The waves lapped at my feet. Sand speckled my toes. The salty breeze ruffled my hair.
Rhys' voice interrupted my daydreaming. " . . . never win. The Lakers have too good of an offense. Allie? Am I that boring?"
I flashed him a smile. "Of course you're not. I'm just trying to remember something. Something important. Had to do with . . . with. . . ugh, I can't remember."
Rhys glanced with concern at me. "You'll do fine. You'll probably ace it. If you're still nervous we can study some more."
"It's not about the test." I assured him. "I know that I'll do fine. The only problem I'll have will probably be remembering the benefits and-" Suddenly a jolt of pain raced up my leg. I gasped, what was that?
Rhys merely sat still. A ghost of a smile whispered across his lips.
I was confused. But fresh waves of pain continued to rack my body. My breath came in short, ragged breaths. I collapsed onto the sand. I curled into a tight ball, wishing that the pain would stop. "Rhys!" I called out. "Help me!"
He didn't answer. But I heard laughter. Cruel laughter. It echoed through my head. I peeked out through my legs at Rhys. He was leaning back on his hands, laughing. I stared, hurt. Horror pulsed through me as thousands of possible reasons spun through my head. The pain was gone, but what replace it was worse. Betrayal. I buried my head in my arms, trying to drive away the sound.
Abruptly the laughter subsided. I peeked out again. Rhys regarded me with a sly smile. With surprising speed he turned his wrist so that I could see his watch. The watch face was hidden behind a disturbing image. A large red eye. The detail was surprising. Every eyelash was in perfect clarity. I couldn't turn my eyes away. It slowly began to fill my vision. I wanted desperately to cry out.
Suddenly it blinked. I screamed in pure panic. All I could see was the red eye. It studied me with an intensity that seemed to see my deepest secrets. I felt exposed. My throat was raw from screaming. Just as I felt that I could not continue to resist this invading power anymore . . .
* * * *
I woke up in a sweat. Suddenly it all came back to me. The white room. The equipment everywhere. The bright light. Most of all, the expected decision. I almost cried. My leg felt like some crazed person was dropping 10-pound weights on it. I winced.
The dream had definitely shook me up. If a doctor had listened to my heart rate at this moment, he probably would have fainted. That is, after the stethoscope exploded.
I started to control my breathing. It came down quite a bit. I was able to ignore the pain in my leg for the most part. So now I needed to do some serious thinking. I had who-knows-how-much time left to make the biggest decision of my life, so far.
I had two choices, or did I? I could escape and go protect them. But how?
"Hello, officer? I would like to request some protection for my parents. Why? Because they have been threatened. By whom? By some crazy Britain. How do you know? Because he kidnapped me and told me so. But I escaped so that I could come protect them. . . Hello? Officer?"
So I have only two choices. Protect Rhys and allow them to hurt my parents. Or protect my parents and allow them to hurt Rhys. I was torn. My best friend or my parents. How can I make that kind of decision. Wait a minute, what do I know about Rhys? Uh, he is my best friend. He has a secret potion.
Pain stabbed my leg again and I shifted to another, more comfortable position.
What if the weird doctor guy was lying? What if it really is a potion? Who can I trust? I've known Rhys for longer. I should be able to trust him more. But he is strange, and he obviously hasn't told me everything. But a connection to the electromagnetic force? Really? Is that even possible?
Suddenly I began questioning how well I knew Rhys. Sure, I thought that I knew him. But how much was he really hiding?
Questions swirled through my mind. I tried to defend Rhys, but my gut kept telling me that the weird doctor was right. I told myself that I was only trying to find fault with Rhys so that I could betray him. Chaos ruled in my thoughts.
* * * *
I slowed my progress as I neared land for multiple reasons. One, someone might see me glowing like a nightlight in the middle of lake. Two, I also might crash into the shore. Thank goodness I had figured out how to use the electromagnetic pull to "float" me to shore. I had almost drowned from arm fatigue before I realized I could use my gift to get me safely to shore. I did regret having to use it, though. Every time I used it, I lost a month of my future life. I grimaced at that unpleasant rule to my special power. When Grimst had explained it to me, at first I was terrified to use it. Even now, I used it with a measure of caution. Whenever my anger caused me to release it without thinking, like
on the boat with Allie, I cursed the crazy rule.
Thinking of Allie just made me mad all over again. Helpless. That's what I had been. Me, the kid with more power available to him than a couple hundred atomic bombs, was helpless. I gritted my teeth. I remembered her cry as she went under. No matter how I had tried, I couldn't locate her. Helpless. Helpless.
I hauled myself out of the water with a slow sigh. I had been in the water for too long. I was shivering and my arms and legs were numb. Nothing except trees, bushes, and telephone poles were in sight for a good mile. I welcomed the lack of human population. Curling up in a water-soaked ball, I closed my eyes. Sleep rushed towards me and I gratefully accepted it's embrace.
* * * *
The man approached. My time was up.
Self-reproach rose up in me as I prepared to make my choice. He merely watched me, laughter dancing in his eyes.
"Are you prepared to make your choice? Time's up, cupcake."
With evident reluctance I forced the words out. They tasted even worse than I had imagined.
* * * *
"Rhys! Rhys! Wake up, sleepyhead!"
I snapped awake. That was Allie's voice! "Allie? Where are you?"
"Over here. Hurry!"
I scrambled to my feet. The morning sun had peeked over the horizon a good few hours ago. By now it was well on it's way to the top of the sky. Stepping out of the bush that I had been sleeping in, I looked cautiously around me. Allie was nowhere in sight. Off to the side of me I heard a small noise, like an engine starting. I spun in that direction, but I saw nothing.
The voice came from a small clump of trees to my left. I slowly advanced. "Allie?"
"Yes. Hurry. I don't have much time."
I dashed across the distance in a heartbeat. There she was standing among the small group of trees.
She flashed me a smile. I could only gape.
"But I saw you . . . go under! How . . . I mean, I'm so glad that you're okay." I managed.
She smirked. "Does it matter? I'm alive and okay so let's leave it at that. Besides, I'd rather not remember that terrifying incident. Do you mind?"
I realized that I was still gaping. Abruptly I shut my mouth.
7"I didn't come here just to shock you. I have something for you." She grinned. "Close your eyes and hold out your hands."
I grinned in response and closed my eyes, holding out my hands.
Immediately something very, very cold and hard clamped onto my hands. My eyes shot open from the cold. Allie was laughing. My hands were encased in two glass orbs.
Suddenly Allie began flickering. Abruptly she disappeared. I tried to summon my power to burst them, but nothing happened. Somehow the orbs were interfering with the electromagnetic force. I gritted my teeth. Whenever I tried to summon the power the orbs constricted. I couldn't believe my gullibility. I had been tricked by an illusion.
As if by command of thought, my enemy appeared beside me. Mac Stevens laughed at the pained expression on my face.
"Hurting, my boy?" he mocked. "How does it feel to be as weak as the rest of us? Not that I care, but I just thought I'd ask."
I glared at him defiantly. "Defenseless, huh? We'll see about that!"
I suddenly swung my orb-encased fist at the side of his head. He stopped laughing and easily avoided the slow blow. His face became dangerous.
"Now I don't think you want to play this, R-"
Then my other fist slammed into his side. Bone crunched and Mac's face contorted.
If you think that a plain fist would hurt, try to imagine getting slammed by around five pounds of hard glass. I'm talking about excruciating pain.
I barely had any time to savor his expression because the back of my head was slammed with a large object and I lost consciousness.