Earthquake, страница 1
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because I miss you.
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by the Penguin Group
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Copyright © 2014 Aprilynne Pike
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
My pulse throbs in my temples—a frantic rhythm that matches the pounding of my feet. I feel ridiculous stooping to something as primitive—as human—as running away, but I can’t beat them in my natural way.
I should be able to. My sudden increase in strength terrifies even me. But that’s the problem; I’m too afraid to unleash it. Afraid of what I might do. The people I might hurt. It’s too much all at once.
It’s not right. So I run.
But I’m not really a runner. Not the long-distance kind for sure. They’re gaining on me. It was inevitable. It’s not like I really thought I could get away; I just needed a few minutes to think. So I took off.
What are they going to do? Shoot me in the back? They need me alive and we all know it.
With my lungs aching, I gasp to a stop and they surround me, all of us breathing hard. I’m not completely sure where I am. An overpass. No, one of those pedestrian bridges over a freeway. Cars zoom beneath me, the sound of roaring engines echoing in my ears as vibrations shake the cement under my feet. The people around me have drawn their guns. Obviously they don’t care about creating a scene. They’ll kill any witnesses without a second thought.
But I care.
I care, damn it!
I grasp at the gritty edge of the cement railing. As I lean back the rushing wind from cars and trucks bursts up, tossing my hair and ruffling my shirt. A semi passes beneath the already swaying walkway. The driver must have seen us because he lets loose the long bellow of his horn as though in warning, and I wonder if he’s calling the cops even now.
Not that it matters. It’s too late.
“It’s over,” the closest man says, edging even nearer. “Come with us. We don’t want to hurt you.”
It’s a lie. We both know it.
My eyes scan their faces. Each and every one is a person I would once have called a friend. Not recently. Certainly not for a dozen lifetimes. But once.
I scrape my palms on the hot, crumbly concrete, using the pain to focus my mind. There’s no barrier. I could jump. But they’d save me. They’re already too close.
The answer hits me, and my breath catches in terror.
“Sonya, you’re being ridiculous.” Marianna’s voice—belittling as always—strengthens my determination, even though my bones feel like water. I would rather die than let her have me. Than let her figure out how to become like me.
Because if that ever happened, gods help the entire world.
For the thousandth time I consider killing her. Killing them. But the delay would be momentary at best. There are dozens of them.
And only one of me.
Fortunately, there are also more than six billion people to hide among.
I close my eyes and a ripple of apprehension goes through the handful of operatives pointing weapons at me. I might have three seconds before they do something stupid. I picture my heart, beating so steadily, if way too fast. A sob catches in my throat, but I push it away.
And turn my heart to stone.
The agony in my chest tries to force a scream from my lips, but it’s too late. It takes only a moment, maybe two, before I know I’ve done it.
I’ve killed myself.
And I taste victory on my tongue as everything goes black.
I sit up with a muffled scream, my hands clutching my chest. Air is honey-sweet on my tongue as I suck in breaths—gripping my arm with my nails to feel the pain. To assure myself that I’m alive.
Three nights in a row it’s been like this. Dreams of Sonya. Sonya running from what I can only assume are Reduciates: Earthbound bad guys. Sonya afraid of her own powers—afraid to protect herself.
And, of course, Sonya taking her own life. But in the dreams I’m not looking down at her. I’m not an observer. In the dreams I am her.
Am myself, I guess. In my past life. My most recent life.
But unlike true memories, this dream shifts every time it comes to me, the way I end my life changing with each passing night. I’ve pulled the trigger of a gun pressed to my head, thrown myself in front of a speeding semi.
But turning my heart to literal stone? This one was the worst. I don’t know if that’s how it happened. If any of them are how it happened. I don’t understand why my mind is making me see her death over and over—and why I can’t remember how it all actually went down.
Or better yet, why.
Well, I know why, technically. The secret. The one from way back in Rebecca’s time—the girl I was in the early nineteenth century. The one I told no one, not even my partner, Quinn. I was silenced at the end of that life, silenced myself at the end of my life as Sonya. But I don’t know what that secret is.
And I have a feeling the dreams won’t end until I figure it out.
I should remember. I’m an Earthbound—a cursed goddess who lives life after life, seeking my perfect love. I should remember all my lives. But something about the injuries I received
My body is covered with sweat, and it’s not all from the harrowing dream. The Phoenix heat is sweltering even in the dusky hours of dawn, and the air conditioning is . . . less reliable than the hotel manager insinuated. I drag myself from sticky sheets to twist the tap on the sink that’s inches from the foot of the tiny single bed.
The water dribbling from the tap is lukewarm at best, but I’m in no position to be picky.
The spring heat is too intense, topping 110 for several days even before I arrived. The temperature broke records every day last week. I wonder if it’s part of the weather phenomenon my former guardian Mark was sure the virus was somehow causing. It seems like it must be. Everything in the world is crazy right now. The virus is spreading so quickly no one can get a truly accurate death count. Five thousand yesterday, one news channel said. Ten, claimed another.
Either way, it’s out of control, and nature apparently isn’t immune.
I don’t know how the hell I can possibly stop this, but Mark and his wife, Sammi, were certain I held the key, if I could just resurge with Logan—the boy Quinn is in this life. I have to trust that. It’s all I’ve got.
As I splash myself I consider again the braid of twine that Sammi gave me. The one Sonya made. Sammi kept it from when she encountered Sonya eighteen years ago. Sammi and her father were Curatoriates. They’re supposed to be the good guys—the opposite of the Reduciates. I’m not convinced it’s that simple. Neither was Rebecca. I have a feeling Sonya wasn’t either.
I could find out. The little braid is still in my faded red backpack where Sammi put it last week. It’ll give me my memories back. The memories that Sonya had.
But considering the way the last awakening went, I’m not completely sure I’d survive a second round. Not without someone to help me. And I can’t take any risks until I resurge with Logan.
Or we’ll both be dead forever and the rest of the world will die with us.
That is the single truth that keeps me here. Trying.
I’m desperate. That is also a truth. More true than anything else in my life today. Besides, what I really need is to figure out how to wake Logan up before the Reduciates who are after me kill us both. And Sonya’s memories won’t help with that since she never found him during her life.
I turn on the leaky showerhead and duck into the tiny stall, sluicing away sweat as though I could somehow cleanse myself of the awful dream. Of this awful week. Everything is falling to pieces. I lean my head against the tiled wall and review the last few dismal days as water beats down on my back.
It started out so well a mere three days ago. After sleeping the whole night in a real bed for the first time in almost two weeks—not to mention getting my first shower in eight days—I woke up on Sunday morning ready to take on anything. I was in Phoenix, I’d located Logan, and I knew he was the one. The rest would be easy, I was certain. I didn’t care that the hotel towels didn’t look quite clean, or that the clerk had vastly under-reported how loud the train just outside my back window would be.
That first night I didn’t even care about the lack of reliable AC. I had a home base that didn’t require ID. And more importantly—thanks to getting his number on Saturday—I had a date with Logan. Quinn. Whatever anyone in my head wanted to call him, I had a date with the love of my life. The love of my many, many lives.
And it went fabulously. We talked, we laughed, the sun glinted off his golden hair, short now and a lighter blond thanks to bleaching from the desert sun. At one point he even reached out and touched the end of my nose. It was perfect.
At that moment it was easy to forget the entire reason I was in Phoenix: because I’m being hunted by the Reduciata. Because we’re being hunted, really.
If they can kill us before we resurge—before we both remember our past lives and regain our powers—we’ll be gone permanently.
But none of that mattered as I sat there bantering with Logan. I knew, was sure I was only minutes away from reaching my goal. The Reduciata was way in the back of my head. As far as I was concerned, I’d practically won already.
Then it fell apart. I fell apart.
I’d told him I was a history buff, and right before dessert was served I pulled out what I said was a rare antique. A journal.
This was the moment.
I’d realized that morning that I’d been stupid to think the necklace could bring his memories back. The necklace that initially brought my memories back. Some of my memories, anyway.
Of course, I thought it was Quinn who made the necklace. . . .
Anyway, that didn’t matter—the journal, full of his handwriting, would give me back my destined lover. My Earthbound counterpart. The god to my goddess. I pulled it out, opened it, and wondered if he would recognize his own writing. Then I slid it across the table.
He laid his hands on the pages and . . . nothing.
I tried to smile. To act like everything was okay. But I could almost feel the shards of the world clattering down around me. On top of me.
In the previous weeks I’d run for my life, seen people die, had my entire view of reality revamped, and been betrayed deeper than I ever thought possible.
All to get me here to this boy. For him to remember me. To love me. And then for us to somehow save a world that’s dying more and more quickly every day from a mysterious virus I have no idea how to fix.
I couldn’t stay there at the restaurant with him. It was too hard. I threw down enough money to cover the bill, mumbled an apology, and took off without waiting for my sundae.
About ten feet from the table I stopped. I couldn’t help it; I looked back.
And he was just staring at me. He called my name—a question, almost—but I ignored him. And even if he had run after me—thrown the doors open, tried to look for me—he wouldn’t have found me. Because in that shadowed space between the two sets of doors, I changed.
Changed into my mother.
I do it every time I’m in public. Use my powers as an Earthbound to wear her face the way I desperately did on the bus in Portsmouth. I pretend it keeps me safe.
There’s a chance it does.
I walked back to my hotel and—of course—the door had been kicked open. I didn’t know if a Reduciate assassin was to blame or simply the fact that my hotel was so crappy, but it wasn’t worth risking my life to stay to find out. In a fear-fueled panic I grabbed my stuff and got the hell out of there.
Five minutes later, with nothing but the belongings in my backpack and an already aching leg—it still hasn’t fully healed from the plane crash that took everything from me—I moved to another cheap hotel. A less-than-pristine establishment that didn’t ask questions when I laid an antique gold coin on the dingy counter, one of many from a collection Quinn and I had stored two hundred years ago. It was a win for both parties; they got to feel like they were ripping me off, and I got a bed and shower that didn’t cost me anything I considered important.
The next day the bedbug welts showed up. Large, painfully itching bumps all over my arms and legs that make me look like I have a disease. Or, at the very least, cleanliness issues.
I hate them. And there is no lotion that takes that burning itch away.
If I’d been smart—no, not smart exactly, but slower and less desperate—I would have stopped at a store somewhere. Gotten a pretty, long-sleeved shirt to cover my scabby arms. After all, I have money. Plenty of money. I’ve been selling a little gold at slimy pawnshops in every city where the Greyhound gave us a break. Hoarding it. Just in case.
But I wasn’t smart and I wasn’t slow.
I was in love instead.
So I went to Logan’s house early Monday morning, walked to school with him. Followed him all the way to the front doors. Stuck to him like glue
I waited for him after school, but he must have seen me and gone another way. I should have camped out at his house instead. All I had to show for my two hours was a nasty sunburn.
Some goddess I’m turning out to be.
I’m ten minutes into my tepid shower—which actually feels pretty good on my reddened shoulders—when I realize I have one more item. One more shot at getting Logan to believe me. I shove my soggy head around the shower curtain to glance at the tiny clock. 7:04 A.M. Still time.
I get at least most of the suds out of my hair before half tripping out of the bathtub and drying off as fast as I can. Yesterday he left the house at 7:35. I can still make it. My hair is a mess, but it can’t look much worse than it did the last time he saw me, so it’ll have to suffice.
I grab a gold coin and clutch it in both hands, taking a moment to close my eyes and release my hopes into the universe. Just let this work! You’d think an Earthbound—a literal goddess—would be able to handle something as easy as restoring memories to her eternal partner. But none of my abilities can help with this.
My leg is throbbing as I approach his house, and I can’t stop my heart from racing when Logan bursts out of his front door. He looks around warily—I guess I really got to him—but he doesn’t notice me duck behind the bushes. I follow him from across the street and touch the heavy silver necklace for confidence. The one that brought me back my memories but failed to bring back Logan’s.
The one he made for me two hundred years ago. He just doesn’t know it.
I jog quietly up behind him before saying, “Logan?”
He whirls around, and I get a glimpse of real fear painted on his face before stubborn anger takes over.
“I have something to show you,” I announce before he can speak.
“Listen, Tavia,” Logan says, rubbing at his neck in what Rebecca-in-my-head instantly recognizes as his nervous twitch. “I don’t really understand why you keep bringing me stuff. It’s . . . it’s kind of weirding me out.”