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Fighting for infinity, p.12
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.12

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  His worried green eyes were the last thing I saw before I closed my own and focused on the cords of light that would return me to Rina.

  ∞

  Rina sat up on her bed, brushing her hair out of her face. “You came back.”

  “I promised you I would.”

  “People have promised me a lot of things that weren’t true.”

  “I’m not one of those people.”

  She smirked. “That’s refreshing to know.”

  “We’re safe, right? Dedrick didn’t stop by while I was gone?”

  “No one visited except Manny.”

  “Who?”

  She gathered her hair and draped it over one shoulder. Her mouse poked its head out from behind her neck. “Manny the mouse.”

  “Ah, I didn’t realize he had a name.”

  “I assume your trip was a success?” Rina asked. “You look happier.”

  “As successful as it could be in such a short time. I feel stronger, better. I feel less lost and desperate.”

  Rina crossed her legs and picked at the dirty, frayed cuff of her pants. “So what now?”

  “When do you think Evelyn will visit again?”

  “I’m never sure. She visits whenever she can.”

  “Ask her if Dedrick will be visiting anytime soon. If not, I’d like to astral travel again so I can see what he’s up to. I also plan on figuring out where we are.”

  She perked up. “I like that plan.”

  I wasn’t sure whether I was relieved or worried that Rina liked my plan. “I’ve been thinking. Dedrick knows you’re a conductor, so wouldn’t he worry that you would use my power to astral travel?”

  “He believes I can conduct, but not use anyone’s power as my own. I need it to stay that way.”

  “That’s an awfully big secret to keep hidden from Dedrick for so many years.”

  A mischievous grin cracked her dry lips. “I’ve kept much bigger.”

  “Will I ever get let in on all of your big secrets?”

  “I tell you what you need to know when you need to know it.” She had barely finished her last word when the candle snuffed out, leaving us both in the dark.

  TELLING IT ON THE MOUNTAIN

  Maryah

  Conveniently, as if on cue, Evelyn visited.

  Evelyn told Rina that Dedrick had been gone since yesterday and he wasn’t scheduled back until tomorrow. She didn’t ask Rina why she wanted information on his whereabouts or what she was planning, which seemed suspicious.

  Then again, maybe Evelyn wasn’t worried because Dedrick wasn’t around to catch Rina doing anything wrong. I was so back and forth on who and what to trust. It’s like my instincts were short-circuiting and giving me no strong indicator either way.

  After Evelyn left us, Rina offered to let me travel without me even asking. It seemed too easy. She was almost too eager. I would spy on Dedrick just like I said, but maybe I also needed to spy on Rina.

  I focused on Dedrick’s morally dead eyes, cringing at first, but then giving into the flow of energy connecting me to him. Like being pulled along by a current, I rushed through a tunnel of light until it dumped me into the cesspool of Dedrick’s energy.

  We were outside at what appeared to be the base of a mountain. No one else was around. Dedrick’s hair was pulled back in a ponytail, whipping against the hood of his heavy coat due to the wind. I couldn’t feel temperature in soul form, but based on the snow on the ground and Dedrick’s heavy clothes and boots, I would have guessed he was hiking through Alaska or somewhere just as cold and remote.

  He walked for a long time. The only sound he made was a sniffle of his runny nose.

  “What in the world are you doing out here?” Even though I whispered the question, I worried he might hear me. I couldn’t assume anything about what he could or couldn’t do.

  He reached a place I wouldn’t have recognized as much different from the rest of the ground he had been trekking across, except that he fell to his knees, pressed his hands and forehead to the snow and chanted. He repeated the process so many times I lost count.

  He lifted his face and palms skyward and then—I couldn’t believe it—he unzipped his coat and removed it, followed by his sweater and thermal shirt.

  I glanced away, repulsed by the sight of his hairy chest. The last person in the world I wanted to see half naked was Dedrick, but I had to look again because scars and cuts covered his arms, chest, and stomach.

  He started reciting prayers about guidance and enlightenment. Every deity in the universe was probably laughing at the irony.

  Finishing his prayer, he said, “I have completed my one hundred and seventh circle of your sacred temple. Please accept this as a demonstration of my loyalty.”

  He pulled something out of his pocket that looked like a curved blade made from ivory or—I hated considering the possibility—bone. Without even flinching or showing any discomfort at all, he cut a deep gash into a non-scarred area of his stomach. “My next and final lap will complete my pledge. I shall be a vessel for you to fill with your power.”

  His blood dripped onto the snow as he shivered and spoke to the sky. I knew he was a sicko, but this was too much. I’d heard rumors about a few kids being cutters in school, but self-mutilation as part of a spiritual ritual was a whole new level of crazy.

  Dedrick stood, gathering his clothes, and then continued walking. After several minutes, we reached a lake that was so serene I wanted to sleep on its glistening, perfectly still surface.

  I gasped when Dedrick jumped in, pants, boots, and all. He disappeared under the water for only a second before bursting through the surface and gasping for breath. It sounded like his lungs were already frozen. Was he trying to kill himself?

  He crawled out, shaking and shivering so hard I could hear his teeth banging together. He sprawled out on the snow-covered ground wheezing and convulsing.

  I wanted to tell him he was certifiable. I also wanted to tie an anchor to his feet and shove him back in the lake, but I couldn’t do anything, so I just watched and said my own prayer. “Please, please let this be the death of you.”

  He lay curled in a fetal position. I saw nothing and no one around anywhere. How would he get away from here and into someplace warm? Dedrick was too strategic to die of hypothermia.

  When I looked down at him again, he was pulling a large stone from his bag. It almost looked like a giant ruby, but not as shiny. He held it above his head and uttered words in a language I didn’t recognize. The stone lit up, glowing bright red and orange.

  He clutched it to his chest, and within moments his shivering subsided. The stone was warming him.

  Dedrick muttered “thank you” over and over again. His words grew stronger and louder as the stone warmed him and he regained his strength. He dressed, and as he zipped up his coat he stared out over the lake. “Help her to see the truth. Help her remember.”

  “Holy Fruit Loops, you better not be talking about me,” I said. “I don’t want any part of your maniacal mountain ritual.”

  A thwacking noise hummed faintly in the distance. As it grew louder, a helicopter rounded the mountain peak. Dedrick put on sunglasses and walked to the stretch of flat land where the helicopter landed.

  I stared through the windshield at the female pilot, silently cursing the familiar face looking through me. I had just seen her. She said Dedrick wouldn’t be back until tomorrow, but she never said she would be with him.

  “Evelyn,” I grumbled as Dedrick climbed in beside her.

  I officially added her to my Can’t Be Trusted list. I moved closer, penetrating the helicopter’s exterior like a ghost. Inside, I stared at the back of both of their heads, anxious to see where they were going, or perhaps overhear Evelyn mention their location. As the chopper lifted, the sky grew brighter until everything, including Dedrick and Evelyn, transformed to pure white. Even the sound of the blades cutting through the air faded to silence.

  I floated there, searching the white v
oid around me. No mountains, no wind, nothing at all.

  I had lost them.

  ∞

  I no longer trusted Evelyn or her relationship with Rina.

  When I returned, I told Rina about Dedrick’s cutting ceremony and his dip in the lake. I explained how he used the glowing stone to warm himself, but then I altered the story. She couldn’t know that I saw Evelyn helping him, just in case Rina was in on it somehow. I finished the abbreviated version of what happened. “After he put his clothes on, I felt so weak and tired that I came back.”

  “Your soul felt weak?” Rina asked.

  I had just updated her on Dedrick’s walkabout in the arctic, slicing open his skin, diving into a frozen lake, and a magic stone warming him like a space heater, but her first question was about my soul being tired?

  “Yes,” I lied. “I felt like my ability to travel back here might be in jeopardy.”

  She narrowed her eyes as she scanned me up and down. “Hmm.”

  “What?”

  She bit her nails and after several tense seconds said, “No clues as to where he was, or where we are?”

  “Only that there were snow and mountains.”

  “I wonder how he got there.”

  A helicopter flown by your beloved Auntie Evelyn, who you’re either working with or shouldn’t be trusting. I wanted to say that, but instead I went with, “I’ll have to spy on him again next time Evelyn assures us it’s safe.”

  Rina stopped biting her nails, but she kept her hand over her lips. Creases formed around her eyes. She looked as skeptical of me as I was of Evelyn.

  “Time to rest.” Rina walked over to her mattress, bending down to arrange her blanket.

  “Actually, I was hoping to visit my kindrily and tell them about Dedrick’s strange adventure before I forget the details.”

  She kept her back to me, snapping her blanket and smoothing out the wrinkles. “I thought your soul was tired.”

  I offered a quick save. “Right, but checking into my body might restore some of my strength.”

  Turning, she glared at me. “I trusted you. Now how do I gain your trust?”

  She knew I was hiding something from her. I didn’t want to keep lying to her. “I’m trusting you as much as I can given the circumstances.”

  She crawled onto her mattress and pulled her blanket over her head, but the energy cords that allowed me to reconnect with my body appeared, glowing brightly.

  “Thank you, Rina.”

  She didn’t answer.

  HIGHER EXISTING

  Nathaniel

  I stood on our cliffs—the place where Maryah and I shared our first kiss of this lifetime, where we had so many meaningful conversations, where I had tried to teach her how to sensperience, where I wished she were standing beside me, her hand in mine.

  I reminisced about the first time we stood atop these same red rocks in our last life. Mary had said Sedona was a place of positive energy, that settling here would make her (and the rest of our kindrily) stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

  We had hiked to the top just in time to see our first breathtaking sunset over Sedona. Construction on our home began the next week, delayed for so long because Mary couldn’t decide if she wanted the front door to face the northeast or south. She hadn’t been able to determine for certain which would be more harmonious. It was too important to guess, Mary had said. Guessing left too much to chance. She never left anything to chance.

  She walked our property every day—every sunrise and every sunset. Many nights we slept under the stars in a sleeping bag surrounded by construction materials and Mary’s notebook filled with ever-changing ideas and sketches of what must be added to our new home.

  I never fought her on one idea or detail. After spending hundreds of years with her, I knew arguing about anything from tile color to the need for an underground weapon room was pointless. She would get whatever she envisioned, because nothing was more important to me than seeing her happy.

  Eightball snorted at my feet. I glanced down at him, and he turned his big head inquisitively, probably curious about my sudden smile. “Yes, old boy. I’m daydreaming about your mother.”

  He head-butted my shin as I squatted down to rub his ears. My phone rang, and I fumbled to pull it from my back pocket. When I saw Home on the screen, I traversed Eightball back to the house with me.

  I appeared in the kitchen, facing Louise as she hung up the phone.

  “There they are,” Maryah said from behind me. “My two favorite boys.”

  It was a close race for which of us reached Maryah first.

  ∞

  After Maryah finished reporting Dedrick’s recent whereabouts and fielded questions from a few members, the meeting fell silent as we processed it all.

  I exchanged concerned glances with Edgar, Helen, and Louise.

  Louise pushed her glasses to the top of her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Let’s not beat around the bush. Dedrick is completing the 108 laps around Mount Meru with hopes of obtaining otherworldly powers and enlightenment.”

  “Meru doesn’t physically exist in our plane of being,” Helen pointed out.

  “True,” Louise agreed, “but he’s circling a real mountain somewhere, perhaps Mount Kailash, with the belief that it is Mount Meru. Belief can be a powerful thing.”

  “If we could confirm that’s where he was,” I said, “we could be there when he completes his final lap. Maryah said he was alone. We could overpower him, make him take us to wherever he’s keeping Rina. We could figure out how to free everyone he has mind-controlled.”

  “Final lap?” Maryah asked me. “I’m lost. What is Mount Meru?”

  I motioned to Edgar. “Edgar is better at explaining such matters.”

  Edgar leaned forward and summarized the legends. “Meru is claimed by some to be the center of the universe, the energy axis of the cosmos, a sacred mountain, if you will, that connects our plane of existence with others. It descends so deep that it reaches the oceans of other realms, and it extends so high that even the stars must look up to see its peak. Its foothills in hell, its summit in the heavens: it serves as the bridge to an existence of perfection and transcendence.”

  “Is it real?” Maryah looked stunned and shaken as if she’d been hit by a spiritual truck. “Could Dedrick be obtaining some kind of power from the mountain?”

  “Honestly.” Louise exchanged a confirming look with Edgar and Helen. “We don’t know. This will require more research.”

  “What about the glowing rock?” Maryah asked.

  “From what you described, and what we know about it, it sounds like Dedrick has the Firestone.”

  “Firestone,” Maryah repeated. She stared at the middle of the table. I could almost see how hard she was thinking. “There are other stones, aren’t there? Earth, Air, and Water.”

  “Did you remember that?” Helen asked.

  “I’m not sure.” Maryah rubbed the back of her neck, a sign that she was either tired or a headache was starting. “I’m learning that any mention of one element usually means the others are connected.”

  “Connected being the key word,” Edgar said. “An ancient story was passed down that the element stones, while each extremely powerful on its own, could be used together as a key of sorts. Each stone would be placed on its designated face of the mountain: north, south, east and west. Four elements, four directions. Together they open a doorway to Meru.”

  I studied Maryah, watching for a hint of recognition. Hoping this conversation might be the metaphysical slap in the face she needed to wake up and remember. “There’s also legend of an Aetherstone,” I added, trying to fuel the fire. “A starstone.”

  Maryah blinked several times. Her head tilted. She closed her eyes for a moment, and I held my breath, praying, pleading, please remember.

  “Can the Firestone be used to control minds?” she asked.

  No big epiphany. Mention of a starstone hadn’t had any effect. But at
least she was asking questions. She was trying, and so would I.

  Gregory elaborated on Maryah’s question. “Or can it stop bodies from aging?”

  “I don’t know,” Louise said. “But you can bet I’ll be searching near and far for an answer. Louise pushed back her chair. “We’ll update those who aren’t here and find out as much as we can.” She made her way to us and placed her hand on Maryah’s shoulder. “You, my dear, must keep watching Dedrick. Listen for mention of a mountain name or location, and find out if he has any of the other stones.”

  Maryah’s eyes widened. “You think he might have more?”

  “I wouldn’t put it past him.”

  Everyone dispersed from the meeting except for Maryah and me.

  “How long before you have to return?” I asked her.

  “Maybe an hour or so. I can’t be gone for long.”

  “Will you come with me to the cliffs?”

  “Nathan, this is hardly the time for a romantic moonlit stroll.”

  “As tempting as that sounds, that wasn’t my intention. I’d like to explain something that might better help you understand some things.”

  “And we need to go to the cliffs for you to explain?”

  “I think it would help.”

  “Okay then. I’d love to.”

  WILL POWER

  Maryah

  Nathan spread out a blanket and we sat down.

  “I know you don’t remember it,” he said, “but in our last life, when we first moved to Sedona, we slept here under the stars.”

  “Like we camped out?”

  “Here, and on the ground where our bedroom now sits.” He leaned back, lying flat with his hands behind his head. His T-shirt rose just enough to reveal a peek at his toned abs. God, I missed him. I missed touching him, kissing him, being touched and kissed by him. I ached for more of the delicious quality time we had spent together before this most recent Dedrick crisis ensued. The carefree happiness of getting lost in Nathan seemed light-years away.

 
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