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I fly back to the mainland—miles and miles away from Ethan’s home—to try to calm down and think rationally. I land on the top of the tallest building in downtown Miami, perch on the edge of the roof. And there I sit, trying to make sense of it all.
Everything about my life after I crash-landed on the beach might have been arranged by the Mogs. Well, not everything. It would have taken a while for word to spread about me. Everything after meeting Ethan on the beach has probably been staged, but things before that might not have been.
Like Emma. Did she know about me? Was she just a plant to get me into Ethan’s sights? Part of the plan all along? For some reason, the answers to these questions nag at my brain. When she called me a monster, was it because she really thought I was one or because she was told to do so?
I take the little rubber ball from my pocket and roll it over the backs of my knuckles. It’s the only little piece of my past I have left. That and . . .
My Loric Chest is back in my room at Ethan’s. Of course I forgot it. I’m such an idiot. Rey would be furious if he were alive to know I’d left it like I did during his fake Mog attack back on the island.
But Rey’s not here. It wasn’t even a Mogadorian that killed him. It was this planet. Or his own body.
Rey’s not here. No one is. It’s just me.
I’m alone again.
My thoughts flash to the other Garde. The Mogs have Nine. That means there are only five of us alive and free. Five of us against the world. Against several worlds.
I wonder if Ethan might be right. Maybe Lorien’s last-chance plan of enchanting a bunch of little kids and sending them to another planet never had any hope of success. We never even got to question whether that was what we wanted to do or not. No one asked us if we wanted to be the chosen ones.
I’m suddenly reminded of a movie Emma and I saw together before everything went to hell—some horror flick we’d laughed our way through. There was an island inhabited by a cult and a man was stranded on it. He and the rest of the audience knew that the people in the cult were crazy, but they didn’t. They’d been a part of the cult their whole lives and just couldn’t see that they were the bad guys.
Was that my story too?
I wish Rey were here to make sense of things. Already he’s fading from my memory. And the things I do remember vividly are his rules, or his disappointment, or his failed training.
And his last words. Do whatever it takes to survive.
I stay on the roof all night. By morning, I still don’t know what my next move should be. And even though I know I shouldn’t—that it’s probably being watched—I go to the beach where I first met Emma.
I find the arepa stand where I bought us snacks.
It takes the owner a few moments to recognize me with a few extra pounds and close-cropped hair. When he finally does, he looks spooked.
“Have you seen Emma around?” I ask him.
He shakes his head a little.
“What do you mean, she’s gone?” I ask. My heart races. If the Mogs killed her . . .
“Her family moved a few months ago. Her brother had been in the hospital for a while, but when he finally got out, they wanted to start over somewhere new. They hightailed it out of here.”
His face is going pale. At first I think the Mogs have shown up behind me or something, but then I realize it’s me. Emma must have told him, or the other locals, what she’d seen. About what a freak I was.
The man crosses his hand over his head and chest. He keeps talking, but I walk away.
I wander aimlessly, frustration growing inside me. Four other Garde are free, but hidden away. Probably living in high-rises or penthouses like Nine was. And here I am alone again. Forgotten. Having to start over.
Something hot boils up inside me. I slam my fist against the brick wall of a store beside me. And then, something strange starts to happen.
My body changes.
I can feel it stiffening and growing heavy. My skin grows dry and looks brittle.
I take a few steps away from the wall and back into a stop sign on the street. I wrap my fingers around it for balance—my head is spinning—and squeeze. The metal crumples under my touch.
Then my skin changes again. It takes on a silvery sheen. I stumble forward, pulse quickening. I lean against a storefront window. Again I change. I raise my hand. I can see through it.
Glass. I’ve turned into glass.
At first I think I’m dying—maybe I’ve been poisoned somehow. But with every step I take and every different material my fingers graze, it becomes more apparent what’s happening.
I’m turning into the things I touch.
My hands shake. My eyes grow wide and dry. It’s everything I can do just to keep breathing at a normal pace.
It’s early in the morning, and there aren’t many people around, but that will change. Soon, there’ll be crowds everywhere. Whatever is happening to me, I can’t stay out in the open.
I have to get to safety. To shelter.
I don’t want to be alone.
There’s only one person I know who can help me. Only one person I know, period.
I somehow manage to turn into a normal, fleshy human again, and then I’m in the air, flying faster than I ever have before, throwing caution to the wind as I soar high over the city. When I crash onto the beach at the back of Ethan’s property, one of the maids sees me and runs inside.