JUMPING OFF BRIDGES
YA Contemporary Magical Realism
Everyone else is doing it—escaping—and every city has its runaways. But in Cortado, teens don’t simply skip town; they obey the call of a mysterious voice of moss and stones that beckons, “Come. Follow. Disappear.” And Eli Sage, Westide High’s former basketball star turned dropout, wants to follow. The voice echoes throughout the city, offering to erase Eli’s every mistake, from betraying his best friend, Derek, to resenting his multiple sclerosis-burdened mother. But he’s tired of trusting empty words and oaths, and attempts to quell the ever-deafening call through atonement. He caters to Derek’s every whim, each crashed party and every altercation more self-destructive than the last.
However, the voice only dims when Eli nears his newest co-McJober, a girl with creamed-coffee skin; inhales the apple-scent of Derek’s girlfriend; or smashes bottles with an 80-year-old, fairy-tale telling thief. Yet the voice returns with Eli’s every fumbled kiss and shattered promise, its offer more lulling than before, commanding him to listen, demanding him to follow. It guides him to a hungering bridge’s shadow, where he must confront the voice’s source—an ancient troll—and decide between sacrificing his escape to help mend those he left behind and abandoning them to do what everyone else is doing: jumping.
Climbing into the Mustang was not one of Eli’s better decisions. He never should have agreed to a “ride home” from Derek, never should have ignored his father’s past warning of “That boy is trying to kill you,” never should have allowed his trust to trump his fear. But should’ves were even more worthless than a blind referee, and now he had to deal with his current situation.
He was locked inside Derek’s parked Mustang and could do nothing but stare at the exterior of an abandoned house. It was the same three-bedroom bungalow as Eli’s old home, the one he’d shared with both parents, but the similarities stopped there. Pressboard sheets filled the large bay and two smaller square windows, the glass broken and riddled with holes from rocks and bb guns. These bookended the front door, the majority of which was covered by two-by-fours, and the gutters hung from the roof like entrails. Eli shivered. It was the perfect place for Derek to hide his body.
“Out,” Derek said.
Eli hesitated, circling back to the same question: Why had he convinced himself that Derek’s “ride home” was genuine? True, Derek had been his best friend, but that was Before, when Derek sported bleached spikes for hair, strong arms, and blue eyes. This was After, and Derek’s current style consisted of a gleaming skull, shriveled frame, and eyes that had gone gray. Even still, Eli preferred the new look to the last time he’d seen his friend, a gang of cuts and bruises covering Derek’s face.