“What in the world is going on in here?” Lillian demands as she comes bursting into the guest room in their house, AKA the location where I am currently being held captive. “Axel, Alyssa, what have you done?”
Apparently, finding me duct taped to a chair in the middle of the room is now what she was expecting to find when she received the call from Axel demanding that she come home immediately because there was an emergency.
I completely understand her reaction though because this is the last way I expected to be when I came to.
The skin around my ankles and wrists have already begun to chafe, droplets of warm blood running down from where I have been struggling to break free. If ever there was a time for that weird strength I experienced the other day to kick in, now would be it.
However, from the petrified look on Alyssa’s face, I can tell that my eyes have gone dark again and now I am trying to figure out if there is a way to make the whole super strength thing kick in. Unfortunately, the pounding in my head is so loud that I can barely focus on anything but it.
“He told me had to!” Alyssa instantly caves, ratting her brother out without hesitation. She drops the roll of duct tape onto the floor, moving so that she is now safely hidden behind her mother. “He told me that we had to get her here as soon as possible or else she was going to kill us all.”
Lillian rests her hand on her hips, stern-faced as she taps an impatient foot. “Axel?”
“Okay, so maybe I exaggerated the situation a bit more than I had to, but look at her!” He points an accusatory finger in my direction. “I told you about what happened the other day. She is one of them.”
Lillian is at my side, slowly peeling off the layers of tape as if it might spare me some pain. It does not. “So you decided your best course of action was to kidnap her, bring her here, and tape her to a chair? Just look at her, Axel, she has no idea what is going on. We talked about this last night and I told you that I would come up with the plan. I told you that, if your accusations were true, we would find a way to handle it. I did not tell you to go rogue and do what you felt was best!”
I zero my sights in on Axel, my glare locking with his as I wait for his mother to finish unbinding me so that I can exact my revenge.
Oh man, I cannot wait to get my hands on him.
She unfurls the last layer of tape, her hands flying to her mouth as the full extent of my injuries becomes visible. The skin that was previously hidden by tape is bloodied and raw, purplish bruises already forming alongside the swelling. “Eveline, dear, I know that you are well past the point of anger right now and that lashing out at my son seems like a good idea, but I need you to restrain yourself so that I can properly explain to you what is going on.”
“Or, I could rip his throat out,” I offer as what I see to be a very viable alternative. “Maybe see if he actually has a spine and, if he does, rip it out and wear it around my neck like a scarf.”
“Bring it, Reaper,” Axel snarls in response.
Well, that was a weird way to answer my threat.
The strangeness of his reply leaves me unable to leap from my chair and cause him twenty different types of pain as I had originally planned to do. Anger releases its hold on me and my vision returns to normal, confusion setting in immediately.
I turn towards Lillian. “Um, what did he just call me? Seriously, what the hell is going on here? Someone needs to start talking and fast or I am going to start calling every form of law enforcement possible.”
“Alyssa, go downstairs,” Lillian instructs. “Axel, Eveline, and I are going to have a conversation and I will feel much better if I knew you were downstairs, just in case. Should something happen and Axel gives the signal, then you are to take your phone and run. You don’t stop running until you are far from here and then you call you Aunt Marilyn and explain what happened. Under no circumstances do you come back here without her or one of the boys, do you understand?”
Alyssa backs out of the room slowly, her eyes never leaving mine. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Axel, you can wait by the door. I would much rather you wait downstairs with your sister but, since I know that you are incapable of following directions, I know that asking you to leave this room would be a waste of both of our time. However, if you are going to remain here for this, then you are also going to remain silent. Thanks to what you have done, this is going to be a hard enough conversation and I don’t need you throwing your two cents in whenever you feel like it. Understood?”
Axel nods, remaining silent as he leans against the doorframe.
Lillian lets out a heavy sigh, sitting herself down on the bed next to the chair. “First off, allow me to apologize once again for the way my son has behaved. Ever since his father passed, he has become quite protective of our family but sometimes he goes overboard. Now, with that being said, it is still no excuse for what he did to you. Nor does it excuse him from dragging his sister into it, but I do know for a fact that she would not have helped him unless she was convinced that there was no other choice. I was planning on taking the evening to look into the accusations my son made against you before acting but it seems that he chose to take matters into his own hands. I hope now that he sees how horrible of an idea that was as it seems that you are naive to what is happening to you.”
“And what exactly is happening to me? Has he been drugging me? Is that what all this has been, some kind of drug-induced delusion? I mean, that sure would explain a hell of a lot of things.”
“This has nothing to do with drugs, or at least it should not.” She glances over at Axel, who only shakes his head to confirm that he hasn’t slipped me anything. “Good, I was hoping that was his answer. He may be on the reckless side but I don’t believe that he would cross that line without reasoning. He may have his flaws but he is still a good person.”
I take a moment to continue trying to reign in my anger. “We will have to agree to disagree on that last statement. So all of this has really been happening and isn’t just something going on in my head? My eyes going all black, the whole running super fast thing, Axel making those plants attack me, and whatever he did in the gym to cause me to pass out, it has all been real?”
Lillian tosses a wear glare over at her son, shaking her head in disappointment. “Really, Axel? You can never make things easy on me, can you? You and I are going to have a little talk later on why you should never leave things out when trying to convince me to cause harm to a young girl. You attacked her with your plants? Yes, Eveline, all of that actually happened. I know that you must have a ton of questions and I am willing to answer them the best that I can, but that will require that you keep an open mind while I am doing so. Can you do that?”
I nod in agreement and do my best not to laugh because that is usually what happens when I find myself in ridiculous situations.
It was just confirmed by a woman who has no reason to lie to me that everything I have been dealing with has neither been caused by drugs or a mental breakdown. I could argue with her about how it could very well be mental but, at this point, I kind of want to see where this is headed.
“Are you guys aliens?”
Axel snorts, eliciting yet another unpleasant look from his mother. He holds his hand up defensively, still smiling as he does.
“No,” she answers. “We are not aliens. They are, and have been referred to throughout time, as Nexxus. They are being that are almost identical to humans in every way, except they can control the elements.”
“So, um, so that’s how Axel did the things with the plant? It is because he’s a Nexxus?” My heart speeds up to an ungodly rate, sweat breaking out across my forehead.
“He and Alyssa both. Axel’s ability is linked with nature and, from what I assume that he did, it is only a sliver of what he is capable of. Being that he turned eighteen already and has had ample time to practice with his abilities, his powers reach beyond using roots simply to inconvenience people. Alyssa’s ability is a bit more complex. She is able to control the air itself, which is how I am assuming the two of them managed to get you here in the first place. When I had Alyssa’s aunt teach her how to remove the air from certain spaces, both small and large, I intended it to be used for self-defense only and not in assisting her brother in his schemes. You see, Alyssa can form air in places where it doesn’t naturally occur, bend it to her will, or remove it completely. What she did was remove all the air surrounding you, which meant pulling the air from your lungs as well and that would have caused you to pass out.”
Wow, that is super creepy and frightening, all at the same time.
My mind continues to work on processing everything being crammed into it. “You said ‘they’, as in Axel and Alyssa. Are you not one of them?”
“I am not. I am completely human. Due to a random flaw in Nexxus DNA, almost all of the Nexxus that are born are male. My husband was Nexxus, though. Whatever gives them their abilities is strong enough to be passed over to children born from a human and Nexxus relationship, though those are quite rare as well. It is not forbidden, but there are a few Nexxus families who insist on keeping their bloodline pure. Luckily, my husband’s family was never like this and they welcomed our marriage, never treating me as anything less than their equal.”
“So, if you, um, they aren’t aliens, then where did they come from?”
She smiles. “That, honey, is one question I cannot answer simply because I do not know the answer. The Nexxus have been around for as long as any of them remember and, since they are not immortal, there are none around from the past to pass on information regarding their origins. We’d hoped to come across one with a link to the original Nexxus but, much like ourselves, they have always tried to remain hidden and, therefore, their past is a mystery. Some of them believe that the Nexxus were actually the first beings here and that humans come from a Nexxus connection that failed to make a gifted child, but these are just stories and there is no evidence to back it up.”
I motion to the still silent boy looming in the doorway, the one now regarding me with a strange look instead of an angry one. “Is that why he hates me? Is it because he’s this Nexxus thing and I’m not?”
“I wish it was as simple as that but it goes much deeper, I am afraid. At first, I thought it was just a general disliking but, since it has been revealed to us what you are, it has to do with something else.” Sadness replaces the smile on her face and I realize that, whatever she is about to tell me, is not something she is pleased with having to say. “You might have realized by now that, while you are not like my children, you aren’t like other humans either. You, my dear, are what our kind refer to as Reapers. Your kind is the reason that the Nexxus has been in hiding for so many years and maintain a low profile to this day. For as long as there have been Nexxus, there have been reports of Reapers. I guess it is the world’s way of balancing everything out, but that hasn’t stopped the Reapers from hunting down Nexxus and almost wiping them all out. Reapers are dangers, unpredictable beings and, unless they are in their natural state, are completely undetectable from those around them. They gather their strength by feeding off the emotions of nearby humans, but this has been proven not to negatively affect those being fed off of unless the Reaper latches on to a certain human. Reapers are naturally drawn to Nexxus and most believe it is because of a Nexxus’ connection to the elements. Reapers are energy feeders and, being that Nexxus are connected to the biggest energy source of them all, nature, it makes them irresistible to Reapers. A Nexxus’ energy is like steroids to them, fueling their powers and making them stronger.”
I shake my head. “No offense, but I think you might have your facts skewed. I am not drawn to Axel or Alyssa. In fact, the only reason I have had this much interaction with them is because Axel has made it his new mission in life to annoy me to death and the world has been giving him a big hand.”
My brain pokes at me, wondering if everything I just said is the truth. I might not have been drawn to Axel the first time we met, but I have found myself more aware of him since he returned to school. The first day I couldn’t stop staring at him, even after he gave me the finger. Then there was Alyssa, who I was definitely drawn to the moment I saw it was her.
Did I use those waves as an excuse to get close to her without even knowing it?
“You might not have been at first, but the more you have been exposed to them the stronger your body’s cravings for their energy became. This explains why you ended up at our house the other night. That fever was a symptom of your powers as they seem to have begun to present themselves and that fever was your body’s way of trying to fight them off. Now, I am not certain why it would attempt to fight something that should come very naturally to you, but I also mind it seeing as it seems to have prevented you from causing harm to my children. Eveline, if you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?”
“How long until your birthday?”
“Five months, on March 1st.”
She makes a thoughtful noise, rubbing her hands together she does. “Unlike Nexxus, who begin to exhibit signs of their gifts as early as puberty, a Reaper doesn’t come into their powers until they have hit eighteen. It is referred to as ‘coming of age’ and, from what I have learned about the Reapers, a celebration of sorts is held during that time. What it involves is not something I could tell you, only that there is a celebration. This is the first time I have heard about a Reaper coming into their powers early but, if it is happening now, it means that your hunger for the Nexxus will only be present when you are struggling with your emotions. As time passes and your birthday grows near, that hunger will increase. That day you turn eighteen it will hit you full force, your powers enveloping you and you will want nothing more than t-”
“To kill Axel, Alyssa, and anyone else like them,” I finish for her.
“It will be more than a want for you, you will need to kill them. Being anywhere close to a Nexxus will drive you mad, as not killing one goes against your very nature. I’ve heard rumors of Reapers who have tried to fight their urges in an attempt to live in harmony with the Nexxus around them, but those rumors have never ended well. Either the Reaper murdered all the Nexxus around them or the drove themselves insane, the voices in their head becoming too much to handle.”
And at those words, I swear the floor drops out from underneath me. I hear myself gasp as reality, which is slowly becoming an enemy of mine, roundhouse kicks me in the face.