What the hell is he talking about? Impossible to get to me for a while. Why?
“It doesn’t mean I couldn’t try,” he says, standing on the hill with his arms folded. “Although, trusting the Fey to bring you to me might have been a stupid mistake. They always did like to dither around. Keeping you at his house like that; I should have had you here days ago. I knew where you were, but Alex’s sacrifice—taking the impact of the memoria extracto like that—made it impossible for me to get near you.”
I have no idea what’s going on. Alex’s sacrifice kept Stephen away from me. How?
I can’t see him anymore and it’s making me even more nervous, especially since he’s stopped talking. I can’t even track his voice. I remain as still as I can, breathing through my nose while trying to stay calm as raven’s caw and litter the land with feathers. Then I hear the car door opening, metal bending and cringing, and then a hand grabs my ankle. I scream as I’m jerked out of the car and land heavily on the ground.
Stephan drags me toward the stack of metal boxes, whistling under his breath. I attempt to flip over onto my stomach as I claw at the dirt, but it does no good and the ground ends up tearing a few of my fingernails off. The pain is blinding and for a moment all I see are spots.
Finally, Stephan stops and lets me go. I swiftly roll over and push to my feet to run away, but he slams his foot down onto my back and I fall flat on my face, dirt entering my nose and mouth and I gasp for air.
“You’re better off this way,” he says as I turn over to my back, coughing to catch my breath. He gives me a kick to the side and I hear a bone crack as the tip of his boot collides with my ribs. He kicks me again and again until my whole body aches and starts to swell and turn black and blue.
I lie in the dirt, tired and heavily sore, gasping to breath and stay alive. He smiles, pleased at my beaten state, as he reaches into his pocket. Then he crouches down to the side of me, holding up a silvery sharp object with distinct engravings on the sides of it that almost take the shapes of letters but not quite. It looks the like a chunk of metal, but I have a feeling it’s more than that.
“You can never love him, you know.” He sets the rigid piece of metal down on my stomach, the engravings along the flat sides smoldering neon green. “Every time you two are close to each other, it ignites the power. Once you actually fall in love—in actual, real, genuine, pure, true love—you’ll kill the power and yourselves.”
I gasp, shaking my head. “You’re lying,” I choke, wiping blood from my nose.
“Am I?” He raises the piece of metal in front of my face. “Why do you think I’ve been so dead set on keeping you two unemotional and apart from each other? If you fall in love my star is ruined. It’s been told in a vision.”
“Then I guess you lose,” I hack, clutching my side.
“I never lose,” he growls, pricking his finger with the metal and drawing blood, which drips down on me, disgustingly warm and sticky against my skin. “The vision said that it could happen, but that I stop it somehow.” He grabs my arm and I struggle to get away as he aims the tip of the metal at my upper arm and then pricks it. “I always win.” He drips his blood on my open wound and I gag. “I thought detaching your soul would do it, but apparently not. This way’s better anyway. You’ll enjoy being evil, Gemma.”
“It won’t work.” I bring my knee up to kick him, but he stomps down on my swollen shin and then strikes me across the head with his arm. I can barely see or feel past the unbearable pain. I just want to die. Fall in love and die. Would it be a good way to go?
“It will work,” he assures me and then stabs the piece of scorching metal into the incision on my arm, inserting it straight into a vein. I let out a earsplitting scream as the energy of it violently streams through my blood and singes my skin. “And you want to know why?” He slopes over me, his eyes darkening, showing the evil inside him. “Because you already have evil blood in you, thanks to your father. It’s the only way I can put the mark on you.”
I open my mouth to protest, but a foul, sinister feeling slithers through my veins and my blood suddenly feels thick like tar. The feeling continues to build, a vile sensation burning feverishly underneath my flesh. It sears into my bones, turns my heart into a pile of ash, and leaves my soul empty.
Empty. My heart keeps beating, my lungs seeking air, but everything else is dead.
When I open my eyes again, Stephan has risen to his feet. I turn my head to the side to see the red and black triangular symbol permanently branded on my skin. It’s surprising how easy it is to accept, like it’s always belonged there. The more accepting I become to it, the less pain I feel, and I finally just give in and let it own me.
Stephan searches my eyes for life, but there’s nothing in me except a shadow of myself, a rotting corpse, the soulless girl I’ve become accustom to. “How do you feel?” He asks, tugging his sleeves down.
I search my brain for a response. “Dead.”
He grins. “Good.” He buttons the bottom of his sleeves back up and steps back from me. “I’m going to need you to stay here for a while, just until I can figure out one more thing; then I’ll come back for you.”
“Okay,” I say simply, staring into the sky at the ravens swooping above me. “But where am I?”
“The Wasteland,” he says. “Which ironically enough is a place for broken, discarded, magical objects.”
I nod, obeying. “Okay.”
“And don’t go anywhere,” he remarks with a clever smirk. “I know that you can with that power of yours, however I need you to stay here.”
“Okay,” I agree. “I won’t go anywhere. I promise.”
“Good girl.” He walks off toward a pile of knotted barbed wire and then he disappears, leaving me alone with my new mark.
I remain lying in the dirt, beaten and bruised, watching and listening to the ravens flap their wings as they cry out to each other. Inky black feathers drift down from the sky and surround me in stacks as time aimlessly drifts by. I count the seconds to pass the time, but somewhere I lose track. Everything begins to blend together and the sky becomes lighter then darker as the days change. The ravens grow tired and so do I. Suddenly I’m tired of sitting here and obeying. I don’t want to obey. I want to feed the darkness stirring inside me. It’s hungry and needs to feed.
Every once in a while I do feel a dim spark flicker inside my heart, begging me to come back, and it briefly warms my chilled core. I know who’s causing it and the more it happens, the more frustrated I get.
Finally, I get up and hike across the land, scooping up a saber with a bent blade that’s resting in a heap of swords and knives. The ravens fly after me, circling my head as I stride over shallow hills toward the skyline. I stop only when I’m far enough away, then I can open up the box locked inside me. I let the darkness inside me flood out and consume my mind, allowing any trace of my old self to dissipate. Then I shut my eyes and channel my Foreseer energy, fueling it with the evil living beneath my skin.
I picture Alex’s sturdy body, dark brown hair, and green eyes as clearly as I can. Once I see him perfectly, I clutch onto him and let my Foreseer power pull me to him, holding onto the saber as I prepare myself to see him soon. Prepare myself to kill him. Kill the electric spark concealed inside my soul, the last speck of good inside me.
Then I’ll be nothing other than a shell. A hollow, evil shell.