I could hear screaming, and yelling. It was loud. I forced my eyes open. The room was still dimly lit. I could feel the drugs coursing through my system. I couldn’t even tell if there was anyone using Tama around me. All of my senses were corrupted, dimmed. I didn’t like it. I felt like I couldn’t even call my father for help.
I was on a bed in the room that I had not noticed before. My wrists were still raw from the zip ties but I at least had feelings in them now. The yelling was coming from outside of the room. Men’s voices it seemed. I struggled to sit up, the sudden movement making me gag. I stopped moving and just focused on my breathing. In, out. I breathed in once more and put my feet on the cold linoleum once again. The tops of my feet were covered in thin trails of blood. I had been cut worse than I had thought. The yelling continued, it sounded like someone forgot to do something they should have.
I focused inward, toward my powers, felt them flare at the attention, then the drugs took hold and squashed them like a bug. I groaned, the sudden headache making me even more nauseous. I resisted throwing my cookies everywhere and went back to just breathing. There was a loud boom and the door crashed open. The yellow teethed guard fell to the ground. He quickly righted himself and faced the boiling anger on the other side.
There stood Jax, in his human form on the other side of the door. His shirt was torn in odd places and the black band that controlled his powers was sticking halfway out of his jeans pockets. The instant he spotted me, his eyes widened. He had no time to come over to me, because the guard had at last regained his footing.
Jax took a step into the room and from behind him another guard appeared with a knife and sword. He dodged the knife that was slashed towards him. His quick footing took him to one side of the room, the two guards by each other in the middle of the room. The new guard handed the yellow teethed guard an extra sword.
Before the men could react, Jax was between them, too close for swords. He crouched low, put his hands on the floor and spun. Using his legs, Jax windmilled both guards to the ground. I heard a clatter of metal, a whoosh of air and a curse before they both lay motionless. He gave the both of them a quick glance then he was running towards me, enveloping me in his sweet, earthy scent. Tears came to my eyes unbidden.
“Jax,” I whispered, my voice hoarse from the doses of the drugs I had been given over and over.
“My little mouse,” he whispered the endearment, he pulled slightly away and touched a warm hand to my bruised and battered face. The look in his eyes was menacing. I grasped his shirt in my fists as if he was my life preserver and buried my face in his chest and cried.
“How did you find me?” I whispered into his now drenched shirt.
“No matter where you go, I will find you. Even if you hide from me.” His eyes were serious, unbidden, my heart skipped a beat and I tried to give him a smile. It came out shaky.
“Let’s get you out of here.” He helped me to my feet, wincing and growling at the same time as soon as he noticed all the blood I had everywhere. His eyes went back up to my cheek. It must have looked bad. It felt as if I was squinting at everything I was looking at. That side of my face felt heavy.
“What about the others?” I asked him thinking about the other three that had been taken before me.
“We’ve already got the others. We just needed to find you.” His hand tightened around mine, helping me take one painful step at a time. The drugs were making me sluggish and the headache still was blaring in the depths of my skull. We made it to the door before he clicked his tongue. “I wish we had a healer in our group.” He growled.
“I’m okay.” I whispered, holding in my breath so I wouldn’t show him how much pain I was actually in. “Where,” I whispered suddenly afraid, “is Nergal?”
“Nergal?” Jax repeated, “What do you mean? There were only three guys in the building.”
“No.” I gasped, “No, that’s wrong. He was here. He still has to be here.” Jax stiffened, on the defensive. His eyes dilated and fur rose along the back of his hands. He was so close to changing forms that even his tail had ripped through the back of his jeans.
“We need to get out. Now.” I felt the words leave him more that I heard them. He bent, grabbed my legs from beneath my knees and hefted me into his arms.
He began to sprint down the deserted hall, me clinging to him for dear life. I almost began to cry again when Sam and Juni appeared at the end of the gall.
“Thank heavens he’s all right,” Juni said, lifting her hand to brush away my unruly bangs from my face. Her smile faltered once she uncovered the bruising of half my face. She clucked her tongue, her face a mask of rage.
“Those bastards.” Sam growled, taking a step towards me. “I’m glad they’re in custody.”
“It’s not over yet,” Jax disclaimed. “Echo says Nergal was here.”
Juni’s eyes widened as she glanced around the hall. “Come on,” she insisted, grabbing Sam by the arm and pulling him ahead of us. The three of them ran down a flight of stairs and to another hall. It seemed as though we were on the third floor. The stair well we had access to was blocked off at the second floor. Jax cursed before he made his way down the other hall to the next stairwell.
Before we had the chance to make it, a blazing form of red stepped out into our sight. Juni and Sam skidded to a halt in front of Jax and I. Carefully, Jax set me down, my legs threatened to collapse beneath me, so I anchored my hand around Jax’s arm. Still combating the cold and pain, I trained my eyes on Nergal, my hate an animate thing.
“Nergal,” I breathed his name, hate searing the word. I felt Jax’s muscles bunch underneath my hand. All three of my friends crowded around me and faced the God of the Underworld, trying to protect me. My heart swelled with the love I had for the three of them.
Sam was the first to speak. “Let him go, he needs to come with us, not you.” He used his student council president tone but Nergal just laughed, the scars decorating his face twitching with his menacing grin.
“You truly think I will listen to you, son of man? You are like a fly I can swat away. Go buzz somewhere else.” Sam stood his ground, I could see the gears working trying to find a way around the god. Juni stepped forward, her Tama blazing a unearthly silver. Her eyes had changed color as if she were deep inside of the future. The silver jacket she was wearing had come undone and was flapping in her powers.
“I know you,” Nergal breathed, watching the silver sparks flare off of Juni. “What is a full blooded Seelie doing with these humans? Go back to your Fey, child.” Juni’s powers continued to spark. I regained my balance and let go of Jax, taking a step toward my best friend. Her short green hair was flying everywhere, it flapped in her eyes and swirled every which way.
“Your reign as King will end, Son of Enlil, the prophecy has been foretold.” Juni’s voice was not her own. It reverberated throughout the hall. Deep, and almost serene, she continued, “There is no redeeming yourself, you will fall.” Nergal’s powers flared up, the room turning a golden red hue with the fire.
“Clotho.” Nergal breathed. His face a mask of hatred for the god he named. Juni became the normal Juni again, the unnatural power dying. Nergal was seething in front of her and when he lashed out, his powers hit her full force. It made her body fling backward until she hit a wall, I could hear all the air escape her lungs.
“JUNI!” I screamed, all the pain and cold forgotten.
Nergal laughed, a maddening laugh. Juni fell to the ground, her head smacking the concrete hard enough that blood began to flow. A small river of blood. I felt my powers explode outward. They felt like a cold winter’s night, sharp, crisp and almost lonely. I couldn’t control them, they flowed out, touching everything, the buildings around me, the floor beneath me. The concrete began to crumble, the walls began to fall. Everything around me was eroding, falling at the mere touch of my powers. It was frightening. I was in the middle of the maelstrom of everything that could destroy.
I could hear, in the distance, Jax calling my name, but all I could remember was the sight of Juni on the floor, blood flowing from her head. She was gone. I couldn’t feel her Tama, the summer sunshine that she represented. It was dark, no summer existed any longer in this room. Nergal stood mere feet from me, laughing, a grin on his face.
“It’s truly you.” He said it almost reverently, as if I was a true god. I took a step towards him, but he held his ground. He cocked his head and looked at my powers. The floor beneath me groaned and cracked. I could hear Jax yell again. I looked back, Sam had Juni’s head cradled in his arms, Jax was beside them, his hair waving in the wind. He was yelling at me. The words did not pierce the fog. I turned back to Nergal.
I reached out a hand, intending to touch Nergal, to push all of my powers into him, but he dodged my attack.
“Not now, not yet, my sweet.” His eyes glowed in the collapsing hallway, the maniacal smile evident on his face. “I’ll be back for you.” His form wavered until it completely disappeared, and he was gone. The ground cracked again. Even still, without him there to take my hatred, my powers continued to rage. Jax yelled again, closer this time. I turned and looked at him. He was at the edge of my storm, his powers flowing the color of violet around him. He had lost his jacket somewhere along the way. He was reaching toward me, cuts all along his arms. His shirt began to shred, tearing at each hit he took from me.
“Juni is alive, Echo!” Jax yelled it again. I tried to process it and looked over at Juni again. Her eyes were open and my name was on her lips.
“Juni.” I whispered back. Jax was trying to get closer to me, his powers becoming larger to combat mine. He reached a hand through all of my darkness, it sliced his arm. He winced but reached in further.
Love is impossible. In the back of my mind there are fragments of memories that feel ingrained with warm sweetness and when I try to remember, my heartbeat speeds up. What if this really is my last chance find someone who would accept everything I was? Then, I had no choice but to take a leap now, didn’t I? To trust in the one I loved.
“Don’t be afraid, Echo.” He whispered, but I caught it, held on to every word. “Nothing will hurt you, because I’m here.” I reached farther, he caught my outreached hand, and held tight. His fingers were rough around mine, rough but warm and infused with so much love. “Believe in me from the bottom of your heart. Let go of it all, little mouse.” I realized then, that from the beginning, he’d only had eyes for me. I really loved him, to the degree that nothing else mattered.
We lived in a chaotic world, like searching for stars, we search in the darkness for that special thing. Searching for that burning red, endlessly tempered and purest thing called love. I no longer wanted to lie to myself. At that moment, it felt like it was the first time I was reflected in someone’s eyes.
Now all I had to do was fall.
I let go.