Cinder X Page 2

After a minute or two goes by, I dare to open my eyes and can’t see it anywhere. I check over my body, which seems fine. When I sit up, the shadow is gone and my room empty. And I’m left wondering if something hiding in the Shadow Realm—something that’s been watching me—swept out and took the book because it didn’t want me to find out what was on those pages.

Chapter 1

I’ve gone crazy. Mad. I’ve fallen off the deep end. Crash. Burn. Ember is no more. In her place is this weak girl who’s swiftly sinking into the darkness. My mind doesn’t belong to me anymore. No matter which way I express it, it sounds equally as bad. But it’s the truth. Day after day, I roam around alone, unable to trust anyone as I search for answers that will lead me to the truth.

I haven’t seen the shadow since it showed up that night about a couple of weeks ago, but I can’t stop thinking about it and how it swept out of nowhere and took the book right at the moment when I was about to find out about freeing people from possession. I wonder if it was a Reaper in the shadow realm. I wonder if it was Cameron.

I wonder a lot of things. The biggest one, though, is that I think I’m going crazy. That maybe I didn’t see the shadow at all. I’m always drifting further and further towards where the Anamotti want me.

I’m also really lonely. I can’t get enough control of my mind to see passed the loneliness, so I just wander.


Every day.

To places I don’t want to go, doing things that I don’t want to do. I don’t know what’s happening to me.

Those were the words I wrote just before I headed out tonight, despite the fact that there’s a town curfew in place due to the frequent deaths and disappearances that have happened over the weeks.

I took the back way out of my house to avoid the police, who have been watching me since Asher left me. Two detectives park out front of my home every night and sometimes during the day. They’re watching me and the street I live on because they think I had something to do with McKenzie’s death and the other girls who have turned up missing or dead over the last few weeks in Hollows Grove. I’m not sure who’s causing it all, whether it’s the Reapers or someone else, but I do know who killed McKenzie—her dad, who is sort of an important figure in town since he’s rich.

My initial plan when I left the house was to go to the cemetery. It’s the last place I saw Asher, and for some reason, it always gives me comfort; like I didn’t imagine him, even though I’m starting to believe that I did. That he is just a ghost or a fading memory created from insanity. However somehow I find myself making a detour for reasons unknown.

I end up heading towards the outskirts of the town, taking the longest route possible as I hike along the path next to the river. I pass by a few people, but pay no attention to them because they seem out of place just lingering near the riverbed, which probably means they’re dead. It’s become a daily thing for me. The dead. Everywhere. They’re as common as living people now.

It’s chillier than it normally is in Hollows Grove and I’m trembling uncontrollably, even with my leather jacket on. I want to go home, back to the warmth and safety of my room, yet I can’t stop moving forward passed the rustic metal warehouses nestled in the dark crevasses of the town. My feet move impulsively with each step and when I finally stop walking, I’m standing in front of the entrance to an underground club located at the edge of town; one I didn’t even know existed. It’s a short, metal building that has a single door, which is open with music blasting inside. I show the bouncer my ID and even though I’m only nineteen, he lets me through with zero hesitation.

When I enter, sweat, mustiness and flashing lights immediately surround me. I move with hesitation passed the people, down the stairs and to the dance floor in the center of the room. I don’t know why I go there, since I hate touching people, yet I push my way to the middle of the sweaty bodies because it’s what the voice inside my head tells me to do.

Once there, I start to dance, waiting for whatever comes next, and moments later, I feel it; why I’m here. That I’m searching for death, but not just any death; a specific one full of feathers and capes—Reapers and Angels. In fact, it’s begging me to find it; find the Reaper, find the Angel. Pick. Choose. Life. Death. I want to run, but the unseen force is compelling me to stay put. Let loose. Dance. So I do.

Sweat drenches my skin and the heat of the stuffy room sears through my veins like liquid fire. I can barely breathe through my leather corset, black pants and lace-up boots while the lacy choker on my neck is binding. The music is so deafening it pulsates through my body, pounds at my eardrums and vibrates up and down my legs.

I feel like I’m melting, drowning in hot wax, as the deaths of the people around me drench my body. Blood. Agony. Can’t breathe. Silence. Peace. Metal crunching, buckling, bending. Suffocating. Blood. Death. Blood. Death.

God, I miss Asher’s quiet.

I force my brain to function passed the pain and horror as I hunt for a death, hoping that when I find it, I’ll be free from what’s drawing me to this place and maybe, just maybe, I can finally get some answers to what’s causing this. Is it something to do with my Grim Angel blood or is it the Anamotti? Cameron? What is it?

As the song switches to one with deep bass, I’m jerked from my thoughts. I put my hands up in the air and shut my eyes, allowing myself to drown painfully in the deaths of others around me while my black hair falls out of its ties and sticks to the back of my neck and shoulders. The stench of alcohol and sweat engulfs me and, with every contact of skin, I see omens. Falling. Helpless. Disease. Knife. Blood. Stab. Blood. Full moon. Night sky. Gravel. Building. Blood on the ground, on hands. Capes. Feathers.

“Shit.” I don’t mean to say it aloud, but it really doesn’t matter since the music is so deafening that the sound of my voice gets lost in the rhythm. My hands fall to my sides as I open my eyes and hunt my surroundings for the person’s death I felt, but all I can see are people grinding up against each other with their heads tipped back as they veer towards ecstasy.

I whirl around to skim the thick crowd behind me, however they cram tighter together as the tempo of the music picks up and everyone goes wild; hands flailing in the air, elbows and knees bumping me from every direction. Shoving my way out, I make my way towards the back of the room to the elongated bar packed with people ordering drinks and flirting with each other. By the time I approach the edge of the dance floor, I’m panting from the intoxication of death, losing control over my curse and my body. My mind. I try to fight it, knowing I don’t want to be here—knowing I didn’t come here on my own—yet I can’t seem to escape.

“I need to get out of here,” I mutter in panic as I fan my hand in front of my damp face.

I’m about ready to sprint for the grated stairway that will take me outside, when I spot a lofty figure with a dark hood pulled over their head, looming near the door. The green glow of the exit sign shines down on their face as fear races through my veins, more potent than the adrenaline I felt on the dance floor I’m not sure if it’s Cameron or some other Reaper, but it’s what I was looking for tonight—I can feel it in my bones and my thoughts: Go to him. Choose Death.

I shove my fears aside and lightly brush my fingers along the pocketknife in the back pocket of my jeans. Then I push through the people and stride towards the Reaper. The music gets rowdier and the floor vibrates beneath my shoes as I trot up the stairs. The closer I get, the fiercer my heart knocks against my chest, and by the time I take a step onto the final stairs, I’m lightheaded from the rush, gripping onto the railing for support.

I pause at the top, staring at the Reaper near the doorway while wondering who’s behind the cape. No one else seems to notice it, which is typical since most people don’t see Death walking around. The Reaper seems oblivious of me, though, its soulless eyes focused on the crowd below.

I want to turn away—run—but I can’t deny the invisible pull I feel towards it, so I gradually make my way across the slender balcony, one foot in front of the other. When I’m about within arm’s reach, the Reaper suddenly turns, whipping its cape around, and the fabric grazes my cheek. I trip back, stumbling over my boots and blinking my eyes against the sting. When my vision focuses again, it’s gone and the door is slamming shut.

Run after him.

I chase after it, my legs and hands moving on their own as I retrieve the knife and burst through the door to the outside and into the cold breeze. It’s nearing wintertime and the ground is glazed with ice; the moon massive in the starry sky. The buildings that enclose the alley are vacant, boarded up, closed down. The only signs of life are coming from a burning barrel down the alley to my right with a few homeless people standing around it, talking and drinking what looks like a bottle of whiskey.

I don’t see the Reaper anywhere, but I hear the flap of a cape to my left, so I dash off into that direction.

Hurry, faster.

My legs and fingers tremble as I chase death, even though I don’t want to. At all. Reapers only have one purpose with me and that’s to fuck with my mind and try to drive me to the point of insanity. What if it’s Cameron? What if I get lost in him like I did in the cemetery? What if he tries to take over my body again?

Stop thinking so much and just go to him.

I round the corner of the small building the club’s hidden beneath, slamming to a stop in the dark alley. There’s nothing at the end other than a chain link fence and shadows. Everywhere. Dancing all around me. I’m not sure what’s causing them, although some of them move like the one that was in my room.

Wanting to get the hell out of there while, at the same time, feeling the connection of whatever made me come here breaking, I spin back around to leave. Mid-turn, I hear someone walk up behind me and a soft flap of a cape.

Kill them.

My muscles tighten as I turn on my heels with the knife aimed out. Seconds later, the tip of it knocks against something solid and I end up slashing it straight across their chest. Deep, too. I horridly feel the sensation of the knife enter the fabric then the muscles, nicking a bone. Then blood gushes out as the knife snags their skin and tears it open. As the warm blood splatters over my skin, hair and clothes, I realize that the Reaper is no longer wearing a cape but a jacket, jeans and a torn T-shirt.

Because the Reaper’s not a Reaper, it’s a human.

“Oh my God.” I drop the knife to the ground. I just stabbed someone.

I stare at the person I just stabbed in horror as they clutch their chest and collapse to the asphalt, our gazes locking as he fights to breathe and keep his heart beating.

“I didn’t—what did I...” I drop to my knees beside the guy, the wound still spurting out blood. He looks around my age, blood soaking his hair and clothes, fear in his eyes, like he can see his death, see what’s coming for him. “Shit….” Shock waves through me. I have to do something. Stop this! Help him!

I glance around the empty alleyway and then press my hand down on his chest to attempt to stop the bleeding. As blood soaks against my hand, his death omen soaks my mind. Knife. Stab. Blood on hands and ground. Me, kneeling over him as he takes his last breath.

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