Friday, February 20, 2015

Chapter 8

The morning sunrise was a deep shade of red as Sadie and Ephraim made their way through the forest. Sadie was exhausted. All night she dreamed of her sister, covered with bruises and scars just like her. She could only hope they were just dreams.

They came to a small pond and decided to take a small break. Sadie kneeled down and cupped the cool water into her hands. Before the water could touch her lips, Ephraim swooped down and slapped her arm down.
"What was that for?" She inquired.
Ephraim pointed a finger toward the middle of the pond. Sadie looked and saw nothing but the rippled surface. She gave Ephraim a look of confusion. He rolled his eyes and pulled her to her feet. Sadie now saw, below the surface, floated a dead raccoon.
"Oh..." She murmured.
Ephraim held his hand up, telling Sadie to stay put. He walked over to a bright green shrub and plucked a few buds from it.
"What's that?"
He handed one to Sadie. He took his knife out and sliced another one in half. He squeezed it gently and a few drops of water fell from the pod. Sadie cautiously took a bite. The bud was surprisingly sweet and full of water. Sadie took a seat by the pond and scanned the scenery. This part of the forest looked very different from Sadie's area. The canopy was low and there was hardly any sunlight. The trees were so close together, the trunks resembled prison bars. It was definitely a gloomy place. Ephraim approached Sadie and offered his hand, indicating it was time to continue.

At last, they arrived at the house. It never looked worse. One of the windows was completely gone. Sadie could see a gaping hole on the roof right over Jill's bedroom. She felt even more terrible about leaving her sister behind. The poor girl had probably been freezing the last few nights.
"The wagon's gone. Now's our chance."
They quickly made their way to the front porch, keeping their eye on the dirt road. Sadie slowly peeked in through the busted window. The inside of the house was more horrid than the outside. Broken glass created a walking obstacle course. The stench of burnt food and alcohol was nauseating. Sadie entered, with Ephraim following close behind.
"Jill?..." She whispered. "Jill, are you here?"
She tip-toed her way to Jill's room. Sadie gently pushed the door open and found her little sister lying on her bed motionless and turned away from the door. Sadie's heart felt relieved, but then terror struck. Was she alive?
"Jill? It's me, it's Sadie!"
Jill's little head turned around, her eyes were half-shut and exasperated. They soon widened with surprise and filled with tears.
Sadie ran to her sister and hugged her as tight as she could.
"Are you alright?" She asked as she wiped her sister's teary face. "Are you hurt?"
"I'm fine. I just missed you." Jill looked over to Ephraim standing in the doorway. "Who's he?" She pointed.
"That's Ephraim. He's a friend. He lives in the forest."
He politely waved.
"He helped me find the house again. I've come back to take you...." Sadie stopped when her eyes caught something.
"Take me where?" Jill asked.
Sadie moved behind her sister to the pillow at the head of the bed. Behind the pillow, Sadie pulled out a small minty green dress. The dress was made by Sadie and Jill's mother. Sadie remembered wearing it when she was young and had it passed down to her sister. It had been well used, so it was always covered with dirt. However, the dress now bore a deep red blood stain right on the front.
"Jill....what happened?" Sadie's tone dropped. She feared the worst.
"I fell off a tree...." Jill mumbled.
"Don't you dare lie to me." 
"I fell off a tree and cut my arm."
Sadie held the garment up. Her emotions were running out of control.
"Jill, what did he do to you?"
"Daddy didn't do it!" Jill cried with fright.
"Didn't do what, Jill? I know you didn't fall out of a tree because you're scared to climb, now what did he do!?"
"He was drunk!" Jill screamed and fell to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. "It was more.... more drunk.... he grabbed me....and..."
Sadie knelt down and cradled her sister in her arms. Ephraim turned his head away is disgust.
"I wanna die." Jill sobbed.
"No, Jill. Don't you ever say that. You know I'll never let you die before me. Ever."
Suddenly, Ephraim started snapping his fingers rapidly. Sadie looked up. Ephraim looked very anxious. He started pointing toward the front door. A whinny came from outside the house.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chapter 7

Sadie emerged from the hole in a tired heap, but her search was over. Ephraim sat hunched over his pile of worn papers, just as she saw him before.
"Ephraim..." She breathed as she struggled to her feet.
Ephraim quickly turned his startled head. The candle lighted next to him helped Sadie to see his face. And his eyes. Those pure, beautiful eyes of ocean blue that Sadie longed to see again. They looked weary from lack of sleep, but elated and relieved.
"Ephraim, I..."
Sadie began but could not finish, for Ephraim had swiftly made his way toward her and gently placed his hand on her lips. His hands were warm, but firm. Sadie's skin tingled at the interaction. He slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out a long damp rag, never taking his eyes off Sadie. He brought the cloth up to her brow. Sadie cringed when he made contact with her wound, but he then gave her a small reassuring smirk out of the corner of his lips. She returned it as he continued to clean her wound.
"So you're the one who found me?" She inquired.
He nodded.
"Have you been here the whole time?"
Another nod.
"I'm glad I found you. I wanted to apologize for ruining your picture the first time we met. I should have been more careful and kept my mouth shut. I had no right to come over and..."
Ephraim's hand covered her lips once more. His smirk returned as well, but it was much bigger this time.  Sadie couldn't help but smile back. Her eyes then left his smile and went to his. That was a mistake. Sadie couldn't look away. It also seemed he couldn't either. He immediately turned away and walked to the edge of the cliff. Sadie felt embarrassed. Ephraim raised his hand and motioned her to come over. She did as she was told and looked out over the cliff. They were at least two stories high, with nothing between them and the cave floor. Sadie felt like a hawk nested in a mountain. She could see everything. Felix was cleaning off a weapon and Dune was sitting near the fire pit, rubbing his hands together. She even saw that Bree had returned.
"Can you tell me about where you all come from? Bree seemed awfully touchy about the subject."
Ephraim nodded his head and made his way over to a small corner of his hideout. He pulled out yet another huge pile of papers and searched through them until he found the three he was looking for and presented them to Sadie. She read each of the titles at the top of the pages.
Bree Arnold
Dune Collins
Felix Henry
"Are these the background stories of their lives?"
Ephraim nodded. Sadie took a seat next to the candle to begin her reading. She started with Felix. He seemed to have a wonderful life, with a mother, father, and two younger sisters. They lived in a town that was thriving and productive, growing in size every year. Everyone knew each other and they all worked together. Felix and his sisters went to school, something Sadie always wanted to do. She could tell that Felix loved it. He someday wanted to be a doctor and be able to give back to his community. The town's physician even allowed him to observe some procedures.

One day, a terrible storm passed over the town. The tornado was fierce and violent. Felix, his sisters, and the other school children were gathered together in the cellar of the school house. Their teacher attempted to go on with the lesson, but it was no use. Children were screaming and crying, begging for their parents.

When the storm finally passed, the children emerged from the cellar and found themselves in a completely different world. Everything was gone. Every building, every tree, and even the school were nothing but piles of rock and debris. The clouds hung gray and sad over the area. It was gone, all gone. The children quickly split up and fled to where their homes used to be and began digging, searching for their families. The silence of shock soon turned into horrific cries of anguish.

Felix too found his house as a pile of rubble. He searched and searched, turning over rock after rock while his sisters watched from afar. With his hands cut, bruised and bloody, he flipped one final brick and found his mother's face gasping for air.
"Mom! Mom, hold on. I'm getting you out of here!" He cried.
"Felix..." She whispered.
"Just hold on a little longer. Please, Mom..."
"Keep them safe..." And with that, her final breath escaped her body.
Felix let out a cry of agony. His tears fell from his hot cheeks and onto his mother's bloodied face. He turned to his sisters, who were kneeling in the dirt sobbing. Felix rose to his feet and let out one final scream of anger and kicked a stone, which stubbed his toe and caused his to cry out more. He then saw something that made his heart sink. Under the stone he kicked lay his mother's hand clutching his father's.

Sadie turned away, not being able to continue.
"How awful... they just...lost everything."
  Ephraim lowered his eyes in remorse.
"What happened to his sisters?"
Ephraim took his finger and dragged it across his neck, indicating that they were gone.
"How old were they?"
Ephraim held up the numbers seven and two.
"So young," Sadie replied. " I don't know what I would do if Jill were taken from me."
Sadie's eyes suddenly widened as she remembered her sister. It had been at least three days since she had run away from home. She couldn't imagine how her poor little sister was feeling, being all alone with Warren.
"I have to go back. Now!" She exclaimed.
Ephraim gave her a look of confusion. She pushed him aside and headed back down the tunnel. She was almost out of sight before Ephraim grabbed her arm and tried to pull her back up.
"Let me go!" She cried. "I  have to go back. Back to the house!"
She shook herself out of his grip and shuffled her way out of the tunnel. Once she was out, she raced for the opening, of the cave.
"Sadie, where are you.... Sadie, stop!" She heard Bree cry. 
She didn't notice Felix and Dune running up behind her and before she knew it, she was back on the ground. They brought her to her feet and held her firmly. Even though Sadie was at least one foot taller than both of them, their grip was stronger than chains.
"Let me go!" She continued to scream.
"I've had just about enough of you!" Bree yelled. "Listen, the sun's almost down. Absolutely no one goes into the forest at night. That especially includes you."
" sister."
"You have a sister?" Felix inquired.
"Yes, she's still at the house. I need to get her out of there before something terrible happens."
"Well, your sister's gonna have to wait until morning." Bree replied.
And with that, he walked over to the cave opening and pulled a large vine hanging next to it, which brought a giant curtain of woven vines, sticks, and moss down to cover it up. Felix and Dune released their hold on Sadie and went about their business without saying a word. Sadie felt a strong hand rest on her shoulder. She turned to see Ephraim giving her a look of reassurance.
"You'll take me tomorrow, won't you?"
He nodded affirmatively.
"Thank you."
His little grin appeared again.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chapter 6

 "Where is he?"
"He's not here." said Bree.
Before another word could be spoken, Sadie was off and running again.
 "Hey, wait a minute! Stop!"
Bree couldn't believe how fast Sadie was up and out of the cave, especially after being unconscious. He was quick to give chase.
"Sadie! Where are you going? You're not strong enough to be out here on your own!"
Sadie wouldn't hear any of it. Sure, she was exhausted and her head was pounding, but she couldn't stop. He found her. He found her and saved her.

Suddenly, Sadie found herself face-to-face with the ground. Bree immediately followed on top of her, grasping her wrists and pulling them behind her back.
"Get off me!" Sadie screamed.
"You shut up and calm down!" Bree retaliated. 
Sadie continued the struggle until she had no strength left and her body went limp. Bree loosened his grip and helped her to her feet.
"Look, I don't know who you are or what you're going through, but I do know that you need help. You can't go through life alone. Sooner or later, something may happen, and no one will be there when it does."
When they returned to the cave, the boys were all huddled around the fire, roasting a skinned raccoon. They kept quiet, with solemn looks on their faces, and didn't dare make any eye contact with Sadie. The silence drove Sadie crazy as she fidgeted with a small twig.
"So..... where do you all come from?" she asked.
"We come from almost everywhere." Dune replied.
"Dune." Bree interrupted. "Don't bother."
"She deserves some answers, Bree." Felix piped in. "I'm from a town about 20 miles from here. Although, it's more of a ghost town now."
"Believe it or not, I was once living in a high-class mansion." Dune added.
"And what about you, Bree?" Sadie questioned.
"I've never really been from anywhere." He replied solemnly.
"How did you all find each other?" She continued.
"It was all purely coincidental." said Felix. "We all just.... became one."
"Well, isn't there a reason you're all in a cave in the middle of the forest? I just don't.."
"Alright!" Bree suddenly yelled. Everyone was startled by his sudden outburst.
"What? Was it something I..." Sadie inquired.
"Just stop. We don't need to tell you anything." Bree got up and grabbed a small knife under a stone. "You don't need to know anything about us!" He stormed out of the cave.
The cave fell silent once more as Dune and Felix hung there heads. Sadie had  never felt more confused in her life. All of a sudden, a flash of white caught the corner of her eye. Sadie turned and saw a paper floating down to the cave floor. Dune saw it too and quickly caught it before Sadie had a chance to move.
"Where is he? Where's Ephraim?" She asked in a frenzy.
Dune said nothing. He merely pointed his finger up to the top of the cave.
"What? Where is he? I need to know!" She turned to Felix, but he remained silent.
"Dune, give me the paper. Please..."
And with that, Dune disappeared into the darkness of the cave.
"Come back here!" Sadie cried as she gave chase.
The deeper into the cave they went, the harder it became to see. Finally it was pitch black. All Sadie had to go by was the pitter-patter of Dune's feet. Sadie had no idea how Dune was getting through the cave so swiftly. She was getting bashed and banged all over the place. She soon decided to walk along the wall, placing her hands on the rough surface. As she continued her way down, deeper and deeper, she felt a warm liquid trickling down her face. Blood, she figured, from ramming into the wall, but she paid no attention to it. She needed that paper.

Without warning, the wall vanished. Sadie soon discovered that the wall wasn't gone, there was a hole in it. Still unable to see, Sadie felt around and realized that it was a tunnel. Without a second thought, she squeezed herself into the small opening and continued her search. That little scamp had to have gone in here.

After crawling for quite some time, the tunnel abruptly stopped. Sadie stumbled up and worried she was at a dead end. She then saw a dim light shining from above. She felt against the wall and discovered small crevices leading up to the light, almost like a ladder. Slowly, she began to climb. 


Monday, February 2, 2015

Chapter 5

Sadie's lungs were burning like a wildfire. She didn't know how long she had run, but it was too long. Her knees shook with fatigue. Her whole body ached and was drenched with sweat. Every direction she looked, she couldn't find a clear path out of the forest. Everything began to look blurry. At last, Sadie gave into her exhaustion and collapsed on the ground.

After a while, Sadie finally woke again. She squinted into the afternoon sun as she struggled to her feet. Sadie turned to her left and saw a bright sliver path leading out of the woods. Before she could take her first step, she heard a popping and crackling noise behind her. Sadie promptly turned around and gazed at the giant inferno consuming the forest. Sadie turned to run, but her eye caught a small pond a few yards away. Next to the pond was an old metal bucket. Without thinking, she grabbed the pail, filled it to the brim, and ran back to the fire. She threw the pail forward with all her might, but nothing came out. When she looked into the bucket, it was still full of murky pond water. A flare of ash cause Sadie to stagger backwards. Through the flames, she saw a dark figure standing in the middle of the blaze. Sadie focused her vision and saw her mother, severely burned and staring at her with lifeless eyes. Sadie screamed in horror as she was consumed by the flames, her skin being eaten alive by the fire...

Sadie shot up from her nightmare, still screaming. Her breathing became fast and labored. Her skin broke out in a cold sweat. Her whole body began to shiver with anxiety. She was too petrified to cry. The words of her stepfather replayed in her mind over and over. It should have been you. It should have been you. It should have been you...

Thud. Sadie silenced the voices in her head to focus on the noise she heard. It wasn't until now that she realized she wasn't in the forest anymore. She was in a cave. A rather large cave, in fact. Everything from the floor to the ceiling was complete rock. There was a small trickle of a waterfall splashing into a narrow creek. The walls were as high as the trees, maybe higher. There were five small crevices in one wall, each holding small tools, weapons, or any other supplies. Someone, or something, lived here.

Two more thuds. They were getting closer and closer. Sadie was still too weak to move and hide. Sadie braced herself for whatever was coming her way.

Out of a tiny hole in another wall popped a little boy, possibly seven or eight years old. He was covered with dust from head to toe. He carried a small rusty hatchet in his right hand, a limp squirrel in the left. He stared at Sadie with a look of curiosity, which she gave him in return.
"Where am I?" She cautiously asked.
The boy didn't reply. He simply went to his cubby hole in the wall and put away his hatchet and squirrel.
"Dune!!!" A cry came from the cave opening. "Where's my knife? I know you took it, you little toad!"
 Into the cave came another boy, looking very irritated. He looked about Sadie's age, had sleek black hair tied back, and carried a bundle of vines. He was followed by a fiery red-headed boy who kept twitching his head as if he could hear the slightest sounds.
"I already told you, I don't have it." replied Dune. "You know I've been out hunting all day. To be honest, I wish I did take it. Might've helped since all I got was a measly squirrel."
"Well, Felix don't have it, so who does?'
Ah-choo! Sadie disrupted their chatter with an untimely sneeze that caused the three boys to stare at her.
"Ah, I see you're finally awake." The dark-haired one replied. "It's about time too. You were out for two whole days."
"What? Two days?" Sadie was shocked.
"Yeah, that's right. My name is Bree. I see you've already met Dune. And this here's Felix."
"I'm Sadie."
"Well, Sadie, since you've been out for so long, I'll bet you're famished."
Sadie's stomach immediately growled in agreement. The boys laughed and went about to bring her food. Sadie slowly staggered onto her feet and walked around the cavern. The rock floor was smooth and flat, a nice change for Sadie's aching feet. A cool breeze came in through the cave opening.
"Where exactly are we?"
"In a cave in the middle of the forest. That's about as accurate as you can get as far as location." replied Felix.
Dune brought over a small bowl which held the most peculiar looking slices of meat, along with a cup of the creek water. Sadie showed her gratitude with a small smile, but Dune quickly turned away and left the cave without a word. Sadie took a tiny bite of the meat. It tasted like no other animal she had ever eaten, but right now, she couldn't care less.
"So where did you guys come from?" She asked.
"Another time for that," said Bree. "We all have very long stories."
"How many is all of you?"
"Oh, there's six of us all together. The other two, Kellan and Misha, are out gathering more supplies. You'll meet them later."
"That's only five of you." Sadie counted. "Who's the sixth?"
"You know who he is." Bree replied. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Chapter 4

Sadie's deep slumber finally came to an end. She slowly eased herself out of bed, wincing at her pain. Although she was extremely sore and stiff, she washed her face and brushed her hair as if it were any other normal day.

Warren was seated in the old rocker, smoking his pipe. Jill was at the table, eating what looked like black coal. Her eyes watered with every bite she took. Warren glanced up at Sadie, not even noticing the damage he had done.
"You slept far too late this morning." He said with annoyance. "Get over there and make your sister something decent to eat."
Sadie slowly walked over to the stove, not saying a word. She shifted her eyes over to Jill, who quickly looked away. Sadie knew this hurt her sister just as much as it did herself, but as long as Jill was to stay unharmed, this would continue.
"I'm heading into town again today." Warren continued. "We're getting a little low on cornmeal and feed for the horse. I'll only be gone for an hour..."
Sadie proceeded to make breakfast, not making a sound. Before she could even flinch, Warren leapt from his chair and swung her around to face him, his giant hands clasping her arms.
"I said just an hour, understand?"
His smoke-filled breath burned her eyes, but Sadie stood firm. One hand slowly moved behind her neck and latched on to her hair. He pulled with such force that Sadie stumbled to the floor. Jill let out a small gasp.
"You answer me when I'm talking to you!" He yelled. He turned and muttered under his breath, "It should have been you."
That was it. Sadie had had enough. She sprang to her feet and bolted out the door. Nothing was going to stop her now. She could faintly hear her sister crying out to her, but she couldn't go back. She ran to her forest. She struggled through the foliage, her face being cut and torn. Her bare feet tripped over sharp rocks and twigs. Sadie just continued. All she wanted was to sink deeper and deeper into the woods until she herself vanished.

Suddenly, a blast of light caused Sadie to stop. Once her eyes adjusted, she couldn't believe what she was seeing. Out in the open, a vast green valley blanketed the land. The long grass swayed in the gentle breeze. Wildflowers were speckled all over the ground. To her left, Sadie saw a beautiful lake, flocked with ducks. She could hear tiny croaks of frogs near the water. Sadie couldn't believe it. She had never run all the way to the other side of the woods before. She then turned to right, and there, a few yards away, sat a boy.

She cautiously began to walk toward the stranger. As she got closer, She could him out better. He was young, about 18 or so. He sat on a large boulder, with his back to her and head hung low. He wore a stained gray shirt with ripped muddy pants. His shaggy brown hair was the color of rich tree bark.
"Umm... excuse me?"
His head shot up, and as he turned to face her, Sadie couldn't help but stare. His eyes were the brightest and clearest blue she had ever seen. They seemed to be bluer than the sky itself. But that's not all she saw. On the boy's neck was the most horrific scar. The jagged line went all across his  throat. It had been poorly stitched up and was still stained with blood.

The boy turned back, without a second glance. Sadie saw that he had a large pile of old sheets of paper sitting next to him. In his hand was a long piece of what looked like coal. He turned to her again and held up one of the sheets.
Can I help you? it read.
"Well, no not really." She replied. "Would... would it be ok if I sat with you?"
He gave Sadie a long look up and down before finally giving a nod of approval. Sadie slowly eased up on the rock next to him. The boy proceeded to sketch on a paper in his lap. They both sat in silence, the wind gently whistling through the grass. Sadie began to fidget, not knowing what to do or say.
"Thanks for letting me sit with you." She said.
He offered no response.
"My name is Sadie, by the way."
He gave another nod.
"And you are?.."
He pulled out another paper from his stack.
My name is Ephraim.
"Ephraim.... isn't that Biblical?"
Another nod.
"You don't talk much, do you?"

He turned his head and met her eyes. They both stared for what seemed like hours before he went back to his paper. Sadie peeked over his shoulder to see what he was so involved in. On the page he was holding was the most beautiful drawing she had ever witnessed. Using the coal, he had sketched out the whole lake and all the surrounding horizon to perfection. Sadie let out a small gasp of awe, which cause Ephraim to jump and scribble on his masterpiece. He let out a long sigh and looked at Sadie, who had buried her face into her hands.
"I'm so sorry," she mumbled through her fingers. "I didn't mean to disturb you. I've just never seen anything like that. You have a great talent."
Ephraim crumpled the drawing into a ball and threw it over his shoulder. He quickly ripped out another blank sheet of paper and began to scribble violently. Sadie scooted away to the other side of the rock, waiting for a long paragraph of some awful insult. All of a sudden, he dropped his dull piece of coal, swiped the paper away, and gathered his pile of other sheets and took of running.
"Hey wait!" Sadie cried. "I said I was sorry! Please wait!"
It was no use. Ephraim had disappeared into the darkness of the forest. She slumped back onto the boulder, feeling more rejected than ever. She then remembered the paper. Just as she was about to reach for it, a small wind picked up the sheet and carried it across the grass. She was swift to get up and follow the note. With one small dive, she nabbed it and stumbled the ground. After dusting herself off, she turned the paper over to examine the damage.

What she found wasn't a word of insult of disgust, but another sketch. It wasn't very clear, but she thought she could make out an outline of a face. The only real definition given to the picture was long flowing black hair. Sadie soon put in together that it was her. Immediately realizing this, her heart sank into her stomach. She needed to find him. With all the strength she had left, she ran back into the forest.