- Unravel Me
He is a strange, strange, twisted boy.
I don’t know if I can forget what he did to me. What he made me do. How I came so close to killing all over again. I will hate him forever for it even though I’m sure I’ll have to face him again.
I never thought I’d see Warner on the compounds. I had no idea he even visited the civilians—though, in truth, I never knew much about how he spent his days unless he spent them with me. I have no idea what he’s doing here.
He finally says something to the soldiers and they nod, once, quickly. Then disappear.
I pretend to be focused on something just to the right of him, careful to keep my head down and cocked slightly to the side so he can’t catch a glimpse of my face even if he does look in my direction. My left hand reaches up to tug my hat down over my ears, and my right hand pretends to sort trash, pretends to pick out pieces of scraps to salvage for the day.
This is how some people make their living. Another miserable occupation.
Warner runs his good hand over his face, covering his eyes for just a moment before his hand rests on his mouth, pressing against his lips as though he has something he can’t bear to say.
His eyes look almost … worried. Though I’m sure I’m just reading him wrong.
I watch him as he watches the people around him. I watch him closely enough to be able to notice that his gaze lingers on the small children, the way they run after each other with an innocence that says they have no idea what kind of world they’ve lost. This bleak, dark place is the only thing they’ve ever known.
I try to read Warner’s expression as he studies them, but he’s careful to keep himself completely neutral. He doesn’t do more than blink as he stands perfectly still, a statue in the wind.
A stray dog is heading straight toward him.
I’m suddenly petrified. I’m worried for this scrappy creature, this weak, frozen little animal probably seeking out small bits of food, something to keep it from starving for the next few hours. My heart starts racing in my chest, the blood pumping too fast and too hard and
I don’t know why I feel like something terrible is about to happen.
The dog bolts right into the backs of Warner’s legs, as if it’s half blind and can’t see where it’s going. It’s panting hard, tongue lolling to the side like it doesn’t know how to get it back in. It whines and whimpers a little, slobbering all over Warner’s very exquisite pants and I’m holding my breath as the golden boy turns around. I half expect him to take out his gun and shoot the dog right in the head.
I’ve already seen him do it to a human being.
But Warner’s face breaks apart at the sight of the small dog, cracks forming in the perfect cast of his features, surprise lifting his eyebrows and widening his gaze for just a moment. Long enough for me to notice.
He looks around, his eyes swift as they survey his surroundings before he scoops the animal into his arms and disappears around a low fence—one of the short, squat fences that are used to section off squares of land for each compound. I’m suddenly desperate to see what he’s going to do and I’m feeling anxious, so anxious, still unable to breathe.
I’ve seen what Warner can do to a person. I’ve seen his callous heart and his unfeeling eyes and his complete indifference, his cool, collected demeanor unshaken after killing a man in cold blood. I can only imagine what he has planned for an innocent dog.
I have to see it for myself.
I have to get his face out of my head and this is exactly what I need. It’s proof that he’s sick, twisted, that he’s wrong, and will always be wrong.
If only I could stand up, I could see him. I could see what he’s doing to that poor animal and maybe I could find a way to stop him before it’s too late but I hear Castle’s voice, a loud whisper calling us. Telling us the coast is clear to move forward now that Warner is out of sight. “We all move, and we move separately,” he says. “Stick to the plan! No one trails anyone else. We all meet at the drop-off. If you don’t make it, we will leave you behind. You have thirty minutes.”
Kenji is tugging on my arm, telling me to get to my feet, to focus, to look in the right direction. I look up long enough to see that the rest of the group has already dispersed; Kenji, however, refuses to budge. He curses under his breath until finally I stand up. I nod. I tell him I understand the plan and motion for him to move on without me. I remind him that we can’t be seen together. That we cannot walk in groups or pairs. We cannot be conspicuous.
Finally, finally, he turns to go.
I watch Kenji leave. Then I take a few steps forward only to spin around and dart back to the corner of the compound, sliding my back up against the wall, hidden from view.
My eyes scan the area until I spot the fence where I last saw Warner; I tip up on my toes to peer over.
I have to cover my mouth to keep from gasping out loud.
Warner is crouched on the ground, feeding something to the dog with his good hand. The animal’s quivering, bony body is huddled inside of Warner’s open coat, shivering as its stubby limbs try to find warmth after being frozen for so long. The dog wags its tail hard, pulling back to look Warner in the eye only to plow into the warmth of his jacket again. I hear Warner laugh.
I see him smile.
It’s the kind of smile that transforms him into someone else entirely, the kind of smile that puts stars in his eyes and a dazzle on his lips and I realize I’ve never seen him like this before. I’ve never even seen his teeth—so straight, so white, nothing less than perfect. A flawless, flawless exterior for a boy with a black, black heart. It’s hard to believe there’s blood on the hands of the person I’m staring at. He looks soft and vulnerable—so human. His eyes are squinting from all his grinning and his cheeks are pink from the cold.
He has dimples.
He’s easily the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
And I wish I’d never seen it.
Because something inside of my heart is ripping apart and it feels like fear, it tastes like panic and anxiety and desperation and I don’t know how to understand the image in front of me. I don’t want to see Warner like this. I don’t want to think of him as anything other than a monster.
This isn’t right.
I shift too fast and too far in the wrong direction, suddenly too stupid to find my footing and hating myself for wasting time I could’ve used to escape. I know Castle and Kenji would be ready to kill me for taking such a risk but they don’t understand what it’s like in my head right now, they don’t understand what I’m—
“Hey!” he barks. “You there—”
I look up without intending to, without realizing that I’ve responded to Warner’s voice until it’s too late. He’s up, frozen in place, staring straight into my eyes, his good hand paused midmovement until it falls limp at his side, his jaw slack; stunned, temporarily stupefied.
I watch as the words die in his throat.
I’m paralyzed, caught in his gaze as he stands there, his chest heaving so hard and his lips ready to form the words that will surely sentence me to my death, all because of my stupid, senseless, idiotic—
“Whatever you do, don’t scream.”
Someone closes a hand over my mouth.
I don’t move.
“I’m going to let go of you, okay? I want you to take my hand.”
I reach out without looking down and feel our gloved hands fit together. Kenji lets go of my face.
“You are such an idiot,” he says to me, but I’m still staring at Warner. Warner who’s now looking around like he’s just seen a ghost, blinking and rubbing his eyes like he’s confused, glancing at the dog like maybe the little animal managed to bewitch him. He grabs a tight hold of his blond hair, mussing it out of its perfect state, and stalks off so fast my eyes don’t know how to follow him.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Kenji is saying to me. “Are you even listening to me? Are you insane?”
“What did you just do? Why didn’t he—oh my God,” I gasp, sparing a look at my own body.
I’m completely invisible.
“You’re welcome,” Kenji snaps, dragging me away from the compound. “And keep your voice down. Being invisible doesn’t mean the world can’t hear you.”
“You can do that?” I try to find his face but I might as well be speaking to the air.
“Yeah—it’s called projecting, remember? Didn’t Castle explain this to you already?” he asks, eager to rush through the explanation so he can get back to yelling at me. “Not everyone can do it—not all abilities are the same—but maybe if you manage to stop being a dumbass long enough not to die, I might be able to teach you one day.”
“You came back for me,” I say to him, struggling to keep up with his brisk pace and not at all offended by his anger. “Why’d you come back for me?”
“Because you’re a dumbass,” he says again.
“I know. I’m so sorry. I couldn’t help it.”
“Well, help it,” he says, his voice gruff as he yanks me by the arm. “We’re going to have to run to recover all the time you just wasted.”
“Why’d you come back, Kenji?” I ask again, undeterred. “How’d you know I was still here?”
“I was watching you,” he says.
“What? What do you—”
“I watch you,” he says, his words rushing out again, impatient. “It’s part of what I do. It’s what I’ve been doing since day one. I enlisted in Warner’s army for you and only you. It’s what Castle sent me for. You were my job.” His voice is clipped, fast, unfeeling. “I already told you this.”
“Wait, what do you mean, you watch me?” I hesitate, tugging on his invisible arm to slow him down a little. “You follow me around everywhere? Even now? Even at Omega Point?”
He doesn’t answer right away. When he does, his words are reluctant. “Sort of.”
“But why? I’m here. Your job is done, isn’t it?”
“We’ve already had this conversation,” he says. “Remember? Castle wanted me to make sure you were okay. He told me to keep an eye on you—nothing serious—just, you know, make sure you weren’t having any psychotic breakdowns or anything.” I hear him sigh. “You’ve been through a lot. He’s a little worried about you. Especially now—after what just happened? You don’t look okay. You look like you want to throw yourself in front of a tank.”
“I would never do something like that,” I say to him.
“Yeah,” he says. “Fine. Whatever. I’m just pointing out the obvious. You only function on two settings: you’re either moping or you’re making out with Adam—and I have to say, I kind of prefer the moping—”
“Kenji!” I nearly yank my hand out of his. His grip tightens around my fingers.
“Don’t let go,” he snaps at me again. “You can’t let go or it breaks the connection.” Kenji is dragging me through the middle of a clearing. We’re far enough from the compounds now that we won’t be overheard, but we’re still too far from the drop-off to be considered safe just yet. Luckily the snow isn’t sticking enough for us to leave tracks.