The Rise

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Chapter Twenty-Seven

Valerio, Nakida, Ayodele, and I pulled up to an abandoned apartment building that had moss crawling up the side of it. Vines and leaves covered every window.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Nakida asked, stepping out of the car. I was surprised that she was with us today. She had been out with Vihaan all weekend.

Valerio looked down at the address on the slip of paper in his hand, then at the building. “This is the place.”

I tore the leaves and vines off of the front door and opened it. The door creaked like we were in some sort of horror movie. Even when we walked in, everything was eerily silent. Cobwebs hung from the ceilings and the lights flickered terribly until they just turned out altogether.

“Maybe she’s not here,” Nakida said.

I knelt to the ground, held out my palm, and watched Black and White emerge from it. “Search,” I instructed.

They ran. White ran up the stairs, while Black ran down the hall, both sniffing the ground for any scent – unusual or not. Black came back fairly quickly and sprinted up the stairs to White. I followed after, knowing that she probably had tracked a scent.

With each step, the floor creaked. I ducked under the webs, trying not to get spiders in my hair. When we made it up the stairs, unharmed, White was standing in front of a closed door and howling. With her nose to the ground, she sniffed and sniffed and sniffed under the door.

Once we were all up the stairs and ready to enter, she stepped away. The Jumper must’ve been in there.

Valerio banged on the door, but no one answered. I jingled the door knob a bit, trying to open it politely but failing. Someone was definitely there. With one swift kick, Valerio had knocked the door down and we entered.

A woman laid on the ground, her raven hair matted and tangled. A thick green rash laid around her neck and the veins under her eyes were a deep forest color, contrasting her pale skin.

“Shit.” I picked her up and leaned her against a wall. White sniffed the woman, but after a few moments she whimpered and rested her head on her lap. She couldn’t be saved. Black nuzzled his head into White’s neck, resting next to her.

“Luca must’ve been here already.”

Valerio ran a hand through his hair. “We’re always one step behind.”

“Look around for anything that might help us,” I said. There was no point in just feeling sorry for ourselves; we had to figure things out. We had come here for a reason.

We began rummaging through all of her drawers, kicking through dirty clothes, and carefully avoiding her moldy food.

“I think I found something,” Ayodele called out from one of the rooms. Inside her bedroom, white words and symbols were painted on the walls, the ceiling, the floorboards.

I gazed around in amazement. I’ve never seen anything like this before. The words looked like familiar hieroglyphics, but I couldn’t remember ever learning much about hieroglyphics in school.

One set of images - a body lying supine on the ground as a white figure stood over it, a mist of sorts rising from the body, the mist entering once more through another figures mouth - was repeated throughout the room.

This must be how souls are transferred from one body to the next. Had she wanted me to find this before the Hunter killed her?

“Mae,” Valerio called from the room connected to her bedroom. He was standing in front of a mural that covered the wall.

The mural was of the Hunter from my vision. Naked and surrounded by vines, trees, deer, and buffalo, she was staring down at us with piercing green eyes. Branches and twigs laid in a ring around her head like a halo.

Above her picture, the name Luca was freshly painted over Alexandra’s name. The words Savior Cybele was painted under it. The mural looked like it had been here for centuries.

I grazed my fingers against it. Who knew how many names were written under Luca and Alexandra? Hundreds or thousands perhaps.

“This is her,” I said.

“Ayodele,” I said. No answer. “Ayodele!”

“Brother!” Nakida called, jogging to the door. She stopped, hand on hip. “Ayodele!” She raised a brow, staring through the doorway. “You are needed.”

“Why are you so obsessed with that series of images?” she asked when he finally entered. Ayodele didn’t answer her. He stood with his lips pressed tightly together.

“Cybele. What does it mean?” I asked him.

“Nature, earth, wild life,” Ayodele said. “The Romans used to worship a goddess named Cybele.”

“Do you know what happened to her body?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No, but I will look into it for you.”

I nodded my head. When we were ready to leave, Ayodele lingered in the Jumper’s room, staring at the pictures. Nakida walked up to him, placing a hand on his shoulder, but he didn’t move.

“What is it?” she asked.

Valerio and I stood to the side, watching their exchange.

“Nakida,” he said softly, grasping her hand. He looked toward her, then pointed to the man in the picture whose body was accepting a new soul. “That will be me.”

She furrowed her eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

He gulped. “Soon, I will die, and a boy’s soul will be put into my body.”

“What are you talking about?” Nakida said, grasping his hand tighter. “Die?”

He nodded his head. “I will die soon in our Moon Goddess’s honor, protecting and aiding her with everything I have.”

Nakida was silent. By the look on her face, I could tell she was in disbelief. “Why do you keep saying soon? How do you know?” She shook her head. “I don’t think you’re well, brother. Let’s get you some sleep.” She pulled his hand away, but he didn’t move.

“No, Nakida. I am well. I’m telling you that I will die, very soon, and I need you to be prepared. Our Moon Goddess had a vision about me.”

Nakida’s eyes filled with tears. She looked over at me and Valerio. “Is-is this true?”

“Yes,” I whispered.

Nakida gazed back at Ayodele, a stray tear falling from her eye. She grabbed his face, holding onto him, brushing her thumbs against it; like if she didn’t, he would disappear. “No.” She shook her head. “No!”

Ayodele took her into his arms, and they embraced. Valerio placed a hand on my shoulder, squeezing gently. I took his hand and pulled him out of the room. This was too private to stay and watch.

A/N Read up to chapter 66 on Patreon now! Click "Support Me" in my bio to read <3

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