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   Chapter 57

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 13103

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


My dreams are long and dark, patchworked together of twisted images that make me twitch and cry in my sleep. Jaylin dead: a sword through her chest, her body slumped over a chair. Heaven curled against Poison, her face burned and her expression grim as he touches her. Empty.

The skies glaze purple, hissing and snapping. Owl stands in front of the capitol building, her armor glittering against the shining sky. Gats kneels at her side. In the crisp reels of my mind“s eye, I see so perfectly the serene expression on his face. And when he opens his eyes, it melts into a painted smile. He lifts his head and chains rattle from around his neck and wrists.

When I wake up, my eyes stream with hot tears, my breath shuddering in my chest. I scrabble up against the seat belt and press my hands on the window, my wrists puffy from the cuffs.

I haven“t had a vision since the dance. Thinking of Jaylin, I shudder and wipe away tears.

The gentle ebb of Gats“ breathing fills the backseat. He“s tucked in a ball, his head to the side and his arms crossed over his chest like a mummy“s. The sword“s squeezed between his knees, the tip almost touching his nose.

Watching him stills the flood of after-images. The horror of seeing carnage like that, even imaginary, still gnaws my thoughts. It makes me sick. Even my thoughts aren“t safe anymore.

I need therapy. That“s what I“m asking for on my birthday. Not a puppy, not a new phone, therapy. And maybe Kepler, if I can find her. A life free from that feels like a faraway fantasy.

Gats“ fingers twitch, and I pull at the blade. Mom turns. The plates of her armor rub up against each other and click. "Well." She adjusts her earpiece. "He sleeps a lot."

"He“s a cat, Mom. And he“s mean." I jerk the sword out of his arms, the hilt so heavy my arms wilt. He wakes with a start, snatching the hilt back so hard the blade slashes two-inch long tears in my hands. I yelp and wipe my hands on my shirt, growing spots of blood blotting the Polo red. He clenches the hilt so hard his arms tremble. He growls, low and primal. When he curls his lip, the blood in my face makes him look more animal than human. I back against the window. "Gats." I raise my chained hands coolly. "Stop it."

Mom whistles. More canary than Owl, really. The glow of her armor makes my eyes burn.

"We“re almost there, boys. Don“t kill each other."

"Well, tell Gats to stop going psycho on me! I just moved the stupid sword so he wouldn“t stab himself in his sleep." I try to cross my arms, but with my wrists bound up all I can do is flap my elbows like a chicken. So, instead, I just huff and drop them in my lap. The smell of blood and sweat tells me I need a shower. Badly. Gats frowns at me, tossing a strand of hair out of his face. Then he lays the sword flat across his lap.

"Sorry," he mutters.

"You really need to stop saying that."

"Shut up, Angel."

"That too."

I smile to myself as he looks down at the sword again, slow and deliberate. So what if he wants to kill me? Owl has him by his strings. I have to accept that, for now at least. As the car slows, the chill creeps back through me from my dreams.

There are thousands of possible futures, millions. But I have to live with knowing that in one of them, Jay dies, Poison takes Heaven by her strings, and Owl rules Starlight City with Gats as her pet.

I need to figure out a way to stop it. No biggie. Just alter the course of events somehow so everything goes so smoothly no one will notice the averted apocalypse. If I fail, my friends die and Starlight falls.

Not like there“s any pressure in that. Not like the kid who can“t even graph a stupid sin curve is the worst candidate for the gig. My heart aches. I just want to run into Juniper“s arms and tell her I“m scared, I just want to stroke my hair and tell me that it“s okay. I“ll do the right thing, she knows it. And would yo

aching for Gats. Someone in black races to intercept, but Owl shakes her head.

"Let the woman near her child." They bow curtly and step back. June flings her arms around him, squeezes him so hard he gasps. Overhead, a flock of birds takes flight.

"Are you okay?" Her legs give out under her and she lets him go. He nods. She collapses in the puddle, her hands on his face, neck, arms, checking for breaks. He hugs her. Owl drags me with her, and June grips him so hard I see her white knuckles from here.

"Let go of my son." Blood leaks from the edge of her mouth, and I try not to writhe. I need to look cool and lax like I“m in control. "You“re hurting him."

Owl looks down at the bloody walkway, her lip curled in disgust. She lifts her boots one after the other, splashing blood onto the hem of my jeans. In my socks, it squishes between my toes.

"Hey, June," I say with a little wave, maybe too casual for the situation at hand. But it“s all I got.

"Angelos," she says with a long, gasping wheeze. More blood splatters the ground. "I“m sorr—"

Owl holds up a free hand. "Let“s talk about this inside, Juniper. Such a pleasure to see you again." She shakes my wing so hard I bite back a cry. "None of this would be possible without you."

Juniper squeezes Gats so hard he squeaks like a chew toy. With a swing of her hips, Owl strides up the steps. She sneers at Juniper, who only glares back. "I will be inside," she says. "Bring her and the boy to me—"

"You coward!" I shout, but it“s useless. She digs her nails into my wings, pinching the tender feather-folds between her fingertips. I gasp as she hops the last step, a childish gleam in her eye as she looks the door up and down.

"And June." She turns on her heel, June struggling to stand. I reach for her, but Owl pulls me back. Fresh pain explodes in my wing, making my vision flash white. With a half-hearted punch on her part, the door pops off the frame with a sickening crack. "I“d advise you and your son to live long enough to see my reign," she says.

My heart drops into my stomach. No amount of pinching will snap me out if this. No amount of silent pleading that this, my life, is just some Watt novel pouring from a tired teen“s fingertips.

No, my evil mother is trying to take over the city, I have to stop it, and it“s worse than a nightmare. In a nightmare, you wake up when things get sour. In real life, you only become aware of how awake you actually are.

And as Owl squeezes my wing, I ball my fists, waiting like a boxer waits for the perfect opening, waiting for the perfect moment to take back my life.

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