The End of the World
I was going to a lot of things today, like reblogging and may commenting on peoples writing (if I can actually think of anything intelligent to say), but I lost all my tabs because of a crash plus I need to unwind from stuff. I will try and get around to it though.
Writing wise, I’m thinking of carrying out some planned edits to the first Act of my WIP and releasing that in some form that anyone can read – I haven’t decided yet. In the meantime, here is an another excerpt from the start featuring a young Jennifer Airhart and Kaya Cade:
The End of the World
Long ago, when days were long and the world was young, there
were two girls. Both were dreamers. Jennifer dreamed of the night sky and of
traveling everywhere covered by its shroud to uncover whatever mysteries
sparkled there. Kaya’s dreams were filled with music and harmony, of waves of
sound splitting a dark ocean to both shield and guide her to a better life.
Jennifer had yellow hair and Kaya’s was brown, and one wore blue and the other
wore red. But despite these trivial differences the two of them were together,
clasping hands and spinning each other round and round the fairy circle under a
twilight that seemed to last forever. Until they slipped and both fell on their
backs, sucking in cool air and blinking as the first stars twinkled above.
After a few moments Jennifer said, “you’re looking at the
Kaya’s young nose wrinkled. “Why do you say weird stuff like
“It’s not weird!” Jennifer sounded wounded and indignant.
“It’s science! The stars are so far away that it takes years and years for their
light to reach us. So what we see is actually how they were a long time ago.”
Here is the rest of that scene. Or scenes. I mean it’s all one big chunk of text, so:
Kaya trundled over on her bicycle. “Anything?” She asked. Jennifer shook. “Just as well, isn’t it? The book said they blind people or make them dance until they drop dead. You’re crazy wanting to find them.”
“You followed me,” Jennifer reminded her.
“Crazy people need company too,” Kaya shrugged. “Anyway, if the little shits tried any of that crap with me I’d pound them.”
Jennifer frowned at her, “you shouldn’t swear.”
“Why not?” Kaya shrugged again. “It’s only words.”
Of course they were. Jen knew that. But they were her dad’s words and why would Kaya want to sound like someone who was just mean? “You can use different words,” Jen suggested.
“Fine,” Kaya exhaled through tightened lips, “if it makes you happier, I’ll try.”
It did. They had to pack all the apparatus into their backpacks and then as Jennifer picked up her own bicycle her a chilling gust blew across her, her dress feeling heavy against her body, like it was trying to carry her off into the woods. The wind also carried something else – at least Jennifer thought she heard it whisper her name:
A i r h a r t
The gust passed by very quickly yet left Jennifer with goosebumps as she looked wide-eyed where she judged it to have been going. There was a wide path leading up the hill, but on all other sides they were surrounded by trees with shrubs and bushes growing beneath them. Except in one spot where branches met to form an arch over a black portal leading to… well, woods, she guessed, but what was in them?
It would be crazy to want to go in there to find out. Most people would just run away telling others what they saw in their imagination, a spirit or werewolf or something. But Jennifer had to know the truth, biting on her lip and steeling herself. If there was some intelligent creature out there playing games with them, well that wasn’t very nice and she was going to find it and explain that it wasn’t very nice. If it was a werewolf, she had some silver coins in her pack. She also had a torch which she turned on the portal, seeing things scurry away from the light. Whether they were actual creatures or just shadows she wasn’t sure. She would have to go in for a closer look. So with torch in hand she slung the pack on her back and marched ahead.
Kaya was on her bike wondering what was taking her friend so long. “What are you doing?” She asked twisting her chin over her shoulder. “I thought you wanted to go back?”
Jennifer already had her head inside the portal, sweeping her torch over the leafy ground beyond. “Didn’t you hear that?”
“It said my name…”
“Did you hit your head?” Kaya said with concern not only about that, but about the fact that Jen was already stepping through the arch. Aghast she screeched, “what are you doing? Don’t actually go in there!”
“Just a quick look,” Jennifer said treading carefully ahead. “You can stay here if you want.”
“Well I can’t do that, can I?” Kaya groaned, throwing her arms up and dismounting. “You’d lose a fight with a cotton mouse. You’ll need my help if you get into trouble.”
Jennifer was already several steps inside but spun around to protest her fighting prowess, huffing and stamping her foot. True, she didn’t do well at any sport but it wasn’t like she was a paper doll. Even if she couldn’t beat Kay, the only way she’d lose to a mouse would be if the mouse had rabies or…The ground cracked, Jennifer wobbling to stay standing atop it and fearing maybe she’d grossly underestimated her own strength. If she’d known she was this powerful she would never let Candace Mullen push her around.
Kaya arrived at the arch confused by what she saw happening, then her eyes widened fearfully as she looked at Jen’s feet to see the cracks getting wider and leaves and twigs falling into them. Desperately she lunged forward to catch her friend’s wrist but was just a second too late. The ground opened then the Earth swallowed Jennifer whole.
Jennifer felt herself sliding, letting go of her torch which bounced all around showing patches of a steep tunnel. She tried to slow down, scratching and clawing at the dirt which scratched her back so she continued to slide with flecks of dirts tumbling around her as well, and now her hands were stinging. She’d read that if you found yourself falling the best thing to do was relax your body, but did that apply to sliding too? She was about to find out as she glimpsed the end of the tunnel fast approaching. She hit the ground, bounced, then rolled over a few times as she faded out.
Then she was running through the deepest, darkest forest, shadows chasing her, lunging and clawing at her from the corners of her eyes. She avoided them and ran and ran, until her body ached and her lungs were bursting. There was end, no way out, and the wind whispered, told her it would hurt less if she just gave in and let them take her. A black fog descended, choking and burning her skin. She tripped, landing jaw first as before her the fog coalesced into the shape of a woman who seemed to be calling her name…
“Jen!” She heard, blinking to clear the fog and pain. Her hands stung, her head throbbed, but otherwise she was fine with the minor caveat that new she was stuck in a cave underground. “Jen Air!” She heard again from somewhere above. The voice sounded like it was pleading to her so despite the grogginess and pain in her joints as well she struggled to pull herself up and respond. The pain wasn’t too bad and looking around she saw that her torch had landed not far away undamaged so she crawled to it and shone back up the narrow tunnel she’d fallen down.
“I’m okay!” She called up.
“What happened?” Kaya called back.
It was a silly question Jen thought as she shook herself awake. They both saw what happened – she’d fallen down a hole. Why there was a hole there and why it had been covered she had no idea. “I don’t know,” she said, sweeping her torch around. All she saw was more dirt and rock and odd root. “I’m in a cave or maybe an old mine,” Irongate had originally been a mining town and there were many caves and man-dug tunnels in the hills that were abandoned now.
“Hold on!” Kaya called down.
Jennifer sat herself under the shaft and curled up, assuming that Kaya was going to find some adults to help. But how long would that take? How long would she be alone in this dank place? How long would the torch last and leave her surrounded by cold, black shadows. Maybe it would be best just to fall asleep and save both her and the flashlight’s energy, but what if she wasn’t alone down here? No, best to stay awake. She had her backpack and a few books in there she could read again. She had Kaya’s backpack as well as it just flew over her. A small trickle of dirt fell on her head, her blues eyes bulging as she realized in disbelief what was happening, scrambling to her feet and slightly to the side. “No!” She cried. “Wait! But it was too late. Kaya’s feet just missed her as she came out of the slide.
“Whee!” Kaya bounced and raised her arms in the air. “That was fun!”
Jennifer blinked in astonishment which quickly turned to barely contained outrage. “What are you doing?!” She demanded, her voice trembling.
“What d’ya mean?” Kaya got up and stretched like she was warming up for a race. “I’m here to help you get out of here.”
“Uh-huh,” Jen ‘s lower lip covered the upper as she pointed the torch beam from her friend to the shaft. “Suppose that’s the only way out?”
Kaya scrunched her face, putting a balled hand against her chin as she pondered the problem. Surely she could see that the tunnel was too steep and the sides too loose for them to climb out of. “Guess I didn’t think of that,” she admitted.
“You never think!” Jennifer let go of how annoyed she was, slapping Kaya repeatedly across her back and shoulders. Even more annoyingly Kaya seemed to just shrug off the assault before pushing Jennifer away.
“Hey!” Kaya snapped and crossed her arms. “I’m not the one who decided to go trampling through the woods on her own!”
Jennifer hung her head, taking a breath to settle herself and realizing that Kay did have a point.
“’Sides,” Kaya went on, “you’d just be sad and lonely without me. You’ll find a way out. You always do.”
Good to have a friend who wouldn’t abandon her, but honestly in the circumstances Jennifer would have preferred being lonely for a little while to the two of them starving down here. If they did have to eat each other then, face it, Kaya was going to win that fight as well. Jennifer sighed, supposing that just gave her incentive to find a way out before that happened. With her torchlight she had seen what could have been a passage leading somewhere. Now there was no choice but to explore and hope.
The passage was narrow in places – so narrow that even the young girls had a hard time squeezing through. They walked for about ten minutes, but had no idea how far they had actually gone due to obstacles like that and no visual cues to gauge their progress by. Jennifer, leading the way as she had the torch, did note that the passage had a slight downward slope, leading them deeper into the Earth, the opposite of the direction they wanted to be heading. Yet there was a light ahead. Maybe there were other people down here, miners or explorers or the like, or maybe the tunnel actually exited somewhere in the town itself. Kaya pointed out she’d heard that criminals sometimes used the caves around for smuggling, but there was no point in heading back so if there were smugglers hopefully they were the kind who would shoot cops and other smugglers but were above harming puppies or kids. The two picked up their pace, quickly breaking into a run as the broke out of the tunnel then, with a sharp intake of breath, they abruptly halted, bedazzled by what they saw.
“Yeah,” Kaya blinked, “that ain’t Irongate.”
It was a cavern, big enough that a small village could fit inside it if you cleared out all the mushrooms. That was the source of the luminescence – brightly glowing shrooms and toadstools in various hues of pink, blue and purple. A whole forest of them, some thin and tall, some short and wide enough to be a bed. Some were tiny but all were incandescent and not like anything the girls had seen in life. The two girls wrapped their fingers around each others, breathing in.
“Maybe the circle worked,” Kaya whispered, “maybe this is another world.”
Jennifer didn’t know. She didn’t know if this was the fairy realm, if she was still dreaming, or something else. She focused on what she did know, which was that any way out was ahead. She tensed herself and stepped forward. “It doesn’t matter,” she said, “we have to go through them.”
A steep slope lay before them, which they tackled the same way they tackled stairs when they were even younger, by bouncing down it on their butts until they arrived at the edge of the strange, effervescent forest. Kaya made it down first, yelping and swearing as she did. Jennifer hurried to her side to ask what was wrong.
“Nothing,” Kaya said although she was wincing, shaking her hand as if trying to flick something from it. “I just cut myself on this stupid stone.”
Ever prepared, Jennifer had plasters in her pack. She had to pull out The Hidden People to get at them, but Kaya was quickly patched up. She then turned her attention to the stone that had caused her friend grief. A small, slim, sharp slither roughly triangular in shape.
“An elf arrow,” she said. Those were talked about in the book as well – they fell from the sky and were used by the fairies to hunt. Sometimes they hunted people, the arrows not necessarily killing but could cause all kinds of sickness to those they struck.
Kaya was understandably concerned. “Isn’t that bad?”
“Maybe,” Jen nodded. “But the book says that if you wear one it protects you from evil magic. Here,” Jen smiled and handed the stone over. “You found it so you should be the one it keeps safe.”
Kaya grasped the stone, regarding it like an awesome, sacred object she’d been entrusted with. Then she said, “cool,” and Jen was happy that her friend was happy. Really, she thought it was just a stone.
They kept going, Jennifer fastening the straps of her backpack, but she kept the book out, flicking through the pages to compare the illustrations to the weird world surrounding them. The pictures were old, faded, some of them showing fairies playing around red and white toadstools none of which were as bright or curious as all this.
“Hey!” Kaya gasped and skipped ahead. “Look at that!”
Jennifer put the book down on a chair sized mushroom and hurried over. Kaya was leaning over another fungoid which Jen didn’t at first see as being any different from the thousands of others. Then something crawled over the top of it – a glittery spider made of glass and almost the size of their heads. It sat on the stool, reaching out with it’s pedipalps as if sensing the girls and they were as strange to it as it to them. Jen leaned in closer, only to be yanked back by Kaya.
“It might have poison,” Kaya warned. She was right, of course. Kaya sometimes did things without thinking, but Jen’s curiosity did sometimes got the better of her too and she needed to be pulled back. They had to watch each other. That’s why they were friends.
Jennifer went to retrieve the book but then another curious thing happened – another gust. Just like on the surface, but where could it have come from down here? She felt again that there was something calling or perhaps just toying with her, but what? She squeezed her eyebrows together, looking as hard as she could, but only the glowing mushrooms. It was frustrating but she did hear something. It was like the sound Hot-Air Balloons made when they passed over her home sometimes. And what made that sound was…
“Fire!” Kaya screamed. There were other passages leading out of this cavern, and from one of them white hot flames erupted melting all the mushrooms it touched. A short pause, then they shot out again, closer this time, seemingly intent on incinerating everything in the forest. Jen’s imagination pictured the kind of creature that could be doing this, but no amount of curiosity made her want to stay and find out. They had to get out, so they ran, Jennifer only pausing to retrieve the book, but, “it’s gone!” She gasped.
“What?!” Kaya yelled as more flames spat out, closer and closer.
“The book!” Jennifer urgently tried to explain. “I left it right there, but…”
“Forget about it!” Kaya insisted, grabbing Jen’s hand and dragging her until she started running too. They didn’t know where they were running – away was all that mattered. They hit the cavern wall but didn’t stop, just running along it hoping it would lead to another tunnel before the fire engulfed them. It seemed luck was on their side as they found a passage, but then screamed and fell back out, holding onto each other.
It wasn’t the creature Jennifer had imagined. They were men. Some of them could have been women – it was hard to tell because of the silver spacesuits they wore and the glare of the flamethrower held by the one in front that hadn’t erupted yet. A voice crackled from inside their helmets, “stop! There are kids here!”