Hello dear reader! Here’s to hoping that your weekend finds you healthy and safe. We’re all in this together and I will keep praying for you all.
Without further ado, here’s the much anticipated chapter six of Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell. If you haven’t been reading along every week, here’s a directory of the previous chapters.
The tone of the story takes a disastrous turn this week, so make sure to read to the end…
Reader discretion is advised
Part Five: Poison
The afterglow of Kit’s midnight visit was soon gone as I lay on my couch the next afternoon. As usual for every Saturday, my overly coiffed shrink droned on and on from my armchair.
I only tuned in every two minutes. Every three days he was here invading my suite, insisting I have a session whether I needed it or not. And today, like most visits, I tended toward not.
“How did it make you feel?” he asked me finally, having ended his dirge about how stress could lower my ability to cope with life. He twirled a pencil between his fingers; not overly interested in my responses.
“Watching the contestants die?” I asked incredulously. He nodded with all seriousness, so I said with open venom, “Like any compassionate human being: horrible. Appalled.“
“I don’t need anti-depressants,” I drawled, knowing where he was heading with the question.
His eyebrows went up over his glasses, his glazed blue eyes completely blank. “Never said you did. However, you rarely speak of things that bring joy to your life. I’ve noted your hostility toward me. It indicates you’re still angry over my appointment as your personal emotional coach.”
Aggravated that Elena hired someone to ‘coach’ my emotions? Hell yes. I rolled my eyes. “You’re paid to listen to me whine. As for my disdain, you represent my biggest problem,” I said, sorely missing my punching bag and thinking that Dr. Breezeman would make a mighty fine replacement for it. “There’s only one damn emotional issue that I have and it’s lack of control! And you know damn well you can’t fix that, yet you charge six hundred an hour to sate my mother’s whims!“
“Yes. Let it all out,” he crooned with apparent boredom, only adding gasoline to the already brewing fire. “Bottling up your anger-“
“My punching bag gets better results than you do!” I bellowed. “You know what I want?! To have a piece of cheesecake whenever I damn well please, despite my mother’s vicarious anorexia!”
“Good, Anna. Keep going.“
“And to… to…” I puttered out as I saw him watching his phone, not paying the slightest attention to me as he played a game. Deflating, I turned to the open balcony. “Want to run away.”
As my voice faded, my shoulders drooped forward. It was true. I longed to run, to head back to the small village of Cataluacan on the edge of the city where I attended the private boarding school. It was so quiet there. So peaceful. Every part of me belonged there, even down to my bronzy skin.
The times I had spent with my aunt there were lost to me, but the memories were enough to remind me that there had been a time when life had been pleasant. All that changed with her death.
The wonder doc didn’t notice my change in tone, instead adding, “Well, judging by your newfound frustration, I’m going to suggest you take up meditation and remove sugar from your diet.“
I didn’t have sugar in my diet. I’d complained about that to him fifteen minutes ago.
“And add two more sessions a week,” he added, scribbling on his notepad as if it’d verify his obvious attempt to squeeze extra change out of my parents. “You need to get out more. Your mother worries since you never go out with your friends.“
“They’re not friends. They want to be on TV,” I said hollowly, feeling worse with his every word. I had no friends.
“And you never date,” he continued, oblivious to my true suffering. I didn’t even bother to turn to him as he droned, “Sex is important for a healthy constitution. I think you need a boyfriend.”
“No doubt my mother has a chosen candidate,” I muttered.
“A vibrator can only do so much-“
Whoa Nelly. I looked over my shoulder, beyond flabbergasted with that declaration. “I don’t have one, though I’m sure Elena can attest to their benefits considering how overly ‘fond’ she is of my father.“
“We worry that you’ll develop unwarranted attachments,” he said, clasping his hands together and missing my sarcasm completely. “Depression can play tricks with the mind.”
“Oh, I get it. Mother was embarrassed by my saving Kit, so she’s interpreted it as I must be desperate for male attention,” I snapped, crossing my arms. “So she’s sent you to parrot her ‘concerns’ to me.”
He stopped, not sure what to say since I’d hit the issue straight on the head. Breezeman pursed his lips, his spine straightening. Then he smiled. “Perhaps you should consider setting more realistic, attainable goals. You’d be happier.”
Oh, this son of a gun was something else. My eyes narrowed into slits. “Attainable?”
“If you live by the standards you are given instead of the ones you set for yourself, I am sure complacency will come to you,” he said with the warmth of a robot. His smile was pure plastic. “Then joy as you discover that your limitations aren’t restrictions at all, but mere constraints you’ve placed upon yourself. You could try to enjoy time with the men who are compatible with your political status.”
I sat on the couch, crossing my legs to him. “You mean give up the idea of finding a man who loves me and settle with being the perfect wife… no matter how I’m treated.”
“Precisely,” he said in a tone as if I was a toddler, putting his hands up. “If you set your sights on what you can have, then you won’t resent what you can’t.”
“So to give in and give up hope is to find ‘happiness’?”
“You speak as if it’s a bad thing,” he chirped reproachfully. “You know so little of this world, Anna. Who taught you such foolish notions? Such falsities? Life is balance. Think of the people in jails or on the streets. They set their sights on the unattainable as well. If they hadn’t, they’d still be happy.“
“Yes. Happily ignorant of all the drug lords, crime and poverty,” I said in an acquiescing, mindlessly sweet tone as if to agree with him. One that didn’t at all match the oozing sarcasm in my words.
“Precisely,” he agreed. Then I watched as his brain backtracked, realizing what he’d acceded to. “Oh, no. I meant-“
“Yes, what did you mean?” I hissed with contempt.
His mouth set in a hard line. “Our session is done for today. Again, meditation, no sugar, and-“
“Sex?” I said flatly, already dismissing him. My brainwashing session had ended yet again without success. As he got up and headed for the door, all huffy over my easily outwitting him for the umpteenth time, I decided to dig it in even more. I called liltingly after him, “And, doc? Whatever medication it is you’re personally on, might wanna lower the dose. You’re losing your edge…”
The door slammed in response. Point one for me. Probably temporarily since he’d tattle on my belligerence, but I didn’t care. But as a voice floated in from the direction of the balcony, I jumped.
“See, senorita? My attention is now doctor prescribed,” Kit called down from above, apparently having been eavesdropping. But as a pillowcase dropped down to my balcony, I sat up. “Catch you later, querida. Gotta go to some ridiculous luncheon…“
Despite my internal curiosity about what was in the bag, I refused to move. “I don’t take kindly to spying,” I projected forbiddingly.
He snickered in response. “Sure you do. Hasta leugo, chica.”
A white wildflower dropped from above, landing on the pillowcase. His footsteps and the sound of a door shutting overhead proved to me that he’d gone. Unable to quell my curiosity anymore, I headed over. Inside the pillowcase I was astounded to discover a care package: foot soak, gel shoe pads, some candies, bandages and a clove of garlic.
Garlic? Then I spotted the note at the bottom of the bag, scrawled in barely legible handwriting.
‘Couldn’t get the cheesecake, but I’ll try for later when I get our dinner. Adios, Aiyla. P.S., I’m all up for the doctor’s orders. A healthy constitution is very important…
Sitting back with a smile, I stopped myself as I realized he was getting to me. And I couldn’t let myself get attached. Any day now, he would be dead. Either way, the question was how he’d gotten these items. He must’ve gotten out of the manor somehow. The question was how he was sneaking past the security teams. Lucky bastard. Maybe I could get him to teach me how he’d escaped.
All the same, I couldn’t stop myself from taking the wildflower with me after stuffing the items in my night table. Its scent was comforting; simple and soothing unlike my usual surroundings.
Replaying the words of the shrink, I shuddered at the idea of settling with a man of my parents’ choosing. All the men they’d set me up with so far were greedy and one dimensional. Either they’d wanted my body or the status that came with it.
The dates with them had left me empty and dead, especially after a few spent the night with me. Whether I wanted to sleep with them or not wasn’t in question. It was just expected.
In some small way, I envied Kit. For whatever reason, he had chosen to come here. It was his choice, odd as it was. Stupid, but a choice all the same. It left me wondering what his life was like and why he’d come. Was probable death and a slim chance of survival really more preferable? What were his motives?
As Tiny came tromping in to announce that father wanted to see me, I had no further time to consider it. Within two minutes, I was in his office. As I stepped into the mahogany-trimmed room, he looked up from his desk. “Anna, don’t you look radiant! I take it the treatments are working?”
Color me weirded out. His greying hair was disheveled; his reading glasses askew as if he’d been roughed up. And perhaps he had been. I never was kept abreast of how the elite hierarchy felt over the things he did. All I knew was sometimes they were pleased; other times violently unimpressed.
As he stared, expecting an answer, I just stared at the floor before sitting. “I think you’ve got me mixed up with Elena since she gets Botox.”
He nodded, not altogether interested in my response as he removed his glasses and sighed. “You know, darling, I don’t think you know how appreciated you are. I know how tiring it is for you to go through the Tourney, but it does such good for the city. They adore you.”
Yes. Right. I cleared my throat. “Be that as it may I don’t understand why my proposal of reading at the library was rejected.”
He clasped his hands together as if the answer were obvious. “Literacy is something we really don’t want to flaunt in citizens’ faces. It’s not socially economical. In the trade schools the curriculums are focused on how to make a living; not skills unnecessary to good citizenship. Reading is a luxury, not that you’d know.”
“The general populace is illiterate?” I snapped, knowing that was a blatant lie. “Then why are there libraries?”
“For the older generations who are able to read. But for the newer generations, the need for them will decline and they’ll be phased out. Social gathering places will take over the former library space, lessening the need for new construction.”
Holy hell. They were getting rid of libraries?
“So you can see how reading to the children would be a bad idea,” he said, absentmindedly checking his phone. “It would unfairly set their hopes on the unattainable.”
He lit up, pleased with the question. “Yes. Part of my new published manifesto called Attainable Sustainability: Guidelines for Good Citizenship. You weren’t given a copy?”
I smiled without humor. “I believe my psychiatrist must’ve been given an advance copy.”
The sniveling rat bastard shrink. Now he was trying to quote ‘manifestos’ to me?
Father nodded, eyes filled with nothing but pride at his own work, even though it sounded like something straight out of Communist China. With every passing moment, I couldn’t believe how deluded he was. He believed his every word. “Yes, I’d heard you were seeing one. Your mother told me you’ve been so stressed that you were overeating.”
I let out an indignant sniff. “Overeating constitutes consuming a cheese cube in her eyes.”
As his phone rang and he answered jovially, I peered over at what I could only guess was the manifesto. Just reading the table of contents, I was less than impressed that the scientists were now insisting it was good for the city to eat less. Less waste, less greenhouse gas. And morbidly, in my own brain, I added that if everyone starved to death, there’d be less ‘global warming’ as well.
As he hung up, I just rolled my eyes as I read through it. “Where do you get the scientists to back this crap up?” As his expression soured, I muttered, “I’m not ignorant. If you wanted me to be, you should have sent me to one of the ‘good citizen’ schools. And even then, we both know the students enrolled there won’t believe it either.”
Father sighed, brushing back his hair. Opaque, hazel eyes met mine. “It’s good for them, dear. It helps their mental state and provides incentive. If they strive to be a good enough citizen, they can be like you.”
No wonder they all hated me. I’d been made into Dejado Atrás’ own personal Marie Antoinette. “That’s what they’re fed?”
He nodded. “With hard work they can attain rewards as part of the new point system. Doing things like picking up refuse can earn them points towards experiences such as designer shopping, concerts –“
“Don’t points count toward food?” I interrupted with open incredulousness. The city had no food stamp programs as it was.
“Of course. They can be redeemed at five-star restaurants once they reach certain point values,” he said as if offended by the question.
“And how many pieces of trash would that take?!”
His brow furrowed. “I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask my advisors. I came up with the idea of sustainability; they came up with the details. Either way, the Tourney will be over soon so the stress will be gone. I was surprised how into it your mother was this time. She even came up with one of the challenges.”
That got my immediate attention. “Did she really?”
“Yes! Brilliant actually – testing the contestants’ etiquette,” he mused, scratching his chin. “To see who knows the difference between the course cutlery. You know, all the different utensils. That even sometimes confuses me as well…”
Alarms were going off in my head. Somehow I very much doubted that Kit would know the difference between a shrimp and a salad fork. “And if they don’t know?”
He shrugged, unbothered by the idea. “Poison, I think. I’m not sure. I mean, if you’re that curious turn on the TV –“
I leapt to my feet with such force that my chair fell backward. “The challenge is now?!”
“Yes. More contestants survived the initial round than anticipated, so I obliged her and added another event,” he said, going back to his paperwork. “Elena was delighted her idea was included –“
I didn’t listen to any more of his prattling as I practically flew out of the room. All I could do was pray that the event hadn’t yet started. Kit had said he was headed to a luncheon, so I doubted he had a clue what lay ahead.
As I came across Tiny in the next hall down, I demanded, “Where is the next challenge taking place?”
“The guest dining room,” she replied dismissively while staring at her planner, most likely preparing to go into a dirge about the rest of my day. “You have an appointment with – where are you going?!”
Not waiting for her to follow, I took off up the stairs. The dread settling into my gut was noxious, knowing in my soul that Elena’s stroke of genius was directly aimed at Kit.
The other competitors were wealthy enough to have dined in more upscale establishments. Elena knew that in a challenge like this, Kit would be at a severe disadvantage. And with the irreverent way he stuffed himself with Chinese food last night, I very much doubted that propriety was something he ever thought about.
He was as good as dead.
Skidding around the corner in my slippers, I came upon the scene. TV crew members were watching monitors; the screens displaying the room beyond us where all the competitors were seated and filmed by hidden cameras. Double doors separated me from getting in to where they were gathered around a dining room table.
As I tried to dash through, one of the directors stepped in my way. “Sorry, the challenge is already underway. No one is allowed in.”
“You don’t understand,” I begged, putting my hands up to him. “I’m supposed to be –“
All I could do was watch the monitors as he shunted me aside, knowing I’d been too late. Two burly security men stood in my way. There was no way I was getting in, even if I fought them.
The contestants were seated at a table in the room beyond us, penguin-like servers placing steaming bowls of soup in front of them. As the waiters politely bowed and took their leave, the contestants looked at the cutlery and then at each other. It was damn obvious that none of them knew it was a challenge. No rules had been explained. None of them knew of the silent danger.
Bewilderment ran up and down the table.
Kit stared at his place setting dubiously, making my heart sink further. Six spoons rested in front of him, much like the other contestants’ place settings. My guess was that the poison lay on all the spoons except the soup spoon. The only difference between his place setting and the other contestants’ was a paper coffee cup that he must’ve brought with him into the luncheon.
He picked up one of the spoons and raised an eyebrow. “Just how many courses do you people eat with spoons?”
The reality star wannabe blew over her bowl, trying to cool the contents. “They’re for the pallet cleansers, salad, coffee and desserts.”
Kit just rolled his eyes, loosening his tie. “Like they actually eat that much. Anna sure as hell doesn’t.”
Getting no response as the others proceeded to eat, Kit just sat back and watched as they each picked up their choice of spoons. Only one of the others picked the wrong utensil: the deceptively similar salad spoon.
I inhaled sharply, knowing that the blonde-haired fellow had just signed his death certificate. “Oh, no…”
But as Kit likewise picked up the wrong one, I abandoned decorum. I rushed to get to the door, but the nearest of the two security men stopped me. “Sorry, miss. You’re not allowed in.”
Unlike most on the security team, there was only sympathy in this man’s eyes. He knew what was happening beyond the doors. But while he felt sorry over my panic, he wouldn’t jeopardize his job.
I turned away, looking back to the screen.
Kit was still watching the others… and strangely his own bowl as well. Then he shrugged. “Eh, to hell with it.”
There were no words for the relief I felt as he proceeded to pick up his paper coffee cup and emptied it into the houseplant behind him. To the mounting incredulity of his fellow competitors, he picked up his bowl of tomato soup and carefully poured it into the cup.
“What on earth are you doing?!” the one with the wrong spoon demanded, completely scandalized.
Kit merely snickered, cheekily toasting the cup at him. “I’m one of those people who can’t seem to eat without spilling it down their front. Better to appear impolite than an outright slob. This isn’t my dress shirt, so don’t wanna ruin it.”
“Yes. It’s not like you could afford one of your own,” the reality star wannabe scoffed hatefully, sipping at her spoonful of soup and dabbing at her lips with a napkin.
Kit just stared at her, nose wrinkled with distaste. “You know, you may not have one, but I think you still suffer from ‘little dick’ syndrome. All you do is bitch and complain. And there ain’t no amount of money that makes a man interested in that kind of an attitude, even though you’ve bought yourself a bigger set of…”
As he took a sip from the cup and gestured at her ample chest as it bulged out of her low-cut shirt, the rest of the competitors cackled. The ‘set’ in question swelled with indignance. “I’m a lesbian!”
“Didn’t seem that way when you came on to me yesterday,” Kit said with complete irreverence, taking another taste of his soup before putting it down. He rolled it around in his mouth for a few seconds before muttering. “Needs some spice. Everything served here is so bland.“
The blonde-haired man snapped as if personally insulted, “You’re out of your depth here, Joe.”
Apparently used to getting lip from the other contestants, Kit merely replied with snark, “So says the only one in the room eating with a different spoon. Either you’re out of your own depth or your snot has gotten bigger than your nose.”
Interrupting what I was sure was going to be an epic argument, a loud ping sounded as one of the others accidently dropped their spoon on the floor. Rather than stop eating, he simply picked up another spoon from his settings. I groaned as I realized the body count was up to a solid two and this time because of a mere accident on the man’s part.
From the camera angle, it looked as if Kit’d completely confused the reality star by the mention of snot. She stared at him without comprehension. “What?”
Kit smiled all the wider. The grin quickly faded as he looked at the blonde fellow across from him with concern, having noticed his state. “You okay, man? You’ve gone awfully pale.“
I put a hand to my mouth as the fellow started choking, dropping the spoonful that’d been poised at his lips. The dance with death had begun, the toxin finally hitting him. Spittle foamed at his mouth, letting everyone know that he wasn’t just choking on his food. Expressions of alarm ran down the table, realizing something was very wrong.
Despite the pervading panic, Kit jumped up and ran around the table to help. He prepared to thump the dying fellow on the back to clear his airways, but was already too late.
Before he could, the man fell forward and faceplanted in his bowl. Red liquid sloshed and splashed on the table, almost like blood on the white tablecloth.
All parties froze, however, as a second man down the table started sputtering as well; the one who’d dropped his spoon. I just shook my head, knowing that his demise was likewise sealed.
“Poison,” the reality star wannabe whispered, dropping her spoon; never having moved to help either of them.
Kit took one wary look around the table and then at his cup before promptly sticking his finger far into his mouth. Doing the smart thing to save himself by provoking his gag reflex, he bent over and vomited into the potted plant behind him. He retched a few times, ignoring the others as they freaked out.
I just shook my head as the second man died, this time with a less dramatic death. His eyes just went vacant and he stopped breathing, going limp in his chair.
Kit stood up straight and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, eyeing the two of them with revulsion. He flinched as the announcer hosting the games came through the opposite set of double doors, having been waiting for his cue. Two cameramen followed him.
Done up much like the day previous in a suit and tie, he grinned as he held his microphone up to his mouth. “Congratulations! You have all advanced to the third round-“
“Not all of us,” Kit muttered in an undertone, still eyeing the nearest dead contestant. He looked around wildly, running a hand through his hair. “Son of a bitch-“
“This was a challenge?!” the wannabe roared at the announcer, throwing her napkin at him with ill temper.
He nodded solemnly, though with the slightest touch of glee at her outrage. Messy, emotional performances always equaled good ratings with television viewers. “Indeed. You know your table etiquette to a tee and chose the correct spoons!” Not bothering to listen to her response, he turned to the camera. “Thanks to our sponsors –“
“My God. Not even eating is safe anymore!” Kit projected loudly over him, staring around with horror. “Ay dios mio!”
“Have a great rest of the day, citizens,” the announcer unsuccessfully tried to continue.
“Mi auntie can’t say being a slob is such a bad thing anymore,” Kit said to himself as he stared around, seeming unaware that he was drowning out the attempts of the host. “Geez! Saved my life –“
“Make sure to tune in to the next challenge. Ciao for now and see you soon!” the host proclaimed over him, winking at the camera as it cut. As soon as the feed was off, the announcer shot Kit a dirty look and stomped out.
No longer under any obligation, the security men did nothing to stop me as I barged past and threw open the double doors of the room. Seeing Kit checking the pulse of the expired man, I asked weakly, “Is he-?”
He nodded somberly, gently pushing the fellow’s eyelids down and murmuring a prayer over him. “Oh, yeah. He’s a goner.”
As I bowed my head, I was startled as I was poked hard in the chest. Discovering that the reality star wannabe had gotten up in my face, I skittered back.
“Did you know about this?!” she screeched at me, following after me with fury as I backed up. Her crazy eyes warned me that something in her had just snapped and that I was about to be her scapegoat. “You could have warned me!”
“The event was arranged this morning without anyone telling me-“
A screech so shrill came out of her that I jumped and nearly slid on the hardwood floor in my slippers. Her hands formed into claw-like fists. “I could have died, you miserable –“
As I opened my mouth to defend myself, I was more than shocked as she went to wallop me. Before the two security men could get to her, however, Kit ever so helpfully snagged her by the back of her shirt.
As she tried to whirl around and hit him, he held her in place without effort. “Knock it off. She didn’t know.”
“Of course you’d believe that!” she screeched, trying to elbow him.
“Look at her. If they wanted her here, she would’ve been done up with makeup and all that,” Kit said, unbothered by her fury and releasing her as she waved a fist in his face.
Altogether unbothered as she and the others as the filed out, their reactions varying between anger and unease at the deaths, Kit stood in front of me. I just crossed my arms, biting my lip. “They wouldn’t let me in.”
He nodded, scratching his head before looking back at the other two victims. “I can believe it. You must have had ditched your-“
“There you are!”
Tiny stomped in, floor shaking under her weight, apparently having finally located me. Kit shot Tiny a sardonic a look, deliberately edging away from her. “Speaking of…”
“You missed your social call with the senator’s daughter!” she thundered at me, seething with aggravation and her hair on end from running around. Waving the planner in my face, she snarled, “It screwed up my whole schedule!”
I squared my chin, not in the mood to deal with her typical tantrum. “Be that as it may, I need a few minutes to collect my thoughts.”
“Give her a minute; eh, chica? She’s just upset,” Kit agreed with diplomacy, shooting Tiny a winning smile and turning on the charm to back me up.
That charm faded as Tiny snapped back viciously, “You shut up, wetback! You’ve caused enough trouble!”
That was it. I saw red.
Between her obliviousness to the bodies being carted out of the room and the ill-timed slur, I was ready to explode. While Kit’s expression veered into resentment, there was also a hint of resignation. He was used to taunts and degradation.
I nabbed Tiny by the collar of her shirt, shocking her completely. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll apologize, cancel the rest of my afternoon and get the hell out of my face!” I snarled, snatching her planner and throwing it. Papers fluttered down around us like snow, scattering across the floor.
Her eyes bulged out with defiance. “You have no authority –“
“Unless you want a well-deserved fist in the mouth,” I hissed, towering over as she puffed up, “you’ll apologize to him! I’m at the end of my rope, my patience and Lord knows my tolerance!”
Tiny just stared at me silently, her dark eyes narrowing into ferociously dangerous slits before nodding to concede.
Releasing her, it seemed my victory was too soon and too easy.
To my dismay, instead of doing as ordered, she pulled a small bottle out of her pocket. Snatching my hand, she poured out two white pills on my palm. “Swallow them,” she ordered, thrusting my hand toward my face.
“What are these?” I asked warily, not knowing where this tactic had come from. Kit likewise eyed them, not expecting this move. He looked between the two of us, not sure whether to intervene or not.
“Sedatives. Your psychologist prescribed them as an emergency after yesterday’s behavior. Swallow them or your mother will be notified,” she said with a cat-like quality, believing she had neatly defeated my attempt at dominance.
If I took on her dare and refused, Elena would likely decide I needed full-time monitoring and medication. Either that or a stint at ‘rehab’, the place where celebrities were sent to be remodeled into whatever their handlers wanted.
My outburst had just potentially cost me a great deal. Looking at the pills, a plan formed in my mind. Bowing my head, I popped them in my mouth and pretended to swallow.
Kit protested, trying to stop me but he was too late.
With her request met, Tiny smiled with vile satisfaction. “Good,” she praised, almost like I was a dog she was trying to train. “Now go to your room and take a rest.”
Not bothering to give her a reply, I trudged out. Kit followed, eyeing me worriedly. “What the ‘ell-?”
Rounding the next corner and out of Tiny’s view, I spat the pills in the nearest vase. I spat a second time to get rid of the foul taste that’d worked into my throat. As I straightened, Kit stood in front of me. His eyebrows formed into an angry ‘V’ shape as he demanded, “They drug you?”
“Not like this,” I admitted, gesturing for him to follow as I headed toward my area of the house. He followed close by my side as I muttered, “My attempt to help you has cost me more than you realize. Usually they try to get me to drink. Are you hungry?”
“Er, yes and no,” he said, watching me worriedly and shrugged. “I’m not particularly eager to eat ‘inhouse’ again, so to speak and for obvious reasons…”
“I can get you something. They won’t spike it if it’s ordered in my name,” I said, trying not to gag at the horrible metallic aftertaste from the pills.
“Yeah, but won’t your mother get mad if you order two meals?”
“I won’t be ordering a second meal,” I admitted, heading down the stairs.
Kit’s lips parted to protest at the idea of my giving up a meal for him and he tried to follow me, but I put hand up. “You’re not allowed down in this area. Wait until I bring it to you. Room above mine, right?”
His expression turned inscrutable as I headed down, though he kept muttering mutinously after me. I ignored him until I was inside my suite and then sagged against the door.
The oddest feeling was seeping into my veins, almost like they were turning to ice. A chill that only made me grow more anxious came over me. Never having had sedatives before, I shrugged the feeling off. Perhaps it was a normal side effect since I was sure a slight bit of the pills had made it into my body.
Speaking into the AI command system to send an order to the kitchen, I muttered faintly, “Send a sandwich plus a coffee.”
Hanging up, I was apprehensive as to why my world was starting to spin. Putting my hand on my desk to steady myself, the walls were moving as if they were live snakes. I blinked, trying to clear my vision as my knees weakened. Unable to fight it, I started to sink to the floor.
Forestalling me, however, hands caught me.
“Whoa, chica. Easy,” Kit’s voice murmured in my ear, his likely having come down via the balcony again. My attempt to reply was less than easy as I started to feel as though my chest was being compressed. “Do you need some juice? Hypoglycemic?”
As he helped me over to the nearby chair, I shook my head; trying not to lose myself in my growing panic. “I think … some of the medication got in my system. They were powdery…”
Kit’s worried expression swam in front of my eyes as he squatted in front of me. “If that’s the case, I think she gave you too high a dose. Your eyes are all dilated…”
My vision was the least of my problems as the pressure in my chest increased, leaving me to pant for air. “Something wrong. Hard to breathe – need to call – “
His expression turned to dismay as he stood, looking toward the entrance of my suite and unwilling to leave me to get help. “Somebody get in here! We need help!”
My vision blurred out as I snatched the cell phone in my pocket, dialing for Mortimer. My hands shook as I waited for it to connect. As I heard the line click, I whispered through my constricting throat, “Mortimer… need help. I think… I think…”
As my hand went numb, my arm dropped to my side and the phone slipped through my fingers.
Everything was moving in slow motion; whites, reds and blacks moving more brightly in my eyes. It was like a kaleidoscope of color; grotesque chaos spinning in my mind.
Kit caught me before I could fall, steadying me and trying to get me to look at him. He shook me gently as I failed to respond. “Chica, you still with me? Aiyla? Aiyla?!”
As my eyes began to drift closed, my heart felt as if it’d stop it was beating so fast. Being dragged away from my own body, all I could try to do was breathe. And even at that, I was failing, the motion growing harder by the second.
“Come on, stay with me,” Kit’s frightened voice pleaded as the sound of many footsteps crashed in my ears. All at once, the sound of shouting converged on us as security arrived. Questions were being asked, the men radioing for backup as they discovered the scene.
“Kit?” I wheezed, sensation fading from my limbs.
“Just keep breathing,” he begged me, the feeling of a hand on my cheek trying to rouse me. “Keep holding on!”
But I couldn’t assure him. I slipped away like the ebb of a dwindling tide, far away from the world I knew.
In an instant I was gone, dragged under the crimson surge.
Copyright 2020 Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel
And that’s it for this weeks chapter! Left you on a bit of a cliffhanger here, so make sure to comment your predictions. Yes, I’m a very mean author making you wait until next week to see what happens to our protagonist miss Aiyla, but maybe if you comment your support, I’ll release snippets early!
Thanks for keeping up so far with the story! You’re awesome!
And make sure to pick up your copy of DIVIDE before you go this week! Instead of my usual gift offering of Still Death, I thought I’d mix it up for you guys!
This week the short story received a bit of a makeover since I redid the cover, so I thought you’d like to celebrate with me. This gift is in limited to the first fifty people, so make sure to claim it before the deal is gone!