Chapter Four

Curiosity killed the Cat

I lay in my bed, replaying the scene again. Me following the trail of destruction. The hideous creature with Azurite's eyes, me running and reaching the camp. It had just… disappeared. I have no idea when it stopped following me, but I was certain I would be dead right now if it hadn't.

Then I thought of Azurite. Not him, as much as his answer to my question. Could there really be other inhabitants? If there were, how come none of my gang had ever met them? What if the other others knew a way out?

Even if they did, they obviously wouldn't help. That much was clear. I wonder if Azurite had ever seen them, is that why he said what he said? Or Dermont, is the creature I saw the reason he thinks we're dead? Would they tell me if I asked?

No, this was crazy. I was crazy. In books, the main character would go snooping and get away with answers. In real life, people always got caught and punished. I forced all the questions out of my head, I needed to sleep. Maybe, I hoped, I would wake up in my bed back home.

I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise, worry free. Whether it was the clear skies or the wonderful nights sleep, I cannot say. I can say, however, I was feeling fresh and foolish. How could something so evil reside within such beauty?

I hopped out of bed and stretched with a yawn. My pajamas were a silky blue button up shirt and long loose pants. I almost decided to stay in them, but I didn't know if that would be rude. So I headed towards the walk in closet.

While I was rummaging through the shirts, there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," I yelled, my voice muffled by the various articles of clothing around me.

The door opened and I heard heavy footsteps. There was no noise after that, so it wasn't Oscar. I poked my head out of my wardrobe and looked around. Same plush dark blue carpet, same white drapes, same sky blue walls, same black bookshelves with all my favorite books, and in the middle of it all stood Azurite.

"Hi," I greeted him.

He just nodded and looked around. "Get dressed first." His voice was hard, scary. For a moment, just a moment, I compared him to the creature. Same height, same eyes, black hair. But, Azurite had been at the campfire the whole time. I suddenly felt ashamed of what I was thinking, how could I?

I shook my head and ducked back into the closet. I quickly grabbed a shirt with artfully scattered cartoon strips and a pair of light blue jeans. If he was here to talk about the demon thing or other people living in the Otherlands, I didn't want to make him wait.

I quickly tied a pair of sneakers and closed the door to the closet.

"Well," I said, I didn't want to rush him, but I really wanted to know.

"Can you tell me more about what you saw last night?" Azurite asked. Great, I was going to be doing the explaining.

"Sure," I sighed and sat on the bed. Azurite leaned on the wall, his golden eyes never blinking. "Oscar had dragged the bench-"

"Not that part." Azurite interrupted. "Just what it looked like."

I rolled my eyes; I didn't like to be interrupted. "It was about as tall as us, with a body so skinny, he was almost a skeleton. It had a few strands of black hair, but besides that he was bare. He had robes and-"

"What about his eyes, what were they like?" Azurite cut in, again.

"If you keep interrupting me, I won't tell you." I warned. "His eyes were like yours."

Azurite nodded and looked at the floor, lost in thought.

We stayed still for several minutes before I broke the silence with, "What?"

Azurite shook his head and loped to the door. "Nothing."

"I told you what you wanted to know!" I followed him to the door and out onto the front step.

"And I thank you for that." Azurite stepped onto the soft grassy ground and headed towards the Meadow of Heaven on Earth. I was determined to figure out what the cloaked figure was, and if it meant forcing Azurite to spill, so be it.

"You can show your thanks by telling me what you were thinking." I suggested as I struggled to keep up with him.

He didn't say anything, just kept walking. So did I.

Oscar came to my side a while later, Azurite and I were almost to the border.

"What's going on?" He inquired.

"I'm following Azurite until he tells me what he's thinking." Now that I said it aloud, it sounded stupid, but I wasn't giving up. Eventually, Azurite would get tired of having a stalker.

"You can give up now, I'm not talking about it." Azurite said without looking back.

"I didn't want to talk about last night, but I did anyways." I reminded him.

"That was your choice. You didn't have to." Azurite increased his pace to a slight jog.

"But you really wanted to know." I countered, "Like I really want to know."

"You don't, believe me." Azurite muttered.

"Well," I sighed in frustration, "You resisting has just made me more curious." When he didn't stop I added, "Please tell me."

"If I told you, you would regret asking." Azurite warned.

"Fine, that would be my problem, not yours." I was working hard to keep up with him. I was almost out of breath.

"Go home." He sighed.

"Would if I could." I snapped at him.

"As exciting as this is," Oscar smiled, "I have an appointment to keep."

"See ya." I called as he headed over to Collin, who was sitting on a stool in a flowering part of the meadow.

Azurite broke into a run as I was looking at Collin and Oscar. I, of course, ran after him. He was good.

I had taken first place at every race my school had ever had. Of course, the other students wouldn't say that if you asked them. To them, second place was always first whenever I was involved. They said I had used magic to cheat, which was ridiculous. My theory was that they were either that stupid, or jealous.

If Azurite and I were racing for places, I might actually lose.

We ran and ran until we reached the edge of the Dark Forest. I ducked under a low hanging branch and jumped over a protruding root. My hair got caught by twigs various times, but I kept running.

He suddenly stopped at the creek, almost falling in because his legs just stopped.

I jogged to his side, huffing and puffing. He was just as breathless as I, we had run a long way.

"What?" I wasn't able to give very much volume to the word, I was still gasping for air.

"Shhhh," He hissed. Then I saw it. Across the stream, kneeling by a blackberry bush, was it. "Iridian," He muttered the word over and over again. "It's you."

I took his hand and pulled him farther away from the stream. "Come on," I urged quietly, "don't attract its attention."

Azurite shook my hand away and looked longingly at the ghastly figure. "You don't understand…" he trailed off.

"Maybe if you had explained earlier I would, but for now," I yanked him back, "stay away from it."

"But I can't just leave." Azurite whispered.

"Come on," I hissed forcefully.

With one last glance at the cloaked monster, whom I presumed was Iridian, he followed me back to the valley.

Only when we had entered his house did I speak. "You have to tell me now." When Azurite didn't answer I spoke again, "Who is Iridian?"

"My brother." His voice was clearly pained.

I didn't say anything, how could this be possible? "What?" I asked, stupidly.

"My brother disappeared three years ago." Azurite looked out the window. "When I arrived, I knew he was here." He sighed. "He used to look like me, you know. We could have passed as twins."

I was still stunned into silence. I quickly compared the two as I had earlier this morning, but this time, I thought of them as brothers. There was definitely a resemblance.

"Is he still Iridian?" My voice was coarse and I was blinking back tears. How awful, to have lost a relative like this.

"I don't know, probably not. Iridian wouldn't have purposefully scared you like he did." He added the next part in a choked tone, "He was the kindest person I ever met."

"Oh," I began to back away, sensing he was about to cry, and that he didn't want me to see.

I lay in my bed that night with the covers tucked up to my chin. I was swimming in an ocean of thoughts, barley keeping my head above the water.

What could have made Iridian like this? Is he still the same kind soul Azurite knew? I wonder how Azurite is doing, he wasn't at dinner tonight.

But one thought terrified me far more than the others, a thought that sent chills through the deepest parts of my bones, what if that happened to us?

I imagined gentle Edlyn as one of them. Then rambunctious Oscar, then Vivi and Dermont, then Collin, then Azurite, then me. All the images were foreign, all of them were petrifying.

Then, something even more horrifying than that splashed through my consciousness. You had better be careful, I recognized it as the voice from the night before. The voice of Iridian, curiosity killed the cat, and you had better believe I am capable of murder.

The last words of the threat slithered off into the night, leaving fear in its wake.

There was no doubt in my mind. I was the cat. Duh.