The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 23
Darkness for miles, that was all Cassie could see. A red-toned darkness like the insides of her own eyelids, but her eyes were wide open. She sensed the ramshackle house far out in the distance, hidden within the blackened night.
She called out, Scarlett!
Scarlett didn’t come to Cassie in this dream – Cassie went to her. She forced her way through the pitch-black night as if blind and mad, holl ering Scarlett’s name. It was like traveling through outer space in a starless universe, but with persistence Cassie hit upon what she was searching for. The house. And through the rickety door of the house, Cassie discovered Scarlett. She was bound at the wrists and ankles to a splintered wooden post, and she was screaming.
They were whipping her. Whoever they were. Cassie tried to make out the hunters’ faces, but she couldn’t. They didn’t have faces; they were formless black entities like ghosts. She could only sense their trembling dark souls and how they were frightened to the point of brutality. It was their fear driving them, fear of the unknown, of the supernatural, of witchcraft. Like Holy War soldiers, their faith in their own righteousness was unbreakable, and their capacity for violence against their enemies was extreme. They whipped Scarlett mercilessly over and over again, unaffected by her screams.
Cassie wondered why the hunters didn’t tape Scarlett’s mouth shut, to quiet her. And then the thought occurred to her like a light being switched on. The hunters wanted Scarlett to talk, to spil information – not only the secrets of her magic, Cassie realized, but the secrets of the Circle, who they were and where to find them. Scarlett cried and shrieked and spit at the shapeless hunters, but no words escaped her bruised mouth. Was she bearing all this pain to protect the Circle? And to protect Cassie?
Her beaten body hung from the wooden post limp and wilted like a dying flower. Her face was a mess of blood and dirt, and one of her eyes had swelled completely shut.
Her damp red hair dripped like blood down her bony shoulders. She’d been stripped almost nude; her torso and legs were streaked with lash marks and purple welts. How much longer could she possibly take such abuse?
Like in the last dream she’d had, Cassie couldn’t move.
Her feet were frozen in place at the doorway – from where she could see Scarlett but wasn’t sure if Scarlett could see her. She called out to her from where she stood.
Scarlett, I know where you are, she said. And I’ll be there soon. I promise.
With that, she jolted awake.
My sister, Cassie thought, my poor, dear sister. She’d rather Scarlett give the hunters what they wanted, to tell them the entire truth about the Circle, if it meant they’d release her alive. Better that than seeing her die to protect them. Scarlett had come to New Salem to seek out the them. Scarlett had come to New Salem to seek out the safety of the Circle, not the other way around. How had the situation come to this?
But Scarlett was still alive, that much Cassie was sure of.
And as long as she was still alive, there was still time to rescue her. Maybe if the Circle understood that Scarlett was being tortured for protecting them, they’d consider rescuing her a little more seriously. Maybe they’d finally accept her as one of their own.
And then there was a piercingly loud sound in Cassie’s ear. She looked over at her nightstand and realized her phone was ringing, but who could be calling at this time of night?
“hello?” Cassie answered cautiously, half-believing it was going to be one of the ancient witch hunters from her dream on the other end of the line. But the scratchy voice that apologized for waking her belonged to Deborah.
“What’s happened?” Cassie knew if Deborah was calling her in the middle of the night that someone was either hurt or dead, possibly both.
“Someone set Laurel’s lawn on fire,” Deborah said.
“Burning in the shape of the hunter symbol.” If Cassie hadn’t just woken from a nightmare, she would have sworn she’d just entered one.
“Laurel’s been marked,” Deborah added, in case Cassie didn’t comprehend the full magnitude of the situation.
Cassie suddenly felt like she was suffocating, like one of the hunters from her nightmare had grabbed hold of her neck and was squeezing the breath out of her.
“Cassie?” Deborah said. “Are you okay?”
Cassie coughed. Laurel. Of all people to be marked, they’d gotten to sweet, peace-loving Laurel. How could this be happening?
“I’m just shocked,” Cassie said. “Go on.” Deborah resumed speaking in her gravelly whisper. “So we’re going to have a Circle meeting early tomorrow before school. To figure out what to do.”
“Of course,” Cassie said. “I’ll be there.”
“We’re meeting at Diana’s. At six thirty A.M.”
“Okay.” Cassie felt shaky and weird. Her voice didn’t come out sounding like her own. Those invisible hands were still squeezing her throat closed, making it hard for her to breathe. “Is Laurel all right?” she managed to ask.
But the phone clicked. Deborah had already hung up. It struck Cassie as strange that of all the Circle members who could have called her with this news, it was Deborah who did it. Not Adam or Diana.
Careful not to wake her mother, Cassie got out of bed, slipped on her sneakers, and wrapped her jacket around her shoulders. Then she unlatched the front door and slinked out to the edge of their property. From high up on the bluff she had a long view of the whole block, every old house on crooked Crowhaven Road – the ones in good repair as well as the ones that looked as if they might tip over into splintering timbers in a strong wind.
Cassie strained her eyes to see far out. First, she saw that the fire had been extinguished, but she could still smell the remnants of smoke and burnt grass in the air. And then she noticed two bodies moving around in the dark, along she noticed two bodies moving around in the dark, along the outskirts of the lawn. It was difficult to make out who it was through the lingering smoke. Cassie squinted her eyes, but it was no use. She considered taking the walk down. It had to be someone in the Circle. But then the bodies began moving closer, and Cassie recognized who it was. It was Adam and Diana.
Diana’s long blonde hair shined beneath the streetlights as she walked, closely and carefully with Adam, toward her house.
Cassie felt a pang of resentment. They were both up and out, together. And neither of them took the time to call Cassie themselves.
How had she drifted so far from the two most important people in her life?
Cassie turned around and went home with an emptiness in her stomach. She tiptoed across the living room floor, back to her bedroom, and gently closed the door. Then she kicked off her shoes and climbed into bed, sorry she’d ever left it in the first place.
She could guess what they were doing. They were planning, strategizing, and plotting the meeting that would happen in a few hours. That was just who they were and how they would always be. The brave knight and the high priestess, ever vigilant. They were the real influence behind the group, no matter who was called leader or who wore the Tools.
Adam may have been Cassie’s soul mate, but there would always be the Circle. And the Circle, if represented by one person, would be Diana. Not for one second did Cassie suspect that Adam was cheating on her with Diana.
He didn’t have to. What he shared with Diana was something above and beyond cheating.
Cassie stared up at her ceiling, sleepless. Let them strategize. Cassie was done waiting on the sidelines. She would go to rescue Scarlett herself and destroy the hunters before they marked anyone else – and before they had the opportunity to kill Laurel.
But Cassie knew she’d need two things if she was going to fight the hunters by herself: the diadem and garter from Diana and Faye.