May 11, 2012
Filed under A & E
The fog clots around my ankles, giving me an ominous look as I saunter down the road. I wonder if the neighbors are staring out their windows, giving me odd looks, and thinking, “Wow, that looks mysterious.” Maybe they are sitting down having a warm cup of coffee and not bothering to think about how particularly peculiar I look today. I kick my sneakers against a cluster of rocks, breaking them up like pool balls. Well, actually like an uncoordinated pool player would, because the rocks hardly move. I keep pretending I am coordinated until I arrive at my doorstep. See, Grandma (whom I call Nonie) really wanted a Victorian when she was younger, but she had little money as it was. So, she played a game of pretend and dressed up our rancher like a Victorian. The shutters are a faded sunshine yellow, the base color is a rustic turquoise, and every little detail is a frothy pink cupcake. Nonie may have an artistic eye, but handy work is not her strong suit. As a result, a cat dies whenever someone opens the front hall door. Well, it sounds like one did, and the screech makes my ears want to die.
“Nonie, are you in the kitchen?” I call out to her.
“I’m in here!” she shouts. Now, this doesn’t answer my question, and technically speaking “here” is not a room in our cute little rancher. I understand what she means though. Slowly, I make my way to the kitchen. I grab a frozen cookie from the freezer and start making my tea. I look over and notice Nonie is sketching furiously. Her hand sweeps up and down the canvas, her brush strokes leaving elegant lines. I stare at her for the next 30 minutes and listen to the comforting sounds of water sloshing around the brush cup. Finally, all the lines connect in perfect harmony, and they form a beautiful silhouette of four children. Nonie is staring at me with a big grin.
“I like it,” I say flatly. When Nonie gets like this, she doesn’t snap back for a while.
“Uh huh,” she replies, still examining my every move. This creeps me out, so I glance around the room trying to look away. My eyes settle on my tea, and I suddenly become fascinated with swirling my spoon around my mug. I sit there, stirring, breathing, and blinking for the longest period of awkward silence I have ever encountered. Finally, she says something.
“Get out, do something, Phloria,” she says flatly, grinning even bigger now. Her orders are extremely odd, and I give her a puzzling look. “Just be…creative. Don’t bother coming back without proof. Do you hear me?” She elaborates as she shoos me out the door.
“But,” I stammer.
“Get proof, Phloria. Now go!” she commands, and when Nonie gets her mind wrapped around something, she won’t let it go. Determined to get me out of the house, she shut the door. I stand on the grass, my mouth wide open. I stumble back into the fog and toward the forest. I could cheat out of this, and Nonie wouldn’t know. I could bring home a stick with a made up story, and she couldn’t know. I’m not a cheat, but still I am tempting. The only problem is the fog has thickened, and I can’t find my way back. A twig cracks behind me. I whip my head around trying to survey the area, but the fog blinds me. The hair on my neck rises slowly, and the eerie feeling shoots a shiver up my spin. I push the feeling out of my mind, like an unexpected and uninvited dinner guest. A resonant chuckle stops me dead in my tracks. I jerk my hand back and try feeling for the trespasser. My feet become tangled, and I fall. Deep goo is smeared on my face as I land in a mud pit. I shriek, crying out, but no one hears me. Someone giggles a very shrill girly giggle. My hands pat around me trying to grip onto something, but luck is not on my side. The wind picks up, shoving me down deeper in the marsh. The rain starts again, and each pellet hits my face separately, like an individually wrapped whip, slapping my face with extreme force. I let out another shriek. Then, I remember Nonie, and I realize I have to get out of here. With extreme and sudden strength, I grip the somewhat sturdy ground in front of me and push myself onto the grass. The cold blades soothe my wounds. The trespassers laugh at me, how pathetic I must look. I scream at them, with no words.
“Aghhhh,” the hatred in my voice is obvious, and the scream definitely got their attention. I hear a second noise, something distant, yet close, and something creepy, supernatural, and bizarre. Whatever it was, it drove the felons away. The storm turns for the worse, but before I flee I notice a necklace, simply lying there. It possesses a certain mischief, an intriguing design too. It is a design made out of various colors of metal, and I slip it over my neck. The rain whips around me every so often hitting my face. So, I sprint, toward an unknown destination. I keep running, hoping I don’t run smack into a tree. The wind comes straight toward me, pushing me back with extreme force. Shelter is all I can think about, so I push through the pain and keep going.
I turn and see a house. It probably was once a stately mansion belonging to a wealthy family, but now it is a ramshackle house, with ivy draping over the walls. Desperately, I run inside without hesitation. I stop dead in my tracks as my eyes wander down a corridor. Most people would turn back, but I continue walking down the hall. I immediately notice the outdated wallpaper and numerous portraits of grim children. I examine each one, mainly consisting of four children looking at the camera with cold eyes. My spine gets a shiver as I look over their faces. At the end of the hallway, I notice a painting that stops me dead in my tracks. I shudder. It is the exact silhouette Nonie had displayed to me earlier.
“Don’t keep your mouth open,” someone whispers in my ear. The intruder’s hands give a vehement shove, and I fall straight into the picture. What happens next is a blur. What I do know is that it was black as the night sky. No color, just pure mysterious darkness. I don’t know whether my eyes are open or closed, but it is so dark it doesn’t matter. I keep falling, and an endless circle of emotions comes through me all at once. Eventually, I land with a thud, my head pounding. The air is warm and muggy. I gasp trying to catch my breath. I cough, a resonant, dry cough, and my tongue scraps against my gums. Instead of its normal pink and gummy texture, it is dry like sandpaper. I crave water, but none comes to me, so I lie there gasping wheezing. Eventually, I fall into an even darker state, sleep. I stay in the sweet world of slumber for so long that I think I might have died.
Several hours later
I awaken in a small room, no larger than an office. I rest on a soft bed, barely big enough for me, and my feet dangle off the end. Just a few feet away, sitting at a small coffee table, ironically sipping tea is a small sprite. She is wearing a copper dress, with silver earrings. She is drilling holes in my forehead and giving me deathly stares. She appears to be looking at something on my neck.
“Thief, trespasser, you mortals are so conceited. Why even bother,” she starts screaming, but my ears can’t take it, and I drift off into slumber again.
Later that evening
I awaken yet again, still in the cute bedroom. I start to notice the details placed intricately around the room. A brown piece of pottery, painted with bright yellow flowers, a fish shaped watering can with a color palette similar to our rancher’s, and a photo frame with a photo of me. This stops my eyes from wandering on. Why would someone else have this? The photo is rare. For one thing, I’m smiling, and for another, it is the last photo of my complete family (my mother, father and me), sitting happily together without a care in the world. Two weeks after this picture was taken, they died in a serious car accident, and from then on I refused to smile again, not for anyone. How this kidnapper could get this, I don’t know. Immediately, I realize that someone is keeping me hostage, and I need to get out now. I push through the sharp pain in my thighs, and stand up. Scraggly, dirty, and meager, those are the first words that come to my head when I see this child sized rat appear in front of me. I scramble back into bed and grab the watering can for protection. It shrieks and scurries away. I sigh, relieved that I won’t get rabies. I almost drift back into slumber, but a fierce shake on my shoulder awakens me. I groggily prop myself up with various pillows and turn to the creature. I realize it is the sprite from earlier.
“Well, don’t just sit there, child. Speak!” she orders irritably. I am taken back by her bluntness. “And to think, stealing Mycaro’s necklace like that, the nerve,” she sputters. I notice the that necklace upon my own neck is a twin to the one around hers. I reach to take it off, then think better of it. This hunk of metal is a great bargaining price for my release.
“No, finders keepers, losers weepers,” I say with sudden boldness, boldness that was bottled in a plastic reusable bottle for the last eight years. My message got across, and the sprite’s face becomes engorged in fury and hatred. Before she can rip my throat out, another figure enters the room. He (I assume it is a he) is no taller than I. With a fox-shaped face and body, a miniature bear’s arm, legs similar to those of a rabbit, and covered in a dark shade of chocolate brown, in all he’s a hybrid. He dismisses the sprite and shuts the door. I can’t escape their clutches, but then it hits me (maybe because my brain is finally clear); this is all a dream. I obviously hit the portrait and am lying dead as a dog in that creepy hallway. The voices, the fog, and Nonie, it all rushes back into my head. I try getting up, but my thighs are still weak. The hybrid smiles and starts sipping his tea, and when he’s finished his cup, he starts to speak.
“I hope Delaphia wasn’t too rude. She can be…difficult.” I start to say something, but he continues. Now, I am positive it is a he. His voice is resonant, “For now, pretend you are in a small distant country, and I can offer you, a how you say, “ride” home. What could you offer me to obtain this “ride home?” he questions. I see my chance, so I slip off the necklace and hand it to him. He chuckles, gives it back, and shakes his head, “That is amusing, but no, I mean, we need a team, of five. We have four, but having a mortal, oh that would show more of a rebellion than ever. There is a, um, way back, if you come with us.” He sounds excited, as if he knows I have to go, but this is a dream, a fake world I invented. I push aside the pain and get up. I navigate my way through the house and turn toward the creature that scurried after me.
“This has got to be a joke, and I know this is a dream, so why should I care?” I say with such rudeness I have to wonder where I dragged that up from. The hybrid steps back in shock, but before I can leave, there comes a knock at the door. I am shoved into a nearby closet and shushed. Then, I hear a crash, and a group of rowdy sprites shouts. So, I crouch down and wait in silence.
6 hours later
I must have dozed off. Someone opens the door, and the room is in total darkness except for twelve perfectly aligned candles placed perfectly round the room. All of the creatures I have met so far are gathered around the candles, examining strange objects. Hybrid starts speaking, but with no sincerity in voice.
“Now, I trust your nap let you think over what we mean, and I hope you understand what we have done to get you here,” This I don’t understand, but I nod anyways. My heart skips a beat, and I now know that this isn’t a dream; this is reality in a deformed universe. The future looks grim, because I know how this is going to end-dead.
“Let me introduce myself and the group. I am Cosca the fearless leader, they are Delphia and Mycaro, twin, mischievous sprites. You met them in the woods, and that is Celestah. She’s shy, so don’t come off too strong. Together we are,” he drops the volume of his voice, “the Union,” he says softly. I now notice the endless maps, laid out in front of us. I zone out from there on out. Everything is going too fast, time seems off, and my head is pounding harder and harder each time. Cosca is rambling on and on. I only catch a few words plus sub-text. Here is the most I could get:
Earlier Army here, can’t see you, secret weapon, Creator death, rebellion, travel big castle Chrylestah, awful mean mortals, George, Elizabeth, Simon, Annabeth, kill us, go home, forever free.
I nod as if everything he is saying makes sense. I hear a cough, but from somewhere distant. I ignore the feeling and try to focus. There it is again, but this isn’t a cough more like a shuffling of leaves. Bam! The door slams open, the wood slamming against the walls. Six-foot-tall soldiers come bursting in. Rounding up the others, I try to run, but my thighs give away beneath me. Cosca is shouting pointless threats, and the soldiers laugh. A prince, hair a rustic brown, dragon scale green eyes, and a sword encrusted with jewels, walks in. I hear Cosca shout threatening remarks at him too, saying something about rights and the lack of them. Something else about cruelty, but Cosca talks so quickly that his letters slur together. The “prince” and I lock eyes, his cold and murderous. I know he is the enemy, but I can’t stand up. Five things that rush at me:
- I must kill him.
- I must accept this mission.
- I have to escape now, and before I am captured.
- I am hopelessly in love with a cruel dictator.
- I am back in the terrible hallway.
The wallpaper, the portraits, and the disgusting smell- they are all there, and the only thing that isn’t is a door.
“Nonie wanted adventure, so she’s going to get it,” I think. So, I stand up, brush myself off, and dive through the silhouette again, but I still have no idea what I am risking. Correction, I know exactly what I am walking into; I just chose to ignore it. As the darkness passes me again, I swear on my life I see his eyes, but before I can glance again, I have landed. The grass is charred, the air smells reminiscent of smoke, and Cosca’s adorable cottage is burned in front of me. I walk to the center of the “house”. There I see one thing, a bit from the map. It isn’t much, but I’m pretty sure I know what it is. ‘Continue north” it reads. So I look up, point out the North Star and start walking. That’s just it, me walking, walking, and sooner or later I’ll realize this note was a setup, and I am walking into certain death. When I do realize this, I don’t turn around, because with the feeling of certain death comes a feeling of hope, strong and stubborn hope. It is determined to let me know that somehow I have to stop this. So, I do and just before I keep walking, walking toward my friend, my death, and the chance to save something bigger than me.