Happy Sunday! We hope you've all enjoyed your holiday weekend, however you chose to celebrate! Here at The Parliament House, we're switching gears, stoking the embers, and preparing for our resurgence in January...
Meanwhile, here are the first TWO chapters of our upcoming TUESDAY release, This Will Kill That, by Danielle K. Roux.
This Will Kill That, by Danielle K. Roux
"District City is full of monsters. Not the kind that appear particularly vile from the outside. The kind who murder innocent people for no apparent reason. Abandoned houses are haunted by wayward spirits. Leaders of rival Colors clash over the secrets of a brutal past. After the Plague thinned out the population, Rin Morana figured people would have stopped killing each other. No such luck. Her parents disappeared, and now she is set to take over as the new Lady Morana, head of the Green faction. To be a leader, Rin must contend with her relationship to her rival, Lady Amaya, as well as her own history of violence. A series of riddles take Amaya Verity out of her isolated room in the Blue compound and into the hidden spaces of the City. Running away from captivity, Amaya takes shelter with Rin at the old Sydis house. There she meets two young men with demons of their own to contend with and abilities to match. Alan who is hiding out from his abusive ex, and Kazuki who might be the only person in the City that remembers the events of the Plague. As they dig deeper, Amaya and Rin must decide whether to fight monsters or become them."
The One Where a boy meets a girl
(Three days from Wednesday, aka next Saturday, 5AM)
“Miss,” he yelled, slowing the bike. The motor coughed and sputtered into a smooth hum as he pulled up beside her. “This is a dangerous area, and a state of emergency has been declared.”
He stood astride the bike, weary about leaving it. Something felt off. She wasn’t the missing Lady. The girl was a stranger, but somehow familiar.
“Cool. Thanks for the info,” the young woman muttered.
He knew her Color now, the same way that everyone knew once they were close enough to someone. The act of perceiving Color was not something visual, there was just a message sent directly and converted into language in the brain without the use of the five senses. They are Blue, he is Green, she is Violet, and so on. But when he perceived her Color… it made him question everything he thought he knew before that moment.
She was Yellow.
He had never met someone in Yellow before. There were so few of them to begin with, and it was said they were weak and sickly by nature - cowards and traitors, and as such, they were declared enemies of the city. He thought they had all been rounded up and executed long before he was born.
“I am not leaving you out here alone,” he said, noticing she was walking again. “There was an attack earlier.”
She paused again. “Ah.” She failed to look at him, her gaze downcast, watching the pavement while she spoke, “What kind of attack?”
He cleared his throat. “Something happened at the Blue Embassy. No details yet, but there’s no telling what it could mean.” He motioned towards his bike. “Let me take you home. I can give you a ride. It would be faster than walking.”
“No, thank you.” She turned away. “I’ll manage just fine on my own.”
“Wait!” He turned off the bike, and stepped away from it. “Miss, you don’t understand—this place is too dangerous. I will not allow you to continue alone.”
He approached her cautiously, unsure of how she would react. She was smaller than he had perceived from farther away and smelled slightly of copper, a bright metallic scent. He kept his distance.
“Leave me alone,” she told him firmly.
“No,” he replied. Something told him he should listen to her, leave her be. His orders were to secure the area and keep civilians indoors—even civilians who weren’t Blue. He would follow those orders.
The girl resumed walking. He followed her.
“Can I take you home?” he tried.
“No,” she simply stated, twisting around. Her dark coat had come unbelted, revealing a blood-soaked dress underneath.
“Miss,” he stammered, “are you… all right?”
“It’s not my blood.”
He noticed the glint of a short knife in her right hand. His pulse quickened, his ears filling with the course of blood in his veins. He had such little time to react as he reached into his holster and drew his gun.
She watched him, her eyes narrowed.
His finger was on the trigger, his gun following her serene movements as he thought of all the families in the golden lit façades ten feet away. He thought of the shapeless, nameless monsters that dwelt in the shadows looking to gobble up helpless women and children. He thought of his lost love.
The girl got closer.
“One slice, swift and precise.
“Always so much left unsaid,” the girl whispered.
He never shot the gun. It fell out of his hand and landed with a thud onto the pavement. Then he crumbled beside it.
The girl picked up the gun and slid it into her coat pocket. “But maybe it’s better that way.”
The One Where Amaya gives Rin a birthday present
She could hardly see it at all in the darkness—only a small glint of light from the waning moon would catch the smooth metal as she moved the blade “through the air. First tapping it restlessly with her fingernails. Next tracing her calloused fingertips over the sharpness. Eventually she folded it back, placing it in the pocket of her dress where it would remain, cool and certain. Amaya Verity was waiting to meet someone. The space had once been a building with a clear purpose—a train station, maybe? Or perhaps a factory? Now it was a hollow shell of mossy stone, twisted iron, and broken glass. Above, vaults rose to be fifteen or twenty feet tall, and below, cracked tiles were pushed apart by the roots of trees. Other than her, the only other living thing inside were the trees—thin trees with twisted branches that clawed at the walls. The place smelled of damp wood and rusted metal.She wore a blue dress—she always wore sapphire blue to their meetings. Rin said the “color brought out the richness in her mahogany skin. Her eyes were golden brown, large and glossy—like a doll’s eyes—another thing Rin admired.Amaya currently wore her soft black hair up in a twisting sculpture of braids piled on her head. She was blinking rapidly, keeping her expression as blank as she could, so as not to reveal her intentions. Inside, she felt like she was drifting through an endless sea of numb nothingness, waiting to drop off the edge into a pit. She reassured herself that she existed, she was here. There was no edge—no pit— just her body in a space with trees, mold, and broken glass.A chill wind rattled the branches, causing them to scratch at the stone. She pulled her knees to her chest, the knife slipping from her pocket, clattering against the floor. Amaya muttered a curse, reaching for the blade.
“May?” a whisper sounded in the dark. “Where are you?”
“Here,” Amaya replied, shoving the weapon beneath her skirt.
A light flickered, and a face—a tawny oval half-covered by waves of wild reddish-brown hair—appeared a short distance away. Rin Morana seemed more intense than usual, her grey eyes, reflecting the flame, were red-rimmed and swollen. She must not have been sleeping.
“Rin, are you okay?” Amaya’s tone was laced with genuine concern despite her efforts to sound as casual as Rin always did. Amaya had hoped that the sleeping pills she’d smuggled into their last meeting would help with the insomnia, but the feeling wafting off Rin was a deeper exhaustion than Amaya had observed before.
“Not really.” Rin blew out the match and flopped down beside Amaya.
“Did something happen?”
“You haven’t heard.”
“They were found…” She paused. “Dead.”
“Oh.” Amaya wasn’t sure what to say. If Rin’s parents were dead, what did that mean for her? For the two of them and their secret meetings? She shouldn’t be so selfish, she should think about Rin—Rin’s feelings. What did normal people say to each other in times like these? Amaya tried to remember a scene in a book where one character comforted another. The words felt dry and heavy in her mouth as she spoke them, “Sorry for your loss.”
“Don’t be.” Rin scoffed, leaning back against the spindly trunk of a nearby tree, strands of hair falling in her eyes. “I’m not.”
“They were your parents, even if they were terrible people,” Amaya whispered, her “thoughts drifting. Deep down, Rin must have felt something for the people who had raised her. Even she couldn’t be that callous. Rin’s parents had unconventional parenting methods, sure, but that didn’t change the fact that they were family. Blood. Not that Amaya had a conventional childhood to compare, her father had kept her locked up in a literal tower. She still loved him, though. Probably.Rin laughed. A short, sharp sound that burst through Amaya’s reverie.
“They were terrible, I guess.” Rin sighed. “Somehow that’s an understatement. Like, getting food poisoning is terrible. Orchestrating mass murder is kind of...”
“Monstrous,” Amaya suggested, trying out the term. She’d never spoken that one aloud before. It had a playful feel to it, she liked the way her tongue and lips would move to form the consonant sounds.
“Rin gave another sad and stifled laugh. “They were just people who worked normal, boring jobs, went to the grocery store, and watered their houseplants before. They took me to the park, the zoo, and to get ice cream. Can you picture it? They used to do that. I mean, everyone did.” She frowned. “Right?”
“I don’t know,” Amaya thought aloud. “I don’t remember anything from before the Plague. No one talks about it with me. No one talks about anything with me—except for you.”
“I’m not shocked about it or anything.” Rin continued, ignoring Amaya’s small confession. She tended to ignore anything Amaya said that might reveal that the pair of them were more than co-conspirators.
Amaya moved a little closer, “Rin…”
“Them being dead. It was expected. They disappeared like a week ago, and we figured they wouldn’t be found. Or if they were “found, they would be in bad shape.” Rin shrugged. “There had been death threats pouring in ever since I could remember. That’s what happens when you make enemies with everyone else.”“What will you do now?” Amaya asked, though she already knew the answer. Rin would inherit the Green leadership, that’s would she would do. They would be official enemies—more so than before.“Nothing really. Another family will probably take over the Green faction.”
“What? Why would another family take over?” Amaya clutched the handle of the knife under her skirt, needing to feel grounded to something solid. She had to take a minute to remind herself that she was real. A person in a body. Sitting in a real place, with another real person. Rin. Sometimes Rin said things so unexpected it would send her questioning her own reality—as “though this whole scene was nothing but a story she was reading, curled up safe and warm in her bed.Rin raised her eyebrows. “Well, I’m not going to run the thing. I haven’t even been near the Council in years—not since that attack on the Violet Embassy. Everything was already so messed up, I can’t imagine what it’s like now.”“But won’t they force you to be the Green leader?” Amaya wondered. “When my father steps down, I’ll become Blue’s ruler. There’s no… letting them fight it out. They won’t allow that to happen, it would make us too vulnerable. We would be easy targets for the other Colors. We’d be destroyed.”“You mean the Green could destroy you—I could destroy you,” Rin said as though she only half meant it. She never fully meant anything she said.
“Yes, you could,” Amaya acknowledged without backing down. Her fist remained curled around the handle of the knife. She could feel the metal digging into her flesh.
“Or are you trying to tell me that when I give up my position, the same thing could happen? That we would become an easy target, and fall apart within the ranks?” Rin shrugged. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you my plan… you could use this information against us. But… you wouldn’t do that, would you?”
“I don’t know,” Amaya responded, loosening her grip on the knife’s handle. She pressed her palms into the cold dirt and tried to maintain her usual vacant expression. She was taught to show as little emotion as possible. If an enemy knew how she felt, that was a weakness to be used against her. If an ally knew how she felt, that was just plain“selfish and rude. Only others were allowed emotions—not Lady Amaya.“Like I care,” Rin muttered, diffusing the tension when the silence dragged on for too long. “Go after the Green with everything you have, if you like. I have no loyalty to them; I have no loyalty to anyone.”‘No loyalty to anyone.’ The words stuck in Amaya’s chest, and she shifted her weight, feeling the knife beneath her knee now.“Do you ever think about leaving the city?” Rin asked, clearly changing the subject. “They say that there are entire towns out there left empty. There’s pantries full of canned soup and snack cakes, so you could just take whatever you wanted and live there.”She tapped her fingers on her bare knee. She was wearing a black hoodie with black jeans that had rips and tears, teasing bits of soft skin beneath. It made her look vulnerable and dangerous at the same time. Amaya loved those jeans.“No electricity or running water, but we could figure something out. Rig some photovoltaics, rain barrels. Grow… crops.”“Crops?”“It would be peaceful.” Rin moved closer to her, placing an arm around her shoulders. Amaya flinched at the contact. Rin was trying to get her used to being touched. It was such a foreign idea to her—to have physical contact with another person that wasn’t medical.“I think it would be torture.” Amaya’s mouth twisted nervously, despite her efforts to remain neutral. Rin’s arm tightened. Amaya could feel Rin’s body heat. Warmth seeped through, making her feel agitated with an electric charge. Her pulse buzzed in her ears. She wasn’t sure what she was saying, the words slipping out without her “filtering them first. “You’d be sleeping in some dead person’s bed.”“We all sleep in the houses of the dead. We wear their shoes on our feet, their clothes on our backs. This city is a damn charnel house, May.” Rin shifted her arm, hand seeking Amaya’s hand to hold. She paused when she felt something cool and hard brush against her fingers.“May, what’s this?” she asked, holding the object up.“It’s for protection,” Amaya spurted, seeing the knife in Rin’s hand.“Against me?”“No.”“Do you even know how to use this thing?” Rin flipped out the blade, examining it in the faint light of the creeping dawn coming through the windows. “I thought you didn’t believe in violence.”“I don’t, but this is a violent place.”
“Who gave it to you?” Rin made a fist around the handle of the knife and punched, the blade swishing through the air near Amaya’s head, causing her to flinch.
“Would you use it?”
“It’s not for me.”
“Some people say it’s bad luck to give knives as gifts, so you’re supposed to tape a coin to the handle. I couldn’t find any coins or tape, but I thought it was beautiful, and it reminded me of you… So, I wanted you to have it.”
Suddenly imbued with meaning, the knife felt heavy in Rin’s hand as she set it down in front of her and stared at it.
“Happy birthday,” Amaya spoke quietly.
“I…” Rin was shocked, Amaya had never seen her shocked before. Her thick dark eyebrows had risen to the point of blending “into her hairline, her lips parted open—and remained so—even after she spoke. Amaya worried that this was all a dream. She dug her fingers into the dirt beside her, scratching at the roots of the dying trees, trying to feel something real.“I know you don’t believe in violence anymore—that violence only leads to more violence—but it’s important that you keep yourself safe.” Amaya allowed the barest trace of a smile form on her face. “Even if you end up doing something you don’t want to do… anything is worth it to stay alive, right?”“Yeah.” Rin’s face fell back to the normal slack expression. Her voice sounded immeasurably sad, like someone who had lived much longer than her now nineteen years. “To stay alive.”“It’s getting late,” Amaya said suddenly, and stood up, brushing off her skirt. Her “body felt heavy. Being with Rin drained her, though she looked forward to every visit, she always left with less of herself. “I’d better go.”“Okay,” Rin replied sullenly, flipping the blade of the knife open, and closing it again and again.“Let’s meet again soon.”“Unless I’ve run away by then.”“Unless you’ve run away,” Amaya repeated, the thought tainting her voice with unspoken distress. “Or I disappear.”
“You won’t disappear.”“How can you be so sure?”
“I just know.”Rin closed the knife and put it in her pocket, offering her open palm. Amaya stretched out her hand over Rin’s, her wrists trembling. She lowered her hand until their palms touched, closing the distance between “them. Rin’s fingers laced between hers, grip tightening as her grey eyes locked with Amaya’s, searching her face for signs of something.Amaya wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but she must have found it, because Rin smiled and pulled Amaya in closer. - Amaya could feel her breath as their lips almost touched. Now Amaya was certain this was not a dream.“Is this too much?” Rin asked.“No.” Amaya’s breath caught in her throat. Her heart pounding against her ribcage with such force that she could barely stand still. “Maybe.”“Okay.” Rin let her hand go and stepped back, separating them.Amaya fell away, her breath steadying. She could smell the rusty dampness, feel the cool night air, but somehow it felt faded and “worn. “I really should go. Goodnight, Rin,” she whispered as she turned. She knew Rin was watching her walk away, and wished she knew what Rin felt in that moment of their parting.
“Goodnight, May,” Rin’s voice was distant. They should have kissed. Maybe next time—there better be a next time.