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Darkness falls (darkness.., p.27
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       Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), p.27

           Jessica Sorensen

  Chapter 26

  Once my foot crosses the line of darkness and I enter the cave, I know there’s no turning back. It seems like it has a deep back at first, but when I walk further inside, I realize that it’s actually quiet shallow. I check the shadows, behind rocks, in dark corners and breathe a sigh of relief.

  “You can come in,” I call out to Aiden, putting my knife away.

  He steps in gingerly, his heart beating fiercer the moment he crosses into the dark side. His hand rests on his pocket, trembling with the desire to draw out his knife.

  “Did you see them?” I ask, sliding off my bag.

  His head creases. “See who? Oh you mean Dominic. No, but I think we should hide in here for a little while to make sure.” He sets his bag on the ground and sinks down. “So what’d you want to do while we wait? You want to try the minte.”

  Secretly, I think I was hoping he’d forget about that. “Sure, I guess.”

  “Don’t assume you’ll see something you fear,” Aiden says, unzipping his bag. “Or else you probably will.”

  “I wasn’t assuming anything.” I sit down in front of him, crisscrossing my legs. “And I don’t fear anything.”

  His eyes smile through his lashes. “That’s not true.” He pulls out a syringe and unwraps the plastic.

  “It is true,” I argue. “It’s how I’ve always been.”

  He drives the needle into the vial. “You may not fear things like vampires—or even Highers—but you do have fear, Kayla. Like the fear that everyone will find out who you really are.” He extracts the clear medicine from the lid. “You ready for this?”

  I blink at him. I’m still stuck on what he’s said, because it’s so close to the truth. “What? Yeah, I’m ready.” I stick out my arm.

  But he puts his bag on his lap and gives it a pat. “You might want to lie down ... when you go under, you really go under.”

  I lower my head to the bag on his lap, cross my hands over my stomach and stare up at him.

  He taps the needle with his finger, then whispers, “Think of me and maybe you’ll remember what we were.”

  I nod, but shove all thoughts of him out of my head. Remembering him would be easier, I’m sure. But it won’t help with getting any answers. No, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to make it worth it. And that’s why, when he shoves the needle into my arm, all I hold in my mind is the bright red door.

  Blood. Dripping from the walls, raining from the ceiling. I shield my head and my ears, trying to block out the screams.

  “Help me.” The voice is cracked, pained, tortured. “Help me please.”

  “Don’t be afraid,” Monarch says.

  I open my eyes to the sound of his voice. He’s not there, but the blood has cleared away. The room is solid concrete, the only color the bright red door. Chains hang from the wall, savage and beaten. But no bodies are chained to them—not even mine.

  I stand to my feet, tipsy and nauseous, clutching a little doll. I follow the sound of the help-me cries, one foot in front of the other, heading to the only place I can, a dark hall. The lights flicker with my footsteps.

  “Help!” The voice begs. “Please.”

  The voice leads me to door, not red, but rusted metal, scratched and dented. Even though I’m nervous, and my insides scream at me not to, I turn the doorknob. Something scurries to the side and I stop short, almost pulling back.

  “No, please don’t go,” the voice says, tears laced in its tone. “Please don’t be afraid of me.”

  I take a deep breath and step into the room. The lights blink, but in the corner I see a small figure.

  “Are you okay?” I ask, my voice very real inside my head.

  It shakes its head, its body balled into the darkness.

  “I won’t hurt you.” I bend down slowly, trying to see who the small child is. The light brightens, vanishing all the shadows around. The little child lifts up its head, the flesh peeling away, teeth missing except for two sharp fangs. “Help me.” It reaches its fingerless hand for me, then pulls back, gnawing at its own arm.

  I trip back, bumping my elbow on the corner of a metal tray, sending tools flying and scattering to the ground in an earth quaking noise. The child screams and I turn to run, but Monarch appears in the door.

  “Kayla, what are you doing in here?” His grey eyes are troubled, his hands stained with guilt.

  “I’m sorry,” my lips speak for me, words of the past. “I thought I heard …”

  He grabs me by the arm and drags me into the hall, slamming the door and locking the child away.

  “You can’t just wander around like this,” he says. “You know better.”

  “I’m sorry but –”

  “Too many questions,” he mutters, pulling something out of the pocket of his white coat. “Always too many questions. It’s the one thing I can’t seem to fix.” He holds a syringe in his hand, filled with purple liquid. “If you keep this up, we’ll never be able to make it work.”

  “I’m sorry,” I apologize again.

  He sighs and moves the needle for my arms. “You have to forget what you saw, otherwise it’ll all be ruined.”

  I nod and he pumps my body full of medicine that steals the memory away.

  Blood. Blood everywhere. I drowned in it, screaming.

  “Help me!”

  “Help me.” My body jerks awake at the sound of my voice.

  Aiden’s eyes are wide as he stares at me, trying to hold me into place. We both breathe in each other, rapid sounds that fill the air with tension.

  “I’m guessing,” he says, holding up my arm, lined, again, with red scratches and dried drops of blood. “That you didn’t remember something about me.”

  I slowly shake my head. “No.” My voice sounds strained.

  He’s hesitant, watching me with anxious eyes. “Do you want to talk about it?”

  Again, I shake my head. Then I lie there, motionless, listening to the beating of his heart. It’s like a song, a beautiful song that makes me want to close my eyes and forget what I saw. Except, when my eyelids start to shut all I can see is the red door and the tiny raggedy child curled up in front of it.

  “Can we go?” I ask.

  He glances over his shoulder, toward the outside. “Yeah, I think we’re okay. I haven’t heard or seen anything. I was probably just imaging it to begin with.”

  I sit up, rubbing my eyes, rubbing away the images. “How long until it gets dark?”

  He stands, putting his bag across his shoulder. “I don’t know. Probably like one or two …” He trails off, eyes bugging wide. “Kayla, don’t move.”

  I freeze, hearing the movement from behind me. My breath rises and falls, in and out. My muscles tense and then I hear the cry. I relax slightly, reaching for my knife, opening my mouth to tell Aiden to run. But he’s already running, but for me, not the exit.

  “What are you do—”

  He shoves me to the ground, whipping out his knife. The vampire stands, not too far off, fangs quivering, body trembling, eyes drowning in blood. I jump to my feet as Aiden takes a swing, but it hops back, nipping its teeth.

  I draw out my knife, charging for it. But it attacks Aiden and knocks him to the ground.

  I kick the vampire in the back and it tips its head, letting out a sharp cry. It snarls at Aiden, not wanting me. I grab its hair, its gooey flesh oozing between my fingers as I drag back its hostile body. Aiden scoots away, a trail of dust, and the vampire tries to run after him. I chase it, raising my knife as I ram my body into its back. We tumble to the ground and I plunge my knife deep into the middle of its back, making sure it pierces its heart, taking away its source of existence.

  It crumbles to the ground and I watch as it jerks and twitches, finally deadening into nothing but a useless pile of bones.

  We both breathe in relief, Aiden still on the ground, stunned to stillness.

  After I collect myself, I find my voice again. “What were you thinking?” I scrape my knife o
n the heel of my boot, cleaning the blood away. “Going after it like that? Are you insane?”

  “It was instinct.” He stands to his feet, trying to seem calm, but his heart is going wild. “The first thing that ran through my mind was to save you.”

  “Okay, well as sweet as that is, next time, just run. It’ll make it easier.”

  He nods, on board with this wonderful plan. “Sure. I can do that.” He stares at the dead vampire bones and then his gaze moves to the outside. “We should get going. We can still cover some ground before dark.”

  I nod and we head out of the cave, leaving the dead vampire behind.