Light of the Shadow – Chapter 7 – Part 2

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Light of the Shadow – Chapter 7 – Part 2

 

Chapter 7

 

 

““Watch the New Path ...
Carefully Reflecting with Wisdom.
Burning Faith for a New Jump.
Wisely and Patiently Waiting.”

 

- The Prophet of Truth

 

Part 2

The sound of something falling and breaking startled her, leaving her sitting on the bed, her heart drumming against her chest.

She’d fallen asleep without even noticing, and for a moment she felt lost, unable to recognize the room around her. The sound of glass breaking quickly brought her back to reality and she urgently slid out of bed, her bare feet silent against the wood floor as she went to the door.

Alexis had guaranteed her that she’d be safe there, but right then she didn’t feel safe at all.

And anyway, what was I thinking? Trusting his word just like that …

Sarah quickly looked around, searching for something she might be able to use to defend herself. Ironically she remembered that there were no windows in that bathroom from where she could jump, and that she was on the first floor, which meant that the room’s window was also out of the question. Not that that idea had worked all that well, the last time …!

By the soft gray light filtering from outside through the blinds she guessed that it was almost morning, which somehow allowed her to relax a bit … Because there were no monsters during day time … or were there?

Holding her breath she silently opened the door and peered out into the corridor outside. She had to first try and understand what was going on, before she could decide what to do.

Outside her room everything was silent and shadowy, with exception of the yellowish light coming from the half closed door at the end of the corridor. The shadow of a movement told her that someone was in there and she was finally able to relax a bit. Any other time she’d even criticized herself for her overactive imagination. But after all she’d been through she was sure she had every right to be slightly paranoid. Still she silently left her room, wanting to make sure.

It’s probably just Anne. She must have dropped something …

The sound of a grunting voice immediately erased that hypothesis, making her hold her breath, ready to run like a mad woman down the stairs and out of the house, as she slightly pushed the door open.

The first thing she saw was the red of blood smearing his skin and clothes, and then the broken glass and the brown liquid spilled all over the floor.

“What are you doing here?” His angry, aggressive tone made her take a step back. He was furious, anger burning in his stormy eyes, and he was wounded … And that was never a good combination, especially with people that hid inside themselves unstable monsters like him.

“I heard something break …” she replied as her brain quickly analyzed the situation.

There was a first aid kit on the sink. Small flasks and bandages all over the place. And by the smell, the brown liquid spilled on the floor was some kind of disinfectant. His right arm looked… terrible, the skin torn by deep, bloodied lacerations. His shirt was also torn, almost as if he’d been attacked by a monster with huge claws. And, of course, he was trying to tend to his own wounds … in a rather stubborn, male, human-like way.

“What happened?” she asked softly, trying to appease him. She felt him nervous, almost as if he felt threatened by her presence there.

“Nothing much. Go back to your room!”

An order! Not a request. A complete, absolute order! And a threatening one, to top it all. As if I were no more than a child!

Sarah frowned. She had never really been able to deal well with that kind of arrogance. It was something almost visceral that left her stomach burning. And Alexis seemed to be used to be obeyed without question.

Making up her mind, she took a step forward, careful not to step on any of the broken glass, and held his wounded arm to better look at the damage. She felt him tense up immediately, as a reflex, even though she knew she wasn’t really hurting him, and his emotions invaded her mind once more, easily breaking her mental defenses.

Despise, apprehension, anger … fear.

Surprised Sarah raised her head to face him and was immediately hit by the dangerous, threatening way he was staring at her. Something inside her was suddenly aware of the madness that had just taken over her, and of the danger she’d put herself in just by walking into that bathroom when he was so unstable. Especially now that she knew all she knew. And the notion that he’d probably be able to break her neck just by slapping her, added to the clear effort he was making to keep his anger under control, left her heart beating anxiously and a tight knot around her stomach.

And yet, right then, they had something in common. She wasn’t the only one afraid, and the realization that he too was also able to feel fear prevented her from seeing him as the dangerous being he really was … In fact, all his emotions, although chaotic and obviously too intense, were also extremely human. If she was terrified of people touching her, Alexis didn’t seem to react any better. And the images of what she’d seen in that warehouse came back to her. As far as she knew, he’d been in that place for almost three weeks. And by the amount of blood she’d seen all over the floor she couldn’t even imagine what they’d done to him.

“Let me take care of your wounds …” she asked softly and the strange luminescence that inhabited his eyes became even more intense.

“I don’t need your help!” he growled and Sarah couldn’t help smile as she noticed that, even though he’d said that, he hadn’t made any effort to try and avoid her touch.

“Of course you need. Just look at this mess …” she pointed out and gently pushed him towards the small stool. “Just sit.”

He hesitated, for a moment, but ended up obeying.

Avoiding a sigh of relief, Sarah released him and turned to look through the things he’d spilled all over the sink. She couldn’t help feeling apprehensive near him, or stop fearing he might suddenly attack her. It was as if his gaze could burn a hole on her back, she thought, grabbing the scissors. He was immediately tense the moment she turned back to him, his hands clenched hard, his wild gaze fixed on the metallic object in her hands, making her freeze in place.

“Hum, I’m just going to cut your shirt,” she told him, allowing him a few moments to get used to the idea before she took another step forward. “Trying to take it off will only bring you more pain. And it’s already ruined anyway,” she added, trying to reassure him. It was also the first time she was aware of the fact that he could also feel pain … and that in fact, that had exactly been how she’d found him; drowning in deep, burning pain.

As he remained silent, Sarah held the hem of the bloodied shirt and started cutting it, dropping the blood drenched pieces on the floor. The skin she uncovered was covered in deep gashes that cut into his flesh as if they’d been made by thick blades. The red, bright flesh and the smell of blood was starting to nauseate her and the threatening way he followed her every move wasn’t helping all that much.

“What happened?” she asked, making sure her hands didn’t tremble. She couldn’t help remembering he’d left to meet with Aaran …

“Nothing much.”

Sarah took a deep breath at his harsh answer and was relieved to finally be able to put down the scissors, searching for another flask of disinfectant and some clean gauze. He was all tense once again, the instant she turned back to him, forcing her to move slower as she approached him.

“What did they do to you …?” The question had already left her lips before she could even realize it and she couldn’t help blush, embarrassed by her own words. The absence of an answer made it clear that she’d asked something she shouldn’t. “You know, since the moment we’ve met you’ve been telling me I should trust you. How about returning the idea just a bit?” She faced his threatening gaze. It was almost as if he were just waiting for a reason to shred her to pieces. “I’m not going to hurt you, you know? I’m only Human, after all,” she added with a slight ironic tone but he kept his intimidating posture.

“That doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Sarah closed her eyes, for a moment, and took a deep breath.

“Fine. I’ve decided. I’m not afraid of you anymore. You can glare at me like you’re about to swallow me all you want,” she told him, raising her head to make it even more convincing. “And it’s not that I doubt that you’d probably be able to do it, if you wanted. But my parents always told me that, when faced with a wild animal, the worst thing you can do is to show you’re afraid.”

Alexis raised an eyebrow and seemed somewhat taken aback by her statement.

“Wild animal?!”

“Of course! Really! You’re unbelievable, you know? Are you going to growl next, too? When I’m only trying to take care of your wounds? Now, are you going to let me wash off that blood or not?”

He seemed to ponder over the idea for an instant, and ended up nodding shortly.

Sarah smiled victoriously, noticing that part of his apprehension had disappeared. At least her long experience dealing with half crazed homeless people hadn’t been all for nothing, she thought.

She carefully cleansed his wounds, his pain hammering her brain mercilessly even though he kept stoically silent. She couldn’t help noticing other red, darker marks, from gashes that were still healing. And, as she pulled his ruined shirt down, she found other, even more ancient scars all over his back.

So many wounds …

“Hum, I think these will need stitches,” she noted clinically, going back to the fresh cuts in his arm. They were just too deep, she thought.

“I’ll be fine. We heal much faster than you Humans. Tomorrow they’ll only be scars, the day after not even that,” he declared and Sarah lightly touched one of the more ancient looking marks.

“Then these … are from yesterday?” Alexis turned his arm to see what she meant and nodded. “Do they still hurt?”

“Not really.”

Lies…

Sarah grabbed the white bandages and returned to him to wrap them around his arm.

“I thought you didn’t like being touched,” he noticed and her hands froze for an instant. She was all too aware that her fear of being touched wasn’t easily hidden, but she still didn’t like having to talk about it. It was both a weakness and a limitation that she truly hated, and that no amount of therapy had been able to fix. Still she decided she wouldn’t show him any of that and so tried to respond as naturally as she could.

“So you’ve noticed it …”

“From the moment we first met.”

“Well, the fact that I don’t like it when others touch me doesn’t necessarily mean I have problems touching other people,” she clarified.

And yet, with him, the rules didn’t seem to apply … In the beginning she’d justified the strangeness of her response to him with the fact that he wasn’t Human. But then that theory had been completely disproved the moment she remembered how sick she’d felt, almost about to throw up, the instant Aaran had touched her.

“I see …” It was all he said. She waited for the usual questions. The famous ‘why’, but he didn’t add anything else.

“So? I suppose this means it’s not safe to go home …?”

Alexis averted his gaze and seemed to hesitate for an instant, which left her even more apprehensive.

“Not for now, no,“ he finally answered and she could clearly feel the wave of guilt, anger and humiliation that filled him. “I’m sorry. Farran knows you helped me escape and that I’m protecting you. He’ll try and use you to get to me.”

She wanted to ask him until when, but knew he wouldn’t know what to answer. Maybe she’d be able to feel a bit better if she could blame him for her predicament, but when it came right down to it she’d been the one to open that warehouse door, she’d been the one to look for him. There was no one to blame. And all those cuts and scars of wounds he’d suffered because she’d tried to escape, because she’d wanted to return home, made it even more difficult to blame him for any of that. Everything would be easily solved if he were to simply abandon her, and, taking into account the hate he felt for the entire Human Race, Sarah just couldn’t understand why he hadn’t done just that. After all, Humans were destroying his Dimension bit by bit, threatening the survival of his entire Race. She was sure one less Human could only be seen as a blessing.

“I’m sorry,” Alexis added heavily, and although she knew he still kept a lot of things hidden from her, she decided not to question him any further.

Forcing a smile, Sarah couldn’t help feeling surprised when she no longer found a frightening, fierce expression on his face, when she turned to look at him. She’d been so immersed in her own thought she hadn’t noticed that his emotions were much less intense, enough to allow her to block him completely. The sudden softness of his gaze caught her off guard.

“It’s okay,” she heard herself say and immediately frowned, displeased with herself. “I mean, of course it’s not okay. But there’s nothing I can do. You said you’d do your best to try and make it possible for me to go back to my normal everyday life … And I believe you will,” she added, lightly caressing the bandage around his arm. How could she doubt?

So much pain …

Noticing what she was doing, she awkwardly stepped back and nervously tried to hide her embarrassment by tidying up the flasks, cotton pads and bandages spread all over the place.

“Leave it. Anne will take care of that.”

“It’s fine.”

“You’ll end up cutting yourself.”

Sarah looked at her bare feet and at the small shiny shards of glass surrounding her. She’d completely forgotten about that.

She noticed the dark shadow behind her a second too late, and the strong arm that wrapped itself around her waist made her scream.

“Let go of me!” she demanded as he easily raised her from the ground, and she pushed him back with all her strength, although she could as well be pushing a stone wall. The panic that took over her left her gasping for air, and images of other, much crueler hands grabbing her, and pulling her, overlapped with reality.

“Sarah. You’re okay. Everything’s fine …” His voice echoed inside her head, breaking the endless wave of fear that was about to devour her, and suddenly all that was left was the sound of her own desperate heartbeat and ragged breathing. “Much better … I’m only going to carry you to your room,” he told her in a calm tone that seemed to take over her panicking mind.

Alexis found himself smiling when she stopped trying to push him away. In truth he’d acted without thinking, which seemed to happen way too frequently around her. And now that he held her once more in his arms all his nerve endings seemed to stand on alert.

Her body was warm, and soft, and too light. The scent of her skin was sweet, making him wish he could bend his head and dive his nose into the delicate curve of her neck, just to smell her from a bit closer. Her mussed honey-like hair was witness that she’d been sleeping before she’d found her way to that bathroom, making her look younger and somehow frailer. Her naked legs were now dangling from his right arm, their soft looking skin making him want to touch them. And suddenly he was painfully aware that she was only wearing a cotton t-shirt that, on top of that, actually belonged to him. And although she wasn’t an especially attractive woman, her innocent sensuality and the naive way she seemed to implicitly trust him left him burning inside.

He quickly tried to put the breaks on his sudden desire. She was so calm, now … He was sure she would be demanding he’d release her if she were to capture even a shadow of what he was feeling right now. And so he allowed his attention to fall over the dark marks breaking the paleness of her skin, and, as expected, anger took over, for what they’d done to her; for what he’d been unable to prevent. Sarah had taken off all the bandages he’d carefully applied the night before, and although her wounds were healing fast, proof of the attack she’d suffered would last for a few more days.

And then there was the sound of her beating heart that, unbelievably, he seemed to be able to listen from miles away. It sounded slow and calm now, confirming what she’d told him, that she wasn’t afraid. Which was good. But, on the other hand … If not for fear, what else was there to protect her from his madness?

Unable to recognize himself he found out he wished he could hold her like that for all eternity, certain that as long as she was there, trapped between his arms, no harm could ever come to her. Even knowing she belonged to a cruel, despicable Race, he couldn’t help looking at her in awe at the courage and strength she showed with every passing moment. The warmth and tenderness of her touch had been like a balm on his wounds that, even without her knowing, ran much deeper than bloodied gashes. In his mind he couldn’t understand why she’d stayed. Why she hadn’t ran away, even when he’d threatened her. Why she’d so gently cared for the monster he knew she saw every time she looked at him. Once more Sarah had silently endured the chaos and turmoil of his emotions and had still managed to smile at him. And, although that smile was far from being as bright as the one in the picture Farran had showed him, it was nevertheless admirable that she was able to smile at all, taking into account the painful hell her life had become in the last few weeks.

Sarah felt as his footsteps resonate through her entire body and just remained still, aware of the long fingered hands pressed against her skin. She felt tired, as if her panic attack had drained her of the last of her strength. And so it took her a few moments to remember he’d been injured.

“Alexis! Your arm!” she claimed, suddenly pulling herself up which made him groan.

“It didn’t hurt, until now …”

“Sorry,” she replied meekly and without thinking, and only then was truly aware of her situation, which made her feel even more embarrassed. “Why don’t you put me down? There aren’t any glass shards here,” she added. She wished she could demand he put her down but was afraid he might get angry. And she didn’t want that, not now that he seemed to have acquired some measure of balance. She also knew there was no real way to force him to release her, and the feeling of helplessness he induced in her left her heart beating faster.

“I thought you said you weren’t afraid,” he noticed, slightly lowering his head to look at her, and Sarah averted her gaze, feeling her cheeks grow warmer. All that strangeness apart he was just too human-like, and too attractive for that matter.

“And I’m not.”

“Your scent changes when you’re afraid. It becomes sourer … more acid.”

“My scent …?!” she demanded indignant and had to stop herself from sniffing the back of her own hand just to make sure.

“To tell you the truth, it’s the same for all Humans. It’s slightly annoying and, at the same time, imbues us with a certain sense of power and a strong desire to act on that power,” he explained, and before her incredulous gaze, Sarah saw as the door to her room magically opened by itself. “So, yes, it’s not such a good idea to show fear when standing before a wild animal. Which isn’t my case, not yet anyway,” he added and gently placed her on the bed. “Stay here.”

Sarah followed him with her gaze as he walked towards the bathroom, his footsteps firm and wide. Only when he got out of sight did she allow herself to take a deep breath, drying her sweaty hands on her shirt while she tried to calm down. His last ‘not yet anyway’ still rang in her mind and, as a second thought, she smelled her own hands and arms, but couldn’t find the slightest hint of a smell like the one he’d described. All she could smell were traces of floral scent from her shower’s soap, now mixed with the smell of disinfectant.

Alexis came back carrying a basin filled with water and, as she watched in disbelief, knelt down right in front of her, placing it on the floor. With delicate gestures he held her right foot and started to gently wash off the brown liquid staining her skin.

It was all she could do not to act upon her own instinct and just pull her foot up, away from his grasp. But, faced with his earnest expression, she thought it better and decided to sit still. He acted so naturally that she couldn’t help wondering if that was some way of rewarding her, or thanking her for the way she’d taken care of his wounds. And so she tried hard not to think about how intimate and embarrassing it all really felt.

“It’s morning, already,” she pointed out, noticing the grayish light trying to slide in through the small holes in the blinds.

“Yes, I know,” he replied and Sarah muffled a laughter when he spread her toes searching for cuts.

“I didn’t cut myself. I think I’d noticed if I had.”

“Glass cuts can be thin and almost painless, in the first moments.”

Sarah sighed and looked away, once more.

“I thought you said you can’t be out in the day time, but this is the second time I see you during the day,” she pointed out.

“The sun isn’t strong enough yet. And last time … well, I really thought we wouldn’t make it. I pushed it to the limit of my ability to endure it.”

Because I refused your help …

The soft light coming from the window touched his perfect, and right then, gentle and calm face. His focused expression made her smile and her gaze was once more attracted by the strange silver tattoo marking his face with delicate, shiny swirls. Like before the ink seemed to shine as if it were really made of silver, making her want to touch it just to be sure.

Alexis dried her feet with a soft towel he’d brought and stood up taking the basin away.

“Thank you.”

He stopped for a moment, as if surprised by her words, and went on towards the bathroom.

Sarah pulled her knees up, caressing the skin where she still could feel his fingers touching her, and took a deep breath. But still jumped to her feet, as soon as he returned.

“I’m going to get some rest, now, so that my wounds may heal too,” he told her and Sarah nodded slightly. It was to be expected, she thought, that he would sleep during the day since he couldn’t go out. That is, if he really needed to sleep like the common mortals at all. Just like the vampires from fiction … But there wasn’t anything fictional about Alexis, that much she’d been able to integrate. “I’d tell you not to go out. However, if you have to, do it during the sunny hours. Never before ten o’clock in the morning, and never after five in the afternoon, just to be safe. Even then, be careful and pay special attention to your surroundings. Farran has a group of Humans that do his bidding in exchange for some … favors,” he added bitterly.

“Even knowing what … who he is?” Sarah asked in disbelief.

“Oh, they know.”

“But I thought it was against that Law.”

“It’s exactly why he breaks the Law indiscriminately that we’re hunting him down. Anyway, only if you really have to, Sarah.”

Sarah felt an embarrassing warmth creep up her cheeks again. There was something binding in the way he spoke her name.

“I can probably take care of my matters over the phone,” she conceded and he nodded in approval.

“Anne will take care of anything you need. If possible, let her be the one to leave the house,” he declared and turned to leave.

“Alexis? Doesn’t he know where you live?” she asked and he stopped again.

“He knows. But the area around this house is protected. You don’t have to worry.”

“Protected?”

“Hum … you Humans would call it magic, I suppose. In anyway, to us this is something unbreakable. This is my Territory, I claimed it. No Araphel may enter it unless invited by me. In my Territory my will is supreme. Not even Aaran can overpower it here.”

Now, there’s an animal behavior for you …

“What happens if someone tries to invade it?”

“Nothing you’d like to see,” he declared, slightly averting his gaze, and Sarah had the feeling she’d agree with him, if something like that ever came to pass. “In here you only have to worry about those like you. You already know I have no connection with any other Human Beings except for Anne so, even if it’s the police knocking on the door, don’t open it.”

Sarah smiled lightly.

“I feel like a child, with all those warnings and recommendations.”

He took back the few steps he had taken towards the door and faced her with a serious expression that almost made her take a few steps back.

“I can’t protect you during the day. Maybe I should just chain you to the bed, after the stunt you pulled at the motel.”

Sarah clenched her fists hard and tilted her head back to face him and his threatening tone.

“Back there I was scared and had just been kidnapped by a madman!”

“You’re absolutely right, especially regarding the madman part …” he told her, averting his gaze, and Sarah felt his bitterness invade her brain. “Anyway, I hope you’ve understood that it isn’t from this madman you need to run away,” he added and turned to leave, leaving her with the painful sensation that she’d just hurt him more with those simple words than all the bloodied gashes and cuts marring his skin could ever do.

 

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