Get a first look at The Cost of Knowing, the new novel by Slay author Brittney Morris
YA author Brittney Morris, she of best-selling Slay fame, is readying her sophomore novel for release on March 16, and EW is exclusively revealing the cover and first excerpt. The Cost of Knowing is billed as Dear Martin meets They Both Die at the End — it follows 16-year-old Alex Rufus, struggling to keep up with the demands of his part-time job, his girlfriend, and his little brother. Oh, and he can see into the future. He sees a vision of his brother's death, and must grapple with all that it means.
Below, read an excerpt that describes Alex's psychic visions and the moment he learns about his brother's fate.
My fingers find the photo and take hold of the edge, and the vision begins. It's strange to see what the photo looks like in my vision when the actual photo is under the sofa where I can't see it.
Mom. Dad. Isaiah. Me.
Dad's holding the camera at an angle that captures all four of us. His smile is crooked, like it always was, and one of his front teeth is grayer than the others. He's wearing his favorite black hat with the Chicago Bulls logo front and center, and his dark eyes, full of warmth, are staring up at me. I sometimes forget what he looks like, but now, looking at this photo, I remember everything. I remember him leaning down to kiss my forehead after I went to bed angry once, right before the accident. I pretended to be asleep, but he kissed me anyway. Maybe he knew I was awake and wanted to tell me he loved me, and maybe I pretended to be asleep because I didn't want to hear it.
Mom is wearing a matching Bulls hat, holding her backpack strap with one hand and glancing over her shoulder at the camera, as if the camera caught her off guard—Dad loved taking pictures that were posed for him but impromptu for the rest of us. Her eyebrows are perfectly arched. She looks so young she could be mistaken for a college student—bright smile, bright eyes, ready for the world. I guess that's what she hoped I would look like in college, whenever I got there. Looking at her now, I can almost remember what she smelled like. It was a sweet smell, unmistakable. I noticed it once getting off the bus downtown as a lady in her forties walked past me to get on. By the time I realized what it reminded me of and turned around to look at her, the doors had closed and the bus was taking off down the street.
Maybe it was a perfume she used to wear? A soap she used to use? I don't remember now. I hope I meet that woman on the bus again. If I could just get the name of whatever that scent is, I'd buy a bottle or a bar of whatever it is, I wouldn't care how expensive—one for me, and one for Isaiah. He wouldn't even have to thank me. I would just know that he understood, and he would know I did too.
I look at the two of us in the back of the photo. Mom has her arm around me, pulling me close, and I'm smiling like I probably never will again. There's a light in my eyes that's gone now. I barely recognize myself when I look in the mirror in the morning. I look tired. All the time. But here, in this photo, my mouth hangs open mid-laugh with braces, and I look like I'm excited about what's going to happen next. We're about to walk through the gates at United Center to watch the Bulls play the Spurs. It's my first live game ever, and Isaiah's, too. I look at his face. I look at his smile, at his sparkling eyes. There's something in the curve of his mouth that indicates this photo caught him by surprise just like Mom. But he looks happy. He looks curious. He looks hopeful.
That was when he used to talk to me. We used to play ball outside in the summer and Smash Bros. inside when it rained, and I used to obliterate whatever strategy he'd have cobbled together in Catan. We had game night every Saturday, and Scoop's was our favorite after-school hangout spot before Mom and Dad came home from work.
Everything was so different back then.
As always, the vision lasts for only a moment in real life, so I prepare to cancel the vision and wait for Aunt Mackie to come back into the room. But just before it fades into darkness, I notice something. I hesitate. I expect to see myself slip the photo into the album, or put it on the dining table next to the others, or hand it to Aunt Mackie.
But I don't.
The photo sinks down to my waist, and I stuff it into my jeans pocket.
Why would I do that?
I have no intention of continuing to relive this memory. Mom. Dad. Isaiah. Me. The Spurs game. A week before it happened. It's easier to just forget we had a life before we lost them. It's easier to forget. Forget everything.
But . . . apparently, I won't.
I'm back in the living room, staring down at the photo in my hands.
Why would I put this thing in my pocket?
If there's no way I would decide to put it in my pocket with what I know now, I must discover something in the next few moments that will make me want to put the photo in my pocket. Something significant. And if I can't tell why, from the past or the present, there's only one other source of information I haven't checked.
I set the photo on the dining room table and, with trembling hands, pick it back up again, triggering another vision.
I watch the photo shifting around inside my pocket, pitch black. Shortly after, I pull it out again, this time with the ceiling of my room behind it. I'm lying in bed looking up at it, torturing myself, dwelling on memories, so it must be night. Then darkness takes over again as I slide the photo into the pocket of my jacket, wadded up on my nightstand.
It feels like I stand in the dining room for hours, watching this vision, but I know the whole thing is taking a split second. When I take the photo out again after watching the darkness for forever, I see the photo in my hands again, with grass behind it, and when I look up past it, I see gravestones. Hundreds of them. In a lush green field with morning sunlight peeking through the trees, and colorful flowers dotting the hills where the grave plots are. The photo goes into my jacket pocket this time as it begins to rain. Darkness again, with occasional flickers of light through the mesh waterproof layer, in different colors. Looks like a rave in my pocket, wherever I am. Suddenly I'm looking up at the photo again with my ceiling behind it. Darkness again.
This time, my eyes travel. At first I'm looking at the photo with more gravestones behind it, dotting the hillsides, scattered among the trees. But then I look down, at the gaping rectangular hole in the ground, and my vision goes red.
Red, like I'm looking through one lens in a pair of 3D glasses. Red, like I saw in my vision of Shaun before he died. I freeze, staring down at the rectangular hole. My shiny black shoes, peeking out from under my black slacks, are covered in dew from the grass, standing only inches away from the edge. I watch myself reach my hand forward and let the wind carry the photo from my fingers. It falls, like a leaf, landing squarely in the middle of a floral arrangement on top of a small white casket at the bottom of the hole in the ground. Before I can will the vision to stop, I see the inscription on the side. I see the name before I can backpedal out of this nightmare.
ISAIAH RUFUS, DEARLY BELOVED.