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Dream caster shadow, p.6
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       Dream Caster_Shadow, p.6

           Adrienne Woods

  My mind was one busy place these days. Apart from all of that, I was also wondering about Leigh. There was still no news regarding when the Virtual Realm would be up and running. The scientists hadn’t committed to a set date, but we all saw them entering the laboratory each morning, and it was all anyone wanted to talk about.

  It seemed like all I had these days were questions and no answers. I didn’t know where Leigh was. I didn’t know whether he was okay. For all I knew, something could have happened to him.

  The more my brain went in that direction, the more I felt a strange sensation in my heart. It was as if I already knew where he was, but I couldn’t remember. This line of thinking inevitably led me back to my lost memories and I’d fall into a loop of constant worry.

  The dreams featuring Margot and Selene hadn’t faded either. They were still the exact same as the first night.

  The only thing that had changed was that I now woke in a cold sweat, instead of screaming.

  My stomach was aching from all the stress lately. So tonight, I refused to worry. I would relax, I would unwind, and I would only let the worrying start up again tomorrow.

  Natalie and I were both already waiting in the entryway when a knock sounded on the door.

  “Finally,” I muttered.

  Natalie couldn’t keep her excitement at bay.

  Mrs. Irwin opened the door and peered down her pointy nose at the man standing on the other side of the door.

  “Good evening, ma’am,” he said with a Southern twang. It wasn’t one my favorite accents in the world, but he sounded friendly enough.

  He entered. He looked to be in his late twenties, perhaps his early thirties, and had rich brown hair and beautiful midnight-blue eyes.

  “Girls,” he greeted us with a smile. I took an instant liking to him. He was so tall, I felt like a midget standing next to him.

  I grabbed my jacket from the stool in the entryway and followed Natalie.

  “What time will they be back?” Mrs. Irwin asked as she opened an envelope that carried papers verifying his identity.

  Probably checking to see if he really was one of the Dream Casters and not some Shadow Caster who wanted to lure us away. I frowned at that strange thought, unsure why I would think that.

  “Somewhere around six a.m. It’s a long night.”

  “Enjoy it, girls.” Mrs. Irwin seemed satisfied with the papers; she put them back in the envelope and handed it back to the guy.

  “Good evening, ma’am,” he said. Mrs. Irwin smiled, saying goodbye to both of us before closing the door.

  Natalie immediately starting spewing out questions. The man and I burst out laughing when her voice picked up speed and we couldn’t make out a single word.

  “Easy,” the man said. “Let’s start with introductions first, why don’t we?” He led us to an SUV and opened the door for us to get in.

  There were two other people in the car, the driver and a passenger in the front seat, who was fiddling intently with a device on his lap. Neither of them said a word as our companion slipped into the back with us and shut the door.

  “My name is Reeves, and I’ll be one of the Dream Casters accompanying you tonight.”

  “Reeves?” Natalie asked. “As in Reeves Dudley?”

  “Oh yes, I’m afraid that’s me,” he said with a sheepish grin.

  Natalie jumped up and down in her seat, shaking her hands. She was fangirling, and I readied myself for her babbling. I stared out the window as she rambled on about how amazing he was.

  We were already on the road that led to the city, but then the SUV turned down a side road I knew looped back toward the school and would eventually head off the steep edge of the mountain.

  My eyes were on the road now, and I was perplexed that we were heading toward the mountain.

  We were definitely nearing the cliff.

  Natalie was still rambling and didn’t seem to be paying attention to anything going on around us.

  “Natalie,” I yelled. She heard the panic in my voice and stopped talking at once.

  “Where are you taking us? There’s no route this way.”

  Reeves and the other two exchanged smirks, and the passenger shook his head as if I was an idiot. A small smile tugged at the corner of Reeves’ lips.

  “I think it’s best to buckle up,” he said.

  Natalie shrugged and pulled the seatbelt over her shoulder.

  The girl was stark raving mad. We would be falling to our deaths within the next few minutes, and there she was, buckling up as if we were going on the ride of our lives.

  “Buckle up, Chas. Do it now!”

  I sat frozen in place, gripping the handle bolted to the ceiling above me.

  Nat’s hand came toward my shoulder. She clutched the belt firmly in her hand and pulled it around my body. The movement was so fast, I only registered what she had done when I heard the click of the buckle.

  The SUV careened off the cliff and I closed my eyes.

  I tried to scream as I waited for the crash that would announce my death, but no sound made it out of my mouth. I was either in shock, or waiting for some sort of miracle.

  The revving sound of a second engine fell on my ears as my stomach dipped and rolled with the fall.

  My heart heaved into my throat. I was sure we’d be hitting the ground anytime now. But then, with a jolt, I could feel the vehicle changing course and we shot into the sky.

  My eyes flew open and caught on a huge silver wing protruding from the side of the SUV.

  Are we flying?

  As much as my mind didn’t want to perceive its reality, I knew, deep down inside of me, it wasn’t impossible.

  We hadn’t fallen. We hadn’t crashed. We were flying.

  I exhaled at last. Something between a moan and a sigh left my mouth. I buried my head between my legs and heard soft snickers from the front seat.

  “I know it’s a lot to take in,” Reeves said. “But welcome to the ranks of the Dream Casters.”

  I turned my head to look agog at Natalie. She burst out in giggles.

  Shock mixed with fear of death and the horror of what we were going through—or what I was going through in my mind—must have been evident on my face.

  I joined in her laughter, and my mood brightened.

  “You seriously thought that we were going to fall?” Natalie asked.

  “I had no idea the SUVs this side could to fly.” I was still in awe that it was possible.

  “You don’t have it in the Domain?” she asked, clearly shocked at the revelation.

  I shook my head.

  “It must be so boring.”

  I bit my lip. It probably would be boring for Natalie. But it wasn’t for me. I missed my home. I missed the ordinary, I missed gravity, I missed the laws of nature. I missed everything that was labeled normal. Not hearing an extra voice in my head all the time—although now that I was experiencing exactly that, I felt disabled. I missed reading books and using my own imagination when doing so. And my mom. Most of all, I missed my mother.

  I wondered what she was doing at this very moment. Was she missing me as much as I missed her?

  I looked out the window. One sun was almost down and the other one was starting to set. I sighed. Yet another thing I missed. I really missed seeing in color. Had I been able to see in color, I would have been able to appreciate the sunset more. And even though I knew it was breathtaking because I could see the different shades of gray fading and mixing into each other, it wasn’t satisfying.

  I didn’t know how long we’d been in the air, but when the second sun set, we started to descend. A light bumping was all I felt as we connected with the ground.

  Light seeped into the car.

  We were on a runway on a rooftop. Skyscrapers shot into the air around me, so high I couldn’t see the tops.

  I unbuckled my seatbelt and climbed out the SUV after Natalie.

  “Welcome to D45,” Reeves said.

  For some reason, it remind
ed me of a base camp.

  A couple of SUVs were lined up right in front of a building.

  Light blinded my eyes and as I brought up a hand to shield my eyes, I saw another SUV flying in.

  I’d never thought I would use SUV and flying in the same sentence.

  The SUV landed and just as the driver made to park it, the wings retreated back into the vehicle’s body and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

  For good measure, I pinched myself—to ensure I wasn’t dreaming or imagining things—but I couldn’t tell which SUV had had wings and which hadn’t.

  “Come on.” Natalie hooked her arm into mine and pulled me in the opposite direction, walking behind Reeves.

  “I know it’s a lot to take in, Chas, but it’s Revera. I can say with certainty now that none of this is actually possible in the Domain. It must have been so dull. I mean, none of the cars flying? And just the concept of a flying car probably sounded so far-fetched in the Domain.”

  “No, it didn’t. I just never thought I’d live to see it,” I told her truthfully.

  “Okay, so it’s safe to say Revera is advanced in a lot of ways?”

  I nodded. “Way advanced.”

  Reeves led us to a huge door situated on the side of a tall building connected to the rooftop we were on.

  We entered the building, leaving the driver and other passenger behind.

  The building was cold. Marble floors and walls led all the way up to the ceiling. Small lights protruded from the ceiling, illuminating the room so well, almost no shadows danced on the walls.

  We walked a few steps toward the upper level and took an elevator to the top level, according to the buttons.

  The took forever with Natalie’s constant questioning. She asked how it all worked, how many members were on a team, whether we’d be going out with a team to see how everything got created, and we’d be going up against Shadow Casters. Her list kept growing with every word, and I was starting to feel sorry for Reeves. However, if her questions annoyed him, he wasn’t showing it. He was extremely friendly, laughing and trying to answer as best as he could.

  Most of his answers boiled down to wait and see, but Natalie was just so excited I wondered if she might actually explode.

  The door of the elevators finally opened and we walked into operating control room similar to the ones I’d always seen on television in astronaut movies. In the center, an oval-shaped cubicle connected with a myriad of other cubicles, as if the room was designed like a wheel and the center cubicle powered every other cubicle with knowledge.

  The ones in front of the tall windows housed almost thirty staff members, all speaking into headsets.

  “Is this the control room?” Natalie asked, staring wide-eyed from one station to the next without blinking.

  “Yeah, this is the mothership,” Reeves joked.

  “Reeves.” A girl with green eyes and black hair walked toward us. She was slender and reminded me of a gothic pixie—I didn’t know if it was because of her marble skin or slight pointy ears. She was beautiful.

  “Cassy,” Reeves grin widely. “Sorry I’m late. This is Chastity and Natalie.”

  “The two interns for tonight, I presume?”

  We both nodded.

  She gave us a huge smile. “Welcome. We hope you’ll learn as much as you can in this one night, but,” she lifted a finger, “you need to promise me one thing.”

  Both Natalie and I stared at her with undivided attention. “Promise me you’ll have fun. Loads and loads of fun.”

  Natalie snickered and I shot Cassy a smile.

  She was weird. For some odd reason, she reminded me a little of Fox—the old Fox, not the one who had tried to kill all of us and deliver Revera to the Shadow Casters.

  “Promise,” Natalie answered for the both of us.

  Reeves laughed. “Is he in yet?” he asked.

  “Not yet, but I expect he’ll be here in the next five minutes.”

  Natalie was staring at Reeves with wonder.

  “Please tell me you’re talking about St. Phillipus.” There was a quiver of awe in her tone.

  “You’re one heck of a smart girl. Yes, he’s still on as a freelancer. Selene thought tonight was just the right evening to get him back.”

  She squeaked. I could feel her body vibrating from overwhelming glee.

  “So I take it this St. Phillipus is the shitz?”

  “Oh, he is a thousand times the shitz. I was devastated when he retired, because I’d thought I’d never be able to see his amazing dream casting techniques. And now I’m going to see it with my own eyes. Oh, pinch me, Chas.”

  I snorted. I’d never seen Natalie like this before.

  Reeves chuckled at her melodrama. “Come, you need to get changed for the trip,” he said. We hurried after him to a room far at the back.

  Rows and rows of tight-fitting, brown leather uniforms hanging against the wall greeted us as we stepped into the room. Reeves grabbed two uniforms that seemed to be our size and handed them to us.

  “They’ll protect you from any nightmares,” he explained as he left the room, closing the door behind him.

  “He meant that figuratively, right?” I asked.

  “Nope. These uniforms are enchanted, Chas. Nightmares won’t seep through.”

  I raised an eyebrow.

  She took her pants off, folding them nicely before she shimmied into the uniform pants. They hugged her body tightly, giving her a badass rocker-chick look.

  “When nightmares or shadow sand hits a Light Caster, a Dream Caster, they experience the nightmares the Shadow Caster created. Meaning they’re unprotected and can be killed.”

  Killed? How horrific.

  “But that hasn’t happened since these babies were designed.” She pulled off her shirt, which also got folded neatly, and pulled on the uniform shirt. “Each night, these uniforms get charged with a spell in the form of sand.” She looked me up and down. “Get dressed, Chas.”

  I snapped out of my trance and quickly undressed and put on the uniform. “It’s one hell of a uniform.”

  Natalie laughed. “It’s exciting though, right?” Natalie sang.

  “Very,” I admitted, zipping up my jacket.

  It was snug, but I had to admit, if wielding dreams was half as cool as the uniform, they could sign me up.

  I put my sneakers back on. “So, I take it that it’s life-threateningly dangerous running into Shadow Casters?”

  “Chas, they killed a large number of students a few months back and destroyed the Virtual Realm. Of course they’re dangerous. Shadow Casters are taught to hate Light Casters.”

  “Yeah, but…” I sounded hesitant. “We’ve killed Shadow Casters, haven’t we?”

  She frowned. “No.” She shook her head. “We defend ourselves. There is a huge difference. They have a choice, Chas. Believe me, they do. They don’t show mercy. They see it weakness. They are cruel. Just look at their Shadow Hounds.” She looked at the ground. “I rest my case,” she mumbled the last part.

  She had a point, but there was one flaw in her worldview, one she didn’t know about. Mom had told me about the Shadow Hounds, that they survived on fear. According to her, the Shadow Hounds weren’t really that vicious; they just looked the part.

  I tied my shoelaces and put my clothes in a cubby right underneath the uniforms.

  I followed Natalie out of the room. Her mood was sullen.

  We spotted Reeves across the room. His back was to us as he spoke to Cassy and another person we couldn’t quite see as Reeves’s broad shoulders completely blocked our view. When he stepped a few paces back, Natalie let out such a high-pitched shriek, I thought she was going to pee herself.

  “It’s St. Phillipus,” she said, her grin stretching from ear to ear.

  I glanced at the elderly man who would be accompanying us on tonight’s trip. He had to be pushing eighty.

  Reeves looked over his shoulder and grinned the minute he saw Natalie’s expression. He called us o
ver with a wave of his hand.

  “So, please, if you meet one, just turn around tonight, okay?” Their conversation drifted toward us as we neared. “Reeves,” Cassy repeated. “Promise me you will make him turn around.”

  “Bulldogs, woman,” the old man said. “I’ve been casting dreams since before you were an ankle biter.” He spoke with a slight Australian accent. “And I’ve been fighting the Shadows even longer than that. These girls will be in the safest pod they’ll ever be in their whole damn life.”


  I shot Natalie a sideways glance. None of this seemed strange to her.

  St. Phillipus turned to us and smiled. He had baby blue eyes and the friendliest face I had ever encountered before. The elderly man took Natalie’s hand first and placed a kiss on top of it. Then he took mine, but he lingered for a while. Our eyes met and his narrowed a fraction. For a second, it felt as if he could see right through me.

  “So, this is the famous Chastity Blake?” He bent his head and kissed my knuckles softly. “It’s an honor, young lady, to show you what casting is all about.”

  I smiled my thanks.

  Natalie gaped in envy.

  “Okay, girls.” Cassy clapped her hands. “Hope you have fun. And listen to them, St. Phillipus.” She pointed at him threateningly.

  “Bah.” He waved off her words and hurried toward an object that looked like an unwieldy flute. He snatched it up and carried it like a walking stick.

  “Those are expensive,” Cassy called after him, but her words fell on deaf ears. St. Phillipus wasn’t paying her the slightest bit of attention.

  “Relax, Cassy. He’s the best damn Caster in Revera. They will be safe.”

  “They better be. Selene will have my head if they aren’t.”

  He smiled, winked at her and motioned for us to follow him.

  I looked over my shoulder as we reached a walkway similar to those at airports back in the Domain. Cassy put an earpiece over her head and settled in at one of the cubicles.

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