Cameo lives in a caged supernatural city where all species are tagged at birth with silver brands embedded in their foreheads. Her X brand identifies her as a Mixbreed, but she’s so much more. Like a chameleon, she can shift from one person’s image to another.
It’s a great way to make money for a habitat street kid, or Cage Punk as most people call them. Wiz, her street partner-in-crime, finds her jobs to use her abilities. Some jobs entail changing into people to take academic tests. Others require more skill and involve higher risk.
When Wiz asks Cameo to stand in for a Were-wolf teenager who doesn't want to go to her debutante ball, it seems like just another job, until a corpse is discovered and an old friend of Wiz appears.
Police tape surrounded my mom’s studio apartment.
I stared at her feet as she hung, lifeless, from the mango tree. Sunlight hit her pale skin. She’d painted her toenails teal and used a marker to draw smiley faces on each one.
It’s funny how people notice the craziest things in times of shock.
Each moment the wind blew, the branches swayed, and her dangling body twisted and turned. Death’s decaying fragrance hovered around her. Don’t cry. She didn't love me anyway. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I rushed to wipe them away. So many emotions bogged down my brain. Grief suffocated me. I breathed in and out, but couldn't calm down.
“You’re an abomination!” My mom stumbled after me and held the worn-out leather belt in her hand. Her bushy chestnut hair bounced with the movement. “Lizard girl, I should have killed you when you were in my womb.”
I stood among the crowd in disguise as an earth witch, with almond skin instead of my pale, scaly complexion, curly black hair in place of my white bushy strands, and fuller breasts versus my nonexistent ones. Usually, the silver X brand embedded in my forehead identified me as a mixbreed and informed everyone that I had parents from different species. Human doctors had tagged me with the brand at birth, like all the other supernaturals. To help my disguise, I plastered an illegal brand cap with an illusionary spell over my X. When people saw my forehead, they spotted an upright triangle with a line going through it. It was a witch’s brand.
“That’s the crazy lady who talked to ghosts,” a woman whispered to a tall man.
“Too bad the ghosts never talked back.” The man covered his mouth with a folded newspaper to quiet his chuckle. “They would have told her to wash.”
Even in your death, people make fun of you.
I tossed a pebbled candy in my mouth, sucked on the sweet cherry syrup, and struggled with not crying or showing pain on my face. Would Mom have cried for me if I died? I doubt it. I balled my hands into tight little fists. My nails dug in my skin. Instead of savoring the candy, I crunched it up into tiny pieces and then swallowed them.
“How long has she been up there?” someone asked another.
“Don’t know. They found her there this morning.”
I checked the two guys out from my peripheral view. Neither one looked familiar. They could have recently moved into the apartment complex. I’d run away from home three years ago, when I was fourteen. Every morning since I escaped, I walked by my mother’s house in another person’s image to make sure she was okay. I’d done my best to hide from Mom in this little caged city, and did a good job with avoiding her, until three months ago when she found me. It had been a big argument. I’d stood on the losing side, receiving her insults and abuse. It took a friend of mine to pull her away from me. As I raced away, she’d threatened to never leave me alone.
But, I didn't think you would kill yourself.
I edged away and bumped into the one person that I didn't think I would meet on this end of Oya District. Wiz.
He towered over me. His short, sandy-blond hair brushed against the middle of his ears and blew in the wind, getting in the way of his unique eyes. The left one was emerald green, the right one sapphire blue. Although, only two years older than me, he looked more like a man than a teenager. He had a lightweight boxer’s frame, taut and curved but without all the bulk. Thousands of girls would've drooled at his feet if it weren't for his trench coat. Patches of dried flesh formed the garment. Every time Wiz fought and won, he carved out a square of the loser’s skin and sewed it on. The coat hung below his knees. Were-lion fur bordered the hood.
“Excuse me.” I stepped around him and wondered if I could trick him this time. For some reason, he always knew it was me, regardless of what image I mimicked.
Wiz’s arm shot up and blocked my way. His citrus scent filled the air. Jagged scars covered every knuckle on his hands. Above each scar, black runes decorated his tan skin.
“Cameo, I have a job for you.” Sunlight shined over his X brand. “Let’s go to the playground over there.”
In all the years that I knew him, I never told Wiz where I came from or who my mother was.
Maybe he knows why I walk by this way every day.
“How did you know it was me?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” He flashed me a crooked grin that displayed silver fangs. He’d had the fangs added by a guy that did black market enchantments. “Are you going to start hiding from me?”
“Nope.” I headed toward the playground. “I would never hide from you.”
I met Wiz the first month I ran away. It was during one of Santeria City’s notorious tropical storms. The whole supernatural city was encaged inside a large barred ceiling that shot up thousands of feet into the air and covered the city like a ceiling. Metal-bricked walls surrounded the whole place. We could never see the human cities that existed freely outside of ours. So, when it rained, Santeria flooded.
That night, the downpour had beat down on my head while I sat in a semi-flooded dumpster and shivered. I’d worn the image of a Hispanic boy. Out of nowhere, Wiz jumped into the dumpster, pulled me out, and carried me to one of the many small rooms he rented around Santeria. I figured he was going to hurt me, but I was too sick to put up a fight.
But he never hurt me.
He wrapped me in a pile of fluffy blankets the rest of the week and declared I had a fever. And that was how he discovered my power. Because I was ill, it was difficult to maintain a disguised form. I passed out in Wiz’s arms and transformed from a little Hispanic boy to a pale teenage girl right before his eyes. We've been in business together ever since.
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Kenya Wright always knew she would be famous since the ripe old age of six when she sang the Michael Jackson thriller song in her bathroom mirror. She has tried her hand at many things from enlisting in the Navy for six years as a Persian-Farsi linguist to being a nude model at an art university.
However, writing has been the only constant love in her life. Will she succeed? Of course.
For she has been coined The Urban Fantasy Queen, the Super Iconic Writer of this Age, The Lyrical Genius of Our Generation. Granted, these are all terms coined by her, within the private walls of her bathroom as she still sings the Michael Jackson thriller song.
Kenya Wright currently resides in Miami with her three amazing, overactive children, a supportive, gorgeous husband, and three cool black cats that refuse to stop sleeping on Kenya’s head at night.