Christina and Annabeth spun around. Before them stood a woman. She seemed normal at first but after a moment they realised something about her wasn't quite right.

Her eyelids had been removed. Her lips had been removed. Her throat had been removed.

The two girls screamed while clambering for each other. Once they had a hold of each other's arms, they ran. The woman didn't move a muscle; she just stood there watching, un-blinking. She stood as if she was a mannequin, watching the two girls gain distance like she knew it wasn't worth the trouble. Her clothes barely covered her body as flies and moths remained glued to the garments. Then she took a step. And another. Calmly, she followed the girls like the tortoise and the hare.

Christina ran down the wooden bridge first. It almost buckled under the pressure of the two girls but they continued without caring. They wanted to put as much distance between them and that woman as fast as their legs would allow. Christina looked under the planks that made the bridge to see another layer of houses and bridges beneath. She noticed a spiral staircase up ahead contained in a small, open stone room that led up and down.

Christina turned to Annabeth. "Up or down?"

Annabeth shrugged while keeping up with her. "I don't know," Annabeth said through strained breaths. She realised she had to make a decision quickly or they'd miss the staircase and stay on this level of houses. "Up, I guess."

Doing as Annabeth suggested, Christina flew onto the spiral staircase and darted upwards. Annabeth looked to the right before she entered the stone room and noticed a young girl, also without eyelids, looking back at her through the window of the closest house. The houses looked too small to house more than a couple of rooms and were most likely unable to fit a family inside. Annabeth didn't want to find out either.

Annabeth caught up to Christina as she headed up the staircase. She could tell Christina was feeling the strain. The stone walls that contained the staircase blocked out all noise from outside. For a brief moment, everything was silent except the scuffing of their shoes and the rhythmic panting of their breathing. For a brief moment, they were safe.

The staircase still went further up but the two girls exited through the first exit they came across. They stopped to catch their breath as they surveyed the surroundings. More one-storey houses lined the bridge in front of them. The bridge broke off several times with numerous pathways that led to the people's front doors. Christina looked over the bridge; each house was supported by strong wooden beams that stretched into the abyss below. She wondered how they were strong enough to support the weight of so many houses as she looked up to see even more. It looked unsafe.

"Right, we need a plan of action," Annabeth suggested, moving her head to the stairs they just exited from. "I think that woman isn't too far behind us. We have to shake her off and then look for Katherine and Christopher."

Christina looked from Annabeth to one of the houses further down the bridge. With an intense stare, she stumbled forward. "I think that house there might be the one to hide in, for now."

"Why do you think that?" Annabeth asked as she followed closely.

Christina wasn't exactly sure, she just walked toward it as if invisible wires were manoeuvring her. "I can't explain it, I just feel drawn to it. Like we're meant to go there."

A sound reverberated from the staircase.

"Can we hurry?" Annabeth urged. "It sounds like she's caught up!"

Christina picked up the pace and ran straight for the house. Unlike the bridge from one floor below, this one felt steady. Flaming lamps stood proudly at each interval down the bridge like streetlamps, leading the way. The lights dimmed quickly before they extinguished whenever Christina passed one.

Ashes of the Innocent (Abyssal Sanctuary #2)Read this story for FREE!