Anna awoke to agony. Her entire being was on fire, the blood flowing through her veins a river of lava. There was a strange whimpering noise coming from somewhere...me, it's me. She felt panic rising in her chest and bit down hard on her lip, forcing the eerie sound to cease. She slowly opened her eyes then quickly shut them against the excruciating pain of light hitting her pupils.
She managed to drag her hand to her face and massage her eyelids before hesitantly cracking them open again. Little by little she widened them and her ears seemed to pop and all at once she could hear sounds above the dull roaring in her head. She was accosted with voices-screaming, shouting and...cheering? What the hell, she thought feverishly, and believed that fitting. She was on fire, people were screaming, she was in hell.
Panic gripped her as she heard the eerie keening again and she bit down on her lip once more, forcing herself to reason. If she was in hell, wouldn’t she be filled with bitterness and hatred? She pictured the faces of her friends and love for them burned fiercely inside her. She calmed and made herself focus.
She was lying on a cold cement floor and appeared to be facing a wall. The loud and terrifying sounds were coming from somewhere behind her. She knew that when she turned she’d be in the middle of a nightmare, but unless she planned on lying here forever she had to figure out where she was and what to do, and that required facing it. She took a deep breath and nearly screamed, her body hurt so badly. Clenching her teeth she slowly turned and immediately wished she hadn't.
Oh God help me, she thought desperately.
There were people in the center of the room and they were fighting like feral cats, clawing and ripping, biting and tearing into one another. Flesh was splattered with blood in pieces scattered across the cement floor. Not real, her mind whispered in horror, this can’t be real. Panic began to build once more and she tore her eyes away from the gory scene to look at the others in the room, those on the sidelines cheering. It was as if they were gathered around a dog fight, but instead of dogs they were people who now behaved like rabid beasts.
She heard more keening noises and bit her lip again, then realized it wasn't coming from her. She slid her gaze down the length of wall and there were other bodies, mostly female, lying in fetal and contorted positions.
Ten feet away a pair of sightless eyes were facing her...dead her mind supplied, he’s dead.
Suddenly a girl leapt up from her place against the wall and started spitting and hissing, saliva flying from her mouth as she snapped at the air. She did not appear human and Anna was filled with a bone numbing dread as the taste and scent of blood overwhelmed her every sense and she was sooo hungry, and she wanted to eat, and Oh God ravenous....
NO,NO, NO! I will Not become that, I will Not become that, I will Not become….that.
The alien craving finally receded and she took a long breath, exhaling slowly before returning her attention to the center of the room. She saw the snapping girl in the midst of the carnage and recoiled in horror as the crazed female jumped on another girl’s back tearing half of her neck away with her fucking teeth! Revulsion writhed in her stomach and for a terrifying moment she feared she would start retching and alert others to her conscious state.
She was blessedly distracted by a wheezing sound a little to her left and turned slightly, staring into the eyes of a girl who smelled of death.
Smelled of death? The girl was still holding on, but somehow Anna knew it wouldn't be long. The pain and fear reflected in the unfocused gaze tore at her heart and she wished she could comfort her. But self-preservation was a powerful thing.
She turned away from the girl and an image came to her. Jake, her memory hissed, and she searched the room for the one who had done this. The lying, deceiving, monstrous bastard who had done this.
She located him standing on the sidelines, laughing and taking money. He’s taking bets, her horrified mind whispered. A tremor vibrated her body as tears of devastation burned the insides of her lids.
She had to get out of here. Get away, lose her mind or die, those were her options. She tried to turn in another direction but a fresh wave of pain scorched her insides and she gasped silently, squeezing her eyes shut and rocking back and forth. After an eternity the feeling waned and she could breathe again.
When she re-opened her eyes the only thing that had changed was the now empty stare of the girl lying dead beside her.
She caught movement to her left and turned to see a few more men entering the room. Her brain finally processed that she was lying in a corridor. She was facing the large basement where the carnage was taking place but she wasn't inside the room and she could now see the exit which was twenty-five feet down the length of wall.
If she could just crawl past the entryway she would be out of sight to the observers inside, and then if she could just get through the door...
As she eyed her destination an enormous male burst through the entrance. He was over six and a half feet tall with a black coat stretched across his broad muscular back and shoulders. He stood on the threshold, his huge hands clenched into fists, and she could feel the fury rolling off him.
He turned slightly, glancing down the length of wall, and she saw eerie lights flashing in his eyes before they came to rest on her face. For just a moment the fury was replaced with something else.
Never in her life had she seen someone so beautiful, his eyes were shimmering ice blue with gold flecks set in a face that appeared to have been chiseled off a statue of a Greek God. Even his hair seemed to shimmer with different colored golden highlights. His gaze continued to rest on her, his eyes flaring with an intense despair that sliced straight through her heart.
The look faded as quickly as it had come, replaced by rage, and his lips pulled back from his teeth in a snarl as he leapt across the space into the room, throwing bodies out of his way with so much force they flew in every which direction. He stopped in front of her enemy and roared in a language she had never before heard.
Jake cowered, and as he attempted to speak the god-like man ripped his head from his shoulders and threw it into the far wall where it Exploded.
The violence of the act stunned her already overwhelmed senses, and she was certain what she had just seen could not be real, that this was all just a vivid nightmare. She may have been able to convince herself of it, if not for the pain slicing at her nerves and thrumming through her blood.
Her eyes were glued to the scene and with the exception of the mutated humans everyone had flattened themselves against the wall, none wanting to be a bi-product of the god's fury.
He stalked up to another group of cowering males and growled. With a wide swing his enormous fist caved in the side of a man’s head while he grasped another by his neck and lifted him. He hurled the dangling form into a wall and Anna could hear bones shattering. He turned and wiped his hands off on the shirt of yet another and spoke with a sneer curving his lips.
As she watched she began to feel a glimmer of hope. This terrifying male was one of them and it appeared he did not approve. Maybe they weren't all evil, maybe he was going to break this up and take her somewhere safe. She held her breath and watched him step away from the men. He took one last look around the room, and she saw that the flames in his eyes had extinguished, leaving shards of ice in their wake. He strode away and the fighting resumed.
He didn't stop them, she thought miserably, as her small sliver of hope died.
The pain returned with brutal force and as she felt her life ebbing she sensed a presence looming over her. He was standing there watching her die. After a moment she heard him walk away and felt her heart skip, then stop all together.
NOOOO, her mind bellowed, NOT MY TIME! With every ounce of strength she possessed she willed her heart to beat. You will NOT DIE and leave Jenna and Austin to shoulder that kind of guilt! You will NOT DIE and take the last piece of your father's heart! You will not die, you will NOT. DIE.
Her heart stuttered back to life and resumed its steady beating, and gradually her body grew stronger, fighting off the pain.
I’m going to make it, she thought with a sudden rush of immense gratitude.
God, if you’re out there, please help me get out of this place.
Another group came through the entrance and walked up to the opening of the room. Their backs were to her, blocking the view of the people inside. Ever so slowly she began crawling her way past them.
Please don’t let anyone choose this moment to spring from the wall, she prayed fervently. It felt as if it was taking too long but she was afraid any sudden movements would catch in their peripheral.
Finally she reached the entrance and dragged herself through it. She moved out of sight and used the wall to pull herself to her feet. There was a stairway straight ahead and as she was gathering strength to climb it she heard footsteps above her. She looked around wildly and spotted a crawlspace under the stairs. Throwing herself in it, she drew her knees to her chest.
The pounding of feet over her head as they thundered down the steps nearly stopped her heart once more, but they continued forward into the melee without a backward glance.
Exhaustion overtook her and she knew she had nothing left. She could only hope to go unnoticed. She felt her eyelids sagging and sleep came like a down comforter floating her away.