“So, what next?” Ray asks, looking at all of our faces. We stare back, as clueless as he is. Silence reigns between us, and not even the sounds of insects or birds are heard. I shift restlessly in my seat on the dark gray rock.
“We need to find Wes and Jake,” Xavier finally says with a commanding tone, “I’m sure they are around here somewhere.”
“So far, everyone has all been found within the same ten mile radius. Maybe scouting out the rest of this area will prove fruitful,” Danae says calculatively, staring at a notebook in her hand. “We still have a lot we haven’t covered.”
“I say we look for water,” I speak up forcefully. “There isn’t a limitless amount of food near that tiny little pond, no matter how filling the fruit is. And if on that journey we find Wes and Jake, great. If we don’t, we can always go back and look for them with a significantly higher chance of survival on both sides.” I can see Yi and Griffin nodding after my suggestion. Xavier just looks back at me with displeasure.
“I think Mona is right. Let’s just gather up all our resources and all the fruit on those bushes, and head towards the outskirts of the forest,” Ray says firmly.
“Is there even an end to this forest?” Danae asks wonderingly. Her question marks a similar concern for all of us. Are we really here just to die in this empty wasteland?
Why are we even here, anyways?
I think back to the dozens of visions I have had over the past month, searching for some clue to lead us on the right path. Castle doors, tall mountains, and endless forests flash before my eyes. I do remember seeing an ocean or lake of some kind before… but where was it?
After pondering hard, I point to the north of us. “It’s that way.”
“What?” Ray asks, looking at me with a dubious expression.
“Water. I figure that since we are at the base of the mountains, the lake should be directly north of here. Although I don’t know how far away it is.”
I can feel all of the eyes on me, making me fidget uncomfortably. “How do you know that?” Ray shoots back, and then abruptly stands up from his position on the fallen log. “In fact, do you know something about how we got here in the first place? And what here even is?” He steps closer to me, and I shake involuntarily.
“Ray.” Xavier stands up and puts his hand in front of Ray to gently push him away from me. “Don’t be so overbearing. She can’t take too much at once.”
“No, Xavier,” He brushes past him, flinging aside his arm. “I think Mona owes us some answers, and that we need them now.” When he looks at me, his green eyes glowing with barely contained intensity, a strange fear grips my heart.
“You’re… right,” I acknowledge, “so you can sit down now, and I promise I will share everything I know.”
He stares at me for a minute, and then returns to sit on the log. Xavier sits down as well, and I can sense his gaze. Knowing he is looking at me gives me the jitters in my stomach, for some unknown reason.
“For quite some time now, I have been seeing visions. Usually they are about people, some sort of elite group that lives in a tall castle, but some give me views of the world beyond the castle. Based on what I’ve seen up to this point, I believe that we have landed in the world of my visions. Given the conversations I’ve witnessed, I also think that this world is not a physical world, but exists in some sort of spiritual sense, and is also the home of the Shifters.”
“What the-“ Yi curses under his breath, and the rest of the group reacts similarly. Ray in particular is looking both confused and almost annoyed, rubbing his knuckles together in a worried fashion.
“What did you hear?” Ray asks, but his voice is quickly drowned out by the others. Everyone comes forward with questions at once.
“Mona, what do you mean by saying this world isn’t physical?” Griffin queries while rubbing the bark on the log. “Looks pretty real to me.”
“Just what I said. I believe that this is the spirit world, kind of similar to what we have heard about heaven or h*ell. Except this is obviously much different,” I speak, sounding much more confident than I feel. “I mean, there’s Shifters absolutely everywhere. There seems to be no other explanation.”
“Last time I checked, we were in that dark room in Headquarters,” Yi comments, “even if this is the Spirit world, how in the world could we have ended up here? Unless we’re dead.”
“No, I don’t think we are,” I assert, standing up from my perch. I cast a glance at the sky, which is still covered in heavy fog and thick clouds. “I think, somehow, I transported us here. And don’t ask me how, because I honestly have no clue.”
The group breaks into chatter, with everyone talking among themselves. Strangely relieved by finally sharing what has been within my head for quite some time, I tilt my head to let the mist embrace me, dancing across my jawline and chilled skin. My eyes close, and I let my senses encompass my entire body, trying to feel everything around us.
“I don’t understand how this is not a physical world when we can feel things, and we all still retain our bodies,” Danae says hesitantly, “how can you be so sure?”
“I’m not.” I open my eyes with new focus and clarity. It is time to test out the conjectures I have made, seeing if it is possible once and for all. “Just… let me see…”
Xavier quickly stands behind me as I close my eyes again. “Are you okay?” He murmurs softly into my ear. My heart starts beating like a drum, distracting me from the swirl of thoughts I am trying to create.
“Xavier, stay there,” I command, all the while thinking of words concerning pain. Strike. Blood. Hurt. Ache. Stab. Destroy. As I let the words boil within me, a spirit spear begins to materialize in my hand. Except this time, it isn’t a spear, but a miraculous, sparkling sickle. It looks deadly, with a sharp curve and pointed tip. I marvel at the size of it, and the feeling of power that it gives me.
I look out among the group, and I can tell none of them can see the weapon. They are only staring at me in confusion. I somehow know that now is the time.
Please work, I beg as I bring down the sickle upon a nearby tree with all of my might. Collective gasps erupt from everyone, and then we all look in stunned silence. Myself more than anyone else, quite honestly.
“Move!” Xavier jumps and pushes me out of the way as the tree comes crashing towards the ground, hitting it with a resounding thump. In the process, my sickle falls from my hands and lands on Xavier. No, the correct phrase would be that it seemed to melt on Xavier, dissolving into nothingness as soon as it hit both him and the ground.
I am on my hands and knees now, covered in dirt. Deprived of the strength to move, I just stay in my exact position. But once I finally look up, I find that once again I am the center of attention.
I turn my head laboriously towards the falling tree, seeing the clean cut where the tree had been severed from its trunk.
After a few more seconds of this awkward silence that seems to be the norm among our group, Griffin speaks up. “So… North?”
* * *
We have been trekking for endless days, and short nights. It seems at the beginning like every step is leading towards deliverance, yet when I lose that hope towards the evenings it seems like we are only walking farther away from our goals. We try to rest, but I am just too anxious. So far we have seeing nothing, and no one, except the Shifters.
Even them I only catch sight of once or twice, and only at a glance, as if they are trying to hide from us. It is strangely disconcerting to see the Shifters running from us, like we are the villains in all of this. I guess in their point of view, we may be.
To try and pass the time while both walking and running, I practice making weapons. After lots of experimenting, I have figured out that the weapons won’t hurt tangible people, but will affect the world around us. I was scared to try it before, but now I realize it is necessary for both our survival and for an even higher purpose that none of us may even realize yet. Already I get the feeling in my heart that we are supposed to be traveling towards the water, because the water is close to the castle. And the castle is the key to everything… at the center of the uncertainty.
For there must be a reason for why we have landed here. There must be a reason for why I have been seeing all of these cr@zy visions. There must be a reason for why my heart can’t stop beating every time I see a blue-haired werewolf’s face.
Well, that might be totally unrelated. But… not really. I think.
Maybe he is the one at the center of everything, because he certainly occupies most of my thoughts. I just can’t keep myself from wanting to brush his hair out of his eyes, and to just stare into them to my heart’s content. I always have the urge to touch him, to trace his cheek or—shamefully—his lips. Even when I’m thinking about other things, the incumbent desire is always there, ready to distract me at every turn. And just like before, in the cave, I just about can’t take it anymore.
I’ve tried everything. Distancing myself, talking to Ray and Griffin, and even making myself keep my eyes downwards at all times so I wouldn’t have to look at him. But by this point, at which four long days have come and gone, I know that there is no use. The madness is overwhelming, and will continue to be until I do something about it.
I remember the shame of his rejection at the cave, but now it is almost like a distant memory, faded from the intensity of my brewing emotions. The strange thing about all this inner turmoil I have been having for quite a while now, and the one factor that makes absolutely no sense to me in the context of my emotions, is that he isn’t different from the others. Everyone treats me politely—except for Yi, who’s a jerk—and in particular Griffin makes me feel warm and safe whenever I’m near. They all have the same eyes, besides Griffin and Danae, with the exact same intensity and sheer beauty. All of the men are also undeniably attractive physically in their own way, and I can’t really rank any of them above the other on an objective standpoint.
But at the same time, he’s not like the others. And I have grown to realize this over the awkward silences and boring chatter that does nothing to stop me from facing the truth. And the truth is… I’m tired, desperate, and hungry. In both the literal and figurative sense.
Which is why I’m oh so gracefully stumbling over to Xavier’s side as the world lies in slumber, waiting for the new day to come.
“Xavier,” I whisper, crouching down and touching his shoulder. Even this feels invigorating, in all the wrong ways. I’m inwardly both repelled and fascinated by my thoughts at this moment, especially after a particularly dreary period of time.
His eyes flicker open, and I slowly gesture for him to follow me. He just stares back at me while blinking, and I soon grow impatient with him. Quickly I back into the trees, retreating until I am one with the night. A slight crunch of the leaves echoes behind me, and I know he is not too far behind.
Once I feel like we are far enough away so that we can talk quietly, I stop and lean against a pretty intimidating, m0nster-like tree. “Mona…” Xavier groans as he reaches me, probably still half asleep. “What… why…”
I don’t know why I find his sleepy expression so cute, and I don’t plan on finding out at the moment.
“We need to talk.”
At this, Xavier’s head snaps up and he shakes himself out of sleep. He blinks a few times, and then gives me his full, undivided attention. I feel strangely pressured by his stare, like I don’t want to disappoint him after I just woke him up during our precious nap time. “Is it about you apologizing for fl!rting with Griffin and Ray every single second of the day? Because you’re going to have to do much more than drag me out here in the middle of the night for me to forgive you.” He snaps a little bit, obviously just a little bit grumpy.
“Fl!rt? What in the-“
“Don’t even try to deny it. You were doing that on purpose to make me angry.” Xavier’s cheeks color a little bit, his eyebrows tilted in annoyance. Although disconcerted myself, I watch his expressions with interest.
“All I wanted… was to avoid you,” I say softly, eyes downcast. At this Xavier’s eyes widen, and then a bitterness enters his features.
“So…” He slowly states, “What changed?”
A silence stretches between us as I try to figure out how to phrase my next words. I soon give up, unable to make much coherent sense. “I don’t understand,” I choke, sliding down the tree onto the ground. “I just don’t get it.”
When I look up from my hands, Xavier is right there, gazing into my soul with those eyes of his. “You don’t get what?” He asks me gently. His hand brushes against my own, bringing warmth and comfort along with it.
I hastily try to regain my composure. “You should be the same as them, Xavier. You really should be nothing more to me than the means to an end.”
“As them? You mean Griffin and the other guys here?”
“Yes. You were one of the pack back at home, the man who saved my life and made me feel both irritated and comfortable, often at the same time. But that doesn’t explain all of the strange feelings I have been having since we have gotten here towards you, and I just don’t understand what happened.”
Xavier just stares at me, as if silently processing my words. “So you feel attracted to me, but you don’t get why you feel it towards me and no one else.”
“Right.” My expression brightens a bit. Maybe he gets it. Maybe he can help me get out of this mess, or just talk some sense into my stupid heart.
He thinks for a while, and I watch the skies shift into a deep navy blue, with a soft, muted white orb crossing the horizon. Hope blossoms in my chest in the prospect of relieving this curse of mine. And even if nothing happens, it’s great that I don’t have to pretend anything anymore. I can finally get this out of the way so that I can look towards a hopefully brighter future.
“This is not what I imagined,” Xavier says finally, sighing reluctantly. “Although I had a clue when you kssed me the other night that you were searching for something.”
I blush, about as red as a tomato. “Are you toying with me?” I ask, my voice uncannily high. My blush deepens at this, embarrassing me even more. I look away in shame. I… knew this was a bad idea.
But then I feel a hand on my chin, lifting my face with effortless grace. When I see him again, he is right in front of me, much closer than before. “Mona…” he says in a low, husky voice, his breath dancing on my cheeks. “I’ll give you what you want.” His pupils look dilated, infused with desire. My pulse quickens as I watch his other hand head towards my cheek, and then travel down to the nape of my neck. “But you have to promise me something.”
“W-what?” I ask as Xavier’s face looms ever closer. His eyelashes are almost brushing my cheeks, and his hands are filling me with both incredible warmth and insatiable desire.
“You must… promise to surrender yourself to me. Entirely.” He says this with such temptation, each word melting like honey from his lips. “If you don’t do this, then you must leave now… while you still can.”
My heart nearly bursts out of my chest. Surrender? There is something about the word that is so sensuous, exploiting my senses and overturning my defenses until I am only a puddle onto the ground. Under normal circumstances I would never stand for it. I would abhor the word, and if it were an object I would throw it on the ground and stomp on it with my feet. I like to think I am a strong person, who is independent and can think for myself, and to surrender is to become subject to another’s will. It is an impossible request. My pride would never…
His l!ps brush against my forehead, trailing down my nose with breathtaking passion. “I want you to be mine,” He whispers, drawing back to look me in the eye. “Just say the word.” He waits for me, watching my reaction.
Completely under his spell, I murmur, “yes.” It is as if I am helpless to my own selfish cravings, a slave to the passion I wasn’t even supposed to have in the first place.
Instantly after my response our l!ps meet with furious desire, and Xavier takes his hands away from my face only to grab my arms and push me roughly against the forest floor.
It is at these moments when I realize just how powerless I really am.
“Say my name, Mona,” he whispers forcefully in between ksses, nibbling at my earlobe and then bringing his l!ps towards my collarbone. “Yearn for me.” Our breathing is heavy, even frantic as we scramble to fulfill each other’s passions.
My lips are covered again, and I drown in ecst@sy.
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