Infinity Son – Adam Silvera

I’m dead set on living my one life right, but I can’t say the same for my brother. No one’s expecting Brighton to be full-grown when we turn eighteen at midnight, but he needs to step it up. Long gone are those days where we were kids acting like we have powers like all these celestials roaming the streets tonight. Their lives aren’t all fun and games, but he stays ignoring the dark headlines we see every day. I can’t get him to see the truth, but I can check myself. I’m done dressing up as the heroic Spell Walkers for Halloween, and I’m done watching celestials and creatures wrestle in steel cages with their natural-born powers. I’m done, I’m done, I’m done. I got to chill because we’re close as hell, don’t get me wrong. You step in his face and you’ll find me in yours, even though I can’t swing bones for the life of me. But man, there’s been a few times I wondered if we’re actually twins, like maybe Brighton got switched at birth or is secretly adopted. That nonsense no doubt comes from all the comics about chosen ones I’ve read over the years. He’s running wild at this all-night block party, trying to score interviews left and right for his online series, Celestials of New York, but no one’s about it. Everyone’s busy celebrating the arrival of the Crowned Dreamer, a faint constellation against the dark sky, which is hanging around for most of this month and then goes back to sleep for another sixty-seven years. No one really knows how far back celestials have existed or how they first received their powers, but all signs throughout history point to their connection with the stars. Like maybe their eldest ancestors fell out of the sky.

Whatever the truth is, constellations are always a major event for them. It’s good to see celestials partying for a change. The only time I see gatherings like this lately is to protest the acts of violence and injustice against them, which have doubled in the last nine months. Being gay isn’t rainbows and sunshine all the time, but ever since the Blackout—the worst attack New York has seen in my lifetime—people have been treating celestials like terrorists. Tonight reminds me of when I attended my first Pride parade. I was out to my family and friends, and all was good there, but I couldn’t pretend there wasn’t still a knot in my stomach from wondering if strangers would be cool with my heart; reading minds would’ve come in handy. During the parade, I felt relief and security and happiness and hope, all tied up like an indestructible rope that bound us together. I breathed easy around strangers for the first time. I wonder how many celestials are taking that breath tonight. Brighton is standing behind his tripod, capturing footage as people course through the tents before angling his camera toward the massive and flickering crowned figure in the sky.

“Everything is changing tomorrow, I can feel it,” Brighton says. “People are going to want to film us too.” “Yeah, maybe.” Brighton is quiet long enough for it to be awkward. “You never believe me. Just watch.” “Maybe this is the year we let it go,” I say. “You got a lot to be excited about already with college in a new city next week and your series and—” “People can gain powers on their eighteenth birthdays,” Brighton interrupts. “In books and movies.” “Which are all based on celestials, who’ve historically come into their powers when they turned eighteen.

” “But how rare is that?” “Rare makes it unlikely, not impossible.” Brighton’s always got to win an argument, so I shut up. I’m not trying to fight while we ring in our birthday. Problem is, he doesn’t recognize silence as a white flag. “The timing is perfect, Emil. The Crowned Dreamer is elevating every celestial’s power, and if we have even a flicker of gleamcraft in us fromAbuelita, it might ignite into something greater. I just . I sense it already.” “You sense it? This another psychic prank?” Brighton shakes his head and laughs. “Good times, but nah.

I’m serious. I can’t explain it, but it’s this tightening feeling in my blood and bones.” “Let’s bet twenty dollars on this blood-and-bones feeling.” Easy cash to buy another graphic novel. “Bet.” We fist-bump and whistle, our signature move. Brighton’s had his eye on this rooftop rave, and we get in line as more people are being let into the brownstone. We’re behind two women who are wearing the half capes that are customary to celestials. I fight back an epic cringe as I remember how up until two years ago we owned some for fun, completely clueless as to how sacred the capes are until our best friend, Prudencia, explained the traditions. I quickly donated ours to a local shelter.

Once the women are let in, we go up the stoop, but this low-key bouncer blocks the door. “Celestials only,” he says. “That’s us,” Brighton says. The brown of the man’s eyes is swallowed by glowing galaxies for a few moments, the telltale sign of every celestial. “Prove it.” Brighton pointlessly stares back, as if his eyes will swirl with stars and comets if he tries hard enough. “Sorry to bother you.” I drag Brighton down the steps, laughing. “You thought you could lie about having powers, like your eyes are some fake ID?” Brighton ignores me and points to a fire escape. “Let’s sneak up, get some exclusive footage.

” “What? No. Dude, it’s a party. Who’s going to care about that?” “Might be a ritual.” “It’s not our business. I’m not going up there.” He detaches the camera from the tripod. “Okay.” I check the time on my phone. “It’s our birthday in fifteen minutes, let’s just hang.” Brighton stares at the rooftop.

“Give me five minutes. This could be good for CONY.” I sit on the curb with his tripod. “I can’t control you.” “Five minutes,” Brighton says again as he climbs the fire escape. “And stop slouching!” Not everyone cares about stiff posture or toned muscles. Some of us camouflage our scrawny bodies in baggy shirts and slouch, just waiting for the day when we can fold into ourselves and vanish completely. I can’t beat the Instagram impulse while I’m waiting for Brighton, so I hop online. My favorite wildlife videographer pops up first. She captures phoenixes—birds of fire that resurrect—in all their glory.

Her latest is a video of a blaze tempest phoenix flying into a storm in Brazil. I scroll to find the fitness dude whose abs I’ve become very familiar with the past couple months, and even though I’m playing around with his workout plan, I’m nowhere near looking like him or the dozen other gym bros I follow. His motivating caption isn’t doing it for me tonight, so I put my phone away and try to breathe in the real world. This block party is everything. There are children running on air and people grilling food with sunlight beaming out of their palms. I hope Nicholas Creekwell, the first dude I ever legit liked, is celebrating in his own little way tonight. He was my lab partner, and he loves chemistry so much he’s going to pursue alchemy lessons for potion brewing in college. He was good-looking and better company and surprised the hell out of me when he dematerialized the door of my busted locker so I could get my calculator for my algebra midterm. I kept Nicholas’s secret from everyone, especially Brighton, but even though he trusted me, he claimed he wasn’t ready for a relationship, so we stayed friends. Can’t help but wonder if things would’ve been different if I had a six-pack going for me.

Someone’s selling these beautiful silver binoculars. I’d love to drop bank on a nice pair, but Ma will be the first to remind me that college textbooks don’t pay for themselves. Especially since she’s still caught up paying Dad’s mountainous medical bills from an experimental trial with blood alchemy that made his bone cancer worse before he died in March. Dad was fascinated by the stars and looking forward to the Crowned Dreamer himself. Maybe I’ll get to see the full marvel of this constellation when I’m older and can afford binoculars, and Dad will see it in another life, if you believe in that kind of thing. Heeled boots pounding the gravel catch my attention, and I turn away from the tent to find a twentysomething woman approaching. Sweat glistens like she’s been running for blocks. She’s wearing an ill-fitting blazer that’s missing a sleeve, and her arm looks sunburnt compared to her pale face; not exactly dressed for a late-night jog. Two figures are pursuing her from the air. One is a girl who’s about ten feet above the ground, and the other is a boy who’s being carried by winds that are sweeping up all sorts of trash as he passes.

I jump to my feet and backpedal from whatever is about to go down. I turn to the fire escape, where Brighton is four stories high. “Brighton, come back!” The woman trips against the curb and slams into the concrete. I should stop being a punk and help her, but fear has a tighter grip and pins me to the wall. She stands and grabs the pole of the tent, and it glows orange. White fire runs up her arm as if she’s been doused in gasoline and set alight. The canopy stands no chance—a mountain of fire bounces to the other nearby tents. This pandemonium definitely isn’t going to help how people view celestials as dangerous. Someone grips my shoulder, and I drop the tripod. “You okay?” Brighton asks.

He was quick getting down here. I catch my breath. “Let’s go.” “Wait a sec.” Brighton is spellbound by the mayhem and holds up his camera. “You’re kidding.” I grab his arm, but Brighton breaks free. “I got to document this.” “The hell you do.” For someone who was our school’s salutatorian, Brighton can be pretty damn stupid.

If he were anyone else, I would straight ditch. This is why I don’t have it in me to be a hero like I used to pretend. I want to live too much to risk my own life. But Brighton dreams of getting this kind of action for his series. Most of the celestials in the area are smarter, not sticking around to see how this will play out. Some are teleporting so quickly I would’ve missed them if I’d blinked. The figures in the air break out of shadow and into the moonlight, the Spell Walker emblem on their power-proof vests glistening like the constellation that inspired their name. “Maribelle and Atlas!” Brighton shouts, pumping his free fist. What has this woman done that she’s got the Spell Walkers chasing her? As her arm lights up again in white flames, I get a clear look at the woman’s eyes. There are no astral bodies swirling within like a celestial’s.

They’re dark except for one burning ring of orange. An eclipse—the mark of a specter. Now I know why the Spell Walkers are after her. I don’t always agree with their violent, vigilante methods, but the Spell Walkers seem to be the only handful of heroes brave enough to admit that specters need to be stopped before they drive creatures to extinction and ruin the world. I hope every last specter gets locked up. Stealing blood from creatures to hook yourself up with powers, just because you weren’t born a celestial, is a heartbreaking crime. Regular fire-casting is scary enough, but we’re not about to hang around here if this specter is burning up with phoenix fire. I’m about to drag Brighton away, but I’m haunted by the glint in his eye. We know damn well how risky it is for someone to consume creature blood. Specters trade their lives for power, and I pray my brother never mistakes this tragedy for a miracle.

Two Heroes EMIL The specter hurls a stream of white fire through the air, its flames spreading like wings and screeching like a phoenix. “Bro, she’s a specter,” Brighton says. “Probably got her power from a halo phoenix or—” I shut up as Maribelle Lucero gracefully spins away from the flames and torpedoes directly into the specter. Maribelle’s young—I’m going to guess our age, though Brighton can no doubt list off every Spell Walker’s age and favorite color—with light brown skin and dark braided hair that whips like a rope as she lays into the specter with right hooks. Atlas Haas’s blond hair is windblown as he hovers over the tents, doing his best to keep the fire at bay with gales shooting out of his palms. It’s a losing battle. The fire spreads toward apartment buildings on one side and a run-down bar on the other, residents and patrons vacating as quickly as possible. My heart hammers—get out of here, get out of here, get out of here, get out of here. “Bright, we got to bounce.” “Then go.

” I’m a millisecond away from snatching the camera and hurling it like a football when the bar explodes with a deafening roar. The blast catches Atlas off guard, and he flips out of the air and crashes into a parked motorcycle. We take cover under a bodega awning as bricks rain from the sky. The waves of heat remind me of baking flan in our late abuelita’s tiny kitchen except magnified by a thousand. Maribelle rushes to Atlas’s aid, and the specter casts white fire again. “Maribelle, watch out!” Brighton shouts. She spins, but the fire drives her into a car door with sickening force, as if she’s been shoved by someone with powerhouse strength.

.

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