GENRE: YA SF
Tuesday, fourteen-hundred hours. I should be home studying remedial biotech. Instead I’m slapping at fire ants and adding a new layer of sunburn to my peeling skin. Watch duty. Honestly though, the only thing I’m watching seven hours into my shift is the back of my eyelids.
My left hand is on my rifle, my right is on the two-way radio, but my mind is trying to stay on the topic of mitochondria. I think I have a fifty-fifty of spelling it right, but otherwise all I remember about the critters is that they’re crazy small and apt to mutate. But I don’t dare study out here, in the open. The Family already suspects I’m losing faith. Today especially, on the eve of my sixteenth, I can’t afford to give them evidence.
I crack my eyelids to make sure I’m alone. All I see is a whole lot of familiar-looking nothing. A hundred meters down the knoll is our private patch of West Kentucky, all bleached bones and cracked earth. The compound sits two full kilometers away, so obscured by heat lines that there’s no way for Dad to see my disobedience. Still. He has ways of knowing the unknowable.
The Family still calls this place a ranch, but we haven’t grazed cattle since I was in diapers. As I understand it, Dad shot all the horses too. His is the gospel of loaded guns and hidden knives, of looking behind you, and especially above, because you never know. . . .