Liquidum

“I’m not afraid of her, I’m afraid of what’s going to happen to her if she finds out about who -and what- she is."

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6. Chapter Six

{Xavier Bates}

 

“Help yourself to whatever,” Reeve told us. He smiled and reached to touch Emmeline’s back but turned away as I shot him a look that told him to stop.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched lights explode into view. Em scanned the counters with delight in her eyes. Steam was rising from the bowls and then disappearing into the rest of the darkness of the room. The bowls were filled with everything one could possibly need. The only thing awkward about it was the weird mixtures of rice that were the warmest; which meant they had been placed here recently.

I felt a draft reach for my hand and spin around my wrist creating a rope, then begin to drag it towards a plate. I pulled away from it, but with a struggle. I pointed my finger and whispered a small dissolving spell I learned from my dad, but it didn’t work. If anything, it was even harder to pull away from it when I finished whispering the words. After a few more seconds, I grabbed a knife and started cutting at the rope. The knife finally hit my skin, letting a few drops of blood escape from my wrist. The rope broke, and disappeared into the room.

Emmeline laughed at me when she saw the insane movements I was creating. Only an Aether could see the wind, she just thought that I was being an idiot. She reached for a plate and then a knife, but I slapped her hand away before she could take one of the pancakes.

I knew what kind of food this was, and why Reeve wanted us here later than everybody else.

“Now what?” She asked me, turning her head and glaring at me. She still held the knife in her hand, but they were in fists and looked ready to stab something.

“Don’t eat too much,” I told her. She cocked her head to the side and raised her eyebrow. “Just trust me.” She squinted her eyes to think, then opened them back up and nodded like she understood.

 

*

The buffett lights were turned off, and candles on the tables were lit.

Reeve took a seat next to Emmeline, and a Walker took the seat beside me. Cue the horror.

“Tell me, Xavier, how did you come to Pratum? I thought all entrances were sealed off.” Reeve put his elbow on the table and set his chin in his hand. His eyes turned into glass, staring at me intently; a sense of uncomfortability overwhelming the room.

I set my fork down and looked up, locking eyes with Reeve. “There is one behind the school we went to a few years ago.” I began. Reeve raised one of his eyebrows, buying the lie that I was telling him.

“I just lead her there, and when we heard someone coming I just opened up the portal.”

Em looked at me and batted her eyelashes with an innocent smile plastered on her face.

“More like dragged.” She laughed and turned back to finish her meal.

“I thought all portals were locked?” One of the walkers spoke up from out of the dark. There was a mask on his face, hiding everything but his lips and eyes. They were a dark green, which reminded me of the Terrae that had yet to clean the forest up.

Where are they? I had been thinking since last night. The Aether must have blocked out other Spiritus- which was strange seeing as the Aether were supposed to welcome everyone.

“I did, too. Then I found remembered the Daemon weren’t able to find that portal, which meant that they could keep it open.” I looked down and saw that my plate had been removed from the table and replaced with a glass of water. “Um, thank you...” I pushed the water a few inches from me while Reeve moved his eyes from me to Em, who was currently pushing the remaining bits of rice around her plate.

“During that time, though, the remaining Walkers were sent to look for the portals. They came back and said that they closed all of them.” Reeve took his elbow off of the table and leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest. His eyes searched mine, looking to see if he could access the lie that was hiding in my mind.

“Yes, well, they either missed one, or someone created a new one.”

Em was completely confused now. She placed her fork on her plate and picked it up to hand it to one of the waitresses.

“Does anyone need something to drink?” She flipped her long, curly white hair over her shoulders and set her eyes on Reeve. He smiled and winked at her. She nodded her head back, and turned away from us. I watched as Reeve examined her body while she walked away, smiling the entire time. When the kitchen door closed, he turned back to Em.

“Now, Emmeline, what do you bend?” He asked. He chuckled and glanced quickly at me, then placed complete attention on her.

“You should know,” she snapped quickly, “weren’t you the one that poisoned me upon my arrival?” She leaned back and let out a sigh of victory.

Reeve stuttered. “We were just being cautious.” He chuckled in attempt to lighten the mood in the room.

“It’s one thing to be cautious, but it’s another thing when you attempt to arrest the one who was poisoned.” She slammed her wrists on the table, showing him the scratches from the rope that had been tied around them the night before. Reeve leaned forward to examine them, then leaned back slightly.

“I was afraid you were dangerous, my dear.” His smile from a few minutes ago was now completely gone, hidden behind a look that meant he had very few explanations. “When one is travelling with someone like your friend there,” he pointed to me, “it’s usually not a good sign.” He leaned back fully and motioned for one of the Walkers. The green eyes appeared from behind a dark wall and walked up to our table. Reeve reached into his pocket and pulled something out. It made a clink noise, but there was no way it was change. He had his fingers wrapped around it, hiding it from sight, and hesitated to give it away. When he did, they exchanged quick smiles before the Walker fled away.

“Especially when the person has no idea what’s going on, right?” Em looked at me and squinted her eyes. I could tell she was attempting to send some kind of message to me, but was struggling. She obviously hadn’t realized that we couldn’t bend in here, either because there was a reverse spell put on the room, or they were blocked somehow.

She exhaled, slightly exasperated. Reeve smiled and looked at me.

“I think this meeting is done.” He stood up and brushed crumbs off of his lap. A new Walker, definitely younger than everyone else, came to his side and handed him a small white envelope, sealed with silver wax. There was a bird imprinted in the wax, flying toward the top of the envelope. Reeves eyes grew wider, and he inhaled deeply before walking away from our table without acknowledging us once more.

“Not only does he freak me out, but he’s also rude.” Em whispered to me as we stood up and walked away from the tables.

A group of Walkers guided us back around the buffet counters and around the lounge area, then back to the front doors where we first entered.

Goosebumps flew up and down my body, making the hair on my arms stick straight up like I had just been electrocuted.

The wooden doors opened loudly, echoes of the men shouting filling the room.

“Act like we’re going back to our tent,” I leaned into Em’s ear and whispered as quiet as I could, but loud enough that she could hear me. The Walker’s that were holding the doors open moaned a ‘good-bye’ to us as we walked out, then let the doors fly shut behind them. We heard loud sighs of relief behind us, then the shuffle of feet going back to their posts.

Now that we knew our way to the dining hall from the tent, it was easy to disguise a path.

I turned my head to make sure Em was still following me to find her dragging her feet along.

“Is your goal to get us killed or something while we’re here?” I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was rolling her eyes. The toe of my boot hit a rock, sending it flying into a dark space just ahead of us. Rats skittered out of the darkness, skidding down the sidewalk toward us.

Em backed up quickly, screaming as about 4 ran past (or over) her feet and down to the road. I began laughing, but stopped when she ran up and knocked her fist into the back of my head. I turned, and saw her face turn bright red with anger.  

“At least we got out of library duty.” I mumbled. I looked back at the road and found ourselves meeting an opening to an alley, and walked right into it.

There was almost nothing here; just spray painted walls by the rebel Aether that ran around town at night dumpster diving or raiding the bars.

“I thought everyone here was...” Em began running her hands along the scratched and painted walls, feeling every crack that had been placed in the cement.

“Perfect? Lovely?” I stopped to look back at her. “You thought wrong,” She let her arm fall down to her side and looked at me. It was then that I noticed the smell of dead animals crawling through the trapped drafts, and the soft murmurs I was hearing further down the alley.

“People here like to think that they’re perfect; they run charities for the other Spiritus camps, they welcome random people into their hospitals and give them surgery for free. They are selfless- to a fault.”

“What does ‘to a fault’ mean?” Em asked. The murmurs grew a bit louder, and up ahead I could see small points of light running across the road. There were about ten black figures that had been sneaking around garbage cans with small bags most likely filled with spray paint.

“They all do the selfless acts to gain popularity; the money from charities go right to their bank accounts and only leave to pay for fancy dinners on Earth, or something expensive to add to their apartments.”

“And the surgeries...” She put her head down and looked at the damp ground. The sounds behind me grew louder momentarily, then stopped completely when I spoke up.

“They’re all test subjects. They have no need to perform free ‘surgeries,’ they’re using them.”

“Why, though? What do they gain from ruining their trust?”

I sighed and shrugged. “My guess is that they’re performing a highly illegal test that the Daemon used to perform when the Universalis were becoming popular around the worlds.”

“How do they find them, though- the Universalis?” She squinted at me in attempt to see me better, but only strained her eyes even more. I sighed and hesitated, but gave in when I watched the last bit of sunlight go down. The darkness surrounded us, making everything seem a bit more scary and a lot more nerve wracking. The camp was a few miles away still, which meant that I would have to show her the training area some other time, after I explained that she was most likely the next test subject this place was looking for.

 
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