If you want to read chapter 5, click here. Please note that I will edit all other chapters very soon.
We walked through a city with tall buildings. Lights flickered all around me, but it was dark behind every window. Apart from me and Stranger, there was nobody out on the streets. No sounds of car engines or even the song of birds. This was a city I recognised, but I did not remember it. The colours had changed and I realised so had I. It upset me but I did not want to let it show. I was completely at the mercy of the boy next to me. There was nothing I really knew about him, especially not if I could trust him. But I had no choice. If I did not trust him, my chances of going back to my normal life were very bleak.
He led me to an underground station. Before we went in, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. This must have been the place where he got killed.
We walked the stairs into the darkness and it took a moment for my eyes to get adjusted to the light. The hairs on my arm rose in protest, not only because of the cold, but also because I had an eerie feeling about this place. It was strange to see how such a usually crowded place was empty.
He stopped in front of a ticket booth. There was nobody here who could sell us tickets, but he waited anyway. I considered my options. I could run away now, but what use was it in a city that was asleep? I wasn’t even sure if this was indeed the city I grew up in or just a version that I envisioned in a dream. I could also try to overpower him and demand him to bring me back home. That was silly. I had seen him fight. There was no way I could win this.
“Holly, I’m sorry it all had to be this way,” Stranger said. He no longer looked like the tough guy I had met before. Somehow he looked like a fragile little boy in the dim light of the ticket booth.
I didn’t reply to his comment. He wasn’t supposed to see me as forgiving or angry. Preferably he would see no emotion in me at all. I kept telling myself that he needed me and not the other way around. I was kidding myself, but I learned a lot about this from my father, who was a businessman. Never show your weakness.
“As you’ve witnessed for yourself, there are creatures walking around on Earth who are very dangerous. They are not human, but we believe that they’ve evolved from humans and especially from bad ones. Somehow they have gained the ability to shapeshift, which makes it awfully hard to catch them. Thing is, they can only be killed while performing a special ritual, but they won’t be caught so easily. They have set their mind to extinguishing people like me and eventually Death,” he explained.
“Wait a minute, how can you kill Death? And considering you are practically dead, how can they extinguish you?” I asked.
“There is nothing in this world that can’t be harmed,” he said, not really answering my question. “Anyway, these creatures have a habit of trying to recruit all who have had a near-death experience in order to find out how to get close to Death. Considering you’ve had one, you are a target. Which is why I need you to help me,” he said.
“Couldn’t you just have killed me and get it over with?” I asked.
My whole body was trembling. I had seen Doctor Shaw and what he turned into and the prospect of having more monsters like him follow me was not very appealing. The Stranger decided to ignore my question.
“I need you to act as bait. I will let you back into the world of the living and we will wait for them to find you. Then we’ll strike,” he said.
“But you said they are hard to catch?” I protested.
“Yes, but not impossible,” he answered while he shrugged his shoulders.
“So let me get this straight, you want me to sacrifice myself to monsters and quite possibly die or get used in weird ass experiments to protect you. Why would I do such a thing?” I asked.
“Well, they will probably turn you into one of them and then you won’t remember all this. But if you succeed, I will have Death give you your life back,” he answered.
“And if I refuse?”
“Then I will kick your ass back into the land of the living and you can wait for them to find you and do with you whatever they please. I won’t be there to save you then,” he said coldly.
I started trembling again, but not out of fear. It took all the control I had in me not to punch him in the face. It was even tempting to just show him my middle finger and wait for them to come and get me. But I remembered how Doctor Shaw had attempted to go for my eyes and I couldn’t imagine it to be pleasant when they did get their hands on me.
I did not completely agree with my decision, but I had no other choice. “Fine, I will do it.”
The Stranger smiled. “Perfect, now we have a train to catch.”
He grabbed my arm and ran to Platform 3, where we were met with the approaching headlights of a train. The doors opened and we stepped into an empty carriage, straight into the unknown.