It soon becomes apparent that they are, in fact, the only other two present to take part in the Connection. One is a young man—who, with dark skin and short hair, looks on at the crowd with nearly-black eyes. The other youth is a young woman, possibly only a little older than me, with a shock of red hair that tangles over her pale, freckled skin. She considers me only for a moment before nodding and turning her attention to the crowd bordering the edges of the Ascended Circle.
Curito steps out from the shadowy depths of the Illuminarium’s entryway.
The three of us bow our heads in acknowledgement.
“Good morning,” he says.
“Good morning,” the three of us reply.
“I assume you all are ready to bear witness and attempt a Connection?”
The three of us nod in response.
“Good,” Curito replies, and presses a hand to first the pale girl’s shoulder, then the young man’s. When his hand falls upon mine, his fingers tighten around my upper arm, and he says, “May She find you worthy.”
“May She find us worthy,” we repeat.
The man nods one last time before saying, “They’re about to begin.”
The media—who have arrived with cameramen and drones and reporters—draw close to fix their broadcasting equipment upon us.
“Hello, and welcome to the annual Connection,” the newscaster named Ramona Wild says.
The crowd cheers.
The wind responds in kind.
“It is our greatest honor to have with us today the three students whose hard work, dedication, and belief in our society has marked them as exemplary.”
Several people cheer. Some nod. A few others bow their heads and begin to pray.
The dark-haired woman turns her head and points toward us.
A floating drone—whose flight is aided by two rapidly spinning gears—draws forward to take in our appearances.
The pale girl smiles.
The dark boy nods.
And I—I merely look on, as the Nexus that is at our God’s center begins to pulse with light.
“As has occurred throughout our past,” Ramona Wild begins,“and will continue to occur in our present and our future, we will now allow our God the chance to Connect with the three young people before you.”
“Kimberly Addams,” a tall man from the Extant Facilities says. “Will you please step forward.”
The pale girl’s smile is gone. In its place is something akin to determination. This guides her forward on careful feet, on unsure limbs, and in silent trepidation.
As she comes to stand in the center of the Ascended Circle—where, it could be said, that all men’s dreams come to thrive or die—the God’s tendrils extend to the far reaches of the city and blanket the sky above us in a miasma of pale blue light. The girl’s eyes are wide as saucers, but it isn’t this that draws my attention.
It’s the single tendril that appears from the God’s usually dark Nexus that captures my gaze.
Golden in color, and bright as any fire, it slowly extends on the pale wind emanating from the God’s Nexus, and comes to hover directly above the girl.
She tilts her head back. Closes her eyes. Waits.
Then, the God touches her, and attempts the Connection.
For several long moments we wait.
My heart pounds. My breath runs ragged.
Within moments, Kimberly Addams collapses.
What has just begun has now ended.
The crowd gasps.
Two members of the Extant Facilities draw forward to collect the redhead from the Ascended Circle.
“Jonah Armstrong,” the man who ushered Kimberly Addams forward says. “Please step into the Ascended Circle.”
The young man swallows, and nervously glances at me before taking several steps forward. He comes to a halt at the edge of the circle, then closes his eyes.
At first, I’m unsure why he’s stopped.
Then I realize why.
He’s trembling—literally vibrating with fear.
“Jonah,” Curito says, taking a step forward. “What is wrong? Why aren’t you going?”
“I’m scared,” Jonah replies. “Huh-Holy Conduit Curito, I’m… I’m scared.”
“There is nothing to fear, my son. She will merely graze your conscience to determine if you are Her Conduit.”
Jonah looks past our Holy Conduit to gaze at me—and though I want to offer something, anything, to help him, I can do little more than nod.
With a sigh, the young man turns and steps into the circle.
The single tendril—which has remained in place following Kimberly Addams’ departure—extends itself toward Jonah Armstrong.
The God attempts Her connection once more.
This time, however, Jonah screams.
He stumbles back, then trips on one of the steps.
His head connects with the hard stone, and blood seeps from a gash on his temple.
Medibots—which resemble four-legged crabs and are armed with a multitude of medical technology—dart forward on swift wings to examine and tend to his injuries. Then two men carrying a stretcher rush forward to take him away.
“Ember Hillen,” the Extant Facilities member announces. “You are the last to participate in the Connection.”
I swallow the lump that has risen in my throat and attempt to wash my fear down with it, but find that it does little more than cause me further anxiety.
You can’t wait, I think. Now’s your time.
“My time,” I whisper, in a voice so low I feel only I can hear it.
With that in mind, I step forward.
The tendril—which has graced two and felled both simply by touching them—extends toward me.
I tilt my head back, blink, then narrow my eyes as the blinding golden light enters my retinas.
A moment later, the tendril makes contact.
I blink. Breathe. Inhale, exhale. A presence washes over me like soft waters in a bathtub, and through its person I hear a voice.
Ember, the voice says. Ember.
Elation washes over me. All fear dissipates. A calm envelops my body.
In a moment, there is darkness.
Then, shortly thereafter: light.
I do not know what I see. So beyond me is the cataclysmic eruption of light and color that at first I can do little more than watch. My chest vibrates with unsung energy, and my breathing becomes erratic and harsh, like a hammer desperately pounding an unruly nail. There are reds and yellows and blues and golds and pinks and purples and greens galore. They spark once, twice, a third time, a fourth. They dance across my vision, and create a symphony of color and sound within my mind.
I feel, for a moment, that it is God attempting to speak with me through the art of synesthesia—the act of one sensation being substituted for another.
But what is this? I think. Is this a lesson? A schematic? Life?
The colors vibrate into focus a short moment later.
I tilt my head down, and stare.
Shallow waters lie beneath my feet. Ripples echo out from my bare toes. Inertia beckons me forward, and within moments, I am literally walking over water—toward a light that exists at the far edge of what appears to be a tunnel.
What is— I start to think.
The colors begin to blur a moment later.
My head swims.
My vision goes out of focus.
I feel bile rising in my throat.
I stumble back—
Feel the tendril slip from my forehead—
Then experience a rush of adrenaline as I impact with the Utopian ground beneath my feet.
The last thing I hear, before I lose consciousness, is our Holy Conduit saying, “Welcome, Holy Conduit Hillen.”
by Kody Boye
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Society has reached its peak within the walled city of Utopia. While the outside world lies in inhospitable ruins, the city within brims with technological marvels—all thanks to a benevolent god that appeared during humanity’s darkest hour. But with the city on the verge of overpopulation, and the world outside not promised to be safe, time is running out for the Utopian people, and it’ll take one brave young woman to change the course of history.
Seventeen-year-old Ember Hillen has lived in the shadow of the god her entire life. With a promising future in medicine, she believes that her future is set in stone. What she doesn’t expect is for her Aptitude Test scores to come back with exemplary remarks—or to be chosen as her city’s next Holy Conduit.
As the Holy Conduit, Ember can connect with, and receive visions of, her god’s desires for the Utopian city. The only problem? Her god is implying that her people must somehow journey beyond their isolated city to build a new world in the wasteland. But with the mad leader of the premier engineering facility within Utopia attempting to sway Ember through whatever means possible, Ember must make a choice that will change a life forever. The only question is: can she withstand the storm that will follow?
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Though Kody Boye was born and raised in Southeastern Idaho, he moved south at the age of eighteen and has resided in various parts of Texas since 2010, living first in Austin, then in Fort Worth before finally landing in the Rio Grande Valley. His first story, [A] Prom Queen’s Revenge, was published in the Yellow Mama Webzine at the age of fourteen. His debut novel, Sunrise, followed at age eighteen.
Since then, he has written several novels across multiple speculative fiction genres. His most recent works include When They Came, The Beautiful Ones, Kingsman Online, and The Red Wolf Saga.
Kody is currently enrolled in an online university and pursuing an undergraduate degree in creative writing and English, with plans to further his education with an MFA, which will allow him to teach.
When not writing, Kody enjoys reading young-adult novels, playing video games such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars, and browsing social media endlessly.
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