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Darkness falls (darkness.., p.23
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       Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), p.23

           Jessica Sorensen
Chapter 22

  “Kayla, listen to me,” Monarch says, his voice a whisper, so far away. “This is important. Are you listening?”

  “Yes,” I reply in a hollow tone as fog dances around me.

  “Good, now I need you to remember, when the time is right,” he rushes his words, fearful of not having enough time. “I need you to remember that the answers are in the watch.”

  “What watch?” I ask.

  “The watch I gave you.” He sighs. “Everything happens for a reason, Kayla. And when the time comes, I need you to put everything together. I need you to fix all of this.”

  “Fix all of what?” I ask.

  “Fix the world, Kayla. Fix it back to what it was. Fix my mistakes,” he says. “You’re the only one who can.”

  “What mistakes?” I question. “And how will I know when the time is right?”

  I get no reply as the fog surrounds me.

  My eyelids thunder open like zaps of lightning bolts. I need the watch—Monarch’s pocket watch. My cheek is pressed to a cold brick floor, my wrists and ankles adjoined by chains again, and a lantern sparks above my head. I sit up, only to find that I’m not alone. At first I think he’s a Higher, but his snow-white hair is more a sign of age then of purity. His eyes are a dull grey and his skin is creased with wrinkles. In a way, he kind of reminds me of Monarch, only older.

  He’s sitting in a chair, his legs crossed as he stares at the pages of a book.

  “Who are you?” I stand, maintaining my balance even though it’s difficult.

  His gaze lifts from the book and he smiles. “Hello, Kayla.”

  I recognize his voice as the one through the smoke. “Do I know?” I ask and he nods. “From The Colony?”

  He rises to his feet, tall and brittle. “Do you know what these are?” He holds up the book, showing me the words.

  “I don’t know how to read,” I admit, not ashamed, but wishing I did.

  “Hmm?” He says tapping his finger against his lip.

  “No one from The Colony does.” I feel the need to defend myself.

  “Some do,” he says and then sticks out his hand for me to shake. “My name is Dominic.” I’m hesitant to shake his hand, but he insists so I do. “You’ve changed a lot since the last time I saw you,” he says.

  “And how long ago was that?” I ask. “One year, two years, because I honestly have no idea who you are.”

  “Yes, I know.” He takes a seat and gestures at the chair across from him. “Please, have a seat.”

  Shackled and chained, I sit down in the chair. “Are the chains really necessary?”

  “Maybe, maybe not,” he answers. “But when in doubt, we leave them on.”

  Always a prisoner. “What do you want from me?”

  “That’s a really good question.” He picks up a cup and sips from it. “And it’s not what we want from you, but what you want from us.”

  “I don’t want anything from you,” I say. “Except for you to let me go.”

  “That, I can’t do.” He presses his fingers to the sides of his nose, a gesture that reminds me of Monarch. “You’ve put me in a very difficult situation. And I’m not sure what to do. I never thought Monarch would stoop so low … but I guess maybe it was a panicked situation.” He meets my eyes. “Was that it? Was that why he did it?”

  “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I say. “I really don’t.”

  He gives a quiet laugh, shaking his head. “He built you well—making sure to include you are a brilliant liar.” He takes another sip of his water. “It’s a good tool to have, you know—keeps people out of your head.”

  I start to say something, but stop. “I don’t … what are you saying?”

  His gaze spears me. “You really don’t know, do you? About what we did? About where you came from?”

  I shake my head slowly, my mind shifting back to the red door, the blood, the scream. “Who’s we?”

  He sighs. “Me and Monarch … I used to be a doctor at The Colony.”

  “But you’re out here, now.” I say. “I thought only Bellators were chosen for The Gathering.”

  “I am a Bellator. Or was one anyway,” He says and when I eye him, he adds, “Don’t let this weak old body fool you. Looks can be deceiving, like yours.” He’s speaking to himself not me. He scoots his chair forward. “I’m going to get right to the point, Kayla. There’s no more tiptoeing around it. I think you’re Higher.”

  I’m stunned, my arms loose on my lap, my mouth hanging open. “How can I be a Higher? No one can just become a Higher.”

  “Someone can become a Higher just as easily as someone can become a vampire,” he says. “You just have to know the right people, who know the right medicine.” He stabs a finger in my direction. “And you know the right people.”

  “You’re talking about Monarch.” I’m shaking my head. “No, he wouldn’t do something like that.”

  He raises his eyebrows. “Just like he wouldn’t erase your mind?” He pauses when he sees how upset I’m getting. “Don’t worry, he only did it because he had to. It was the only way he could fix the world or at least that’s what he thinks.”

  What he thought. I run my hand across my face, the metal links of the chain dragging across my cheek. “I’m not a Higher.” I meet his eyes. “Black hair. Brown eyes. And I don’t like to slaughter people.”

  “Sometimes, the transformation takes time,” he says. “Eventually, you’ll turn, just like they all did.”

  “Even if what you’re saying is true—if Monarch did create the Highers, he wouldn’t change me into one. I know he wouldn’t. He cares … cared about me too much.”

  Dominic leans forward, overlapping his brittle fingers. “He would, if he thought it would save you from being discovered.”

  “Discovered?” I ask.

  His expression is attentive. “Have you ever wondered how The Colony came to exist? Why everyone ended up there? How the Highers ended up in control? Why they put salt in the water that surrounds The Colony when silver would work much better?” His voice is low, pressing each word as he speaks. “Because that’s how they wanted it.”

  His words confuse my head. “I’m not sure what you’re saying. I’m trying to, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would anyone want things like that?”

  “I think the question you should be asking is why wouldn’t they,” he says. “I mean think about it. All that power, control, perfection. It’s what everyone wants, isn’t?”

  I shake my head.

  “Well it’s what Monarch wanted with you,” he says with a smile. “But I guess he just couldn’t get there. Still, turning you into a Higher, just to preserve what he did, that takes guts.”

  I want to kick the old man to the ground. I slide to the end of my chair, my knee twitching.

  “Easy,” he says. “I’m only giving you the truth, which is hard. What Monarch and I did wasn’t right. And what he was trying to do to fix it definitely isn’t right.”

  My eyes skim my veins, barely visible through my skin. “I’m not a Higher,” I mumble, trying to convince myself more than anything. “I can’t be.”

  He smiles sympathetically. “Maybe that’s true, but I can’t wait around to see if you’ll change. It’s too dangerous. I’m sure you understand the damage just one Higher can do.”

  “But you keep that other one around,” I argue. “Locked away in that room.”

  “And having one around is enough to keep me awake at night,” he says. “But the only way we know how to kill a Higher, is by the hand of another Higher and since we have two now we can at least get rid of one.” He stands. “It’d be better if you’d both just eliminate each other, but I don’t see that happening so…” He starts for the door.

  “So what was all that crap with the vampire,” I call out, desperate to keep the conversation going, desperate to keep living.

  “A test,” he says, without turning.

  “And did I pass or fail.”
  A pause. “I’m not sure.” He sighs and faces me. “Don’t worry Kayla, eventually we all will die. Some just sooner than others.”

  “Everything must die, it’s a part of life. Not doing so, now that’s going against nature. I should have realized this sooner.”

  “Even the Highers,” I say. “Because from what you said—with the only way for them to die is by the hand of another Higher—I don’t see a death in their near future.”

  He smiles, tapping his head. “You’re clever—another thing Monarch did right. It really is a shame he had to end it like this.” Then he’s leaving again, already almost to the doorway.

  “So what? You’re just going to kill me because you think I might be a Higher?” I shout after him.

  “It’s for the best, Kayla,” he says. “Even if you aren’t, what you can do goes against nature any way, whether Monarch thinks so or not. He can’t fix his mistakes by trying to play God.” One last smile and he’s out the door. I start to run, slowly, because I’m chained. But a group of guards mob the room, boots marching against the floor as they corner me against the wall.

  “Time to die, Kayla.”

  I’m not sure which one of the assholes says it.

  They seize the chains and take me up the stairs, but I don’t make it easy for them. I kick and fight the whole way. But it doesn’t do any good. As strong as I am, there are too many of them. They drag me through the ridiculing crowd and back to the glass room. But just as they’re about to lock me up, Aiden runs up.

  “Hold on,” he says, but one of the guards steps in front of him, sticks a hand out and shoves him back. “I just want to say goodbye to her. That’s all.” The guard doesn’t budge and he continues, “Please,” he says in an angelic voice. “She used to be a friend of mine.”

  Winning the guard over, he steps aside and lets Aiden by.

  I back up, not wanting him near me. “Stay away from me.”

  He pulls me in for a hug anyway, backing us into a corner and pressing our bodies together, like we’re lovers. I think about kneeing him between the legs until he whispers, “The keys to the cuffs.” He slips them and something else into my pocket. “And a knife.”

  Then he’s gone, pushing past the guards and disappearing down the hall. He doesn’t give me an explanation or any instructions on what to do next. I think it’s right then and there that I realize just how well he knows me.

  Because I can do a lot of damage with a knife. No instructions needed.

  The guards shove me into the glass room. There are no people watching me from the other side this time. I’m all alone, a prisoner, waiting for the right moment to unlock myself and fight for my life.

  The door squeaks open and someone steps in, dressed in white, hair like snow, perfect features.

  The Higher, ready to take my life so he can preserve his own.