This is chapter/part/installment two of a collaboration with the soon-to-be-renowned author J.R. Wagner . His parts, found below mine (his idea, I think, I may have the instructions wrong), can also be found at the link. More on his forthcoming book Exiled, book one of The Never Chronicles, can be found here. My parts are going to be mostly raw and unedited, unless I find a little extra time. Enjoy:
I awoke from the blow to my head rather quickly, but opened my eyes very slowly as soon as I realized where I was. I wanted to listen in on any conversations, knowledge is power they say, and considering I found my hands and legs bound, I could use a little power, if it was to be had.
“Keep an eye on ‘im,” I heard Davis say. She was the boss of all interior teams, the leader of the rovers; black leather clad killers.
“He’s out,” Manny replied, “and besides, I tied him when that durn fool of yours dropped him here.”
Manny was the second level Commander, older than Davis, but lower in rank, and lower in power. Inside the women ruled, we men followed orders, and if we didn’t, well, there were the rovers to think about, weren’t there?
“Liza is not a fool,” Davis snapped, “she was following orders not to kill him. He’s the one, the Sentinel, with a capital ‘S’.”
I almost mimicked exactly what Manny did, which was inhale so quickly that it made a whistling sound as the air passed through his mostly toothless mouth, but I didn’t, I managed to stay still, calm, unconscious looking.
“Bullcrap,” Manny said, pushing his chair back, the wooden feet sliding easily along the relatively new vinyl floor. This fact stuck with me, I must ask Manny where he found the materials, my room needed a new floor and all the good stuff had been destroyed so long ago.
“All signs point to it,” Davis explained, pacing now, her perfectly shined black leather high heeled boots passing in front of my slitted eyes with each lap. They had trussed me in one of the corners of Manny’s office, so I was lucky in a way, I was able to see Davis spin around, the movement fanning her long coat, exposing just a hint of red leggings above the boot tops, just below her left knee. Another fact that would stick with me…for a long time.
“Records show this is his fourth return, he excels in all his duties, he has the mark…”
Manny interrupted her, “many men have the mark, it doesn’t prove a thing.”
“And none of them live past their 15th year,” Davis replied, “also part of the prophecy.”
“Some do,” Manny said, hesitantly, almost whispering the words.
“Yes, Manny, we know,”
“We’ve watched you too,” she told him, “even if your care-for tried to hide the mark.”
Manny’s hand slipped unconsciously to the spot on his neck where his care-for (he preferred mother but the word really had no meaning anymore) had cut out the mark of the Sentinel, a reddish brown figure that resembled crossed swords, if you squinted and really wanted it to look that way.
“You, too, are part of the prophecy,” Davis continued, “you will now begin to train the Sentinel in the ways of magic, as your care-for did for you.”
Again Manny was shocked at her knowledge, he thought no one knew the things his mother had taught him.
“And you, Grant, you would do well to learn quickly,” Davis had stopped directly in front of me, “because this one, the one who breached; she’s also spoken of in the prophecy, and while she may be scared now, she will gain confidence with each kill, with each rover she takes down. You must lean the magic, it is the only way to stop her, to keep her from learning our secrets.”
I closed my eyes tight, knowing my ruse had failed somehow, and listened as Davis left the office. Manny shuffled over to where I lay and began to untie the cords that bound my hands and feet.
My mind knows something happened between walking away from the outer limit barrier and squatting in the corner of a shadowed room taking a leak yet, regardless of how hard I try, the memories will not return. I finish, look around for something to wipe with, find nothing and decide it isn't worth worrying about at the moment -especially since I've no idea where I am.
As I buckle my belt, I'm relieved to find my knife still hanging from its leather sheath. The sun is rising, I can tell by the blue light that filters through the paneless window. I cautiously approach the window and gaze down onto the street below. Judging from the size of the person walking along the sidewalk I must be near the top of one of the tallest downtown buildings.
Person? Downtown? My body tenses as I press myself against the wall and out of view. When I slowly peek around the paintless wooden trim that shows no signs of ever holding glass between it and the fire-scorched exterior, She (no chance a man would wander downtown) hasn't changed her direction or pace. She didn't see me. I watch, curious as she continues along the sidewalk until reaching an intersection. She looks both ways then hurriedly crosses the street and hops back onto the sidewalk where she resumes her more casual pace.
I'm tempted to shout down to her but her behavior causes me to remain silent. I've never seen anyone move in this fashion -worry free. I've only heard stories of a time when we didn't have to constantly be looking over our shoulders and gripping our knives. She continues another block then turns east. The clouds are thick this morning yet even at this height, I can tell she is wearing black leather. Whoever she is, she is well connected. Her jacket hovers just above the ground as she walks, blowing slightly in the breeze until she is obstructed by the single wall standing where once an entire building rose from the ground.
I turn and cautiously make my way into the hall searching for a sign of a stairwell or ladder sticking up from the hole infested floor. While I don't remember how I came to be up here, there must be a way down. As I move closer toward the center of the building, the natural light from the perimeter dims and I almost step through a crack wide enough to send me down to the next floor if I'm lucky, to the bottom if I'm not.
I move slower as my anxiety increases. I can feel my heart beating against my chest. I can't remember the last time I was this worked up. I need to relax. I pause and take a few deep breaths. That's when I hear it -faint at first but growing louder with each second that passes. A ding. A bell. Ding, ding, ding.
My knife is in my hand and I'm crouched on the floor as I slowly move toward the sound. Ding, ding. Forget my chest, I can hear my heart beating in my head. I can feel the sweat rolling down my neck and drenching my shirt between my breasts. I continue toward the sound, crouched, knife ready, taking long, low steps as I hug the wall.
I see something along the wall. At least, I think I do. In the darkness it's hard to distinguish shapes. I take another long, low step forward. I see something for sure. There is a light source ahead. Ding, ding, ding. I run my free hand over my head pushing the sweat away from my eyes -grateful I had my head shaved just before I left.
I notice my hand shaking as I draw nearer to the shape -to the light source. My hand never shakes. I can see there is a hole in the wall ahead. The shape appears to be a part of the wall that has fallen into the hallway. I relax a little. Still, something doesn't feel right. Ding, ding, ding.
A few more steps and the yellow light is bright enough to make out the ragged outline of the hole in the wall. Two more steps and I'm there. I step up on to the fallen chunk of wall to look into the hole, which is slightly higher than my eye level. The wall chunk gives beneath my weight. Not in the way a brittle wall would give -it was soft, mushy, gross. Something crunches then I feel moisture in my boots. The light from the hole casts just enough to see what it is that I'm standing on -in. If I hadn't been so transfixed on the damn hole, I would have seen it sooner and not stepped onto it. A body. Rotting, stinking -but everything stinks these days. I'm sure I don't smell much better than the corpse on the floor beneath my boots.
Ding, ding, ding. My heart is racing now, my breathing more rapid than if I were running full tilt. I try to step back but find my boot is lodged in the...the body somehow. Grasping the lower edge of the hole, I lift myself slightly and manage to pull my boots free. As I lower myself to the ground something happens -I slip in the wetness. I slip and fall onto this person I've just trodden on.
Splat. We are face to face. My face is actually touching hers. It is clearly a woman -that much I can tell as I lift my head away in horror. A girl actually. I shriek and roll off her simultaneously releasing what was left in my bladder (good thing I didn't bother taking the time to wipe) expecting to hit the hard floor of the hall. Instead, I feel the air whooshing past my body as I fall into darkness. Ding, ding, ding grows faint as does the yellow light above. I scream for the first time in my adult life as I anticipate the impact.