The lost soul, p.23
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       The Lost Soul, p.23

         Part #1 of Fallen Souls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 23

 

  Moving on to my secret plan, I dash up the stairs and recover my cellphone out of my dresser. I highlight Alex’s number and hit dial.

  He answers after three rings. Laughing. “What’s up?”

  I bite down on my tongue until blood floods my taste buds. “It’s me. Gemma. ”

  Silence.

  “Why are you calling me?” He sounds annoyed.

  “Why are you at Stasha’s?” I reply, equally annoyed. He doesn’t answer. “I thought you were dead. I thought Helena had you or maybe a Lost Soul possessed you again. Is that what happened? Are you some freaky Lost Soul with no control over your actions?”

  A pause. “Look Gemma, I’m really busy right now, so I’ll call you back later, okay?”

  I begin to object, but he hangs up on me. I toss the phone against the wall and it shatters. I scream into a pillow until my throat burns. Then I turn off my emotions, regain my composure, and proceed with my plan. Unlatching the window, I step onto the sill. Morning is arriving and the sky is a shade of pastel watercolors. My knees knock together as I stare horrified at the grass two-stories down. Just how bad of a death is a fall from this height?

  “If Alex wants to be with Stasha,” I mutter. “Then let him be with Stasha. Laylen needs my help more than him. ” I just hope my mom’s right and I have a free pass to and from The Afterlife. And that I’m still immune to death.

  Bailing on Alex is like cutting my arm off—the Blood Promises that bind us are so strong. But forcing my feet forward, I take a breath and willingly leap for my death, hoping I’ll die long enough to make to the Afterlife.

  Chapter 19

  “Gemma Lucas, what have you done?” My mother’s voice soothes my aching body. “You can’t be here. She can’t have you. ”

  Opening my eyes, I push up from the grass. The willow tree branches are like veil of cotton and a tepid breeze lulls my skin. My mother’s near the tree trunk disappointment chilling her features while strands of her brown hair whisper in the wind.

  “I had to come here. ” I brush wisps of grass and fluffs of cotton off my knees and arms. “To The Afterlife anyway. ” I glance from left to right. “Why aren’t I in The Afterlife?”

  My mother’s pale skin conveys a ghostly glow. “You can’t go to The Afterlife, Gemma. ”

  I step toward her. “But I died and Lucinda said that’s where I’d go. Are you telling me she lied?”

  “Would you be surprised if she did? She’s the Queen of the dead. ” She moves away from the tree trunk and sighs. “She didn’t lie to you, but you can’t go there. Helena will find a way to keep your soul this time and Annabella’s not around to save you anymore. ”

  I gulp at the distant memory of the dream. “Because Helena ate her?”

  “Not necessarily ate,” she explains with an edge in her tone. “But more or less. Annabella is trapped in Helena’s body, which makes Helena very powerful at the moment. That’s why you can’t go there. ”

  “What did Helena do to the Essences?” I ask. “In a dream I had, she went after them. Did she get them?”

  She glances around anxiously, links arms with me, and we stoop under the curtain of cotton branches. We stride for the garden, blooming with red and white roses. Hedges fence the towering trees and leafy flowers. Cotton and petals sail through the air. We find a corner, encased by thick rose bushes and tuck ourselves behind them.

  “For the most part, the Essences are okay. Annabella is trying her hardest to protect us. ” Her voice is hushed, her eyes skimming the trees. “But there are some Essences that Helena’s possessed. ”

  “Aren’t Essences just light?” I lean in, my voice low. “They actually have bodies?”

  She motions at herself. “I’m here, aren’t I? And Nicholas, you’ve seen him as a ghost. ”

  “But I thought Essences were a ball of light,” I whisper, cupping my hands together, demonstrating. “I held Nicholas’ essence. ”

  “The ball of light and our bodies are one and the same. The light is just our life, which Annabella keeps after we die. ”

  “So there are Essences walking around here, possessed by Helena?”

  She nods. “Which means we must be careful. If the wrong Essence sees you, they’ll take you straight to her. ”

  “But you said she can’t take my soul,” I point out. “That I have to give it to her, which I’m not planning on doing. ”

  “Helena will find a way. ” She peeks over the rose bush. “She’ll find your weakness and use it against you. ”

  “My weakness,” I deliberate. “Like Alex?”

  She urges me toward the egress of the garden. “Let’s not find out. You have to go back to your body, Gemma. And never come back here, not until things with Helena are smoothed over. ”

  My feet root to the ground. “Mom, I can’t leave Laylen there. What if she turns him into one of her creepy mummies or something?”

  “Gemma. ” Looking like she might cry, she takes my hand, her eyes pressing. “Gemma, if Laylen is there, he’s already dead. You do understand that, don’t you? You can’t enter The Afterlife without being dead. ”

  “I…” With wide eyes, I observe the petals haunting the air. How could I have forgotten? The two times I journeyed to The Afterlife, I died. “But Aislin said he was there and she was happy so I didn’t even think…” My shoulders slump over. “But she was acting weird, like she was—” I buckle over, clutching at my chest, at my unbeating heart. “I think I’m…”

  “Oh no. ” She seizes my arm and picks up the pace, hurrying toward the willow tree. “You’re crossing over, into Helena’s Realm. I have to send you back to your body. . . ”

  “You can’t do…” My limbs droop and I crash to the ground. My skin shifts to wintriness blue. My muscles slither with an unnatural tingle. She desperately fights to sustain me. But I’m gone, abandoning her and the Essences for The Afterlife.

  ***

  I land in Helena’s chambers, my sneakers embedded on the blood red podium. The thorn embellished throne is empty, along with chains on the wall. I circle the room, passing the silvery-liquid mirror. It ripples my deathly refection, my skin like snow, my violet eyes circled with bags, my lips as purple as my veins.

  “Death is beautiful, isn’t it?” Helena greets me through the mirror.

  I jump back and she ambles out of the mirror, dragging a chain attached around a Lost Soul’s neck. It’s a strange looking Lost Soul, its features masculine and its eyes full of helplessness. Helena clips the chain to the wall and pats the Lost Soul on the head. She’s different from the last time I saw her. Her thin legs have lengthened, adding enough height that she’s almost even with me. Her eyes are still hollow, but her skin is smooth and her long hair is a honey gold. Can Annabella see me too? Is she watching from the other side of Helena’s eyes?

  Her long black dress with a high neckline sweeps the floor as she whisks to her throne. Long-legged black bugs with red hourglass-shaped spots on their bodies flood from her dress. I hop around like a scared little girl.

  “Black Widows! What the hell?” I stomp on the body of one, squishing it on the bottom of my shoe.

  “Careful. Someday one of them might squash you. ” She scoops one up and lets it scurry across her hand, tilting her wrist to steer it. “You know the Black Widow is a really fascinating insect. ”

  I cringe as one crawls across my shoe. “They’re gross and that’s about it. ”

  She turns her hand upward. The Black Widow stands in her palm, buffing its legs together. “There’s a lot of mythology based on these creatures. Some believe them to be good luck. Others believe they’re an omen of the future. Some believe females are cannibals and that they eat their male partner after they mate. ”

  “Ewe. ” I gag, kicking a spider away. “That’s disgusting and way too much information. Plus, they’re extremely venomous. ”

  “You say that like its bad. ” She cups the Black Widow in her hand. “A
s a woman, I would think you’d understand. ”

  “Again, ewe. ” I want to cover my ears, but I refrain. “Male or female, cannibalism is gross. ”

  “I’m not talking about cannibalism. ” She places the Black Widow on the arm of her throne and leans forward. “I’m talking about being stronger, more powerful and not letting them stomp all over your heart. ” She eyes the Lost Soul chained to the wall.

  “Like Alexander Avery did with your heart?” I ask audaciously. “Or with your sisters?”

  She snarls, then eyes me for an eternity, nitpicking my looks from head-to-toe. “I don’t understand what the fuss is about you, but for some reason guys seem to be drawn to you. ” She thrums her fingers on the solid arm of the throne. “And you let them do whatever they want. I just don’t get it. ”

  “Is that why you brought me down here?” I approach the throne with caution, stepping on spiders and trying not to throw up at the crunching noise. “To discuss my guy problems?”

  “They are more of a problem than you even realize. ” She carries her head with arrogance, emitting self-confidence. “One playing you for a fool, the other nothing but a liar, and the last one…” Her black fingernail lines her lip. “Well, I’m not sure what the last one is to you. ”

  I have no idea which description fits what guy, but there’s more to worry about at the moment. Like time. Any second, my death could expire. “Where’s Laylen?”

  She neither grins nor frowns, her demeanor collected as Black Widows cram the room, covering the walls, the floor, and the throne. “He’s safe for the time being. ”

  “He’s dead,” I snap, flicking a spider from my cheek. “How’s that considered safe?”

  “Depends on how you look at it. ” She gives an uncaring shrug. “Some consider death liberation. ”

  “Where is he?” I grind my teeth, struggling to maintain my patience.

  “Who? Alex? Nicholas? Or the blonde one?” She licks her lips. “There are so many it’s hard to keep track of names. In my day, girls had to fight for the men, not the other way around. ”

  “You know what?” I toss my hands in the air. “I give up. ”

  She grins, thinking I’m surrendering, but she’s wrong. I just hope Alex taught me well. Sprinting for the podium, I thrust out my arms and seize her neck in my hands. The Black Widows scurry across the floor and up the walls. My chipped nails stab into her icy skin.

  “You can’t kill me,” she croaks, forcing herself up from the chair. Her hands serpent over mine. “But it’s nice to see you enjoy this. Maybe you do belong here after all. ”

  My strength increases. “Tell me where he is. ”

  Her lips part and she lets out the most malicious cackle, hacking up a Black Widow coated in her saliva. Vomit burns at the back of my throat, but I refuse to let go.