Tess' snoring was what woke me up.
Not the dreams. Not that stomach-wrenching lucid memory playing back inside my head while I slept, seeing the dead forest through the eyes of that dead man, Brennan, and leaving me nauseous when I woke. Not the chills that crept up my spine like tiny, crawling spiders. No.
It was Tess' snoring.
I laid there, awake in bed, for a few minutes afterward. I had never had that particular dream before. It was something new. Brennan had never thought about why he was there before, but he had started to in this one. Too bad I didn't have Elle here to grill me about it. Too bad I didn't have anyone.
And whoever the hell that Eluvian man was supposed to be.
The bar we were staying in wasn't very welcoming. People left us alone if we stayed out of sight, but you couldn't keep three people locked up in a tiny room for days on end. I wanted to leave. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.
Flashes of dad's face as he died plagued me all the way down the back stairs to the main room.
It was busy tonight. It always was, but worse so tonight. They mined nickel out there and Matthias was the only one with a bar in the planetside town. The train that Tess had talked about had come in and I figured they had gotten their first new shipment in today. From the taste of what we had had to drink the last few days, I supposed everyone there was excited for an import.
I avoided the main room like I avoided everyone since I didn't feel like dealing with it. Not that anyone had really bothered us much since being there with our funny clothes and complexions. A few had tried when Tess and I were together or alone without Julian around. They never tried to talk to us when he was there, though, and Matthias shooed off anyone else as soon as he saw. Not that we could understand them they were talking so fast with their brogue. I was only just starting to catch more words here and there the first time around. Mostly after sitting there listening for so long. It distracted me.
I ducked into a doorway and stayed there, in a quiet corner. I could hear Matthias somewhere in the back probably dealing with that delivery, and the nighttime crowd out front. I had figured out their work week from overhearing and today was the last day. It was late and they were all drunk and celebrating.
Tess enjoyed it. A bit. But it didn't really remind me of home at all.
I sat there, listened, and tried not to think about everything. Too bad I couldn't help the bits and pieces flitting through my head anyways. Sometimes it was all I felt like doing. Thinking. Sometimes it was all I could do now. I wondered if it would ever stop too, but I didn't think that sort of thing was supposed to just go away. Dad. Home. They were just ghosts of memories now. They lived on inside my head in stop-start motion that always felt left too open-ended and unfinished. Drab, lifeless, and stuck in time like someone had just quit painting the image partway through.
When the gunshot came, it dashed all those thoughts to pieces again.
It was a gunshot, because I felt it reverberate. No one else did in the main room - they were too loud. I waited a second without breathing, but Matthias kept on talking to whoever he was dealing with in the back like nothing had happened at all.
Maybe it hadn't. I could believe that. Hope. For a split second.
But that was all I got.
That gunshot ran through me like soundwaves under water. Muffled. Sluggish. I realized I hadn't even really heard it. That was why no one else had. I had just ... felt it.
And I knew exactly where it had come from.
I stumbled out of hiding, feet plodding along back toward the stairs with the world flying out from under me like I was in a dream. The gentle roar of the main room washed out with all the other sound, drowned by the louder roar of white noise as it grew inside my head. I hit the bottom of the stairs and started up. It felt slow, but I was at the top of the landing in the next instant.
The hallway was empty.
That misshapen door to our room closed shut with a bang. It didn't seem right somehow. Out of sync. The walls pulsed once, and were still. I started to feel sick to my stomach, but I'd started shutting each and every one of those thoughts off like lights inside my head as soon as that gunshot went off. By then, the rest of me was just moving ahead on its own.
I reached the door, and it was shut. Locked, even. I put my ear to it and I could hear scuffling in there. I could even see those two men in there through the door. One of them snapped his head toward the sound of my hand on the knob. The other took a cutter to the throat of Tess' body on the floor.
"Get the head. Quick."
I had taken that firebolt pistol back from Tess the other night. It was in my hand in an instant and pointed at the knob. That thing was nothing but cinders in an instant and the door was pounding back on its hinges.
She was dead.
I burst inside just as the firearc blade of that cutter sliced right through Tess's neck. It shorted out halfway through in a bright show of sparks. But the damage was done. If she wasn't dead before, she was now. The other man pointed a gun at me.
She was dead.
A needle of fire lanced across the room, barely making a sound. It would have hit me too, except I wasn't there anymore.
I lost myself in a sudden rush as my entire body flowed down to one side of the room and then back up again where the man with the gun was standing.
The man with the cutter wrenched Tess head roughly away from her body in the same instant I pounced on the other. I knocked the gun out of his hand and bashed his face around the other way on the backstroke. He swung a fist at me in turn, but I ducked around the heavy swing, came up behind him, and cracked the butt of my pistol over the back of his head. That sent him right down to the ground.
The other one pulled another gun on me. I caught his hand as he thrust it at me and pushed the needle of fire that came out into the wall. It melted away a chunk five times its size.
He swiped me with the gun after that. It took me in the side of the face and I toppled over backwards. I took his pistol with me, though, flopping over the side of the bed. He just snatched Tess' head up and bolted for the door.
I caught him at the doorway. He tried to pull it shut behind him as he dashed through, but the firebolt got him in the back before he could. A hole incinerated itself right through to his front side, splattering the opposite wall with blood and ash. He tripped over and collapsed in a sprawl against that wall while Tess' bloody head bounced back into the room.
I didn't look at that. I didn't look at her. I didn't say a word, and I didn't think a single thought. I just paced back and forth in a stormy line for what felt like hours. I could hear the commotion outside. People were yelling. I couldn't hear them, or make out the words. I just kept trudging back, and forth.
Back. And forth. While the walls pulsed a thunderous gray.
Then I stomped right up to that other man on the floor and shot him dead.