Light, p.4Adrienne Woods
My jaw dropped open. I burst out laughing.
“Are you messing with me? I haven’t seen Selene in months.”
“That would be wrong, Chas. You must have seen her tonight. What happened? What woke you?”
“Nothing woke me.” I was annoyed, frustrated. I had no idea what Leigh was talking about.
“We met earlier at our regular spot. You mentioned the audio room, said you thought us—our relationship—was your doing. You told me the reason you didn’t ask me about the Virtual Realm, since that would answer your question of whether the dreams were real or all in your imagination.”
My mouth dropped open again. How the hell did he know that? The last thing I remembered was the audio lab. Unless he was telling the truth. Leigh had never lied to me before.
I doubled over, resting my hands on my knees. My chest was tight and I struggled to breathe.
Had someone wiped the last twelve hours from my mind? It couldn’t have been Selene. Why would she do that?
So many questions clamored in my mind that I wasn’t paying attention to anything Leigh was saying.
He pulled me up and forced me to look at him.
“Deep breaths, Chas.” He rubbed my back. “That’s it. Deep breaths.”
When I felt a bit better, when the string of thoughts started to recede and my lungs opened wide enough for air to actually get through, the rapid pounding of my heart lessened to a slow and steady beat.
“I promise I’ll find out why she did this. I’ll find out what she didn’t want you to know.”
“How do you plan on doing that?” I didn’t even know where the hell he was now. How was he going to investigate or find out the truth?
What the hell was going on?
He pulled me in for a hug. “I’ll figure something out. Just promise me you’ll be careful. I don’t like this. Not one bit.”
“Me neither.” Selene must have found out about my sand. But why would she take my memory of that away? It didn’t make any sense. Unless she was trying to coax it out and she didn’t want me to know she was on to me.
The panic attack started up again.
“What if she knows about me? What if she’s trying to hide the fact that she’s trying to coax out my shadow—” I couldn’t finish. I exhaled heavily, my stomach roiling.
“Shh, deep breaths. If Selene was on to you, Chas, she wouldn’t do this in secret. I’ve seen it before.”
He sighed and broke the hug to look at me. “Be careful, Chas, and please keep this to yourself. If Selene did this, you have to be careful who you trust. She definitely didn’t act alone. I’ll speak to you soon.” He brushed his lips against mine and then started walking away.
“Oh, before I forget… You’ll want to take a shower when you wake up,” he called over his shoulder.
I frowned. Did I smell bad in my dream?
I lifted my arm and brought it toward my nose. I smelled like me, not at all sweaty or stale. I took a handful of hair and lay it over my nose. Strawberries, the fading smell of strawberries, but not a bad smell.
I shrugged and turned around. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, I was lying on my back.
I was flat on my back looking up at the spinning ceiling of a carousel. A carousel?
Where the hell was I?
There were no large plastic horses I could concentrate on to stop the spinning. There was nothing that wasn’t moving.
Bile pushed up from my gut to my throat. I closed my eyes as I got up.
I blinked a few times when I opened my eyes. The objects were still out of focus, but I could make out the door of my bathroom.
The light was on.
The minute I started moving, the spinning intensified. I fell on all fours and crawled toward the toilet. I barely made it before I threw up my stomach’s contents.
Even when my stomach was empty, I kept gagging. I couldn’t stop. The nausea wouldn’t go away. My body ached from the heaving. I spit into the toilet and eyed the shower. For some reason, I really wanted one.
Crawling to the shower, I climbed in with my clothes on. I reached up to the tap and turned it on.
My body was tired, weak.
I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep. I curled up on the floor of the shower, the curtain barely grazing my body, as the warm water poured down on me.
I must have dozed off, because when I opened my eyes again, the water had lost its heat.
To my surprise, I felt better. Not like I had been puking my guts out a while ago.
I stood up and stripped off my wet clothes, still under the stream of chilly water.
None of this felt real. It felt like I’d just woken up from one heck of a dream or as if someone was playing an epic prank on me.
I brushed my teeth to get rid of the stale taste in my mouth and washed my hair before scrubbing myself from head to toe.
Was this what he had meant went he’d said I’d want to take a long shower? Had he known the water would clear my mind and help me feel better? Was water the antidote to whatever had made me so violently sick?
It made no sense whatsoever, but it had worked. I was finally feeling normal again. There for a moment I had been certain I was dying.
I stepped out of the shower and pulled a towel around my body, wrapping another around my head as I walked into my room.
Blotches of whatever had been in Mr. Grey’s stomach was spread all over my carpet, and I could feel his sickness through our connection.
I swallowed past the bile that wanted to come up again and rushed over to my cat. His soft grunts sounded in my head.
I picked him up and he groaned in protest. His body ached with the same stiff muscles I’d experienced a few moments ago.
It’s going to be okay? You will be okay. I said.
He’s not going to like me very much, I thought as I took him to the bathroom.
What are you mumbling about? Mr. Grey asked in a drowsily as I reached for the tap. I stepped into the shower, clutching Mr. Grey against the towel wrapped around me.
“I’m sorry,” I said as the water hit both of us again.
Mr. Grey clawed at me, hissing and growling at me. Through our bond, I tried to convey to him that the water would help him feel better, that it was the antidote, but he didn’t want to listen. I held him tighter against me, stoically taking each claw and scratch.
I kept repeating that the water was the antidote until the scratching reduced to just a low growl from his belly.
Didn’t you get the memo? he cried inside my head. Cats don’t like water.
I held Mr. Grey under the water until I sensed the sick feeling dissipating.
He was starting to speak in very clear syllables too. Cussing and moaning about the wetness of his body, how cold he was, how I owed him bigtime. Of course, he wanted me to make it up to him by giving him a can of tuna and warm cream—and it couldn’t be half-and-half, either.
I couldn’t help but smile. He was such a baby.
I’m not a baby, he hissed. I don’t like water. I don’t care if it is the antidote. I just don’t like it.
I shut off the water and grabbed another towel to wrap him in, and deposited him on bed.
Grabbing clothes and another dry towel from the cupboard, I hurried back to the bathroom to dress.
When I came out, Mr. Grey was licking himself dry.
It would take him forever if he had to do it by himself.
I plugged in my hair dryer and pointed the hot air in his direction.
If I didn’t know Mr. Grey wasn’t an ordinary cat, this grooming session would’ve given it away. He sat there, enjoying the heat from the dryer and twisting his face toward the air. Any other cat would have scattered the second I switched on the dryer.
Once he was completely dry, he picked a spot in the sun on my windowsill as I dried my hair.
I hoped Natalie would give me a hand in cleaning up the mess that was my room. I ran a hand through my hair before he
When I opened my door, the entire floor was dark and the curtains were pulled closed.
I look down the staircase. Not a single light shone through the house. It was eerily quiet, almost as if I was the only here.
This is just plain freaky, Mr. Grey said, echoing my thoughts.
He followed me downstairs. It was so dark, I struggled to make my way to the kitchen.
I felt around on the wall for the light switch and flicked it the moment I found it. I nearly jumped out of my skin when my eyes fell on Mrs. Irwin sitting at the kitchen table.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean…” I stopped. “What’s going on? Why’s the whole house dark?”
Mrs. Irwin stared unblinkingly at me as if I had sprouted another head or something.
“Mrs. Irwin?” I said and walked closer to her.
She finally snapped out of her stupor.
“Chastity, what are you doing up?” She sounded surprised but somewhat relieved as well. She got up from her chair, took two long strides to me, and put a hand on my head. “How is this possible? It’s only been two days. How do you feel?”
“I feel fine. Wait, what has been two days?”
“You all somehow managed to get the most horrid flu. The doctor said I’m somehow immune to it. All you poor girls have been so sick. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
“Two days?” I asked. That strange feeling I’d had when I had woken up, like I couldn’t remember what had happened before feeling sick.
Leigh’s warning shot through my head. Mr. Grey looked up at me. He knew about the dreams and Leigh’s warning not to trust anyone.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Mrs. Irwin carried on, bending down and scratching Mr. Grey’s head at my feet.
If Lover Boy said that crazy witch did something, you know I have to find out what it is, Mr. Grey said. He’d been calling Selene a crazy witch lately, and I had no idea why. Even though our bond was strong, if Mr. Grey wanted to hide something from me, something he believed would hurt me, he could. He was strong enough to guard himself from me. He wasn’t impressed with Mrs. Irwin’s sudden and overly enthusiastic friendliness. As much as I hoped she wasn’t the grownup in on what Selene did to us, I had to be cautious.
Whatever you do, don’t tell her about the water. Lie if you must.
Okay, I said in my head while Mrs. Irwin carried on about the doctor trying to find a way to heal us and that he’d suggested medicine and rest.
I smiled as she finished. “This doesn’t surprise me,” I said as Mr. Grey slipped away to go investigate. “I’ve always just caught a hint of any illnesses. My friends would be down for the count but I’d just sneeze a couple of times and that was that,” I lied.
If Leigh was right and someone—though I still couldn’t believe it was Selene—had taken our memories away, then Mrs. Irwin—as hard as it was to believe—knew all about it, and she was okay with whatever was happening to us now. It also meant she was lying to me, ever so convincingly.
I didn’t even feel a twinge of guilt over the lies anymore.
“You want me to make you a sandwich?” Mrs. Irwin asked, and for a small moment her offer felt like a death sentence.
I smiled. “That would be nice. Thank you, Mrs. Irwin.” I walked to the door. “Mind if I check on Natalie?”
“Of course, but please be careful. You might still be able to catch the whole dose.”
I nodded and rushed to Natalie’s room.
How did Leigh know about all this stuff? Where had he learned about incantations only Somniums could do? About spells that had this effect and could take away memories? That water was the antidote?
And what did my cat have to do with it?
The cat is always right.
I opened Natalie’s door and stepped into yet another dark room. Even Charlie’s cage was covered with a blanket.
I walked over to the cage first and lifted the blanket. My nose wrinkled at the smell that wafted out. The newspaper lining the cage was littered with mounds of bird droppings.
Charlie rested limply on the newspaper, not on his swing or his branch like he usually did.
I opened the door and tenderly removed him from the cage. He let out a tired squawk.
I didn’t put him under running water like I had done with Mr. Grey. Instead I poured some lukewarm water in the sink and soaked a cloth in it. I started cleaning all his feathers one by one, as well as his beak.
I managed to get enough water on him for him to wake up properly.
“Thank you, Chas,” Charlie spoke in his parrot voice. “That was a horrible flu. Yep, horrible as they come.”
I didn’t know if I should tell him the truth. Perhaps it would be best if everyone thought they only had the flu?
My brain was still trying to comprehend exactly what had happened and who was behind this. I wasn’t all that worried that it was someone as strong as Selene, which would mean she wasn’t the only Somnium alive. No, what I was most worried about was that Leigh had never steered me wrong, and he had zero doubt that it was Selene.
What did he know about Selene that I didn’t? Could she truly be behind something this awful?
“Chas,” Charlie spoke my name to get my attention.
“Sorry, Charlie. My mind drifted a bit. What is it?”
“Can you please help Natalie? Help Natalie.”
Sometimes I wondered why he repeated some things. Charlie wasn’t like normal parrots; he was smarter than that. He didn’t mimic words. He spoke for himself.
I smiled. “I’ll try my best.”
He dipped his head twice and I took it as his way of saying thanks.
I cleaned his cage first, to get rid of the stench that permeated the air.
When Charlie’s cage was clean, I put him back and he was rocking on his swing in no time, eating his seeds and drinking water as if he hadn’t had a decent meal in a week.
I looked over at the heap on the bed that was Natalie.
I was going to lift dead weight, but she was my friend. I owed it to her. I couldn’t let her suffer like this.
I turned on the water in her bathroom before I went over to her bed and pulled off her sheets.
She started shivering. This was a horrible side effect of whatever spell we’d been hit with.
I pulled her weak arm around my neck and lifted her up.
She let out a moan.
“C’mon, girl. I need to get you to the bathroom. You’ll feel better in no time.”
“Do what Chas says, Natalie. You will feel better, Charlie promise, Charlie promise.”
She heaved in my arms, gagging as she tried to swallow back the vomit.
I set her down softly and she doubled over the toilet.
I gave her some privacy as she emptied her stomach. Her gagging was making me feel nauseated again, and I had to cover my ears to muffle the sounds.
When I no longer heard her vomiting, I helped her into the shower.
She sank down into the corner with her back against the wall.
Water streamed over her, covering her entire head, washing what I now saw as an invisible virus away.
I left her there for a few minutes and went to sit against the bathroom wall, watching her.
Her weak face changed slowly in front of me. The water was visibly returning some of her strength. I’ve never seen anything like it. I couldn’t stop gaping at it.
She finally opened her eyes, shut them again, and blinked repeatedly. Finally she seemed to register what was going on around her.
“Welcome back to the living.”
She looked at me. “Chas, what are you doing here?” She looked at me and then at the water pouring from the shower head. She got up and turned off the faucet.
She frowned and her confused gaze shifted to me. “What happened?”
“Flu,” I said. She na
I could tell by the blank stare on her face that she was thinking hard. After a few moments, she shook her head. “I was making my way to the audio lab. We heard that they found evidence Leigh is still alive,” she said looking at me. “I can’t remember anything after that. I don’t understand.”
“The last thing I remember is hearing Leigh’s voice in the audio room,” I lied. I couldn’t tell her I had been dreaming of Leigh in the past four months. “Mr. Grey thinks someone took our memories with some sort of incantation. Someone very powerful.”
“Why?” Natalie asked.
“To hide something they didn’t want us to know?”
She didn’t like it. Nobody in her right mind would like it.
“That’s the number one question nobody seems to have the answer to. Those who do, well, I don’t think we can trust.”
She blinked at me.
“I think Mrs. Irwin is in on whatever happened to us.”
“What?” Natalie gave me a shocked look.
“So, if she asks you how you managed to shake off this flu, you need to tell her you have a strong immune system or something. Don’t tell her that it was the water. I don’t want her to know we figured out the cure.”
“The water?” she asked as if it was the most ludicrous thing she’d ever heard.
I struggled to come up with an explanation that would make sense.
“I know it sounds strange, but yes. It’s like water washes away whatever clings to us.”
She scoffed at me. “Okay,” she said dubiously, resting her head against the wall.
I got up and went to get her a pair of clean clothes.
“Natalie okay?” Charlie asked.
“Natalie is fine, Charlie.” I smiled.
“Thank you, Chas,” he squawked.
“It’s what friends do.”
Once I had the clothes, I went to the bathroom and placed them on the vanity, leaving her to get dressed in private.
The bathroom door opened and she walked out, towel-drying her hair.
Light by Adrienne Woods / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes