The Power Within

The Power Within by H. K. Varian

Book: The Power Within by H. K. Varian Read Free Book Online
Authors: H. K. Varian
the chance of you finding your body again is very slim.”
    Yara paused to gesture toward Darren, whose skin had a sickly gray cast that was highlighted by his vacantwhite eyes. “He can’t keep this up forever,” Yara continued. “If you don’t reach him in time, he will exhaust his powers. And if that happens, we will lose him.”
    A terrible silence fell over the group. As Gabriella looked at the old woman’s face, she understood the stakes all too well.
    Gabriella took a deep breath. “Okay,” she said, marveling at how normal she sounded; there wasn’t a trace of fear in her voice, though her heart was pounding. “Let’s do this.”
    â€œGo ahead and lie down,” Yara said.
    Gabriella lay on the floor and stared up into the faces gathered around her, where she saw so much love and encouragement. “You can do it,” Fiona whispered, reaching down to squeeze Gabriella’s hand.
    â€œSee you when you wake up,” added Mack.
    Then everyone took a step back, except for Yara. She ran her hands through the air above Gabriella’s body, and even though Yara never touched her, Gabriella felt the sensation of an impossibly heavy blanket covering her.
    Wait, she thought, fighting against her eyes, which were trying to close. There was something I wanted to ask. . . .
    But it was too late. Her eyes closed, anyway.

    When she awoke, Gabriella was deeply dreaming. It was a glorious day at the New Brighton Zoo. She grinned as she watched her little sister, Maritza, skip ahead in the sunlight. With Ma on one side and Tía Rosa on the other, Gabriella had never been happier.
    Then it was just her and Ma. Where were Maritza and Tía Rosa?
    Had they been there at all?
    â€œBeautiful creatures,” Ma said, nodding toward the jaguar enclosure.
    â€œBeautiful,” Gabriella echoed. She stared at the jaguars, sleeping in the sun, and longed to join them.
    Her mind was so fuzzy .
    â€œHere, mija ,” Ma was saying. “Have some popcorn before I eat the whole thing.”
    â€œThanks,” Gabriella tried to say, but she couldn’t quite remember how to say the word. She reached out her hand—
    â€œMonster!” Ma screamed, staring at her in horror and backing away.
    Gabriella looked down and saw velvety black fur creeping down toward her fingers. This isn’t how I transform, she thought with confusion as one by one, her claws popped out of her fingertips. Not in slow-motion; not like this . . .
    And then it hit her. She didn’t transform like this because this wasn’t real. It’s just a dream, Gabriella told herself, and a sense of control surged through her.
    She closed her golden cat’s eyes. I am leaving this dream, she thought, not sure where the words were coming from, but knowing, somehow, that they were the right ones. I am leaving this dream for Darren’s dream.
    She began to walk, and with every step, the zoo melted away into a silvery mist. In an instant she was surrounded by energy, the energy that flowed through every living being—and there had never been anything else, ever.
    Darren’s dream, Gabriella repeated, trying not to lose focus. Darren’s dream.
    The mist swirled—began to take shape, and through it she could see the solid physicality return to everything around her—until Gabriella was back in the hall outside the library. There was Fiona and Mack and Ms. Therianand Mr. Kimura and Sefu and tiny Yara, bent over—
    Gabriella swallowed hard as she stared down at her human self, still and unmoving. Her face was frozen like a mask. It’s like I’m not even there, she realized.
    Because she wasn’t.
    Gabriella turned away from the eerie sight and looked at Darren. His body seemed stretched to its limits, contorted by the beams of electricity that spangled the room. His head was wobbling in a strange and unsteady way.
    Then Gabriella noticed

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