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       Light, p.3

           Adrienne Woods
slower 1  faster

  If that were to happen, either Mark or Selene would then go through each book, one at a time, to pull us out of the stories when the danger had passed.

  Now that I thought about it, that approach could be quite time-consuming.

  Luckily, that was the absolute last resort. We had another option to try before considering jumping into the books. On one wall was a doorway that would lead us to safety. It was the same type of door Tom had drawn in the Outer when we’d entered Revera. This one was painted, though, ready for us if danger were to follow us here.

  The painted door carried various markings and symbols, some of which I had seen before. Those symbols wouldn’t allow a Shadow Caster to cross through the doorway.

  After the Shadow Casters nearly destroyed Revera, Selene had taken every precaution imaginable to keep us safe so as never to lose another soul again.

  Whenever I closed my eyes, I could still see some of the girls who used to live in this house, trailing after the Shadow Casters. Selene still hadn’t found them. During my two-week stay with Selene, she’d spent every single minute searching for them, and at night I heard her crying for them. She hadn’t taken their disappearances lightly. I slumped down next to Natalie. Charlie was sleeping on her shoulder.

  A bomb could drop next to him, but as long as he was with Natalie, he acted invincible.

  I was worried about Mr. Grey. Why did he have to leave? Why couldn’t he just stay with me where it was safe? Why did he always feel the need to go and investigate the danger?

  I hugged my knees and rested my chin on top of them, staring at Natalie.

  “Are you okay?” she asked softly.

  I nodded. I was restless as the alarm kept wailing through the night. Why couldn’t they just kill the stupid alarm?

  Margot entered the basement, and for a second, our eyes met.

  I mustered a small smile, but she looked away without giving me one back. She was pissed off.

  Mrs. Irwin followed moments later, and I could hear the door shut behind her.

  She finally reached us and sat on one of the couches.

  Silence crowded in. Maybe everyone was trying to hear if they could hear anything other than the stupid wailing of the alarm.

  Suddenly, the alarm stopped. We all glanced at each other.

  Nobody moved.

  Of course, nobody was allowed to move according to the rules of the drill. We were supposed to wait for someone to come through the painted doorway and tell us it was safe, or take us to a safer place.

  What felt like hours ticked by.

  A soft meow came from the trapdoor.

  Everyone stared at me.

  Chas, it’s me. Open up, Mr. Grey’s voice popped in my head. I got up, only to be stopped by Margot.

  “It could be anyone!”

  I frowned at her.

  “Sit down,” she ordered me.

  I didn’t like her hostile tone. Sure, we’d never liked each other, but saving Revera together had changed many things between us.

  “It’s my cat, Margot.”

  “It’s just a meow. It could be anyone, for all we know.”

  I tapped my head. “It’s my cat.” I pushed her away and rushed up the stairs to open the trapdoor.

  I led Mr. Grey inside, sensing he was hiding something from me.

  His thoughts were guarded, but at the same time, they were a jumble I couldn’t string together.

  “Stop that. What is going on?” I didn’t like the images he was pushing into my mind.

  “Is it a drill?” Lisa asked.

  “What is he saying? Did he find anything?” another asked. Everyone bombarded me with questions. I could hardly hear or see Mr. Grey’s thoughts.

  “Everyone, enough!” Mrs. Irwin yelled.

  They all fell silent.

  “Give Chas a chance to find out what is going on.” She looked at each of them in turn before her eyes came to rest on mine. She nodded once.

  I looked at Mr. Grey.

  You need to tell me something. What is going on? You’re freaking me out.

  His thoughts slowed down.

  Don’t look at her, Chas. If you look at her, she will know and I don’t want to scare you, but nobody can tame that beast.

  I narrowed my eyes. I wanted to ask who he was talking about, but then he projected images of what he had seen into my mind.

  The House of Knights was approaching.

  It was the boys’ quarters, the exact same building that had been demolished by the Shadow Casters and rebuilt a few months ago. Where Max lived.

  Through Mr. Grey’s eyes, I saw him entering the building.

  Everything was in place. Exactly where it should have been.

  Concerned voices drifted down from the upper level. It was where Max and the guardian of the House of Knights slept.

  Was this about Max?

  Where is he?

  Mr. Grey didn’t answer; he just kept on showing me images. He rushed up the stairs, taking two at a time to one level below where the voices were.

  He slipped through an open door, through the room, and out the window, jumping and climbing from one ledge to another until he was able to slip through one of Max’s windows.

  I gasped when he flashed the next image into my head.

  Max’s room was a mess. The bed posts were shattered, his bed was ripped apart, and holes decorated the mattress as if someone had tried to stab him.

  His dresser was smashed to the floor, and clothing was strewn all over the room. His bedside lamp was smashed, the bulb flickering feebly.

  Splashes of shimmering gray sand, which I knew to be gold now, sparkled on the wall. It was mixed with something else.

  I couldn’t make it out. But I was sure it wasn’t blood. It seemed like…

  Black sand, Mr. Grey said.

  Shadow Casters. How? They wouldn’t survive in…

  Seven days, Chas.

  A Shadow Caster took him?

  Mr. Grey showed me a symbol. It was a round circle with an upside-down smile and what looked like two stripes through it.

  Lord Crane’s marking

  He took Max!

  “Chas, what is going on? What is Mr. Grey saying?”

  For a minute I had forgotten where I was, or that I was the only one who could hear Mr. Grey’s thoughts.

  Easy, Chas, Mr. Grey warned.

  “Is it a drill or the real thing?” Margot asked and Mrs. Irwin put her hand up in the air for quiet.

  “It’s not a drill. Something happened. Something bad. We are safe, though, right?” I looked at Mr. Grey.

  Yes.

  “What is going on?” Lisa yelled at me. My eyes caught Margot, who had her phone in her hand and was busy dialing—probably Max’s number.

  She went to the lower step, holding up her phone in the universal language of someone who had bad signal.

  I have to tell her. I put Mr. Grey on the couch next to Natalie, who seemed like she’d seen a ghost.

  I frowned at her.

  Did she already know?

  Were Anitules connected on a deeper level? Could they communicate with each other?

  I’d have to ponder those questions another time, I thought as I rushed over to Margot.

  I touched her hand softly. “Phoning him won’t help.”

  “I need to call my brother!” Margot said.

  “Margot, stop. You’re not going to get hold of him.”

  She whipped her head away from her phone and glared at me.

  “What happened tonight… it involves your brother. I’m so sorry.”

  Her glare morphed into an emotionless stare. Just as suddenly, life jumped back into her as I once again told her how sorry I was.

  “No.” She shook her head. “Max is one of the smartest Level Two Casters I know. He’s even better than some of the Level Three Casters here. There’s no way he is dead.”

  “He’s missing,” I amended. “There are blotches of his golden sand mixed with dark sand all over h
is bedroom walls. I’ve seen it.”

  Her eyes snapped toward my cat. “He showed you that. He could be lying.”

  “It’s Mr. Grey, Margot. He saved us all a few months back, or did you forget that? He doesn’t lie.”

  “Where is he?” Her gaze narrowed and turned to Mr. Grey.

  “He doesn’t know.” I stopped her, grabbing her arm and pulling her back a step just as she lunged for my cat.

  Mr. Grey jumped out of Natalie’s arms and rushed to the opposite side of the basement, disappearing behind a shelf.

  I could barely hear over the hissing in his mind about a crazy girl.

  I sighed. “Thanks a lot.” I sneered at her.

  “Tell me what he showed you!”

  The others were starting to voice their concerns about Max.

  “If anything happens to him… This is your fault,” she whispered the last part through gritted teeth.

  Before I could protest, two long, vertical lines appeared on the wall of the basement. The painted door became real. It was mind-blowing to watch something that was a mere painting seconds ago became a real thing.

  Our bickering died down as we all watched this transformation taking place.

  Then it opened.

  I gasped as two guardians clad in white—Selene’s guardians—entered. Mark followed behind them, and then Selene herself.

  She eyed our situation and her face scrunched up into a frown. She looked around.

  “Where is Mr. Grey, Chastity?”

  My eyebrows lifted. “He just left.”

  “I see. And what did he tell you?”

  “Is my brother really in danger?” Margot pushed me away and rushed to Selene’s side.

  Selene’s head bowed at Margot’s question and her body deflated. When she looked up, her eyes were soft and compassionate. “Who told you that?”

  “Mr. Grey,” Margot spat. “Is it true? Has he been taken? Where is my brother?” Questions flew out of Margot’s mouth faster than Selene could answer them.

  “Sit, please. I’ll tell you everything I know. I’m sorry you had to hear it from the cat.” Selene’s eyes shifted toward me and she glared at me for the first time ever. “Or indirectly.”

  Her words made me feel small, and I averted my gaze as I sank down onto the couch.

  “It’s true,” she said, gesturing for everyone to take a seat. “A Shadow Caster was in Max’s room. The guardians could only track him to the edge of Revera.”

  “The edge,” Margot sounded petrified. “As in, where Revera ends and Nowhereland begins?”

  Selene nodded softly. Nowhereland. Everyone voiced their concerns by either gasping, slapping their mouths shut, or burying their hands into their hair.

  And here I was, not even knowing what the hell Nowhereland was.

  “So he’s been taken by the Shadow Casters? Why? What do they want with him? Are the guardians even trying to get him back?”

  “Margot,” Selene raised her voice.

  Margot’s entire body slumped into the chair.

  She was close to tears. Heck, I was close to tears and he wasn’t even my twin. I couldn’t begin to imagine what she must be feeling.

  “We don’t know where Max is, or whether he is still alive. We’re trying our best to get him back. You were not supposed to have found out this way.”

  “What are your doing about my brother?”

  “We are searching for him as we speak. But maybe we aren’t the right ones. You share a bond with Max no one else does, Margot. If you are up for it…”

  “Anything.” Margot jumped up before Selene could even finish. Selene squeezed Margot’s shoulder, a small smile on her face.

  She nodded to the guardian standing behind Margot and he took Margot through the basement door.

  “As for the rest of you, I’m sorry for what I am about to do. I’ve worked hard to keep you all safe, and I’m not going to let a cat and its Tula mess that up.”

  “What?” Lisa asked and Natalie gave me a grave look, as if something bad was about to happen.

  “Selene,” Mark sounded grave. Clearly, he disagreed with what she was about to do.

  Was she going to kill us?

  Jess jumped up and headed for the trapdoor, but as she reached the stairs, she fell to her knees.

  Selene’s lips moved fast, mumbling words none of us could hear, eyes fixed on Jess. A soft buzz filled the basement.

  “Selene, you cannot do this!” Mark’s voice dripped with disapproval. He went over to Mrs. Irwin and led her to the door.

  She was going to kill us.

  Pain worse than anything I had ever felt before seared through my mind. I screamed. My cat screamed and the screams of the others in the room echoed through my mind.

  Everyone was feeling it. I could hear Mr. Grey hissing in my head from behind the bookshelf.

  The pain exploded and zagged like lightning from my head into my entire frame. My bones ached. Everything ached. I was waiting in excruciating pain to explode into a million pieces.

  Agonized screams filled the basement.

  I couldn’t see Selene anymore.

  My own pain and that of my cat’s clouded my sight.

  The pain rushed to my stomach, pounding through my veins. It felt as if my skin was going to rip open. The pain went back to where it started, only now it was a hundred times worse.

  I forced my eyes open, trying to see Selene.

  Her hulking figure overpowered us all.

  I didn’t even know how I came to be lying flat on the floor, but I was.

  All my housemates were scattered across the basement’s floor.

  Selene’s eyes found mine. She looked at me with an intensity I had never seen from her before. As if she hated me for telling Margot the truth.

  Everything faded into a dark black full of nothing.

  CHAPTER FOUR

  REMEMBRANCE

  When my eyes opened, I stared at my surroundings, unable to react.

  It was a weird feeling. Like someone had switched on the lights and my eyes were filled with black spots.

  I felt dizzy, kind of woozy, but something else too. It was hard to put it into words with my fuzzy mind.

  I blinked a few times and shook my head, and suddenly, my mind awakened.

  I looked around. I was standing against a tree, but it wasn’t Leigh’s and my tree.

  This tree was thin and tall. I had to arch my neck back to see to the top.

  Something was off. When I lifted my arm, the movement was sluggish. My thoughts were also sluggish; I struggled to get them in order.

  Wake up, Chas.

  I looked around again, and after a few moments, realization came back to me.

  My senses started reliving this place. The smell of pine, the humidity, the touch of the moss—I knew this place. I’d been here before, a long time ago.

  “Mom,” I yelled and started to walk in the direction where I assumed the cabin was.

  “Mom!” She didn’t answer, but this was the same place. I passed the rocks where I had waited for her to wake up from the blow my father’s shield had caused.

  If I closed my eyes, I could still see her lying right beneath the tree with her head on my lap. I had been terrified.

  It felt like eons ago, but I remembered it like it had happened yesterday.

  “Mom,” I yelled louder. There was no sign of my mother.

  The bushes to my left rustled and I darted my eyes over to them.

  I should’ve run, but something inside me didn’t want to move. Whether it was fear or adrenaline, I didn’t know.

  A figure emerged from the bushes.

  “Leigh?” Confusion laced my voice and I managed to smile. It felt like I hadn’t seen him in a long time, but something stirred in my memory. The audio room… the scientists discovering he was still alive.

  The message he’d had for me.

  This was all real. The last four months hadn’t been my own doing. It was real.

  I
ran to him and kissed him like I’d never kissed him before.

  We broke apart, out of breath, and a grin stretched across my face.

  Leigh frowned at me. Something was wrong.

  My smile vanished. “Are you okay?”

  “Yes, I am. Why did you wake up?”

  I frown. “Wake up? What are you talking about?”

  Leigh started rambling on about me not paying any attention to what he had said, and that when I had covered my ears and closed my eyes, he’d known something was wrong. He was freaking out and I was having a hard time keeping up with the words flowing from his mouth.

  “Leigh, calm down.” Then something hit me. I had no recollection of falling asleep.

  It felt so wrong. So out of place.

  My hand brushed through my hair. What had I been doing before waking up here?

  “Chas, look at me.” He took my chin between his thumb and his forefinger and looked deeply into my eyes as if he was trying to see into my soul, but the look that came from him wasn’t the dreamy look he usually gave me. This look was a hard one, filled with concern and questions I couldn’t answer. And just like that, it seemed Leigh found what he was looking for. Resolve was written all over his face.

  “What’s the last thing you remember?”

  “The room, scientists finding you, they spoke to you, you said the cat is always right, and…” What happened afterwards? When did I fall asleep?

  I didn’t even remember getting to my room.

  I didn’t like this. My eyes trailed back to Leigh. “What’s going on?”

  He shook his head. “You’re not going to like this, but I’m pretty sure someone wiped at least twelve hours from your mind, Chas.”

  “What?” my voice broke, my breath hitching at the revelation.

  “It’s a very old incantation and only a powerful caster can do it.”

  “A Level Four caster?” I asked.

  “More like a Somnium.”

  I let it sink in. What was he saying? “You want to tell me that Selene isn’t the only Somnium out there?”

  He shook his head. “I’m saying that Selene was the one who did this to you.”

 
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