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The underworld, p.35
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       The Underworld, p.35

         Part #2 of Fallen Star series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 35

 

  It was late, and I was tired. The prickle had been nagging at the back of my neck and I finally shouted, “Would you two just shut up!” They both looked at me with surprised expressions, which I couldn’t blame them for—I surprised myself. I lowered my voice. “Look, he’s not going to freak out and kill anyone, okay? So just drop it. ”

  “Gemma,” Alex said, his tone letting me know I wasn’t going to like what he was about to say. “We can’t know for sure whether he’s dangerous or not. He’s bitten someone now, everything has changed. ”

  “When he bit me, you didn’t have a problem with it,” I pointed out.

  “Oh, I had a problem with it. ” A look passed over his face like he regretted what he just said. “Look, we have too many other problems to worry about. And right now I think we really just need to focus on getting into The Underworld. ”

  I shook my head. “No. I won’t leave him. You two do whatever you want, but I’m staying. ”

  He held my gaze, and I could see the cocky attitude rising in him. It was something I hadn’t seen lately. “You know you can be really stubborn sometimes. ”

  I shrugged. I wasn’t going to even try to argue with that. I knew that I was. “Stubborn or not, I’m still not leaving him. ” I held Alex’s gaze with sheer and utter determination, forcing myself to ignore my normal instincts to look away—let him win.

  “Fine,” Alex said. “We’ll stay with him, but if anything happens it’s on you. ”

  I almost laughed, because he said the same thing to Laylen once about me.

  “Fine, it’s on me. ” I stood to my feet. “Now I’m going to go check on Laylen and make sure he’s okay. ” Ignoring the dirty look Alex gave me, I left the room.

  Laylen was standing out on the deck. He didn’t even acknowledge me entering; he just stared ahead at the ocean. I went over and stood beside him, placing my hands on top of the decks railing as I looked out at the ocean as well. We stayed like that for awhile, silent and unmoving, watching the oceans waves.

  “For the last few years,” he finally spoke. “I’ve felt so empty. After I was turned into a vampire, everyone I knew no longer wanted to be around me. And my parents were gone so…I was basically all alone. ”

  I nodded, knowing how he felt; knowing how it felt to have no one; to be an outcast. To be all alone.

  “I think the worse was Aislin. ” He rested his elbows on the railing, still not looking at me. “I don’t know if you know this or not, but she and I used to be together. ”

  “She mentioned it to me once,” I told him.

  A gap of silence trickled by and then he looked at me. “You know she just left me—just up and walked away. She never said exactly why, only that her father wouldn’t let her see me anymore. I don’t believe that it was just her father’s doing, though. I think it was her choice too and that hurt even more. ”

  I swallowed hard, thinking about when Laylen had been dying, and how he told me he could no longer feel the pain of being alone anymore. I thought back to my life and how I had spent every day alone. How when I started to feel emotion, this alone feeling had suddenly risen in me, like a giant gaping hole full of pain. I knew this was the same feeling Laylen was describing. I could feel it right now, not as painful, but still there.

  Tears started to sting at my eyes. “It’ll be okay,” I said, not sure if I was trying to convince him or myself.

  “Will it?” he asked, and I could see it in his eyes; the hurt, the sadness, the pain.

  I don’t know why I did what I did next. I mean I never did it before, at least that I could remember. But maybe that’s just it. Perhaps I couldn’t remember—at least in the sense of remembering in the form of a memory—but I could feel the memory inside me. I could feel the memory through the prickle on the back of my neck, and it guided me to Laylen, and helped me wrap my arms around him, giving him a hug.

  There was no hesitation on his part. He hugged me right back. And we stayed that way, just two people who understood each other; two people who knew what it felt like to have no one. But maybe that was no longer the case.

  Maybe we had each other.

  Chapter 32

  When I woke up the next morning my eyes were a little swollen and red. After I left Laylen’s room, I went straight back to my room and cried. Most of my tears had been for Laylen, but some were for myself. Strangely though, I did not feel as sad as I did last night. Maybe Laylen’s and my little hug had filled up some of my sadness. And hopefully, it did the same for him too.

  I still had a lot to worry about, though. Laylen for starters still had me concerned, along with the fact that I was supposed to be attempting to take myself and Alex to The Underworld this morning. The pressure of actually being able to pull it off was weighing down on me like the hot, humid air. But all I could do about it was hope it would all be okay—that everything would go right.

  So, I tried not to think about the fact that Nicholas had said that the Ira needed the power of two Foreseers to function as Alex and I sat in the living room with the Ira balanced on the coffee table.

  Aislin was with Laylen, out on one of the decks. She was supposed to be keeping an eye on him while we were gone. But after Laylen’s revelation about Aislin abandoning him when he turned—which, may I add, was her father’s fault—my confidence in her was low.

  “Now are you sure you want to do this?” Alex asked me, which was the same thing he asked me a thousand times already.

  I nodded. “Yeah, I’m as sure as the last time you asked me. ”

  He cracked a smile, but it was a nervous smile—he was nervous.

  I was nervous. “Do you have the diamond?”

  He patted the pocket of his jeans. “Yep, it’s right here. ”

  “Okay, then. ” I took a deep breath and reached out for the Ira, my hand shaking with zero confidence, and I froze. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked him. “Because I could go alone. ”

  According to my vision, though, I already knew what his answer would be.

  “I’m sure,” he said, nodding. “Besides, I was there in your vision, remember?”

  “Yeah, but it doesn’t mean you have to go,” I pointed out.

  “Yes, it does. ” He grabbed a hold of my hand, my fingertips buzzing electrically. “Now let’s go. ”

  I took another deep breath, concentrating as I placed my hand on the Ira. It was shocking how much energy radiated from it. Between Alex holding my hand, and the power flowing off the Ira, I felt like I might burst from the energy zooming through my body.

  The first thing I saw in my mind was the lake. Panicking, I quickly shoved the image out of my mind, and tried to focus on the tunnel I was in during the vision. The dirt walls, the damp air, the darkness. I hadn’t expected it to be easy. Maybe Alex’s touch had given me the extra boost or something. Or maybe it was just my unique Foreseer ability that had made it so that when I opened my eyes we were there.

  The tunnel was as dark as I remembered it being. The damp air caused my clothes to cling to my skin. The ceiling and walls dripped with water, and emptiness haunted all around.

  “Do you know which way to go?” I asked Alex, still holding onto his hand.

  He glanced up and down the tunnel. “I’m not sure…didn’t you see where we went the last time?”

  I shook my head. “No. The only reason I found the cave where the vision took place was because Nicholas and I had been running from a Water Faerie, and I can’t remember which way we went…I don’t even know if we’re in the same place. ”

  Alex let go of my hand and dragged his fingers through his hair. “Okay, left or right?”

  Just as he asked it, a scream rang out from down the tunnel from our left side, sending a spasm of shivers though my body.

  “Right,” I said quickly.

  He nodded, and we headed down the tunnel to our right.

  The Underworld is not a welcoming place. Obviously.
With everything I’ve told you about it, I’m sure you fully understand that a place where the dead walk and torture punished souls could not be in any way welcoming. But to be there, for real, and not in vision form, was about as frightening as being chased by a bunch of glowing-eyed Death Walkers, and a man who wants to freeze over the world with ice.

  As we crept down the tunnel listening to the horrific screams that seemed to be shooting at us in every direction, I couldn’t help but wish I could leave—run away where it was safe and warm and scream free. But I knew I had to be stronger than that because this is where my mother had lived for the last fourteen years, and I only had been here for about five minutes.

  I stayed close to Alex as we walked. Before we left, he had tucked a knife in his pocket, which brought some sense of security, but not much. Our shoes hit the moist dirt floor and created soft pitter patters up and down the tunnels. Water was dripping in my hair. But these were all mild things. The real problem started when a white, floating figure appeared in the tunnel, just a little ways in front of us.

  “Alex,” I hissed, pointing at the Water Faerie.

  He put his finger to his lips, shushing me, and kept walking. We kept getting closer and closer to the Water Faerie. My heart thumped louder and louder in my chest. My legs shook, and my breathing faltered. Then it was there, right in front of us, a ghost-like figure of a Water Faerie. Its eyes were two empty holes, its white fabric body trailing on the ground, and when we passed by it, it opened its gaping-hole-of-mouth, and let out a breathless scream. I clutched onto Alex’s arm as the Water Faerie turned and followed after us. It didn’t try to touch or communicate with us; it just trailed behind, tormenting us with its presence.

  Then came another one, then another, and suddenly Water Faeries were everywhere, flying around us like freakishly large butterflies, only they weren’t butterflies but undead fey. Pieces of them kept swinging in my face, and I wanted to shoo them away, but my pulsating fear stopped me from doing so. We just kept walking and walking, further down the dark tunnel, and I prayed to God that it was the right way, because turning back meant we would have to endure the faeries’ torment even longer. It was as if they got some sick pleasure in my uneasiness, swirling and dancing over my head—they were probably laughing on the inside.

  And just as I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, the tunnel opened up into a room. Well, not a room but a cave. The cave. The rock-shaped throne was in front of us, but the Queen wasn’t sitting in it. It was then that I realized something was wrong. We weren’t supposed to enter the cave ourselves, but be brought in by a faerie. I froze and Alex tensed up beside me.

  “What is it?” He gave me a quizzical look. “What’s wrong?”

  “This isn’t how it works,” I said, fear skyrocketing in me, which seemed to be causing chaos to rise among the Water Faeries. “We don’t come in here by ourselves. We’re brought in by a Water Faerie. ”

  Someone cleared their voice from behind us and we both turned around. It was the Queen. Her long white hair draped down her back, and her hollow eyes were tinted with a spark of delight.