Chapter 1: 1
At first, there is nothing.
You have awoken but you don’t know why. You blink rapidly as if that will clear the darkness away from your vision. Slowly, you raise your hands and press them against the surface above you. It is cold – the first sensation you have felt in so long that it sends shockwaves through you.
Outside, you can hear muffled voices. Your brain feels as if it is filled with a fog, making each thought sluggish and slow to complete. You can’t remember how you got here. You can’t remember anything at all. You open your mouth to scream but no noise comes out. There is just a dry rasping noise.
Suddenly, the top of the case you are in moves slowly. It grinds open, making your ears hurt. There is light shining in your eyes and you cover your face, letting out another wheeze.
Someone says something. You don’t understand it. Someone else replies. There is a chorus of voices. None of them make sense. The last time you were awake, you had understood everything. Now, you understand not a word.
But your brain adjusts rapidly to the words being spoken. That attribute has apparently not been lost. Your mind registers each word, clicking it together, linking them all until you begin to make sense of what the creatures are saying.
“What – possible –” A female voice is saying as you try to understand more words.
“Ridiculous. Move – way.” Someone else…a man, his tone incredibly hostile.
Your hands are still covering your eyes. Whatever lights they are shining in your face are making your eyes water. It is too much. How long have you been asleep for? The conversation about you is going so quickly that you can’t make it out anymore. Your head is spinning.
Finally, someone speaks and everyone falls silent. There are footsteps and then the light fades from the cracks in between your fingers and against your eyelids. Carefully, you lower your hands and look upwards.
Looking down at you is a man. His hair is slicked back and his eyes are in shadows from the way the light is angled. His expression is blank as he stares down at you. His lips part and he is asking you something but you don’t understand. This language is brand new. He repeats himself but his tone sounds slightly clipped. You wish your brain would mash it all together faster. Normally, you’d only have to hear a few words of a language for it to click and for you to be fluent. This time it is taking longer than ever.
Someone else appears over you. This is an older man. His hair is longer and he smells like smoke. He is saying something to the other man who snaps back at him. Then he turns back to you and, finally, says something you understand.
“What are you?”
Even though you understand him, you don’t know what he is asking. What are you? You’re you. You look down at your body, draped in fabric that sparks no memories. ‘What’ are you? Not ‘who’ are you. The verbiage leaves you slightly shaken. Something about it bothers you.
You try to reply but it is as if your vocal chords are ash from years upon years of disuse. The man who smells like smoke holds his hand out to you.
“I’ll help you up.” He goes.
Gingerly, you extend your hand, hesitating to touch.
“She doesn’t want to touch you, Sam,” The man with the slicked back hair says, “She thinks you’re a –” You don’t understand the rest of what tumbles out of his mouth.
The man, Sam, scowls, “Rafe, do you have to be such a –” Once again, the words are unknown to you.
But Rafe is holding out his hand to you. Sam shrugs and moves away from you. His shoulders are hunched and he looks irritated. Both men look jumpy. Are they jumpy because of you? Slowly, you reach out for Rafe’s hand.
The touch is electric, sending waves of sparks through you. After thousands of years of nothing to now touching a human being, it is almost sensory overload. Rafe doesn’t seem to notice as he helps you stand up. Your legs feel as if they are creaking underneath you. For a split second, you are afraid that you are going to topple over but you manage to remain steady.
You are in a chamber. It seems vaguely familiar but no memories float back to you. Rafe lets go of your hand and steps back. In front of you is Sam, another man who looks vaguely like Sam, and a blonde-haired woman.
“Holy –” The man in the center goes.
“Told you, Nathan. It was true. Just like the legend of Amazona.”
“Don’t mention her,” The woman went, “That was –”
The group begins to bicker and you are lost again. As they fight, you look around the chamber. It is covered in paintings and carvings in a language you completely understand – the language of your past. Ignoring the rest of them, you climb out where you had been sleeping and walk over to the wall, making sure your legs remain steady.
As you walk, they stop fighting. You can feel their eyes on you. You don’t know these people. You don’t even know what they want with you. But these carvings…this is something you do know.
You run your fingers along the wall. The story on the wall is nothing more than an old bedtime story from your youth. It is coming back to you now. You can remember someone telling you it when you were small before you would drift off to sleep.
But there must be others. Surely, there cannot be just you down here in this chamber. You turn around. Sam, Nathan and the woman are quietly looking at you. It is Rafe who takes a step towards you. Your gaze flicks to him.
“It’s just you.” He says and you painfully understand what he is telling you.
You lower your eyes and that is when you noticed that Rafe is different from everyone else. Unlike the others, and yourself, he is missing a hand. He notices that you are staring at it and shifts so that you can’t see it any longer.
For some reason, the fact that this man is wounded makes you soften to him. You still can’t trust the others. But the vulnerable look in his eyes when you saw his wound makes you want to trust him.
“Can she understand us?” The woman asks.
“I don’t think so.” Sam goes.
At the same time, Rafe replies, “I think she can, Elena – Sam, shut up, you have no idea what you’re –”
You press your back against the wall as they all resume fighting. Your memories are blank. You can’t remember how you got here and how there is no one left. The people in front of you are dressed differently than you. The way they speak is completely different as well. What time period are you in?
“Uh, guys?” Nathan’s voice, “Can we just all stop and focus on what we are going to do with…this woman? We can’t exactly leave her here.”
“There was supposed to be treasure in here,” Sam grumbles, “Not another Amazona.”
“She isn’t a witch.” Elena argues.
“Enough! We can’t leave her here,” Rafe snaps, “And we can’t exactly call a hospital and go ‘wow, hi, we found an ancient being locked in a temple that we didn’t have permission to go into and now she’s awake and we don’t know what to do with her’!”
“Well, what do you suggest then?”
“Someone has to take her home,” Elena goes, “We can’t leave her here. We’re the ones who woke her up…she doesn’t understand this world or anything going on.”
“We don’t even know if she’s human,” Sam argues, “She could have laser eyes or something.”
“So, now she’s Supergirl?” Rafe deadpans.
“Guys, we’ve been here for too long,” Elena remarks, “We have to go. If we linger too long, we’re going to have led them right to this chamber. She can’t stay here. Come on.”
She takes a step towards you but you flinch. Everything going on - it is too much for you. You are still trying to accept what Rafe has told you: that you are the last one. Elena hesitates at your expression. Rafe pushes past her and comes up closer to you – closer than anyone else has in thousands of years.
“Listen, you have to come with us, okay? We’ll explain everything later but it isn’t safe here. Will you come with me?”
“Where is she going to stay?” Sam calls out as he backs up towards the exit.
And Rafe is looking directly at you – the first person you saw when you awoken, the man missing a hand and is ashamed by it, the man who seems hostile but also makes you feel a tad bit okay in your current unknown situation – and he goes:
“She’ll stay with me.”
Still struggling with your new place in the world, you are taken to Rafe's place to stay. There, you learn a little bit more about the wounded man who has volunteered to take you in.
“Do you want something to eat? The kitchen is downstairs.” Rafe says to you in the doorway to what appears to be your new room.
You look around, taking in the sight. After declaring that you could stay with him (apparently shocking everyone judging by the expressions on their faces), the group hurried you out of the burial chamber. Even now, the memory of the monster that was seemingly made from metal that whipped you away from where you had slept and into the city leaves you breathless.
As you looked out the window, your hands press against the glass. Your burial chamber had grown smaller and smaller until it was swallowed up by the thick jungle. Your head felt dizzy as you took in all this new information. Waking up, discovering you were somehow the only one left, and now being pulled into a place that made your head spin with the assortment of colors, noises and smells that threatened to overwhelm you made you pull away from the window.
“Rafe,” Nathan had said, “You have a house near here, don’t you?”
Rafe, who had sat next to you, had retorted, “I have houses everywhere.”
Behind you, the man who smelled like smoke, Sam, groaned, “We get it. You’re rich. Just tell us where it is so we can go there.”
By this point, you had covered your ears. Too much noise. Just…too much of everything. The blonde-haired woman, Elena, had coaxed you out of the monster towards Rafe’s apparent house an hour later.
But now you are staring at Rafe and your throat is still feels too dry to respond. Even if you could, what would you say? There isn’t anything that you can say that would make sense. You don’t feel as if you have a grasp on their language yet. You are still wondering if you are dreaming up the entire thing.
“Rafe, come here,” It is Sam’s voice that cuts through your mental fog, “Let me talk to you for a second.”
Rafe mumbles something under his breath before turning around and leaving the room. For the first time since you have awoken, you are alone. You look around the room. Some things are clear to you, such as the bed, while others, like what appears to be black glass against the wall, hold no meaning.
You feel frozen. Your chest feels tight. How could it be that you went asleep so long ago and now nothing makes sense? These people, that city, everything around you is brand new. It is almost terrifying how the world has shifted.
And to make matters worse, try as you might, you cannot recall anything from before you fell asleep. It is as if there is a black hole where your memories once were.
Sam’s voice is raised slightly which catches your attention. Attempting to ignore the feeling of dread that is currently washing over you, you tiptoe to the door and listen.
“Are you sure about this?” He is asking Rafe.
“Sure about what? Keeping a woman that we have no idea what she is like in my house? Uh, no, not really. But what are we going to do with her? We’re the ones who woke her up. So, we’re responsible for her.” Rafe is replying.
“I meant, are you sure that you can take her in, Rafe. I agree we have to watch over her. We don’t know what she is or what she remembers. Or even how old she is. But for you to watch her…” He trails off and the silence that follows lets you know both are thinking of a dark memory.
It is Rafe who finally replies and his voice is terse, “I’m fine, Sam. I told you…I don’t need pity parties about losing my hand.”
“This isn’t about your hand even though – and I am not one for delving into issues or opening up – I still think you should talk to someone about it –”
Rafe cuts him off swiftly, “Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Hi, headshrinker? My friends and I woke up this ancient witch named Amazona. She sent pieces of her corrupted heart or whatever they were after us and one bit off my fucking hand. I’m really fucking gutted about it, what should I do?”
Sam sighs, “Fine, forget the hand. What about Nadine? When she left you, you haven’t been the same –”
“I can watch some human/android woman, Sam,” Rafe’s voice is cold, “This conversation is over. Go see if you can find something our guest would want to eat.”
You duck back into the room just in time and pretend to be fascinated by a pile of clothes that had been left on what appears to be a dresser. You run your fingers over the fabric as you file the information away in your brain. Witches? Monsters taking his hand? And now he was alone…
“Sam is looking for food for you. Do you eat?” Rafe has his arms crossed, his stump of his hand tucked away where you can’t see it.
You hesitate before nodding. What had he called you? An android? You weren’t sure what that was but it was as if he didn’t think you were human. But you had to be human, right?
“Well, he’ll find you something. You can stay here until we figure out what we can do with you.”
He goes to leave and something propels you forward. Before you can stop yourself, your fingers brush against the soft fabric of his t-shirt and you tug on it. His shoulders go stiff and he glances over his shoulder.
“What?” He asks gruffly.
The words die in your throat. You have a thousand questions to ask him but you can’t seem to get your voice to work. How had they found you? What did they know about you? What were they going to do with you? And the final question: why had he been the one to take you in?
When you don’t say anything, Rafe goes, “Come downstairs when you’re ready so you can eat.”
Thirty minutes later, you are looking down at a bowl of what appears to be soup. You register it is soup, like a dim memory from a long time ago. It is oddly comforting to be staring at something that you know.
“Really, canned soup? We have this entire state of the art kitchen and you make canned soup?” Rafe says to Sam who is staring at you.
“Soup is comforting.” He argues back, not breaking eye contact with you.
The way he is looking at you is unnerving. You aren’t sure what he is expecting you to do at the sight of the soup. Panic? You dip the spoon in the bowl and tentatively lift it to your lips. Looking away from Sam’s gaze, you begin to eat.
“That soup is boiling hot. Look, it doesn’t affect you at all.” He says after a minute of silence.
Confused, you glance down at the soup. There is steam but you hadn’t noticed at first. Rafe has titled his head to one side. The light that is pouring through the window slants across the dining room. A stray lock of hair has fallen in front of his eyes. You cannot read the expression in them. For a split second, you are concerned that you have made some sort of deadly mistake but then he shrugs.
“Who cares?” Rafe proclaims.
Sam protests, “What do you mean ‘who cares’? That soup is incredibly hot and she didn’t even stop to –”
The next second, he is tugging Sam from his chair and ushering him out of the kitchen. You watch them leave and look down at the soup. You make a mental note that next time you are served something you need to see if it is hot or not. The soup doesn’t feel hot to you but it clearly is.
The thought makes you uneasy. You have to do a better job at watching how you act now. Everything is skewed and warped from how long you have been asleep.
Rafe returns a minute later and sits down on the opposite side of the table, “He’s gone. They’re all gone…finally. You can eat now. Or not eat. Whatever.”
You dip the spoon back in the bowl and struggle to find your voice. You know that you have one. It is just a matter of getting it to work. You clear your throat a few times.
He frowns, “Are you okay?”
You nod but keep trying until finally, finally, for the first time in thousands of years, you hear your voice:
“Thank you.” The words come from long ago and you are worried that you have somehow said the wrong thing.
Surprise crosses Rafe’s face. He looks unguarded. Something in his eyes shift – a sort of vulnerability that you haven’t seen before. It only lasts for a second but he gives you a curt nod, letting you know that this simple phrase you didn’t muck up somehow.
“Don’t mention it.” He mumbles, looking down at the table.
You want to ask him more. You want to ask him who Nadine is and why she left. You want to ask him more details about how he lost his hand. Why he took this chance on bringing you here.
But, in the silence that fills the dining room, you focus on your soup instead.
After having spent a week trying to learn about the new world you inhabit, you have a nightmare one night that leaves you too awake to fall back asleep. Instead, you decide to wander Rafe's house and end up stumbling across him.
In the week since you had been awoken and stashed away in this new world, there was one thing you knew for certain: the entire group wasn’t being honest with you.
Yes, everyone had been kind. Well, Rafe had been increasingly grumpy but apparently that was normal. As your mind worked to fill in the gaps of your memory and what this place was now like, you also were struggling to understand the group that had brought you here.
The blonde-haired woman, Elena, had been trying to teach you about how things were like in this time. You caught on quickly. History, languages, everything was filed away and stored almost automatically.
After the lessons, you could hear the group comprised of Rafe, Elena, Sam, and Nathan whispering about you. What you were. What to do with you. And something worse – a shadow encroaching on them all.
You are running down a hallway but it is slanting underneath your feet. With your steps unsteady, you manage to grab the handle of the nearest door and pull yourself inside.
Someone is calling your name but the voice is growing farther away. You take a step forward but suddenly, you are falling. The darkness circles around you, wrapping its arms around you and pulling you deeper. You open your mouth to scream yet nothing comes out.
The last thing you see is a flicker of light above your head. It is almost a beacon…calling you home –
You awake with a jolt. Covered in sweat and looking around the room, it takes a few seconds for you to remember where you are. Rafe’s house. You must have been dreaming. You can still recall the sensation of falling and the light above your head.
Pushing the hair that had stuck to your cheeks away from your face, you slip out of bed and stop at the doorway. Rafe has never told you that you can’t go anywhere you please in the house. But he doesn’t speak much at all. Everyone seems to give him a wide berth.
You open the door and step out into the hallway. The silence of the house weighs heavily down on you. Not for the first time this week, the reality of your situation seems to wrap itself around the silence. Everyone you knew is gone. Yet you cannot properly mourn them because you can’t even remember them. The thought makes you morose.
You walk along the length of the hallway before taking the winding staircase down. The air is still and a bit chilly but it doesn’t bother you. You trail in and out of the various rooms like a ghost. Most of the rooms feel impersonal. They are well decorated, brimming with items that you aren’t sure what their use is, but ultimately there is a hollow core to each room.
As the sadness creeps on you, a noise catches your attention. It sounds almost musical but disjointed as if it isn’t being played correctly. Following the music, you turn the corner and see a door that is slightly ajar. You open it slowly.
It is Rafe. His back is to you. There is a large window in this room, allowing the moonlight to pour over him as he strikes the keys of what is a piano. You had read about it in a book earlier this week. Bathed in moonlight, he is haphazardly striking keys. The piano sounds out of tune. Looking closer, you realize the entire room has a thick layer of dust on all the bookshelves and along the floor. Clearly, this room isn’t used often. Why is he in here?
You feel as if you are intruding on a personal moment. You take a step back to leave –
“I know you’re there.” Rafe speaks.
“Sorry,” You apologize automatically, “I heard the music.”
“Why are you up?” His voice is devoid of feeling as his good hand randomly hits one of the keys, sending an out of tune plink through the air.
You pause before going, “I had a nightmare.”
“So, you have nightmares.” He mumbles but it appears to be mostly to himself.
You don’t reply. Once again, you feel as if everyone knows more about you than you do. The feeling is disconcerting. As if sensing your feelings, Rafe turns around to look at you. Is it the lighting that makes him look so tired and worn down? Whenever you see him in the day, he always looks to be well groomed as if he spends hours in front of the mirror making sure everything is in place.
Tonight, however, there are circles under his eyes and stubble lining his jaw. His hair is messy. You can almost picture him running his fingers through it. His stub is covered by the long sleeve of his sweater and he has tilted it away from you in an attempt to hide it.
Rafe squints at you, “You aren’t cold?”
“No. But I’m guessing I should be.” A hint of annoyance has crept into your voice – your fear of being dissected and theorized over is getting to you.
“The others will say yes, you should be.” He shrugs as if it doesn’t matter to him and turns back around.
Part of you wants to leave. Yet the other part of you is acutely aware that Rafe appears to be suffering. No, not physically. But there is some sort of anger and pain boiling beneath his skin. You can relate to that. As much as you have been trying to keep a cool head since being thrust into this world, fear and doubt has been creeping in.
Instead, you go over to Rafe and sit down on the piano bench next to him. He stiffens slightly. What is he worried about? Maybe he really does think you are a robot. After you heard the word android, you had snuck off to research it. The concept of something like an android was strange and unsettling. What if you were one and couldn’t remember?
But no – Rafe had just pointed it out himself: you had dreamt. Androids couldn’t dream, right? Dimly, you remember a book titled something similar in his library and push the thought from your mind.
“What else do they say about me?” You ask.
Rafe avoids your stare, drumming his fingers along the keys, “Not much.”
He looks up and there is a flicker of surprise crossing his face, “What?”
“You’re lying. Heart rate accelerates when someone is lying.”
“You can hear my heartbeat?” Rafe leans away from you a little with a facial expression that seems to be torn between being impressed and freaked out.
Angry at yourself for slipping up yet again, you haughtily reply, “Maybe you’re losing your hearing.”
The corners of Rafe’s mouth quirk, “Wouldn’t that be something? First my hand and now my hearing.”
He hasn’t mentioned his wound in front of you before. You glance down at it, remembering how Sam had mentioned some creature tearing it off.
“We were trying to find the grave of some witch,” Rafe goes, answering your unasked question, “Turns out she wasn’t really dead. A spirit that had this sort of insane ability to keep living through taking people’s hearts and using them to replenish her own,” His voice is hollow as he goes on, “Long story short, Sam’s girlfriend and I got cornered while trying to get some weapons. The witch had these corrupted old versions of her heart after us. They were monsters and one just…bit through my hand like it was butter or whatever.”
You try to wrap your head around this. Monsters? Witches? Anything you had studied this week with Elena had lead you to believe that none of that was true. But then how can you explain yourself? You are a mystery as well, aren’t you? If only you had your memories…
“Can’t you get a fake one? I read about robotic hands.” You ask.
“I don’t want one.” Rafe’s tone is cold, clearly indicating he no longer wishes to discuss his hand nor not wanting a replacement.
You drop it and instead press on a different subject, “Have you guys figured out what you’re going to do with me?”
His shoulders relax slightly at the topic change, “You make it sound as if we’re just going to shuttle you around or sell you.”
“Well, are you?”
He glances at you and bites his bottom lip. A lock of his hair has fallen in front of his face. His eyes are cast in shadow from the way the moonlight is slanting in the room. Then he suddenly leans forward, close to you. You are startled but don’t move away.
His fingers curl around your wrist. The sudden touch sends a warmth through you and your breath catches.
“I’m only telling you this because I think you deserve to know, no matter how much the others want to keep you in the dark.”
The warmth from his touch is quickly replaced with a cold feeling in your gut. You stare at him mutely.
Rafe goes on in a soft voice, “There is a man named Lazarevic who was trying to find you first. Well, the ruins. There was supposed to be the artifact there with amazing power. We just wanted to find it to sell it or hid it before he did.”
“Why? I don’t remember anything about some sort of amazing relic back there.”
“No offense, but you don’t remember anything at all,” Rafe says although his voice isn’t cruel, “We didn’t find the relic. We found you.”
“And…you guys think I’m the relic, don’t you?” You ask, catching on now, “That I have some amazing power?”
“We don’t know what you are. And you don’t know either. But what we know is that Lazarevic can’t find you. It’s too dangerous. He won’t be kind to you. He’ll want to discover everything about you. He’ll be convinced you have a power he needs. So, we’re protecting you. Hiding out here until we get some papers forged and we can leave the country. We’ll keep hiding you until we know what you are. Who you are. And we can stop Lazarevic.”
The fear that has threatened to engulf you since you have awoken is rearing its head to tear you open. Your throat catches and you quickly get off the piano stool. This feeling inside of you is something new as if you are afraid of things that haven’t even happened yet.
Rafe reaches out for you, to try to stop you but you shake your head, “There isn’t anything special about me,” You protest, “I don’t have any powers or anything that can help this man get what he wants.”
Rafe doesn’t reply. He is only staring at you with some sort of pitying look in his eyes as if he knows exactly how you are feeling. It doesn’t give you any comfort. He stands up and walks over to you. You are biting your bottom lip as if you might – what, cry? Can you cry?
He reaches out for your hand and his fingers curl around yours. Where you feel panicked, Rafe seems calm and unbothered. You suck in a deep breath to try to steady yourself.
“We’re going to protect you. Whatever he wants, he won’t get it. You aren’t alone,” He hesitates before adding, “I’ll protect you.”
“There isn’t anything special about me.” You repeat stubbornly – if you say it enough, perhaps it will come true.
Rafe smiles sadly at you, “But there is.”
He lets go of your hand and pats you on the shoulder before walking past you, leaving you alone in the dust filled room with only moonlight for company.
After waking up from a dream, you hear intruder’s in Rafe’s house. Knowing they have come for you, you are determined to escape and make sure Rafe is okay as well. Will the two of you make it out?
In your dream, you are being pulled forward. You dig your heels against the stones but the man tugging you along is too strong. He glances back at you and worry crosses his face.
“There isn’t any time. This is what is best for you. You’re important to this community.”
“My father is important.” You remind him although your voice sounds far away as if it has been locked up in another room.
The man doesn’t reply. You are in the chamber, filled with the coffin-like beds that people are hurrying into. Some are crying, ruled by their panic. Others are accepting their fate more calmly.
You pull your hand free from the man. The floor is warping underneath your feet. It feels as if you are on a boat, drifting away from everything you have ever known.
“This is it?” You ask him, “This is everyone? Our entire society and we are only allowing a handful in here?”
The man grunts, “Important members only.”
“They’re all important!” You protest, “There are only two hundred of us left.”
“We don’t have enough for everyone,” The man turns to look at you, his eyes narrowed in irritation, “This is what your father wanted for you. His final request was that you are granted access to this room. Believe me, I would have picked someone else.”
“I’m not going in there,” You shake your head, taking a step backwards as the swooping sensation in your stomach grows stronger, “I’m going back –”
Someone is sobbing as the lid is drawn over them. You can hear their wails bouncing off the stone walls. It sends you over the edge. No, you cannot stay here – you cannot leave anyone behind - you spin around to leave but two men are already there. They are double your size. Enforcers. They grab you by the arms.
“Sorry,” The man goes, not sounding sorry at all, “But this is what your father would have wanted.”
Then everything goes dark.
When you wake up, you gasp for air. You feel as if you have run a marathon. Your body is slick with sweat and the bedsheets are sticking to you. Furiously, you kick them off and look around the room.
It is just another dream, you tell yourself. They have been coming every night now, vibrant in colour and sensation, leaving you breathless and awake afterwards. Your skin is clammy and you slip out of bed.
The house is silent. It is always silent. In the few days since you had stumbled across Rafe in that dusty room with the piano, you haven’t heard the music since. Now you tiptoe into the bathroom and turn on the water in the sink.
Even now, the fact that you can twist a handle and have fresh water come out of it leaves you stunned. Most of the things that Rafe and his friends don’t look twice at leave you marveled. You also find yourself wondering if that was how things were back in your own lifetime, with your own family. But your mind remains stubborn and blank. Your dreams, so vibrant when you first wake up, fade to grey moments later. It leaves an ashy taste in your mouth – a dimly recalled memory that slips through your fingers.
The water is cold against your skin and it helps clear your mind. After you are done, you turn it off and sigh. You are wondering if you are going to be able to fall back asleep when, in the distance, you hear something fall over.
It is a small, faint noise. It is the sort of noise that if you gave any indication of hearing it, Sam would hover close to you as if you were a book to be studied. But you are alone and the sudden noise makes you freeze.
Maybe you imagined it? But then a couple of seconds later, there is a small thudding noise. Could it be Rafe? You hope it is Rafe. You want it to be him. You are about to leave but the sound of footsteps nearby has you rooted to the spot.
The small sliver of light underneath the door is blocked for a few seconds by a pair of feet slowly walking by. You are holding your breath. No, that isn’t Rafe. He wouldn’t be sneaking around like a burglar in his own house. Someone is coming for you – someone who knows which room is yours.
You look around the bathroom for something to strike the person with. The footsteps are in your room now. You can hear them looking for you quietly. Somewhere, downstairs, you can hear another person as well.
The footsteps move back into the hallway and stop in front of the bathroom. You lean over and lock the door. The handle jiggles.
“She’s in here,” The man says to someone, “Let’s get the door down.”
Someone else is coming up the stairs – you hadn’t heard him, missed him somehow - “What about the other guy?”
“He’ll be taken care of.”
They are going after Rafe. The thought of him being taken unaware and hurt – even killed – snaps you out of your fog. You turn to the towel bar and on a whim, you grab it. As the door handle jiggles and the men attempt to break down the door, you yank the bar free from the wall and grip it tightly.
You can practically hear Sam in your ear, “You shouldn’t be able to do that! I mean, maybe like…a really strong man could do that. I don’t know. What do you think, Rafe? Is that a normal thing or some sort of mystical…robot thing?”
The door smashes open and the first man barrels through. You raise the metal bar and bring it down on the first man who comes through. The man topples forward and you dart out of the way. The second man is raising something metal – a gun, you realize distantly – but you swing the bar upwards and strike him against the jaw with it.
He stumbles against the wall. The gun goes off. The sound makes your ears ring as you swing the bar again, knocking him out. The gun clatters against the ground as the man slumps over. You hesitate before grabbing the weapon. You have no idea how a gun works but Rafe would.
You dart down the hallway. Already, you can hear a group of men below hurrying up the stairs. They have heard the gunshots.
“We’re supposed to take her alive. Lazarevic ordered it.” One of them say.
You go into the room closest to you, still holding the bar and the gun. Biting your bottom lip, you drop the bar onto the couch and hold the gun carefully. You can’t bring both along with you.
You hurry over to the window, opening it and glancing behind you. You don’t have long. They will be sweeping the house to find Rafe and yourself. You wiggle through the window and look down. You are on the third floor of Rafe’s mansion. The cobblestone pathway below you makes you catch your breath. You cannot fall. You can’t focus on the idea of falling either.
In the distance, you can see a car parked by the front door. The engine is on but the headlights are turned off in an effort to blend in. You shimmy along the edge before wrapping your arms around the nearest pipe. Your stomach is tight and the fear is leaving a metallic taste in your mouth. You hold the gun carefully as you adjust your position. Knowing your recent luck, you will pull the trigger and somehow blow your own face off.
Yet you force yourself to slide down the pipe before grappling onto the ledge of the second floor. Rafe’s floor. You truly hope he has an unlocked window somewhere or you are going to be in a lot of trouble.
“Search the grounds!” Someone shouts from the open front door, “Can’t find either of them!”
That means Rafe is on the move as well. What if he isn’t in his room? Or worse yet – what if he has gone to find you and the two of you miss one another?
Your fingers curl around the edge of the nearest window and yank it up. It squeaks a little and you wince, waiting for someone to see you. But nothing happens and you manage to slink inside.
This room is foreign to you, like much of the house. You only know where Rafe’s room is located because of Sam, who tried to make sense of the house for you. Now you are grateful for his assistance.
You peak outside the door into the hallway but don’t see or hear anything. Nudging the door open, you look around before taking off towards Rafe’s room. The door is knocked off its hinges and the room is a mess. There has clearly been a fight here.
Risking it, you whisper, “Rafe?” Perhaps he is hiding.
You hear a floorboard creak and whirl around, raising the gun.
“Whoa, Jesus, put it down!” It is Rafe – wild-eyed with streaks of blood running down one of his cheeks, having come out from behind a couch.
His good hand is raised as if to show he is unarmed. You lower the gun and exhale, “Are you okay?”
“I was about to find you. How did you get here?”
“I climbed.” You say by way of explanation.
“You – you climbed?” Rafe looks momentarily stunned –
But then you hear the footsteps coming down the stairs and you shake your head, “No time. They’re coming on this floor again. Here.” You shove the gun towards him.
He takes it from you and then motions to a bag on the nearest chair, “Grab that. I had it ready just in case.”
“How are we getting out of here?” You ask as you put the backpack on.
Rafe shoots you a quick look as he goes over to a bookshelf, “I’m a one-armed billionaire with an iffy mental state,” When you don’t reply, he goes, “I have a secret passage. Come on.”
These men are different. They sound different as if their faces are covered by something. You can hear their steady breathing as they start kicking in the doors along the hallway. They aren’t going to be easily rattled like the first group of men. Rafe pushes the bookshelf to the side and motions for you to go first. The bookshelf has revealed some sort of narrow staircase.
You duck to enter the space and Rafe reaches for you, “Hey, listen –”
You turn slightly to look at him. He is wearing a long sleeved black t-shirt and sweatpants with his eyes tired from being jostled from sleep in such a horrendous manner. There is something fragile about him as if he has been dropped and shattered like a teacup. The blood on his cheek has dried and is flaking off. With relief, you can see that it is not Rafe’s blood. He is unharmed.
“What?” You ask.
There is a thumping noise as the door next to Rafe’s room is kicked in. This seems to startle him and he shoves you forward, “Go. Just go. Check the bag for information on where to meet up.”
“Meet up – what?” You protest.
“Listen, you can do this, okay? Don’t worry.”
But he is sliding the bookshelf over the entrance. You throw yourself forward to escape, refusing to leave him alone, but it is impossible. The bookshelf is too heavy. It is seemingly made from some material to serve as a stronghold door instead of an ordinary bookshelf.
You press your ear against the door. Straining to hear Rafe, all you can hear is your own rapidly beating heart. Your press your hand to your chest, feeling a wicked sense of déjà vu roll over you as the silence of the escape route threatens to overwhelm.
You force yourself to take a step back from the door. Taking in a shaky breath, you turn around and take off down the escape route, trying to shove down the sense that this has happened before – that you have been led along a path because of who you are, leaving other people to trail in your ruin.
After surviving the attack on Rafe's mansion, you are safely hidden in a hotel room in the city. Worried for the safety of yourself and Rafe, you wait for him at the hotel. Struggling with how you feel around him and how new it all is, you come to an important decision.
You pace the room and glance at the door. It has been two hours since you escaped from Rafe’s house, leaving him alone to fend off Lazarevic’s forces who had come for you. Since then, you managed to get lost in the city, swallowed up by this new world you barely understood, and spat out an hour later in front of the hotel Rafe had included in his instructions.
Paranoia drives you to look at the note that had been shoved in the backpack. You have read it so many times the paper is tearing, folding and unfolding it as if it will bring you luck. The note had included an address and a hotel room key. Rafe had seemingly thought of everything when he had taken you in, including being attacked.
Yet he isn’t here. The city had felt alive, crawling with people and you had been an outsider. Your brain had attempted to rapidly fill in the blanks with the different languages that swirled around you. At any moment, you assumed the men would reach out of the darkness and snatch you up.
After bumbling around for a while, you had managed to get directions from an old woman. She had spoken slowly, allowing you to keep up with her even though it was a new language. With the new directions in your brain, you had found the hotel.
You sit down at the edge of the bed. You can see your reflection in the television screen but you hardly recognize yourself. The men chasing after you probably knew more about yourself than you did. You, who cannot remember anything, who let Rafe stay behind so you could get to safety.
The guilt tastes metallic in your mouth; a bitter pill to swallow. If he has died, it is your fault. You should have stayed behind. You should –
The door bursts open. Alarmed, you leap up and snatch the gun off the table. It had been included in the backpack. Swiftly, you raise the weapon –
“Is this how you’re always going to greet me?”
“Rafe!” You exclaim, lowering the weapon.
“Put that thing away.” He grumbles, gesturing to the gun.
You gently put the gun down on the TV stand and hurry over to him. Before you stop yourself, you pull him in for a hug. Rafe stiffens at first as if he isn’t sure what a hug is.
“I was so scared.” You say, breathing in the scent of him: his cologne, a hint of clean laundry and something more sinister – blood and fire.
Slowly, Rafe wraps his arms around yours and goes, “It’s fine. Well…no, it’s all pretty shitty but we’re fine here for now.”
You can feel how warm he is. With your ear pressed against his chest, you listen to his steady heartbeat. How can he not be nervous? After everything you have gone through in such a short amount of time, Rafe seems calm. Disgruntled? Yeah. But at this point you have taken note that he is always like that.
“You’re shaking,” Rafe says and looks down at you, “You okay?”
You hadn’t noticed that you were shaking. Embarrassed by the fact you are shaking and how being this close to Rafe is making you feel, you pull away from him, “I’m fine. Just a lot happened at once. What did you do after I left?”
He moves past you, going over to a small fridge and yanks it open. After rummaging around for a few seconds, he pulls out a small bottle of a clear fluid. The sight of it makes you realize your throat feels dry.
“Can I have a sip?”
Rafe smirks, “This isn’t water.”
He cracks the bottle open with his good hand as you realize it is alcohol. Your brain flicks through the information you have about the substance to conclude that he is holding a small bottle of vodka.
“Isn’t that mixed with something else?” You ask.
“I don’t need anything to dilute the strength.” Rafe replies and swigs it, grimacing.
You frown, “I don’t think that is healthy. In fact, what I have read about consuming liquor –”
He waves the bottle, clearly disinterested in whatever your lecture about drinking will contain and takes another swig, “Don’t worry about me. I’m not the one in trouble.”
Rafe winces and you go over to him, “You’re hurt. Where?”
“I’m fine.” He tilts his body slightly away from you.
“You’re lying. Your –”
“Heart rate accelerates when you’re lying.” He finishes for you with a groan, recalling your earlier conversation in his piano room.
You reach out before he can stop you and yank up the side of his t-shirt. He is wounded. A gun shot must have nicked him. The skin is an angry red, like scorched earth, and the blood has dried around the hole.
“I’m fine.” Rafe says.
“Goes the man swinging vodka out of mini-bottles,” You click your tongue against the roof of your mouth, “Save some of that, please. We have to disinfect the wound.”
“Oh, now you know about first aid?” He complains as he hands you a new small bottle of vodka.
“I’ve been reading the books in your library. Sit.” You order as you usher him into the bathroom.
“Those are real?” Rafe’s eyes widen in surprise, “I bought the whole set just to piss someone off. Who was I trying to piss off? God, I don’t even remember now.”
“I don’t think God is going to remind you.” You reply solemnly as you rummage through the backpack.
“No, I’m not literally talking – it’s just a phrase.”
You glance up, slightly confused, “Religion is a phase?”
“I said phrase and no – just forget it, okay? I’m too tired and sore for this.” You can practically see the dark clouds over his head.
There is a first aid kit in the backpack. Relieved, you pull it out and go, “You put a lot of careful thought in this bag. It has almost everything we need. Plus, the hotel and emergency escape plan…”
“Oh,” He shifts, sitting on the edge of the tub, “I didn’t put that shit together. Elena did. Don’t look at me like that.”
“Disappointed that I wasn’t the mastermind behind our successful escape.”
You sit next to him and reply while looking down at the kit, “You still protected me. It doesn’t matter if the escape wasn’t your idea. You still protected me.”
Rafe doesn’t reply at first. You glance up at him. There it is – that funny feeling again. It sweeps over you.
He looks away from you, bringing the bottle to his lips, “Yeah, well. What was I going to do?” He finishes off the small bottle, “Hey, grab me another, will you?”
“That is a bad idea. Drinking straight alcohol that quickly will result in –”
Rafe waves his hand at you, “Come on, come on. I can handle my booze.”
A mere twenty minutes later, you discover that Mr. Rafe Adler cannot, in fact, handle his liquor.
“There. All patched up.” You announce, mostly to yourself.
You admire your handiwork. Cleaned out, and disinfected, bandaged to the best of your abilities – it will be good enough until Rafe can see someone who knows what they are doing.
Rafe is drunk by now. You make a mental note that two little bottles of vodka is excessive.
“I’m fucking tired,” He grumbles and slowly gets to his feet, “Time for bed.”
“Don’t move too much,” You lecture, “Also, you might have a scar. There was only so much that I could do.”
Rafe snickers, leaning against the doorway, “A scar?” He gestures to his stub, “How am I gonna cope with a fucking scar?”
He turns around, walking unsteadily towards the bed. You trail after him. There is only one bed in the room yet Rafe doesn’t seem to care. He tugs down the sheets and flops in it. He is on his back, staring at the ceiling.
You hover, unsure how to proceed. You are exhausted and would like to sleep. Yet getting in the bed with Rafe feels so…personal. Why are you nervous? Rafe doesn’t seem to care. Maybe that is a side effect of being drunk – just not caring.
The sun is rising by now, poking through the window, leaving stretches of light along the walls. You pull the sheets back on your side and get into bed. The sheets are cold against your skin; a contrast against how warm you feel.
Rafe is silent. His breathing is deep as if he has fallen asleep. You envy him. You doubt that you will be able to fall asleep so quickly. You are jumpy. Could they find you even here?
As you start to feel anxiety blooming in your chest, Rafe slurs, “I fucked it up, you know?”
“Excuse me?” You blink, not following.
He tilts his head to look at you. There is a slant of light across his chest but the rest of him are in shadows. His eyes are rimmed with red from being tired, injured and drunk.
“With Nadine. After I lost my hand. I fucked it up. I pushed her away,” He rambles, “I just – she left. I just didn’t want to deal with it. Any of it. Her. The aftermath of Amazona. What it meant. What it had done to me.”
He falls silent. All you can hear is his breathing. You want to reach out and touch him – try to comfort him in some way. But you are afraid of scaring him. Rafe always appears as if he would run away at the smallest kindness.
“Is that why you said no to some sort of replacement hand?” You finally ask, thinking it was the safest topic – not wanting to enter the minefield about his ex-lover, Nadine.
“It’s a reminder,” His voice slurs again and he closes his eyes, “A reminder.”
It takes Rafe a few seconds to answer, “A reminder of what I can be like at my worst. And what is out there. Like you.”
His head rolls to the side, eyes unfocused, “You’re like Amazona. Well, minus the witch part. I think? And the whole evil part. And creating monsters to rip off limbs. That sort of thing. You’re different. You don’t fit into the world everyone thinks they know. People would argue that you don’t exist. That something like you isn’t real. But they’re wrong, obviously, because you’re here.”
You don’t know what to make of his speech. You wish that you had your memories. You hate feeling helpless. You don’t like being a problem to Rafe, to the others, and not being able to give them anything back.
Rafe rolls onto his side to better look at you, “You’re very pretty. I’ll deny saying this tomorrow so don’t bring it up.” He yawns loudly and his eyes flutter closed.
The sudden compliment makes you blush. It has come out of the blue and you find yourself struggling for something to say in reply.
“After Amazona, I spent a long time alone. Nadine thought I needed counseling but I’m fine. I am fine. But she got tired of me. Said I was moody. She left. I deserved it. I treated her like shit.”
“You probably were moody.” You reply, relieved that he didn’t compliment you again because you aren’t sure how to take them.
At this, Rafe laughs. The sound is new and makes you smile. You tilt your face to look over at him. He looks so different when he laughs.
“Whatever happened to you, in the past, we’ll figure it out,” He promises drunkenly, “I’ll protect you. I’ll…always protect you.” He trails off sleepily.
You hesitate as Rafe closes his eyes again, “Rafe?”
“Mmm?” He grumbled, sleep rapidly closing in on him
“How do you know that I’m not like that witch you ran into? Amazona?”
He yawns and doesn’t reply. You assume he has fallen asleep, leaving you with mixed feelings. Rafe’s compliment replays in your head. He thinks you’re pretty. Why? Perhaps he only said that because he is drunk. Don’t drunk people spout off whatever nonsense pops in their head?
Yet his words are lodged in there, as well as the fact he protected you – this grumpy man with the one hand, a bitter billionaire haunted by his past and the mistakes he had made – have all nestled in your heart.
“Well…” He speaks and your breath catches, hanging on his every word, “I still have my other hand, right? Witches seem fond of taking my limbs.”
Disappointed, you reply with, “Oh.”
But Rafe is already snoring, fast asleep.
When he wakes up hours later, complaining of a headache and grumbling at the pain in his side, you already know what you must do next. Fueled by the fact you are being hunted, that Rafe is in danger just by knowing you, and you still do not have your memories, you know the next step.
He won’t like it.
You sit next to him on the bed and he looks over at you, “Whatever I said last night, ignore it, alright? I drank too much. Ran my mouth.” He grumbled – and his heart is beating very quickly, letting you know that he is lying…
But you can’t think about that right now: how you are starting to feel about him, how he may feel about you.
“Rafe,” You say and something in your voice makes him look up at you, “I know what I have to do.”
“What?” He replies warily.
Your breath catches as you go, “I need you to take me back to where you found me. The place where I was awakened.”
You were right. He didn’t like the idea at all.
Determined to retrieve your memories, you return to the place where you had been awakened. Along with Sam and Rafe, you anxiously weave your way through the temple to discover the secrets. But at what price will they come back?
“This is a terrible idea.”
“You’ve said that already,” Rafe snaps to Sam, “About a thousand times.”
“That’s right,” He hisses back through clenched teeth, “Which should alarm you. You should be thinking ‘wow if Sam thinks this idea is shit, perhaps I should listen to him!’”
“Enough!” You go and both men fall silent.
In front of you is the temple from which the group had found and awakened you. Last time, you had been smuggled out and had been so disoriented that nothing stuck out in your memory. It was smeared like a child’s painting across the walls of your skull.
Staring at the temple now, however, was already pulling at your memory. It is ruined, half collapsed against the base of the mountain and entwined with vines. Broken stones litter the ground and the top of the temple has sunken in. It looks as if –
War, fire, death – the pain is intense. You look down and the blood blooms across your chest like flower. You watch, not understanding what is going on – your knees buckle –
“Hey,” Rafe nudges you, “Where are you?”
“I am here. Sorry. I…” You hesitate, not sure how to explain what you just felt.
Sam, refusing to let the subject drop, leans forward in between Rafe and yourself, “Do I really need to remind you that Lazarevic is looking for her? And now we are standing here in front of the place we found her – the place that we escaped from?”
Rafe looks over his shoulder, “She needs her memories back. If she gets her memories back, we can find out what she is or what she might know to stop Lazarevic. He already attacked my fucking house. He isn’t being subtle.”
“If Nathan knew we were doing this…”
“You could have told him. That isn’t my problem.” Rafe brushes it off and looks over at you, “You ready? We can’t linger. Lazarevic might have people who come to this place or check up on it. There could be people inside.”
“I’m not.” Sam grumbles but both of you ignore him.
The pathway seems hauntingly familiar. Have you walked it before? You must have. At some point in time, thousands of years ago, this place was your home. You knew these stones and every curve of the temple in front of you.
Your group walks in silence. At one point, Sam goes to light a cigarette but Rafe smacks it out of his hand. They almost begin to bicker but fall silent as the temple entrance looms before you.
“I need to go back to where you found me.” You tell them.
“I’ll lead the way,” Sam replies, “Lord knows Rafe wasn’t paying attention.”
He brushes past Rafe who look at you. You feel strange all over when he does this. It is wrong to start to feel this way about him. He has taken you in – anything more is dangerous. It cannot lead to anything. The two of you could not be more different.
Rafe breaks eye contact with you, snapping you out of your thoughts. How can you be thinking about this now? You have an important task at hand and you are focusing on him instead.
Rafe enters the temple and glances back at you. You find yourself hesitating. Are you ready for what the memories could entail? Yet in the end does it even matter? You must move forward. After seeing Rafe get injured on your behalf, you refuse to sit in the corner and let others take the risks.
Since most of the temple has caved in, light pours in through the cracks and the holes in the ceiling. Originally you had thought Rafe was going to take you to the middle of the temple but he casts an apologetic glance towards you.
“The center has collapsed. But we went through a back passage to get to the burial chamber.”
“Great, yeah, I really missed the creepy passageway to the burial chamber.” Sam grumbles.
You look at him, “Why is it creepy?”
“Don’t listen to him. He’s jumpy ever since he stupidly knocked over a vase and released Amazona in her own burial chamber.” Rafe’s tone is hostile and the last thing you want is bitter memories surging up between the two men.
“Alright, well, lead the way.” You go, gently pushing on the back of Rafe’s back.
“If I tried to lead Rafe along the way, he’d deck me.” Sam whispers in your ear as you follow him.
But his voice must carry because Rafe replies curtly, “That’s because you’re annoying.”
After that, the group falls silent. You are focusing on each step and making sure that you don’t trip. There are vines that Sam keeps getting caught on which pushes you forward against Rafe. You grow irritated with yourself and how you allow your fingers to linger on him to steady yourself. Does a man simply compliment you when he is drunk and you lose your head? You refuse to entertain any other idea.
After what feels like ages of walking down the passageway – where the light steadily fades away and forces everyone to use their flashlights – there is a crumbling staircase. You hesitate as Rafe descends.
“Walk down that thing?” You balk at the idea and the way the stones shift under Rafe’s weight.
“It’ll be okay. If it can hold both Sam and Nate’s weight a couple of times then you’ll be fine.” Rafe reassures you as Sam scoffs in your ear.
You are so close to the burial chamber that you refuse to let a staircase scare you off. Even so, Rafe motions Sam forward to take the lead. At first you don’t understand why. But then he puts his flashlight in his back pocket and holds out his hand towards you.
“Come on.” He urges.
Before you question it, you reach out and take his hand. His fingers curl around yours as you walk next to him. Clutching your flashlight in your other hand, you trail after Sam. Rafe’s hand in yours makes you feel safer. You like that you can feel his heartbeat, steady like a drum – unbothered by where you are and where you are heading. Whatever Rafe has gone through, including the struggles with Amazona and losing his hand, nothing seems to bother him.
The staircase ends suddenly and a hallway begins. Sam leans over, pulling out his lighter, and lights a torch. Across the stones you can see images splashed upon them…and something very dark…
Blood against the walls – you are protesting and trying to dig your heels in but they will not hear of it. No, your father has rebuilt you – you are the first of the new generation and no matter what happens with the civil war, you aren’t going to be wasted. He has made it perfectly clear everyone around you can die but you will live on – you will be the beacon for the future – his legacy –
Rafe is gently tugging on your hand and you snap out of the memory. Each step down the hallway triggers a flash of something else – you are injured, dying. Another step, another memory: concerned faces floating above yours, their faces interchangeable with Rafe and the others. Your father’s voice grating in your ears.
“This is the chamber.” Sam goes.
Rafe looks at you, “Do you want us in there or to be alone?”
“I should go in alone. It might help.”
“Don’t take too long,” Sam replies, jumpy as ever, “I swear – this is going too well. Something is going to happen.”
With a pang of regret, you let go of Rafe’s hand and take Sam’s torch. Holding your breath, you open the door and step inside the burial chamber. You walk in a slow circle, lighting the other torches so that the fires illuminate the space. Then you stand in the center.
What are you expecting? Something to click in your head and access memories long stored away? Nothing like that occurs. You take in the sight of what must have been the coffin-like stone boxes that everyone had slept in. Some have human remains in them. Bones from a long time ago. You must have known them once. Others are empty. Did they wake up at one point?
You go over to the one you were discovered in. Your fingers curl around the edges as you look down inside. The stone is cold against your hands – it is slight but it is your anchor to the present. You are here. In this moment.
You let out a shuddery breath and close your eyes. The air is musty and difficult to breathe. You linger on it – on the sensation of the stone against your fingertips –
Dying. You are dying. The doctors are fighting with someone – your father. He is screaming back at them. An order. He is in charge. He is losing the war and wants this to happen. If he hides it this way, then no matter the outcome of the civil war, it will be protected.
The doctors argue with him as they try to save your life. But your father is clear on this: it must be hidden inside of you. Whatever happens to you, you must carry it in your heart. It is too powerful. It cannot fall into their hands.
They relent. Your vision is blurring. One of the doctors looks down at you – he is pitying you. You, the daughter of the leader – he feels bad for you. What he is about to do to you.
“She might not live.” Someone says.
“The jewel must be protected. I know you can do this. You’ve been studying it –”
“Studying it and putting it inside her heart are two vastly different things. If only you would reconsider –”
There is no reconsidering. There is only altering.
You open your eyes, gasping for breath as the ground seemingly slopes underneath your feet. You press your hands against your chest – there is something in you. In your heart. How can a jewel be in your heart? How could you be alive?
You stumble away from the place where you slept. Your chest feels very tight like your heart is aware there is a jewel lodged inside of it and you will die at any moment. What else was done to you? They had to make changes to you in order for you to live with that inside of you.
What sort of madman was your father? Clearly, you had been injured in the civil war and he had taken advantage of that. He had opted to turn you into…into whatever you currently were. That is why you were protected and forced to sleep as the civil war destroyed your people.
You are anxious to get out of the burial chamber. You no longer want to be inside of this terrible place. There are more questions: what is the jewel and what does it do to make it so important that it had to be lodged into you? But you will find them elsewhere; not in this room.
You push open the doors and step into the hallway. Instantly, you freeze. At your feet is Sam. He is unconscious. The light from your torch illuminates Rafe’s foot. You raise the torch higher. He is bleeding from the side of his head. For a moment, you are terrified he is dead but his chest moves.
Yet the relief is short lived. You hear footsteps echo in the hallway and out of the darkness comes the one man you had been working so hard to avoid. It must be him – who else would wait like a creature of the night to trap you?
Lazarevic looks like something you’d create to scare children. He is much taller than you and scarred all over as if he has gone through something terrible. You stumble backwards and the torch falls, rolling across the floor. His shadow looms behind him like a monster.
“I knew you’d be foolish enough to come back here.” He says to you as your back presses against the wall, “You’re going to come with me. Just for a talk.”
You are too afraid to speak. Your throat feels like it is closing.
Lazarevic smiles and you feel cold all over, “Just a discussion about the Raven Jewel.”
He is holding a gun but you realize this too late as he steps into the torchlight. There is a small noise of it firing. You expect pain but as you look down to your stomach and see the dart lodged in your skin the only thing you feel is incredibly tired.
And then everything goes dark.
Kidnapped, you face down Lazarevic and hope to outwit him. But there could be dire consequences if you misstep.
warnings: kidnapping and violence.
When the lid closes, you cannot hear anything. The sounds of battle are gone. There is no light in what you can only describe as a coffin. Soon, you will be falling asleep. Fear grips you. It tastes raw and bitter in your mouth; metallic as it wiggles down your throat. Your father should be trying to protect everyone. Not just you – and it is only you because of the jewel in your heart. The power source that could destroy anything if someone willed it enough – the power that is eating away at you, laying claim to your very soul. There is nothing that you could do to get it out. Either you awake now or you awake later, the result is the same.
The jewel will kill you one day. It will eat away at your human and metal parts until there is nothing left but whoever is clever enough to figure out how the jewel works.
Something even your father didn’t trust you with knowing.
The darkness is sweeping over you. Some part of you desperately hopes that you will never awaken.
Your eyes flutter open. For a split second, you think that you are back in your tomb with those strange new faces hovering over you, speaking words that you do not understand. But you realize that you are chained to the wall in a dark room. There is a grimy window above your head on the right side, letting in some light.
It all comes back to you, swiftly and with terrible dread, about what you remembered and how Lazarevic had been lying in wait. Not only that but Sam and Rafe –
Rafe! At the memory of Rafe lying unconscious next to Sam, you try to wiggle free. But it is of no use. Shackled to the wall of what appears to be a basement, there is no sign of them here. No sign of Lazarevic either.
You are breathing so quickly that dizziness sweeps over you. What had Lazarevic wanted? The Raven Jewel. That…thing that was in your heart. Your father had put it there like you were some sort of storage bin.
Your father, who must be dead now. Wouldn’t he be thrilled to know his process had worked? The Raven Jewel had been kept safe inside your own android heart, pieced and held together by magic and science.
Only now Lazarevic wanted it and you weren’t even sure what it could do. If it was powerful enough to be hidden inside a human being, then you weren’t exactly feeling keen on just letting him cut it out of you.
The sound of a door creaking open jolts you out of your thoughts. There is a wooden staircase on the opposite side of you. Your breath catches as heavy boots come down the stairs. Then, Lazarevic comes into view.
You shrink against the wall at the sight of him. He looks like the bringer of death – not only just yours but for Sam and Rafe as well. Even so, you are determined to show any fear. You aren’t going to cower in front of him. Lazarevic has been chasing after you since before you were awoken. He needs you. At least until he can figure out how to get the Raven Jewel out of your heart.
Lazarevic drags a chair in front of you and turns the back of it to you, straddling the seat and casually hanging his arms over the back.
“Tell me how to activate the Raven Jewel.” He orders – there are no formalities here.
“No.” You say hoarsely.
Lazarevic’s jaw tenses for a moment before he goes, “I’ve spent five years searching for the Raven Jewel. Imagine my surprise when I discover it is in a…thing like you. At first, I wasn’t sure how this could be. How could a human carry the jewel? But my research doesn’t lie. And neither did discovering the Drake Brothers snagging you before I could. It told me what I needed to know.”
“Except for how to get the jewel or use it’s power.” You sneer, “I’m not an object. I’m a person.”
Lazarevic cocks his head to the side, studying you. Then he pushes the chair away and walks towards you. You look up at him –
And he brings his fist across your face so hard that you see stars. Letting out a gasp of pain, you can taste the blood in your mouth from where your lip has split. Your head is spinning from the sudden attack.
He crouches down in front of you and in a low, stony voice says, “You are an object. You are a carrier for the jewel. The legend states a powerful force will activate the jewel. You will tell me what that is.”
You spit blood at his feet and force yourself to meet his stare, “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you.”
You can tell that he doesn’t believe you. He thinks you know how to activate the power of the jewel. But that knowledge died with your father. All you can do is try to protect it…as well as protect Sam and Rafe.
It is like Lazarevic lands on the same idea as you do. His mouth twists into a sneer and you prepare yourself for another punch.
Instead, he goes, “I have the carrier. You can rot down here for as long as it takes – if I were feeling patient. But I am not. So, I will speed things up. I’ll kill the Drake sibling first. Means nothing to me. I’ll make you watch. You will watch him die knowing that it is your fault.”
“Don’t touch him!” You exclaim and the panic that you have been trying to hold at bay threatens to swoop over you, “He doesn’t know anything. Neither do I! I told you!”
“We’ll see about that.” He replies coldly.
You watch him leave the room, knowing there is nothing that you could do to stop him from doing anything he wanted.
You aren’t sure how much time has passed when the door opens again. Your jaw is aching from where Lazarevic punched you. You are terrified of seeing Sam or Rafe’s corpse pushed down the stairs just to frighten you.
When they are brought into the room, alive but beaten, the relief you experience makes you gasp. Two of Lazarevic’s goons tie them to chairs in front of you. Sam is unconscious but you can see him breathing. Rafe is awake, although one eye is swollen shut from whatever beating he has endured.
“Yeah, tie up the cripple,” He is saying to one of the thugs, “Wouldn’t want the scary one-armed man to hurt you, right?” Rafe sneers.
The thugs don’t answer and leave the way they came. The door shuts, leaving you alone with Rafe and Sam.
“Are you okay?” Rafe asks before you can, “Did that bastard hit you?”
“I’m fine,” You say although you are holding back tears at the sight of Rafe hurt, “Rafe, I’m so sorry. I never meant for any of this – this wasn’t what I wanted for you or Sam –”
“Sam is fine. Lord knows he needs a good beating now and again.” He replies with a shrug, “They asked about the Raven Jewel. But I only know of it in passing. That was more of Nathan’s area of expertise. I was just here for the potential money to be made.”
Taking in a shaky breath, you tell Rafe what you have remembered and what Lazarevic told you. When you finish, he is staring intently at you and biting his bottom lip, lost in thought.
Rambling, you go, “I don’t know how to activate the jewel. Besides the fact that there is a jewel inside of my heart – don’t get me started on that! What the fuck am I supposed to do with that? I do not know much about anatomy but in all the books I have read since I woke up, there is nothing about humans having jewels of great power in their chests. On top of that, this means Sam was partly right. I am not human. I’m some magical android being, Rafe!”
He chuckles. The sound brings your rambling to a stop as you look at him confused.
“Sorry. But listen to you. You sound so regular now. Someone from this time period.”
It isn’t what you are expecting to hear. There is that feeling again – that dangerous sensation you have been experiencing around Rafe lately. You are going to reply but Rafe keeps going.
“Listen. Whatever you are – android, human, magical jewel carrier – it doesn’t matter to me. Since you came out of your slumber, you’ve been taking everything that comes your way in stride. Better than I have and I wasn’t the one who is dealing with anything close to what you are. So, whatever it is – whatever is going to happen – we’ll get through it, alright?”
His words warm you. For the first time since you saw Lazarevic back at the temple, you feel a little bit better.
“Listen, there is something I have to tell you. If we don’t make it out of here. Or if I lose another limb.” He goes dryly.
“What is it?” Your heart is beating rapidly and distantly, you wonder how the jewel looks lodged inside of it.
Rafe opens his mouth to speak –
But the door on the top of the stairs swings open, cutting off whatever Rafe was going to admit to you. Sam lets out a small noise in his chair, starting to awaken. Lazarevic appears at the base of the stairs and stops behind the chairs.
“Lemme guess,” Rafe goes, “It’s the bald asshole. You know, being tied up while some jerk decides to maim us is something I have already experienced. Honestly…Amazona did it better.”
You wish Rafe would stop speaking. There is a glint in Lazarevic’s eye that is making you afraid. You pull against your chains but there is no breaking free. Sam groans again and his head rolls forward as his eyes open.
“What the hell happened?” He asks gruffly.
Lazarevic glances distastefully at Sam before looking back down at the top of Rafe’s head.
“So, Carrier,” He is speaking to you now, “Tell me how to activate the Raven Jewel.”
“She isn’t just a carrier,” Rafe spits, “And if we knew how to activate the jewel, don’t you think that we would have already?”
“I told you, I don’t know,” You say as your throat tightens, “I have no idea. Just carve it out of me if you want it so fucking bad. Just let Rafe and Sam go.”
“No, don’t give it to him!” Rafe exclaims, “This bastard isn’t doing anything to you nor is he getting the jewel!”
“Is that right?” Lazarevic’s voice is dripping with menace, “You know, originally, I was going to kill the Drake boy first –”
“I’m not a boy.” Sam replies in a surly tone.
“But I think I’ll kill the billionaire first.”
Lazarevic reaches out for Rafe’s head, yanking it sharply back to expose his neck. You scream and strain against the shackles. Rafe never wavers. He doesn’t even look afraid.
“Don’t give him anything!” He says to you as Lazarevic’s fingers curl around his hair.
Your mind is spinning. Your heart is beating so quickly you swear you are going to have a heart attack. Sam is shouting too. You don’t know how to activate the Raven Jewel. But if it will save Rafe –
“I’ll tell you!” You shout, lying through your teeth, anxious to buy a little more time, “I’ll tell you but leave Rafe alone!”
Lazarevic smirks and releases his hold on Rafe’s hair. Rafe is cursing wildly – some of the words you don’t even know yet. Lazarevic ignores him and walks over to you. He crouches once more in front of you and grips your chin with his fingers. His fingers dig into your skin.
“Tell me now.”
“We have to be in an open field,” You lie, hoping that he will believe it – hoping that he will believe something of what you are saying, “There has to be a full moon. It’s a ritual.”
He lets go of your face and stands back up. The tension in your chest eases a little. He didn’t punch you again. That must count for something.
Lazarevic stops in the middle of the chairs. His back is to you.
“Carrier, I am disappointed. I expected better. I have studied the text, you see. The ‘powerful force’ has nothing to do with the moon or an open field. There is no ritual. You are lying to me. A pathetic attempt. Like I said earlier, the text tells me the powerful force will shatter the protective ward around the jewel and unleash its power. Something fuels that force. The moon is not it. Sadly, I must give you more incentive since you believe that you can lie to me.”
And before you can reply – before you can do anything at all – there is a flash of silver off the setting sun through the window –
And a knife is lodged into Rafe’s chest.
With Rafe’s life hanging in the balance, it is the final confrontation with Lazarevic.
A memory comes to you – unfiltered and from the night in the hotel room – when Rafe had been fast asleep. He had looked so peaceful. The emotions that you had been experiencing were new to you. If you had felt them in your past, you couldn’t recall them. You had wanted to curl up against him and fall asleep, knowing that no matter what, he would keep you safe.
But instead, you had laid as far away from Rafe as you could get. Fear was itching at the back of your head, having crawled up your spine and wiggling its way into your brain. To allow yourself to study these feelings that he was bringing out of you was dangerous. It was safer for everyone involved to keep the feelings locked away. In time, you might even fool yourself that there was nothing growing for Rafe.
Yet now, the feelings wash over you as you scream. Lazarevic yanks the knife out of Rafe’s chest and kicks the chair. It topples over, taking Rafe with it, who lets out a horrible rattle for air. You can see the blood blooming across his chest. Sam is screaming something as well but you can’t make out what he is saying.
Lazarevic storms over to you and grips your face again, forcing you to stare at him, “Enough of this. If you won’t tell me how to activate the jewel, then I’ll kill the other one next.”
He is blocking you from seeing Rafe. The fear that is gripping you is unlike anything you have felt before. Your heart is pounding so quickly that you can’t seem to catch your breath. Sam is shouting insults but Lazarevic doesn’t pay him any attention.
Lazarevic shifts slightly as he says, “I will find out how to activate the jewel, Carrier. The power of the jewel will be transferred to me! I will harness the power myself!”
You can see Rafe now that Lazarevic has moved. He is on his side with his eyes looking glassy. The knife is embedded in him. But his chest is still moving. He is still alive. You have time – not much, but enough to do something…anything to get to him.
Rafe’s eyes flicker and land on you before darting over to Sam. Your chest constricts. He is looking pale from losing too much blood. Tearing your gaze away from him, you look at Lazarevic.
“I don’t want to carve the jewel out of your chest. Surely, you understand. It would complicate things. What if I need you alive for the jewel and you let me kill you for it? I didn’t come all this way for nothing. You can still save the Drake. Tell me how to activate the jewel and transfer the power to me. What is the great force?”
You meet Lazarevic’s eyes, “Has anyone ever told you that you monologue too much?” You say hoarsely.
That is when Sam brings the knife down into Lazarevic’s neck. He screams in surprise and lurches backwards, tumbling against Sam. You strain against your constraints, unable to break free. When Rafe had looked at Sam, he was alerting you to the fact that Sam had managed to free himself. It had been all you could do to force yourself to stare at Lazarevic and not let him know what was unfolding behind – Sam pulling the knife out of Rafe and coming after him.
Lazarevic has stumbled back against the other wall, groaning in pain. His hand is pressed against his neck. Sam storms over to him and grabs the key to your shackles off his belt loop. Then he punches him for good measure.
Knowing it won’t take long for someone like Lazarevic to recover from being stabbed in the neck, because he seems to have been crafted from an evil handbook, Sam hurries over to you and frees you.
“Rafe.” You say to him, wincing at how your wrists have been rubbed raw.
Lazarevic’s fingers curl around the handle of the blade and he pulls it out. Blood is gushing from the wound. His hand is covered in blood and he tosses the knife to the ground. You dart across the room, crouching by Rafe.
“Fine. We’ll do this the hard way.” Lazarevic sneers and pulls out his gun.
“Listen, why don’t we talk this out?” Sam goes, putting himself between the gun and you, “I’m sure we can come to some sort of agreement. I mean, if we forget the fact I stabbed you in the neck – but listen, you tied me up first so I think we are even.”
“Move, you idiot, or I’ll shoot you!” Lazarevic’s voice cracks, either from pain or frustration.
Rafe’s eyes are fluttering closed. His skin is cold and clammy to the touch. His lips have gone pale. Your heart constricts at the sight. He lets out a small sigh –
And then he goes completely still.
All the other sounds are muted. At the sight of Rafe gone from you, falling away from this world into a place you cannot follow, it feels as if ice water is filling your veins. Your vision blurs from the sudden tears and you look away from him.
You stand up and turn to face Lazarevic. Something in your gaze brings him to a stop. Even Sam is looking at you. You take a step forward. Lazarevic, on edge, fires his gun. But you don’t fear it. You don’t fear anything now that Rafe has been taken from you.
You close your eyes and you scream. The scream bursts out of you with such a force that the air vibrates around you. The windows shatter. The foundation of the house threatens to crack. But still, you don’t stop screaming. It is as if everything you have been holding inside of you has come out in a torrent of pain and fear. Rafe is gone and it is your fault.
You have no idea how long you scream for. It is long enough that when you open your eyes, you pitch forward because your legs give out. Sam is there. He catches you and holds you upright.
Breathless, in your ear he goes, “What the hell did you do?” But he doesn’t sound afraid – no, he sounds awestruck.
You open your eyes and try to take in the sight. In front of you, Lazarevic has turned to stone. The bullet he fired has fallen at his feet, also now stone. Crystals are jutting out of the ground around him and on the ceiling. They glimmer in the dull light.
And directly in front of you is a sapphire crystal. It is floating in mid-air, humming with an energy so strong that it feels like your skin is vibrating along with it.
“Holy shit,” Sam whispers, “That’s the Raven Jewel.”
You reach out for it and grip it tightly in your hands. Then you turn around to look at Rafe. It feels as if everything about the jewel and how to work it has clicked in your head. It all makes sense now.
And you have one more thing to correct.
You wiggle out of Sam’s grip. He makes a small noise of protest, concerned you are injured. The house shakes around you. It is going to crumble soon from whatever you have done to it. Even so, you sink to your knees by Rafe. The crystal is humming loudly in your head. It is impossible to hear anything else.
You open your hands, looking down at the jewel that had been protected in your heart for so long. This jewel is the reason you are here; the reason that you had met Rafe. It is also the reason he has been killed.
But you can fix it. You can fix this one mistake.
Bringing the jewel down, you press it against his chest. His body takes it inside of him. The glow vanishes from the room as the crystal dissipates. Sam is silent, too stunned to say anything. At first, nothing happens. Your vision is dimming rapidly. Your body is weak.
But then Rafe lets out a horrible gasp for air and his back arches. His eyes flutter open. Sam darts over, undoing the ropes that had him bound to the chair. Rafe rolls onto his back. He is gripping his chest and trying to catch his breath.
But he is alive. You have brought Rafe back with the Raven Jewel. At the same time, Lazarevic shatters into a thousand pieces. The pieces of stone hit the floor, scattering around you. Sam is propping Rafe up, who is speaking but you cannot hear a word.
Your vision goes dark and then everything goes quiet.
“I’m getting wicked déjà vu.” Nate mumbles to Sam.
“Hey, but this time I’m not in the hospital. And Rafe didn’t lose a limb.” Sam whispers back.
Elena squeezes your hand as the group comes to a stop outside Rafe’s hospital room, “Why don’t you go in first? We’ll give you some time.”
You exhale slowly and nod, “Thanks.”
Rafe had been in the hospital for two days and had only been allowed visitors today. The doctors had seemed puzzled by how he was still alive with the amount of blood he had lost. But how could anyone explain the Raven Jewel or what it had done? No, what you had done.
You knock once on the door and then step inside. Rafe is propped up in the hospital bed, looking sullen. He has a magazine in his lap but appears disinterested in it. He looks up at the noise of the door opening. At the sight of you, his eyes light up.
“Hey. You’re here.”
“You didn’t think I’d visit you in the hospital?” You hold out the flowers you brought, “I read that it is customary to bring flowers to someone in the hospital. Is that correct?”
Rafe chuckled and shut the magazine, “Yeah although I can’t say I got any flowers last time I was here.”
You put the flowers down on the nearest table and hover by his bedside. The color has returned to his face. He looks healthy. Even so, your mind flickers back to how he looked when he had died and you shiver.
“They say you are getting out of here tomorrow.” You go, trying to put off the inevitable.
Gently, Rafe goes, “Why don’t you tell me what happened? What really happened.”
You hesitate before pulling a chair over to the side of the bed and sitting down. Rafe reaches over for your hand. His skin is warm – he is back and alive. No matter how this conversation goes, he isn’t going to be gone from this world again.
So, you tell him. You tell him of what happened after Lazarevic stabbed him and the power of the jewel. When you finish, Rafe is silent for a minute or so.
“Wow,” He finally goes, “That’s a lot to take in. Are you – I mean, how are you feeling?”
“Fine. Sam and Nathan…they believe the Raven Jewel was destroyed after I used its power. But I didn’t die. They think I am just a regular human now. We have no idea if there is something keeping my heart going. Magic or something my father had them do to me. But the jewel is gone and I am still here. Lazarevic wanted to use it for its powers but I used it on…on you. The jewel’s energy brought you back. It’s gone now too.”
“You brought me back to life,” He gives a small shake of his head, “And I thought losing my hand was some serious shit.” Rafe clears his throat, “What do you think Lazarevic would have done with the jewel?”
“Nothing good, I would guess. Harness its power on himself. Bad guy things.” You say with a little smile.
“So, the jewel’s power was activated by your emotions. Intense emotions. Man, I guess Lazarevic shouldn’t have killed me.”
“Please don’t joke.” You whisper before you can stop yourself.
Rafe looks at you. His thumb runs across your skin before he goes, “There is something I didn’t get to tell you. From before.”
“I have to tell you something too.” You mumble, afraid of his reaction.
“Do you mind if I go first? I know you should – I just – I just want to say it already. It’s been building up.”
“No, no, go ahead.” You stumble over the words, nervous.
“It isn’t long. I’m not really good with words. But…I love you.”
You are stunned into silence. How is it possible that he has told you exactly what you were going to tell him?
Rafe takes your silence as a negative because he begins to ramble, “After Amazona and how I fucked things up with Nadine, I didn’t think there would be anyone else for me. I’m not…loveable. Sam would just tell you I’m an asshole. But with you…I love you. I know it isn’t fair of me to put this on you after what happened. But I couldn’t not tell you how much I love you or how amazing I think you are.”
“I love you too.” You blurt out, unable to remain silent for a second longer.
Rafe looks shocked, “What? You aren’t just – I mean, you don’t have to say that just because I did.”
“I have loved you since you showed me kindness when I woke up. I have loved you and all your ways, no matter how you may think I have perceived you. When Lazaveric killed you…Rafe, you brought the power of the Raven Jewel out of me. You shattered the ward around the jewel and let me use its power to bring you back. Only love of great strength could bring that forward. I know that now. That is all the confirmation I need to know I am not going to second guess my feelings any longer. I love you.”
Rafe’s face breaks out into a smile, “Well, come here then.”
You lean forward as Rafe brings his lips against yours. The kiss is warm and filled with promise. There is no telling what the future will hold but you know that it will involve Rafe. Your android heart, torn apart by war and despair, has been healed. Not only by Rafe, but by your friends and your own inner strength. All of this is a new sensation and a new world.
But it is one that you can get used to.