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Authors: Bryan Davis

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Nightmare’s Edge (6 page)

BOOK: Nightmare’s Edge
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“Want me to close the hatch?” Nathan asked.

“Not yet. I might have to aim back and forth between these two and hope for the best.”

The van slowed to thirty miles per hour. Tony’s truck and the two stalker vehicles matched its pace, maintaining their positions at the side and rear.

“Call Amber!” Kelly shouted. “Maybe she can neutralize the other rod!”

Daryl reached over and unclipped the phone from Gunther’s belt while Nathan fumbled in his pocket for Tony’s business card. “Don’t bother,” she said. “I know it.”

With the van shaking so hard his teeth ached, Nathan watched Daryl punch the numbers in from memory. With her own teeth clenched, she held the phone to her ear and waited. Nathan looked back again. Tony had pulled his pickup alongside the squad car trailing Gunther’s van, and all three front-seat passengers came into clear view. Amber’s expression was serene, but Molly and Tony both looked tense as Tony pressed the phone against his cheek.

“Tony!” Daryl shouted. “Ask Amber if she can cancel the other rod.”

Lowering the phone for a moment, Tony turned to Molly and Amber, moving his lips while keeping a tight grip on the wheel. Two seconds later, Amber’s head emerged from the passenger window, her bright yellow hair whipping in the wind.

“She has to do what?” Daryl yelled. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

“What?” Nathan asked.

Daryl pulled the phone away from her ear and looked back. “Sounds like she’s going to do an Indiana Jones!”

Nathan’s mother and Kelly crawled into the cargo area with Nathan and stared at the pickup. Amber, the sleeves of her dress beating against her arms, climbed out the window. She sat on the frame for a moment, then stretched her arms over the roof and grasped the back edge. She pushed up to her feet, and, with the grace and power of an Olympic gymnast, swung her legs to the top of the bed cover. The officer, still aiming his sonic rod at the van, stared at her, his eyes wide.

Now standing, Amber raised her hands. As her hair blew across her face, she took in a breath and sang a note as low and loud as a ship’s foghorn. Like a battering ram, her song plunged into the rod’s wall of sound, counteracting the horrible noise.

The officer withdrew his sonic rod and extended a pistol, pointing it at Amber. His hand shaking, he fired a shot. With a deft turn, Amber angled her body to the side, dodging the bullet.

Nathan grabbed the cell phone. “Tony! Back off! The stalker’s shooting at Amber!”

“And leave you to face the zone police?” Tony shouted. “No way! Besides, she’s got it under control.”

“Yeah, but — ”

“Duck!” Tony pushed Molly’s head down. The gun fired again. The window on Tony’s side shattered, sending glass flying. The stalker shifted his aim toward the van and shot a third time.

“Arrgh!” Nathan’s mother dropped to her back, clutching her wrist. Blood poured from her left palm and streamed down her arm.

“Mom!” Nathan threw himself down beside her.

“Mrs. Shepherd!” Daryl called from the front. “Are you all right?”

Grimacing, Nathan’s mother pressed her fingers against a tear in the side of her hand and called out, “It’s just a flesh wound.”

“This is no time to do a Monty Python routine!” Daryl searched the area around her seat. “Do we have a real first-aid kit anywhere?”

While Daryl searched frantically, Nathan glanced at the scene behind him. The stalker aimed the gun again, this time at Tony. Amber set one foot on the truck’s side wall and leaped for the police car. She seemed to float across the gap, her dress fanning out as she stretched toward the roof. Landing feet first, she spun 180 degrees on her toes, then slipped and fell to her belly, latching on to the window frame just in time to keep from sliding off the passenger side. While holding the frame with one hand, she grabbed the stalker’s wrist with the other. His fingers straightened into rigid lines, and the gun clattered to the road.

The car decelerated and dropped back. Still keeping his sonic gun trained on the other officer, Gunther slowed to stay close.

As Amber rose to her feet, she jerked the stalker out through the window and planted the tall, thin man upright on the roof. The driverless car rolled on, swaying from side to side, but not enough to knock the glowing supplicant off her feet. She radiated bright yellow streams of light as the stalker dropped to his knees and folded his hands as if begging.

Gunther eased the van to a stop, allowing the trailing car to press against his bumper until it stopped as well. The other police car roared away.

Amber set a palm on top of her captive’s white hair. As she drilled her stare directly into his eyes, she sang a high-pitched note. His jaw dropped open. His eyes bulged. Then his cheeks sank and his body withered, his shirt slipping off his shoulders as he seemed to age at high speed.

Nathan got up and leaned out the back hatch. “Amber! No!”

She turned toward Nathan, her eyes ablaze in yellow. The stalker heaved in rapid, shallow breaths, spitting out short, pathetic vowel sounds.

“Spare me, O mighty supplicant,” Kelly translated as she leaned out with Nathan. “Forgive me of my many transgressions against you.”

Amber moved her hand from his head, sweeping a shower of white hair to the roof of the car. Now smiling, she reached for his hand and sang a burst of notes.

“Will you dance with me?” Kelly said, again translating. “I will provide the music.”

With his hands still folded and his chest heaving, the stalker forced out a halting lament. Kelly gave each note its meaning the moment it passed his lips.

“I beg you, holy one. Spare me, and I will fight against my brethren.” His eyes wide within his sunken face, his voice shook wildly. “But I cannot dance with you. One such as I could never be your partner in dance.”

She gazed down at him, love bathing her expression as she crooned a musical reply.

This time Kelly swallowed hard before she translated. “You have always had the ability to dance with me, and I will gladly be your partner, but if you refuse, I will have to kill you.”

The stalker closed his eyes and wailed. Again, Amber responded, this time with a lengthy reply. Nathan looked to Kelly for the meaning, but she just shook her head, tears glistening in her eyes.

Amber laid her hand on the stalker’s head again and reprised her song. His limbs stiffened. His clothes dropped away; lines now etched his skin, making a patchwork of decaying flesh until it flaked away from his skeleton-like body. Soon, he crumbled into a heap of dust.

As a breeze carried the dust away, Amber let her shoulders sag. She watched the pile dwindle for a moment before walking down the windshield and jumping to the pavement.

Kelly clutched Nathan’s hand. “What . . .” She swallowed hard again. “What
is
she?”

“I wish I knew,” Nathan replied, keeping his voice low. “We saw that the stalkers feared the supplicants. Now we know why.”

Daryl let out a long whistle. “I’ll tell you one thing. If Amber asks me to dance, I’ll be ready to rumba.”

Amber walked toward the truck, head down, a tear tracking down her cheek. Inside, Molly rolled up the window and punched the door lock, her eyes wide with alarm. Amber halted.

Tony’s voice pierced the silence. Nathan lifted the cell phone to his ear, keeping his stare on Amber. “Sorry, Tony. I couldn’t hear you. What did you say?”

“Molly’s scared to death.” His voice was low and shaky. “Can Amber ride with you?”

Nathan waved at her. “Hop in the van,” he said, speaking through the open hatch. “There’s plenty of room.”

Kelly opened the side door. “I’ll get Molly calmed down. I know what usually worked with my mother.” She jumped out and hurried toward the truck, pointing at the van as she passed by Amber. With a smile and a wink, Kelly said, “Keep an eye on Nathan for me while I’m gone.”

The shining supplicant nodded and shuffled toward the door.

Nathan helped his mother up and guided her to the bench seat. “How’s your hand?”

After sliding all the way to the side window, she peeled her bloody fingers away from her ripped hand. The pressure had temporarily closed a gash an inch or two below her little finger, but blood still trickled. “It’s not too bad, but it looks like neither one of us will be able to play for a while.”

Nathan tried to rip his sweatshirt sleeve, but it was too strong. “Got a knife, Gunther?”

“Yep. It ain’t much, but it’s sharp.”

A small pocketknife landed in Nathan’s lap. While he sliced his sleeve, Amber climbed into the van, her blonde hair in a frenzy. Nathan slid closer to his mother to make room. What should he say to Amber? What
could
he say? Sure, that stalker was out to get them, but did she have to kill him? And he even begged for mercy before she disintegrated his body.

As she settled onto the seat, he cleared his throat. “Uh . . . I see why those other two stalkers took off like that.”

She turned toward him. The fire in her eyes had vanished. “Yes.” Her voice was little more than a whisper. “They were surely frightened.”

After Nathan cut a wide strip from his sleeve and wrapped his mother’s hand, Gunther put the van into gear and eased ahead, his acceleration slow. He and Daryl kept their gazes forward, saying nothing.

Nathan’s mother broke the silence. “I don’t understand. Why did you insist that he dance with you?”

Amber looked at the truck behind them. “Did the interpreter not tell you? I told the stalker, though he already knew. I explained my actions for your benefit.”

“I guess she thought it wasn’t important,” Nathan said.

“Not important?” Amber glanced back again, then took Nathan’s hand. “The explanation is vital, especially for Kelly’s sake. You see, the three Earths once danced together in a cosmic waltz, in perfect balance and harmony. When dissonance shattered the harmonic structure, the worlds bent away from the dance and into a collision course. Playing the violin in Sarah’s Womb will restore the balance, but since you were unable to finish the song, only one world broke free from the converging path. But Earth Red now has no dance partner. It spins alone and is suffering, because it cannot comprehend the music.”

“What exactly is Sarah’s Womb?” Nathan asked. “And what does spinning alone do to Earth Red?”

She formed her hand into a loose fist and slowly expanded her fingers. “Sarah is the great emptiness, the void that pushes the worlds apart, like a barren womb that is filled with heartache.”

“So is it a buffer?” Daryl asked. “Like insulation?”

“In a manner of speaking. Yet she offers more than insulation. Just as when the biblical Sarah’s womb was filled with a child of promise, when the cosmic Sarah is filled with perfect song, she gives birth to harmony that pushes the worlds into their proper paths, the paths they must follow to stay away from destruction.”

“If it’s song Sarah wants,” Nathan’s mother said, “why did Scarlet’s sacrifice make any difference at all?”

“We supplicants represent the elements that make up perfect music. Although we all have the gift of song, Cerulean is the master of musical notes, Scarlet is the mistress of words, the lyrics of the psalms, and I” — Amber set a finger on her chest — “I am the mistress of dance. When Scarlet fell into the void, Sarah was filled with only part of what makes for perfect song. Perhaps Earth Red is safe from interfinity’s reach, but with no dance partner she labors in toil.”

Daryl slid to the edge of her seat. “So that must be why everyone is messed up on Earth Red. You know how dreams kind of fool you sometimes? You think you’re awake, but you’re not quite sure?”

“Yeah,” Nathan said. “It’s only when you’re really awake that you know for sure that you aren’t dreaming.”

“Exactly. But Dr. Gordon says on Earth Red, they’re
never
sure, even when they’re awake. When they get out of bed, it feels like they woke up from a dream inside a dream, and they’re still dreaming, or maybe they just had a dream inside a dream inside a dream. Dr. Gordon says it nearly drives you crazy, and you’re afraid to really go to sleep, because it feels like you might drop into a lower level of sleep, and you’ll have to add another awakening to get to full wakefulness.” She set a finger near her temple and drew fast circles. “They’re all going nuts.”

“Their world needs to dance,” Amber said. “It restores balance and brings light to darkness. If that stalker had agreed to dance with me, he would have come into harmony with my purpose.”

As Nathan looked out the rear hatch, the image of the pleading stalker came back to his mind. “But he said he couldn’t. He seemed to think he wasn’t worthy.”

She nodded sadly. “That is the way of the faithless. Whenever someone dances with another, he is saying that he agrees with every aspect of his partner’s purpose — the partner’s beliefs and the principles by which he or she lives. When dancing, the partners move with each other step by step, symbolizing that they will never stray from one another in thought, word, or deed, not even for a moment.

“Most of the stalkers have no faith that such a perfect dance is even possible, and they think that anyone who would even try to dance with a supplicant will be accursed. Yet they do not realize that a supplicant’s song provides the music that guides every step, empowering them to perform the very dance they fear.”

Nathan looked at his mother and Daryl in turn. Each one stared at him, as if waiting for him to ask more questions. Yet, there really was only one more question on his mind. “How much of that explanation did Kelly hear?”

“I had only a little time to explain, but she heard that dance is the symbol of submitting to the greater purpose, a humbling of ourselves in order to move in step with the greater music.”

“So do both dancers humble themselves?” Nathan asked.

Amber gazed at him, her eyes bright, though she spoke in a somber tone. “If the music is greater than that of both partners, each one gives up his own path to follow the music’s universal call.”

Nathan gave her a nod, but he was glad when the cell phone in his lap chimed, giving him an excuse to turn away from those eyes. He handed it to Gunther and settled back in his seat.

BOOK: Nightmare’s Edge
4.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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