Authors: Kat Ellis
Tags: #Fantasy & Magic, #epub, #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #ebook, #QuarkXPress, #Performing Arts, #circus
Kat Ellis grew up in Rhyl, North Wales and studied English with Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is an active blogger, amateur photographer and sci-fi enthusiast and enjoys watching scary films with her husband and feral cat. She speaks Welsh fluently and French badly. Blackfin Sky is her first novel. Follow her at Katelliswrites.blogspot.co.uk Twitter @el_kat
Silas’ spirit had inhabited the rusting weathervane for many years. From his perch on the school roof he watched the townsfolk of Blackfin through his empty eye socket as they buzzed through their lives beneath him, no more significant than the grains of sand piling up against the shoreline, clinging to the struts of Blackfin Pier.
To Silas, the pier looked like a single raised finger aimed at the visiting whales which had given the town its name. It was the same pier from which a girl had fallen to her death three months earlier – or perhaps jumped, though nobody truly believed that. Either way, the ocean had swallowed her long enough to leach the colour from her lips, the breath from her lungs.
The girl – Skylar Rousseau – had been pretty enough, and not completely without brains, Silas thought. But that wasn’t the reason behind the town’s fascination with her. There was simply something
about the girl that could hold an entire town transfixed, though they were unaware of the extent of their obsession until she plummeted into the icy coastal waters and left them dumb with grief.
Silas, being somewhat
himself, had found the entire affair a little dull. Having once been the town’s pastor, he knew he ought to care a little, but now, after so much time spent gazing upon them in silence, Silas turned on his rusted axis to face the ocean.
And there she was.
Skylar raced along the main road without a glance across the bluff, towards the pier which had witnessed her final moments of life. She passed the gnarled oak at the school gates, knocking the old swing which hung from the lowest branch, making it creak with a sound like a baby crying. She ran, her red coat flapping around her legs like dislocated wings, boots echoing off the pitted pavement.
This girl looked nothing like the pale corpse Silas had seen hauled onto the boards of the pier. Yet she was unmistakably Skylar Rousseau, from her determined frown to her unforgivably ugly boots. It was her, very much her.
Silas thought with a satisfied sigh,
But Silas wasn’t the only one watching the girl. Standing at the end of the same pier where the girl died, a man shrouded by a long woollen coat observed from beneath the brim of his bowler hat.
* * * * *
Blackfin stood silent except for the damp thudding of Sky’s boots kicking up puddles as she ran. She was late, the eighth strike of the bell breaking the spell of silence, ringing out to scold her from a clock tower whose location nobody in town seemed to know. But that was the way of things in Blackfin.
With the break came the booming backfire of Old Moley’s truck a few streets over, and time resumed its normal speed as the final chime dwindled to nothing.
Sky checked her watch as she skirted past the Penny Well, careful not to pass too close or she’d find all the coins vanished from her pockets.
I’m so dead.
She turned into the school gates at a run. Still, she took the time to wave to Silas sitting up on the roof. It was commonly known that failing to salute Silas as you passed would result in foul weather. Besides, courtesy cost nothing, as Sky’s mother often reminded her.
Sky opened the front door to the school at the exact moment a gale-force gust took hold of it, slamming it open against the crumbling brick exterior with a sound louder than the backfire of Old Moley’s truck. Every student packed into the hallway stopped, turned, and stared. That same eerie silence descended again, as though the town itself held its breath.
‘Jeez, who died?’ Sky muttered, turning from one surprise-slackened face to the next and trying to ignore the lump that had settled in her chest. She was used to the staring; it would have been impossible not to become a little desensitised to it after sixteen years of incessant gawping. But this was different, somehow. It felt … new.
The wind slammed the door shut behind her, but she was the only one who jumped.
Sky side-stepped the two youngest Swiveller brothers, whose oversized heads and lurky tendencies perfectly suited their name. One had his mouth hanging open now to such a degree that Sky could see the gum stuck to his teeth on one side as his head swivelled to follow her. She was glad when the gum dislodged from his rotten little teeth and dropped to the floor, breaking his black-eyed stare as he stooped to retrieve it, only to find it had disappeared. The tiled floor of Blackfin High was almost human in its aversion to grime, as though gum and muddy footprints were an affront to the high shine Old Moley had given it with his buffing machine.
Relief snapped through Sky as she spotted Sean further along the corridor. He was at his locker, his head dipped to peer inside, having somehow missed the strange atmosphere she had caused simply by stepping through the door.
She watched her feet instead of Sean until she was standing next to him, which helped untie the knot of excited dread lodged in her throat. As always, a string of strawberry liquorice hung from the corner of his mouth, and as always, Sky snapped an inch or two from the end and started chewing on it.
Normally, Sean would have looked up from underneath his tangle of hair and made a joke about going in after the stolen liquorice, but today he flinched, and she realised he hadn’t heard her over his MP3 player. At any other time, Sky would have laughed at his shocked expression. Now, it only added to her unease.
Sean pulled the buds from his ears, his hand almost seeming to tremble, which was odd.
‘Sean,’ she whispered, quite aware that the other students were listening to every word. ‘Why is everyone acting so weird? Did someone die?’
Sean reached out as though to brush a strand of hair away from Sky’s face, and her heart fluttered like too many birds in a cage. She suspected he knew he had this effect on girls, and that was why he did it. Of course it didn’t mean anything when he did it with
but the result was the same.
But he didn’t sweep her hair aside this time. Instead he jabbed the tip of one finger at her forehead.
Before Sky could finish, Sean had pulled her into a hug so fierce she couldn’t breathe.
‘Sean … Sean, you’re crushing me.’
He pulled away from her as though she’d screamed, which she certainly hadn’t.
‘Where have you been? All this time … I thought you were…’ He didn’t even finish the question. The space where he had been standing was now empty, his fist making a loud bang against one of the lockers further along the row as he stalked towards the fire exit.
She tried to ignore the whispers that started up as the door swung closed behind him, but then someone grabbed her arm. Randy Swiveller stared down at her, his face blanched whiter than usual.
‘Randy, I have to…’
His eyes stopped her, the bulging black orbs boring into her.
‘Randy, you’re hurting my arm.’ Sky pulled free of his grip, thoroughly annoyed. Being hugged by Sean was one thing, but that didn’t give Randy Swiveller the right to manhandle her. Sky levelled him with her finest glare.
She didn’t wait for his response, but dashed through the fire escape after Sean, wiping the unpleasant residue of Randy’s hands on her coat, glad to leave the swell of noise behind.
Sean paced next to his car as Sky reached the car park. His hair was wet from the rain and slicked into semi-spirals, his eyes following the seagulls flying overhead. The gulls never landed in Blackfin, but Sean was still getting used to the ways of the town, still watching for one to break the rule.
When he had first walked into her classroom two years ago, Sean’s grandpa-style cardigan and dorky glasses had made Sky wince in sympathy for the hard time he was going to get in Blackfin High. But Sean had stood at the front of the class, looking as though he knew exactly what the students were thinking, and couldn’t give a damn.
I wish I was like him.
That had been Sky’s first thought upon seeing his smirk. The second had focused more closely on the interesting contours of his lips, and Sky had promptly taken to hiding behind her hair whenever Sean Vega looked her way. At least, until his sister had become one of her best friends, and allowed her to talk to Sean without her tongue becoming a giant landfill.
Sky hurried across the car park to him now, her book-bag smacking against her hip with each step and rainwater sloshing over the tops of her pilgrim boots until they squeaked. Sean looked up at the sound.
real, then.’ Sky had no idea what to say to that, and simply stood watching his fingers clench and unclench around his car keys. ‘Where have you been, Skylar?’
She met his eyes. He did not look happy. ‘Stop giving me the
treatment, Sean. I don’t know what you’re talking about, or why those idiots in there were acting like … well, idiots. What’s going on? Is this some kind of joke? Because if it is, I don’t get it. And it sucks.
His expression wavered, and for a moment he was normal again. ‘It really is you.’ She had the impression a smile lurked somewhere beneath the bewildered stare, but it was difficult to say for certain. ‘But … where have you been all this time? Everyone thought you were …
thought you were…’ He looked away, rain streaming over his face.
Sky spoke slowly, still trying to fathom what simple thing she must be missing that would make sense out of all this.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sean. I haven’t been anywhere. I’ve been right here.’
He muttered to himself, but Sky only caught the word ‘coma’. Sean stopped.
‘What date is it?’