Turned / Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine


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Caitlin woke to complete blackness. She felt a cold, metal pain on her wrists and ankles, and her limbs were sore. She realized she was chained. Standing. Her arms were outstretched, by her sides, and she tried to move them, but they didn't budge. Neither did her feet. She heard a rattle as she tried, and felt the cold, hard metal dig harder into her wrists and ankles. Where the hell was she?

Caitlin opened her eyes wider, heart pounding, trying to get a feel for where she was. It was cold. She was still dressed, but barefoot, and she could feel cold stone beneath her feet. She also felt stone along her back. She was up against a wall. Chained to a wall.

She looked hard about the room and tried to make something out. But the blackness was absolute. She was cold. And thirsty. She swallowed, and her throat was dry.

She tugged for all she was worth, but even with her newfound strength, the chains did not budge. She was completely stuck.

Caitlin opened her mouth to yell for help. The first attempt didn't work. Her mouth was too dry. She swallowed again.

"Help!" she screamed, her voice coming out raspy. "HELP!" she screamed again, and this time gained real volume.

Nothing. She listened hard. She heard a faint, swooshing noise somewhere in the distance. But from where?

She tried to remember. Where was she last?

She remembered going home. Her apartment. She frowned, remembering her Mom. Dead. She felt deeply sorry, as if somehow it were her fault. And she felt remorse. She wished that she could have been a better daughter, even if her Mom wasn't great to her. Even if, as her Mom had blurted out the day before, she wasn't really even her daughter. Had she really meant it? Or was it just something she had thrown out in a time of anger?

Then...those three people. Dressed in black. So pale. Approaching her. Then... The police. The bullet. How they had stopped the bullet? What were these men? Why had they used the word "human"? She would have thought that they were merely delusional, if she had not seen them stop that bullet in mid air.

Then...the alley. The chase.

And then.... Blackness.

Caitlin suddenly heard the creak of a metal door. She squinted, as a light appeared in the distance. It was a torch. Someone was coming towards her, carrying a torch.

As he got closer, the room lit up. She was in a large, cacophonous room, entirely carved from stone. It looked ancient.

As the man got close, Caitlin could see his features. He held the torch up, to his face. He stared at her as if she were an insect.

This man was grotesque. His face was distorted, making him look like an old, haggard witch. He grinned, and revealed rows of small, orange teeth. His breath stank. He came within inches of her, and stared. He raised a hand to her face, and she could see his long, curved, yellow fingernails. Like claws. He dragged them slowly along her cheek, not enough to draw blood, but enough to make her repulsed. He grinned even wider.

"Who are you?" Caitlin asked, terrified. "Where am I?"

He only grinned further, as if examining his prey. He stared at her throat, and licked his lips.

Just then, Caitlin heard the sound of another metal door opening, and saw several torches approaching.

"Leave her!" shouted a voice from the distance. The man standing before Caitlin quickly scurried away, backing up several feet. He lowered his head, admonished.

A whole group of torches approached, and as they got close, she could see their leader. The man who had chased her down the alley.

He stared back, offering a smile with the warmth of ice. He was beautiful, this man, ageless, but terrifying. Evil. His large, charcoal eyes stared at her.

He was flanked by five other men, all dressed in black like him, but none as large or as beautiful as he. There were also two women in the group, who stared back at her with equal coldness.

"You must excuse our attendant," the man said, his voice deep, cold, and matter-of-fact.

"Who are you?" Caitlin asked. "Why am I here?"

"Forgive these harsh accommodations," the man said, running his hand along the thick metal chain that held her to the wall. "We'd be more than happy to let you go," he said, "if only you would answer a few questions."

She looked back, unsure what to say.

"I will begin. My name is Kyle. I am Deputy Leader of the Blacktide Coven," he paused. "Your turn."

"I don't know what you want from me," Caitlin answered.

"To start with, your coven. Who do you belong to?"

Caitlin wracked her brain, trying to figure out if she had lost her mind. Was she imagining all of this? She thought she must be stuck in some sort of sick dream. But she felt the very real cold steel on her wrists and ankles, and knew she was not. She had no idea what to tell this man. What was he talking about? Coven? As in...vampire?

"I don't belong to anyone," she said.

He stared for a long while, then slowly shook his head.

"As you wish. We have dealt with rogue vampires before. It's always the same: they come to test us. To see how secure our territory is. After that, more follow. That's how territory shifts begin.

"But you see, they never get away with it. Ours is the oldest strongest and coven in this land. No one kills here and gets away with it.

"So I ask again: who sent you? When do they plan to invade?"

Territory? Invasions? Caitlin couldn't understand how she was not dreaming. Maybe she had been slipped some sort of drug. Maybe Jonah had slipped her something. But she didn't drink. And she never did drugs. She was not dreaming. This was real. Too awfully, incredibly real.

She could've just dismissed them as a group of completely crazy people, as some weird cult or society that was completely delusional. But after all that had happened in the last 48 hours, she actually found herself thinking twice. Her own strength. Her own behavior. The way she felt her body changing. Could vampires be true? Was she one of them? Had she stumbled into the middle of some kind of vampire war? That would be just her luck.

Caitlin stared back, thinking. Had she really killed someone? Who? She couldn't remember, but she had this awful feeling that what he said was true. That she had killed someone. That, more than anything, made her feel terrible. She felt an awful feeling of pity and regret wash over her. If it was true, she was a murderer. She could never live that down.

She stared back at him.

"I wasn't sent by anyone," she said, finally. "I don't remember exactly what I did. But whatever I did, I did it on my own. I don't really know why I did it. I'm really sorry for whatever I did," she said. "I didn't mean it."

Kyle turned and looked at the others. They looked back at him. He shook his head, and turned back to her. His glare turned cold and hard.

"You take me for a fool, I see. Not wise."

Kyle gestured to his subordinates, and they hurried over and uncuffed her chains. She felt her arms drop, and was relieved to have the blood flow back to her wrists. They uncuffed her ankles next. Four of them, two on one each side, got a tight grip on her arms and shoulders.

"If you won't answer to me," Kyle said, "then you will answer to the Assembly. Just remember, you have chosen this. They will show no mercy, as I may have done."

As they led her away, Kyle added, "Make no mistake, you will be killed either way. But my way would have been quick and painless. Now you will see what suffering is."

Caitlin tried to resist as they dragged her forward. But it was useless. They were leading her somewhere, and there was nothing she could do but embrace her fate.

And pray.

*

When they opened the oak door, Caitlin could not believe her eyes. The room was enormous. Shaped in a huge circle, it was lined with hundred-foot-tall stone columns, ornately decorated. It was well lit, torches placed every 5 feet, all throughout the room. It looked like the Pantheon. It looked ancient.

As she was led in, the next thing she noticed was the noise. It was a huge crowd. She looked around and saw hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women dressed in black, moving quickly all about the room. There was a strangeness to how they moved: it was so fast, so random, so...inhuman.

She heard a swooshing noise, and looked up. Dozens of these people leapt, or flew, through the room, going from floor to ceiling, from ceiling to balcony, from column to ledge. That was the whooshing noise she had heard. It was as if she had entered a cave full of bats.

She took it all in and was completely, utterly, shocked. Vampires did exist. Was she one of them?

They led her to the center of the room, chains rattling, her bare feet cold on the stone. They led her to a spot in the center of the floor, designated by a large, tile circle.

As she reached the center, the noise gradually died down. The motion slowed. Hundreds of vampires took positions in a huge, stone amphitheater before her. It looked like a political assembly, like the pictures she had seen of the state of the union address - except, instead of hundreds of politicians, these were hundreds of vampires, all staring at her. Their order and discipline was impressive. Within seconds, they were all perfectly seated, quiet as can be. The room fell silent.

As she stood in the center of the room, held in place by the attendants, Kyle stepped off to the side, folded his hands, and lowered his head in reverence.

Before the assembly sat an immense stone chair. It looked like a throne. She looked up and saw that seated in it was a vampire who looked older than the others. She could tell that he was absolutely ancient. There was something about his cold, blue eyes. They stared down at her as if they had seen 10,000 years. She hated the feeling of his eyes on her. They were evil itself.

"So," he said, his voice a low rumble. "This is the one who breached our territory," he said. His voice was gravelly and had absolutely no warmth in it. It echoed in the huge chamber.

"Who is your coven leader?" he asked.

Caitlin stared back, debating how to answer. She had no idea what to say.

"I don't have a leader," she said. "And I don't belong to any coven. I am here by myself."

"You know the punishment for trespass," he stated, a smile growing at the corner of his mouth. "If there is anything worse than immortality," he continued, "it is immortality in pain."

He stared at her.

"This is your last chance," he said.

She stared back, having no idea what to say. Out of the corner of her eye, she scanned the room for an exit, wondering if there was any way out. She didn't see one.

"As you wish," he said, and nodded ever so slightly.

A side door opened, and out came a vampire in chains, dragged by two attendants. He was dragged to the center of the floor, only feet from where Caitlin stood. She watched in fear, unsure what was happening.

"This vampire broke the rule of mating," the leader said. "Not as severe a violation as yours. But still, one that must be punished."

The leader nodded again, and an attendant stepped forward with a small vial of liquid. He reached up and splashed it on the chained vampire.

The chained vampire started shrieking. Caitlin watched his skin bubble up all over his arm, welts appearing immediately, as if he were burned. His shrieks were horrific.

"This is not just any holy water," the leader said, staring down at Caitlin, "but specially charged water. From the Vatican. I assure you that it will burn through any skin, and that the pain will be horrific. Worse than acid."

He stared long and hard Caitlin. The room was completely silent.

"Tell us where you're from and you will be spared an awful death."

Caitlin swallowed hard, not wanting to feel that water on her skin. It looked horrific. Then again, if she were not truly a vampire, it shouldn't harm her. But it was not an experiment she wanted to take.

She pulled again at her chains, but they did not give way.

She could feel her heart pounding, and the sweat raising on her brow. What could she possibly tell him?

He stared at her, judging her up.

"You are brave. I admire your loyalty to your coven. But your time is up."

He nodded, and she heard the sound of chains. She looked over, and saw two attendants hoist a huge cauldron. With each pull, they raised it several feet in the air. When it was high, about 15 feet off the ground, they swung it over, so that it was directly over her head.

"There were but a few ounces of holy water splashed on that vampire," the leader said. "Above you sit gallons. When it washes over your body, it will give you the most horrific pain imaginable. You will be in this pain for a lifetime. But you will still be alive, immobile, helpless. Remember, you have chosen this."

The man nodded, and Caitlin felt her heart pounding ten times the speed. The attendants at her side hooked her chains into the stone and ran, rushing to get as far away from her as possible.

As Caitlin looked up, she saw the cauldron tilting, and the liquid begin to pour. She looked back down and closed her eyes.

Please God. Help me!

"No!" she screamed, her scream echoing through the chamber.

And then, she was immersed.


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