Happiest Monday Lovelies! I really hope you had a wonderful weekend. Today, I’ll sharing the AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from Earthstuck by S.E. Anderson. This is the 6th book in the Starstruck Saga and I can’t wait to see what’s been happening with Sally and Zander. I’m a bit behind, but I’m definitely hoping to catch up really soon cause I miss Sally, Zander, Blayde, and all the fascinating characters they meet throughout their outrageous space adventure!
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All I wanted was a hot latte. Instead, I was the next great gladiator of the XIX Pontafarious Games X-treme Edition, and they weren’t letting me go without an autograph.
Things like that happen when you panic and dissolve down the cosmic drain of the universe. One minute, you can be in your favorite coffee shop, and in a heartbeat, you’re in an arena filled with pink sand, standing halfway between an ancient stone warrior and a pig the size of a hippopotamus, and neither seem the least bit friendly. Your best bet is to grab a sword and defend yourself in any way you can.
If no swords are readily available, that means running away as fast as possible. Screaming and flailing your arms are an additional bonus. Apparently, you get extra points for dramatic flair.
The arena was ovoid and didn’t seem to have an entrance, but the running and screaming sure did cut down my field of view. There was no missing the crowd in the mile-high stands, the floating screens that showed a lovely close-up of my face, or the talking moon in the sky above us, lazily ranting about drinking more Sgagglin.
At least I think it was a drink. It was unclear with all the running and screaming.
So, I cut that out. The one place I needed to run back to was Earth, and I couldn’t do that without extreme calm and focus. Not much room for mindfulness here, what with a roaring crowd and two very angry gladiators who were furious I was stealing their spotlight.
“I don’t believe it! We have a surprise contender!” The commentator’s voice came from nowhere and everywhere, drilling into the center of my skull. I threw my hands up to my ears, trying to block out the sound, but there was too much happening all at once: the noise, the lights, the heat on my skin. And all the while, every detail of the world was brought into sharp focus and every sound amplified until I could hear a fly buzz halfway across the stadium, behind the two teenage blobs sneaking that stuff the lazy moon was trying to sell their parents in the stands. Too much going on at once, and I was now screaming again, screaming for them to make it stop. Make it all stop; make it go away.
Instead, someone tossed me a laser saber. Which made my terrible evening just a little bit cooler.
“Beings of all genes,” proclaimed the announcer, “we have a new contender! Our mystery fighter will attempt to take on our two reigning champs, Carlotti the Rhegaf and Jjjjjjjoliiiii!”
“Um, no!” I shouted, but it was no use. The crowd was going wild. Wild for a girl in faded Ugg boots, whose only weapons were a pretty dope laser saber and maybe her headphone cable as backup. “I’m not here to fight. I’m lost!”
Giant white orbs filled the air, spraying from canons deep below my feet. The moon above my head drawled a lazy “Yeah?” as my face was added to the leaderboard. A hastily taken snapshot between two alien headshots popped up, their stats scrolling past my row of question marks.
Come on, Sally, jump. Reel me back in, Earth. I slapped my face, hard. My skin tingled before bouncing back. No pain, not even for a second. But if I didn’t jump right the first time, Earth could be lost to me forever. I had to do it right—or not at all. Why was this so damn hard? Jumping halfway across the universe because James-flipping-Felling is stalking you is one thing. Easy. Instantaneous. A knee-jerk—or jump-jerk—reaction. Getting back should have been the same.
If I had to defeat two gladiator beasts to get a second of mindfulness meditation, I would push through it, dammit.
I flew into the air and came down hard against the back wall of the arena. The stone warrior had flung me a good fifty meters with one punch, and I actually felt my spine shatter as the arena wall crumpled around me.
I would never get used to the feeling of bones mending themselves, fusing, strengthening, as I stood. I wasn’t used to not having a heart pumping a mile a minute when I was scared either. That or the fact I shouldn’t be scared anymore.
I laughed. Because what else can you do? You’ve got a shattered spine on the mend and a laser saber in your hands. You’re immortal, Sally Webber. It’s time to act like it.
The stone gladiator didn’t seem phased by my spontaneous recovery, though it was hard to tell his expression, seeing as how he was quite literally stone-faced. Boulders clumped together to form his four-meter tall figure, currently poised on three legs, his face only distinguishable by the ornate, hot pink, tiara-shaped crown he wore.
I was so focused on trying to make out the gladiator’s expression that I entirely missed the hippo-pig. He didn’t miss me, though, as he rammed me in the hip and tossed me in the air like a rag doll. I fell face-first in the arena sand, breathing in dust and shattered bone.
The pig turned to rush me again, but this time I managed to roll out of the way, covering my shirt with gross, bloody sand. Where was the laser saber? I spun on my heels, seeing its red glow at the other end of the arena. Of course it was all the way over there. I willed myself to appear at its side, saving myself the trouble of running, but the jumping still wasn’t happening.
Running it was going to have to be.
I dove into the sand, missing the rock that flew over my head by an inch. The boulder gladiator could apparently pull himself apart, which was a terrible thing to know. If I did that, how quickly would my own arm grow back? And why was I thinking about that now?
“Sgagglin! The drink of warriors!” The moon lazily intoned, and gold bubbles filled the arena, blocking my view of the others. Perfect. I grabbed the hilt of the laser saber and held the weapon high, feeling like the Jedi I was always meant to be.
The saber flickered then died. Dammit. I slapped the hilt as I turned it over, and the blade returned for a split second, then arena sand poured to the ground as it faded again. There was dirt on the inside somehow. How did these things work, anyway? I stared into the depths of the device as it flickered back on and cut a hole clean through my skull.
I thought losing an eye would hurt more, but the scream that came out of my mouth wasn’t of pain; it was shock. My brain recognized the pain but ignored it, focusing instead on what a dumbass I was. Any idiot knows not to stare down the barrel of a gun, and here I was staring down a laser saber. If I weren’t immortal, I would be dead now. That would probably become my personal mantra.
I had to take this seriously. It wasn’t a game. Just because my life wasn’t at stake didn’t mean I could do whatever the hell I wanted. Okay, sure, it meant exactly that, but there were supposed to be rules, right? Zander was supposed to be walking me through all this. Zander should be by my side. Zander should be…
Perks of immortality? No panic attacks. I could still function. But I was still allowed to freak out. There was no way I could win this fight; I would get pummeled again and again until the crowd got bored of me.
What would Zander do?
“Boycott Sgagglin!” I shouted, spinning around and raising a fist into the air.
Nothing happened. Which made sense, what with all upbeat music pumping in the air. The cameras focused on the rock monster punching a fistful of bubbles, which exploded over the arena in golden rain.
“Boycott! Sgagglin!” I shouted again, pushing my lungs as far as I could, allowing them to fill and release past the point where I once would have felt pain.
“Did she say ‘boycott Sgagglin?’” asked the rock monster, with a mouth that was apparently exactly nowhere. It stopped poking the bubbles, turned to the hippo pig, and continued in what could have been a very loud whisper. “Or ‘boycott, Sgagglin?’”
“Is there a difference?” the hippo pig asked, pulling off his helm with a stiff hoof.
“Well, one is her asking us to boycott Sgagglin,” he said, shrugging, all the boulders rolling as one. “The other is asking Sgagglin to boycott something.”
“Boycott what?” The pig put the helm back on. “Is this that water thing again? Dude, just fight. Don’t bring politics into this.”
“There is a serious issue with them pumping the last moon of Gilnea,” he insisted.
“We’re in the championship fight. Can we talk about this when one of us has won the title?”
“Plus, Gilnea is getting fairly compensated.”
“Seriously? You realize why they’re called the last moon, right? What do you think happened to the others?”
“Shut. Up!” The pig seemed livid. “Neither of us will walk out of here with any prize money if you don’t stop talking crap about our sponsors. We can boycott Sgagglin after one of us is rich and famous.”
The crowd wasn’t too happy about this, and that was putting it mildly. I hadn’t realized Sgagglin was such a point of contention or I would have tried a different tactic, but there was no denying it was effective. In an instant, I had a crowd divided, rising in their seats in anger, if they were even sitting in the first place; the two gladiators fighting on screens larger than their already larger-than-life selves; and a disgruntled moon telling everybody to calm down and get drunk.
It still didn’t solve my problem of getting back to Earth, but no one was expecting me to kill anybody anymore, which was a relief. That and my eyeball had grown back, which was such a good feeling I couldn’t put it into words.
Bubbles flew into the arena, hiding the gladiators from the now-rowdy crowd and hiding the pink hippo from sight until the last second before it charged.
My stomach dropped, a fall from a roller coaster the size and shape of the universe. Everything spread before me, and the walls of the room became tangible, something I could feel, like the movement of the thousands in the grandstands or the motion of the bubbles. And on a grander scale, the tilt of the planet—of the planets, all of them—caught in a dance so complex my breath hitched in my throat.
And in the midst of it, my planet. My café. My place in time. Imagine a cord, Zander had said. Feel your way back. Like a diver in a cave pulling my way through murky waters, stealing small breaths to keep the claustrophobia from taking over—only with the infinity of the universe falling away from me at every side.
S.E. Anderson can’t ever tell you where she’s from. Not because she doesn’t want to, but because it inevitably leads to a confusing conversation where she goes over where she was born (England) where she grew up (France) and where her family is from (USA) and it tends to make things very complicated.
She’s lived pretty much her entire life in the South of France, except for a brief stint where she moved to Washington DC, or the eighty years she spent as a queen of Narnia before coming back home five minutes after she had left. Currently, she goes to university in Marseille, where she’s starting her masters of Astrophysics.
When she’s not writing, or trying to science, she’s either reading, designing, crafting, or attempting to speak with various woodland creatures in an attempt to get them to do household chores for her. She could also be gaming, or pretending she’s not watching anything on Netflix.
Hope you enjoyed reading this post and don’t forget check out S.E. Anderson’s amazing Starstruck series. Until next time loves, take care, be safe, and have an out of this world fantastic week!!!