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Fighting for infinity, p.8
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.8

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  If that was the truth, it was a crime which made me despise Dedrick even more. No one should be subjected to that sort of confinement.

  Before any of us could react or reply to her shocking claim, Rina threw the covers off of her. “I need to use the bathroom.” Deep pink spread across Maryah’s chest. “This is awkward. I’ve never had to pee using someone else’s body.”

  We all glanced uncomfortably at each other. Awkward indeed.

  ∞

  When Rina stepped out of the bathroom, we were all waiting for her, including Louise and Anthony. Carson, Krista, and I had updated them on the body snatcher situation.

  “Hello,” Rina said, wiping her hands on Maryah’s shorts, “I’m Rina.”

  Anthony’s eyes narrowed. Eightball whined and backed into the corner.

  Louise pushed her glasses to the top of her head. “Fascinating.”

  Judging from Louise’s smile, she didn’t see any indication that Rina’s aura was malevolent. “My name is—”

  “No.” I stopped Louise from introducing herself. “No names. We can’t trust anyone associated with Dedrick.”

  Louise glared at me. “My cover was already blown when Dedrick visited us, so it doesn’t matter if she knows my name. She extended her hand. “I’m Louise.”

  Rina stared at Louise’s hand. Clearly she wasn’t familiar with that form of greeting. She leaned forward, examining Louise’s bangle bracelets. “What are those?”

  “My bracelets?” She jingled them, and Rina’s eyes lit up. Louise removed a few beaded ones and handed them to Rina. “Here, try them on. They’re jewelry.”

  Rina slid them onto Maryah’s wrist and held them up in front of her, admiring them. “They make a lovely sound.” Her attention switched to something beyond her bracelets. She lowered her arm and walked toward the windows then touched the glass. “These are unusual. What are they?”

  “She claims to have never seen a window,” I explained. “Or been outside.” We had failed to mention that part of Rina’s story.

  “What?” Louise gasped. “How horrible. Here, come have a look.” Louise opened the balcony door. “Step outside and enjoy the fresh desert air.”

  Rina peered up at me from beneath Maryah’s long lashes. “Will you go with me?”

  “Me?” I was the most leery of her, and I had made it clear that I didn’t trust her. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s a small private balcony.”

  “Nathan, go with her,” Louise urged. “This is all new to her.”

  Reluctantly, I walked forward and motioned for Rina to step outside. She did, but timidly. Reaching forward, she ran one finger over the balcony railing. She scanned the sky and ground then took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “It tastes heavenly.”

  Could she taste the energy around her the way most of our kindrily could? Before I had the chance to ask if she sensperienced, a bird landed on the railing, flapping its wings. Eightball ran toward us barking as Rina jumped sideways, hugging me and burying her face in my chest.

  I don’t know if it was because she was startled or because she was in Maryah’s body, but I couldn’t push her away.

  GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER

  Maryah

  Rina jerked awake so hard that her chair scooted backward. She sat up, wiping her eyes.

  “What?” I asked after a period of her staring at me and blinking, but not saying anything. “Did you have a nightmare?”

  “I’m not sure how much to tell you.”

  “How much to tell me about what?”

  Rina wrung her hands together. “I told them you were okay.”

  “Told who I was okay?”

  “Some of your kindrily.”

  I was confused. “Some of my kindrily?” The possibility hit me like a truck. “Did you travel to them?”

  She nodded.

  “You stole my ability to spy on my family?”

  “I didn’t spy. I told them who I was and that you were fine and not to worry.”

  My mind reeled. “But how? I can’t talk to people when I astral travel. How can you be sure they heard you?”

  Her fingers fumbled around themselves faster. “Don’t be angry.”

  “Angry about what?”

  “I borrowed your body to interact with them.”

  She spoke clearly, but I struggled to process her words. To comprehend what she meant. She borrowed my body? “You what?”

  “It’s a secret. No one can know I am able to do it. If Dedrick found out—”

  “Forget Dedrick!” I shouted. “You had no right to use my body as your own!” The room was spinning. Or maybe I was. I pressed my hands against the sides my head, trying to make the dizziness stop. “How is that even possible? What did you do as me? Who did you see? Who did you talk to?” I rushed toward her, fuming, as she protectively raised her hands. “Was Nathan there?”

  She nodded. “Nathaniel, Krista, Carson, Louise, and Anthony.”

  I was trying to catch my breath, but I had no lungs so a cold void kept tugging at the center of my chest. “You actually talked to them?”

  “I told them I was me. I told them you were safe. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky or do anything bad. You said they were probably worried sick, and I didn’t want them to worry, and I didn’t want you to be upset so I went there so everyone would feel better.”

  “You had no right!”

  “I was careful. I made sure not to harm your body in any way. I even drank a lot of water because you were thirsty.”

  Anger, confusion, and the overwhelming sense of being violated twisted and turned around me like a tornado. “Tell me everything. Every word you said. Every step you took. And most importantly, tell me how the hell you invaded my body.”

  ∞

  Rina’s story and her ability were so far-fetched, but she described mine and Nathan’s bedroom in perfect detail. And Louise’s bracelets. Even the scent of Nathan when he held her. He held her. A stranger in my body.

  I asked for the third time. “You swear you told them the truth about who you were?”

  “Of course I did.”

  “I still don’t understand how your soul was able to exist in my body.”

  “You don’t understand a lot of things, Maryah.”

  It’s a good thing I didn’t have a tongue or I might have bitten it off while trying to keep my cool. “Then why don’t you educate me?”

  “You’re limited by your beliefs.” Her tone was gentle, almost like she pitied me. “I can’t educate you if you don’t open your mind and expand your awareness.”

  This coming from the girl who had been trapped by Dedrick since birth.

  If what Rina told me about her visit with my kindrily was true—which it seemed to be—then Rina had temporarily escaped from her cell for the first time. She had tasted freedom. In my body. She hadn’t needed or even asked for my permission. What would she do with the ability to be free now that she had experienced it? What if next time she stayed in my body, stole my life, and never gave a second thought to my soul being trapped here with Dedrick? The possibility terrified me.

  I’d have to be more careful. I’d have to be extremely cautious about what information I shared. If I made my life sound too enticing, she might steal it. I needed to know how she felt about her time away, but I was nervous to ask. If she enjoyed it, and I made her relive those positive feelings again, it could make matters worse. Then again, maybe she’d be one of those kidnap victims who stayed with her captor for so long that she wouldn’t leave even if she could.

  I scanned her from her dirty bare feet to her greasy disheveled hair. Wanting to stay here with Dedrick was a long, long shot.

  I had to find out how she felt about being me. “How was it?”

  “How was what?” Rina asked.

  “Your experience with them, and being outside for the first time.”

  A light flickered in her eyes. “It was wonderful. Louise is so nice. I think she sort of liked me. I wish I could have ke
pt the bracelets she let me try on.”

  She did like it. Of course she did. Who wouldn’t? “And Nathan?”

  “He doesn’t trust me.”

  “Can you blame him?”

  She tickled her lips with the ends of her hair, but disappointment lurked in her frown. “He should know I’m trustworthy.”

  I had to say or do something to keep her from wanting to spend more time with them. If that happened, she might never come back. “He uses you, you know.”

  “Who?”

  “Dedrick.”

  Rina started doing an awkwardly sloppy version of jumping jacks. “He uses everyone.”

  “He’s using our abilities to spy on people so he can execute evil plans, but you’re capable of doing powerful things by yourself, so why don’t we use your power to stop him?”

  She stopped jumping. “What do you mean?”

  Rina knew more than she revealed to me. I could tell from her remarks about power, energy, and the ease of seemingly impossible feats. Sure, I was sort of manipulating her into helping me, but I didn’t feel guilty about it. The girl had inhabited my body without even asking. “If we can figure out a way to free my soul so it can travel, I can see what Dedrick is up to. He won’t ever suspect I’m spying on him because he’ll assume I’m still trapped here. I could figure out where we are and how to get you out of here permanently.”

  “Permanently,” she repeated. She restarted her jumping jacks. “Where would I go?”

  “Wherever you wanted.”

  “With you?”

  “What do you mean with me?”

  Dirt stirred every time her feet slid across the floor. “Could I live with you and your kindrily?”

  I hesitated. “I’d have to ask them.”

  “That means no.”

  “I didn’t say that.” I felt guilty for lying before the words even came out of my mouth. “But it’s Louise and Anthony’s house so they’d have to decide.”

  She was still flailing her arms and legs, and she was becoming winded, but I was almost certain she mumbled, “liar.”

  “If you left here,” she said, “you’d never come back.”

  “Of course I’d come back.”

  Her breathless words were choppy. “I wouldn’t want you to. No one should be stuck here.”

  “Exactly. No one, including you. But I wouldn’t be trapped anymore. Dedrick would just think I was. And we’d figure out a way to free you too.”

  “It’s too risky.”

  “It’s your only chance of getting out of here. Why is it okay for you to be trapped here forever?”

  She stopped jumping and bent over, trying to catch her breath. “It’s not forever.”

  “You’ve already been here much too long.”

  She was panting. “It hasn’t been long enough.”

  “What does that mean?”

  “We need more.”

  “More what?”

  She leaned against the wall. “More time.”

  “Time for what?”

  “To grow stronger.”

  “Is that why you’re doing jumping jacks?”

  She rubbed her thighs then sat on the floor. “Evelyn taught me some exercises a long time ago, but I didn’t enjoy them. Being in your body, I felt so strong. When I squatted over your toilet, your leg muscles were so much firmer than mine.”

  “Gross. I don’t want to hear about your bathroom adventures in my body.”

  “Sorry.” She attempted to do a push-up. “I want to have muscles like yours, so I’m going to exercise.”

  On the positive side, she was working out to build muscles in her own body, which meant she wasn’t considering trading it in for a new one. On the alarming side, she wanted to be stronger. What if results from exercise took too long and she decided to steal my body?

  STATING THE OBVIOUS

  Nathaniel

  Rina had left Maryah’s body so abruptly. She crumbled into a lifeless heap in my arms, so I carried her from the balcony to the bed. Krista scanned her for any health issues but didn’t detect anything.

  Eightball kept barking, which I suspected was the reason Rina left without a goodbye.

  “Eightball, enough,” I said.

  Krista picked him up, and Carson hushed him while rubbing his ears. “I’m sure he sensed the stranger. I’ll call Amber and have her come over to talk to him.”

  I tended to Maryah as Carson pulled out his cell phone.

  “I’ll be in the library,” Louise said, seeming distracted but rightfully so.

  “Louise?” I called before she exited the bedroom.

  She turned and lifted her chin.

  “What is it?” I knew Louise too well. She’d be in the library because she had something to research or someone to contact, and I was certain it was related to our unexpected visitor.

  “Nothing to get excited over or worry about. I’ll keep you posted if it turns into anything.”

  “What did you—”

  “Here.” Carson shoved his phone in my face. “Amber wants to talk to you.”

  I pressed the phone to my ear. “Evening, Amber.”

  “Never a dull moment over there, hmm?” Mikey was cooing in the background.

  “So it seems.”

  “Carson tells me Eightball is upset about a body snatcher encounter?”

  “We all are, but Eightball isn’t suppressing his opinions as well as the rest of us.”

  Eightball growled long and deep then barked in the direction of Maryah’s body again.

  “I’m trying to put Mikey to sleep, and Dylan isn’t here, so I’d rather not come over to have a conversation with Eightball that you can easily manage yourself.”

  “Me? I can’t talk to animals.”

  “Anyone can talk to animals. You just can’t hear them reply, but they’re great at understanding tone and body language. You’ll do fine.”

  Eightball’s eyes met mine, and his growling eased into a soft whimper.

  “Assure him Maryah is all right,” Amber said. “Explain the stranger meant her no harm.”

  “You want me to lie to him?”

  “It’s not a lie.”

  “I can’t be certain it’s the truth.”

  Amber sighed. “Have you been spending any quality time with him?”

  “Quality time with Eightball? I’ve been sort of occupied with the Maryah crisis.”

  “You two should be comforting each other right now.”

  I couldn’t believe I was having a conversation about our dog while Maryah’s body had so recently been invaded by a stranger. “Look, I love Eightball, truly, but I can’t communicate with him like you do, and I don’t have the same bond with him that Maryah does.”

  “You could work on strengthening your bond with him. Take him for a walk. Play catch with him.”

  “Catch?” I laughed. “Somehow I suspect Eightball wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do if I threw a ball for him to fetch.”

  “He would. Just try it. Some playtime will be good for you both.”

  I agreed to it simply to end the absurd conversation. “Fine.”

  I hung up and handed Carson his phone. Krista held out a stuffed alligator toy. It was so faded that the color could no longer be declared green, and it was missing an eye.

  “It’s his favorite toy,” Krista explained.

  Relenting, I took it from her. “It’s damp.”

  “He loves when you throw it in the pond.”

  “The pond? We have koi in the pond.”

  “He never bothers the fish.” Carson winked then nodded at the slobber-covered toy I was holding. “He prefers gator.”

  It seemed everyone else had made time for living their lives except for me. “Maybe a break would do me some good.”

  Krista set Eightball down at my feet. He sat up, ears at attention, eyes locked on his wet, cyclops gator. “My, how quickly you forgot about your mother’s soul being in peril.”

  He pawed at my leg then lai
d down. I tossed the gator toward the door, and his short stubby legs scrambled to chase after it.

  “He just needs to know she’s going to be okay,” Krista told me.

  Eightball turned and stared at me, the gator sandwiched between his teeth.

  “We both need that reassurance.”

  ∞

  After a thirty-minute play session, Eightball passed out in the living room, snoring before his eyes even closed.

  I made my way to the library and tapped on the door before pushing it open. Louise was so engrossed with whatever she was reading from a book that she didn’t notice me until I spoke.

  “Care to fill me in?”

  She stood then walked around the desk and sat on the edge of it. She motioned to the two chairs in front of her. “Sit. Let’s chat.”

  I couldn’t take another conversation of her staring down her glasses at me with worry, so I sat beside her on the corner of the desk. I inhaled a preparatory breath. Insisting that I sit meant she was about to tell me bad news.

  “Rina’s aura,” she began. She stared at the spinning ceiling fan, trying to find her words. “Her light is galactic.”

  “Galactic,” I repeated. “As in from the stars? Every human is made from the stars.”

  “That’s not what I mean. The colors, energy field, and light that humans give off are complex but defined. I thought I had seen it all in my many centuries of living, but Rina’s light is nothing I’ve seen while in human form or while in between lifetimes. She’s recondite. I can’t mentally process what her aura means. Whatever her energy is, it’s beyond my understanding.”

  I stared at her at a loss for words. Auras were never beyond Louise’s understanding. “Could she be dangerous?”

  “I honestly don’t know. I see nothing negative in her aura. Clearly she’s powerful, but judging from the unique spectrum of her light, her vitality may be more powerful than we can comprehend. I assume she is unaware of it, or she wouldn’t be controlled by Dedrick.”

  “Or she does know how powerful she is, and so does Dedrick, and she’s his secret weapon.”

  “Could you paint her aura?” Carson’s voice surprised me. He stood in the doorway, his hands hidden in the front pocket of his sweatshirt.

 
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