41. The Core

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I leap through the barrier, squeezing my eyes shut and waiting to be incinerated.

The burning sensation I'm waiting for doesn't come, and I wonder if I'm already dead. Maybe it was so hot I didn't feel a thing, that would be a mercy.

But then I hear the song of the animals, and I frown in confusion. How am I able to hear things if I'm still dead?

 I crack my eyes open.

The scene I had seen from before when standing outside of the barrier greets me, with lush green trees, and beautiful sky. 

From where I'm crumpled in a heap on the soft soil beneath me I exhale loudly, not realizing I had been holding my breath.

I'm not dead......unless this is some weird form of Heaven. I'd hate to think of spending eternity in a jungle, no matter how magnificent. Does this mean I'm one of the Chosen?

I slowly rise to my feet, pushing myself up and feeling my head pound from my earlier connection with Zero.

His presence was in my mind, but it seemed like the moment I entered the barrier the bond between us was cut off, his presence leaving my mind. My chest constricts, and I wince.

Well the fake bond is till there, slowly killing me, but at least his voice isn't. That was causing me a great deal of pain.

I hear a commotion and whirl around, only to see Mrs. Clark and the group a few yards way in the mouth of the cave on the safe side of the barrier.

I freeze, watching as Mrs. Clark yells in frustration. If I concentrate, I can make out the words, but other times it sounds like they are speaking to me underwater.

"That idiot girl!" Mrs. Clark yells, throwing her hands up and pacing. "Now what will I do with both of them dead?"

Can they not see me? I can see them clearly and I'm standing right here. Maybe I've dissapeared to them, just like my father did when he entered.

"I don't know what you're going to do." Becky says lowly, her gaze deadly and intent on Mrs. Clark. "But I'm going to avenge my friend."

She moves to lunge at Mrs. Clark, but suddenly one of the guards who was holding her whips out a syringe and violently stabs her in the neck with it. Becky goes down a second later, muttering curses until she starts to snore.

Whatever was in that syringe must be powerful to take down a Halfling like that.

Suddenly, there'es a roar, and my gaze goes to Max, who is now in the form of an electric blue tiger. He too, is shot with a needle, that has him down in seconds.

Oh no. I can't let this happen to them. But my father...... .

"We'll make camp here." Mrs. Clark finally says once the commotion has died down. "I have a feeling that one of those idiots in The Core isn't dead yet."

She looks straight at the barrier, her eyes focused right on me, and I freeze, wondering if she can see me, but then her gaze slides past and I exhale in relief.

"Tie them up." She orders, motioning to Becky and Max, the tiger. "We'll use them as leverage in case one of Ashley's friends show up."

 I don't like the sound of that, but I feel better knowing she won't kill them yet. Also, Zero will be on his way soon, maybe he'll be able to get them to safety. He may have betrayed my trust with the whole fake bond thing, but I doubt he would leave Becky and Max to die, no matter how ma y insults Becky threw at him the whole time we were together.

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