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WITCH AND WIZARD THE FIRE PDF

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Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, cittadelmonte.info The James Patterson Pageturners Witch & Wi. Witch & Wizard_The Fire - James Patterson - Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) Also by James Patterson Witch & Wizard series Witch & Wizard (with. The James Patterson Pageturners. Witch & Wizard (with Gabrielle Charbonnet) .. Then I thought the New Order thugs had set her on fire. So I guess that's how I .

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Red banners stretched up over the tallest ix. It was for the greater good, The One said. The Prophecies talk about two people who will alter the course of this history. A girl and a boy, a witch and a wizard. My sister and I, Wisty and Whit Allgood. It was as surprising to us as much as to anyone. Terrifying, even. With our newfound powers, we offered hope. We protested the New Order and advocated for peace. Even our parents went up in smoke. Their cries still echo in my ears.

So I had no one left. I thought I had nothing left to give. But then came the plague. It was my last chance to make a difference. I walked into homes that smelled of death and seethed with disease. And in one of those clinics, I found my sister working as a nurse, helping as I had, hoping as I did for a better future. But then Wisty got sick, too. The Fire thought we could fight him. I guess I was wrong.

You see, without both Wisty and me, there is no history, no future, no hope. So here we are. This is the end. Our world is real. Too real. It smells of sewage and disease and defeat. It feels like the weight of my sister writhing in my arms. It tastes of blood. There is no more freedom. So there is no escape. I stumble through this strange, awful world we have inherited, past a mass of the sick who are shuddering from more than just the cold.

He has judged you! Mothers scratch at open pustules, and children cough into rags stained red. Half the poor in this city are dying from the Blood Plague. And my sister is one of them. James Patterson curled over my back, her thin arms wrapped around my neck. Everyone has been brainwashed or brutalized into conformity. I can hear the shrieks from the abused populace as the goons hammer through them just a block behind.

The cop in the lead is a little zealot who looks like a ferret. His face is beet red under an official hat with the N. The Fire Or through my skull. I will not go out like this. We have the power. I think of Mom and Dad, of their faces as the smoke streaked toward them. We will avenge them. Their faces flash before me: Janine, Emmet, Sasha, Jamilla. And Margo. Poor Margo. Our friends are long gone. I burst through the mouth of the alley into a huge square. My head swims as Mom and Dad look down from all around us, trying to be brave as they face the hateful crowd.

And as I watch the people I love most in the world 5. I gag back my own bile, but the most horrific part of all is that the mess dripping down my sides is full of blood. I stumble backward, chills running down my spine. And then I see them. A hundred posters, or a thousand, on every pole and window. Wisty and me.

James Patterson I whip around again, hyperventilating. I feel eyes on me everywhere. An old woman grins up at me with a mouthful of missing teeth. A couple of suits trot down the white marble steps of the Capitol building, their cigars pointed our way. She knows.

They all know. Right on cue, the squad storms through the entrance to the square, their heads flicking around in search of us. I slink toward it as inconspicuously as possible and slip in through a side door. A gargantuan painting of The One Who Is The One greets me, his bald head and Technicolor eyes bearing down, and a sign on the wall reads: There are bullet shells on the floor.

This could be. My shoulders and lower back muscles are screaming, so I finally slide my sister down to the floor. She looks like the image of death.

I sit her up in my lap. The Fire chattering. I hold her clammy hand, whisper the words of some of my surefire healing spells over her, and add every ounce of hope I have into the mix. I already did that. I wince, thinking of Mom and Dad. She was the only one I had left in the world.

My breath catches in my throat. I feel everything within me explode at once. I almost laugh. I look behind him. No one seems to have followed him here. The One wants her fire.

I take a couple of steps toward my sister protectively. The barrel of the gun follows, trained between my eyes. At my nonchalance, his expression changes to one of sour insolence. He evidently decides to up the ante.

Boy soldier, brainwashed. When the first kill still feels like a game, when it still seems as if the victim will sit up afterward and ask to play again. Silence hangs thick between us as the kid debates between his conscience and his pride. I already know which will win, which always wins. His eyes narrow on the mark, his finger tightening. I start to sweat, ready to leap in front of my sister. I let out a long breath. What just happened? Did my power suddenly flare up and go rogue?

Did I have a perfectly targeted spasm of some kind? James Patterson No. Something had nailed him in the back of the head. I spot an object rolling to a stop nearby. A snow globe? She looks fierce, her tiny mouth twisting in annoyance. The expression kind of reminds me of Wisty at the height of her frustration with me.

I look at her warily. Then it sinks in: Still, dragging my dying sister back through the N. With Wisty in my arms, I have trouble keeping up as the little girl slips under fences and around street carts, Holiday antlers bobbing. There are no people in the street except for Blood Plague sufferers, and more than one suspicious face slams a door and draws the blinds as we pass. After less than half a mile the police are on our trail again, smashing their clubs through abandoned food stands James Patterson and hurling insults at our backs.

Many of the policemen are turning back. Or are now infected. I have to duck to get through the doorway. The Fire kets and bedding covering the floor. Pearl laughs ruefully. They gave me the biggest job of anyone. Holiday decorations? Make that broken Holiday decorations. Of course. Now the snow globe makes sense. And the antlers. I nod. I have to admit they kind of are beautiful, all shimmering shattered glass and colorful broken lights.

The decorations are nice and all, James Patterson but this kid is a piece of work. My sister is dying here. Finally she notices my agitation and sets the sack aside carefully. Just let me die. Instinctively I tense up in an offensive position. I can hardly blink before Pearl disappears in a sea of embracing bodies, and a big hand grasps my shoulder and spins me around. Before I can ask who Mama May is, he spots Wisty in the corner, blood all over the front of her shirt, and winces.

James Patterson us that seems to acknowledge just how screwed Wisty really is. Too long. Too silent. I notice a group of women across the room with the same dark, lank hair as Pearl. They hate us, I think. Mama May will set it right. The moment she enters the room, it gets warmer.

She takes up space. But Mama May takes one look at Wisty and me, and her face blanches, and she frowns so deeply she looks like a big, disapproving grouper. And look at her. I mean, they look like every other family that has gone through hardship under the N.

I pull Pearl off to the side and gesture at the onlookers. What is everybody in the entire Overworld afraid of? I look at her, not understanding, and she gestures impatiently around the room at the candles, the figures, the signs of their devout religion.

She shakes her head. In the beginning, we gathered in one of the halls. Instead it just made us a giant target. He sent his henchman to do his dirty work.

The Fire evil magic. He wanted to put his hands on our heads. Some of the kids went right up to him, because it was like being blessed, like we were used to at the hall. I stayed behind, but not my brother, not Zig. Ziggy was smart, but he had more faith than any of us.

Ziggy was smiling, too. And then we were running. Pearl is staring straight ahead, her mouth a thin line. He raises an eyebrow at me but lets it go. For the dead. My lungs are burning so much I think for a second that I might be flaming out and can actually feel it for the first time.

The girl who can set herself on fire. Some Gift. There seems to be a ton of people surrounding me, and none of them looks like my brother.

Where is Whit? Is he sick? Is he being tortured somewhere by my skeletal captors? Two kids stand over me, prodding my arm with a stick. Not very good at it, is she? James Patterson fix the little braggart with a long, withering look. To my utter satisfaction, the kids scamper away in horror.

Ah, my reputation has preceded me. Somehow, it feels like an overwhelming relief that I can still strike fear into the hearts of children. Exhausted, I collapse back into the cushion of sleep. My heart starts to race until I see my brother. These people, whoever they are, have lost someone. My heart aches for them; I know what loss feels like, too. Believe me. The whole place is radiant with candlelight, and the broken glass dangling from the ceiling shimmers.

Then the singing starts up. The Fire mournful echo when you trace a finger along the lip of a glass. You feel it inside you. A sob catches in my throat as I hum along to the familiar melody, tears streaming down my cheeks. I lock eyes with Whit across the room. To me. I shake my head.

Silent, silent. Not yet. Something jabs me in the ribs and I flip onto my feet, muscles tensed, ready to tear it to shreds. Go where? The Fire the wringer, physically and emotionally. I could sleep until next Holiday season. Find a disguise. Pearl stands up, hands on her hips. I owe them this. I reluctantly start climbing into the crusty clothing. Small brain? I sigh in frustration. It used to be so easy before. Wait a minute. Something is different.

James Patterson me in wonder, and I feel things shifting: Pearl holds up a piece of Holiday glass so I can see my reflection. So sue me. Pearl nods skeptically. If anything, she looks worse today.

Trust me. To the Underworld. To the Shadowland. To Celia, the love of my life, trapped among the Lost Ones. If I could just get back to Celia, I know she could tell me what to do. As a spirit. And she had helped Wisty and me so many times before. I need her now, no matter what. Like this one. The words lap at my ears like an echo in a seashell. I drag myself out of the garbage on the street. I will not let my sister die. As screwed up as a lot of his theories were, Byron seemed to be right about one thing: So maybe, just maybe, it could work now?

What was it she said? I crouch down by Wisty. Just hang in there. Pearl sees my angry expression and shrugs. This has to work. Wisty coughs violently, and red drops of blood appear on the corners of her mouth. I lick my lips and try to swallow my panic. I let go of Pearl and start to riffle through my journal for a spell, but Pearl snatches the book away with nimble fingers practiced in theft.

And this is the best advice your big brother is ever going to give you. I expect her to make some snide remark, but when she speaks, her voice is sad and sincere.

And he used to keep an eye out for me, too. Pearl grips my hand tightly as if it had been her idea all along. I shut my eyes tightly, and a shudder goes through me as I imagine the blurred, skeletal image of Death pointing a spindly finger at Wisty, then turning away in defeat. He looks more like The One, actually.

The Fire the single lightbulb in the room flickers and shatters. My fingers burn with the spark of raw, healing power. When the surge subsides, I peek at Wisty tentatively. I hold my breath, waiting to see the effects of my power, the color rushing into her cheeks, the familiar wry smile, her own magic emanating from her again. It has to have worked. I felt it. My pulse quickens. Pearl is looking at me with big, nervous eyes. What if whatever I just did actually killed Wisty instead of saved her?

Her eyes are dazed and feverish, burning into mine. I have the power to heal. SO, so cold. I flinch, adrenaline rushing to my head as my body sends out the alert: So many people want me dead. And where is my brother? I squint to focus my eyes. Her eyes are glued to me, a little smile on her grimy face.

Witch & Wizard_The Fire - James Patterson

She has this weird beauty to her, and for a second I think she might be an angel. Then I see the glint of her knife. The Fire feel paralyzed. I try to scream for help, but it comes out as a raspy, gurgling moan. The kid raises an amused eyebrow at me. She moves toward me. A whimper escapes my lips. I try to slow the blood thundering into my brain, and after a minute she looks up. I stare at this morbid little girl, not sure at all what to make of her.

But thanks to my help, you pulled through. She prattles on for what seems like forever, relating the list I feel totally drained, like all the blood, energy, power.

My hands are blue is the only thing I keep thinking. If I could just get warm, work up a little magic, I could figure all of this out. Want me to cough some blood your way? She reluctantly moves closer and tries to push up the rags behind me with the very tips of her fingers so she can avoid actually touching me. That does it. I may not be totally well, but my magic is coming back.

The girl is evidently impressed. A newspaper blows across the street like tumbleweed. There might as well be crickets, the road is so quiet. The Fire I stand up, uneasy. Curiosity piqued, I amble after them, leaving my cardboard sign in the dust.

The smell hits me first. That smell. The nauseating stench of burning flesh and singed hair hangs in the air with the plume of black smoke. I cough, eyes watering. In the center, tied to a post, is what looks like a large piece of meat, still smoking. And then I see a tuft of hair clinging to the charred scalp, and my head starts spinning. James Patterson My throat goes dry, and I feel paralyzed with horror. Followers of the N.

Richer than most, certainly. But still they look like people you see every single day in the capital, people with families and jobs. People with some speck of compassion, surely. Until you see the emptiness in their eyes.

Who knows who this doomed woman was, or if she even possessed any magic at all? The New Order, with its bold red banners blanketing the Overworld, feeds on bloodlust. These are its children. Reality finally comes into sharp focus, and my heart races.

I stumble forward, frothing with fury and purpose. But what else is there to say? The frenzied group is turning from the crisp remains of the poor soul strapped to the pillar. I let out a long breath, nodding.

My relief lasts only a second, though, since the next thing I hear is a whistle. Or all of my large and small intestines. The other Death Squaddies move in, and now the real party begins. I could attempt to hurl a spell at them to hold them off, but something tells me that life will be much, much worse if they know who I really am. I try to focus on something Even with Celia waiting for me in the Shadowland. Celes, I might be seeing you sooner than I thought. I feel this dark energy building within me, growing into a power that needs to get out and find a target.

I finish with a poem that always seemed particularly gruesome: I limp away from the chaos just as the beatings start, soldiers and businesspeople scrabbling like dogs, all trying to go for the jugular. I pause for a second on the corner, listening to the cries coming from the alley.

I hesitate and consider going back to heal them all. Let them destroy one another. I allow my disguise to fall away as I walk. Mama May flashes her biggest smile at all of us and bangs on a bucket to signal that the meal is ready. An excited murmur goes through the room. Mama May reveals two poorly plucked pigeons, skinny The Fire as sparrows. They look like another family has already picked them over.

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I stare at Whit pointedly. Take it. I start to say something, but Whit puts a hand on my arm and shakes his head. An oversize turkey dominates the middle of the circle, and creamed corn edges up on green beans. And the pie. Apple, pumpkin, pecan. I could eat pie for the rest of my life. Cutting out of family time early to do one thing or another. I gawk at him. Things are getting more dangerous. James Patterson Still, later, as the Needermans exchange their Holiday gifts, I almost wish we had left and avoided intruding on their intimate family moment.

I take mine, raising an eyebrow at Whit. The fall of the New Order? Open it already! At the bottom of each giant garbage bag is a single strand of silver tinsel. This really means a lot. Suddenly I miss my parents so much I can The Fire almost feel them in the room with me. Voices that The One silenced for good. Before I can turn away, Mama May spots the hot, salty tears rushing down my cheeks.

Her strong arms envelop me in a crushing hug. So many traditions lost, so many people dead. I feel safe. He hands each of us a dessert plate heaped with pie. After all those people were executed in the square last month, the hall is pretty much defunct. James Patterson untouched. The One is the only being I can see who has any control in this world.

Maybe The One is God. His dazzlingly convincing smile and his straight white teeth make him a living poster for the clean, optimistic New Order. Beautiful but hard. His name is Pearce. Pearce surveys the rows upon rows of surveillance screens that light up the control tower, showing every corner of the compound. With a tap of his fingertip, The One can. James Patterson incinerate any of the children pictured. He often does so for sport on lazy afternoons. When Pearce remains bitterly silent, The One clears his throat.

The One presses his lips together. So am I to understand that you employed demonstrably incompetent idiots to do a job that I brought you here specifically to do? The words The Fire are out before he can stop them.

His mouth twists into a sour grimace. Then, without a word, The One strikes Pearce hard across the face. There is only one person in the world whom he hates more than the witch. The young soldier reaches a tentative hand toward The One. If he is strong enough, if he has it in him, he will James Patterson have no better opportunity. An inch or two more, and he can touch that smooth, bald head, watch the skin peel away from the skull and the body collapse.

Hand shaking, he hesitates. The One whirls around, and at the same time Pearce jerks upward, as if choked by an invisible vise. He never should have left. Just as he is losing consciousness, Pearce falls abruptly to the floor in a pitiful heap. Regaining his composure, he salutes, turns sharply, and strides as confidently as he can manage toward the door.

The Fire out of the room. Pearce stops in the doorway, his nerves buzzing. If you want to go back to the mountains, I can take away every ounce of power I gave you. He touches his cheek and finds it still wet with blood. Considering how insane things are right now, getting up at five in the morning, tramping through a city crawling with soldiers, using a big chunk of my M to conspicuously morph my arm into an ax, and hacking down a tree in the middle of Overland Park on a banned Holiday is probably one of the riskiest, stupidest things I could do.

She looks at Wisty and nods her chin in the direction of the fireplace. Been going for almost two days now. I feel nauseated. Wisty catches my expression and looks perplexed. As much as I want to tell her about what I witnessed in that alley, more than anything I just want to forget it and get my sister far away from the capital.

She winks at me and Pearl, and in a moment the broken ornaments, sitting crudely on the branches, transform into a rainbow of winking electrical lights, the colors glowing in the dark room. I whistle in appreciation, and the other Needermans gather around, the kids oohing and aahing. I smile at Pearl, but her tiny face is a mask.

She looks like the image of death. My breath catches in my throat. And then I see them. Only … nothing works. I feel eyes on me everywhere. She knows. Or at least more promising than the jaws of the half-dead mutts. This could be … really bad. I stumble backward. I wince. I hold her clammy hand.

My shoulders and lower back muscles are screaming. I smash my hand into the painting of The One. They all know. A couple of suits trot down the white marble steps of the Capitol building. I almost laugh. I already did that. She was the only one I had left in the world. We seem to have lost the club-wielding pigs behind the crowd for a few precious seconds.

And then. I feel everything within me explode at once. How can my power be bone-dry? There are bullet shells on the floor. Wisty and me. No need to overreact. The One wants her fire. A snow globe?

In the entryway behind him is that same big-eyed. At my nonchalance. I kind of figured that out now. She looks fierce. The expression kind of reminds me of Wisty at the height of her frustration with me.

Silence hangs thick between us as the kid debates between his conscience and his pride. Boy soldier. The girl is standing outside the door.

I take a couple of steps toward my sister protectively. The barrel of the gun follows. Something had nailed him in the back of the head. I already know which will win. I could easily deck him. When the first kill still feels like a game. I start to sweat. No one seems to have followed him here.

But before I get that far. I look behind him. His eyes narrow on the mark.

What just happened? Did my power suddenly flare up and go rogue? Did I have a perfectly targeted spasm of some kind? I let out a long breath.

He evidently decides to up the ante. I spot an object rolling to a stop nearby. Though celebrating the Holiday is forbidden under pain of death. I look at her warily. I now see hints of it everywhere as I glance out the window: Then it sinks in: Many of the policemen are turning back. There are no people in the street except for Blood Plague sufferers. After less than half a mile the police are on our trail again. But the plague victims are constantly underfoot — and crave vengeance.

You know — scavenging for necessities. But Pearl opens the sack so reverently that for a second I think it must be something really important — even more than money. Pigeons scare up as fear-stricken shrieks echo down the alley. Pearl Marie lowers her sack and motions to our surroundings. Finally she notices my agitation and sets the sack aside carefully. I nod. I have to duck to get through the doorway. They gave me the biggest job of anyone. I turn to see a herd of the sick descend on a couple of soldiers.

Now the snow globe makes sense. Of course. Pearl laughs ruefully. And the antlers. I have trouble keeping up as the little girl slips under fences and around street carts. My sister is dying here. Just let me die. With Wisty in my arms. Or are now infected. I follow the kid out behind the building and duck into an alley roped off with a sign that reads: Then she fishes out some moldy-looking rags and wets them from one of the buckets set up to catch ceiling leaks.

Pearl Marie. I hate to break it to you. Make that broken Holiday decorations. Holiday antlers bobbing. Pearl jets along. The decorations are nice and all.

The maze of turns is dizzying. Pearl Marie is small but lightning quick. I have to admit they kind of are beautiful. But even with the cops off our tail for the moment. Instinctively I tense up in an offensive position. They look straight-up terrified. She shakes her head. Even against Mama May. I stayed behind. They hate us. Ziggy was smiling. He sent his henchman to do his dirty work.

But Mama May takes one look at Wisty and me. Too long. I soon learn. I can hardly blink before Pearl disappears in a sea of embracing bodies.

She takes up space. We have to do the right thing. Mama May will set it right. He wanted to put his hands on our heads. Her big girth is a sharp contrast to the rest of her spaghetti-legged family. I pull Pearl off to the side and gesture at the onlookers. Too silent. Before I can ask who Mama May is. I think. I look at her. And then we were running. What is everybody in the entire Overworld afraid of?

If we were going to get the plague. Some of the kids went right up to him. An older gray-haired man looks me up and down and shakes his head. Ziggy was smart. Half an hour later. Pearl is staring straight ahead.

That silvery gray is mesmerizing and demands accountability. Her full. The moment she enters the room. Instead it just made us a giant target. I notice a group of women across the room with the same dark.

I mean. In the beginning. In bad shape. And look at her. He raises an eyebrow at me but lets it go. For the dead. My magic makes me like him.

Everyone in the room looks shell-shocked. My lungs are burning so much I think for a second that I might be flaming out and can actually feel it for the first time. My heart aches for them. Where is Whit? I vaguely remember him carrying me. Believe me. The bigger one. You feel it inside you. I wish I could get his attention. I shake my head. Not yet. The next time I open my eyes. To my utter satisfaction. Not very good at it. The girl who can set herself on fire. When I realize what they are singing.

My heart starts to race until I see my brother. Then the singing starts up. Is he sick? Is he being tortured somewhere by my skeletal captors? Two kids stand over me. I lock eyes with Whit across the room. To me. The candles are blurring again. An older man with a weathered face and a braid running down his back is leading some kind of vigil. I collapse back into the cushion of sleep. A sob catches in my throat as I hum along to the familiar melody.

The whole place is radiant with candlelight. I know what loss feels like. These people. Some Gift. There seems to be a ton of people surrounding me. There are shadowy figures all around me.

After a minute. Go where? I sigh in frustration. Pearl holds up a piece of Holiday glass so I can see my reflection. Something jabs me in the ribs and I flip onto my feet. Trust me. I could sleep until next Holiday season. Pearl nods skeptically.

I could just morph a bit. If anything. I owe them this. Come on. Small brain? It used to be so easy before. I reluctantly start climbing into the crusty clothing. So sue me. Sometimes you have to. I peek out from under my disguise of toga-like moldy blanket topped with a half-unraveled scarf as a face mask topped with a large sun hat. Pearl stands up. Something is different. After days of feeling my power slipping away from me.

In the millisecond before I move to strike. What with being a fugitive on the run from the most powerful being in the universe. Find a disguise. Wait a minute. I start to smile gratefully. I will not let my sister die. And she had helped Wisty and me so many times before.

Her sweet smell. To the Underworld. To Celia the love of my life. The words lap at my ears like an echo in a seashell. I know she could tell me what to do.

Like this one. If I could just get back to Celia. As a spirit. I need her now. I head for a concrete wall at the end of an alleyway and smash my shoulder into it at full force. To the Shadowland. I drag myself out of the garbage on the street. Byron seemed to be right about one thing: So maybe. As screwed up as a lot of his theories were. Just hang in there. Pearl sees my angry expression and shrugs. I crouch down by Wisty. Kids who are long gone now but whose determination I can still feel.

What was it she said? I felt it. Though Death but seldom turns aside From those he means to take. I say the poem over and over. Pearl is looking at me with big. It has to have worked. I shut my eyes tightly. I have the power to heal.

Wisty passes out. And he used to keep an eye out for me. Her eyes are dazed and feverish. Wisty coughs violently. I lick my lips and try to swallow my panic. Pearl grips my hand tightly as if it had been her idea all along.

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My fingers burn with the spark of raw. And this is the best advice your big brother is ever going to give you. My pulse quickens. I have to work fast. I expect her to make some snide remark. When the surge subsides. I peek at Wisty tentatively. With that small effort. This has to work. I let go of Pearl and start to riffle through my journal for a spell.

Wisty struggles in the grubby linens. What if whatever I just did actually killed Wisty instead of saved her? He looks more like The One. Pearl slouches next to me. I hold my breath. He would not yet our hearts divide. I feel totally drained. If I could just get warm. A whimper escapes my lips. I try to slow the blood thundering into my brain. I try to lurch away from her.

The girl is evidently impressed. I grip the covers with white-knuckle panic. I stare at this morbid little girl. Her eyes are glued to me. I must sound utterly crazy. I may not be totally well. But thanks to my help. I could figure all of this out. The kid raises an amused eyebrow at me. That does it. I feel paralyzed. And where is my brother? I squint to focus my eyes. My vision is still a little blurry.

Witch & Wizard: The Fire

I feel a twinge of anger. Not knowing what else to do. She has this weird beauty to her. She sits cross-legged next to me and starts whittling at splinters of wood. I try to scream for help. Want me to cough some blood your way? Just get over here and help me sit up. So many people want me dead. She reluctantly moves closer and tries to push up the rags behind me with the very tips of her fingers so she can avoid actually touching me. Then I see the glint of her knife. The air tastes stale and recycled.

I realize with relief. My hands are blue is the only thing I keep thinking. My heart constricts when she gets to the part about how our parents really are dead. I flinch. She prattles on for what seems like forever. She moves toward me. A terrific fire crackles in the hearth.

I stand up. I notice that. Who knows who this doomed woman was. A newspaper blows across the street like tumbleweed. I cough. Glancing around. The frenzied group is turning from the crisp remains of the poor soul strapped to the pillar.

This morning. Then an icy. The smell hits me first. That smell. My throat goes dry. I amble after them. I am actually the only person on this block. Curiosity piqued. Rounding the corner of the alley.

These are its children. But what else is there to say? The blackened. Not a rally — a witch burning. Richer than most. There might as well be crickets. Followers of the N. Until you see the emptiness in their eyes. All I see is a large group of New Order citizens. Then I hear a laugh down the block.

This is the middle of the most frenzied. And then I see a tuft of hair clinging to the charred scalp. Reality finally comes into sharp focus. The nauseating stench of burning flesh and singed hair hangs in the air with the plume of black smoke. But after three hours on a busy corner in the business district with only a meager handful of beans to show for it.

People with some speck of compassion. In the center. But still they look like people you see every single day in the capital. The New Order. I stumble forward.

The thought of her is like another kick to the gut. AND every muscle in my body tenses as hundreds zero in on me like bloodthirsty piranhas. My relief lasts only a second. The other Death Squaddies move in. I could attempt to hurl a spell at them to hold them off. The crowd pulses and sways in front of me as a man with a greasy black mustache and thin little lips. Even with Celia waiting for me in the Shadowland.

Things are happening too fast for me to register the pain of each injury. My vision returns just in time to see a steel-toed boot connect with my abdomen. Out of the corner of my eye I see a van pull up. I try to focus on something else besides the fists raining down on me. Or all of my large and small intestines. I might be seeing you sooner than I thought. One yanks my arms behind my back while two more take turns kneading my face into pizza dough.

Then I think of that pitiful. I pause for a second on the corner. Let them destroy one another. Joints rheumatic. I hesitate and consider going back to heal them all. I feel this dark energy building within me. I finish with a poem that always seemed particularly gruesome: No more a flashing eye — no more a sonorous voice or springy step. Guilt at having created even more violence eats at me. Lungs rotting away piecemeal. I limp away from the chaos just as the beatings start.

I allow my disguise to fall away as I walk. I start to say something. An oversize turkey dominates the middle of the circle. In fact. The kids are all talking at once.

Take it. They look like another family has already picked them over. Cutting out of family time early to do one thing or another.

Mama May reveals two poorly plucked pigeons. Mama May flashes her biggest smile at all of us and bangs on a bucket to signal that the meal is ready. Everybody gather round. And the pie. I could eat pie for the rest of my life.

An excited murmur goes through the room. I beam at Whit excitedly. I stare at Whit pointedly. I feel safe. We were together not so long ago. So many traditions lost. WHIT keeps pushing for us to just take off. Maybe The One is God.

He looks away from me. Pearl shrieks her high hyena laugh. I figured you might need a little sparkle for that ugly mug. Things are getting more dangerous. Using my near-death experience is a little manipulative. Her strong arms envelop me in a crushing hug. He hands each of us a dessert plate heaped with pie. This really means a lot. Mama May spots the hot. Whit huffs and stalks away.

I gawk at him. At the bottom of each giant garbage bag is a single strand of silver tinsel. I normally hate to have my hair touched. The fall of the New Order? Open it already! Just then Pearl Marie runs up to us. Suddenly I miss my parents so much I can almost feel them in the room with me. Whit and I try to give them space. I almost wish we had left and avoided intruding on their intimate family moment. Look what God got us anyway — nothing but sickness and death. The One is the only being I can see who has any control in this world.

Voices that The One silenced for good. I take mine. After all those people were executed in the square last month. It used to be the season for getting together. Before I can turn away. The trouble is. Regaining his composure. If you want to go back to the mountains. There is only one person in the world whom he hates more than the witch. Hand shaking.

So am I to understand that you employed demonstrably incompetent idiots to do a job that I brought you here specifically to do? If he is strong enough. Blood is dripping onto the floor in bright. He touches his cheek and finds it still wet with blood.

He often does so for sport on lazy afternoons. The One whirls around. After all. With white-blond hair combed severely back from his forehead.

The One strikes Pearce hard across the face. The One raises an eyebrow. His name is Pearce. When Pearce remains bitterly silent. The One presses his lips together. His mouth twists into a sour grimace. The young soldier reaches a tentative hand toward The One. Pearce surveys the rows upon rows of surveillance screens that light up the control tower. With a tap of his fingertip. Biting his tongue to keep from screaming.

He never should have left. Beautiful but hard. I can take away every ounce of power I gave you. Pearce falls abruptly to the floor in a pitiful heap. An inch or two more. The One can incinerate any of the children pictured. The girl is there. Pearce feels a familiar fury heat up his cheeks and his ears. Pearce stops in the doorway. He is tallish. His dazzlingly convincing smile and his straight white teeth make him a living poster for the clean. Just as he is losing consciousness.

The One clears his throat. The words are out before he can stop them. I tackle Wisty and together we tumble out of the fourth-story window. I whistle in appreciation. We are animals caught in a trap. I smile at Pearl. What has she ever worked for? Where else are you gonna go? Wisty sighs in frustration. Should work nicely for your hanging gallows. In the pandemonium. I was almost getting too comfortable for a second there.

What do you say? A dizzying number of Death Squad recruits flood into the space. But I worked hard for those pieces of broken glass. Considering how insane things are right now. I look around frantically for a weapon or a way out of this situation. Mama May coughs. They knew this day would come. Can they keep this whole family warm at night? Warm and safe? Wisty winks at me.

Some of the soldiers are stomping at the floor. The next floor is bombed out. As much as I want to tell her about what I witnessed in that alley. She winks at me and Pearl. Pearl looks mesmerized by the wolves. Been going for almost two days now.

Wisty catches my expression and looks perplexed. She looks at Wisty and nods her chin in the direction of the fireplace. One of the men laughs as his wolf strains against the chains.

The Needermans seem to have disappeared. Where can we go? My mind races with my pulse. I feel nauseated. I want to join in their moment. This is more like my life. Yet here we still are. So why are these N. Back in the days of the Resistance. I told her to stick with Mama May and run. She struggles against them. We are not the only ones still battling this unjust system. I just got you back. I squint up at the window. The Resistance kids. The soldiers lean out the window.

I dash down the alley of rubble after my brother. I glance. Mom and Dad. A small sign of support and unity. You know. And we always keep our promises. Who have we made promises to. He looks at me. I turn to Whit. His face struggles between hope and defeat. We owe them more than this. More than just letting them go. I cross my arms and walk a couple of paces. Then he jumps right back into our conversation. But maybe the New Order finally broke her.

It was dumb to waste all that energy on a weak fire and Holiday lights so soon after being sick. I can see the small twitch of muscles around his mouth.

My adrenaline surges. The alarm goes off. Whit nods. Maybe they turned it into the new Resistance HQ. Then I turn around. I vote we try to find Janine. The blinking light from the OneDer Burger sign gives his face an eerie hue.

I slow to a halt next to a closed fast-food joint. I sound angrier than I mean to. Whit shoots me an annoyed look and steps out from behind the Dumpster. I roll my eyes. Going … to … barf.

He looks me in the eyes. Captain Wisteria.

ROOSEVELT from Wyoming
Feel free to read my other articles. I take pleasure in floral arrangements. I am fond of reading comics joyfully.