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Fighting for infinity, p.21
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.21

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  “What happened?” Dylan asked.

  “He didn’t tell me any details. He showed them to me.”

  “Showed them to you?” I repeated.

  Amber pushed her glasses up her nose. “It was fascinating. From his perspective, I traveled dirt hallways. I was low to the ground, squeezing between cracks and behind walls. I saw bugs, cobwebs, even mouse droppings.”

  “Do you have any idea where it was?” I asked.

  “Not yet, but he’s willing to show me more. I wanted to tell you guys what was happening so you wouldn’t worry, but I was so fascinated by what I was experiencing. He doesn’t understand when I ask for the name of a town, but that’s the mentality of a mouse. They can follow and retrace paths exceptionally well, but they don’t have geographical awareness like we do. He’ll show me memories of everywhere he’s ever been, but I don’t know how long that might take.”

  “While you investigate, I’ll tell Rina her mouse is safe. She was worried something might happen to him.”

  “We’ll be here,” Dylan said. Amber had already turned her attention back to Manny.

  That wasn’t my only reason for needing to see Rina again. I wasn’t ready to alarm anyone else yet without more information, but I was fairly certain I had solved the mystery of Rina’s identity.

  ∞

  I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, but I was exhausted.

  Finding my way to the room where Rina and Maryah’s soul were being kept took more energy than usual while traversing. Helen’s idea had worked, but it still required intense focus to find Maryah’s soul.

  I splayed my hands in front of me, pushing against the tunnel of darkness. I needed to find the opening quickly. The longer I searched, the weaker I felt. I moved faster, urging my hands to find the pocket of warmth again. Finally, my fingers buzzed with a familiar electrical current. I pushed through, parting the invisible curtain.

  Rina tried yanking him away so he didn’t see me, but it was too late.

  “Nathan?” River gawked at me.

  My fists balled. Maryah’s light form darted toward me. The faint outline of her lips moved, but I couldn’t hear her.

  Rina positioned herself between River and me, facing him.

  “You can’t utter a word about Nathan,” Rina told him. She stood on her tiptoes and poked River’s chest. “Not a word. Not to anyone.”

  River kept his focus on me. “How long has he been coming here?”

  “None of your bloody business,” I snarled.

  Rina snapped around and glared at me. “Stop it. River is trying to help.”

  “He is trying to help? He tried to kill Maryah and me.”

  Maryah’s glowing figure kept swiping at me as if trying to grab my arm or face. I couldn’t concentrate on anything except the fact that River now knew I could traverse here. Surely, he’d tell Dedrick, and he’d find a way to make his protective force field stronger.

  “Like I’ve told Maryah,” River said, “I swear, I don’t remember anything at Montezuma Well. I just want to get out of this hellhole and far, far away from Dedrick.”

  “Right.” I sneered. “As if I will ever believe a word spewed from your mouth.”

  He stepped forward and so did I, but Rina put her hands on our chests, keeping us separated. “I don’t care how you two feel about each other. Wouldn’t our odds of surviving this, of Maryah surviving this, be much better if we all worked together?”

  “I will never work with him on anything,” I growled. “Not in this lifetime or any other.”

  He puffed up his chest as if that would intimidate me. “If we don’t stop Dedrick soon, there won’t be any other lifetimes.”

  “Boys,” Rina said sternly. Her head whipped back and forth as she spoke to us. “You both need to get out of here. Evelyn said Dedrick was coming to visit this evening. He can’t catch one of you here much less both of you.”

  “He leaves first,” I insisted. I wanted to see if I could figure out how he left the room without a door.

  “Please!” Rina clutched River’s shirt. “Maryah and I are both begging you. You need to leave.”

  “Fine,” River agreed, “but I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He turned to Maryah and said, “See you soon.”

  I wanted to cut his tongue out so he could never speak to her again. The woman who had been standing in the corner of the room, in the shadows, still as a statue and never uttering a word, stepped forward and held onto River’s arm. She blew out the candle and darkness engulfed the room. I couldn’t see anything, not even Maryah’s glowing form.

  When the candle flickered back to life, Rina was the only physical body in the room with me. Maryah’s light pulsed in different shades of purple, green, and blue.

  “Dedrick could be here any second,” Rina warned me.

  Part of me wanted to stay and beat him senseless when he arrived. I could kill him now and end it all. But considering I felt exhausted enough to pass out at Rina’s feet, and I had no idea what abilities Dedrick had working to his advantage, or how to physically get in and out of the room, me staying would only make matters worse.

  I smoothed down Rina’s messy hair. “I wanted to tell you that Manny is fine. Amber is taking good care of him.”

  A grin tugged at her lips. “Make sure he eats.”

  “He’s feasting like a king.”

  Her smile brightened ten shades, but then shadows darkened her eyes again. “You need to go. Don’t come back again until Maryah tells you it’s safe.”

  I nodded then turned to Maryah. “Don’t trust River. Come home as soon as you can so we can discuss this. I love you.”

  Her light pulsed, and her lips moved.

  “She loves you too,” Rina said.

  I used the last bit of strength I had to traverse to Dylan and Amber’s house.

  As hard as I tried to stay upright, the journey drained my body of the limited strength it had left. My head whacked against the coffee table as I collapsed on their living-room floor.

  Molokai sat a few feet away. Her tail wagged as she pawed at a baby rattle hovering in mid-air. Mikey appeared in front of her. He dropped his rattle and crawled toward me. His body flickered in and out of existence as his blue eyes became a tunnel of light.

  “Baby,” I murmured, and then I passed out.

  SPITTING IT OUT

  Nathaniel

  I sat up in bed beside Maryah.

  Krista glanced up from her book. “Hello, Sleeping Beauty.”

  “How long was I out?”

  “Almost twenty-four hours.”

  I rolled my stiff neck. “Bollocks. What have I missed?”

  “Surprisingly, not much.”

  “Has Maryah been here?”

  “No, but Rina visited and told us to let you sleep as long as you needed while she and Maryah worked on her training.”

  “Training?”

  Krista shrugged. “We asked. She wouldn’t explain. As usual.”

  I stood. “I need to talk to them.”

  “No!” Krista closed her book and set it on the nightstand. “Rina said you couldn’t traverse there again until she or Maryah gave you clearance. She was adamant about that.”

  I felt slightly out of it, weak and light-headed. Perhaps it would be wise to wait until I felt better. “I’m famished. I need to eat.”

  “I’ll go with you.” Krista helped me out of bed. “I’m supposed to tell the others when you’re awake so we can have a meeting.”

  I stopped. Did they already know what I suspected? “A meeting about what?”

  Krista flashed an impish smile. “Oh, did I forget to mention that Amber knows the location of Dedrick’s lair?”

  “Krista! Where is it?”

  “I don’t know yet. Amber said she’d tell us as a group, and we’d figure out the next step from there.”

  “Where is Amber?”

  “Probably feeding Mikey. It’s dinnertime.”

  I traversed to the kitchen. Amber sat on
the living-room floor, playing with Mikey. “Where are they?”

  Amber handed Mikey a teething toy. “Good evening to you too, Nathan.”

  I forced my tired legs to move forward until I stood over her. “Amber, where are they?”

  “I’m not discussing it until we have a proper roundtable with everyone present. And after you promise not to traverse there.”

  My voice was almost a growl. “Amber.”

  “Back off, Nathan.” Dylan unloaded the dishwasher. “It’s for everyone’s safety. If she told you their location right now, you’d impulsively traverse there and put yourself and Maryah in jeopardy.”

  I took a deep breath, watching Amber. She knew where they were. She knew Dedrick’s location, and yet she sat there cooing at Mikey and playing with him as if the information she possessed wasn’t life and universe-altering.

  “For crying out loud,” I said, “When is the blasted meeting?”

  “I’m already calling everyone,” Krista shouted from the kitchen.

  ∞

  Less than an hour passed before all members arrived for the meeting, but it felt like ages. I paced around the table, waiting for everyone to sit down so I could find out Dedrick’s location.

  Faith and Shiloh were the last to arrive, but Faith announced she had to use the restroom.

  “Is Maryah here?” Harmony asked.

  I sat down. “No.”

  “Actually,” Louise said, strolling into the kitchen with Maryah behind her. “Maryah’s body will be present for the meeting.”

  Dakota sprang up from his seat. “Hi, Rina.”

  “Hello, Dakota,” Rina replied politely.

  I rose from my chair. “Impeccable timing. Did you know we were about to have a meeting?”

  Rina started to chew Maryah’s fingers but then clasped her hands behind her back. “I had a feeling that one of us needed to be here for an important discussion.”

  “And why did you come instead of Maryah?” I asked.

  “She’s practicing.”

  My interest piqued. “Practicing what?”

  “Connecting strings.”

  “Strings?” Dakota asked. “How can she handle strings without her hands?”

  “They’re special strings,” Rina said.

  Faith sashayed into the room. “Maryah! You’re back.”

  Rina turned, and Faith’s smile wavered, but didn’t fade. “Oh, sorry, Rina. Hello again.”

  Rina touched Faith’s stomach. “You’re pregnant.”

  Faith beamed. “How’d you know?”

  “Faith!” Louise exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

  Amber and Krista squealed and rushed to Faith’s side to congratulate her. Shiloh received handshakes and celebratory slaps on the back. I donned a smile to show my support, but my feet stayed rooted in place.

  Faith’s sparkling eyes drifted to me. “With all this soul-stealing madness going on, it never seemed like an appropriate time to announce it.”

  “You’re having a baby,” Helen squealed while clapping. “We can always use that kind of good news.”

  Faith walked over to me and touched my arm. I flinched because I didn’t want her to feel my emotions, but she had probably already seen them written all over my face. “I’m sorry you’re upset. I know the timing is awful. I didn’t want you to find out yet.”

  She didn’t know the half of it.

  “It’s fine,” I assured her. The kindrily tip-toed around the issue of pregnancy for my sake. Mary and I had always been the last to know when one of our members was expecting a child. We were always happy for them, of course, but after so many failed attempts, so many heartbreaking losses, we couldn’t help but be envious of those who could have children. “Despite my initial reaction, I am genuinely happy for you.”

  She hugged me, but over her shoulder my eyes locked with Rina’s. Did she know? Was it one of the many secrets she hid from us, or was her history kept in the dark and locked away just like she had been for so many years?

  “Okay,” Faith said, turning back to the group. “We can celebrate the baby news later. Let’s find out where Maryah and Rina are being kept so we can get them out of there.”

  Everyone took their seats, but Rina kept still. Only one chair remained empty, so it was obvious where she should have sat. Gregory pulled out the chair between us. “Rina, you can sit in Maryah’s place.”

  She stroked Maryah’s hair, eying everyone gathered around the table. “I feel like that would be wrong.”

  “Rina, please,” I said, “I insist and so would Maryah.”

  She crept forward and slowly sat down.

  “Nathan—” Louise glared at me over her glasses. “You must solemnly swear to stay put once Amber discloses Maryah’s location. We will discuss our strategy as a group and not make a move until we weigh all of our options. It’s getting late so we will all take a solid night’s sleep to think on this. If we have any chance of proceeding and being successful, we will need a well-thought-out plan. Do you understand and agree?”

  As difficult as it would be to not act impulsively, Louise was right. “I understand and agree.”

  “All right then.” Amber leaned forward and pushed her glasses up her nose. “Thanks to Manny, I think I know where Rina and Maryah are being imprisoned.”

  Their location couldn’t spill from Amber’s lips fast enough.

  FATE LINES

  Maryah

  When Rina returned, I was hovering in front of the glass cabinet, watching my light change colors as I focused on different kindrily members and my feelings for them.

  “You’re a great teacher,” I told her. “It works—especially when I use your Connect the Dots method.” I had been practicing on my ties with Krista. “It’s fascinating how many different shades of color and textures there are for each person.”

  “I told you. No soul’s energy looks or feels exactly the same.”

  I turned in a circle, still watching my reflection. “Louise says the same thing. Her paintings around the house are her interpretation of our auras. Now I see why she paints some to look metallic, sparkling, smooth, grainy, or whatever. You can see and feel so many differences.”

  “Have you practiced with every member yet?”

  “Almost. I started with Edgar since he’s the oldest and worked my way down. I still need to study Carson and Mikey.”

  “What about Dakota?”

  Dakota wanted to be an Element so badly. Rina probably assumed he was a kindrily member since he was staying at our house and attended every roundtable meeting. “Dakota isn’t an official kindrily member, but we think of him as one.”

  “Have you seen his comics?”

  “One of them.”

  “He’s gifted.”

  “Yes, very talented.” I tore my focus away from my colorful reflection. “So, who did you see while you visited this time? Any news to report?”

  “I saw everyone.”

  “Everyone?” My brows rose. “Like the whole kindrily?”

  “Every member except you.”

  My pulse quickened. “Did something important happen?”

  “Amber announced our location.”

  I couldn’t have heard her right. “Our location? You and me? This dungeon?”

  “Yes,” she confirmed nonchalantly.

  “Rina! How are you so calm about this? Why didn’t you tell me as soon as you came back? Where are we?”

  She sat in her chair, scooting it close to the table. “An abandoned subterranean kingdom in the Himalayas.”

  My shock hung in the air for a moment before my limited geography knowledge surfaced. “The Himalayas are massive. They extend across multiple countries. You’re saying we could be buried inside of one of hundreds of mountains?”

  “They narrowed it down to a couple.”

  I floated over to the table, hovering across from her. “How will they search the inside of two huge mountains?”

  “Not two mountains. Two mounta
in ranges.”

  “Ranges? How many ranges are there?”

  “Carson said seven, I think.” She opened her book. “I’m not sure. It was a lot of information to absorb.”

  “Seven ranges? That means each range has...” I had no idea how many mountains were in the Himalayas. A broad math equation would have to do. “...tons of mountains!” My heart sank. “They’ll never find us.”

  “Yes, they will because we’ll help them.”

  “How?”

  She tapped her lip. “I’m not sure yet. It’s all happening much sooner than expected, which is why you need to master connecting with the kindrily’s energy quicker than we thought. Also, if you could tap into your power to alter the future, that would be beneficial.”

  “What?” I guffawed. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

  She spun the book around and pushed it toward me. “Begin here.”

  I finally understood. She didn’t want me to read the book; she wanted me to use it to create a story. She had spent too much time with Dakota. “You want me to write a story and predict a happy ending for us?”

  “You already wrote the story.” She jabbed the blank page. “We need you to read it and finish where you left off.”

  “I haven’t written anything in that book.”

  She slammed her palms on the table. “You did in your previous life. You just need to open your eyes and read it.”

  I lowered my voice in an attempt to keep her from getting more angry or frustrated. “Rina, I erased all memories of my previous life. Even if I had written in that book, it has clearly been erased from the pages just like my memories were erased from my soul.”

  “You didn’t erase them forever. Energy has no beginning and no end. It can change form, but it can’t be erased.”

  “Well then, I have changed into a weaker and less knowledgeable version of myself, so any story you think I may have written has been deleted.”

  “That’s not true. Look at your fate lines.”

  I glanced down at my ghostly hands, wanting to look at the parallel lines on my palms that Sheila had discussed with me before she passed away. I couldn’t make out the details of my skin through the blur of light. “How do you know about my fate lines?”

 
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