Ember x, p.6
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       Ember X, p.6

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 6

 

  Death feels natural, like breathing. The water pierces my skin and floods the cab of the car. I unclip my seatbelt and float to the roof, pressing my head to the ceiling. It’s dark and the water is up to my neck so I allow my legs to float upward, and then I kick the side window with the heel of my boot until my calf muscles ache. I run my fingers along the door and grasp the handle, and then wait for the water to completely immerse the cab.

  My dad was big on survival. He taught me things like how to escape a car when it’s submerged in water. If the water’s low enough, the door will open. But once it reaches a certain point, the pressure of the water inside has to equalize with the pressure of the water on the outside. Which means I have to wait for the car to completely fill up the cab, without drowning first.

  I remain calm as the water rises and rises, and then I slant my head back and take a deep breath before the water suffocates me completely. Immediately, I flip the handle, but it snaps off. Bubbles escape my mouth as I bang on the door. The black water encases the cab and I swim for the other door, but I slam into the concaved roof, which is forming a wall to the other side. I spin around and bang my fist on the windshield. It’s getting darker and colder as the car plummets further into the lake.

  My eyes stay open as bubbles gurgle from my mouth. I can’t see. I can’t breathe. Death is no longer peaceful. The air slips away, my heart dies, and my necklace floats off my neck as the water stills. Am I dead? The metal of the car crunches as it buckles beneath the weight of the water.

  “Ember,” someone whispers. “Hang on. ”

  I glance from left to right. Darkness and I’m alone, just like my death omen. A faint light swims through the water to the window, illuminating the inside of the car, and I reach out to touch it.

  “Ember,” the voice growls. “Don’t touch it. ”

  The light flashes, and then shifts into a black mass.

  “Emmy,” it whispers and a black cape drapes over me. “Come with me. ”

  No, not again. My body ignites with flames. I scream as a tunnel opens up and swallows me.

  Chapter 4

  My first death omen happened when I was four. My grandma Nelly came to live with us, back when things were somewhat normal and hadn’t completely gone to shit yet. Grandma Nelly was old and suffered from dementia. By the time she moved in with us, she was fairly gone—forgetting things, wandering off in the middle of the night. My grandpa had passed away several years before and there was no one to take care of her. Eventually she started to suffer from hallucinations and forgot who everyone was. The night she died, she snuck into my room and sat down on the bed next to me. I’ll never forget that night—it changed my life forever.

  She took off her necklace and placed in my hand. “Here, Emmy, this is yours now. ”

  The oval pendant filled up the palm of my hand. “Grandma, what are you doing?”

  “Do you feel that, Ember?” Her eyes lit up with anticipation as she took my hand and placed it over her heart.

  Her heart beat rapidly beneath my palm. I sat up, confused. “Feel what, Grandma? Your heart?”

  She excitedly shook her head. “No, Emmy, my life. Do you feel it leaving?”

  “No,” I answered and glanced at the door. “Are you okay, Grandma? Maybe I should go wake up Mama. ”

  “No, no,” she whispered. “You need to listen closer, Emmy. You’ll hear it—my life slipping away. You need to take it, okay?”

  There was a desperate, almost momentous look in her eyes, so I shut my eyes and listened to the flutter of her heart, the whisper of her breath, the lull of her blood as it danced through her veins. There was warmth, then coldness as a light flickered inside me and for a moment, I felt powerful. When I opened my eyes, she was lying on the bed and her eyes were shut. She looked peaceful so I let her lay there for a while before waking my mother up and telling her Grandma was gone.

  My mom asked what happened, so I told her, and she looked at me like it was my fault. And maybe it was. I had felt her life leave her body and my own life grow. After the funeral, my mom sent me to live with my dad, the mechanic/car thief. He did his best raising me until he vanished, then it was back to live with my mom and my brother.

  “Open your eyes,” a deep voice demands. “Come on, not yet. Open your eyes, God dammit. ” The whisper alters to a desperate plea. “Please, Ember… Please, wake up… You have to be one of them—I know you are. ”

  Soft lips touch mine and a jolt of life slams my heart, like a defibrillator charged it to life.

  “Take it, please…” the voice begs. “You have to take it. ”

  A soulful and poetic voice whispers in my mind to bring my body back to life, then the life of another links to every part of me and revitalizes my body. My heart expands and sends the blood pumping through my body again, then a hand presses against my heart and my lungs swell. My eyelids open and water rushes up my throat as I hack up dirty water until oxygen flows through my lungs again. I think I spot my body floating up above me in the trees, but everything’s blurry, like an unfocused camera lens. I rub my eyes, sitting up, and the body evaporates into the night sky.

  “Are you okay?” my rescuer asks with a cough.

  I dry my eyes with my fingertips. “I think so… How did you…” What the hell was that?

  The moon reflects from behind the hazy clouds and rain sprinkles from the sky as I finally look at my rescuer. The gorgeous guy from the party kneels on the rocky shoreline next to me, his slate eyes all over me, taking me in. His black hair is damp and beads of water drip down his pale skin. The silver skull on his necklace glints in the moonlight and his long, black eyelashes flutter against the rain. His beauty is breathtaking and I instantly get caught up in him again and almost forget where I am.

  “Did you… did you jump in and save me?” I cough with my hand over my mouth.

  He watches me in a way no one has ever done before, like I’m something valuable. “Yes… I thought I lost you for a second, though. ”

  I eye the cut forehead and the dark half-circles under his eyes that weren’t there at the party. “Are you okay?”

  He nods, his eyes doing a slow sweep of my body, as he rakes his fingers through his wet locks. “I’m fine. It’s you I’m worried about. ”

  “What happened?” I smooth my drenched hair out of my face. Did I just die?

  “I’m not sure,” he says, befuddled. “I was driving home from the party and saw the guard rail crushed to pieces. It wasn’t that way when I drove up, so I thought I’d check. I saw your car sinking into the lake, so I ran down and jumped in. ”

  “That was very brave of you. ” My lung and throat feel like their bruised.

  “I think we need to call an ambulance and get you checked out. ” He stands up and brushes the dirt and pebbles off his jeans. “That was a pretty bad crash and you weren’t breathing when I pulled you out. ”

  I take in the metal fragments of the Challenger dotting the rocks on the hillside as bits and pieces of what happened rush back to me. “I think the brakes went out and then I think someone ran into me. ”

  His eyes amplify. “And then they just left you. ”

  I shrug, wringing out my hair. “They probably thought I was dead. ”

  He swallows hard and then clears his throat. “You have to report this. It’s basically like a hit and run. ”

  “No, it’s not. My brakes going out are what caused the crash to begin with. ” I touch the side of my throbbing head. “Although, I’m not sure how they went out and I just checked the brake pads and lines. ”

  Did someone cut them? Like the owner of the car who ran into me? Or the creeper with the X tattoo on his eye? But who would want to hurt me? A lot of people, come to think of it.

  He aims a perplexed look at me. “You change your own brake pads?”

  “My dad was a mechanic,” I explain wryly. “And he liked to teach me while he worked on cars. ”

  “Was
a mechanic?”

  “He died a few years ago. ”

  “Sorry, I know how hard that is. I lost my dad too. ” He extends his hand to help me to my feet. “My phone’s in my car. Do you think you can walk? Or can I carry you?”

  I love the idea of him carrying me, his lean arms wrapped around my body, my face pressed against his chest. But then he would have to touch me, and the last thing I want to see is how this gorgeous guy will die. “I think I’m okay walking. . . ” I tense as he touches my hand, his fingers grazing my knuckles, then slide down the back of my hand, as he threads his fingers through mine.

  Oh my God. It finally happened, after so many years of noises, there’s only silence. No one has ever touched me like this before without death suffocating me and ripping away my oxygen. But there’s no blood, no pain, no expiration date. It’s exhilarating and terrifying, and my body completely and utterly filled with desire. But I have no idea what to do with it.

  His eyes remain on me as he pulls me to my feet, and then his eyes do a quick sweep of my body, lingering on my shirt clinging to my chest as he slips an arm around my lower back.

  “Are you good?” he asks, and I swear he knows my secret.

  I nod and the rain pours down on us as we hike up the hill. My legs feel rubbery and my skin is scratched and torn up. I touch a tender spot on the hollow of my neck and then panic.

  “Oh my God. ” I whirl back to the lake, cupping the front of my neck. “I lost my necklace. ”

  He moves in front of me and puts his hands on my shoulders. “I’m sorry. Was it important to you?”

  “My grandma gave it to me before she died. ” I watch the lake ripple from over his shoulder, picturing the necklace floating to the top. But my imagination isn’t powerful enough to return it and I force my attention to moving up the hill.

  “So you never told me your name,” I say as we hike up the loose gravel.

  He hand tightens on my waist, lifting my weight up as he maneuvers me over a rock in our path. “Asher… Asher Morgan. ”

  “Asher. I like that name… Did you just move to Hollows Grove?” I ask as we step over the hilltop and onto the highway. The rain is starting to let up, the ground mush, mud, and puddles. My clothes are soaked and cling to my body. “I’ve never seen you around before. ”

  “Monday will be my first day. ” He steers us down the road, with his arm still around my waist, and walks a line near the guardrail. “I just moved here from New York. ”

  “Why on earth would you want to move here?” I glance back at the dark, empty road.

  He chuckles softly. “For the beautiful scenery. ”

  I frown at the pine trees bordering the road. “I guess that could be a plus for some people, but I’m sure it’s not really why you moved here, is it?”

  “You don’t like it here?” he inquires, evading the question with a cock of his eyebrow.

  “No… I don’t mind the low population, but a lot of people do. My best friend Raven hates it here. ” I stop as the past hour catches up with my traumatized mind and I nearly collapse to the ground. “Oh no. ” I slip from Asher’s hold and take off down the road, stumbling like a drunken person.