"The chimera population has plagued us with disorder and mayhem since they first appeared nearly forty years ago. It's an atrocity, really--one that this country is clearly unprepared to deal with."
Eve's phone rang from within her pocket, bringing her back to reality. She stared at her phone, frowned, and immediately silenced it.
A paunchy, balding man scurried from the back of the store, his face riddled with anxiety, beads of sweat forming at the top of his shiny head. He was Stuart, Bob's son and the true heart and soul of the shop, though Eve questioned whether he had either. He waddled behind the glass counter and glared at her.
"What do you want, Eve?"
She nodded her head toward the door. "What happened at the pharmacy?"
"There was a raid. Interlopers tore the whole place apart."
Eve flinched slightly, her fingers tense as they dug into the side her skateboard. "Interlopers?" she said. "Why?"
"Apparently the owners were running an underground medical clinic. For chimeras."
The shop felt small, too small, and suddenly Eve remembered the other patrons staring at her. She turned--they were still staring, of course--and picked at her cuticles nervously.
"Look, whatever you want, make it quick. I've got customers," Stuart spat.
Eve plopped her board onto the counter. "I want to sell you this."
Stuart eyed the skateboard, running his hands along the nose of the deck. "Is this a vintage Flip skateboard?"
"Yes. Released in 2019."
"I have to get around somehow."
"Well, your 'getting around' has been devaluing this piece." He rested the board back on the counter and wiped the sweat from his bald head. "How'd you get your hands on this thing in the first place?"
"It belonged to my grandpa. He gave it to my dad. Now it's mine."
He scowled. "You know, I still think it's terrible what you're doing, selling your parents' stuff off, God rest their souls."
"Well, I'd love to get a job so I wouldn't have to sell any of their things, but for some odd reason, no one will hire me," Eve grumbled, her tone laced with sarcasm. "How about you, Stu? Do you want to hire me?"
Stuart looked away uncomfortably. Eve's phone rang again, and she quickly sent the call to voicemail.
"If this board was in mint condition, it'd be worth thousands, but the grip tape is wearing off and the tail is scuffed down pretty bad." He folded his arms and dipped his chin. "I can give you four hundred fifty."
"Are you insane?"
"That's the highest I can go."
"I've done my research, and boards in worse condition are going for three times that amount."
"Yes, but did those boards once belong to Evelyn Kingston?" he hissed. "Look, if people ask me where this came from, I'm going to be honest. Your name alone drives down the price."
Eve glared back at the man--at his round cheeks, bright red nose, and the gross sweat that dripped down his temples. She could feel her hands tremble--she resisted the urge to ball them into fists--and she could sense her vision start to haze over into a deep, overpowering blackness, but she stopped herself.
"You're a real dick."
He smiled smugly. "And yet I'm the only one who will buy your shit."
Eve nodded at the cash register, biting her lip resentfully. "Fine," she muttered.
"You're awfully popular today. Didn't know you had friends."
"My school keeps calling," she explained, apathetically. "They want to know if I'm coming to my graduation. I'm the salutatorian--I'm supposed to make a speech."
"When's your graduation?"
"When does it start?"
The faintest hint of a smirk graced her lips. "Twenty-seven minutes ago."
And again, her phone let out a ring, and still she ignored it. She could hear one of the patrons clear her throat and then raise the volume of the radio even higher.
"To disregard the threat that chimeras pose to this nation is moronic--and downright dangerous. Are we just supposed to sit back and watch without taking any steps to control them? To contain them?"
Stuart plopped the wad of cash onto the counter and let out a long, aggravated breath. "Look, I've got to put my foot down. You can't come back here. You're--"
"Bad for business, I know, you've told me a thousand times." She scooped up the money, counted it, and shoved it into her back pocket. "Fortunately for you, you'll never have to see me again. I'm moving; leaving for college in two months."
"Billington?" He laughed, his entire face turning an obnoxious shade of pink.
Eve growled. "What's so funny?"
"You're telling me a tall tale, Eve, I know it. There's just no way you could ever get into that school."
"I'm smart, you know. I'm the salutatorian of my class, remember?"
"I'll believe it when I see it."
Eve yanked her phone from her pocket and furiously tapped at the screen, activating the image database. A large holographic picture appeared above the screen; it was a digital acceptance letter, the text twitching and colors fading from green to grey to blue, the quality poor and hardly functional but the message as clear as day:next →
a sci-fi novel by Jenna Moreci