Chapter Thirty-Eight: Part Three
The first thing that greeted me in the Twilight Realm was darkness.
A dark, cold, and seemingly unforgiving atmosphere greeted me as I fell through a portal, down a hole just like Alice did in Alice in Wonderland, but I fell right onto my ass. Painfully, might I add.
Wherever we were, it was dark, and I could feel myself falling fast, down, hurtling through the cold air whipping me in the face. Tears started to form in my eyes from the sheer force of the cold wind, and I flailed out my arms like an idiot, trying to grab onto anything- a ledge, a branch, something, but there was nothing to hold onto.
I could hear nothing else besides the wind rushing past my ears, and alarm grew inside of me when I realized that I didn't hear either Dre or Ivan. I didn't know if they disappeared, or maybe they had somehow transported into another place; the thing is, what the hell was I supposed to think? I didn't know.
Oh my god, I think I'm starting to have a panic attack. My heart was starting to hammer against my chest, as I was sailing through the air. Where's Dre and Ivan? Where did they go? How-
My thoughts were cut short as I felt the left side of my face slam into what felt like solid rock, and my hands scraped against the ground underneath me. The impact of my body slamming against the ground sent me flying upward so that I tumbled over my head, flipped onto my back, and thumped my head against the ground, finally lying at rest.
"Holy…Satan's ass crack…" I breathed out heavily, my throat thick as I tried to catch the breath that had literally been knocked out of me from the impact of my fall.
"Holy…SHIT!" I heard Ivan's voice reverberate from above me. I opened my eyes wider, and stared up above me, searching for him.
"This is exactly why I don't like using these," Dre's voice cut in. "I look like…a fuckin' stereotypical douchebag with them extended out like this. Like a guy you would expect that goes to college, plays an acoustic guitar, and sticks his sneakers facing out the window because he thinks he's so artsy or something."
There were a few seconds of silence as Ivan and I processed just what exactly Dre had said.
"Dude, what the hell are you talking about?" Ivan finally cut in.
"I don't know anymore," Dre said exasperatedly, sighing a little. There were a few more moments of silence; I was being quiet because just trying to move the muscles in my face was agonizing. From the feel of it, I was probably going to need stitches.
"Mel? Are you alright down there?" Dre asked, like he had suddenly realized that it wasn't just him and Ivan somehow drifting up there above me in this rabbit hole looking-thing.
"No," I whimpered. I winced in pain as the movement of stretching my mouth made it feel like my face was splitting in half. "I, I fell." I said, but I tried not to open my mouth so it came out sounding like a bunch of growling noises.
"We're coming down for you!" Ivan yelled, trying to be reassuring.
I nodded, moving my head against the ground even though I knew that they probably couldn't see me.
As usual, I had no idea in hell where we were. As I looked above me, all I could see was light streaming in from the top of this…literal hole we were in- no sexual pun intended.
I was lying on the ground (again, seriously, no sexual pun intended), but my foot was dangling off the edge of where I was lying, so I figured that I was on some piece of elevated ground or rock or whatever.
Everything was solid and rocky, and was either black or gray. What really puzzled me was how in the hell didn't I break my neck during the fall? I felt like the guy that plays Jigsaw on the Saw movies and he tries to jump off a cliff to kill himself, but he survives even though there's a fucking pipe sticking through his chest.
I focused my attention once again from my random thoughts to the situation I was in now.
From the light streaming in, I could see the outlines of Dre and Ivan's bodies. But they seemed so high up and far away, I realized that the only reason I could hear them was because of my "heightened" senses, including my intensified hearing.
And just how in the hell were they staying afloat high in the air? What, they had wings or something like?
Wait a second. I have wings. I could have used my wings to save me from this fall! I grumbled to myself in my head miserably. I lifted it up and hit the back of it against the ground, realizing just how much of an idiot I was.
"Incoming!" I heard Ivan yell. I opened my gritty-feeling eyes to see Ivan and Dre's shadows mixed together falling towards me.
My eyes opened wide with alarm and I let out a girly-sounding shriek before quickly rolling on my side - ignoring my spine's screaming protests - against the elevated piece of ground I was on and rolled all the way over to the wall, planting my hands flat against the walls of the hole to shield myself away from the two of them falling.
I felt shards and pieces of flying rock and gravel pelting me in the back as the two of them landed literally a foot away from me. If I hadn't moved over, they probably would have A) crushed me with the blow of their weight and send my intestines flying through my mouth, B) flattened me to a pulp, or C) in a nutshell, instantly kill me, basically.
I heard Ivan coughing and turned around to see Dre get up first and help Ivan up with his hand.
"Mel, are you alright?" Dre was over to me in a second before I can say anything, scooping me up and putting a protective hand on the small of my back. The small proximity between us made me blush a little, which of course made me feel like a complete spaz.
I put my hand to my aching forehead and tried not to act like an idiot and pass out right in front of the two of them.
"Well, you look terrible," Ivan observed, giving me a concerned look, not minding the fact that had had just insulted me. Brutally.
I sent him a passive look. "Gee, thanks. I love hearing how horrible I look every day." I said sarcastically, while he just shrugged sheepishly at me.
"You're avoiding my questions again," Dre said, prodding me in the side with his finger like he was a naïve five year old. "I asked if you were alright."
I rolled my eyes at him. "Yes, Dre, I'm pretty fine, thanks for caring; now can we get back to the point? Please?" I answered irritably, although I wasn't exactly sure why.
A sudden twitching motion flickered behind Ivan's back, noticeably against his pale white skin.
"Are those…," I walked closer to him and touched the quivering gray area behind Ivan's back, walking past Dre. "Are those wings?" I gasped.
He gave me a confused look, like I didn't know what the hell I was talking about. "Mel, of course I have wings," He chuckled, like it was an everyday thing. "Actually, a lot of people in our "circle", I guess you could say, have them."
I swung around towards Dre. "You knew about this? Everyone knew that everyone had wings?" I didn't even wait for him to answer, just left him hanging there with a jumbled look on his face.
"And, once again, me, the "supposed" leader of whatever the fuck you wanna call it-,"
"Kingdom?" Dre suggested.
"Yes, that. I'm the supposed ruler of our…kingdom thing," I said awkwardly, trying to work the word in by using big, unnecessary hand gestures, "And I didn't even know that everyone had wings.
"I don't know what that sounds like to you, but to me," I paused for dramatic effect, sending a pointed look to the both of them with my shoulders shrugged, "That sounds like a pretty fucked up chain of command." I growled, feeling really angry about everything, for a reason that I couldn't understand.
"Well not everyone has wings," Ivan cut in. I could tell from the questioning look that he kept sending to Dre that they were trying to calm me down and trying to keep me from flipping-shit on the both of them.
"Yeah, Ivan's right," Dre agreed, smiling at me just a little bit too cheerfully. I was too creeped out by the extremely happy looks they kept sending me that I couldn't say anything. I was just stuck between the two of them, as they both grinned at me like there was no place on the earth they would rather be.
"You see, it's me, you, Dre," Ivan started off, "Aerial, Azrael, Melanie, Melody, and Evan. No biggie." Ivan tried to reassure me. "Oh, and Dre's dad, of course." He added in, still giving me that "I'm insane but I'll try to convince you of the opposite with this huge smile on my face" look.
He even put his hands on my shoulders and me stared into my eyes, like he was trying to convince me to believe him, that he was right.
That was one of Dre's powers.
I absorbed everyone else's powers, so was Ivan trying to like…drain it from me and use it against me? That sneaky bastard!
"Get your hands off of me!" I sneered, narrowing my eyes at the both of them. I backed away, pointing accusing fingers between the two of them. "I know what you're trying to do! You all think I'm going crazy!"
Dre sent a panicked look towards Ivan, and I realized that I'd hit their little plan right on the nose.
"Alright, somebody better tell me what the hell is going on!" I yelled, literally stomping and putting my foot down.
Dre sighed and rolled his eyes before shoving Ivan hard by the shoulder, obviously upset that he'd spilled the beans.
"Mel, we're not planning anything against you. It's just that…you have a history of panic attacks and well, freaking the f out. You know that right?" He asked me slowly, like I couldn't understand him if he talked too fast.
"Yes, Dre, I know that I already have panic attacks," I said sarcastically, sending him one of my death glowers.
"Anyway, what Dre and I are trying to say is…," Ivan said slowly, his face twisting as he tried to think of what to say, "There's a lot more to what's going on than you know, Mel. Remember when I met you and I told you the "history" of Aerial and everything?"
"Of course." I answered immediately
"I guess you could say that's only what, 1/6 of the story? Right Dre?" He said, turning to Dre as if they had forgotten I was even there.
"Yeah, around there," Dre agreed before setting his eyes back on to me. "Basically, there's a lot you don't know, we'd love to explain everything to you, but now of all days is definitely not the time." He explained.
I expected myself to flip out- which is exactly what they had prepared for me to do.
But…I don't know. For some reason, what they had just told me didn't seem to…affect me. Actually, in fact, I'd been feeling pretty numb for a long time- emotionally for as long as I could remember, and physically just a bit after that huge fall I'd just experienced.
"Yeah, tell me about it," I tried to joke, but it just fell flat, and I stared down at the ground, trying to block out everything else.
I felt Dre give me a side-hug, which was awkward not only because I wasn't facing him and didn't hug him back, but when he tried to wrap his arms around me, his arm accidentally brushed against my chest (or, as a doctor would say, um, 'breasts') and he started to blush and just eventually backed away from me.
"So, if it seems like we're holding things out for you," Ivan said, giving me a reassuring look, "It's just because we're protecting you. You know, from danger."
"But of course," I said quietly, absorbing in everything they said. I couldn't find the energy inside of me to say anything else. I gave them a weak smile before sitting down on the rocky surface beneath me.
I lifted up my knees to my chest, huddling them to me, and tucked my chin between the space in my knees. I could tell from the silence around me that Dre and Ivan were too shocked and confused to say anything. I guess they had prepared for me to go all ape-shit on them.
For a moment, everything seemed peaceful and mellow- almost like a calming dream. I let out a sigh, resting my shoulders and relaxing my chest before lying down on my back, staring up at the light streaming through the hole/cave thing that we'd fallen in.
Everything was so calm and peaceful, I felt like I could finally be at peace. That's why I closed my eyes and laid my hands behind me.
From Dre and Ivan's point of view, I probably looked like I was a hippie on drugs on something, from the way I just stretched onto the rock and started letting out long, self-soothing sighs.
I should've known it was too good to be true.
I should have known that there should have never been a peaceful moment like that.
Almost as soon as I closed my eyes, literally two seconds after I closed them, there was a deep rumbling sound underneath the ground.
I sat up straight, alarmed, and looked down at the ground beneath me. My entire body was jiggling up and down ferociously, and I looked around, realizing that there was an earthquake going on; that's why everything around me was vibrating.
"What in the literal hell?" Dre mumbled, taking a curious look around.
Almost in sync, all three of us looked up to where the light was coming in, up above us.
There was a teeth-chattering crashing sound that sent me tripping over my own feet so that I crashed into the wall, while Dre fell to the ground and Ivan fell off the side of the elevated ledge we were standing on.
My eyes widened in fear and my heart started pounding against my chest as Ivan fell over. I didn't know if he was okay, or if maybe whatever we were standing on was higher than what we actually thought.
I just couldn't find the oxygen in my lungs to say anything. My breathing became ragged and I found it harder and harder to take in air. I started shaking, not only from the earthquake moving the entire ground beneath us, and I realized the warning sign of a panic attack coming on to me.
Tears started to shake erratically out of my eyes, and I closed them, trying to calm myself before the attack escalated into an uncontrollable rage.
I opened my eyes once again just in time to see two figures burst through the opening of the hole - God, that sounded way more perverted than I ever thought it would - sending pieces of rocky rubble crashing down onto us.
"Wait a minute," I said, squinting at the incoming, tiny objects. "Dre, I don't think those are rocks."
"What?" He whipped his head around towards me and crawled over to me.
My eyes expanded in fear as I realized what the incoming objects flying towards us were. "Those aren't rocks; that's acid from the Twilight Realm!" I screamed.
In a second, Dre had tackled into me and covered me, trying to shield me away. But, he wasn't doing anything to protect himself; he was completely exposed to the falling acid.
I didn't even notice how awkwardly we were positioned, since Dre was lying on top of me with his hands placed firmly on the ground beside my head to hold himself up. My mind was focused on keeping us safe from the acid, and what's when the familiar transparent purple shield enclose the both of us.
I winced as I saw a couple of drops fall right onto the sort of 'mind-shield' but they simply fizzled once they made contact and rolled right off the sides. The raining acid didn't last that long, but long enough that when the drops finally ceased that my nose started to bleed from holding up the shield for so long.
"Who in the hell-," I started to ask accusingly, trying to cover up the massive fear that was quaking through my quivering knees, but then my mind drifted off.
My eyes widened in sheer horror. "Oh my god! Where's Ivan?" In a second, I was off the ground and gripping onto Dre's shoulders to that he would stand up as I pulled onto his shirt hysterically.
"Where's Ivan?" I repeated again, in a complete, frazzled frantic. When he simply seemed just as shocked as me, I pushed him out of my grasp and jumped off the small rock cliff we were on, not caring how far is was up off the ground.
I landed painfully on my feet, and buckled to my knees as the hurt gripped me tightly in the ankles. I looked up, examining the elevated ground, and realized that it must have been about 5 yards above the ground.
And then, my attention anxiously wavered back over to Ivan's whereabouts, and my hands started to run in circles around the ground, like I was Velma looking for her glasses in a classic Scooby Doo episode.
I looked like an idiot, running my fingers through the dirt and rock in the ground, trying to look for Ivan. I was surprised to see tears dropping out of my eyes and making small craters in the fine dirt underneath me.
"Ivan," I whispered at first, and then, at a drastically louder level, "Ivan!" Which made me sound borderline psycho.
"Over here," I heard him finally answer, sounding dazed and his voice unusually quiet, as opposed to the deep tones from him that I was used to.
My eyes scoured the darkness around me, and I looked to my left, to find Ivan huddled in a corner where the cliff-thingy we were on was attached to the high preeminent rock walls above us. He was clustered in fetal position, his face covered by upraised arms.
"Dre! I found him!" I screamed at the top of my lungs like I had been searching for him for hours, but in reality, was literally about a minute. My feet scrambled against the dirt as I tried to get a grip on some traction and raced over to Ivan.
And for once, for some odd reason, my maternal instincts kicked in.
I sat down and held him across my arms and tried to give him a reassuring smile.
"Put your arms down, silly," I said, prying his arms from covering up his face. I expected to see Ivan's pale, ghost white face and those bright blue - or sometimes luminous white eyes - but instead, I found something horrific.
I felt something break a little bit in the inside of my heart. A sort of terror started to build up in my chest, and I felt a deep itching sensation creep up my arms and in my scalp, for what I had seen chilled me literally to my insides.
He hadn't been protected by my purple shield like I thought he had. The acid…it hadn't rained for long, but when it did, a couple of drops had gathered on his face, creating profusely bleeding sores all on his neck and forehead.
"Oh God, Dre, Dre, Dre- you gotta get here now," I whimpered, feeling my entire body shake as I felt so…disturbed from Ivan's ruined face. His right eye was swollen shut, and his usually grinning mouth was in a straight line. His head shook slightly up and down as my legs shivered out of control.
He knew how messed up his face was going to be- that's why he couldn't respond to anything I said. He knew how bad it was. And there was no going back. We were at the point of no return.
I was still uncontrollably trembling when Dre had finally reached me by artfully pouncing from the small cliff and landing gracefully on his feet a few inches away from me, completely fine as opposed to me, since I had almost busted my ankles from making the same jump.
"What's…," Almost immediately, Dre stopped, as soon as his eyes settled onto Ivan's face.
And Ivan uttered his first words since I'd found him, huddled in fetal position to hide himself from the truth.
"It hurts. The pain…it hurts, so, so… it hurts really bad," He said quietly, like even just talking hurt him. "It's too much."
By then, my body had finally stopped quivering, but I couldn't hold the tears in as I looked at Ivan. He, of all people, should be the last person on earth to ever be hurt. And not this badly.
"We can't do this anymore," I whispered, meaning it. Another rumble sent the ground beneath us vibrating back and forth. I looked up, finally realizing that it was Evan and Azrael causing this whole earthquake thing.
"They've won already, Dre," I protested, looking up to him, but he was only solemnly staring at me, waiting for me to finish my argument.
"Look what they did to…Ivan." I said, involuntarily dropping to a lower tone, and feeling a helplessness settle over me once again.
"You're being crazy, Mel," Dre said, but I could tell from his unconvinced tone that he knew in some way, I was exactly right. We hadn't been fighting back, we were just continuously running away. And the thing was we couldn't fight back. We weren't strong enough.
It was just high time that we finally realized it.
"You know I'm right," I said softly, turning my gaze over to Ivan, only one of his eyes open and the other still red and swollen. Usually, I knew this was the time where he would have cut in and told us we were just kidding ourselves, but by then, even the usually cheerful Ivan knew the end was coming.
We were all silent for a while, letting the impudent truth settle in. The earthquake still continued, yet there was no sign of Evan and Azrael yet- who I knew for sure that was causing these things.
"I can stand," Ivan's quiet voice cut in. Dre and I jumped, being so used to no one talking for a while, it startled us.
"I'll help you then," I replied, equally quiet, and held onto his hand as we slowly scrambled to our feet.
We all stood in an awkward circle, looking at one another. What could we do? How could we protect ourselves?
Dre and Ivan had a limited supply of energy to exert their abilities; they couldn't keep using them and forever. And my powers were still half stripped away. It was even harder trying to extract Dre and Ivan's and keep them under our control. We were fatally screwed.
And then, just like that, an idea popped into my head, completely unexpectedly.
"Oh my fucking god," I said, the realization settling into my head. "It was in front of our freaking faces the whole time!" I exclaimed.
"What was?" Dre asked immediately, while Ivan's face stayed somewhat the same, since I imagined it hurt to move since his was still profusely bleeding. And from the contortion of his lips, I could tell that the acid had left a semi-permanent burning sensation.
"Oh my god, why didn't we realize?" I shouted, grabbing at Dre's collar and looking at him with my eyes wildly.
By then, I was out of it. I wasn't paying attention to Dre and Ivan's confused faces anymore, my mind was on a roll. I let go of Dre's shirt and spun around excitedly on my tippy toes on the ground.
I mean, it kinda does stunt the plan considering Ivan's injuries. I thought to myself in my head. But, still, it's a chance- it might work. And we have to do it because it's the only choice we have. Well, either that, or surrender and be forced by Evan and Azrael.
Just like I thought how the plan would be executed in my mind, I heard another crashing sound.
"Evan and Azrael." I said aloud, my eyes glued to top of the hole we'd fallen in. I swiveled by head over to Dre.
"Hide Ivan in a dark corner, come on, hurry up!" I ordered briskly, already running over to Ivan and grabbing his arm. Dre opened his mouth to ask me a question, but I sent him a no-nonsense look that read "question me and die". He received the message and obediently grabbed Ivan's other arm.
Ivan didn't protest, just tried to open his swollen eye a little more, but I added a little pressure on his shoulder, telling him not to. He obliged and was silent as Dre and I dragged him over to the darkest corner of the gigantic portal-hole.
"Alright, sit down, Ivan," I said gently as I lowered him down.
"Let me guess, you're not going to tell me your elaborately thought out plan until it comes time to actually do it, right?" Dre asked sarcastically, sending me a dry look.
I smirked as I said meaningfully, "You know me too well."
"What, Ivan gets no love?" He asked jokingly, sounding a little bit better.
I smiled at him, even though I knew he could only faintly see it. I bent down and kissed him right on the cheek, which immediately flushed red with embarrassment, I noticed.
"Don't worry Ivan- I love you just as much as I love Dre." I reassured him.
His familiar grin crossed wide over his face even though I knew it hurt to do so. We heard another rumble, and then huge chunks of rock began to rain from the sky; Evan and Azrael blasting through the portal we just did literally 15 minutes ago.
I suppressed my tears after the realization that I would be sacrificing my life for two of my best friends.
And it's worth every bit. I reassured myself.
I grabbed Dre's hand and ran back to the center of the rocky area, and watched as Evan and Azrael ascended (somehow gracefully and slowly) down, Evan's red demonic eyes cutting through the darkness.
I sent Dre a hardened look, preparing for the battle that I knew where I would let myself get killed and save the people closest to me from dying.
My hands fisted and dug into my sides.