I’ve arrived at Dark Academy. Coveted with secrets and prestige – it was known for one thing.
There was no other Academy you’d rather be sent to join!
A strange condition upon entry is that you must forget everything you know on the outside.
So the prestige part? Well - I was told that in the last few minutes by the guide.
Now all I know is the grand multileveled Academy, set in dense fog between mountains, is a palace of bright colours on the inside. It’s lit every foot by a separate candle or lantern. It is so beautiful.
In fact, it is so entrancing, that I’ve lost my way from the main introductory tour in the lobby.
The gate. The bridge. The garden. Then, the moment we all entered the palace-like Academy - I immediately strayed through the enormous lobby.
I’m not sure I could help myself.
I was disorientated almost.
The scent of this higher-education Academy is liquorice, turning to melting iron – and changing to amber... ethereal and magical.
I glance around one tall pulsing pillar filled with veins of white, and I notice the tour is gone.
To my relief there is a man now aware of me, after exiting a heavy wooden door close behind my spot.
I stare at him. The well dressed man with black hair and dark red eyes is in a clean black suit. He spots me immediately, looking very awkward and in awe of this place, all on my own.
“Are you lost?” the handsome fellow walks right up to me and puts a hand on my back, making me blush as he turns me back the way I had come, “We pick the cherries this way.”
I’m trying to speak up but I can’t.
I’m smiling like an idiot though, and staring up at him, at the sharp silver I see at his lip.
Is that a fang?
He glances down at me, while I’m still staring up, a little too hard, “Do you speak – how old are you?”
“21,” I whisper.
“You seem unsure about that,” and he’s sure of that.
I’m still staring at his fang like an idiot.
“Are you a vampire?” I ask, stupidly, “Vampires aren’t... real.”
“I’m sorry, what’s your name?” he seems to self-correct himself, as if he would have preferred to ask me that sooner.
“Wynter,” I admit, shyly.
“Wynter – do you remember crossing the bridge?” he stops our slow walk to stare into my face.
I happily stare back.
“Yes,” this was an easy question.
“Okay. Well. You died to get here,” he advises me, “…yes, I know, it’s hard to imagine…”
“I –” I want to deny it but I can’t remember so... I stare blankly.
M-maybe I was staring so much because I knew so little. Almost like a dream that you see and recognise but don’t understand. But I wasn’t confused. I was just - in awe. Still.
And he was so startlingly handsome - and real - in front of me. Like some prince straight out of a fairy tale.
“My name is Darc,” he tells me.
“With a c,” Darc inhales slowly, as he explains, “I’m two thousand years old, Wynter. Can you comprehend that?”
We start walking again slowly, his hand still guiding me thoughtfully.
I’m not really sure what he’s trying to tell me.
So I say nothing.
Darc asks me, “…are you shy or something…?”
I was just… unsure.
So, I remain silent.
I continue to walk with him, his hand always on my back, guiding me back to the tour that I’ve wandered from.
I ask, as I gain confidence with our slow walk in the Academy, “What do you mean, pick cherries – what you said before, like fruit picking?”
“The new girls,” Darc’s tone tapers off, as if he doesn’t need to say it, and he seems bored, “They meet their Revivers – you’ll serve whoever took your soul. You’ll have some freedoms to learn, but it really depends who chose you…” he lets that sink in, “…do you not believe me when I say this, Wynter?” he asks so many questions and I don’t have any of the answers.
But I am sure of one thing.
He’s playing a prank or setting up a joke. I never died. I was breathing!
“…I’m alive…” I contradict him, as I answer carefully, “And you’re not two thousand years old.”
“Let me explain. The Academy is to practice for a war, and you’re not here to learn the magic of Under, but to serve us who are practicing our demon craft,” Darc is amused but not threatened, “You’ll learn as you go… it takes some time. Do you know what your ability is? We only choose companions, worthy of our time.”
“No,” this answer is easy.
He said ability. Like I had a super power or something. Ha. He really liked to weave complicated stories. I was waiting for the punch line. It was taking a long while, however.
“Right,” Darc pats my back, reassuring me, “You’ll be okay.”
“I’m fine,” I answer him.
Darc stops walking, however, suddenly tensing by my side.
I stop with him – I follow his stern gaze.
What I know of reality shatters.
Forget a fang!
I gape as I see a green hulking giant walking straight towards us.
This demon has got razor sharp teeth and yellow eyes.
He’s the most terrifying monster I’ve ever seen.
He’s triple Darc’s height.
A freaking orc.
“You found my cherry,” the monster talks to Darc, “The stupid human ran away from the other witches.”
I’m frozen at Darc’s side.
I hadn’t run! But I was ready to now –
What the hell was this orc thing, this place, these people?
What bridge had I crossed, where I lost my senses - my basic memories?
This all felt like a dream – but I don’t have time to muse.
“Why’d you choose a mortal, Gorg?” Darc asks, breaking my panic, his tone is neutral.
“I wanted her flesh, I’m done with witches,” Gorg doesn’t slow his approach – walking right up to me and grabbing my arm, pulling me over to his side, “Have a shit day, Darc, she’s my cherry, not yours.”
Darc has a hand by his nose, as if to ward off a smell I can’t personally detect. His thumb brushes his pink lips, and he eyes me closely as Gorg pulls me away with him abruptly.
I follow, completely bereft with what else to do – his green hand was covering almost all my arm, he was so huge.
“This way,” Gorg’s voice rumbles through his arm into my bones – shaking me with it’s force.
I’m living a nightmare.
He takes me down a large hall and opens a side door.
We enter a room full of naked girls bathing!
I’m gasping and looking away in embarrassment, while Gorg is chuckling and taking me off the side toward a huge mirror – rusting in all corners.
He shows me my reflection in the corner of this washroom.
I try not to look at the green monster. Instead I stare at my face - and I’m shocked. My brown hair is matted, I’m so pale, my neck is bruised - my eyes are black - my lips are dry and cracked. I was covered in injuries that I couldn’t feel. I was wearing a tattered formal silver dress and I hadn’t even realised.
“Wynter. My slave. Welcome to Dark Academy,” Gorg leans down to my ear, “I wrung your neck and breathed life back into you to be my whore for the day in the Under if you can last that long before I eat you – clean yourself up,” he growls as he turns to thump away, speaking to himself, “I hate my flesh covered in grime.”
As the demon walks away, his large feet shake the pebbles littered along the bath tiles.
All the girls thrown in here to bathe in the pool are watching the orc leave in complete shock.
I glance at them in confusion, then realise they’re looking past me.
Darc has come in right after Gorg left.
Darc has entered right away and every single gaze has averted away from him as he observes all the girls - but abruptly focuses on me.
As he approaches me again, I face him, shell-shocked.
“What’s happening?” I whisper tightly to Darc. I am confused, but that is an understatement.
Darc stands before me to explain, “Mortals aren’t allowed in this Academy – it’s breaking a clause, you’ll have to face the council.”
“I didn’t choose this,” my hands tremble, as I place them on my stomach.
“I know, but Gorg can’t be sentenced – only mortals,” Darc shrugs.
“I’m – I – but I didn’t do anything. I can’t be charged for anything,” I don’t know why I’m complaining, it’s not like I knew the rules of this very real nightmare.
Darc’s reply shocks me, “You’re mortal, that’s enough to charge you.”
“I’m innocent,” I’m still defending myself. I wish I knew why, but I simply can’t help myself.
Darc pauses, as if this is something to smile at, but he remains serious enough, “I know,” he tugs me with him, and I hear more gasps from the water.
I follow him. He might be a demon too but at least he wasn’t triple the normal height and green with rows of sharp teeth. The fangs on Darc I had seen were less intimidating.
We thankfully leave the bathing area, and he takes me to a private garden in the Academy. Darc stands under light mist from the dense fog, while he stares into the nothing sky and I stand by his side, while he thinks to himself.
“What is this place - Dark Academy - what is it for?” I ask him.
“Oh, we’re just preparing for world domination – to rule the mortal realm, it takes many millennia to prepare for such an event, while we reside at peace in the Under,” Darc turns his head and tilts it down at me, “Mortals aren’t allowed here because you’re too desired and will distract from the vital education we teach. Any mortals who have come here have been sentenced to immediate beheading. You’re probably going to die again.”
“No, no,” I find my voice, begging, “Please –”
“Why should you live?” Darc asks, “You’ll die again eventually. Ah, I guess that’s a good reason,” Darc now speaks to himself, answering his own question, “We rise this year to bring hell to earth, so you may as well live until then...”
“I don’t even remember ‘Earth’ – or anything before this.”
“Are you a virgin too, by any chance?” Darc asks, raising a brow, inquisitive.
“Yes,” I know this.
“Done. Perfect, we’ll use you for the Sacrifice for Passage, now you have a good reason to stay and a reason to be unharmed while you remain with us,” Darc is too calm as tells me this dark fate, unfolding before me.
And I’m too scared to ask - but I should ask – “Sacrifice for Passage?” I whisper, blood draining from my already pale cheeks.
“Don’t worry about it,” Darc smirks just a little, a handsome little smirk – with cool cool red eyes.
He’s so – so calm.
He makes me feel calm.
“What about Gorg?” I ask.
“Don’t worry about him either,” Darc shakes his head, his nostrils flaring, “You’re mine now.”
“Shh, don’t think,” Darc turns to face me fully, swipes my chin with his finger, pinching my flesh for a second before letting go. A cute pinch.
I could swear he shivers with it though, but he shakes it off.
“Mmm,” Darc looks me over again, while I still stand there, confused and apparently revived or whatever that meant, “I should introduce you to the others – my friends.”
“…your friends…?” I pale even more.
“They’re not orcs,” Darc tries not to purse his lips, “They’re vampires. Like me.”
“They’ll love to tou - to see you, don’t worry – they haven’t met a mortal in at least a hundred years since the last one came through before she was slaughtered. Pardon me,” Darc regrets his language, but quickly changes the subject, “Follow,” he grabs my elbow.
“…what if I... what if I don’t want to follow you…?” I ask it, a dead-end question.
His eyes dilate as we stare at one another.
“...ah, mortals,” Darc closes his eyes, his brows twitching, “The passion – the rage,” he catches my eye again, “Futile emotions. Completely pointless here. Come with me.”
He’s still so calm.
I follow him.
“Do you feel passion?” I ask strangely, while walking behind, but what I really mean to ask is do you feel anything?
Darc almost answers me – but then he holds his silence.
…who was this vampire?
And why did he look… kind of… a little bit… familiar?