Where foundlings hide, p.14
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       Where Foundlings Hide, p.14

           KL Mitchelson
 

  Chapter Fourteen

  As I zigzag unsteadily across the room, the ground stills and the lights come on. I pick up the hem of my dress now heavy with water and I rush towards the doors, kicking off my shoes as I go.

  In the hallway, I run into a group of first years being shepherded down the staircase and out of the building. Jas is with them, her arm around her little sister.

  Molly’s shadow disappears along the corridor to the east wing and I pick up my pace, pushing through the crowd to follow her.

  The corridor is dark, but I see light up ahead and I race towards it, knowing exactly where Molly is now.

  I find her paused in the doorway of the girls’ bathroom, her dark hair brushed back off her face revealing a black mark like a spider’s web across her temple. She fixes me with an unblinking stare before disappearing inside, the door swinging shut behind her.

  I hesitate for a moment, wishing that I wasn’t alone, wishing that I could’ve told someone where I was going. I remember the blood on the floor after Molly attacked me and I almost turn back, but then I think of that strange blackness in her eyes, the mark on her temple, and curiosity gets the better of me. I have to know what’s going on.

  “Molly?” Inside, I nudge the first cubicle door open with my toe, but it’s empty. “Molly, I know you’re in here.”

  A sudden clatter behind me makes me whirl around. The cover of the air vent is hanging from its hinges, swaying back and forth as though recently disturbed. A scraping noise echoes inside the vent and I start to back away from the gaping hole.

  “Molly? Is that -” But it’s not her, it’s something else, something not human. I freeze in horror as the top of a scorched head appears, followed by two beetle-black eyes. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The creature smiles and a forked tongue flickers out between two rows of decayed teeth. It launches itself out of the vent, somersaulting in mid-air before landing on webbed feet with a slap. A strangled scream escapes my lip.

  Rags hang from an emaciated body that appears to be both burnt and decomposing. This isn’t real, it can’t be. The creature regards me with an intense curiosity, its bulbous head cocked. It extends a rotten hand made up of just three, long, bony fingers that end in sharp talons.

  I will myself to move, but my body refuses to obey. My limbs are frozen, my feet glued to the floor, as though the creature has some kind of invisible hold on me.

  A sudden hammering on the bathroom door stops the creature in its tracks.

  “Casey!”

  “Caleb, help me! There’s something in here!”

  The door flies open and ricochets off the tiled wall with a crack. The creature is blasted back into the wall opposite as if by an invisible force, and it slumps to the floor unmoving.

  Caleb takes my face in his hands and I grit my teeth as his panic sears through my skull. “The door was locked. Are you hurt?”

  I stare at him blankly, unable to comprehend what just happened. I try to look over my shoulder at the creature on the floor behind me, but Caleb’s grip on my face is firm. “Casey, can you move?”

  How does he know? Does Caleb know what this creature is? I try to lift my arms but they are like stone, frozen in place. I lift first one heavy foot and then the other, stamping a little until I can move them freely. “Yes. Yes, I can move.”

  “Good, come on. It won’t stay down for long.”

  The creature looks a lot less sinister now, it’s enlarged head lolling against its chest, it’s long, skeletal legs splayed out. I can smell its rotten skin, the putrid smell of decay.

  “You know what that thing is, don’t you?”

  Caleb ignores my question, as he leads me back into the corridor.

  I hear a scream from somewhere inside the building and I think of Bria. She went upstairs with Nick, what if she didn’t get out? I try to take off in the direction of the staircase, but Caleb grabs me around the waist. “Casey, we have to go.” He starts to drag me in the opposite direction.

  “What are you doing?” I struggle in his arms as he half-carries me into one the of the science labs. “We have to help them. There could be more of those creatures.”

  “There’s nothing we can do; I have to get you out.”

  He pulls me urgently across the room and pushes the fire exit open, setting off a shrill alarm that pierces the silence outside. I take deep breaths, gulping in the cold, damp air.

  “This way.” Caleb takes off across the lawn in the direction of the driveway and I have to jog to keep up. I see the fountain, illuminated by tiny spotlights, and beyond that, the main gates that lead out onto the dark country lane. The wind picks up suddenly and I hear a distant rumble of thunder.

  “Where are we going?” With a sudden surge of panic, I try to plant my feet into the wet grass, but I stub my toe, and I try not to cry out as Caleb continues to tug on my hand, seemingly oblivious.

  I look back and see the rest of the school converged on the patio, huddled together under the ember glow of the heaters, but they are too far away for me to see if my friends are amongst them.

  “I need to find my friends.” I try to peel Caleb’s fingers away from my hand.

  “We haven’t got time for this, Casey.” He says, tightening his grip.

  “Where are you taking me?”

  Caleb turns and fixes me with an irritated stare. Before I can stop him, he lifts me off my feet and hauls me over his shoulder like a ragdoll. “I didn’t want it to be like this,” he says. “But you’re making it difficult.”

  “What are you talking about?” I hammer my fists against his back, but he continues across the grounds, unflinching.

  I peer around his waist, as shadows streak across the lawn towards us. They come to a halt in front of us, stopping Caleb in his tracks.

  “There’s one in girls’ bathroom, in the east wing,” Caleb says. “They’re using the air vents to infiltrate the school.”

  “We rounded up a couple more,” says an unfamiliar voice. “Don’t think they’ve hurt anyone.”

  “They only want her,” Caleb says. “Make sure they’re all dealt with.”

  There are hurried footsteps as whoever Caleb was talking to takes off again.

  “Caleb, what’s going on? Put me down now or I swear I’ll scream.” I start to squirm in his arms.

  “I would rather you didn’t,” he says quietly, locking his arm securely around me. “I’ve had a very bad day.”

  He sets me down on some kind of ledge, and I turn around to find myself standing on the wide, stone rim of the fountain. No water flows from the jug in the arms of the statuette standing in the centre of the basin, and yet the fountain is filled with dark water that appears to be churning slightly, rippling under a beam of light cast by the tiny spotlights that decorate the edge. It’s starting to rain and tiny droplets pelt the surface.

  Caleb kicks off his shoes and climbs up on to the ledge beside me; he shrugs out of the metal casing of his knight’s costume and whips the grey tunic off over his head, before throwing both to the ground.

  “Can you swim?” He places a hand at the base of my back and ushers me towards the water.

  “Yes, of course, but-”

  He grabs my hand and takes another step towards the water.

  This doesn’t make any sense. The fountain is shallow; it would barely reach our knees. At least that’s what I thought, but the sky is suddenly illuminated by a flash of lightning and I see that the fountain is deep, dark, bottomless.

  “No,” I jump down from the ledge. “What is happening?”

  Caleb’s expression darkens. “Casey, I need you to get up on this ledge. Now.”

  Panic tears through me as I look at the sinister dark water. “No.”

  Before he can stop me, I turn and set off at a run, thunder sounding overhead. I run as fast as I can, my heart thumping in my chest, my dress scooped up around my thighs as I race across the lawn. But Caleb catches me easily. I hear his footstep
s behind me, his rapid breath, and then he tackles me to the ground.

  He turns me over roughly. “There isn’t time for this.” The rain is heavier now and beads of water drip from his hair.

  I draw in a huge breath to scream, but Caleb clamps a hand over my mouth. “Casey, please be quiet.”

  I try to squirm out of his grip.

  “Casey, look at me.”

  I reluctantly look into Caleb’s eyes, still a vivid green despite the darkness, both earnest and dangerous at the same time. I grab his wrist, but he’s feeling too much, there is too much adrenaline coursing through his veins for me to get a clear reading on whether or not I can trust him.

  His eyes flicker to my hand. “I know what you’re doing. I know that you’re trying to feel my emotions, I know that it’s a power you’ve had since the night Lana fell from the cliffs and right now, it’s shutting down because you’re afraid.”

  He gently lifts his hand from my mouth as I stare at him resolutely. “I’m not afraid of you.”

  “Good, you have no need to fear me,” he puts his lips to my ear and whispers two words, two words that stop me from struggling, that keep me from screaming. “It’s time.”

  “What did you say?”

  “I said it’s time, Casey.”

  “Time for what?”

  He pulls me into a sitting position and takes my face in his hands. “Time for you to learn the truth.”

  “The truth about what? Caleb, what is this all about?”

  He shakes his head. “Not here, I need you to come with me.”

  “Where? Into the fountain?” I say, pulling a face.

  “Yes.”

  “That doesn’t make any sense.”

  Caleb says nothing as he starts back in the direction of the drive.

  “Tell me what’s going on,” I say. “What you just said, ‘it’s time’, I read those words in a message today. Did you know about that?”

  He nods. “Ivy left a note for you.”

  I narrow my eyes at him. “Did Bria tell you?”

  “No.”

  “Then how-”

  Lightning flashes overhead again, followed by a rumble of thunder.

  “Casey, we’re wasting time. If you want answers, you have to come with me and you have to do what I say, regardless of whether or not it makes sense to you.”

  I look back at the patio. I am closer now, I could scream and I’m certain that someone would hear me, but then I look into those green eyes, wide with sincerity, and I find myself nodding. “OK.”

  Caleb helps me to my feet and guides me back to the fountain. The rain is heavier now and my hair is stuck to my neck, my dress weighed down. As I climb up on to the ledge, the water starts to thrash violently, pitching and turning like a rough sea. “I don’t understand what the fountain has to do with all of this.”

  He links his fingers with mine. “It’s a portal.”

  “What?”

  He smirks a little, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “A portal, it’ll take us where we need to go.”

  I want to laugh, because as terrifying and confusing as this night has become, this is the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard so far. “OK, let’s say I believe you,” my hand is clammy wrapped in his long fingers. “Where will it take us?”

  Caleb tightens his grip. “Remember what I said, if you want answers, you have to do what I say.”

  I look at the chasm before us, utterly bewildered. “OK.”

  “OK,” he says. “Now jump.”

 

 

 
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