delirium- part 1, a short story by Gracifa. Date added: 2010-04-22. Times viewed: 491.
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An incandescent glow from the moon cast shadows about the wood, personifying trees and shrubbery, revealing smirking faces and clawed beasts huddled in dark corners. But they did not unnerve me; instead the trees of the wood closed in around protectively and offered comfort. A weightless energy guided me, dancing suggestively through the air, cascading in slow motion. Colours of every hue, it pulsated from one to another and shifted in and out of sight. The alien element was all around, drifting in strings of all different shapes and sizes as if mocking the laws of physics. If you tried to touch it, it would only materialise and bend out of reach.
I smiled to myself. The excitement of being chased had cleared my head. As I leant against a tree to catch my breath, I took a minute to feel the moss and wood mulch beneath my bare feet, how the midnight breeze ruffled my hair and nightshirt. I absorbed the tranquillity of being alone and listened to the sounds of the wood. It was quiet despite the odd disturbance of the wind and the far away call of my name. The strange element hummed softly to me, urging me on, it's pace becoming more insistent. I inhaled once more and followed.
As I picked up the pace, The Energy began a more erratic dance. The humming increased in volume the further I ran until all I could hear was the music of The Energy. My excitement quickly turned to alarm; The Energy was thickening the air until all I could see was a kaleidoscope of colour. Eventually I entered a small clearing and found the source of which the strange substance coalesced.
It spiralled into a core of the brightest pinks, purples and blues known to sight. Twice as I was tall, it hovered above the grass metres from where I stood. The sphere bore hundreds of limbs like veins and arteries, which snaked off of it swaying to its own melodic rhythm. The surrounding trees and grass appeared unaffected by the giant eye's presence, which gracefully swirled, sucking stray bits of energy into it. The humming reverberated in my mind and a smell similar to ozone pervaded my senses. It utterly compelled me, I wanted to touch it, to see if it would avoid my fingertips like the stray bits of element had.
Locked in a feeling of amazement, my pursuers and anxiety forgotten I hadn't realised that I was now an arm's length away from the sphere. The ever-swirling mass of electrical colour liquefied and cascaded in on itself, gently tugged on my clothing and I began to feel its pull, its own gravity taking me. For a split second I felt panic, then I was engulfed.
It felt like my insides had been liquefied; every atom of my body had separated only to be solidified again. For a moment I had no body, my soul ripped away only to be returned just as suddenly. I landed; I instantly curled into a ball clamping my eyes shut. My head hurt so intensely I screamed, I could not hear anything but my own pain. When the agony began to fade, motion sickness kicked in. I threw up. Huddled on the ground, my hands balled into fists, I stayed that way for some time.
When I thought it safe to open my eyes without being sick I noticed instantly that it was daylight. My breath caught as I looked up and saw colossal bands of Energy grasping the sky, caging the world. It twisted and intertwined emanating brilliant light that shifted every colour of the rainbow. I watched as the colour bathed the rest of the scenery. Then I noticed another strange fact, it was completely silent. It was unnerving, no breeze shuffled the trees and my pursuers shouts had ceased. Bewildered, I scrambled to my feet and gazed around me, a feeling of apprehension crawled up my spine. Where was I?
I started forward intending to explore further when a soft male voice from behind cut the silence like a knife, ‘Elva.' I jumped out of my skin and whirled around my heart thundering in my chest. My first thought was that my pursuers had caught up with me but then I saw the speaker. It was a centaur. His upper torso portrayed a handsome young man, dishevelled dark hair and a narrow face. Where his naval ended, the body of a stag began. My head spun as my brain struggled to absorb what my eyes were seeing.
‘Do not fret,' he breathed. ‘I am real, you are not mad.' His voice was soothing, and somehow I found myself calmed by it.
‘Where am I? Who are you?' I said. He smiled knowingly and came a little closer until I could make out tattoos and foreign markings on his skin.
‘You are in a place where anything is possible. You may call me Familiar. I know much about you Elva, I am here to help you.' His tone was reassuring.
I frowned, suspicious, ‘that's what they said, ‘"we're here to help".' I looked up to the sky again, ‘what is that Energy?'
A crease indented Familiar's brow, ‘I do not intend to deceive you, I am merely a guide.' He brightened, ‘however you will need me. The Energy you see is a living entity that makes up most of this dimension, it took you through a portal, to a place where Earth does not limit its power. Its logic is beyond human comprehension; we are in a world unlike your home. It does not abide by any rules. You will not understand its ways, the same as I, which is why I cannot enlighten you further nor can I tell you why you are here.' He paused and he seemed to listen to something I could not hear. ‘We must move on soon or Amantius will catch up.'
His explanation did not convince me. But I was stood talking to a centaur under an alien sky where wind, not even a breeze, existed. I certainly didn't have a better explanation that shed light on the situation. Just to make absolutely sure I wasn't dreaming, I dug my nails into my skin. I didn't wake up.
‘What about you? If I'm inside of an ‘Entity' then why are you here? How do you know all of that?' I asked, then added, ‘and who is Amantius?'
Familiar laughed; it rolled magnificently in the silence and he folded his arms. ‘You ask so many questions Elva. I suppose I am a part of The Entity. I take many different forms, depending on how I feel. I like this one, it matches the scenery.' His face grew serious and he reached out to touch my shoulder, ‘you must believe in me, I cannot control your impending future but I will try to help.' Suddenly what he was saying seemed urgent and I found myself nodding agreement, trusting his words. I felt his sincerity and his eyes regarded me like someone I once knew but could not place. ‘Amantius is an evil being that feeds off of The Entity. He will try to kill you. We must go.' He had a faraway look in his eyes, it made me anxious.
‘Why does he want me dead?' I asked. A feeling of unease prickled the back of my neck as I noticed a soft sound permeating the deathly silence. It was like a billion butterfly wings flapping incessantly, a fluttering that stirred feelings of dread in me. ‘What is that?' I looked at Familiar, his face was taut.
‘Amantius.' He whispered, a look of irritation briefly crossed his face then I was suddenly hoisted onto his back. Familiar did not hesitate; we charged through the wood. I looked back in time to see a writhing mass hurtling through the trees. The edges around the mass seemed to grey and distort as if it sucked out the Entity's vibrancy. Then I could not see anymore as we rode out of sight.
‘I must leave you now Elva, but I will return.' Before I could react I was thrown off Familiar's back and I was falling. I closed my eyes waiting for the impact and landed in ankle deep slush. When I opened my eyes I wasn't in the wood anymore, I was in a dank swamp. Hunching trees draped in vines encompassed me. A ladder hung suspended in the centre of the swamp, it stretched upward as far as I could see into thick, brooding, fuchsia clouds. Trepidation coiled inside of my gut as I got to my feet wiping muddy hands on my nightshirt. A feeling of déjà vu niggled at me and I suddenly wanted to escape, get out of this place and never look back, something terrible awaited me.
I sprinted as fast as the boggy water and Cypress roots would allow, toward the edge of the swamp where the trees grew closest together and the mossy roots of a large Red Maple offered dry footing. I climbed over the obstacle only to find myself looking into the same scene I had landed in. My stomach sank. Looking back I saw endless murky swamp and in front of me, the ladder marked the centre of the swamp, the only way out.
Before I could contemplate what organisms thrived in the water, I dashed right in, heading straight for the middle. The black water rippled as I waded through, waist deep. Eyes on the ladder, I tried not to think of the textures against the soles of my feet, and what brushed against my legs. My breath came out in sobs and eventually I couldn't help but look into the waters depths. Hundreds of dead fish floated to the surface, what felt like hair stroked my legs and twisted about my toes. Then I remembered.
I was 5, huddled under the stairs with Fane my older brother. He was rocking me as I cried quietly. Seth our step dad had come home drunk again and Mummy too had been drinking all night. Seth was the only father I knew as a child. Red wine stained Mummy's clothing and face; she stood before Seth swaying slightly. Seth got so angry when she drank even though he did too. He always wanted to control her. One of his friends had told him at the pub that Mummy had been out that day, meeting her best friend Nathan. He loathed it when she spoke to men, his jealousy made him mad.
Mummy did not deny what she had done that day when Seth accused her, ‘you can't control me! I'm allowed to see who I like! Why are you such a bastard Seth? Why treat me like you do? If I had the money to support the kids on my own I'd leave you!' Her words slurred and I knew by the way Seth stiffened she had gone too far.
‘You stupid whore,' he seethed. ‘If you hadn't been so gullible and easy at 16 you wouldn't have the little shits!' There was a crack as he struck her and she crumpled to the floor hitting her face on the coffee table on the way down.
I moaned in horror and Fane held me tighter. I wanted to help her but Seth scared me like nothing else, I still had bruises from the last time. I felt so helpless.
Seth leaned over Mummy and laughed at her groaning, weak form. ‘If we're so equal then I want to see you hit back.'
She tried to claw his face making sounds of despair as blood gushed from her mouth, but before she could do anything he heaved her to her feet by her hair and smashed her headfirst through the fish tank. Glass, water and blood exploded.
Raging, Seth disappeared, ignoring Fane and I under the stairs. I was unable to move as Fane rushed to mothers prone, bleeding form. He checked her breathing and sprinted to the phone. I could not stop staring at Mummy lying on the sodden carpet that glittered with broken glass. Her wet hair congealed with blood, her face a mess of crimson, swollen flesh. The goldfish lay sightlessly staring, opening and closing their mouths as if drowning in air.
Tears blurred my vision as I paddled desperately toward the ladder. The swamp around me was a fetid parody of the memory I had just relived. The water grew thicker and darker, it bubbled up making putrid slopping noises, releasing a foul stench of rotting fish and the metallic scent of blood. I was swimming in Mother's congealed blood. Her hair was grazing my bare skin, an unseen creature caressing its way up my nightdress to find my naked body. I heard a nauseating keening noise from a few strokes away, an oversized goldfish had popped its head out, its face human and mutilated. It gurgled and slurped through contorted orifices as if it were in anguish and held me responsible. Slowly, it swam towards me.
Hysterical terror welled up inside me and I desperately swam toward the ladder. I reached it just as the abomination did me. I cried out as I grabbed the metal rungs and heaved my weight upward, the creature had grown razor-sharp teeth and its mangled face had latched onto my leg sinking decayed teeth in. I shrieked, and kicked frantically. Using one hand to hold onto the ladder, I grabbed the caved in face and wrenched, not caring if my leg came with it as long as the thing released me. It did not relinquish, so I began to beat at its face as hard as I could, over and over. Bits of unidentifiable gore spat and sprayed me and eventually it died. Weeping uncontrollably, I pulled the rest of its body away, ignoring the burning pain and leaving a few teeth still imbedded in my flesh. I climbed the ladder and never looked back.
What felt like hours passed. I hung onto the ladder resting briefly; exhausted now the adrenalin had worn off. When I looked below I had to stem a feeling of vertigo, thick clouds appeared to bed the floor miles down, fluffy magenta cotton in every direction. The only sound that could be heard was my ragged gasps.
Away from immediate danger I thought of Familiar and what he had told me about The Entity, that only I would understand its ways. It had created a living nightmare that forced me to remember a painful memory. I shuddered; there were more to come. When I tried to recall what parts of my life The Entity could distort next, it was as if my mind shut down. I couldn't remember. All I could see was my Mother's unrecognisable face, trapped in the macabre memory. Was she even alive after what Seth did? What had happened after those awful moments? I was clueless; I couldn't even remember who had pursued me in the wood. All I could recall was that they intended to harm me. Like Amantius. Had coming through the portal caused some kind of amnesia? What did the Entity want? I cleared my head of questions; they could wait until later. I had to keep going.
More time passed and weariness set in. When I thought I could not go on any longer I suddenly saw an end to the ascent. Relief flooded me followed by a twinge of foreboding; above I saw a trap door in a ceiling of cotton-purple cloud. Sliding a latch, it swung down and I clambered into a glass pipe, narrow enough so that I could not fully stand. Inside, I saw an infinite labyrinth of glass pipes everywhere I looked. I glanced back the way I had come and the trapdoor had vanished. I broke out in a cold sweat and embarked on a crouched walk through the maze.
It wasn't long before a noise began to echo up through the aqueduct. I paused to listen; it was faint but distinct in the harsh silence. Fluctuating insect wings. Amantius had come for me. I bolted and the pipe unexpectedly narrowed to the point I had to crawl. I risked a look behind and saw through the bend I had just come. I felt as if I would vomit with fear as Amantius came closer, a writhing mass crawling disjointedly after me, its shape a perverted imitation of a human, its grey aura warped, feeding greedily off the surrounding colour. As I crawled desperately onward I could see that up ahead the pipe curved vertically down into a room that I could not see in to, it was not made of glass.
I clawed the floor like mad and just as I reached the chute I felt a tickling sensation on my thigh where my nightdress had ridden up. My head spun, a single moth the size of a mouse crawled up me. I wailed and batted it away. Amantius was so close; I suddenly realised that the writhing mass was made up of thousands of moths all squirming around him, the stray ones crawled all over the aqueduct walls. His movements were those of a broken and crippled body, his arms and legs bent at unnatural angles. I dived head first down the slide and I landed awkwardly in a room panelled with mirrors. Standing, I saw myself at every angle, each mirror portraying a receding corridor of my reflection. I saw my own face contort in horror as I realised it was a dead end. I looked back to see Amantius had made it half way down the chute. Then apparitions began to form in the mirrors, shadows that murmured something unintelligible to me, and I forgot myself.
Fane had phoned an ambulance, they said they would arrive soon. They told him to hide away somewhere just in case Seth came back.
He did come back. Terrified, I ran up stairs leaving Mummy with Fane, she was alive, she would be ok. I dived straight under Fane's bedcovers and closed my eyes wishing with all my heart that he would not come after me. I peeked out the top of the blankets and into the mirror that reflected the doorway.
I flinched as the door banged open. I watched through the mirror as Seth stormed in and grabbed me by the ankle and pulled me onto the floor. I started to scream as loud as I could, ‘Fane, help me Fane, Fane-'
Seth roughly choked off my words by grabbing me by the throat and suspending me in the air. He had gone insane; his eyes were inhuman and soulless, ‘you're just like your mum Elva. That's why you don't know your father; he left your mum because he couldn't stand the sight of her. He fucked her and left her. And when you were born he left you too. No one will love y-'
There was a sickening thud and Seth fell to the floor and released me. I gasped hungrily for air, Fane stood in the doorway with one of the large metal candle stands in his hand. I looked down at Seth; blood flowed from a deep wound at the back of his head. His dull eyes stared accusingly at me.
Fane dropped his weapon and held out his hand to me. I took it, unable to speak. There was a knock on the door; the paramedics had arrived to help Mummy.
They took her to hospital and a lady took us away, telling us we were to stay with a nice family for a while, just until Mummy was better. I didn't listen to most of what she said. I never even knew what happened to Seth, men came to talk to Fane about it but no one ever asked me anything. I didn't want to know either.
Once alone with Fane in our unfamiliar bedroom, I cried out as a large moth flew in through the window and aimlessly blundered around.
‘It's only a moth Elva, nothing to be scared of,' he chided. ‘We're safe now.' He captured the moth in his hands and let it go out the window.
I went to sleep that night feeling robbed of my innocence, I was too young to understand that at the time but I knew that now. My virtue was banished that night; the good in the world had diminished forever.
Only seconds had passed since being lost in my own memory; Amantius had just got to the opening of the chute. Before he could reach me I saw in the mirrors a simple doorway materialise out of nowhere and a scaly, green man seized me from behind and we fell backward into water.
The shock of cold water took my breath away. For a moment I didn't know which way was up or down. The water was pushing me this way and that, my strength waned and I couldn't find the energy to swim. Cold hands clamped me and abruptly pulled me the way that must have been up. Reaching the surface I inhaled raggedly, choking on salty water. My saviour kept me afloat a turbulent prismatic ocean; I was back under The Entity's sky.
‘Elva, you shouldn't make a habit of giving up on life,' Familiar's voice berated me like a child. Only now he had another form, I turned to see some kind of merman; his human features were the same as before except he now had scaled turquoise skin and blue dreaded hair. He had fins, webbed fingers and the broadest chest I'd ever seen. Feelings of loneliness and inner turmoil swept through me and I found myself overwhelmingly grateful of Familiar's presence.
‘You're safe now,' he said alleviating some of my inner and outer injury. I allowed myself to float, closing my eyes I rested just for a moment. I wondered if it was just a coincidence that The Entity had chosen an ocean setting, I love the sea.
‘So you're a merman this time,' I muttered.
He chuckled, ‘an Asrai actually, mermen are to what you'd call "cliché".'
I smiled, ‘I think Amantius symbolises the strangers in the wood. I think The Entity is trying to tell me something by helping me to remember. I can't even remember yesterday Familiar, coming through the portal has given me amnesia.'
I felt cold hands take me by the arms, ‘The Entity communicates in curious ways Elva, and always has reason that you will eventually understand. The Entity is not a malevolent being like Amantius; I believe its intentions are for the best. I think you will remember in time.' Without warning my feet touched sand, I opened my eyes to see that we had neared a shore. Tranquil waves lapped a white-sanded beach that stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions. Forestation and palm trees confined the beach. Familiar and I walked to dry land, I now noticed he did in fact have legs with large webbed toes and not a fish tail, I also couldn't help but notice he was naked. Embarrassed, I averted my eyes immediately.
‘You too, leave little to the imagination Elva,' he grinned eying my attire, which now revealed my underwear and was stained with hell knows what. I scowled in mock irritation.
We sat in the sand and I watched the colours of the sky sparkle on Familiars skin. ‘It was terrible you know. I thought I'd go insane before I escaped the nightmare.'
‘Your memory or what The Entity created?' he questioned.
‘How did you know about the memory?' I narrowed my eyes.
He looked me in the eye, ‘you told me you thought The Entity was helping you to remember your past. I assumed.' He looked away. ‘You forget I know the Entity more than most.'
‘Yes, you've said.' I sighed and examined my leg wound from the heinous goldfish; I was surprised, it looked worse than it felt. ‘I can't decide.'
Familiar didn't reply. Instead I asked, ‘has anyone human been here before?'
He nodded and his eyes had that far away look again. ‘Yes, many have been here, but you see what your eyes show you. Whose to say that someone else wouldn't see things a little differently?' He focused on me again and studied my wound. Without permission he laid a hand over it and there was a flash of light.
‘Ouch!' I shoved him away. Peering down I was astonished to see that all that remained was a pink scar. ‘How the hell did you do that?'
‘I did tell you anything's possible inside The Entity.' He regarded me with a peculiar expression close to affection.
‘Why do you look at me that way?'
‘What way?' It vanished. Perhaps I was delirious with exhaustion. I lent back and closed my eyes and let my mind drift, listening to the incessant lull of the waves.
When I awoke it was to find I had left the comfort of the beach. Leaning up I groaned out loud, I was sprawled on a hard floor in a room that resembled a science lab. For a fleeting moment I thought I was back on Earth in my old school classroom, but then I noticed with rising anxiety, the single window above. My old classroom had had conventional windows. It appeared to survey me from a craggy tunnel, issuing light into the room, projecting a gloomy atmosphere. Aberrant apparatus was scattered everywhere, tools and devices for unknown purposes littered the workbenches. Glass aquariums and cages containing unknown experiments cluttered the floor and any free space available.
It was clear I had to find a way up as the room offered no doorways or any means of escape. I was trembling with apprehension again; knowing something awful was going to happen was almost too much to endure. But I had to regain the missing pieces of my memory, I had to remember.
Finding courage I began a futile search for a way to reach the window above. I only managed to disturb myself further as I began to imagine how the nightmare might make use of the odd instruments. I discovered that this particular science lab offered a variety of critters that made my insides churn. I concluded that the only way I would reach the tunnel was if I constructed a make shift ladder. Commanding my brain to stop thinking, I set to work. I first constructed a base with the largest and more durable tanks and boxes on offer. I avoided the enclosures with flimsy lids and ones that contained anything that moved.
By the third layer I was running out of objects to stack, I had to start using some of the tanks and boxes that would probably break under my weight. Picking one at random, it appeared as though it inhabited some kind of giant millipede. As I bent over a crack of breaking glass sounded from behind. My pulse quickened and I pivoted to look. A small cage had shattered and something had scuttled out too fast for my eyes to follow. I looked around wildly for a weapon and snatched up a long metal rod. Another crack, this one coming from just behind me. A capsized, bloated millipede was outgrowing its cage at an alarming rate, it wriggled and convulsed grotesquely attempting to gain it's footing. In seconds it had grown as big as I. Crack. Another cage had broken; two scorpions had outgrown their prison and were jabbing their pincers threateningly. I neglected the millipede for too long, it had reared up behind me and came down on top of me. I blacked out.
I was an outcast in secondary school so I had no close friends. Instead I wrote a diary, telling it everything that I kept inside. No one understood me nor did I understand them. My classmates could not relate to me on any level, however they seldom bullied me. Fane's reputation contributed as he was well respected amongst everyone, especially the younger students. It bewildered me how he managed to fit in so well, yet he endured the same up bringing as I.
I had one acquaintance, sort of. His name was Kade. He never spoke to me when surrounded by his cronies, obviously for fear of being made fun of. We walked the same way home, so he'd occasionally walk with me and we'd talk about stupid stuff. It brought some joy to my day, although I would never admit that to anyone. Sometimes I thought him incredibly naïve, he knew nothing about life, but it was a pleasure to just talk rubbish with another human being. It would amuse me when he lectured me on being ‘too miserable' and that I should ‘just smile once in a while, it would do me good'. But he knew nothing of a past impossible to heal; he couldn't advise me how to rebuild 13 years of destroyed self-esteem.
One day out of the blue, he asked me to sit next to him in science, a lesson his girlfriend Carlyn did not share. I had faltered, unable to speak and by the looks of it, his friends were also lost for words.
‘Come on, sit,' he smiled broadly at me. His two friends, Evan and Lyle kicked him under the table. He ignored them and caught my eye with his, beaming encouragement.
I wasn't going to let two immature boys stop me, so I sat and paid no attention to their presence. Kade and I talked about the work and generally like we always did for some time. Evan eventually grew impatient and interrupted, ‘Carlyn won't like this when she finds out Kade.' He said smugly, folding his arms and giving me a dirty look. Lyle leered at me.
Kade rolled his eyes, ‘why does she even have to find out? Actually, do you know what? I don't care anymore.' My insides flipped at his words and the stirrings of admiration and something else welled up inside of me. I tried to staunch the glimmer of hope I felt, would he really be my friend regardless of what anyone thought?
Evan scowled, ‘well you should. We have a reputation to keep up you know.'
‘I really don't care, I've grown up.' Kade shot back, and was oblivious to their presence for the rest of the lesson.
I sat next to Kade from then on and nothing more was said for weeks. It also dawned on me that I had a crush on Kade, a pleasant feeling fluttered in my stomach whenever I saw him. Until someone told Carlyn. She ambushed me one day in the lane with her friend Jess.
Roughly grabbing me by the hair she pulled my head back, until her face looked down on mine. ‘I don't like you hanging about my boyfriend Elva,' she was livid, ‘stay away or I will hurt you.'
She didn't anticipate my fist coming. She released me and clasped her face, her nose bleeding. I regained composure, ‘perhaps you should ask Kade to stay away from me.' Jess did nothing to avenge her friend as I walked away. I knew this wasn't the last of it, but I thought Kade's friendship worth the trouble and besides, they'd give up antagonising me eventually.
I was wrong, Kade ended his relationship with Carlyn and naturally she blamed me. Thursday came and I took up my usual seat next to Kade feeling rather elated now that Carlyn was out of the picture, I also noticed Lyle and Evan had not yet arrived. I instantly detected his bad mood; he hadn't acknowledged my presence with his usual smile. Instead he stared fixedly down, frowning at his biro as if it required his full attention.
‘What's up with you?' I asked.
He didn't look up as he muttered, ‘nothing.'
‘Kade, I'm not stupid, is it the break up?' I inquired.
‘No, it's not that, I'm glad that's over with,' he shook his head then huffed a sigh. He hesitated as if he wanted to say something; eventually he settled for, ‘are you staying after school tonight?'
He was referring to my math revision class. ‘Yes why wouldn't I?'
Another sigh, ‘I think you should go straight home.' He fidgeted and continued his examination of the pen. ‘Carlyn is planning to get you after school.'
Rankled, I said, ‘so? She already did get me. I'm not afraid of her.'
‘Just go straight home tonight,' he stated, just as Evan and Lyle turned up. Kade's gloomy mood was contagious, we didn't speak for the remainder of the lesson and oddly enough neither did Lyle or Evan. As soon as we were dismissed from class I left, not bothering to say goodbye. I couldn't fathom why he had been so worked up but brushed it aside as I knew it wouldn't last.
Walking down the science corridor, finished for the evening I wasn't surprised when Carlyn stepped out behind a corner followed by Jess, Lyle and Evan. It was deserted; even the cleaners were nowhere to be seen. Unease pricked my spine but I dismissed it as I refused to give them the satisfaction of scaring me. As I attempted to walk past them, Carlyn pushed me back. ‘Bitch' she cursed. I tried again only this time Lyle unexpectedly stepped in and shoved me. I landed on my back. As I went to get up my face impacted on Carlyn's fist, I saw stars. I crumpled to the floor, my nose spewing blood. They all guffawed.
‘You think you can hit me and get away with it? Your nothing Elva, Kade wouldn't touch you even if you paid him.' Someone harshly ripped my backpack away. I couldn't see who, my eyes were blinded by tears and the agony kept me paralysed.
‘Let's see what we have here then-' Evan's voice.
‘She keeps a diary! I bet it's in here.' Jess.
I struggled up, horrified. ‘No, give it back! It's private!'
‘Get back on the floor,' Lyle kicked me in the stomach and I couldn't breathe. He had winded me and for a moment I thought I would suffocate.
‘Not anymore,' I heard Carlyn distantly. Finally I inhaled, and they began to read my diary, ‘I knew it!' she shrieked, ‘"I like him, I think now that Carlyn is out of the picture I can finally ask him out, its just how." Blah blah, Elva you are so pathetic...' They were all hysterical with laughter, reading my inner most secrets and thoughts and I could do nothing to stop them. I felt so utterly degraded right then it almost eliminated the physical pain. I fazed out, lost in my own mortification.
They hadn't finished with me, Lyle hauled me to my feet and suddenly I felt terror just as I had when Seth had similarly grasped me years ago.
‘I'll lock her in now,' Lyle told the others, but they were far too interested in my diary to hear. I suspected I had a broken my nose and ribs as pain took my breath away. I was dragged into one of the science storage rooms. Pushing the door closed behind him, Lyle pinned me up against the wall, pressing his body against mine and leering into my face. Another kind of sickening dread overwhelmed me as I realised what he was thinking, I panicked but he held me fast.
‘Don't! Please,' I begged, recoiling from him. I couldn't look; I felt his hot breath on my neck as he placed a hand over my mouth and groped my chest. I tried to plead but to no avail. He chuckled, savouring the moment, running his hands all over me. I wanted to vomit.
Lyle threw me down, ‘you enjoyed it you sick bitch. Look at you, you're a mess.'
He left; there was click as the door locked behind him. I lay there for what felt like hours in the dark, immobilised, unable to find the strength or courage to move. I felt raped of my dignity and I wanted to die. I wished the ground would open up and take me so I would not feel any longer.
I awoke to find that my body ached. It hadn't been a horrible nightmare after all. I groaned aloud as a fresh wave of pain seized me. Climbing to my feet I had no concept of time, only that it was still pitch-black. I waited until my eyes adjusted, but only then could I make out faint outlines. I knew which room I was in. Nicknamed the ‘Insectorum', the school kept a few exotic creepy crawlies for study. I forced myself up, wincing. I felt emotionally drained, numbed of feeling as if I were dead after all. Although I knew it was pointless I tried the door anyway, and the one that adjoined the classroom, both were locked. There were no windows, apart from the ones in the doors. I called fruitlessly for help. No one came for me.
Giving up I turned to one of the glass tanks and peered inside, I could faintly make out a squirming millipede, my least favourite of the creatures. I thought of Kade and his behaviour earlier that day. He had known exactly what his ‘friends' intentions had been and all he had done was warn me.
Still reeling from my flashback, it was as if time had slowed itself momentarily. With no time to even think, the millipede was on me. My hands instinctively wrestled its top half away as it came down to my face hissing and spitting a foul smelling liquid that made me gag. Petrified I couldn't look anywhere else but its circular gaping mouth, which bared tiny razor teeth. A hundred stubby legs pinned and probed me. Remembering the weapon I had dropped, I risked using one hand to hold the millipede as I felt the area beside me with the other. My hand met cold metal and I didn't pause to drive it through the millipede's head. It squealed, yellowy-brown goop slopped all over me, I pushed it away as it died and took a defensive stance wielding my pole like a sword.
The scorpions had advanced; I jabbed with my metal rod forcing them to keep their distance. Their stingers dripped poison and they made clicking noises as if tasting me from a distance. The one on the left threw itself at me and out of sheer luck, my weapon connected. It flew across a bench taking various objects with it. The second used a different tactic and attempted to trip me with its pincers, it succeeded and I stumbled into one of the benches. I precariously dodged a swipe from its stinger; taking advantage of its momentum when it had missed I skewered it savagely. I released a shuddering yell, satisfied that I had killed it. I used my foot to pull the pole out of the corpse and found that scorpion one had recovered but seemed to be hindered by a broken pincer. I screamed and brought my pole down on it with all my might, it was too slow to evade and the metal crushed it with a final crunch. It wriggled and twitched before going still.
I was quaking with physical exertion; I was astonished that I hadn't just collapsed with the pressure of everything that had just happened. Somehow my body had taken over, saving me from my own mind. Still light-headed with adrenalin, I was able to function enough to carry one final tank for the fourth layer. Clumsily, I climbed my construction, praying that the other creatures that lived would stay hidden, afraid that their fates would be similar to the others.
Now high enough that nearly half of my body was inside the shaft to safety, the uneven sizes of my makeshift ladder caused me to wobble perilously. Careful not to make any sudden movements, I examined the stability of the jutting rock texture. I found my desired handholds just as something flew so fast up my nightdress I bucked unexpectedly. My fourth and third layer crashed to floor and I hung suspended with something crawling all over my bare skin. Lyle's face flashed into my mind and bile rose in my throat. With all my remaining energy I wildly scrabbled for a foothold. I found one and heaved; now upright I reached one hand underneath my clothing and caught the unwelcome creature.
I clasped an oversized orange wolf spider. I flinched; it let out a screech that left an after ring in my ears. Its stubby legs wriggled frenziedly, I shuddered and drove it into the wall. I wiped its liquids on my nightdress and allowed myself to sob with relief. All I had to do was climb. But then what? I wasn't free. How long would I have to endure these nightmares until The Entity finally made its point? Another wave of anxiety churned my guts, would I even survive the next one? Would I ever get home?
I didn't have any answers, so I put all speculation of my future aside. My ascent was slow and exhausting, the window seemed to get further away and I soon realised the tunnel was stretching longer the more I climbed. The window seemed to stay at the same unobtainable distance even when the room below disappeared out of sight. The shaft narrowed and it became more difficult to find footing. Soon it was so narrow I could press my back against one side, my feet the opposite and shimmy my way up.
Certain now that the window had gotten slightly closer, I quickened my pace. Then I smelt the smoke, it was faint at first but I was soon choking on thick black smog. I panicked when I felt warmth down below. I began to sweat heavily as the temperature rose; flames licked their way up behind me. What felt like an eternity passed by the time I neared the window, the backs of my legs were red raw and I knew I was either going to suffocate or be cooked alive. Suddenly my hands met a sticky melted substance. In fact, it covered my entire back. My hair clung to it and I slipped an inch downward. Bringing a hand up to examine, I found that it was black and had the pungent stench of burning flesh. An awful gut wrenching feeling apprehended me as I took a closer look at the opposite wall. A mural of human corpses stacked one on top the other burning and melting, their faces sagging revoltingly.
I was found early that morning by one of the teachers. He demanded I go and report the incident to the headmistress but I went straight home instead. It turns out that Carlyn had used my phone to call my mother to say I was sleeping out, that's why no one had grown worried of my absence. I didn't attend school for a week, I couldn't face it. To begin with I could not repeat what had happened to me, not even to Fane. I dwelled in my own misery, building an unquenchable hatred toward all those who had been there that day. I felt the stab of betrayal, Kade could have prevented it but he had let it happen. He never even checked to see if I was ok.
I knew what awaited my return to school; I had lost the ability to care. I was an empty shell, devoid of thought. Teachers had phoned my Mum asking what had happened to me the morning I was found. My injuries had been noted so I wasn't about to get away without telling anyone. It was difficult enough getting Fane and Mum off my back. So I had to sit and tell a number of people why I was found beaten in the Insectorium.
I didn't hesitate to tell them who it was. I named them and gave a brief description of what had happened, omitting the part where Lyle had groped me. Luckily I did not have to face Carlyn, Evan or Lyle on my day back, they were all suspended. It wasn't enough for me, I wanted real revenge.
Obviously details from my diary had spread. People whispered and giggled behind my back, I didn't even flinch, just pretended I hadn't heard and moved on. When I first encountered Kade after the incident he couldn't even look me in the eye when I approached him.
‘You bastard,' I said through clenched teeth, the most emotion I had released since the night. ‘You knew, you knew!'
His eyes were on the floor and he said under his breath, ‘I warned you...' he trailed off unable to find excuses for his actions, or his lack of action. ‘I'm sorry.'
‘You don't even have an excuse. Don't apologise, you're just as bad as them,' I spat. He didn't reply and we never spoke again.
One night Fane came into my room and sat down without a word.
‘Are you going to tell me what happened yet?' He asked for the hundredth time. He smelled faintly of alcohol and was genuinely concerned for me.
I sighed. It was about time I told Fane the whole truth, it had been kept inside for too long. By the time I had finished I was crying, Fane rocked me like a child. He listened the whole way through, his face darkening when I timidly explained what Lyle had done. I knew he would hurt Lyle and probably Evan and that gave me some comfort. I also acknowledged the pointlessness of revenge, it wouldn't change anything but it indulged the need to make them suffer.
A few days later I had concocted a plan, one that fed my hunger for retribution. It was simple but required a little patience and luck. I was going to sneak into Carlyn's house, search through her possessions for something humiliating. I observed her house after school for a week, waiting for the right opportunity. I knew Carlyn didn't have any siblings; she only lived with her parents. I was hidden in the bush in her front garden one evening when Carlyn left with one of her friends, talking about going to some party. Her parents followed soon after, bickering about who got to drive. My good fortune continued when I found the spare key still under the plant pot.
Slipping into the house about 15 minutes after everyone had departed I found Carlyn's room easily. Stirrings of adrenalin bubbled in my chest, it seemed as though it had been years since I had last felt human. The stupid girl had left a lit candle on the desk, near the windowsill. Her room consisted of the typical thirteen-year-old girl paraphernalia and I searched amongst it and found my own belongings hidden in her wardrobe. Reclaiming them, I resumed my hunt for a diary or anything remotely private. I almost laughed aloud when I found it under her pillow, a place I had disregarded at first because of its obviousness. Flicking through briefly I smiled with satisfaction.
I hate her, she's got me got me in so much trouble... think me and Kade are going to give it another shot... A car pulled up outside and I wrenched open the curtains to see. I froze, her parents had pulled up. It had only been minutes! My heart rate picked up, they were getting out and seemed to be arguing. The acrid scent of burning fabric filled my nostrils, horrified I saw I had set the curtain alight and it was spreading too quickly for me to react. What was I meant to do?
Looking out the window her parents still argued over the roof of the car. Indecisive I did the first thing that came to mind and ran away like a coward. I knew it was wrong of me but I felt numb, I couldn't conjure up the emotions to care. I wanted bad things to happen to Carlyn; her house burning down was just a bonus. But it got worse. I woke the next morning to hear that most of her house had perished and Carlyn had been hospitalised with serious third degree burns. My heart sunk; she couldn't have, she had been out, I made sure of it. Then I realised it was possible for her to have been in one of the other rooms the whole time. She must have gone through the back door and I never saw her. I found out later that she had fallen out with her friend and had gone home that day, shortly after her departure.
It was denounced an accident, but the truth was I had done it. I was a criminal, I had ruined Carlyn's whole life, fatally scarring her forever with my petty revenge. I still had her diary, a reminder of my guilt and shame that I could never share with anyone. Not even Fane.
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