Darkness falls (darkness.., p.5
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       Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), p.5

           Jessica Sorensen
 
Chapter 4

  I hate death. Monarch has always tried to instill in me that death is just a part of life, and that I shouldn’t spend time thinking about it. It’s the one thing I can’t get past. I hate death and that’s that, especially when someone dies pointlessly.

  Nina and Tristan are talking about their classes, when I abandon my tray and leave quickly, so they don’t have a chance to ask questions.

  I don’t let Taggart and Monarch know I’m following them. I stay silent and duck into the shadows. I can hear them talking, hushed whispers, sounds I know were not made to be heard. When I reach the hospital wing, the door is shut. I shouldn’t open it. Monarch’s already upset with me and barging in is only going to upset him more.

  But I do it anyway.

  Another slip up. Another mark against me.

  Monarch’s eyes go wide as he rushes for me, pushing me out the door. “Kayla, what are you doing? You can’t be here right now.”

  My feet stay firmly planted. “What’s going on?” My eyes land on Taggart, leaning over the bed Maci lies in. Her eyes are closed, her skin pale, and heart beat missing. “She died? The medicine didn’t help?”

  Monarch’s eyebrows furrow. “What? No, Kayla. Maci’s fine.”

  I’m not sure what to think, since I can’t hear her heart. But I can’t point it out, since no one knows this little secret of mine. “What about you?” I glance at his unsteady hands. “Is there something wrong with you?”

  He shakes out his hands. “My old age must be catching up to me.” A pause. “Taggart was just helping me move Maci to a new bed.”

  “What’s wrong with the bed she’s in?” I ask.

  “It needs to be sterilized,” he answers, and frowns. “Kayla, what’s the matter with you? You never ask so many questions. Is there something you want to tell me? Anything at all?” He leans in and lowers his voice. “Whatever it is, I’ll understand.”

  I rub my temples, listening to three hearts beat, wondering why I can’t hear Maci’s. “I don’t know.” Sweat dews my skin and the door starts to bleed. I blink, seeing red. I rub my eyes and blink again, but I only see a red door.

  “Oh no, not now.” Monarch’s words rush me as he trips to the cabinet and takes out a bottle. He quickly jabs a needle into it and sucks out the purple liquid. He moves the needle for my arm.

  I pull back. “What are you doing?”

  “Kayla, we go through this every time,” Monarch says. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m going to help you.”

  Monarch. This is Monarch. I let him press the needle into my arm and pump my blood with medicine until I can breathe again.

  “Better?” he asks and I nod. “Good, now go to your room and lie down for a while.”

  I nod again and turn for the door, no more questions clogging my brain.

  Monarch catches me by the shoulder. “Just relax, Kayla. I know it’s hard, but I need you to keep it together for a little bit longer. ”

  I don’t know what he means, but I no longer feel like asking questions. I open the door, but promptly jolt back, my shoulder bumping into Monarch’s chest. A sensation of fear overwhelms me. Monarch’s afraid for his life, afraid of not having time, afraid it all won’t work out the way he planned.

  The Higher walks in, his chin tipped up, an arrogant air in the way he carries himself. “A pleasure meeting you again, Kayla,” It’s the Higher from the hall.

  Monarch’s pulse misses a beat when the Higher says my name. His breathing constricts. His blood flow slows and I worry he’s going to faint.

  “I’m sorry, Gabrielle.” Monarch’s voice shudders. “I didn’t realize you were coming here. I thought we were supposed to go to your quarters for this.”

  Gabrielle’s pale eyes linger on me, before he narrows them on Monarch. “Evident, ai fost greşit.”

  “I know and I’m terribly sorry for the misunderstanding,” Monarch says—I never realized he could understand their language. He bows his head. “I’ve just been so distracted lately. There seems to be more and more sick members to take care of.”

  This is news to me. I come to the hospital a lot and the only person I’ve seen in weeks is Maci.

  “There are no misunderstandings,” Gabrielle replies. “Only mistakes. And you know how we feel about mistakes.”

  “Yes, yes, I understand,” Monarch struggles to maintain calm. “Again, I apologize for my mistake. It won’t happen again.”

  “I’ve been hearing too many apologies from you lately.” Gabrielle’s voice is like ice as he strolls around, dragging his finger along the cabinet. “It’s starting to grow tiring. And I’m not the only one to notice this. The other Highers have been making complaints about you. Some of them are even starting to question where your loyalties lie.”

  Gabrielle’s eyes move to me and again, I get the feeling he’s trying to burrow into my thoughts and see what it is I’m hiding in my head.

  “Kayla.” Monarch gently nudges me in the back. “You should go.”

  My brain screams at me not to. If I leave, what will happen? Monarch’s made a mistake and the Highers always make people pay for mistakes.

  “Kayla,” Monarch’s sharp voice slices my thoughts. “Go. Now.”

  As I walk out the door, I notice how far away Monarch looks. And if I didn’t know any better, I would swear I can see him slipping away from me forever.

  I don’t know what I’d do if I lost him forever.

  He’s all I have.

  Monarch shuts the door and I vanish down the hall, with the faint echo of a scream following behind me.