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Fighting for infinity, p.26
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.26

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  I scooted backward, carefully resting Rina’s head on the floor. I had to lure him away from her without making it obvious. “You stole the stones. They aren’t yours to use.”

  “Possession is more than nine tenths of universal law. I have them, and I am enlightened enough to use them.”

  “Enlightened?” I stood and backed up. “You kill innocent people. You destroy lives. You want to use precious ancient stones to shut down our planet. You’re not enlightened. You’re the greediest and most egotistical person I’ve ever known or heard of.”

  He followed me. “I understand how it must look from your perspective, but once I bridge the two worlds together and you see the great things that await us, you’ll understand and be grateful that I lifted you into a higher state of existence with me.”

  My back pressed against the wall. “You’re kidding yourself. You hiked around a mountain a hundred times and jumped into a lake. That does not mean you’ll ever live a higher existence.”

  He grinned wickedly. “I suspected you were with me on my final lap but confirming it warms my heart.”

  A primal part of me spoke my next words without analyzing or second-guessing myself. “I’ve been to Meru, and you couldn’t be more wrong with your translation of how to connect or use the stones.”

  “Don’t kid yourself.” He scoffed. “You are the one who taught me how to use them.”

  “I never taught you anything. You stole my journals.”

  “You left them for me to find.” He matched me step for step, so I kept creeping along the wall. I didn’t want Rina getting trampled on or hurt. “If the secrets you had learned were so precious, why record them onto a page, documented for anyone to stumble upon? You weren’t that foolish, my love. You wanted me to find them.”

  Every kindrily member said I had been so powerful, that I foresaw future events lifetimes before they occurred. I wouldn’t have been foolish enough to leave such a sacred treasure map to be snatched up by a morally deprived pirate.

  Whatever I had written in the journal he stole was a decoy to lead him the wrong way.

  I knew what I was doing then, and I would do what needed to be done now. I inhaled all my fear and apprehension then I blew it out until only courage remained.

  I knocked the flashlight from his hand. It flew across the room, bouncing off a wall before landing on the floor and shutting off. It was the few seconds of distraction I needed.

  I had anticipated a fight with Dedrick, not Dedrick in River’s body, but there was nothing I could do to change the circumstances. I reached into my boot and pulled out the loaded syringe.

  Now he’d get a dose of his own wretched sleeping medicine. I cocked my arm, thumb ready and waiting on the plunger for Dedrick to make his move.

  The room was pitch black, but I heard Dedrick chuckle using River’s voice. “Don’t make this so difficult, Maryah. I am not the enemy.”

  He stepped toward me, his feet shuffling like the rat he was. I lunged forward, stabbing the needle into what felt like River’s shoulder. He sucked in a quick breath as I pulled out the needle and shoved him away from me. I stepped back, hoping to stay out of his reach as the drugs took effect.

  “Stupid girl,” he uttered before River’s body collapsed onto the ground.

  I crawled around on my hands and knees, searching for the flashlight. I needed to figure out how to get Rina and River out of the room before Dedrick came back in his own body—or someone else’s.

  I found the flashlight and clicked it on, shining the beam on Rina then River. Both were passed out. I ran to the door and pulled on the steel latch, but it was locked.

  I pounded my fists against the door and, as loud as I could, yelled for help.

  STRINGS AND GLUE

  Maryah

  The door opened.

  Evelyn stood backlit by the torchlight from the hallway. She glanced down at Rina and River. “Oh dear.”

  I eyed her suspiciously. I had to suspect everyone and anyone could be Dedrick at this point. She stepped inside, and I positioned myself in the doorway. No way would we be locked in again.

  She felt River’s neck. “I know what happened to Rina, but why is River unconscious?”

  “You already know the answer to that.”

  Evelyn looked up at me. Her tone was terse. “No, I don’t. That’s why I’m asking you.”

  “You’re not fooling me. I know it’s you.”

  She squinted and sat up straight. “And who precisely are you referring to when you say you?”

  “Dedrick.”

  “Oh.” She looked at River again. “I see.” She stood and brushed her hands on the front of her shirt. “Maryah, Dedrick has not taken possession of my body, I assure you.”

  I didn’t reply. Of course he’d say that.

  “Come with me.” She waved her hands over her snake eyes, and they changed to normal. “I think I know how to help you.”

  “I’m not going anywhere with you,” I said. “Even if you really are Evelyn, I can’t leave Rina and River.”

  “Dedrick will return fairly soon, and when he does, what will you do? It seems I’m the only conscious ally you have at the moment.”

  I glanced at Rina, not wanting to leave her. “Where would you take me?”

  “To the prayer room. It’s your best chance at being able to read the book. Rina and River will be fine. I’ll come back for them.”

  Reluctantly, I followed her down the hallways. They weren’t really hallways. They were more like dirt tunnels.

  Evelyn had a torch so I could see better than during my rushed travels with River/Dedrick. She led me to a tiny room with rounded walls and no corners. It was more like an alcove carved into the hallway. Light poured in from above, flooding the round room with a glow that made the dirt sparkle.

  I leaned in and looked up. A long, narrow, vertical tunnel stretched stories above me. At the end was daylight. The circle of blue sky looked so out of place given the dark and dreary tunnel system of windowless cave-rooms.

  Evelyn handed me Rina’s book. “Sit and read.”

  I hesitantly took it from her. “What if I can’t read it?”

  Her gaze drifted down to my ring. “You can.”

  Had everyone known about my ring except me? “How did you do all of this?”

  “All of what?”

  “Help free Nathan, get me out of that locked room, bring me here. Where is everyone else? Why aren’t other Nefariouns chasing us and trying to kill me right now?”

  “Dedrick keeps them separated from this area. This small section of caves is our home.”

  “Home? Who lives like this?”

  “Someone who has many secrets to keep hidden. Someone who has lost touch with reality in order to obtain power to which he was never entitled. Someone like Dedrick.”

  I clutched the book to my chest. “Do you know my big secret?”

  Her lashes batted then she sighed. “I do. And it’s nice to see you now know it too.”

  “How do you know so much?”

  “Because I was your caretaker. Before, during, and after Rina’s birth. You used to have a great deal of trust in me. Before you departed from here, you entrusted me with the book. I taught her how to read it by the time she was five.”

  How could I not remember any of that? “Why did you help me back then, and why are you helping me now?”

  “I’m obligated.”

  “Obligated by what?”

  “My conscience.”

  “Is anyone else involved?”

  “Lexie.” She said it freely as if she had nothing to hide.

  “The Lexie who reported all of my private thoughts to Dedrick?”

  “She didn’t tell him anything that would have led to the plan failing. For nearly two decades she has put on a constant show around him just like I have.”

  “Who else here is involved?”

  “Rina.”

  “Why doesn’t Dedrick’s mind control work on her?”

/>   “She was immune to it since birth, which is why he kept her secluded here. He knew she was gifted. He tried controlling her in other ways, but she’s too intelligent. His biggest mistake was keeping her here. In the end it will be the cause of his demise. And I have been anxiously awaiting that day for so long.”

  I peered down at the book with no title. “So if I can read this, what happens when I’m done?”

  “I don’t know. That’s the part we’ve been waiting for.”

  “The part? What do you mean?”

  “To see if the prophecy can be changed.”

  “Dedrick’s plan to shut down the energy vortexes of this world?”

  She nodded.

  “How am I supposed to change anything? He’s more powerful than I can even begin to understand.”

  “My best advice—my only advice—is read the book. I’ll be back with Rina when she wakes. And then the two of you must go.”

  “Go where?”

  “Away from here.”

  “Why?”

  “Because he has obtained the last stone. Rina can’t be here any longer.”

  “What about River?”

  “He must stay with me.”

  A shiver crept up my spine. I’d make the kindrily come back to help free River. Getting Rina out was my top priority. “How would we escape?”

  “By helicopter.”

  My eyes bugged. “That’s it? Easy as that? You have access to the helicopter?”

  “Yes.”

  “This whole time, you could have freed Rina! You could have escaped with her. Why didn’t you?”

  “It wasn’t part of the plan. I had strict orders to follow the plan.”

  “Whose plan?”

  She leveled me with her eyes. “Yours.”

  ∞

  I sat on the dirt floor, staring up at the small pool of sky far above me. It represented freedom, or at least the possibility of it, and it was so close, yet lifetimes away.

  As I thumbed through the book, a ray of sunlight glimmered against the page. For a moment I thought I saw a diagram of some sort, so I flipped back, trying to find it again, but I found nothing.

  I opened to the first page, angling it in every possible direction, searching for even a faint outline of ink. Still nothing.

  I thought back to my sensperience sessions in the room Carson created, the starlight practice sessions with Nathan, and our time at the lodge where I first understood what it felt like to open every cell in my body and allow it to feel the energy around me.

  My hand wrapped around the Howlite hanging over my heart. I bowed my head, focusing on the peacock feather in my ring. I gripped the Howlite tighter and pressed my lips against the cool smooth dome of my ring while begging for the ability to read the book.

  At first, it was like trying to see a shimmering coin through ocean waves. I squinted and craned my neck forward. Please, I begged. Come into focus.

  I closed my eyes and saw Rina’s smile—the one that lit up the room when she thought she was going home. Her dark blue eyes—ringed with the same green as her father’s—had glimmered in those few precious moments of possibility. “Help me save her.”

  My lids fluttered open, and glistening silver words appeared on the page.

  To my dearest and cherished Marina, you are the star I have been wishing upon all of my lives.

  Guilt plowed through me all over again. How could a mother leave her daughter? How could I have left Rina with an evil person like Dedrick?

  I turned the page and saw the answer to my question.

  Leaving you is the most difficult decision I’ve made in my hundreds of years of existence. I would move Heaven and Earth to keep you safe, to give you the beautiful life you deserve. According to the prophecy, you will live one extremely short human life before everything is gone. Before everyone is gone. Your father and I will be separated forever, and you will never know what it means to have a family.

  I can’t accept that.

  I WILL move Heaven and Earth. I will do the impossible.

  Burn bright, my shooting star, because together you and I will rewrite the story of this world. My eternal, inerasable love, M.

  I would have lost her and Nathan. Countless lives would have ended. I was beginning to forgive myself, or at least understand why I did what I did.

  I’d read a paragraph and hate myself. I’d hate Mary for deserting her own flesh and blood. A paragraph later I would be amazed by her strength and foresight of what might be possible.

  She was so brave. And then I reminded myself that she was me, and I needed to believe in the words I had written. I needed to follow my own plan and manifest a miracle into reality.

  I found the diagram and ran my finger over the many circles. All of them were labeled with powers: traversing, freezing time, reading minds, and so on. Several of the circles contained only a question mark. On the center of the page, each circle was connected to a star.

  “How could anyone ever predict such a thing?” I whispered.

  Rina’s voice was quiet but confident. “Evelyn said you were the most gifted seer she had ever known.”

  My head snapped up. Rina peeked out from behind the wall to the opening. The sight of her forced my lips together as I held back tears. I reached out and motioned for her to come to me.

  She moved fast, nestling in beside me as I wrapped one arm around her. “I’m so sorry.”

  “Don’t be. We’re going to save so many people.”

  “Can you ever forgive her? Forgive me?”

  “There’s nothing to forgive. This was the only way.”

  I kissed the top of her head. “You should have told me. That first day. Right away, you should have told me everything.”

  Rina pointed to the book. “Pages thirteen, twenty-eight, forty-nine, seventy-nine, eighty-eight, and the very last page. You forbid me or anyone else from ever telling you who I am.”

  “I was an idiot.”

  She leaned back and stared up at me. “You were and are a genius.”

  “I’m not a genius. I can barely mentally grasp any of this.”

  “Is it awkward for you?” she asked. “Knowing who I am?”

  “Honestly?”

  “Brutal honesty.”

  “Yes. I wish it weren’t, but jeez, I’m still getting used to the fact that I have a boyfriend. Nathan is the first and only boyfriend I’ve ever had,” I admitted sheepishly. “In less than a year I met him, fell in love with him—for the first time I can thoroughly remember—and found out he was my soul mate.” My cheeks warmed. “My biggest worry has been whether or not I’m a good kisser.” I laughed uncomfortably. “I’ve never even had sex, yet somehow I have a daughter.”

  Rina scrunched up her nose. “Congratulations. You’ve officially known about being my mother for less than a day, and you’ve already traumatized me by discussing my parents having sex.”

  A sad laugh slipped from my lips. “See, I’m not mom material. I’m so sorry.”

  “I forgive you.”

  I touched her swollen face, hating Dedrick for everything he had ever done to hurt her. “In the book, I told you the time would come when we had all the power we needed. Then we would escape.”

  She nodded.

  “Do you have all the power you need?”

  She nodded again.

  “How is that possible? I don’t understand what it means.”

  “Page thirty-two. You knew your starstone needed to be kept safe. But you also knew more about its abilities than anyone else because the akin trusted you with the knowledge of its potential. You knew it did more than just connect elemental powers.”

  “We think I hid the starstone in my ring.”

  Rina touched my thumb then squeezed. “One tiny part of Meru’s star energy is all you need.”

  “Does Dedrick know I have it?”

  “Dedrick is a fool. He never knew what he was searching for. That’s why he needed you.”

  “Evelyn said she’d b
e back to help us escape. What happens after that?”

  “We stop Dedrick, and the stones are returned to where they belong so the world can be safe again.”

  “We? You, me, and Evelyn are going to stop Dedrick and all his Nefariouns?”

  “We as in the kindrily.”

  “Our kindrily,” I corrected her.

  She hugged me.

  “They massacred us last time we encountered them,” I said. “What if that happens again?”

  “It won’t. We have eighteen.”

  “Eighteen?”

  “Eighteen members.”

  I counted off each member with my fingers. “Edgar, Helen, Anthony, Louise, Dylan, Amber, Nathan, Me, Gregory, Harmony, Faith, Shiloh, Krista, Carson, Mikey.” I hesitated, but yes, she was official now even if she wasn’t born yet. “Sheila. And you. That’s only seventeen.”

  “Me, and Dakota.”

  “We’re not sure about Dakota.”

  “I’m sure. Eighteen is the magic number, more members than any kindrily has ever attained. We had to wait until there were eighteen of us or it wouldn’t work.”

  “Was that in the book?”

  “All of it was in the book.”

  “Even Dakota?” I asked, amazed that my plan was so elaborate.

  “He didn’t have a name yet, but you knew he’d find his way to us.”

  “Why is eighteen so significant?”

  “Let me show you.” She took the book from my hands and opened to one of the last few pages. She licked her finger then rubbed it on the dirt floor beside us then drew the number 18 on the page. She pointed at the 1. “One.” Then she pointed to the 8 and turned the book sideways so the eight became the infinity symbol. “Infinite source.”

  She fixed her gaze on me then traced her finger around my eyes in a figure eight. “One infinite source. It took a long time for you to get us here, but finally, we have eighteen.”

  “That means we’re powerful enough?”

  “That means we’re invincible.” She waved her fingers back and forth between the two of us. “Strings and glue. Now, let’s practice, because time is not on our side.”

  FLYING BLIND

  Nathaniel

 
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