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Darkness falls (darkness.., p.25
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       Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), p.25

           Jessica Sorensen
 

  Chapter 24

  “Fix the world back to what it was?” He asks struggling to keep up as I sprint across the desert. “What does that mean? Back to before the virus spread?”

  “I’m not sure,” I say. “But I need that watch.”

  He nods and we start running again, the sky beginning to shade over. I hold my breath as I run, hoping for darkness, hoping to buy myself some time. It continues to fade, a black blanket, the air filling up with cries. Aiden grows nervous, fearing their awakening. And I worry too, but for him. Not myself.

  Finally, our feet slip in the sand as we race up the hillside and with a lot of effort, he slides the boulder over. I jump inside, looking back at the darkness, and the bodies of the vampires dotting the land as he shoves the boulder back over, sealing it all away.

  “Well, at least Dominic won’t come looking for me,” I say. “Not until morning, anyway.”

  He doesn’t answer, mulling over something with a great amount of heaviness.

  “Which way to your room? I ask. “Right or left?”

  He shakes his head. “You know, even if there’s a cure, it wouldn’t change things.”

  “Cure?” I say. “Who said anything about a cure?”

  “Fixing the world.” He sits down in the dirt. “That has to mean finding a cure against the vampire disease. Or eliminating all of the vampires? But even if you did, it wouldn’t change anything.”

  “How so?” I ask. “I mean, if there is a cure, why wouldn’t it save the world? All the vampires would be gone. We’d all be free.”

  “Free from what?” he asks. “All of the Adepti’s in The Colony thinks their lives are perfect, so they wouldn’t leave and the Highers would still have the control.”

  I can’t help but think of Tristan when he says this: happy, perfect Tristan. “They don’t think it’s perfect,” I tell him. “They’re just afraid.”

  “No, that’s not the only reason.” He takes my face in his hands. “Think about it. Why would The Colony ever be built to begin with?” I start to speak, but he cuts me off. “And don’t say for shelter against the vampires, because if that's true, then how did the Highers end up being the ones in charge? All they are are vampires, only better looking and smarter. But they love to kill just as much, yet everyone lets them do whatever they want, no matter who gets hurt.”

  I think about the Higher that I killed. “Do you know anything about experiments?”

  His expression falls. “Experiments?”

  “Yeah, going on inside The Colony?”

  His eyebrows knit together. “I don’t know, what kind of experiments are you talking about?”

  “I’m not completely sure,” I admit. “But perhaps something to change a Higher back into human form.”

  He’s even more confused. “That’s not possible. The Highers were never human to begin with.”

  “You know, a week ago I probably would have agreed with you,” I say. “But now, I’m not so sure. I mean, the vampires were humans once, so why couldn’t the Highers be? And besides, they had to come from somewhere.”

  He digs his knife in the dirt. “Everything comes from somewhere, Kayla. It doesn’t mean they were created from an experiment.”

  “Didn’t you ever ask anyone where they came from?” I ask. “I mean, you’re out here, where you’re supposedly free. Didn’t you want to ask questions?”

  He gives me a dirty look. “This place isn’t like The Colony, Kayla. I don’t have to ask questions, because everything is the truth.” Again, he touches the white line.

  I sigh, getting to my feet. “Can you just show me where my damn watch is? Please.”

  He jumps in front of me. “Okay, let’s say I think you’re right. Let’s say I think someone created the Highers—that it was all done intentionally and let’s say there’s a cure. So what?” He takes me by the shoulder, looking me in the eyes. “You can’t erase everything that’s been done.”

  “But I can make it so the future is better,” I say.

  “But why does it have to be you?” His voice is soft, just a whisper, fearing I’ll leave him.

  “I don’t know,” I say. “It just seems like it’s what I am supposed to do, you know?”

  He shrugs. “No, I don’t know. It’s your choice what you do.”

  “And I’m choosing to try and fix it,” I say. “I mean, what kind of person would I be if I just stood around, letting everything go on in the violent way that it does, if there might be a way to stop it?”

  “You’d be human,” he mumbles.

  “What?”

  He sighs, massaging the back of his neck. “Nothing. Never mind. I’ll take you to your watch.”

  “I don’t get it,” I say, rubbing my finger along the back of the golden pocket watch. “I don’t get how this tiny thing could possibly fix the world.”

  Aiden flops back on his bed and drapes his hand over his head. “I don’t know either.” He’s been in a downer of a mood since our little conversation.

  “I’m sorry,” I say, scratching at the edge the watch. “About what happened?”

  He peeks under his arm. “What do you mean?”

  I sit down on the foot of the bed. “I’m sorry that you had to find out about Dominic trying to kill me.”

  He laughs. “I don’t care about Dominic. I care about you running around and trying to fix the world.”

  I open the watch, staring at the numbers. “It just feels like it’s what I’m supposed to do. I mean, they’re all innocent—the Adeptis.”

  “And how do you know that?” He lifts his head, resting back on his elbows. “How do you know they're all innocent? Everything down there is fake.”

  I ignore him and focus on the watch.

  He sits up and slides beside me. “I’m sorry. I’m just upset about Dominic. I thought I’d escaped all that crap when I left The Colony, but I guess not.”

  I nod, not pointing out that I know he’s lying. Because something else is troubling him, something deeper, something about me.

  “Where did you get this?” I pick up the book I saw earlier and flip through the pages. “I thought all books were destroyed when the virus spread.”

  “This guy, Xander, who used to live here, had it on him when he was tossed out of The Colony.”

  “Xander,” I say, remember the name. “I’ve heard that name before.”

  “Probably from The Colony.”

  I shake my head. “No, I heard Greyson say something about a Xander when I was chained up—something about him turning back.”

  He doesn’t say anything and I stare at the photos in the book, pictures of beautiful creatures feeding on humans. “They’re vampires.” My eyes skim the lines of the perfect figures with sharp fangs, alluring eyes, and smooth skin. “But they’re beautiful, not rotting and gross like the ones we know.”

  He takes the book from me and turns the page. “Yeah, I guess that’s what they could be.”

  “You never thought about it?”

  He shrugs, turning the page. “I’ve only glanced through it a few times and yeah, thought they looked like vampires, but books were destroyed right after the virus spread, so it doesn’t make sense if they were.” He skims his finger across the photo. “And it doesn’t make sense why they’d be so beautiful and perfect.”

  “The answer to fixing the world,” Monarch says, “is to find out how it all started.”

  I flinch at the sound of his voice inside my head.

  “What’s wrong?” Aiden asks, meeting my eyes.

  “Nothing,” I mumble and direct my attention to the photo. “Maybe they’re not vampires. But maybe this is where vampires first started.”

  He fiddles with the corner of a page. “I’m not sure I’m following you.”

  “Well, where did the vampires come from exactly?”

  He looks at me like I’m a moron. “From the virus that accidently spread.”

  “Yeah, but what started the virus?” I ask. “And why would
these photos resemble vampires if it was all accidental?”

  His fingers move to a set of numbers below a photo. “1989.”

  I gape at him. “You know how to read?”

  “Don’t get too excited,” he says. “I only know numbers—that’s it.”

  “What do those numbers mean?” I ask. “1989.”

  “It’s probably a date of when the book was made.”

  “Date?”

  The corners of his mouth quirk up, his mood lifting. “Yeah, you know, like time.”

  I look down at the watch in my hand. “Time, like as in this watch.”

  “Kind of.” He wavers. “But it measures years. Like right now we’re somewhere in the year 2031, so that makes this book pretty old.”

  “Older than the virus.”

  “Much older.” He nods.

  I snap the pocket watch shut. “How do you know all this?”

  “That guy Xander,” he says. “He knew a lot of things, once his memories started opening up, like how to read numbers. He taught me a few things, but not much.”

  “Not enough to read these pages.” I take the book from him, gazing at the photos of the vampires. “But they’re so perfect, it just doesn’t make any sense unless …”

  He cocks an eyebrow. “Unless what?”

  Something clicks in my head. “Unless this was what the virus was supposed to do?” I say. “Only maybe it didn’t, at least not to everyone.”

  “A virus is something accidental,” Aiden points out. “It’s not a good thing.”

  “Yeah, but it could have started out as people thinking it’s a good thing,” I say. “I mean, a virus started as medicine and medicine is used for all kinds of things. It can save lives, heal people. Make people better—stronger. I’ve seen Monarch do it a ton of times. But here’s the thing. Not all medicine affects everyone the same way.”

  He leans over my shoulder, running his finger along one of the photos. “You think the virus might have started out as a good thing, but then turned some people into vampires and some into Highers?”

  In the photos, their white skin and haunting eyes strike a resemblance to a Higher. “But I’ve never seen the Highers feed like this,” I say.

  His eyes flick in my direction. “You sure about that?”

  Blood. Blood everywhere. Behind the blood red door. “I’m not sure about anything anymore.”

  He lets out a sigh. “But if what you’re saying is true, then what was the virus originally meant to do?

  I shrug. “I’m not even sure I’m right. I’m just telling you what I know about medicine.”

  Aiden taps his finger on the book and then suddenly, he’s back in the game. He jumps to his feet. “We need to go to the city.”

  “The city?” I look up from the book. “Why?”

  “Because that’s where Xander is,” he explains. “He bailed out a little while ago. Before he left, he announced that he was leaving to try and find a cure. Everyone just assumed he was crazy, he’d always been a little off, but now, I’m starting to wonder if he might have known something all along.”

  “Why?” I say, because I can tell he’s holding something back. “If you’ve known this all along, why believe he knows something now?”

  “Because of what you said.” He’s cheerful, upbeat, his pulse a lively beat of colors. “And if all the Highers and vampires are part of the virus, then it can be fixed.”

  “But earlier you said it didn’t matter if we could,” I say. “That even if we changed everything back to the way it was, it wouldn’t matter because everyone in The Colony thinks their lives are perfect.”

  “But if there’s a cure for the Highers then The Colony no longer exists.” He puts on a hooded black jacket and zips it up. His eyes meet mine and he walks in front of me, lifting the book from my lap, setting it aside, and pulling me to my feet. “Hey,” he says. “I’m sorry for how I was acting earlier. It was just hard, you know, to find out Dominic tried to kill you just because the vampires are afraid of you. I didn’t realize he was so afraid of someone being different like that. But I promise I’m on board with you now. Let’s go find a cure.”

  “We don’t even know for sure if it’s a cure we’re looking for,” I say. “In the memory, all Monarch said was that I’d fix the world.”

  “It’s got to be a cure,” he says with determination. “All that talk about medicine, it just has to be.”

  I stare at him, listening to his heart, beating softly, but with excitement.

  “I wish you knew how much you meant to me,” he says seriously. “I wish you could remember and realize I’d never do anything to hurt you. Not intentionally, anyway.”

  I eye his lips, beautiful and lustrous. Then without thinking, I lean in and press mine against them. Not because I want to kiss him, but because I want to know if he speaks the truth. Like the first kiss, I can taste everything he feels and it’s so intense I have to pull away. Because at one time or another, Aiden has loved me, and I know that at this moment, he’d do anything to protect me from harm.

  “Let’s go to the city, then,” I say. “Let’s go see if there’s a cure.”

  His eyes open and he flashes me a smile. “Finally we’re on the same page. And hopefully, Xander knows more than we do.”

  “I sure hope so.” I stare at the book, at the pages that lay open. The vampire’s teeth, the blood. What if this is a Higher? What if this is what I’ll turn into if I can’t find a way to fix it?

  Aiden tosses me my jacket and a bag. “Start loading up. We have a long way to go.” He starts throwing bottles of water and cans of food into a backpack.

  I reach into the pocket of my jacket, feeling the vials and syringes. I take out one of the vials. “What is this?”

  “You don’t know?” He asks, shoving the book into his bag.

  I shake my head. “Maci had them when we woke up and said an Angel told her we had to inject them into us.”

  “What’s an Angel?” He asks.

  I shrug. “I thought maybe you might know.”

  He shakes his head, swinging his bag over his shoulder. “I don’t know what an Angel is, but I can tell you what’s in that little vial. Poison. And if you inject it into you, you’ll die.”

  “Well, where did it come from?” I ask. “I mean, who gave it to her?”

  “That’s the real mystery,” he says. “No one knows. Everyone who’s thrown out of The Gathering has them. In fact, some of them were even stupid enough to inject the medicine into them—that’s how we found out it was deadly.”

  I drop the vial, but luckily it doesn’t shatter. “But Bernard took this.” I swipe the vial up. “He injected the medicine into him.”

  The color drains from his face. “I’m sorry, Kayla … I didn’t know how to tell you.”

  “So he died?” I choke.

  “He made it here—and we tried to help him,” he says. “But he’s gone now.”

  I chuck the vial across the room and watch it break into a hundred tiny pieces. Aiden flinches, but doesn’t say anything as I grab the bag and start filling it with food and water. Even on the outside there’s death.

  “How high are our chances of actually finding this Xander guy? I mean, the city is huge. And dangerous.”

  “Honestly?” Aiden asks and nod. “The chances seem low, but trust me—I’m excellent at tracking people down. I’ll find him. No matter what it takes. I swear to God we’ll find him.” His eyes are full of passion and determination and I like it.