Ember x, p.35
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       Ember X, p.35

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 35

 

  Kinking my arm, I jerk out of his grip and back up, peeking over my shoulder at Laden, grinning at me as blood drips down his forehead and onto the floor. “I’m not an Angel. And that’s what the Anamotti want, right? Angels?”

  “Not just any Angel, but a Grim Angel. ” Garrick matches my steps and leans in, putting his face close to mine. “I think deep down you know what you are. The Grim Angel, the one that holds the balance of the Reapers and the Angels of Death. The one that carries death with her all the time. The one that will easily crack and lose the balance with her mind. It’s in your blood, you know—the insanity. ”

  He lunges at me with his hands out, his fingers seeking my throat, and I bring my knee up and knee him between the legs. His face contorts in pain as he crumples to the floor and I dart around him and throw myself against the fence. The metal slices open my palms and forces me to let go. I land on my butt, but scramble to my feet and spin around, ready to protect myself, but Garrick and Laden have vanished.

  I give the fence a few more shakes, but a padlock on the other side secures it. I’m fully pissed off at myself because I walked right into a trap. And I have no god damn clue what waits for me at the end. I take a deep breath and hurry down the hallway of mirrors. There is a fork at the end, and I select the right

  “Ember,” Garrick’s voice suddenly touches my ear. “Don’t breathe. ”

  I take off down the hall without looking back, my legs struggling as I tear around the corner. His footsteps barrel after me and his laugh echoes down the hall.

  “Ember,” he calls out. “Come out, come out wherever you are. ”

  As I tear around a sharp corner, I trip over something heavy and solid and losing my balance, my body slams to the floor. I rapidly flip over to my back and glance at what made me fall.

  “Oh shit…” It’s a person, face down on the floor. I crawl over to them and turn them on their back.

  Laden’s dead eyes stare at me, his pale decomposing skin ice-cold, and the X on him is an older wound. He’s been dead for a while. I think back to my tree with his body hanging in it, and the one I saw in the library. Is this even real?

  Garrick’s voice drifts down the hall. “It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? What’s real and what’s not. Tell me Ember, does it ever feel like you’re losing your mind?”

  I leap to my feet, jump over Laden, and sprint madly down the hall, sweat dripping down my skin. The side entrance door finally comes into view and I reach for the door handle, but something hits me from the side and I slam to the ground as a hay bale lands on top of me. My head cracks against the tile and the sounds of my bones fracturing are stomach-churning.

  Garrick crouches down in front of me. “Ever heard the term ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’? Well, it’s a little misleading. ” He pulls the hood of a cloak over his head. “Because everyone fears death, Ember. Even Death itself. ” He pulls out a knife and cuts an X across my forehead, and then everything goes black.

  Chapter 19

  I open my eyes to the shimmering pieces of stars and a pale crescent moon. I attempt to roll onto my stomach, but a rope detains each of my wrists to a tree and my legs are tied to each other. Out of the corner of my eyes, a fire blazes and feathers and rose petals halo around my head. The wings are still secured to my back, but are bent to conform to the pressure of my body.

  “Hello,” I call out. “Is anyone here?”

  A woman with a sharp pointy nose and blonde hair appears in my line of vision. “Hello, Ember. It’s so nice of you to join us. ”

  My eyes narrow at her. “Detective Crammer. ”

  “Feel like you’re going crazy yet?” The firelight glows in her blue eyes and shadows the area underneath her defined cheekbones, so she looks almost skeletal. “Like you don’t know what’s real?”

  “So you’re part of the Anamotti,” I say, winding the rope around my wrist to gain more control. “Or are you a Grim Reaper?”

  Her thin lips nearly vanish as she smiles and retrieves a small, silver-handled knife from the pocket of her jacket. She puts the tip of it to my forehead, piercing it into my skin and a warm river of blood cascades down my forehead and eyes. “The Anamotti and the Reapers are one and the same. The Anamotti is just what we go by in the human world to help us stay undetected. ” She gestures around her and a group of people step out of the trees. “All of us are Reapers here. Even you. ” She smirks. “Partly anyway. ”

  All of them wear black cloaks, but the hoods are off, showing me their human form. Most of them are unfamiliar, but I recognize Garrick, who mockingly waves at me and winks.

  And the sight of a pink-haired girl bruises my heart. “Raven. ”

  She dreamily grins at me and her sapphire eyes are dazed, like she’s drunk. “I’m so sorry, Em. I didn’t mean to do it. I just couldn’t seem to help myself. ”

  Madness pricks at my brain as I tug on the ropes until my wrists rupture open and blood pours out all over my hands, the rope, and the dirt.

  “Oh, relax for Christ’s sake. ” Detective Crammer draws the knife down my cheek and splits open my face. “She’s under the spell of the Reaper because, unlike you, she’s human and can be possessed by him. ”

  Raven steps forward from the crowd, but Beth thrusts out her hand, shoving her back. “Stay back, you little trollop. You are still to obey my orders. ”

  Raven blinks and descends back toward the crowd. “I’m so sorry. ”

  “Raven,” I beg, trying to make eye contact with her. “Don’t listen to her. Run away! Now!”

  “It’s pointless to try to get through to her. ” Detective Crammer says, lowering her arm. “The power of the Reaper is more powerful than anything, which you’ll soon learn after we get rid of you. ”

  I raise my chin up and look her in the eye. “You know I can’t die, right? So whatever you have planned for me won’t work. ”

  She pats the handle of the knife against her palm as she circles around me. “Oh yes, the beauty of being able to suck the life away from the living. It makes it harder to get rid of you, but not impossible. ” She cackles, throwing her head back and some of the other Reapers join in. “It also makes you more prone to insanity and more likely to surrender to the Reaper blood, just like your father did. ”

  “What do you know about my father?!” Craning my arms, I try to get the trees to break with my strength.

  “You don’t have super strength. ” She rolls her eyes and crouches down in my face. “In fact, you’re fairly close to an ordinary girl, only you’re connected with every aspect of death. It’s not really a gift, so much as a curse. In fact, if I were you, I’d let me put you out of your misery. All you would have to do is surrender to the Reaper and he would take away the pain of death. ”

  I could stop fighting; erase the pain, taking away death, rupturing the chains that have sentenced me to a life of solitude? All that silence I feel with Asher and Cameron could exist all the time? It’s enticing, yet it’s not, because it would still be death, only in a more powerful form.

  “No, I won’t do it,” I say in an even voice.

  “Fine, then. I guess, for the moment, you’ll let your Angel blood make your decisions. But I warn you, you’ll give in. ” She snaps her fingers and Garrick shoves Raven forward. She trips over her bare feet and falls to her knees at the side of me. Her wings are broken, her dress is torn and stained with dirt, and there’s no life in her eyes. “If you are not willing to surrender, I’ll force you to. ” Detective Crammer walks up behind Raven and aims the knife at her throat. She gently cuts a thin layer of skin away and blood trickles out, running down the front of Raven’s dress.

  Raven winces, but doesn’t cry out.

  “Wait,” I beg. “Don’t hurt her. ”

  “There’s only one way out of this. ” She makes another slim puncture on Raven’s neck.

  Death or life. Death or life. What’s the difference? “I’ll do whatever you want me to. Just let h
er go. ”

  She carves another small incision along Raven’s neck and the other Reapers cackle, pulling their hoods over their heads and shielding their faces.

  “Oh, I don’t want anything from you,” she says. “I’m just going to torture her and then you, until you lose your mind and give into your Reaper blood. ”

  I thrash my body and jerk on the ropes as hard as I can. “Leave her alone!” I close my palms and attempt to slide my hands through the rope. The rough material claws at my skin, rubbing it raw, but I refuse to give up—give in.

  Detective Crammer snickers as she hacks off a small lock of Raven’s pink hair with the knife. “Do you know how fun it was to torture you? Kill you time and time again. Make you think you were losing your mind. You have a bendable mind and so do the people closest to you. Most of them are insane—do you know that? And do you want to know why?”

  “Because of the pain of my existence,” I say.

  “No, but it’s close,” she replies, wiping the blade of the knife on the front of her cloak. “Insanity is a very contagious thing; it’s easy to get caught up in it. Those who are close to a Grim Angel start experiencing what they go through and it wears them down, driving them insane themselves. Plus, they are susceptible to the Reaper’s torture. ”

  Raven gags on her own blood as she clutches at her throat. “Ember, help me. ”

  Detective Crammer grabs a handful of Raven’s hair and moves the knife to Raven’s hairline, like she’s going to scalp her. My whole body trembles as the Reapers close in around me and their eyes begin to glow.

  “Just give in, Ember” the detective says, dipping the knife down beneath Raven’s scalp. “And everything—all of it will be gone. ”

  I stare up at the night sky, thinking about my life. Would everything be better if I was gone? If I just gave up? Died? Maybe. Maybe I would stop taking life from things. Maybe the world would be a better place without my knowledge of death.

  I watch as a black figure swoops down from the sky and I figure it’s more Reapers coming to take me away. But black feathers fall from Heaven and dust the air with a peaceful feeling.

  The creature moves inhumanly fast, just a blur as it clips the ropes on my wrists with its hand and turns me loose. Then it rounds back, swipes up Detective Crammer by the shoulders, and carries her into the sky. Her painful scream echoes and Reapers push up from the ground, springing to the air, and fly into the sky.

  “Passionate when in battle,” I mutter and quickly sit up and untie my legs. Then I rush over to Raven, lying face down in the dirt, and gently roll her onto her back. Her eyes are shut and the blood flows out from the open wounds on her neck. “Rav, can you hear me?”

  She sucks in a breath and her eyes shoot open. “Oh my God, I think I…”

  Tucking my arm underneath hers, I aid her to her feet. “Come on, we have to go before they come back for us. ”