The Untouched (The Unseen #2) - Piper Sheldon
“Let’s hope I don’t kill anything tonight,” I say to the plant buckled in my passenger seat.
She doesn’t say anything back. Never name the plants. It just makes losing them hurt all the more.
Don’t go pitying yourself. My grandmother’s voice is as clear in my head as if she were standing right next to me. Focus on what’s working. I grip the steering wheel of my Jeep and take a deep breath in and out. The aching pain in my back and clammy skin could almost feel like the flu if I weren’t so used to the symptoms of my illness.
“I am Julia Russo. I’m alive. I’m not feeling great, but I will soon.” I list these things out loud to myself knowing the looks I’d get if anybody were to see. Thankfully, there’s a reason I’m alone. “I have a steady job that I am good at. I have a best friend and a pet fish to keep me company.” I don’t think it’s pertinent that said best friend exists solely online and that I haven’t ever met her in real life. “I have legs that work and lungs that breathe.” I take another big deep breath as though to hammer in the point. “I am grateful to be here today.”
Just because I can’t touch people without potentially shocking or burning them doesn’t mean I can’t be grateful. Just because I’m all alone doesn’t mean I don’t have hope. Before I get out of the car, I blow a kiss to the worn photo of my grandparents on the dashboard.
“Miss you.” I push away the ache of loneliness that threatens.
The plant is tucked safely in my right arm as I maneuver out of the Jeep, gym bag over the other shoulder. Like an unruly dog on a leash, the sickness inside me pulls impatiently, causing a wave of nausea. A flash of light zaps from my arm to the metal door.
“Sorry,” I say to the plant.
It probably felt that even if I didn’t. The bright green leaves shimmy in the warm summer breeze.
I stand in the darkness listening only to my beating heart and the ticking of the engine as it cools. Up here, closer to the peak of the mountain and away from the city, the new moon allows for a thousand glittering lights to shine, expanding out around me like an ocean of diamonds.
I close my eyes as the power under my skin start to simmer. I don’t fight it now though; I don’t need to. A shimmering light begins to illuminate me from the inside out.
The fern and I make our way to the long-abandoned factory. The crunch of gravel under my shoes is the only sound in the still night, save the occasional nosy birds wondering at my presence.
I stop and turn toward the trees.
“If I were you, I’d fly a little farther out,” I call to them.
It’s enough to startle them to flap their wings and disappear into the inky sky.
I close my eyes and say a little prayer for any creatures that might be hiding in the factory. Rats or not, they didn’t ask for this.
Inside the abandoned building the smell of mildew competes with the elemental scent of iron support beams and the musty, decaying concrete surrounding me. The windows have been painted black and even the spray paint tags are at least a decade old. Rumors of ghosts and serial killers even keep teens from messing with this place now.
If only they knew I was the one to fear.
My sneakers are silent on the cement floor as I make my way to a back room, deeper into the den of containment. The echoing room is about the size of an elementary school gym. The walls are black with burn residue. It’s solid concrete; there are no windows and the acoustics are great.
“Hello!” I shout.
My voice echoes back.
Under my skin, the power is folding over, tripling and growing like some lab experiment gone wrong. It can feel what’s coming next.
“Easy now,” I tell myself. When I look down, the veins in the back of my hands glow silvery white. I take a deep breath.
This is my life. Some people get period cramps and I get containing my mystery illness until it starts to eat me from the inside out and then come up here to relieve the pressure. And sometimes the period cramps, too.
In one corner of the room, I set down the plant.
“Don’t worry, plant. I got this,” I say as I