In celebration of the re-release of my YA science fiction fantasy trilogy Crimson Winter, I’ve decided to share the first chapter of Volume One: Ruins of Sapphire with you. Here’s part one. You can find the ebook and the paperback ON SALE in our online store!
I woke up to the alarm on my cell phone – a utilitarian sound, as I’ve never bothered with the more colourful ringtones. As I came to, I wondered about the vivid terror of my nightmare, but it was quarter after eight and time to get ready for school, so I didn’t dwell on it.
School wasn’t too far away. As I crossed the threshold of the school gates I noted my friend, Hotaru Hatsumuya, accosting another Hyuski Heights resident, KajIi Zukatoro, as he stood with his girlfriend, the red-headed Shuzhue Chi. Despite being my best friend, Hotaru could be a bit much at times – she had near limitless energy and not enough brains to put it to good use – so I avoided her wave of greeting in favour of continuing into the massive stone structure instead.
Shinjuku High greeted me with its usual hustle and bustle in the early morning, and though I never took part in the conversations or activity that buzzed around me, I took comfort in the sense of sameness. Home was a quiet place where I was often under scrutiny by my overbearing mother and my father was most often absent. Here, I could occupy my time by watching others or keeping up with – which usually meant working ahead of – my studies.
“Here comes the Ice Queen,” a voice whispered urgently to my right, followed by a whistle.
My blue eyes did not betray any reaction behind the square frames of my glasses. It was never in the same place, but undoubtedly at least once a day I would encounter someone – usually male – who wanted to stare at ‘Ice Queen’ Yukari.
I was tall for a Japanese girl and long-limbed, but that wasn’t what made them stare. It was my pale blue, curly hair – the likes of which I had never seen on anyone else – and my intense, bright blue eyes.
I supposed that was enough to draw attention my way, but I also studied really hard, wore glasses, and my hair was often tied up into a tight bun atop my head to try and control my unruly curls, which would become a ball of frizz if I let them. I was by no means conventionally attractive and I never did anything to encourage the attention. I kept hoping one day people would let my odd appearance fade into the background, although well into highschool it still seemed as if that wasn’t to be the case.
Other than the usual annoyances, the morning was calm and relatively quiet. I carried my books in my arms and was quite looking forward to my daily routine as I passed through the halls. On Wednesdays, I had Phys Ed first thing in the morning, so I headed to the change room, eager to get into the pool.
The change room was empty when I reached it, which was no surprise with how early I was. I dug through my bag and then my locker, but I couldn’t seem to find my swimsuit. I recalled putting it in my bag after the swim meet last night…
…then I threw it at the red force field to get the attention of the police.
The other students began filing in, interrupting my thoughts. I looked up to ask if any of them had seen my swimsuit, thinking maybe I had managed to misplace it, but these students weren’t the ones from my class. I stared open-mouthed for a moment, and then gathered the presence of mind to check my cell phone.
Tuesday – 8:55AM
It was Tuesday, not Wednesday at all…did the swim meet really happen? What about the Karaoke café? The walk home through the park afterwards? Had it all just been a part of that strange dream?
I didn’t know, but on Tuesday I was supposed to be in Science class on the other end of the school, so I picked up my books and ran.
I skidded into the classroom, the latest I had ever been. The class stared at me in shock and so did my teacher, Sonoma-sensei, until he recovered himself enough to say, “Nice of you to join us, Namikoya-san. As I was saying,” he continued as I crossed sheepishly to my seat, “we’re having a pop quiz.”
Another one? I distinctly recalled having written a surprise science test yesterday…
“Form into groups and I will hand out the test booklets. They must be fully completed…”
As Sonoma-sensei continued I found myself unable to focus on his words. It was the same. The same as my dream, or the same as the last ‘Tuesday’, I wasn’t sure.
“Yukari!” Hotaru exclaimed as if she had only just noticed me there, giving me an even sharper sense of déjà-vu. “You’re smart, so you’d be the best person to have on our team. We’ve already got Harford-san and Mizu-chan,” she continued, indicating the smart and personable foreign exchange student from England and one of her other friends.
Kaji was also there, without Shuzhue, as she wasn’t in this class, and Yue Noh, another person I had known for years – our fathers had both been in the military together when we were younger. She was included, I assumed, because of her proximity to the group, though she seemed preoccupied by taking a nap on her desk, her impossibly long chestnut hair fanning out around her like a blanket.
My suspicions about this day having happened before were confirmed when I received my test booklet – I knew all the answers.
“Phosphorous,” I began reciting as I sat, not looking at the test booklet as I did so. “Bone. An Egg. Gasoline.”
Tim Harford looked at me like I had grown horns.
I didn’t make any excuses for my behavior. “Kaji-san, I think we should send Hotaru and Yue for the things we need, while you and Harford-san write out the responses in the booklets. I will handle the phosphorous and Yue,” I said as I woke her up with a poke to the ribs with my pencil – she was only pretending to sleep anyway, if my knowledge of ‘last Tuesday’ was correct – “will find the bone and the egg in the cafeteria.”
Kaji opened and closed his mouth for a moment, much like a fish, but then he seemed to shake himself before getting down to business. I headed over to the chemistry supply cupboard to fetch what I needed to make phosphorus, then returned and began to recite the next group of answers as I worked to set everything up.
This science class went much more smoothly than the one from my memory. When we finished more than fifteen minutes early, I was confident we had managed a perfect score. Even grumpy old Sonoma-sensei looked impressed.
Instead of being pleased, I was pensive. It was scientifically impossible for the same day to happen twice – I didn’t know what was going on…
(Subscribe or come back next week for part 2!)