A Mexican American teen who discovers profound connections between immigration, folklore, and alien life…
We’re excited to share an excerpt from Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything, a genre-bending novel from author Raquel Vasquez Gilliland—publishing August 11th with Simon Pulse.
It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”
Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.
Then one night, under a million stars, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car…and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.
As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.
We walk a bit. The shadows of the saguaros are long, like they’re trying to pin their spines on us. The wind smacks itself back and forth, and my hair keeps getting in my face. I tuck it into my jacket and pull my hood up.
I can’t stand the silence any longer. Neither can Noah, apparently.
“So.” He snaps his fingers together in a quick beat. “Hey.” He points. “Remember that weird email I got from that collection of numbers? That said, Don’t talk to reporters or else?”
I don’t respond.
“Well, I talked to Omar about it, and he got one, too. The same day. Same minute, even. He said his cousin also got one. That’s the wild part. All three, the same exact moment.”
I roll my eyes. “He’s lying.”
“But what if—”
“Noah. He’s a liar.” I sharpen my voice. “That must be why you two get along so well.”
That slaps us right back to silence. Even the wind quiets down, like it’s eavesdropping or something.
I look at Noah, and he looks back at me so devastatingly, I know he’s sorry. But I just can’t deal with the fact of his lies right now. “So Jeremy did go and testify for your mom, huh?”
Noah whistles out a sigh and nods. “Yeah. Uh, he went in there to confirm my father’s history of abuse.” He runs a hand through his hair. “Things aren’t looking that great for her case at the moment, though. With him being a sheriff and all. He’s got a lot of officer buddies who can confirm what a great, jolly fellow he is.”
I snort and then there’s silence for a long while.
Everything’s numb. I can’t even feel where I end and the air begins. But then my shoe snags a rock, and I trip, just about to face-plant, and Noah’s arms are around me, long and warm, helping me up.
“Thanks.” And then I feel so dense for saying it, to him, this liar, this asshole, who thought he could fool me. And fuck, he did. That’s what I hate most about it. I’m supposed to be smarter than that. And I guess thinking about this has made me even denser than dense, because I trip again, my hands clutching at Noah’s chest without my permission. I dust myself off and step back once I’m upright again. Meanwhile, Noah grimaces and clutches his ribs.
“Jesus,” I say. “I didn’t grab you that hard.”
But Noah’s not paying attention to me anymore. In fact, he looks like he’s seen a spirit or something. He grabs my arm and points. I turn.
The blue lights are back.
The hairs on my neck stand straight up.
Noah’s looking through the binoculars he brought for moon-gazing. “Yeah,” he says. “It’s that Aurora thing, alright.” He hands them to me.
I put the prismáticos to my face. The craft; it’s made of something really shiny. The moon glints off it. I think there might be letters or something carved into the sides.
I realize I’m seeing a lot more detail than I should, even with binoculars. I lower them as Noah says, “Uh, Sia?”
It’s, like, only two freaking miles away. And it’s getting closer, angling toward us. Like we’re the destination.
“This is really a weird coincidence,” Noah remarks, panic creeping into his voice.
“I don’t believe in coincidences.” I say it low, almost just to myself.
“What?” Noah asks, but we jump when the craft starts to rattle. Watching it choke in the sky, I realize how smooth it normally slides in the air, as though it were part goose or swan, not mechanical. Not made from any human hands.
But now it sputters and coughs. The blue lights blink haphazardly, as though signaling something like, Someone fucking help, please.
And about a mile or so away, it sinks into the ground, throwing up dust like a snarling bull before it charges. I glance at Noah, who’s holding up his phone, filming. “Jesus,” he whispers.
It slides closer with a smatter of red sparks, giving a low, long howl that sounds… God. It sounds unearthly.
Goosebumps glide along my arms and chest so strong it hurts.
The thing finally stops moving, the desert sand all around it like a fog.
Noah and I look at each other for a moment before we run to my car, fling the doors open, and dive inside. I turn the key before I can even settle into my seat and I press the gas so hard, we screech forward with a jerk, into the moonlit smoke that now surrounds us.
I stop the car about twenty feet from the thing. Madre de Dios. It’s the size of my whole house. Granted, it’s not a big house. But shit.
As I plummet out of the car, this weird buzzing fills me. It’s a long bass note, vibrating from my chest and head and hands. I guess it’s coming from the craft. I make my way toward it.
“Careful,” Noah shouts. “Might be hot. Make sure your shoes aren’t melting or anything!”
My Converse look fine. And anyway, this thing, this area, it’s not hot. It’s freaking freezing.
Noah’s next to it, taking photos of something with his phone. I join him and see the inscriptions on the surface of the metal. They look like they’re scratched on with an old nail. The letters, or whatever they are, they’re beautiful. They’re made up of spirals and triangles and discs. They’re a little more distinct than Omar’s piece of metal. More purposeful or something.
But it’s weird; if I blink at them, it almost seems like they’re changing—but maybe it’s the clouds moving over the moon.
I take a step closer. Shit. They are changing. Just like Omar said.
My heart beats loudly as a spiral turns into an o, as a circle turns into a t.
I gasp when it’s finished. There’s only two words pulsing in front of me.
I jump back and almost knock Noah over. “Do you see that?” I say to him, pointing at the script.
“I know, it’s incredible,” he says, holding up his phone. “It’s fucking glyphs, Sia. Like some ancient Mayan shit.” He gives me a long look before turning back to his phone. “It looks just like the thing Omar brought us.”
Guess Omar’s not a liar after all hangs around us, unsaid. But I’m too freaked to engage inaudible words when there are ones carving themselves into metal right in front of my face. “No, I mean…” I trail off as I gesture to the letters. The English words are gone, replaced by spirals and scratches.
“Some weird shit is going on here, Noah,” I say with panic rising in my voice. “I think we should get outta here.”
We freeze as we hear a muffled groan.
“Jesus,” Noah says. “There’s someone in there.”
“Of course there’s someone in there. Someone’s gotta be manning this thing.”
“I thought it might be controlled remotely,” Noah says, walking around the perimeter. “I mean, that’s where all aircraft tech is going, and this seems really advanced—” He’s rounded the corner. I can’t see or hear him anymore.
I give the glyphs one last glance before I run after him.
“Sia!” he yells.
I run harder and see his silhouette, crouched over a huge gash in the craft. I get closer and my blood, my bones, my everything feels like stone when I see the line of a figure in front of him, crawling out.
I stop. My breath is fast and won’t slow down.
“Sia,” he says, motioning for me to come. “She needs help!”
“She?” My voice sounds funny, all high and shaky.
“Sia, come on!”
I nod and slowly walk.
The features of her are getting clearer, but it’s still hard to see. She looks human. That’s good. I think.
When I see her face, though, everything turns into slow motion.
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
He’s pulling her up, but she can’t walk that well. He says something, but my ears are ringing—from what, I’m not sure—the bass note, panic, maybe my heartbeat. Maybe all three.
Finally, I can speak.
“Noah, that’s my mom.”
Excerpted from Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything, copyright © 2020 by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland