By Helen Vivienne Fletcher
Helen Vivienne Fletcher is back with Explosive, the fourth instalment in her fast-paced young adult ‘Reactive Magic’ series featuring a tried and true recipe for literary success: a magic school, spells and prophecies. Enjoy this excerpt from chapter one of the book.
The chill of the night turned my breath to steam. I covered my mouth with my collar, breathing into my sweatshirt. It was midnight-dark, likely no one would notice the tiny puff of crystalised air escaping from my lips, but I couldn’t take the chance.
It had been three months since Ben had taken Callie and Elijah. Three months of him dragging them from place to place, never staying anywhere for more than a few nights. Three months of us trying to find them, knowing he was stealing their magic and forcing them to create destruction and chaos to further fuel his powers. We saw the aftermath of it all the time – burnt out buildings, withered wildlife, people injured or stripped of energy to the point of collapse. This was the first time Mr Grandace had managed to predict where they might strike – the first time we might actually have a shot at stopping it.
“Hey,” Zo whispered. “Surveillance only, remember?”
I nodded, but if I got the chance to grab Callie, I would be taking it.
I froze as a low hum rose at the base of my skull, tickling the back of my mind.
“Callie?” I whispered. No answer came, but the humming continued. What was that sound? I’d heard it vibrating through my bones every time we got close for the last few months, but I still had no idea where it came from.
I peered into the darkness. Everything was still, too still. Then, more vibrations started, discordant notes competing against each other. I clapped my hands over my ears. Between the notes, I heard something else. The slithering of vines crawling towards me.
My classmates burst from their hiding places. Zo shrieked as a vine reached her. No… no! I just needed a moment longer. I’d heard Callie, I was sure of it!
“What are you doing, Toby? Get out of there!” Asher ran past me, Julianna just a step after him. Explosions boomed behind us, the flash of light blinding me for a moment. But still, I didn’t move. I strained, listening for that first humming note, for Callie.
“Toby!” Zo grabbed my arm, yanking me up. She dragged me along behind her, half physically, half with magic. The bush where I’d been crouching exploded a second later. I turned back, but Zo’s magical hold pulled me forward. Suddenly, I understood how Callie and Elijah must have felt, being on the ends of our magical human chain.
“Seriously, get it together!” Zo shook my arm. “We’re losing them.”
That got my attention. So much for surveillance. I turned, racing to keep up with her. We’d been close so many times, but we’d never quite managed to catch Callie or any of the others. She was here tonight, though, I was sure of it.
Ahead of us, Asher and Julianna ran towards the building entrance. I couldn’t see Miss Trager or Mr Grandace but they would be here, somewhere. This watch and wait was their plan after all. They had traced Ben to this building, traced the signs of his destructive magic and chaos. We had to stop him – we had to get Callie and Elijah free of him.
A ball of fire flew from the front entrance, knocking Asher and Julianna to the ground. I grabbed Zo, flinging her down and covering her with my body as the flames rushed over us.
The fire turned green above us, morphing into a twisted tangle of vines and leaves. Julianna and Asher didn’t move. I scrambled to my hands and knees, crawling over to them, keeping low.
Julianna groaned, eyes closed, but Asher raised his head. “Go! We’re fine. They’re getting away!”
Figures darted through the smoke and footsteps hit the pavement around us. I dragged myself up, stumbling after them. Zo scrambled to her feet too, giving chase.
We couldn’t let them get away; it might be months before we got another chance. We’d seen their patterns, hiding for weeks, then reappearing to cause chaos as they drained whole city blocks of energy, taking it from everyone and everything to fuel their magic.
The smoke obscured my vision, but I kept running, desperate not to let them get away this time. Suddenly, I felt someone move. I reached out, clasping hold of their arm. My palm jolted, familiar bolts of electricity shooting off their skin. They spun around, hitting me, nails scraping across my face as they tried to free themself.
“Callie,” I breathed.
She gasped. “Toby.” Her voice cracked. She swayed like she was trying to take a step towards me, then a shuddering sound broke through her lips. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Please just come—” a blast of magic threw me back, wrenching her from my grip. She stumbled, falling to her knees. Lank hair fell over her face, haunted eyes staring out from behind it. The blast knocked the air out of me, but I tried to pull
myself towards her.
She shrank back, like a wounded animal. She was all angles, sharp collarbones sticking out from the neck of her shirt.
“Please, Callie,” I whispered. “Let me help you.”
Something seemed to break inside her. She reached out a hand, but before I could grab it, her father was beside her. His arm snaked around her waist, and he pulled her to her feet. The discordant humming melody intensified, blocking out everything else inside my head. Callie met my eyes once more, and tears pooled in hers.
Joe dragged her away, and they were gone.
Extracted with permission from Explosive: Reactive Magic Book 4, published by HVF Publishing. Text © Helen Vivienne Fletcher, 2023.
Explosive: Reactive Magic Book Four
By Helen Vivienne Fletcher
Published by HVF Publishing