“You can make a Plan A and Plan B and all,” Elena said. “But it
won’t help. Shinichi took his memories away. Meredith, I’m sorry—you
don’t know how sorry. But I swore that nobody would ever know.” She
looked up at the taller girl, feeling tears pool in her eyes. Can’t you
just—once—let me leave it that way?”
Meredith sank bank. “Elena Gilbert, the world is lucky there is
only one of you. You are the…” She paused, as if deciding whether to
say the words or not. Then she said, “It’s time to get to bed. Dawn is
going to come early and so is the Demon Gate.”
The Demon Gate.
Elena glanced over her shoulder at the backseat of the Prius.
Bonnie was blinking sleepily. Meredith, who’d gotten much less sleep
but heard much more alarming news, was looking like a razor blade:
keen, sharp as ice, and ready.
There was nothing else to see except Damon with his paper bags
on the seat beside him, driving the Prius. Out the windows, where an
arid Arizona dawn should be blinding its way across the horizon, was
nothing but fog.
It was frightening and disorienting. They had taken a small road
off Highway 179 and, gradually, the fog had crept in, sending tendrils of
mist around the car, and finally engulfing it whole. It seemed to Elena
that they were being deliberately cut off from the old ordinary world of
McDonald’s and Target, and were crossing a border into a place they
weren’t meant to know about, much less go.
There was no traffic in the other direction. None at all. And as hard
as Elena peered out of her window, it was like trying to look through
“Aren’t we going too fast?” Bonnie asked, rubbing her eyes.
“No,” Damon said. “It would be—a remarkable coincidence—if
anyone else were on the same route at the same time we are.”
“It looks a lot like Arizona,” she said, disappointed.
“It may be Arizona, for all I know,” Damon replied. “But we
haven’t crossed the Gate yet. And this isn’t anywhere in Arizona you
could just accidentally walk into. The path always has its little tricks and
traps. The problem is that you never know what you’ll be facing.
“Now listen,” he added, looking at Elena with an expression she
had gotten to know. It meant: I’m not joking around; I’m talking to you
as an equal; I’m serious.
“You’ve gotten very good at showing only a human-sized aura,”
Damon said. “But that means that if you can learn one more thing before
we go in, you can actually use your aura, make it do you some good
when you want it to, instead of just hiding it until it pops up out of
control and lifts three-thousand-pound cars.”
“Like what kind of good?”
“Like what I’m going to show you. First of all just relax and let me
control it. Then, little by little, I’ll slacken the controls and you’ll take
them up. By the end, you should be able to send your Powers to your
eyes—and see much better; to your ears—and hear much better; to your
limbs—and move much more quickly and precisely. All right?”
“You couldn’t have taught me this before we started on this little
He smiled at her, a wild, reckless smile that made her smile, too,
even if she didn’t know what it was about. “Until you showed how well
you could control your aura throughout the path—the way here—I
didn’t think you were ready,” he said bluntly. “Now I do. There are
things in your mind just waiting to be unlocked. You’ll understand when
we unlock them.”
And we unlock them—with what? A kiss? Elena thought
“No. No. And that’s the other reason you’ve got to learn this. Your
telepathy is getting out of hand. If you don’t learn how to keep from
projecting your thoughts, you’ll never make it past the checkpoint at the
Gate as a human.”
Checkpoint. That sounded ominous. Elena nodded and said, “All
right; what do we do?”
“What we did before. Like I said, relax. Try to trust me.”
He put his right hand just to the left of her breastbone, not touching
the cloth of her deep gold top. Elena could feel herself flushing, and she
wondered what Bonnie and Meredith must think of this if they were
And then Elena felt something else.
It wasn’t cold; it wasn’t heat, but it was something like the furthest
extremities of both of them. It was pure Power. It would have knocked
her over if Damon hadn’t been holding her by the arm with his other
hand. She thought, he’s using his own Power to prime mine, to do
—something that hurt—
No! Elena tried, vocally and telepathically, to tell Damon that the
Power was too much, that it hurt. But Damon ignored her pleas even as
he ignored the tears that spilled onto her cheeks. His Power was leading
hers now, painfully, throughout her body. It was in her bloodstream,
dragging her own Power behind it like a comet’s tail. It was forcing her
to take the Power to different parts of her body and let it build and build
there, not letting her exhale it, not letting her move it on.
I’m going to burst—
All this time her eyes had been fixed on Damon’s, broadcasting her
feelings to him: from indignant anger to shock to agonized pain—and
Her mind exploded.
The rest of her Power went on circling, without causing any pain.
Each new breath she drew added more Power to it, but it simply
circulated through her bloodstream, not increasing her aura, but
increasing the Power that was inside her. After two or three more quick
breaths she realized that she was doing it effortlessly.
Now Elena’s Power wasn’t simply sliding around smoothly inside
her, looking from the outside like any other human’s. It was also filling
several burst swollen nodes inside her and where it did that, it changed
things. She realized that she was looking at Damon with round eyes. He
might have told her about how this would feel, rather than letting her go
into it blind.
You really are a total bastard, aren’t you? Elena thought, and,
amazingly, she could feel Damon receive the thought, and could feel his
automatic response, which was pleased agreement, rather than
Then Elena forgot about him in the dawning of a new
understanding. She was realizing that she could keep circulating her
Power inside her, and even build it higher and higher, getting ready for a
truly explosive burst, and show nothing of what it was doing on the
And as for the nodes…
Elena looked around her at what a few minutes ago had been
barren wilderness. It was like taking bullets of light through both her
eyes. She was dazzled; she was enthralled. Colors seemed to come to
life in a painful glory. She felt that she could see much farther than she
ever had, on and on into the desert, and at the same time, she could
distinguish Damon’s pupils from his irises.
Why, they’re both black, but different shades of black, she thought.
Of course, they go together—Damon would never have irises that didn’t
complement his pupils. But the irises are more velvety, where his pupils
are more silky and shiny. And yet it’s a velvet that can hold light inside
it—almost like the night sky with stars—like those kitsune star balls that
Meredith told me about.
Right now those pupils were wide and set unyieldingly on her face,
as if Damon didn’t want to miss a moment of her reaction. Suddenly, the
corner of his lip quirked in a faint smile.
“You did it. You learned to channel your Power to your eyes.” He
spoke in a bare whisper that she could never have detected before.
“And to my ears,” she whispered back, listening to the amazing
symphony of tiny sounds around her. High in the air, a bat squeaked on
a frequency too high for any ordinary human ear to notice. As for the fall
of grains of sand around her, they formed something like a tiny concerto
as they struck rock and bounced with a tiny ping before falling to the
This is amazing, she told Damon, hearing the smugness in her own
telepathic voice. And I can talk to you this way any time now? She
would have to watch out for that—telepathy threatened to reveal more
than she might want to send to a recipient.
It’s best to be careful, Damon agreed, confirming her suspicions.
She’d sent more than she’d meant to.
But Damon—can Bonnie do this, too? Should I try to show her?
“Who knows?” Damon replied aloud, making Elena wince.
“Teaching humans how to use Power isn’t exactly my forte.”
And what about my different Wings Powers? Will I be able to
control them, now?
“About those I have absolutely no idea. I’ve never seen anything
like them.” Damon looked thoughtful for a moment and then shook his
head. “I think you’d need someone with more experience than I have to
learn to control those.” Before Elena could say anything else, he added,
“We’d better get back to the others. We’re almost at the Gate.”
“And I suppose I shouldn’t be using telepathy then.”
“Well, it is a rather obvious giveaway—”
“But you’ll teach me later, won’t you? As much as you know
about controlling Power?”
“Maybe your boyfriend should be doing that,” Damon said almost
He’s afraid, Elena thought, trying to keep her thoughts hidden
under a wall of white noise so that Damon wouldn’t pick them up. He’s
just as afraid that he’ll reveal too much to me as I am afraid of him.
“All right,” Damon said as he and Elena reached Bonnie and Meredith.
“Now comes the hard part.”
Meredith looked up at him. “Now comes…?”
“Yes. The really hard part.” Damon had finally unzipped his
mysterious black leather bag. “Look,” he said in a bare murmur, “this is
the actual Gate that we have to get through. And while we’re doing it,
you can have all the hysterics you want because you’re supposed to be
captives.” He pulled out a number of pieces of rope.
Elena, Meredith, and Bonnie had drawn together in an automatic
show of velociraptor sisterhood.
“What,” Meredith said slowly, as if to give Damon the final benefit
of some lingering doubt, “are those ropes for?”
Damon put his head to one side in an oh-come-on gesture.
“They’re for tying your hands.”
Elena was amazed. She had never seen Meredith so obviously
angry. She herself couldn’t even get a word in. Meredith had walked up
and was looking at Damon from a distance of about four inches.
And her eyes are gray! some distant part of Elena’s mind
exclaimed in astonishment. Deep, deep, deep, clear gray gray. All this
time I’ve thought they were brown, but they’re not.
Meanwhile Damon was looking faintly alarmed at Meredith’s
expression. A T. rex would have looked alarmed at Meredith’s
expression, Elena thought.
“And you expect us to walk around with our hands tied up? While
you do what?”
“While I act as your master,” Damon said, suddenly rallying with a
glorious smile that was gone almost before it was there. “The three of
you are my slaves.”
There was a long, long silence.
Elena waved the entire pile of objects away with a gesture. “We
won’t do that,” she said simply. “We won’t. There has to be some other
“Do you want to rescue Stefan or not?” Damon demanded
suddenly. There was a searing heat in the dark eyes he had fixed on
“Of course I do!” Elena flashed back, feeling heat in her cheeks.
“But not as a slave, dragged along behind you!”
“That’s the only way humans get into the Dark Dimension,”
Damon said flatly. “Tied or chained, as a vampire’s or kitsune’s or
Meredith was shaking her head. “You never told us—”
“I told you that you wouldn’t like the way in!”
Even while answering Meredith, Damon’s eyes never left Elena.
Underneath his outward coldness, he seemed to be pleading with her to
understand, she thought. In the old days, she thought, he’d have just
lounged against a wall and raised his eyebrows and said, “Fine; I didn’t
want to go anyway. Who’s for a picnic?”
But Damon did want them to go, Elena realized. He was desperate
for them to go. He just didn’t know any honest way of conveying that.
The only way he knew was to—
“You have to make us a promise, Damon,” she said, looking him
directly in the eyes. “And it has to be before we make the decision to go
She could see the relief in his eyes, even if to the other girls it
might seem as if his face was perfectly cold and impassive. She knew he
was glad she wasn’t saying that her previous decision was final, and that
was that. “What promise?” Damon asked.
“You have to swear—to give your word—that no matter what we
decide now or in the Dark Dimension, you won’t try to Influence us.
You won’t put us to sleep by mind control, or nudge us to do what you
want. You won’t use any vampire tricks on our minds.”
Damon wouldn’t be Damon if he didn’t argue. “But, look, suppose
the time comes when you want me to do that? There are some things
there that it might be better for you to sleep through—”
“Then we’ll tell you we’ve changed our minds, and we’ll release
you from the promise. You see? There’s no downside. You just have to
“All right,” Damon said, still holding her gaze. “I swear I won’t
use any kind of Power on your minds; I won’t Influence you in any way,
until you ask me to. I give my word.”
“Right.” At last Elena broke the stare down with the tiniest of
smiles and nods. And Damon gave her an almost imperceptible nod in
return.She turned away to find herself looking into Bonnie’s searching
“Elena,” Bonnie whispered, tugging on her arm. “Come here for a
sec, okay?” Elena could hardly help it. Bonnie was strong as a small
Welsh pony. Elena went, casting a powerless look over her shoulder at
Damon as she did.
“What?” she whispered when Bonnie finally stopped dragging her.
Meredith had come along as well, figuring it might be sisterhood
“Elena,” Bonnie burst out, as if unable to hold the words back any
longer, “the way you and Damon act—it’s different than it used to be.
You didn’t used to…I mean, what really happened between you two
when you were alone together?”
“This is hardly the time for that,” Elena hissed. “We’re having a
big problem here, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
Meredith took up the unfinished sentence, pushing a dark lock of
hair out of her eyes. “What if it’s something Stefan doesn’t like? Like
‘what happened with Damon when you were alone in the motel that
night’?” she finished, quoting Bonnie’s words.
Bonnie’s mouth fell open. “What motel? What night? What
happened?” she almost shrieked, causing Meredith to try to quiet her
and get bitten for her pains.
Elena looked at first one and then the other of her two friends—the
two friends who had come to die with her if necessary. She could feel
her breath come short. It was so unfair, but…“Can we just discuss this
later?” she suggested, trying to convey with her eyes and eyebrows
Damon can hear us!
Bonnie merely whispered, “What motel? What night? What—”
Elena gave up. “Nothing happened,” she said flatly. “Meredith is
only quoting you, Bonnie. You said those words last night while you
were asleep. And maybe sometime in the future you’ll tell us what
you’re talking about, because I don’t know.”
She finished by looking at Meredith, who just raised one perfect
eyebrow. “You’re right,” Meredith said, completely undeceived. “The
English language could use a word like ‘sa.’ It would make these
conversations so much shorter, for one thing.”
Bonnie sighed. “Well, then, I’ll find out for myself,” she said.
“You may not think I can, but I will.”
“Okay, okay, but meanwhile does anyone have anything helpful to
say about Damon’s rope stuff?”
“Such as, do we tell him where to stuff it?” Meredith suggested
under her breath.
Bonnie was holding a length of rope. She ran a small, fair-skinned
hand over it.
“I don’t think this was bought in anger,” she said, her brown eyes
unfocusing and her voice taking on the slightly eerie tone it always did
when she was in trance. “I see a boy and a girl, over a counter at a
hardware store—and she’s laughing, and the boy says, ‘I’ll bet you
anything that you’re going to school next year to be an architect,’ and
the girl gets all misty-eyed, and says, yes, and—”
“And that’s all the psychic spying I care to hear today.” Damon
had come right up to them without making a sound. Bonnie jumped
violently, and almost dropped the rope.
“Listen,” Damon continued harshly, “just a hundred meters away
is the final crossing. Either you wear these and you act like slaves or you
don’t get in to help Stefan. Ever. That’s it.”
Silently, the girls conferred with their eyes. Elena knew that her
own expression said clearly that she wasn’t asking either Bonnie or
Meredith to go with her, but that she herself was going if it required
crawling behind Damon on her hands and knees.
Meredith, looking directly into Elena’s eyes, slowly shut her own
and nodded, letting out her breath. Bonnie was nodding her head
In silence, Bonnie and Meredith let Elena tie their wrists in front of
them. Elena then let Damon tie her wrists and thread a long rope
between the three of them, as if they were a chain gang of prisoners.
Elena could feel a flush coming up from below her chest to burn in
her cheeks. She couldn’t meet Damon’s eyes, not this way, but she knew
without asking that Damon was thinking about the time that Stefan had
dismissed him from his apartment like a dog, in front of just this
audience, plus Matt.
Vengeful cad, Elena thought as hard as she could in Damon’s
direction. She knew the last word would hurt the most. Damon prided
himself on being a gentleman…
But “gentlemen” don’t go into the Dark Dimension, Damon’s
voice in her head said mockingly.
“All right,” Damon added aloud, and took the lead rope in one
hand. He started walking briskly into the darkness of the cave, the three
girls crowding and stumbling behind him.
Elena would never forget that brief journey, and she knew neither
Bonnie nor Meredith would either. They walked across the shallow
opening of the cave and into the small opening in the back, which gaped
like a mouth. It took some maneuvering to get the three of them into it.
On the other side the cavern flared out again, and they were in a large
cavern. At least that was what Elena’s enhanced senses told her. The
everlasting fog had returned and Elena had no idea which way they were
Only a few minutes later a building reared up out of the thick fog.
Elena didn’t know what she had been expecting from the Demon
Gate. Possibly huge ebony doors, carved with serpents and encrusted
with jewels. Maybe a rough-hewn, weathered colossus of stone, like the
Egyptian pyramids. Perhaps even some sort of futuristic energy field that
flickered and flashed with blue-violet lasers.
What she saw instead looked like a ramshackle depot of some
kind, a place for holding and shipping goods. There was an empty pen,
heavily fenced, topped with barbed wire. It stank, and Elena was glad
that she and Damon had not channeled power to her nose.
Then there were people, men and women in fine clothes, each with
a key in one hand, murmuring something before opening a door in one
side of the building. The same door—but Elena would bet anything that
they weren’t all going to the same place, if the keys were like the one
she had briefly “borrowed” from Shinichi’s house a week or so ago. One
of the ladies looked as if she were dressed for a fancy masquerade, with
fox ears that blended into her long auburn hair. It was only when Elena
saw under her ankle-length dress the swishing of a fox tail that she
realized that the woman was a kitsune making use of the Demon Gate.
Damon hastily—and none too gently—led them to the other side of
the building, where a broken-hinged door opened into a dilapidated
room that, strangely, seemed larger on the inside than on the outside. All
sorts of things were being bartered or sold here: many looked as if they
had to do with the management of slaves.
Elena, Meredith, and Bonnie looked at one another, round-eyed.
Obviously, people bringing wild slaves in from the outside considered
torture and terror all in a day’s work.
“Passage for four,” Damon said briefly to the slump-shouldered
but heavyset man behind the counter.
“Three savages all at once?” The man, eyes devouring what he
could see of the three girls, turned to look at Damon suspiciously.
“What can I say? My job is also my hobby.” Damon stared him
straight in the eyes.
“Yeh, but…” The man laughed. “Lately we bin gettin’ maybe one
or two a month.”
“They’re legally mine. No kidnappings. Kneel,” Damon added
casually to the three girls.
It was Meredith who got it first and sank to the ground like a ballet
dancer. Her dark, dark gray eyes were focused on something no one but
she could see. Then Elena somehow untangled the single syllable from
the others. She focused her mind on Stefan and pretended she was
kneeling to kiss him on his prison pallet. It seemed to work; she was
But Bonnie was up. The most dependent, the softest, the most
innocent member of the triumvirate found that her knees had gone solid.
“Redheads, eh?” the man said, eyeing Damon sharply even as he
smirked. “Maybe you’d better buy a little tingler for that one.”
“Maybe,” Damon said tightly. Bonnie just looked at him blankly,
looked at the girls on the ground and then threw herself into a prostrate
position. Elena could hear her sobbing softly. “But I’ve found that a firm
voice and a disapproving look actually work better.”
The man gave up and slumped again. “Passage for four,” he
grunted and reached up and pulled on a dirty bell rope. By this time
Bonnie was weeping in fear and humiliation, but no one seemed to
notice, except the other girls.
Elena didn’t dare to try to comfort her telepathically; that wouldn’t
fit in with the aura of a “normal human girl” at all, and who knew what
traps or devices might be hidden here in addition to the man who kept
undressing them over and over with his eyes? She just wished she could
call up one of her Wings attacks, right here in this room. That would
wipe the smug look off the man’s face.
A moment later, something else wiped it off as completely as she
could have desired. Damon leaned across the counter and whispered
something to him that turned the slumped man’s leering face a sickly
color of green.
Did you hear what he said? Elena communicated this to Meredith
using her eyes and eyebrows.
Meredith, her own eyes crinkling, positioned her hand in front of
Elena’s abdomen, then made a twisting, ripping motion.
Even Bonnie smiled.
Then Damon led them to wait outside the depot. They had only
been standing a few minutes when Elena’s new vision spotted a boat
gliding silently through the mist. She realized that the building must be
on the very bank of a river, but even with Power directed solely to her
eyes she could barely make out where the nonreflective land gave way
to shining water, and even with Power directed solely to her ears she
could barely hear the sound of swift deep water running.
The boat stopped—somehow. Elena couldn’t see any anchor
dropped or anything to fasten it to. But the fact was that it did stop, and
the slumped man put down a plank, which stayed in place as they
boarded: first Damon, and then his bevy of “slaves.”
On board, Elena watched Damon wordlessly offer six pieces of
gold to the ferryman—two for each human who presumably wouldn’t be
coming back, she thought.
For a moment she was lost in the memory of being very
young—only three or so, she must have been—and sitting on her
father’s lap while he read to her from a wonderfully illustrated book
about the Greek myths. It told about the ferryman, Charon, who took
spirits of the deceased over the river Styx to the land of the dead. And
her father telling her that the Greeks put coins on the eyes of those who
died so they could pay the ferryman….
There’s no coming back from this journey! she thought suddenly
and violently. No escape! They might as well be truly dead….
Strangely, it was horror that saved her from this morass of terror.
Just as she lifted her head, perhaps to scream, the dim figure of the
ferryman turned from his duties briefly as if to look back over the
passengers. Elena heard Bonnie’s shriek. Meredith, shaking, was
frantically and illogically reaching for the bag in which her gun was
stowed. Even Damon didn’t seem to be able to move.
The tall specter in the boat had no face.
He had deep depressions where his eyes should be, a shallow
hollow for a mouth, and a triangular hole where his nose should have
protruded. The uncanny horror of it, on top of the stink from the depot
pens, was simply too much for Bonnie, and she slumped sideways, limp
against Meredith, in a faint.
Elena, in the midst of her terror, had a moment of revelation. In the
dim, moist, dripping twilight, she had forgotten to stop trying to use all
her senses to their fullest. She was undoubtedly better able to see the
inhuman face of the ferryman than, say, Meredith. She could also hear
things, like the sounds of long-dead miners tapping at the rock above
them, and the scurrying of enormous bats or cockroaches or something,
inside the stone walls all around them.
But now, Elena suddenly felt warm tears on her icy cheeks as she
realized that she had completely underestimated Bonnie for as long as
she’d known about her friend’s psychic powers. If Bonnie’s senses were
permanently open to the kinds of horrors Elena was experiencing now, it
was no wonder that Bonnie lived in fear. Elena found herself promising
to be a hell of a lot more tolerant the next time Bonnie faltered or started
screaming. In fact, Bonnie deserved some kind of an award for keeping
a grip on sanity this far, Elena decided. But Elena didn’t dare do any
more than gaze at her friend, who was completely unconscious, and
swear to herself that from now on Bonnie would find a champion in
That promise and the warmth of it burned like a candle in Elena’s
mind, a candle she pictured held by Stefan, the light of it dancing in his
green eyes and playing over the planes of his face. It was just enough to
keep her from losing her own sanity on the rest of the journey.
By the time the boat docked—at a place just slightly more traveled
than the one where they had embarked—all three of the girls were in a
state of exhaustion brought on by prolonged terror and wrenching
Дата добавления: 2015-08-21; просмотров: 169 | Нарушение авторских прав
|<== предыдущая страница|||||следующая страница ==>|
|Contents 8 страница|||||Contents 10 страница|