Lacrimosa by Mandi Jourdan will be released August 18 from Brown Chicken Books, an imprint of Southern Fried Karma.
After she watched I, Robot for the first time in sixth grade, Mandi Jourdan became fascinated with science fiction. The difference between humans and androids struck her as something she needed to explore from every facet. Starting her first draft of Lacrimosa as a high school freshman, she wants her readers to feel sympathy for all of the characters, whether they’re heroes or villains. Her favorite stories to tell are about love, redemption, overcoming impossible odds, and family, given and chosen. An MFA student at Southern Illinois University, her audio short story “Inheritance,” set in the same world as the novel, was the first sci-fi piece published by the Missouri Review.
Read the excerpt from Lacrimosa below:
July 28, 2232
Maybe I deserve this. Maybe I am responsible for his death, and maybe this is my punishment. But I can’t die now. Not when I don’t know, not when I have so many questions.
A shadow played on the carpet beneath the door, the shuffling of feet outside in the corridor accompanied by the pressing of buttons on a keypad. As her heart pounded, Lila crossed to the back of the room, turning off the lights at the switch. She opened one of the sliding glass doors and slipped out onto the balcony as it closed automatically behind her.
She’d spent longer than she’d realized inside; night had fallen over Manhattan. She leaned over the railing, searching manically for options. The highway below was backed up—hovercars, hovercycles, and pedestrians stretched as far as the eye could see, lights ascending through the vertical traffic layers like a steadily shifting constellation.
She heard the scanner beep somewhere behind her, and her breath caught in her throat as she realized how little time she had. Concealed by the wall separating the balcony from the connected room, Lila was invisible to whoever was inside. But she wasn’t certain for how long. The balcony, formerly shrouded in darkness, was suddenly bathed in light from within. Lila’s eyes widened as footsteps signaled someone’s approach.
No one else would understand. Whatever she had done, she was sorry. Beyond all words, she was sorry. But she couldn’t expect everyone to forgive her. Would they really believe that she didn’t remember? She doubted it.
Jump. Jump, you’ll be fine.
Lila edged to the side of the balcony farthest from the door.
That’s insane. So why does it feel like the safest option?
Once more, she looked down. And, taking a deep, shaky breath, she climbed up onto the cold metal railing and threw herself over the edge.
As she hurtled downward, the world whipped around her, flying upward faster than Lila could blink. Falling end over end, she attempted to regain her composure well enough at least to see which way was down. The layers upon layers of hovercars rushed closer, and she knew it was only a matter of time before she made impact. Eventually, she managed to right herself, if only for a moment. She looked down and followed her instinct toward a course of action. A dark green car was approaching her at roughly the right speed to catch her.
Lila turned her body down once more and made a futile attempt to guide her flight pattern. She held her breath as the roar of the air rushing past her became nearly unbearable, counting down the seconds until her estimated contact. Three. Two… At the last possible second, Lila flipped to face the sky once more.
She landed with a crash on the roof of the car. As it sped on its course, Lila was thrown back, sliding the few feet to the car’s rear, frantically searching for a place to grab on and finding nothing.
Her scream was lost in the night as she flew off the back of the car. The familiar sensation of being drowned in air overwhelmed her as she rushed downward for the second time. Even as she plummeted, however, she knew this was preferable to what would’ve happened if she’d allowed the woman with the gun to catch her.
A sharp stabbing pain splintered through her back as she collided with another vehicle. Metal crunched beneath her. This time, the car stopped. Lila’s eyes closed as her head swam in the aftershock. She barely registered the sound of a door opening.
“Are you okay, lady?” someone asked her.
“Hm…?” She felt her focus slipping away, and she fought hard to open her eyes. Her back screamed, the pain shooting up her neck.
The man who had spoken to her sighed in what sounded like frustration. “You’re on my car.” There was a snap to his tone, but it was overpowered by disbelief. “Are you all right?”
After a moment, the pain receded slightly, and Lila forced her eyes open to find the man watching her. He was also standing on the ground, which meant that she was done falling.
Oh, thank God.
“Yeah. Thank you.” She attempted a feeble smile and pushed herself up onto her elbows.
“Are you sure you should be trying to get up? I mean, which floor did you fall from?” The man looked up at the hotel’s gleaming exterior, his eyes wide. “How are you conscious?”
By this time, others had stopped their cars, and a crowd was beginning to gather around Lila and the man. She nodded unsteadily.
“I’m fine,” she insisted. “Really.” With a gulp and a wave of nausea, she pushed herself off the roof of the car. There was a general intake of breath around her as she rolled onto the pavement of the road below. The world spun again as she stood, and a relieved sigh spread through the gathered crowd.
“Hey!” called someone from her left. “It’s her!”
Lila tensed. “I… don’t really re—”
“She’s—that’s Lila! Someone call the police!”
A murmur spread through the crowd, building rapidly into a din.
No… Not now. Not everyone.
Lila turned and ran, without another word, for the sidewalk across from the hotel. The onlookers were shouting, now, calling incomprehensible things after her as she pushed her way out of the cloud of people. Her breathing quick and shallow, she flew down the street and around the corner.
As she ran, the pieces began to click into place in her mind. She was running at much too rapid a pace to be considered normal, and not a bead of sweat had begun to form on her body, just like when she’d escaped from her attackers on the street. She was disoriented from her fall, and her back throbbed, but should she not be dead?
“What am I?” she breathed.