The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series Book 1), Page 1Jessica Sorensen
Fallen Star Series Book 1
Copyright © 2011 by Jessica Sorensen.
SmashWords Edition License Notes
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
In the midst of a dark forest, haunted by the winter’s chill, I found myself running for my life. My feet thudded heavily against the snow as the thunderous roar of the yellow, glowing-eyed, black-cloaked monsters chased after me.
I shoved helplessly through the brittle pine trees, leafless branches clawing at my flesh. Snow flooded my sneakers, soaking higher and higher on my jeans with every step I took. My heart pounded furiously. My lungs grew tight, about to collapse from exhaustion. The air dipped colder. Fog swirled everywhere. They were close, so close I could feel their icy breath down my neck. That’s what they do—they drop the temperature so drastically the air instantly bruises over with ice. And if they catch me, I am a goner. Their chilled breath would strangle me to a hypothermic death in a heartbeat.
I threw a frantic glance over my shoulder, struggling to keep my numb legs moving. Flickers of yellow flooded through the trees. A sheet of ice crackled over the ground, nipping at my heels. I tore my gaze away, forcing myself to run faster.
“Gemma, there’s no use running.” The man’s voice rumbled through the night. It was the same voice that always showed up right before the monsters captured me. “No matter what you do, you’ll never escape.”
The sound of snapping twigs and crunching footsteps echoed nearer. My muscles seized up, leaving me no choice but to slow to a lethargic jog. A cool breeze swept my skin as ice-cold fingers wrapped around the back of my neck and yanked me backwards, my bones popping in protest.
I let out an uncontrollable whimper and opened my mouth to scream, but only a whisper escaped. I flung my weight forward, squirming and kicking and fighting to break free with every ounce of strength I had in me. But it was useless. My arms and legs moved in slow motion. My blood rushed cold, my veins darkening, mapping my skin with bluish-purple lines.
“I told you there was no point.” A tall, husky man appeared in front of me. The black-hooded monster’s bony fingers dug deeper into my skin. “Like I said, you won’t escape.” He grinned, the kind of grin that would have sent chills down my spine if I hadn’t already been freezing to death.
The golden moonlight spotlighted down from the night sky, highlighting a white scar scuffing his left cheek. His black hair matched his dark, hollow eyes. “Finish her off,” he commanded.
The black-cloaked monsters crept out from the trees, their yellow eyes gleaming hungrily toward me. I tried to scream again as ice whipped through my body. I heard a deep laugh as I felt myself falling. Then everything went black.
I woke up, gasping for air, my disoriented mind still thinking I was sprawled out on the forest ground, freezing to death from the monsters’ deathly touch. That the tan walls forming my bedroom were just an illusion.
I bolted upright in my bed, my pulse racing as I untangled myself from my sheets. Beads of sweat trickled down my skin, sticking my t-shirt to my back. I rubbed my eyes and blinked a few times, seeing if my room stayed in place. Nothing budged and I relaxed. It had been a dream, just like it had been the night before, and the night before that.
I inhaled slowly, letting my racing heart settle, as I climbed out of bed, the carpet feeling cold against the soles of my bare feet. I wrapped a blanket around me and treaded softly over to the window. The soft pink glow of the sunlight spilled over the snowy mountains, kissing the tips of the pine trees. The very pine trees that I had just been running through, and where I would keep running through every night in my nightmares.
Of course, my nightmares were just the tip of the iceberg in the madness that had overtaken my life. When I was awake, I had much bigger problems to deal with than monsters attacking me. Real problems. Ones I couldn’t blink away.
It all began right before I started having my way too realistic dreams. Back before I had been able to dream at all.
Okay, so you’re probably thinking I’m a total nut job. But before you go jumping to any conclusions, let me explain.
I wasn’t always the girl that I am now. Terrified—the word meant absolutely nothing to me. In fact, almost everything meant nothing to me. My mind was as blank as a sheet of paper—there was zero going on inside. I could still walk, talk, breathe, and function; I just couldn’t feel any emotions. Ever. Crazy, I know. But at the time, I could have cared less.
Then about a month ago, something inside me changed. The day had started out just like any other day. I had been going through my morning routine of getting dressed for school when, out of nowhere, I felt a prickling sensation on the back of my neck. Confused, I ran over to the mirror to check for any bumps or marks on my pale skin. But there was nothing there except my normal specks of freckles.
Dismissing it to my imagination, I grabbed my backpack and headed downstairs to get some breakfast. That’s when I felt the strangest thing—this overwhelming sadness building up inside me. Seconds later, I was crying, real tears and everything.
It was weird.
Up until then, at least as far back as I could remember, I had never experienced anything like the prickling sensation before. From then on, my life was never the same. The prickle would show up and bam, I would be bouncing with happiness. Or boiling with anger. Or…well, you get the picture. And once I felt an emotion, it never left me. In the beginning, I really struggled to keep all of my newfound emotions under control. There was this one awful incident at school when I had this sudden outburst and started bawling right in the middle of Mr. Belford’s lecture on Plate Tectonics. People stared at me like I was a freak, which is understandable. I mean, only a freak would cry over shifting plates.
I had done quite a few searches on the internet, trying to figure out what was happening to me, but I found nothing remotely related to what I was going through. Apparently, whatever “it” was was one hundred percent original. Which was great. Just great. My life would be so much easier if—
My alarm shrieked, startling me so badly I actually jumped and spun around.
Man, my nightmares were making me jumpy.
I hit the off button. It’s time for school. Ugh. School was so my least favorite part of the day. My past inability to experience emotions had kept me detached from everyone and everything, which resulted in my current life being a friendless one. This had been fine when I couldn’t feel, because I had no idea what I was missing. But now…well, let’s just say that for someone who has no friends going to school is like dangling a piece of bacon in front of a dog’s face—pure and utter torture. I hated watching everyone walk around in their little cliques while I stood on the sidelines alone.
I tossed my blanket on the bed and put on a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. I ran a brush through my long, tangled brown hair and pulled it into a ponytail. Then I went over to the full length mirror on the back of my bedroom door and did a quick glance over. My legs were way too long, my skin far too pale, and my eyes…they were violet. Yes, weird, I know. But it fit right in with everything else that had to d
o with me.
Downstairs in the kitchen, Marco and Sophia—my grandparents, who have insisted I call them by their first names—were already there. Sophia stood over the oven, pans hissing, as the smell of bacon filled the air. Marco sat at the table, the morning newspaper opened up in front of him.
The room was small and brightly lit, making the yellow walls nearly blinding. Add that to the teal cupboards and the room had this sort of funhouse effect going on in it.
I grabbed a bowl from the cupboard and took a seat at the kitchen table.
Marco peered over the newspaper at me, his black oval rimmed glasses sliding down the brim of his slightly crooked nose. “Gemma,” he mumbled with a subtle nod.
I strained a smile.
I’ve lived with Marco and Sophia since I was one, after my parents passed away in a car accident. That’s all I know about my parents—how they died. I asked Marco and Sophia about them a few weeks ago after the crazy prickle thing had traced its way down my neck. To say my grandparents freaked out was putting it mildly. They had gone ballistic, yelling that I was never to ask about my parents again. And when I shed tears and screamed back, things got even worse. Finally, I ended up storming off to my room. Since then, our already strained relationship has worsened. We barely talk to each other, which I guess isn’t that big of a change since we barely talked before.
Over the last few weeks, I had been trying to make some sense out of why they refused to speak about my parents. All I could come up with was that maybe talking about my parents was too painful for them. Either that or they didn’t like me.
It wasn’t just my asking about my parents that had Marco and Sophia acting crazy. Every time I was near them and showed emotion, I could sense them cringing. Evidently, they preferred the old hollow me. I don’t know why, though. I didn’t. They never even asked me about my sudden ability to feel either. I mean, if you had a child that had been an emotionless zombie for most of her life, then suddenly she did a complete 180 in the emotional department, wouldn’t you celebrate and talk about it instead of getting pissed off?
I know I would.
But since Marco and Sophia chose to say nothing about it, I opted to keep the prickly sensation to myself. Besides, I had a gut-wrenching feeling that if I did mention it to them, I would be buying myself a one-way ticket to the Psych Ward.
“Do you want some bacon?” Sophia’s voice yanked me out of my thoughts.
The bacon sizzled as she tapped her foot on the tile floor. She reminded me of one of those women in a 1950s TV series; her auburn hair pulled back into a bun, a crisp white apron tied over her floral dress.
“Sure,” I said, starting to get to my feet. I wish we could be closer. Yes, I knew I should be grateful that I had grandparents who fed me and put a roof over my head. And don’t get me wrong, I am. But it would have been nice if they would at least talk to me more than what was required. Or maybe give me a smile once in a while. Was that too much to ask? “But I have to go start my car first.”
“Marco already did that for you,” she said curtly.
“Oh.” I turned to Marco. “Then—”
The sound of the chair grinding against the tile floor cut me off. Marco rose to his feet, all tall and mighty like. He folded his newspaper and tucked it under his arm. “I’m going to um…” He trailed off and hurried out of the kitchen.
He did that a lot—mumbling to himself or walking away mid-sentence. He was a retired salesman, but it was hard to picture since he couldn’t carry on a conversation for more than a minute.
The spatula clanked as Sophia tossed it on the counter. “Go get a plate and come get some then.” Her nippy tone was my signal to hurry up and get out of her hair.
So I did, rushing over and piling a few pieces of bacon on a plate, along with some eggs. Then I ate my food so quickly that I nearly choked twice.
Once I finished choking my food down, I trampled across the snowy driveway, climbed in my faded blue Mitsubishi Mirage, which made a loud clanking noise every time I pushed on the gas pedal, and headed off to school.
Marco and Sophia had given me the car six months ago when they decided that they were tired of driving me to and from the bus stop, which was about a ten-mile drive each way.
I live in a very small, very spread out town called Afton. It is known for two things: its infamous elk horn arch made of real elk antlers, and its hobby of accumulating snow nine months of the year. Now, I was in no way, shape, or form a fan of either the snow or the cold, so living here was like a polar bear trying to live in Hawaii—unbearable and very unpractical.
When I graduate in a few months, I am packing my bags and moving to some place warm and one-hundred percent mountain free.
Today, the normally poor road conditions were even worse due to the temperature being five below and freezing everything in sight.
Forced to drive at the pace of a snail, I managed to play through almost the entire CD of Taking Back Sunday—one of my favorite bands—before arriving at school. I parked my car right as the bell shrilled from inside the school and reverberated its way outside. I grabbed my bag, scrambled out of the car, and barreled across the skating rink parking lot.
As I reached the sidewalk, I had to stop because the prickling sensation made an unannounced appearance on the back of my neck. It was poking at my skin like a tattoo needle. I held my breath and waited. Each experience was like opening a present. I never knew what feeling was going to consume me. Or whether I would like the feeling or want to exchange it for something else.
A few seconds ticked by, but no new feelings came. Well, except for the feeling that I wasn’t alone, which I wasn’t. There were a few people lurking out by their cars, and a girl in a neon pink coat was sprinting like mad for the glass entrance doors of the school. Obviously she was trying not to be late, which was what I should have been doing. But I couldn’t get my stupid feet to budge, as if the soles of my pink and black DC shoes had melted to the sidewalk. Then, suddenly, I saw him; a guy, ambling across the parking lot as if he had all the time in the world.
My heart did this little fluttery thing that I had never felt it do before. Whoa. Even from a distance, I could tell he was gorgeous. The way his dark brown hair scattered messily over his head, but in an intentionally-done-perfect kind of way. His bright green eyes reminded me of clovers and flourishing springtime leaves. He wore a pair of dark blue jeans and a black hoodie. I guessed him to be tall, but I couldn’t say for sure unless I got closer to him. He had to be new here because if I had seen him before, I probably would have remembered. No. Scratch that. I definitely would have remembered him.
But he didn’t seem to notice me at all. Which was a good thing, I guess, since I was standing there, staring at him idiotically as he made his way across the sidewalk and strolled past me.
The prickle showed up again, this time filling me with a very overpowering urge to run after him. I had to admit, I probably would have too if the tardy bell hadn’t rang and knocked me out of my prickle-induced-gorgeous-guy trance.
I flinched and shook my head. What was I doing standing out in the freezing cold, gawking at some random guy, when what I needed to be doing was getting my butt to class.
I rushed toward the entrance of the school, barely catching up with the new guy as he swung the door open. He stepped to the side and held it open for me, very gentleman-like. I bit my bottom lip nervously as I walked by him. I swear my heart was hammering so loudly in my chest that he had to be able to hear it.
Okay, so I don’t know why I did the thing that I did next—it was very unlike me. I mean, I usually keep my head down and my eyes glued to the floor during school hours. But when I suddenly felt compelled to look up at him, I actually did. And boy was I in for a real shock. And I’m not talking about the emotional kind of shock. I’m talking about a literal shock. A blaze of electricity fired through my body like I had stuck my finger in an electrical socket. I froze, my eyes widening. What the heck? Was I
going insane? First the prickling sensation and now this—what was wrong with me? If I wasn’t careful then I was going to end up in a mental institution.
I felt the zap again and let out a gasp. The feeling momentarily took me away until I realized I was standing in the middle of the doorway, staring at the new guy with my mouth hanging open. I would have been completely mortified too, except to my astonishment—and my relief—his bright green eyes had widened and were locked on mine, and it almost looked like he could feel the electricity too.
My pulse raced as sparks of static nipped at my skin. The more we stared at each other, the more the electricity ignited, and I could almost feel my skin melting. So many different feelings were pouring through me simultaneously: confusion…desire…intensity, I couldn’t think straight. I felt an invisible tug, drawing me to him, and before I even knew what I was doing, I took a step toward him.
Like a light switch, his expression slipped into a glower. “Do you mind?” he said, sidestepping around me and letting the heavy metal door slam painfully into my elbow.
“Ow,” I said, rubbing my arm. “What the heck?”
He shot me a glare and a different kind of intensity burned in those beautiful green eyes of his. Intense hatred. My mouth dropped open as I watched him turn his back on me and walk down the hall without another glance back.