Light of the Shadow – Chapter 3 – Part 4

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Light of the Shadow – Chapter 3 – Part 4

 

Chapter 3

 

 

“The Destiny of the Warrior and a New Origin.
A new Step Ahead and Redemption.
The Past in the Past, Dark, Obscured.
The Present as a Portal to a different Future.”

- The Prophet of Truth

 

Part 4

Something strange intruded in the darkness that kept her safe and asleep. The outside world threatened to invade her space once more, gaining color, form and texture. She refused it instinctively. Now that she’d finally been able to get rid of all the pain and bitterness why would she want to go back to a world where all those things mercilessly awaited her?

However, no matter how hard she tried to block it, there was always a sound that managed to pass her defenses. Against her will she couldn’t stop her analytic mind from trying to decipher it – Sarah. Her name …

More than the word itself, what disturbed her rest was the voice calling it. Unconsciously her attention turned towards it, hanging on that low, warm but anxious tone. And an entire world of emotions immediately seeped in through the small opening that she unwillingly had opened, leaving her breathless.

Concern, impatience, tiredness, pain, and, above all, fear … Not for himself, she noticed, but for someone else … for her!

As soon as she became aware of that the present world became painfully real all around her. Suddenly her nose was filled with that agonizing smell again. Her body exploded in pain. Cold, moist dirt covered her skin. The air was too thin, making her gasp. And her dry throat burned as if she’d been screaming for hours.

“Sarah! Please! Just try and reach me!”

More out of instinct than anything else her tired, confused mind turned towards the voice that had awaken her. But she couldn’t turn her head, the pain that burned her neck immobilizing her with a scream that, in reality, sounded more like a moan.

“Sarah! Everything will be fine!” the voice went on, now sounding a bit relieved. “You only need to give me your hand and I’ll pull you up,” he insisted and Sarah tried to move again, clenching her teeth hard, as if that would give her enough courage to face the torture that every single movement implied.

Slowly images of what she thought had happened started to come back to her. When she finally managed to raise her head towards the voice that kept calling her insistently, she remembered that they’d just thrown her in there, and how much it had hurt. And yet, after all she’d been through, that hole had felt like paradise, since it kept her safe from the horrible monsters that had captured her.

Blinking her eyes, suddenly blinded by the dim light of dawn, she noticed the dark form cut against the blue-gray sky, and she couldn’t help cringe closer against the dirt walls surrounding her. Someone was trying to reach her and she was sure she’d rather stay down there forever, than allowing any more hands to touch her. Her stomach turned again and the messed up images filling her mind made her gasp for air.

“Sarah … please … you have to trust me. I came to get you,” the voice insisted in a softer, patient tone, almost as if he were speaking to a child. “Don’t you remember? I promised I’d protect you, but I need you to trust me.”

Images of a strange bright gaze and an intimidating dark man flooded her mind. The same stranger that had invaded her home. The same one she’d saved two days ago.

Alexis.

His name echoed in her mind and she clearly felt the renewed wave of relief that filled him.

“That’s right. It’s me. You remember …” he confirmed in a mix of sadness and satisfaction, and a tired sigh escaped his lips. “If you won’t give me your hand we’ll both die here. I don’t have much time left. On the other hand, I guess it’s a rather adequate place,” he added with clear sarcasm. “And I know no one will miss me. But what about you, Sarah? There must be someone who’ll cry for you …”

Selena!

The invocation of the young girl’s image warmed her chest in a wave of anger against herself. How could she be so selfish! How could she allow herself to run from the pain in a wave of self pity and just forget about Selena? Selena would be distraught, should she simply disappear like that as well.

Taking a deep breath, she fought to get to her feet, making sure to avoid looking at the savage bleeding gashes on her arms. Tears filled her eyes, and for a moment she felt dizzy and sick to her stomach. And yet she wasn’t about to give up! Forbidding herself from feeling any pain, she leaned heavily against the dirt wall, and allowed herself a few seconds to recover her lost breath. Just standing up had left her so tired that she feared she might faint.

“You’re doing great, Sarah! Almost there! Just a bit more!” The voice called to her again, this time more enthusiastic and anxious.

Sarah looked up again. She couldn’t distinguish his face against the pale light. Still, she’d trust that stranger. What other option did she have? In any way, crazy or not, criminal or not, he’d really followed her there with the sole purpose to rescue her.

Reinforcing her mental decision, Sarah took a deep breath and held on to the dirt wall, her hands sinking into the cold soft surface in search of some kind of support that would help her reach the hand stubbornly stretched towards her.

Pain stole her sight making her certain that this time around she was really going to faint, but even so she forced her legs to obey and support her weight, as she reached as high as she could. Despairing at the knowledge that she’d probably be unable to gather enough strength to try it again, she blindly searched for the hand that promised to take her from that place. Tears slid down her face and a painful groan left her chest, consuming what air was left as fuel for her dwindling strength. Too tired she felt herself fall back, and for a moment the darkness that had previously embraced her was there again, waiting for her.

The cold fingers that surrounded her wrist brought her back to a complete state of alert. The speed with which she was pulled up left her dizzy and feeling sick. And then two arms were surrounding her, imprisoning her, making it impossible for her to move.

The terror that took over her mind was instantaneous and irrational, and her frail, shaky hands fought against that hard cage.

“Hush … everything’s fine … Everything’s fine, now …”

His soft voice pierced the chaos in her mind. Relief … a deep relief, was the only emotion coming from him. Nothing of the constant aggressiveness she’d felt near him … Not even a glimpse of hate or anger. He was simply relieved that she was safe … that she was alive.

Her hands quieted down and stopped trying to push him away, and only then she realized he didn’t transmit her that agonizing feeling of danger she felt near everyone else, aside from her closest family. On the contrary. She felt safe near him, surrounded by the warmth of his body …

“I’m taking us out of here, or soon I won’t even be able to do that. I’m sorry it has to be this way, but there’s no time for more conventional options. Just close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. I’ve been told it’s not the pleasantest of sensations …”

Unable to understand what he meant, and too tired to think about it, Sarah simply obeyed. The sensation of vertigo would have made her scream, if her throat weren’t too dry to utter the simplest of words. Everything around her lost consistency, as if the whole world, including her, had been reduced to particles of air. And then, after a few instants that seemed more like eternities of suspended time, the falling was finally over and matter regained shape and weight. The air she breathed in seemed insufficient and she gasped for more. The surface beneath her felt harsh, almost like sandpaper, and it took her some time to notice that, somehow, her senses were mistaken and that in truth she was sitting on something soft and cushioned. As if her nerves needed time to re-adapt to her recently regained material condition.

“You did well, Sarah,” the voice came back, trying to appease her, and only then she noticed the arms that still held her and that strangely enough helped her calm down. “We’re safe, here …”

His hands slid gently up her back, as if fearing he could hurt her even more, and his fingers pressed her neck, holding her there, making her tilt her head.

The pain that burned her neck made her protest and the sensation of danger returned immediately. Terrifying images filled her mind with a deep fear, and once more she tried to push him back.

“It’s okay …” he told her but, this time around, even though his voice remained soft, it brought with it a promise of blood.

“No …” Her moan was hardly hearable as she tried to push back what felt more like a wall.

“I swear they’ll pay for this. All with no exception. But right now I have to close the deepest wounds …” he added bitterly. “I’m really sorry …”

Tears of frustration slid down her face as his embrace held her even stronger, making sure she had no escape. In a last attempt of retaliation, she dug her nails as hard as she could in his chest, but even so he remained unmovable. Closing her eyes at the feeling of his warm, moist breath against her skin, she prepared herself for the horror of the violence that would certainly follow. Again … And again …. Despairing she doubted she’d be able to bear it any further. The touch of his soft lips against her wounded skin hurt and burned, and her stomach turned, leaving her trembling. She felt the impact that shook him the moment he touched her blood, the same way she’d felt with all the others, and waited for the uncontrollable madness that would ensue … but it never came. And then ... Contrary to what she’d expected, the pain started to slowly fade away as he softly kissed her skin. Her heart jumped at that crazy idea but, even so, her hands lost their opposing strength and stopped torturing him.

When he finally pulled back, releasing her from the hold that forced her to keep her head tilted back, Sarah felt dizzy and once more consciousness threatened to leave her. She fought to remain awake and felt him gently hold her hand, pulling her sweater’s dirty and torn sleeve up. A grimace of pain distorted her face as the fabric slid over her hurt skin but, instants after, his lips were kissing her there too, as he licked her wounds just like an animal would have done.

With effort she forced her sight into focus. She wasn’t outside anymore, that was for sure. Now there were walls surrounding her, and other things that were constantly distorted into black shadows which her brain couldn’t decipher. Her gaze fell on him and she had to blink twice to be able to understand what she was seeing. He kept his head down, bent over the inside of her arm. His hair fell freely over his face, softly caressing her skin. His other arm was still around her, supporting her in that position. And that’s when she noticed his likewise torn and bloodied shirt. Doubting her untrustworthy eyes, she raised a shaky hand and slid her fingers through one of the tears on his clothes, to touch his cut skin. He shuddered, raising his head, and the savage, threatening glow in his eyes half frightened her.

“You’re hurt …” she declared, noticing that all that blood was really his, and her head failed somewhere in the process of finding the logic of her own affirmation. “You need to go to a hospital! And quickly!” she managed to urge him, her hoarse voice hardly hearable, and he stared at her in complete bewilderment for a moment. As he wouldn’t move, Sarah tried to take the initiative, but the moment she tried to stand, the world spun all around her and pain stole her sight again.

“Be still!” The command sounded as dry as a whip, and if not for the fact that she didn’t really feel up to an argument, she’d certainly have given him a piece of her own mind about that perfect authoritarian tone. “Are you for real? Are you completely oblivious of your own situation? You’re the one who should be in a hospital! If I could only explain how you got these wounds without drawing other people’s attention to businesses that are none of their concern!” he went on, clearly annoyed, and Sarah couldn’t help fearing the instantaneous and radical way his emotional state had changed.

“I’m sorry … I was just worried …” she managed to mutter, trying to appease him, and the way he seemed to relax told her she’d been somewhat successful.

“Worried …!” he repeated sardonically. “Worry about yourself! Not me …” he added and Sarah couldn’t help noticing the bitterness accompanying his last words. It wasn’t the first time she captured that emotion from him. As if a deep pain inhabited him since far too long. “And now try and get some rest. I’m calling someone to help you change out of these clothes. You need sleep and a lot of water.”

The final tone of his words and the implicit idea that he was about to leave her there, all alone, terrified her. She tried to argue but, this time around, her voice refused to leave her aching throat. He held her firmly, but delicately, and tried to make her lay down. And the certainty that he was about to abandon her became even stronger, sounding in her mind like a panic alarm. Not knowing what to do to counter his decision, she forced her pained, tired body to move, and threw her arms around him, holding him close. The shock that coursed through him was as strong as the one that had shook him when he’d first kissed her blood. But not even the way he suddenly tensed up was enough to make her aware of what she’d just done.

“Don’t go …” she finally managed to mutter and he took a deep breath, as if he needed that to regain his ability to move.

He delicately made sure she lay down and only then held her hands, breaking the ring around his neck. For more than once he’d felt her consciousness about to slip but, as incredible as it was, she was still resisting it.

He softly placed her hands over the bed’s quilt and gave her a reassuring smile trying to erase her frightened expression.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he guaranteed and placed a hand over her feverish eyes that stubbornly refused to close, attentively following his every move. “Get some rest …”

The darkness brought upon by that hand immediately induced her brain into a drowsy state and Sarah felt her body grow heavy and harder to control. When his hand disappeared she tried to open her eyes again but her heavy eyelids wouldn’t obey. The soft caress of two fingers across her cheek left her more relieved, certain that he was still there, beside her, and for an instant her brain fell asleep.

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