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Northern Flock

Adam's Story

January 1, 2082


It'd been too long since I spoke to my sister, so my New Year's resolution was to do just that. Even if the clock just stroke midnight. Even if I was drunk. Even if...oh, to hell with it.

I stomped up the icy steps, ignoring whatever could've possibly froze on the front steps in a humid Vendona winter, and slammed my fist against the front door. The last time I was here...oh, to hell with that, too.

I'm about to say to hell with this whole New Year's resolution thing, too. After all, the lights are off and the streets are quiet and no one seems to be celebrating the old holidays anyway, but then the door creaks open. And then it opens even more. And everything about hell ends up standing right in front of me.

My nine-year-old nephew Adam.

He is covered in blood.

Two Days Earlier

December 30, 2081


I color to block them out, not because I'm a kid, but because of them. Fighting. Again. Nothing new but nothing I like to be used to. It makes my stomach hurt, but more often than not, it makes me want to run. And I can do that, fast. Not that they know. No one knows that. No one but Jimmy. And he told me not to show anyone else right before he disappeared forever.

Ever since, their fighting has seemed louder.

"We can talk about this later." My dad has said this more than once a minute, but it's like my mother can't listen to anything but her own voice.

"When, Tom? Next year?" she sneers her mockery before throwing her hands up in the air. "Because it's next year in two days."

"Then we'll talk in two days."

"Oh, give me a break." In my peripheral vision, I see her sway to the side, jutting a hip out. She's thinner than usual; we all are. "The power will be out by then."

"I'm doing my best—"

"And me too, Tom"—she leans even further out—"but that doesn't keep the lights on."

"We'll light some candles. Go to a friend's. Something, hun. But we shouldn't talk about this in front..." He stops, and the silence is what makes me look up. He has brown eyes, lighter than mine and warmer than Mom's. We have black ones. I don't color with that crayon.

"He's heard it before." She even shoots me a smile, like the gesture means something. "And he wouldn't be used to it if you were better at selling cars."

"The market's rough."

"Everything's rough."

I go back to coloring.

They bicker for five—maybe six—more minutes before my dad slides into the chair next to me. I scoot back a little, only to press my chair against the desk next to the kitchen table I'm drawing on. He pretends not to notice.

"You know, when I was your age, I hated coloring."

He chuckles. It's my favorite sound in the whole world, but I'm not sure I've ever told him that. I really don't want to tell them anything. If I did, I'm afraid the one thing I should never say will come out. In fact, I know it will.

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