by Tatiana White (@tatixtia)
Editor: Kyle V. Hiller (@KyleLiterally)
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY meets Rainbow Rowell’s CARRY ON, DARK GALAXY is a YA fantasy with sci-fi and romantic elements. Complete at 90,000 words, it is a standalone novel.
ALEXIA JACOBS, a black sixteen-year-old activist, electrocuted her father. He’s on the edge of death, laid out on a beach after her hidden powers accidentally shot him. If Alexia wants to stay free from death row, she must run from the regime her politician father SENATOR JACOBS built to eradicate superhumans like her. Much like her best friend SARAI when she was wrongly convicted of murder.
Alexia flees to safety in a superhuman realm. But when Alexia learns that SARAI has been kidnapped from prison and taken to this new realm to be sacrificed, she realizes things aren’t safe there, either. REVENIRS, urban legends working as hitmen, reside in the realm. And Alexia is the one they’ve been looking for: she’s the lone carrier of the Eve gene—the gene that will help the Revenirs kill off Earth’s population and breed elite superhumans.
With the help of a teleporting boyfriend and pyrokinetic prankster friend, Alexia works to expose the Revenirs and rescue Sarai. But nothing can prepare Alexia for the war of saving a friend turned blood-thirsty foe, especially when the blood craved, is hers.
I was raised in the suburbs of California's Bay Area, the only black girl in almost every setting. I ached to be recognized in the same light as my peers and not as a stereotype. This is what inspired me to create Alexia's journey towards self-love, and black sisterhood amid adversity.
I am a freelance writer and graduate of California State University of Sacramento with a study in Journalism. In 2015, an early draft of DARK GALAXY won an award in the annual Watty’s contest—the world’s largest writing competition.
First Five Pages
One hundred twenty-one files sit on my desk. Neat, crisp with the scent of ink stamped on clean white papers. Collated and stapled, they’re sandwiched perfectly in the blue folders. No coffee rings from the last handler, or oil spots from the fingers of a Cheez-it fiend. These files are fresh, unopened by anyone before me. Just the way I like them.
I can scrub through these files within the next forty-five minutes. Not for clout among the interns or making goals, but to find someone. Sarai. My ace. My best friend. She was taken away for murder. For slipping her fingers into a man’s skull and painting the walls red.
An annoying figure looms over my desk. “What is that, Alexia? Your third stack of inmates this week?”
“Who’s counting?” I don’t look up, even though I know the answer to this question.
“Of course you are, Bryce.” I press my fingers into my palm. I know I’m making a face my mom would tell me to correct. But at least I’m trying not to.
“Well the rules do state we’re to go through two stacks a week,” Bryce replies. Full condescension in his voice. Hair slicked so clean to his head that it looks glued. This fool thinks he’s Gordon Gekko. “Two is the number, and here you are on a Wednesday on your third. And listen, I understand that the way you got this job makes you overzealous but—”
“How exactly did I get this job, Bryce? Hmm? Affirmative action? Or nepotism? Well, both would be feasible if I didn’t have a 4.3 G.P.A. with four letters of recommendations from professors and the CEOs of the non-profit I’ve volunteered for every summer, and a killer interview. Right?”
Moded. That’s the look on his once smug face. Absolutely moded. “Yeah, totally.”
He drifts back to his cubicle, him and his suspenders.
I smirk and whisper, “…and don’t come back.”
Bryce can’t ever seem to help himself from butting into my business. He never seems to believe I accomplish things fairly. Oh no… there must be some unjust reason as to why he’s not the best Legislative intern at the Capitol. But there isn’t. I’m pretty much a girl who gets things done for the sheer thrill of crossing out tasks. That’s what made Sarai and me click, her drive. Anything she had in mind, she did, and she’d be the best at it. But killing someone? She’d never cross out a task—not like that.
Sarai could light up any space. No matter the mood or the subject matter. She could be the sun. Always warm. Always so damn optimistic it. It was contagious. Sarai was full of goodness. But maybe all her goodness doesn’t mean anything in light of her bad cells. The concept of those overshadow any good Sarai has to offer this world. And that’s because this world isn’t made for people like her. People like her.
I stare outside the window and find the streets filled with them. With all this noise in my head, I’ve almost forgotten about the protest outside. Variens want their rights back, and they won’t wait for our country to come around. They will make it happen now. Sectioned Housing Is Segregation. Kill The California Screen Bill! Senator Jacobs Is A Murderer.
A knot swells inside my throat and I decide it’s time to dive into these inmate files and push my pain away. Focus. Focus.
I open the first folder. The paper is blank. The smell of ink, however, lifts from the page—telling of the words I’ll uncover. I hold my pen and click the button on its side. A laser shines through its tip, waking the paper’s information and revealing it line by line before my eyes: Wayne Camden. Twenty-four-year-old male with precognition abilities. Registered at Banneker State Prison for theft by deception. Multi-state lottery fraud. Sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
My hand hovers down the page until the laser shows a full-page report. There’s nothing left to do but insert my pen into the computer. The file transfers successfully and then I’m on to the next. The last of the report appears and I repeat the rest of the usual routine before I come to another file: Raima Singh. Sixteen-year-old female with glass manipulation abilities. Registered at Crihook Women’s Row for committing homicide. Sentenced to death.
Homicide equals death. Every now and then I stumble across a case like Sarai’s. And whether the Varien was justly or wrongfully convicted makes no difference to me. Because every time—every time—homicide is listed, so is the sentence of death. I can’t help the squeezing I feel in my stomach when it happens. My mouth goes arid and panic comes, and then more panic arrives from the fear of my co-workers seeing me dig myself into a full-blown anxiety attack.
It’s the realization that Sarai, my sixteen-year-old best friend, is on death row somewhere. Her light blown out. Her soul broken. It’s been four months since I’ve seen Sarai. Eight months since her body betrayed her—when it turned her into a Varien. I’ve never stopped searching for her. And I don’t think I ever will. She would never give up on me.
“Ugh just look at them…” My boss Stasi groans as she eyes the protesting crowd from her desk. “Breaking out of their sections to stampede the Capitol…all because this bill passed. It’s scary. They’re just so angry.”
Those voices outside sound like cries to me. A melancholy that pierces through the walls like spears and rattles the windows. Those people stand and march with more grace than any of the cushy Normals here. They walk in everyday with sunglasses covering their sleepy eyes, and a 32-ounce coffee with way too many shots to disguise their regular entitled laziness.
The gag is: the espresso seems to bring out who they really are. All I hear are things that don't make times better—blindness—and I'm sick of it all. I need a break.
Stasi draws her attention away from the window and finds me grabbing my purse. “You're leaving? Your dad isn't here to pick you up yet.”
I tuck in my bottom lip. Maybe it'll tame the sharp things I want to say. “Yeah, no. Just gonna head out for a quick bite. I forgot to pack my snacks and all I can think about is sweet potato pie.”
“You're going out there...in all of that?” Stasi's eyes widen as she points.
“Why not? I mean...it's just a protest.”
“A dangerous one,” Bryce butts in, again. “Today isn’t the day to choose their side, Alexia. Your dad wouldn’t want you to.”
Oh gosh. I should’ve gagged him and locked him up in the janitor’s closet before work started. “Seriously, they're just marching and holding signs.” My hands slap against the sides of my thighs, and I realize I'm getting worked up. “That's peaceful protest guys, first amendment 101, c'mon. It's not a riot.” If there weren't hundreds of fed-up people outside, we'd be able to hear a pin drop. The entire Legislative intern team is quiet.
There’s forced patience in Stasi’s voice. “Just be careful, and hurry. Your dad is supposed to pick you up soon. He'll freak out if you get stuck out there.”
“I'll be fine,” I assure Stasi and the office. They don't think I will be, but they don't say anything else. We'd just keep arguing, and after two months of working together, they know I'll never fold on Varien civil rights. Which, to them, isn’t a good look for myself, the office, and my family. It’s a stain.
I make a fast break for the bathroom and it becomes obvious that I’ve been on pause all day. Heat rushes to my cheeks, then pulses through the rest of my body. The surge is so hot, I check the mirror for any red marks on my face. None. Just the caramel brown hue I wear every day. “You’re losing it,” I whisper into a pant. My breathing speeds faster and faster as I think of my friend, and when I feel my temperature rising, I begin to reel myself in. “No. No. No…”