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Authors: Elizabeth Norris

Undone (13 page)

BOOK: Undone
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I turned around. I couldn’t believe he’d been this careless. Not just with our lives, but with everyone’s. It made it hard to look at him without wanting to punch him, and that wasn’t going to solve anything.

“But I’ve been keeping track,” he said. “Writing down details about all the worlds.”

I turned around. “‘All the worlds’? Do you hear yourself?”

“It’s easier to control than we thought,” he said. “I can open a portal by thinking of where I want to go. This one I found by thinking that I needed someplace completely deserted, where IA wouldn’t find us.”

I looked around for the first time. We were in some kind of suburb. There was a strip mall to the right and a row of apartment buildings behind it. But something didn’t feel quite right about this place. It wasn’t just that there was no one walking around or that the leaves were missing or that the grass was brown and dried up. There was no sound. No life here.

“This way,” Eli said.

I followed him down the street. Still I heard nothing.

“Where are we?”

“I don’t know, but I’ve been all over this place,” he said. “There’s no one here, and there hasn’t been for a long time.”

“How long?”

“Years at least,” he said. “We shouldn’t eat any of the food or anything here. Who knows what the fuck wiped these people out?”

It occurred to me that he was right. Whatever happened here, people had been wiped out. Everything had. That was the only thing that explained why there was no noise.

“This is the hospital,” he said, as we came to a building. It looked gray and overrun by vines crawling up the sides. “There are beds and blankets and shit, and I emptied my mother’s medicine cabinet and pantry through a portal. The fifth floor will be our safe house.”

I hoped we wouldn’t need a safe house, but I also couldn’t deny that he was right. IA wouldn’t find us here.

“No more world-hopping,” I said.

Eli shrugged.

“I mean it, not until we figure out what IA wants with us. Not until we make sure my mother and Derek aren’t in any danger.”

“You’re right,” he said. “No more world-hopping, but this is where we’ll come if we need to get somewhere safe. And we shouldn’t be seen together anymore. We need to get our affairs in order and meet here.”

“‘Our affairs in order’?”

“You know what I mean. Tell your mom and brother. Figure out how to lead IA away from them, and then we’ll meet here.”

I looked around again and wondered what Janelle would think of this place. Hopefully Eli was right and we could get out now, and I’d have the chance to tell her about it.

T
he next morning, the tan sedan wasn’t there. Instead it was a black one, the same make and model, the same tinted windows. Parked in the same spot.

I went through my day, did whatever Derek told me to, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this new car was a bad sign. They had to know the color of the car wasn’t going to fool me. Why not just keep the tan one? Besides, they had spoken to not just my mother but also Eli’s parents. They had made contact. Something had changed.

I was working on an oil change when Derek’s shoes skidded across the concrete and were suddenly next to me. “They’re getting out,” he said. “Four of them. You have to go now, out the back.”

I pulled myself out from under the car.

“I’ll hold them off,” Derek added.

“You can’t.” I shook my head. “I don’t know what they’ll do to you.”

“I only work as leverage if they catch you,” he said. “Go now!”

I didn’t believe him, but I listened anyway. I walked evenly through the shop and went out the back. I almost stopped when I heard a commotion in the garage, a shout, something falling over, but I forced myself to keep going. I tore down the back alley, turning left at the first street. I ran as fast as I could, and I thought about what Janelle would do. She would have a plan. She always did. It was some kind of by-product of growing up with a parent in the FBI. Without slowing I turned right down someone’s driveway and ran in between a row of houses.

I couldn’t head home. They would expect that.

I crouched down low behind a fence and pulled my phone out to call Eli.

It rang four times and went to voice mail. “They’re coming for us,” I said when it beeped. “Go now.”

I left the phone and kept moving. In front of me was a fence. I just had to get over it and I’d have the space to open a portal. I headed for it, but I was too late.

As I was pulling myself up over the fence, someone grabbed my legs and pulled me back down.

I had a moment to see their faces before they slammed me face-first to the ground. Two guys, probably in their midtwenties. One of them had a familiar object in his hand: a quantum charger that looked just like the one Barclay had used to get us back here. Definitely IA.

I heard the high-pitched sound of a portal powering up, and I struggled, bucking off the ground just enough to see the butt of a gun as the guy closest to me brought it down against my face.

 

When I came to, my head was pounding.

The light was bright, and for a moment it was hard to see. I tried to move, to shield my eyes, but my hands were bound behind the chair. My legs were tied to the chair legs. I struggled harder, trying to see if I could get loose. My head throbbed with more intensity each time I moved.

“Don’t bother. It’s fucking useless. I tried to hocus-pocus them into something else, and it didn’t work.”

It was Eli. I squinted at him, trying to make out his shape.

“You’ve been out for at least an hour,” he said. “I haven’t gotten anywhere.”

As the room came into focus, I realized we were in a cell. Either solitary confinement or maybe a mental institution, if movies were accurate in their description. There was a wire frame for a cot, but no mattress, and a toilet bowl that didn’t look like it had been cleaned since before bleach was invented.

“It’s IA,” I said, my voice sounded hoarse.

“No shit. They pulled us through a portal, chucked us in here.”

I noted no one had processed us or done any paperwork. There weren’t any Miranda rights or mug shots. We had just been detained without explanation.

The door opened. One of the guys who had grabbed me came in first. His hair was short, combed neatly, and he wore his IA combat attire with pride, back straight, head high. He looked like the kind of guy who liked being a soldier because it meant that he got to tell people what to do and enforce that with a gun if they didn’t listen.

He reminded me a lot of Taylor Barclay. I wasn’t a fan of Barclay, and not just because he would have shot me in the basement of my foster parents’ house if Janelle hadn’t rushed in and saved me. He was arrogant, and he didn’t care who he stepped on to get his job done.

I didn’t like this guy much either.

The guy who came in following him, though, was different.

His hair was shaved close to his head, in a military style, but he wore it more like a skinhead and less like a soldier. He had on jeans and a long-sleeved thermal shirt. As he turned to shut the door, I saw he had a tattoo crawling up his neck. It looked like barbed wire.

He didn’t look like IA, not the way the other guy did.

There was no question that this was the guy in charge. Something about his easy stance said this was his operation and the soldier was just here to back him up. He leaned casually against the door.

“I heard a rumor about some kids who could open portals with just the power of their minds. I laughed it off,” he said. His voice was low, and despite the lightness to it, there was an undercurrent of something darker. “Imagine my surprise when reports confirmed it was actually true and that you’d caused quite a bit of damage.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. It was worth a try.

“But I’ve seen it,” he said.

“I’ll stop. We won’t do it anymore,” Eli said.

“My name is Constantine Meridian,” he said. “And I don’t want you to stop. In fact, I want to offer you a job.”

I
didn’t need to hear the proposal. I didn’t want to work for IA or for someone who worked with them. I didn’t want to work for anyone who would follow people around and grab them off the street. I listened anyway. I didn’t get the sense that anyone said no to this guy very often.

“It’s simple,” Constantine said. “I have a list of people. They’re on different worlds, but I need them brought to me. These people may not necessarily want to come. I need people like you to make sure they do.”

“Yeah, fucking right,” Eli said.

I let what he said sink in. It sounded a lot like human trafficking. Whatever I thought of IA, I suddenly knew that this, whoever we were dealing with, was much worse.

Constantine looked at me and I shook my head. “I would be happy to pay you for information,” he added. “I would like to know how you can open these portals.”

“We don’t know,” I said. It wasn’t completely a lie. We knew how it had happened, but it wasn’t something other people could replicate.

“Then I’ll need you to work for me.” He said it so matter-of-factly, like he was sure that we were ultimately going to do this for him. The arrogance of it scared me. Someone that confident didn’t get where they were because they were full of hot air.

“Just use those quantum chargers,” Eli said. “Clearly you have them.”

“We do,” Constantine said. “However, I’m looking for something more . . . untraceable.”

“Good fucking luck,” Eli said. “You’re wasting your time with us.”

Constantine nodded, and the slow, subtle motion of it told me we were in trouble.

Then quickly he turned, pulling a handgun out of the back of his waistband and putting it right up against my forehead. The metal was cold against my skin.

I didn’t breathe. I couldn’t.

Barclay had been right; it was dangerous for people to know what we could do, and obviously the secret was out. Eli and I both knew what it was like to fall through a portal and end up in the wrong world. We knew the effects that could have on those people, their families, and their worlds. We weren’t going to do it.

We were going to die.

Constantine cocked the hammer.

I heard Eli suck in a sharp breath.

I thought about my parents, about the dinners my mom used to cook on Sunday, about how Derek used to always feed Hope scraps under the table, while my dad told jokes about the guys he worked with. I thought about how Eli had tried to grab me that day we fell through the portal. He tried to pull me back, and he didn’t let go even when it meant he was coming with me, and Reid, trying to be a hero, jumped in after us. I thought about Janelle: beautiful, strong, intelligent, fearless. Lying next to her in her bed, I’d grabbed her hand, intertwined our fingers, and looked right in her eyes and told her what I loved about her. If this was how it was going to end, it hadn’t been a bad life.

I felt more than saw the gun ease away from me, then Constantine moved and fired a shot.

The image of Reid falling to the ground and Janelle’s hands covered in blood while she tried to keep Alex alive flickered into my mind.

Eli screamed.

I didn’t feel it at first. In fact, I was worried that he’d actually shot Eli instead. Then I saw the blood. It was seeping out of my shoe onto the floor. Then the pain roared to life. My foot felt like it was coming apart, and I stopped thinking clearly.

Constantine turned and fired another shot into Eli’s leg.

“Put them in separate cells,” he said to the soldier. “Make them change their minds.”

 

We were tortured for weeks. Maybe months. I lost track of the time.

I also lost track of what they did to me. Water, fire, starvation, a hammer, knives. They used whatever they could to break us. I stopped cataloging my injuries, but I knew the fingers on my left hand were all broken. Same with the toes on my right foot. I would probably have scars on my back and my arms for the rest of my life.

They came in each day and asked if I had changed my mind. Sometimes I wanted to. If I agreed to open portals for them, to go grab whoever they needed, it would all be over. But I couldn’t.

I coped by thinking of Janelle. I was so weak and feverish, sometimes I swore I could see her. Her hair in my face, the softness of her skin against mine, her voice whispering in my ear, the way she smelled supernaturally good. How she sighed when I kissed her neck, how she smiled against my lips, like she had when I said I loved her for the first time. I knew in that moment she loved me, too. I hadn’t needed to hear her say it back. It was all over her face.

BOOK: Undone
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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