“The serum worked, Nadia, and that’s why. You’re going to get very sick, very soon. You already are starting to feel the effects. I can see the fever in your skin. I bet your joints are beginning to ache.”
“The fever will get worse, and it will feel like you’re dying. I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Mom closed the photo album. “And then a new life begins.”
A dawning sense of horror crept into Nadia’s watery eyes. “You’re going to mutate me.”
Mom didn’t respond.
Another tremor coursed through Nadia’s body, and then she was scrambling back from the island, turning as if to run, but she only made it a foot before she doubled over, her knees giving out.
Out of reflex, I moved, but Mom reacted with Luxen speed, catching Nadia before she could hit the floor. Scooping Nadia’s hair out of her face, she carefully placed her on her knees. And it was in the nick of time, too.
Nadia’s entire body spasmed violently, and then she threw up blackish-blue bile that shimmered. I knew what that signified. She was mutating.
I was mutating.
“What have you—?” Nadia heaved again, tears streaming down her face. Black stained her lips. “What have you done to me?”
“Saved your life,” Mom whispered, kneeling beside Nadia. She reached for her, but Nadia shrank away from the touch. “You will never get sick again, Nadia. You will be better, and then they will make you stronger.”
Nadia stared down at her hands, her body trembling as the veins under her skin became inky.
“The reason why I told you all of this?” Mom asked. “Because eventually you won’t remember any of this. You won’t remember ever being here as Nadia. You won’t even remember Luc.”
Nadia lifted her head. “No.”
Sylvia nodded. “I’m sorry.”
“No!” she cried. “You can’t do that. You can’t take my memories. I won’t forget him.”
Sylvia said nothing as my heart cracked in my chest. She would forget him. I would forget all of him and all of this.
“I won’t forget him.” Nadia’s head jerked as her back bowed, the angle unnatural. “I won’t forget him. I won’t—”
She screamed as her arms twisted, her body bending as if all the bones had turned to liquid. Her head snapped to the side, and I gasped.
Nadia looked straight at where I stood, black seeping across the whites of her eyes like an oil spill. “Don’t forget.”* * *The abyss came for me and held me tight in its grasp until a new voice, one I was unfamiliar with, tugged me from the recesses of sleep. Drawn into a semiconscious state, I wasn’t sure if I was still dreaming or not.
The woman spoke softly, so I heard only bits of what she said, and it didn’t make a lot of sense. “It’s the same as it was last night. Her vitals are, well, they’re perfect. Like an athlete in her prime.” Her voice faded out only to return in the same quiet, calm tone. “All I can say is that she’s sleeping.”
“There is no way she’s just sleeping.”
That was definitely Luc, and there was a heavy thread of concern along with a razor-sharp edge of anger. I wanted to tell him it was okay, because it was, but my bones felt like they were weighted with lead.
“I know, but there’s no physical reason that I can determine that explains why she won’t…” The woman’s voice faded as I slipped back into a deeper sleep and stranger dreams.
Flashes of images that formed with crystal clarity before fading and disappearing from my memories. Others that lingered and became shadows in my mind.
And I found myself standing in a city of steel that held centuries of memories and millions of voices but was now quiet. Before me, a sea of yellow cabs and black cars sat unoccupied, doors closed and engines turned off. Storefronts and hotels were silent and empty of light. Tiny hairs all over my body were standing, electrified by the currents of power in the air—in the currents of power snapping over my knuckles, light outlined in shadows.
My gaze fell to the cracked and broken asphalt. Pools of ruby liquid seeped through the fissures, humming with rage and power. Above and all around me, the city trembled. Buildings that were as tall as mountains shattered into themselves. Cement and brick crumbled into ash that glimmered like fireflies. Buildings collapsed in screams that tasted of metal. Fire the color of night blanketed a sky that could no longer hold the sun.
Coldness seeped into world.
The power radiating from me was icy heat.
“Open your eyes and talk to me.”
His voice punched through the dreams, tearing a pinprick-size hole in the rippling black flames, and brilliant diamond light appeared like a star in a far-off galaxy. Time passed, and then his voice spread that tiny hole. Light grew.