Genre: Young Adult Science Fantasy
Title: Keeper's Source
“Chloe! Slow down!”
Nick couldn’t contain his laughter as inertia pushed his body back into his seat. The growl of the engine and the wind through the cabin drowned his voice out as his sister floored it. She fixated on the road ahead, but Nick saw a smirk creep onto her face in response. Chloe’s long black hair tossed wildly in the draft, but she paid it no mind. Her dark eyes were locked on the road and she gripped the wheel with one hand, the other on the shifter.
“Hang on!” Chloe shouted.
He didn’t have time to react before the force pushed him back further into the seat. Cars and trucks blurred past them at dizzying speeds, Chloe weaving in and out of the lanes with narrow precision. He couldn’t control himself, letting out another peal of laughter as he held onto the door’s handle for dear life. His own dark curls whipped his face, but Nick didn’t care: he got his wish.
Twelve. He was twelve today and his birthday had gone exactly as he hoped. A party with his friends and parents and Chloe following up on her promise: she came home. Living an hour away, it made it hard for Nick to see his older sister. She moved when he was nine to start her own life, but she did try to come visit him. At first, she returned every weekend, but as years went by, the visits became fewer and farther apart. Work, his parents explained, kept Chloe away.
Nick was used to a scattered family: Uncle Norm had missed his last five birthdays, and his gifts stopped for the last three. Mom and Dad took work trips often as well, leaving him with their long time friend Dr. Halley. Family absences were a thing Nick had grown to know and expect, but it didn’t make Chloe’s move any easier.
When the party died and the last of his friends shuffled home, Chloe grabbed his arm and dragged him out the door, shouting to their parents they were going for a drive. Their permission, granted or not, fell on deaf ears as Chloe and Nick tore off into the night, chasing the fast fading sun.
Chloe pulled off at an exit and turned onto a winding mountain pass. Nick watched as the city below faded away into a haze of gold-yellow lights and a tint of blue hue as twilight settled upon the valley. Chloe carefully guided the car from pavement to gravel, and then finally dirt. The car slowed to a crawl up the mountain as the path narrowed. One wrong move and they would tumble over the steep edge.
Reaching the top of the mountain, Chloe pulled into a deserted observation park. Brother and sister climbed out of the car, their laughter and slamming of doors interrupted the shrill chorus of cicadas. Nick hauled himself onto the hood of the white Challenger as Chloe leaned against the bumper.
“We’ll head back in a little bit,” Chloe said as she looked up to heavens. “Want ya to see something and give you your last gift.”
“So you did actually get me something?” Nick laughed.
Chloe let out a snort of disbelief, shaking her head. She turned to toss her keys to him.
Nick bolted upright, fumbling to catch them. He looked them over but realized there were only two: a small round one and a larger key with a star emblem.
“What’s this?” He asked.
“Keys to my car. When you turn sixteen, it’s yours.” Chloe said, a wide smile growing across her face. “I asked Pappa, and he was cool with it.”
Her new car? Sure, it would be about four years old by the time he got it, but still, it would be his.
“Are you for real? It’s mine?” He paused, giving his sister a doubtful stare, “You’re sure?”
Chloe laughed at his untrusting gaze, nodding, “Yep, all yours. Besides, twelve is an important age. After all--” Chloe stopped, the smile on her face quickly fading as she focused on something behind him. Nick tried to turn and look, distracted for only a moment as he tried to see what caught her attention.
“What are you looking--”
Chloe lashed out an arm and wrapped it around his neck. Pulling him towards her, she attacked the top of his head with her knuckles; rubbing them roughly against his scalp and thoroughly making a mess of his dark hair. He struggled for a minute before ducking out of her grasp. He wasn’t much shorter than Chloe, but she was faster. Transitioning from his round and childish features into a more stocky build from the sports he played made it much easier for her to get a grasp on him. What he did not have for speed, he certainly making up in strength against his sister. That didn’t faze Chloe or stop her from picking on him still.
She cackled, finishing her thought: “I was twelve when this screamin’ little brat came into my life. Really ruined my gig as an only kid.”
Huffing under his breath as he tried to straighten his hair, Nick looked towards his sister and stuck his tongue out her. “Whatever! You’re one to call me a brat, Cee-Cee.”
Chloe scrunched her nose at the nickname, but she reached out and gently ruffled his hair one more time.
Nick laughed, pulling his head away from her hand. His cheeks hurt from how wide of a smile he wore all day, but he didn’t care. A glint of silver caught his eye and he looked past his sister’s hand.
“Look!” He gasped, pointing towards the horizon.
The Sun had sunk into the ocean in the west, just beyond the twinkling lights of Los Angeles at their feet. The glow of the city obscured the stars, but silver streaks raced across the sky - from the sea to the mountains at their back. Chloe turned, watching as more streaks appeared, growing bigger as they cut the skies.
“We got here just in time,” she muttered, leaning back against the car, staring up. A grin crossed her face as the heavenly show began.
Soon, the entire sky was awash with shooting stars, glittering against the black depths of space. They stood in silence, watching, but Nick noticed that they were becoming darker, nearly invisible if not for the flicker of silver that followed them.
Chloe hissed then swore under her breath. She snagged the keys out of his hands.
“We’ve got to go.”
“What? Why? This is so cool!” Nick protested, looking up at the sky again.
“Nick, we need to go! NOW!”
There was an urgency in her voice that he didn’t recognize. Chloe grabbed him by the arm, pulling him off the hood and back around the car. Nick kept looking from her to the skies, not understanding why the meteor shower had suddenly spooked his sister.
Then he saw it. One of the streaks started as a tiny blur then grew exponentially before--
“Chloe!” He screamed, his voice cracking an octave higher. A meteor flew at them, illuminating the mountainside as it descended. Nick didn’t hear his sister’s words as she pushed him to the ground, covering him with herself.
The sound deafened Nick. His ears rang as the meteor flew over their heads, crashing trees and cracking stone as it collided into the mountainside above.