Title: SAVAGE ARIA
Word Count: 115,000
Genre: NA Science Fiction
System(s) of Oppression: homophobia, colorism/racism
Author’s Identity: [removed], African-American
After high school, Gene Cole struggles with indecision about his future. He has a mediocre part-time job and believes he’s seen as simply a statistic: just another young, black male in an urban city being raised by a single parent. But the truth is, Gene harbors a secret—he can taste people's emotions.
He’s unique, however, living in a community where police brutality and inner city violence are headline news means Gene can get killed for wearing a hoodie. When his father breaks his silence about the identity of the woman who abandoned him and sends Gene to stay the summer with his celebrated botanist mother and her long-term female lover, he finds himself thrown into a completely different world.
If only his problems ended there. Gene learns a tornado of knowledge about his life that threatens his already fragile sanity: his mother's abandonment of him was no accident and his empathic abilities are the result of an abortion gone wrong. Then he’s bitten by one of his mother's hybrid plants and suddenly, he has healing powers. Now she wants to know everything about him.
And her motives are somewhat less than motherly. Gene finally has the chance to bond with the mom he’s never known, but he fears the woman who abandoned her only child will eventually drain his veins dry.
Two blocks from my house I spot the dark lump of an armadillo turned speed-bump. Roadkill: my secret obsession.
“Drop me off right here,” I say.
“Yo, you sure?” Kennison taps the brakes. “I can take you all the way.”
“Nah, I just remembered something I gotta do.” I grab the door handle. “We'll hook up later.”
We clasp grips and I slide out the car. Once the taillights of the Cadillac disappear around the corner, I bundle the dead animal in the crook of my arm. It already stinks, but in Florida’s late May heat, it's probably only been a few hours.
I can handle the smell, though. I look over my shoulder out of habit. No one’s watching me.
The armadillo's ruptured body dampens my sleeve and I almost run home to cover the patio table in trash bags. A wireless speaker blasts music from my phone. I have plastic gloves, a scalpel, and a bandana tied behind my ears to protect my face. Excitement gasses up my chest. I'm ready.
I run my fingers along the bony and bumpy ridges as I unroll the armadillo. It's a nine-banded species, common in this area. How much luckier it might've been if the three-banded sort, able to roll into a complete armored ball to protect itself.
I've heard even bullets can ricochet off its Kevlar. That sort of skill would be useful for someone like me: young, black, and born in the South. The police are dropping us like our skin has a bounty.