The Drafter

Page 86

By Jack …

He stood by the door to Overdraft, his Glock in his grip. Peri’s fingers were warm and wet when she touched them to her chest, and she coughed, scared when it came out bloody. The floor was hard against her back as she looked up at the ceiling. Not again.

“Jump.” Jack holstered his weapon and stood over her. “Go on and draft. I like you better when you’re stupid.”

Peri knew she wasn’t dying in Overdraft. She sensed Silas sifting through the swirling morass, frustrated as he tried to organize it. He didn’t need to pull the memories from her anymore. They were bunching up on each other, fighting to be realized. Groaning, she slipped out of the chair and hit the floor. Silas followed her down, wrapping his arms around her to keep her connected.

Suddenly it wasn’t Silas’s arms around her, but Allen’s. She could draft and forget for a chance to kill Jack, or die.

“I’m not dying for her,” Jack said, backing to the door.

Allen’s lips quirked. “How about it?”

“You’ll wipe me down to nothing,” she groaned. “Use me.”

“Someone will. You’ll never remember Jack, but I’ll give you the chance to shoot him before you forget.”

“No,” Peri moaned as she realized she’d done this to herself. She’d let Allen scrub her for the chance to kill the man she’d loved. What kind of a monster was she?

And then Silas caught and saved the memory as another pushed into its place. She could feel his heartache mirroring hers, building on it, making it hard to think.

“We’re in a draft!” Frank shouted. “Twenty seconds and she’s done! Sandy, get down!”

Jack backed to the door, his bloody hands outstretched. “Babe, let me explain!”

“There are no words,” she said, and with an unhealthy amount of satisfaction, she pulled the rifle up and shot him in the back as he ran.

Another fragment layered over it, wrong and out of place, making her dizzy.

“I told you she was verging on one of her epiphanies,” Sandy said as Allen one-handedly caught the keys that Frank tossed him, locking the front door before pulling a chair from a table and sitting, his feet spread wide and stance alert but casual.

Agony pulsed through Peri as a memory rose from the rest, out of synch and dizzying. “Love!” Sandy shrieked. “There is no such thing as love!”

Teeth clenched, Peri threw her knife at her. She wanted her to shut up.

Sandy twisted to avoid it, crashing into the mirror behind the bar, shattering it as she fell.

Peri moaned as Silas destroyed the memory since the mirror was clearly intact, but more memories ran in its place, a confusing blur until Silas fastened on one.

“Hey, I gave her a clean memory,” Jack said, and she hated him more than anyone in her life. “Do you know how hard it is to fragment an entire person? Make a realistic timeline from two?”

Groaning, Peri tried to get away, but it was a trap of her own making, and Silas was failing. He couldn’t control it. Numb, Peri existed in a haze as images passed faster and furious. Silas couldn’t catch them, and it was going to drown her in insanity.

But as she sat on the floor and shook, she didn’t think she cared anymore. Jack was dying on the floor and she couldn’t save him. Then it was her on the floor, Allen holding her head from the scratched boards, and she wanted Jack dead. She wanted him dead!

“Make it stop!” Peri screamed, but nothing touched her ears. Silas’s arms around her jerked, and he looked up when the glass in the front door shattered. A dark hand snaked in, looking for the lock. Dazed, Peri stared at it, wondering if she was alive. She was on the floor. Silas was wrapped around her as if he could keep her from falling apart by his touch alone. He hadn’t known what to fragment, and now they were both there, two timelines fighting for supremacy, driving her insane.

“Thank God you told me where you were,” Howard said as he tumbled in, the light gray in the parking lot behind him. “Opti is two minutes behind us.”

She was hallucinating again. Howard couldn’t really be here.

“Silas!” the imaginary man shouted as he rushed forward and grabbed Silas’s shoulder. “We have to go! Pick her up!”

Peri’s breath came in with a heave when Silas stood, scooping her up in one move. “Where’s Taf?” Silas said raggedly.

“We got a car. Another friend of hers. Come on!”

Peri shook. They’d been interrupted mid-defrag, and she was dying. Howard held the door, and the flush of cool air struck Peri with the suddenness of a slap.

“What happened?” Howard said, pacing beside them to the car.

Silas’s lips pressed. “I tried to defragment something I shouldn’t have.”

Peri’s chest hurt as she felt her breath come and go. Around and around the memories spun. There was nowhere to hide, and she shook, going into shock.

“What’s wrong with Peri?” Taf said from behind the wheel as the two of them got Peri into the backseat.

“Just go!” someone yelled, and the car lurched into motion, going too fast for even an empty parking lot. Dazed and unable to separate reality from memory, Peri breathed in the scent of Silas as he held her in the backseat. She looked at her hands, wondering where the blood was. The sky was gray. The ground was gray. She was gray, stuck between the two. She loved Jack. She’d killed Jack. Everything was all at once. Where there had been a hole in her memory, there was now overwhelming confusion and loss, married to images that made no sense. She couldn’t handle two realities. If she could, she’d be an anchor.

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