Jen Air – Prologue
Original fic time! Or at least the start of one. I’ve taken a number of the ideas I’ve had in the past, including some more my forays into fan fiction, and incorporated them a new tale that I feel a lot more positive about than I have anything I’ve tried to do before.
From now on though, most original stuff I’m developing I’ll be posting to this private blog. You can message me for the password, although I ask that you not share anything from it without permission.
Now though, this is the beginning of a story that centres around two young women. Childhood friends who drifted apart in their teenage years but who circumstance will pull back together to fight a threat both ancient and new:
Once upon a time, when the days were long and the world was young, there were two girls. Two girls who danced round and round a fairy circle beneath the ancient setting sun, holding hands and not letting go. One had dark hair and dressed in red, holding a guitar by the neck with her free hand even as she swung her companion, who was fair and wearing pale blue, and would no doubt have pointed out that if you judged relative to other stars of its type, the sun was merely middle-aged and not really ancient at all. Also, the earth was spinning faster in the past, so days would have been… and then she would have been cut off and told that wasn’t really what the poetry was about at all.
Eventually, the girl’s hands did slip free of each other, and for a while they lay breathlessly on their backs, blinking up as the night sky twinkled into being.
The fair one sighed, closing her eyes. “You’re looking at the past,” she said.
Red scrunched her face and said, “huh?”
“The stars are so far away, that it takes the light from them hundreds or thousands of years to get here. So every time you look at the sky, you’re seeing them as they were a long time ago.”
“Cool. So, you could see dinosaurs and stuff?”
“Er… well,” the blonde held a finger to her lower lip, obviously not really sure on this point. “Maybe… if you could travel to another star fast enough then look back through a really huge telescope…”
“Cool!” Red beamed, kicking her legs to some beat only she could hear.
“Or,” Blue closed her eyes again, completely lost in thought, “maybe someday in the future, there will be someone up there looking down at us, now…”
“That’s… just actually creepy.”
The fair one smiled back, and the pair continued to stare into the past until the sun had almost completely disappeared (obviously not literally disappeared… you know what I mean). Then the blonde rolled to her feet, “we should probably get back. Dad will probably already be looking for us.”
Red let out a little groan, silently asking if she really had to get up now, but allowed herself to be pulled up. Shortly afterwards, the two pushed their bicycles out of the circle onto the dirt path then mounted and wound their way to the road, never knowing that, in fact, they were being watched. Not from the void above, but from the deep gaping chasms that lay under the forest at night.
The bikes clattered along the country road, the girls riding them feeling the cool night air brushing across their faces and through their hair. Red ended up out in front, then suddenly turned her wheels sideways and skidded to a halt.
Blue pressed her breaks. A little flustered, confused and out of breath from trying to keep up with her friend, she asked, “why have you stopped?”
Red nodded ahead, eyes wide and fixated on the cottage just a short way from the road, and whispered, “The witch’s house…”
The fair one rolled up next to her friend. The cottage had blackened walls that were overgrown with thick green moss and all of it partially shrouded by the old, gnarled trees that grew all around, all of which atmosphere brought about a small churning in her stomach. “We should… probably just keep going…”
“Yeah,” Red said. Neither girl turned their eyes away from the cottage.
“Or,” Blue sighed, “I suppose we could take a closer look…”
“Just a peek. It’s not like we’d let ourselves be lured inside and into her oven like Hansel and Gretel.”
“Yeah,” Red continued to agree. But then the words actually sank into her head, partly. “Mansell and what now?”
“Um… Hansel and Gretel?” The blonde prompted with a curious smile creeping up her face. “It’s a famous story!” She exclaimed, rolling her eyes and her head back. “How can you not know these things?”
Red folded her arms defensively. “I ain’t got time to have my nose stuck in books all day, like some people.”
“I’ll tell it to you later.”
The pair abandoned their bikes, finding a way through the rotten fence that enclosed the cottage land. On the other side was an incline, which Red skidded down first kicking up and aside all the sticks and leaves. At the bottom, she let out a sudden, painful yelp, then immediately gasped and covered her mouth. Blue slid beside her, and the two sat silently close to each other for a moment, their eyes raptly held in the direction of the house. Fortunately, it seemed that nothing had been disturbed.
“Are you okay?” The fair one asked.
“Yeah,” Red answered, pulling something small out of her palm. “It’s… just a stone, or something.”
Blue took the object that had pierced her friend, scrutinizing it thoroughly. Indeed, it did seem to be just a thin, sharp and pointed slither of stone not much bigger than her thumb. “Hmm… maybe it’s an elf-arrow,” she suggested.
“You’d know if you read a book once in a while. Anyway, you should hold onto it. They’re supposed to protect against witchcraft.”
“Really? Cool!” And so Red did.
They crept onwards, under the hanging, skeletal branches through the thick shrubbery and undergrowth, up to the side of the cottage. “I’m sure she’s not really a witch,” Blue whispered, “just a strange woman who lives by herself…” A black cat cried and hissed suddenly, jumping away as the pair grew close. “Not necessarily a witch… at least, it’s not like she’d be sacrificing babies in there or anything…” it seemed the universe had conspired against her reason this night, as another cry rang out from inside the cottage. Definitely a baby.
Frog like, the girls crept out of the undergrowth across the broken path to the nearest window. It was covered in dust and all kinds of other muck but they were able to see clearly enough through to the dimly lit crib inside. Nothing happened for a while. The baby just kept crying out for attention although none was forthcoming. The girls started to feel a little uncomfortable at the scene, not sure if they should try calling someone or doing something, when finally a door was flung open and a woman appeared.
She wasn’t nearly as old as children typically imagined a witch to be, but she did look very tired, messy, and when she came in was squeezing her nose like she thought doing so would wake her up somehow. Then, she just looked tired and very mad.
“What is it now?!” The woman whined. “Will you never shut up?” Wild eyed and grumpy, she looked around and sniffed for whatever the problem was. Finally, she saw that the child’s pacifier had fallen out between the bars of the crib. Swearing under her breath, the woman leant over and picked it up, then stuffed it roughly in the baby’s mouth. She then seemed content and happy, and the woman started to lumber back to whatever it was she had been doing before.
Red and Blue started to back away from the window as well, but as Red started to turn around, her hand brushed a small pot that had been rested on the window sill with nothing in it but dirt and bugs. It fell and smashed against a stone below. The girls held their breath.
Inside, the witchy woman turned, her wild eyes starting to bulge as she gazed out the window. Her face contorted to resemble that of an angry dog as she snarled, “what – the – hell?!!” Then she stormed out the way she had came.
“Erm… w-we should probably run,” Red suggested.
“Yeah…” Her friend agreed.
Not bothering with stealth anymore, the girls sprinted up the drive toward the road. The woman burst out her front door swinging a broom, chasing after them while screaming all kinds of expletives that girls knew that most grown-ups would rather not know that they knew. Mercifully they made to their bikes, Blue just managing to avoid being hit by a massive swing as they sped away.
A short while later, the girls, dirty and tired, were on a doorstep ringing the bell. The door almost instantly swung open, revealing a middle-aged man with wavy brown and glasses looking aghast at the two children.
“Jennifer!” He gasped, letting himself breathe as he clutched the fair one. “Where have you been? I was so worried! Your tea is cold!”
Seeming embarrassed, Blue, or Jennifer as we now know, stammered back, “I… we were just playing. We didn’t know it had gotten so late…”
“How many times must I tell you? You need to always be home before the sun goes down,” he said, leaning back and sighing through his nostrils. “I’m not going to have to ground you, am I?”
Jen clasped her hands, swaying slightly as she sweetly smiled back, eyes all a flutter. “You… wouldn’t do that.”
He smiled back, shaking his head. “More like I couldn’t. But even so, please don’t worry me like that again.”
The girl dropped the theatrics, and answered back solemnly, “I’m sorry, dad.”
Sensing that things might get too soppy, Red bounded in. “We were chased by a witch! She came flying out a window casting spells at us, but we were too fast! Well, I was. Jen was nearly caught by a spell, but luckily it missed.”
Now the old man looked worried again. “Is this true?” He asked.
Jen looked away from his eyes. “Well… she’s exaggerating slightly. I wasn’t nearly caught…”
“Please, leave that poor woman alone. She’s not a witch, or a vampire, or werewolf, or anything like that.”
“You think she might be an alien?” The little blonde girl responded, but her father didn’t seem to see the humour in it. “Um… sorry.”
“Come on. We’ll just have to warm up your tea.”
The rest of the evening passed by rather pleasantly. After tea, the girls stayed up, reading and telling stories. There was a game of checkers that almost turned violent, but afterwards they laughed and were clearly enjoying their time together. Until, finally, it was time to sleep.
Except that one of them couldn’t. Every time Jennifer closed her eyes and tried to will herself to the land of nod, she was violently returned. Her restless tossing and turning did in turn keep her friend up most of the night as well, until eventually the little blonde decided she needed help and padded out of the bedroom. She crept quietly down the stairs, head turning and snatching breath at every small sound and shadow, but she knew she had to get to the one place where she always felt safe.
In the study, her father was, as he was most nights, bent over his desk by the window poring over textbooks and crumpled pages of notes. He lifted his weary head from his fist, rotating his seat as the girl, eyes red and wet, arrived at the doorway.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” He asked. “Bad dreams?”
She nodded, swallowed, and choked out, “I was… running, through the woods. It was dark and I couldn’t see what was chasing me. But I could hear, just… voices, all around, like… whispers in the wind. And I knew no matter how fast I ran, it would never be fast enough to get away from them.”
For a moment, the father’s face appeared set in stone. He closed his eyes tight for a second, as if summoning the resolve to say, “it… was just a nightmare honey. Come and sit with me a while. It’ll be okay.”
The girl eagerly hurried into his arms, and up onto his knee, the seat rotating all the way around so her back was to the window. “What are you doing?” She asked.
“Nothing as important as you. Just looking over some research notes.”
“What is it you do, at,” she peered at the heading on the papers, “Reverie…”
“Ah,” he chuckled, “how to explain…” he looked about, and found a paperweight that was actually a small statuette of an eagle which he held up for her to examine closely. “There was a time, when people looked up to the birds in the sky and dreamt of what it would be like to soar above the world like them. Eventually, we built gliders, airplanes and rockets. With science and engineering, what was once just a fantasy became reality. That’s what we do at Reverie – turn dreams into reality.”
The girl took hold of the eagles, her eyes remaining fixed on it as her head fell on her father’s shoulder, as if hoping it would bring her a more pleasant sleep. Quietly, she said, “some dreams are scary.”
“I know, honey,” he put his arms around. He took a deep breath, staring into the inky darkness through the window and shuddering slightly, as if he felt there was something staring back. He held his daughter tight, taking another breath. “I know…”