A Heart-Pounding Dystopian YA Thrill-Ride
Three hundred years ago, something arose and pushed humanity to the brink of extinction. Now, a small remnant – the ancestors of the few survivors who were able to escape the massacre below – lives above the clouds, on the top of a mountain. But there's been a change.
Their water supply is being poisoned. Someone, or something down below is trying to kill them. Now an expedition, including seventeen year-old girl Icelyn Brathius, must descend and face the monsters that wiped out civilization
The Shocking True Nature of the Threat Below
As Icelyn faces dangers in a world humans are not meant to survive, she learns that not everything is as it seems, and
uncovers an ancient revelation, then faces a choice that may change the fate of everyone above and below the clouds. Will Icelyn be strong enough to both survive and bear the terrible secret?
Join Icelyn Brathius as she leaves everything she has ever known to journey to the place no one was ever supposed to go.
Read This Page-Turning Adventure Today.
The air is thinner in Mountaintop.
That’s what I’m told. I wouldn’t know, it’s the only air I’ve ever breathed, so how am I supposed to compare? I’ve never been able to understand what thick air would feel like. Maybe like walking through a block of water, currents pushing against you, fighting your progress, but without the wetness?
These thoughts run through my mind as I struggle to keep up with Adorane. I swear, that boy moves through the pines like an ultralion.
Then there’s me. When it comes to running, ducking, dodging, and jumping, I’m a hell of a scholar.
“Do you need me to help you?” Adorane calls back with a grin. “Maybe carry you for a spell?” He loves exposing weakness in me, almost as much as I hope to conceal it.
“Your Latin tenses were a mess last I checked, so I’m not the only one who could use a boost.” I huff as I strain over a fallen log. Why am I wearing my puffy ultralion skin parka? It seemed so chilly earlier, but now I might as well be dipped in lava and rolled in burning embers. I do need
help, but I’m loath to admit it.
“You have to wish you hadn’t worn the parka. I knew you’d regret it!” Not for the first time, I wonder if he can read my thoughts. More likely, he’s reading the drops of sweat I subtly try to wipe away from my eyes.
“It’s good to be prepared. Father expects a frigid streak sometime soon. Those can come out of nowhere.”
“Your father expects a lot of things, doesn’t he?”
“Much that he expects, he gets.”
This friendly back and forth between Adorane and myself is not new. It’s as familiar as the threadbare wool blanket Mother uses to tuck me in every night, and has been going on for, I guess, seventeen years now. (Because that’s how old we are.)
I fancy our repartee flirty, but I keep that to myself for many reasons.
All this loss of elevation is making me nervous. I’ve never been this far down the Mountain before.
I wish I hadn’t mentioned Father. Now I’m thinking about the rules we’re breaking and the consequences for breaking them, and my face is growing even hotter, if that’s possible, at the thought of getting caught. “Do you think they’re looking for us?”
Adorane (pronounced ADD-OR-RAH-NAY! Some Veritas girls call him ADD-OR-RAIN, which annoys me to no end) shakes his head. My concern doesn’t merit one word in reply.
“But if they did catch us down here, technically the Code calls for us to be...” I can’t finish. Disbursed.
What was I thinking, following Adorane down here, risking my place in the Kith? Disbursement doesn’t happen often. But it does happen.
“Oh please! They’d never Disburse you. Now me, forcing you down here. Let’s be honest, I’m the only one in any peril.” Is that supposed to make me feel better? Life in the Kith without Adorane would be bleak.
Even the trees are different here. I swear I see a Manzanita, which I’ve only read about in books before today. Everyone knows that Manzanitas only grow lower on the Mountain. I shouldn’t be anywhere near them.
“So anyway, I’ve been leaving acorns all over, down here, with your name on them…” Sure Adorane, that’s a normal thing to do.
“Hey, that’s a Manzanita, right?” I feign calm, but Adorane knows me too well. He laughs and leans against the glossy red tree. He’s so casual, as if it’s not terrifying that we’re seeing a Manzanita. At
least we are still above Cloudline.
“I wanted to see if the squirrels that use that cache in Mountaintop come down this far when they’re foraging for nuts. And guess what? They DO!”
Great, Ad. The squirrels forage for acorns here. That precious knowledge is definitely worth risking Disbursement.
“Stop acting like this isn’t incredible. I can drop a nut here, with a message on it, and it’s carried up to the Village. Like the letters and mail system the Apriori had, only using squirrels instead of
Sure, look at it from that angle, and it’s impressive. I mean, at least it’s interesting. “How far down the Mountain are we, anyway?”
“Oh, you still believe all the old myths?” I can’t tell if he’s serious or joking. I don’t think he knows, either. I doubt it matters to him. Not as much as it matters to me, at least.
“Not old myths! History. You’ve never studied enough to know the difference, so I understand why you’d feel that way.”
Ad grabs a green leaf off the Manzanita and chews it. For me, the tree represents terror, a harbinger of the deadly danger which decimated humanity. Ad chews it up and spits it out. “When you’re thirsty, these can be a godsend. Why spend all your time studying history when you can go outside and make it?”
He dashes ahead. I guess he thinks that’s all the rest I need. Sometimes I wonder if he’s made of different materials. While I’m full of huffing, puffing, and flushed skin, he glides along like this is the easiest thing in the world. I recently learned that birds have hollow, lightweight bones which makes flight possible. I suspect Adorane is part bird while my skeleton is packed solid with rocks, metals, and other heavy things.
“I saw the nuts. Why are we still going downhill?” I shout after him, exhausted.
“Oh, because since you’re this close, you might as well see it, too.”
He looks back at me. “Icelyn, you know what I’m talking about.”
I hope I don’t.
“You’ve seen it? Not just pictures, or drawings, but… Ad, you’ve seen it? How is that possible?"
He sprints away again. “Forget pictures and drawings, it’s always better to see things with your eyes.” He looks back and smiles. “Anyway, Catalandi loves it down here.”
Why did he mention Catalandi? He has to know it bothers me. Is he ignorant, or being cruel? Or perhaps just frisky. Mother always tells me Adorane was born with a gleam in his eye, and I’d be wise to remember it.
Whatever that means.
I pretend I’m not upset by the thought of Catalandi. I’m sure she has no problem keeping up with Adorane. As a Cognate, I’m not supposed to want or even admire lithe legs and tautly muscled arms, but it’s hard for me to see Catalandi and not feel envious. Since she’s promised to Adorane, I’ve
cause enough to be envious anyway (however unreasonable that may be).
Why do Adorane and Catalandi spend time alone? They’re only seventeen! We have years before betrothals morph into marriages. Adorane must realize how sickening it is when he’s acting like some musclebound character from the Apriori’s tawdry mating novels. I’m queasy just imagining them running through the woods together, laughing. I don’t know how Ad manages to actually do such things. I’d fall over dead.
It’s too early. We’re still only children.
Adorane slows long enough to peer back at me while I dodge to avoid getting my skin scratched off by the underbrush. “C’mon Ice, I saw it just up here.”
I’ve stopped following. I’m frozen.
“How far down are we, exactly?” I ask because now I think I do know what thick air feels like. As if the sky is pressing down on me from all angles, pushing me to the ground to keep me there. It’d be easier if I could cut this air into pieces before I tried to breathe it in, because it doesn’t feel like it’s making its way down to my lungs anymore. It doesn’t fit through my nostrils.
Adorane doubles back and grabs my hand. If I weren’t busy choking on dense air I could pay attention to that. We don’t usually touch. Physical contact is forbidden. But hey, being down here isn’t allowed either, so it looks like we’re living in Ad’s own state of anarchy right now.
No. I’m finished. “We should head back–”
“Ice! You can’t come this far only to turn around. Please.” He pulls me with a strength that shocks me, because it’s so strong. Lightweight yet still a force of nature, like an ox. That’s Adorane. By the
way, an ox is a large muscular mammal, that the Apriori used in manual labor while farming, then slaughtered and ate. I read about them the other day in a dusty book I found in Belubus’ library. Isn’t it incredible what you think about when you’re scared?
We break through the thick underbrush and Adorane stops short.
I’m not sure if it’s the heavy air, or the exhaustion from the trip, or the shock at what we’re looking at, but one thing is for sure – I cannot breathe.
Jason Latshaw is a writer who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two children, a lizard, and a fish.
Latshaw has always enjoyed writing. (All writers say that but he states "it's true with me and other writers are all probably lying".) Even when he's not writing, he is, just without a pen or a keyboard. That's why there's often a blank look on his face.
Latshaw has an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA. He also writes television and film scripts.
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