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The fallen star (fallen.., p.26
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       The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series, Book 1), p.26

           Jessica Sorensen
 
The fall seemed endless, like I was being sucked into an abyss. Fear set in as I realized that an abyss might be exactly what this was. Of course, if there was a bottom and I hit it at the speed I was falling, then…well, I didn’t want to think about it right now.

  Below my feet, I saw a white light twinkling through the blackness. As I plunged closer to it, it began to shimmer brighter and brighter, eventually becoming so bright I had to shut my eyes or else I might go blind. Warmth blanketed around me, and I sucked in a breath as my feet hit the ground hard.

  I toppled forward, landing face first onto a surface that felt scratchy and dry like grass. I quickly leapt to my feet. Sure enough, the scratchy, dry surface was grass, and I had a mouth full of it.

  I spat a few times, clearing out my mouth. My head was throbbing and my stitches ached. Worried I had torn them open, I lifted up the bottom of my shirt and carefully peeled back the bandage. My skin looked red and swollen, but there was no blood and the stitches still seemed to be holding my skin together.

  I pressed the bandage back down and glanced around, seeing if I could recognize my surroundings. Bright orange and pink leaves danced through air, and the wind whispered against my hair. Tall trees trimmed a translucent lake. The place felt strangely familiar, like I had been here before but couldn’t quite remember when. It was the same feeling I experienced when I had been sucked away back at the field trip.

  For a moment I just stood there in the sunshine and breathed in the cool fall air. Then suddenly it dawned on me. I obviously been sucked into the Foreseers’ ball like Alex had warned might happen. He also warned me that I could get stuck inside it. All of my calmness was ripped away in the blink of an eye.

  Okay. Okay. Don’t panic. Yeah, that was easier said than done. I gazed around frantically, crossing my fingers that somehow a magical door would materialize out of thin air. Magic existed, right? So why couldn’t I just conjure up a door? Because I’m not a witch, that’s why. And, of course, no door appeared.

  That’s when I really started freaking out.

  “Help!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. “Someone! Anyone!”

  Tears stung the corners of my eyes. Great. Now I was crying. I hated to think it, but not being able to feel right now would have come in real handy, because I was becoming hysterical. And being all frantic and crazed wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

  I took a deep breath and tried to relax. Okay, you can do—

  A stream of purple whipped past me. I jumped back, my hand pressing against my heart, my breath fumbling to regain its steadiness. My gaze darted after the purple blur, and I realized it wasn’t a blur but a little girl wearing a purple dress. She had to be around four or five years old. Her long brown hair whipped in the wind as she stood at the edge of the lake, staring out at the water.

  Unsure of how a Foreseer’s vision’s worked, I approached her cautiously. Would I be able to communicate with her? God, I hoped so.

  “Excuse me.” I went to tap her on the shoulder, but my hand slipped through her like I had just tried to touch a ghost. Great. I raised the volume of my voice. “Hello!”

  Nothing. The girl just stood there, completely unfazed by my loudness as she stared out at the lake.

  Great. If I couldn’t communicate with anyone, then how was I ever going to figure out a way out of here?

  The little girl started twirling in circles, and I gasped as I caught sight of her face. It was all hazy, like bad reception on a television screen. I blinked my eyes and rubbed them with the heels of my hands, but the haze stayed.

  “Don’t get too close to the lake,” a voice called out from behind me.

  I spun around just as a boy ran past me. He looked a few years older than the little girl and had dark brown hair. His face was hazed over as well.

  “You need to be careful or you might fall in,” he warned.

  “Don’t worry,” the little girl replied, teeter-tottering near the edge of the water. “I won’t fall in.”

  “Please just move away,” he begged, his hand extended out to her. “You don’t know how to swim.”

  She took hold of his hand, and he guided her away from the lake.

  I was having another weird déjà vu moment, just like when I disappeared into the field during the fieldtrip. The peoples’ faces had been blurry then too. So were the two linked somehow? This had to be a vision, and the fieldtrip…well, I didn’t know what that was. It couldn’t have been a vision, though. It wasn’t like I touched a Foreseer’s ball.

  “You two get over here right now!” a man barked from somewhere behind me.

  His voice made the atmosphere alter into a-graveyard-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind of setting. The kind of setting that made the hair on my arms stand on end, and my stomach churn.

  Before I could even turn around, the man appeared beside me. He was tall, husky, and had jet black hair similar to Marco’s. He wore a black button-down shirt, grey slacks, and a gold chain dangled around his neck. His face was also hazy.

  I quickly caught on that he was intimidating with the way he shook at my nerves. Even the kids seemed to back away from him.

  “It’s time to go,” his voice iced out.

  “Where are we going?” the little girl asked, gripping little boy’s hand tightly, like her life depended on it.

  “That’s none of your business!” the man roared.

  Even though I couldn’t see the girl’s face, I knew she had to have flinched. I flinched. The fear that he might hurt the two of them howled through me. And what was I supposed to do if he did? Stand by and watch helplessly?

  I heard the soft treading of approaching footsteps. Then a figure rushed by me. It was a woman with long brown hair and a face as hazy as the others.

  She swept the little girl up in her arms and hugged her protectively. “You stay away from her!” she shouted at the man.

  Her presence brought warmth that mixed with the chill the man sent out. The two combined created a mixture of emotions that buzzed through the air and made me nauseous.

  “This is not your decision,” the man rumbled at the woman. “You knew when she was born that things like this had to happen.”

  “Mommy, I’m scared,” the girl whispered.

  The woman—the mother—smoothed back the little girl’s hair and kissed her on the forehead. “It’s going to be okay. You don’t need to be scared. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”

  The man laughed the kind of laugh that sent fear soaring through my body. “I’d like to see you try.” He turned to the little boy. “Go inside, right now.”

  The boy didn’t move.

  “Now!” the man ordered.

  “Yes, Father.” The boy’s voice shook. He trod up a hill, heading toward a castle-like building made of grey stone and tall towers.

  After the boy disappeared inside the castle, the man turned back to the woman. “Now, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

  She stood defiantly, holding the little girl tightly in her arms. “You’re not taking her anywhere. She’s my daughter, not yours.”

  “So it’s going to be the hard way, then.” He lunged at the woman and snatched the little girl away.

  The woman desperately fought to get her back, tearing and clawing at the man’s arms.

  The girl reached for her mother, kicking and screaming with all her might. “I want to stay with you! Don’t let him take me!”

  But their efforts were useless. The man stood strong, entirely unaffected by their attempts. And when he plucked a small black bag out of his pocket, the woman froze. Silence choked the air, and I could hear my heart thudding.

  Balancing the little girl in one arm, he dangled the bag in front of the woman. “Now, like I said, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

  “You wouldn’t dare,” whispered the woman.

  “Wouldn’t I?” He looked down at the little girl in his arms. “Hey, sweetie, how would you like to go for a swi
m in the lake?”

  The girl hovered back. “But I can’t swim.”

  “You’ll be fine,” the man coaxed. “Someone will be there to help you.”

  “Knock it off!” screamed the woman, clenching her hands into fists. “I know you’re bluffing. You need her too much.”

  The man laughed wickedly, making the hairs on my arms stand on end. “There are ways to get her back when I need her. She would probably be better off down there anyway, until it’s time.”

  The woman’s breathing faltered. “Please don’t do this. Please.”

  The man laughed again. “Oh, I won’t just as long as you get into the lake yourself.”

  Go in the lake! Why! Was he going to try and drown her?

  “You’ll never get away with this.” Her voice was edging near a sob. “I know the real reason why you want her, and sooner or later, someone else is going to figure it out. You’ll never be able to get away with it.”

  “Oh, I highly doubt it. I have everyone wrapped around my little finger.” He set the girl down on the ground, pointed his finger at the castle, and ordered the little girl to “Go inside.”

  She didn’t budge.

  “Go!” the man hollered.

  Again she didn’t budge. She was a brave one, because I’m pretty sure I would have been running for my life.

  “Go ahead, honey,” her mother urged in a soothing voice. “It’s alright. I’ll be okay.”

  It took the girl a second, but she finally walked away, casting one last glance back at her mother before starting up the hill toward the castle.

  My heart broke for the little girl and the mother. Somehow—and I don’t know how—I knew it would be the last time they would see each other. She would grow up motherless, perhaps even hating the people who would be chosen to raise her. There would forever be an empty hole resting in her heart.

  “Now it’s time to deal with you,” the man said, turning back to the woman. He let a pause drag out, like he was trying to instill fear with his silence. “Get in the lake. Now!”

  I shook my head, trembling. No! No! No!

  “You’ve been planning this all along, haven’t you?” Her voice quivered. “Every single word that’s come out of your mouth has been nothing but a lie.”

  “You know me very well,” he said. “Now quit stalling and get into the lake.”

  Shaking her head, she backed up toward the water. The man followed after her, matching her every step.

  I chased after them, desperately wishing I could do something to stop the man from forcing the woman into the lake.

  “You’re wrong about not getting caught.” She reached the brink of the lake, the waves rolling against her feet. “There are people who you don’t have wrapped around your finger.”

  “Then I’ll have to take care of them as well.” He tugged open the black bag, scooped out a handful of something that looked like ash, and sprinkled it into the lake, making the water turn a cloudy dark grey.

  “Don’t think you’ve won.” She raised her chin high and stepped back, submerging her legs into the water. “Someday it will all catch up with you.”

  Another few steps and the water was waist deep on her. The lake lay dead calm, like the calm before the storm. Then came the loud swoosh! Water splashed up and she plunged down.

  I let out a blood curdling scream.

  The man turned his back on the drowning woman and strolled away, whistling some funky tune that sounded like a combination between “It’s a Small Word After All” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

  Without even thinking, I ran into the water, forcing myself to go farther as the cold water ascended higher. But when it reached waist deep on me, I realized two things: 1) like the little girl, I couldn’t swim, and 2) I couldn’t actually touch the woman, so how was I supposed to save her?

  Shortly after these thoughts crossed my mind, a third reason why I shouldn’t have gone into the water dawned on me. Obviously there was something wrong with the lake. I heard the swish. I saw the splash. I saw the man dump some creepy ashy stuff into it.

  I should have known better than to go running into it.

  But I didn’t, and it was too late now. A bony hand had already grabbed me by the ankle and was trying to jerk me beneath the water. I kicked and screamed and fought with every ounce of strength I had, but whoever the hand belong to was strong. It pulled me under the ice-cold water and kept dragging me deeper and deeper underneath the water.

  Chapter 22