I wrote the first few chapters of Gothina's sequel a while ago, but now I've decided to post the first chapter since the fictionpress version of Gothina is complete. Enjoy!
And with that, a final breath escaped her battered body, and I felt her slip away like sand through my fingers. April was dead. How could it be?
"Alex…you have to get out of here. I don't know how long this place is going to last without the Evil"…her voice was ringing in my head. But I couldn't just leave her body here, and abandon it to the burial place of Evil. I had to bring her with me.
The low vibrations that had flickered below the ground of the temple now grew in their ferocity, and every rigid corpse that lay around me shuddered. As did I. Tremors shook the temple, the jagged spikes of its walls splintering. I heard a bone splitting crack: Gothina's throne, at the far end of the hall, had been cloven in half, right down the middle. I stared at it with morbid satisfaction, but did not keep my attention on it for long. The earthquake that began to clasp the Under-earth was tightening its grip, the tremors and the jolts becoming more violent with every minute. It would not be long before the temple collapsed, with April and I beneath it. I glanced at my lover, my saviour, and for a moment I contemplated staying here. After all, I had lost what had been the most important thing in my life, and the world I used to belong to might still reject me.
No! A determined cry rose from the depths of my tortured mind. I hated myself for considering suicide. April would not have sacrificed herself, only for me to die afterwards.
A cluster of alabaster chips from the temple's roof bounced painfully off my head. I was dwelling here too long.
I scooped my arms around April's cold waist, straining under her weight. More debris from the hall roof scattered around me; the clock was ticking. A crunching sound, like a giant gritting his teeth, set my heart beat pounding even faster. That must have been the roof shifting off the tops of the spiked walls.
Summoning all my strength, I broke into a run hindered by the body I carried. Her lifeless arms dangled past my legs, her head lolling awkwardly. I tried not to look at it.
A gasp burst from my mouth as something caught my feet and I tumbled forward. I slammed into the floor, the dull pain before now erupting as persistent throbs all around my body. My eyes widened in shock when I saw what had tripped me up: Gothina. Her head gazed back at me with a cold, lifeless stare, and it chilled me.
The earthquake tremors were becoming more furious, the temple shaking and groaning like some tormented creature beneath the pressure. Larger chunks of alabaster were breaking off the walls and roof, and it was one of these chunks that fell towards us like a deadly missile. I rolled away, but I had not been the target. April had, and as I scrambled to my feet I saw, sickened, what the chunk had done. Pointed and sharp at its end, as if it had meant to strike her, it had submerged part of itself in her thigh. I turned away before I started to vomit.
"It's not fair…" Now I couldn't bring her with me. That chunk of rock had her pinned to the floor, and I wouldn't have been brave enough to wrench it out of her body anyway. It was time to say goodbye forever.
"I'll never stop loving you, April. I'm sorry that I have to leave you here." Tears streaming down my face, I tore myself away and began to run, free of burden, towards the temple entrance. I had to get there before the pillars outside collapsed. If they went down before I was out…
A sliver of rock, ousted from its resting place by the pressure of the tremors, hurtled towards me and raked my cheek. I swore. It felt as if fire was eating away at my skin.
"Nearly there…" I muttered to no one, jumping over a vampire's corpse. The entrance was so close…yes! I'm out! I exclaimed, relieved in my mind. But I forgot my relief briefly when an exhausted pillar, too tired to fight against the earthquake and the increasing weight of the dome on it, groaned and cracked. It flew down to meet the temple steps, where I had stood just moments ago, ending its millenniums of duty with a thunderous crash. The impact caused me to fall, and I rolled haphazardly down the rest of the steps.
At the bottom of the temple I gathered myself up as quickly as possible, watching as the pillar's twin too fell to the same fate. I ran a good distance away from the steps to avoid any possible debris that might roll down to greet me.
When I looked out onto the ashen plains of the Under-earth my heart sunk. I was separated from the transportation stone, the only thing that would get me out of here, by an angry sky that shot the ground repeatedly with jagged spears of white lightning, and a maze of cracks and young chasms that were being wrenched open by tremors. Seconds counted, and I wasted none. I ran faster than I had ever done so in my short life, leaping the smaller chasms and skirting precariously around the larger ones. Blood pounded through my vessels, ready to burst out from all the pressure exerted upon them by my rollercoaster heart. Adrenaline bolted through my system, pushing me on. And screaming in my aching head was the one word: Go! Go! Go!
A spear of lightening slashed at me, and I barely preserved my life dodging its ferocious attack. Nevertheless, my clothes and skin had been lightly singed; more pain to add to the mountain of feelings in my body.
"Please…give me a chance…" I murmured in a tiny, laboured whisper. Through my jogging vision I sighted the transportation stone, and a rush of euphoria swept over me. I was going to make it!
Another lightening bolt attack nearly ended that hope then and there. Ashy dirt rose and scattered to greet me, a sheen of it settling on my sweat riddled face. I breathed the dust in, spluttering at its suffocating density. If lightning or chasms didn't get me, I could always choke to death…but at that moment I crested the small hill that the transportation stone dominated. I had never been so glad to see that black, tapering stone. As I placed my hand against the 'G' carved in its cold, coarse surface, I glanced back to the collapsing temple, the dome crumbling without the support of the twin pillars and steady walls. Dust erupted in gigantic clouds, flurries of debris everywhere. It was like a volcanic eruption. I thought of April buried there with the vampires, and with Gothina. Guilt clouded over me. How could I have left her alone with those creatures? She deserved a proper burial, yet I hadn't given her it.
"Goodbye." A stream of darkness engulfed me, and I felt its weakness from the fall of the Evil. Luckily for me, it had strength enough to pull its last user up and away from an Under-earth that would soon cease to be. I was safe.
"God...not that dream again…" I groaned, light pummeling my eyes once I had opened them. Once a month it came, without fail. Just as I had killed once every month for survival, eight years ago.
Eight years? Was it that long ago?
I turned my aching neck to face the bedside table. An old phone, clunky and scratched, with that distasteful yellow bleaching, winked a light at me. A message had been left on it since yesterday evening, then. I wondered who it could be. That girl I'd met at the bar a few nights ago? The landlord screaming for his rent? My parents, anxious to know of my latest venture?
I reached out an arm and with the press of a button played the message. Ah, my mother.
"Hi, Alex. Just calling to see how you are…you should come home sometime, visit the family. I miss you. Dad misses you. Kath-well, Mrs. Scholl now-misses you…" She just had to rub it in, didn't she? It wasn't enough that my older sister excelled where I failed (which was everything), but I had to be reminded of the harsh reality each time my mother's sugar coated voice drifted to my ears.
"…anyway, what are you up to now? Have you still got that bar job? You can always come to me if you need something…" I wouldn't ever. I had suffered eight years of scrutiny, as if I wasn't trusted since I came home two months after going missing, predicted dead. After I had escaped from the Under-earth, free of it forever, I knew I had to return to home. Well, I didn't have much choice in the matter anyway, because a bruised and bloodied teenager with ripped clothes attracts attention, and it was the police who brought me home to my parents. First you'd be welcomed with initial joy and relief, but that would soon dissipate, especially when the questions were asked: "Where the hell were you?"…"Do you realise how much we've been through?"…"Why, Alex, why?"
I never told anyone. Not that I would be believed. My fangs, my hunger, my supernatural strength were gone. Only my grey eyes, drained of their colour on that fateful day, were what could be seen on the outside as different. No one saw how I'd changed inside. No one saw my pain or my scars. And I never let anyone see them either. My parents left me alone when I refused to answer their questions with vacant stares and pretences to have not heard. I suppose they decided that I'd simply run away and been on drugs. They chose to ignore my eyes, because nobody could explain them turning grey. I didn't suggest an explanation either.
People learnt to leave me alone. What happened to me in those two months meant that from then on, I could never have a normal life, nor feel love in a way I had experienced with April. Sure, I loved my parents and my sister, but no bond of mine could ever be as strong as it had been with the lover who had died for me.
"Hope to hear from you soon. Bye, then." The message stopped. I deleted it without hesitation. She couldn't sweet talk me.
I slid out of bed and headed for my desk. A fat laptop sat on it, nestling inside a mass of leads. I brushed away a few of these to open the drawer, retrieving the folder within it. I returned to the bed and leaned against the paint cracked wall, pulling several newspaper cuttings from the sheath. They were worn and torn. I should be more careful about handling them, I thought to myself as I read the first one. March thirty-first, it was dated. Maybe a week or so after the fall of the Under-earth? I couldn't remember. I preferred to forget things like that.
The article bore a photo. April's photo. The only photo I had of her. Maybe I would have forgotten how she looked if it weren't for this. But then again, I could never forget how soft her skin was, how deep and entrancing her eyes were even though they had greyed with Evil's influence, how wonderful it had been when we were simply next to each other.
I scanned the article. I had read it so many times that I practically knew it off by heart. I talked about how April Lynne, fourteen, had mysteriously disappeared after viciously attacking another schoolgirl. She was discussed in a bad light; the police had decided that she'd hidden so that she wouldn't have to face up to what she did. They would never know the truth. As for the attack, she never got the chance to tell me. But if they knew how much she'd suffered, they wouldn't have treated her like a fugitive.
The next article was dated about a month later. This time, the police were concerned about April's whereabouts. No one could find a trace of her, or a trail to follow. And no one ever would solve her case. I suppose her file lay abandoned at the bottom of some detective's drawer files now.
The final article I looked at no longer focused on April. It was about her mother. Verity Lynne, as she'd been called, had died of a drug overdose. Apparently, after her daughter's disappearance, her life had spiralled down into severe depression. I guess life grew too unbearable for her.
I sighed and slipped the articles back into the folder. The emotional pain escalated if I looked at April's face too long. They say time's a healer. But even after eight years, the pain has never been healed.
"I miss you so much, April."