~kieran~

When Chance woke up from his nap, Eve offered to feed him a bottle. She had him down in the kitchen. I was in the living room, looking through Eve’s grandparents’ old books for something to read. We hadn’t heard word from any of the search parties looking for Azazel, so it was just a matter of time before we needed to go to the OF for Cameron. Until then, I was bored. And I couldn’t stop thinking about my confusing love life, or lack of one to put it more accurately.

I was perusing the back cover of a Michael Crichton paperback when I heard the gunshots.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. After all, there were usually people hunting in the woods for food, and it wasn’t like this wasn’t gun country.

Then, I heard Eve’s voice, strangled and full of fear. “Kieran! Raiders!”

I dropped the book on the floor and scrambled out of the living room. There were these groups of traveling thieves these days. People who’d decided that since society had collapsed, it was a good time for them to go traipsing about, taking food and provisions from people. Usually at gunpoint.

I heard glass shatter as I ran into the hallway. They were breaking in. Goddammit! This was my fault. If I hadn’t gotten Eve to send half the Satanists away on a wild goose chase for Azazel, this would never have happened. We’d have had plenty of protection.

Eve screamed. Oh God. They must have broken into the kitchen!

I sprinted for the kitchen where Eve and Chance were, uncapping the power inside my body as I ran. I reached out with its fizzing fingers for minds, and I found them.

But the problem was that I couldn’t tell who was who. There were too many individual people this close. I felt lots of confusion. Lots of rage. But that didn’t help me tell the difference. Which were the raiders? Which were Eve and Chance? I couldn’t unleash the power over everyone. I couldn’t risk hurting either of them.

I careened around a corner in the house and was in the doorway to the kitchen. I had about a second to take the scene in. Eve was standing with her back against the counter, her body curled around Chance. A man with a ski mask over his face had a gun in her face. There were other men going through the pantry. I started to differentiate minds from each other with the power when—

Something fast and heavy slammed into the side of my waist. There was loud crack, like thunder.

I felt myself thrown back from the doorway. I landed sprawling in the hall outside the kitchen, feeling like something was exploding inside me.

A half-second later, I was blinded by excruciating pain, radiating up and down the side of my body.

I gasped, looking down at myself. I was bleeding.

Someone had shot me.

Dumbly, I gaped at the spreading red stain on my shirt. So much blood. And Jesus, the pain. I wanted to cry out, to scream. To do something. But instead, I stared at myself, not speaking, not moving.

Around me, everything else seemed to have gotten fuzzy and slow. I couldn’t understand the noises I was hearing. They sounded like people underwater or the way the adults sound on A Charlie Brown Christmas—completely unintelligible. I caught a vague hint of laughter and something that sound like wailing.

It hurt to breathe. More and more blood was seeping out of me. It was soaking my shirt and the top of my pants. It was so dark red. I couldn’t look away from it. Was I going to die? Was I dead? Was that why I wasn’t moving?

No. It hurt too much to be dead. It hurt like hell.

I could still hear the underwater voices, and I was starting to be able to understand them. But I couldn’t do anything except gaze at myself bleeding, watching all the red life drain out of myself.

“Leave the fucking baby,” a voice was saying. “But take the girl. The girl might be fun.”

A chuckle.

The baby? I knew who that was, didn’t I? And the girl…?

Shit. Chance and Eve.

Concentrating as hard as I could, I wrenched my gaze away from my gunshot. I struggled to focus on the scene in front of me. Everything seemed a little hazy.

A man with a gun was ripping Chance from Eve’s arms.

She spat in his face.

The man yanked Chance away and set him on the floor, laughing. “Feisty one, are you?” He pushed the length of his body against Eve’s.

She whimpered.

And the power surged up inside me like a tidal wave. It crashed over the men’s heads, tugging them out of the kitchen. There were gunshots. There were throaty screams. Outside, blood and brain matter spattered against the kitchen windows.

And then it was quiet.

I looked back at my wound. Shit. That really hurt.

***

~joan~

“Who’s Cameron?” I said.

“Your foster brother,” said Jason.

“How many brothers do I have?” I said.

“A lot,” said Jason. “But most of them are dead.”

I was confused.

“Don’t worry,” Jason said. “My brother’s dead too.”

Garth or Cameron or whoever he was waved his gun in Jason’s face. “Shut up.” He raised his eyebrows. “How did you know it was me?”

Jason considered. “Well, I had a fifty-fifty shot. You said foster brother, and I figured you had to be either Cameron or… I forget the other one. Ned?”

“Nick,” Cameron said. “You’re disgusting.”

Jason nodded. “Yeah, that seems to be the consensus these days.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “So, you’re controlling this guy’s body. That takes some mojo. What did you do, start messing around with Satanist powers or something?”

Cameron smiled. “You always were pretty darned smart, Jason. I should kill you right now. I could. I could shoot you in the head.”

“It probably won’t work,” Jason said. “I heal pretty quickly from gunshots unless she shoots me.” He jerked his head at me.

“I shot you?” I said, feeling even more confused.

“What can I say?” said Jason. “You were grouchy last spring.”

And what did he mean that he healed from gunshots unless I shot him? There was so much I didn’t know. It was driving me insane.

Cameron looked annoyed. “Maybe you’re right. After all, I’m only blocking your powers of persuasion right now. I haven’t figured out how to block out everything.” He snapped the gun away from Jason and aimed it at Tessa again.

She was lying on the ground next to him, terror all over her face.

“Don’t,” I said.

Cameron leered at me. “You abandoned me. You and Jason ran off, got everyone killed, and left me all alone. I was happy with your family. It was the only time I ever belonged. And you ruined everything. So explain to me why I should listen to anything you say.”

I didn’t have an explanation. “I don’t remember doing any of that!”

“Right,” said Cameron. “Your amnesia. I’d forgotten. Convenient for you, I guess. Funny that even though you don’t remember anything, you’re still shoved up Jason’s ass.”

“You’re blocking my powers?” said Jason.

“With a little help from the OF,” said Cameron. “I popped in to give you a little message, Jason. I’m going to destroy your world, the same way you destroyed mine.”

Jason rolled his eyes. “Please. I hardly think whatever you went through could possibly compare to what I’ve been through. So your life is destroyed. Poor, pitiful Cameron. Whatever kind of life you’ve got, it’s a paid vacation to Hawaii compared to mine. Get over yourself.”

Cameron’s face twisted in anger. “Don’t mock me. I have access to power that can bring you to your knees, you arrogant twat. You have no idea the things that I can do.”

“Oooh,” Jason said, “you can take over bodies. I’m terrified. Grow up, Cameron. This revenge stuff is so high school.”

Cameron stalked over to Tessa and pulled her up by collar of her shirt. He fitted the gun underneath her chin.

“Stop!” I said.

Tessa’s eyes met mine. She was so scared.

“This would be Azazel,” said Cameron, “if I didn’t want to make sure I got her memories back in her before I killed her. It’s no fun to kill someone who doesn’t understand why she’s dying.”

“Let Tessa go,” I said.

“I don’t even know that girl’s name,” Jason said to Cameron. “You’re not really doing much to me here.”

“Jason.” I grabbed his arm. “That’s Tessa. She’s my friend. You can’t let him hurt her.”

Jason glowered at me. “You’re really awfully bossy now that I can’t control your mind, you know that?”

I pulled back, hurt. Why was he talking to me that way? What was wrong with him? “Help her.” I begged him with my eyes.

Jason turned back to Cameron. “So, I think I got your message. You had a terrible life, and you blame me, and now you’re going to get revenge. That about sum it up?”

“You aren’t afraid of me,” said Cameron, “but you will be.” And he pulled the trigger.

I screamed.

Tessa’s head whipped back with the force of the bullet and hung lifeless from her neck. Her eyes had gone glassy. A dribble of blood and spittle dripped out of the side of her mouth.

“NO!” I yelled.

Cameron dropped Tessa and put the gun against his temple. “See you soon, Jason.”

He shot Garth’s head, and Garth’s body fell lifelessly to the ground next to his sister’s. I lurched forward, dropping to my knees next to them, tears streaming down my face, a sob caught in my throat.

I looked up at Jason, who was looking at their bodies, a troubled expression on his face. “You didn’t do anything,” I whispered.

He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out.

“You really are a monster, aren’t you?”

He clenched his jaw, but he didn’t look away.

It was me that turned back to the bodies of my friends, letting the sobs overtake my body. It was odd, how familiar this felt. Loss. Death. Was this what my life had been before I lost my memory? Was this how I felt before? No wonder I’d left Jason. No wonder I’d tried to kill him.

***

~kieran~

Eve knelt down next to me. Her face was wet with tears. Everything seemed fuzzy and confusing. The most real thing was the pain in my side. I put my hand on her cheek.

“Oh God,” she whispered. “Kieran.”

I looked deep into her blue eyes. She was like an angel. “You’re okay.”

She nodded, putting her hand over mine.

“Are they gone? The raiders?”

“Yes,” she said. “You got them. You saved me.”

I pulled the power back inside me. If it were possible, the wound in my side was hurting even worse now. With every shallow breath I took, I felt a stabbing sensation. “I couldn’t handle it,” I said to Eve. “When I saw them trying to hurt you, it made me crazy.”

“Shh,” she said. “Don’t try to talk.” She reached down to tug at my shirt.

I gasped. It hurt!

“God, I can’t believe you got shot.”

“Is it bad?” I asked. I looked down at it again. I was soaked in blood. It was pooling on the floor underneath my body. Behind Eve, the world seemed to be swimming. I could hardly focus on anything except her face and her voice.

“I don’t…” She shook her head.

Bad, then. Maybe I was dying. If I was dying… I tugged her closer, pulling her down so that her face was close to my own. “I need to tell you something.”

She pushed my hair away from my face. “You can tell me when you feel better. Don’t strain yourself.”

But what if I didn’t feel better? What if this was it? “Right now, all that stuff we were talking about before just seems stupid.” I slid my hand behind her head, so that I was cupping her neck, and I gently pulled her face to mine.

When our lips met, it didn’t hurt for a second. For a very brief period of time, I could only think about Eve—the way she smelled, how soft her blonde curls were against my fingers, the sound of her breath quickening.

Then she pulled away, and it hurt again. I groaned.

“Kieran,” she said. “You’ve been shot. I don’t think this is the time to be making out.”

I tried to laugh, but that hurt too much.

Chance came crawling out of the kitchen, looking wide-eyed but happy. “Duh-duh-duh,” he said. “Duh-duh-kuh-kuh-kuh.”

Eve turned to me in astonishment. “He said your name, Kieran.”

I rested my head against the wall behind me. “He’s just making noises.” The world swam before my eyes again. Then I passed out.

This book is being posted on Mondays and Thursdays between 7/4/2011 and 9/5/2011. To access other chapters, check out the Between Posts Archive, here.