Read finding ele (ele series #2) written epub format

Authors: Courtney Nuckels,Rebecca Gober

finding ele (ele series #2) written

 

Finding ELE

 

By: Rebecca Gober and Courtney Nuckels

Copyright
2012 by: Rebecca
Gober and Courtney Nuckels

Cover Photo: Copyright
Valua Vitaly, Dash,
Burak
Ç
akmak,
and Vitaly Krivosheev
/ Fotolia


Cover Work: Marya Heiman

http://www.eleseries.com

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Smashwords Edition, License Notes

 

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Table of
Contents:

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Eye Colors and Their
Meanings

Acknowledgements

Personal
Acknowledgements

About the Authors

Connect with Us

CHAPTER 1 (THE FIRST DAY OUTSIDE)

"MOM!" No, this can't be happening! My mom
is not bleeding out on this mountainside. Not when I just found her
again!

I sit up and examine the damage. Like ink on
paper, the crimson red stain slowly grows larger and larger in
diameter. I do my best to ignore the chaos of the war that is
happening all around me. My mom's breaths become ragged as she
gasps greedily for air.

"No Mom, you need to hang on," I whisper.
Tears blur my vision as I push her shirt away from the wound on the
lower left side of her abdomen. Blood is pouring out of a small
hole no larger than a dime.

A gunshot rings out just inches away from my
ear. For a second I think I was the intended target but then a new
body falls down next to my mom. It lies there, splayed at an
unnatural angle. I sit paralyzed for a moment looking into the
lifeless red eyes of a woman my mother's age.

The cold metal of a gun barrel presses up
against my temple. "Move away from her." A man commands in a gruff
voice.

I look up to see a young man, not much older
than me, kneeling down next to my mom. His coppery red hair is
drenched in sweat and he's covered in the rusty dirt that coats the
mountainside. His eyes are the same nuclear yellow hue as my moms
were. This thought wakes me up from my stupor. No, not were! Are!
She will survive; she has to!

The man kneels down next to my mom to check
her pulse with one hand while his other hand keeps the gun trained
on my head. His eyes flash with a heavy sadness.

I brush the gun away from my head as if it
were a fly and lean back over my mother.

"I said move away from her!" He orders
me.

I look up at him with the most lethal stare
I can muster and his mouth drops open. "What the...? Your eyes!" He
stutters.

The last time I saw my reflection, my eyes
had a multitude of colors swirling throughout them like a marble.
They look otherworldly. I don't have time to assure him of my good
intentions. My mom is dying as we speak!

"Do you mind?" I push his gun out of my face
once again. "I can help her but I can't do it when you are pointing
that thing at me!" Not waiting for his response, I look back down
at my mom. She's stopped breathing. I place both of my hands over
the wound in her side, praying it’s not too late. I close my eyes
to concentrate and feel the silent tears slip past my lashes. I
take several deep breaths to force my heart to return to a steady
rhythm. I eventually find the ability to tune everything out and
that's when I feel the power go out of me.

At first it feels like a slight tingle that
moves through my body and out of my fingertips. Then it gradually
increases, feeling almost like an electrical current flowing from
me and into my mother. I take several deep breaths and focus all of
my energy on healing her.

I've done this before, when my boyfriend was
shot in the shoulder. It didn't feel like this though. I healed him
with very little effort. Then again he had his own healing
abilities. He also wasn't standing on death’s doorstep like my
mother is.

My mom gasps a deep breath of air. It's the
most beautiful sound I've ever heard. I open my eyes to find her
staring at me with eyes the same intense yellow as the man with the
gun. Her skin is still a sickly white so I push myself to the
limits trying to exert all of my healing powers on her. I watch as
life slowly filters more and more into her eyes and her cheeks glow
pink with warmth.

"Willow." She says in a dry throaty
whisper.

The man next to me is too enthralled to do
anything more than watch in utter disbelief. For the last five
minutes he was witness to the transformation of my mother coming
back to life. She makes a small noise and it’s enough for him to be
brought back to the present. He reaches into a pack on his side,
pulls out a canteen and puts it up to my mother's mouth.

As if someone took the television off mute,
the world around me erupts with the overpowering clamor of war. My
head begins to spin as a splintering headache overtakes all of my
senses. White stars dance in front of my eyes as my mother sits up
looking at me with concern.

"We have to go. Now!" An urgent, all too
familiar voice calls out behind me. I look back cringing as every
inch of movement causes a new piercing pain to echo through my
skull.

"Mr. Leroy?" I barely finish saying his name
before a powerful pain blinds me. I feel myself crashing to the
ground and then my world goes black.

CHAPTER 2 (WAKE UP CALL.)

"SHE'S ONE OF THEM, ALICE." Mr. Leroy
demands quietly.

My brain is foggy and my body feels numb. I
want to open my eyes and move but the effort seems
overwhelming.

"No Leroy. Have you ever seen one of them
show any sign of compassion? She healed me! I don't know how she
did it, but she did. She is not one of them!" My mom does her best
to try and hush her tone but her passion can't be contained.

"Her eyes did have red in them." Another
man's voice chimes in. I vaguely recognize it.

I try to pry my eyelids open but they feel
as if they've been glued shut. I still can't move my muscles.

"Yes, but they weren't solid red. There were
a myriad of other colors too. None of the others displayed any type
of symptom like that." My mom reminds them.

"Look Alice, I know she's your daughter, but
that doesn't mean we can trust her. You know yourself just how much
damage they can do." Mr. Leroy whispers.

"I know how much damage they can do. I also
know that my daughter is not one of them! Yet, here you have her
shackled to the bed like a criminal. She saved my life for goodness
sake! Doesn’t that count for anything?"

"I know she did. Don't worry Alice; as soon
as she wakes up we’ll be able to further assess the situation." The
other man says. I vaguely hear him pat my mother's back.

"She is not a situation! She is my daughter,
Anthony."

I worry that my mom is getting too worked
up. I don't know if she's completely healed but stress can't be
good for her. I try harder to open my eyes. It feels as if I'm
swimming through quicksand but eventually I manage to move my hand
slightly. I blink my eyes until my eyelashes finally part and I can
see the dim light of the room.

"Honey!" My mom calls out.

I watch her run to my side through blurry
eyes. "Mo..." My voice cracks and I gasp for air. My throat feels
like sandpaper and merely breathing through it hurts.

"Shh. It's okay sweety." My mom lifts a cup
of water to my mouth. The soothing water slides down my throat and
it feels so good. I drink greedily.

When I try to reach up to grab the cup from
her, my hands are stopped. I jerk away quickly and water runs down
my chin and cheek. Looking down at my wrists I see the handcuffs
holding my arms down next to my sides. I pull at them and hear the
metal clink against the bedposts they are attached to. Startled, I
give my mom a questioning look.

A look of anger flashes across her face and
she looks behind her. "Give me the key Leroy!"

If I were Mr. Leroy, I would have obeyed
immediately based on my mom's tone alone.

"Not yet Alice, we need to make sure she's
safe." He moves into my line of sight. The stunned look on his face
tells me that he's only now noticed my eyes. He runs his hand
through his shiny grey hair in confusion.

He looks exactly the same as I remember him,
apart from the yellow eyes. I first met Mr. Leroy outside of the
shelter when we were waiting in line for permission to enter. He
was just as ornery as he seems to be now.

I hear the sound of metal snapping and
suddenly my left arm is free. I look over to see my mom moving to
the other side of my bed.

"Stop!" Mr. Leroy yells out.

My mom grabs the metal chain between the
handcuffs that hold my right arm to the bedpost and she pulls. It
didn't seem to take any effort on her part to snap the metal like
it was a twig.

I look at her surprised and then lift my
hands up to take the cup of water that is sitting on a bedside
table. I gulp more water down until I can get my throat comfortable
enough to speak. "What's going on mom? Are you okay?" I reach
forward to touch her side where the wound was but another hand
stops me.

I turn to see the man from the mountain. His
hair is still as coppery red as I remembered and his neon yellow
eyes assess me. I look down at his hand that is encircling my
wrist. I try to yank my arm away but he doesn't budge. Either my
pull was the weakest attempt ever or his grip is just that
strong.

"It's okay Anthony. She's not going to hurt
me." My mom grabs my other hand and holds it up to where her wound
was. "You healed me Willow. I don't even have a scar."

The love and appreciation in her eyes opens
up the waterworks. Tears run over my eyes and I shake with relief.
Anthony lets go of my arm as mom sits on the bed next to me and
pulls me into her arms. Dropping my head to her chest all I can do
is sob, she is alive!! After all the months I am in her arms again.
I still can't believe that she's alive.

She runs her hands over my curls and rocks
me back and forth repeating, "It's okay honey. You are safe. You
are safe now love."

It has been nearly four months since I lost
my mom. She was supposed to go into the shelter with us but my
little brother was denied entrance. Sebastian!

I sit back and look into her eyes. "Sabby!
Is he okay?" I have no idea if he survived or not. They told us
that he had the virus…the same virus that has killed off millions
of people and forced our government to implement Project ELE.

She smiles really big and nods. "Yes honey.
Sebastian is safe."

"Is he sick?" I never saw anyone who got the
virus but I was told that the virus caused the most excruciating
pains. That's why they offered everyone a red shot when they were
denied entry to the shelter. Knowing how painful the virus is, the
government gave them a shot that would end the life of someone who
was infected, if they chose that route.

"No, he's as healthy as a horse. We gave him
the survival shot and he never displayed any symptoms of the
virus."

The survival shot was the second shot that
they gave to the people who were denied entry. The bright yellow
shot was supposed to help sustain life.

Hearing that both mom and Sabby are safe and
alive is the most heart-warming news I've heard in a while. I
continue to cry tears of joy.

My mom pulls me into her arms again and
comforts me until I am able to compose myself. "I love you
Willow."

I wipe away the tears and look up at her. "I
love you too mom. I thought you were both gone. I still can't
believe it."

"I can't believe you're here." She rests her
hands on my cheeks, looking me up and down, taking me in. Finally
focusing on my eyes she whispers. "Amazing."

A strange nervous feeling builds up as I
wonder what she thinks of the new Willow. "It's kind of creepy,
isn't it?"

"If your eyes are creepy then you must think
mine are out of this world. They practically glow in the dark." She
jokes. "I've seen a healers eyes, but yours are a little
different."

"Different is a generous word to use for
this psychedelic rainbow eye." I point up at my left eye. "The
solid brown of my other eye makes it even creepier. They don't even
match."

My mom gives me a strange look. "No, your
eyes match." She moves closer to examine them. "I hadn't noticed
the rainbow though at first since it's so dark in here. Mostly they
are a dark blue with a fleck of red. But, now that you mention it I
can see a sort of rainbow prism thing going on. It's barely
noticeable, yet it's quite remarkable."

"What do you mean?" My eyes match? The
colors are barely noticeable? I make a move to get off the bed but
the man from the mountainside blocks me from getting up.

"You can let my daughter up Anthony." My mom
says in a scolding tone. "She's not going to hurt anyone."

He gives me an unsure look but finally steps
aside.

Mr. Leroy interjects, "Sure, she didn't hurt
you, but what will keep her from taking from us or the others?
Perhaps she spared you because of your relation."

"Come on! Have you seen any of those
monsters show any compassion for a single person, let alone their
own family? She is not like them." My mom looks thoroughly annoyed
that she's having to go around with them again.

"No, but we certainly can't risk allowing
her to roam free." Mr. Leroy replies.

"I was just looking for a mirror. I'm not
trying to hurt anyone." I look around the room but I don't see any
reflective surfaces readily available.

Tony takes a small step towards the door and
something in his expression tells me he believes my mom when she
said that I'm harmless. “I’ll get you that mirror. Stay there and
rest.” I'm not sure if he is really having a change of heart when
it comes to me or if he just wants an excuse to leave the room.
It's an odd feeling having people afraid of me. I know deep down
that I couldn't hurt a fly, but obviously Mr. Leroy and Tony both
seem pretty creeped out. Well, maybe Tony isn't necessarily as
creeped out as he is overly protective of my mom. I can't help
wondering why that is.

"Thank you. I just wanted to see my eyes,
you know?" I tell Tony. I don't know why it matters to me at all if
this guy thinks I'm vain, but I still feel the need to qualify my
request.

"No problem." He says and then he does
something I would never expect, he smiles. I mean, it's not a huge
smile but just a slight lift in his lips. Somehow that little smile
comforts me. I can't put a finger on why it comforts me, but it
does. I lie back on my bed and watch as he leaves the room.

Mr. Leroy wastes no time once the door is
securely closed behind Tony. He grabs a new set of handcuffs from a
drawer, which has me wondering just how many sets are in there.

My mom darts up off the bed and moves
impossibly fast, landing in front of me a millisecond later. "You
are really starting to piss me off old man! I recommend you put
those back where you found them and leave this instant." When he
doesn't obey, she steps closer to him and whispers in a daunting
voice that is completely foreign to me. "I don't think you want to
test me. I can find some alternative ways to use those handcuffs on
you that will not involve any sort of pleasure." Her hands clench
into fists.

 

I sit there completely awestruck at the
situation and at how completely badass my mom has become.

Mr. Leroy backs down and puts the handcuffs
back in the drawer. "You better hope she's safe. It's not just your
life you are risking here." He huffs out as he exits the room.

My mom slams the door behind him and comes
back to my bedside. "I'm sorry honey. I don't want to make an
excuse for Mr. Grumps-A-lot," I smile remembering my old nickname
for Mr. Leroy. She continues. "But, things are crazy on the
outside. Actually crazy is an understatement. There's a war going
on outside of the shelters. Those people, no, those monsters with
the red eyes, they are deadly. They take and they kill with no
feeling. They show no remorse." Her eyes look haunted. "I know
you're not like them. He should never have compared you to them.
But, he is cautious because you do have that red in your eyes. It
has to be something different though. It's obviously not like what
they have."

"What do you mean? What do they have?" The
image of the red-eyed people I encountered plays across my
mind.

"Their ability is to take. They take until
there is nothing left." My mom looks almost sick explaining this to
me.

A shiver runs up my spine at my mom's
statement. "How do they take?"

It's obvious she doesn't like speaking about
’those people’, or monsters as she calls them. "I don't know the
science of it, but they can touch people and empty them. In the
process of doing whatever it is they do, they take peoples gifts,
or powers. I've only seen it done once or twice because they don't
have much to take from us since they already have our
abilities."

At the confusion on my face she clarifies.
"The survival shot we took had some strange side effects. Much like
whatever shot you took that caused your eyes to turn blue." I want
to stop and ask her what she means because my eyes are certainly
not just blue but I also want to hear more about these side
effects, so I let her continue. "We not only can live off little
sustenance, we also have super human strength. In addition we are
quite fast. The others were like us at first. They had the survival
shot. Things changed though when someone took the red shot
subsequently. That shot was meant to kill and in a way it did. It
killed their humanity. It also brought on a strange change in those
people. We didn't know the extent of this change at first. It seems
like forever ago but back then there were people around that had
other abilities. Amazing ones, like your healing ability. They were
the ones who took the immunization because they were accepted but
then refused to enter the shelter because of their loved ones being
denied. Some of those people with the different gifts started dying
off or having what we thought were strokes that left them brain
dead. It wasn't until the red eyed people increased in number that
we realized what they were doing. They were collecting their
powers! We call them Reapers."

My mom takes a deep breath and looks like
she's about to cry, so I lay my hand on top of hers in a comforting
gesture. She blinks back the tears and continues. "We tried to kick
them out when we figured out what was going on but they went on a
massacre. They killed most everyone with unique powers and many of
us as well during the fight. A lot of our friends died."

"I'm so sorry mom." I give her a hug to try
and offer some semblance of comfort. "How did you all get away? I
mean, it sounds like these people are pretty powerful if all they
need to do is touch someone to kill them."

"They are powerful, but not invincible. We
out number them and that allowed us to fight them off eventually.
Plus, they can't simply kill with a brief contact. It takes them a
few moments to kill someone with their reaping ability."

"What keeps them from attacking again?" I
ask.

"Along with our super strength and speed, we
have developed several defensive and offensive strategies to fight
back." I notice a sort of proud gleam in her eye. Not pride in
herself but pride in her people.

"And we have an amazing leader who will lead
us to victory." Anthony chimes in. I turn around to see him close
the door. He clutches a small hand held mirror in his hand.

"Oh, who is your leader?" I ask him.

"You're sitting next to her." He smiles big.
I realize that look that he has towards my mom now. It's pure
unadulterated dedication and respect.

He is her soldier? I turn in surprise to
look at my mom. "Really?"

She doesn't look too pleased that Anthony
spilled the beans. "Yes. Along with several others, I help direct
our people. The Reapers are trying to find a way into the shelter
and we have to stop them."

"Why would they want to get into the
shelter?" The answer pops into my mind immediately so I answer my
own question. "They want more powers."

"Yes, but we won't let them get what they
want." Anthony declares in a statement that seems like he's overly
confident.

"I wonder if they know that not everyone
inside the shelter has a gift. Or a power." I feel a bit goofy
describing our new abilities as a power. It makes me think of super
heroes and old comic books.

"Not yet honey, but they will." My mom
says.

"We don't know how we got these abilities
though." I counter.

She walks over to a window at the edge of
the room. I hadn't paid much attention to it because of the
blackout curtain that's covering it. She pulls back the curtain and
sunlight filters into the room. I watch as dust motes dance around
in the sunbeams. "We are pretty sure that everyone inside should
have some sort of ability. It didn't take us long to realize that
the immunizations had to be the reason for the changes. Most of the
people inside haven't developed their powers yet because you are
all underground. The sun is the only thing that will complete the
change."

I had guessed as much. It was the only
explanation that made sense. I stand up and walk towards the
window. The sun is starting to set in the sky but it's still bright
enough out that I can take in the surroundings. Not that there's
much of anything out there anyhow. We are at least ten stories up.
Down below, a Holiday Inn sign stands tall at the entrance of an
overly large parking lot. I look back at the room that is now cast
in brightness. The fake abstract prints and floral motif of the
bedspread confirm that we are in fact in a hotel. Looking back out
the window I see the mountain a few miles off in the distance. A
knot in my stomach reminds me that my dad is still inside and my
friends are missing.

My heart starts pounding hard at the last
thought. "Mom! My friends are out there somewhere. What if..." My
sight goes blurry as tears well up in my eyes just thinking about
the Reapers out there with them. "What if they got to them?" I
whisper.

My mom's expression melts. Coming to my
side, she reaches up and wipes away the tear that is running down
my cheek. "What do you mean your friends are on the outside?" Her
expression turns to worry.

I don't know where to start with the
explanation of how Connor, Claire, my boyfriend Alec and I got
outside. I decide to give her a rundown of the basic facts and
succeed in spilling everything out in one long fast breath. "My
friends and I found a cave inside the shelter that had sunlight
pouring in. I guess now I know that this is how we started
developing our um...abilities. Dr. Hastings, the man who runs the
shelter found out about our abilities. Along with his son and his
horrible goons, he locked my friends in the cave by blowing up the
entrance. They kidnapped me and tried to run tests on me but I got
away. When I finally made it back to help my friends I found the
cave empty. They left a sign for me that had an arrow pointing to
the outside wall to let me know they’ve escaped."

My mom has a look of confusion from my
speedy recap that turns quickly to anger. "I can't believe..." She
lets out a deep shaky breath. "I can't believe they would try to
hurt innocent kids! We need to find out what's going on in there
fast. Wait. How did your friends escape? Was there an exit in the
cave?"

"If there is, we need to know about it. The
Reapers could try to use it as a way to gain access." Anthony
chimes in, understanding my mother's line of thinking.

"No, there isn't a way in and out for a
normal person. Connor, one of my friends, is able to pass through
objects. He must have found a way to use his gift to get Alec and
Claire free too." I say.

"Wait, how did you get out?" My mom
asks.

I look down at my hands and then back up at
her. "I can kind of do more than just heal. I can pretty much do
anything my friends can do, like pass through walls and stuff."

My mom looks at me with wide eyes. "And
stuff?"

I nod my head. "I can heal, pass through
things, listen to peoples thoughts, go invisible and compel people.
That's pretty much it."

My mom still looks a bit shocked. "Wow." Is
all she says.

We sit there staring at each other in
silence for a moment; then I change the subject. "If those Reapers
are as horrible as you say they are, then we need to find my
friends fast."

My mom crinkles her eyebrows in worry.
"Okay. We'll begin searching for them first thing in the morning."
She turns her sights on Anthony. "We will need to assemble some of
the fighters for the search."

"Yes ma'am. I will get on that right away."
He moves to the far side of the room and begins talking quickly
into a handheld radio.

I push my shoulders back and stand up tall
as I turn and tell my mother, "I will fight with you."

A proud look flashes in her neon yellow
eyes. "You are too young to fight."

A flame of heat hits my cheeks as I respond.
"I am not too young! I can learn to fight. I need to fight. My dad
is in there and my friends are somewhere on the outside. I have to
help them." I point my finger towards the mountain in emphasis.

She gives me an appeasing look and says. "I
know you can learn honey. You would be a great fighter but you
would be much more useful here. Your healing gifts alone would be
instrumental to our cause."

"I need to help with this. I can do a lot
more than heal mom." This may seem immature but I feel as if I've
been through too much in the past few weeks to just sit on the
sidelines now.

"I know you can." She says.

I open my mouth to argue but she holds her
hand up between us to stop me. "Look, we can talk more about this
tomorrow but right now you need to get some rest. You have been
through a lot and you need to allow your body time to
recuperate."

I want to stomp my feet and throw some form
of teenage fit but I know that it wouldn’t help my case.
Surprisingly, I do feel a little tired now. "Fine. We will talk
about this tomorrow before the search party leaves. But first, can
I see Sebastian?"

She smiles. "He's actually already in bed
for the night but I will bring him in first thing in the morning. I
promise." She pulls me into a hug. "Now get some rest."

The bedside clock tells me that it's only
seven p.m. I decide not to argue about the time. "Okay, goodnight.
I love you." I give her a hug.

"Goodnight." She says. She pushes the
blackout curtain back across the window.

"Goodnight Willow." Anthony calls out.

I had totally forgotten he was in the room.
He walks over and hands the mirror to me. "Thank you. Goodnight
Anthony."

"You can call me Tony." He smiles but the
smile doesn't quite reach his yellow eyes. Anthony, or Tony, is a
rather good-looking guy with that copper hair of his that looks
almost auburn in this light. I would think he would even be
considered handsome. There's something there though, in his eyes
and the way he carries himself, that tells me he's been through a
lot. He looks almost haunted.

I nod my head in acknowledgement before he
turns to leave the room. My mom gives me one last hug and exits a
second later.

I take a deep breath and plop down on the
bed. This has been a crazy day. At least I hope it's still the same
day. I really should have clarified with my mom before she
left.

The last time I woke up in a strange room
was when I fell and broke my arm in the tunnels that led to our
cave. Alec had carried me all the way to the medical station. That
time several days had passed. That can't happen now. I need to find
my friends and I need to do it soon. I decide that one way or
another I will be joining that search party.

I lie back against my pillow and pull the
mirror up to examine my eyes. The first thing I notice is how tired
I look. I position the mirror closer to look at my eyes. They both
match now. The blue is the most predominant color but I can still
see all of the other colors swirling together here and there. The
red fleck is noticeable and can be seen in both eyes. Weird.

Feeling overwhelmingly exhausted all of a
sudden, I place the mirror on the bedside table and close my
eyes.

CHAPTER 3 (THE SEARCH)

The next morning I’m awoken by the sound of
the door handle turning. Still on edge from last night I grab my
blankets, hugging them to me tightly. I can see a little bit of
light creeping out from under the doorway, followed by shadows of
several pairs of feet…one of them smaller than the rest. The door
opens letting in light from a lit candle that dimly illuminates the
room. I sit up on my elbow out of curiosity hoping my mother is
among them. Then I hear sweet whispers from a voice I would never
forget.


Is she here mommy? Is that Wello?” I
can’t help the smile that is breaking on my face.


Sabby?” I ask. My eyes adjust to the
light allowing me to see those soft brown curls bobbing towards me.
I open my arms to welcome my little brother. It all seems so
surreal. I thought I had lost this little guy forever.

I hear my mom’s voice a second before
Sebastian reaches me. “Remember Sebastian, be gentle!”

I feel his pudgy little arms wrap around me
and I go to squeeze back but my breath is taken away by a crushing
sensation. I gasp for breath. It feels like an elephant has decided
to set up camp on my chest. I manage to get a small ‘help’ out
there before someone takes the weight off my chest. I cough and
sputter trying to get my breathing to return to normal. What just
happened?


I so sorry Wello,” says Sebastian.
How on earth did he…? I stop mid thought finally understanding. It
must be his power; his ability.

I cough once more. “Sabby, it’s okay. I
guess you just need to be a little gentler okay?” I see his little
head bob up and down beside me. Scooting over on the bed and
patting the spot next to me. “Here, come sit by me. I’ve missed you
so much!” His little face lights up with pure delight as he crawls
onto the bed. For the first time in a while, everything feels
right. It feels like it did before all this craziness happened.
Before life in the shelter and the chaos that erupted. I revel in
the simplicity and put my arms around my baby brother. He puts his
arms around me and I tense up a bit hoping he won’t squeeze too
hard. I relax when he curls up in my lap and snuggles close…just
like he used to.

I kiss the top of his curls and look to the
others in the room. My mother stands holding the candle, leaning
against the doorframe. Mr. Leroy and Anthony…I mean Tony stand next
to her. She smiles at Sabby and me as a tear rolls down her cheek.
She wipes it away quickly. I guess now that she’s considered a
leader she has a certain persona to live up to, which would include
no crying.

My mother breaks the silence, “I see you’ve
found your little brother.” I smile and nod my head in
affirmation.

Sabby lifts his head from my chest. “I’ve
missed you Wello!”

My throat tightens with emotion. “I’ve
missed you too Sabby.”


Alright,” my mother interjects. “Time
to get up.” She checks her watch. “We’ve got breakfast in ten.
Willow, I set some clothes at the end of the bed for you. Hopefully
they fit.” She comes and picks up Sebastian out of my arms.
“Alright you. It’s time to get some breakfast, then you’re off to
Ms. Wallobee’s.”

She swoops Sebastian up and twirls him in
the air. He giggles loudly and a small tear escapes my eye. I can’t
stop smiling. It feels so good to see him again and to know he’s
okay. Before they exit the room my mother sets a candle on the
small table.


Wait, mom…who’s Ms.
Wallobee?”

She clasps the handle of the doorknob.
“We’ll talk about it at breakfast. Once you get dressed, meet us on
the first floor. Just follow the smell, you can’t miss the
canteen.” She smiles at me sweetly and Sebastian gives me a pudgy
hand wave before she shuts the door, leaving me alone with my
thoughts.

I shimmy into the clothes she left for me, a
pair of cutoff jeans and a tank top. It feels bizarre to wear
anything but scrubs, but I like it. I feel my age again. I run my
fingers through my tangled mane and grab the candle. Sadness runs
through my blood momentarily as I think about my friends and my
dad. It feels so bizarre now that things have flipped over. I used
to worry about my mom and Sebastian. Now I worry about my father,
Connor, Claire and Alec.

Alec…A vision of his face flashes before my
eyes. A vision so clear I can almost reach out and touch it. The
hole in my heart that was once reserved for my mother and Sebastian
has been replaced by a new loss. I take a deep breath and right
myself. I have to remain strong if I hold any hope of finding my
friends. I turn the doorknob the rest of the way and make my way to
the first floor.

The smell of cooked grits and eggs fills the
entire floor. I hear laughter and conversation at the end of the
hall. Rounding the corner, I spot my mother at the head of the
table on the far end of the room. Everyone’s heads turn as I walk
in. ‘New meat’ they must be thinking. Probably wondering if they
can even trust me or not. I give a small smile and hurriedly make
my way across the room to where my mother has graciously saved me a
seat.


Hey sweetie, glad you could finally
make it.” That is her way of saying I’m late.


Sorry,” I whisper under my breath. I
sit and she pats my hand. I hadn’t realized how famished I was
until the smell of grits permeates my nose. I dig in, not really
caring about the unseasoned blandness of the meal. All around me
table conversation is in session.


So,” I say to my mother. “Who’s Ms.
Wallobee?”

She takes a bite of eggs, swallows and then
answers. “Ms. Wallobee is the head caretaker for the children.
There are a few more kids here that need supervision. Along with
some other teachers under her, she provides a small bit of
education for the children like reading, writing and
self-defense.”

I nearly choke on my eggs when she says
this. “Self-defense?” I question.

My mother’s face turns grim. “Yes honey,
self-defense. We all felt it was necessary, what, with all that’s
going on.”

I break eye contact. The thought of
Sebastian having to defend himself makes my stomach roll. Suddenly
I’m not very hungry anymore so I push the rest of my eggs
aside.

My mom gives me a look and I quickly pull
the plate back to me. She nods her head happy that I understood her
nonverbal message. "You’re going to need the energy if you want to
come with us today."

My eyes open in surprise. "Really?" Last
night she didn't seem too excited about my tagging along.

"Yes, but you have to follow directions to
the T. If I say jump you jump, etcetera. Do you understand?" I nod
so she adds, "It's imperative that you do this. Things can get
crazy really fast. I can't let anything happen to you out
there."

"I understand. You don't have to worry about
me mom." I gladly shovel some more eggs in my mouth.

"Asking a mom not to worry is like asking a
polar bear not to eat penguins." She smiles pointing her fork in my
direction. "It's impossible."

I give her a strange look. My mom has always
been one to come up with the most bizarre analogies ever. I change
the subject. "So, when do we leave?"

"We’re meeting in one hour in the foyer. We
have a group of twenty who are traveling with us. Do you have any
idea where they might have headed?" She asks.

I didn't know any of them before the shelter
so I don't know if there is a special spot they may choose to hide.
"I honestly don't know. I would think they would stick close to the
mountain. However, Connor could be looking for his parents too.
They didn't go into the shelter." I hadn't thought of that last
part till just now. It would seem natural that he would search for
them once outside.

My mom's expression turns serious. "You need
to understand honey that it's possible your friends may not have
survived. If the Reapers saw them, they certainly wouldn't have let
them walk away unscathed."

I have thought about that. It was one thing
that kept me up last night. I also thought about my friend’s
abilities too. "Yes, but Claire can go invisible. If Connor could
use his powers to help them get out, then I can't see why Claire
wouldn't have been able to make them all go invisible to get
away."

"Oh, she can go invisible? That’s a rare
gift; very useful." She pats me on the leg. "There may be hope for
them yet. Now finish up. I’m going to take Sebastian to his class.
Meet me in the foyer when you're done." She stands up and calls to
Sebastian. "You ready sweetheart?"

"Yep!" He jumps up from the table and runs
to me. "Bye Wello! You read me a story tonight, right?"

The sun is starting to rise, better
illuminating the canteen. It also makes Sebastian’s eyes more
noticeable. While the neon yellow is still extremely odd it doesn't
take away from his absolute adorableness. "It's a date!" I ruffle
his curls.

"Eww, Wello. No date, we just hang out. K?"
His grossed out expression makes my mom and me laugh.

"Deal." I smile and give him a hug. He gets
a little too enthusiastic and hugs me until I let out a little
grunt.

"Sowee." He shyly smiles up at me.

"It's okay. I’ll see you tonight." I give
him another hug and he heads off with my mom to his class.

I take a look around the large eating hall.
Most everyone's eyes are on me. Some look curious, some look
disgruntled and others look afraid. My cheeks flush at all of the
attention and I quickly avert my eyes.

Someone scoots closer to me and I look up to
find Tony. "Don't worry. They’ll realize soon enough that you
aren't dangerous. You’re just the new commodity around here, that's
all."

"Commodity?" I raise my eyebrow at his
strange word to describe me.

He shrugs his shoulders. "It's been a while
since anyone with another power has been around us. Most of
them...Well, most of them aren't with us anymore." He looks
sorrowful.

I nod my head understanding what he means. I
can't help but wonder who he may have lost.

"So, how old are you Willow?" He changes the
subject.

"I just turned sixteen." The memory of
spending my birthday with Alec comes to me and I quickly store it
away. This isn't the time to be emotional. "How about you?"