Young Adult -- Lisa Marie Basso
Darkness swallowed the too-real dream and I awoke to a scream ripping from my chest. My heart pounded against every angle of my chest, the sound reaching a crescendo as my doorknob pinged off the crumbling lath and plaster wall. A dark figure smelling faintly of pears and honey tip-toed to my bedside.
I fought the instinctual urge to reach beneath my pillows and unsheathe my katana. Nearly three months here and I still hadn’t fully allowed myself to feel safe.
A weight lighter than a sack of potatoes sat beside me on the bed. The lamp on the nightstand clicked on, bathing the room in soft yellow light. “You’ve had some bad dreams before but that one…it sounded bad.”
My breath still hitched in short gasps. I looked up at my roommate, Taylor. Metal shined from her right nostril and just above the right corner of her lip as her piercings stole light from the lamp. “It’s fine,” I said in place of I’m fine, and avoided her gaze, scolding myself for coming even that close to cutting her in half.
“Want to talk about it?”
I shook my head. Nothing had ever felt so real. Or so threatening. It was like I hadn’t truly lived yet, hadn’t felt anything before the grit of that dream. Something stung my eyes, but it couldn’t be tears. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cried. At my previous home doing so was forbidden.
“You’re wringing wet,” Taylor said after sweeping my dark bangs aside. “And not in the good way.” She wiped her hand on her too-short pink sleep shorts.
I tucked what I could of my almost chin length hair back behind my ear and swiped at my forehead with the back of my hand. Sweat not only dripped from my brow, it trickled down the back of my neck and seemed to cover every inch my skin. The images from the dream came again, flowing like a faucet with broken knobs.
Chained to a chair. In the dream I had felt the cold metal biting into my wrists. With my eyes open and Tay by my side, I sank back in, reliving ever moment.
My thoughts bounced recklessly from place to place, not stopping anywhere for too long. It was the waiting that burdened my mind, frayed the edges of my ragged nails, and chewed tiny pieces of flesh from my bottom lip, causing it to crack and bleed. The Council of the Supernatural had convened seventy-four hours ago. A decision regarding the accidental death of an innocent mortal should have already been reached.
The mahogany grandfather clock chimed away down the hall.
I bounced my legs beneath the table anxiously.
The silver haired man sitting across from me opened his reptile-like eyes. With movements too fast for my eyes to track, he rose and appeared before the fire place. Smoke, rich with the scent of must and earth, drifted up the chimney. One of the logs crackled, sending orange sparks drifting up into the air before petering out, almost as if caught in chains of its own. Placing his long fingers against the chiseled rock hearth, Reptile Eyes leaned forward warming his leathery face.
My hand circled clockwise beneath the table as I vividly imagined twirling it in his waist-length hair then thrusting him into the very fire he stood before. The chains around my wrists jingled, giving me away.
“It won’t be very much longer, Skya. Please, try to relax. Patience is something we have come to expect from a young lady such as yourself.” With a gust of wind and a blur of fabric he appeared across the table, leaning into the old wood, his long garb hurrying to catch up. “After all, it does take patience to learn all the secrets you know, but what of your partner, how has he come to control the elements the way he does?”
So this wasn’t just a waiting room. Divide and conquer. That was their strategy.
I pressed my lips together to keep them ironclad, but as his long fingers beckoned to me, my resistance slipped and I began singing Devlin’s secrets. “He much like I, was taught by a skilled practitioner. His master followed in my master’s teachings.”
“Darius,” he hissed.
Hearing the name of my former master—and top dog on my shit list—stirred feelings I had long since locked away for the safety of those around me.
Magic. He had to be using magic. I’d never cracked before, and I’d been Darius’ spy for years.
A swarm of panic attacked me and I fought the chains, desperate to touch the amulet dangling from my neck. Unable to reach it, the panic rocketed up my spine. I tugged the chains, fingers begging for the calm the amulet brought, but the red stone remained just out of reach.
Why was I so determined to touch it?
“Please, you have to unchain me!” My voice sounded strange. I’d never heard myself… plead before.
Reptile Eyes faltered. From the look on his face we both felt the powerful force coming, disrupting the uncanny clutch The Council had over everything inside in this place. It only took a moment from when the door splintered, but in that moment, hell found me.
The dream dropped away for the second time tonight and I fought through the tightness in my chest for air. I heard myself wheeze and centered my chi inward, willing my lungs to expand and contract normally. Taking control; the way Darius had taught me to do in case I ever got captured or sustained a fatal injury. He used to say: with meditation and inner control you can delay the inevitable and take your revenge. You can carry that soul over to the other side with you, a trophy.
He never was much of a role model, but his teachings kept me alive on the near-impossible missions he sent me on.
I had no idea what came for me, who the Reptilian or that Devlin character were, or how I got myself involved in The Council’s ruling over a mortal girl’s death, but I was glad it was over.
I wiped my mind clean of everything that reminded me of him—including the all-too-real dream—and threw my blankets off. “I’m good, Tay. Thanks.”
She stood and folded her arms. The tattoo of a bird centered on her chest peeked out from beneath her pink tank. “I don’t buy that for a second. I’ve never seen you so scared. What was it about?”
I thought about telling her, but what good would it do?
The creak of a floorboard outside my room sent my hand beneath my pillows. Twisting my fingers around the hilt had never felt so good. With the flick of my thumb, the sheath loosened. All I would need to do was move the blade and the sheath would fall away. Another creak. The footsteps were coming slowly. I tensed my arm rather than immediately freeing the Praying Mantis from her cell. I would have more than enough time to see the intruder first.
A busty blonde stepped in the doorway wearing nothing more than a pair of red lacy underwear and a sheer bra. I used my thumb to close the distance between the hilt and the sheath, putting the blade to rest once again. “Come back to bed, Tay.” She crossed one foot over the other and leaned into the doorframe. A satisfied grin stretched across on her unblemished face.