Darkness falls, p.6
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       Darkness Falls, p.6

         Part #1 of Darkness Falls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 6

 

  He snags me by the arm, his hands shaking, and everything he fears spills out of him. He’s afraid of death, of what he’s done, and that he won’t be able to fix it. “You can’t go out there,” he says. “You were supposed to stay in the hospital, but I guess you’ll just have to stay here for a little while. ”

  I turn my head to look at him. “Why?”

  “Because,” he struggles. “It’s what Monarch wanted—needed you to do today. You need to stay out of the Highers watch for a little while. ”

  “It’s too late for that,” I mutter. “I did something to Gabrielle. ”

  His large face twists with confusion. “What do you mean? What did you do?

  I try to pull my arm loose, but his bulky fingers refuse to let go. “You can’t go out there right now. It’s too dangerous—you’re too unstable. ”

  The next few minutes of my life are unclear, not because my memories leave me again, but because all I can see is red. But somehow Taggart, a man four times my size, is lying unconscious on the floor.

  My hands are as steady as a rock as I leave Taggart and the infirmary behind. I leave everything behind in that room that smells of death. I walk the hall, marching for the Highers quarters—marching for Gabrielle. I don’t know what I’ll do when I get there, but I’m eager to find out.

  I never do, though, get to find out because the sirens go off.

  It’s time for the Gathering.

  Chapter 8

  People flurry down the hall like robots, rushing for the Corridor. I barely remember the last Gathering. All I have are foggy images of Bellators getting taken. I asked Monarch about it once, why I couldn’t remember it. All he would say is that it’s a part of life and that when people leave sometimes their memories leave with them.

  Watchers, dressed in their black jumpsuits and army boots, herd the Colony members like sheep. I keep my head down, trying to blend in, as I weave my way to the Corridor, knocking into bodies.

  “Kayla. ” Someone touches my arm and I whirl, ready to attack. But it’s just Nina.

  Her eyes widen at the sight of my expression. “Kayla, what’s wrong? You look …” She peeks around, terrified that a Watcher will overhear us.

  Slipping my arm from her hand, I leave her dumbfounded and shove my way through the bodies of people. Inside the tight space of the Corridor, bodies are smashed together in the area that surrounds the oval stage. The air is dank and smells of fear, just the way the Highers like it. I stand at the back, trying to stay inconspicuous. People are talking, not about the Gathering, but about the Bellator who attacked a Higher in the hall.

  “She’s probably dead by now,” a stubby, rounded lady with a bob cut whispers to her husband, who nods in agreement.

  I tap my foot, waiting for it to all be over.

  “She deserves to die,” someone else says.

  I turn to see who it is, but a soft voice shivers against my ear. “Not yet. ”

  I’ve heard this voice before. But glancing over my shoulder, all I see are vaguely familiar faces of Colony members none in particular stand out. But I sense someone watching me. I start to push my way through, but the Highers enter, rows and rows of white in a sea of black. I stand back, lowering my head, but watch them through hooded eyes. They’re almost identical, only the tiniest variations make it so they’re not the same person; slightly paler eyes, shorter hair, sharper cheekbones.

  For a split second, I think I recognize Monarch walking amongst them only he’s dressed in a robe and looks just like them. But I blink and the image is gone.

  They file onto the stage, standing shortest to tallest. Gabrielle’s in the middle, carrying a black box. He advances to the center of the stage and drops the black box on the floor.

  “Welcome to the Gathering, everyone. ” His cold voice slithers the room. “It’s a pleasure for you to all come. ”

  Like we have a choice.

  Gabrielle keeps talking, but I’m already measuring my options. Two Watchers guard the exit, their hands suspended above their Tasers, itching to use them. And even more line the back of the room. There’s a group of them standing in the doorway, whispering through their masks. Then, suddenly, all of their eyes land on me.

  My time’s up. Either it’s now or never. I know I don’t stand a chance. I’ll be caught in seconds and probably executed on the spot. But I don’t care. Through the throng of people, I catch Tristan’s eye.

  Bye, I mouth.

  His eyebrows knit together as I rip my gaze away. I glide my knife out of my pocket, not afraid, but not hollow. In fact, I’m more alive than I’ve ever been.

  Chapter 9

  My eyes shoot open. It’s dark and grogginess plasters my mind and my body. I’m covered in plastic. It’s all over me, touching my skin, smothering me. Where am I? I run my finger along the plastic until I feel the teeth of a zipper. I realize right away what this is. A body bag. I’m trapped in a God damn body bag.

  Tracing the track, I find the zipper handle and battle to unzip it. But I realize it’s going nowhere and I give up and tear at the plastic, digging my fingernails into it until I break through to the outside. I don’t know what to expect, but I’m prepared for the worst. It’s something Monarch taught me. Always expect the worst, that way you’ll be prepared for anything.

  Monarch. Thinking of him makes me choke.

  I decide not to think about him for a while, until I can get myself together. I collect myself and slash the rest of the way through the body bag. I’m surrounded by enormous, jagged, and fiery red rocks. The land is rolling hills of sand and the sky is dark with clouds and smoke, but less hazy than in the city, like the sun can almost break free.

  “Where am I?” I mumble, searching for the city. The last thing I can remember is moving to kill Gabrielle.

  “Help!” Someone screams.

  I spin. Just a few feet in front of me, lying in the sand, is another body bag. And it’s moving. I reach for my knife, surprised to find it’s still in my pocket. I squat down next to the body bag and give it a gentle tap. “Who’s in there?”

  A pause. “Kayla?”

  “Yeah?”

  “Kayla! Kayla!” He yells. “It’s Bernard!”

  “I thought you were dead. ” I pause, scratching my forehead with the silver handle of my knife. “How do I know it’s really you?”

  “Kayla, just let me out of here!” he shouts and then kicks furiously, the body bag bulging up and down.

  Keeping my knife in my hand, I unzip the bag. Bernard bursts through the opening, gasping for air, his brown hair sticking up in all kinds of directions.

  “Oh my God. Oh my God. ” He runs his hand through his hair, which only makes it stick up worse. “What the hell happened?”

  “I have no idea,” I mumble, searching the desert for more body bags that might be hiding nearby. I swear I can sense someone around. I hike over the shallow hill, my boots filling with sand. The wind is blowing and the air is rough against my cheeks and hair. I spot it, at the foot of the hill, another black body bag. Stealthily, I drop down the hill.

  “Where are you going?” Bernard shouts after me.

  I shake my head at him and return my attention to the bag. It’s not moving, but my knife remains out, just in case. “Is anyone in there?” I ask.

  “Kayla?” a small voice squeaks. “Kayla, is that you?”

  I nearly drop my knife. “Maci?”

  “Kayla!” She panics, thrusting at the bag from inside. “Get me out of here! Please! I can’t breathe. ”

  I unzip the bag and Maci springs upright, coughing for air. I pat her back until she’s breathing normal. “What’s going on?” She asks with bulging eyes as she takes in our surroundings.

  “I don’t know. ” I crouch down so I’m eyelevel with her. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

  She considers this with a pensive expression. “An Angel. ”

  Furrowing my eyebrows, I f
eel her forehead, checking for fever. But her skin’s cold. “Maci, what’s an Angel?”

  She stumbles to her feet and dusts the sand off her black pants. “The person that saved me from the fire. ”

  I worry she might be sick, even if she doesn’t look like it. In fact, she looks better than she has since she collapsed during Lessons. Her color has returned, sweat no longer soaks her red hair, and her brown eyes seem lively.

  Bernard rolls down the hill and hits the bottom with an oomph. “Maci?” He says, getting to his feet. “What are you doing here?”

  I turn to him with my knife pointed out. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

  He shrugs and kicks his boot at the ground. “Nothing really. ” Little drops of perspiration bead his skin. He’s lying.

  “You sure about that?” I ask, inching my knife at him.

  He glares and swats my knife away from him. “What, you think I’m lying?”

  “Did you see the Angel too?” Maci’s brown eyes light up excitedly. “The one dressed in white. ”

  “You mean a Higher?” Bernard asks, rubbing his neck tensely.

  “No, I mean the Angel. ” Maci smoothes her hair down and starts twirling in the sand, like she’s dancing.

  “What the hell’s an Angel?” Bernard asks, brushing sand out of his hair.

  “You know,” Maci says, still spinning as she gazes up at the sky. “The man who helped Taggart save us from the fire. ”

  Bernard burns her with a death stare. “I don’t remember any freakin’ Angel. But I do want to know where the heck we are. ” He motions around us. “I mean, look at this place. I’ve never seen anything like it. ”

  “We’ve never seen much of anything besides the city,” I say. “In fact, I don’t think either of you have even been out of The Colony, have you?”

  Maci shakes her head, but Bernard targets his death stare at me. “I’ve been out, so don’t go thinking you’re something special when you’re not. ”

  I resist the urge to knock him out and opt to ignore him. “I wonder how far the city is from here. ”

  “Who the hell knows,” Bernard snaps. “You can’t see a thing with all the stupid rocks lying around. ”

  “It’s not the rock’s fault. ” Maci says. “And we need to find the city, so we can go back. ”

  “Back where?” I stare up at highest point of one of the taller rocks. If I can get up there, maybe I can get a better view of where we are and where the city could be.

  “Back to The Colony. ” Maci takes my hand. “Back home. ”

  I cringe. I might not know how we got out here, or what we’re doing here, but I know we probably can’t go back there.

  “Does anyone remember anything at all? Besides an Angel?” I ask. “Maci, do you remember what happened to you after you left the hospital?”

  She nods zealously. “They took me to the room of fire. ”

  The Infirmary. “Who took you there?”