By Berneta L. Haynes and Lornett B. Vestal
As Valerie rushed to Sage’s quarters, she wondered why it was quiet. Where were all the family members? She checked a couple of rooms and found them empty. The dining hall was as empty as when she’d left it earlier.
Then she heard voices coming from outside. Chanting. The haunting sound sent a chill through her. Valerie, you need to turn the hell around and get the fuck out of here. Just go get Grayson and leave now.
But Mia was missing, she reminded herself. And Grayson’s about to have a nervous breakdown. I have to find out where Mia is and if she’s okay.
She reached the double doors to the garden and opened it a crack. Everyone was standing in the garden and gathered around Sage. Holding hands, they recited a chant that sounded both beautiful and eerie.
Inhaling and mustering up all her courage, Valerie entered the garden and approached the group.
Sage called out to her. “Come join us, please.”
Valerie regarded Sage with increasing curiosity. Were her eyes playing tricks on her, or was Sage shimmering?
All eyes rested on Valerie as she moved through the crowd and drew closer to Sage. Using her telepathy, she tried to scan for Mia but heard nothing. Instead, she heard another voice inside her head and stopped in her tracks.
It’s okay. Mia is all right.
Sage? How the hell are you in my mind? What are you doing in my head? You’re not a telepath.
I wasn’t…until yesterday.
From ten feet away, Sage stretched her arms as Valerie had seen only Mia do until now. Her hands grasped Valerie’s shoulders.
“Everything is fine, Val,” said Sage, stepping forward.
“How can you stretch your body like that? I didn’t know that was one of your abilities, too. What’s going on?” Valerie said, brushing Sage’s hand off her shoulders.
“Mia’s in a better place.”
Anger replaced bewilderment in an instant. Valerie ran to Sage, grabbed her upper arms, and squeezed them tightly enough to make her wince. “Sage, you somehow have my ability now, and you have Mia’s ability. What have you done with Mia?”
“Mia’s with the angels,” said Bom, stepping forward.
Valerie glanced at her and turned to Sage. “If that means what the fuck I think it means…” She reached for the Glock in her pocket but suddenly couldn’t move. She was stuck, as though weights were holding her ankles down. She looked down at her feet and at Sage as the realization hit her. “Let go!”
“Let me explain something, Val. All I have to do is connect with a fader once—deeply, on some emotional level—to tap into their ability,” said Sage, brushing her index finger along Valerie’s neck. “It can be from a night of passion, like I had with your friend, Mia. Or it can be from holding hands with a grieving mother like you.”
Valerie’s anger morphed quickly into fear as she tried to speak, but nothing came out of her mouth anymore.
“One could say I’m the closest thing to God on this green earth. The family here understands that. When I explained my goal to Mia and what it could mean for this world, she understood. She sacrificed herself for the greater good. She understood that allowing me to become one the most powerful faders in the world was for the greater good.” Sage took Valerie’s hand and kissed the back of it. “Mia was a beautiful soul and the only fader I’ve met with elongation abilities.”
“There are other faders here,” said Valerie, looking around at the adoring family members. “Why haven’t you taken their abilities? Why are you doing this now?”
Sage smiled, looking at her followers. “None of them are special. Besides Bradford, who has a gift for phasing through walls, none of them can do anything beyond fading. I’m already capable of fading and phasing through walls.”
Valerie fell silent, not sure what to say. Sage’s primary ability was parasitic in nature, and she realized she was about to become yet another one of her victims.
“But you’re special, Val. Telepaths are rare, and I spent so long searching for one. You, as the first telepath I’ve connected with, will help me toward my goal. You’ll help me gain the type of power I’ve dreamed of.”
Sage, you don’t have to do this. Think of my family. Please let me go. Valerie knew her pleas were futile as she noted the predatory gaze of the woman standing in front of her.
“I think you realize what’s going to happen, don’t you? A fader’s abilities are not just part of who they are. It’s what they are, integral to them. These abilities are more important to us than even our senses. After all, we can live without our sight, hearing, smell, and so on. But we faders can’t live without our abilities. Isn’t it ironic that the thing that makes us so powerful also makes us so uniquely vulnerable?”
Please, Sage. Please don’t do this. Images of Kendrick, Aya, and Malik flashed in Valerie’s mind, and tears rushed down her cheeks.
“To take your ability, I must take your life. I wish there was another way, but it’s a small sacrifice for the greater good. As Mia understood, with this power I will lead us faders to new heights. It will enable me to connect to faders all over the world. The world that despises us will soon kneel before us. Poetic, isn’t it? All in part thanks to you. You’re indeed one of the most powerful among us, but you failed to use your talents. I won’t.”
As tears poured, and she knew her last moments were upon her, she hoped Grayson had escaped. She wondered if she ever should’ve left the warmth of her family. But she’d wanted to protect them, to prevent her vision of Kendrick dying in Malik’s arms from coming true. Perhaps it was her own death she’d been predicting all this time.
The family members chanted, “Praise be, praise be.” The chant grew louder until Valerie couldn’t hear her own thoughts.
Sage shook her head. “I’m so sorry. I really liked you, but this is bigger than you and me. This is part of God’s plan. My plan.”
As tears gushed like a river, Valerie closed her eyes, longing to see her family one last time. To her surprise, it worked.
She found herself standing on the porch, watching Kendrick as he enjoyed a cold beer on a warm spring day. With a smile, he watched Aya play in their small front yard with a couple of her school friends.
A moment later, he clutched his chest as though he was experiencing sharp pain. Valerie watched, horrified, as he dropped to one knee.
But he stood up suddenly and looked around, placing the can of beer on the porch railing. His confusion transformed into terror. “Valerie?”
“I’m here,” she yelled, ignoring the pain vibrating throughout her body. “I’m here, Kendrick.”
“Valerie,” he said, coming closer and searching for her. “Are you okay? Valerie?”
She thrust her arms around him, wishing she could feel his warmth. “Goodbye,” she said, knowing he couldn’t hear or see her. She let go after casting a last glance at Aya in the yard.
When she opened her eyes, she stared into Sage’s cold blue eyes.
Sage placed her palms against Valerie’s temples, and a beautiful purple aura surrounded them.
Pain like nothing Valerie had felt before shot through her head and settled in her temples, blurring her vision. Within moments, her body grew cold as the pain lessened and her heart slowed. Thinking about her family, Valerie closed her eyes and gave herself to the darkness.