Fighting for Infinity, p.18Karen Amanda Hooper
Nathan’s body tensed against mine, and then his gaze dropped, but not before I saw his eyes flood with sadness.
“What?” I pushed myself away from him and kneeled on the floor, staring down at him. “Nathan, what’s wrong?”
He sat up and shifted a couple times. Keeping his head down, he held my hand. His voice sounded grim. “We never had children.”
A rush of air escaped my throat as I almost laughed at the absurdity of it. “Over the course of nineteen lifetimes, we never had any children?”
“Krista and Sheila, but they were adopted.”
It didn’t make any sense. “You’re kidding, right? I had to have given birth at some point.”
He shook his head with a serious and somber look on his face.
“Why?” I asked quietly, somehow already knowing the reason but needing to hear it out loud for confirmation.
A long silence stretched between us before ending with his wistful words. “We were never physically able.”
“We?” I questioned, but my instincts knew differently. “You mean me. I was never physically able.”
He squeezed my hand. “This isn’t a matter we need to discuss right now.”
“Yes, it is.” I stood, stepping backward until the couch hit the back of my legs and forced me to sit. “I need to know about our past to help me understand who I was. Now tell me, Nathan. Never, not in any of my lives was I ever pregnant?”
His shoulders buckled under the weight of my question. A sudden twinge of pain tugged at my heart. “I was, wasn’t I? I was pregnant at least once. Probably more than once.”
“You never did anything wrong.” He closed the distance separating us in one swift movement. Kneeling between my legs, he softly braced my waist. A flash of a memory hit me—him from two lifetimes ago, resting his hand on my round belly as we both felt a firm kick from inside.
My hands gripped my stomach as if the kick happened in the present. A bolt of pain shot up the back of my head.
Nathan noticed it. He knew I had just experienced a memory flash. “You did everything you could every time.”
Every time. “How many?” I asked, tentative and breathless. “How many did I lose?”
“Please, don’t.” He was trying to protect me, but I needed to know. Some part of me needed to know, no matter how painful the answer.
“How many?” I repeated.
He stared over my shoulder, into some past I couldn’t see or remember the way he could.
“Nathan, how many?”
He inhaled. His hands tightened on my waist. “Twenty-seven.”
A wrecking ball swung full force into my chest. I swayed backward then clutched his forearms to steady myself. For several long blinks we stared at each other, silent, until I found my voice again. “Twenty-seven?”
His reply was almost too quiet for me to hear over the whooshing of the blood in my ears. “Keep in mind that was over nineteen lifetimes.”
“How—why would we—my god, how could you bear it?”
“We mourned for each one, but we remained hopeful. You weren’t a quitter, and you wanted a child more than anything. Each lifetime you prayed for your body to be strong enough.”
“How did I endure that kind of suffering and loss? I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for us. For you.” My stomach wrenched. “You still remember every one of them?”
Nineteen lifetimes of sadness seeped from his lips. “Every precious one.”
I fought back the tears pooling in my eyes. “What was wrong with me that out of all the bodies I had, none of them were ever able to—”
“Stop.” He pulled me closer to him. “Don’t blame yourself. Those types of things are beyond our control.”
The front door opened and Faith came barreling in, obliviously dancing around. “You guys, I have exciting news.” Faith paused. “Hey, where is everyone?”
Nathan and I didn’t reply. I stared out the windows at the back deck, feeling so broken.
“Maryah, what’s wrong?” Tears rolled down my cheeks.
Nathan brushed them away with his thumbs.
Faith sat beside me on the couch, wrapping her arm around me. “Why the tears, Ma-Ma?”
Faith’s awful nickname for me sent me over the edge. “Don’t call me that anymore!”
“Faith,” Nathan said. “We were just discussing Maryah’s past childbearing situation.”
“Oh. Oh, no.” Faith pulled my hair from my face and rested her head on my shoulder. “Maryah, I’m so sorry.”
HOWLITING AT THE MOON
Maryah left, and this time I couldn’t push away the empty feeling of not being there with her as she processed such a jarring, emotional blow.
I sat by her side, staring at her closed eyes, waiting for her to return so I could defend myself against the next preposterous lie Dedrick conjured up. He was trying to wear her down and break our bond, but instead, as we addressed the painful wounds of our past, we grew closer. That closeness caused my heart to ache that much more whenever she wasn’t with me.
Carson finished rehanging the fixed camera and leaned against the dresser. I didn’t look at him, but I could feel him watching me.
“You look like crap,” he said, “worse than crap, actually.”
“Thanks. Matches how I feel.”
“Maybe you should shave. And use some Visine. Your bloodshot eyes are scary.”
I tucked the blanket around Maryah’s arms. “I don’t care about my appearance right now, Carson.”
“It might make you feel better.”
“Having Maryah safely and permanently back in her body, and knowing Dedrick’s dead with no chance of reincarnating, are the only things that will make me feel better.”
He sighed. “This is some messed up stuff.”
“I know.” I rubbed my tired eyes. “And when does it end?”
“It ends after she remembers her past.”
“Which could be never.”
He walked over to me and leaned against one of the branch bedposts, running his fingers along the wood. “I had an idea this morning, but I need your help. Could you take me somewhere?”
“Iona, Nova Scotia.”
“Why do you want to go there?”
“Helen says it’s the best place to find Howlite.” He thumbed his own Howlite necklace.
I grinned, knowing the answer to my question before I asked it. “And you want more Howlite for Maryah?”
“She needs all the help she can get remembering her past.”
I glanced up at the Howlite stone in the center of the dream catcher hanging above our bed. Louise and Helen had stuffed tiny nodules of Howlite into Maryah’s pillows days before she arrived in Sedona. Faith attached fragments to the sunglasses she gave Maryah. All with hope that the power from the crystals would help her remember her past lives.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Carson said. “We already scattered lots of Howlite pieces around the house and in her car. That’s great and all, but it’s not the same as her wearing a big hunk of it at all times.”
“You’re right. And I think she’d treasure a gift like that from you.”
Carson held up his hands. “Whoa, let’s not make this into some sappy grand gesture. I just want to make life a little easier on both of you.”
A hint of blush tinted his cheeks. He could deny it all he wanted, but for Carson, this was most definitely a sappy grand gesture. “When would you like to go to Iona?”
“I’m ready whenever you are. Helen says to get the most powerful stuff, we’ll have to climb down the cliffs and search the shoreline.”
“It’s been a while since we’ve been rock climbing together.”
“Too long.” He smacked my shoulder and excitement tinged his words. “It will be fun.”
“If it’s windy or raining, it will be miserable and impossible to locate anything of substance.”
“What?” I asked, unsure of what was so amusing.
“Miserable and lacking substance. Like Maryah.”
I glared at him. “Carson.”
“Kidding.” He murmured, “sort of” as he turned to leave. “I’ll tell the others we’ll be gone for a few hours so they can reschedule their stalking-Maryah shifts.”
“Is Krista coming with us?”
He kept walking, but replied over his shoulder. “Nah, just you and me.”
Brotherly bonding and a gesture to prove Carson had grown fond of Maryah—it was an expected ray of sunshine in my dreary day.
We materialized farther from the cliffs than I had planned. I looked around, unsure of where we were at first.
“This is it?” Carson asked me.
My gaze followed the railroad tracks. “I think it’s that way. Maybe a mile or so.”
“A mile? Is your supernatural compass malfunctioning?”
“I’ve only been here one other time and this is the only spot I could envision in detail.”
He stood straight and rolled his shoulders. “Want me to carry you so we get there quicker?”
“Beg your pardon?” I hopped backward.
“No one’s around. I could warp speed us there, but I’ll have to carry you.” He stepped toward me, lifting his hands, but I pushed on his forearms and stopped him.
“No, we’ll walk at regular pace.”
“Oh, it’s okay for you to hug everyone and traverse them around the world, but I can’t carry you a mile down the road?” He slipped one hand free from my grip and tried playfully smacking my face, but I dodged it.
I started walking. “I’m a slow evolver. It’s why I’ve reincarnated so many times.”
Carson shoved me in the back then walked beside me. “At least it’s not windy or raining.”
The lake was sapphire blue, the waves were calm, and the sky was painted with wispy clouds. Maryah would have loved the view. Someday I’d bring her here to visit.
We followed the railroad tracks along the sea cliffs. As we neared the outcrop of rocks that would most likely contain Howlite, my skin started tingling from the raw power of the crystals.
“Do you feel that?” Carson asked.
I leaned out and peeked over the edge. A jagged jut of rocks rose out of the water not far ahead. “We’re almost there.”
“That’s some crazy powerful energy to be affecting us that way.”
“It’s in its raw form,” I explained. “And still absorbing energy from all the elements. Look around: Earth, Water, Air.” I pointed toward the sun shining bright in the sky. “Even Fire.”
“Duh,” Carson said.
I smirked. “Smart ass.”
“Exactly. That’s why we’re here, because of my brilliant idea.” He rubbed his hands together. “Let’s go Howlite hunting!”
We found the most strategic place to begin our climb down. We managed the descent with no trouble at all. The weather couldn’t have been more cooperative. Carson waded into the water first.
“I don’t even have to hunt for it,” he said. “I felt it getting stronger as we climbed down.”
“Seems your sensperiencing has strengthened too.”
“Or the crystals are just that awesome. They’re bound to help Maryah.”
I followed as he made a direct path to a group of rocks still damp and glistening from the waves. Carson crouched down. “Clear as can be! Not even a tint of brown like mine.”
“Very pristine,” I agreed, looking over his shoulder.
“With all the recent drama about the element stones, I almost feel bad taking it away from here.” He looked out over the water then down at the Howlite. “It’s like the elements worked so hard to create it. What right do I have to take it away from where it belongs?”
“You don’t have to take any if you don’t feel it’s appropriate.”
“But it could help Maryah.”
“What should I do?” Carson asked me.
“You’re the exceptionally intelligent one, not me.”
“Maybe I could borrow a piece then bring it back once Maryah is whole again.” He pushed damp strands of his hair from his forehead. “Return it to where it belongs.”
“Or, if it does help Maryah remember the past, then perhaps it’s meant to be with her.”
He smiled at me. “You don’t give yourself enough credit for being smart.”
I gave him an appreciative nod then motioned at the pack on his back. “Did you bring tools to harvest a piece?”
“Yup, the tool is my hand.” With hardly any effort, he used two fingers to snap off a large chunk of flawless Howlite.
I grinned. “Showoff.”
I kept astral spying on Dedrick. We needed to know if he had more than the two stones.
My soul connected with his just as he and a snake-eyed Nefarioun strutted into an elaborate church or temple of some kind. The walls were covered in ornate carvings of symbols and scrolls. Long wooden beams stretched across the arched ceiling, but far above them was the sky.
A white-haired man in gorgeous gold robes stepped down from the vine-covered altar. A younger man and woman flanked him on either side. They also wore robes, but they looked more like brown burlap.
“To what do we owe this return visit?” The old man in gold asked.
“You know where it is,” Dedrick snarled. “I’m gifting you with the opportunity to stay alive by giving it to me.”
“Death does not scare me. It does not scare any of us.”
“It should.” Dedrick lumbered forward and leaned close to the man’s face. “Because you won’t return this time.”
The old man demonstrated complete calm. “If that is the path fate has planned, I will travel it willingly.”
“All of your meditating has your head buried in the sand. Your existence in this world will be over. For good.”
The man clasped his hands behind him and turned his back to Dedrick, looking up at the blue sky. His two sidekicks remained silent but did the same. “Look up there. So much exists beyond our fragile grain of sand called Earth. We protect it as well as we can, but we can’t protect it from everything. If you succeed, it will be because the source deemed it time for such an event to occur. If you must kill me during your quest, then I will be grateful to pass on so that I am not forced to witness what becomes of our beloved planet.” He turned and leveled Dedrick with a sagely gaze. “With no new life there is only decay. No balance means dark will flush out the light. I do not wish to ever exist in a place such as that.”
Something the man said ignited a deep anger in Dedrick. His face cracked with lines of fury. “Tell me where the sodding stone is.”
“I’m a simple man. I am not gifted with such knowledge.”
“Someone here knows where it is, and you are the prime candidate. You’re the highest rank they give around here.”
“Yet I haven’t been entrusted with its location, so it seems, my friend,” he opened his hands, palms up, “you have come to a dead end.”
“A dead end for many if you don’t take me to the Earthstone immediately.”
The man folded his hands over the tassels of his roped belt. “It appears we have reached an impasse.”
Dedrick’s eyes bounced side to side, studying the three robed people in front of him. He motioned to his sidekick, and the mind-controlled monster rushed forward.
I screamed as the Nefarioun plunged a dagger into the chest of the woman. The old man in the middle, the leader, lowered his head, quietly saying a prayer as the younger robed man rushed to the injured woman’s side.
I put my invisible hand over my mouth as if that would help the sickness I felt from watching the horror happening in front of me.
Dedrick’s goon ripped his dagger free from the woman’s chest as she gaspe
“You’re a monster!” I shouted at Dedrick, hovering so close I could have spit on him. These people were peaceful and spiritual, and he was a ruthless murderer.
“That was strike one,” Dedrick said, “two more strikes and you’re all out.” I tried knocking the bloody dagger from the murderer’s hand, swiping and punching over and over, but my ethereal form was useless.
The robed men didn’t acknowledge Dedrick or his goon. The leader kept his head bowed as he continued praying, and the younger man smoothed the woman’s hair from her face. She took a couple ragged breaths as her eyelids fluttered, and then, like the rest of her body, her eyes stilled with a finality that left me numb.
Dedrick was murdering more innocent people the same way he had murdered my parents and brother. It tore open a wound that would never heal.
“Strike two coming up soon unless you start talking,” Dedrick threatened.
“No!” I yelled, positioning myself in front of Dedrick’s sidekick to shield the robed men.
Behind me, the older man said, “Forgive these souls of their evil and let them find peace.”
“Your precious community will be next,” Dedrick hissed. “I’ll burn it to the ground along with everyone who lives here.”
It was the first time the old man flinched. Worry lines creased his brow. “I do not know the stone’s location. Please don’t harm our people.”
Dedrick waved his hand, and his goon plowed through me. I cried out, wishing I could take the hit instead of the man behind me. The elderly leader gasped as I turned to see him being stabbed. The younger man kept praying, catching the man in gold as he knelt in a puddle of the woman’s blood.
I felt like I was going to puke. All the sensations of it were real. I dry-heaved, not wanting to see anymore, but I couldn’t leave. Dedrick was here for something important—so important these people were willing to die and let each other be killed to protect it.
“Two down,” Dedrick told the only survivor. “Tell me where the stone is or you will join them, and your death won’t be so swift. You’ll be burned alive with the rest of your community.”
Fighting for Infinity by Karen Amanda Hooper / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes