“How is he, Marin?”
I sniffled, swiping my sleeve across my eyes. “Not good. Still not listening. I just…I can’t…”
Carolyn wrapped her arms around me and hugged me gently, kneeling behind me on the ground. “He’s too stubborn for his own good sometimes. He’ll be okay, though. You know that he has to be.”
I shook my head a little, leaning back against her, hugging her arms. “I don’t know if he will be this time, Carolyn. Not if I can’t make him listen. Not if I can’t convince him to stop denying…” What if I’m wrong? What if I was just imagining…
“You’ll find a way, Mar. He’s not going to give in and just die, is he?” She looked at me seriously. “You’ll make him realize that it’s real. Most of the rest of us believe it, now, have seen it. But you two…you’re the ones that can see what most of us only feel. He can’t keep saying that’s not real, not for much longer.”
“Denying it is killing him,” I mumbled. “You can’t just bottle it up. You can’t just…you can’t do that. There’s too much there, too much inside of him. And it’s destroying him from the inside out.”
“Either he’ll realize it on his own or you’ll convince him of it. I have faith in you.” She smirked. “More faith than in him, that’s for sure.”
I squeezed her arm, staring at Thom’s prone, fevered form, nodding a little. This was one fight with him I couldn’t afford to lose, for the sake of us all.
“They’re coming more frequently, aren’t they?”
J.T. was gone—long gone, from the looks of things—and Kellin was standing in his place, carrying a bag that looked heavy. She was soaked to the skin, the rainwater that dripped from her hair splashing down into the fire and hissing as it hit hot coals. I blinked at her, momentarily uncomprehending—what was she asking me?
“Visions, Marin. They’re coming more frequently, aren’t they?”
I shook my head as if to clear it, what she was asking me finally registering. I nodded mutely, feeding a few sticks into the guttering flames. It was a few more minutes before I trusted myself to speak. “More than they have been before this shit started happening, yeah. They’re weird. Not like the ones before—not like them at all.” These ones are clear, if fragmentary. Not cryptic. And stronger, much stronger, with no discernable trigger, either. God. It’s like I’m folding time and peeking over the edge to see what’s coming months and years from now.
Kellin nodded a little. “Remember what we talked about a few months ago, Marin? When I said that I thought people were going to start realizing what’s really going on around them?”
I nodded. It had been late one evening, and we’d been sitting in the courtyard at Mackinac, just talking as we were wont to do late at night when neither of us could sleep—and there had been many of those sleepless nights that summer, with Thom giving me the cold shoulder, trying to detach. I’d spent a lot of time with Kellin, just talking, sometimes about what we felt, what we believed. I’d complained about feeling a shifting in the balance around us, one that worried me. She’d only shaken her head at that concern—things would correct themselves in time, she’d counseled. They’d rebalance and we wouldn’t have to worry so much about the way things felt—or, at least, Drew and I wouldn’t have to worry so much. Rory had been reveling at the feeling of things tilting toward a darker end of the spectrum, but that was simply because of his nature—or the image of his nature I was convinced he carefully cultivated to obscure reality. On one of those evenings out in the darkness, Kellin had told me very quietly when I’d been complaining about Thom—again—that she didn’t think that I’d have much to worry about soon enough. She could feel it, somehow, that those around us were going to start realizing what was going on around them, beginning to Awaken, in the terminology of my late aunt. Their own talents would begin to manifest, slowly but surely, and we’d have a lot to deal with suddenly—so much that the balance wouldn’t even concern me anymore.
“Do you think this is that time you felt coming, Kel?”
“It’s certainly a possibility,” she said quietly. “I wouldn’t say it’s entirely outside that realm, anyway. Have you been listening to Carolyn? It sounds like she’s already starting to realize things aren’t what she thought they always were.”
I laughed weakly. “Oh, believe me. I know. She’s been acting…well. Not like Carolyn and at the same time more like the Carolyn we always knew was hiding in there somewhere that didn’t get to come out to play very often.”
“Exactly.” Kellin shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “We could be in a lot of trouble, Mar. Hell-ah trouble.”
“I know,” I murmured, glancing back toward the fire, thinking of Thom. How many of our friends would end up like him, denying what was growing inside of them, denying the feelings, denying the truth of what was inside? I prayed it would be none, but I knew that wouldn’t be the case—I was too much of a realist to think otherwise.
“Here.” Kellin produced a tea kettle and a jug of water from one of the bags she was carrying—their raid on the grocery store must have been successful. “Put that on the fire. I’ve got to dig out some teabags. We need to talk a bit.”
“Sure.” I slowly moved to start filling the kettle with water. “How was it?”
“How was what? Raiding the store?” She exhaled through her teeth. “We had to break in the door. Thank god no one was there when this all started. Place was locked up solid. Generator’s still running—we think we’ve got it rigged to run for a while, but we packed all the cold cases with ice. That’s what took so long. Raiding the secondhand store next, for clothes and coats and stuff. But I’ll tell you about it after I get this stuff stashed away, okay?”
I nodded, feeding a few more small sticks into the fire and settling the kettle over the flames, on the makeshift tripod we’d gotten rigged up. Maybe we’d have enough supplies to last us. Maybe we wouldn’t.
If our friends are Awakening, this could get really messy really, really fast. And probably not in an easy way to fix. I rubbed my face, suddenly weary. How would we handle it? Some of our friends already knew that there was something funky going on, but they’d never really inquired too deeply about it—J.T. was like that. We’d tried to insulate others, like Carolyn and Jacqueline and Brandon. There was no reason for them to get involved with any of our crap. Not until now, at least. Not until they began to manifest signs of being aware of more than they could see or smell or taste with their mundane senses.
I glanced toward where Thom still lay asleep, still ignorant of my departure, and sighed softly. My cards were there, near him. I’d have to read them soon enough, if only to seek some guidance, some direction—if they decided to give me anything useful at all. They didn’t always like to read well for me. For other people my Tarot readings were fantastic. Whenever I happened to ask something of it, though, that was entirely a different story. I’d always wondered if it was perhaps that I was too close to the situation to perceive things correctly, or if I was trying to influence the outcome of the readings too hard. Regardless, it never seemed to work well for me.
Maybe I’ll just have Kellin ask the question about what we should do, how we should…how we should let this all pan out, what we should do next, how this should come together. How to handle it all. I rubbed my eyes. Maybe I’d do that, but maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe the visions would just come and tell me what to do.
I’d never had control over when they would come, or how long they’d last. I’d only tried once or twice to stimulate them—that had resulted in the nastiness following the vision I was sure was the end of the world, the vision that seemed to have come true yesterday—was it yesterday?—though in a way not wholly like I’d perceived it then. Maybe that was the problem with my visions then, when I’d tried for more information. Maybe I was just meant to let them come, let things be as they would be and not try to press for more.
God knows I already didn’t like some of what I’d seen in my visions since the day before.