The Underworld, Page 37Jessica Sorensen
The idea of not giving up was suddenly eating away at me. “But wouldn’t it be better if I didn’t hold on? If I just let myself go?”
He looked alarmed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t know…” The prickle was starting to poke at me. Poke, poke, poke. I scratched viciously at the back of my neck. “It means, wouldn’t things be better if I was gone?”
His eyes widened, and he looked as if he was freaking out. Not the reaction I was expecting, but okay. “Wh—why are you saying this?” he asked.
The prickle was really going at it. “Because, it would be better for a whole lot of people if I was. I mean, if I might be the one who’s going to open the portal instead of closing it, wouldn’t that make me be responsible for everyone’s deaths?”
“Where did you get the idea that you’re what’s going to open up the portal. ”
“It’s kind of obvious, once I really thought about it. I mean Stephan’s working with the Death Walkers, bares the Mark of Malefiscus, and I saw him in that vision where the world had ended in ice. What do all those things have in common? They’re all bad. So why would Stephan want the star’s power for anything good. ”
Alex rubbed his hands across his face, I think, maybe to hide the fact that he thought the same thing I did. When he dropped his hands, though, the look on his face took me back.
“I don’t care what you think the star’s energy is being used for. ” His bright green-eyed gaze burned into me. “We came down here to save your mom, so we could try to piece this all together and come up with a plan to stop it. And until we get all that done you can’t give up. You can’t give up before we’ve really even tried, okay?”
Who was this guy sitting next to me, staring at me with such an intense look of determination in his eyes? Yeah, I knew it was Alex, but not the Alex who I first met.
“Okay,” I said, forcing my strange “giving up feeling” away for the moment. “I won’t give up until we’ve tried. ”
He nodded and we both sat there in the silence again, staring at the cement wall in front of us. Alex put his knife back in his pocket, slid his hand over, and set it on top of mine. I shut my eyes and let the buzzing take me away from this horrible place. I let in deafen out the screams. I let it sweep me away.
Alex and I stayed the way we were until the door to our cell swung open. When I opened my eyes, I saw that a Water Faerie was hovering in the doorway. I thought about running—knocking the Water Faerie down and bolting for an exit. Although there wasn’t anywhere for me to go…“Oh my God,” I breathed.
Alex looked from the Water Faerie to me. “It’ll be okay, Gemma. Just make sure you hold on. ”
I grabbed his arm, my eyes widening as I whispered, “I think I might know a way to get out of here. ”
“What?” he said loudly and I shushed him.
“It’s time. ” The Queen appeared in the doorway. “Both of you follow me. ”
I got to my feet, but Alex just sat there staring at me, still shocked by what I said. He was probably wondering how the heck I could know there was a way out of here. The only reason I did know there might be a way out was because of Laylen’s and my trip to see Vladislav. See, during our visit, when we asked Vladislav if anyone had ever escaped The Underworld, he said yes, and then added that most of the people who do try to escape drown during the attempt. So there was another way out of here besides through the Ira. There was a way by water.
But where was the water? The Underworld was supposed to be below the lake so…I glanced up at the ceiling, at the water dripping down from it.
“Hurry up!” The Queen roared.
Alex got to his feet, and we followed the Queen out of the cell and into the tunnel, which was lined with jail cell doors. We had gone a ways when Alex grabbed my arm and pulled me back.
“What do you mean, you know a way to escape?” he whispered. “Where is it?”
“When Laylen and I went and saw Vladislav,” I said, speaking so quickly I tripped over my words. “He said people had escaped before. But most of them drowned. ”
He took in what I said. “So we need to find water. ”
I pointed up at the ceiling, at the water seeping through the cracks. “We need to go up. ”
Alex reached up and touched the muddy ceiling with his finger tips. “So there has got to be an exit somewhere that takes us up. ”
“What are you two doing back there!” The Queen’s fuming voice boomed down the tunnel. “Get up here now. ”
We hurried and caught up with her. Alex still had his thinking face on, and I could tell he was trying to come up with some sort of plan to get us out of here. I still felt a little skeptical, though, because we still had to find where the way out was, and we also needed to figure out a way to get away from the Queen and her Water Faeries.
But all thoughts of escaping left my mind, when we reached where the Queen was taking us. In fact all of my thoughts disappeared and were replaced by one thing.
They say torture is…well, torture. But this was so much worse than I’d expected. Water Faeries were floating around everywhere. But that was the easiest part to take in. The worst were the peoples’ screams that filled up the room. I knew Alex told me that the people who were sentenced here were bad, but it didn’t mean that what was being done to them was right. Each one of them was strapped down on a wooden table, being tortured in various ways, but each one looked equally painful. My stomach rolled at the sight of one man in particular that had his arm twisted in a way that an arm should not be twisted.
“Don’t look at them,” Alex said and I looked away from the torture chamber.
But not looking at them couldn’t block out the sounds…the cries…the pain.
The only thing I could be thankful for at the moment was that the Queen took us to a different room that had cement walls thick enough to muffle out the screams. In the room, there was a single chair that had straps attached to the arms.
The Queen turned to face us. “Tell me Gemma. What is it your most afraid of?”
I swallowed hard. She was so asking the wrong person this question. Fear was such a new thing to me, and the only thing I could think of that would qualify as my most-afraid-of thing was Stephan and the Death Walkers.
“I don’t know,” I said, sounding weak. I hated that I sounded weak.
“You don’t know?” She looked at me intriguingly and a toothless grin spread across her face. “Well, I think it’s time you found out. ” She raised her hand in the air and snapped her fingers. Two Water Faeries flew up to me and grabbed me by the arms. I tried to pull away from them, but their bony fingers had freakishly strong grips.
“Stop!” Alex called out. “I’ll go first. ”
“Oh no,” said the Queen with amusement in her voice. “I have a feeling that you watching her get tortured is probably going to bring out just as much fear, as if it were you getting tortured yourself. ”
Alex started to protest, but the Queen silenced him. Then two Water Faeries came up behind Alex and grabbed him by the arms, holding him where he stood. He tried to fight and pull away, but like I already mentioned the Water Faeries are freakishly strong. Apparently, even stronger than a Keeper.
The two Water Faeries dragged me over to the chair and one held down my arms, while the other strapped me to the chair. Once they let go of me, I tried to yank my arms free from the straps, but the only thing that accomplished was my sore wrists aching even more.
“Oh good. She’s already getting scared,” the Queen said, pleased. There was this long gap that passed before she said to the Water Faeries, “Well, get on with it. ”
They hovered beside me, and suddenly they were in front of me, their eyeless eyes so close to my face that I now realized they had actual eye sockets, just no eyeballs. I almost threw up.
“Now, which way to go here?” the Queen dithered. �
�Oh, I know. Since you guys were so kind to bring it back to me. ” She reached into the pocket of her white dress and pulled out the teardrop-shaped sapphire diamond. “Let’s use this to torture her soul. ”
Was she serious? Torture my soul. My soul. No freaking way.
Panicking, I yanked at the straps, pulling and tugging as hard as I could. But it was useless. The Queen handed the diamond to one of the Water Faeries and it came face-to-face with me. As it reached its bony fingers toward my mouth with the diamond resting in its hand, I couldn’t help but let out the most blood curdling scream.
And then…. it dropped to the floor.
Okay, I should probably explain what happened a little bit better. The Water Faerie dropped to the floor, not my soul. It’s body hit the cement floor with a loud thump, along with every other faerie in the room, including the Queen herself.
There was this moment where Alex and I just looked at each other with wide eyes, and then Alex was running for me.
“What the heck happened?” I asked, as he worked to get the straps unfastened.
“I have no idea,” he said, slipping the buckle loose. “Let’s go. ”
I jumped to my feet, and we ran passed the lifeless bodies of the Water Faeries and out the door. To our shock, the Water Faeries, who had been in that room, had sank to the floor as well.
I stood there gaping at the scene in sheer and utter bewilderment.
One of the men strapped to a table begged me to free him. “Come on little girl,” he said. “Just undo the straps, okay. I promise I don’t bite. ”
“Gemma. ” Alex’s voice brought me back to reality. “Come on. ” His hand was extended out to me.
I glanced at the man, who was still begging me to let him go.
“They’re here for a reason,” Alex said. “Now come on. We have to go, before they…” he glanced at the faeries lifeless bodies scattered across the floor. “Wake up, I guess?”
I nodded—he was right. I took his hand, and we sprinted down the tunnel.
“We have to find water,” Alex said as we ran toward where the cell doors were.
“Wait,” I said, pulling back. “We have to find my mom first?”
He shook his head, trying to drag me forward. “No, we have to go. We don’t know how long they’ll be out. ”
“I’m not going without her,” I said sternly, refusing to budge. “I came down here to rescue her, and I’m not leaving until I do. Besides, this is our only chance to free her—we’ll never be able to come back. ”
“We have no idea where she is,” he argued. “It could take forever. ”
“Fine. ” I slipped my hand free from his and dodged around him. “You go find water,” I called over my shoulder, heading for a cell door, “But I’m going to go find my mom. ”
Alex let out a frustrated breath, but he followed after me. “Gemma, we need to go now. ”
Ignoring him, I unlatched the first cell door I came across and opened it up. The room was empty. “We’ll never get answers if we don’t find her…” I hurried to the next cell door and opened it up. Empty again. “Like you said, she knows things. That’s why she’s down here. ” I unlocked a third door, starting to wonder if maybe I was on the wrong track with the cell doors. “And if we don’t get some answers, the world’s going to end. I’ve seen…. ” I opened the third door and immediately trailed off, my jaw dropping at the sight of a woman, sitting on the bed, wearing ratted old clothes. Her brown hair trailed down her back, and her bright blue irises were as blank as my eyes had been before I experienced the prickle. But despite the blank look, I knew…she was my mother.