Chapter Twenty-Two

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We rush into the sports hall, skidding to a halt on the slippery surface

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We rush into the sports hall, skidding to a halt on the slippery surface. The room is dark, lit by the flickering light of the candles in the circle. Smoke burns the back of my throat. The smell of incense making me feel lightheaded. I take a moment to adjust to the gloom.

Then Sophie screams again, and the hazy shapes at the back of the room become clear. Jensen is behind Sophie, holding her tight against his chest, who squirms against his grip. His teeth were a hairsbreadth away from her neck. Kira is a crumbled heap behind them - I can't see her moving, but I can see the blood soaking into her clothes. Henry is nearby, staring in horror. He's holding a cricket bat and Zara is lying still on the ground, her marbled flesh as still as Kira's.

"Jensen, please! Let her go!" Henry yells to his best friend. The four of us walk forward. I feel the tension radiating off my friends. The heavy sound of their breathing. I'm aware of how Jensen's eyes are flashing, how close he is to the vulnerable flesh of her neck. The tension in Sophie's jaw.

"Let her go," I say, stopping when Jensen hisses and tightens his grasp on Sophie. My friends stop by my side. "I can end this Jensen. I can make it all go away."

"Let Willow help you!" Sophie shouts, her voice shaky as fear cracks in the silence between words.

A crash echoes through the room, making Becca screech and Ros hiss. Zara jerks. Her body pulls itself off the ground in a series of cracks and jutting angles. From a dark corner, I hear another sound, a low dull growl and I see Mr Jones, dragging himself towards us. His mouth wide, black liquid dripping from his teeth and slapping onto the ground. Blood and dirt clung to his shirt. Slowly they move towards us, their moans echoing through the cavernous space.

My friends move closer to me. Becca is shaking hard, her bottom lip jutting out with fear. Ros's eyes narrow, and I can sense her desperately trying to formulate a plan. Mia's face is paler than I'd ever seen it, her eyes staring ahead into nothingness but I have no time to check if she's OK. I'm trying to feel for Mr Jones and Zara, trying to sense them. Henry lifts his bat, moving closer as the zombies stumble towards us. There's a bloody wound on his forehead, the shimmer of sweat on his skin shimmering from the candlelight. His eyes meet mine, and from across the room, I feel something unclench a little. Just seeing him seemed to dull the sharp edge of my fear.

"Ugh, guys?" Ros yells before a broken cry leaves Becca's lips. I spin and gasp. The horde had broken through the barrier, and they were heading our way. Blocking our only way out. The groans grow, starting faintly but growing and echoing through the hallway as they moved closer. Scrambling, I search for the pendant. Panic moves through me like an electric current. Twisting I see Jensen, still gripping Sophie. Mr Jones and Zara only inches from Henry and my friends.

We were surrounded. I don't know what to do. I'm panting hard, my hands clenched into fists. Across the room, I can feel Jensen's eyes on me. His snarl twisted into a smile.

Something solidifies inside me. Fear turns into something else. I look down. We're standing in the circle. My shrine has been scattered in the chaos but all the objects are still here, most of the candles still lit. The bloodstones by the skeleton's arm glowing. Sophie had told me what I needed to do to expunge the darkness from Jensen. I knew how to call forth my magic, what to feel inside, what words to say.

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