Sarah turned numb. Her breath escaped from her lungs and she couldn’t take in another. She stared at Axin, her eyes not seeing him at all. The room began to swim with the tears building in them and her heart pounded in her ears.
“What did you say?” she whispered, her voice breaking.
“I am so sorry, Sarah. I’ve wanted to tell you for so long. To tell you the truth about that night, but I didn’t know how. And the longer I waited the more I saw you moving on with your life. You were happy, you had a good life, and I didn’t want to ruin that for you.”
“No. My parents died in a car accident.”
He nodded. “I know. I was there.”
She was at a loss for words. All her life she wanted to know what happened that night, and now that the truth sat right in front of her, on the verge of being heard, she wasn’t so sure she wanted to know.
Axin raised his gaze to her, frowning at the tears that spilled from her eyes. “You hate me already. I’m not surprised.”
“Tell me.” Her voice was barely audible as she wiped at her face.
He nodded, taking in a long thoughtful breath.
“The truck driver was telling the truth. Something did hit his truck. Hard enough to make it bounce over the divider and into oncoming traffic.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I was the one that hit it.”
She shook her head. “It would have taken something massive to move a truck that size over a divider that wide. An impact like that would have killed you. Not only that, but it would have had to have been hit on the side. Unless you were shot out of a cannon, I don’t see how it could have been you.”
“I think I need to start at the beginning so that you will understand it better.”
She nodded, her eyes burning from not blinking as tears rolled down her cheeks in endless streams.
“Thousands of years ago, when humans first began to roam the planet, things were very different. Many were born normal, like you. While others were born with something else inside them. A link to the animal part of them. Most people didn’t know they had this link and lived their lives the way everyone else did. Only once they died, did they learn that they were different. When they were sent to Purgatory.”
“What does that have to do with my parents?”
“Let me finish. You will understand soon.”
Sarah again pulled her feet onto the sofa and wrapped her arms around herself.
Axin shifted from the coffee table to the other chair and sank into it, placing a hand over his face with a sigh.
“As I was saying, people had no idea what they were, and things were fine. Then, after about three hundred years, two people came together and created a whole new breed of evil. A Dargoran and an Evalet had six children, all of which became what you would call a witch today.
“Immense power over the elements, including life and death. They believed that the people born with that link inside them should be set free. To live who they were meant to be. So they cast a spell and released everyone of the thin thread that held that part of them sealed away.
“Imagine waking up one morning, only to realize you are now half human half wolf, or half dragon. You can change forms at will, and you have an uncontrollable hunger in you and a need to hunt. Hundreds of thousands of people changed and it caused chaos. That is when one of the children, the oldest son, Nilu, broke the pact and decided to make things right.
“He tried to change everyone back. To break the curse his siblings had created, but it was too strong, held together by their blood and their lives. So, he did the only thing he knew how to do. He took his own life in order to break the spell. Once he died, he drifted in darkness for years. There was no afterlife for the linked. He spent almost a hundred years creating what is now known as Purgatory. A safe place for the linked to go after they die. But once the first of his siblings were killed in a war, things changed. Purgatory became a hellish place to live, and Nilu knew that he couldn’t allow every linked soul to end up there. He had to make another place for the ones that didn’t deserve to be in Purgatory to spend eternity. So he created the Shadow world. A place in between life and Purgatory.”
Sarah swallowed. “And how do you fit into all of this?”
“After the shadow world was created, his sister became jealous. She had ruined Purgatory in her rage, and she wanted to live in the Shadow world. But Nilu refused to let her leave. He knew he needed an army to protect it, so he began recruiting the strongest of the linked that he could find. I was born in the early eleventh century. I died at the age of thirty-one without ever knowing that I was linked. Nilu found me and told me what I was, and asked me to join his army. So I did.”
“What are you?”
Axin smiled as he stood, reaching out a hand to Sarah.
She frowned at it.
“Let me show you.”
“Outside. Don’t be scared.”
She licked her dry lips, rubbing her fingers together, but finally reached out and took his hand. He pulled her up to stand and led her back outside into the field.
He turned to her, still holding her hand, “Remember that no matter what you see, it’s still me. And I will never hurt you. Okay?”
She nodded, her heart beating a million miles an hour when he dropped her hand.
She watched him walk into the field, his silhouette swallowed by the darkness and she crossed her arms, waiting.
As the silence stretched, she decided to move closer to the house, in case she had to run for cover. Finally, she called out for him, “Axin?”
No answer came, and she took a cautious step towards the darkness. Something large moved in the night, causing a gust of wind to make her shiver, and she squinted her eyes to try and see what it was.
“Axin!” She called out again, her voice holding a hint of fear in it. Movement caught her attention above her, and she raised her gaze to the moonlit sky. A large shadow moved against the blackness.
She stumbled back, the shadow taking the shape of a massive winged creature. It soared over her head, making Sarah fall to the ground with a scream. Red eyes glowed as it passed, its sprawling wings blocking out the moon. Sarah gripped onto the grass, her body shaking but her eyes glued onto the massive flying beast.
From its spike filled mouth, a long, intensely bright and hot flame shot out, lighting up the sky like the sun. That is when she got a clear view of it. Scales and spikes littered its long, narrow body. His flame-filled eyes, now three times the size they were, watched her like a bird hunting its prey. With one strong flap of his wings, he tore up into the air, causing the dust and sand to fly into her face. He came around again, this time lower, and she saw the clawed talons of two powerful legs, tucked into its stomach. A loud thud echoed from next to the house, shaking the ground beneath her, torturing her adrenaline-filled veins, before Axin strolled out with his hands in his pockets.
He’s a fucking dragon!