The large, nearly empty room is musty and the smell of mold is worse than the bunker. Broken desks and chairs are scattered beneath the vaulted ceiling. Barely any light can make it through the windows. I can’t tell if it’s because of the overgrown trees and ferns outside or the surrounding buildings. My eyes adjust quickly but it’s hardly any use. The little light doesn’t reach far past the panes so the other side of the room is coated in darkness.
“Hello?” my voice travels a few feet in front of me then seems to turn around and blast back in my ears. A screech over comes me and I bring my hands up to my head.
It cuts off sharply before I need to scream. Then in a small whisper -one I can barely understand- leads me to look into the darkness.
A hand with sharp nails wraps itself around one of the concrete supports. For some reason I’m not scared… only curious. The persons head barely peaks out from its hiding place, and even though her hair is now short and spiky, I know exactly who it is.
“Katie?” I barely mumble under my breath.
“Hey Larky.” She says with a strange drawl in her voice, still keeping her body hidden but allowing me to see her head. “You haven’t changed much. Still wearing the beanies, I see.”
“You’re here.” I say in disbelief. The innocence and shyness that once exuded from her is long gone. When she looks at me, it’s calculated and holding something I can’t understand. “I didn’t think I would ever see you again… you cut your hair.”
She lifts a hand up to her head, twirling it in her fingers. “It’s easier to maintain this way. Hair products aren’t exactly the easiest thing to retrieve when you’re a… fugitive.” I can hear the hint of sadness in her voice. Katie’s hair was always her prized possession. That and her doodles and drawings. She never even let me lay a finger on her hair. To be fair our hair types are completely different from one another. So, I wouldn’t have known how to even approach her hair.
“It looks good.” I say, trying to reassure her. After all she still is my friend. “If anything, it makes you look like a true bad ass.”
She chuckles. “You’ve got the bad part right.”
The small smile that was on my face disappears as she steps out and shows herself to me. Her body is tall and abnormal. Her arms and legs are longer than they should be. The skin on her body sticks to her bones, like all the muscles has been sucked out.
“You caught me at a bad moment.” She says and the light in the room glimmers off of her sharp canines.
“Katie… you look- “
“Like a monster?”
“No- I I mean yes but how? Nat’s a vampire like you and she looks normal. What- how did this happen?”
“I usually look better after I’ve fed… but food can be scarce when you’re always on the run.” Something seems off in her words, especially since she isn’t looking me in the eyes. Though I can’t seem to distinguish it from embarrassment or lying. “Your friend, Nat, was it? She’s a part of the guardian’s, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, they’re the ones that helped me.”
“Helped you? If they we’re helping you then why didn’t they save Plover too.”
I’m almost taken aback at her words. “How- how did you -.”
“I was there that night that they took you. I was the one that was going to save you but they got to you before I could, and clearly have already filled you with their lies.”
“Lies? I know they’re not perfect but they haven’t done anything to show me that they’ve lied to me.”
“You’ve never wondered how Nat stays so fed and healthy? They kill innocent people for their own personal needs. You just haven’t seen it yet.”
“No, no that’s not true.” I try to reason with her, she must be confused in some way. “I remember Nat telling me that she fed on a pig, she had no reason to lie.”
“Really Lark?” she whispers, as if I’ve hurt her. “You would really trust a girl you just met over your best friend. I brought you here purposefully, so I could save you from-.”
She leans into her shoulders and by the look on her estranged face, I can tell I’ve caught her in something.
She looks behind her and gestures for someone to come out along with her. “This is Lola. She’s a descendant of a Raiju, one of the rarer creatures of our time.” Katie holds out her arm and hooks it over the girl’s shoulder when she gets close enough. Lola’s eyes seem dazed, as if she’s not really here with us mentally. “She did wonderfully leading you back to me.”
Their resemblance is almost scary. Lola seems to be a copy of my best friend before the awakening. Except she has more freckles, her eyes are smaller and she’s a tiny bit shorter.
“I waited and listened until I heard that you had turned, but I didn’t make it in time to save you myself. I figured this was the second-best thing. Lola is just one of my many followers. You’ll get to meet the rest of them when we go back to our hide out.”
“How did you know that I would come? I easily could’ve been told to stay behind.”
“I didn’t. I just thought that I would follow them back if you hadn’t tagged along.” She smiles at me fully for the first time and releases the girl next to her. “I’m so excited to finally have you back. We can go back to how it used to be, when we were inseparable.”
I look at the door behind me and think about the people that I’ve met. Sure, I don’t know them too well and Cala can be a bit cruel but I can’t keep myself from trusting them. Trusting my gut is all I have.
I turn back towards her to find she’s only a few steps in front of me. Lola is gone now, as if she was never there in the first place.
She holds her hand out to me. I just barely lift mine towards her before we are interrupted by a booming voice.
“Get away from her!” I recognize as cala’s overly crude voice.
All three of the guardians come in through the door on the opposite side of the room. Each one has a worried yet calculated face on. Taking in the situation to the best of their abilities. The only person I really talked about Katie to was Candace, besides that, Nat only saw a beat-up pair of glasses.
My brother used to say I had terrible communication skills.
Katie shrinks back and clenches her hands at her sides. “They just keep getting in the way.” she whispers to me. An emotion I’ve never seen from her fires up in her eyes; anger.
“Lark,” Asher says stepping closer to us. “back away.”
I slightly listen as my foot slides backwards on the floor.
The blonde-haired person I barely recognize snaps her head towards me. “Since when have you ever taken orders from anyone?”
My body flinches on its own with how intense she is. Her eyes squint for a second then forcefully soften. “Please, let’s just go Larky. Before they can poison your mind more.”
“Oh please, the only thing poison in here is you.” Cala yells from across the room, her voice unusually calm yet annoyed. “Now step away from the girl before I come over there and move you myself.”
“Please Larky.” She ignores the angel and instead lifts her hand to me again.
I look between all of them. Cala and her wings, how she stands with her arms folded. She acts like she doesn’t care but I can tell by how she is watching Katies every move that in some way she does. Asher has on what he must think is a “scary” face but in all reality, he just looks like a brooding toddler. I haven’t had enough time to figure him out yet. Then there’s Nat. She wears her fear on her face. For a while I had thought she reminded me of what my best friend used to be, but Nat is much more confident with herself. Others maybe not, but the way she carries herself is high.
There is a shadow of a person in front of me. Though every time I look at her face, I can’t help the millions of memories that flash back at me. It shouldn’t, but that’s all I need. My trust for her is stemmed deep inside of me. I used to believe it was a string that connected us… but now I’m starting to think it may be hooks.
I reach up and take her hand into mine. As soon as we touch, the voices in my head begin again. Louder than they have ever been before.