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Fighting for infinity, p.9
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.9

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  Louise drummed her fingers on the desk. “I could try. I’m not sure any of the paints I have could adequately portray what I see.”

  Curious, I asked, “What colors do you see in her aura?”

  “That’s just it, I see every color of the spectrum and colors I didn’t know existed.”

  “All at once?” Carson asked.

  “No, she constantly flickers as if her being isn’t sure of who and what it is.”

  Carson sat in the chair in front of me. “Maybe it’s some sort of force field Dedrick created so you can’t see her real aura.”

  “I don’t like this,” I grumbled. “We need to find a way to get Maryah away from her.”

  “Or,” Carson mused. “Maybe she’s exactly what Maryah needs to help her remember who she is.”

  I stood. “How could she help Maryah with that?”

  “Louise said Rina’s energy flickers like she’s trying to decide who she is. I can’t help but notice the similarity. Maryah does the same thing with her memories. They come and go, and as much as she wants to remember who she was, something is preventing it. Maybe Rina struggles in the same way with her power. What if the universe crossed their paths so they could help each other?”

  Louise tucked her fist under her chin as we both considered Carson’s suggestion.

  I had to consider any suggestion of Carson’s because his intelligence, as young as he was, far outweighed mine, but this theory felt like a stretch. “I’m not sure I understand how you made such a huge leap to connect Rina’s flickering aura with Maryah’s struggle to retrieve her memories. What aren’t you telling us, exceptionally wise little brother of mine?”

  He tugged at the strings hanging from his hood while his knee bounced. “I might have been influenced by one of Dakota’s comics.”

  I rolled my eyes.

  “His story made sense,” Carson argued. “And it was pretty badass too. This shooting star turned into a girl as she fell to Earth, and her energy was so powerful she gave Maryah back all of her memories.”

  “Carson,” I chided.

  “I like that story,” Louise said happily. “I hope our shooting star stranger visits again soon.”

  “What?” I gawked at her. “Return in Maryah’s body again? Are you mad?” I stood, staring down at Carson. “And stop encouraging Dakota with his comic nonsense.”

  “You should read more comics. Maybe some hero mojo would rub off on you.” Carson slid forward, bumping his foot against mine. “Look, I’ve been waiting for someone to suggest my next idea because I feel bad being the only one to state the obvious, but I’ll be nice and dismiss it to everyone being too distracted or worried to see it.” Carson raised his brows at me. “Want to take a stab at our next big move before I take the credit?”

  I had no idea what he was talking about. “I give credit when it’s due. Go on.”

  “Rina visited us. You saw the difference between her and Maryah.” He glanced expectantly at me and Louise. “Come on, really? Still no clue what I’m about to say?”

  I shook my head.

  Carson sighed. “You saw Rina’s soul. Rina is with Maryah. Stop sitting around here and traverse to them.”

  Louise straightened.

  “I saw Rina’s soul through Maryah’s eyes,” I argued.

  “But you saw distinct differences, right?”

  “Of course.” I stared at him, contemplating whether something so obvious and easy could work.

  “You could traverse to where they are,” Carson continued. “You could see for yourself where they’re being kept. You could even traverse the girl back here, although I wouldn’t recommend it until we know for sure she isn’t working with Dedrick.”

  “That might actually work,” Louise said. “But what if Nathan appears when Dedrick is there?”

  “Then he traverses back home.”

  “It’s worth a try,” Louise urged.

  My heart was racing at the possibility. I most certainly wouldn’t traverse Rina back here and put everyone in danger, but knowing more about Maryah’s location and how her soul was being trapped would help us figure out a way to free her.

  I closed my eyes, opened my energy field, and pictured the windows to Rina’s soul. I vanished from the library.

  I materialized in black space. I wasn’t standing, but I wasn’t floating. There was no sound, nothing to see or touch. I waited, hoping it was a transition to somewhere, but nothing happened.

  I visualized Carson’s eyes and traversed back.

  “Well?” Carson asked. Louise was anticipating my report as well.

  “That’s never happened before,” I said. “I ended up in darkness. Pure, empty darkness.”

  “Try again,” Carson insisted.

  “Why? There was nothing. No Maryah, no Rina, no sound, or anything else.”

  “But there was darkness,” Carson said.

  “So?”

  Louise held my hand. “Without light, there can be no dark. You need to keep searching until you find a light.”

  “Rina said darkness falls over the room before anyone comes or goes.” Carson grabbed my shoulders and stared directly into my eyes. “You were halfway there. Keep searching until you find a way in.”

  FRIENDS IN LONELY PLACES

  Maryah

  Rina and I were mid-conversation when the candle went out. When the light returned, Evelyn and River stood behind Rina.

  Rina glanced over her shoulder, and when she faced me her eyes were wide.

  “Hi, Maryah,” River said quietly.

  “What do you want?”

  Rina sidestepped to the table and sat down. Evelyn set the tray of food in front of her, but Rina didn’t inhale her makeshift meal like usual. She reached for the slice of bread while watching River.

  “He needed to speak to Maryah,” Evelyn explained. “Dedrick doesn’t know. He can’t know, do you understand?”

  Rina nodded then tore her crust into small pieces.

  River crept toward me, and I backed away. He put his hands up in front of him as if his empty hands would prove he was incapable of harm.

  “I don’t expect you to trust me. Hell, I wouldn’t trust me, but I’m telling the truth when I say I don’t want to see you trapped here. I want to help you. Or at least try.” He stuck his hands in the pockets of his gray prisoner pants. “I’m still locked up most of the time, but my uncle has been sending in some quack to discuss my schizophrenia. I’m convincing him that I believe I’m crazy, and that I want to get better. I’m cheeking my meds but acting like a zombie around my uncle. The more I go along with the mental patient act, the more I get let out of my cell.”

  Evelyn busied herself by tidying up the hopelessly dirty room. She didn’t seem the least bit interested in what River was saying, which seemed weird considering how worried she was about Dedrick in her prior conversation with Rina.

  “I won’t betray you,” River told me. “I’m not like them. I don’t want to live like this, doing whatever he tells me, hurting people, killing people.” He glanced at Rina. “Watching people suffer. I want to get away from him too, but I’ll never be able to do it on my own, and you and your kindrily are the only people I know who might be powerful enough to help me.” His eyelids looked heavy and his mouth was weighed down with a permanent frown. “I know that might sound like I’m using you, and maybe I am in a way, but it’s not like I’m asking you to help make me popular or something shallow. I’m asking you to help me escape and have some sort of normal life. I’ll help you break free if you promise to come back for me.”

  “Are you kidding me?” I gawked at him. “I don’t care if you have mental problems. You tried to kill me! And now you want my kindrily and me to help you? Why? So you can try to kill Nathan? Or me again? How stupid do you think I am?”

  “He’s being genuine,” Rina said.

  “Rina!” How could she blow her cover with River around?

  River whirled around to look at her. “You can talk?”
r />   Rina nodded. Evelyn didn’t even look up from wiping the table.

  River glanced at me then back at Rina. “I guess I’m not the only one keeping secrets.”

  Keeping secrets. He even admitted it. He was probably keeping diabolical secrets from everyone, especially me.

  “I know you won’t tell anyone.” Rina stood, pinning him in place with her candlelit glare. “You’re not that stupid.”

  Had Dedrick instructed River to do this? To try to get close to me again and gain my trust? Dedrick had me right where he needed me, trapped with a conductor who allowed him to use my ability for whatever spying he needed to do. I couldn’t see what Dedrick had to gain by tricking me into teaming up with River—he knew I hated him—but there was no way River was being genuine. I had to be missing something.

  “I don’t know how often I’ll be able to sneak in here to see you,” River said, “but whenever I find out something that might help us, I’ll visit as soon as possible to tell you.”

  “Where are we?” I asked urgently. “Rina, ask him where we are.”

  “Maryah wants to know if you know where we are.”

  “I don’t know yet,” River answered. “The room where I’m being kept looks a lot like this, but Dedrick let me out yesterday to help Evelyn with chores. We walked down long dirt hallways. One tiny room with no door had light pouring in from the ceiling. I could only see sky. I’m guessing we’re pretty secluded.”

  I saved every detail to memory. “How did he get here? Ask him if he flew in a plane, or drove, or what?”

  “How did you get here?” Rina asked.

  “I wish I knew. Dedrick had a private plane waiting in Sedona after he took me from jail. There was a fight with some of your family at the airport.” River searched my face like he was wondering if I knew about it. Of course I knew about it. They had almost killed Harmony and Dakota that night. “The plane took off, and then Dedrick knocked me out. I woke up here in my newest prison cell.”

  “How did he get into this room?” I asked Rina. She repeated my question.

  “Evelyn helped me.”

  “And now we need to leave,” Evelyn said. “We’ve already stayed too long. We can’t risk being caught.”

  “Wait!” I shouted. “A couple more questions.”

  Rina shoved food in her face as Evelyn and River stood by the candle on the table.

  “Rina,” I said, “Ask him if he saw other people.”

  But Rina didn’t ask.

  “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” River told me.

  Evelyn blew out the candle before I could say another word.

  “If Evelyn can get River in and out of this room,” I said to Rina, “Why doesn’t she let you out?”

  “She can’t.” Rina licked the leftover spread from her fingers. “I’m locked in the same way you are.”

  “Have you tried using her power to let yourself out?”

  “Dedrick and Evelyn are shielded. Most of the people here are. I can’t access their powers.” She shrugged. “Besides, I need to be here.”

  I ignored her brainwashed-victim comment and focused on the powers issue. My kindrily told me Dedrick’s Element status and privileges had been taken away long ago, so how was he accomplishing so much? “What kind of ability does Dedrick have?”

  “He doesn’t have any natural abilities. He uses spells and magic.”

  Louise and Helen had informed me about witches, some they knew personally, but hearing about spells from a girl who had been locked in a dungeon all her life confirmed I was stuck in a real-life, twisted fairy tale.

  “His most valued spell is controlling minds,” Rina said.

  “Why doesn’t he control your mind?”

  She grinned. “My mother protected me from it.”

  “How?”

  “I’m not sure.”

  “What about Evelyn? She has snake eyes so I thought she was mind-controlled, but she seems to sneak around doing whatever she wants.”

  “Evelyn is brilliant.”

  “That doesn’t answer my question.”

  She held up one finger and lackadaisically waved it. “You didn’t ask a specific question, but even if you did, I’m not permitted to discuss what Evelyn does.”

  “Why not?”

  “It’s a rule.”

  “Her rule?’

  Rina’s brow furrowed as she wiped her hands on the thighs of her pants. “Wouldn’t you rather find out answers to more pertinent questions such as how is Dedrick protected from the abilities of the people he’s mind-controlling?”

  “How is he protected?”

  “A man named Thomas has a shielding ability.” She turned up her nose. “He’s ugly and smells bad. He shields the others too.”

  “Thomas shields all the Nefariouns?”

  “Nuh-what?”

  “We call them Nefariouns. Dedrick and his evil gang.”

  Rina sounded out each syllable. “Nuh-far-ee-uns. Like nefarious.”

  “Exactly.”

  “Fitting.”

  I needed to find out more about this shielding thing. “Back to this Thomas person. How long has he been working for Dedrick?”

  “Since before I was born.” She stared at the ceiling, pondering. “But it wasn’t that long ago that Dedrick made him shield the others.”

  “He didn’t always do that?”

  “Evelyn said it was recent.”

  “Did you conduct his power so the others could be shielded?”

  “No, Evelyn told me they used a spell.”

  Shielding the others must have been a very recent addition to their defense, because Nathan told me about the encounter in London with several of the Nefariouns. Dedrick’s goons weren’t shielded from anything that night, or during the fight at the airport when one of his people was killed.

  Evelyn seemed to tell Rina a lot of valuable information. I could use that to work in my favor. “Has Evelyn explained how the candle thing works? How she can come and go from this room?”

  “It’s one of the many tricks Evelyn can perform.”

  “I wish I could come and go that easily.”

  Rina sighed. “Maryah, you’re not even physically here like the rest of us. Stop being so inert. If you want to leave then do it.”

  “It’s not that easy.”

  “It is that easy. Or it’s that hard. It’s whatever you believe.”

  “Okay, smarty-pants. If believing something into reality is so easy, then believe you can direct me on how to free myself.”

  “Use your energy.”

  “I tried. It doesn’t work!”

  She threw her hands up. “You should discuss this with Louise. She could give you better instructions.”

  “What do you mean? Why Louise?”

  “She knows a lot about soul energy and the universe.”

  “Well, I’d love to speak to Louise, or any of my kindrily for that matter, but that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon, does it?”

  She grunted. “Only because you choose to be stuck here.”

  If I were in physical form, I would have had to restrain myself from smacking her.

  READY FOR HER CLOSE-UP

  Nathaniel

  Traversing to a shrouded destination required an immense amount of energy. I had tried so many times to traverse to Rina, but I only ended up searching the void until I barely had enough strength to return home.

  I hadn’t slept much since Maryah left. Even when I did manage to sneak in a few minutes of rest, I dreamed about past events I never wanted to think about again: arguments with Mary, the horrors of wars, our deaths throughout the centuries, the time England suffered the plague and we watched our town dwindle to five percent of its population. My mind was spiraling into negativity, my thoughts darker than the black hole I had been searching.

  I had to keep reminding myself that we weren’t living in the past. We weren’t hiding children to protect them from gas chambers or barbaric medical experiments. Our friends and fam
ily weren’t covered in boils and vomiting blood. We had lived through worse—much worse. So why did it feel like surviving the Black Death would be easier than freeing Maryah from Dedrick?

  Maryah’s hand twitched, startling me from my trance-like staring at the ring on her thumb. Her eyelids fluttered open.

  Rina had returned for another visit.

  “Hi,” she said, rubbing Maryah’s nose.

  Of all the strange things I’d seen throughout my existence, seeing a soul inhabit Maryah’s body took the prize of most bizarre. “How is Maryah?”

  She sat up and stretched. “She’s stubborn and naive.”

  I tried to keep my tone pleasant, despite my indignation. “That’s not a nice thing to say about someone you hardly know.”

  “I know her well enough.”

  She knew nothing about Maryah as far as I was concerned. “And to what do we owe this visit?”

  “I enjoyed being outside.” She glanced at the balcony. “I was hoping to try it again.”

  I had to figure out a way to barter with Rina for information. If she wanted simple experiences such as being outside then so be it. “That balcony is small. You should expand your horizons and venture to the back deck. The view is beautiful.”

  She enthusiastically agreed so I guided her out of the bedroom and down the hall. She paused, staring at Louise’s paintings lining the walls. I waited for questions or a reaction, but after a few moments of studying them, she sniffed the air. “What’s that smell?”

  “Eggs and bacon. Louise is cooking breakfast.”

  “I like Louise.”

  “Would you care to say hello and eat something before we go outside?”

  “That would be lovely. Thank you.”

  For being trapped in a so-called dungeon with limited interaction with the world and people, she had exceptional manners.

  We rounded the corner into the kitchen. Louise finished tossing eggshells into the garbage bin then smiled at us. “Welcome back, Rina.”

  Rina waved while eying the sizzling eggs and bacon.

  “Would you like some breakfast?” Louise asked.

  “I’m not sure. I’ve never had those things before.” Rina leaned over the stovetop. The bacon grease popped, and she jumped back, wiping Maryah’s neck. “Ouch. It bit me.”

 
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