After surviving an alien invasion, a group of teens desperately search for answers and their world collapses around them.
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Sixteen-year-old Olivia Richards’ last day of normal is just that, normal. She worries about impressing Sawyer Rising, the hottest guy in school, and argues with her mother. Everything seems fine except for that strange, glowing plant in the yard and her dad lying to her and deaf twin brother Charlie, which is the weirdest thing of all because their parents do not lie to them. Ever.
Normal ends as lights shoot out of the sky and turn into stinging drones, killing their parents. As he lay dying, their father gives them cryptic clues about coordinates and begs forgiveness before insisting they leave.
The twins join forces with Olivia’s boyfriend Axel, her best friend Clara, and heartthrob Sawyer. Together they go in search of answers only to find conspiracy, death, and an awful truth about their families.
It was something out of dream, a wonderful and elusive fantasy. I don’t know about the others, but its exquisiteness captivated me. The brilliant rainbow-like streaks and bursts of exploding colors transformed the dark blue of the night sky into a giant Lite-Brite toy, and I loved it.
When the lights faded, twinkling sparks rained down on us. I bathed my face in the luminous, magical shower. Clara, Charlie, and I laughed as we twirled and danced amid the glimmering radiance.
The magic ended as the embers mutated from flickering fairies to stinging monsters the second they touched our skin. The first one landed on my arm, burning my flesh as if it was a spark from a campfire. I swatted it away, crying out in pain and surprise. With a grunt, Charlie smacked one on his leg. Clara made a squeaky eek noise as she brushed one off her cheek.
At the same time, one of the lights directly above us zigzagged back and forth before dropping. It tumbled slowly at first, gaining momentum as it fell, aiming straight at us, whisking so close, I heard it whoosh. Startled, I tripped, landing on the damp, blunt-edged grass. Near me, the light slammed into a large clump of azaleas—the same azaleas that glowed this morning— and exploded into a burst of bright red and yellow flames.
I scrambled to my feet, spooked. Neighbors screamed and ran, slapping at the hundreds, or thousands, or millions, of giant, stinging, burning sparks or bees or wasps or maybe even some monstrous flying fire ants—who could tell in all the madness—swarming around us in the street. It was like a scene from a sci-fi movie, except this was no movie. It was real. And it was terrifying.
“Come on, kids,” Dad shouted, his stony expression unreadable, and I wondered if he was scared too.
I’d never seen him afraid, ever, even when I fell out of the tree in our backyard and broke my leg in three places, my bones poking through my skin. While Mom and Charlie were bouncing all over the place, too nervous to do anything useful, Dad, calm and cool, took his phone out and dialed emergency, his voice steady as he explained what we needed. Tonight, his smooth exterior seemed to buckle inward as if he was collapsing into himself. I reached out to him, a cold terror seeping inside of me. I needed him to stay solid.
Out of the darkness, Einstein dashed in front of me and raced across the yard. Forgetting about Dad, I started after the cat.
“Move, Olivia.” Dad’s words came out harsh and sharp.
“I need to get Einstein.”
Over my objections, he thrust Charlie and me into the house as Mom moved to go after the cat. Dad stopped her by wrapping his hand around her slim arm. “No. We all go inside. Now.”
“Please, Kevin,” she said. “He’s scared.”
“I don’t care,” he answered brusquely as he shoved us through the door, shutting it behind him with a bang, his face smooth and expressionless.
Some of the stinging bugs had come in with us, and Dad swung his arms like a deranged windmill, swatting them. If I hadn’t been so afraid, I would have laughed at how outrageous he looked and how crazy the night had become.
“Help me out here, kids,” he yelled, and Charlie and I batted at the shiny black creatures, their loud buzzing reminding me of bees or wasps. I had just decided we’d got them all, when Mom staggered the few feet to the living room, and fell to the floor with a thud. Covered with welts, she flailed her arms spasmodically.
Freaked, I squatted on the floor next to her and Charlie joined me. I stroked her arm, telling her it was over, the stingers were gone. Despite her wide-open eyes, she didn’t appear to hear me and kept swiping at the air.
“Dad, there’s something wrong with Mom.”
He stopped his ridiculous flapping and knelt beside her. His face remained a mask, but his sharp intake of breath at the sight of her gave him away. He was as petrified as me. With a trembling hand, he brushed back Mom’s hair, kissing her face. “Don’t worry, Beth, they’re gone. The bugs are gone.”
Mom, still in a haze, kept asking, “Kevin, where are you? Kevin?”
Stroking her cheek, he turned to me and told me to call emergency, his face so tight, his lips barely moved. Behind his glasses, his eyes were wide, wider than I’d ever seen them. “Now,” he commanded in a tone so different from his usual, I managed to squash down my increasing terror and run to the hall table.
I picked up the phone, turned on the speaker, and dialed. With my sweating hand gripped tightly around the cool plastic, I raced back, kneeling so close to Mom my knees jammed into her side.
“I told you to call 9-1-1.”
“I did,” I insisted, cringing at my tone. This was not the time to whine. With Dad falling apart, I needed to take charge. For Charlie.
Dad glanced at the receiver in my hand. “It’s not ringing.”
With every bit of me focused on Mom, I hadn’t noticed the silence.
“Sorry, I thought I dialed the number.” I was puzzled. I knew I turned on the speaker. I tried again, striking the speaker button, but still no sound of any kind: no dial tone, no ringing, not even that annoying beeping home phones did when you forgot to hang up.
With unsteady fingers, I wiped my clammy hands on my shirt, hoping the wetness of my palms was the reason the phone wasn’t working. Pointless. Yes. Frantic? Big time.
Please, please, God, let there be a dial tone.