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Fighting for infinity, p.10
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.10

           Karen Amanda Hooper

  “Bacon is a bit dangerous.” Louise wet a dish towel and pressed it to Maryah’s neck. “We’ll stick with eggs for now. Sit and I’ll make you a plate.”

  Louise waved her spatula at me, so I pulled out a stool, motioning for Rina to sit down. She clumsily climbed into her seat, appearing to not quite be in control of Maryah’s limbs. Licking Maryah’s lips, she watched Louise butter a slice of toast then began biting her nails.

  “Please stop chewing Maryah’s fingers,” I said.

  “I’m sorry. It’s a bad habit.”

  “They aren’t yours to mutilate.”

  She clasped Maryah’s hands in her lap. “I’ll try not to from now on.”

  “I’m sure Maryah would appreciate that.”

  Louise served Rina an egg sandwich, and Rina attacked it ravenously. The entire time she ate, I pondered what her true motives were for visiting us again.


  I tossed Eightball’s gator into the pond. He bounded after it then belly-flopped into the water. Rina giggled as he chomped hold of his toy and paddled his way out.

  “I like him.” She seemed to like everyone—or at least claimed to.

  “I suspect he likes you as well.”

  “Only because I’m in Maryah’s body.”

  “He knows the difference between the two of you.”

  I stayed silent for a few moments, contemplating whether or not to reveal my failed attempts at traversing to wherever she and Maryah were being imprisoned. “The darkness that you spoke of when visitors come and go from the place you live, how long does it last?”

  “A few seconds.”

  “Do you know how or why it’s needed to enter and exit the room?”

  “Because there are no doors or windows.”

  “Do you know how it works? How others travel in and out?”

  Maryah’s forehead wrinkled with suspicion. “Why are you asking?”

  I needed to obtain more information. I didn’t know how long I had before she’d disappear again. “I’m wondering if there’s a way for me to visit you.”

  “You mean visit Maryah.”

  Why lie to her? The girl seemed intelligent. “She is my first priority, but you would be there as well.”

  “You can’t visit us.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because it’s too dangerous.”

  She didn’t say it was impossible. She didn’t question how I would travel there, or how I’d even figure out where there was. Did she know I could traverse? “I’m willing to risk the danger.”

  She spoke softly. “I’m not.”

  “Why should my safety matter to you?”

  “Because you’re too important.” She pressed Maryah’s hair to her lips. “You’re too important to Maryah.”

  The fidgeting of her hands and feet suggested she was either lying or uncomfortable. I couldn’t figure out her angle. Was she working with Dedrick or not?

  “Is Dedrick the only one who controls who comes and goes?” I asked.

  “Stop it.”

  “Stop what?”

  “Stop trying to find a way in. Let her find the way out.”

  Every muscle in my body went rigid. “Is there a way out?”

  “There’s always a way, but if you don’t let her embrace her own power, you will enable her to remain weak.”

  I gaped at her. “You know how she can free her soul?”

  She bit Maryah’s thumb and stepped back.

  “Rina!” I advanced on her, matching each of her steps backward. “If you know how she can free herself, you must help her.”

  Her voice quivered as subtly as the breeze that blew Maryah’s hair across her face. “I can’t interfere.”

  She did know. She knew how to free Maryah. My pulse pounded in every cell of my skin. “Interfere with what?”

  “The plan.”

  “Whose plan?”

  She just stared at me, not uttering a word. I wanted to shake her until every last bit of what she knew came spilling out, but I worried I’d scare her away and I couldn’t risk that. I spoke gingerly. “Rina, please, you have no idea how precious she is to me. If you know how to help her—”

  “I do know how precious she is.” The wispy hint of fondness in her voice was gone with her next cutting words. “You’re not there. You don’t know what I know. You haven’t seen what I’ve seen. You have to let me do what needs to be done or none of it will have mattered.”

  Questions raced through my mind. “Please tell me what you know. What needs to be done? None of what will have mattered? Rina, let us help you.”

  “Not yet!” She pressed her palms over Maryah’s face as she groaned. “You can’t rush it. Please stop trying or you’ll ruin everything!”

  “Rush what? Ruin what?”

  Her eyes widened like my questions were angering her more. She knew more than we suspected. I could feel it as sure as the sunlight beating down on us. Louise was right. She was more powerful than she seemed. I put my hands up in surrender. “All right, all right, no more questions. Just tell me what you need me to do to help Maryah help herself.”

  She took two deep breaths before speaking again. “I need you to trust me.”

  “I don’t want to lie to you. Do you understand how difficult it is for me to trust you?”

  Pain flashed in her eyes. In her eyes, her soul, not Maryah’s. “Why? I’ve never done anything to make you suspect I’m not trustworthy.”

  “You’re in Maryah’s body with knowledge of how she can return to it, yet you won’t tell me or her how, or everything you know about Dedrick.”

  Maryah’s bottom lip quivered. “Because I can’t.”

  “But I don’t understand why you can’t. You speak in vague circles. I’m sorry, but that leads me to suspect you might be in cahoots with Dedrick.”

  “Cahoots.” She stepped forward. A fierce darkness bubbled beneath the surface. “Nathaniel, some day you will know what I know, and you will understand why I couldn’t tell you, and it will all make sense, just as everything always does, and you will be very, very sorry that you ever doubted me, and that you ever accused me of being in cahoots with Dedrick.”

  A bead of sweat trickled down my spine. Her personality seemed almost bipolar with how she switched from childlike to confident. “I look forward to that day.”

  “Me too, but until then, please let me do what I’m destined to do when I’m meant to do it.”

  Destined? Who was this girl? “I’ll stop asking questions if you promise me one thing.”

  She tilted Maryah’s head inquisitively.

  “Help free Maryah. If you do, we will do everything in our power to find you and help you escape.”

  “It’s not about escaping. It’s about fighting.”

  “Fighting Dedrick?”

  “It’s so much more than that.”

  “Then fighting for what?” I asked.

  She leaned closer. “The answer to that question is infinite.”

  “I sense this is bigger than you and me. Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, we’ll help you. All I ask in exchange is that you help Maryah free her soul.”

  She bowed her head and snorted. “That’s what I’ve been doing. She can’t grasp how simple it is.”

  “She has had to absorb an impossible amount of knowledge in a very short time. She can’t do this alone. Please, help her.” I touched Maryah’s arm.

  Rina flinched. Her soul stared back at me.

  She placed her hand on top of mine, slowly, as if she were afraid to touch me. She pursed Maryah’s lips then gazed out at the horizon of red rocks. What felt like an eternity passed before she spoke. “If I do free her, do you swear on your life that you’ll help us fight?”

  No vow had ever been so easy to make. “I swear on all my lives, past, present, and future.”

  “I will hold you to that.” She squeezed my index finger before letting go.

  Rina stepped to the railing of the deck and lifted Maryah’s face
toward the sun. Would she keep her word and help Maryah? Did she truly intend to fight Dedrick? If so, what were the infinite reasons she had mentioned? I needed answers, but couldn’t chance pushing her too far too soon.

  Rina lifted Maryah’s hands, delicately weaving them through the air in front of her as if she could feel the sunshine the way evolved Elements could.

  The patio door opened, and Dakota walked out.

  He stared at Rina for a few seconds, watching her bask in the sunlight, but then he focused on me. “Harmony told me, but I wanted to see for myself.”

  Rina was in her own world. She paid no attention to us. Her eyes were still closed, and her smile had grown wider.

  Dakota stood beside me and whispered, “Can we trust her?”

  I shook my head.

  “How long is she staying?”

  I shrugged.

  “What is she doing?”

  “Basking in the sun.”

  He rubbed the eraser of his pencil against his temple. “I feel the need to draw her.”

  “Be my guest.”

  Dakota sat at the patio table and started sketching. For a few minutes, I wondered how long Rina would continue her sun worshiping. I tried imagining what it must be like for her, living with no natural light. She eventually stopped and opened her eyes.

  “It’s so magnificent.” Rina spotted Dakota and froze in place. “Oh.”

  Dakota had stopped sketching to watch her, but when they looked at each other, Dakota rose to his feet and crept toward her.

  “Rina,” I said, “this is our friend Dakota.”

  “Duh-koh-ta.” She enunciated each syllable in a hushed voice.

  Dakota stopped with only inches between them. “You look familiar.”

  Harmony joined us. “Of course she looks familiar. She’s in Maryah’s body.”

  “That’s not what I mean.” Dakota shook his head. “Her eyes look familiar.”

  Energy prickled at the back of my neck. Dakota had been at the airport and helped fight a few of the Nefariouns. Faith said two were women, but they had worn sunglasses most of the time. Most of the time. Had Dakota glimpsed one of their souls? Did he recognize her?

  “I feel like I know you,” Dakota said to Rina.

  “Damn,” Harmony muttered beside me. “If only Sheila were alive. She could read her and tell us who she was in her past lives.”

  I almost hushed Harmony, still in protective mode of our kindrily’s abilities, but revealing Sheila’s ability couldn’t hurt anything, considering she was no longer with us. My own heart ached at the reminder.

  Dakota stepped closer to her. “It’s sort of weird meeting you like this, you being in Maryah’s body and all.”

  Rina looked down as if she’d forgotten she wasn’t completely herself. “I don’t look anything like this.”

  “I figured.” Dakota pushed his bangs off his forehead. “What do you look like?”

  Rina studied Harmony. “My hair is the color of hers, but only the black parts. And much longer.”

  Dakota perked up. “Sit down and describe details so I can draw you.”

  “Draw me?”

  He grabbed his sketch of her enjoying the sun and handed it to her. “Like this, a picture. Except I’d draw you instead of Maryah.”

  “This is very good. Much better than the pictures in my dictionary.”

  “Thank you.” Dakota pulled out a chair for Rina.

  Harmony and I stood side by side, arms crossed over our chests, never taking our eyes off them. Rina explained her physical features and Dakota drew them. She’d tell him if it was correct or not, that her nose was smaller, her eyes bigger, her hair longer.

  “Rina,” I interrupted, “How do you know what you look like? Is there a mirror where you live?”

  “I see my reflection in the glass cabinet in my room.”

  Dakota stopped sketching. He held his pad out in front of him, squinting at it. Turning semi-pale, he dropped the pad. “I’ll be right back.”

  As he ran inside the house, I glanced at Harmony and she shrugged.

  Rina twiddled Maryah’s thumbs while frowning. “He didn’t like how I look.”

  It was as if Maryah had returned. The lack of self-confidence combined with Maryah’s face and body language oozing disappointment made me rush to her side.

  “I’m sure that’s not why he ran off.” I touched her shoulder and she startled.

  “I have to go.”

  “No!” Harmony and I both said in unison.

  Rina’s eyes closed. I caught her head as Maryah’s body went limp and collapsed forward.

  “Rina?” I said softly, but I felt the absence of her. No soul existed in Maryah’s body.

  Dakota ran back out onto the deck holding a comic book. “What happened?”

  I picked a piece of egg from her shirt. “She’s gone.”

  “What? I told her I’d be right back.”

  “I’m not certain, but I got the impression she was scared.” I pushed Maryah’s hair from her face and gathered her in my arms.

  “I didn’t mean to scare her,” Dakota said. “I swear.”

  “I don’t think it was you.” Harmony ruffled his hair. “My guess is something, or someone, was pulling her back to her body.”

  Dakota’s hands fell at his side, still clutching his rolled-up comic book. “I wanted to show her one of my stories.” He thumbed through a few pages and held it up for Harmony to see. “I think she might be this girl.”

  Harmony bit her lip, the doubt etched all over her face. Instead of telling Dakota his drawings weren’t real, she forced a smile and said, “She’s pretty.”

  I eased past them, carrying Maryah’s body to the bedroom.

  Dakota sounded like he’d just lost his best friend. “I hope she comes back soon.”


  Several of us had gathered in the dining room, but it wasn’t an official meeting.

  “This isn’t fair!” Dakota slammed his comic book on the table. “You guys need to start taking me seriously. Look at it.” He pointed to an open page. “I drew that Maryah was encased in a snow globe and now that’s what’s going on. Okay, so it might not be a snow globe exactly, but Rina said it’s a bubble. Close enough.”

  Faith popped her chewing gum. “I read it, but I figured you drew Maryah in a snow globe because Carson made one for his school project.”

  Carson was leaning against the back of Krista’s chair. “Actually, the snow globe was Dakota’s idea first. I was inspired by his drawing.”

  Gregory flipped through the pages. He held up a drawing of a girl draping her long black hair out of a tall castle window like Rapunzel. “Who is this girl?”

  “That’s Rina!” Dakota said, exasperated.

  “How do you know that’s her?” Faith asked.

  “She described what she looked like, and it sounds exactly like her.”

  “You drew the castle nestled into the side of a mountain.” Carson pointed at the comic. “Do you have any idea where the castle might be?”

  “No.” Dakota lowered his eyes and shrugged. “That’s just what came to me when I drew it.”

  Krista looked up at me. “What if he really is drawing some sort of psychic interpretation of what’s going on?”

  Exhaling, I shook my head.

  “Krista,” Harmony stretched her name, warning her not to encourage the issue.

  “Stop shutting down the idea,” Carson argued. “Dakota has drawn some stuff that is actually happening. Of all the things this kindrily is capable of, and considering how badly Dakota wanted to be one of us, why is it so far-fetched that he might have developed a supernatural ability after his near-death experience?”

  Everyone was silent. Yes, Carson was Dakota’s best friend, but he wouldn’t argue on his behalf unless he truly believed it might be possible.

  “I told you,” Dakota said, glancing around at all of us. “I feel different.” He raked his fingers through his hair. “It’s like I see s
tory lines in my head sometimes, and I can’t think about anything else until I draw them. I drew Harmony finding Gregory. That fight at the airport? I drew that!”

  “You did?” I asked, shocked no one had mentioned it.

  Dakota grunted and tugged at his bangs. “Does anyone ever read any of my comics?”

  “I do,” Carson said.

  “Where is that comic?” Gregory asked.

  “I gave it to Harmony as a gift before you came back.”

  Everyone glared at Harmony. She guiltily spun her eyebrow ring. “There’s been a lot going on. I didn’t have a chance to read the whole thing.”

  “Good grief, Harmony.” Faith cracked her bubblegum. “Let me borrow your boots so I can give you a swift kick in the—”

  “Faith,” Louise chided. “Save the sibling bickering for another time. Harmony, where is the comic book right now?”

  “In my room,” Harmony said.

  “Where exactly?” I asked.

  “Top desk drawer.”

  I traversed to Harmony’s room, grabbed the comic from the drawer, and returned to the meeting.

  Dakota snatched it from my hand. He flipped to the end then slapped the book onto the table and pointed to a cartoon drawing of Harmony and Gregory surrounded by flames, reuniting in front of a spaceship. I raised my brows. Not exactly a clear depiction of what happened at the airport.

  Dakota saw my reaction and sighed. “Okay, so a few details were wrong. It was a plane instead of a spaceship, and the laser guns were regular guns, but there was fire.”

  Gregory sat forward, snickering as he read the dialogue bubbles. “Your theory was that I had been abducted by aliens?”

  Dakota shrugged. “Close enough.”

  We were back where we started. Dakota was a skilled artist, but he wasn’t psychic, and his stories weren’t predicting the future. However, I was convinced that he and Rina had seen each other before—possibly at the airport. If we could discern who she was, it might help us know whether or not to trust her.



  I felt like I was getting weaker, but how could that be possible without a body?

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