Cinder x, p.15
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       Cinder X, p.15

         Part #2 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 15

 

  As I sit up, the banging grows louder, so I hurry and get out of bed, heading over to the door. Cracking it, I listen to the murmur of voices that are actually coming from Ian’s studio in the attic. I can’t tell what they’re saying, so I open the door wider and step out of my room.

  The air is chilly, like someone turned the air conditioning on, so I pad to the thermostat, only to find that it’s turned up passed eighty. Shivering, I turn around and pad down the hallway towards the attic door. When I reach it, I hesitate to open it, listening to the chatter on the other side. There are definitely two different voices, one deep like a male’s and one high like a female’s.

  I’m worried that the female’s might be Raven’s, considering what happened at the bowling alley. Still, if my brother’s in there, she could be trying to hurt him. So, summoning my courage, I grab the doorknob and open the door.

  A slimy chill slithers up my spine the second the stale air on the other side of the door hits me. The voices instantly shush, but the banging continues. It’s dark inside, only a single candle is burning from the center of the room, creating a pale orb around the slanted ceiling and wooden walls. There are paintings inside the small space, covered with sheets while paint and brushes litter the floor.

  Wrapping my arms around myself, I enter the room. The candle flickers as a breeze sweeps up behind me and my attention darts to the side of me as a loud thud echoes through the room. Horror pours through me as I realize what’s causing the banging. Ian. He’s facing the wall with his back turned to me, banging his forehead on the wall, over and over again.

  “Ian,” I say, hurrying towards him. “What are you doing?”

  He immediately stops banging his head on the wall and gradually turns around to face me. His hair is disheveled, his clothes wrinkly and stained with either red paint or blood, and he has a cut on his lip that wasn’t there the last time I saw him.

  “Oh, my God, what happened?” I hurry towards him and reach for the cut on his lip, but he slaps my hand out of the way. I stumble back as his death flickers inside me and strangles me. Fire. Burning around him. Flames bright. He wants to be there. He wants to burn alive.

  “Don’t touch me,” he snaps furiously, staggering back to the wall, terrified.

  “What’s wrong with you?” I ask, cowering back. “You haven’t been home in ages and now you’re suddenly up here… banging your head on the wall. ”

  He rubs his forehead where a lump is forming. “I can’t do this anymore,” he states in an emotionless tone.

  “Do what?” I’m worried that I might already know what the answer is; worried that he’s going back to that place where he tried to take his own life.

  His arms drop to his sides. “I couldn’t keep living like this. Being here, in this place, when there’s so much stuff going on… so much pain. ” He clutches at his chest like his heart is aching.

  Is he talking about the Reapers? “I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” I say as he backs up to the wall again like a skittish cat. I’m concerned he’s lost his mind.

  His terror shifts to rage. “I’m talking about the fucking dead,” he snaps, slamming his fist against the wall, causing the canvas beside him to fall over. “Always walking around and haunting me like a damn plague. I can’t get rid of them. ” He tugs his fingers through his hair and yanks on the roots as his head falls forward. “I couldn’t get rid of Alyssa. She was everywhere. Always haunting me and reminding me of what I did. ”

  “Are you saying…” I’m at a loss for words. He can see the dead? Is Ian a Grim Angel? How am I supposed to ask him this, though? Without even thinking, I say, “Can you see the dead?” Well, I guess there’s no beating around the bush.

  “Yes,” he whispers, his eyes bulging as he stares at me, but he’s not looking at me, he’s looking through me. “They won’t leave me alone. ”

  I inch towards him, the glow of the flame dancing across the walls. “Have you… have you ever heard of a Grim Angel?”

  He shakes his head, eyes still wide, and then he charges at me. I start to jump back, but there’s not enough time and Ian ends up colliding with me. We fall to the ground and I smack my head on the floor. His hands immediately wrap around my neck and he starts to strangle me as I kick and hit at him, trying to get him off me, however he has inhuman strength and my efforts are useless.

  My oxygen flow starts to dwindle as I stare up at him, his eyes smoldering with blinding rage, letting me know he’s possessed. It’s actually sort of reassuring when I think about it. At least when he kills me, it won’t really be him. It’s a fucked up thought process, but I hold onto it with everything I have as my ears start to ring and I see spots. As I’m about to take my last breath, he’s suddenly thrown off me and someone else appears above me.

  Her bubblegum pink hair looks red in the darkness around us and her eyes are filled with nothing except loathing and hatred as she stares down at me with her glossy lips pursed.

  “You know the rules,” she says, looking at me, but speaking to Ian as he gets to his feet.

  He inches back to me and looks down at me with a blank expression on his face. “Sorry, I got a little carried away. ”

  She rolls her eyes. “Well, you can’t. We’re not supposed to kill her; if she hasn’t gave in yet. It’s breaking the rules. ” She muses over something and then crouches down beside me, touching her fingers to my neck. “Although, this is a good look for her. ”

  I wince from her touch and then find enough energy to slap her hand off me. “Don’t touch me. ” My voice sounds more like a croak as my throat aches.

  She laughs snidely. “Let’s get one thing straight, Emmy. You don’t give the orders around here. ”

  I place my hand on my neck in a protective gesture. “Then who does?”

  She angles her head to the side, strands of her hair falling over her eyes. “I think you already know the answer to that question. ”

  “Well, I used to think it was Garrick,” I say, digging my heels into the floor and attempting to slide away from her, however she slams her hand down on my knee with a lot of force.

  “Don’t ever mention that name again,” she hisses, pushing down on my leg. The light of the flame reflects in her eyes, giving her face a haunted look. “I’ve moved up in the world now. No more dating the losers down at the bottom of the totem pole. ”

  I resist an eye roll, wondering if this is really her talking or whoever’s possessing her because, as sad as it is, it could be either way. “So who is it now?”

  Her lips curl to a malicious grin. “The one that has the power to take over an entire town. ”

  A deafening exhale escapes my lips. “That guy at the bowling alley you were making out with? Seriously, you think that dumbass has the power to do that?” I pretend to be more confident than I am.

  She snorts a laugh. “Oh, that’s a good one. ” She straightens her legs and stands up, rearranging her skirt into place. “He’s nothing but another pawn in all of this… another Anamotti that will probably lose his life in order for the leader to get what he wants. ”

  “You’re dating Alton?” I’m shocked as I push up on my elbows and watch her as she strolls back to the corner of the room towards the window, her high heels clicking against the floor. When she doesn’t answer, I shake my head. “You know he’s pure evil, right? That he’s killed girls our age? People we went to school with and that he likes doing it—thrives on it. ”

  She peers out the window into the night covering the land, her silence unsettling. “He needs a lot of power. ” She taps her fingers on the glass. “At first I wasn’t okay with the killings, considering he’s needed to do so many lately, but then he explained it all to me and I understand. In order for him to exist in this world and be strong, he needs to kill and take their souls… keep them inside him until he builds up his strength. ”

  “Keep them inside him?” I question, sitting up. “What the
hell does that mean?

  “She turns her head towards me, her eyes as cold as the ice glazing the window. “Don’t pretend you don’t know. You talk to the dead—he knows that they’ve been asking you for your help to free their souls. ”

  I think of the dead girl that walked into the classroom and how she begged me to help her. “And can I do that?” I ask, thinking about what I read in the book about freeing innocent souls. “Because if I can, I could help you Raven—free you. ”

  “I’m not trapped. In fact I am free. ” She lets out a high-pitched laugh, throwing her head back. “And don’t ask me questions, Em. Everyone knows that the best evil villains never give their brilliant plans away. ”

  “Brilliant?” I question. “Or just plain evil?”

  She rolls her eyes as she struts towards me, the floorboards creaking below her feet. “You know, you have a lot of guts for someone who’s part of a dying breed. ” She stops just short of me and flips her hair off her shoulder. “We’ve cleared out so many Grim Angels in just a few short weeks, and the less there are, the weaker the remaining become. ” She reaches over to the nearest canvas and tugs off the sheet. “They’re giving in so easily. In only a few more days, they’ll belong to the Reapers. ”

  The painting she’s uncovered is the one of her lying on the ground with an hourglass and an X; the one that I thought was gone.

  “Where did that come from?” I whisper. “I thought it was gone. ”

  She smiles as she examines the painting of herself. “Oh, I took it away for a while after you discovered it. ” She turns to me with her hands on her hips. “Your mind’s so easily bent. And the funny thing is that it doesn’t even matter. The painting was simply a painting, showing what I really am and giving you a hint to what your brother was, only you were too stupid to figure it out. ” She walks up to Ian and pats him on the head. “And we painted it together, although he felt a little guilty for painting someone else besides his dead girlfriend. ”

  I look over at Ian, who’s staring at the ceiling, looking as though he saw a ghost. “What did you do to him?”

  “Don’t be stupid. I didn’t do anything to him. ” She ambles around him, tracing her finger along his shoulder and neck. “He gave in way too easily; he was almost relieved to be getting rid of the guilt inside him. ”

  I’m not sure what she means by giving in. Giving into possession? Or insanity? “Is he a Grim Angel?”

  Her hand wanders down the front of him to his chest as she peers over her shoulder at me with a smirk. “What do you think?”

  I look at my brother who is completely out of it—so far gone—before this he was just a pothead who struggled with losing his girlfriend. “I think he’s possessed. ”