Darkness falls, p.11
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       Darkness Falls, p.11

         Part #1 of Darkness Falls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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Page 11

 

  “Well, isn’t that wonderful,” Ryder says sarcastically. “Now we can all just sit around and be one big happy family. ”

  If this girl doesn’t watch it, she’s going to end up getting her ass kicked.

  “The other one on the other hand is turning out to be a pain in the butt. ” He drops down on a crate and pops another piece of food into his mouth.

  “You mean Bernard?” I sit down and Maci wraps her arms around me.

  “I’m so glad you didn’t die, Kayla,” she says softly.

  I give her a gentle pat. “Me too, Maci. Me too. ”

  Sometimes it’s hard for me to be close to people. If they’re particularly fearful when they touch me, the rush of fear can be so intense that it’s enough to almost send me to the ground. But what I sense off of Maci, is enough to make my ears ring. Monarch. Maci’s afraid of Monarch.

  Ryder leans back against the wall and puts her hands behind her head, kicking her filthy boot on the table. “So have you decided what you want to do with them?

  “No one’s doing anything with me,” I say, before Aiden can respond.

  “Yeah, ‘cause Kayla can do whatever she wants,” Maci says. “She can even take on a Higher. ”

  Aiden, who was taking a sip from a bottle of water, spits it out across the table, all over Ryder. “You did what?” He coughs.

  “I didn’t take one on,” I lie. “That would be insane. ”

  “Yeah, you did,” Maci protests. “Back in the hall—you grabbed one and then you were sent to the red room. ”

  I assume she means the red door, but how could she possibly know this. She wasn’t around.

  She smiles cheerfully, swinging her feet back and forth as she takes a sip of water.

  “You took on a Higher?” Aiden asks, astounded. “Like an actual Higher?”

  “As opposed to a fake Higher,” I say, avoiding his gaze. “And how do you know what they are? Did you live in The Colony at one time?” I pause. “Wait a minute, you guys don’t… you don’t have them around here, do you?” I gaze around the room, scanning for white figures, and all eyes are on me, like I’ve just broken a rule or something. What’s worse, they all fear me. I catch a few of their frightened fingers itching for their knives, ready to stab them in me.

  Ready to kill me.

  I don’t hesitate. I run.

  Chapter 15

  I’m at the top of the staircase, before they even realize I’ve moved. There’s rustling as they all scurry after me. I catch the soft flutter of Aiden’s voice, but I don’t turn back. My feet lift me down the dirt tunnel, the lanterns quivering as I brush by.

  But halfway down, I suddenly stop. Maci. How can I just leave her behind? Especially after she saved me. I slow to a stop and wait. Because I know he’s following me by the sound of his pulse flowing up the tunnel.

  Finally he rounds a corner. “You’re ridiculously fast,” he pants when he reaches me. “You know that?”

  “Why do they want to kill me?” I ask. “Why are they all scared? And where’s Maci? No one better hurt her. ”

  “Maci’s fine. She’s right where you left her. ” He grabs his side, winded. “And they’re afraid of you because you spoke of the Highers. ”

  “So you do have them around here. ” I immediately turn on my defenses, looking for a weapon.

  “No, we don’t have them around here,” he says. “But we know what they are. We all used to live in The Colony at one time or another. ”

  I stare at him, trying to remember. “How can I not remember you? Or any of you?”

  “I don’t know. ” He shrugs. “Too big of a place, I guess. I mean, did you know every single person that lived there?”

  “No, but what’s the big deal?” I ask. “Why did they panic when I mentioned the Highers if there are none around?”

  “Because,” he puffs out a frazzled breath and then sketches the white line beneath his eye with his finger. “You’re not going to make this easy, are you?”

  A scream echoes from the distance. I glance up the hall, wondering where it came from.

  “Kayla. ” His voice brings me back to reality. “You want some answers?”

  A simple question, but it stuns me. “Yes. ”

  He offers me his hand. “Then come with me and I’ll give them to you. ”

  I eye his hand with uncertainty, not sure if I can trust him, unsure of what fear I’ll feel when I touch his skin.

  “You can trust me,” he says, urging his hand at me.

  Reluctantly, I place my hand into his. What overwhelms me is a shock. Because I can’t sense his fear. No. When I touch Aiden, all I feel is serenity, peacefulness and calm, like this is where I belong.

  But still, it makes me uneasy. Because it’s something I’ve never felt before.

  We zigzag down the tunnel, passing by a few people who glower at me, still frightened about my mention of the Highers. But they don’t dare make a move because I’m with Aiden. He takes me to a ladder and we climb up and step out onto the side of a rocky hill. The giant fiery rocks still surround the scenery and so do the caves that etch them.

  “Are we safe out here?” I ask, glancing at the shadowy sky. “Isn’t it a little too close to night?”

  “As safe as anywhere else. ” He sits down on the side of the hill, in the midst of the rocks and sand and pulls me down with him. Then he lets go of my hand. “What do you remember about The Colony?”

  I shrug. “That it was a…” I trail off, uncomfortable.

  “This is a safe place, Kayla. There’s no Highers lurking around, listening to our every word. ” He picks up a rock and throws it onto the ground below our feet. “Were you happy when you lived there? Were you sad when you woke up from the Gathering and realized you weren’t there anymore?”

  I press my lips together, knowing my answers, but not wanting to share them.

  “You can tell the truth,” he says, like he knows I’m a liar—knows me. “You can tell the truth now. There’s no one stopping you. ”

  I want to—I desperately want to. But I can’t. “I don’t really know what I felt. ”

  He sighs, disappointed. “Well, I’ll tell you what I felt. At first I was in a panic, wondering how I was ever going to survive in the outside world—feared I’d die within a few hours. But after a while, and after a lot of questions were answered, I moved on. ” He looks at me, his eyes burning with the passion in his words. “Because I finally realized something. Being controlled by the Highers isn’t life and in a way, I was already dead when I lived there—at least my mind was. ”

  Silence grasps the air as I take in his words, agreeing with him completely, but still my lips refuse to utter it aloud. He chucks another rock, this time harder, and it smacks against the ground, shooting fragments of red across the land.

  “They take everything away from you that matters,” he says. “The Highers do. ”

  “I know. ” My voice startles me.

  “Who’d they take away from you?” He stares at me expectantly.

  “They didn’t take anyone away from me,” I lie, not wanting to speak Monarch’s name. “I never had anyone to begin with. ”

  “No one at all. ” He sighs, rubbing his forehead. “If that’s true, Kayla, then it’s really sad. There had to be someone. ”

  I think of Tristan, whose heart I broke. And of Monarch, who the Highers took away from me. I shake my head. “No, when I left, I had no one at all. ”

  He swallows hard. “What if I told you that you could live a better life? That you could be free and happy?

  I gape at him. “How can a life like that exist?”

  He stands, dusting the sand off the back of his pants. “Do you really want to know? Because some people don’t—they’d rather go on not knowing what really happened because they fear the unknown. ” He extends his hand to me. “It’s your choice, though. Everything’s your choice now. It just matters whether or not you’re
brave enough to want the answers. The real answers, not the fake ones. ”

  I’ve always considered myself brave, running out into a world where I could easily be slaughtered or turned by vampires. But this isn’t the brave he’s speaking of. This is being brave of the unknown. Like always, though, I’m not afraid.

  I wanted the truth—always have. Whatever it ends up being.

  I take his hand and again, I’m overcome by calmness. “Okay, give me the answers. ”

  Chapter 16

  We leave the hillside and hike across the desert, dark sky imminent above. When I mention this to Aiden, he promises me we’ll be all right, that where we’re going isn’t too far. But what about the walk back? This he has no answer for and I suddenly wonder if maybe I’m not the only one who vampires fear.

  He walks at my pace, quick and in a hurry to get to where we’re going. And I like that he does. I like a lot of things about him. Like the way his hair hangs in his eyes or how he touches me. I wonder if this was what Nina meant, when she spoke of how Tristan should have made me feel.

  “Where exactly is the city?” I glance around at the horizon.

  He makes a sharp curve to the left, dipping down around the foot a shallow hill that’s lined with boulders. There’s a massive trench full of muddy water and he splashes down into it, the water rising to his knees. I pull my hand away, hesitating, thinking of when I almost drowned.

  “The city’s a little over fifty miles away. This place,” he motions at everything around us, “is The Gathering dumping ground. This is where all The Gathering members end up. ” He holds out his hand. “It’s okay. It’s just water. ”

  I nod, taking his hand, and step down, the water climbing to the top of my legs. It has a funny smell to it, like metal and rust.

  “But what’s The Gathering for?” I wade further in, not letting go of his hand “I mean, what’s the point? And why put us in body bags?”

  We reach a large rounded pipe that snakes deep into the ground. Water streams down it like a river. “The first thing you need to know,” he ducks inside the pipe, letting go of my hand, “is that we don’t have all the answers. ”

  I slide my feet inside the pipe and the muffled beating of hearts floods my ears. “Who’s we exactly?” I call out through the dark. “Aiden. Where’d you go?”

  He finds my hand and we skid down the pipe, the water soaking into the back of my pants. It’s a steep incline and the water makes it slippery. The darkness of the air is thick and I can’t see where we’re going until we reach the bottom where a deep pool of water sits. He jerks me over onto a metal platform, saving us from landing in it. The tips of my hair are dripping and my pants are soaked. My boots are filled with water and they squeak as I follow him over to a barred door that has no handle and no lock.

  He reaches into the pocket of his jacket and takes out a knife. My knife. The knife Monarch gave me. “Take this. ” He puts the knife in my hand.

 
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