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Dream caster shadow, p.23
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       Dream Caster_Shadow, p.23

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  “He wasn’t strong like you,” he grunted.

  My mother gave an unbelieving laugh. “And now you are going to kill the only reason I’m still alive. And for what, Father? For the essence of what you still believe is Magdalena? She’s long gone. What is in that bottle?”

  “I told you who was in it.”

  “I don’t believe you,” she snapped.

  “I know you don’t. I’m sorry about…”

  “Don’t. Don’t you dare try to apologize. When Chas has done what she agreed to, you will never see us again.”

  “Chastity is important not just to you, Vinicola. If we succeed, she won’t go anywhere.”

  “She is my child. You had yours to rule over. What I say goes and you are not going to stop me.”

  “Vinicola!”

  “I’m done speaking to you.”

  I heard a door shut and a soft grunt from Mom. I knew she was frustrated.

  “Why didn’t you tell me he was your twin?”

  “Damn it, Chas,” she gasped out. She took a deep breath and blew it out hard. “You heard all of that?”

  “Some of it. I woke up a few minutes ago, but think I heard enough.”

  She tucked the blanket in around me. “I told you they weren’t anything like us, baby.”

  “Mom, let me do this. I don’t know how to explain it, but I think this is why I survived. For the first time in my life, I’m starting to believe I might have a destiny. And I think I have to fulfill this destiny.”

  “Why do you think that?” She had an urgency in her tone. I wished I could see her.

  “I was stuck inside the Guile when I first crossed into this world.”

  “The what?”

  “It’s a place in Revera. Believe me, it’s darker than this place. I felt things that would give normal humans nightmares for years. The fear was ten times enhanced. I was so scared, I thought I would die and I think I almost did. I guess it felt my darkness and that was why I got pulled in, and the same reason why I made it out.

  “But that isn’t the reason why I’m doing this. I think I saw Magdalena there, and she begged me to help her. I know you think he only spews lies, but I do believe some of what he said because of what I experienced in the Guile. Something bad happened to her, something Selene doesn’t want anyone to know. Believe me when I tell you that Selene isn’t all sunshine and roses. She is crazy. I’ve seen and experienced it.

  “So yes, I do believe part of what he says is true. He is only trying to find out what really happened. And I can’t deny that I also want to know the truth. I know—, no,” I revised—“I can feel that this is my destiny, to help Magdalena. To put this war between Shadow and Light behind us. Shadow and Light can make it work; because of you and Dad proved that. I know there is a gray area; I’m proof of that. I’m not one or the other, Mom. I choose which one to be. Or maybe I’m both. Even if my dark sand comes, the gold will still show. There is a gray area. And if there is a gray area, there must be a secret. I need to know what that is.”

  Perhaps part of what I said finally got through to my mother; she was very open to whatever Sylvia suggested after our talk.

  I knew she believed me, believed I could do this. She knew the truth behind my words, and that gave her faith and strength—not just for herself, but for both of us.

  It was why I knew there was good in Lord Crane, because of her. He must have done something right for her to be the way she was. Even if it had been in a cruel manner.

  “Chastity,” Sylvia’s voice spoke. “This might feel awkward, maybe a little uncomfortable.”

  The eye patches were coming off today.

  I nodded as she gently pulled off the right patch. I could immediately see the light behind my closed eyelid. The light seemed to be pressing against my eyes. It burned, but not enough to elicit a scream.

  The other one got yanked off, and the discomfort intensified. I wasn’t ready to open my eyes, afraid I’d feel that horrible pain shooting through me. I didn’t want to worry my mother and Kiara anymore.

  “Are you ready?” Sylvia asked.

  I shook my head. I couldn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t.

  I felt my mom’s hand in mine. “You can do this, baby.” It was as if she transferred some courage and strength into me. “Come on, open your eyes.”

  I took a deep breath and then slowly tried to open my eyes. The light burned as soon as I tried. I shut them immediately and clenched them tightly.

  “It’s okay. Try again,” Mom encouraged me.

  I didn’t want to. It hurt too much. Tears burned against my eyes and I could feel them trickling down my cheeks.

  Her soft hand wiped the moisture away. “It’s okay, Chas. I’m here.” She stroked my hair.

  I grabbed her hand and clutched it against my cheek.

  I tried again. Blinding light pierced through. It was a good sign, I told myself—it meant I wasn’t blind. Still, I groaned from the fiery pain. I curled up on the bed and covered my eyes with my hands.

  “I know it hurts,” my mom cooed. Then to someone else—maybe Sylvia—she said, “Give it a few minutes.”

  The door clicked.

  “Are we alone?”

  “Kiara is here,” my mom said. I could hear the smile in her tone. “Whenever you’re ready, Chas.”

  I nodded. I was glad she was here. I doubted that my grandfather or his team of medical staff would have given me all this time to rest. I waited until the scratching, burning, and heavy pressure on my eyes eased.

  I opened one eye halfway, and then the other. The light wasn’t as blinding as it had been before. My mom’s figure became visible. Blurry, but visible.

  Her hand stroked my hair. “And?” she asked when I remained quiet.

  “Better,” I replied.

  “Can you see anything?” she asked.

  I smiled. “I can sort of see you.”

  I forced my eyes open wider, and the burning sensation returned as more light seeped through. I shut my eyes immediately, which only enhanced the feeling.

  Mom gasped in horror.

  “What is it?”

  “This needs to stop, Chas.”

  “Mom, I told you. I made a promise. I need to do this. Besides, if you didn’t want me to be so faithful in honoring my promises, you shouldn’t have raised me the way you did.”

  “You are going to get yourself killed.”

  “I’m sorry you are struggling with this. If it’s too much for you…”

  “Don’t you dare try to shut me out of this. I just hate seeing you like this. You make me feel like a bad mother, Chas.”

  “You are not a bad mother. You came back to the one place you swore never to return to, to come and find me, and you are still here. We are stronger than this, Mom. You told me that so many times. We are fighters.”

  “Ugh,” she grunted again. She mumbled something under her breath. “When did you become so grown-up?”

  “The day my mother asked me to pretend she kidnapped me so I could go to Revera,” I replied wryly. “I should’ve never agreed to that.”

  “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. If only our sand could help us go back in time, none of this would be happening.”

  “We’re cool, but we’re not that cool,” I joked and she laughed.

  “I’m so sorry I never told you about any of it before it all happened. So many mistakes I’ve made and am still making. I’m just scared it’s going to explode in our faces again, Chas. Separate us again. I am tired of not having you with me.” Her voice broke.

  “Mom,” I opened my arms and I felt my mother slamming into me as she sniffed into my shoulder. I’d never seen her cry before. She was always so strong.

  “I’m sorry.” I hadn’t meant to make her cry.

  “It’s not your fault, sweetheart.” She took a deep breath. “I’m so tired.”

  I huffed. “I feel the same. I’m done running, Mom. It’s why we need to find out what happened that night Magdalena was cast out.”


  She nodded.

  My thought turned to Selene and what she was hiding. It worked all its way back to Leigh.

  I wondered if Selene knew about his doppelganger in the Oblivion. If she’d lied about Leigh only being a figment of her imagination.

  Obviously she didn’t know about his doppelgänger. It seemed she had no idea where the Oblivion was. It was something that only someone with dark sand could find.

  I started to speak to my mother about evil. It was even present in Revera. She listened as I delved deeper into my recent experiences. I told her how Selene knew my dad, how she refused to believe that he had chosen my mother, a Shadow Caster, over a Somnium.

  Mom hardly made a peep.

  “The worst part of all of this,” I summarized, reaching the torture cell again, “is that even though Demi wanted to hurt me, and Selene isn’t all good and light, their sand was still perfectly bright. How do you explain that, Mom?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “What your father believes isn’t that far-fetched,” I mused. “There has to be something to his theories. What if Magdalena did die without being able to reveal the truth of what happened?”

  “Then why you? Why not anybody else?”

  “Because everyone else died. You weren’t here when the screams…” I shook my head. “I can do this.”

  I believed it this time. I could work through the pain. My eyes still worked. I could still see. I was alive. That was all that mattered.

  I slowly opened my eyes again. This time, the blur dissipated and I could see everything clearly. I turned my head toward my mother and I could see her staring at me.

  “I have to do this. You know I do.”

  She only nodded. I smiled and closed my eyes. Something told me I’d need as much rest as possible.

  A scream shredded my throat, but this time I couldn’t stop.

  Something was clawing at my brain, trying to split my head open. My eyes felt as if they were burned out of my sockets. My limbs were on fire. Something had my heart in a burning grip, and I was sure my heart had stopped beating.

  Then it all just stopped. Just like that, the pain went away. Darkness and light swirled in a vortex. I had no idea where I was. The vortex slowed, and the spinning in my mind came to a standstill.

  I was in an odd place. There was no warmth, yet no cold. The air around me wasn’t fresh or stale or breezy. There was simply nothing.

  Nothing.

  One half was bright white. The other half was the darkest black I had ever seen.

  Where was I?

  In the corner of my right eye, on the white side of this place, I saw the grayish outline of… something slowly moving my way.

  For some reason, I couldn’t feel or hear the beat of my heart. Odd.

  I kept staring at the object, and to my surprise, I felt my sand flowing from both hands.

  I lift up my right hand, and the shimmering gray I now knew as gold flowed freely. I looked between the sand and the side of the white room, perplexed.

  I lifted my left hand, the one that was facing the black side. My sand flowed freely again, but this time it was pitch black.

  My head snapped at the object moving toward me, both hands producing sand.

  The object was starting to grow bigger and longer, and I realized it wasn’t an object, but a figure. I squinted as it neared.

  I didn’t like this. Not at all. Why was I scared? Why was my sand flowing like this, and in both shades? The light was brighter than it had ever been, far worse than the bottle containing Magdalena’s essence. The darkness didn’t even look like sand. It was tar-like, resembling the smoke of the Shadow Hounds, only larger, thicker. It was evil.

  The figure was moving faster now. I took a few steps back, until an invisible barrier pressed hard against my back.

  The figure finally exited the mass of white. At first, it was a blur of a person, and then dark hair started to become more vivid. Skin, the color of caramel, eyes like pools of mud, well-formed lips and then the rest of his body. It was male. Asian.

  He took a step forward. His left eye jumped and his lips curved slightly upward, slowly, until a soft smile rested on his face.

  “Hey, baby,” he finally spoke. “It’s me. Your dad.”

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  THE CHOICE

  I struggled with the concept of my dad standing in front of me. He wasn’t alive, not that I knew of.

  He grinned, gazing intently at me. Waiting for me to take the next step.

  I looked down at my hands.

  The darkness was still oozing out of my left side, the right side shimmering now with bright light.

  He took both my hands in his warm ones and I stared down at his and mine together. He was still grinning.

  “Where am I?

  He looked around. “I should say you are stuck,” he answered truthfully.

  “Stuck?”

  He smiled. “Between moving forward or back.” He didn’t make sense.

  “What is forward?” I didn’t like the idea of being stuck.

  “Eternity.” His voice was barely above a whisper. And then he looked up, toward the dark side. “But I have to admit, I’ve never seen a crossover like this one before, Chastity.”

  “What are you not telling me? Are you still alive?”

  He smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes, then he shook his head. “Not the way you need me to be. If I was, I would’ve found you and your mother a long time ago. I’m sorry. The best I can do is watch you from afar.”

  What did he mean by not the way I needed him to be? Was he dead? He was dead. He’d been dead all my life.

  “Then… I’m dead?” The words barely came out.

  “Not entirely sure about that one. Hmm. Do you want to be dead?”

  “No,” I answered quickly.

  I tried to walk into the light but the minute my dark side touched the white, the entire room started to tilt in all directions.

  My father was struggling to keep his balance and so did I.

  “Just concentrate on me,” my father said as I couldn’t calm down.

  “What is happening?”

  “The dark cannot come into the light. It never could.”

  “I don’t understand.”

  “Light is light and dark is dark. It’s the balance of life. You need to choose.”

  “I can’t choose. I am both.”

  He was firm. “You need to choose, Chas.”

  “I can’t choose!”

  My father started to move backward, gliding away from me at a fast speed. I was struggling to keep my balance.

  I tried to follow, but my darkness was heavy and kept me back. “Dad, wait. I can’t choose. I’m both.”

  He remained silent; he was almost completely gone now.

  “Dad!” I yelled, over and over until I couldn’t yell anymore.

  The thick dark mass was now a thick gooey liquid, like glue, crawling up my neck and toward my face. It crawled into my mouth, drowning me, pulling me completely into the darkness. I hadn’t chosen the darkness!

  The light tried to fight against it, but at the end, the shadow was just too strong.

  I gasped.

  Pain came roaring back. This time it wasn’t just my head that felt as if it been pried open. My chest ached. Every muscle in my body throbbed. Each breath I took was grating against my lungs.

  The dull drone of concerned voices pounded against my ears. I could hear my name being screamed over and over, grief reverberating through every call of my name.

  Something was wrong.

  I willed my mind to remember what had happened, but for the life of me I couldn’t form a single coherent thought.

  I just felt pain. Suffocating pain. All-encompassing pain. What happened before that?

  Something was forcing me to remember, but I couldn’t.

  Remember what?

  No, remember who. Who was I supposed to remember?

  “Just made he
r comfortable,” Sylvia said. “That was a close call.”

  “Close?” my mother yelled again, her voice fraught with panic.

  “Don’t start with me. I will have you removed from the building. I am not your father.”

  My mother made a hissing sound, and I knew she was beyond pissed.

  My eyes were heavy. I couldn’t even flutter them.

  “You have to choose, Chas.” The words slipped out of my mouth without me realizing it.

  “What is it, honey?” my mom’s voice said close to my ear.

  I shook my head. I was still aching everywhere. How much longer was I going to be able to hang on?

  You have to choose.

  Three days later, I woke up, and several hours later they removed the eye patches again. My eyes were raw and inflamed from the pressure my brain had endured.

  “Honey, you were gone for almost nine minutes. You were dead for nine minutes! Do you know how crazy I was?”

  “I’m sorry.” My mind reeled. Had I really been dead? Was my vision of my dad real, a meeting at the threshold between life and death? Or just a dream?

  I shook my head. This wasn’t the Domain. It was the Oblivion. There was no such thing as just a dream.

  “I can’t see you like this, Chas.” Mom’s desperate voice reeled me back to the lab. “This has to stop. I don’t know how to handle this. Not being able to protect you is driving me insane.”

  “I’m sorry, Mom.” I kept apologizing, my voice heavy with tears. “I can do this. I came back. That must show you I can do this.”

  My mother frowned down at me, her eyebrows pulled together. Concern shone out from her eyes and her lips were downcast. She left it there. She knew I wasn’t going to quit. She hadn’t raised a quitter. My mother hadn’t left my side since the start of the experiment. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

  Kiara had gone to stay with Ash and Kaleido, as the pain I was going through was too much for her. She experienced every ounce of what I experienced.

  But my mother was here every second of the day, completely helpless. “The worst part of this, Chas, is that this is not a dream. It’s not a nightmare. Nightmares I can handle. But seeing you like this, unable to help you, makes me feel…” Tears lingered in her eyes and a sob tore through her.

 
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