by Jinapher Hoffman
My heart beat echoes throughout the dark cavern my sisters and I are investigating. Marcy is to my right, using her night vision to lead us. Taylor is a short distance behind, covering our six.
The sound of water fills my ears.
Marcy and I make a silent decision and we follow the sound. She holds out an arm, stopping me from going further, and shakes her head.
“We’ve found him.” Her composed features falter.
A lake of blood is before us. He must be close. Taylor catches up, giving us the all clear sign from behind.
“Shed your coats. They’ll weigh us down and make us slower.” Marcy sheds her own.
She takes a brave step into the lake of blood.
I wait for her signal.
It’s not until she’s shoulders deep that she waves me on. I push into the lake. The blood is thick and warm. It climbs up my neck, and I can feel it seeping into my clothes. When I’m halfway across, I motion for Taylor to follow. I push forward and pull myself out. Blood oozes down my skin and drips to the floor.
It sounds like water dripping.
Marcy and I hide in the shadows, a faint glow coming from the entrance ahead, until Taylor rejoins us. We move together. Anticipation grips me. This is it. Chatter fills our ears. Men dressed in gray stand about. They are making toasts, sharpening swords, making conversation…
I take a deep breath. There’s so many more than we guessed. There’s at least a couple hundred men here. But, where’s the women?
“You’re wearing them.” Taylor says in disgust, her clairvoyant talent put to use.
I rub my bloodied fingers together and feel bile rise to the back of my throat.
“Look!” Marcy points from the shadows toward a cage in the middle of the room.
I stare at the girl inside. She’s naked. Men surround her, reaching through the bars and letting their grubby hands touch her body. Yet, she doesn’t cringe or twitch away. There’s a fierceness in her eyes—eyes that stare at us, though we are practically invisible.
“She knows we are here.” I stare back at the girl, hatred boiling under my skin for the men who have abused her, and unsheathe my dagger. “We have to save her from these pigs.”
“I agree.” Taylor pulls her sword from her back, wielding it next to her leg.
“Ladies,” Marcy says, “we can’t just storm these men. There’s far too many.”
I know she’s right, but I don’t care. I just want to save the poor girl. I grip my dagger tighter.
A sound vibrates the cave walls and the men’s chatter turns to quiet. A man dressed in all black moves throughout the crowd, a dark crown atop his dark hair. It’s him. He holds an axe. He takes his place on a pedestal above the crowd, overlooking the girl in the cage. He gives her a hungry look before clearing his throat. “Attention, my followers. It’s time.”
The crowd cheers as the cage around the girl falls to the floor and she is released. Tears threaten to breach her brave stature. As the man in black raises his axe above her, I can’t take another minute of their savagery. Marcy and Taylor try to hold me back, but I am feral. Something dangerous has come over me, and I don’t see a bright future for any of these men while I’m in this state.
“Stop!” I push through the crowd. “Touch her one more time. I dare you.” I pull myself up next to the man in black, pressing my knife to his throat.
A laugh bubbles off his tongue.
The crowd freezes.
I press the knife into his skin, blood drizzling down his neck at a steady pace.
“Are you going to kill me, little girl?” His voice is snide and his rotting teeth are giving me a mischievous smile.
Fury takes me. I kick his legs out from underneath him, and he falls to the cave floor with a crack.
The crowd steps back, making room as a low growl begins to escape their dark prince.
“Run.” I eye the girl and she doesn’t wait for more. She runs to the shadows where I know Marcy and Taylor are waiting. No one stops her. It’s as if the men in gray can’t do anything without the orders of their man in black.
He stands and steps toward me. I slash my dagger out at him. A black tentacle escapes from underneath his coat, gripping my wrist and pulling me forward. I cry out, stumbling into his grasp as my dagger drops to the stone floor. A forked black tongue unfurls from his mouth and begins to taste my face. I shudder, squirming away. Another tentacle wraps around my waist.
“You taste vile.” He spits in my face. “What are you?”
I crack my neck, unable to stop my transformation. My body grows.
Fear crosses his face.
I use my massive strength to pull free from his grasp, stooping under the cave’s top. I pick him up by his hair, and he let’s out a guttural howl. His men in gray flee, lost souls unable to do anything without their master’s commands. My sisters join me—just as tall and proud. Taylor carries the girl I saved in her hand.
“Daughters of Athena.” He squirms. “Monsters!”
I look at Marcy and Taylor and they nod. “Have a nice ride back to Hell,” I say, squeezing him tighter. His head bursts, blood spouting from his body. His crown clangs as it hits a wall. Marcy picks him up by his foot and hangs him from the ceiling, his blood splattering onto the ground.
It sounds like water dripping.
Jinapher J. Hoffman is the author of the YA Dystopian Thriller, “Twenty”, a blogger for her self-named blog, and a current student in Orlando, FL—earning her BA in Creative Writing for the Entertainment Business. She is a cat lover, and is attempting to consume less coffee.