Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), Page 2Jessica Sorensen
After the vampires vanish, I sprint down the tunnel as fast as my legs will carry me and don’t slow down until I reach the river. The Highers built the river around The Colony, and constantly dump sodium chloride into it, which is just a fancy word for salt. The salt causes excruciating pain when it mixes into the wounds on vampires’ skin. It’s the one thing that keeps them away, the one thing that protects us from being overtaken with the blood thirsty disease.
I jump into the water and swim until I grow tired. I let the soft flow of the water carry me to the end of the river. I drag myself onto the cement platform. I’m tired and soaked, but the glass vial is still in my pocket and that’s all that matters.
“Open up,” I call out, spitting out water. “Please.”
The steel door swings open, and smacks loudly against the wall. Tristan steps out, hands in pockets, a shocked look on his face. “What happened to you?”
I push to my feet and ring the water out of my long, black hair. “Why are you guarding the door? I thought Bernard was on duty tonight?”
“He had some sort of meeting with the Highers …” His blue eyes skim me from head-to-toe and then his mouth sinks into a troubled frown. “I’m guessing everything didn’t go smoothly.”
I nod and step past him, ducking below the doorway. “The hospital we always get the medicine from was a mess … it looked like the vampires trashed it for some reason,” I say, which sounds strange because vampires usually won’t go near hospitals, but that’s what Monarch told me to say if anyone asked. And Tristan won’t question my lie. He is a strict rule follower and asking questions about things that might seem suspicious would make him a rule breaker.
“Anyway, it took me longer to find the medicine,” I tell him.
“You say it like it’s no big deal.” He shakes his head with disapproval.
I pat my pocket. “I got the vial so that’s all that really matters, right?”
He doesn’t say anything, but it looks like he wants to. He shuts the door and it takes him a minute to latch the multiple padlocks and chains and lock out the Old World. When he’s finished, he turns to me and touches his finger to my bottom lip. He traces across it, up my cheek, tucking a strand of my wet hair behind my ear.
My friend Nina told me that when Tristan touches me like this, it should send shivers across my body. I am shivering, but I’m pretty sure it’s from the cold water drenching my clothes and hair.
“What’s with the worry frown?” he asks, letting his hand fall by his side. “Did something else happen?”
“No, not really.” I shrug and wrap my arms around myself as he unlocks the last steel door, “I’m just a little shaken up. That’s all.”
The door clicks open and he steps aside, letting me walk in. “Over what?”
“The vampires,” I say. “It’s not a big deal or anything, but one of them caught me.”
He drops the keys, and they clank against the floor. “Dang it.” He swipes up the keys and blinks at me. “How can you say that so calmly? I mean, they caught you. How are you even …” He lets out a breath, not finishing.
“It really isn’t that big of a deal,” I lie. “And I managed to knock it down and get away, so let’s not blow it out of proportion.”
“I don’t think you should go out by yourself anymore,” he says firmly
Tell that to Monarch. “I’m not a helpless girl,” I say with a hint of humor. “I mean, I did manage to get away all by my little old self.”
“Yeah, I guess.” He eyes me over. “Something else happened, though... I can tell.”
I run my fingers through my wet, tangled black hair. “What do you mean?”
“I can see it in your eyes...”He presses his lips together, eyeing me carefully with his blue eyes. “Something else is bugging you.”
I could tell him—spill out all the details that happened.
Tristan locks up the last of the doors and we head through the entryway, which is lit up with flickering lights that struggle to stay powered on. The brick walls and low arch ceiling have worn away with time. The cobblestone floor has water rivering the cracks and the damp air clings to my clothes.
There are two Watchers standing nearby, keeping all of us in order. They wear masks over the faces, so no one knows for sure what they look like underneath. I picture them a lot like the vampires, which is probably not accurate, but seems fitting. I’ve seen many Watchers hurt and even kill members of The Colony. The only difference is they do it to keep order and structure to our society, not to feed or infect.
“I’ll tell you later, okay.” Another lie for Tristan. I pluck a piece of dirt from his cropped blonde hair. “I need to get this vial to Monarch.”
“Alright, Juniper, but I’m going to hold you to it.” He flashes me a smile, trying to lighten my mood.
It almost hurts, but I manage to force one back and hurry to the hospital wing.
Juniper isn’t my first name. Kayla is. I don’t have a last name. A few weeks after the outbreak, Monarch found me wandering the streets. I was four and too young—or too traumatized—to remember anything, including my name. Monarch took the courtesy of giving me the name Kayla and decided to add the middle name of Juniper, after his ex-wife, because he says I reminded him of her. I’m not sure if this is a compliment or not. And I don’t know why Tristan insists on calling me it or where he even learned if from. Regardless, I don’t like it. There’s something about it coming from his mouth that feels wrong. I don’t want to bring it up to him though, because I don’t want to cause problems.
Monarch’s standing in the doorway of the hospital wing when I arrive. He’s staring at his pocket watch as if it holds the cure to the vampire disease. He’s the doctor of The Colony and a true medical genius. He can cure the sick, heal the weak, and sometimes even revive the dead.
“Oh, thank God.” Monarch says when he catches sight of me. He’s in his mid-fifties and is one of the older members of The Colony. His hair is the color of smoke and the corners of his eyes sprout crows-feet. His white coat is smudged with blood and the red marks on the sides of his crooked nose means he’s been pressing his fingers there, something he does when he’s stressed. “I was starting to get worried.”
“You’re always worried.” I hand him the vial, my fingers briefly brushing his, and I catch a sense of something he fears, something small and lying in the hospital bed.
With a simple touch, I can sense things they’re afraid of. Monarch fears for Maci’s life—he fears she’ll die and will no longer be able to fulfill her life’s purpose. He also fears I’ll tell someone he sent me out so close to dark.
“How’s she doing?” I lean to the side and peer into the hospital room. Maci’s lying in one of the beds. Her eyes are shut, and her tiny body is curled in a ball. Tubes cover her skin, pumping blood into her. There’s a monitor beside the bed, beeping with every breath she inhales. She’s sick. Not with the vampire virus, but with something else. Monarch was running low on medicine and since I’m a Bellator, it’s my job to go out and retrieve things. Anything The Colony needs the Bellators get. Like medicine.
“Are you okay?” Monarch’s grey-streaked eyebrows dip underneath his oval-rimmed glasses. “You didn’t run into any problems tonight, did you?”
I shake my head. Maybe I’ll tell him later, after he’s given Maci the medicine and is less stressed. But I’m only lying to myself if I think I will. I never do.
“So no run-ins with any vampires?” His dark grey eyes focus on me. There’s something about the way he stares that makes me question if he knows I’m different.
“Nope. No run-ins with vampires,” I lie effortlessly, making me wonder how awkward the truth would sound coming out of my mouth.