Iniquities (Alysium, #1)

Alysium, a city punished by the Gods. The Curse states that darkness will invade the city, driving the city to the brink of recklessness, a city divided between those that seek the darkness and its powers, the Iniquities; those that seek the light and the goodness of humanity, the Purities; and those that seek a balance between light and darkness, the Impartials. In a world so ravaged by its own society, where trust is rare and everything you know is stripped, one must know themselves. Choose wisely.

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          I feel wild, possessed. I feel invincible.

          I stalk towards the metal bars that stand between the medic team and me, and they instinctively take a few steps back. Some even scurry away, never looking back. I stare at the ones that choose to remain, and I see their eyes widen in fear, their eyes unblinking, their fingers trembling, and something surges through me.

          I feel powerful.

          I could get used to this.

          Then there’s a tug, at the edges of my brain. I can almost hear it. Trust me, it whispers, and I do. I let it consume my mind, my cells, my nerves. I now recognise the darkness that slithers through my veins, and it’s a comforting thing.

          I lift my right arm and my fingers twitch. The medics take a step back and their spine meets the metal bars of the cell behind them. Trust me, it insists again, so I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I can visualise the pools of darkness at the ends of my fingertips, begging to be released. I pull the plug, and all hell breaks loose.

          The screams are the first thing I hear. It’s an unnerving sound. Their screams grate against my eardrum endlessly, clawing at my brain until I can’t think straight. I hear the surprise that tinges the first few shrieks, and then their pain. It’s a tangible thing in this moment, I can feel it pressing against me, almost cloaking me and becoming a second skin. And then the screams die down, except one. 

          I slowly open my eyes and they land on the mass of mangled limbs in front of me. I can’t tell who the arms are attached to – in fact, I can’t make much of anything. The shadows move slowly over their meal, savouring each inch of skin. I hear a guttural moan escape and I see the woman who was tightening my restraints. She deserved it, my mind clarifies. I reach out a hand through the bars to help her, but her eyes flash with terror, and the lump in my throat gets a little heavier. And then I realise it’s the wrong thing to do anyway because the shadows slither towards her mouth and continue making their way down her throat until her skin is a sickly white and the air is filled with nothing but the smell of death.

          My fingers grip the metal bars. The shadows swirl from my fingers and into the lock, which hits the concrete floor with a satisfying clink. My feet drag the rest of my body towards the exit, and then I’m outside the cell, staring down at the pile of bodies at my feet. I’m free, but a part of me still feels caged.

          I did this. I just killed – no, murdered – a group of innocent people who were only doing their job. But my mind isn’t racked with guilt and I know it should. Tears threaten to spill, but they never do. I don’t feel anything anymore besides the churning nausea in my chest. I’m just an empty shell filled with shadows that kill and a thirst for vengeance, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be satisfied. I’m not sure if I even want to. The voice returns, you do.

          And then I feel something other than nausea and the need to hurt. I almost laugh. Of all the things I could be feeling right now I feel pain. Not pain for what I’ve just done, but a mind-numbing sensation and a fire that sweeps through me so rapidly that I drop onto my knees, hands clutching my throat. Save me, I plead to the shadows that inhabit me, but they don’t come. I don’t feel their presence. I feel nothing but pain and pain and more pain as my throat dries up from screaming, and then I feel as though the joke is really on me.

          As darkness seeps through the corners of my vision, I realise with startling clarity that guards are unnecessary when you have something bigger than humanity working against you. Before my body fails me and shuts down, I hear the echoes of oncoming footsteps and I feel the edges of a boot nudge my hand. Before my eyelids droop and my world becomes nothing but an infinite black sea, I see a pair of blue eyes.

***

          The first thing I notice is the red and it chills me to the bone. It takes me a few seconds to realise that it's simply the sun hitting my eyelids, and I chastise myself. But I don't open my eyes. Instead, I bathe in the warmth, feeling the sun's rays dance along my skin and shedding light into the darkest of places. I tune my ear to the rustle of leaves and the songs of the birds. I feel the wind's kiss on my cheeks and the grass's tickle on my calves and then my head is abruptly tilted - wait. 

          My eyelids flutter open to the sight of a shirt flowing with the wind. My eyes trail up until it sees a collarbone, a neck, a strong set jaw, a lopsided smile, a nose that any plastic surgeon would have given all their customers, eyes the colour of the ocean and a nest of black hair. 

          "Sorry, I couldn't feel my legs."

          And then I realise, my head is still rested on his thigh and I never shot up faster in my life. This only caused his smile to widen and his eyes to crinkle at the edges, which made my frown deepen. I look around and all I can see for miles and miles, reaching to the furthest and highest points of this space, is a cage. Outside. 

          "Where are we?" I demand, brushing the grass off my legs, only to reveal a trail of black and blue blotches. I glance at my arms, and there are more bruises flowering on my skin, with a slash of chafed skin at my wrists. 

          "You've been asleep for two days," he explains. "I figured you could use a change of environment once you decided to wake up."

          And with that, the sun and the sky and the carpet of grass and the wind and the birds, disappear into a bundle of black which seep back into his fingertips. He smiles, and all I want to do is slice his lips off his face. He's waiting, I realise. The question hangs in the air, and I decide to look around at the bland, white walls that cage me in instead of giving him the opportunity to be smug.

          "You're not going to ask me how I just did that? You're not even a little bit curious?" 

          He's incredulous. I smile. "No."

          It was a lie, but I had always been a good liar. It was eating me away. How could something so dark and reeking of death, produce something that I had enjoyed and felt so real? How was it that I left a trail of mangled limbs and hoarse cries and horrified faces, while he could probably conjure up unicorns and rainbows?

          "You do wonders for my ego, Andrea."

          "I don't care much for your feelings."

          "Well, you don't care much for anyone's feelings, as we all saw two days ago when you left a pile of bodies for us to incinerate and a floor slick with blood to be wiped clean," he points out. 

          The lump in my throat hardens and I fail to push aside the images that flood my mind. They carried feelings with them. Guilt, horror, disgust, anger, a thirst and a hunger, desperation, confusion and pain. I remember the hard floor against my cheek, the blue eyes that stared into my brown ones but I could not remember how I ended up here in this room. I didn't know what they could have done with me in two days while I laid unconscious in a room of white. 

"Who are you?" 

He gave me another smile, this one a little bit more arrogant and it suited his face a lot better. He leans towards me. "Someone you do not want to get on the wrong side of," he whispers.

And then he disappears.

 

 

 

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