Hi all this is the Unedited version of the first chapter on my second book in my SoulSeries, my first book is titled SoulReader this one is SoulRival. Let me know what you think. You can also check them both out at www.thesoulreader.webs.com and www.thesoulrival.webs.com

 

Kylie

 

By age ten I wanted to die. By age thirteen, I knew I was living on borrowed time. At seventeen, I would do almost anything to make it happen. That was until the day I was shown how precious life could be. By then it was too late and death was on his way to collect a soul; not leaving until the debt owed was fulfilled.  That was the day death, became my unwitting nemesis, the day he took an innocent soul in place of mine. Deaths silver eyes burned deep inside my soul etching a permanent mark that would haunt me for the rest of my days… As I would make sure, I haunted his.

“Kylie?” A panicked small voice called to me from the end of a long dark tunnel. “Kylie, Oh god don’t leave me Kylie I need you.” The voice sounded funnily worried. I giggled, as if anyone would ever worry over me, a seventeen-year-old-drop-out-foster-care-kid, and part time run away. I floated in the darkness loving the sensation of nothing but empty space around me, no more worries or sadness ever again.  I knew what a burden living was but feeling free of everything was wonderful beyond words, “Kylie, I need you the little voice whimpered, pleading and crying. Suddenly I felt a tugging and something cool and damp griped my hand with all its force willing me to stay, when all I wanted was to float further into obscurity. Slowly the empty dark started to fade and the light grew brighter and brighter, as the surroundings started to become somewhat familiar through my drunken fog.

Another tight little squeeze, this time I looked down automatically as the sensation registered stronger this time. A little hand griped me tightly with every shallow shaking breath, Aimery’s tears flowing freely down his small, grubby cherub cheeks.  “Hey now if you squeeze my hand any tighter It will fall off.” I joked as I tried to see him clearly through the haze of alcohol trickling through my veins. Sitting up straighter in the orange ripped up chair, I wiped the stragglers of unkempt blonde hair out of my eyes. I seriously need a haircut I mumbled.

Aimery jumped up surprised at the sound of my slurred voice. “Kylie!!! I thought you had left me.” He jumped up and pulled me to my feet as the room swam before my eyes.

“Aimery, what are yoush doing heres? Aren’t yoush suppost to be shleeping in bed or something, don’t you have shhool tomorrow?” I tried my best to give him a stern motherly look through my tanked-up stupor, quickly giving up. I turned around slowly flopping over to the blankets spread out on the floor with a big soft fluffy pillow. “OOf! I think I need cophhey.”

 Aimery ran over to the little coffee pot sitting next to the pillow where I slept. “I’ll make it. You just rest and soon we will get this pumping through you.”

“Actually I think I’m going to hit the shower while you do all that.” I waved at the coffee pot before grabbing an old pink shredded towel. I sluggishly dragged myself over to the bathroom door and winced at the sight of the pale freckle faced girl staring back at me through the mirror. Her green eyes disproportionately large giving her a deer caught in a headlight look while her pale white skin made the freckles on her nose practically jump out at you. Her medium blonde hair flopped and scattered all around as if it had never seen a brush a day in her life. Her arms and legs, long and sinewy from summers filled with martial art camps. I let out a big sigh and the girl in the mirror mimicked it. Okay, so I wasn’t going to win any Miss America Pageants anytime in the near future; my look was more of an earthy one, and speaking of earthy. I lifted my left arm inhaling quickly, whew, I wrinkled my freckled nose, I really needed a shower--badly.  As I let the steamy hot water from the shower rain down on me I couldn’t help but feel a little dejected, not born beautiful and rich. Problem was boy’s didn’t like the girl next door who could potentially kick their butt. These day’s it is all about clubbing, glitz, glamour and damsels in distress like wilting dainty flowers. I laughed out loud surprising myself when I snorted. No one had ever accused me of being a dainty flower.

As the smell of percolated beans filled the air, I focused my attention on Aimery forcing my mind to clear. What is he doing here in the middle of the night? Usually he only comes over if his parents are fighting or his dad, the elephant, had let his anger get out of control again. Quickly I let my eyes scan his body looking for the usual signs. It was not hard to see the bruises even with my head so fuzzy. Damn! Of all nights for me to throw self-pity party, Aimery needed me. It wasn’t as if anyone else needed or wanted me, why did I have to get smashed tonight?  Aimery brought over a piping hot cup of coffee as I sat up quickly tucking my wet shoulder length hair behind my ear, doing my best to look like I had not been studying him.

“Soooo, come here often?” I joked, working on breaking the awkward silence, sipping on steaming black coffee. Aimery beamed a relieved toothy grin down at me as I patted the blankets next to me. “You look like you could use as much sleep as I could.” He smiled and his stomach growled loudly, surprising both of us. My guess was he didn’t get anything to eat—again, tonight.  “I don’t know about you kiddo, but if I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some chips in me I might sleep a little better.” I grabbed the bread, peanut butter and jelly I kept nearby, the sad truth about having an overactive metabolism; I was constantly hungry, even late at night. I never got why some people starve themselves to be skinny. A never-ending stomachache is not my idea of fun. I proceeded to make him a sandwich.

“You’re not going to make me eat all alone are you?” I asked him with mock fear. He timidly smiled as he took the sandwich I held out to him. In my recent foster home the foster parents, if you can call them that, decided it would be safer for them to lock the foster kids in the finished basement at night, away from the rest of their biological family. They treated every foster kid as a potential serial killer. How I loathed them, and wondered how people like them received a foster care license in the first place.

At least we had a door to the outside down here, letting us come and go as we please. This is how Aimery the kid from next door and I first met. He snuck in here to hide from his dad on one of his rampaging elephant nights. Aimery and I called his nights of rage his elephant nights because his six foot four, incredible hulk of a dad, stomped around like an escaped elephant at a circus, destroying everything in its path. I watched him as he chewed and swallowed quickly, as if he was unsure when his next meal would be. I also noticed how he favored his right arm carefully grabbing the sandwich with his left. I could already picture the purple bruises darkening under the sleeve of his dirty pajamas. He was injured and I was not sure how bad yet. God, did I pick the wrong night to throw a pity party for myself.

            Aimery, finished with his sandwich in under a minute. How long had it been since his last meal?  He was--looking a little bit on the skinny side and now that I noticed, his pajamas looked as if he had been in them for days. “Pace yourself kiddo or you will give yourself a tummy ache.” I handed him another sandwich then made another for myself, joining the soft sounds of chewing. For once, I was grateful I kept some provisions down here in case I had to split, or the foster units forgot to unlock the door to the upstairs kitchen. Aimery chewed slower this time. I waited until he was munching on some Doritos and guzzling some soda to ask him what happened.

“Were buds right?” I asked him smiling at him as I sat on my blankets next to him.

“Sure!” He replied enthusiastically now that his stomach was full and we were relaxing.

“Were the kind of buds that tell each other everything right? I mean… I guess, I kind of think of you as the annoying little brother I never had, but secretly wanted.” I tousled his dirty brown hair joking with him. His eyes darkened though telling me he knew what I was going to ask. He didn’t reply right away instead picking at a dirty toenail, scrunched over his knees avoiding my eyes. I noticed he was barefoot and more than a little dirty. I shrugged my shoulders casually looking away at the orange chair pretending it was the most fascinating object I had ever seen. “Maybe I was wrong…” I quietly stated, adding just a bit of poor pitiful me to my tone.

It worked like a charm. I looked over when his little grubby hand tugged on my shirtsleeve. “It’s not like that Kylie; you’re like my big sister, although you can be pretty bossy when you tell me to do my homework and the fact you have blonde hair and green eyes and I have brown hair and blue eyes”  I chuckled trying to keep the mood somewhat light.

“Sooo, since we are practically family, think you can you tell me what happened?” I sipped loudly on my coffee to make it seem like it really was no big deal even though I wanted to run over and rip his father’s head off.  With Sixteen years of fighting for a place to sleep at night, on the streets, and in foster homes, you pick up a few moves that help keep you alive. Plus, taking a few Muay Thai mixed martial arts classes during the summer was helpful in keeping myself safe and jerkoffs away from me. I stared down at the mug of black coffee, giving him a few seconds to relax. I didn’t want him to feel like a science research project under a microscope.

With his head down he hopelessly whispered, “I was bad.” The urge to hurt whoever made him feel like this was overwhelming. Instead, I bit my lip keeping my body still as a statue, listening not wanting to interrupt. “I think I made him angry when I walked in on him yelling at mom.” He whispered to his feet, a rigid numbness creeping slowly over his innocent face. “Because I was bad I haven’t seen mommy for three days. The elephant locked me in my room; he said I needed to learn some respect. I promised him I would be good, but he still wouldn’t let me out. So when it got dark tonight I crawled out the window and came over here.”

My insides were reeling, my head scrambled and full of questions. “Where is your mom? What was he yelling at her about?” I asked, desperately trying to keep my voice from exploding, crying, or jumping up and committing venomous murder on his father.

“I don’t know,” his eyes were brimming with held back tears, “He had been saying something about Cotton.”

“Cotton?” I asked, briefly dumbfounded.

“Yeah, he said if they didn’t give the cotton what they asked for they would come for them.” Figures, I thought, probably some kind of bookie or gangster nickname, and the elephant was probably up to his ears in debt to them. 

“Did the elephant say what they wanted?” Aimery became so quiet I was not quite sure he was still breathing. I stared at him watching his little chest rise up and down reassuring me that he was in fact still breathing. Then his breathing became faster and harder as little hiccups of tears began to stream down his cheeks. Immediately I grabbed him and pulled him to me wrapping my arms around him as I rocked him back and forth. I may not be worth my weight in salt, but this kid was worth more than all the gold in King Tut’s grave. I hated seeing him cry.

“Shhhhh, it’s okay sweetie you are safe now. You are safe here with me and no one is going to hurt you again. I am going to make sure of that. It unhinged me to see how scared and shaky Aimery was; as far as kids go, Aimery had always been a little rock. I could not imagine what was scarier than the thought of the elephant hurting him. 

I rocked him as he cried his little heart out, when he could cry no more he quietly whispered, “Me, they wanted the elephant to give them me.”

A cold band of steel crept its way up my spine as I clenched onto Aimery’s tiny shaky body. “Over my cold dead and lifeless body,” I stated. Aimery’s tiny hand covered mine and I instantly relaxed a little. It’s just like the kid, he is the one going through hell and he is comforting me. “It’s okay now Aimery, you are with me now and as long as you are with me nothing is going to happen to you. Do you trust me?” he nodded his tired head. “Then let’s not talk anymore of this tonight, okay?” he nodded again as I laid his head down on my makeshift bed and tucked the blankets around him.

“Aren’t you going to sleep too Kylie?”

“Not right now,” I faked a smile to ease some of his fear, “I am going to enjoy this wonderful cup of Joe you made me.  You know Aimery I think you may have a great career as a Barista ahead of you, when you’re older.” He smiled as he curled up under the threadbare blanket, scooting as close to me as he could get.

“What’s a Barista?” He yawned. The sight of him curled up in a fetus position made my heart ache deep inside my chest.  Poor kid was only seven years old and already had lived through more than a soldier on an open battlefield and had the scars to prove it.

“Don’t worry about it tonight sweetie, get some sleep, I will be right here with you when you wake up.” I rubbed his back gently until the familiar soft snores echoed out of his tiny body.  For a few minutes, all I could do was sit there and watch him horrified at everything I had heard with my own two ears. Give him to them; his own father was going to give him to this cotton person, as what, some occult sacrifice or science experiment? I grabbed my laptop while taking a big gulp of my coffee. I typed cotton into the search engine and sorted through all the different church websites. Just as I was about to give up, thinking there is no way that a bookie was running his dealings out of a church, I came across a site with the letters C.O.T.N and a picture of the moon with a snake on it, a cotton snake. As I clicked on the picture, an error message popped up informing me I’m not authorized to use their site. Shutting the lid to my laptop, I looked over at Aimery sleeping soundly on my pillow and couldn’t help but smile. How was it possible he looked even more like a drooling cherub than he did when he was awake. Aimery was really the only person who wanted and needed me and I would do anything to protect the little guy. Whether it was from a back door church bookie and his gangsters or a secret occult organization, they are not getting their hands on Aimery. If I am going to die, it might as well be protecting the one pure thing left in this world.

I could just imagine the elephant got into trouble and the thugs wanted Aimery for their nefarious deeds. They would have to kill me first. I didn’t know who these people were but I knew the elephant would search for him as soon as they realized he was missing which could be any time now.  I poured my third cup of coffee clearing my head trying to think of a way to get us both out of here.  I had to get him out of here that was for sure. If he stayed here they would find him soon enough. I grabbed the bread, peanut butter and jelly and started making some sandwiches. Aimery and I were going on a little road trip where exactly--I hadn’t worked out quite yet. We could head somewhere up north in the mountains maybe, far away from the horrors of his childhood and mine.

As Aimery slept, I prepared a few more sandwiches and packed my clothes into a duffle bag. One of the many things you become accustomed to as a foster kid, travelling light. I packed my cell phone, not that there are many people to call. More likely, the foster units would not notice I am missing for a few days, but they might notice a car missing after a day or two.  It’s Friday and they never go anywhere on the weekend, they aren’t exactly the family outing types, so chances are I would have a few hours to gain some distance before they noticed. I would need to get the keys and Aimery is going to need some clothes which means I would have to sneak in and get them. No way in hell was I letting him go back in there. I watched him breathe making sure his little chest continued to rise up and down. A little wrinkle of worry etched across his forehead as he slept. Damn, no little kid should ever have to go through stuff like this. He should be dreaming about puppies, baseball, and catching frogs or whatever little boys dreamed. As I finished packing and set my bags by the front door, I laid down next to Aimery to shut my eyes for a few minutes. With a plan in place, I was going to need to rest up and be at maximum strength. With a kid to take care of and being on the run, it meant no more time for pity parties. 

I woke around ten to freshly brewed coffee. Damn, the one thing I could not take with us, the coffee pot. For a minute, I panicked as my eyes searched the room for Aimery only relaxing when I saw him exit quietly out of the bathroom. He looked freshly scrubbed wearing an oversized yellow cheerios t-shirt left behind from some other foster kid. “Good morning.” I sang to him as I stretched like a cat from its nap.

“Mornin,” he beamed his 100-watt smile at me.  “I was trying to be quiet so I wouldn’t wake you, sorry.”

“Nah I should have been up hours ago,” I grumbled more to myself than anyone else, disappointed with myself for sleeping so long. First things first, I wanted some of that coffee. As I poured myself a cup, I glanced over at Aimery sitting in the orange ripped up chair. “Hey kiddo, I am going to get you some of your clothes, but I need to talk over a few things with you first.”

“Shoot.” He replied spinning around and around in the beat up chair.

“Well first things first, after I get in the bathroom and do something with this medusa bed-head-hair, I am going to head over to your house and see about packing you some clothes and then when I get back we are going to head up north.

Aimery stopped spinning and stared at his feet, “You can’t go back over there.”

“Aimery he can’t hurt me if that’s what you’re concerned about.” I reassured him as I walked over and put my arm around him, giving him a gentle squeeze. “Besides you said they haven’t gone in your room for over three days to check on you so no one will even know I am there. I will sneak through your window throw some clothes in a bag and sneak back out. It really is a good plan even if I do say so myself.” I pretended to dust off my shoulders as if I was the biggest genius in the world. Aimery smiled again, and we both laughed. “Anything special you want me to get while I am there, like say, embers?” Embers, was the stuffed rabbit I had given him for Christmas. It was rare the two of them were ever apart from each other.

His smile got bigger, “Yeah, embers is probably scared I didn’t bring him last night.”

“I bet he is more worried about you.” I tapped Aimery on the nose and stood up. “Okay you are going to stay here as… Suddenly we both heard a click and footsteps walking above us.

“You are to stay here I will be right back.” Aimery nodded solemnly looking more like a frightened rabbit about to bolt.

I quietly walked up the basement stairs one-step at a time, making as little noise as possible grateful I fell asleep wearing my quiet work out leggings than my noisy apple bottom jeans. When I got to the top, I slowly opened the door a crack and peeked through it. When I didn’t see anyone walking or moving about, I opened the door into the kitchen and stepped through soundlessly. The car keys were hanging up by the kitchen door on the other side of the room. Slowly, I tiptoed to the door and wrapped my hands around the dangling keys before lifting them off the hook so they wouldn’t rattle. Then just as quietly, I slinked my way back to the door and quickly closed it. My heart sped up as the little click of the doorknob rebounded throughout the room. Hurriedly I crept back down the stairs. Aimery was at the bottom, pale as a ghost waiting for me.

“Aimery, I need you to wait at that door for me,” I jerked my thumb towards the front door to the basement it led out to the driveway where the cars sat parked. “I am going to your house now, and then we can get out of here.” Aimery nodded his head shakily his brown curls bouncing crazily.

I wrapped my arm around him again, “It’s going to be okay Aimery, I promise. We are going to get out of here and no one will be able to hurt us again. Okay?” He continued to nod not saying a word, probably to scare too speak. I was scared too but there was no way I could show him that.

I walked into the bathroom getting ready quickly. I glanced in the mirror at my bed head and sighed. No matter what I did, my wolf hair is always going to have a mind of its own. After quickly pulling my hair back into a makeshift ponytail I grabbed my duffle bag and the plastic bag with the food, handing both bags to him. “Stay here by the door and wait for me to signal to you to come out.” I hugged him once more and quickly snuck out the door before I could convince myself otherwise.

I inched my way along the small divider wall separating Aimery's yard from our driveway and waited to make sure no one was out or around to see me. I ran quickly to the bushes in front of Aimery’s window and waited still no sound of anything alive. Quickly I was up and over the open windowsill as I looked around letting my eyes adjust to the lightless room a pungent odor took me by force causing me to double over almost hurling. I plugged my nose quickly and looked for the source. Next to the window was a toy box emptied of everything except for what was clearly human feces and urine. I gagged, quickly stepping away from the windowsill. Three days they locked him up in here and they didn’t let him out to use the bathroom once? Anger quickly replaced the shock written on my face. I quietly walked over the scattered toys and headed for his dresser grabbing his school backpack I dumped the papers out of it and began stuffing it with underwear and socks then I pulled his closet doors open. They creaked under the pressure of opening. I froze, holding my breath waiting for any sign of movement coming from the other side of the door. When there were no sounds, I quickly jerked it open to minimize the noise, like pulling a Band-Aid off quickly. I grabbed the three pairs of jeans hanging up with his coat and a few t-shirts. I quickly stuffed everything in and then searched the room’s floor and his bed looking for embers, halfway buried under some toys by his dresser.

“Kylie?” A little voice whispered from the window. I nearly screamed as I saw a head pop up over the windowsill.

“Aimery! I whisper yelled at him, you nearly gave me a heart attack.” I told you to stay there what are you doing?”

“The Elephant just got home; I saw his car drive up and had to warn you.” A trickle of ice crept up my spine as goose bumps made their home on my skin. Aimery crawled in through the window as I heard multiple footsteps in the hallway. They were heavy and they did not seem to be alone.

“Was anyone else with him?”

“Yeah, two guys with really weird eyes.”

“What do you mean weird eyes?” I hurriedly whispered back at him throwing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt at him. As he pushed his malnourished legs into his pants, I started shoving his feet into his sneakers.

“Their eyes shined like brand new quarters.”

“Quarters?” Just then, we heard the elephant shouting, begging someone not to hurt him. Who was it he was begging to, the guys with the shiny eyes? The elephant was huge, how could they hurt him, he could take down three or four guys at once. All of a sudden, the cries cut off mid screech. That was our cue to get out but before we could get back out the window, the doorknob turned and the door flew open.

For half a heartbeat, I froze to the wooden floor of Aimery’s dirty bedroom floor. Everything flowed in slow motion as I yelled back at Aimery to run. For a split second, I was extremely grateful for that summer of Muay Thai kickboxing classes made popular by the show the Bachelorette. I ran straight at the men with the unusual silver eyes, landing a perfect knee strike into the first of the two tall pale men coming through the door. Taking them and myself by surprise, I knocked them both down to the floor. Score one for mixed martial arts training. My fists and legs were a blur as I fought in vain against the taller of the two strangers. The men hissed like vipers as I did my best to connect a front and back hook. I felt a sudden excruciating wave of pain shoot through me as one of the men clamped their mouth on my right leg his teeth piercing and ripping my calf muscle.

WTF!! Seriously, grown men biting! The shock and pain of the sudden biting distracted me long enough for the dark haired one to pin me as I thrashed against the painful heat inching up my leg from the bite. Tangled up in their stone hard bodies I noticed the arm of the dark haired, silver-eyed man, he had a tattoo of a circle with a snake in the middle of it. I did my best to keep them busy, giving Aimery a few seconds to escape. I saw Aimery run through the doorway into the kitchen heading for the outside entrance. I breathed a sigh of relief and felt my body relax as the two strange men quickly disentangled themselves from my flailing limbs. As long as Aimery escaped, it did not matter what happened to me. Gasping for air, I heard the cracks to my rib cage before I felt them a parting gift for my part in Aimery’s escape. I quickly received two well-placed kicks to my stomach and back as the tall blonde man yelled at his shorter friend. The Silver eyed freaks ran after Aimery, leaving me to scramble to my feet. I limped after them determined they would not catch Aimery. The only thought in my head run Aimery, run.

I reached the kitchen and tripped over something big and slippery blocking the doorway. As I looked down, I saw Aimery’s dad laying there covered in something dark and glistening with wetness, his opened eyes as smooth as glass and just as empty. His legs bent at odd angles under the weight of his large body. Before I could let loose the blood-curdling shriek building in my chest, I heard a whimpering coming from under the sink. I ran over to the sink and threw open the cupboard doors to find Aimery huddled there under the pipes. I grabbed him pulling him out and holding him tight to me, my ribs screaming out in pain, but I didn’t care. Aimery was safe that’s all that mattered.

“I think those bad guys are gone. They chased after you thinking you had run out the door.” Aimery lifted his head off my shoulder and I slowly set him back down. He stared at the body of his father as silent tears rolled down his cheeks. “Don’t look Aimery, just don’t look at it.”

“Where’s my mommy Kylie?” He stared up at me with a look of desperate need.

“I don’t know honey, but we need to get out of here before they return.” He nodded staring at the kitchen sink refusing to let his eyes wander over to the body of his father. “Let’s go get your bag and get the hell outta here.” He clung to my leg as we made our way over his father’s massive lifeless body, and back to his bedroom. We lingered for a second, just long enough to grab embers and Aimery’s bag heading back down the long hallway. As we passed his parents’ bedroom suddenly Aimery threw open the door and ran in.

“Aimery what are you doing we gotta get out of here?”

“The elephant has a gun and some money hidden in a shoebox he stated. He climbed on top of some boxes in his parents walk in closet I reached up and grabbed the box he was trying to reach. I opened the lid as he climbed back down and sure enough, there were stacks of one hundred dollar bills. In addition, to what looked like a police officer’s gun. Quickly I shoved them into the backpack then turned around to see what Aimery was staring at behind us. There in the middle of his parent’s bed beautifully spread out as if sleeping was his mother. Aimery walked over to her quietly and started to shake her asking her to wake up. I saw the dark dried streaks coming from dark holes under her chin and the odd angle at which her head rested; I knew his mom was not breathing. Aimery’s cries and pleas got louder and louder. I grabbed him by the arm and tried to pull him to the door.

“Aimery let’s go. C’mon, she’s gone. We gotta leave.” He yanked hard against me fighting me, trying to run back to his mom.”

“MOMMY! WAKE UP MOMMY!” He was screaming when I finally pulled him through the door. I grabbed him and hugged him so tight neither of us could breathe.

Aimery’s loud cries became silent as he muffled them against my neck. “It’s okay sweetie, we still have each other, but you have to lock it away for right now, we need to get out of the… Footsteps cut my words in half. Something heavy dragged and scraped across the kitchen floor as if an old person was walking through the kitchen. Both of us frozen clinging to each other as we flattened against the wall. Slowly I slid along the wall peering quietly my head around the corner to see into the kitchen.

Gasping in horror I quickly covered my mouth with my hand, as a creature that looked like Aimery’s dad shuffled along slowly. It can’t be, I thought with revulsion, he was dead I saw his body myself. I saw Aimery’s dad he was deader than a doornail. This isn’t possible, this should not be possible. The creature that shuffled let out a low rattling wail. Aimery clutched my hand tighter too petrified to do anything else. What could have done this to the elephant; he was a mean man but the creature he had become was an aberration, some kind of dead undead creature. I don’t know who was shaking worse the undead dead creature or me, as it shuffled aimlessly on its semi broken legs. I pulled my head back slowly as the creature lumbered closer to our hiding spot. What did those two men with the silver eyes do to Aimery’s dad?  The sheen on the elephant’s body was a macabre mixture of grey and caked on gore, as if there was no more blood flowing through its veins, his eyes so white you could not see the pupils anymore.

I glanced back at Aimery, “when I tell you to run, you run out the kitchen door, don’t look just run, understand?’ I mouthed quietly to him. Nodding a quick jerky bob of his head too frightened to say anything.

I crept slowly around the doorway in full view of the monster that was shuffling uselessly through the kitchen. I screamed at the sight of him up close, the head of the elephant snapping up as I ran through the doorway connecting to the living room, the creature chased after me with unearthly speed. “RUN AIMERY RUN!” I screamed behind me. I ran through the living room straight to the front door. In a heartbeat and a half, I was out slamming the door behind me gulping in the fresh air, as I ran to the back of the house, thinking I would run into Aimery. When I didn’t see him, I panicked, skidding to a stop in the gravel calling out Aimery’s name. I turned around to see Aimery standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Frozen in disbelief he turned around staring at the monster that his dad had become.

“NOOO!” I screamed as reality registered the shiny long object sticking out of Aimery’s back. His knees buckling under him as his head cracked against the floors. I watched the light leave his gentle angelic eyes, becoming pools of shiny glass, blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth.  A strong pale hand grabbed his neck sliding him slowly back into the house. The kitchen door slammed hard behind them, leaving a dead silence in its wake.

Without thinking, I raced to the door pushing it open hard against whatever laid behind it. I saw the creature bent over Aimery’s neck licking the blood quickly before it had a chance to dry on his skin. The evil creature was so engrossed in what it was doing it was completely oblivious to me approaching it from behind. I swallowed hard against the bile desperately seeking a way out of my throat. Sucking in the deepest breath I could manage, as my cracked ribs constricted and fought back against the air, and with the last bit of adrenaline pulsing through my veins, I reached for the knife in Aimery’s back.  Hastily yanking it free, I turned and thrust it down the middle of the elephant’s head, burying it so hard and deep only the silvery smooth handle showing above his brown curly hair. He collapsed against Aimery’s neck and I kicked his putrid body to the side. Crawling on my knees to Aimery I pulled his lifeless body into my arms crying harder than I’d cried in my entire life. I gently reached a shaking hand up to his eyes and closed his eyelids. Once again, Aimery slept like an angelic cherub.         

I am not sure how long I sat there holding Aimery in my arms rocking him back and forth. For all I knew days could have gone by and it would not have registered. At some point, I remember carrying Aimery’s innocent tiny body into his mother’s bedroom laying him down next to her, away from the evil creature in the kitchen. I remember collapsing and crying at the foot of the bed. I think I may have slept at that point though blacking out might be more precise. When I opened my eyes, it was dark out, pulling myself to my feet and without glancing back at the two of them I walked out of the bedroom. I continued to walk out through the kitchens back door, only pausing long enough to yank the knife that killed Aimery out of the disgusting monstrosities head. All trace of shock or sadness buried itself deep inside me. A cold heat flooded my veins, numbly I stared at the bloodied knife in my hand, reminding me all I lost today burning me with a black desire for vengeance. I paused in the kitchen doorway just long enough to whisper a promise.

“Aimery, I will find the ones that are responsible for this--and I will kill them. I swear it to you on my life.” In hindsight, I should have realized I was walking normally as if I had not just been through a meat grinder.  Looking back, I realized I was no longer in any physical pain the agony of losing Aimery and the awfulness of everything that happened numbed me to this fact.

Somehow, I made it back into the basement of my foster home. Slowly walking into the bathroom, I turned the shower on letting the harsh hot water pound the flesh on my face, wishing it could pound out all the horror and pain threatening to consume me. I peeled my waterlogged clothes off, tossing them to a nearby trashcan. Watching as the water slowly mixed with Aimery’s lifeblood, swirling into shades of light pink, and then gradually sucked down the drain. A tingling feeling started to crawl up my neck, similar to the same icy heat that flamed when one of the silver-eyed jerks bit into my calf. My forehead was ready to burst under the pressure of the intense consuming flames.

Bracing my back against the wall of the shower, I slid to the bottom only able to let out a short cry of pain as a force slammed me into total blackness. The first conscious thing I remember is wondering if I would ever find a way out of the endless 

Kylie

 

By age ten I wanted to die. By age thirteen, I knew I was living on borrowed time. At seventeen, I would do almost anything to make it happen. That was until the day I was shown how precious life could be. By then it was too late and death was on his way to collect a soul; not leaving until the debt owed was fulfilled.  That was the day death, became my unwitting nemesis, the day he took an innocent soul in place of mine. Deaths silver eyes burned deep inside my soul etching a permanent mark that would haunt me for the rest of my days… As I would make sure, I haunted his.

“Kylie?” A panicked small voice called to me from the end of a long dark tunnel. “Kylie, Oh god don’t leave me Kylie I need you.” The voice sounded funnily worried. I giggled, as if anyone would ever worry over me, a seventeen-year-old-drop-out-foster-care-kid, and part time run away. I floated in the darkness loving the sensation of nothing but empty space around me, no more worries or sadness ever again.  I knew what a burden living was but feeling free of everything was wonderful beyond words, “Kylie, I need you the little voice whimpered, pleading and crying. Suddenly I felt a tugging and something cool and damp griped my hand with all its force willing me to stay, when all I wanted was to float further into obscurity. Slowly the empty dark started to fade and the light grew brighter and brighter, as the surroundings started to become somewhat familiar through my drunken fog.

Another tight little squeeze, this time I looked down automatically as the sensation registered stronger this time. A little hand griped me tightly with every shallow shaking breath, Aimery’s tears flowing freely down his small, grubby cherub cheeks.  “Hey now if you squeeze my hand any tighter It will fall off.” I joked as I tried to see him clearly through the haze of alcohol trickling through my veins. Sitting up straighter in the orange ripped up chair, I wiped the stragglers of unkempt blonde hair out of my eyes. I seriously need a haircut I mumbled.

Aimery jumped up surprised at the sound of my slurred voice. “Kylie!!! I thought you had left me.” He jumped up and pulled me to my feet as the room swam before my eyes.

“Aimery, what are yoush doing heres? Aren’t yoush suppost to be shleeping in bed or something, don’t you have shhool tomorrow?” I tried my best to give him a stern motherly look through my tanked-up stupor, quickly giving up. I turned around slowly flopping over to the blankets spread out on the floor with a big soft fluffy pillow. “OOf! I think I need cophhey.”

 Aimery ran over to the little coffee pot sitting next to the pillow where I slept. “I’ll make it. You just rest and soon we will get this pumping through you.”

“Actually I think I’m going to hit the shower while you do all that.” I waved at the coffee pot before grabbing an old pink shredded towel. I sluggishly dragged myself over to the bathroom door and winced at the sight of the pale freckle faced girl staring back at me through the mirror. Her green eyes disproportionately large giving her a deer caught in a headlight look while her pale white skin made the freckles on her nose practically jump out at you. Her medium blonde hair flopped and scattered all around as if it had never seen a brush a day in her life. Her arms and legs, long and sinewy from summers filled with martial art camps. I let out a big sigh and the girl in the mirror mimicked it. Okay, so I wasn’t going to win any Miss America Pageants anytime in the near future; my look was more of an earthy one, and speaking of earthy. I lifted my left arm inhaling quickly, whew, I wrinkled my freckled nose, I really needed a shower--badly.  As I let the steamy hot water from the shower rain down on me I couldn’t help but feel a little dejected, not born beautiful and rich. Problem was boy’s didn’t like the girl next door who could potentially kick their butt. These day’s it is all about clubbing, glitz, glamour and damsels in distress like wilting dainty flowers. I laughed out loud surprising myself when I snorted. No one had ever accused me of being a dainty flower.

As the smell of percolated beans filled the air, I focused my attention on Aimery forcing my mind to clear. What is he doing here in the middle of the night? Usually he only comes over if his parents are fighting or his dad, the elephant, had let his anger get out of control again. Quickly I let my eyes scan his body looking for the usual signs. It was not hard to see the bruises even with my head so fuzzy. Damn! Of all nights for me to throw self-pity party, Aimery needed me. It wasn’t as if anyone else needed or wanted me, why did I have to get smashed tonight?  Aimery brought over a piping hot cup of coffee as I sat up quickly tucking my wet shoulder length hair behind my ear, doing my best to look like I had not been studying him.

“Soooo, come here often?” I joked, working on breaking the awkward silence, sipping on steaming black coffee. Aimery beamed a relieved toothy grin down at me as I patted the blankets next to me. “You look like you could use as much sleep as I could.” He smiled and his stomach growled loudly, surprising both of us. My guess was he didn’t get anything to eat—again, tonight.  “I don’t know about you kiddo, but if I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some chips in me I might sleep a little better.” I grabbed the bread, peanut butter and jelly I kept nearby, the sad truth about having an overactive metabolism; I was constantly hungry, even late at night. I never got why some people starve themselves to be skinny. A never-ending stomachache is not my idea of fun. I proceeded to make him a sandwich.

“You’re not going to make me eat all alone are you?” I asked him with mock fear. He timidly smiled as he took the sandwich I held out to him. In my recent foster home the foster parents, if you can call them that, decided it would be safer for them to lock the foster kids in the finished basement at night, away from the rest of their biological family. They treated every foster kid as a potential serial killer. How I loathed them, and wondered how people like them received a foster care license in the first place.

At least we had a door to the outside down here, letting us come and go as we please. This is how Aimery the kid from next door and I first met. He snuck in here to hide from his dad on one of his rampaging elephant nights. Aimery and I called his nights of rage his elephant nights because his six foot four, incredible hulk of a dad, stomped around like an escaped elephant at a circus, destroying everything in its path. I watched him as he chewed and swallowed quickly, as if he was unsure when his next meal would be. I also noticed how he favored his right arm carefully grabbing the sandwich with his left. I could already picture the purple bruises darkening under the sleeve of his dirty pajamas. He was injured and I was not sure how bad yet. God, did I pick the wrong night to throw a pity party for myself.

            Aimery, finished with his sandwich in under a minute. How long had it been since his last meal?  He was--looking a little bit on the skinny side and now that I noticed, his pajamas looked as if he had been in them for days. “Pace yourself kiddo or you will give yourself a tummy ache.” I handed him another sandwich then made another for myself, joining the soft sounds of chewing. For once, I was grateful I kept some provisions down here in case I had to split, or the foster units forgot to unlock the door to the upstairs kitchen. Aimery chewed slower this time. I waited until he was munching on some Doritos and guzzling some soda to ask him what happened.

“Were buds right?” I asked him smiling at him as I sat on my blankets next to him.

“Sure!” He replied enthusiastically now that his stomach was full and we were relaxing.

“Were the kind of buds that tell each other everything right? I mean… I guess, I kind of think of you as the annoying little brother I never had, but secretly wanted.” I tousled his dirty brown hair joking with him. His eyes darkened though telling me he knew what I was going to ask. He didn’t reply right away instead picking at a dirty toenail, scrunched over his knees avoiding my eyes. I noticed he was barefoot and more than a little dirty. I shrugged my shoulders casually looking away at the orange chair pretending it was the most fascinating object I had ever seen. “Maybe I was wrong…” I quietly stated, adding just a bit of poor pitiful me to my tone.

It worked like a charm. I looked over when his little grubby hand tugged on my shirtsleeve. “It’s not like that Kylie; you’re like my big sister, although you can be pretty bossy when you tell me to do my homework and the fact you have blonde hair and green eyes and I have brown hair and blue eyes”  I chuckled trying to keep the mood somewhat light.

“Sooo, since we are practically family, think you can you tell me what happened?” I sipped loudly on my coffee to make it seem like it really was no big deal even though I wanted to run over and rip his father’s head off.  With Sixteen years of fighting for a place to sleep at night, on the streets, and in foster homes, you pick up a few moves that help keep you alive. Plus, taking a few Muay Thai mixed martial arts classes during the summer was helpful in keeping myself safe and jerkoffs away from me. I stared down at the mug of black coffee, giving him a few seconds to relax. I didn’t want him to feel like a science research project under a microscope.

With his head down he hopelessly whispered, “I was bad.” The urge to hurt whoever made him feel like this was overwhelming. Instead, I bit my lip keeping my body still as a statue, listening not wanting to interrupt. “I think I made him angry when I walked in on him yelling at mom.” He whispered to his feet, a rigid numbness creeping slowly over his innocent face. “Because I was bad I haven’t seen mommy for three days. The elephant locked me in my room; he said I needed to learn some respect. I promised him I would be good, but he still wouldn’t let me out. So when it got dark tonight I crawled out the window and came over here.”

My insides were reeling, my head scrambled and full of questions. “Where is your mom? What was he yelling at her about?” I asked, desperately trying to keep my voice from exploding, crying, or jumping up and committing venomous murder on his father.

“I don’t know,” his eyes were brimming with held back tears, “He had been saying something about Cotton.”

“Cotton?” I asked, briefly dumbfounded.

“Yeah, he said if they didn’t give the cotton what they asked for they would come for them.” Figures, I thought, probably some kind of bookie or gangster nickname, and the elephant was probably up to his ears in debt to them. 

“Did the elephant say what they wanted?” Aimery became so quiet I was not quite sure he was still breathing. I stared at him watching his little chest rise up and down reassuring me that he was in fact still breathing. Then his breathing became faster and harder as little hiccups of tears began to stream down his cheeks. Immediately I grabbed him and pulled him to me wrapping my arms around him as I rocked him back and forth. I may not be worth my weight in salt, but this kid was worth more than all the gold in King Tut’s grave. I hated seeing him cry.

“Shhhhh, it’s okay sweetie you are safe now. You are safe here with me and no one is going to hurt you again. I am going to make sure of that. It unhinged me to see how scared and shaky Aimery was; as far as kids go, Aimery had always been a little rock. I could not imagine what was scarier than the thought of the elephant hurting him. 

I rocked him as he cried his little heart out, when he could cry no more he quietly whispered, “Me, they wanted the elephant to give them me.”

A cold band of steel crept its way up my spine as I clenched onto Aimery’s tiny shaky body. “Over my cold dead and lifeless body,” I stated. Aimery’s tiny hand covered mine and I instantly relaxed a little. It’s just like the kid, he is the one going through hell and he is comforting me. “It’s okay now Aimery, you are with me now and as long as you are with me nothing is going to happen to you. Do you trust me?” he nodded his tired head. “Then let’s not talk anymore of this tonight, okay?” he nodded again as I laid his head down on my makeshift bed and tucked the blankets around him.

“Aren’t you going to sleep too Kylie?”

“Not right now,” I faked a smile to ease some of his fear, “I am going to enjoy this wonderful cup of Joe you made me.  You know Aimery I think you may have a great career as a Barista ahead of you, when you’re older.” He smiled as he curled up under the threadbare blanket, scooting as close to me as he could get.

“What’s a Barista?” He yawned. The sight of him curled up in a fetus position made my heart ache deep inside my chest.  Poor kid was only seven years old and already had lived through more than a soldier on an open battlefield and had the scars to prove it.

“Don’t worry about it tonight sweetie, get some sleep, I will be right here with you when you wake up.” I rubbed his back gently until the familiar soft snores echoed out of his tiny body.  For a few minutes, all I could do was sit there and watch him horrified at everything I had heard with my own two ears. Give him to them; his own father was going to give him to this cotton person, as what, some occult sacrifice or science experiment? I grabbed my laptop while taking a big gulp of my coffee. I typed cotton into the search engine and sorted through all the different church websites. Just as I was about to give up, thinking there is no way that a bookie was running his dealings out of a church, I came across a site with the letters C.O.T.N and a picture of the moon with a snake on it, a cotton snake. As I clicked on the picture, an error message popped up informing me I’m not authorized to use their site. Shutting the lid to my laptop, I looked over at Aimery sleeping soundly on my pillow and couldn’t help but smile. How was it possible he looked even more like a drooling cherub than he did when he was awake. Aimery was really the only person who wanted and needed me and I would do anything to protect the little guy. Whether it was from a back door church bookie and his gangsters or a secret occult organization, they are not getting their hands on Aimery. If I am going to die, it might as well be protecting the one pure thing left in this world.

I could just imagine the elephant got into trouble and the thugs wanted Aimery for their nefarious deeds. They would have to kill me first. I didn’t know who these people were but I knew the elephant would search for him as soon as they realized he was missing which could be any time now.  I poured my third cup of coffee clearing my head trying to think of a way to get us both out of here.  I had to get him out of here that was for sure. If he stayed here they would find him soon enough. I grabbed the bread, peanut butter and jelly and started making some sandwiches. Aimery and I were going on a little road trip where exactly--I hadn’t worked out quite yet. We could head somewhere up north in the mountains maybe, far away from the horrors of his childhood and mine.

As Aimery slept, I prepared a few more sandwiches and packed my clothes into a duffle bag. One of the many things you become accustomed to as a foster kid, travelling light. I packed my cell phone, not that there are many people to call. More likely, the foster units would not notice I am missing for a few days, but they might notice a car missing after a day or two.  It’s Friday and they never go anywhere on the weekend, they aren’t exactly the family outing types, so chances are I would have a few hours to gain some distance before they noticed. I would need to get the keys and Aimery is going to need some clothes which means I would have to sneak in and get them. No way in hell was I letting him go back in there. I watched him breathe making sure his little chest continued to rise up and down. A little wrinkle of worry etched across his forehead as he slept. Damn, no little kid should ever have to go through stuff like this. He should be dreaming about puppies, baseball, and catching frogs or whatever little boys dreamed. As I finished packing and set my bags by the front door, I laid down next to Aimery to shut my eyes for a few minutes. With a plan in place, I was going to need to rest up and be at maximum strength. With a kid to take care of and being on the run, it meant no more time for pity parties. 

I woke around ten to freshly brewed coffee. Damn, the one thing I could not take with us, the coffee pot. For a minute, I panicked as my eyes searched the room for Aimery only relaxing when I saw him exit quietly out of the bathroom. He looked freshly scrubbed wearing an oversized yellow cheerios t-shirt left behind from some other foster kid. “Good morning.” I sang to him as I stretched like a cat from its nap.

“Mornin,” he beamed his 100-watt smile at me.  “I was trying to be quiet so I wouldn’t wake you, sorry.”

“Nah I should have been up hours ago,” I grumbled more to myself than anyone else, disappointed with myself for sleeping so long. First things first, I wanted some of that coffee. As I poured myself a cup, I glanced over at Aimery sitting in the orange ripped up chair. “Hey kiddo, I am going to get you some of your clothes, but I need to talk over a few things with you first.”

“Shoot.” He replied spinning around and around in the beat up chair.

“Well first things first, after I get in the bathroom and do something with this medusa bed-head-hair, I am going to head over to your house and see about packing you some clothes and then when I get back we are going to head up north.

Aimery stopped spinning and stared at his feet, “You can’t go back over there.”

“Aimery he can’t hurt me if that’s what you’re concerned about.” I reassured him as I walked over and put my arm around him, giving him a gentle squeeze. “Besides you said they haven’t gone in your room for over three days to check on you so no one will even know I am there. I will sneak through your window throw some clothes in a bag and sneak back out. It really is a good plan even if I do say so myself.” I pretended to dust off my shoulders as if I was the biggest genius in the world. Aimery smiled again, and we both laughed. “Anything special you want me to get while I am there, like say, embers?” Embers, was the stuffed rabbit I had given him for Christmas. It was rare the two of them were ever apart from each other.

His smile got bigger, “Yeah, embers is probably scared I didn’t bring him last night.”

“I bet he is more worried about you.” I tapped Aimery on the nose and stood up. “Okay you are going to stay here as… Suddenly we both heard a click and footsteps walking above us.

“You are to stay here I will be right back.” Aimery nodded solemnly looking more like a frightened rabbit about to bolt.

I quietly walked up the basement stairs one-step at a time, making as little noise as possible grateful I fell asleep wearing my quiet work out leggings than my noisy apple bottom jeans. When I got to the top, I slowly opened the door a crack and peeked through it. When I didn’t see anyone walking or moving about, I opened the door into the kitchen and stepped through soundlessly. The car keys were hanging up by the kitchen door on the other side of the room. Slowly, I tiptoed to the door and wrapped my hands around the dangling keys before lifting them off the hook so they wouldn’t rattle. Then just as quietly, I slinked my way back to the door and quickly closed it. My heart sped up as the little click of the doorknob rebounded throughout the room. Hurriedly I crept back down the stairs. Aimery was at the bottom, pale as a ghost waiting for me.

“Aimery, I need you to wait at that door for me,” I jerked my thumb towards the front door to the basement it led out to the driveway where the cars sat parked. “I am going to your house now, and then we can get out of here.” Aimery nodded his head shakily his brown curls bouncing crazily.

I wrapped my arm around him again, “It’s going to be okay Aimery, I promise. We are going to get out of here and no one will be able to hurt us again. Okay?” He continued to nod not saying a word, probably to scare too speak. I was scared too but there was no way I could show him that.

I walked into the bathroom getting ready quickly. I glanced in the mirror at my bed head and sighed. No matter what I did, my wolf hair is always going to have a mind of its own. After quickly pulling my hair back into a makeshift ponytail I grabbed my duffle bag and the plastic bag with the food, handing both bags to him. “Stay here by the door and wait for me to signal to you to come out.” I hugged him once more and quickly snuck out the door before I could convince myself otherwise.

I inched my way along the small divider wall separating Aimery's yard from our driveway and waited to make sure no one was out or around to see me. I ran quickly to the bushes in front of Aimery’s window and waited still no sound of anything alive. Quickly I was up and over the open windowsill as I looked around letting my eyes adjust to the lightless room a pungent odor took me by force causing me to double over almost hurling. I plugged my nose quickly and looked for the source. Next to the window was a toy box emptied of everything except for what was clearly human feces and urine. I gagged, quickly stepping away from the windowsill. Three days they locked him up in here and they didn’t let him out to use the bathroom once? Anger quickly replaced the shock written on my face. I quietly walked over the scattered toys and headed for his dresser grabbing his school backpack I dumped the papers out of it and began stuffing it with underwear and socks then I pulled his closet doors open. They creaked under the pressure of opening. I froze, holding my breath waiting for any sign of movement coming from the other side of the door. When there were no sounds, I quickly jerked it open to minimize the noise, like pulling a Band-Aid off quickly. I grabbed the three pairs of jeans hanging up with his coat and a few t-shirts. I quickly stuffed everything in and then searched the room’s floor and his bed looking for embers, halfway buried under some toys by his dresser.

“Kylie?” A little voice whispered from the window. I nearly screamed as I saw a head pop up over the windowsill.

“Aimery! I whisper yelled at him, you nearly gave me a heart attack.” I told you to stay there what are you doing?”

“The Elephant just got home; I saw his car drive up and had to warn you.” A trickle of ice crept up my spine as goose bumps made their home on my skin. Aimery crawled in through the window as I heard multiple footsteps in the hallway. They were heavy and they did not seem to be alone.

“Was anyone else with him?”

“Yeah, two guys with really weird eyes.”

“What do you mean weird eyes?” I hurriedly whispered back at him throwing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt at him. As he pushed his malnourished legs into his pants, I started shoving his feet into his sneakers.

“Their eyes shined like brand new quarters.”

“Quarters?” Just then, we heard the elephant shouting, begging someone not to hurt him. Who was it he was begging to, the guys with the shiny eyes? The elephant was huge, how could they hurt him, he could take down three or four guys at once. All of a sudden, the cries cut off mid screech. That was our cue to get out but before we could get back out the window, the doorknob turned and the door flew open.

For half a heartbeat, I froze to the wooden floor of Aimery’s dirty bedroom floor. Everything flowed in slow motion as I yelled back at Aimery to run. For a split second, I was extremely grateful for that summer of Muay Thai kickboxing classes made popular by the show the Bachelorette. I ran straight at the men with the unusual silver eyes, landing a perfect knee strike into the first of the two tall pale men coming through the door. Taking them and myself by surprise, I knocked them both down to the floor. Score one for mixed martial arts training. My fists and legs were a blur as I fought in vain against the taller of the two strangers. The men hissed like vipers as I did my best to connect a front and back hook. I felt a sudden excruciating wave of pain shoot through me as one of the men clamped their mouth on my right leg his teeth piercing and ripping my calf muscle.

WTF!! Seriously, grown men biting! The shock and pain of the sudden biting distracted me long enough for the dark haired one to pin me as I thrashed against the painful heat inching up my leg from the bite. Tangled up in their stone hard bodies I noticed the arm of the dark haired, silver-eyed man, he had a tattoo of a circle with a snake in the middle of it. I did my best to keep them busy, giving Aimery a few seconds to escape. I saw Aimery run through the doorway into the kitchen heading for the outside entrance. I breathed a sigh of relief and felt my body relax as the two strange men quickly disentangled themselves from my flailing limbs. As long as Aimery escaped, it did not matter what happened to me. Gasping for air, I heard the cracks to my rib cage before I felt them a parting gift for my part in Aimery’s escape. I quickly received two well-placed kicks to my stomach and back as the tall blonde man yelled at his shorter friend. The Silver eyed freaks ran after Aimery, leaving me to scramble to my feet. I limped after them determined they would not catch Aimery. The only thought in my head run Aimery, run.

I reached the kitchen and tripped over something big and slippery blocking the doorway. As I looked down, I saw Aimery’s dad laying there covered in something dark and glistening with wetness, his opened eyes as smooth as glass and just as empty. His legs bent at odd angles under the weight of his large body. Before I could let loose the blood-curdling shriek building in my chest, I heard a whimpering coming from under the sink. I ran over to the sink and threw open the cupboard doors to find Aimery huddled there under the pipes. I grabbed him pulling him out and holding him tight to me, my ribs screaming out in pain, but I didn’t care. Aimery was safe that’s all that mattered.

“I think those bad guys are gone. They chased after you thinking you had run out the door.” Aimery lifted his head off my shoulder and I slowly set him back down. He stared at the body of his father as silent tears rolled down his cheeks. “Don’t look Aimery, just don’t look at it.”

“Where’s my mommy Kylie?” He stared up at me with a look of desperate need.

“I don’t know honey, but we need to get out of here before they return.” He nodded staring at the kitchen sink refusing to let his eyes wander over to the body of his father. “Let’s go get your bag and get the hell outta here.” He clung to my leg as we made our way over his father’s massive lifeless body, and back to his bedroom. We lingered for a second, just long enough to grab embers and Aimery’s bag heading back down the long hallway. As we passed his parents’ bedroom suddenly Aimery threw open the door and ran in.

“Aimery what are you doing we gotta get out of here?”

“The elephant has a gun and some money hidden in a shoebox he stated. He climbed on top of some boxes in his parents walk in closet I reached up and grabbed the box he was trying to reach. I opened the lid as he climbed back down and sure enough, there were stacks of one hundred dollar bills. In addition, to what looked like a police officer’s gun. Quickly I shoved them into the backpack then turned around to see what Aimery was staring at behind us. There in the middle of his parent’s bed beautifully spread out as if sleeping was his mother. Aimery walked over to her quietly and started to shake her asking her to wake up. I saw the dark dried streaks coming from dark holes under her chin and the odd angle at which her head rested; I knew his mom was not breathing. Aimery’s cries and pleas got louder and louder. I grabbed him by the arm and tried to pull him to the door.

“Aimery let’s go. C’mon, she’s gone. We gotta leave.” He yanked hard against me fighting me, trying to run back to his mom.”

“MOMMY! WAKE UP MOMMY!” He was screaming when I finally pulled him through the door. I grabbed him and hugged him so tight neither of us could breathe.

Aimery’s loud cries became silent as he muffled them against my neck. “It’s okay sweetie, we still have each other, but you have to lock it away for right now, we need to get out of the… Footsteps cut my words in half. Something heavy dragged and scraped across the kitchen floor as if an old person was walking through the kitchen. Both of us frozen clinging to each other as we flattened against the wall. Slowly I slid along the wall peering quietly my head around the corner to see into the kitchen.

Gasping in horror I quickly covered my mouth with my hand, as a creature that looked like Aimery’s dad shuffled along slowly. It can’t be, I thought with revulsion, he was dead I saw his body myself. I saw Aimery’s dad he was deader than a doornail. This isn’t possible, this should not be possible. The creature that shuffled let out a low rattling wail. Aimery clutched my hand tighter too petrified to do anything else. What could have done this to the elephant; he was a mean man but the creature he had become was an aberration, some kind of dead undead creature. I don’t know who was shaking worse the undead dead creature or me, as it shuffled aimlessly on its semi broken legs. I pulled my head back slowly as the creature lumbered closer to our hiding spot. What did those two men with the silver eyes do to Aimery’s dad?  The sheen on the elephant’s body was a macabre mixture of grey and caked on gore, as if there was no more blood flowing through its veins, his eyes so white you could not see the pupils anymore.

I glanced back at Aimery, “when I tell you to run, you run out the kitchen door, don’t look just run, understand?’ I mouthed quietly to him. Nodding a quick jerky bob of his head too frightened to say anything.

I crept slowly around the doorway in full view of the monster that was shuffling uselessly through the kitchen. I screamed at the sight of him up close, the head of the elephant snapping up as I ran through the doorway connecting to the living room, the creature chased after me with unearthly speed. “RUN AIMERY RUN!” I screamed behind me. I ran through the living room straight to the front door. In a heartbeat and a half, I was out slamming the door behind me gulping in the fresh air, as I ran to the back of the house, thinking I would run into Aimery. When I didn’t see him, I panicked, skidding to a stop in the gravel calling out Aimery’s name. I turned around to see Aimery standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Frozen in disbelief he turned around staring at the monster that his dad had become.

“NOOO!” I screamed as reality registered the shiny long object sticking out of Aimery’s back. His knees buckling under him as his head cracked against the floors. I watched the light leave his gentle angelic eyes, becoming pools of shiny glass, blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth.  A strong pale hand grabbed his neck sliding him slowly back into the house. The kitchen door slammed hard behind them, leaving a dead silence in its wake.

Without thinking, I raced to the door pushing it open hard against whatever laid behind it. I saw the creature bent over Aimery’s neck licking the blood quickly before it had a chance to dry on his skin. The evil creature was so engrossed in what it was doing it was completely oblivious to me approaching it from behind. I swallowed hard against the bile desperately seeking a way out of my throat. Sucking in the deepest breath I could manage, as my cracked ribs constricted and fought back against the air, and with the last bit of adrenaline pulsing through my veins, I reached for the knife in Aimery’s back.  Hastily yanking it free, I turned and thrust it down the middle of the elephant’s head, burying it so hard and deep only the silvery smooth handle showing above his brown curly hair. He collapsed against Aimery’s neck and I kicked his putrid body to the side. Crawling on my knees to Aimery I pulled his lifeless body into my arms crying harder than I’d cried in my entire life. I gently reached a shaking hand up to his eyes and closed his eyelids. Once again, Aimery slept like an angelic cherub.         

I am not sure how long I sat there holding Aimery in my arms rocking him back and forth. For all I knew days could have gone by and it would not have registered. At some point, I remember carrying Aimery’s innocent tiny body into his mother’s bedroom laying him down next to her, away from the evil creature in the kitchen. I remember collapsing and crying at the foot of the bed. I think I may have slept at that point though blacking out might be more precise. When I opened my eyes, it was dark out, pulling myself to my feet and without glancing back at the two of them I walked out of the bedroom. I continued to walk out through the kitchens back door, only pausing long enough to yank the knife that killed Aimery out of the disgusting monstrosities head. All trace of shock or sadness buried itself deep inside me. A cold heat flooded my veins, numbly I stared at the bloodied knife in my hand, reminding me all I lost today burning me with a black desire for vengeance. I paused in the kitchen doorway just long enough to whisper a promise.

“Aimery, I will find the ones that are responsible for this--and I will kill them. I swear it to you on my life.” In hindsight, I should have realized I was walking normally as if I had not just been through a meat grinder.  Looking back, I realized I was no longer in any physical pain the agony of losing Aimery and the awfulness of everything that happened numbed me to this fact.

Somehow, I made it back into the basement of my foster home. Slowly walking into the bathroom, I turned the shower on letting the harsh hot water pound the flesh on my face, wishing it could pound out all the horror and pain threatening to consume me. I peeled my waterlogged clothes off, tossing them to a nearby trashcan. Watching as the water slowly mixed with Aimery’s lifeblood, swirling into shades of light pink, and then gradually sucked down the drain. A tingling feeling started to crawl up my neck, similar to the same icy heat that flamed when one of the silver-eyed jerks bit into my calf. My forehead was ready to burst under the pressure of the intense consuming flames.

Bracing my back against the wall of the shower, I slid to the bottom only able to let out a short cry of pain as a force slammed me into total blackness. The first conscious thing I remember is wondering if I would ever find a way out of the endless darkness.

Tags: Quirk, SoulReader, SoulRival, SoulSeries, Trista

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