Race the Darkness (Fatal Dreams Book 1)(3)

By: Abbie Roads

6*2H95—London Bridge is falling down…

Xander wrote the numbers and letters on his paper. The kid was starting to catch on. Not that it would matter.

“Stop writing shit down. You’re making things up.” The kid’s voice rode the ridge of hysteria.

“6*2H95. I need the rest of the password.” Xander loved the way other people’s brains just couldn’t resist thinking.

O#ZR591H. No. No. No. London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down—

“6*2H95O#ZR591H. Keep going.”

It took three more tries before the kid eventually spit out the entire password.

“The tech department wasn’t kidding. This password is a monster.”

No. This isn’t happening. “Who talked? Someone is setting me up.”

“You talked.”

“I didn’t say anything!” the kid yelled.

Xander felt the smile split open his face, felt the skin on his right cheek stretch in a way that wasn’t familiar. Life didn’t hold much amusement for him, but he always savored the moment when some asshole finally realized he’d been bested and was going to be sent on an extended vacation to criminal central.

Pushing back from the table, Xander got up and headed for the door. He stopped, hand on the handle, and turned back to the kid. “You come up with a creative insult yet?”

The kid leaned forward and smacked his forehead against the table. No. No. No.

“Guess not.”

As Xander opened the door, a million sounds rushed his ears at once. A toilet flushing, typing, the hum and bump of the air conditioner, conversations—too many conversations. Sensory overload was imminent. The only question was how long before his brain shorted out, unleashing the Bastard in His Brain—that thing he always felt lurking in the darkest depths of his mind. When the Bastard took the wheel, there was no such thing as a happy ending.

He needed to leave. Now.

But Kent and Thomas, who’d been watching the interview, waited in the hallway.

He passed the notepad to Thomas, who sprinted down the corridor to get the names and password to the cyber division.

“Why the fuck was there talking during my interrogation?”

Kent gave him the same disapproving, annoyed, disgusted look he’d been giving him since Xander bloodied the guy’s nose in the first grade.

Bam. Pain bounced inside his skull. Xander flinched. Goddamned tuning-in. “Quit with the look.” They’d never been friends. Still weren’t.

You’re such an asshole. Acting like you’re the only one working here. “Do you always have to be such a dick about us? The superintendent was watching.” Kent headed in the same direction as Xander—toward the exit. You need to make a decision about Camille.

“The superintendent was the one talking. You pushed me to work here. You pushed them to hire me. You got a fat-assed bonus out of it. So if you, or the superintendent, don’t like what I do, stop calling me. And what I do with Camille is none of your business.”

“Keep your freak self outta my head.”

“Only way to make it stop is by not talking to me.” Outside of work, Xander mastered in social isolation and conversation avoidance.

“Come on, man. She’s my sister. We may not be real close, but I care about her. I’m not letting this go.” You’re using her.

Xander’s neck got hot. He didn’t argue with Kent’s thoughts. He couldn’t. The man was right. Camille never rejected him, never made demands on him, but she wanted commitment. He got that from tuning in to her thoughts. All he wanted was acceptance and uncomplicated sex.

The conversation lagged, and the pain vanished.

Xander exited the building. Low on the horizon, all that remained of the day was a single tiger stripe of orange. Already the June night was in full chorus. The whistle screech of a bat using its sonar-like system, the flutter of its wings overhead. The buzz of a trillion mosquitoes. The bass of a bullfrog two blocks away at the Sundew Park pond. Life pulsed all around him.

When he couldn’t sleep, he’d lie in bed with the window open—listening, just listening. Not letting himself think, just focusing on the rhythm of the world. The sounds of nature were the only form of music he could tolerate.

He fished his truck keys from his pocket and pressed the unlock button.

“The superintendent is probably going to need you again tomorrow,” Kent called from the doorway.

“Tell him to call me.” Xander tossed the words over his shoulder.

“You going to answer the phone?” Bet you don’t.

“Bet you’re right.”

* * *

Death twined around Isleen Walker’s body, whispering over her naked flesh, coiling around her heart and lungs, hugging the last sparks of life from her. Twenty-five years of being alive distilled down to a wish. A wish that death would hurry up and grant her its promised relief.