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Fighting for infinity, p.22
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.22

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  “I know a lot of things.”

  My voice rose with agitation. “Can you ever answer a question directly?”

  “Yes.”

  “Then tell me how you know about my fate lines.”

  “That wasn’t a question.”

  “Rina!” I wanted to shake her.

  “Sheila told me.”

  “Sheila?” I gasped. Shelia had passed away. Harmony assured us her spirit crossed over. There was no way Rina met Sheila while spending time with the kindrily. “How did—when did you ever meet Sheila?”

  “I met her today.”

  “Today? That’s impossible.”

  Rina moaned. “Stop saying things are impossible. Most everything is possible, and you of all people should know that!”

  “Tell me how and where you met Sheila.”

  “She was with Faith.”

  “But Sheila is dead.”

  “Not anymore.”

  The truth hit me like a thumb jab to my third eye. The words spilled out of me in a whisper. “Faith is pregnant, and the baby is Sheila.”

  “Correct. If we have any hopes of surviving, you’ll need to have epiphanies like that much more frequently.”

  “But how could you talk to Sheila? She just passed away. Even if Faith is pregnant with her, Sheila would barely be developed.”

  She slumped back in her chair as if the inconceivable—no pun intended—conversation was boring her. “Her body isn’t developed, but her soul is an entirely different matter.”

  “Her soul told you about my fate lines?”

  “Nobody told me anything about you. I read it all.”

  “You read it?”

  “Sheila knew things about people’s past. I looked for what she knew about you. The important stuff. Anything that might help us.”

  “But how? She’s an embryo in Faith’s uterus. How did you communicate with her?”

  Rina looked at me as if I were the most oblivious person in the world. “I touched Faith’s stomach to make the connection, and then I borrowed Sheila’s reading ability to search her soul for what I needed.”

  “That’s amazing.” I shook my head. “Unbelievable, but amazing.”

  Rina snorted.

  “What’s so funny?”

  “You astral travel,” she said. “Nathan traverses around the world. I can leave my body and inhabit yours. But you think me connecting to a soul’s energy and gathering intelligence is amazing.”

  “I guess I’m in shock that Sheila is coming back to join us. Good shock, of course.” I paused, thinking of how happy Krista would be. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm as the realization hit me. “This means Sheila is an Element, right?”

  Rina’s dark brows furrowed. “Was there ever any doubt?”

  “None of us knew if she would be. We weren’t even sure if she was going to retain. She said she planned to erase.”

  “But you made her an Element.”

  “Me? I didn’t do anything.”

  “It’s part of the story.” Rina pointed to the book.

  I wasn’t straying into another argument with Rina about the stardust story. “Faith must be ecstatic. And Krista is probably over the moon that Sheila is coming back so soon.” I stared at my palms again, trying to recall my conversation with Sheila. “What did you find out about my fate lines?”

  “Two parallel lines mean you’ve created double energy influencing your fate. It also means you’re twice as strong because of the duality.”

  “You’re saying I’m stronger than I was in my previous life?”

  Rina nodded.

  “Um, have we met? I erased. I just recently learned to astral travel, I still can’t sensperience, and I can’t predict the future or whatever I used to do. How does that make me more powerful?”

  “It’s like Rock Paper Scissors. If you play with only those three tools, too much is left to chance. You must play with rocks, paper, scissors, strings, and glue.”

  “What in the world are you talking about?”

  “You’ve never heard of the game Rock Paper Scissors?”

  “Sure I have. Back when Mikey was my brother, we played it to decide who sat shotgun or who’d do the dishes.” It was still awkward to think of Mikey my brother as Mikey, Dylan and Amber’s baby. “I’m surprised you know about games like that.”

  She ran her finger across a page, talking to me while supposedly reading. “When you played with only rock, paper, and scissors, you lost a lot, right?”

  “It was hit or miss.”

  “Exactly. Because you didn’t use strings and glue.”

  “Rina, I really need you to get to the point.”

  “The rock, the paper, the scissors—they’re all useful, but if you connected them with string and used glue to unite them together, they’d be unbeatable.”

  “Well sure, because you’d have all the tools instead of one.”

  She pointed at me and dipped her head. “Now you’re getting it.”

  “But what does that have to do with anything?”

  She closed the book. “Dedrick has rocks, paper, and scissors, but we have string and glue.”

  Rocks. Glue. The starstone was used to connect the other four stones. Could Rina know about that? Was she speaking in some silly code trying to tell me that Dedrick had three of the stones: rock, paper, scissors, and we had the other two stones: strings and glue?

  “Where are they?” I asked.

  She pointed to me. “String.” Then she pointed to herself. “Glue.”

  She knew I had the starstone.

  “Do you know where the last stone is?” I asked.

  “No, but I know what we need to do next. It’s time to teach you some important skills, but there’s one crucial thing we need to make all of this work.”

  “And that one crucial thing is?”

  Her dark blue eyes gleamed in the candlelight. “Your body.”

  RINGING TRUE

  Maryah

  I reconnected with my body, ready to tell Nathan about Rina’s plan.

  Nathan shook me awake. “Are you aware of what’s going on in the world?”

  “What?” I rubbed my eyes. Our room was different. The curtains were blue instead of green and the bed was facing the balcony door.

  “No births have occurred in over twenty-four hours. Anywhere. Worldwide. Dedrick has all of the stones. He’s more dangerous than ever.” The panic in his voice made my pulse race. I sprang out of bed and pushed past him, rushing toward the open door to our balcony.

  In front of me towered a wall of flat red rock being used as a screen. All the kindrily members stood in front of it, watching a breaking news report in their pajamas. The reporter talked as a headline of World Crisis scrolled across the top of the screen.

  “Over three-hundred-thousand births occur each day in this world, but yesterday zero took place. Researchers have investigated far and wide for evidence of one birth anywhere on our planet, but shockingly none has been discovered. Officials aren’t commenting, but online groups and social media feeds are erupting with predictions that this is the beginning of the world’s end.

  Amber called my name, but it sounded as if she had whispered in my ear. She pointed to the sky, and when I looked up, ravens fell all around us like rain.

  I turned to run back inside, but the door and house were gone. I stood on a snowy mountain, dead birds still pouring down all around me, but none of them hitting me. I reached out, catching a raven in my hands.

  The black bird lay still, not breathing. I leaned forward blowing on her chest, her inky feathers fluttering from my breath. Her wings flapped, and she rose in front of me. Her eyes opened, glowing dark blue. She squawked, and then with Rina’s voice said, “He has all of the stones.”

  Harmony’s voice echoed through the mountains. “If no souls are entering the world that means none are leaving either. Do you realize how many souls will be in limbo?”

  I couldn’t answer. I tried, but my lips wouldn’t part.
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  Faith rose out of the snowy ground. Her eyelashes were covered in icicles. Scarab beetles crawled across her round stomach. “My baby will never be born.”

  Rina screamed.

  Gregory was dragging the human form of her by her hair. He lifted her, holding her over the edge, about to drop her in the sea of flames below. I yelled for him to stop, but hands grabbed my waist and yanked me backward.

  I turned and found Dedrick bleeding from his mouth. We flew over mountains, over Sedona’s red rocks, through the balcony door to my bedroom, and down the hallway. The floor to ceiling picture windows in the living room transformed into one of Louise’s paintings.

  Beams of light rushed forward like a river, surrounding us and filling the room. We were floating, or falling, through a pool of endless swirling colors.

  Dedrick spoke to me in gargled words I couldn’t understand.

  One black feather floated behind him, drifting back and forth as it fell toward a ground that no longer existed.

  “Up here,” Rina shouted.

  She peered down at me through an open manhole cover. She reached through the small hole, stretching her hand until it connected with mine. She pulled me up, and up, and up, and just when I thought I’d never make it out, she lifted me through the round opening and into a starry sky.

  We stood there together, riding a slow-moving comet, holding hands, and staring down at Earth.

  “How do we save it?” I asked her.

  The sphere of blue and green started spinning faster until it blurred and became the eye of a peacock feather floating in space. Its quills turned to thin rays of light, extending through the sky and connecting the billions of stars surrounding us like a universal game of Connect The Dots.

  “Are we too late?” I asked.

  She squeezed my hand so tightly it hurt, but when I looked down, Rina was gone, and Nathan’s hand was gripping mine.

  “Please remember.” He let go and clutched my shoulders. His voice caused all the stars to brighten. “Open your eyes.”

  He shook me. Then shook me again.

  I jolted up in bed. Nathan sat in front of me, concern etched on his face. “That must have been some nightmare.”

  Our room was normal. The curtains were green. The bed hadn’t moved. The balcony door was closed. “The news. Have there been news reports about no babies being born?”

  “Beg your pardon?”

  I rubbed my clammy forehead. “Nothing. You’re right. It was a nightmare.”

  Except it wasn’t just a nightmare. I had seen what could happen if Dedrick acquired all of the stones. It was a strange, psychedelic version of it, but still real enough to convince me that I had to proceed with Rina’s plan.

  “I need you to traverse me to the dungeon.”

  Nathan look appalled. “I most certainly will not. It’s too dangerous.”

  Anger bubbled inside me. “You promised you’d have faith in me. That you’d help me when I needed it.”

  “I do have faith in you, and I will help, but not like this. Not until we figure out how Dedrick has made Rina immune to my traversing ability.”

  I shoved him. “Take my body back there right now!”

  He caught my hands and held them against his chest. “And what if Dedrick does the same thing to you? Casts a spell or whatever it is he did to Rina, and then I can’t traverse your body out of there either? You can’t ask me to put you in jeopardy like that. I won’t.”

  “I’m not asking you, Nathan. I’m telling you.”

  He grimaced then dropped my hands. He stood and turned to walk away from me.

  I followed him out of the room and down the hall, my voice getting louder with every step we took. “If you don’t take my body to her right now, and something happens where we can’t free her from Dedrick, I’ll never forgive you.”

  The tension poured into the house like wet cement, hardening with each passing second of silence. My pulse pounded in my ears.

  We stood in the kitchen, Nathan leaning against the island and me staring at his back, waiting for him to reply. Finally, he said, “That’s a risk I’ll have to take.”

  I had to make him agree. What could I threaten him with? “If you don’t traverse me back there right now, I’m breaking up with you.”

  He slowly turned around. I could tell he was fighting back a laugh. “Then I’m very sorry. It’s not me. It’s you.”

  I lunged forward to grab a piece of fruit from the bowl I knew was behind him. He stepped aside, but the bowl was gone. Seething, I turned, realizing he was holding it behind his back.

  “I really want to throw something at you.”

  “I know. That’s why I moved the ammunition. And why I’m strategically standing in front of the toaster.”

  The only thing left within reach was a dish towel. I balled it up and threw it at him, but it wasn’t at all satisfying.

  He set the bowl of fruit on the counter behind him and closed the space between us, wrapping his arms around my waist. “Just breathe. The anger will pass. If breaking up with me will help you feel better, go ahead. Winning you back will be enjoyable for both of us.”

  “This is no time for jokes.”

  “I’m not joking.”

  “Rina said in order for us to stop Dedrick, I need to be there body and soul.”

  “I will take you when the time is right, but not now.”

  Carson walked into the kitchen carrying a packed duffel bag. “He’s right, Maryah. It’s for your own protection.”

  I pushed Nathan away from me. “I can’t even look at you right now.”

  I stormed off down the hall and into the bathroom.

  “Maryah?” Nathan called gently from the other side of the closed door. “Please, let me in.”

  “Go away.”

  “I’m not going away. Please try to consider my side of this argument.”

  I huffed and shook my head, kicking the linen closet door.

  “Maryah?” he called again. “I won’t intrude on your privacy by traversing in there, but I wish you would come out so we can discuss this.”

  “There’s nothing to discuss. When you’re ready to traverse me to Rina, let me know. Until then, I’m not coming out.”

  “Maryah, don’t be daft.”

  That did it. I was tired of everyone else thinking they knew what was best for me. I lay on the bathroom rug, breathed deep, and pictured Rina’s eyes.

  Nathan’s voice sounded further away. “Maryah?”

  Drifting like a feather, I became weightless. I wouldn’t return again until Nathan brought me my body.

  I found myself staring at Rina’s dirt-smudged face. Her eyes widened, and she shook her head furiously.

  “Well, well, well,” Dedrick said from behind me.

  I whirled around.

  He held a syringe in his hands. “It seems I should have been using the stronger tranquilizer all along.”

  “Don’t touch her!” I threw my arms out, trying to protect Rina. I lunged for the candle, wanting to grab it and burn him. But I had no body. No way to protect Rina. I couldn’t think straight.

  Dedrick inched closer, taking his time as he circled us like a vulture, enjoying the fear he must have seen in Rina and me. “This calls for a permanent separation of you two.”

  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Nathan materialized.

  “No!” I yelled so loud the room quivered. I caught one fleeting glance of Dedrick’s sneer before Nathan spun around, his arm already cocked behind him.

  Nathan’s fist connected with Dedrick’s jaw, and Dedrick’s head snapped sideways, but other than that, it barely fazed him.

  Nathan grabbed the book from the table. He swung and hit Dedrick in the head so hard that the candle almost blew out. Dedrick fell to the floor.

  “Get out of here!” I shouted at Nathan. “Rina, tell him about the tranquilizer!”

  Eyes wide, jaw clenched, Rina waved her hands at Nathan, but didn’t say a word. Nathan
glanced down at her, and in that split second, Dedrick jammed the needle into Nathan’s calf.

  Nathan staggered backward. Dedrick stood, holding the side of his head.

  Nathan threw another punch, but whatever Dedrick injected into him was working fast.

  Dedrick dodged his fist and laughed. “Nathaniel, you fool. I never imagined you’d be so easy to trap.”

  I pounced on Dedrick, kicking and clawing, my pulsing light filling the room as my emotions raged out of control. I roared like a lion attacking.

  No one but Rina could hear me, and she seemed paralyzed with fear or shock.

  Nathan crumbled to the floor. I tried catching him, but he fell through my useless arms.

  Dedrick hooked his hands under Nathan’s shoulders. I tried shoving him away, but Dedrick blew out the candle, and the black curtain fell.

  When the darkness lifted, Dedrick was gone, but so was Nathan.

  “Oh god!” I choked back a sob. “What did I do?”

  “Get out of here!” Rina shrieked. “Return to your body before he comes back!”

  “I’m not leaving you.”

  She spoke so fast she tripped over her words. “He’s coming back, and when he does, he’ll take me away, and I won’t be able to free you. You’ll never see Nathan or me again.”

  I opened my mouth to argue, but the candle went out. All I could see was a faint blue glow and energy cords. It might have been my last chance at freedom, so I took it.

  I gasped for air, choking back tears as my soul reconnected with my body. The bathroom lights above me were blindingly bright.

  “Maryah?” Krista tried grabbing my hands, but I was flailing.

  “We screwed up!” I yelled. “I screwed up. Dedrick has Nathan.”

  “What?”

  “He knows Rina helped me.” My voice trembled. “What do I do? I don’t know what to do!”

  Carson blurred into the bathroom.

  “What happened?” Louise asked from the doorway. Gregory and Harmony stood behind her.

  I spewed out everything in a rushed, crazed voice. My worst nightmare was coming true. My actions had caused Nathan to be captured by Dedrick.

  “Don’t worry,” Krista tried assuring me. “We’ll figure it out. We’ll get him back.”

 
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