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Authors: Bryan Davis

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BOOK: Nightmare’s Edge
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“Hello,” Gunther said. “Yeah, Tony. I think there’s a station in a couple miles. We can stop.”

Nathan leaned toward his mother. Heat from Amber’s body radiated into his, sending mixed sensations; both the soothing warmth of a protective friend and the chilling ice of the unknown. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She stared straight ahead, her lovely face still exuding a golden glow. As he let his gaze linger on her gently curving throat, a placid hum emanated from within her, a melody that was all too familiar — “Foundation’s Key,” the piece he had tried to play on the strings that spanned Sarah’s Womb. The tune fit her perfectly — simple, yet powerful . . . lovely, yet frightening.

Yes, this woman was a mystery, a deep, dark mystery.

When they stopped for gas, Kelly hurried to the van and opened the door. “Amber,” she said, “would you be willing to switch again? Molly wants you to ride with her now. She’s sorry for being so scared.”

Amber’s smile seemed to melt her somber mood away. “Very well. I will be glad to.”

As soon as Amber climbed out, Kelly jumped in and scooted close to Nathan. “This is all so cool,” she said, keeping her voice low. “Tony and Molly are like lovebirds right now. He’s sweet talking her, and she’s eating it up.”

“Yeah,” Nathan said, “that
is
cool.”

Letting out a sigh, she slid her hand into his, intertwined their fingers, and leaned against his shoulder. He tensed his muscles and glanced at his mother, but she just smiled and took his other hand, weaving her fingers into his in similar fashion.

Nathan sighed, content. There was no doubt about it. Dancing in harmony was very cool.

After a moment or two, a pang of doubt pierced his reverie.

As if following the path of a sweeping flood, Francesca Yellow’s voice pushed into his mind, the last words she spoke before returning to her world.
Just be sure to tell Kelly why Nathan
Shepherd is who he is. Remember
,
your talents are a gift
,
not a
birthright.

Soon, her voice passed away in ever quieter echoes. The scent of roses pushed into his nostrils, and a bittersweet film coated his tongue, a sign that Scarlet’s presence had again emerged. From where, he had no clue. But no doubt her eloquent words would follow.

Seconds later, a melody drifted across his mind as if played on the strings of a vibrant violin. Scarlet’s voice, soft as a whisper at first, rose to join the song, rising and falling with the cadence of each lilting phrase.

So now I leave a gift sublime,
The poet’s flair for words and rhyme;
A smell, a taste, you’ll know I’m near;
Unbidden words will soon appear.

And then another gift I’ll bring
To add to hymns your heart will sing;
For songs of love deserve reply,
A dance that lasts until you die.

A day will come when love mature
Will take the hand of one made pure
In everlasting song and dance,
A knight, a lady, sweet romance.

The words seemed to hang in the air. Nathan breathed in the song, freshening the flowery aroma. Kelly had sung that poem while they returned from Sarah’s Womb, just moments after he had thrown Scarlet’s dead body into the pit. Now it revived the painful truth that so much still separated Kelly from him . . . too much.

He glanced at her. What had she thought of the words while she sang them? She must have known what the everlasting dance implied, but did she understand all that Amber had explained? Or did she know only what dance symbolized, that as they listened to the music from on high, they had to play in harmony, each with a unique instrument, guided by the conductor’s baton as they submitted to a holy score?

And now she had taken his hand. What did that gesture mean to her? Did she want to dance with him? If so, what would it mean to her? Was she hoping to join him in everything he held dear? Even his faith?

He closed his eyes. It wasn’t the right time to ask questions.

She had offered a touch of friendship, so he just had to relax and enjoy it. The time to talk it all out would surely come later.

A gentle squeeze tightened his fingers from Kelly’s side. He opened his eyes, meeting her piercing gaze.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

Her voice was like a haunting melody — reaching, probing. Her gift had already interpreted a thousand silent messages, and now she sought out one he had hidden for far too long, though he couldn’t explain why.

“Yeah,” he finally replied. “Something’s wrong.”

She tilted her head, her eyebrows lifting. “Well, what is it?”

“Ask me later.” He settled back in his seat again and closed his eyes. He had to escape her penetrating stare. “When we’re alone.”

She slipped her fingers away from his. “I’ll wait.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “As long as it takes.”

Gunther maintained a steady speed and frequently checked his rearview mirror, apparently watching Tony’s progress and keeping watch for anyone else who might be following. After that brush with the zone police, there was no telling when or if the two stalkers in the first car might pick up their trail again, maybe with reinforcements.

After sporadic conversation about recent events, including Mictar’s Lucifer machine and how he would probably get it re-energized, they pulled into the parking lot of the observatory.

Nathan gazed out the window. As expected, it looked exactly like the observatories on Earths Red and Blue, including bronze block letters on the front brick wall that spelled out “Interfinity Labs.” The company apparently never took the name StarCast as it had on Red and Blue. Since Simon Yellow already knew what the observatory would become and how to contact Blue and Red, he probably persuaded the Dr. Gordon of this world to bypass the original moniker.

Gunther pulled into a space in the first row of the nearly empty lot, and Tony parked his pickup alongside. Daryl jumped out first, followed by Kelly, Nathan, and his mother. They hurried around the van and joined Amber and Gunther, who were watching Molly gently lift baby Kelly from her place in the backseat.

Now wearing a gray sweater over her yellow dress, Amber leaned close to Nathan. “Tony allowed me to use his outer garment, but I have no need of it. Harmony has been restored.”

“I heard. That’s great news.” Nathan looked up. With the sun shining through scattered clouds, the temperature had climbed quite a bit. The sky looked strange, more purple than blue, and hints of the atmospheric holes he had seen on Earth Blue speckled the canopy.

Kelly strode toward Molly. “May I hold her?” she asked, extending her arms.

“She’s almost asleep.” Molly passed her bundle to Kelly. “I gave her a bottle in the car, then Tony sang a few selections from an Italian opera. She seemed to like it.”

As soon as Molly let go of her baby, she reached for Tony. The two clasped hands and gazed at each other lovingly. “He has a soothing voice, you know.”

Kelly nodded, tears welling in her eyes. “I remember. I mean, I could tell.” She pushed the baby’s blanket to the side and stared, mesmerized.

Nathan sidled up to Kelly and looked at the drowsy little girl in her arms. With delicate pink skin, dainty eyelids, and a button nose, she seemed like a tiny angel, as vulnerable as she was beautiful. He let his gaze wander to Kelly’s face and combed across her features — the same nose, to be sure, but her skin had changed, tougher now with peach tones instead of pink. Still, the vulnerability remained, a girl wracked with pain — pain that her own life couldn’t reflect the joy of the life she had arranged for the duplicate angel in her arms.

A tear streamed down Kelly’s cheek, then another. Soon, she began weeping, her head bobbing as she clutched baby Kelly to her chest.

Nathan reached out a hand, but his mother spoke first. “Kelly? Are you all right?”

Tears still flowing, Kelly glanced at Nathan, but only for a second. She looked at his mother and nodded. “Can we talk?”

“Of course.”

Kelly sniffed and wiped a tear on her shoulder. “Let me collect myself first.”

“Whenever you’re ready.”

Tony pulled a collapsible pink stroller from the back of his pickup and unfolded it. “Time for baby Kelly to test out her new wheels.”

As Kelly laid the baby into the stroller, she looked up at Molly, her voice strained. “Why did you choose the name Kelly?”

“Well, Tony wanted a boy, and I wanted a girl, so we settled on a good Irish name that would work for either one.”

Kelly buckled the baby in place. As she pulled away, she locked gazes with the infant. The pair of small orbs shifted to follow her twin’s face, every movement seeming to bring awe and wonder to the tiny girl’s mind.

Kelly took Nathan’s mother’s hand, and as the two strolled to another part of the parking lot a new sound rode across the air — a car motor, chugging as if missing a spark plug.

Nathan turned toward the lot’s entrance. A sky blue Volkswagen Beetle lumbered in, a young man at the wheel. As he parked next to the truck, the woman in the passenger’s seat came into view: Francesca.

Amber squeezed Nathan’s arm. “My beloved!”

She stepped toward the car, but Nathan grabbed her hand and pulled her back. “She’s never met you, has she?” he asked.

Amber looked at him, her brow wrinkling. “We have met in her dreams, but she will likely not remember.”

“Then maybe it’s better to wait a minute. You don’t want to startle her.” Just as Nathan released her hand, a nervous shiver buzzed along his skin. The driver had to be Solomon Shepherd, the Earth Yellow version of his father. Meeting him would be so strange . . . maybe too strange.

5

SOLOMON YELLOW

Solomon, who appeared to be in his early twenties, helped Francesca out of the car and nodded at Nathan, as if to say, “I’ll talk to you in a minute.” He then folded down the front seat and lifted a baby from an infant carrier in the back.

After settling the baby in Francesca’s arms, he strode toward Nathan, a big smile on his face. “You must be Nathan, my Earth Red son.”

Nathan cleared his throat and extended his hand. “Yes, sir. I mean, yeah. That’s me.”

“Glad to meet you.” Solomon shook Nathan’s hand firmly. “We have a lot to talk about.”

“We sure do.” Nathan stared into Solomon’s deep brown eyes, the same eyes that had watched over him for sixteen years. Or were they? Did those eyes reflect the wisdom that sixteen more years of life as a father would bring?

“Would you like to meet your twin?” Solomon asked, pointing over his shoulder with his thumb.

Nathan shoved his hands into his pockets. Solomon’s voice and tone matched his father’s exactly. “Yeah,” Nathan said, shrugging his shoulders. “Sure.”

“Only for a moment, though.” Solomon’s brow creased slightly. “We have a considerable amount of work to accomplish. As soon as I heard about your arrival, I arranged for the others to meet us here. We’ve been waiting for Tony to bring the mirrors from Scotland, so now we can carry out our tests.”

Francesca joined them, carrying the blanket-wrapped baby in her arms. “Hello, Nathan,” she said. “It’s so good to see you again.”

“Yeah.” Nathan tried to hide a nervous swallow. With her raven locks flowing in the cold breeze and her smile as vibrant as it had been when he met her as a precocious ten-year-old, she was as beautiful as ever. Yet now, dressed in a long trench coat with the collar pulled high, she looked like a wife and mother, a flower in full blossom. “It’s good to see you, too.”

She placed the baby into his arms, helping him make a safe cradle. “I suppose you don’t have to guess what we named him.”

Nathan pushed the corner of the blanket out of the way, revealing little Nathan’s face. With wisps of blondish hair protruding from the edges of a blue cap, thin lips pursing into a lax pucker, and a tiny nose wrinkling as he nestled into his protector’s arms, this little one was as familiar as Nathan’s own reflection, the living image of dozens of photos that adorned an album his mother always kept on her dresser.

Francesca touched a slight dimple in the baby’s chin and grinned. “He looks just like you, Nathan.”

Nathan’s cheeks warmed. She was right, almost embarrassingly so. Would this child do everything he, himself, had done? Even the stupid things? “Yeah. I can see that. At least, I remember the pictures.”

The baby squirmed, then whimpered. Nathan handed him back to Francesca. “When he turns six, he might give you a hard time about violin lessons, but don’t listen to him.”

As she laid the baby in a stroller, she winked. “Don’t worry, son. I won’t.”

Gunther slapped the side of his van. “I’d better get going before the zone police track me down again.”

“Where will you go?” Nathan asked.

He shrugged. “Anywhere but here. Maybe I’ll find a shady spot to sleep.” He jumped into the driver’s seat and started the engine. “Just call if you need me.” After giving everyone a wave, he drove out of the lot.

Solomon nodded at Tony. “Did you bring one of the mirrors?”

“Got it right here,” Tony said, lifting a Wilson sports bag.

“The others are locked in the back of my truck.”

Nathan looked at the far side of the parking lot. His mother and Kelly were now walking back, still hand in hand. “I guess we’d better get going,” he said. “It might take a while if we have to figure out the security codes.”

“No need for codes.” Solomon led the way, walking at a quick pace. “I called ahead. Both Dr. Simons are waiting for us, so the security doors should be deactivated.”

Nathan looked back. His mother and Kelly were now jogging to catch up. “How long have you been working with the Simons?”

“For a while.” Solomon opened the front glass door and held it, waiting for Kelly and Nathan’s mother to arrive. For a moment he fell silent, and Nathan watched Solomon’s eyes take in Francesca Red as she approached. He wondered what it would be like to meet your spouse from the future. He half expected them to start a conversation, but they only nodded at each other as Francesca and Kelly passed through the open door and into the spacious lobby.

BOOK: Nightmare’s Edge
9.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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