Never Fade Page 77

“Stop!” Knox yelled. “You bitch! Your friend is gonna have Twitch all to herself—”

A yelp drew my attention back to Vida. She was patting the ends of her hair, trying to put out the flames licking at the strands. Vida dropped to her knees, panting, cussing viciously between her sobs. I started toward them, but the fire from the bins around them surged up and out again, twisting into shimmering webs of intense heat and light.

“Don’t, Ruby!” Vida screamed.

Twitch had one hand closed around the back of her neck, the other was raised high above his head. A sliver of fire slipped up from the nearest garbage can, curling around his fingers and wrist like a snake. They were screaming in the rafters, but the one sound we needed to hear, it never came. Knox wasn’t going to stop him.

No one is going to stop him. I brought my fingers to my mouth and tried to imitate the noise Knox had made, but I couldn’t get a strong enough breath out of my chest. The smoke stung my eyes and burned my throat.…

He is going to kill her, he’s going to kill her, he’s— There was no other option this time.

“Red!” I shouted, my voice hoarse.

The boy looked up, and I had him.

It was almost unconscious, the letting go. It was complete and immediate, like releasing a deep breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. I felt the tangles of fingers in my mind begin to unfurl—anger, terror, desperation peeling each thread of power apart until I felt a surge of tingling warmth spread out along the base of my skull. The wall of fire in front of me throbbed in time with the Red’s frantic twitching. Overhead, I heard Knox start to yell, but the kid was mine now. I was in his head without a single touch.

In a typical mind, there’s this feeling of sinking into his or her thoughts. It’s a slow, slippery sensation, one that’s usually accompanied on my end by a massive migraine. Sometimes I fell slowly, other times all at once. I could tell a lot by the shade of a person’s memory, the tint to his or her dreams.

But Twitch was broken. So, so broken.

I didn’t slip so much as stab my way through, like a knife driving deep into a pile of shattered glass. His memories were sharp, small, here and gone faster than a blink. I saw a dark-haired girl on the swings, a woman bent over an oven, a line of stuffed green lizards, a name spelled out in block letters on a shelf. Everything sped up then—black boots, wired fences, the green fake leather of a school bus seat. Mud, mud, mud, so much digging, the rattle of chains, the pinch of a muzzle, a fire in the dark burning hotter and hotter. I had to remind myself to breathe. The burning air set my lungs on fire.

I found Clancy’s refined face among the fractured images, standing alone behind a glass wall, his hand pressed against it. He only ever came in the dark, like a walking nightmare. Clancy mouthed something, and every thought exploded to white.

I couldn’t hear myself over the hollering of the onlookers. I couldn’t tell what they were shouting; it was all rabble and noise. But I had this Red in my hands; I had his power at my disposal, and I felt it as deeply as if the fire were running through my veins. I turned back toward where Knox and the others stood stunned, their eyes focused on us from their safe place above.

Not safe anymore, I thought, turning back to the Red. What would Knox do when I turned his little pet against him? What would he do when he felt his skin catch fire?

Twitch stared at me, his pupils shrinking, exploding out to their full size, then shrinking again. His mouth began to work silently, letting out low moans of pain until he finally began to cry. He waited for a command. An order.


That was the name I had seen spelled out on his door, the one his mother had whispered lovingly as she tucked him into bed.

His name is Mason. My thoughts were spilling over themselves, trying to comprehend what had just happened. He lived in a house with a blue fence. His mom made his lunch for him every day. He had friends and a dog, and all of them disappeared when the men came and took him into the van. He had White Sox posters on his bedroom wall. He rode his bike in the abandoned lot behind his house. His name was Mason, and he had a life.

I stumbled onto my knees, pressing a hand to my forehead. The connection snapped with the next jagged memory that filtered through his head. He fell a short ways away, near a stacked pile of debris. For a moment, I heard nothing outside of my own harsh breathing and heartbeat. Then, there was an audible snap in my ears—a sickening crack.

“Stop!” I heard Vida scream. “Stop it!”

Even as I watched Mason take the jagged hunk of cement and smash it against his skull, it was like my mind couldn’t understand the movement. Vida ripped the stone out of his hand with a cry of protest. The Red lifted his head off the ground, straining his neck, and flung it back again against the ground. He didn’t stop, not until I slipped my hands between the heavy bone and the unforgiving cement.

All at once the stink of blood broke through the heady cloud of smoke. I felt it slick and hot against his fine hair.

“Stop!” Vida pressed her hands down against his shoulders, trying to pin him in place. I pried another hunk of cement out of his fingers. The moment it came free and clattered against the floor, he had my hand in his grip.

“…help me,” the boy was sobbing. “Please, please help me, please, I can’t—not anymore, oh God, oh God, they’re coming again, I see them, they’re coming in the dark—”

“It’s okay.” I leaned down close to his ear.

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