Stories: Search for the Sky ~ Preview

"Search for the Sky" is posted in graphic novel format here. A few alterations have been made to quicken the pace.


“Sora!” a voice rang through the snow-draped landscape. “Sora! Where are you?!”

The snow fell in a thick sheet of white, blowing like chaff in the whistling wind. “Sora...? Who’s..Sora...?” As the boy lying in the cold blanket of snow began to slip away into unconsciousness, he could barely see the blowing snow swirling around him.

“Sora!” the woman’s voice called again.

“Sky...”the boy murmured. “I can’t..see the sky...” His eyes eased shut and everything, even the snow and the woman’s cries, faded out to a black silence.

Chapter 1: The Gifted

“The Gifted?” the man asked.

“That’s right,” Joel replied. “She said Sky is one of the gifted.” His unruly dark hair blew in the breeze as his sister shifted restlessly beside him. “What does that mean?”

“Don’t go looking for trouble, boy,” the man said, “and don’t bring anyone else down that path.” He looked down at the small girl with the pigtails, figured her to be about six; then he looked back at the boy, who couldn't have been much older than twelve. “Take your sister and go back home.” The man turned his back on the kids and closed the door in their suntanned faces.

“Come back here, old man!” Joel cried, stomping his foot on the wooden porch. “Urgh! Not again!”

“I’m hungry,” his sister said with a tug at Joel’s shirt.

“Not now, Michi,” Joel said as he led her down the porch steps. “We have to ask whoever’s in those last couple houses first.”

“We’ve been asking all morning,” the little girl whined. “I want to eat!”

Joel heaved a sigh. “Fine,” he conceded, “after this next one, we’ll eat.”

The siblings stumbled to the next house, where a young woman sat in a rocking chair on the porch, and climbed the stairs. “Can I ask you a question?” Joel called to the woman.

The woman woman stood up and looked them over when they finally climbed up on to the porch. “How about a meal first?” she asked with a grin. “You must be hungry.” She led the kids inside to a small kitchen and set out two plates for them at a wooden table.

“Thank you!” Michi said excitedly.

“You’re very welcome,” the woman replied.

Her husband, who was dark-haired and a little taller and older than her, walked into the room and glanced at the children. “What are a couple of kids like you doing wandering around town in this heat?” he asked.

“We’re asking everybody,” Joel began. “Have you ever heard of something called ‘the gifted’?”

The man jumped, startled. “The Gifted?” he repeated. His wife glanced over her shoulder, fear in her wide eyes. “What do you want with them?” the man asked tersely.

“We’re looking for Sky,” Joel answered. “Have you heard of him?”

“No, I’ve never heard of anybody named Sky,” the man replied.

“Then can you tell us about the Gifted?” Joel pressed.

“Sure– if you wanna get yourself killed going out there, that is,” the man said sharply.

“Robert, please!” his wife pleaded. She walked to the table and set out sandwiches for the children. “Please, don’t get yourselves involved with the Gifted,” she told them. “It will only cause trouble for you.”

“But we’ve got to find the Gifted!” Joel protested. “It’s important!”

“Eat your meals, then go home,” the woman pleaded. “Don’t go searching for the Gifted.”

Joel stood up, snatched up his sandwich and puffed out his cheeks. “We’re going,” he said roughly, grabbing his sister by the arm. Michi took her sandwich in her other hand and followed her brother back out into the scorching heat.

They ate their sandwiches outside, then started off again, toward the next house.

- - - -

Joel and Michi stood next to their mother’s bedside. “Joel,..Michiru,...” she said weakly, “please... find Sky, one of the Gifted...”

Michi’s amber eyes filled with tears. “Mommy...” she cried.

“Don’t worry,” Joel said toughly, “we’ll do it.”

Their mother smiled weakly, then her eyes eased shut again.

- - - -

Mom, Joel thought, hang on. If Sky can save you,..we’ll find him.

Another door slammed in their faces the moment Joel mentioned “the Gifted”. He and Michi descended the stairs and started toward the next house. “Why are they so afraid of ‘the Gifted’?” Joel muttered angrily. “They’re all scaredy-cats!”

Michi tugged on Joel’s shirt again. “Look,” she said, pointing off to their right. Joel glanced over and saw someone sitting in the shade of one of the houses. Joel and Michi approached the figure. Slouched against the wall, the thin figure was wrapped in a hooded cloak that covered his entire body. Only bits of his sun-bleached brown hair and the tips of his fingers, nose and feet protruded from under the raggedy fabric.

“Hey,” Joel called out. He decided to get straight to the point. “Can you tell us anything about someone named Sky or the Gifted?”

The boy’s big, hazel eyes stared up at them from under his hood. His grin brightened his dirty, bruised face as he said, “The sky is bright today. Sure is hot.”

Joel puffed out his cheeks angrily. “That’s not an answer!” he yelled.

“How come you’re wearing a blanket when it’s hot?” Michi asked.

The boy grinned again, but said nothing.

“Come on, answer me!” Joel yelled. “What do you know about the Gifted?”

“Gifted?” The boy cocked his head questioningly. “You’re gifted with determination.”

Joel fumed angrily. “Just forget it then! Come on, Michi!” He led his sister back around the house and started up the steps.

“Wait!” the strange boy called out as he shakily got up to follow them. “I’ll come with you.”

“Nobody invited you,” Joel said tersely.

“I like him,” Michi announced.

Joel pulled Michi behind him as he started up the stairs.

“No one here will tell you what you want to know,” the boy called out softly.

“What?” Joel asked as he turned back to face him.

“They’re all..scared,” the boy continued.

“Yeah?” Joel shot back. “And you won’t tell us what we want to know either!”

“‘Cause I don’t know,” the boy replied with a grin.

“You know something!” Joel retorted, storming back down the steps toward the cloaked boy. “Tell us!” he yelled, grabbing the boy’s cloak.

The boy only grinned and asked, “Why do you think I’m lying?”

Joel angrily shoved him away. “If you don’t know anything, then quit following us!” He stalked back up the steps and knocked on the door, then stood back next to Michi. They heard the boy’s unsteady steps tapping up the stairs behind them. Joel turned around to tell the boy off, but the door swung open in front of him and someone stepped out of the house.

The young woman’s gaze settled on the cloaked boy behind Joel and Michi. “Oh, Hikari,” she said, “are these friends of yours?” Joel and Michi exchanged confused glances. The boy behind them only grinned. “Come in,” the young woman said. “Please, come out of the heat.” She ushered them inside and settled them down in a set of armchairs in the front parlor. “I’ll get something for you to eat. For now, would you all like some water?”

“We’ve already eaten, thanks,” Joel protested. “Can you tell us anything about–?”

“Yes, please,” the boy in the cloak called.

“Okay. I’ll be right back, so stay there, Hikari.” The young woman strode into the next room, her long braid swaying from side to side with her steps as she disappeared around the corner.

“Can I have some water, too, please?” Michi called after her.

Joel glowered at the cloaked boy and folded his arms angrily, watching the boy flip off his hood. “Your name’s Hikari, right?” he called. The boy grinned. “Well, Hikari, when we leave, you stay here!”

“I like him,” Michi insisted. “Let him come with us.”

The young woman returned with two cups of water and some fruit. She handed one cup of water to Michi and took the rest to Hikari. “You look terribly warm,” she commented. “Stay out of the sun for a while, okay?”

“Isn’t your blanket hot?” Michi inquired.

Hikari glanced down at the cloak, then back at the siblings. “It keeps me from..getting sunburnt,” he replied.


Joel looked away disgustedly. “Liar,” he muttered under his breath.

“Was there something you wanted to ask me?” the young woman asked Joel.

“Oh, yeah,” Joel answered. “Do you know anything about someone named Sky, or the Gifted?”

The young woman glanced furtively at Hikari, then replied, “If you want to know about the Gifted, then leave town and look for a man named José. He can tell you what you want to know.”

“José?” Joel asked. “Where can we find him?”

“He lives in a farmhouse just outside town,” the young lady replied.

“Thanks!” Joel called. “Michi, come on!” Michi gulped down her water, then got up to follow her brother.

“Wait!” the young lady called. “You should take Hikari with you.”

“Why?” Joel asked incredulously.

“Well...” She fidgeted nervously, then heaved a sigh. “Don’t tell anyone,” she began. “Hikari..I think he has some connection to the Gifted.”

Hikari shot her a questioning glance. “What’re you talking about, Ms. Kirsty?” he asked. “I don’t know anything about the Gifted.”

“I knew you were lying!” Joel cried. “Tell us! Who or what are the Gifted?! I know you know, so don’t just give me that stupid grin and act all clueless!”

The young lady stepped in before Joel could grab Hikari by the cloak. “Stop, please!” she pleaded. “He really doesn’t know! But I– I can tell you a little, if you’re really set on finding them.”

“You can?” Michi asked excitedly.

The young woman – Kirsty – nodded. “The Gifted...They’re people with strange powers who are feared by normal humans. Though they call themselves ‘gifted’, many see them as a cursed race.” She looked up at the children and added, “If you don’t want trouble, you should stay away from the Gifted. But if you really want to go, then please, take Hikari with you when you leave.”

Joel glared at Hikari and muttered, “Fine, but I still don’t see why we should.”

“And also, I don’t think you kids should be out in the hot sun like this,” Kirsty said worriedly. “Why don’t you rest up a bit, then set out for home when it’s a little cooler?”

Joel crossed his arms over his chest and sulked as his sister nodded enthusiastically and asked, “Where’s there a bed? I’m sooo tired!”

Kirsty smiled and led Michi down the hall, leaving Joel in the parlor with Hikari. Joel glanced over his shoulder at Hikari, watching the boy crane his thin neck forward to look over the back of the chair and out the window. A strange marking partially showed where his hood had been lowered. What’s that? Joel wondered.

“So, when the sun goes down,” Hikari began softly, “we’re going home?”

“No, we’re not going – it’s not your home, you know, it’s mine and Michi’s,” Joel corrected him. “And when the sun goes down, we’re going to find José so that we can find out where to look for Sky.”

“Who’s Sky?” Hikari asked. “Is he your friend? Maybe a relative– like a cousin or brother–?”

“I don’t have a brother,” Joel interrupted. “Not anymore. And my brother wasn’t a Gifted,” Joel argued. “What’s it to you, anyway?”

Hikari shrugged. “So why are you looking for this ‘Sky’ and the Gifted?”

“‘Cause,” Joel muttered in reply, “my mom asked us to.” Maybe he can save her, Joel added silently. He looked again at the marking on the back of Hikari’s neck. “So what’s that thing on your neck?” he asked. “Who are you, anyway?” Hikari didn’t reply; he just flipped the hood back over his head and laid over the edge of the chair. “Well?” Joel pressed.

Hikari glanced back at him, his expression blank and empty, as if he wasn’t all there. After a moment, the life came back to his face, and he smiled. “I’ve never had a brother,” he said. “Do you have a brother?”

“What?” Joel asked, taken aback. “I just told you–!”

“...How did I get here?” Hikari asked, glancing around. “ I?”

“Huh...?” Joel stared long and hard at Hikari, whose green eyes had become vacant again.

Suddenly, Hikari tensed, his arms curled back defensively. “Who are you?” Hikari asked. “Do I know you?”

“We just met, remember?” Joel said incredulously. “What’s up with you, Hikari?”

“Hikari...? Who’s that?”

Joel took a few uncertain steps backward. What’s wrong with him? he wondered. “C’mon, quit pulling my leg,” he said uneasily. “Are you playing dumb again?”

“The sky...I can’t...Who’s..Sora...?”

Joel’s eyes sprang open at the mention of the name. “Did you just say Sora?” he cried. He ran to Hikari and shook him wildly. “How do you know Sora?!” The room grew dark as clouds crept across the sky outside. “Hey! Hikari!”

“Who’s...Hikari?” Hikari said shakily, his eyes easing shut. “I don’t know..a...Sora...” He suddenly passed out. Shocked, Joel jumped back and let Hikari fall to the floor with a loud thud.

Kirsty hurried back into the parlor at the sound. “What happened?” she cried.

“I didn’t do it!” Joel cried. “He just–He completely blanked out and–!”

Kirsty looked out the window at the dark clouds covering the sky. “I see,” she murmured. She approached and took Hikari in her arms; she then carried him off and disappeared down the hall. Joel passed the long minutes picking the torn leather from one of the armchairs and nervously swinging his legs as he waited.

Finally, Kirsty came back into the parlor. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I should’ve told you..about him.”

“What do you mean?” Joel inquired.

“I found him like that,” Kirsty explained, taking a seat in the armchair opposite Joel’s. “He was hanging around for days at a time, so I kind of took care of him. He didn’t even seem to know who he was or where he had been going before he stopped here. I gave him the name Hikari– because he seemed to have an unusual attraction to the light. For a while, it seemed like he was regaining his memory, but then...every once in a while,...he slips right back to where he started. It seems to happen the most on cloudy days...”

“What’s that got to do with it?” Joel broke in. “That’s weird, saying things like that.” They both fell silent for a moment, then Joel asked, “What’s that mark on his neck?”

Kirsty hesitated before answering, “I think it has something to do with the Gifted. He keeps those markings hidden with his cloak.”

Markings? There are more than just one? Joel thought. “So do you think he can help us find the Gifted?” he asked Kirsty.

“Maybe,” Kirsty replied, “maybe not. It depends on if he can regain his memories.”

They paused as they listened to footsteps padding down the hall. “It’s Hikari,” Kirsty said. Sure enough, Hikari stepped back into the parlor. Kirsty flicked the lights on as he approached them. “Are you all right, Hikari?” she asked, flipping his hood down.

He smiled and nodded in reply. “Why, Ms. Kirsty? Did something happen?”

He doesn’t even remember? Joel observed. He shook off the thought and stepped toward Hikari, gripping his cloak. “Maybe now you can answer me,” he said. “How do you know Sora?”

“Sora?” Hikari asked. “Who’s Sora?”

“You said something about Sora!” Joel insisted. “I want to know who you’re talking about!”

“I’m sorry,..but I don’t know anyone by that name.” Hikari grinned again and asked, “Could you please let go of me now?”

Joel reluctantly released Hikari and backed away. “I guess we’ll rest and be on our way when the clouds clear,” he said. “Hikari, you’re coming with us when we go find José.” He walked down the hall to find the room where his sister was sleeping.

“I am?” Hikari called after him. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Joel replied. “Michi likes you.”