Six: Down the Dark path

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                                               Six:

                                     Down the Dark path

As the sound of Zyngar's footsteps echo down the hallway I can't help but swallow a gulp of confusion and fear. "Zyn," my voice sounds paper thin and wispy. He turns to face me, his face softening, his eyes becoming warmer, tender. My breathing trips.

His gentle hands take my trembling fingers. "Don't worry, Azra. I'll protect you." The way he says it wipes away some of the doubt, a portion, but not all. I nod, but my head is spinning with thoughts. There is something he's not telling me, something that makes my stomach drop to my knees.

Behind Zyn's kind eyes I sense something lurking, something dark and familiar. It's the look everyone in the village gets when the sirens go off, the look that tormented my family when we watched the ships glide overhead. Tremors of unease work their way down my body, making my hands slick with sweat. Zyn pretends not to notice.

He sweeps a section my fallen hair behind my ear, exposing my cheek. On an impulse, he moves his head, tilting it like he's about to graze my flesh with his lips. He stops just shy of my skin. I can feel his heated breath stirring my hair. He is as close as Kairim was. Goose bumps raise across my arms, making each and every hair stand on end.

"Let me have your worry, Azra." He pulls slightly away so that he can look into my eyes, though there is only the slightest bit of air separating our noses. I can smell him, a strange mix of his shampoo an something lighter, fresher, like raindrops falling from the sky.

The urge to kiss him is strong, surprising me. I suck in a small breath, trying not to think that we are now breathing the same air. Slowly, hesitantly, I reach up one trembling hand and let it hover - almost but not quite - touching the tattooed skin of his face.

This is the closest I've ever been to touching him on my own. I can feel the heat of him radiating against my fingertips along with a faint, electrical current. All my nerve endings freeze, all except the ones waiting for me to gather the courage to press my flesh to his.

Zyn doesn't move. He has become one of the ancient bronze statues that poke up from the rubble of the old towns. His eyes are the only thing that move - a light darting of his irises as they try to focus on mine. The intensity gathers, the tension like a loaf of bread just before it lifts form out of the pan, just waiting for the the next burst of heat.

It is I who breaks the moment. I shift my eyes away, lowering my hand without touching him, furthering the empty space between us. Zyn doesn't flinch doesn't let even a flicker of disappointment graze his face. He moves back to the be, grabbing my empty trey, his beaming smile back in place.

"Would you like to go to the kitchens with me? I feel like I've shown you so little of the ship and all of it..." he stops, changes tactics, doesn't mention the two trips we've made from his room. At my nod he takes my hand. I can't help but focus on the slight buzzing feeling that envelopes my hand when he touches it.

We escape from the room, moving faster than we've ever gone before. The lights in the hallway blur past; spirals of silver and blue. It feels like we're floating, or falling down an endless cone of color. Our feet barely skim the ground. If it weren't for the faint ping of Zyn's boots colliding with the tile floor I would think we were flying. I'm lost before we've made it out of the hallways.

My first thought is fear. Them. Hundreds of Them. They are sitting in the middle of the screen room, serenely sitting on round, creamy cushions set in circles throughout the room. Circles within circles filling the space. Most are sitting with their eyes closed, exposing the vibrant tattoos that cover their lids, the vibrant hues seeming to be a second pair of eyes, constantly watching.

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