Iced - Page 40/120

I look at him. There was nearly a question mark at the end of that one. “Dude, you worried about me? I’m indestructible. When did you find out about this one?”

“Fade found it about forty minutes ago. He’d passed the church ten minutes earlier, and it wasn’t iced. On his way back it was.”

“So it is the freshest one we’ve seen so far.” I notice he’s not pressing into the church in slow-mo like he has at prior scenes. Guess it’s a little cold even for him.

I breathe in and out, fast and hard, bellowing my lungs, priming my adrenaline pump. “Let’s do it.”

I mentally pick myself up, shift gears and freeze-frame in.

There’s cold and then there’s something worse. This cold knifes into me and twists, catching gristle and bone. It slices down through muscle and tendon, razoring my nerves. But this scene is the freshest of them all, and if there’s anyplace I’m going to find clues, it’s here, before the temperature starts to rise and things change. If things do. I just don’t know enough.

I circle the small gathering, shivering. I’ve stuttered with cold at other scenes but never shivered while freeze-framing. I think shivering is cool because it’s the body’s way of freeze-framing on a molecular level. Your cells sense the temperature is too cold for you, and your brain makes you vibrate minutely all over to generate heat. So I’m, like, freeze-framing twice right now, on a cellular level and on my feet. The body is a brilliant thing.

I look at their faces first.

They’re frozen with their mouths open, faces contorted, screaming, same as the outdoor Laundromat-people. These folks saw it coming, too. All except for the priest who’s looking startled at the folks standing there, which tells me whatever it was, it came from behind the priest and it came fast because his head isn’t even turning. He must have been reacting to the looks on their faces. It must have appeared and iced simultaneously, or he’d have had time to begin to look behind him.

I feel a little better about whatever’s happening because twice now people saw it coming. That means I have a chance of getting out of its way if it comes in my direction.

“Save your. Observations and breath,” Ryodan says at my ear. “Gather. Info and. Get out.”

I look at him because of how he just spoke. Soon as I do I understand why he kept stopping and starting. His face is iced solid. It cracks when he adds, “Hurry the. Fuck. Up.”

My face isn’t iced. Why is his? I reach out without thinking, like I’m going to touch him or something, and he knocks my hand away. “Don’t. Fucking touch. Anything. Not. Even me.” Ice shatters and re-forms on his face four times before he completes the sentence.

Embarrassed, I whiz away, snap my mind up tight and focus on the details. I have no clue why I almost touched him. There’s no explanation for my behavior. I think he put some kind of spell on me with his application.

What’s happening at these iced places? Why is it happening? Is some inhumanly cold part of Faery really bleeding through? I understand why Ryodan thinks it is. At each scene, nothing appears to have been taken. I see no common denominators. Nothing was eaten. No one was harmed. Then why did it happen? I consider each of these iced scenes a crime. People are dead. Crimes require motive. I whiz back and forth, trying to discern some inkling of a motive, a hint of a sentient mind behind this. Looking close, for tiny injuries, say from something like needle-thin teeth. Are they drained of bodily fluids certain sick Fae consider tasty? The thought makes me think of a few Fae I should have killed. If I had, everything would be fine between me and Mac. She’d never have known. Still don’t know why I didn’t. Wasn’t like I wanted to get caught.

I see no signs of harm or foul play of any kind.

Then I see her and it’s an instant heart punch.

“Aw, bugger!” I say.

I don’t mind so much when adults get killed because I know they had a life. They lived. They had their chance. And hopefully they died fighting. But kids … well, kids just slay me. They didn’t even get to know what a crazy, wonderful, amazing place the world is! They didn’t even get to have hardly any adventures.

This one didn’t get any adventures at all. She never even got passed the “Gee, I’m glad I got milk” stage.

One of the women is holding a baby girl with a halo of curly red hair just like mine, nestled in the crook of her arm. She has a tiny fist wrapped around her mom’s finger and is frozen staring up at her mom like she’s the most beautiful, magical angel in the world, which is exactly how I felt about mine before everything got so … yeah, well. So.

And something nuts happens to me that I don’t understand, but I’m going to start doing what the rest of the world does and blame everything on my hormones because I used to be the coolest of the cool until I started having periods.

I get all mushy inside like some kind of wimp that buys into those greeting card commercials, and I think about Mom, and even though she did things to me that other people would think were awful, I understand why she kept me in a cage. There weren’t many choices and she didn’t have much money and she wasn’t always mean to me. She did it to keep me safe. I never blamed her for keeping me in a cage with a collar.

I just wished she’d stop forgetting me.

Like she didn’t want to remember me.

Or maybe she wished she’d never had me.

But it wasn’t always like that with us. I remember feeling crazy-loved. I remember when it was different. I just never could get it back.

And all the sudden there’s like this stupid fecking thing so cold at the corner of my eyes on the insides like I tried to cry or something and I don’t fecking cry, and it froze the second it started and my head hurts and I reach out and I touch the tiny fist wrapped around her mommy’s finger and my heart squinches and then I have this horrible pressure in my ears and then something inside me gives with a soft squishing sound, and all the sudden I can’t breathe and I’m so cold I guess it must be like getting dumped naked in space.

The cold knifes into me, flays me, slays me, glacierizes me.

Cold takes on new meanings and just about when I think I understand it, like it’s some complex state of being that I could exist inside of, it flips all around on me, and I burn everywhere and I’m hot, and I’m hot, and I’m so fecking unbelievably hot that I start tearing off my clothes and I can’t do it fast enough because I feel thick and slow and stupid and I realize somehow I’ve dropped back down into slow-mo!