An hour later I stood in the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I no longer recognized myself. Something about me had changed. My face was my own, yet it wasn't. What had the rituals done to me? I continued to study my reflection. It was almost as though I was seeing the shadow of another face on top of mine. I wiped a hand over my face. No, it was definitely me in the mirror...but something was off. It was something in my eyes, in my expression—it wasn't just the way I looked. I felt different.

Darkness now filled me.

I felt as if my soul had been torn from my body and not fully replaced. I was not myself. I had been shattered. The world looked bleaker, grayer. And in the place where there was normally fear, I now felt anger. It burned through me like a great flame fueling my blood.

I was invincible.

Before I'd felt powerless and helpless, but not anymore. I was ready and willing to fight, and I felt a sudden desire to inflict pain.

Inflict pain. The thought stopped me cold. It was true; I felt an odd desire to hurt someone, which was not normally in my nature. I had wanted the men who killed my family to die, but I had never really thought about actually killing them. Their deaths were more of an abstract thought. I'd been brought up as a healer, to care for people and take away their pain. And yet, this newfound desire to see someone cower before me, to feel their fear, was so strong I could almost taste it.

The awakening was dangerous, the gypsy had said, and now I fully understood what she meant. I felt as though I stood at the edge of a great abyss, a sea of darkness reaching before me. And farther within the darkness, nameless, faceless voices and shadows called out to me, enticing me to come join them.

The thought of what those men did to my family filled me with a swell of violence. As it consumed me, the hatred roared through my body and my blood. If I could wrap my hands around the necks of the men that hurt my family, I would strangle them with my bare hands. I would make them suffer, like they made my family suffer. Slit their throats and watch the blood ooze from their gashed necks. Watch bullets tear into their flesh.

The thought brought me a feeling of glee.

Wait. Was I actually feeling gleeful about inflicting gruesome pain on human beings?

...I was.

It filled me, and as it did I looked again at my face in the mirror. It was contorted in rage and hate. Violence gleamed out of my eyes, and my hands reached toward the reflection in the mirror. Who was this girl? It couldn't be me...but it was.

Darla. You must save Darla, whispered across my brain. I had forgotten about her. My lust for vengeance had filled me in a way it never had before, and that terrified me. I was changing. I was becoming...what?

I was becoming whatever I had to in order to survive. I turned and walked away from the mirror and my new reflection.

*****

I exited the bathroom, glancing at the mussed sheets on the unmade bed before heading for the dresser. I'd finally slept—no tossing or turning this time, but I woke with a heaviness that seemed to fill the air around me. My brain wasn't working at full speed. I felt slowed down, both mentally and physically, drained by last night's activities. I should be thankful I'd survived another one of the rituals—instead, a feeling of foreboding filled me.

I picked up Darla's suitcase and put it on top of the bed. I needed something to wear. I held up a yellow top and threw it back down on the bed. I couldn't bring myself to put on such a cheerful color. It didn't match my current mood. I'd woken up in a funk. Bright clothes no longer seemed appropriate—the darkness had touched the very essence of my being and changed me. I held up another brightly colored top and realized I wanted to dress in a way that matched how I felt inside.

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