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Authors: Rachael Craw

Spark (6 page)

BOOK: Spark
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“That’s her!” I run to the window and shove back the voluminous curtains, knowing I sound crazy, sure I’m losing my mind. But I’ve never been more certain of anything than I am in this moment: something terrible is happening to Kitty.

I lean out the window. The room looks over the garages. I strain to hear more but there’s nothing. “Miriam! I swear, that was her!”

“You don’t want to hurt her?”

“What?” I spin around. “No!”

She closes her eyes, her head rocking back.

“I can’t explain it. I just – feel it.” I put my hand on my stomach. “She’s in danger. Something bad is happening now! Please! Help me!”

Tires squeal below. I freeze. So does Miriam; she definitely heard that.

My desperation reaches its peak. Something tears. Curtains fall from my hands. “Miriam,” I cry. “Give me the key.”

The slam of a car door echoes. A man’s shout follows.

“I’m begging you.”

Resignation hollows her eyes. She steps aside, opens her hand and there’s the key. I take it, stagger across the room and fumble at the keyhole then a sharp pain jars the back of my head. I hit the door, then the carpet and black out.

CHOSEN

“Evie.” A cold hand touches my cheek. “Evie?”

I can tell I’m sitting up, but my head hangs forwards, too heavy to lift. An egg-sized lump throbs on the back of it. I try to swallow and unglue my eyes but both sting. I go to touch my parched mouth but can’t lift my arms. Even my panic doesn’t feel right, instinct bubble-wrapped and weighed down. I know I should shout and flail but can’t quite get at it. I moan and the cold hands cover mine.

“Evie, it’s me.”

Miriam.

I crack my eyes open and find a blur of light and colour.

“Are you thirsty?” Her pale arms move. A plastic straw touches my lips. “Drink.”

I sip at first, then gulp until I’m gasping.

“It’s the Fretizine.” She picks something up from the table. “It dries you out.”

It’s like peering through a tunnel of fuzz, but I make out the syringe she’s holding. It’s empty. She puts it down. The details don’t add up. We’re home in Miriam’s kitchen. Something binds my wrists to the arms of a dining chair. Dishcloths? Something else binds my legs, like I’ve woken in a movie where I’m the hostage and Miriam’s the lunatic who’s struck me, bound me, drugged me, dragged me back to her lair. “What are you doing?”

“Protecting you from yourself. Suppressing your adrenaline. Keeping you calm.” She sits back, elbow on the table, head propped on her fingertips. “I won’t untie you till you’ve heard me out, till I can be sure you’re not going to do something stupid.”

Protecting? Suppressing?

A thought balloons in the weirdness, big and red. “Kitty.” I pull numbly at my bonds, making the chair creak. “Is she here? Where is she?”

“Kitty’s in hospital. You were right.”

My bubble-wrapped panic strains for release. I want to fight and scream but all I can do is groan and close my eyes, making the dizziness worse. “She’s hurt? Someone hurt her?”

“She came and found me after you fainted.” Miriam rubs her face. “She followed Jamie and me when he carried you upstairs. I convinced them to go back to the party, said you would be embarrassed, that it would be better if they went. She wouldn’t leave unless I promised to text her as soon as you came around. Apparently, she couldn’t find her phone and went to look for it in the car. She was attacked. The police think someone was after the necklace.”

I sway in my seat.

“A service van pulled in. The driver saw the attacker drop Kitty, and vault the wall into the grounds. The necklace was in pieces beside her.”

“How bad – how bad is she hurt?”

“Ligament damage to the neck. Dislocated elbow. Bruising to the face.”

Dismay thickens my throat. “If you’d let me–”

“What?” She raises her eyebrows. “You could barely walk straight. Your hands were so weak you couldn’t get the key in the lock.”

Tears prick my eyes. “You don’t understand.”

“I wish I didn’t.” She draws a long breath. “I really wish we were all just losing our minds.”

“Tell me they got the guy.”

“I highly doubt it. I got you out of there as soon as the cry went up.”

I twist weakly in my seat. “Untie me–”

“You’d only fall over and hurt yourself. Listen, I’m going to tell you some things now that aren’t going to make sense. You won’t want to believe me, but if you listen to your body, you’ll know I’m telling the truth.”

The words are too strange. “I don’t–”

She touches the back of her neck and grimaces. “I will tell you as much as I can before they come. I have some time, I think.”

“What?” I choke. “Who’s coming?”

She ignores me and ploughs on, “You’re worried about Kitty because she’s in danger and you feel you need to protect her. Your body’s been changing, preparing to,” she pauses, touches the back of her neck again, and lowers her voice, “
Spark
.” She gives the word as little weight as possible as though stress or inflection might set it off like a landmine. “
Priming
,” volume dips for this word, too, before she continues in her normal voice, “
Priming
is the technical term. That’s what all the pins and needles have been about. The growth spurt, breaking things, I’m guessing the hole in the laundry wall and your reaction to Kitty at the cafe.”

It’s like watching a badly dubbed movie with the wrong audio track laid over the picture. I stare at her, confounded, but I can’t deny the fear that floods me, the crash and roar of it in my head.

“Bursts of adrenaline, heart palpitations.”

“I never said I had palpitations.” Like it matters, like it proves something.


Priming
prepares your body to respond to a
Spark
.”

Aggravated by the soft landing of her first and last words, I screw my lips up. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Kitty is the
Spark
for the synthetic gene in your DNA. You’ve transitioned.” Her brow furrows. “It’s what you were made for – you’re a
Shield
, Evangeline.
Shields
are defenders, protectors. Turns out you were made to protect Kitty.” Shield gets the soft touch with the other landmine words, but I lock on the only thing that makes sense: protect. One true word in the jumble of crazy and I cling to it like it’s solid rock. It names the tension in me. But the rest of it: synthetic gene, DNA? “You’re making fun of me, all this whispering bullshit.”

“Drugging you and tying you to a chair is a little extreme for a joke.”

“Then, what? You’re trying to teach me some insane lesson about post-traumatic stress? That I’m deluded? That what I’m feeling isn’t – that Kitty’s not my–”

“What you’re feeling is real and Kitty is your responsibility. You’re bound.”

Bound
.

I pant, floundering again for a secure hold, but she just sits there, watching, waiting for me to concede. Disdain makes my voice low and rough. “So? I’m a lunatic with a saviour complex?”

“Same as me.”

A vivid scene flashes to the foreground of my mind, a waking vision, like I’ve hit replay: Miriam in the bathroom, the faucets roaring over the tub, the gash on her thigh. I shake my heavy head and I’m back in the kitchen, disorientated.

“I saw that,” Miriam gasps.

“Saw?” The word doesn’t fit. “Saw what?”

“Your memory of me in the bathroom.” Her eyelids flutter. “Like – like a movie clip. Even fully matured – I mean, not all of us can do that.”

All of us?

I feel myself recoiling and tighten my grip on the arms of the chair, needing the sting in my cut thumb. “You think you
saw
what I was just thinking?”

“Kinetic Memory Transference. You recalled a memory and projected it.” She waves her hand in front of her face. “Without even touching. Normally, KMT requires touch.”

“Miriam.” I shake my head. “You’re not – that doesn’t make any sense. You have to untie me–” She cuts me off, putting her hand on my shoulder and closing her eyes. Instantly, I see myself from Miriam’s point of view, sitting across from Kitty at the cafe, my hand darting to catch the bottom of her coffee mug. I flinch and the vision ends.

She sits back. “You saw that.”

“Hallucinations.”

“You’ve had them before? But I’ve never Transferred anything to you.” Her mouth opens and closes. “You can Harvest?”

“What?”

“KMT is what you project for someone to see, but KMH is when you access someone’s memory, whether they like it or not, and experience it as they experienced it. Like being in their movie clip as them. It should be impossible for you.”

I want to deny all of it, but the evidence piles up against me: when she hugged me in the bathroom the night she got home; when she pushed past me in the darkroom to lock the utility cupboard; when Jamie lifted me in his arms on the patio before I cut my hand and passed out. Each time a vivid hallucination reliving a memory that wasn’t my own. My eyes sting with tears. “This is crazy. I don’t understand.”

She leans towards me. “You’re not listening to your body.”

My fear for Kitty is a physical ache. “We’re wasting time. I don’t know what any of this means and right now I don’t care. I just have to see her. Untie me.”

She looks at her hands, clasping them together as though she’s about to chair a meeting. “I can’t do that. You’re in no state–”

“Because you knocked me out and pumped me with drugs!” It’s as close as I can get to a proper shout.

“You can scan for a threat.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It’s what it’s all about, kid, what you have to protect her from. The
Stray
.” Again the drop in volume. “Not a vague threat or a clumsy thief. Like you were made to keep Kitty safe, the
Stray
was made to kill her.”

My head spins and I don’t know what infuriates me more, the ridiculous whispered terminology or Miriam’s determination to keep up her rambling. “You think,” I finally say, “that someone actually wants to kill her?”

“That is what every cell in your body is telling you. But for now she’s safe. He won’t try again straight off. He’ll need to recover from exposing himself.
Strays
are all about dark corners, lonely places and self-preservation. They would never attempt anything in a crowd.”

“It was the Governor’s Ball.” I grasp at something to argue against. “Hundreds of people.”

“She was well past the service area. It would only have taken a moment to subdue her and drag her off.”

The idea makes me shake. Other bubble-wrapped feelings strain inside me, darker than anger. I want to run, screaming or throw up on my feet.

“She’s in hospital,” Miriam says. “There are people everywhere and more importantly her family is with her. But you can scan for a threat, right now, for the sake of peace of mind. We’re not going to make any progress until you can relax.”

“Relax?” I choke. “Is that a joke?”

“Close your eyes. Bring Kitty into focus.”

At first, I scowl, but the need to do something makes me compliant. I close my eyes. Kitty arrives in vivid detail. I stop breathing.

“Can you feel anything?”

I can’t express what I feel. My body vibrates as the panic comes loose of its bubble wrap and I groan.

“Let the fear pass. See if the shadow rises.”

I grip the chair at the painful peak of emotion, then gradually the tide ebbs. The shadow doesn’t come. I slump back and open my eyes. The drug fog has lifted. Though I can finally see clearly, it’s as if I’ve been sucked through a wormhole and everything is upside down. “I don’t understand. This isn’t real. I’m going to wake up and this will–”

“Still be happening to you.”

I close my eyes. “Please, untie me. I’m not going to do anything stupid. My cut hurts.”

She frowns, lips parting to argue.

“Please, Miriam. I’ll listen.”

She hesitates then rises from her seat to unknot the dishcloths. “I’m sorry I hit you.” Her hard mask falters. She looks devastated, as if her worst fears have been realised. “I had to get you home. I was afraid you’d hurt yourself trying to help her. You’re not ready. You’re too weak and there’s so much to explain, so much you need to understand first.”

One arm comes free and the rush of circulation makes me wince. I flex my fingers, swivel my hand. She releases the knot on the other and I rub at the red marks. Blood has begun to seep through the bandage. She bends to untie my ankles and I wonder distantly what she’s done with my high heels. Miriam straightens up and hovers like she might throw herself on me if I make a false move.

“Tell me just one thing that makes sense.”

Miriam sits and frowns at the table. Her face assumes that look people get when they’re about to break terrible news. “I think I might be able to show you. If I can show you, it will make the explanation a lot easier to swallow.”

“Show me what?”

“KMT. To show you how I got hurt and what it is we do. But it would be more powerful if you could Harvest. You’d feel what I felt and in this case the feeling is more important than anything else.”

“I don’t know how.”

She reaches her hand out to me, palm up. “Concentrate. I’ll do my best to remember, but you’ll have to take hold of it and really look, okay?”

Goosebumps flash across the back of my neck and the hair on my arms prickles. “I’ll see it?”

She nods, swallows, spreads her hands and closes her eyes.

I hold my breath and brace, but when I touch her I’m not ready for the immediate sensory plunge. “Oh. Oh God.”

KMH

It’s a night scene. A street scene. A park fenced by a low stone wall and pointed iron railings. Opposite, there are restaurants spliced with narrow alleys, black mouths open in the dark.

I sit in a parked car. It smells of air freshener and Armor All. The dash is pristine and raindrops bead on smudge-free windows. This isn’t Miriam’s old VW. When my head moves, I catch my aunt’s reflection in the rearview, eyes black. My hands are her hands, gloved and gripping the steering wheel, waiting.

One restaurant draws my eye; its lacquered door, hooded by a blood-red canopy, reflected in the wet road, vivid and almost vibrating in its significance for me. The longer I look, the stronger the pull grows. From somewhere behind my bellybutton, an invisible bungee stretches like a tether to someone in that restaurant. Stress discharges adrenaline through my body.

BOOK: Spark
10.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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