Cinder x, p.7
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       Cinder X, p.7

         Part #2 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 7

 

  I’m wary to say anything. We’ve barely exchanged more than twenty words and now suddenly he’s talking to me about the fact that the school looks like it’s been taken over by pod people.

  He sighs when I don’t answer him right away. “Look, Ember, I know we haven’t really talked, but I’d like to help you the best that I can. I know you’re friends with Asher. And I know you’re important to him. ”

  I wonder if he knows I’m a Grim Angel. If he’s an Angel himself. I eye him over, deliberating if I can trust him or not, at least enough to ask. Then I come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter. If he’s after me, then he’s already got me trapped. If he’s not and just thinks I’m crazy, then he can be one more person I add to the list.

  “Are you… are you…” God, please don’t think I’m crazy. “Are you an Angel of Death, too?”

  He shakes his head, not startled. A good sign. “I wouldn’t be able to help you if I was, but I do know about them—Angels and Reapers. You. ”

  “Because Asher told you?”

  He considers something very carefully. “More or less. ”

  There’s more to it than what he’s telling me. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that he’s probably not going to tell me because he either can’t or wants to keep his secrets. “You said you were going to help me,” I say. “But how exactly? And from what?”

  His attention strays over my shoulder as he picks a chunk of clay off his shirt. “I’m going to help you the only way I know how, by giving you some advice. ” He looks at me and when our eyes fasten, fear pulsates through me. I don’t know where it stems from, whether he’s scared and I’m sensing it, or if he’s simply scaring me. “Have you ever heard of something called a ambulate umbra?”

  “No… why?”

  He yanks his fingers through his hair, leaving it sticking up. Then someone bangs on the door and moments later a face appears in the small window at the top. Their eyes are bleeding, seeping out like rain and splattering across the glass. I glance back and forth between the dead person and the Professor, wondering if he can see it, but he continues on with the conversation, unbothered.

  “The problem is, I have no idea where it is…” He keeps talking, his hand falling to the side, his brows dipping together. “Or who even has it. ”

  I hitch my finger under the handle of my bag, adjusting it higher on my shoulder as I watch him pace back and forth in front me. “What is it exactly?” My eyes widen as the door creaks open and the dead person enters the classroom, glancing around at the art on the wall with a perplexed look.

  Again, Professor Morgan seems oblivious. His forehead creases and then scurries over to his desk. “How about I show you,” he says as he opens his desk drawer. He retrieves a pencil and paper from the drawer and starts sketching while the dead girl just stares at me. There is a mark on her neck like a rope burn, the tips of her hair stained with blood. As I look closer, I recognize her features as one of the girls I saw in the newspaper; one that was murdered a week ago, her body found near the forest.

  “Help me,” she says in a haunting hollow voice as she stares at me with a distant expression. “Help us… free us from the pain. He’s got our souls trapped, Ember. And he plans on trapping a lot more and then destroying us all. ”

  I want to ask her what she’s talking about, but what about Professor Morgan? What would he say if I started talking aloud? If I told him I could see the dead?

  Debating what to do, I start to open my mouth, deciding that looking insane might be worth the risk to find out what’s going on. But as soon as my lips part, she disappears, vanishing into thin air without so much as a sound.

  “I’m much better at drawing what I mean than trying to explain it,” Professor Morgan continues to talk, while I stare at the spot where the girl vanished.

  He’s got people’s souls trapped? Like someone is stealing souls and keeping them? Or is it something different? And who’s he?

  As my thoughts keep racing, Professor Morgan glides the pencil effortlessly across the paper. He makes one last stroke then drops the pencil down on the desk before holding up the drawing. My jaw just about hits the floor, but I smash my lips together to conceal my shock. It’s a drawing that looks almost identical to my grandmother’s necklace; the one Cameron has and swears my Grandmother stole from him. The problem is, I have no idea what the color of it is, so I can’t be one-hundred percent certain.

  A warning goes off inside me not to utter that I know where or what it is. “So it’s a necklace,” I state the obvious.

  He nods and hands me the drawing. “It’s believed to have the blood of the original leader of the Grim Reapers, Altarius Vinceton. He created it to protect himself from his own kind, making it out of Chrysoprase and sealing it with the blood of himself, which was the more powerful of the two elements so it made the green in the Chrysoprase turn a dark red. ”

  Dark red. I stare at the drawing, the lines forming a near replica of the necklace I once owned. It has to be my grandmother’s necklace. “But why would this Altarius guy need to protect himself from the Reapers if he was the leader of them? Wouldn’t that make him the boss?”

  “If only things were that easy,” he tells me. “If being the leader meant you never had to worry about anything, but unfortunately for Altarius, he knew the evil within himself and therefore understood the evil that lay in Reapers, all of them. No matter what they tell you. ”

  What a convenient little story he’s got going on here. The abrupt reappearance of Cameron’s voice startles me so badly that I jump.

  Professor Morgan gives me a startled look. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah, I’m fine. ” I tuck a fallen strand of my hair behind my ear, giving myself a moment to get myself together before I speak again. “So, you think this ambulate umbra could protect me from the Reapers killing me? Or is it going to protect me from something else because I thought they couldn’t kill me. ” Only drive me crazy. Or if the book I was reading is right, steal my soul.

  Not all Reapers want to drive you crazy, Cameron says. I want your mind completely intact. In fact, I find you very fascinating… now stealing your soul on the other hand. Please tell me more about this because I’d love to try.

  Like you already don’t know how.

  Actually I don’t, he says. It’s supposed to not be possible, so I’m really curious as to what book you’ve been reading.

  The one that was stole from me, I say. From my shadow stalker.

  “They can’t kill you,” Professor Morgan says, interrupting Cameron’s and mine’s conversation. “But they can make you want to kill yourself. ”

  Shock soars through me and strikes me in the chest, knocking the breath out of me. “You mean, they can possess me and force me to… to die. ”

  He wavers with hesitancy, folding his arms. “Not necessarily force you, but get you to that place, enter your thoughts and mess with your mind enough that you want it to all end. ”

  That’s not what I’m doing, Cameron insists. I want you around, Ember.

  Sure you do.

  Ember, think about what’s going on here, he says. This guy pretty much just comes out of nowhere and willingly tells you all this stuff. Why would he all of a sudden do that?

  I don’t know… because he’s Asher’s uncle. I get what he’s saying, though at the same time, it’s hard to be on the same page as Cameron.

  Yeah, on his father’s side.

  What the hell’s that supposed to mean?

  “Ember, are you sure you’re okay?” Professor Morgan is staring at me like he’s starting to grow concerned with my state of mind. “You seem a little distracted. ”

  I tear myself away from my internal conversation with Cameron. “Sorry, I’m just feeling a little sick. That’s all. ”

  “Maybe you should go home and lie down. ” He glances out the window at the campus yard and his face pales.

  I track his gaze and
find that everyone has stopped moving except for one person. As soon as I see the guy everyone’s looking at, my head starts to pound, my lips start to tingle and my back starts to burn. He moves with confidence through the sea of motionless people, taller than most with broad shoulders, a scraggy jawline and blonde hair that reaches his shoulders. He’s wearing a black suit and a red tie. Everyone seems to be drawn to him as he makes his way slowly across the campus yard with heads turning, eyes following his movements. And the dead girl that walked in the room is walking just behind him, watching him, then she glances up at me. Our eyes lock and there’s a silent plea inside them: help me.

  “Who is that guy?” I ask as I scratch at the spot burning on my back, but as I say it, recognition clicks. “Wait, is that our new mayor?” Why is he here? Better yet, why is he here when the entire school is possessed? Is it a coincidence? And is the dead girl trying to say he’s the one she’s talking about? That the mayor has their souls trapped?

  Hmmm… I bet you’re right, Cameron says. And I’m guessing he has something to do with all those murders.

  As the Professor removes his gaze from the window, I detect a hint of fear in his eyes. “I think so… but I really think you should head home while all this is going on. ”

  “But what is going on?” I ask, aware that he’s extremely uneasy all of a sudden, more than before. “I mean, everyone in the town… they seem so—”

  “Under the influence of the Anamotti,” he finishes for me. “They’ve somehow managed to take over minds in large quantities.

  Just like Raven. Oh, my God, it’s spreading like a virus. “You know about the Anamotti?”

  “I know of the Anamotti,” he corrects, sitting down on one of the nearby tables, his shoulders slumping inward. “But they’re sort of like a secret society and no one really knows anything about them. ”

  Dammit. “Well, why all of a sudden are they taking over everyone? I mean, they’ve pretty much got the entire campus walking around like robots. ”

  His expression plummets. “I have no idea right now, but I’m going to try to find out. ” He gets to his feet, returns to his desk again, and starts sifting through a collection of old books.

  Sure he doesn’t know anything. Cameron laughs inside my head. Why don’t you ask him how he knows all this when he’s not a Reaper or an Angel?

  I want to tell Cameron to shut up, however he’s right. I do need to find out why, all of a sudden, he’s handing over all this information. “Professor Morgan—”

  “Please, call me Elliot,” he tells me, wiggling a book out from the bottom stack.

  “Okay, Elliot… How do you know about all of this?” I head towards his desk. “The Reapers. The Angels. The necklace?”

  His face goes sheet white as he walks to me with the book in his hand. “Because…” He swallows hard. “Because I was once an Angel of Death. ”