Chapter 44: Thrown In
MY heart yanked me back into the physical realm. An intense pain surged through my being like high-voltage electricity. Pain unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
All of the joy and peace I’d had before violently ripped out of me. Every muscle in my body contracted, then released. Even my eyelids ached, so much so that I was afraid to open them at first. I lived once again, and all the weight of life had crashed back into me with an overwhelming sadness. Ironically, I longed to feel death again and its incredible sense of life and vibrancy. Everything in the waking world now seemed like an illusion, and death was the true reality.
I blinked a few times and winced. It really did hurt as bad as I thought it would. My chest tensed as a blurry figure above me cleared up. The frightening monk who’d commanded the storm stood over me, eyes squeezed shut, jaw clenched hard, hands on my chest.
The electricity surging through me retracted from all my extremities toward my heart. It surged upward and exited my body through my chest, into the monk’s hands. If I understood the situation correctly, he’d just defibrillated me without a defibrillator.
His eyes opened and went wide as they met mine. A broad smile crossed his face. And with the vibrancy of a jovial child, he said, “Wonderful! You’re back.”
I tried to jerk back, but my body wouldn’t respond. “What did you do to the storm?”
“Oh, we’re old friends.” He wore a delightful smile with eyes as excited as his tone, like a grandfather sharing an intriguing secret with a young child.
Despite my fear, something about the bald, fifty-something-old man made me want to embrace him. He gave off this wonderful child-like vibe as if the whole of life were exhilarating to him. It made me want to smile, to let down my guard. The fear even began draining from me.
“The sky and I have an understanding,” he said.
I frowned at his answer, confused.
“I asked the storm to stop. It refused.” His voice didn’t change. That seemed to be his normal way of speaking, as if to a small child, but not in a belittling way. Just this wonderfully exuberant way. And his eyes still carried the same excitement as his voice. He leaned in closer. “So the Light asked me to use my authority over it to command it to stop.”
Fear inched its way back through my flesh like stalking jackals. This man was incredibly powerful, but he was one fry short of a happy meal. Did he even truly understand how he’d done what he’d done?
“The Light?” I said. “You mean…God spoke to you?”
“Of course.” The monk smiled cheerfully.
I’d never seen what happened to a person with powers who’d gone mad. Until now, that is. Madness was the only explanation for his incredible power and bizarre demeanor.
“I’m in a lot of pain,” I said.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry.” The monk reached for me. “Let me help with that.”
My eyes went fearfully wide, but I couldn’t move. What was he going to do to me?
The monk paid my reaction no mind and laid his hands on my chest. I managed a flinch, scared he might defibrillate me again. He closed his eyes tight, put his head down, and breathed deep.
Pain drained from my limbs and into his hands—into him. He gritted his teeth, jaw muscles flaring. Then a sort of reversal happened, and energy and strength came from his hands, feeding into my body, spreading like a slow-moving wave of ease and comfort.
The monk stumbled back and fell to the ground, his eyes shooting open. “Oh, my. That feels wonderful! You really were in a lot of pain.”
“What did you—” My hands and arms finally moved, feeling my body, checking to make sure the pain had actually gone. I sat up and moved to the edge of the bed. “How did you do that?”
“Oh,” the monk said. “I exchanged my health for your pain.”
I gave him a bewildered look. “Why would you do that?”
He frowned, confused. “Because you needed help.”
“You don’t look like you’re in pain at all.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “I assure you, I am in great pain, but my spirit is content.”
“You like to be in pain?”
“Of course. It brings me closer to the Light. I often ask to suffer something for Him.”
Despite being frightened of him, I couldn’t help but find him curiously intriguing. As my nerves sequestered themselves, I felt a sense of peace around him, like he was emanating it. I wanted this power he had. A power that didn’t fear pain, but embraced it, then blanketed it with peace and joy. When other people ran from a painful or dangerous situation, I’d be able to rush into it and enjoy whatever the outcome. That sounded like freedom to me. Like never-ending courage.
Not only did he seem at peace, but I sensed no hint of fear, anger, or grief in him. How could he activate his powers without those emotions?
If that was madness, sign me up.
My curiosity got the better of me concerning his love affair with pain. “You’re not gonna start whipping your back with a leather strap are you?”
“Oh, heavens no, brother.” He shifted around on his back and sat up. “That would be self-hate.”
That was a relief.
A burning sensation came into my stomach. I was silent for a moment, trying to take in all he’d said. I couldn’t believe I was actually considering what he was telling me, but I was. Something had changed inside of me. I knew for certain that there was something else out there—God, the Universe, or whatever He or It was called. And that meant I couldn’t completely discount what the monk was saying. But it wasn’t God talking to him.
Images of the storm seeped back into my mind and with them came the stark reminder that my mother was dead. I braced myself, expecting the darkness to leap from my bones at the thought…but no power came. Just anger mingled with grief. Closing my eyes, I gritted my teeth and did everything I could to repress the feelings. Who knew what would happen if I let myself feel that kind of loss.
I pushed the thoughts of Mom from my mind. I had to stay focused.
“I’m looking for someone. A man named Elian Frost.”
“Elian.” He thought for a second. “Why would you be looking for Elian?”
“So you know him?”
He nodded. “Oh, yes. He’s a good friend.”
“Do you know where he is?”
“I do.” The monk smiled. “He’s in a city hidden between two mountain tops. They call it Summerlight.”
“What the— Summerlight’s real?”
“Oh, yes. Very real.”
“So…you’ve seen Elian since he left for Summerlight?”
“Of course.” He stared at me with those excited eyes that rarely went away. “It’s been a while, but I’ve seen him.”
That was a good sign…unless this was one of his delusions. Either way, he was my only lead on Elian. I had no choice but to trust him.
“This Summerlight place…can people use their powers there without aging or going mad?”
His eyebrows crept up in an almost eerie fashion. “My, you know quite a bit.” The mystifying timbre of his voice and his slow speech set my stomach on edge. He rose from the ground as if the pain had left him completely.
I eased back from him. Had I stumbled onto a forbidden subject? Was he about to undo the healing he’d just done to me?
He leaned in close. “Where did you learn such things?”
“Winter’s E—” I caught myself before I said the entire name, then eyed him for a second, wondering if he knew of it. “I’m not allowed to say.”
He gave an intrigued look. Then, as if we hadn’t even been on that subject at all, he looked at my clothes. “Take off your clothes.”
My eyes went wide. “Uh…I’m not into that kind of thing.”
“What kind of thing? Walking around fully clothed?”
I looked at my clothes and noticed how torn up they were from the storm. “Oh.”
“You’ll find a set of clothes in the dresser.” He nodded toward the window where a small, nondescript dresser sat. “I imagine they’ll fit you just fine.”
“Whose are they?”
“Someone who’s no longer with us.”
Oh great. I was about to wear a dead man’s clothes.
A monk cracked the door and poked his head into the room. “Brother Lawrence, I’m sorry to bother you, but another tornado has touched down in the town.”
Brother Lawrence nodded and the other monk shut the door.
I cocked my head, dumbfounded. “You’re gonna go help people in your condition? How can you even stand right now after taking on my injuries?”
“Oh, the pain is still with me, but it seems it hasn’t immobilized me this time.”
This time? How many times had he done this?
“But I couldn’t even move before,” I said.
“Your body was afraid if it moved, it would damage something.” Then he smiled. “But I’m quite enjoying it!” He looked up for a moment and nodded as if someone were speaking to him. Was God speaking to him again? He looked back to me. “I’m sorry, but I must go. I’ll be back soon.”
I flinched as he burst into curls of black smoke.
Instinctively, I looked around the room to confirm he was really gone, then shook my head in disbelief. Could this day get any stranger?
I changed my clothes then walked to the door. Despite the burning in my stomach, which was beginning to fade, my body felt amazing. I needed to keep that guy around. He’d be handy if I ran myself ragged again. Or died. Then again, if I kept him around, he might be the one who kills me next time.
I opened the door and stepped into a hall. Just to my left was a large room with pillars hoisting its ceiling. Survivors of the storm littered the floor near a couple of the walls. Monks tended to the people’s wounds, but something was odd. None of the storm’s survivors were conscious.
Black curls of smoke appeared and something monk-colored shot out of them across the room. Brother Lawrence slammed into the wall, cracking it with a cringe-inducing thud! A man was bound up in his arms. They dropped to the ground and the man rolled out of his arms, unconscious. Hitting the wall at that speed, they both should’ve been the equivalent of a smoothie. But somehow, they were in one piece, seemingly unfazed.
The monk vanished again. His other robed friends scurried to the door, taking cover in the hall across the room. Who knew projectile monks were a hazard in Colorado?
I ran through the room toward the door when another black cloud of smoke shot Brother Lawrence across my path, skimming me. He slammed into the wall again, holding another survivor. Why did he keep shooting out of the smoke at such high speeds?
Oh, crap. He was rescuing people who’d been sucked into the tornado. Geez, he must’ve been coming out of it at over a hundred miles an hour.
As he vanished, I darted across the room again. The black smoke reappeared right in front of me, horizontally this time. I threw up my arms and tried to stop myself. Brother Lawrence shot out toward the ceiling, crashing into it. I slid through his smoke to a stop. A foot hit me in the head as the monk and another storm survivor fell to the ground behind me.
Brother Lawrence dropped the man in his arms, shook off the impact, and said, “Updraft.” Then he disappeared again.
The monks in the doorway motioned for me to hurry. Clearly, they knew about people with powers, and none of the unconscious survivors would see me if I used mine now.
I pulled up an aggressive emotion and pushed off toward the doorway like a rhino.
And I fell flat on my face.
What had happened to my powers? Part of me felt freed at the realization, but nearly every other inch of me sunk into a muddy grave inside an oxygen-starved coffin. My safety net was gone.
The monk burst out of another black cloud of smoke and clipped my shoulder before he slammed into the far wall, crunching it. A survivor rolled from his arms. He caught sight of me, then ran my direction.
“Come, brother. Time to use that health I gave you.”
Before I had a chance to object, he grabbed me. We were pulled into darkness, then streaming lights. It was like warp speed through a wormhole or something.
We burst into the open sky and dropped. My stomach tried to cram its way into my throat as we plummeted straight toward the earth. No, not just the earth. Toward a tornado.
“Holy cr—” Winds hit us like jet wash, sucking us into the violent gray cyclone. Streams of air whistled past my ears, the storm roaring all around us. My heart shot up in my chest as if I were on a rollercoaster. A rollercoaster made out of a freaking tornado.
Brother Lawrence held my forearm and we soared with the storm.
A man and teenage girl flew through the clouded air in front of us.
“Grab her,” he yelled.
I reached out and caught the girl’s shirt. She immediately fell unconscious. I pulled her against my chest, holding on tight.
Brother Lawrence snatched the man out of the air and the man fell unconscious.
The monk gathered us as close as he could manage. Blackness engulfed us, then streaking lights. We burst out of a black cloud and shot through the monastery. Brother Lawrence took the brunt of the force as we smashed into the wall with a muffled thud, then fell to the ground. Ouch was an understatement.
I shook my head and released my grip on the girl. She crumpled to the ground.
Brother Lawrence dropped the man but didn’t let go of me. He just smiled pleasantly.
Darkness sucked us in and lights streamed by. We burst into the torrential currents, my organs playing ping-pong inside my rib cage. A little girl tore through the air inside the gray wall of the tornado.
“Grab her,” the monk yelled.
And then, he threw me.
“Ahhh!” I shot forward and spun as I latched onto the girl. She was already unconscious.
Brother Lawrence lagged behind, holding on to another unconscious girl. He twisted his body, then opened it up to gather wind like a sail and shot forward. He collided with us and grabbed hold.
Everything went dark. Lights streamed past again.
We exploded into the monastery and slammed into the wall with another harsh thud. The girls rolled out of our arms as we hit the ground.
We both laid there on our backs for a moment, my breaths heavy, his breaths light.
“Oh, that was good fun.” He rolled onto his side and pushed up from the ground.
I squinted my eyes and jiggled my head, trying to regain my sense of being firmly planted on the ground. “How did we survive hitting the wall?”
“How did we teleport into the storm?” He had a point. Stupid question.
The other monks funneled in through the door and helped me to my feet.
Brother Lawrence turned to me. “Why were you in the storm earlier instead of taking cover?”
“I was trying to save my mom.” My gaze fell to the ground.
“I see.” His hand clapped my arm and he nodded his respect. “It takes quite a heart to do that.”
“Doesn’t feel like it,” I said. “The storm took her.”
The monk cocked his head with a curious frown. “Things are not always what they seem.”
His statement caused goosebumps to go wild on my skin—that statement I’d heard so often of late as if someone were trying to give me a message.
He walked through several cots then knelt beside one. He laid his hand on the woman lying there, rousing her from sleep. My eyes grew large as I recognized her.
“Mom!” I ran and squatted beside her.
She caught sight of me with wide, confused eyes, then propped herself up. “Ian?”
I hugged her. “What happened to you?”
“I don’t know, exactly.” She was a little spacey. “Last thing I remember is getting sucked into the tornado.”
I eyed the monk with a raised eyebrow and mumbled under my breath. “Yeah, you’re not the only one.”
She looked down, frowning. “I must’ve blacked out.”
“I’m just glad you’re okay.”
She showed me a warm smile, putting her hand on my cheek.
Brother Lawrence looked down at me. “The Light says He answered your request.”
I remembered asking for my mom to be spared during the storm. Had someone intervened or had the monk simply used his powers to save her? Was the shining man I’d seen while dead the same as the Light the monk spoke of?
I felt stupid even considering that.
“Don’t worry about me,” Mom said. “You need to find that girl before it’s too late.”
“She is quite right.” Brother Lawrence shook his head. “Abby doesn’t have much time.”
“What?” I looked at the monk, dumbfounded. “How do you know her name?”
“Nothing is hidden from the Light, brother.” He wore a knowing smile as he left the room.
I looked back to my mom. “I’m sorry I have to leave you like this.”
Mom squeezed my hand. “Go find her before it’s too late.”