My Book- Chapters 1, 2, & 3
A Twist In The Tale
I tucked the ends of my coat into my jeans and slid under the barbed wire. I untangled the threads of yellow from the fence, and shook the bark from my boots. I walked through the dense trees and swaying grass, keeping an eye out for the possible predators. I follow the track of flattened grass; my path from yesterday. Finally, I come to the lake. I fill my flask with the water, and glance back towards the fence, looking for anyone who might have followed me in. They haven’t.
I meandered casually down the deserted brick path. The bricks used to lead somewhere, people used to use, but now I’m sure that I am the only one who still does. Winter had taken its toll, and all of the evergreen trees were saturated in frost. A thick blanket of pure white snow rested shimmering on the ground. I reached out my shivering hand and softly brushed my fingertips across the leaves of a nearby tree, which was towering over the path, sheltering me from the falling ice and snow.
I thought about the day at school. The iron gates at the front made it feel like a prison. The tedious lessons bore holes in my skull, and sitting there day after day I often wondered if I would be better off at home, helping dad with the garden. But he told me that if I could get a good education, I might get a somewhat decent future, with a decent career. Like a doctor, or a teacher. Maybe, he said, if I was lucky, and worked hard, I could move to the city and make a life there. But I know I’ll never leave this town. Couldn’t.
The squirrels scuttling around in the silver branches of the plane trees, growing some place much smaller than London, chattered busily, and their squeaks were an extrovert amongst the other babble of sounds, shooting from every which way and echoing in my ears. I could hear their conversation, although their language was alien to my ears.
‘Hello!’ I squeaked, miming the fat little squirrel on the right.
‘Oh, why are you always popping up everywhere! I can’t get away from you!’ The squirrel on the left, tall and lean, looking superior, threw it’s little arms up in what looked like exasperation. I giggled, then kept walking.
The route had come to an end. It was blocked off by a thick wall of dark green trees. Some parts of these woods are just too unpredictable, even for me. I turned around for home, but something caught my eye. Smoke. From a fireplace. How queer. No one ever ventures past the border. Too dangerous.
But something kept me there, looking at the smoke as it came up in fumes from the fire. I felt drawn to it, and curious too. A gust of swirling mist enveloped me and I felt my whole body go limp. I felt myself moving towards the trees, taking slow, purposeful steps.
As the mist grew thicker, it turned an emerald green. All I could see was the wild blizzard surrounding me. I struggled against the howling wind, against the strange murmurs and discomforting visions – and then I saw something. And then I couldn’t turn back to before.
I gasped in horror as I felt cold, wispy fingers clutch firmly around my wrists. Gnarled, sharp talons dug deep into my skin. I took a last shaky breath and fell…
Cascades of rainwater pelted against the windows, threatening to shatter them to pieces. Hailstones showered down on the houses and roads, hard as stones.
My dad; Terry was sitting in the front room staring at the rain slithering continuously down the steamy window. Watching the weeds thriving up to the point where they pressed against the yellowed window. Though not as bad as the smashed one next door from when the man got shot. The man sold drugs. I saw my father buying some from him. Once.
Nothing could triumph over the guilt, sadness and fear that had gradually layered onto him, like the stages of a nasty surprise. All of which had come from over 10 years, since mum passed.
Gavladon wasn’t a modernized city bustling with people and stacked with hotels, towers and factories producing the biggest on trend items. It was more…humble. I mean sure, I still drool over the sight of a phone, even if it’s just a cell. But you get used to pen and paper after a while. Gavladon was remote, a whole world away from everything else. The only worth we had for the welfare of the town was the money we received from shipping harvested wheat over the border. The houses were made from old shipping crates, small tin rooved cottages the size of an apartment. Forever tainted with the smell of old bread and flour. These were spotted all over the town, the windows all lit up with the flare from candles.
There was a village central and a few houses on the outskirts. Some houses were next to the hospital, for families forced to work day and night in illegal surgery, in return for warm bread and a few pounds. When I become a surgeon I want to help people, as a trained person made for the operation rooms in London. But that will never happen. Luckily my father and I have Vivian, a lady who works at the baker in the central village, who give us free loaves of sourdough bread and an occasional finger bun. She says she doesn’t mind because few of her customers can afford her delights anyway. We give her our wheat each June at the end of the harvest for the bread she makes.
I love my school, a monkey house where the teachers bear a living nightmare and my home, with it’s decrepit walls and squeaking beds. I love my teacher, who slacks off more than I do, and the busker who plays the flute outside the coffee shop. I know every short cut, every alleyway and every busted toilet at school. I knew that the bluebirds came out at exactly three in the morning to catch breakfast. As stupid as it is, I like the advert for tinned spaghetti that no one ever buys.
Father has blue eyes and brown, curly hair. Most of the time you would see him wearing a white T-shirt with the words ‘stay cool’ printed on the front in big black, bold letters and his favourite (and only) pair of ripped jeans. Your typical mid – thirties, country man. Like my dad, I have bright blue eyes. My blonde hair is frizzy and tangled. It looks much similar to my mum’s, except I tie it back, which mum didn’t. I normally wear a black T-shirt, white jeans (well, now they’re brown) and my Docs which have frayed laces and a broken zip.
At school, I am nicknamed ‘the witch’ and along with that no one will go near me. Absurd, I know, but the teachers do it as well. I don’t know why they do it, but I suspect it has something to do with my mum. I don’t know how she died, I just know everyone except dad and I hate her.
“I’m so sorry Terry,” began the policeman, not sounding very sorry at all.
“Don’t be, it’s not your fault.” replied Terry, too tired to notice the officer’s unfeeling.
The policeman had a bushy mustache, cut like those in the military. He wore his uniform day and night, even when he was off shifts. We all knew his extreme pride in his job, but you can’t blame him. It’s about the best job you can get around here. He had stern eyes and tight lips. He was a potbellied figure, and a bit of a joke to the rest of the police. But he didn’t know that, and we liked to keep it that way.
“As you know all the police forces in Gavladon have committed to the search for your daughter,” He paused for a moment. “And we haven’t had any success, at all. We’ve checked the whole town multiple times and…well…we can’t afford to continue searching for much longer.” There was an awkward silence. The way the officer said it, it seemed there was much more important business than my mysterious disappearance.
”Is there an alternative?” asked my father.
“I don’t think so, but I can check with the commissioner.” The police turned to his phone and dialled the chief. My father looked at the cell, with a hint of envy. Phones are something of a myth in Gavladon. Basicallynobody has one. Those who do, well, they’re probably pretty well off.
“Hello, Officer James speaking.” he called into the receiver. ‘Hey, umm…Terry was wondering if we could keep up the search party up for a while longer. Uh huh, yep. That’s cool by me. Alright sir, I’d better get going now. Thanks. Bye, bye…Bye!” he said one last time just to make sure. The guy had been promoted only a month ago and his ego had already expanded like, I don’t know, an elastic band! I felt slightly bad for him, because we all knew the promotion was false. The policeman closed his phone and turned to face Terry.
“Another fortnight.” said James. “If there’s still nothing by then, I’m afraid we’ll have to stop the search.” He took a huge bite out of his PB & J sandwich, and turned for the door.
Just as the officer started to head for the door, my dad called him back.
“Wait! I think I might have a lead; or a direction at least.” The policeman listened in and took out a small, hard-cover note book. Then from his breast pocket he produced a silver ballpoint pen. James gestured for Terry to go on. “Gladys normally walks along the path leading to the, you- know- what. From when she left…” Terry faltered. Talking about mother was a resented topic in all of Gavladon. She was murdered ten years ago, when I was four years old. I can’t remember much, and I’ve tried asking dad why she was so hated, but he never spoke a word. The officer gave Terry a glare of pure fury. You could see the magma turning to lava as the policeman’s face turned a dark shade of scarlet.
“Don’t you dare speak of her!” he screamed.
“Rachel was amazing and you have no reason to despise her,” shot back Terry.
“R- Rachel,” James managed to say. “Nearly destroyed the town!” he finished and stormed out of the room.
I woke the next morning feeling dazed. I could taste the metallic savour of blood. I opened my eyes, and blinked. A sack of what would’ve been either grain or wheat was slouched in the corner and a brass door stood firmly about six paces in front of me with a small barred window at the top.
Grabbing hold of the window frame, I managed to pull myself up as to see some of my most obvious surroundings. A chair and table in the far left corner, a corridor coming from in front of me, and some hooks with sheathes arrows followed by three bows, a few harpoons, a hardy spear, a cavalry sword and a weighted net. Probably for hunting, I thought.
Lowered voices were just in earshot and I listened intently. It was all coming back to me now. I needed to figure out how to get back, if I could…
The sound of footsteps echoed nearer and nearer as all of a sudden the cell door swung open and I toppled backwards. A tall woman stood disapprovingly in the archway. She had long auburn hair that measured down to her waist and a long black coat. I suddenly realised how cold I was. Her poisonous green eyes unsettled me, and I looked away.. Her face was familiar, yet I’m sure I’ve never seen her before. She was dressed all in black and wore knee high leather boots.
I stumbled away from the woman and tripped over the sack. Mostly because I am just naturally clumsy, but I guess you could say it was partly because of her threatening appearance. The woman snorted but quickly returned to her grouchy scowl. I staggered to my feet and studied the parasite creeping up the wall to my left, attempting to an element of bravery. In return for my ignorance, a gag was shoved into my mouth. I spat it out. I’m stubborn like that. Plus, the rag tasted like vomit, blood and rotting seaweed.
“Tom!” thundered the woman. She had a strangely low voice, not at all feminine. It sounded like wet cement. Well, wet cement, if cement could talk. “Get ‘ere, the girl’s awake. Geez, what good are you for?!” She sighed impatiently, as she tapped the heel of her boot on the cold, concrete floor.
At that word a tall scrawny man came rushing into the room. His flaxen hair was hidden under a simple bowler hat, yet parts were sticking out in various places. He was wearing bloodstained jeans, braces, and a tattered T-shirt. His teeth were a nasty shade of yellow and his eyes, a stormy grey. He looked like my idea of a terrorist.
The woman cocked her head playfully to the right side of the doorway, and puffed on the hand-rolled cigarette that she had just illuminated with the lighter concealed in her pocket. She seemed to have a sudden interest in me, as if I was the next E.T. I continued my despondent trance, changing my gaze to a crack in the ceiling.
“Hold out your arm.” The woman said sternly. Finally, after a while of waiting, she reached out her gnarled hand and yanked my forearm outwards. I muffled a surprised scream. My arm went stiff as I tried to wriggle my way free from her grasp.
“Quit that!” came a harsh demand, as the woman tightened her grip and yanked my arm further still. I fought the urge to scream.
She beckoned to Tom, and shakily, he handed her a sharp blade. The woman made a lurch for the dagger but Tom pulled it back with a sudden jerk. He doubled over and his eyes glowed green. A deep, drawling voice started to speak.
“You will use this blade once and once only. Dark magic isn’t a slave of mischief; mischief is a slave to the dark. Don’t disappoint me. Tonight. I have waited 10 years. Tonight and no later.”
Tom fell to his knees and the knife skittered across the stone floor. His eyes dimmed and he turned white with fear.
“It was him…” he gasped. “Raven, it was him.” His voice was riddled with fear, but Raven dismissed it. She grabbed the dagger, ignoring Tom, and drove it across the top of my arm. It didn’t take long for me to pass out in a mixture of pain and shock.
Then the dreams came.
Rows of levered torches illuminated a dark, musty cavern, tunnelling deep underground. Stalagmites jutted out from the harsh, decayed floor which looked like it could crumble away at any moment. The light glinted off them, catching specks of gold imbedded into the rock. A thick cloak of mist drifted, giving a drowsy sense of dizziness creeping up through the body, composing each limb dead, and numb. A figure crept out from the haze. It was tall and had about 30 braids falling down in dreadlocks, olive green in colour. Vines were threaded through each plat and a sickly odour radiated from him. The presence of pure evil could be felt. The presence of a being drained of all forms of loving. It sucked you in. it twisted your thoughts and strained your mind with so much force. Grudging against you and your principles. Telling you power comes only with those who make sacrifices, care for only yourself and rid of anything preventing you. Resisting made the pulling stronger. Giving in took you over. Fear made evil only better. A voice of struggle down there was music. A cry for help was what made them smile. And they would give anything to make it happen. It pulled her in…
I screamed. The girl wasn’t me. It was mum.
A white, expressionless face loomed over me, as I abruptly sat up. Once the dancing black spots made way for a clear view, certain characteristics suggested that this individual wasn’t human. It was a girl, that was obvious but her age was hard to perceive. She looked eight-ish but her white wispy hair told different. Her face told years of suffering, more than one could stay sane. Her feeble hands held a silver tray, which containing a glass of water and a single slice of stale bread. But her most curious aspect was the fact that her eyes always appeared to be rolled back into her head. They were glassy and disgustingly creepy. As the girl slid the tray of food through the doorway and ambled back through the corridor, I couldn’t help wondering…
I peered at the wound across my forearm, which was almost as awful as it felt. Almost. A fleck of white was shown as I cleared the grime and puss from the opening. The gash was already swollen, and infected closer to the scar. It was no longer bleeding but still, I tied a rag around it, ripped from the bottom of my shirt. I shoved a stray arrow into it to make a brace, which I salvaged from when one fell out of the sheath on Raven’s back. I’d look at it later, when I wasn’t so grossed out.
Black, umbrellas went flying as the strong, billowing wind caught their undersides, flipping them inside out. Bedraggled citizens rushed around, desperate for a fragment of the town’s shelter. Terry was among the few who calmly waited for the vigorous storm to move on, despite getting soaked through. Police were stationed on the busiest arteries, keeping the traffic safe. A certain police woman was dealing with the drunk drivers, handing out fines for the worst of them. Once the first crash occurred, the roads were closed for the night, resulting in many insults from unlicensed cabman and their passengers.
My father ambled home, his cheeks flushed from the harsh cold, and his numbed hands shoved deep inside his coat pockets.
I wonder if he knows about this place, because if he doesn’t, I’ll never see him again. Most definitely.
I miss home. Forget what I said about not being scared. I hate this place even more now that I’ve gotten to know it. You would think you’d get used to it but no, each day it feels worse and worse. It’s like an off piece of fruit. The first day you can stand the taste; but the longer it sits there the worse it becomes. Right now, I’m at the point where my fruit is charcoal black.
I wish I had the guts to spit out the next dry, stinking rotten gag. But I guess the flavour settled in with the vomit sitting at the bottom of my digestive system. Also, I didn’t really have the urge to say something. I think they got fed up with all of the prayers I’ve been calling out. But I figured out just earlier that god and the rest of them found the use of earphones; to block out useless wimps like me that they couldn’t care less about.
Now I know that the gag is because what is happening to me right now involves a lot of kicking and screaming. Getting shoved into the back of a van. It’s rustic coat and worn tires made me wonder if driving this was even legal. Then I remembered that this whole thing was probably illegal. Oh well then.
Just so you know, the boot of a car is uncomfortable, smelly, painful and hard to get used to. Without seats anyway. Despite my best efforts, I fell asleep.
I was back in the cavern, this time all of the flames were an acid green. The sign of a sacrifice. The sign meaning someone had died. The flames had a thirst for blood, for murder. It was looking for more, one not having enough satisfaction. This time, it wanted me. Me and my blood being what it was. Voices filled my head. Evil had a betrayal to reason with. No, it didn’t want my blood, it wanted my loyalties. The thing is, I was swaying more towards going with them. With evil, with the cold hearted. I told them this, and I instantly regretted it. I was just another pawn of theirs. Another ally that would soon be tossed aside. And I fell for it.
I woke up, aghast. It didn’t make a difference that it was a dream. Dreams come from your head and what you’re thinking. Dreams evolve from your decisions. I can’t help thinking, would that have been mine?
In a daze, I studied my surroundings. It wasn’t a dream. The same flaming torches hammered into the granite walls. One after another. The floor was made of thousands of layers of vast cobwebs, but the mouth of the cave was further away than I remembered. I cautiously stepped forward and I plummeted down into nothingness. I couldn’t stop myself, and I didn’t care.
Shadows kept reaching out to grab me, silhouettes cast on the walls. The smouldering flames swirled smoke, followed me down to the very end of me. I would die in dignity, unafraid. I would perish as myself, not twisted or changed by this. I uncoiled the cloth from my arm, and opened the wound, blood spilling. I will die in my own blood. Waiting. The time won’t come. Falling. The ground placed a world too far. Death is the end of me, but it is still the beginning.
I wake. Screaming. Not me, but her. Mum.
An angry voice says, “You shouldn’t have come here.”
“I didn’t.” I reply in annoyance of accusation. I glare at mum. She comes into focus. Emerald green eyes, brown wavy hair, and white bleached skin. Thin lips, not cruel but warm and kind. Her brow is furrowed, deep in thought, or is it worry? Stammering excuses, seen not heard, her mouth is moving, no sound coming out. Squirming. I find myself wanting to know. The answers, all of them.
“Tell me everything.” I say, not thinking about how hard it is for mum to explain. She hasn’t for 10 years.
I think about pulling away when mum reaches out her calloused hand and touches my face. They’re cold. But I don’t. She cries silent tears. Rolling down her face and sliding through the gap between her lips. Some escape and fall onto the floor, splashing into the inlet of water travelling between us and the other side. We’re in the pipes, I realise; the sewers.
I stare into the pungent water, and see silhouettes. Two of them. I look up. Raven and Tom are there, on the other side. I usher mum into the shadows and snuff out the flickering candle stub. I don’t breathe until I can no longer see them. Until they can no longer see me. Beside me mum is shaking. I hug her and hide her from the cold.
“I love you.” I whisper. The water carries the words away.
When I wake, mum is gone. I try to feel relieved, angry at her still, but I don’t. She’s just another broken soul, too easy to get to, delicate.
Soon, my candle is useless, melted down to a stub, but it doesn’t matter. I must be getting closer. The sunlight reveals that the walls are covered in a thick layer of cobwebs. Thousands of red beady eyes stare at me, I’m sure they have been the whole time, I just failed to notice. But the light of day ahead also marks out a silhouette of a person; a person rushing towards me. Slipping on the wet granite, I spin around, dropping the remainder of the wax and the flickering wick in the process. Any fire still burning was instantly extinguished on contact.
I can hear the person calling out my name behind me. I stop and turn around. In front of me is a sodden wet girl in a yellow rain jacket. Her hair is jet black and a bedraggled mess. She has dark brown eyes and warm full lips. Her boots are worn and made from leather. By the way she’s staring at me I can tell I don’t look much better.
“Hazel.” She says, and holds out her hand.
“Gladys.” I say, and shake it.
“I know.” Hazel says. Her eyes dart behind us. “We have to hurry.” She whispers, a hint of urgency in her voice. I get it. Together we run to the end. Shouts echo and bounce off the walls. We quicken our pace. I can hear the voices getting louder, and I can feel Hazel’s hot breath on the back of my neck. I grasp her arm and pull her beside me. The end is just in reach…