After securing a banquet to celebrate our last day of life, Neve suggests that we all catch up on sleep to have enough energy to survive tonight. I, of course, pout my lips at such an idea. Why sleep when I will be sentenced to my everlasting demise in the morning?
"I can't go to sleep," I mutter. My body curves into a ball of stigma bent into the cadence of the song pulsating against me: coward. In front of my slow stomach, the breezy hem of my oversized tee-shirt hovers. There's a strange dimness from the oil lamps that makes my eyes hum. Denim stifles my legs with uncomfortable warmth and barely wrap around my hips. And the cold metal engulfing my wrists stings.
"Fear?" Across the room, Neve lingers against the bars that imprison her. Frost crawls up the rust-encrusted poles. Everything around her is white ... or silver. Somehow, she has allure with her crystal-embedded jumpsuit that traces her voluptuous figure.
Suddenly, my lower lip cowers behind my teeth. Neve's slender chin and petite face—the epitome of femininity—are without competition. Who would try to compete with such beauty? Not even I could say compare to such criteria.
"Yes." My words flow to my chest. Hollow, it is. Devoid of any sense, if only to make death less painful than Caylee wants it to be: when there's no hope in sight, accept defeat, right? Numb is better than pain. Better than leaving the world with regret. But how can you trust in something that has no genuine evidence? Something that has been a dubious topic between those of faith and those of nonbelief?
In life, I tried to stay impartial. Maybe there's life after the last beat of your heart. Perhaps death is death: it's a form of solitude and darkness—a panopticon of peace. Or mayhap death is the release of your soul: you're a ghost left to roam the universe until the end of time.
But with its imminence, a flame burns inside of me, craving the answer.
"Don't be afraid," Neve whispers. Suddenly, my eyes are wide open, staring at the blue-skinned beauty across the room. "At least we'll die together, not alone."
The words hit me like a punch to the face. We'll die together. We may leave life together, but will we remain together after death? That question swells in my stomach until cold moisture seeps against my cheekbones. "The price I pay for not deciding whether I believe in religion or not," I breathe.
And to my misfortune, Neve hears these words, for she provides a thought that could render a mind blank from shock: "What if I said there's a possibility we could survive?"
There it is, if only briefly, a flicker of hope. But a flash is all it is. Resuscitating something defunct only gives it a second more of life, nothing more. Hope is like a phone: when it breaks, it no longer works; it just flickers between the flush of its screen and opacity until it finally accedes.
"I would say you're high."
Her breath puffs into the dank atmosphere. "I'm telling the truth." A tamed pause. A sigh. "Maybe."
My eyes flicker against her pale blue skin. "What?" It's no more than a ragged hum piercing through my throat. It's my body turning into the snow: it's a mental chill. It's my pulse on the flesh under my chin. It's the world snapping into place.
We might live.
If I could grab the bars encaging me, I would. I would shake them to holy hell at the idea of survival. Suddenly, the world is brighter: the light flows across the walls and floor, filling them with color.
"How?" I ask, yearning for the light as it lingers around one speck of darkness, begging for soul nourishment. Moisture stings against my cheek; my lips, pressed together with every force in my body, curve into a smile.
"I have a friend who works for Caylee, but he's loyal to me." The willowy fingers of her left hand entwine with her scalp. Her eyes freeze in their sockets, trained on my face; they're glassy like crystals. And her silver lips rest together in a plump line as she sifts through me, deciding who is the predator here and who is the prey if the survival instinct is even possible when you're bobbing between rock bottom and defeat.
Her words move through my brain like a harmonious tune: "If I can get to him at the banquet, I can try to convince him to reduce our punishment from a public execution to a whipping."
Her voice falls when I blink my eyes. The weight of the world seems to cave in on my chest. The colors begin to fade from the room. "If a little blood means even the sparsest of survival, I'm in." I pause for a moment; the ragged hum of my breath splays across my throat. "What happens next?"
A turbulent sigh fills the room. "Instead of dying at the hands of Caylee's wrath, we shall be banished into the forest." The colors begin to drain from the walls and floors. The fuel of the oil lamp begins to fade. And a permanent whistle plasters its hum against the darkness: Govigh.
A constant thump as memories of red sear my eyes. Govigh. Govigh. Govigh. Tears sting my retinas.
"Not the forest that shall not be named." The words pierce my lips. "Anything but that forest." Everything comes back to the Govigh Forest and that night. The muscles in my stomach tighten, and I ask, "Are you high? Who the hell in their right mind would go into that deathtrap?"
"It's not a deathtrap." Neve's voice wavers. For some reason, it creates a steady flow to my brain; the world is gray. "I think." A nasal exhalation emits into the room. "It's a labyrinth."
"Well," I say with a groan straining against my throat, "this labyrinth is littered with poison and feral beasts."
"We just find higher ground and venture further into the forest." Even in the dark, I can picture Neve—the desperate sorceress of winter—with a shrug and a puckered smirk. It's that simple would be her tone.
A moan bursts from my mouth — the epitome of high-pitched drama. One side of my jaw is pinched together. Miss Luna Friar, binge-user of theatrics, or am I the theatric? "To die in that godforsaken forest, it makes anything Caylee intends to do to us merciful."
"There are whispers of a witch who would grant us sanctuary," Neve says like the inflation of bubblegum. Bright colors almost blare against the walls. But now, I know better. The pulse in my forehead guides me to rhyme and reason: the room is dimly-lit.
"So, a reclusive witch who no one even has seen will grant us refuge if we find her?" The monotone groan of my words leaves my lips.
Neve's gasp—a sign of recoiling—doesn't sting my senses. My whole body is numb and devoid of emotion. "W-well," she stammers, "if-if she's r-real, yes."
YOU ARE READING
Welcome to Enchancia's Academy for Rebels! Harbored at this boarding school are the secrets of each and every student. Under the assumption that they are safe, their stories, their pasts, their crimes begin to come to light in halls of the school...