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Slowly, I took out the chest and popped it open, running my hand across its dark surface. It was about time.
"Benjamin," I said softly as I straightened, looking around the attic.
"Here are eight things you probably think I wouldn't remember:
"1. You almost never untie your shoes; you just slip them off and on as you please, even though it dents the heels."
I gathered his sketches and wound a string around them.
"2. You always sleep on the right side of the bed."
I gathered them in my arms, slipped them inside his sketchbook, and set it inside the trunk next to the framed sketch of the rabbit and the blackbird.
"3. You're afraid of being alone in the dark."
I took his family's photograph out of its broken frame.
"4. You've always wanted to learn how to play the harmonica because the sound always made your little brother smile."
I dusted it off, wrapped it in tissue paper, and put it in next to his sketchbook.
"5. You have a secret freckle in-between your pinky an
It's going to be okay.I hear the bullets go through me before I feel them. I hear them tear through my body and burrow into the bookcase behind me. I may have screamed. I'm not sure. If I screamed, it was for Parker, not myself. One hits his chest, two in his stomach. I feel his blood splatter across my face, and feel my own pouring between my fingers as I press them against my side.
Stop bleeding. Stop bleeding.
I'm not sure where they hit me; it's just pain, just shaking, just his hand holding mine.
Another shot rings out, and I hear a grunt as Patrick falls again. Is he dead this time? I don't know. There are so many shots; I can't tell who's living and who isn't, because both are silent. Silent as death. The only noises are the rounds being fired, the fire alarms wailing, cartridges clinking and the moans of the injured. I can faintly hear
Something Was Bound to Go Right"Do you believe in reincarnation?" Victor asked suddenly, breaking the comfortable silence in the car. His dark hair nearly blended into the dark sky behind him. Taylor hadn't even noticed he had rolled down the window.
"I have the heat on, idiot," she muttered, rolling up the window from her side. Victor jerked his arm out of the way just before the window rolled up fully, and turned to regard her half-hearted glare with a grin.
"C'mon. Reincarnation. You. Sound legit?"
"No," Taylor said, rolling her eyes. "There's just no way it's possible. And I know you don't believe in reincarnation, either. You've told me that before, when you were taking Religious Studies."
"Well, yeah, that Hindu thing was nuts, but I would've liked to know who I was," Victor said cheerily, tapping his fingers on the car window, watching the cars zoom past him. His fingers twitched towards the window button, and Taylor pre-emptively put her finger on the button on her side, keeping one hand on the wheel.
97. Safety First"It's never going to work." Jude argued as they walked towards the lot Al had specified.
"Pessimist." Charlie accused half-heartedly, "We don't know that it won't work. And that's better than doing nothing."
"I disagree." Jude said mulishly, staring at his ragged sneakers as he walked, nearly knocking into Charlie, who had abruptly come to a halt in from of him. He lifted his head, a protest already formed on his lips, before the sight in front of him cut his words off.
"Wow." Charlie let out an appreciative whistle.
"Understatement." Jude said, staring wide-eyed at the sleek and luxurious vehicle in from of them. "I thought Al said we were getting a
"Well, I'm not complaining," Charlie said, bouncing up to the door and running a hand over the silver and black polish, "I've always wanted to drive a hovercraft."
"Admitting you haven't driven one of these before is not the way to inspire confidence, Charlie."
"And off we go!" Charlie yelled, ignoring him and practically vaulting in
The Reassurance of GreenIt was Ella's idea to hire a gardener for my mother's tulips.
"I've been doing fine with them," I had said, a little surprised at the sudden suggestion. My sister had looked pointedly at the small patch of tulips that had previously encompassed the whole side yard. They were already dying, and the bulbs would have to be planted again soon. I had been planning an intense Internet search for that.
"I'd like to see you do better," I had muttered, but agreed nonetheless. I left the actual hiring to my sister, though.
Which led me to this moment, staring at a stranger on my doorstep and hoping rather desperately that there had been a mistake and he was not, in fact, the gardener my sister had hired.
"Can you… wait here, for a moment?" I asked the man. He nodded, clasping his dirt-encrusted gloves in one hand, and tugging at his ponytail with the other. I scurried inside.
Ella was supremely unconcerned.
"Who cares if he's dirty?" she asked, looking torn between amusement and exasperation. "G
EPIC: they make outThe wineglass slid out of his fingers to break with a crunch on the foot of the table.
"Oh, come on," she said, exasperated. "Now we're going to have to clean--"
Robin didn't finish her sentence before he lurched out of his seat and towards her, and she had time for one squeak of protest before he grabbed her waist and kissed her.
Appalled, she said, "Matthew!" and tried ineffectually to shove him away, but then suddenly she tasted the wine on his lips, and any resistance she'd felt melted away into a heady haze. She could feel his mouth insistent on hers, his tongue on her lips, the wine-laced tang of his breath. His hands were hot at her sides, firm and possessive, and she reached up to touch his face. He was, suddenly, unspeakably handsome. He hadn't always been so good-looking, had he?
Matthew, breathing hard, wrenched away from her and pushed her back a few steps, until she was up against the edge of the bed, prevented from falling only by his hands on her waist. He pulled her hip
EPIC: in which Robin makes new friendsWith growing horror, Robin realized that the approaching din was the sound of cracked branches and broken shrubs—in other words, the sound of a massive thing crashing through the brush. Swiftly, she considered her options, all of which were very limited and invariably resulted in her messy, unpleasant death.
Before she'd come to a conclusion, the thing hurtled into the clearing behind her and she spun, stumbling back a step in sheer horror. Then she blinked. The thing was an apparently normal young man, covered in leaves and dirt and not quite as large or carnivorous as the crashing had suggested.
Robin's vital functions stopped panicking and, with some difficulty, went about resuming their normal patterns. She exhaled a rattling breath and had only just opened her mouth to ask where she was when he looked up at her and said, suddenly, "Run. If I were you, I'd start running as fast as possible." Then, without even as much as another glance, he proceeded to follow his own
EPIC: they are almost murderedThere really was nothing like imminent death to encourage teamwork, Robin thought, hand in hand with her current worst enemy. Dashing haphazardly through bushes, over roots, past one hapless-looking (but, she noted with relief, normal-sized) squirrel, they crashed indiscriminately through the brush until she had the presence of mind to ask, "Where are we going?"
"I don't care. Anywhere," he said, panting. "As long as it's away from that monster."
It didn't sound like much of a plan to Robin. "Can we look fora thicket, or somethingsomeplace useful" she tried to say, but then he halted so suddenly that his grip on her hand wrenched at her shoulder and she stumbled painfully before she caught herself.
"Um, ow? Some warning in the future?" she said, snatching her hand out of his and rubbing her shoulder.
He was looking hard at something she couldn't see. "Trust me, I don't think that's the worst you'd suffer if we keep going this way," he said, backing away.
something as little"Do you sometimes think about humans and hurt," she says. She's rummaging in a crate on the cold floor of her garage, and her face is hidden. You shift to let the afternoon light shine on the golden wave of her hair.
"Because I do," she goes on, before you can admit that you have no answer. Small objects fall from the crate and cascade to the floor with a clatter. "I do."
Her words hang heavy between you, alone and uncomfortable in the summer air, and your tongue stumbles in the strangeness of the moment and spits out, "Why?"
She bundles the long strands of her hair into a fist and straightens, her hands otherwise empty. "Humans are so frail," she says, leaving your question unanswered, drifting with her I do. "They're made of all this muscle and bone and stubbornness, and still you can cut them to the heart with something as little as words." Her eyes fix on yours.
"What do you mean," you say, struggling to keep up with her. "Why words."
She smiles and the force of it is
EPIC: they anger a sparrow"Wait," he said.
She hadn't expected that. "Whatwhat's your name?" he asked. He looked like he hated to even say it, but there was no mistaking the expression in his eyes. It matched the one Robin felt was in her own: hunted. (Also hungry. Robin was not used to missing breakfast, and her stomach was complaining unhappily. But mostly hunted.)
Feeling more kindly towards him, she said, "Robin."
He gave her the barest of nods, and his gaze lingered on her for just a moment. "Okay," he said. Then he turned and began to walk away.
There was a beat before Robin fully registered this. "Hang on just a minute there," she burst out, grabbing his arm. "That's it? You're just going to leave?"
"Of course," the boy said, shaking her off. "Was that not the plan in the beginning? You ask me one question. I answer it. We go our merry ways."
"But I thought " Robin said. What had she thought, really? That he hadn't been serious, of course. That he'd wantedif not a friend, then at least a
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ReflectionsVal's pursuit led him to the foul beast's domain. The hollowed-out cavern reeked of blood and rancid meat. The dim light he had seen as he charged through the tunnel after the monster could now be identified: torches. Rows of mysteriously lit torches lined the walls of the huge cave. At its center was a substantially large labyrinth of mirrors.
He spotted the beast entering.
He spun his silver broadsword in his hand and hurried in behind it.
His garb was a simple blue and white crusader's leather with thick armored pads and reinforcing steel studs. Lightweight and flexible, but quite effective defense against blunt blows and – in a pinch – the slashing claws of the unholy spawn of the earth. All monster-hunters wore a similar variety in Val's experience. It would serve him well in these close quarters of the mirrored maze.
Right, left, forward, left, right he turned, always catching a glimpse of the beast's tail as he wove his way through the corridors. Every so often he sp
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