I can hear my brain
Tell me why
Faint and weak but unmistakeable. It was the heart-rending sound of somebody being tortured and tormented. And it was coming from the other side of the door. Somebody was being horribly abused behind this locked door and she wanted to go in! Why did she want that? That was insane. And yet… wasn’t the unknown better than the end you knew was coming?
With a snick, the door unlocked and swung open under the combined weight of Katie and Leo, sending them both tumbling through and down to the floor. On the way down, Leo put himself so he would hit the ground first and he could cushion her fall. So not happening. All knowledge that the fall didn’t have to hurt flew out of Katie’s head and Adam’s training kicked in. He had taught her how to fall properly. She was just twisting herself into the right position when the stone floor reared up and smacked her in the face. A pitiful laugh touched her ears.
“Katie!” Leo hauled her up. “Where are we?”
She limped over to the door, which had swung shut behind them, and felt for a handle to pull on. When she found none, Katie put her shoulder to it and pushed. Definitely locked. One way in – no way out. Fabulous. She leaned against it while she got her breath and balance and rooted through her little bag. “Sorry. I haven’t got a map. How the crap should I know where we are!?”
“Because it was your idea to follow the mute assassin.”
Try. The single word seemed to come from Dan. Katie saw a thick grey mist around her sister – not malevolent, just intensely miserable.
She wanted to make it better. She wished their family could be whole once more – or as whole as it had ever been. Hold onto that thought, soldier. It could be important. The brusque sergeant voice in her head issued the order just as she was about to brush it aside with her empty wishes, cut her losses and leave. There had to be somewhere she could still be of use.
Leaving her father and sister to it, Katie found her mother glued to the television in the living room with the remote control in her hand but all but forgotten. About to walk past and out of the house, something she recognised came on screen. Katie moved into the living room to see better and stopped behind the sofa, right above her mothers’ curly brown head. She forced herself not to look down because if she saw even a tiny slice of Mom then she’d never leave. And with the report that was running on the local news, leaving was something she could not risk.
“… nobody yet knows how or why this lorry overturned,” said a female reporter on the TV. She had long blonde pigtails and was dressed in a green windbreaker with a blurred brand logo on the chest. Dozens of people had been injured – had even died – in that crash and the station were worried about brand promotion. And then they charge the story to the work experience girl with a stupid smile on her face like it didn’t mean anything. “The casualty total is still rising, with some not even regaining consciousness. The scene we saw here yesterday was the last thing the victims saw. Although we would remind drivers…” The blonde journalist continued but Katie stopped listening. Her mother was humming a tune she had used to get both her daughters to sleep after a tiring day when they were younger. Brahms Lullaby. The woman dropped the remote control on the seat beside her and got up to go to the kitchen. The clinking and clashing sounds of tea being made came from the room. She couldn’t go there, couldn’t go through and stand there as Mrs Cartwright watched another child vanish from her life. What she might see there frightened Katie. It might be a vortex of crashing hurt and stormy fury. And there was nothing she could do to ease that trauma. So she stood behind the settee, numbly hearing the discordant lullaby her mother was humming under the too-cheerful tone of the reporter who was still broadcasting from a temporary shelter near the crash site.
“Please. Please stop.” As time wore on, something dark and dangerous crept across the world. Something thick and constant and searching for souls. Fragmented souls. Essences displaced – spirits that were weak and broken. It would pick them off; take hold of those splintered spirits and turn a crack onto a chasm. It has burst people wide open before„ had made them quiver with fear but to scared to run away. Not that there was anywhere to go in the Dead World. Nowhere to hide.
“Jack, I can’t. I can’t have you once and risk never touching you again.”
“You did this for me, remember?” he murmured against her skin. “You took my scars and made my memories of pain into moments of pleasure.”
“I was really horny,” she said, knowing that plea would never hold up in court.
“Do you want me to stop?”
Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. God, yes.
“’Cos I’m not gonna.” And he didn’t. He peeled back each section of the paper gown, kissed, stroked, nibbled every scar or blemish he found under it, and tied it neatly back into place when he was done. Then he planted a kiss on Katie’s forehead and bunched up his jacket for her to us as a pillow. “I won’t do anything else. I know when to stop, when it’s too much. I just wanted you to know.”
“I still love you too.”
“I’m glad. Now, sleep, Lady Katie.” He crouched down by her head and brushed her hair behind her ears. “Sweet dreams.” But her eyes were closed and she seemed halfway to Dreamville already. As he moved to lie down beside her, Katie squeezed his hand in that panicked way of hers.
“Will you still be here in the morning?”
“Please. Please stop.”
As time wore on, something dark and dangerous crept across the world. Something thick and constant and searching for souls. Fragmented souls. Essences displaced – spirits that were weak and broken. It would pick them off; take hold of those splintered spirits and turn a crack onto a chasm. It has burst people wide open before„ had made them quiver with fear but to scared to run away. Not that there was anywhere to go in the Dead World. Nowhere to hide.