Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), Page 3Jessica Sorensen
After I dropped the vial off, Monarch shoos me away and tells me to go change and return to the hospital for my shot. Getting a shot is part of my daily schedule. There’s something about my blood, Monarch tells me, that needs a daily injection or else I’ll die. I obey Monarch because he’s like a father to me.
I ignore The Colony members hurrying through the hall. Lost in my thoughts as I head to my room, the vampire’s cry keeps replaying in my mind. I’ve never seen one release a human. On a few occasions someone gets bit, but manages to escape. But an escape never lasts long. Within a day after a bite, their flesh starts to rot, teeth sharpen, and eyes and mind sink into a fit of rage.
I turn over my arms, staring at the blue veins winding underneath my skin. Why didn’t it bite me? Better yet, why was I not afraid? I had always thought, when I faced my death, I would finally feel fear. But even then, I’m numb. In a colony filled with fear, it’s hard not to think I’m faulty. There’s always so much looming in the air, mostly instilled by the Highers. They make people skittish. I try to play the part, play the fearful Colony member, but I get the feeling the Highers are catching on to me, which is bad. Fear is important to the Highers, otherwise how would they maintain their order and control?
Then, as if I’m cursed, I cross paths with one of them: A Higher. He’s dragging a boy named Bernard, who’s a Bellator and was supposed to be on Guard at the doors tonight. He’s fifteen, two years younger than me, but much larger in size. His moppy brown hair curls over his brown eyes and he always wears this chain around his neck. He told me once that on the metal plate, attached to the chain, his name is engraved. But I called his bluff because reading, and knowing how to read, is prohibited in The Colony.
The Colony members flee to the side, bowing their heads, fear lashing off them, poisonous and potent. Following the rules, I step to the wall and bow my head, showing my respect to the Higher. But deep down, all I want to do is kick him in the shin.
My gaze stays on his white shoes as he walks by me. When I think he’s gone, I tip my head back up. Then I wish I could run.
All the Highers look the same, dressed in white, with identical white hair that flows to their shoulders like feathers. Their snow-white skin carves their flawless features and their pale eyes are haunting in a way that can make hearts skip beats. This Higher’s gaze is on me and he’s looking at me as if he’s trying to burn inside my head and read my thoughts. I know I should bow my head back down and stare at the floor. Perhaps it would salvage this horrible situation of looking at him without permission. But I can’t seem to look away.
His eyes warn me that I should be afraid, but I’m not. A little worried, perhaps. But afraid? No.
Bernard’s face, glossed with tears, begs me to help him. And I want to. Desperately. Because whatever is waiting for Bernard isn’t good. People that get dragged away by a Higher are rarely seen again.
“Tell me,” the Higher says, in a thick voice. “What’s your name?”
My first instinct is to lie. But lying would reveal my flaws. And Highers hate flaws.
“Kayla.” My voice smoothes out like honey. Thank God.
His expression is impeccably unreadable. “And you’re a Bellator.”
I nod, even though it’s not a question. “I am.”
He presses his lips together and his gaze glides down the hall, at the line of people hovered against the brick wall, bowing their heads.
“Curînd.” He whisks his white robe across the floor, turning and descending down the hall, towing a helpless Bernard with him. I stand as still as a statue, knowing that somehow this is going to come back and bite me in the ass.
After the Higher has disappeared into the hospital, everyone scatters like rats, giving panicked glances in my direction. Discounting them, I start for my room. Nina catches up with me, a spring in her walk, as she loops her arm through mine.
“What was that all about?” She whispers, her brown eyes wide.
I shrug. “I have no idea.”
She swings around in front of me, her brown curls bouncing around her face. “Kayla, a Higher just spoke to you and you act like it’s no big deal.”
Nina’s nice enough, but she worries more than I’m comfortable with and being around her for long periods of time nearly kills me.
“It’s okay,” I lie. “He just wanted to know if Monarch was in the hospital.”
“Still, Kayla. He spoke to you, like actual words. That can’t be good.”
She’s right and I know it. But I can’t seem to work up any sort of fear about it.
“I’ll be okay.” I walk around her, calling over my shoulder. “I’ll meet you in the cafeteria later, okay.” Then I leave her and her worries far, far behind.
I can only remember one thing about the day I was chosen to be a Bellator. I was relieved. Most aren’t. No one wants to go out into the Old World, full of bloodthirsty vampires. They’d rather stay an Adepti, which is everyone else besides the Watchers, Highers, and Bellators. They are the average ones, the ones that don’t stand out, don’t have to risk their lives. And they prefer it that way. They prefer the Higher’s rules no matter how harsh they are, if it means living in the security of The Colony. And since the Highers built The Colony, they are the ones who have the power to make rules and enforce punishment against behavior they don’t see fit.
Like for instance, looking one straight in the eye.
A cloud menaces over me as I get changed and return to the hospital. I’m all clean and sparkly and no longer smell of dirt, blood, and river water. My black hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail and I’m dressed in the standard colony uniform: black jeans and a black t-shirt.
When I arrive, Monarch is injecting a shot into Maci’s IV. Her eyes are open now, her red hair a tangled halo above her head, beads of sweat dripping down her pallor skin. Maci’s a Bellator too, but a newer one, and one of the youngest, rounding in at the very young age of seven. I blame myself for her being in here, although Monarch insists it had nothing to do with me.
Still, I was the one asked to watch out for her and ten minutes into her first session, she blacked out and smacked her head on the floor. I should have been watching her more carefully. The first session as a Bellator is the hardest because it exerts the body more than we’re used to.
“Hi, Kayla,” Maci says in a frail voice.
I pat her gently on the head, feeling a small connection with the kid because we’re both orphans. “How are you feeling?”
She gives a small smile. “Better. Maybe I can even go back to my room soon and get back to my training.”
I smile back, reassuringly, but I secretly feel sorry for her. The poor kid looks like death, and I don’t think returning to her room, or to her Bellator training, is in her near future.
Monarch feeds one of her tubes with a shot of black liquid. I watch it drift down the tube, disappearing into her skin. Her heart rate slows until it’s nothing more than a soft murmur. By the time he’s finished, she’s sleeping again.
I hop onto a bed and roll up my sleeve for my shot. “Stab away.”
“Well that was a quick trip to your room and back,” Monarch jokes, setting the needle down on the metal tray.
It is our little joke, my quickness. Because I’m fast—faster than any other Bellator. I return his smile, but barely. My thoughts lie elsewhere.
He takes a vial out of the glass cabinet, stabs the needle into the lid, and drains out the medicine. “So do you want to tell me what’s bothering you?”
I scratch at my arm, wanting to tell him, but knowing I won’t. “Nothing really. I just ran into a couple of vampires, but I managed to escape.” This is as far as I go with the story. Any more truth and my tongue will start to burn.
“I’m sorry you had to go out so close to night.” He flicks the needle, his fingers shaking with age. “If it wouldn’t have been an emergency, I wouldn’t have asked you to go.”
I glance over a
t Maci. “I know.”
“You didn’t tell anyone I sent you out so late, did you?” He asks.
I shake my head. “Your secret is safe with me.”
“I sure hope so,” he mutters. He wipes my upper arm with alcohol and points the needle at it. “You know you can tell me if something else happened. You know that, right?” He says, but he’s scared I actually will.
“Nothing else happened,” I say. “I promise.”
Monarch nods, looking relieved. “Good, I’m glad it went well. Sometimes I feel guilty for having to send you out.” He sinks the needle into my arm.
“You don’t need to feel guilty. It’s what I was chosen to do, right?” My blood burns, my head sings, and the tile floor starts to sparkle. I lie down until my head stops humming an unknown tune. “Did a Higher come in here today with Bernard?”
Monarch tenses, his heart rate quickening. “You shouldn’t be asking those kinds of questions, Kayla.”
“I know,” I say, unsure of why I asked it. “Sorry, it was a momentarily slip up. I promise it won’t happen again.” Another lie. I know it; he knows it.
“You’ve been doing that a lot lately,” he replies tensely. “You need to be more careful.”
“Have I?” I flop my hand over my forehead and block out the light. “So did something happen to Bernard? Was he punished?”
A shatter ripples the air. “I think you should go, Kayla.”
I sit up. Broken glass and pools of medicine sprinkle the floor. “Why? What’s wrong?”
Monarch stares at the fragments of glass and puddles of liquid. “Nothing. I just need to get this cleaned up.” He bends down and starts picking up the glass. His fingers, worn with age, are trembling. I bend down to help, but he shoos me away. “No. No. I can get this.”
“Let me help.” I reach for a piece of glass, but he flicks my hand away, panic shining in his grey eyes.
“Kayla, this stuff’s toxic,” he practically snaps. “You can’t touch it.”
I eye the various colors of liquid. “But you’re touching it.”
He lets out a sharp, anxious laugh. “I’ve been a doctor for so long I’ve become immune to most of this.” He’s scared. Scared that I’ll find out something.
“Monarch, what’s wrong?’ I ask, stepping back from the mess. I bite my thumbnail. “You’re not acting like yourself. Is there something you’re afraid of?”
“Kayla, please go.” His voice is strained. “I’ve got too many things to do today to deal with this.”
“Well, if you’d let me help then—”
“Leave now.” His voice is as sharp as the glass. His eyes widen as he quickly collects himself. “Sorry, I’m just a little stressed. Why don’t you go get something to eat and get some rest? I’m sure you’re exhausted.”
I’m hardly exhausted and he knows it. But since he obviously wants me gone, I back toward the door. “Alright, I guess I’ll see you later then.”
He nods, but he’s not paying attention, picking up glass, lost in his troubles and fears. I pull the door open, but pause when I catch sight of a something silver and metallic. Bernard’s necklace. I pick it up from the counter. Black shapes and lines cover the plate. I haven’t seen words before, but I don’t think these are words. No, they look like numbers.
I turn the necklace in my hand, over and over again. It shimmers in the light, reminding me of the time at Lessons when Bernard knocked out the instructor, but only because the plate reflected into his eyes.
I don’t know what compels me to do it, but I glance over my shoulder, making sure Monarch’s not paying attention. Then I shove the necklace into my pocket.
“Kayla, please go,” He calls out with a heavy sigh.
“Sorry.” I leave, obeying just like I’m supposed to.