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Fighting for infinity, p.20
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.20

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  LEAD TO BELIEVE

  Maryah

  “Did I miss anything?” I asked Rina.

  She was reading pages near the end of her book. “Nothing worth mentioning.”

  I hovered behind her and focused on the blank pages. “What do you see when you look at those pages?”

  “Stories. A song. A letter.”

  “All written with stardust like Dakota said?”

  “Yes.”

  “Can you read it out loud to me?”

  “No.”

  “Why not?”

  She placed her fingertip on the page and dragged it left to right as if keeping track of each line as she silently read. “Because.”

  “Because why?”

  “The author forbade it to be read out loud.” Her finger stopped moving. “Those who are meant to know the story will read it on their own.”

  “Can you at least tell me what the story is about?”

  She spun in her chair and glared at me. “Don’t be lazy. Read the book if you want to know what it’s about.”

  “I’d love to read it.” At least it would give me a way to pass the painful time of being trapped in this place with nothing to do. “But I can’t.”

  “You haven’t even tried.”

  “I’m going to,” I conceded. “If you say it’s important, I believe you. I’ll start right now.”

  “Really?”

  “Yes, scoot out of the way so I can see it.”

  She hopped out of her chair, staring at me as I studied the two blank pages.

  “What are you doing? No one starts at the end of a story.”

  “Oh, sorry. Could you flip to the beginning for me?”

  She closed the book, rested her hand on the cover, and took a breath. “Remember, all you have to do is open your eyes.”

  My eyes were open, at least my spiritual eyes were, but nothing was visible. She opened to the first page and stepped away slowly as if she had just presented me with a gift. I focused on the ivory page, imagining words glittering the way my ring did.

  My ring. Eyes. Duh. Why did it take me so long to make the connection? If what the kindrily suspected was true, if the starstone was in my ring, and my ring contained the eye of a peacock feather, I was certain the ring would help me read the story written in stardust. Out of habit, I reached for my thumb, but of course my ring wasn’t physically with me, so I doubted it would work.

  “What’s wrong?” Rina asked.

  “Nothing.” She couldn’t know about the starstone. If that information leaked out to Dedrick, the whole world could suffer.

  If my soul could communicate with Rina, maybe my ring could help me sensperience enough to see something in the book. I pictured the tiny feather in vivid detail, and then stared at the pages, squinting until my head ached.

  I couldn’t have been more shocked when Nathan materialized in front of me.

  Rina leapt up from her place on the floor. “What are you doing here?”

  “I did it?” Nathan looked surprised too. He glanced down at the table he was sitting on. I moved back as he stood and pulled the book out from under him. “I found you.”

  “How?” I asked, forgetting he couldn’t hear me.

  “Leave,” Rina demanded. “Dedrick could come here any second and catch you.”

  “Take her!” I was so excited I couldn’t stop myself from yelling. “Rina, tell him to traverse you to our house right now. He can get you out of here!”

  Rina looked dumbfounded. Nathan was still examining my glowing form.

  “Holy heavenly light,” he uttered. “It’s even more awe-inspiring than I imagined.” He leaned forward, trying to touch me. “How did Dedrick manage this?”

  “Rina,” I urged. “Tell him! Tell him to traverse you out of here.”

  Rina tentatively stepped closer. “Maryah wants you to traverse me to your house.”

  Nathan turned to face her. He stared at her, his head craning sideways. He sucked in a breath and his lips parted, but he said nothing. His fingers flexed at his sides. He swayed forward then back again and rubbed his hand over his face.

  “Enough with the awkward meeting!” I shouted. “Tell him to traverse you out of here!”

  “She’s yelling at you,” Rina said meekly, “to traverse with me.”

  I realized this was Nathan’s first time actually seeing Rina in her own body instead of mine, but we couldn’t waste any more time.

  “Yes, of course.” Nathan shook his head, snapping himself out of his rude staring, and then he scanned the room. “I lost my head for a minute.”

  Rina reached toward me. “You’ll follow us, right? You’ll return to your body.”

  “Yes, I’ll be right behind you.”

  “We’re not coming back?” she asked.

  “Never.”

  Nathan watched us, understanding we were communicating even though he could hear only Rina’s side of the conversation.

  “Then I’ll need to get my things.” She clutched the book to her chest. “Okay, I’m ready.”

  Nathan looked as sad as I felt. One book was the only possession she had.

  I placed my hands on the back of her shoulders and eased her toward Nathan. “Take her to her new home.”

  “My new home,” Rina said longingly.

  Nathan stepped closer to her. He spoke gentler than I’d ever heard him or any other man speak. “I’m going to put my arms around you.”

  “Okay,” she whispered.

  Looking over her shoulder, she smiled at me. Her smile was so bright the room seemed to acquire windows, allowing light and joy to shine through for the first time. Nathan hugged her to him and closed his eyes. Then he vanished.

  Rina still stood there, hugging her book.

  Nathan reappeared.

  “What happened?” My light energy pulsed rapidly.

  “It didn’t work,” Rina said.

  “It felt like I had you,” Nathan told her, “but you didn’t go anywhere.”

  “Again,” I insisted.

  “Maryah says try again.”

  He hugged her a second time, pressing her cheek against his chest, then he disappeared, leaving her behind.

  “No!” I wanted to punch something.

  “It won’t work,” Rina said. The room was dim again, her inner light gone. “I’m still trapped.”

  Nathan returned. “I don’t understand why it’s not working.”

  “It wasn’t meant to be this way,” Rina told him. “I should have known. You have to leave before someone sees you.”

  He moved so close to me our faces were touching. “At least we know I can traverse here. I’ll tell the others and we’ll figure out what to do next.”

  “Rina, tell him not to traverse back here until I come home and discuss it.”

  She repeated what I said and Nathan agreed.

  He raised his hand, touching my soul. “You’re so beautiful.”

  “Go. Now,” Rina commanded.

  Nathan turned, bent forward and kissed the top of her messy-haired head. “We’ll find a way to get you out of here, I promise.”

  She halfheartedly nodded, and then Nathan was gone. Now we both had the same promise to keep.

  “Go,” Rina said.

  “Go where?”

  “To talk to him. I’m sure you want to discuss what happened.”

  Her disappointment mirrored mine. We had glimpsed hope for a few brief moments, but it had been snuffed out. I couldn’t leave her so soon.

  “I’ll go in a little while. Maybe by then the kindrily will have figured out a solution.” I struggled to find something else to say, something to comfort her. “I’m so sorry it didn’t work.”

  “It’s okay.” She sat in the chair, her hands hanging limp at her sides. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life.”

  “But you didn’t go anywhere.”

  “Still, for a few seconds...” She folded her hands in her lap and stared at the flickering candle flame. “I was
going home.”

  My heart ached even more. I wanted nothing more than to set her free, to help her find her place in this world.

  “That’s what you said.” Rina shifted in her chair. “You said my new home.”

  “I figured you could stay with us.” The Luna house was always filled with people. One more wouldn’t make a difference.

  She spoke softly. “Before you said you’d have to check with Louise and Anthony for permission.”

  “You were a stranger when I said that. Now I’m sure everyone would welcome you.”

  Even in the dim lighting, I saw her cheeks blush. It was the first trace of color I’d ever seen on her face besides food or dirt.

  “I hope Nathaniel is okay,” she said.

  “You know a lot about how things work around here. Do you have any guesses as to why Nathan couldn’t traverse with you?”

  Rina shook her head. “Nothing for certain.”

  “Maybe Dedrick shielded you?”

  “From one power in particular but not the others? Not likely.”

  “Hopefully Carson will think of something.” I reached for my Howlite necklace. The real version was still back in Sedona with my body—where I wished Rina and I could have safely escaped to. But even if we did, Dedrick would have come looking for us. We would have lived every moment looking over our shoulders, waiting for him to strike again.

  “Escaping won’t be enough,” I told her. “We have to stop Dedrick for good.”

  “Do you mean kill him?”

  Did I mean that? Was I capable of ending a human life? “I haven’t figured out that part yet.”

  Manny scurried out of a crack in the wall then crawled up Rina’s leg and sat in her lap.

  She scratched his head. “Probably best it didn’t work. I wouldn’t have said good-bye to Manny, and he would have been upset.”

  “True.” I grinned at the sight of them. “Maybe we could bring Manny home too. And hope Eightball doesn’t try to eat him.” I snapped to attention. “Oh my gosh! Manny!”

  “What’s wrong?” Rina asked.

  “He could help us.”

  “Manny could help us?”

  “Yes! Maybe. I’m not sure. How intelligent are mice?”

  Rina scowled as if I’d offended him. “Manny is brilliant.”

  “Let’s hope so.” A glimmer of optimism had returned. It was a long shot, but it was worth a try. “I need to see my kindrily. When I get back we might have a new plan.”

  “What is it?” Rina asked, excitement simmering beneath her confusion.

  “Don’t get your hopes up again. Just give me a few minutes, and then I can explain more.”

  She agreed then effortlessly allowed me to travel home.

  As soon as I reconnected to my body, I threw back my covers. Helen startled as objects flew off my bed. “Maryah?”

  I eyed the array of rocks and plants I had just flung all over the floor. “What’s all that stuff?”

  “Herbs and gemstones I used to increase the frequency of your energy so Nathan could locate your soul.”

  “Awesome. It worked.” I sprang out of bed and grabbed Helen’s hand, dragging her behind me. “Come on, I have an idea.”

  As Helen followed me down the hall, I heard Nathan discussing his failed traversing attempt.

  I rounded the corner, sliding across the tile floor due to my fuzzy socks. “Come back and get Manny.”

  Nathan, Louise, Carson, and Krista all stared at me.

  “Who?” Nathan asked.

  “Rina’s mouse.”

  “Ohh, I like it.” Carson rubbed his hands together. “Dr. Doolittle meets James Bond.”

  Nathan’s face relaxed the moment it registered. “Yes. Dedrick wouldn’t have thought to put a spell on a mouse to keep him trapped there.” Nathan kissed my forehead. “You’re brilliant.”

  Krista raised her hand. “I hate that I haven’t caught on yet, but please fill me in.”

  Carson wrapped his arm around her. “I’ll explain it to her. Louise, you call Amber. Nathan, go catch yourself a mouse.”

  Nathan wrapped his arms around me then jerked away like I burned him. “What am I doing?”

  We both stared at each other, somewhat in shock that he almost traversed my body to Dedrick’s dungeon.

  “Probably not a good idea,” I said.

  “Awful idea. What if I couldn’t traverse you out of there?”

  “I’ll astral travel back. Give me a few minutes lead time so I can explain why you need to take Manny.”

  Nathan nodded. “I’ll be there soon.”

  ∞

  “Rina.” She and Manny were still sitting in the chair. “Nathan is coming back, and he’s going to take Manny with him for a little while.”

  She cupped her hand over him. “Why?”

  “He might be able to help us figure out where we are.”

  Rina squinted at me then at Manny. “How?”

  “One of our members can communicate with animals.”

  Understanding swept over her eyes, but then she glanced at Manny with concern. Nathan materialized, looking much more optimistic than when he left a short while ago.

  “What if traversing hurts him?” Rina asked.

  “He’ll be fine,” Nathan assured her.

  I hoped he was right. Manny was so small. What if it made him really sick? Or heaven forbid he died. Rina would be devastated if she lost her only friend.

  Nathan held out his hands and Rina lifted her arm, offering Manny a bridge to scurry down. Manny followed her silent command and hopped onto Nathan’s open palm.

  “Manny,” Nathan said his name so tenderly that I wanted to kiss him. “You’re going on a journey to meet some of my family. They’ll be very kind to you.”

  Manny’s whiskers twitched. Rina grinned.

  “I’m speaking to a mouse as if he understands me,” Nathan said, “but according to Amber, animals understand most of what we say.”

  Rina tugged his shirt. “Please be careful with him.”

  “Of course.” Nathan cupped Manny. “I must say, this is a first. Let’s hope my ability works with animals.”

  “He likes bread and crackers.” Rina petted Manny’s head poking out of Nathan’s hands. Her voice strained with sadness. “And whatever happens, don’t bring him back here.”

  “Are you sure?” Nathan asked.

  Rina’s shoulders sagged as she nodded.

  “You’ll see him again soon. In a place much better than this.” Nathan closed his concerned eyes, and then he evaporated.

  “That was very selfless,” I said, “letting go of your only friend.”

  “He deserves better than this.”

  “So do you.” I bent down, trying to get her to look at me. “Nathan’s right. You’ll see Manny soon. When we go home.”

  She peered up at me with bleary eyes. “Do you really believe that?”

  “I do.”

  GREAT THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES

  Nathaniel

  I materialized in Amber and Dylan’s bathroom, practically standing on Amber’s feet and falling backward into the sink as I tried to gain my footing.

  “Nathan!” She pulled her towel tighter around her.

  “I apologize for the unannounced visit.” The tickling of tiny claws and a tail confirmed I had indeed traversed with the mouse. I opened my hands. “This is Manny.”

  “Carson told me you were coming, but I didn’t think you’d be here so soon.”

  “Amber, you okay?” Dylan rushed into the bathroom. “Oh, Nathan, that was quick.”

  “Let me get dressed,” Amber said. “Dyl, be a good host and get our guest some cheese from the fridge.”

  “Pretty ingenious idea.” Dylan elbowed me as I walked out of the bathroom.

  “I can’t take credit. It was Maryah’s suggestion.”

  Dylan lifted Mikey out of his playpen and set him on the floor. Mikey crawled behind us, following us into the kitchen. I watched him with amazem
ent. “He’s crawling already?”

  Dylan grinned. “Amber and I are fairly certain he’s a Scion. He has so many of the same characteristics as Carson. His muscle control is developing abnormally fast, and he’s already making noises that almost sound like words.”

  Dylan opened the refrigerator then set a block of cheese on the counter. “The other day he tugged on my pant leg to get my attention.”

  “Impressive,” I noted. “I’m eager to see what abilities he develops.”

  Dylan’s lip curled, and pride shone in his eyes. “I have a hunch of what it might be.” He broke off a corner of cheese and handed it to me. “But Amber won’t allow me to say anything until we’re sure.”

  “Let’s focus on our task, shall we?” Amber said, walking up behind me. “Maybe this mouse can tell us where Dedrick is.”

  As interested as I was in Mikey’s ability, I was much more interested in finding out where Dedrick had Rina living in such dismal conditions. Maryah was right. We had to get her out of there. Now that I’d seen Rina—the real Rina—with my own eyes, my reasons were mounting.

  Amber took the mouse from me. “I’ll speak out loud so you guys can feel involved.” She smiled down at our furry guest. “Hello, Manny. Do you know where you came from? The name of the place, or its location?” She subtly shook her head as if mirroring the mouse’s thoughts. “Anything you can share would be most helpful. Details of the inside or the outside, names you may have overheard.”

  After a couple of silent minutes, Amber’s chin bobbed up and down. She stood then backed up, swaying a moment before turning. She tried to sit again, but missed her chair and landed on the floor, her hands clutched to her chest with Manny still inside.

  Dylan and I were by her side in an instant, offering her help, but she seemed unaware of us. Her head kept twitching left to right.

  “Amber?” I knelt in front of her. “Look at her eyes. They’re darting around like she’s having a seizure.”

  Dylan shoved me aside and held her face. “Amber, what’s wrong? Can you hear me?”

  She jerked hard, snapping out of it. She opened her hands to make sure Manny was all right then glanced up at us. “Well, it seems my ability has strengthened too.”

 
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