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Release Date: 29 April, 2016
The post-apocalyptic world has changed. Colors have changed.
The skies are now red, and the seas fandango pink.
There are those who’ve acquired skills as “squinters”. By narrowing their eyes, they can see people in different colors—colors by which they can define their mood.
Senlin was born a squinter. A child of the foster system, the lack of love has left him with casual views on sex.
When Sicong recruits him into SQX, a squinter organization, Senlin wants nothing more than to jump his bones, but Sicong’s detachment makes Senlin believe his feelings aren’t reciprocated.
Senlin and Sicong’s relationship begins to grow as they undertake missions together.
That is, until an enemy of SQX turns his attention upon them.
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SIC HELD MY head in his lap. I looked up and saw, against the backdrop of the cardinal red sky, his angular face looking down at me. We were secluded by teal-colored woods around us. It was chaotic, for the forest was on fire, its color black and blue blending with red and teal. Despite the turmoil and the utter pain in my chest, I felt peaceful, as if all sounds had been erased except my shallow breathing.
“Don’t fall asleep, Sen,” he said to me, both commanding and begging. “Don’t.”
I lifted a corner of my mouth. I was too tired to talk.
Amidst all the distractions, I saw Sic squint his right eye. A subtle one; one he probably thought I wouldn’t notice.
I also squinted. Sic turned lime green when I did that, all over. I smiled because it was lime instead of tangerine or blue. I was sure I appeared the same to him.
It was a good day, regardless of the pain in my chest.
FROM THE SNIPPETS I’d heard from the different families I’d stayed with over the years—not that they’d ever cared to share much—a couple of generations ago, due to a steel shortage, most industries started to wane. It was said that it came down to such a degree that all the seeming essentials in life were erased. I was skeptical of that, because as far as I’d noticed, electricity, water, even televisions and cars were still in existence. However, one thing I’d heard from the grandparents of the families was that skies used to be blue instead of cardinal red, trees green and brown instead of khaki or teal, and seas usually blue as well, instead of fandango. The granny who’d told me this said that everything had changed color after the industrialization breakdown; she’d experienced it herself. I believed her, because she was the only one who took the time to speak to me in my youth. Truth be told, though, however dramatic the color change was for her, since I’d lived with the new colors all my years, it didn’t affect me at all. As for other aspects of life, even she said that seventy years after the breakdown, they now were similar to before.
I did, however, know something that might be related to the breakdown. I’d always been afraid to squint when I was young, because whenever I did, all the people I saw changed into different colors. Some were brown, some red, and occasionally some pink. It seemed a bit funny. I didn’t know what that meant. In order not to get confused, I stopped altogether. I’d thought I was just weird that way, until I heard the story about the breakdown. Now I loved to squint. Though I’d yet to learn what colors meant, I did discover how the color change could be useful.
I worked in a pub, Tingo; not that the pub knew about my business. I was a “part time drug dealer”, with part time meaning I helped drug dealers determine who in the pub was in need and from whom the dealers needed to stay away. I never did drugs myself, but I helped out when I was in need of cash. The job was easy. I’d squint my eyes and those in orange would be the ones to approach, instead of those rare yellow ones. It worked every time. From what I’ve heard, many of those yellow ones were undercover cops. The dealers often got caught when I didn’t help.
Away from the occasional “helping-out” in the pub, my real interest there was actually the cute guys. I got great satisfaction from looking at all the hot men, talking to them, and consequently taking them to bed. It wasn’t always easy, as one would know, but it was so much simpler with my “special ability”. My prey would also be orange when I squinted, but a less reddish shade, more like tangerine. When I spotted one I liked, I’d squint my eyes and whisper to myself, and almost to him, “You want to come home with me.” In no more than ten minutes, the man I wanted would magically come to buy me a drink, and we’d later end up at his place or mine, doing what I loved. That, again, worked every time.
Needless to say, many people saw me as cocky. I didn’t mind. I worked leisurely and almost always got what I wanted. What’s not to be cocky about?
THAT NIGHT, I was at Tingo again, looking for a hookup. I rarely went back to the same person because… I just didn’t. I liked the excitement of a new body.
I spotted a cute one for the night. Short spiky dark hair, black leather jeans, angular face, looking really cool, even a bit menacing. I liked dangerous, and it only added to the satisfaction when I conquered him. Though he did look threatening, he was almost easy prey because he was looking back at me. I squinted my eyes to check out his color, only it didn’t change at all. Now that’s a first. Weird. When I relaxed my eyes, I saw the guy still staring at me and it appeared that he was squinting. I saw his lips move, and suddenly I jolted as if I were electrified. As fast as the feeling came, it went away. I lost interest in the guy and turned back to the bar to take a sip of my drink. A few seconds later, I got the same kick again and heard someone whispering at my ear, “Follow me out.” As the sensation disappeared, I stood and turned back. I thought nothing of it and followed that same cool guy out of the pub.
The short-haired guy stopped and turned back to me when it was quiet enough to talk. “It’s not good to use your talent like that.”
“What? What talent are you referring to?”
“You’re a squinter, aren’t you?” the guy demanded. He seemed to be annoyed at me. His gray eyes were stormy.
“Yeah, I squint sometimes, but I’m not sure what you’re referring—”
“That’s good.” His rudeness in cutting me off would have usually annoyed me, but I wasn’t affected. “So you’re not aware of your talents. Thank goodness we found you first.”
The man’s words were getting more confusing. I squinted at him, and he squinted back.
“Don’t try that on me. It’s no use. I’m well-trained.”
“Please!” I was getting frustrated. “Please talk about something I can understand, like the name of the person I’m talking to, maybe?”
“It’s Sicong.” The guy seemed to mull over what to say next. “I’m also a squinter, like you. A squinter is one who has special powers with their eyes squinted. I’m a scout from SQX, which is a group that recruits squinters to execute missions that do good for the city.” He looked around cautiously. “We shouldn’t be talking about this in public. Anyway, I’ve been observing you for some days. Using your talent to help those dealers and get laid is definitely wasting your gift. Here, this is my contact.” He shoved a card into my hands. “Though I don’t like what you do with it, I am delighted that you have already begun to use your gift. Based on that, I’d like it if you’d join us. However, if you don’t, I can only hope you don’t end up in the other group, because, if you do, it won’t be pretty when we meet again.” He stared steadily into my eyes. Finishing, he turned to the motorcycle beside him and stroked the leather seat. He looked back at me with his brows arched. Seeing that I had no reply, he climbed on his bike and started it up.
“Hey!” I yelled after a moment’s thought. “I might need to know more.”
He turned back. “You will when you join. It’s no place for me to tell you here. Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering if I was tangerine when you squinted at me, my only reply would be ‘You wish’. A light shade of gray is more like it.”
I didn’t go back into Tingo; I went home right after that strange encounter. I didn’t like the attitude of that guy, Sicong, but I couldn’t deny I was intrigued by what he said. So this squinting is a special talent, eh? Also, the guy was hot. All the while he was talking my gaze was drawn to the pecs under the tight T-shirt, and the sculpted arms.
THE NEXT DAY I woke in the late morning, unusually early for me, because of the restless sleep. I picked up the card Sicong left me and wondered if I should go. It sounded exciting to learn about my abilities, but I didn’t like the mission aspect of it.
It was a good day. The sky was cloudless and the sun was shining. I decided to go for a walk to help with my confusion. With the light breeze, I walked randomly around the neighborhood. It didn’t help with clearing my head, though, because all the faces of the guys I saw somehow changed into Sicong’s. I couldn’t deny Sicong was a bit fascinating. Okay, a lot fascinating, because he was hot and dangerous. Also, I remembered him telling me that if I squinted at him, he’d be light gray. That was new, because I seldom saw anyone who turned gray, or any shades of black for that matter. I meandered some more before I found myself in a part of town I rarely frequented. I looked about, trying to figure out where I was, when I focused on a rather plain building. It was ordinary, but I felt it was somehow familiar. I read the address and found it vaguely recognizable. “Twenty-Three Indigo Avenue.”
Then I saw him. Still clad in leather pants and sporting the spiky hair, it was the guy I’d been seeing in every guy’s face. Sicong. He walked toward me.
“You found us, I see.” He held out his hand.
I held out mine for a shake. I winced when he squeezed hard. I saw him squint.
“I see. You’re still not sure. I’ll say you’re getting the better deal joining us rather than the other group, uh….”
“Senlin,” I volunteered.
“Yeah. So why don’t you come on in and I’ll show you the place.”
I followed him into the building. I squinted, and his color was a light shade of gray, true to what he had said, whatever that meant.
When I stepped inside, I was immediately excited, because I saw most of the men and women there were dressed much like Sicong, in leather pants, but in different colors. The women were fine, but the guys, obviously regulars to gyms to be in that great shape, were hot. I had always been a sexual person and since I didn’t get any the night before, I was extra horned up. I was staring at a particular guy when Sicong’s snicker broke my reverie.
“I see you’re loving what you see.”
I turned to him, face beet-red. “Yeah, you guys look cool.”
He snickered again. “From what I can see, you’re filled with sexual desire. I suppose you’ll get used to it.”
I stayed quiet, too embarrassed to talk.
“Anyway, about SQX, I really can’t tell you anything before you decide to join, except that we’re a group that’s trying to help better the world. That, and you also get to work with one of those hot women and men if you become an agent.” He thought for a while. “If this helps you to decide,” he shrugged, “just between you and me, many of the agents are gay.”
I arched my brows and grinned. He definitely knew what to say to get my attention, considering my horned-up state. “I also get to learn all about being a squinter if I join?” I asked, as if it mattered to my decision. Nah, who cares what’d happen? At least I’ll have hot men to ogle, and I’m sure I’ll get them into my bed.
Sicong sneered when he squinted at me. “Well, that’s true. As if you’ll care.”
I quickly came to learn that my thoughts were transparent to Sicong. “Yeah. I’ll join.”
“Good.” Sicong and I came to a storage place. “Here’s your uniform.” He handed me a white version of his leather pants. “You have to wear them in the building, so that everyone knows you’re a trainee, because of the white. Beginning tomorrow, you’ll come every day for training. You’ll look for Miss Shuli.”
Next, he handed me a mini portable dispatcher. “We don’t use it normally, but keep it with you just in case, because you never know what’ll happen in the future when you’re executing missions.”
I nodded. Makes sense.
“Any questions? You can go now.”
There were a lot of questions I wanted to ask, but before I could ask them, Sicong was out of sight.
I was bizarrely attracted to Sicong. He was handsome, with that angular face, but his personality, which should have thrown me, hadn’t. He was straightforward, especially when talking, to the point where it’d be conceived as rude. I was never drawn to rude guys. But then he was also mysterious: a quality I’d always loved.
To view the Book Trailer, click HERE