Chapter 26 - Rythe: Shadows and Fire


I wake up to the sound of my own screaming. A dark room, with a single flickering light bulb in the center. I'm tied in, ropes around my arms, stuck to a chair, someone on the other side of me. The hair on my neck isn't my own. My hands are still shaking, and I'm looking for my uncle's next punch but it never comes. I take some deep breaths, try to calm the shaking of my hands, soothe the flame growing inside, and fight the shadows at the edges of my vision. If I give into the shadows and fire now, I may never come back.

"Hello," I call out and get nothing but an echo.

"Glad you're finally up," I hear Ci-Ci's voice from behind me.

"Are you okay? I'm sorry. I just couldn't stop him."

"What are you talking about?"

"My uncle, he beat you."

"Oh, we got caught up in a trap. Illusionary magic," she sighs.

"I don't know what that is."

"So when we opened the box we triggered a spell, or a rune in this case I guess. Once broken it covered us an illusion shroud. What it does is put us in a trance like state," Ci-Ci calmly explains.

"And our bodies? Why aren't we hurt?"

"Our bodies are right where we left them, completely unharmed unless a lot of time passes. Then we could have died of starvation or he could have slit our throats. But he just tied us up. Our minds are wherever the user wants to send us, the spell warps our senses and makes it all seem real to us. Sounds like Jonah sent us to some of our deepest fears or in your case it sounds more like a trauma. So your uncle didn't beat me, and you weren't devoured by the undead."

“I need a shot of whiskey.”

“We need to kill Jonah,” she responds.

“I just need to get out of here first.”

“Burn through the ropes. I can take the heat.”

“Why would you think I could just burn through the ropes?”

“Because you’re a dark elf. Every dark elf can control and conjure flames.”

“That’s racist, and I don’t have any magic.”

“Are you serious,” she seems legitimately shocked.

“Have you seen me use magic? Even once?”

“I thought you just preferred to use guns.”

“I don’t even own a gun. I’m a journalist, not some mercenary.”

“That doesn’t explain why you don’t have magic.”

“Because elven magic circulates through the blood, and my blood is full of drugs,” I don’t even know if that’s how magic works. Nobody ever taught me.

“Is it all the fairy dust? I found it all over your apartment.”

“You shouldn’t be snooping. I didn’t go snooping around the palace of pain you call a home.”

“Palace of pain? You must be a journalist because that was sensationalist. Then again, could be that you’re just a drug addict.”

I don’t bother arguing with her. It won’t help me get free, just let her have the last word. She wouldn’t listen to what I had to say anyway. I can hear the walking above me. We’re likely in the basement. Why does every house in the Midwest need a basement? Nothing good ever happens in a strange basement. Time is running out, and I’m still not over being confronted with my childhood traumas. Even knowing they weren’t real. I suppose it does help in this situation.

It’s been years since I last did it, but I learned to do it long ago. After being beaten so many times I learned it would stop if I just broke something. Eventually I learned to dislocate my shoulders on command. I bite down on my bottom lip, enough to draw blood and bring tears to my eyes but I feel my shoulders fall, dead to me for a moment. It doesn’t take long to wiggle my arms free from the ropes.

“What are you doing,” Ci-Ci asked.

“Getting out of here,” I struggle to pop my shoulders back.

“Hurry up and untie me. He’s coming this way.”

The ropes are tight, but I manage to get her free and we rush to hide beneath the staircase. The door opens and footsteps shake the wooden steps into the basement. Jonah notices we’re missing right away. Ci-Ci signals for me to stay still as she sneaks from our hiding spot. I don’t have a choice but to trust her, I’m defenseless here.

She sneaks up behind Jonah and pierces his knees from behind. He screams as he falls and I take that as my opportunity to run. I catch a glimpse of her stabbing him in the back before making it to the top of the stairs. I search frantically for the keys. There’s still daylight, he won’t chase us outside. He doesn’t want pay the fees associated with it. At least I can hope he won’t. I grab the keys and catch Ci-Ci limping up the stairs. She’s got several of the razor like blades sticking out from her back and leg.

I drape her arm over my shoulder and together we limp out the front door. I lay her across the backstreet and start the car. In a horror movie this is when the car doesn’t start. I guess something did go right for us today. I pull out onto the road and glance in the rear-view mirror. Bloody but grinning Jonah waited on his porch, watching us drive away.

I’ve got what I came here for, but I don’t think this is over now. He’s seen me, and he knows I know about him. My wallet is still in my pocket, but did he take a peak? Does he know where I live? Does he even care? I thought it would be done when I got my proof for the article. Now I have to see this through to the conclusion and the only thing that can beat him is the passed-out woman in my back seat.

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