He tilted his head to the side and frowned. “What do you know? You remember nothing.”
He was right. I remembered nothing, but I knew enough.
I didn’t give myself time to think about what I was doing. I launched to my feet, cocking my arm back. Surprise flickered across his face, and then that was all I let my brain register as I brought my arm forward with every ounce of strength I had in me, jabbing the piece of bark deep into his eye.
His scream was cut off as I jerked my arm back and slammed the bark into his other eye, ignoring the sound and feel. He went down on his knees, and I followed him as I started to pull the bark out, but it snapped off, embedded deep.
He shifted under me, a solid, heated mass. Bright light surrounded me and then went through me. Throwing my head back, I screamed as a deep, intense throbbing pain lit up the center of my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. The pain and light swallowed me.
And then I was flying—spinning through the air. I caught brief glimpses of the sky and trees. When I hit the ground, it jolted every bone, but I barely . . . I barely felt it.
I tried to sit up, but I couldn’t move more than turning my head, and when that happened, it sort of just flopped to the side.
Something . . . something felt wet inside me, like I was drowning from the inside.
The sky erupted in a bright, intense light, and I thought I heard the Origin screaming. The air crackled and spat fire. Shapes took form and blurred as I blinked, trying to clear my vision, but there was a whiteness clinging to the corners. Day turned to night. A roaring sound deafened me as the entire world seemed to bend to the power charging every square inch. The light flared and pulsed. The air . . . The air smelled weird.
Then I saw Luc.
He slammed the Origin into the ground, through it. Dirt spewed into the air, a thick, musty-smelling cloud. Luc lifted him once more before driving the Origin deeper into the hard soil.
“Why?” Luc demanded, clutching the Origin’s throat as he lifted him out of the pit his body had made. Arms flopped limp and useless at his sides. “Why all of this, Micah?”
The name. I remembered Luc mentioning his name when he told me about the kids.
Micah coughed out a broken, bloody-sounding laugh. “Because I knew I couldn’t beat you. You’d do what I couldn’t.”
A horrifying moment ticked by and then Luc dropped him as if he were burned. “What?”
Half disappearing into the ground, Micah let out a groan. “You have no idea what is coming. Everything is over. Everything. I’m not going to be here for that. There’ll come a time when you’re . . .” His voice dropped, and I couldn’t hear what he said until his voice rose once more. “They’re already here.”
I saw Luc’s response.
He stared down at Micah, aghast. A heartbeat passed and then half his arm disappeared into the ground Micah had fallen into. There was a flash of intense light, and I knew . . . I knew Micah was no more.
Relief . . . bittersweet relief swept through me, and I closed my eyes. My heart felt sluggish, and there was a bone-deep cold settling into me.
“Peaches. Open your eyes.” Hands cupped my cheeks. Strong hands. Warm and alive. My eyes fluttered open again.
“How . . . how are you still alive after that?” I’d seen him—seen all the blood. How was he kneeling above me? “How?”
“Wasn’t my time.” His gaze roamed over me as he gathered me into his arms, pulling me to his chest. “Peaches, what did you do? Look at you.”
“I . . . I jabbed his eyeballs out.”
A choked sound left him as he folded one arm around my waist. “I saw that. Not going to forget that for a long time.”
My mouth felt weird, like my tongue was swollen. “I don’t . . . I don’t feel right.”
Luc lowered his forehead to mine as his hand slipped from my cheek, down to the center of my chest. “I’m going to make you feel better, okay?”
I thought I said okay. I wasn’t sure. The world was a whirling kaleidoscope of pain and heat . . . and Luc. There was a distinct impression of being here before, of him holding me as my body gave out, but then that fragment faded.
“I told you to run.” His voice was hoarse as heat flared from his palm, washing over me. I recognized the feeling, welcoming it as it beat back the coldness. The heat spread, working its way through tissue and bone. “Why didn’t you run? Peaches? Talk to me.”