Darkness breaks, p.12
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       Darkness Breaks, p.12

         Part #2 of Darkness Falls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 12

 

  Aiden’s arm is scraped raw and his cheek is sliced open. Ryder is doting over him, turning his head from side to side.

  “None of these are bites right?” Ryder panics. “They’re just cuts?”

  Behind me, Sylas effortlessly rolls a boulder in front of the entrance, shutting out the outside world. Then he faces the corner and hacks the remaining silver from his lungs, spewing all over the ground.

  “I’m fine,” Aiden reassures Ryder and gives her hand a soft pat. “They’re not bites. Just cuts. ” His eyes drift to me. “Are you okay? How many times did you get… bit?”

  I cover the one on my wrist. “Only once. And I’m fine. ”

  Sylas sweeps my hair to the side and his voice is muffled. “There are two on your neck. ” He uncovers my hand. “And that one makes three. ”

  “I’m fine,” I promise. “I just need to sit down for a minute. ”

  He watches me hobble to the wall and slide to the ground. I let my head fall back, still feeling his eyes on me, as if he’s waiting for me to turn into a flesh eating beast. I wonder if there’s a limit of bites I can endure before my body gives up on protecting me. I wonder what it feels like to turn. Of course, it doesn’t matter if I turn because I know Sylas will kill me. But he’ll have to go up against Aiden, who’s already envisioning ways to save me.

  “I’m fine,” I repeat. “It just took a lot out of me. ”

  Ryder wipes the blood from Aiden’s cheek with the sleeve of her black shirt. “I’m lucky I took a silver grenade with me. Otherwise…” her muffled cries congest the cave.

  Sylas checks my neck again. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

  “I just need to sleep,” I lie. Then I rest my head on the dirt. “I just need to…” With no restraint left, the darkness sucks me away.

  Whether I’m changing or dying, I don’t know. I only hope for the latter.

  Chapter 11

  My feet rise to the sky as I swing back and forth. A gentle breeze lulls through my hair and the warm sun kisses my cheeks. The green grass stretches before me and the vibrant trees dance.

  “Higher!” I shout and laugh, throwing my head back. Someone gives me a gentle shove and I launch toward the sky. Another laugh escapes me and someone chuckles from behind me.

  “I’m glad you’re so easily entertained,” Sylas whispers in my ear.

  I laugh again and he spins the swing so I face him. He slides his hands up the chains and holds the swing still. He’s maybe thirteen years old, and his dark eyes are livelier. His hair’s a little longer and his legs are a little shorter, but a devious look still guises his face.

  “Why are you so nice to me?” My hands hook the chains. “You’re not nice to anyone else. ”

  He considers this. “I think it’s your smile. It wins me over every time. ”

  I let my smile broaden. “I think it’s because you like me. ”

  His eyes flash in the sunlight as his forehead creases over. “Don’t let him take that from you. Ever. Okay?”

  I nod. “I won’t. ”

  He laughs to himself and then gives the swing a whirl. I let my legs soar out as the world spins and I think about what it would be like to fly away from this horrible place that takes away my mind, body, and spirit.

  “You know what,” I say. “I think it might be my birthday today. ”

  “I was waiting for you to remember. ” He stops the swing again. “Close your eyes,” he instructs. I hesitate and he adds. “I promise I won’t hurt you. ”

  “I know. ” I shut my eyes and hold my breath, my heart leaping in my throat.

  Sylas’ heart is steady as he fumbles around. “Okay, open them. ” A bright red object rests in the palm of his hand.

  “What is it?” I wonder curiously.

  He takes my hand from the chain and sets the red object in it. It’s fragile and soft against my skin. “It’s called a flower,” Sylas says proudly.

  I touch it gently and the texture reminds me of powder. “Where did you get it?” I sniff it. “It smells good. ”

  His grin expands. “Now what would be the fun in telling you?”

  I frown. “Sylas, if you keep wandering off, Monarch is going to—”

  He puts his finger to my lips, shushing me. “Quit worrying about me. ”

  “Sylas! Kayla!”

  Our heads snap over to a brick building. A dome tent canopies the front and under it stands Monarch. His anger burns as he stomps over, red faced and ready to scream.

  I vault out of the swing and step protectively in front of Sylas. “It’s my fault. I made him come out here with me. ”

  Monarch’s grey eyes are cold and his white coat is blemished with various colors. His gaze darts to the flower in my hand and he quickly confiscates it. “Where did you get this?”

  “I… I found it in the grass,” I lie with a shrug. “It looked pretty so I picked it up. ”

  He shakes his head and his eyes pierce Sylas. “You did this. ”

  Sylas doesn’t protest, already giving up, and Monarch grabs his shoulder roughly. I open my mouth, but Sylas shakes his head at me. Monarch shoves him for the canopy.

  “I’m very disappointed in you, Kayla,” he says sharply. “You should have come straight to me when he gave this to you. ”

  I stare at the flower in his hand. “It was a present. ”

  Monarch shakes his head disappointedly. Then he smashes the flower in his hand, breaking it into pieces. He opens his hand and tiny red flakes float to the grass.

  “No matter what I do, I just can’t get that right with you. ” He turns to Sylas. “And you’re a lost cause. . . always breaking the rules. How many are we up to now? Five—six injections. By the time they get done with you, you’re going to be as doped up as the lab rats. If you’d just quit breaking the rules, then I wouldn’t have a problem. ”

  He pulls Sylas by the arm and heads for the building, leaving me alone with my ruined present. I stare at the pieces of the flower for a long time. Even when the sky shades and the screams fill the air.

  ***

  When I wake up, the cave is soundless, the flashlight is flickering, and my hair is stuck to my sweaty forehead. I wipe the sweat off and drape my arm over my head. Why do I keep seeing things that happen in the outside world? And why is there sunlight?

  “You’re awake. ” Sylas’ voice fills up my thoughts.

  I roll to my side. He’s lying within arm’s reach, staring up at the ceiling with his arms behind his head. “How long was I out?” I ask.

  “Not very long… What were you dreaming about?”

  “I wasn’t dreaming,” I say. “I was remembering things. ”

  “Oh yeah,” he remarks. “Did you remember anything good?”

  “No, not really. ” I pause, my loud breathing stuffing up the cave. “Well, except for maybe a red flower. ”

  The muscles in his arms tense, but he pretends to be unbothered. “Hmm… it doesn’t sound like a very good memory to me. ”

  I have this sudden urge to touch him, but the intense emotions emanating from him stop me.

  “What did he do to you?” I push up on my elbows. “You say we were experiments, but what I see is just plain torture. Why did he make you suffer so much?”

  Sylas turns his head. “Who are you talking about?”

  I trace my finger in the dirt. “Monarch. ”

  He doesn’t blink. “Why did he make you suffer so much?”

  “I can’t remember that much yet,” I say.

  “Neither can I. ” But he can. He can remember pain. Pain that he’ll always carry with him.

  “Perhaps it’s time I remembered for the both of us then. ” I stand up and head for Ryder, who’s lying next to Aiden, snoring. “You want to help me with this?”

  “Nah. ” He rolls over facing the entrance of the cave. “I think I’ve done my good deeds for the day. ”

  I shake my head and soundlessly step over
Aiden. I pull my hair back, take out the pocket watch, and aspire for a plan where no one will get hurt.

  “Hey, you’re awake” Aiden strokes my leg. He sits up, rubbing his eyes. “What are you doing?” He sees the watch in my hand. “Kayla, don’t. Just let her sleep. ”

  I tuck the watch behind my back. “Aiden, it’s time. I know what I have to do—what we have to do. ”

  He crosses his arms. “I’m not doing anything. I already told you I’m not one of Monarch’s soldiers anymore. I made that choice a long time ago. ”

  “Even if it means you’ll die,” I finally say.

  But he already knows. “Even if it means I die, yes, I’m not becoming a Day Taker. ”

  I enclose my fingers around the watch. “Aiden, it’s not just about being Monarch’s soldier. It’s about the truth. It’s about a world full of sunshine and green grass. It’s about life. ”

  “What have you seen?” He picks up the flashlight and shines it in my face. “A lot, I’m guessing. ”

  “But not enough. ” I sigh, blocking the light with my hand. “I have to fix this, Aiden. ”

  “You think you have to fix the world because that’s what Monarch programmed you to think. If you could just see past him, you’d realize that living your life is what’s important. ”

  “That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Where my life—where everyone’s lives went. Things used to be so different. And we were alive to see it, even though we were always told we weren’t. ”

  He sets the flashlight on the ground and guides me down by my hips. He pulls me onto his lap, so I’m straddling him. “Just because things were different, doesn’t mean they were better. ”

  “I don’t agree with you. ” I set my hands on his shoulders. “They killed everyone on the hillside, Aiden. The Highers’ death and control isn’t just limited to The Colony. ”

  “That’s because Dominic is a traitor,” he breathes bitterly. “He turned over our location to the Highers. ”

  “What?” My jaw drops. “How did you find this out?”

  Ryder rolls over and her hand searches for Aiden as she mutters in her sleep.

  “Maci,” Aiden whispers. “She said she saw—well in her head she saw Dominic make a bargain with them. He’d tell them where we—where you were—and in return they’d take him back to The Colony. ”

  I remember my brief visit with the old man vaguely. “But he hated Highers. He kept talking about them being against nature and needing to die. ”

  “Well, he must have had a change of heart. ” He swallows hard and hugs me closer. “Kayla, I’m so sorry. ”

  I press my lips together. “For what?”

  “For telling Dominic what I saw you do that night—when you scared off dozens of vampires. If I never told him, then he never would have become interested in you. He knew there was something about you that the Highers wanted. ”