalei
couldn’t see if her nails were black or not. For all she knew, this
could be the suspected Estranged.
You need to help him.
There is so much blood, he—”
Kalei held up her left hand. She said,
“Whoa, whoa. Calm down. Tell us what happened, ma’am.”
There’s no time! My son
The shop door opened and a man poked
his head out. He said in a thick accent, “You the police? Come. The
boy is hurt. Come!”
As the man beckoned, gesturing
urgently to Kalei, she could see that his nails were clear. She
holstered her gun and stepped forward, but Marley stopped her with
a hand on her shoulder. “Hey! You know protocol. We aren’t
authorized to go in there. We have to—”
Let a kid die? Ease
I’m serious! They’ll have
your badge if you screw up again. Just— have some sense. It could
be a trap.”
Estranged don’t have the
brains to set traps.” She pushed past him, but he grabbed her
How many times do I have
to tell you, we’re not Wardens, Kalei! We don’t have the
equipment–! You go in there and you’re dead or unemployed. Just do
your job. We need to set up a perimeter until SWORDE gets
Kalei pushed his hands off of her.
“Last I checked, Marley, I am still human. Fuck my job and fuck the
Wardens. I swore to protect these people and that’s what I’m going
to do.” This time, he didn’t stop her.
Inside the store, two adults – one
male and one female – lay dead on the ground. The female had her
brains shot out. A shelf had been knocked over, spilling crackers
and candy bars all over the floor; the shiny wrappers mingled with
the pool of blood from the dead woman. The blood didn’t bother
Kalei. Fenn used to say that with a stomach of steel like hers,
Kalei should have become a paramedic. Kalei always scoffed at that.
She was better at causing messes than fixing them.
A second, smaller pool of blood flowed
from a young boy who was crying on the floor where he leaned
against a stack of soda boxes. His upper thigh was bleeding
profusely through his tiny jeans. There were smudges of blood
across his blue jersey, and as he pushed his red fists to his
watery eyes, he smeared more blood across his cheeks.
Kalei knelt down, calling the
information into her radio before grabbing a first aid kit from the
shop owner. His hands shook as he babbled, “I didn’t know the lady
was Estranged, but when the gentleman went down, I had no time to
think— it was self-defense, I promise!”
Kalei ignored the man and offered a
few words of comfort to the child. With his mother’s help, she
pulled the boy away from the soda boxes, then laid him down on the
tile floor. She might not be a paramedic, but she had enough first
aid training to help this kid stay alive until they got here.
Pulling a pair of scissors from the first aid kit, she cut the
boy’s pants back from the wound and pulled out a thick pack of
gauze. While she worked, she asked the storekeeper, “How did this
happen to the kid?”
The woman, when she was
shot, she knocked the shelf over. The boy was caught
Kalei nodded absently, assessing a
four-inch slice on the boy’s quad. He had already lost a lot of
blood. A few more minutes and—
A siren wailed in the distance. Only
SWORDE’s vans made that particularly high, undulating
They must have been in the
area to get here this soon,
Kalei clenched her jaw and applied the
gauze to the boy’s wound. The boy screamed in pain and punched at
her arm. His mother sat beside him, soothing him and assuring him
that everything would be all right.
Meanwhile, the sirens
stopped. Kalei knew it was just a matter of seconds now before they
kicked her out and took her badge
Fucking E-day. Figures it
would be today...
Kalei glanced at the body of the dead
Estranged woman, dark memories crowding in with her darkening mood.
The woman’s face was turned toward Kalei, her mouth half submerged
in the pool of her own blood. She stared at Kalei with wide,
unseeing eyes, her hand stretched out on the floor with obsidian
nails. Those nails... they were all the proof Kalei needed to know
that the woman was guilty. Those black nails proved that the woman
was no longer a person; she was a mindless killer, bereft of any
humanity. She was Estranged.
Kalei felt her fury rise as those dead
eyes continued to stare at her, almost pleading as the black-nailed
hand reached for her. The Estranged blinked.
Kalei jumped back and released the