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Dream caster shadow, p.9
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       Dream Caster_Shadow, p.9

           Adrienne Woods

  “What?” My racing heart dropped into my stomach. I wouldn’t survive if Leigh treated me the way he treated Margot. “Please don’t.”

  Selene closed her eyes. “It’s set. I’ll be doing it myself.” She opened her eyes. “It’s not healthy to have a relationship with something who isn’t real.”

  I’m as real as I can be. That was what he’d told me when I’d asked him if he was real.

  He was a figment of her imagination.

  “Does Leigh know he isn’t real?”

  “I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve told him many times what he was.” She sighed. “I guess my imagination made him real in some way.”

  That was like the nail in my coffin. Deep down, I’d always known he wasn’t real, no matter what he’d told me in my dreams. He lived inside the Virtual Realm, but hearing her say those words… it was as if the last bit of me that clung to hope evaporated, and I knew we would never truly be together.

  Leigh had been real in another time, but not in my time. In my time, he was merely a figment of the imagination.

  I struggled to see through the tears blinding me. I almost never cried. But lately, everything hit me hard. The fact that the shadow was so strong inside me… the exhaustion of hiding it. And now this. The truth hit me harder than I thought it would.

  “I’m so sorry, Chas. I thought after Margot, it would never happen again, but I was wrong. It was my mistake.”

  I nodded and got up. “Was there anything else?”

  She shook her head. “You are free to go.”

  It felt as if I would never feel happy again. All the joy, love, and warmth had left me, leaving a huge gaping hole that five minutes ago had been filled by someone who was never real.

  How do you get over that?

  “Oh, and Chas,” Selene said as I made my way to the door that would take me back home. “Mind passing me my blue scarf?”

  There was a dark scarf hanging over the couch with what look like a small blanket. I took the scarf and handed it to Selene.

  She smiled at me. “So sorry again.”

  I nodded and walked to the door. I opened it and found Hoarse inside. His face was grave and it elevated my sullen mood. My chest closed up as we stared at one another.

  “I’m sorry, Chastity. But I don’t share St. Phillipus’s views that a Caster can choose.”

  Time stood still. The words Leigh had mouthed to me when I’d drifted off in the pod ran through my mind. Run, Chas, run. He’d been warning me about this.

  I couldn’t move. The tears that sparkled in my eyes finally rolled down my cheek.

  I heard Selene bark an order to seize me. Something hard hit me on the head.

  “That wasn’t necessary,” Hoarse yelled.

  “I make the rules here, Hoarse, not some Dream Caster.”

  Pain exploded in my skull and everything went dark.

  When I opened my eyes, I found myself on a cold, hard cement floor.

  The back of my head throbbed from the pain. A blinding ache was lodged between my temples.

  For a moment, I thought I was dreaming, but this acute pain and my surroundings confirmed I was probably wide awake.

  I closed my eyes, praying that the ache would dissipate, but it overwhelmed me.

  This was by far the worst day I’d had since I came to Revera, and I’d had a few of those.

  Where was Margot? She’d told Selene about me and Leigh, so perhaps she’d also told her I was dark.

  She must have, and Hoarse’s testimony had made it final.

  My chest tightened as fear seized me: maybe the scarf had been a test. Maybe it hadn’t been blue at all. Maybe I had given myself away.

  I tried to see the picture in my mind’s eye, tried to put color to all her objects that filled the room. I saw the colorless scarf hanging over the couch. It was dark and my mind turned it into a pitch black scarf.

  Color filled all the other colorless objects in her lounge and my eyes rested on the thing I thought was a blanket. It wasn’t a blanket; it was a blue scarf opened to its full size.

  The whole meeting had been a trick. I hadn’t stood a chance of leaving her room.

  I wondered if Natalie and Mrs. Irwin knew. Had Mrs. Irwin suspected what I was?

  With that thought, the room in Selene’s apartment disappeared, all the colors faded, and I was once again left with the dark pits of my mind. The dark, colorless pits of my mind.

  She wanted to trick me. This meant she knew exactly what I was the minute I set foot in there this afternoon.

  After being told Leigh wasn’t real, I hadn’t thought the day could get any worse.

  “Tell the truth, Chas.” Selene was sitting on top of me, her fingers grinding deep into my wrist where her interrogator had made two deep cuts to access my sand. Each night, he’d stitch me up again, only to reopen it again the next day. The torture made me lose a lot of blood, and twice now I’d been taken to a medical facility so doctors could keep me from the brink of death.

  Not once did the interrogator find black sand flowing through me. All he found was gold. Bright gold sand.

  I guessed this was what St. Phillipus had meant when he’d said one can choose.

  I wasn’t going to show her my dark sand and I didn’t care what she’d do to me.

  I would die with my light sand.

  “Show us what you truly are,” she hissed. She sounded deranged but controlled at the same time.

  I looked her dead in the eye. I was numb. I’d stopped screaming after the first time the doctors tended to me. My body had been through the ringer. I didn’t give a crap whether I lived or died anymore.

  Selene didn’t like that. She so badly wanted proof of what I was, she’d lost it. One night, she’d flipped out so much her guards had to restrain her and remove her from this hellhole I was in.

  Dr. Dimitri’s voice echoed through my head as I thought back to a few days ago.

  “Selene, how sure are you with this one?”

  Selene scoffed, laughing like the madwoman I now saw her as. “I’ve had multiple confirmations about what she really is.”

  “You can’t take Margot’s testimony as solid proof.”

  I knew it. I’d known Margot had broken her promise. Both Leigh and Mr. Grey had been wrong about her.

  “Samuel also confirmed it.”

  Samuel? That had to be Hoarse’s real name.

  “She doesn’t have shadow sand.”

  “Then do your job better,” she said snidely.

  The click-clack of her heels became the announcement of my nightmare.

  It was difficult to see the proper woman who ran Revera, the woman who was the substance of Revera. That Selene was gone, and in her place stood a monster. One who hated Shadow Casters as much as the Shadow Casters hated Light Casters.

  She pressed hard into my wrists, snapping me out of my memories and bringing me back to present.

  “I’m not what you think. I just can’t see color.” I tried to make my voice as innocent as possible, but instead it sounded resigned, ready to give up.

  “A trait of the Shadow Casters. Hoarse told me you felt them before they struck that night, which is another trait,” she said through clenched teeth. “It’s only a matter of time before you show your true side.”

  “How many Light Casters have you doomed to the Oblivion because of these so-called traits, Selene?” My voice was barely audible.

  “I don’t answer to you. You will deliver evidence, even if I have to tear it from you.” She dug her fingers deeper. I clenched my jaw. But I couldn’t hold on anymore and I screamed.

  I didn’t even know such a sound could come out of me.

  My vision blurred. I could feel myself succumbing to the impending blackness. Passing out was a relief; if I was passed out, I couldn’t be interrogated.

  So I welcomed the blackness, welcomed the respite from this torture.

  Dull, tinny voices filled my ears. At first I couldn’t hear what they were sayin
g and then I heard a voice.

  “What the hell is she doing to you?” he asked. It was so clear.

  I felt so tired. How was it that my dreams of Leigh felt so real?

  He smacked my cheek softly and I opened my eyes. “You need to get away, Chas. There’s a road…” his lips moved but I tuned out his words. He wasn’t real and nothing he said was real either. He might not believe what he was, but I did. He was the best of Selene, but he was still part of her. I refused to spend time with anything that was part of that sadistic psychopath.

  “Chas, did you hear me?” He had the softest blue eyes I had ever seen.

  I shook my head. “You are not real,” I spoke clearly and sternly and closed my eyes.

  “No, no…” His voice disappeared and I woke to the sound of dripping water in the dungeon somewhere inside Revera.

  I was drained and more scared than I’d ever been before. Something told me that giving up my dark sand, showing Selene what I truly was, had more severe consequences than this torture.

  How could someone like her carry such a bright light and not be dark?

  Was this was had Leigh meant? That sometimes what our eyes saw was not real? Were there other Shadow Casters in Revera, ones like me who had both dark and light, but used their light to fool people? Was it possible that Selene was… like me?

  Did Leigh know so much because he was part of her?

  My list of theories kept growing every time my mind played through it, but each theory helped me understand Leigh.

  Tears filled my eyes. How did everything get so messed up?

  A few weeks ago, everything was still fine with my world of the impossible. And now? Now I was living in my worst nightmare.

  I missed my mom, not to mention Mr. Grey. He would be devastated when he found out the truth about Leigh.

  And speaking of Mr. Grey, where the hell was my cat?

  I couldn’t help thinking Selene had done something to him. He’d told me numerous times he would rather live in the Oblivion before he went back to her.

  He called her a crazy witch, for crying out loud.

  Why had he lived with her for so long?

  Had he been on to her?

  And why hadn’t he come to rescue me? Why wasn’t he here? I squeezed my eyes shut, willing my mind to calm down. I must have drifted off because I heard my mother’s voice. I quickly opened my eyes and looked around me.

  I wasn’t in the cell anymore. I was back in Dad’s cabin. The one where my mother had trained me to become a Caster and taught me to resist the shadow sand my initiation dreams had shown.

  We were lying on one of the beds. The sun was streaming into the room.

  This was the woman I had grown up with, the housewife with the soft skin and flowing red hair. Not the woman I had seen in our last days.

  “I’m so sorry, Chas. I never knew one could carry both dark and light. If I had, I would’ve never let them take you.”

  “It’s okay, Mom.”

  “Shh, don’t talk. You need to rest, you need your strength.”

  I felt her touch, her hand gently lifting a strand of my hair and placing it behind my ear.

  “Why can’t we just stay here?”

  A giggle left her mouth. “I would if I could. I love you so much.”

  “She’s going to kill me.”

  Mom smiled innocently. “Don’t think like that. We are fighters, honey. Just be strong. Hold on, you hear? You hold on.”

  “For how long, Mom?”

  “Help will come. It always does.”

  The room started to lose its summer light and the dim, pale lighting of winter changed the warmth in the room.

  I looked over my shoulder at the window. Dark clouds peppered the sky.

  I looked back, and my mom was gone.

  A chill swept into the room. I blinked, and everything disappeared, shifting back to the cold torture cell. The walls were unforgiving, and I didn’t know how much longer I could stay strong.

  Though I wanted to weep, to let the tears stream down my face, I knew no amount of tears would get me out of this mess.

  Someone cleared his throat from behind me and I sighed. My nightmare was never going to end.

  When I rolled over, I found Demi, my torturer, leaning against the bars of my cell.

  He looked at me with undisguised contempt. He had to be wondering who I was, where I came from. He stared at me, his gaze moving up and down my body, making me uncomfortable.

  “If you’re not here to torture me, then leave.”

  “You know it’s only a matter of time till you’ll show Selene what she needs to see, Chastity.”

  “No, it’s not, because I’m not a Shadow Caster.” I spat at him, but my saliva didn’t even manage to make it to the entrance. Pathetic.

  I huffed as he looked at it with furrow eyebrows. “Wanna know why?” I said.

  “Why what?” Demi asked.

  “Why I’m not a Shadow Caster?”

  “Please, enlighten me.” His tone was sarcastic.

  “My father was one of the best Level Four Casters this place ever saw, and I guess it’s one of the reasons he tried to leave. He discovered Revera wasn’t all about the light.”

  “Oh?” He was mocking me again, his lips curled in a sneer. “And who was your father?”

  I huffed and smiled. “Funny you should ask. My mother kept telling me how much I looked like him. Thought you would be able to put two and two together.”

  He squinted at me, and I could see he was connecting the dots. A Level Four Caster, one of the best there had ever been, someone with my ethnic complexion. I saw the flicker of recognition on his face the moment his brain registered who my father was. “No, it can’t be. Selene would know.”

  “Yeah, well, she doesn’t. He didn’t want to raise me in this fucked-up place, probably because he found out how sinister all of you were. It got him killed but not before my mother and I escaped.”

  “No!” he bellowed. “You are not Graig’s child. Selene would’ve known. They were close.”

  “Couldn’t have been that close,” I muttered, then turned back around and left him to think about what he was doing.

  After a few agonizing moments of silence, his footsteps retreated from the dungeon. The only sound that broke the silence was the continuous dripping that echoed through my cell. That damn dripping was going to drive me insane, if the pain didn’t crack me first.

  I needed to get out of here, and soon.

  The following days were filled with torture.

  Demi had reported to Selene what I had told him, but she’d laughed it off with a chilling chuckle I had never heard from her, and then she rounded on me.

  “Sweetheart, Graig died way before your time.”

  “Why should I believe you? You’re a liar and a monster. You’re the one who should be in the Oblivion.”

  She hit me hard. “I’m here because of my sand. I am not a damn Shadow Caster like the one sitting before me trying to hide it.”

  “Yeah, how do you know? Because I can’t see color?” I asked. “I’ve never been able to see color. I’m colorblind!” I lied.

  “Bullshit. I asked you plenty of questions regarding color when you stayed with me, and you answered them.”

  “My cat told me what the colors were.”

  Her face went numb.

  I narrowed my eyes. “Which brings me to my next question… what have you done with him? Where is Mr. Grey?”

  She shook whatever was haunting her away and gave me her sweet smile again. “Not yours anymore. He is back to where he belongs and I can assure you, Chastity, he wants nothing to do with you anymore. Otherwise, he’d be here.”

  “I don’t believe you,” I said. I knew Mr. Grey. He’d told me over and over he’d follow me to the Oblivion if he could.

  “As for who you claim your father is, try again. Graig Cheng only had one love, and I can assure you it wasn’t a mere little human.”

  I laughed. “Is t
hat what you’ve been telling yourself? Why do you think he was absent the last part of his life? Always gone, always—”

  “Shut up! He had no other.”

  I forced smugness into my expression. “Yeah, keep telling yourself that. I bet he really must have hated you to try leaving this place.”

  “He didn’t try to leave, he died protecting the borders,” she spat.

  “Or he tried to leave to be with my mother in the Domain. He was all alone. He even told his eagle not to follow. If he was protecting the borders, why wasn’t his eagle there?”

  Her palm connected with my cheek again. She pulled my hair back and her face was inches away from mine. “You are such a little liar. You’ll die for your lies.”

  Her face turned hard, contorting into an expression that was full of loathing. I knew what was coming. She was going to let Demi do his worst to me, so I would give in to her demands.

  “Show me your sand.”

  I just stared at her, my face expressionless. Selene picked up the knife and slashed my wrist in one quick movement.

  I screamed from the white-hot pain clawing at my skin and sank to the floor, my mind giving out as the world around me started spinning, fading into black. I had no idea what sand Selene had found this time; I didn’t have the strength to look.

  I found myself in the same place I had seen in my dreams when everyone had been sick. The place where Margot and Selene had been talking. Margot was seated in a chair.

  This dream didn’t make sense. Each time I’d dreamt this, Margot and Selene had been deep in conversation, but I could never hear what they were saying.

  This seemed different.

  Margot’s eyes were closed. Round stickers were placed on her temple. Black steel covered her arms.

  I walked closer.

  This place was just as dark as the cell where Selene was keeping me.

  A screen right next to Margot flickered to life. Bright light filled the room. I turned around and saw Selene staring at the screen.

  She looked different, tired, but her eyes held a hint of craziness. Her face wasn’t plastered with makeup, her hair was messy and she was wearing a bathrobe.

  Why am I seeing this shit?

  I looked at the screen when I heard my own voice.

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