Ever (The Ever Series Book 4)

By: C. J. Valles
1: Dead Girl





This one could be the last.

The thought causes a startling thrill to course through me. No more waiting. The war will be that much closer to ending. I will watch the life drain out of her eyes and then never have to wonder again if this world will be taken from us.

I incline my head toward the windows of the classroom, listening to the steady hiss of precipitation that will taper off in the coming dawn, only to return again as it always does in this corner of the northwestern United States. The sound of the rain is soothing, softening the perpetual hum of billions of minds—only one of which I am searching for.

She is coming. I saw her. Long, straight, dark-chocolate hair, a pale complexion, and a grim, watchful expression that I have seen on weathered faces many times her age. I expect her to be young, but not too young. There is a common element to the countenances of younger humans that causes a pang somewhere deep in the recesses of my psyche. Recognizing it, I feel my lip curl in disgust. Guilt. Such a human foible.

I have been here, hunting these creatures too long. I live in their world and look as they do. I even act as they do—when absolutely necessary. My eyes shift toward the window, and my mind travels a short distance in time. I see it perfectly: a period when every human alive now had yet to exist.



1862



The boy—at twelve or thirteen—had been solemn and older than his years, much the same as the quarry I now await. His delicate features and serious eyes had been framed by dark hair. That morning, I had watched as he stepped from the rudimentary living quarters on his family’s land in what used to be called Oregon Country. The father had been dead nearly six months. Perhaps that was the grief I had seen in the boy’s eyes? The mother had been nursing an infant that I imagined would not make it through the winter.

Holding a wooden pail in his hand, the boy had paused and sniffed the air after his first step outside, as though he had known a predator was nigh. I had waited with the stillness that only one who has waited forever could achieve. In the low light, I could see everything, whilst he perceived no more than a hand’s length in front of his face as he took his unerring steps toward the small barn. I watched him with an acute awareness for how briefly these beings exist.

A glimmer of orange light crept across the horizon. These humans had been entrenched in their own battle, killing one another, while most of them knew not why. This particular region, though, settled by trappers and traders like this family, had been mostly untouched by the war that had raged to the east. I cared not. I had other preoccupations when I rose from inertia to blot out the latest rift—this human mind that could tip the balance and spell our downfall.

I had taken a mere step from the tree line. Then, in an instant, I had appeared in front of him. The pail had dropped to the sodden, mossy ground as his eyes took in my form in the low light: the inhumanly green eyes, the halo of blond hair glinting in the rising sun, and height uncommon to his time.

Michael, his thoughts had echoed.

Many during the past two human millennia had thought the same, and it was no surprise that his mind instantly traveled to his forefathers’ mythology—because this boy saw me differently than the vast majority of humans. It is why he had to die. I would have spared him if only I could have, but it would not have changed the unwavering conviction that his mind was a danger to us. I already had sensed the gathering, those on the other side grasping for a newborn vessel. Had I not acted, they would have lured him into infinite possession soon enough.

“Have you come to take my sister?” the boy had asked quietly.

“No, William. I’ve come for you.”

I had seen nothing wrong in allowing him to believe his faith’s rather elaborate construct. After all, giving this creature one last moment of solace in an otherwise miserable existence—the hardship of which I could read quite clearly in his eyes—had been a mercy I could spare.

“Allow her to grow old, then. Please. And grant me peace everlasting.”

“I shall.”

There had been tears in his eyes, yet he had seemed otherwise unafraid. I had known then that I should have destroyed him swiftly, but I had grown cautious, curiously afraid that I had become fallible in my judgment. After all, we had had an eternity stolen from us before we escaped. What gave me the right to steal indiscriminately such a brief existence from those humans who posed no threat at all?

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