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Authors: Kristina Meister

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BOOK: The One We Feed
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Jinx scrolled
over some windows and nodded. “Yeah. Didn’t have an address. Apparently
everyone knows where it is because it’s not a full sanctuary. It’s kind of like
the Underground Railroad, you know? A place where any member of the Sangha can
come to be safe.”


They
need to be safe?” I gasped. It seemed to me like there should be a place where
other people could go to be safe from them. “Don’t they have abilities?”

He made a
weird hissing sound. “Not everyone has abilities that help preserve their
immortality, Lily. Some of them can only tell if people are lying, remember?”

I clenched my
fists.

“You look
pretty stoppable to me, bitch.”

The words
echoed in my head like one of Jinx’s tirades, and with just as much ire. It was
bad enough I had stabbed Ursula through the chest with her own knife, but did I
have to stand over her and gloat while she died? Even though she had been a
scary witch with a penchant for waving her victims’ secrets around in front of
a large group of salivating mortals, I still felt a twinge of guilt for it. Not
one of my finest moments.

I should have
listened to Arthur.

But if I had,
I would not have seen the depth of my sister’s knowledge or how threatened the
Sangha was by her. Indeed, I would not have known about the Sangha at all, if
not for Ursula’s last words. They had also been my first hint that Arthur was
not what he seemed.

“That’s a low
blow, Jinx.”

“At least it’s
not a sharp one.”

“I’m one
second away from punching you.”

His fingerless
black gloves rose in defeat. “Cool your heels, Balboa. I’m just saying they
might be on the lam since you moseyed into town.”

“And how is it
exactly
that they know I’m
in
town?” I crossed my arms. It was a
fair question. I was unique among the immortal race in that no one seemed to be
able to use their gifts to predict my movements. So how was it possible that
the Sangha knew anything about what I was up to?

He fluffed his
hair. The deep crimson reflected off his pale skin in a harsh, unflattering
blush.

“I don’t know,
Lily, I’m not the oracle.”

“So what
should we do?”

“Go to the
mattresses.”

I raised a
brow. “You want me to attack them?”

“No, I want
you to gather more data on the psychic plain. Duh.” He dragged me to my feet. “Fuck,
you’re so violent. What kind of Buddhist are you?”

“The kind that
believes that death is a beginning.” 

He danced away
from me and beat me to my pickup truck. As we drove back to our hotel room, he
remained bent over his device, ignoring me and my vengeful wrath. I fumed and
fumed, reliving each iteration of my vision. The first time I had seen the
girl, she had not transformed. That was a new development. So was that real or
was that something I needed to hold my attention? Why was the Sangha holding a
little girl captive? And the most interesting question of all, one that had not
even occurred to me until Arthur brought it up: Did she even need saving?

I pulled into
our parking space. Holding his phone up so that he could look at it and the
ground at the same time, Jinx followed me up the stairs to our room. I fished
the key out of his pocket while his drumstick thumbs danced a tattoo across the
touchscreen. I smiled, wondering if someday soon we would even need thumbs anymore,
if thoughts would just appear on screens for anyone to see.

The little
green light of welcome blinked as I opened our door, but a sense of something
out of place drew me up short. Before I knew what to make of the sensation, my
vision blackened. As if the immortal light of the sun had just shut off, I
blinked furiously into complete darkness, grabbed for the stability of the
doorframe while the ground seemed to drop from beneath me. Jinx bumped into me
and let out a string of invectives turned upward into a question, but my mind
was fishing through an abyss, looking for even the faintest sign of light. I
ran my hand upward, and where it touched, smoky tendrils of light began to
congeal, sweeping over the black in a caress. The shimmering fog collected,
twisted into moving shapes, and took the vague form of a man.

“Lily, what
the shit?” Jinx grumbled. “This is not fucking bumper cars!”

I swallowed
down my rising gorge and squeezed the doorframe. My recent life had been so
full of this kind of strangeness that I had learned not to question. Pretty
soon, I would be expecting a blue caterpillar to drop onto my shoulder and ask
who I was.

“Stay here,” I
commanded in a voice that sounded more like a growl.

The suggestion
of a man gained solidity, and soon I could discern his features with absolute
clarity. He was standing beside Jinx’s desk, looking at the conglomerated
electronic outpost of several laptops. He didn’t move to turn it on, play with
the keys, or jiggle the mouse; he just stood there, staring at it, his tailored
suit and ear piece a radiant shade of violet.

Right after
Eva died, I had begun to experience bizarre presentiments, flashes of things
that had not happened, but this felt distinctly different. I felt as if I was
seeing something hidden, something that had transpired in the recent past, and
just the thought of it chilled me.

His face was
unfamiliar, but he was dressed like every other immortal that had ever tried to
kill me, trap me, or otherwise torture me, and here he was, in my room,
rummaging through my belongings. My rational mind was scribbling mental notes
that he was some sort of seer. He had learned through centuries of study how to
read the world, trace the echoes we unwittingly recorded on the environment. I
became sure that he was watching a ghost of Jinx, as it haunted the chair and
worked on past strings of code.

Suddenly, the
man turned, following shapes that only he could see, and found the hollow of
the closet.

My sister’s
journals rested there, nestled in plastic caskets to preserve them from the
elements. They would follow me forever, my little burden to bear, but they had
no place here. Jinx’s habits were well-known, and he would never have suffered
something as archaic as a notepad, let alone a hardbound volume.

I watched the
specter frown at them, his dark thoughts draining the red from his violet
cloud, turning it to the deep, stormy blue of consternation. But it was no use.
I had carried the books into the room, and magical insight could never find me.
No matter how long he stared, he would never discover when or how they had come
to be there, reverently tucked into their corner. I think he realized it even
as

I did, even as
I knew he was going to touch them.

He reached out
and ran his fingers across their spines, unaware that I could feel his touch on
mine. Then he snatched one out and snapped the cord of my concentration. My
vision blurred, the colors and lights instantly faded, and, before I could stop
myself, I had pitched forward into the hotel room.

The darkness
had dissipated entirely. The room was empty, normal, and ugly. Nothing seemed
out of place. No strange man touching my sister’s soul in all its myriad pages.

“So it’s
finally happened?” Jinx muttered, sliding past me to his ergonomic computer
chair.

“What?”  

“You’ve
finally gone to the dark side. Just let me know if you plan on eating your own
arm, ok?”

I stared
around, confused. What the hell had just happened? I wanted to sit down and get
my head around it, but a twisting sense of unnamable urgency was tying my soul
in knots. I scanned the room for any sign that what I had seen was real. Surely
the invader must have touched something, jostled something. Tiny differences
imperceptible to others would stand out to me. I had a perfect memory, and, if
there was a single sign, I would find it. I flipped over pillows, lifted the
neatly tucked comforters, pushed a suitcase aside. When I turned back to Jinx,
I found his studded face wide-eyed.

“Housekeeping
misplace your broom?”

“Someone was
here, Jinx!”

He blinked in
disbelief. “What? Who?”

“A Smith.”

He shook his
head. “How can you possibly know that?”

In
desperation, I hurled a canvas bag of socks against a wall. The book was
beneath it, as if thrown, its pages smashed to one side. The Smith must have
balanced it on the edge of the crate and not noticed that it had fallen to the
floor.

I picked it up
and held it out to Jinx. “Would I have left this here? Don’t ask me questions.
Just pack our shit, now!”

His jaw
flapped in the same breeze that was slowly pushing open our room door. “I can’t
shut down all my windows! I have stuff running!”

I ignored the
whine in his voice and began packing miscellaneous items into my suitcase. “Fuck
your programs, Jinx,
we
need to run.”

I snatched the
book from the bed and threw it into its box, my thoughts racing to keep up with
my heartbeat. How had they known we were here? Had it been something Jinx had
done? Or could it have been something far more metaphysical? Perhaps I had
clued them into our arrival just by looking at them and their tiny prisoner. I
wasn’t sure, but it seemed possible that there might be immortals out there
suspicious enough to have developed a talent for hyper-vigilance. If so, we had
made a terrible mistake relocating to this place.

With a sweep
of one arm, I had the entire contents of my toiletry bag replaced, though
jumbled. I put away Arthur’s
Go
board and Ananda’s small DVD collection.
When I turned back to Jinx, it was to find him crawling under the desk, winding
up cables until they decorated his arms like bracelets. I had only an instant
to feel a great sense of admiration for him, my friend who knew me so well.

“If I lose any
fucking data, Lily, I will personally burn you at the stake.”

“Rather be
dead
dead?” I snapped back at him, grabbing as many items as I could to drag
outside.

“How did they
know we were here?” he mumbled, his neck adorned with a surge protector strip.

I wheeled my
suitcase to the open door. “I have no idea…,” I began, and walked straight into
a dark shape wearing a cuff mic. Just as the hand reached for the holster, I
recognized his face. I did not even have time for a gasp.

I had been
shot at close range before, and I had survived, but it had taken at least a
half an hour to heal. By that time, Jinx would be dead. I knew all of this
perfectly and yet thought none of it. Consciousness relinquished its
stranglehold and the lizard brain took over.

How dare this
man smile at me? How dare he come to my home and invade my life? How dare he
touch Eva’s journals? The fury was cold and comfortable and strangely
empowering. I was suddenly more sure and fearless than I had ever been.

My limbs
relaxed. Objects fell and bounced down the stairs. As the smirk hardened on his
mouth and the fingers slid around the holster of his weapon, my fist slammed
into his sternum. I felt the snap and crack as ribs were displaced. Blood
spurted from the grinning lips, a fine mist of strangely delicious smells. A
sudden hunger wrapped my hands around his shoulder. I pulled and twisted,
conserving momentum and ferocity. With more strength than I knew I possessed, I
hurled him into the wall beside the closet.

Dust shook
loose in a cloud. His impact was a thousand sounds of crunching, smashing, and
crumbling, a perfect choral compliment to what I suddenly realized was the
hysterical sound of my own laughter. The smell of plaster was cut and sharpened
with the metallic tang of his blood as it leaked from a heart compressed
beneath a crushed sternum.

“Lilith,” I
heard a timid voice whisper from my elbow.

I looked down.
Jinx’s face swam in a red tide. “Jinx?”

“Jesus shit,”
he said, and suddenly he had vanished outside, gathering up evidence of our
encounter with speed-fueled efficiency.

Everything was
still then. I don’t know how long I stood there, how long it took me to realize
that the Smith was dead,
really
dead, and that I was responsible. But as
the knowledge seeped into me, my muscles began to uncoil. A rapid, draining
exhaustion sapped all my strength, and suddenly I was a woman again, staring at
her handiwork.

I gasped and
tumbled backward, a shuddering mess. Misjudging the distance to the foot of the
bed, I tripped and fell backward onto it. The slippery polyester bedding
shifted against itself, and, before I could plant my hands, I was on the floor,
scrabbling at the hideous carpet with my fingers. A terrible displacement had
submerged my conscious mind: where had I been when this thing happened?

Sobs tore
through me until the act of inhaling felt like a knee to the stomach. I
clutched at my face, hid his corpse from my view, and tried to shake myself
awake.

It had to be a
dream. It had to be a vision I was meant to heed. But I didn’t wake up. Just
like Ursula, he was dead, but unlike her, he was blameless. Whether or not he
had been sent to kill us, he would not have succeeded. His death was entirely
unnecessary.

BOOK: The One We Feed
13.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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