The voice called to me from a distance. I could hear an uneven, ragged noise, strange to my ears. The air surrounding me was cool and my damp clothes were clinging to my skin, chilling me to the bone. I heard my name again, but I could not bring myself to open my eyes. I was so tired...
Freezing water suddenly drenched me from my shoulders up. I jolted back into consciousness. When my vision cleared I saw Sebastian standing over me holding a now empty bucket, grinning triumphantly.
"Rise and shine, little Shadowhunter!"
My memory came rushing back all too quickly, banishing my morning grogginess at once. The pain returned alongside it, instantly making me dizzy. I curled into a ball to try and settle my churning stomach. The throbbing in my shoulder brought dark spots to my eyes. I groaned.
Sebastian upended the bucket and placed it on the floor before seating himself. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, watching me intently. "How are we feeling today?"
Rolling onto my back, I glanced down at my left shoulder and choked back the bile rising in my throat. The bleeding had been staunched, but the wound was still open and exposed. The flesh was inflamed and dark in color, indicating the early stages of infection. Restricting my movements to the bare minimum, I reached my hand down to my pants pocket, searching for my stele.
"Now, now, Alec," Sebastian chided, "I'm afraid the usage of steles is against the rules."
When my search came up empty, I cursed under my breath. I already felt feverish; if the wound went untreated, it would only be a matter of time until I succumbed to blood poisoning.
"Here." Sebastian reached behind him and grabbed a bottle of water. He held it out to me. "You look like you could use this."
Against my screaming internal need, I turned my head away. Though staying hydrated was of vital importance, I couldn't take the risk of being drugged. My throat and mouth were parched. I realized the ragged, uneven noise I had heard earlier was the sound of my breathing. My body shivered, though if it was from the temperature of the room or my fever I could not tell. Every new abnormality I discovered frightened me a little more.
"I would not be so quick to refuse my generosity, Alexander," Sebastian warned. "You will come to regret it."
"Get out," I growled feebly.
Sebastian feigned a look of hurt. "That's no way for a guest to treat his host. You are living under my hospitality. Some manners would be greatly appreciated."
"Go to hell."
Sebastian's lip twitched. He rose to his feet and walked back to a metal door at the end of the room. He banged on it once with his fist and stepped aside. Two large men, both tattooed with black runes, entered and turned to Sebastian for instruction.
"Bring him to the room with the box," he commanded before taking his leave.
The men loomed over me, one standing on either side. I did not recognize them. The larger of the two was bald and had two different colored eyes: one blue and one brown. The other was younger with a full head of blonde hair and silver hoops piercing the entire curve of his right ear.
Without warning, the bald Shadowhunter kicked me hard in the ribs. I curled onto my side, my shoulder screaming in protest. He kicked me again, forcing the air from my lungs. A heavy boot pressed down on my back, sprawling me onto my stomach. My face pressed into the stone floor, making the cut spreading from my temple to my cheek burn and sting. My hands were roughly pulled behind my back and bound. One of them grasped the back of my shirt and hauled me to my feet, where I swayed unsteadily.
The pierced Shadowhunter punched me in the stomach, but kept me on my feet as I doubled over. A bag was slipped over my head, taking away my sight completely and making it difficult to breathe. Someone brutally shoved me forward. I stumbled along blindly, my only means of guidance two hands grasping my upper arms.
I did not know how long we walked. My sense of direction had been smothered beneath my fight to keep calm. When we finally stopped, the bag was instantly removed from my head but my hands remained bound.
The room we now stood in did not differ much from my cell; however, it was impossible to miss the coffin-sized container placed in the middle of the floor. I struggled not to tremble.
A Shadowhunter is fearless, I thought to myself. Be brave. Be strong. Show no weakness. Jace would fight. Magnus would fight. You. Must. Fight.
Sebastian was standing off the side, a hose coiled at his feet. He looked over at us and, his face impassive, flicked his head towards the box. The guards shoved me forward. I dug my heels into the ground, my heart racing. The Shadowhunter with the earrings walked around and opened the lid of the container. The other lifted me effortlessly and threw inside. The lid slammed shut before I could make a sound.
The walls of the box were opaque. Aside from a small beam of light filtering through a hole in the roof at my feet, I was swallowed in darkness. Claustrophobia clawed at me, ripping the air from my lungs. I shifted to try and relieve the pressure of my hands digging into my back. There was little space to maneuver around. Choking down my hysteria I kicked at the roof with my feet and knees. It remained firmly sealed.
There was a soft clunking noise and I froze. The light at the end of the container dimmed. Next I heard light humming. Nothing happened for a moment, then a steady gush of water flowed through the hole and splashed against my shins. A small pool began forming underneath me.
No, no, no! A shrill cry escaped my lips. I pummelled the lid with my boots, but it suffered no damage. I tried to tuck my legs into my chest to push at the roof with my knees but the lid was too low, barely allowing me to bend my knees. I thrashed around wildly, ramming my shoulders into the side walls, stomping my boot against the wall at my feet.
The water level was already almost covering my stomach, legs and chest. I had to crane my neck to keep my head above the water. When my forehead bumped against the roof, I whimpered. It would not be long before I was completely submerged. My breaths coming shallow and rapid, I twisted my wrists against my bonds. They remained tightly tied together. The bonds bit into my skin as I furiously tried to wrench free.
Alec, you have to calm down. As I struggled to steady my breathing, my thoughts drifted to Magnus. I pictured the way his golden eyes glittered when he smiled. I pictured the curve of his throat that was exposed when he threw his head back in a fit of laughter. I imagined the soft brush of his thumb as he traced my jaw line.
There was a moment of calm, but then I felt the water lapping at the back of my head and lost all sense of control. My own screams of panic resonated deafeningly in the confined space. My ears were soon immersed, but I could still hear my terrified yells. When the water began creeping up my cheeks, I tilted my head back to raise my mouth as close to the lid as possible.
My tears were now mixing with the water around me. I don't want to die I don't want to die I don't want to die...The words replayed over and over inside my mind. I thought of Jace and my hand clenched involuntarily, holding an imaginary hand.
My eyes were now tightly closed underwater. I could feel the water closing in around my mouth. My stomach dropped and my heart was beating so violently I thought for sure the noise would shatter the box. I sucked in one final gulp of air before the water passed over my lips. I struggled against my restraints, already feeling a tightness in my chest. I kicked against the walls sightlessly using every ounce of strength in my body. My movements were slowed in the water, though, and just as ineffective as before.
My lungs began to burn. My eyes flashed open and my body began to convulse. Jace...Magnus...Someone...Help me! Please, I silently begged. I could feel the life inside of me being asphyxiated, like a flame being smothered. A numbness spread through me as my blood turned to ice. Against my own will, I gasped for air and inhaled a mouthful of water.
I blacked out momentarily as I began to drown. When I came to again, I could hear a voice in my head shrieking, Breathe! Breathe! Breathe! Each shout got quieter and quieter as I began to sink into the depths of death. Seconds before I passed into nothingness, light rippled through the water and a hand grabbed a fistful of my hair, yanking me upwards to break the surface. I automatically sucked in a gasp of air, singeing my lungs.
I felt myself being lifted out of the tank before being dumped onto the floor. The drop forced a mouthful of water out of my lungs. A fit of coughing racked my body as I choked and sputtered. As my body convulsed with spasms, I began to vomit water. Someone turned me onto my side, none too gently, to drain my mouth and clear my airway. The coughing soon began to subside, but I continued to wheeze and shake uncontrollably.
My spine tingled as someone knelt behind me. Feather-light fingertips brushed my soaked hair behind my ear. Warm breath tickled the side of my face, making me cringe.
"You'd best recover your strength, Alec," Sebastian whispered, his voice soft but menacing. "We're just getting started."