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   Chapter 23 It Begins

Stolen Souls (boy x boy) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 15511

Updated: 2018-02-11 21:59


I can sum up the next three hours in ten words: Jules buys a baby goat and Kite is not happy.

I think I expected both, deep down, but I can't help but sinking in a rut between two boulders and pressing my face into the cold, sharp stone. I've too tired to scream and can only muster up a painful sigh. And by painful I mean it cuts me from the inside like a shrapnel blast.

"How could you not tell this to me, Shiro? You've had so much time—"

"I know, I know. I'm sorry. I gotta go."

"You're dying! I'm your best friend, supposedly, and you didn't even ask me to come. I can't—"

"Kite, please, I have to go."

"Yeah, I know you do. Good luck."

She hangs up.

The phone is squeezed between my knees. I grab at my head, trying and failing to breathe like a normal person. I thought this could be an adventure. Albeit a high stakes one, but an adventure nonetheless. Now Kite hates me and Jules is cuddling a fluffy little creature that bleats every few seconds and will only slow us down.

"What." I grit my teeth. "The hell. Do you think. You're doing."

He pats the goat on the budding horns. "You're just upset Kite chewed you out."

That's partly true. I didn't expect it and I wish I could buy her an ice cream cone and apologize. But there's no time.

The wind is whipping and cold. It bites my face and numbs my hands through my gloves. Jules and I are matching now. Heavy turtleneck sweaters, thick jackets, beanies and hot water bottles. All black. They came in other colors, but Jules wouldn't have that, even though we're on a stealth mission in the snow-capped mountains. Emphasis on snow-capped. He got us back packs too, and packets of dry meat and fruits. Two full canteens of hot water that will cool in approximately thirty minutes. All smart investments, all of them minus the baby goat chewing his thumb.

"This is too dangerous for a pet."

"I'm putting him in my backpack, " says Jules with a shrug. "And his name is Larry."

As of that makes this any less dangerous. As if that makes me feel any better. "That's my cat's name, doofus." But I can't argue with him. I simply don't have the time. So when he stuffs Larry The Goat Not The Cat as gently as he can into the big flap of his backpack, I say nothing. Just lift my head from the rut between the two rocks and hand him back his sleek phone. Imagine that taking back my drawing tablet used to be my biggest problem in the world, and dodging assassins.

"So you gotta plan?" he asks, about the third time today. The sky is cloudy and gray as we stumble up the hills behind the cabin. The wall edges forward, hemming us in.

"You bought a grappling hook, right?"

"Yeah."

"That's the plan. Two people on a grappling hook. We'll be fine."

He shoots me a glance. Flyaway strands blow free from his beanie and lash in his face. The higher we climb, the faster and harder the wind whips. "It's thirty feet of wall, at least. There's no way—"

"We scale it halfway. There are handholds. We'll be fine."

He shakes his head. "We'll break our necks."

"So?"

Darkness has fallen and the sky rumbles. Pockets of starlight peek over the mountains, glittering off silver stones and providing a sharp glare off his pale eyes. He glances down at his thick boots. Sighs.

"Maybe you'll be okay, but I don't think my powers or whatever are as strong as yours. You've been—" he hesitates, but I urge him on with a flustered hand gesture— "dead, for a lot longer."

"We'll just have to try." The wall is coming closer, and he's right. It's huge. The thick gray stones tower up to the sky, the dribbling artwork blotting out even the stars. There are handholds where the stone is chipped and the blocks unevenly stacked.

Now, thirty feet is about as high as a three story building. People have climbed higher without breaking their necks, but there are boulders and jags of broken rock beneath. And the wall smooths out at the top. I have no doubt that if either of us fall, we'll break something. Something probably vital, too.

"I don't know."

"Got any better ideas?" I hate being snappy, but I don't want him to remind me more and more about how stupid this. How hopeless. There are vampires out there, and I'm trying to steal something from them, with no plan and without a map to find them, and we can't get over a lousy wall.

"Jeez, Shiro!" He whips around and glares, though I should be the glarer in the equation.

"Didn't think so." I press myself flat against the wall and breathe in the acrid scent of the city which dogs us even here. I can smell the limestone and the paint, the salt on the wind and the sweat

the sharp, slippery wall, thankful for my gloves, kick off the rope and pull myself off. The wind groans in my ears as I stumble up onto the wall. Raise myself high, so I'm standing, back turned to Spiral, toes inched off the edge. The adrenaline electrifies me like a shot of caffeine. My breathing, sharp in ragged. My hands shivering as I pump them up into the air. "Aw, heck yeah!" I squeal, whoop, and howl. Can't help it. I climbed the wall. T The concrete and steel that's supposed to separate Spiral from the rest of the world. The wall that penned me in. Kept me trapped here, kept me prisoner.

I conquered it.

A grin splits my throbbing face. Just for a minute, I relish the victory. And then I look down the side that faces toward the mountains.

The wall plunges into nothingness, far below, as deep as they eye can tell. Darkness where the stone breaks off into canyon, and then the glitter of silver in the distance where the mountains rise once more, jagged peaks Paths are carved deep into their stone. Veins of white race above, etched into the sides and base. And something sways in the darkness, a bridge, creaky as it rocks. I can only make it out because of the the moonlight, piercing through the snowfall, which looks softer from up here. I crouch down and take up the hook in both hands, boots crunching snow. The air is sweet and biting up here, so much thinner and fresher than in Spiral City. I gulp in deep breaths of it, the cord resistant in my hands, tugging at me. Jules must have seen me climb up and wrapped it around his hands or waist. Good on him.

I lean forward, searching for a cleft in the wall to anchor the hook, taking care to balance on my feet. He has to see this. Has to know what to do. Because I don't have a single solitary idea, maybe because I'm freezing to death.

A sharp and sudden heat stings my chest. Burns into my flesh. I scream. Swat to get it off as my vision sings white, my teeth buried so deeply into my upper lip blood dribbles down my chin. My momentum carries me forward. For a whole second I'm kicking and flailing wildly to—get—it—off, the hook squeezed in my fist like a lifeline.

It's a second. Only a second. The complete and utter panic, swallowing up the last of my common sense. But that's all I need.

Because the air rushes up at me. The cord snaps me up as I flail, the wall smashing into my back. I struggle to hang on to it, the blots growing bigger as the pain sharpens. I slam the hook into a long, scraggly crack that runs deep in the wall.

Mistake. Huge mistake.

It falls. A whole wobbly chunk of the wall, jerked free by the hook's branches. I cling to the cord with one hand. It zips up. Jules' scream is crisp to my ears as he's dragged scrabbling up the surface. I fall. Faster and faster. The cord swings from the weight of the stone it's caught on, wrapping around my ankles, knees, waist, chest. My hands reach up, snapping open and closed like claws. The deep, dark void races up at me, and I scream.

Because right now, I'm going down, and it looks like I'm taking Jules with me.

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