Chapter Ten

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Atlas' scaly body slams into Eva with force enough to knock all the air out of her lungs as the floor rushes up to meet her.

All semblance of humanity in him has dissolved, and, in its place, a towering green serpent rears its cruel head, long fangs glinting venomously in the pale shafts of light scattering the room.

Pinned to the floor by its strong, winding tail which has found itself around her legs, Eva struggles, raking her blunt nails at the snake's thick skin. In the corner of her eye, she sees a figure dart quickly towards the creature; but not quickly enough. Julian's body is thrown almost halfway across the room with a quick swish of the serpent's tail and he hits the bowing shelves with bone-shattering force.

Eva tries to cry out to him, to tell him to get away and save himself, but she quickly realises the residual air in her lungs barely produces a whisper.

The snake hisses, an almost guttural sound, and darts its head down towards her neck. Its fangs pierce into the soft tissue just below her collar bone and this time, she summons the air to let out an agonising scream; something more primal and desperate than anything she's ever heard escape her own lips.

Long teeth dripping with her blood, the serpent extricates itself from the throbbing wound, gaping mouth twisting into what Eva can only describe as an almost human-like grin. Some small, detached part of her consciousness finds it hard to believe that this towering monster was contained within a frail man's body only a few painful moments before.

Suddenly, the thing twitches, its strong body still pinning her to the floor. It's as if its whole body snaps viciously, convulsing and folding in on itself as if something is attacking it from the inside.

When she brings her eyes to its head, though her vision is blurred by pain, she sees a long caustic wound creeping violently down its neck. For a moment, she can't see what has inflicted it, but the warmth of a thick, acrid-smelling fluid trickles down her cheek.

Stifling the compulsion to vomit, she tries to focus on the serpent's thrashing head and sees the source of the injury. There's nothing left where its mouth should be. Something brutally acidic has burned through flesh and bone indiscriminately, dissolving the lower part of the serpent's jaw completely. Only darkly black blood remains, dripping thickly from the gaping wound.

This time, as it rears its mangled head, it extricates itself from her just enough for her to wriggle away, its own foul blood helping her to slide from its loosened grip. She drags herself to her feet, ruined shoulder screaming in protest, and her eyes quickly scan the room for Julian, terrified of how she might find him. At last, she lays eyes on the broken shelf the creature has flung him so easily into, shards of splintered wood and shattered ornament scattering the empty floor. Empty.

He's nowhere to be seen, and Eva quickly darts in between the bowing shelves, carefully keeping out of sight of the flailing snake, seemingly too consumed by pain to see its captive has escaped.

He couldn't have gone far, she tells herself, remembering the horrible, bone-breaking force with which he'd hit the shelves. As she nears she sees a dark trail of blood, almost indiscernible against the mahogany floorboards. Her heart thumps painfully in her chest as she follows the track leading behind the broken shelves.

She stifles a scream as she sees Julian's crumpled body, propped up in a dying man's last bid for dignity. His chest is still rising and falling with laboured difficulty, but Eva can see there's far too much blood for him to live much longer.

"Julian," she whispers, kneeling down in front of him, her knees soaked in a pool of his blood. "Julian, can you hear me?"

He nods vaguely, a thin trickle of blood escaping from his mouth.

It's then that she sees the extent of his injuries. One of his legs is completely twisted in a way that looks as if the bone is broken in at least three different places. A dark patch is swelling on his black jeans, and Eva doesn't have to have her mother's medical knowledge to know that the bone has punctured clean through the flesh and, judging by the amount of blood, severed his artery. His shoulder juts out at a strange angle, his arm lying limp and motionless beside him. She can scarcely believe he managed to drag himself this far, let alone have pulled himself into an upright position.

She doesn't know whether to be sick or just cry, but she tries to hold herself together, for Julian's sake. Steadying her breathing, she tears away the bottom part of her stained t-shirt and presses it on his leg. He winces at the pressure and lets out a short ragged breath barely more than a whisper.

Her efforts do little to stem the flow of blood, but she tries to smooth the horror from her face and calm her shaking hands.

"You're going to be alright," she lies, "I'm going to get us out of here."

He makes a raspy gurgling sound which Eva thinks might be an attempt at a laugh and meets her eyes, somehow still maintaining the same arrogant mirth he'd had at the station. A few seconds pass, and it dims a little, and it takes a couple more moments for her to realise he's no longer breathing.


I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, sorry it's been so long since I last updated! I'm intending on updating much more after my exams finish in mid-June, but hopefully, I'll do a few more chapters in between. Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think of this chapter, so let me know in the comments! xx

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