The Otherworld [Rewritten] Chapter One (Full) | CC is greatly appreciated!
Posted August 9th, 2014 by CarabellaGrace
in my bedroom, trying to write.
A/N: Ok, so I already posted a couple excerpts but I thought I'd post the entire chapter. The ending of this is unedited and blah, so CC would be nice. :D
This is going to sound stereotypical. Stupid, even. And, besides, what’s the point? It’s not like anyone’s going to believe four skinny kids with no real home to speak of. And of course, our story is more insane than the people telling it. They’ll shelve this book under fantasy in the public library, but it’s true, okay? Every word.
My name is Ilsa Ward. I’m . . . well, I’m not your average sixteen-year-old. I don’t go to school, or worry about boys, or fret over what my hair looks like in the morning. No, I’ve got more on my mind than that. But before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you something. This story? It doesn’t just belong to me. I don’t own it. It’s Finn’s and Sophie’s and Jack’s too.
But someone needs to tell it. And I’ll be the one to start.
The pain woke me.
I half-fell out of bed, my entire body trembling. My room was spinning in wild circles around me like some crazed, nightmarish amusement park ride, and I wobbled before falling to my knees. My stomach twisted, and I heaved, but nothing came up. I knew from experience that, before long, something would, and I snapped my mouth shut to hold back bile.
Oh, please, God, not again.
I shut my eyes against the pain pulsing in my head, so intense it felt like little people were trying to drill holes in my skull. Let’s put it this way: if it were an Olympic sport, they’d be winning, and I, for one, wasn’t cheering them on.
I knew I had to hurry, so I ignored my swimming head and writhing stomach and got to my feet. I was dizzy and breathless and tense, my muscles tight and shaky, but I had done this before, and I could do it again.
I staggered forward, trying to be as silent as possible. The ringing in my ears, though, blocked off all other noise, and I wondered briefly if I was being as quiet as I wanted to be.
As quiet as I needed to be.
I shook my head, pushing away the thought, and opened my bedroom door. There were clouds of black spreading across my vision now, but I could still see the shadowy, familiar hall looming before me. I pressed one hand on the wall to steady myself and stumbled forward, working hard to keep my balance.
There were pictures on the walls—of me, of my sister, of our family—and, in the dark, their eyes seemed to follow me. I knew what they would say, if they could. You shouldn’t be doing this, they would whisper. Not without telling anyone. You could die. You could already be dying.
And, I thought grimly as I twisted the doorknob to the bathroom door, they would probably be right.
The pain in my gut was sharp and acute, like someone was sliding a knife through my skin. I winced and dragged myself to the toilet. The world was still swimming around me, nothing but a hazy blob, and pain washed over my entire body, again and again, beating me senseless. Liquid rose in my throat, horribly sour, and my mouth went dry—
I hunched over the toilet bowl and threw up the bowl of chicken noodle soup I’d had for dinner and the turkey sandwich that was my lunch.
And something else.
A wet and red and familiar something else.
I slammed the toilet seat shut, not caring about the noise it made for once. I flushed and watched my vomit disappear, wishing that all my problems could go swirling down the drain with it.
They wouldn’t, and I knew it. I bit my lip and stood up, my eyes catching their identical pair in the mirror as I did so. They were sunken and shadowed, and seemed so wide they took up half of my face. The color had been sucked out of my already pale skin, leaving it a horrible white-gray that made me look like a zombie.
I felt like one, too—half-dead most of the time, weighed down with my secret andthis. This neverending pain, the pain that pounded at my body all day long. The pain that spiked higher than ever at night, crushing me under its finger, threatening to kill me. The pain that faded when I heaved my own blood into the toilet, but never really went away.
I sighed and looked away from the gaunt girl in the mirror. I had hoped—hoped that this time would be different, that maybe nothing would happen. That maybe, just once, I wouldn’t be afraid to fall asleep. That I would wake up healthy and painless and normal.
But—then again—I hoped the same thing every time, and every time the same thing happened.
The first time, it had taken me by surprise. I hadn’t made it to the bathroom, hadn’t made it out of my room at all, and I’d vomited poppy-red onto my bedroom carpet. It had taken days to scrub out, days of not letting my parents into my room, days of sneaking the mop behind their backs, days of lying, lying, lying. And now, those days had transformed into weeks. Two, to be exact.
I couldn’t tell my parents. They’d been wrapped up in their own problems enough lately, it seemed—there were many whispered conversations behind closed doors, hushed arguments that came to a stop when I walked into the room. I wasn’t stupid. I knew it had something to do with me, even though I had no idea what that something was. My parents had never kept secrets from me before, at least not the kind that didn’t involve surprise birthday parties.
This time, I had a feeling that whatever they were hiding didn’t include confetti and a cake.
I laughed softly at the thought. I was one to talk. My secret didn’t, either. It was dark, it was wrong, it was something I shouldn’t be keeping from my parents.
But I was.
They couldn’t find out. Not now. Because if they did? I’d be whisked away to the hospital in the blink of an eye, and then doctors would poke and prod until they decided . . . what? That I would die? That I would live, live with the pain and the sickness and everything else? That they couldn’t fix whatever disease I had, and I would lie in bed for the rest of my life with my insides slowly rotting away, hovering on the precipice between life and death?
The truth was, I didn’t really want to know.
Stop, I chided myself.You’re probably making a big deal out of nothing.
Unconsciously, my gaze flicked to my reflection, and my heart sank when I saw the sallow girl staring back at me. There was something faded and pink-red rimming the corners of my mouth, something I hadn’t noticed before. Blood.
Telling myself that had worked, once upon a time. Now? I was pretty sure it was nothing but a lie.
I swallowed and looked away again, gritting my teeth as I grabbed a tissue from the box of Kleenex by the sink and wiped away the evidence. I flushed the toilet for good measure, clearing away any proof that I had ever been here. And I smiled at myself before I left, like nothing was wrong. Like I was fine. Like I didn’t have a dark, screwed up secret crawling under my skin all the time.
I snapped my eyes shut when I saw how thin and transparent it was. I couldn’t keep this up much longer.
I shook my head, as if that would get rid of the thought, and switched the light off before walking out of the bathroom. Shadows stretched along the walls, cutting away the dim light of the moon that had illuminated the pictures before. I was glad; I had enough problems on my plate without portraits scolding me, thank you very much.
Once in my bedroom, I flopped onto the bed and let cool, wintry air slip through the open window and over my feverish, sweaty skin. The headache still pressed burning hot fingers against the back of my eyes, and pain drummed in my body with every heartbeat.
I squeezed my eyes shut and let sleep pull itself over me, eclipsing everything but the darkness.
In the dream, I was running.
I sped past gnarled, twisted trees illuminated by a thin slice of moon hanging in the black sky, past a snaking, burbling little stream, past spiny branches that whipped and stung my face as I sprinted by. My heart was thudding, and I kept glancing back, the wind snapping my hair behind me.
I didn’t know what I was running from, but I knew that whatever it was scared the hell out of me. My hands were trembling, my mouth dry, electric fear shooting through my veins. I stumbled over rocks and roots and God knows what else, a scream building in the back of my throat. The moon was fading, slowly but surely, and the breath caught in the back of my throat.
I pushed through a patch of bushes, and the branches’ thorns scraped my skin, drawing blood that trickled in a red ribbon down my leg. I ignored it and kept running, even though my muscles screamed in agony, even though I could barely breathe for exertion.
I heard running water, and inexplicably I wheeled toward it, gasping for air. This wasn’t any stream—it was a river, a waterfall that foamed with white water. I sprinted toward it, my brain shouting no, and, without realizing what I was doing, without thinking at all, I jumped.
Water sprayed my skin as I fell in time with the waterfall, turning the blood onto my leg into a cherry-red stripe that was bright against my pale flesh, like a candy cane. I slammed into the water, hard, and the blood swirled off of my leg and into the water, making a scarlet tornado—
My lungs seized, and the watery world around me melted into something else. Rain. Rain, falling in gentle sheets from the sky. It splattered against my shoulders, dampening my hair. I looked around, my head spinning. I was standing in a paved, slippery driveway that led to a modest, two-story house. There was light glowing through the paned windows, and for some reason my heartbeat quickened at the sight.
I stepped forward, tempted to knock on the door and ask where I was and how I got here, but the man beat me to it.
He hobbled up the driveway, brushing past me like I wasn’t even there. He was limping, and there was silver paint seeping through the thin fabric of his pants. It was splashed everywhere, actually—dripping down his torn, dirtied shirt, smeared on his bare arms, streaked across the back of his dark head. And, even weirder, he was cradling something in his arms, something small, something that moved.
I bit my lip and hesitantly walked after him, suddenly curious. We reached the door, and I opened my mouth to ask him something, but the sharp rap of his knuckles against the wood cut me off.
I heard footsteps, and then the door swung open. A woman stood framed in the doorway, and the breath left my body in a whoosh.
It was my mother.
She was younger, her hair pure blonde instead of streaked with gray. There weren’t worry lines crinkling around her eyes, and she looked prettier. Happier. Brighter.
My mouth dropped open and I edged closer, toward her, my hand clearing the distance between us. “Mom,” I said, and she looked right past me.
Like I wasn’t there.
Like the man had done.
I swallowed and repeated it. When there was no response, I reached out and put my hand in my mother’s. My fingers slid through hers—she was solid, real—but she didn’t notice. She cocked her head and looked at the man.
“Can I help you?” she asked. I wanted to reply, to talk to her, but all the words died on my tongue. The man’s voice was bitter and weak when he replied. “Yes,” he said shortly, his dark, hollow eyes blazing.
My mom raised her eyebrows, and he smiled grimly, gesturing to the bundle in his arms. “It’s a girl. One year old. I can’t . . . I can’t take care of her.”
I let go of my mother’s hand and stepped forward to peer inside the bundle of thin, soaked blankets he was holding. There was a baby inside, a girl, a tiny, frail thing with wet skin and lips purple from the cold. She had a fuzz of downy black hair that stood up on her scalp, and her small body shivered even as she slept. I reached out, almost unconsciously, to touch her, and her eyes snapped open. They were a bright blue, like mine.
Exactly like mine.
Oh my God. I stepped backward, my breathing shallow. It was me, the baby wrapped in the soggy blankets. Me,thirteen years ago.
Shocked, I jerked my gaze from the baby to my mother’s face. Her expression was unreadable, her lips pinched and her eyes brimming with emotion—pity, maybe, or sadness. She shook her head tightly at the man. “I’m sorry. We’re not interested.” She moved to close the door, and the man stepped forward.
“Please,” he rasped. “Please.” He coughed, and something silver sprayed the pavement, the same silver as the liquid splattered on his clothes. Only this wasn’t paint—this was something that had come from inside of him, from his body.
Almost as if . . . almost as if it was blood.
I stumbled backward, slamming into my mom, but she didn’t do anything, didn’t even flinch. The man reached to his neck and pulled something out from underneath his shirt, something white and circular. It started to glow, piercing my eyes, and my mom clapped her hand over my shoulders and spun me around so I was facing her, away from his weird necklace, away from him.
“Ilsa,” she said, her eyes focused on me. “Ilsa, wake up.”
I sat bolt upright in bed, sucking in air through my mouth as if I’d been drowning and was starved for air. I was trembling and soaked with cold, clammy sweat, my legs tangled helplessly in the drenched sheets. I twisted my way out of them and shoved the damp blankets back, pressing my knees to my chest like a little girl afraid of the dark.
In this case, though, I was afraid of something else. I squeezed my eyes shut, and the dream came spinning back to me in sharp bursts: running and falling, the rain and the house, the man and my mother at the door, the baby peering up at me with eyes identical to my own—
I opened my eyes, and to my relief, the images faded away. My mind reeled with questions, spiraling in a thousand different directions at once. What did the dream mean? Was it some sort of twisted memory, or something produced completely by my imagination? And why, then, did it feel so vivid, so indescribably real?
It wasn’t real, though. It couldn’t be, because if it was, nothing made any sense. My parents had adopted me from a normal, sensible adoption agency, not from a mysterious man who’d limped up to their front door one day, bloody and nameless. A man whose veins ran silver and had a glowing necklace, a man who didn’t exist, nothing but a figment of my imagination.
Just like the rest of the dream.
I grit my teeth and slid off the bed, sick of my tumbling thoughts. A headache pounded a tribal beat behind my eyes and my entire body pulsed with pain. It was worse than usual, and for a second fear seeped cold into my heart like an icy fist. I shook it away as I shucked off my sweaty pajamas and pulled on a pair of sweatpants and an old T-shirt. Worrying wouldn’t help anything, not anymore.
I smoothed my snarled morning hair into a tangled ponytail and tried to rub the sleep out of my eyes. It didn’t exactly work—if anything, it made the headache worse. I sighed and let my hands drop to my side, giving up completely. The same thought that had crossed my mind last night came swimming back to me.
I can’t do this much longer.
I ran my tongue over my teeth, thinking. Maybe it was true. Maybe I was in over my head. Maybe it was time to tell my parents, to give up.
No. I couldn’t. Because as much as I tried to tell myself otherwise, I had gone too far, had kept up the lie for too long.
There was no turning back.
I swallowed and grabbed a tube of concealer from my bedside table, smearing it under my eyes to hide the purple-black crevices sinking there. I pinched my cheeks to bring color into them and brushed the thinnest layer possible of mascara onto my eyelashes. In the mirror, I looked prettier. More awake. More alive.
Nothing but another lie.
I turned away, my throat closing up. I could hear the clattering of dishes from outside my room, my parents murmuring and the TV chattering in the background. Normal sounds, ones I’d heard every day of my life, but now they unnerved me. They were an example of how drastically my life had spiraled out of my control, of how I might never get it back together again.
I ran a hand over my face, like that would erase everything, and walked out to the kitchen. The coffee machine was chugging away in the corner, the sound almost disappearing under the happy chirping of the Good Morning America anchor. My parents sat at the table eating cereal and toaster waffles—my dad was smiling, my mom laughing at some joke he’d told her. I stepped toward them, catching their attention, and the grins froze on their faces.
I flinched away from them, and my mom opened her mouth like she was going to say something, but she was silent. My dad turned his face toward his Raisin Bran, and I wondered briefly what I’d done wrong.
The question dried up in my mouth, and I turned around, ready to leave. My mom said my name, and I whipped around to face her. For some reason in that moment she looked younger, like the woman in the dream. “Are you going to eat something?” she asked, concern bleeding into her voice.
“Not hungry,” I said stiffly. It was true—seeing everything that I ate during the day regurgitated at night sort of took away my appetite—but the words tasted bitter. I turned around, suddenly anxious to get out of the kitchen, but she interrupted me.
“Are you okay?”
Sure. I’m perfectly fine, except for a couple of things. First of all, I had the weirdest nightmare last night, and I know it means something but I can’t figure out what. Oh, and I think I’m dying, but I can’t tell you because that would mean finding out what’s really happening to me. But other than that, Mom, yeah, I’m okay. Thanks for asking!
“Ilsa?” My mom’s voice brought me out of my thoughts with a jolt. “I’m fine,” I replied waspishly.
“Are you sure?”
I met her eyes for a half second before she clicked them away from me, toward the ground. And, just like that, I knew that she knew something was up, something was wrong. Obviously I wasn’t covering up my tracks as well as I thought I was.
“Positive,” I said, trying—and failing—to sound cheerful. I winced at how false it sounded, and my mother took my hand. I unconsciously recoiled at her touch, and she let go of my fingers. “Ilsa,” she said, and there was something like a warning in her voice.
“I’m fine,” I snapped, suddenly angry, and spun on my heel to walk out of the room. I couldn’t think straight; my thoughts were muddled, and the hallway swayed dangerously. I leaned against the wall and tried to catch my breath, but I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs. My chest rising and falling wildly, I was able to muster one thought through the dizziness washing over me in waves.
Oh, no. Oh, please, no.
Breathless and lightheaded, I inched my way towards my room, using the wall as support. I tried to be as quiet as possible—one slip-up and it was all over—but it was hard to focus on anything except the spinning world and my desperate need for oxygen. Fuzzy darkness was obscuring my vision. I was running out of time.
“Ilsa?” My mom. Oh, God.
“Yeah?” I tried to keep my tone light, but my voice wobbled. My legs shook, almost giving out, and my sweaty hand slipped down the wall.
“I . . .” I watched the details settle in her mind: my ashen skin, the breath rattling in my chest, the way I could barely stand up. She frowned, cocking her head. “Is something wrong?”
I shook my head and turned away from her. My stomach felt like I’d swallowed fire and it was devouring my insides, turning them to ash. My mom said my name, and it echoed tauntingly in my ears. I couldn’t breathe, could only think of getting away from her.
I stumbled down the hall and into my room, sitting with my back to the wall and trying to breathe. Pain was stabbing through my chest, shooting across my lungs and heart, and there was black spreading across my vision like an ink spill. I coughed, blood and vomit dripping down my chin. I wanted to reach up and wipe it away, wanted to stop my parents from barging into my room, wanted to tell them another lie: that it was okay, that I was okay. I wanted to say I was sorry, wanted to explain, but all I could do was gasp and choke helplessly.
I closed my eyes and let the darkness take me.
Copyright November Sparrow © 2014 :)
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