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Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1)

Jessica Sorensen

Chapter 14

  After its clear Aiden’s not coming back any time soon, I lie down on the floor, prop my feet up on the wall, and stare at the chains. I can’t help but think how similar this place is to The Colony. The chains are there only they’re clearly visible now. So what lies next for me? What happens after the chains are undone? Are these people going to just let me go? Turn me loose when they obviously think they have a reason for chaining me up in the first place? The chances seem slim.

  Lying on my back, I start raveling the chains around my wrist, moving them around and around, until they’re so tight, the metal clips my skin. Then, pushing my feet against the wall, I yank at the chains, hoping the clips will give out.

  But after an eternity of trying, the door opens up and Aiden enters cautiously, as if he fears me. But he doesn’t. He actually fears he’ll lose me, which makes no sense at all.

  Keys dangle from his fingers and he’s holding an aluminum cup. As he takes in the sight of me, his eyebrow arcs. “Were you trying to escape?”

  I frown at the upside down him. “Would you blame me if I was?”

  He laughs and sets the cup down. His boots scuff against the dirt as he stops just short of me, eyes searching mine.

  “What are you looking for?” I ask, rolling onto my stomach.

  “Nothing.” He sighs and then his hand is moving for me. Instinctively, I jump to my feet and fall back, ready to fight. “Easy, Kayla,” he says. “I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.”

  Either he’s the best liar in the world, or he’s telling the truth because everything about him is honest. This time when he moves for me, I hold as still as a statue, listening to his breath and the sound of his heart, the tune momentarily soothing me.

  He clicks the key in the lock and turns it, releasing me from the cuffs. Then he steps back, brushing his hair out of his eyes. I shake my wrists and breathe in the taste of freedom.

  “So you're Aiden,” I say and then absentmindedly add. “Little fire.”

  “That’s one meaning for it.” He puts the key in his pocket. “But how did you know that?”

  I rub my wrists, little red welts bumping my porcelain skin. “I don’t know.” I scratch at the welts, but Aiden pulls my hand away.

  “Scratching at it is only going to make it worse.” He picks up the metal cup, liquid swishing around inside. “Come one. I’ll show you around.”

  He walks out the door. But before I step out, I skeptically peer out, wanting to see what I’m getting into.

  “No one’s going to hurt you here,” he says, waving for me to follow. “I promise.”

  I step out, still cautious. “What is this place?” Lanterns track the ceiling, lighting up the darkness of the dirt tunnel. We start down it, passing door after door, and I keep my senses on high alert.

  My throat feels dry and I realize how thirsty I am. “What’s in the cup?”

  He covers the top with his hand. “Nothing important. And nothing you’d want to drink. I don’t think anyway.”

  “So where’s Maci?” I ask, my eyes following the lanterns.

  “Maci’s with Ryder,” he answers, making me cringe. “And the other one’s being detained.”

  I stop. “You found Bernard? And you locked him up?”

  “We had to lock him up,” he says. “He’s unstable right now.”

  I think of the medicine Bernard injected, wondering what it was, but not saying anything about it. This place seems nervous and I don’t want to bring anymore suspicion toward us.

  “And you left Maci with that horrible girl with the funny hair and weird markings on her arms?” I ask.

  “Ryder’s not that bad.” He reaches for my hand, but I pull back. “Kayla, we had to lock him up,” he says. “He tried to kill you.”

  I touch my neck, remembering the sharp stab. “How exactly did he try to kill me?”

  He nods his head at the end of the tunnel. “Come with me and I’ll explain.”

  I reluctantly follow, but my fingers itch for my knife. “Where’d you put all my stuff?”

  He shoots me a perplexed look as he removes a lantern from the ceiling. “Your stuff?”

  “You know, my jacket, my knife, and everything else.”

  “Oh that.” He looks like he’s hiding something, but he’s heart suggest otherwise. “We put it away … you can have it back, though. When we’re done.”

  “Done with what?”

  He winks at me. “You’ll see.” The dim glow of the lantern lights up against his eyes as he leads me further down the tunnel. “So that Maci kid is a little weird,” he says.

  “She’s just young,” I lie because really I agree with him. Maci has been acting strange, with her sensing things and sporadic states of euphoria. It’s kind of creepy. And very similar to me.

  “And that boy named Bernard,” he pauses, deliberating. “Well, he’s kind of an ass.”

  I don’t say anything, kicking at the dirt. This place is strangely silent. “Is anyone else around? You say this is your home, but does anyone else actually live here?”

  The tunnel answers for me. Down below, it opens up into a room, crammed with a group of people, at least fifteen or so. Crates are tipped over for chairs and the tables look like large wooden spools. There’s nothing sterile about this place and I like that there’s not.

  “Don’t go anywhere for a minute,” Aiden instructs. “I’ll be right back.” Then he disappears down the tunnel.

  I watch the people from over the railing, noticing how young most of them are. And they look so happy, smiles on their faces, bright eyes, and I don’t know what to do with it all. I’m so used to everyone being terrified, but these people, well, at the moment no one seems afraid of anything. They just sit, eating their food, talking, laughing, and it seems so real.

  I spot Ryder through the crowd, chatting to a group of guys with similar markings on their skin. She laughs, throwing her head back. Is it really that easy, to be that happy?

  When Aiden returns, his dark hair is ruffled, there are red lines running up and down his arms and trails of blood.

  “So you have two choices,” he says, putting his hands on the railing. “Either you can go down and meet everyone or clean up first and then go down.”

  I glance down at my mud-caked clothes. “I’ll clean up first, I guess.”

  “I thought you’d say that,” he says. Then he takes me to a small room with a metal bed pushed against the dirt wall and a few wooden trunks stacked in the corners. Clothes hang from hooks in the ceiling and there are some strange looking objects cluttering the floor.

  “So this is my room.” He points to a curtain. “The shower is behind there.” He eyes my clothes. “And I’ll go see if anyone has anything you can borrow until we can get your clothes cleaned.”

  I nod and he leaves, shutting the door behind him. I hear the click of a door locking.

  I shake my head. “Unbelievable.” I start to remove my muddy clothes, making a lap around his room. There are some clothes, a knife—not mine—and a pair of boots. There’s also a book. I’ve never seen a book before—heard of them, but never actually seen one. I pick it up, noticing how old the tattered cover looks. I flip through the pages, but it’s nothing more than ink to me.

  I set the book back down and head for the shower, letting the water flow a little before I step in. I quickly scrub away the dirty water, ice-cold against my muscles. But then I realize I should have waited until Aiden brought clothes before I got in. I crack the curtain and am surprised to find a set of folded clothes on the bed, along with a towel. I shut off the water and get dressed. The blue shirt fits me perfectly, but the pants are a little too long, so I tuck them in my boots, before lacing them up. It’s strange wearing clothes that aren’t black and I feel a little out of place.

  There’s a knock at the door and I quickly pull my hair back into a ponytail. “Yeah, you can come in.”

  Aiden enters, the blood washed from his arms, but the lines still rem
ain. “You look better.”

  “Thanks,” I mumble, adjusting the shirt. “You didn’t have to lock me in.”

  “Yeah I did.” He smiles and for some reason I return it.

  His breath catches, and his heart misses a beat. I quickly erase the impulsive smile from my face and he shakes his head and picks up a knife from off the floor.

  “So I’m guessing you’re hungry?” He puts the knife into his pocket and zips up his jacket.

  “Yeah, I guess.” My eye catches the book. “Can you… do you know how to read?”

  He looks perplexed and follows my gaze. “Oh that. No I can’t.” He nudges the book aside. “Someone found that one day, while out in the city.”

  “You’ve been out to the city?” I ask.

  “Everyone has at one time or another.” He opens the door. “Let’s go get you something to eat.”

  Downstairs, everyone receives me with inquiring eyes, making me feel like I forgot to put pants on or something. Maci’s sitting next to Ryder on a turned over crate near the farthest corner. She’s stuffing her mouth full of a bright yellow food I don’t recognize, but it smells delicious.

  “What is that?” I ask as Aiden pops one into his mouth.

  “Food,” he crunches. He wipes his face with his sleeve and hands me one.

  Hesitantly, I take it and nibble a small bite. My mouth is immediately overflowed with the sweetest taste that’s ever touched my tongue.

  “What is this?” I ask, juice dripping down my chin.

  “The best thing in the world,” he says.

  Ryder shoots him a disgusted look and her heart knocks quickly against her chest, not out of fear, but out of anger. “It’s good to see you two are getting along so well after only spending a few minutes with each other.” She stands, much taller than I remember, her head nearly touching the ceiling. “So what’d you do? Hit her over the head to get her to cooperate or something?”

  Aiden touches a strand of my hair distractedly, as if he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. “She’s actually really cooperative; at least she was once I let her go.” He winks at me, but then blinks and drops my hair.

  “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.