Ungrateful Protection

Continued from ‘Building Electricity

Aric lunged for Kalla, but he collides with me instead. His sheer weight alone knocks me off my feet, throwing me through the air only to slam back into the dirt a few feet away. We skid across the ground.

Pain ricochets up my shoulder. I inhale dust as I gasp. Yet, Aric’s weight on top of me expels all air from my lungs, causing me to cough. My throat seizes in a panic. Or maybe that’s the electricity coursing through my body.

Beneath the larger man, I convulse. My muscles tighten and release. My limbs jerk this way and that. My spine arches, rolling Aric off me.

Fire floods through my veins. It’s more agonizing than a burn, worse than breaking a bone. It’s like something is infecting me from the inside out and won’t release until I’m dead. My entire body screams. Yet, my voice is stuck in my throat, choking me.

“Aric!” Someone shouts, their voice muffled over the roaring in my ears. “What’d you do!”

“He got in the way!”

“That’s not the point!” The first voice counters, fear mixing into their reprimand.

Icy hands slide over my burning skin. They grab my limbs and try to pin me, but my muscles won’t listen. They yank me this way and that, making it impossible for anyone to get a grip on me. “Get Rayna!”

“There’s no time!” A new voice interrupts. “You have to draw the electricity out of him!”

“I don’t know how!” This is the first voice, but it trembles now like it’s… scared?

Drool slides down my cheek, pooling in the dirt beside me. The spasms in my body, smear my face through it and all I can think is how stupid I must look right now.

“You can do it, Kalla!”

“I can’t!”

In a flurry of shadows across my eyes, the figure next to me is shoved aside and another one steps into view. I can’t make out who anyone is with the fire behind them making their faces nothing but shadow, but something seems determined in this new person. Maybe it’s the way they lay their hands upon my body. One settles on my abdomen. The other over my heart. They shove me into the ground and manage to control some of the convulsions.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” A female voice squeaks.

The person in front of me doesn’t answer. Rather, they apply more pressure on my chest like they’re trying to stop my heart from beating. It aches.

I gasp for air. I try to scream at them to stop. Yet, even a groan doesn’t make its way out of my mouth with the tightness of my throat. It feels too much. The pain is overwhelming. I feel myself ready to give into it, to let it take me. The world starts to darken, shadows blurring into other shadows.

Yet, the fire coursing through my body starts to move. It leaves my toes, my feet, my ankles. It crawls away from my fingers, my hands, my wrists. It slides through my limbs towards my torso like water fleeing after a flood.

It pools in my chest and abdomen below the two hands pressing me to the ground, not that they need to hold me anymore. The convulsing has stopped. My head is clearing. Light seeps back into the world, adding some definition to the shadows around me, but all I can do is stare at the sky and focus on the strange sensation being drawn from me.

The last bits of the raging fire slip from my body and the hands pull away. As they do, the shadow collapses beside me.

Another shadow rushes into them. “Are you okay?”

Sound returns to my ears to catch the heavy panting of the person closest to me. My head tilts ever so slightly. Julian. Julian sits on the ground, his head tilted down, his arms propped up on his knees. He looks exhausted. He looks like the one who was just in the middle of a fight, but… where’d he come from?

Beside him crouches Kalla. Bits and pieces of her shirt are gone, revealing the puckered skin beneath, but she gives it little thought as her eyes focus on Julian. Her hand presses into his cheek and she raises his face.

He meets her eyes a moment. Something silent passes between them, but I can’t tell what it is. Whatever it is, it must frustrate Julian. He draws himself to his feet, pushing Kalla away and storming off into the darkness once more, sweat dripping down his back and soaking his shirt to his torso.

“Wha-” I croak.

Kalla snaps her head to me. “What were you thinking?!

“You-” My voice breaks off as the words grate against my rough throat like swallowing sand. “You were… in danger.”

Gratitude would be my first reaction to what I just did, but Kalla isn’t me. Her light eyebrows furrow with aggression. “You know nothing!” Her hands slam down through the air in an aggravated gesture. “I wasn’t in danger. I knew what I was doing. I could’ve taken Aric’s attack, but you-” She cuts off, her ferocity returning to her eyes. “You can’t take his attacks! You’re a water adaptation! You’re city blood!” Kalla screams it like an insult, one she’s never used on me, but I can’t understand why she’s so angry.

I was just trying to help her. I didn’t want her getting hurt because of me. I couldn’t stand the thought of her suffering on my behalf. It’s not right. Why can’t she see that I was just trying to protect her?

Before I have a chance to say anything, Kalla whips away and storms off in the same direction Julian disappeared.

Even as the crowd parts for her, no one else moves away. Each of them stand in a broken circle, staring at me where I still lay on the ground, too tired to move. Yet, a voice breaks the eery silence.

“What’s going on out here?”

Alice!

Next Installment: Too Dangerous

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