AN: Sorry about how late this is! My laptop got a virus and I very nearly lost all my files . All fixed now though! I should be posting another chapter soon - I have plans ^.^
Chapter Four: Depths of Loneliness
My body still shivered with the fear that remained from Azrael's last words. My ear tingled, as if I could still feel his icy breath whispering such haunting things. After I'd heard them, I'd stumbled up the rest of the stairs, reaching out for my Grandpa who dragged me out – though I remained frozen in shock for quite some time. The lecture that followed was lost on me; my mind was too busy reeling with panic. He was going to break a promise... which one?
At some point after being dragged out of the Depths, I found myself sitting in the backseat of Sophia's car, driving off towards the Fuse Box. In a way, it was rather unbelievable how quickly and simply everything happened; Grandpa and Casey said a teary goodbye, but other than that I was just pushed in like it was an everyday occurrence – which for Sophia, I guess it was.
The old woman looked at me from the driver's mirror, and gave a weak sort of smile that was probably about as friendly as someone as wrinkled as her could give. How she was still able to drive, I had no idea, but she'd been one of the Fuse Box drivers for as long as I could remember. She'd take them from their homes at eighteens, and would one day bring them to my house to die – it was the sad way of our world.
The voice shook me awake, cruelly bringing me to resurface from oblivious sleep into reality. A reality that, upon my weary-eyed inspection, turned out to be the Fuse Box itself.
A lot of little kids imagine the Fuse Box to be a castle on the sea-cliffs, or an underground mansion accessed through a turning mirror; in actual fact, it's actually situated in the middle of the capital, disguised as two tall office buildings. The first is where those staying live; each flat holding four people. The second was where the teaching rooms were – though the top four floors were reserved for the Fire Council. They were connected by an underground passage that used to be part of the old subway system – though it's been out of use for over twenty years.
"Come along, I don't have all day," the suited man who'd spoken chastised. I clambered out of the car as Sophia pulled my holdall from the boot – sending me panicking over how such a frail woman could do such a thing. I may not have had much, but it should have been more than she could handle. Taking it from her quickly, I gave her a grateful nod before following the suited man into the first building.
I'd never been inside either building before, but the interior of the lobby was just as I'd imagined: minimalistic. The wall directly opposite the doors – behind the reception desk – was a deep red and played the part of some sort of feature wall. Other than that, the walls and floor were white and the handful of seats in the corner were black.
The suited man seemed to know exactly where he was taking me, and led me straight into the elevator. Two boys were already in there as we got in; one was tall and had dyed his blonde fringe bright red, the other wore glasses as he stared down at a text book with narrowed eyes. Whilst the latter didn't acknowledge me, the first raised an eyebrow and snorted in amusement to himself. I ignored him.
Silence remained as the elevator shot upwards, stopping only once to drop the red-fringed boy off on the twelfth floor – though before he left he chuckled at me once more. Either there was something funny about my arrival, or I was more famous around here than I thought.
It was on the sixteenth floor that seemed to be our destination, and the suited man led me out without a single word. Glasses followed us, though I doubted he was even aware of our presence.
"This is your flat," the suited man said, pointing to a thick door that had the number '164' on it. "There's only one spare room, so I'm sure you don't need help to find it."
He dropped a set of keys into my hand, and then handed me a scrap piece of paper with something scribbled on it.
"That's your log in details; all you need to know is online."
Apparently that was all he had to say, as he simply gave me a small nod before heading back off into the elevator. My eyes followed him until the last minute, unused to this lack of friendliness in a place that was meant to be called my 'home' for the next two years – or less, depending on how long I survived.
"You're in my way."
I glanced up at Glasses who now stood right beside me. His eyes never left the page he was looking at, but he was clearly expecting to get past me. My expression didn't give anything away, but I was already irritated by him.
"I'm sure it won't kill you if you wait a moment," I muttered as I turned and slipped my new key into the lock.
"It's thoughts like that which get you killed in the Depths," Glasses pointed out with a sigh, turning a page.
"Just as many die from being too spontaneous."
"Oh?" he snorted. Finally beginning to look up from his book. "And which idiot –"
He looked at me.
I looked at him.
Then followed that beautiful moment when realisation spread across his face – leaving him gawping at me in shock.
"Flick Edmonds," I corrected.
"You'd think they'd warn us that you, of all people, were appearing," He seemed to ponder my presence a while and glanced up at the flat door. "Especially since you're my flatmate."
If I was anyone else, I may have grimaced at learning that; I'd known Glasses for all of five minutes and I already despised him. He, however, seemed to be more at ease knowing exactly who I was – most people I came across acted like I was a monster or something.
"Leonard Higgins," He held his hand out to me. "But just call me Leo."
I raised my eyebrows, though my expression stayed relatively blank. "Fire? You're a member of the leading families."
The leading families were named so as it was their members who were the first to journey down to the Depths. It's believed, but not proved, that it was also those families who then set up our culture. It was also them who began the tradition of giving names based on meaning. It isn't unusual to be addressed by your name's meaning. Hence why people around here only knew me as 'Luck'.
"Distant relative. Only connected through the surname," Leo shrugged as he moved his hand back down to his side – realising I wasn't going to take it.
"Still a leading family."
"And you're still Luck."
My eyes narrowed slightly in aggravation, but Leo seemed almost smug about his comeback. In the end I pushed open the flat door and went about ignoring him. It would have been a lot easier if he wasn't my flatmate, since he proceeded to follow me into the flat and point out where everything was.
It was just like the rest of the building: minimalistic. Our people apparently didn't care about making things homely. The small communal area consisted of an old kitchen (everything a dull metal) as well as a small dining table. There was a pair of sofas on the other side, but they faced each other, and no television or radio could be seen. The only bit about the room that could have been classed as 'nice' was the window on the far side – which was basically the whole wall. Four doors led off from the room, all closed.
"That's your room there," Leo pointed towards the farthest door on the left. "You'll be better than our old flatmate, I'm sure."
"Did age out?" I asked – meaning, did she turn 20?
"No, though she was about to next month," Leo moved over to the kitchen and opened a cupboard. "She was sent to the Depths."
My stomach churned. I'd heard about her already, it seemed.
It always sickened me how nonchalant our people were about those who were killed in the Depths. I was naturally emotionless, and I hid any feelings I did have as best as possible; but the others, they got upset over television shows, yet didn't bat an eyelid when their flatmate was slaughtered.
"You going to go put your stuff away then?" Leo asked as he shut the cupboard – now with a cereal bar in his hand.
Without giving him an answer, I went ahead and opened the door to my new room. Inside it was small and just as bland as the rest of the flat. There was a single bed pushed against one wall, and a desk and shelves opposite. In one far corner was another tiny room which would be the wetroom. Beside that was a small window with a window seat. There were no posters or photographs, no colourful bedding or decoration – everything was white and black.
I dropped my bag on the floor and immediately flopped onto my bed with a sigh. Lying with my face buried into the pillow, I could still smell the perfume of the last resident.
From under my door came the dim noise of doors opening and chatter. I tried to block it out, but my efforts were fruitless – especially when a high pitched voice suddenly screamed, "WHAT?"
There were footsteps, followed by an instant banging on my door – leaving me to groan inwardly and clamber over to it. Pulling it open, I made sure to add a touch of moodiness to my blank features.
The person who stood in my doorway looked excited. She was short and curvy – with a sizeable chest that she made all too noticeable with a low cut top. I could tell just by looking at her neatly primed red hair and perfected makeup that she cared about how pretty she looked. In truth, she pulled it off. Behind her, Leo looked over from a sofa with an amused smirk.
"You're Luck! You're really her!" the girl squealed at me.
"Flick Edmonds," I corrected.
"You're just as cool as they say!" she giggled happily.
Leo chuckled. "They don't mean 'cool' in the way you're thinking, Mabel; they mean 'cold'."
"Beautiful..." I sighed upon hearing her name.
"Thank you!" Mabel sang.
"She was just expressing your name, Mabel," Leo explained.
The two exchanged some silly conversation about what I meant (without actually asking me) and I was left to stand waiting for them to cut it out.
"Did you want something?" I asked – slightly hoping she hadn't knocked on my door just to see if 'Luck' really had moved in.
"Oh yeah!" she gasped, as if she'd only just remembered. Great, a ditz. "Since you're new and all, how about we go to dinner together as a flat? Won't that be nice? The girl who used to live here would never talk to any of us. Emmett's away today too though; he's over at his girlfriend's, but he doesn't really hang out either."
I stared at her smiling face and felt quite bad; I was planning to be as unsociable as possible here, yet she seemed so excited about my arrival. Glancing over at Leo – who seemed to be enjoying the scene much more than he should have been – I sighed.
"Sure, why not?" I shrugged.
Mabel squealed again, her voice grating against my ears, and started gibbering on about what time we should head down and how great the food was – I wasn't really paying attention.
"Thanks for that."
I paused and looked back over my shoulder at Leo who was now locking the flat door. Honestly, I wanted to get back into my room as fast as possible and sleep; who knew being sociable was so exhausting? It turned out there was a giant dining room on the first floor of the building where every resident and employee could go eat if they wanted to – the infamous Luck turning up had caused a little bit more of a stir than I expected. People gathered round, gossiped, one actually poked me to 'see if I was real'. And they had questions, so many questions.
"For what?" I grumbled. "For allowing you guys to parade me round like some sort of circus freak?"
He chuckled and pulled his glasses from his pocket and slipped them on – I'd been told at dinner they were just for reading. "No, for coming with us in the first place; Mabel was always desperate to hang out with her flatmates."
"She shouldn't get her hopes up," I pointed out, moving towards my door once more. "I'm not planning on making a habit out of this."
"Why?" He fell onto the sofa and picked up the book he'd left there earlier.
"Because I don't understand humans," I said truthfully. "They agitate me."
"But you understand demons?"
I froze. This person wasn't Grandpa or Casey – he didn't know me, and he wouldn't understand if I defended Azrael. Grandpa had already warned me to watch my mouth when talking about Azrael here; there were so many who wouldn't bat an eyelid to cut me down if I acted like I was on a 'demon's' side.
"Don't make presumptions about me," I said instead. Leo raised an eyebrow at my hesitation, but didn't comment.
"I can see why everyone thinks you're weird."
"Because you are weird."
I chewed my lip – this guy knew how to get on the wrong side of me.
"I'm going to bed." I turned against and didn't stop again as I slipped into my room and shut the door – clicking the lock behind me. If Leo said anything else, I didn't hear it.
I didn't even turn the light on; despite the fact it was dark now. I simply shut the curtains to halt the last bit of light from entering and was thrown into the welcoming shadows. My legs folded beneath me and I sat in the corner against the wall – staring out into the room as if I was searching for something.
I didn't see any bright black though.