Page 58 of Court of Nightmares

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They split up effortlessly, used to working together, and I hesitate before he pulls me with him. I hear the others heading upstairs, but we move down the darkened corridor on this level. Paintings and pictures hang at angles or have fallen completely. Glass crunches under our feet, and blood trails lead us into a front room where I turn away and breathe through the sickness that assaults me.

When I look back, tears fill my eyes.

Filling the room like broken, macabre offerings are at least twenty children, ranging in age from around two to fifteen. Their bodies are broken, and their open eyes are unseeing, but the terror that stains their skin and souls almost has me gagging.

There are so many bodies.

“There’s so much blood.”

“They couldn’t feast anymore, but they kept killing because they enjoyed it,” Nathair says angrily. “This was a senseless murder.”

“Why?” I croak.

“Because some people are evil,draya, and it is our job to stop them. We have to check the bodies.”

I nod and step into the room, and we check the bodies for signs of life, having to be sure. Tears drip steadily under my mask, and my hands shake and my stomach rolls, but I keep moving forward, trying not to look too closely at their faces, knowing they will haunt me.

When I crouch by a little girl who couldn’t have been any older than five, I can’t help but sob. Her afro is drenched with blood, her legs are broken at odd angles, one hand is missing, and there is a gaping hole where her throat was. “They were so young, so defenceless. They didn’t stand a chance.”

“No,” Nathair replies as he looks around. “Whoever did this was a vampyr. They are the only people who know about these types of houses. They wanted death. They wanted a massacre.”

“It’s the same upstairs. The guardians are dead, and they were tortured. One was pinned to the ceiling and crucified. No one is alive,” Reve says grimly.

“He . . . It was a he,” Azul offers, teeth gritted. “That’s what they are telling me. He smashed through the door just after the moon set and ripped through their masses. He hunted them for sport and fed.”

Reve claps him on the shoulder, and Azul leans into him.

“We have to find who did this,” I whisper, crouched between the bodies, their blood staining my palms and soul. “We have to.”

“We will. We are going to track and hunt him tonight. This cannot wait for the usual judgement. Someone who was willing to do this and kill for pleasure needs to be stopped before they do it again. We need to find any scents or—” He keeps talking, but I stumble to my feet and climb over the bodies to something behind the door that calls to me.

I find a bloody handprint, but it’s too big to be the child’s. I close my eyes as I focus on it. “I have his blood. It’s only a few drops, but it’s his mixed with the kids’. I think I can use it.”

“Then do it,” Nathair orders.

Nodding, I call the blood to me once more, watching in my mind as it floats from the wall and ripples above my palm before soaking into it. Memories, thoughts, and emotions hit me. I know I scream as I fall, and I vaguely feel arms catch me, but I’m lost in the bloodlust and pleasure this killer gets from murder. I see snippets of kids running, screaming, begging, and crying as they try to hide. I watch him rip them to pieces and laugh as he does it.

Tears trail down my face for the senseless murders and the pure bliss he feels.

Arms wrap around me as I dive deeper, when all I want to do is pull away. I force myself to track him through the blood and back to the body. I suddenly find myself in his mind, and the pure evil that’s inside him sticks to my thoughts like tar. Again, I force myself deeper to see where he is.

“Underground,” I murmur. “There are bodies there, and people who are alive.” I know I’m speaking out loud, but I feel disjointed, easily lost between body and mind. “It’s wet. I can hear a train above. Wait, there’s a sign.”

I beg him to turn slowly so I can see it. The rest of the room is fuzzy until he looks at it. It’s dark, dim, wet, and cold. Then he turns like he can feel me, and I can almost see the sign.

“Almost,” I whisper.

“Well, hello,” the voice purrs.

“Shit, he can see me,” I yell.

“Pull back now!” Reve demands.

“Almost there,” I protest, but just then, his thoughts turn on me, attacking me like daggers, and the tar traps me. I scream at the psychic assault as agony pierces through me.

“Pull out now!” Nathair roars.

“Got it.” I yank myself back, crumbling into their arms before ripping off my mask so I can pant. My shaking hand lifts to feel blood dripping from my nose and eyes. His attack affected my body. “He could sense me. He attacked me. Could he have killed me?”