Monday, October 6, 2014

Rogue Phoenix Press Presents: Peacebreakers by Mindy MacKay

Mindy MacKay
Excerpt Heat Level: Violence
Book Heat Level: 2

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The cat’s tail dangled from a nail on the wall in the middle of the school cafeteria, looking like a great hairy worm, while two teenage girls painted a message next to it in the animal’s blood: Remember 1860. It was five in the morning, hours before school started. The cat had belonged to the principal. And when the first bell sounded to ring in the day, the girls would be up to their scrawny necks in trouble.

"Remind me again, why are we doing this, Chamika?" asked the taller of the two miscreants, a blonde who finger-painted the letters of graffiti with her left hand; her right one wrapped in bandages. "Not that I’m not having the time of my life playing with dead animals, but do we really need to get ourselves kicked out of another school?"

The other girl, the one wearing too much color with her hair dyed too many shades of black, let out an irritated sigh at her friend’s sarcasm. "It doesn’t matter how many schools boot us out, Kiera. That’s insignificant when you consider the grand scope of things."

"And what, dare I ask, is this grand scope?"

Chamika tapped on the wall with a manicured fingertip. "The Purge of 1860. It’s what got the ball rolling and started the ongoing war between mutants and humans. It’s the reason we’ve got to teach mutant-haters like our principal a lesson every now and again."

Kiera wiped her bloody hand on her jeans, cringing as she did so. She didn’t object to most forms of cruelty, but the amputation of a creature’s tail unnerved her, perhaps because she had one herself when she turned into a wolf every month. "Why the cat, though?" she asked. "Why its tail?"

Any fraction of a smile on Chamika’s face disappeared. "Did you know," she began, her tone suddenly stoic, "that almost all mutants used to have tails?"

~ * ~

The mutant tail was a long, whiplike organ whose tip barely grazed the floor when relaxed. Its covering of flesh was much like the skin on the rest of the body, though it grew translucent at the tip so the tiny muscles and the last of the vertebrae were visible. It was a sensitive organ, containing a number of large and vital blood vessels, and there was once a time when almost ninety-nine percent of mutants had one sticking out of their skirt or trousers.

In the eyes of humans, the tail was seen as a sign of the Devil. And in 1860, a small faction of humans took it upon themselves to purify their land by weeding out the demons living among them.

The Purge first reared its ugly head on a market day in Messina, Italy. Just as the stands were packing up and closing down, a bellowing holler of "Hear ye, hear ye!" drew everyone’s gaze to the center of the square. There, a group of men had five small, naked, whip-tailed boys tied at the wrists and ankles. The leader of the men announced to the populace the boys were about to be stripped of their evil.

At the end of his speech, the man drew his sword and the little boys struggled in their bonds. They made feeble attempts to free themselves with telekinesis but it was no use. A full-grown man with a weapon was more than a match for a few mutant children who couldn’t control their powers. With five slicing blows, the tails of the five boys were severed, and the appendages flopped and writhed for a moment, separate from their owners, before going limp.

The boys bled. A sea of red spilled into the market, and the air boiled with the screaming of the poor, agonized souls until all the blood was gone from their little bodies and they lay quite still.

A twig-thin figure shoved through the crowd, frantically shrugging past bystanders and protectively clutching a trembling tail with both hands. The girl ran and ran until she came to a little cottage whose door she threw open and slammed behind her. Once she was safely inside, she collapsed on all fours and sobbed.

"Amelia! What happened?" her mother gasped, enveloping her in a tight embrace.

"They killed Gino," the girl cried out between heaves of grief. "They killed my brother; they chopped off his tail and murdered him! They said we’re the Devil’s children!" Her outburst sent objects flying across the room and falling off shelves.

Her mother was in too much shock to speak.

"What could p-possess anyone to d-do such a h-h-horrible thing like that?" sobbed Amelia.

Soap Box in My Mind says: "I really enjoyed this book. It was a surprisingly good storyline written by a 17 year old."

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