Read Tasting Darkness By Jessica Hall Chapter 14 – “Darius can be a dick; he will settle down,” Zac said. I stare at him, confused. He almost seemed normal, nice even as he slid a tray of food over to me. Zac sits across from me, grabbing another before digging into his food. The man beside him is a huge burly-looking man with a short beard and dark hair, and he taps my tray. “Eat; if your training with us, you will need it,” he says, and I looked down at the tray to find it has scrambled eggs on it.
“I’m Satish, that’s Zac as you know, and that one is Deacon,” The other man waves; he had blonde hair, a boyish face, clearly the youngest at the table, I think. It was impossible to tell the actual age of full-blooded Demons; they could be hundreds of years old or precisely the age they appear. “And that one at the end is, Lyle,” The man nods, but his lips are pulled back in a snarl. Note to self stay away from the unfriendly one. I go back to my food, scooping up some egg on my fork.
“So Darius and the others don’t eat down here with you?” I asked. Zac snorts and shakes his head.
“No, this place belongs to Darius; he owns and runs it,”
“So he brought it then,” Zac shakes his head before leaning back in his seat, “You don’t know much about them,”
“About Darius and the others? No, only what I managed to hear on the radio or see on the news of their killing sprees,”
“Darius grew up here, and this was his home. Darius turned it into a dark arts training facility; they are all teachers in a way, who better to teach dark magic than the demon king himself,” Zac answered
“So you all like it here?” I ask, glancing around at the table, wondering if I could get an idea of where here was.
“Well, we all volunteered, so yeah. We may be demons, but we want to catch the ones responsible for releasing that plague, and taking over the world also sounds promising,” Zac answers, and I nearly choke on my food.
“Wait, Darius is building an army?”
“Why else would we be here?” Satish says with a shrug. Suddenly an alarm blares loudly, and everyone jumps to their feet.
The silent instruction has me scrambling to my feet after them, and I follow Zac, dumping my half-eaten breakfast on the bench where everyone else did as they filed out.
Zac grabs my hand, pulling me after him, and a few people trod on my feet by accident. I hiss when I feel my toenail bend back. Zac stops looking back at me, and I look down at my sock, blood staining the toes. Sighing, I rip the sock off quickly, knowing the tugging will make it annoying. I pressed my lips together for a second to stop from swearing. My toenail was half ripped off. I could live with that. I quickly removed my other sock since everyone appeared to be going towards the main entry doors.
“Man, you must have really pissed him off for him not to give you shoes,” Zac says, tugging me toward the door leading out. Excitement bubbles in me; this could be my chance to escape. That thought instantly died down when I stepped outside and saw vast fields with different obstacle courses, and then nothing but dense forest making me stop.
“Hurry up, Tobias doesn’t like tardiness. The first lesson is with him,” Zac explains, and I nod, trying to keep up.
“What does he teach?” I ask, trying to hide my disappointment at not seeing a road leading in here.
“Hand-to-hand combat, and the tracks,” Zac says, and I stop completely.
“What like fighting combat?” Zac looks at me like I have grown two heads before he laughs.
“Well, that is why it is called hand to hand,” he holds up his fists.
“Don’t worry, I’ll go easy on you,” Zac says, and I let a breath o f relief before letting him pull me along after him.
“So, how many men and women are here?”
“Six hundred men,” I waited for him to tell me Darius was joking about there being no women, but when he added nothing else, my stomach dropped a little.
“Wait, there is really no other woman here?”
“Nope, you are the only one, lucky you aye,” He says, tugging me to an empty place on the field, men start getting into different stances, and I look around nervously. A few were stretching, and some just chatting amongst themselves.
“Well, I thought you were going to be a complete asshole since Darius asked you to show me around, but I am glad to see he is wrong about you,” I tell Zac as he leads me over to his friends.
“He ain’t wrong about Zac; he is the cruelest of us all,” Satish says, clapping a hand on my shoulder. I look over my shoulder at him, and he takes a stance behind me when I see Deacon move to my side, and Lyle comes up to the other side of me.
The four men were boxing me in. Looking over at Zac, he has a smirk on his face. “What?” I ask, my voice trembling, suddenly feeling uncomfortable with the way they were all staring at me.
“Darius told her to her face that we would make her miserable, and yet she thought we could be friends,” Zac laughs, and my stomach drops.
What the heck just happened. But they were nice a few seconds ago. Satish sniffs the air deeply, and I spin to find him directly behind me, too close, and I take a step back only to be shoved.
I landed in the mud, losing my footing and headbutting the ground hard enough that black dots danced in front of my vision before I hauled myself up onto my hands and knees only to be kicked in the stomach. The air leaves my lungs in a long wheeze. I could hear them laughing and braced myself for another blow when a whistle sounded. They all stop and Zac kneels next to me while I gasp for air.
“We told you our names, not because we want to be your friend Aleera, but so you know who to whine to Darius about,” he sneers before shoving my face away. The whistle blows again, and boots stop in front of my face, and I look up with m y blurry vision.
“Get up. Why are you on the ground?” Tobias spits at me. I look over at Zac, who smirks.
“Tripped,” I tell him, and Tobias reaches down, seizing my arm and yanking me to my feet. I try to wipe some of the mud off using my hands but only manage to smear it worse.
“Fucking disgusting,” Tobias growls before stalking off, and I grit my teeth, fighting back the urge to cry. I couldn’t let these monsters see me weak; I had to learn to block them out. At least until I escaped.
“Twenty laps, then the obstacle course, no one-on-one today, . you have your prep exams,” Tobias calls out to the men.
I gulp when I see the men start running toward a field, I make my way over, trying not to slip on the mud, and the tiny sharp rocks dig into my feet. I make it halfway to the field before stopping. The mud is too slippery, making me wonder why this side was all mud and slippery.
What could you possibly do while sliding around? I clutch my knees, trying to catch my breath and also fighting the urge to throw up the little breakfast I got to eat. The backs of my legs were burning from having to unstick my feet and legs from mud. This was ridiculous; the mud was now up to my knees.
“What do you think you are doing?” I look up and see Tobias stalking towards me, and I flinch when I see his hand reach toward me. Losing my footing on the slick surface, I fall backward, slipping in the mud and landing on my bottom.
“Get your ass over there with the other men,”
“I have no shoes,”
“You need something; you fucking earn it. Clearly, Darius doesn’t think you earned them yet, now get up,”
“Well, can I at least have mine back?” I asked. Tobias reaches forward, gripping my arm, his nails sinking into my soft skin, and I could feel the entire outline of his hand. His grip was that tight; I knew it would have bruised.
“You don’t speak to me unless spoken to, understood? You weren’t supposed to be in any of my classes, but here you are, s o shut up and quit whining” I nod before he shoves me forward, and I only just manage to stay upright as I clamber to the field. A sigh escapes me when I find my feet on solid ground.
However, my relief was short-lived when I noticed the track running a circle around the obstacle course was all gravel.