Riptide

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Chapter 46

There had been a glint of something strange in her eyes as she told me the news, I justified this by thinking that was how a doctor would tell a patient with a terminal illness that they were going to die, but I knew there was something more to the story. I simply couldn’t place my finger on it. I didn’t tell anyone about my theories because I worried they would think it was only my brain’s way of trying to make sense of my own death. I sighed and acted as if nothing had happened. I forced myself to forget the fact that I had just spent hours frantically searching their math equations for an error, a small little error which would tell me what that strange glint in Zuri’s eyes was. I pretended I hadn’t just been told I had to die so that everyone else could live. I joked and played as though I would get to go home to the people I loved most after this. I hid behind a mask of ignorance because I didn’t know what else to do. “Do you want to go see your family before we do this?” Elizabeth had asked once we had arrived at the base of the Union.

“No,” I had whispered in response, my cheeks burning with the ghosts of my dried tears. “I wouldn’t be able to leave.”

There was a moment of silence before she asked, “do they know?”

“Know what?” I asked innocently, despite unfortunately knowing what she had meant.

Elizabeth smiled. “Oh child,” she said. “Please don’t make me say it. Every superhero I have ever known has pretended not to know what I’m talking about,” she said. I sighed and shook my head. There was another moment of silence before she muttered, “too bad.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because they’d be so proud,” she told me. I nodded and looked at the ground to hide the tears in my eyes. “A word of advice,” Elizabeth whispered, pulling me in closer. “Tell them,” she said.

I looked at her curiously but she only smiled back, almost smugly as if she knew something I did not. I sighed, realizing that she was not going to elaborate on her own. “What do you mean?” I asked her.

“The universe is a mysterious place,” she said softly. “Filled with miracles of all kinds,” she told me.

I thanked her and seeing as she was clearly going to keep her secrets, I wandered off. What did it matter to me anyway? It’s not like it really was going to affect me, right?

***

She nodded and told me how grateful she was that I would sacrifice everything for everyone else but I wasn’t listening. Her words were drowned out by my wishing to live. Zuri barely spoke to me. The very person I had thought of to stay strong for couldn’t even look me in the eye and that didn’t help my overwhelming desire to wake up back in my own bed with Jagger’s big brown eyes staring at me as if to wish me luck at school. I wanted nothing more than to go back. Past the sadness of this new discovery, past the anger of my confinement, past the lying to the people I love, past the coma which had brought me here, even past the last few years, I wanted to go back to when times were simple. I wanted to be a kid again, but I couldn’t. Nothing could ever change that. Any power in this world couldn’t take me back to the days my sister and I spent playing endlessly in the Colorado winter snow before we had moved to California. Nothing could send me back to the days I spent endlessly searching for a friend before stumbling upon a lonely curly orange-haired girl who sat on the swings and fixed the wrinkles in her skirt for the boy who didn’t acknowledge her existence. Nothing in the world could send me back to the first day of fifth grade when a little boy with dirty-blond hair walked up to me and confidently complemented the science t-shirt I wore with a picture of the periodic table of elements which no one else even knew existed. Nothing could take me back to that day, the day he had unknowingly set the strange feeling I had for him in stone, transforming it into the love I felt for him presently. Nothing besides my memories could ever take me back to that day, or any other. This day and the next two days were all I had left to live. I brushed my thoughts aside and dried the tears I hadn’t noticed had begun to stream down my face, leaving lines of the dirt which had been washed away by my tears.

I realized that Elizabeth was still there, her arm was wrapped around my shoulder as I cried. “Come on,” she said, standing up from where we sat at the stairs of the entrance into the secret location inside a well-known mountain just a few miles from where I had grown up. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

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