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       Lost Boy, p.14

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “Never—” she began, her voice cracking, but Ms. Kim turned her way, and Wendy caught the slightest of headshakes. A warning. The woman reached out to gently touch her wrist, and there was a small pain, like a pinch. Wendy yanked her wrist away and noticed a small pinprick, and the surrounding area began to grow cold. She glared at the advocate.

  “What was that?” The detective leaned forward eagerly. “You said something.”

  Wendy cleared her throat. “Never mind, I can’t help you.”

  The room was getting smaller. Was it hot in there? She was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe, as if someone had sucked all the air out of the room and every breath was like breathing in a hot coal.

  “I can’t . . . b—breathe.” The room started spinning, like a carousel ride that wouldn’t end.

  She reached for her mom, and Mary’s mouth formed her name, but she was sliding and falling. She looked back at the child advocate suspiciously. Had she done something to her? A cold rag touched the back of her neck, and Wendy tried to focus and answer the questions, but each question just led to more questions. When the detective was satisfied that she had said all she could, he allowed her parents to take her home.

  They stepped out of the police station and discovered that it had started to rain. The weather matched Wendy’s gloomy and muddled mood. Wendy slid up her jacket zipper, guarding against the relentless rain, which pelted her cheeks. Her mom pulled out an umbrella and ushered her under it as her dad went to pull up the car.

  “What a horrible man,” Mary said, wrapping her in a hug and pressing her cheek into Wendy’s wet hair. “I can’t believe he thinks that you had something to do with those kids’ disappearance. If I had my way . . .” She continued to mumble and vent under her breath, but Wendy was distracted by the young man standing across the street in the rain, staring at them. No, not at them . . . her.

  “Do you see him?” Wendy asked, interrupting her mom.

  “Who, darling?” Mary craned her neck, and Wendy pointed to the now empty sidewalk.

  “Never mind,” Wendy said, a cold chill sliding up her spine.

  The blue Buick pulled up, and George jumped out to open the door for her mom and take the umbrella. Wendy slid into the back seat and moved across to the other side, then rolled her window down, searching the darkness for the figure. Even after her dad started the engine and pulled away from the police station, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was watching them still. Something more dangerous than the vibe the young man gave off.

  Craning her neck, she searched the darkness but saw nothing.

  “George, turn the headlights on. The storm is getting worse.”

  The thunderstorm made the visibility almost nil.

  “Honey, can you grab my night glasses out of the glove compartment?” George asked, squinting through the windshield. The wipers were working overtime but did little to help the pounding rain.

  “Maybe, we should just pull over and wait it out?” Mary asked worriedly.

  “No, we’re passing by the quarry now. Only a few more miles—I can make it,” George said, “John won’t stop texting, and he’s worried. We should get home.”

  Wendy’s dread began to mount. Then, a dark splotch slammed against the rear passenger window, and she jumped backward in the seat, startled by the shadow clinging to the glass. Her breathing became ragged, and Mary turned in her seat to face her.

  “Are you okay, sweetheart?” her mom asked.

  Wendy couldn’t peel her eyes away from the shadow, and Mary followed her gaze to look out the window. “What’s wrong?”

  “What do you want?” Wendy whispered.

  “What did you say, Wendy?”

  Wendy choked on her breath as the shadow tried to push through the glass, its inky hand reaching toward her arm. The shadow gestured to the front of the car, then stiffened. It turned its head to look out the front windshield, and Wendy looked up just as an enormous black mass appeared in the middle of the road. A morphling.

  “George,” Mary yelled, seeing the monster in the middle of the road at the same time.

  “What the—?” George slammed on the brakes, and the car began to hydroplane. Wendy was thrown against the window as the car began to spin out of control, tearing through the railing that lined the quarry.

  “Don’t move!” George demanded as their vehicle teetered precariously on the edge.

  The car began to settle, but Mary was out cold and wasn’t moving. A loud haunting growl rumbled so close that she could feel the deep vibrations through the body of the car.

  There was no mistaking that she had seen a morphling on the road, and it was hunting them, trying to send them over the quarry, in its attempt to take her.

  “Dad, I’m so sorry!” Wendy cried out from the back seat. She reached over to clasp his hand. “This is all my fault. I should have left. I should have . . .”

  “No, Wendy, this is no one’s fault. We will get out of this. It will be okay.” His hand squeezed hers, and she could see him lean forward and squint through the darkness.

  Without warning, the car jolted forward as the morphling slammed into them from the rear. George’s head hit the steering wheel, and he slumped forward, losing his grip on Wendy’s hand.

  “No!”

  The morphling was attacking their car, pushing them over the ledge.

  Wendy whimpered and tried to look out the window. She wiped the humidity from the window, and she could see the morphling in a wolf form as it backed up, preparing to ram them and send them toppling over the edge into the quarry.

  “No!” Wendy screamed as she felt the car lose purchase and fall over the ledge. She was airborne, her body rising from the seat as they fell. It was surreal, like her recurring dream.

  Something hit the side of the car with a thud, and her rear door opened. Peter, his face a mask of fear, was reaching in for her.

  “Come on!” he yelled, the wind pulling his voice away. “Reach for me!”

  Crawling up the back seat, she was able to grab his hand. The second he had a hold on her, he launched himself backward, pulling her up out of the falling car. She had barely cleared the car when it crashed into the rocks below, and an explosion rocketed at her heels, blasting her face with heat as scraps of metal flew, slicing her arm. She winced and almost let go of his hand, but he caught her with his other one, steadying her until he landed back on the road next to the destroyed railing.

  Shaking with fear, rain pelting her face, she didn’t dare move. Her knees buckled, and she collapsed, but Peter’s arms tightened around her, preventing her from falling.

  “I have you,” Peter whispered, wrapping her in an embrace, and kissed her forehead.

  A threatening growl drew closer, and Peter pulled away. “Just let me take care of this first.”

  She slid to her knees and pressed her hands to the pavement to keep upright and stable.

  Peter turned, facing off against the morphling wolf. He slid his hand over the light brace on his wrist, and a large arc of light appeared, powered by his own genetics and Tink’s mechanical skills. He stood over Wendy, protecting her as the beast prowled back and forth, looking for an opening.

  “You can’t have her!” Peter yelled at the shadow beast. “Not today, not ever.”

  “Soon! Soon, we will have her,” the beast growled back.

  Wendy shook from hearing the morphling’s otherworldly voice. She didn’t know they could speak.

  “Then, you will have to go through me.” Peter pulled back and released the string, and an arrow of purest light shot toward the wolf, lodging in its left flank. A guttural howl of pain followed, but that morphling was strong. One light arrow wouldn’t be enough to take down the wolf.

  An ominous rumble came from its throat, and the morphling wolf shifted, growing larger, its back more crooked, and it stood on two hind legs, resembling a half-formed werewolf.

  Peter flew closer, shooting more arrows as he drove the morphling in
to the trees and away from Wendy.

  The shock was slowly wearing off, and only then, as she stared at the mangled safety rail, was she beginning to understand what had happened—and that her parents weren’t safe and beside her on the road.

  “Mom!” she cried, pushing herself up from the pavement. “Dad!” Wendy ran to the railing and attempted to climb down into the quarry, but the cliff was a vertical wall. There wasn’t a way down.

  “No!” Wendy screamed, dropping to her knees as she searched the fiery wreckage for movement. Her wail of grief echoed into the air. Then, from the woods there came a second cry of pain, followed by a blast of bright light. Peter had defeated the morphling. Seconds later, he was there, pulling at her shoulders.

  “Don’t touch me!” Wendy hissed, swinging her arm at him, but he blocked it with his own. “Leave me alone!”

  “Wendy, it’s all right,” Peter said, trying to soothe her, but she pushed him away.

  “No! It will never be all right.” She pointed to the quarry. “You didn’t save them.”

  Peter’s face fell with grief, and his shoulders slumped. “I couldn’t. I couldn’t save all of you. I had to choose. You or them.”

  Wendy turned, digging her hands into the dirt at the side of the road. “You chose wrong,” she said, and then hiccupped. “They’re good people. They deserved to be saved.”

  Peter’s hand cupped her face. “So do you, Wendy. I’m sorry that I couldn’t save them,” he said, his voice urging her to believe him.

  “You didn’t even try.” She wiped at her eyes.

  “There was no time. The morphling would have gotten you. You weren’t in any state to fight. I had to protect you, I had to, Wendy. I had to make a split-second decision. And I . . . I would have died if anything happened to you.”

  “You should have let the morphling take me,” she whispered, her eyes pooling with tears. “They should have had a chance.” She shivered, and Peter reached to wrap his arms around her.

  “Don’t,” Wendy hissed between clenched teeth. “Don’t you ever touch me again. I hate you, Peter, and your tales of Neverland. I wish I had never met you. I wish that you had never come into my life. If it weren’t for you, then they’d still be alive!”

  “You don’t mean that, Wendy.” His voice trembled, his face illuminated by oncoming headlights. “You don’t remember our past. If you remembered, then maybe—”

  “And that’s where I wish you would have stayed . . .” She looked into his glassy green eyes filled with grief and could only see her parents’ killer. “Forgotten.”

  He looked pained as he backed away from her, his head shaking. “If that is your wish.”

  A car pulled to a stop on the side of the road, illuminating Wendy with its headlights; Peter was still in shadows.

  “Be the hero in someone else’s story. I don’t need to be rescued,” Wendy said, turning her back. She felt a stiff breeze as Peter departed, leaving a hole in her heart. Her eyes burned from crying, and her lungs struggled as she let a final wail of grief overtake her.

  But she wasn’t alone. She would never be alone as long as she had the shadows, which she suspected would continue to plague her. Even at that time, a line of them moved toward her, slowly approaching, and she inwardly cursed them all.

  But then the shadows developed a more defined shape, and they spoke. They weren’t shadows. They were living people.

  “Are you all right?” one of them asked.

  “H—help them,” she stammered, refusing to believe they could be gone.

  “You’re okay? Was there anyone with you in the car?”

  “My parents,” she said, trembling.

  Sirens drew nearer, and their solemn wail helped to drown out her thoughts as she tried to forget.

  Chapter Twenty-One

  A light clicked on, and movement by her bedside startled her awake. She turned at the sound of an electronic beeping coming from the machine next to her and discovered tubes running from her arm. An IV was attached to her hand, and bandages covered her arm. Her eyes fought the weight of fogginess in her mind.

  “Where am I?” Wendy asked the doctor standing beside her.

  “You’re at Timber Valley Hospital.” The doctor sat on the edge of her bed and gently took her hand. “Wendy . . .” The doctor took a deep breath. “I have some news. I’m so sorry, but the car accident . . .”

  “No.” Wendy shook her head, her voice trembling. “Don’t say it.”

  “They didn’t make it.”

  “You’re wrong.” Wendy yanked her hand away from the woman and tried to sit up. Her mom and dad would walk through that hospital door any minute.

  “My parents—” Wendy swallowed. “Are . . .”

  “Are gone,” the doctor interrupted gently. “But we’re here to help you. We have counselors—a great staff—and you won’t be going through this alone.”

  The room blurred into a mass of white and gray as her tears pooled. She fell back onto the pillow, and her chest began to heave with silent sobs. Her breathing hitched and her pulse raced.

  “Shh, it’s okay.” The doctor took a syringe and put the tip into Wendy’s injector port. “I’m going to help you relax. Just rest, sweetheart. The future will look brighter in the morning.”

  The drugs entering her system were cold, but she could feel heaviness permeate her limbs and eyelids. Wendy turned to look out the hospital window. The rain had stopped, and she could see two bright stars that seemed to outshine all the others in the night sky. Wendy took a leap of faith and imagined the stars to be her mom and dad watching over her.

  The next hours were a rush of mixed memories and nightmares. Morphlings and death. She could feel someone sitting beside her through most of the night, but when she opened her eyes, she was alone. With the morning sun came the truth as she woke to find her brother sitting beside her, his own eyes red-rimmed from crying, his pale face marked with grief.

  “John,” Wendy mumbled as she tried to reach for him, her limbs as heavy as her heart.

  He turned, and his bottom lip trembled. He used his sleeve to wipe his eyes. Wendy couldn’t help it. Her heart broke all over again.

  “I’m sorry,” she bawled.

  His arms wrapped around her and his shoulders shook as they poured out their grief.

  “I’m sorry,” Wendy whispered again.

  “Why do you keep saying that?”

  “I feel like I could have done something.”

  “The police said the car spun off the road.”

  “It did,” she said, nodding. “But there was something else there.”

  He sat back, his shoulders stiffened. “What do you mean?”

  “I mean that it wasn’t an accident. There was something that ran us off the road.”

  John looked around fearfully and then leaned in close to her. “Don’t mention anything to the doctors or the police, Wendy. It isn’t safe.”

  “But John—”

  He covered her mouth with his hand. “I mean it, Wendy. You weren’t there. While I was standing outside of the morgue, I overheard stuff. Stuff that I shouldn’t have heard.”

  She leaned forward, gripping the hospital blanket in fear. “Like what?”

  “Like how you made it out of the car.” His voice was firm, and she recoiled from his angry eyes.

  “John, I didn’t. It wasn’t—”

  “I don’t blame you, Wendy. Although I wanted to, I tried to. But I can’t.” He rubbed his hand over his mouth and sighed before leaning on his knees. “I just can’t wrap my brain around it. Why them? And then miraculously you escape with barely a scrape. It has the police asking questions, and then, there were others here in the hospital that weren’t police.”

  “How can you tell?”

  “I just can. I mean, if I didn’t know better, I would guess military, but they tried to hide it.”

  “Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with me?”

  “Maybe, it has everything to do with you.
Peter warned us that the morphlings would keep coming. I wish that I could have been there. I could have stopped it.”

  “John, how can you say that?”

  He ran his hands through his hair and sighed. “Argh, I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m being paranoid.”

  She wanted to reach for his hand, to cradle it within her own and tell him that everything was going to be all right, but she couldn’t get the words out, knowing it would be a lie. Nothing was going to be all right. Nothing was ever going to be the same ever again.

  “Actually, no . . . you’re not being paranoid,” she acquiesced.

  “What?” His head snapped in her direction.

  “A morphling forced the car over the cliff, and Peter was able to pull me from the car before it hit bottom. He saved me.”

  John’s fingers dug into the armrest of his chair. “But he couldn’t do the same for my parents.”

  My parents, not our parents. The word choice wasn’t lost on Wendy. He was slowly distancing himself from her in his mind. Given that their parents were gone, would he still consider her his sister?

  “I wish he hadn’t,” she said, playing with a frayed string on the blanket. “I wish Peter had saved your parents too.”

  John stayed silent, contemplating her words.

  She leaned back onto her pillow and studied her brother. He had aged overnight somehow and looked older than his sixteen years. Grief and responsibility did that. But then, the worry of the world came down upon her shoulders even harder. They had nowhere to go. John didn’t have any extended family. Maybe a distant aunt in Maine, but Wendy had never met the woman. Wendy herself wasn’t eighteen and old enough to become John’s guardian. If that aunt didn’t take him in, then he’d be sent into the foster care system before they could file for emancipation.

  It didn’t bode well at all.

  “Have you heard anything from Aunt Mickey?”

  “She passed away last summer.” His eyes started to glass over, and he reached for her hand. “I have no one. Now that they know who you are, a Blackburn, they will probably find some relative. You won’t be alone.”

 
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