Authors: Peggy Eddleman
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2013 by Peggy Eddleman
Jacket art copyright © 2013 by Owen Richardson
Map art copyright © 2013 by Jeff Nentrup
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sky jumpers / by Peggy Eddleman. —1st ed.
Summary: “Twelve-year-old Hope lives in a post–World War III town called White Rock where everyone must participate in Inventions Day, though Hope’s inventions always fail. Her unique skill set comes in handy when a group of bandits invades the town.” —Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-307-98127-1 (trade)—ISBN 978-0-307-98128-8 (lib. bdg.) — ISBN 978-0-307-98129-5 (ebook)
[1. Inventions—Fiction. 2. Science fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.E2129Th 2013 [Fic]—dc23 2012027037
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Who has believed in me, supported me, and cheered me on, every step of the way
You would think I’d never jumped off a cliff before, based on how long I stood there. Not jumping.
Of course, I’d never made
Aaren and I hadn’t been up here for two weeks, and I missed this place. We came today as my reward for finally finishing my invention. It was going to show everyone that for the first time since I was born twelve years ago, I wasn’t the worst in town at inventing. I was even sure there was no way for this one to hurt anyone or do any damage.
When a gust of wind hit from behind and blew my hair out of my ponytail and into my face, I breathed in the fall air the morning sun had just begun to warm. Every part of my body tingled with excitement thinking about the jump Brock had challenged me to make. I stood at the edge of
the cliff looking across the area where I knew the invisible Bomb’s Breath spread across our valley, wishing Brock had shown up to watch me jump like he’d said he would.
But I needed to stop thinking about him and focus. Aaren and his five-year-old sister, Brenna, looked up at me with encouraging faces from the rock ledge I planned to land on just over thirty-five feet below. I made note of the wiry bush that grew out of a crack in the cliff face and told me where the Bomb’s Breath began. The fact that the Bomb’s Breath was invisible was one of the most dangerous things about it.
The fact that it would kill you if you took even one breath in it was the other dangerous part, but the Bomb’s Breath was still my favorite side effect left behind by the green bombs of World War III. Mr. Hudson, our inventions teacher in Tens & Elevens, said that the way the oxygen molecules got cross-linked and bonded together made the air feel much denser than the regular air above and below the fifteen-foot-thick band. You couldn’t breathe in the oxygen molecules separately and your body couldn’t absorb them together, so you’d suffocate instantly if you inhaled while in the midst of the Bomb’s Breath.
It was Aaren who came up with the theory that we could hold our breath and walk into it. Based on the horrified look on his face when I first tested his theory, he’d have never told me if he’d known I’d try it. But I had trusted Aaren’s
theories ever since we were five, and he told me that I could grab on to a skinny branch of the willow tree I was stuck in and it would lower me to the ground slowly enough. His theories were never wrong, so of course I’d try out his Bomb’s Breath theory.
It took my walking into it twice, and nonstop talking about how incredible it was to be in air that
so much thicker but
the same, before he and his scientific brain had to test it, too. It was me, though, who figured out we could sky jump into the Bomb’s Breath and it would slow our fall. Like we had wings.
After I jumped off this cliff, I’d have about fifteen feet of regular air to do a double front flip before I hit the air of the Bomb’s Breath. My head would be the last thing to right itself, so I wouldn’t be able to see the bush growing from the crack. And that meant I wouldn’t be able to see when I needed to take my last breath.
I pulled my necklace from behind my shirt and rubbed my thumb over the rough stone. Not for luck, and definitely not because I was scared. I rubbed it because it was the only object in existence left by my birth mom before I was adopted. I didn’t know her before she died, but I knew she was brave. Whenever I touched the coarse, uneven surface, I was reminded that she did impossible things, and so could I.
“Hope!” Aaren yelled up to me. His sand-colored curly
hair glinted in the morning sun. “Just because Brock said you can’t make the jump doesn’t mean you have to try. If you can’t make it, you can come down.”
I laughed, because egging someone on was something I did, not him. Aaren and I had been friends for twelve years—since we were newborn babies and our moms put us in the same crib for naps—so he knew if someone told me I couldn’t do something, I’d do it just to prove them wrong. This was Aaren’s way of saying he knew I could do it and to hurry up about it.
I agreed. I pushed the necklace inside my shirt, then jumped into the sky.
Air rushed past as I threw my arms forward and tucked into a ball, the long hair of my ponytail flapping in the wind. The first front flip was easy—I’d landed that one a dozen times from the cliff that sat barely above the Bomb’s Breath. It was the second one that made me nervous, so I sucked in the hugest breath I could manage before I rotated into it, even though I should have waited a little longer to take that last breath. As my view changed from the bushes below to the cliff, I tucked harder, hoping for more momentum. When the cliff gave way to sky, I straightened my body just as I plunged into the air of the Bomb’s Breath.
This was, without a doubt, my favorite part.
The Bomb’s Breath slowed my fall as I sank to the middle
of the band of pressurized air. I stretched my arms and legs out and imagined I was held in midair by invisible hands as I slowly floated downward, feeling utterly and completely free. Sometimes I kicked my feet and windmilled my arms like I was swimming in the lake. If I kicked hard enough, I could stay in it a little longer. But taking that breath so early made my lungs burn. As much as I wanted to play around, I needed to get out so I could take a breath. Soon.