“I loved Joanna Truman’s ‘Glow’ so much! Knockout writing and romantically suspenseful. Truly reminds me of those caged butterfly feelings when you’re bursting to tell someone they’re your favorite person and the soaring glee when you finally get it off your chest.”
—Adam Silvera, New York Times bestseller

If you didn’t know better, it might seem barren out here. Sky, sand, pavement. Mountains patched with scrappy weeds and scattered stones. Wind turbines blinking lonely red lights as they turn like vinyl on a record player, soft and lilting. 

Beth knows better.

She knows that the desert can grow things from little more than gravel, that stillness on the surface often means turmoil underneath. That once you kneel down and have a look, you can’t unsee it, can’t forget what’s there.

That’s why they picked this place, after all.


* * *


It’s past midnight by the time they start driving down the 10, the highway stretching for thousands of miles like a belt buckled loosely around the country. No matter the hour, there’s always someone on the road. The later it gets, the more the commuters distill into grizzled truckers piloting eighteen-wheelers and bleary-eyed college kids who can’t afford to lose a day to travel. Beth watches the shadows blur outside the passenger window until her eyes focus on the reflection of the inside instead, where she sees Naia in the driver’s seat, steering with one hand while the other taps staccato on the doorframe. 

Beth allows herself a moment, a single breath, to be selfish. She watches Naia angled in the glass, her form silhouetted. In that breath, she can almost forget where they’re going.

Beth looks away and sips from her drive-through coffee, grateful to have something to do with her hands. Beside her, Naia has to constantly press and release the gas pedal to stay with traffic. The hand-me-down station wagon is a warm cocoon huddling them together in the middle of the night, but luxurious it is not; before Naia inherited it, cruise control and automatic locks were merely the stuff of imagination.

Heat blasts from the air vents. It gets freakishly cold at night in Arizona. Once they’re in California, though, something will change in the way they breathe. Out there at the end of the line, they will share the air only with the ocean.

Beth wonders if now is the right time.

The space between them is abuzz with the sound of traffic and the heater and the low hum of the radio crackling from the nearly busted speakers. Beth tries to imagine what she’d say. How she’d start. How to puncture the quiet without bursting it like a balloon. 

Beth opens her mouth and wills the words—any words, anything at all—to come out.

“You can change it if you want,” Naia says, nodding at the dial. A crooner belts out timeless tunes from the oldies station. “If the whole horror movie feel isn’t doing it for you.”

Beth raises an eyebrow. “Horror movie?”

“Yeah, you know. In movies, when a girl is driving with a creepy guy down the highway at night, there’s always some old-timey song playing on the radio. To set the mood.”

“The … murder mood?”


“And you’re the creepy guy in this scenario, correct?”

“Well,” Naia says with the tip of her tongue between her teeth as the dashboard glow turns her smile red, “I am driving.”

Beth can’t help but snort. “You creep.” 

The clock reads nearly four in the morning. Naia never changed it during the last round of daylight saving time, just waited until it rolled back around and the clock was correct again. She taught herself to think one hour back, in both the present and the past at the same time, waiting and waiting for the future to catch up.  

Beth knows that sometimes you can wait forever and it still won’t be right.


* * *


There are moments.

Moments when, amidst the endless chaos of the world, Beth feels like there’s—something

Something more.

Something on the other side of the veil, a crack in the universe that lets you see everything inexplicable all at once if you reach out and touch it. The bridge between what’s real and what simply can’t be, but somehow is.

It’s all Beth can think about the first time she ever sees Naia—flying through the air on the volleyball court, arms outstretched, long legs bent in a wild and frenetic burst of energy, the atmosphere around her practically singing as every dimension hits all the right frequencies. Naia spikes the ball with fluid power, and it’s gone, rocketing to a corner on the other side where no one can save it, and everyone is cheering, and Naia lands light-footed on the ground, and Beth wonders—Did everyone see what I just saw?

Naia’s gaze sweeps over the crowd, not really landing on anything as she hugs her teammates, laughing and smiling and shining under the lights. But when that gaze flickers over Beth, Beth feels it, sure as a shock—like the first spark of coming back to life. 

Later in the parking lot, as the sun casts the long lacrosse fields in shades of pink and green, Beth pops the hood of her car to stare dumbfounded at the exposed innards, trying to figure out why it won’t start, when she hears a voice behind her. 

Naia is there, her hair wild and cheeks still red from the game. She smiles.

Beth feels the engine of her heart ignite.


* * *


The world is brighter, bolder, stranger now that she’s noticed Naia. Now this girl, who must’ve been walking these halls before while Beth was oblivious to her, waits at Beth’s locker after French class, greeting Beth with a terribly accented “Tu es ma joie de vivre!” and a slow sweep of her eyelashes across her cheeks. It’s a whirlwind, this feeling, and Beth cannot quite find a name for it; she only knows that it’s spelled the way Naia’s fingers draw hearts on the fogged up windows of the station wagon on a frosty morning. It’s shaped like handwriting, messy and true. 

Beth has never kissed anyone before, but when she looks at Naia, she thinks: Yeah. It could be you.

And then: It could ruin everything.

You could ruin me.

They are lying on Naia’s bed, curled up shoulder to shoulder, when Naia tells Beth about her plan to break open the world. 

“It’s in the canyons,” Naia says. “Near Palm Springs.” She’s wearing the T-shirt Beth likes best, the faded red one with the fire department logo. The box fan murmurs from the window, sending strings of cool air into the dry heat. It makes Beth feel like they’ve created a world here in this room that no one can touch, one that’s made up only of quiet sunlight and breathing and the feel of ribs under cotton T-shirts. 

“What is?”

“The fault line.” Naia leans in closer. “Where we can unmake the world.” 

Beth presses her cheek to the soft sheets. She takes a deep breath. 

She opens her mouth to ask Naia what she means, what this is, what they can do—but nothing comes out. 

Maybe there aren’t words for what she wants to say yet.

“The fault runs all over the canyons, but there’s one spot where you can stand directly on top of it. A place where the earth cracks open. That’s where we’ll do it,” Naia whispers.

Beth becomes aware of the sheen of sweat across her brow, her own shirt sticking to the sheets, the fan not quite enough anymore. It’s a bold and terrifying thing to realize: she believes Naia. She believes that Naia could bring the world to its knees, because she also believes that Naia could save the world if she wanted to, could take this broken place they’re growing up in and change it into something better.

Instead, Naia wants to tear it down.

You could ruin me.

You could ruin everything.

Beth’s heart kicks in her chest, the same familiar strike as when she first locked eyes with this girl, but this time it feels like the engine has stalled, her heart running on fumes. There’s a word rattling around inside her, something that sounds like fear, but that’s not quite right.

“You think we can do that?” Beth tucks her hair behind her ear and looks at Naia, serious and steadfast, but Naia breaks into a smile.

“Of course we can. Girls are magic.” Naia emphasizes the last word, murmurs it like a spell she’s written into the air. “We’re magic.” 

Beth’s heart rumbles again. She’s not sure if it’s love or the end of the world.

So she says, “Let’s do it.”

Naia’s eyes widen. “You’ll be there? With me?”

“I’ll be there,” Beth whispers. “I’m with you.”

Beth is too close to her to see all her facial features at once; her gaze flickers between Naia’s eyes, where the world spins back at her, gold half-buried in the earth, and her smile, huge and mountainous and wide, wide open.

You could ruin me.

Beth knows it’s true, knows that she would give herself over to this girl no matter the consequences, whether it ends with them standing on top of the world or the world swallowing them whole. 


* * *


The gas station is a lonely, flickering thing, stuffed at the base of a small valley past an exit. Beth glances at the map on her phone; they’re less than an hour away from the canyon. As they’re pulling off the road, Beth notices a sign: State prison 1 mi. Do not pick up hitchhikers.

Beth thumbs in the direction of the convenience store. “Want anything?” 

“A winning lottery ticket,” Naia calls as she presses the faded keypad on the gas pump. 

“Yeah? And what would you do with it?”

“Nothing.” Naia grins. “But how cool would that be?”

As she sets two bags of chips and two water bottles down on the counter, Beth looks out to watch Naia, who leans against the car as she waits for the tank to fill. It reminds Beth of family road trips, long car rides up and down mountain passes and hidden switchbacks and plains without a bump on the horizon for miles. Trying to drown out her parents singing along to the radio with an audiobook on her phone. Unable to keep a smile from her face when her dad caught her eyes in the mirror and danced. 

Her parents, asleep at home, none the wiser. 

It has become so easy to sneak out that Beth has begun to wonder if her parents actually know what she’s doing and just don’t bother to stop her. 

She wonders if they know that even if she is sneaking out, she’ll only be with Naia. She wonders if they trust Naia too.

The thought makes her hands shake when she picks up the bag from the counter.

She has to tell Naia.

Before they end things this way, with something so huge locked up inside her that Beth can barely breathe sometimes. After all, there are some things that can’t be undone, that can’t be rewritten once they exist in the universe.

Maybe two of those things will happen tonight.

The bell on the door jingles as Beth heads back outside. The wind has picked up and brought a chill with it, sending trash skittering across the parking lot like something in the shadows.

“Did you …” Beth swallows. “Did you do anything to … prepare for tonight?”

“Listened to the new Shawn Mendes album on repeat.” Naia sighs. “Just in time, thankfully.”

“I mean like … I don’t know. Say goodbye.” Beth can’t help herself—she searches for the slightest chance that Naia gave something—someone—any last considerations.

Naia’s eyebrows knit, but her expression smoothes over quickly. “To who?” she murmurs.

And then Beth sees it—something she has never seen in Naia’s eyes before, at least never directed at her.


Beth tries to read Naia’s face, desperately hoping she’s seeing it wrong, that Naia’s eyes aren’t saying Maybe I chose the wrong person, that the way her lips are slightly parted and her chin is set don’t whisper Maybe I shouldn’t have trusted you with this.

Beth blinks away the words written on the backs of her eyelids and shakes her head, popping open a bag of chips. She forces a smile. “You mean to tell me you really didn’t want to grab one last milkshake at Davey’s? Not one?”

And just like that, the doubt disappears, replaced with a flicker of relief. A sheepish smile crosses Naia’s face. “Yeah, yeah. Get in the car.”

The radio signal is back when they get on the road, but Naia plugs in her phone instead, blasting Shawn Mendes and singing along with renewed energy. Beth watches the roadside carefully as they speed by, but there’s no sign of hitchhikers. 

There’s no sign of anyone at all. 

As she tosses the empty bag of chips onto the floor of the back seat, Beth spots an empty milkshake container under the seat.

When Naia meets Beth’s eyes in a glance, Beth pretends she doesn’t notice. There’s nothing left to say. She had her chance at the gas station to tell Naia, and she didn’t—she couldn’t—and now they’re careening toward the end whether she likes it or not.


* * *


The flashlight seems almost too bright as they step into the desert. The car doors slamming shut echo like shotgun cracks across the night. Even the highway noise doesn’t reach down here; they’re surrounded by cliffs that stretch toward the sky, walling them in. Naia pulls a pickax out of the trunk and shoulders it. Beth grabs two water bottles.

They narrowly avoid the chubby arms of cholla cacti that reach toward them, grabby spines clinging for a ride. Holes pock the dirt. Beth wonders what might be sleeping beneath her feet, warmed under the desert crust, away from the night’s tight-lipped chill. Rattlesnakes curled into woven piles. Voles huddled together with shaking fur. Perhaps something else—an energy waiting to stretch its jaws wide and sink its teeth into the world. 

She suppresses a shiver. She keeps her eyes on Naia ahead of her in the darkness, following her lead into the unknown.

Eventually Naia stops walking.


It doesn’t look like much, the end of the world. It looks like a slight aberration of purple quartz embedded into rusty red pegmatite and spotted limestone, the splattered colors of rock and bone that paint the raised hilltops in the valley as barrel cacti spring from the cliffs like weeds through pavement. 

There is life out here, Beth thinks. 

For now, anyway.

She swallows hard as she watches Naia kneel, reverent to the ground with her hands pressed flat. Beth remembers the way Naia’s gaze ignited her before she ever imagined she’d be standing here. What has been waiting under the earth for Naia, watching, counting the days till she arrived? Her best friend, her confidante, her everything. The destroyer of worlds, the unmaker, the girl in the volleyball tank top and ripped leggings.

If she could undo Beth with a look, how much more powerful would her touch be?  

Standing up, Naia takes the pickax and raises it over her head, swinging it down with all her might. 

Beth winces and waits for the explosion of dirt. But when she opens her eyes, there’s barely an indent in the hard ground. 

Naia’s eyes narrow. 

They take turns with pickax, chipping away at the dirt. It’s nearly sunrise when Naia swings, slams, and a sound unlike any they’ve heard so far echoes from the point where the pickax hit. 

She drops it to the ground with a clatter, exhaustion painted in smudges of dirt on her face and neck, and kneels again. Beth peers over her shoulder.

A shiver runs through Beth’s entire body, the wonder of finding something she had known would be there all along.

Something more.

We’re magic.

The desert is dark, but deep in the earth, impossibly far down in the crack between their feet, there’s a glow, a sparkle of the start of something.

Naia’s eyes gleam. “It’s here,” she murmurs.

Somewhere far away, a bird calls, its voice hanging in the air. The wind picks up, rustling the clusters of brittlebush and the long arms of ocotillos. 

The glow is barely visible in Naia’s eyes, pinpricks of light that should not exist, exposing the beating heart of a world that also, perhaps, should not exist, and soon won’t.

Beth crouches, wiping back the strands of hair stuck to her forehead. She finishes the last water bottle and sets it aside. 

When she looks up, Naia is giving her a pointed look.


“Don’t litter.” Naia nods at the water bottle.

Beth’s jaw drops. “Seriously?”

“Just because we’re about to end the world doesn’t mean we have to suddenly lose all our principles.”

“Well …” Beth looks around. “Where should I put it?”

“You could take it back to the car.”

Beth glances back at the shadowy outline of the car, tiny at the edge of the road where it meets the slope. “You’re seriously going to make me walk all the way back to the car for this?”

Naia sits up and puts her hands on her hips. “On our last night together, don’t become someone who litters.”

So Beth takes it back to the car.

Shutting the trunk after she tosses the empty water bottle inside—along with a piece of plastic she found on the walk back, just so she won’t feel guilty—Beth makes up her mind. 

If Naia can do something this grand, this life-altering and terrifying and huge—

Beth can too.

“You’re not allowed to say anything for the next thirty seconds,” Beth blurts out when she returns. She makes the mistake of glancing up at Naia, and the sight nearly takes her breath away: Naia standing next to the fissure in the ground, painted against the sky as it purples and blooms into a bruise. She looks like a thunderstorm about to break, all that power contained in a thin bolt of lightning, gone in a flicker.

“I don’t know how to … I mean, I probably should’ve brought this up earlier, I just wasn’t … I don’t know if I even really believed we’d—I mean, here we are, and—fuck it.”

You could ruin me.

“I love you,” Beth breathes in a rush, and it feels huge, and the words are happening here and now, but they also feel like just words—too small to contain what’s in her heart and too big to say out loud without risking everything.

“I mean, obviously, but not just in the normal way—not that it’s not normal. I just mean in a different, in a more, bigger …” Beth’s mind races to explain. To not blow this one chance. “I’m saying—I’m saying I love you the way you love Shawn Mendes.”

She waits for the crack in the earth to shake, widen, and swallow her whole. This must be what it feels like, the end of the world. 

Naia stares at her. She shakes her head, makes a sound of disbelief, then looks up at the sky. “I thought—this whole time I thought—god.”

Beth suddenly feels very, very cold. For the first time ever, she cannot read what’s written on Naia’s face.

You have ruined everything.

“I can’t believe I …” Naia shakes her head again. 

The world blurs. Beth wonders if she’s about to pass out before she realizes there are tears filling her vision, making everything run colors in front of her, the darkness bleeding into the glowing ground. She knew—somewhere—she knew there was a scenario where Naia might reject her, but she didn’t actually think it would come true. After everything that has proven magic is real, how can it end like this?

It’s only when Beth wipes her eyes that she sees, to her shock, that tears are running down Naia’s face too.

Naia steps past the crack in the earth, spinning toward Beth, and she is suddenly so close so quickly that Beth can’t move away, and though the color of Naia’s eyes is hidden by the darkness, Beth still searches them for something to hang onto, anything to keep her from free falling.

“This whole time I thought I’d been searching for someone to destroy the world with me,” Naia whispers. “And when I found you, I knew.” She laughs and wipes away her own tears. “And I was right, it’s you—but I was wrong too.” 

When Naia blinks, the red glow of the earth’s pulse and the white sheen of the moon’s lone light mix together in her eyes, and Beth’s heart nearly jumps out of her chest when she sees it—gold. Treasure. The space between them unlocked.

Naia presses her hands to the sides of Beth’s neck, encircling her with a gentle brush of skin, and though her lips tremble and her eyes are wide, she looks confident, radiant, glowing. “I was searching for a reason not to destroy it all.” 

The air in Beth’s lungs rushes out all at once.

“You are the joy of my life,” Naia says breathlessly, and it sounds so much better this way than it did in her terribly accented French, and she does that slow sweep of her eyelashes, and Beth realizes sometimes there are words that fit.

“What a fucking line,” Beth half chokes through a laugh. Naia laughs too, and all Beth can do is reach out and wrap her arms around this girl made of gold. 

“I thought you never paid attention in class.” Naia’s words are muffled in her ear, and Beth holds on tighter.

The sun peeks over the desert, slowly warming the ground. The stars disappear into sunlight. As the sun rises, the glow from the crack in the earth fades until it’s barely visible. The daylight drowns it out, turns it into another hole in the ground that blends in with the miles upon miles of deserted land, never to be found again.

The end of the world, barely averted, is quickly forgotten when Naia’s arms are around her.

Before she can lose her nerve, Beth blurts out, “Do you want to go get a milkshake with me?”

That smile spreads across Naia’s face. “Like, a lot.”

And so they do.




I knew I wanted to write a story about two girls who could unmake the world, but only if they wanted to. Girls are magic, after all. They are powerful, electric, can create and destroy, can love and hurt and save each other all in the same breath. Beth and Naia hold the power to rip the world apart at the seams—and perhaps they will someday.

The setting is inspired by my many long nights driving from California to Arizona and back through the silent, freezing desert. The state prison sign is real, located around exit 222 eastbound on the 10. I’ve not seen any hitchhikers yet, but I’d probably heed the sign’s advice and keep driving.

There’s also a real fault line at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, located in an otherwise unremarkable patch of brush in Diamond Creek, where you can stand with your feet on either side of the split. All it would take is a little digging.

{ Edited by Alexa Wejko. }
This new voice is sponsored by David Levithan.