Unhinged Page 91

“I know everything about my family.” Thanks to Morpheus.

I continue wrapping her in the electric cord. If I hadn’t seen my father and mother’s memory, I might actually have fallen for Red’s lie. As it is, her false accusations only make me angrier. I’d electrocute her if it would have any effect.

She grumbles as I finish knotting the cord and ease back another step.

“The spider lurks in the shadows,” Red grumbles. “She wants to give your fairy-tale prince a different ending this time. Release me and I’ll tell you where she hides.”

Sister Two?

I lift my dress hem and run out, leaving Red incapacitated.

“Catch the girl and wake the trees!” Red shouts. The toys on the wall rattle their packaging to break free.

Wake the trees. Those words are a sick validation for my earlier premonition. Those frowns I saw were more than wood grains.

Jeb sees me run from the arcade entrance and tries to maneuver through the crowd. There’s no time to get Mom. I have to clear out the place before the toys escape and humans get eaten by tulgey wood.

I stare up at the purplish fluorescent black lights on the endless ceiling, envisioning the bulbs on the sprinklers, pretending that they’re rosebuds in a garden, waiting to bloom. I imagine a nurturing rain, their petals opening wide in a push for life.

Popping spreads from one side of the cave to the other, followed by a fall of cold water sweeping in until my hair and clothing stick to my skin. The crowd’s reaction is instantaneous. Screaming girls and cursing guys push their way to the ramps, while others race around, trying to salvage costumes and food.

The chaperones attempt to control the chaos and herd everyone to the exit. I duck behind the arcade sign, and when the last chaperone rushes out of the gym-style doors, Morpheus swoops in to wrap a chain through the push bars, barricading the entrance.

The sprinklers stop at Mom’s command.

“The army’s in the arcade!” I shout as she comes into sight and the four of us are reunited—skin, hair, and clothes soaking wet. “And watch out for the trees … they’re tulgey wood.”

Jeb looks completely baffled, but Mom and Morpheus exchange anxious glances through their reflective masks.

A stampede of decomposing toys scrambles out of the game room and heads for the trees by the dance floor. I can’t see the extent of their hideousness in the shadows. Doesn’t matter. I can still picture the way they looked in those bags—miserable doll eyes blinking, clown faces snarling in pain and rage, teddies and lambs losing their stuffing through rips in their bodies—all of them carrying souls delirious for a chance at freedom.

Their small, shadowy forms slip and slide into each other on the wet cement. They grumble in mass confusion. It would be comical if it weren’t so ominous.

“Get the supplies!” Jeb shouts.

Morpheus takes to the air, his crown falling to the floor with a metallic clatter. I swoop up behind him. He’s a floating mask, doublet, and ruffled shirt skimming toward the buffet; everything else, his hose and wings, are too dark to see. Jeb and Mom follow on the ground, a hovering dress and a glowing periwinkle mask. All those years of balancing on a skateboard are paying off. Jeb does an impressive job of sliding along the drenched floor while also keeping Mom from falling.

There’s nothing but static coming over the intercom and speakers now. Flapping my wings, I scan the darkness below. It’s broken up by fluorescent platforms in the middle, murals, and ghostly trees to the north that will soon come alive, and, just a few yards perpendicular, the arcade. I cringe. It’s like looking down on a nightmarish pinball machine. As I glance at the pool tables and the glowing balls that look like marbles, an idea starts to take shape.

Morpheus interrupts my thought process, shouting over his shoulder, “Red?”

My hair blows in the gusts coming off his wings. “She’s overturned on the floor, bound and coughing up dirt.”

“That won’t last.” For once he doesn’t have a joke.

And he’s right to be serious. I only managed to keep the humans out of her path and bought us a little extra time. She wants my body back and Morpheus on a platter. She’ll figure out a way to make those two things happen. At least for now she’s incapacitated, which makes finding Sister Two top priority. I shiver, remembering Morpheus’s reaction to her sting. A human, without magic to fight off the poison, doesn’t stand a chance at survival.

Morpheus and I reach the buffet first. He lands expertly on the floor and slides to a stop. I alight clumsily on the table, my left boot squished inside a soggy fluorescent cupcake.

“Practice, luv. It’s all in the ankles,” he says as he drags out the duffel bags.

I shake off the wet cake and hop down, using my wings for balance so I don’t wipe out on the slick floor.

Jeb and Mom arrive after taking a detour so Jeb could short-circuit the elevator. Now he’s in full battle mode. “Al, let me have your shawl,” he says upon seeing me, whipping off his jacket.

I take off the brooch. “Jeb,” I mumble as he spins me around to unwrap the netting from the base of my wings while Mom and Morpheus unload stuff a few feet away, their backs to us.

“Yeah,” Jeb says, concentrating.

“Those trees, they swallow things. Then they either spit them out as mutants, or the things are lost in—”

“AnyElsewhere. Your mom told me on the way over.” His fingers keep working at the netting.

“And Sister Two is here.”

He pauses.

I look over my shoulder at him, a knot forming in my throat. “Your plan is brilliant, but this isn’t your war. You aren’t equipped to fight these things.”

His wounded gaze penetrates, even through his mask. “But he is, right?”

I look over his shoulder at Morpheus. His wings block him and Mom as they untangle the nets.

I turn, concentrating on Jeb. “No matter what you think happened between the two of us, I love you. We share battle scars and hearts. I don’t want to lose that.”

He studies my necklaces and the soldered clump of metal at my neck. “Yeah, I see how well you took care of my heart.”

I wince at the honesty behind the dig.

“But you should know by now that I never give up without a fight.” He catches the necklace, jerks me close, and presses his lips to mine—a counterclaim to Morpheus’s kiss, marked with Jeb’s flavor and passion. When he releases me, his jaw is set stubbornly. “You and me? We’re far from over.”

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