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19.) Certain

Above all, there were only a few things that I knew for certain. One, in these shackles I am completely useless. Two, everything I experienced with Beckett, good and bad, was a well thought out plan so he could royally screw me over. Three, I’m alone in this cell, and at some point I will be killed.

The cell was small, not at all spacious, and only has a small window I can peek out of. The window unfortunately was only about the size of my hand, so no escaping there. I sat on the cold cement ground and rested my head on my knees, trying to hold back tears with no prevail.

How did this happen? I try to think of the decisions I made leading me to this moment, and what I could have done differently knowing what I know now.

I know that for sure, the morning of my birthday, I wouldn’t have even left my home. In my gut I knew something was wrong, and I went to school anyway.

Further, the moment I laid my eyes on the siblings, I would have walked out of the library and never turned back.

Above all, I would have never returned home with them. After my aunt’s passing I should have gone to the police, and figured things out. With the weight of the world on my shoulders I made the decision to go with Ember and Beckett.

Ember. Does she know of Beckett’s deceitful choices? Or was she in on this as well, the whole time? I suppose I did blindly trust them, after only talking to Ember twice. She told tales of this whole new world, and I let myself blindly fall into it.

I can’t find it in my soul to believe Ember is evil, it’s not even fathomable. Beckett was a shock, because I’d let myself believe he was warming up to me, but in hindsight if anyone was going to be undercover it would have been him.

My stomach growled, and I moaned in pain. Dried blood from my chin coats my shirt, and my wrists ache from being stuck behind my back. For how long, I’m not sure. With it being as dark as it is, I can’t be sure how long I’ve been down here. They’ve fed me twice, so I think two days.

Two weeks since my birthday.

It feels as though it’s been a long time since Parallax spilled the beans on his secret weapon, that it was someone I’d spent a lot of time with recently, and then had the vamps bring me to the cell.

For reasons I don’t quite understand they didn’t take the souls from my pocket. I can feel them there, the solid orb pushing into my leg. It brings me comfort knowing at the very least I’ve taken them from his hold. Until I found myself in his hold, I guess.

I’m his lone prisoner. That’s another thing I’m sure of, when they brought me down here into his basement all of his cells were empty.

I heard a door open, then shut, then footsteps approaching my cell. Fear struck my heart, knowing damn well I can’t protect myself, and I pushed my back into a far corner. I watched a rat run away, at least he’s able. I could almost laugh, that at this moment I am jealous of a rat.

My skin itched as I waited to see who comes towards me, will it be Parallax? Willing to torture me for the souls in my pocket? Vamps? Here to suck me dry?

It’s Beckett, his pale face comes into view and rage builds through my body. He’s flanked by two vamps, why he needs bodyguards I don’t know.

“Oh, I was hoping it was your dad.” I say sarcastically after finding my voice, and I see him flinch. Good.

“Astra, please-”, his tone was pitiful and he murmured to me as if to keep the conversation between us.

“Please what?” I raised my eyebrows incredulously, and he looked as though he chokes on what he originally wanted to say.

“I was gonna say, please understand-”, a sharp laugh bursts from my mouth, cutting him off.

“Understand? Please, I understand plenty.” Except I don’t, I don’t understand how someone can pretend to be nice but then do this. Or I suppose, he hasn’t pretended too much. I’ve known since the beginning that he had his demons, Ember told me so herself. She also told me he used dark magick, I guess I was just silly for overlooking it.

It now seems almost as if it was in front of me the whole time, I knew from the first second he looked at me that something was off. His glare was cold, and he himself told me that the enticing shocks I’d felt were something to run away from.

It’s just that the very idea of our births meaning something so drastic was laughable. That Beckett’s life, from the very moment he was born, was to mean the end of everything good. That my birth was just to stop anything Parallax created, and that it was a shot in the dark to stop him.

Neither of us had a choice.

‘And if this weapon is human, do you have what it takes to kill him?’ The memory rings through my mind, and I can remember just last night looking up at the stars as he asked me the confusing question.

‘Is the weapon human?’ I’d asked, it was an obvious question at the time.

‘Does it matter?’ The big question, that I now recognize as it’s double meaning. Not just, do I have what it takes to kill someone? Further, do I have what it takes to kill Beckett?

‘I suppose, if his very creation was to destroy the world just as mine was to save it, then I really have no choice in the matter do I?’ I’d said that in confidence. Now, I feel that falter.

Beckett’s voice snapped me back from my memory, back to the cruel reality of right now.

“Astra, he’s my dad. What would you do in my position?” I sighed, feigning deep thought. He leaned into the bars that hold me captive and tried to reason with me. Truly he’s lost his mind.

“Hmm, well. I don’t know, because your dad killed mine!” My words slice like a knife, and I can see his regret at his comment. I don’t let it faze me, I don’t care much for his guilt right now.

“Astra, please,” he pleaded now. I almost feel guilty, almost. But the throbbing pain of the chains he had designed just for me kept me from crossing that line.

“Did Ember know? Nova?” I demanded in response, I don’t care much for him right now. But I wanna know, to ease my soul, that my two friends never wanted to hurt me.

Beckett paused for a long moment, lacing his arms through the bars and allowing himself to look at ease; even though I can see stress edging his face. “You and Ember were both unaware of the going ons.”

I feel the relief like a rock off my chest, it makes things a bit better to know my first friend never wished for my death. But Alatar, and Nova?

“Alatar?” I don’t say more, his name is the question alone. This time the pause lasted longer, and the vamps who stood a few feet behind him shuffled impatiently. I can barely see them in the dull light, but their pale bare chests are hard to miss.

“You know Parallax is going to want those souls from you,” he finally said and I let out a sigh. I did know this, and I also know I’d rather die than give these helpless people to him. I know my aunt is in this orb, I can feel that in my bones, and possibly my uncle and Ember’s parents.

“Do you think I’m going to just hand them over? I thought you knew me better than that.” Beckett gave me a small smile, and even though every nerve of my being was pissed; a small part of me enjoyed seeing a smile on his face. I’m so stupid.

“Ember was right about you, she usually is about people. She’s always known you’d be great. Anything I do, I do for my sister Astra. Know that, please if anything believe that I do everything I do for her.” His words weigh heavy, and I want to bite back with a snarky tone, but his eyes are bright with emotion so I drop it.

My dry throat caused me to cough, and I struggled to swallow. Where is Ember with an herbal remedy when you need it? Or an Aunt Amelia, to remind you to hydrate. My heart pangs.

“Can we give her some water? At the very least?” Beckett asks the bodyguards and they shrug. “Get her some water,” he demands this time.

“Why does she need it? She’s gonna die anyway,” one of them said, making my skin break out in a chill.

“Does your father know you’re playing nice with her?” The other one asked, and I saw fear strike in Becketts eyes.

“What I talk about with my father is my business, do I need to be telling my father that you’re disobeying orders?” Beckett snapped, and that got them moving. They rush away at vampire speed, and I’m left alone with Beckett.

“Wow, big man-” I say sarcastically but the way he turns back to me quickly makes my words bunch in my throat.

“Do not give my father those souls. Do you understand?” He spoke in a rushed tone, his words jumbling. But I hear them loud and clear. “Astra, if he gets those souls, everything is doomed. I know now how he will close the portals, it’s by sacrificing a thousand souls. And he can’t take them from you, he cannot touch them, so do not give them over.” I nodded.

“He was able to trap them, sacrificing vamps to steal them, but whenever he tried to touch them his hand started to die. They needed to be given to him willingly by someone pure-”

It’s all he could say before the vamps reappear, they have a bowl of water. They dropped it to the floor, the metal dish clanging and echoing in the hall, and they kicked it at me.

“Drink up, dog.” They say, and start laughing hysterically. I internally groaned, I will not drink out of a bowl like a dog.

“Parallax will want to meet with you in the morning, so I recommend you get some sleep before then. We will fetch you at dawn.” Beckett says, his voice loud and hard, but I can still see fear in his eyes.

He gives me one last longing look, a look that tells me ‘understand what I said’, before the three of them leave and I’m left alone once again with the rats. This time, less sure of things I’d been so sure about.

Now, there are a few things I am mostly certain of. One, I will not hand over these souls to Parallax. Two, a part of Beckett is still pure. Three, someway, somehow, I will escape and kill Parallax him myself.

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