POV: Kathryn Taylor – Human – Original Character (I Invented Her)

It was the ideal vacation. Who wouldn't want to visit Italy? There was so much history, so much architecture…

But something here felt… wrong.

I had no logical reason to feel this way. The tour guide of Volterra was friendly enough. She had introduced herself as Heidi and explained that she was leading a party of tourists around the city. Of course, being the curious person that I was, I had decided to join the group and see where it was headed. The first part of the tour had been fun. Now… not so much.

For some reason, Heidi had led us underground into a mysterious city overflowing with detailed architecture. The people around me ooh-ed and ah-ed, but I felt awkward. It was so cold here, so… empty…. that it made me shudder. Every sound echoed ominously off of the stone walls, every tap of a boot on the marble floor resounded forebodingly. And the aura of confidence around Heidi, the way that she seemed almost at home in these caverns, made me feel on edge.

Maybe I was just a paranoid sixteen-year-old girl.

Or maybe something strange was going on.

The tourists around me continued to photograph the architecture, when Heidi suddenly interjected, "Alright, move along." There was a certain tone in her voice, a certain hint of eagerness, that further disturbed me. The other people, seemingly hypnotized, didn't notice, and they followed Heidi down another hallway and towards a set of large doors.

"We're going inside," Heidi explained to the throng. "Follow me."

The crowd obeyed, and Heidi somehow thrust the doors open, hardly moving her hand. But there was power behind the infinitesimal gesture, and the door crashed open with a bang. Too loud a bang for a door that had only been nudged.

Still wary, I examined the circular chamber before me. There were three thrones, richly detailed, with three men upon them. One had shoulder-length blond hair, while the other two had long, dark hair. I couldn't distinguish their other features very well, because they were hidden beneath heavy black robes. There was a sort of ancient, but powerful quality that emanated from them. Near the thrones, there were also several other people that clearly weren't tourists, as well as a guard in a corner adjacent to the door. All of the figures had skin that was unusually pale. I wasn't sure why this bothered me, but it did. It was so… otherworldly… that it made me cringe.

The middle figure on the thrones rose to his feet. "Heidi," he whispered, his voice light, airy, cheerful… too cheerful. He continued, "Good fishing."

Fishing? What is that supposed to mean? I wondered.

Heidi replied to the man, "I am glad to have pleased you, Aro."

Aro inhaled deeply, relishing some sort of scent that I didn't notice. "Ah…" he breathed. "A wonderful selection, don't you agree, Caius?"

Another of the men on the thrones, the blond one – who was apparently Caius – nodded. "Yes, well chosen, Aro."

The third of the robed figures, the other dark-haired one, added, "You have wonderful taste, Heidi. Good fishing, but now… to eat the catch."

Heidi nodded.

I shuddered. Something here was very, very wrong. The people around me looked only slightly confused, but I myself wanted to run and hide.

Aro turned to the guard and commanded, "Make sure to close the door. Do not allow yourself to be overpowered by thirst and to forget. You must confirm that we were wise to make you one of us."

The guard nodded. "I will prove my self-control to you, Aro."

At that, Aro clapped his hands sharply, and the room went deathly quiet. Even the tourists – who hadn't been fazed by the really creepy things prior to now – seemed to know that Aro demanded silence. He smiled broadly. "Everyone, go ahead."

Suddenly, faster than should have been possible, Caius rose from his throne, darted across the room, and seized the arm of one of the tourists. The crowd screamed, and Aro abruptly grabbed hold of another frightened person.

I thought, what the heck is going on? Then, terrified and confused, I turned to run, but something hard and white collided with my back, and I crashed to the marble floor. Before I could scream, something sharp pierced the fragile skin of my neck. Hot blood ran from the wound as I uselessly flailed and struggled.

Unexpectedly, I heard the figure above me take a deep breath as he relaxed his hold on my limbs. I turned my head and discovered that my attacker was the guard, and he was staring at another tourist. The guard took a deep breath and muttered something to himself. Then, without warning, he hurried away from me, assaulting the other person. I stumbled to my feet and bolted for the door that was only inches away, blood dripping from my neck.

Behind me, several other tourists fell victim to the sudden violence, but the attackers seemed too distracted to notice my escape. I hurried out of the open door, too frightened even to scream. As I retreated, I could hear more and more shrieks filling the chamber, but they gradually grew quieter as I fled in the opposite direction. I had no idea where I was going – I didn't even know how to get out of this underground complex – but anywhere was better than where I was before. In the distance, I could still hear the shouts of the terrified tourists.

I ran through several hallways and finally collapsed – exhausted – in a crevice in one of the walls. The wound in my neck had suddenly started to burn like acid, and the burn became stronger and stronger, like a growing flame. The fire quickly spread, and soon my entire upper body was burning. Don't scream, I told myself. They'll find you… the attackers. Don't let them find you. Don't scream.

The flames located my legs, and the fire quickly and violently entered them. They, too, started to burn, and soon my entire body was consumed by unending torment. Don't scream, I reminded myself. Don't scream.

The pain continued.

Don't scream.

The fire grew.

Don't scream.

The blaze reached my arms.

Don't scream.

My hands burned.

Don't scream

My feet were assaulted.

Don't scream.

My neck burned worse.

Don't scream.

My chest felt ablaze.

Don't scream.

Somehow, the pain increased even further, and I fought the urge to cry out. I started to involuntarily writhe, a defenseless captor of violent anguish. Finally, as my brain overloaded, I felt my consciousness slipping away.

Maybe I am dying. Please, just let me die. Please. The world twisted into a spinning void, and then… darkness.

Am I dead?

I didn't think so. This wasn't an afterlife, only darkness. I had passed out.

But the pain remained, while my consciousness did not. I heard, saw, smelled, and felt nothing… I had clearly lost consciousness. But even in this state, the pain burned on. That I felt as clearly as ever.

For what felt like eternity, I remained unconscious. Eventually, I revived, but then passed out again. Time elapsed, and it felt like years. I drifted in and out of reality, like a boat tossed by the waves of the ocean. The landscape continued to come in and out of focus, as if I was looking through a distorted camera lens, but the pain remained as strong as ever.

Kill me. Someone, kill me.

Life dragged on, each minute as torturous as the last.

Kill me. Somebody, just kill me. I want to die!

No one came.

Kill me! Please!Just kill me!

Nothing. And I was in too much to pain to even shriek for help. And so I remained, wondering if I would remain trapped in this moment for eternity, while reality faded in and out like a vision, and I only writhed in the grip of eternal agony, hoping to die…