Comfortably Numb

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Chapter 25

Andy's POV

Once again I am standing in the dark, I cannot see an inch past my face, and yet I know that I am not alone. He is here with me, gripping my hand in silent understanding.

"Just breathe, Meda, just breathe" His voice is calm, collected, and holds just a hint of excitement for what we both know is coming next. I suck in a deep breath and squeeze his hand a tiny bit tighter.

"Places!" The hiss flies across the dark.

I suck in one final deep breath before THE moment and then I lift one nimble leg into the air. I stop moving when I reach the perfect place: exactly two inches from his torso. Perfect. My arms flow over my head, prepping for the first sequence. And finally, my already ramrod straight back straightens that tiny bit more. He squeezes my hand, and slips his other one around my waist; this gives me the balance I need to be able to travel onto the tips of my toes.

"Breathe" He sighs.

I nod silently and then the curtain comes into view. Looking around, all that I can see is that glowing red curtain. And then it starts to rise.

It is almost like the curtain is a sound barrier, because the further up it travels, the more noises are revealed to my ears. I can hear the echoing applause now, bouncing off of the stone walls that surround us. I can also hear the quiet plucking of the orchestra as they prepare for their job. The slight hum of people talking and the hush that travels its way across the full theatre as they realize the curtain is being lifted.

A single spotlight is turned on, and I realize with a shock that the curtain is now fully up. I feel as if I am completely bare to the world. I slowly start to panic. But something-or someone- stops that with a gentle squeeze of my hand. He's still here. I can do this. I silently squeeze his hand and then begin counting the steps as the music swells.

1, 2, 3,
1, 2, 3,
1, 2, 3, 1, 2....

I spin away from his chest and smile as Ryker opens his arms to catch me. He lifts me into the air and I stretch. As he places me down his hands dance from my waist to my hands. We move in sync, and after another spin he hands me back to Steven. He smiles wide at me, and I return it. The three of us move together, splitting away. The second their hands are no longer on me, the spotlight that's been trained on us explodes. The dark slams around me again and my heart races.

I cannot hear anything except for the skittering of glass across the hardwood floors of the stage, and it's like my world has been covered by a blanket. The darkness from before has returned, but this time there is no one to comfort me. I feel as if the oxygen has been drained from the air, and there is no hope. I spin around and around, searching for somebody, anybody. The longer I am alone, the stronger my terror grips me.

I spin again, and this time a light catches my eye. I pause, lean forward and start squinting in hopes of discovering what the light source is. Once I do, I gasp and rush towards it, towards them.
They're leaning against each other, and they have matching wounds on their throats. Blood, vibrant and heavy, falls down their chests. I rush to close the distance and flutter my hands against their wounds, trying to stop the bleeding. I push past the part of me that is screaming out in agony and try to focus on saving them. Steven sighs a second before Ryker does, and although the part of me that is in agony screams that they're gone, I press harder, desperate to keep them alive.

"Andromeda" I freeze at the voice. That voice will haunt me for the rest of my life. It sounds cold, unfeeling, and above all: angry. I refuse to let go of their limp bodies to search for the man behind that voice; instead, I pull them closer, like a shield.

"Andromeda" His voice reaches out from the dark, setting my heart on fire. I ignore him to focus on the broken bodies of the men.

"Andromeda!" He screams. The anger is more prominent now, and I know that something bad is coming. I let out a shriek as the back of my hair is yanked so hard I feel as if it has been ripped out and my neck is violently turned towards the right. I let out a gasp at the body beside me. Where there had been only darkness, now there is death.

Arrows face, screwed up in a grimace stares back at me, lifeless. I scream at the blood dripping from her neck. The hand in my hair tightens painfully before whipping my head to the left.

Another body is strewn across the hardwood stage. I scream again as I recognize a battered Rowan, black bruising littered over his face and neck. The clear imprints of hands wrapped around his throat.

Seth jerks my head back to the men I've been trying to save. Their eyes are open wide, staring at nothing. There's bruises littered across every inch of skin I can see, and my sensitive nose can smell more blood from beneath their clothes; I know that he's shoved that stupid knife in more places than just their throats.

I scream again and fight to pull myself away from Seth's iron grip. His hand only tightens in my hair, and I feel the steel of his knife press into my chest, not enough to draw blood, but close enough to force the struggling to stop. He tugs me off of Steven and Ryker, and moves us until I can see only him.

"Seth" He smiles at my recognition, but it is not friendly. It is taunting, cruel and devious. I open my mouth to question him, but he smirks and flicks his eyes down to his hands. My eyes follow his to the shiny object he clutches in his right hand that has a sticky substance matching that of the dripping blood from the people around me. The shine has been dulled from the life that drips from the sharp blade, but it still steals my breath as I catch up with the truth.

He smirks as I start screaming in horror. He shoves himself between my legs, grinding his covered lower half into my own. The expression on his face is torn between pure hatred and excited lust.

I scream out again as he thrusts against me, presses himself into places he has no right to; this only furthers his anger. He slaps me again and I know that I will be badly bruised. He leans down a little further, pressing more weight into me, and flashes that damn knife once again. His eyes have gone wide with excitement, his face splitting into a massive grin.

He brushes the hair from my face, and I flinch. He smirks, and then opens his mouth.

"Bitch." And with that the knife is plunged into my chest, exactly where my heart used to be.

———————————————————————————

I wake up screaming once again. This time, it takes me a moment to stop the hoarse yell, even once I've realized that I'm awake.

I'd had the same dream every night since I had revealed myself to the Cardinal family. Every night is the same; terrifying nightmares, horrifying fight between my two sides, and then running until I couldn't breathe.

I sit up in my bed and think about the conversation I had with Arrow a few days ago.

"You know that you can talk to us, right?" Arrow asked out of the blue. I stared at her, confused. We were sitting at lunch, and Ryker and Rowan were off talking to their other friends. They'd been giving us one day a week to have lunch alone.

"Well..." she sighed. "The other day you said that you have pretty bad nightmares... and I can't imagine how it feels to experience what you went through over and over again every single night." She shuddered. I shrugged. "So if you ever wake up, and you need someone to reassure you, or even just distract you.... any one of us would be happy to help." She smiled at me and I found myself blushing for some idiotic reason.

"T-thanks." I whispered, never intending on following up on that particular offer.

It would be nice to talk to them... My wolf whispers.
But not about this. I whisper back.

But maybe they would distract us.... and maybe we could sleep more.

I do like the idea of going back to sleep, rather than running for hours on end. I sit in silence for several moments, before sighing and flicking my eyes to my clock. The numbers read 3:47 and I sigh again. It's not like they would even be up....

So, try to contact them. If they answer, they will distract us. And if they don't, no harm done.

I smile; that is a good plan.

I close my eyes and focus first on Arrow.

"Are you awake?" I push into her mind.

Fifteen minutes go by, and she never responds. I sigh before my wolf grumbles for me to try someone else. Ryker's face floats through my mind, and without thinking about it, I open my mind to him.

"Ryker, Are you awake?" I push into his mind. He doesn't respond.

I frown and push myself out of my bed. I start yanking clothes out of my drawers to change into, when his husky voice- thick with sleep- dances into my mind.

"Andy?" I shiver at the sound of my name in his sleep roughened voice.

"Yes..." I breathe. I feel a touch of happiness, and then a flood of sadness but recognize that these feelings are not my own. They're Ryker's.

"Are you ok?" I sigh, and sink back into my bed. I stretch out on my pillows and trace my eyes along the glowing stars on my ceiling.

"....I had a nightmare...." I hesitantly push back to him. I feel his sadness strengthen across our link.

"Do you want to talk about it?" I shake my head, and then remember he can't see me.

"No... I was hoping you might distract me?" I feel him shift in his bed, rolling over. He wipes his hands across his face and for a second it feels like he's touching my skin instead of his own.

"Of course," he murmurs. "How would you like to be distracted?"

"Tell me something, I guess.... I just don't want to think about this stuff anymore." My voice rolls out of me, heavy and dull. If it were a picture It would be painted in blues.

I focus back on Ryker. I feel as if we are sitting together, stretched out on the same bed. I feel like I could reach over and lace my fingers into his, and promptly blush at that intrusive thought.

"Well... what do you want me to tell you?"

"Tell me... about you I guess." I feel Ryker shift again, settling deeper into his bed, and I realize that our connection is deeper than it has ever been before. I feel kind of like he is invading my mind, and I am sinking into his. It feels like we are shifting into one time and space, and I can feel what he is, and he can feel what I am. But oddly, that thought doesn't panic me. Instead I find it rather... comforting.

"Well...." he pauses, thinking. I feel a tap on my thigh, and recognize that he is tapping his fingers on his.

"I'm a Gemini. I like long walks on the beach and flirting with danger. I like sunsets and puzzles and-"
"Shut up! That isn't what I meant!" I roll my eyes, amusement coloring my voice. I feel him chuckle and run his fingers through his hair.

"You told me to tell you about me!" He laughs. I smile and shake my head.

"No I want to know about the real you, not the fake dating profile you were trying to pass off as you."

"Ok, fine. I really am a Gemini though." I roll my eyes again, a smile on my face.

"Ok.." He raises his arms and folds them so they're sitting behind his head. I have a brief thought of sliding in beside him and resting my head on his bicep, but push it aside quickly, hopeful that he didn't catch it.

"My favorite color is blue, because it sparkles in the sun and makes me believe in the good things in this world. My favorite food is my pop's pancakes. I once ate only that for three months straight. My sister is a pain in my ass, and the exact brand of crazy that my best friend is. I'm training to take over the Alpha position from my dad whenever he's ready to pass it to me, and I'm genuinely worried that I'm not going to live up to the legacy he's leaving me...." he pauses. "Are those the kinds of things you're looking for?" I smile and let my eyes drift shut.

"Exactly that." I whisper. I feel him smile. "Ok.... I shifted for the first time when I was 11 years old, which was crazy. My parents were super surprised because most people don't change until they hit puberty. The world was so much brighter when I opened my eyes after the shift finished..." He thinks about the colour of the trees and I find myself smiling again, enjoying the peace of his mind. "And that first run... it was like magic. The feel of the wind on my face, the sun on my back... I never wanted to stop." I can practically feel the warmth of the sun, the breeze as he shoots through the trees. I wish that we were running together right now, sprinting through the forest so fast nothing can catch us.

He clears his throat and his thoughts drift away. I see my own face through his eyes, and I feel my heart start to race. I feel him shift on his bed, lowering his arms to his sides. Something inside of me softens, and I wish again that we were really sitting beside each other, so that I could twine my fingers with his.

"I think you're incredible. Every time you smile it's like the world stops. I am blown away by how smart, kind, sexy, funny, and wonderful you are. You are so strong and resilient, and you surprise me with everything you do. You went through hell and back... but you survived. I think you're talented and brave and you make everyone around you strive to be a better person. You are the person I admire most in this world and I am so thankful for every second I get to be a part of your life." I blush, and press my hands to my face, as if he is standing in front of me and can see my reaction.

"I don't want to hear about what you think of me!" I cry. "I want to think about things that are not me related!" He chuckles. "Ok ok. I guess I'll tell you about the time that Rowan and I convinced Arrow that she was actually Santa's daughter. We were 7 and Arrow was being a pain because she kept telling us that she was really pop and dad's favourite. She kept bringing it up whenever we were alone, and eventually I got sick and tired of it. I started by telling her that they HAD to be extra nice to her, because if they weren't they'd end up on the naughty list...."

I drift off to sleep at some point during the story, the soft rumble of Ryker's voice floating through my mind and a feeling of peace settling into my bones.
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