Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Bonechillers: “Welcome to Nowhere” – Ch.3: Never

I start to feel sick in my stomach.
This is not right, this can’t be! It’s wrong. I head straight for the white sign. The grass along each side of the road is dead, crackly and brown, but I know it can’t be. We passed this way, and the grass was fresh and green! There was farmland just up here, this place was alive!
I get past the sign and turn around to read it.
At first I don’t get it. It looks almost the same . . . but the words are different, they’re just written in the same way. But the sign reads in black letters:
I stare at the sign in disbelief. What is this place? It’s not Hollow Falls anymore . . . I don’t know where it is.
I turn back toward the train tracks and head back into town.
It’s official. I’m lost. Lost in the middle of Nowhere. Wherever that is . . .
I head back to the bus stop, but as I walk along the road, I feel unwell. It’s just as silent and just as empty as before, but I feel like I’m being watched.
I glance around at the different shops, but it’s too dark, I can’t see anything inside. I try to shrug off the feeling, but it sends shivers around my skin.
Okay, don’t panic. Everything is still fine, you’re just a little lost. I sit down on the seat of the bus stop to think.
  “How am I going to get out of here?”
Suddenly, I hear whispers behind me and I spin around to see. But there’s nothing behind me. Nothing but an empty, broken shop. I stand and stare at it a moment. I think I hear the slightest hint of a sound, but my mind must just be playing tricks on me. It is completely silent.
  “Hello?” I call. I stare into the cracked window of the broken down store. As I peer into the darkness I see something. A silhouette. It looks like a man. “Who’s there?” I call, stepping around the bus stop seat. I walk towards the man, “Can you help me?”
As I watch, the man takes a step into the light. But, I still can’t see his face, it’s still dark.
The man takes another slow step forward, and I watch as his body passes through the window glass, but it doesn’t shatter. The man passes through the glass as though it was made of nothing. Or rather, as though he were made of nothing.
And still, even in the light of the street, the man has no colour. He looks like a shadow, but solid. He is a  colourless shape. A darkness. Nothingness.
The rest of the man pulls through the window. I find myself backing away. Whatever this is, it is not an ordinary man.
I turn, backing away, and run to the other side of the street. But as I do, I see more silhouettes. In the stores and buildings. In the book store and the barber shop. More shadows of people. They slowly step out into the street, passing through walls and windows like ghosts. They are all walking towards me.
  “What’s going on?” I say, looking around at all the people. They are moving closer, soon they’ll have me surrounded.
I start to panic. I need to run! But where? I face away from the train tracks and just run. I run down the road as fast as I can. I pass by more and more broken down shops and buildings, even a few houses, and when I glance towards them, I see more empty silhouettes of townspeople. They look like men, women and children, all of them shaped like regular townspeople. But these aren’t people anymore. Just shadows.
I keep jogging and jogging until, after a while, the buildings fall behind me, and I’m just running on the road. Even the dried out, brown grass fades back, until all there is is the road, me and the blackness all around me. I find myself slowing to a walk as The darkness surrounds me, and silence falls. All I can hear is my steady footsteps and the rapid beating of my heart, when I see the sign up ahead. It slowly fades into view and I stop walking when I see it to stop and catch my breath. It’s the same sign again:
I find myself slowly walking back into town, all the while still feeling that sick feeling in my stomach. This is the same street, but it’s empty, no shadow-people Where did they go? I find myself standing in front of the bus stop, a damning thought crosses my mind.
No matter where I go, or how far I run, I just end up back in the middle of Nowhere.
  “How do I get home?” I murmur to myself, as I feel my lip start to tremble. I’m stuck.
  “You are home,” says a voice behind me.
Startled, I turn around quickly, and am surprised to see a little girl standing there, who appears to be about five years old. She is wearing a small, frilly, pale blue dress and she has curly, black hair.
  “Uh, hello there.”
  “Hello,” replies the little girl. She looks at me blankly.
  “What are you doing here?” I ask.
  “I live here,” replies the little girl.
  “You live here?” I ask, “What is this place?”
  “Nowhere,” says the girl.
  “Right . . .” I mutter, “Are you the only person here?” I ask.
  “No,” she says, pointing at me, “you are.”
I get chills down my spine as she points at me.
  “Uh, what’s your name little girl?” I ask,
  “I don’t know,” she says.
  “You don’t know?” I say, “How could you not know your own name?”
  “I forgot,” says the girl.
  “Forgot your name? How long have you been here?”
The girl shrugs,
  “Forever, I guess.”
  “Forever?” I look at the poor little girl and can’t help but feel sorry for her. She must have got trapped here just like me.
I feel the prickly feeling over my skin of being watched and turn to see that man in the shop window again. The silhouette of a man, staring at the two of us.
  “Here, you better come with me.” I say, holding out my hand.
  “Why?” says the little girl.
  “The . . . those things. The shadow people.”
  “Shadow people?” she says.
  “Yeah, the silhouettes . . . can’t you see them?” I ask, pointing around. There are more people standing in the windows now.
  “Those are just nobodies,” says the girl, “They won’t bother me.”
  “Nobodies?” I say, “What are they?”
  “They are bad people,” says the girl darkly, “Mean people that deserve to be forgotten . . .”
  “How did they get here?” I ask.
  “They’re just like me,” says the girl, “They’ve always been here.”
I look around at the people again. They’re walking through the windows again, starting to close in. I hold my hand out again,
  “Look, I really think we should get going. Those things are getting closer.”
  “Don’t worry,” says the girl, “They’re not going to hurt me.”
  “How do you know that?” I ask.
  “Because they’re not after me,” says the girl blankly, “They’re after you.”

I start to back away slowly.
  “Where are you going?” asks the girl.
  “I’m getting out of here.”
  “You can’t escape,” says the girl. But I don’t care. I turn around and run.
  “Don’t leave me!” says the girl. I stop and turn to face her. The girl is standing there, with her fists at her side, totally ignoring the nobodies. “Stay with me,” says the girl.
  “I can’t!” I say. The nobodies are closing in. If I don’t run now, they’ll catch me.
  “Don’t leave me . . .” says the girl. But I turn around. I hope she wasn’t lying when she said she’d be fine. I start to run, but behind me I hear the girl shout.
  “Don’t leave me!”
I just keep running. The nobodies are getting closer, just a few metres away either side of the road.
  “DON’T LEAVE ME!!” shrieks the girl. Her voice is so sad and broken, it doesn’t even sound human. I can’t stop myself, the girl sounds like she’s in terrible pain. I stop and turn back. But I can’t see her anymore. All I can see behind me are the nobodies. Dark, empty people.
It’s too late. I can’t help her. I spin back around to keep running, but the shadow people are in front of me as well. They’re all around me. I’m trapped!
Silently, they come closer and closer.
  “Stay back!” I shout. But it’s no use. The nobodies get closer and closer, and as they do they seem to converge together. Bodies becoming one mass of nothingness. And then . . . everything goes black.
 . . .
All around me, there is only darkness. An eternal void of black that stretches on for forever. I reach out my hand to touch it, but I can’t feel anything. I feel numb all over. And weightless.
  “Am I dead?” I ask.
  “No . . .” comes the reply. A voice. A woman’s voice.
I look around, but I can’t see where she is.
  “Who’s there?” I ask. There is no response. Did I imagine the voice?
  “What’s going on? Where am I?” I ask.
  “Nowhere,” replies a crackly, old man’s voice.
  “Nowhere? . . . What is this place?”
  “It used to be a town,” says a deep man’s voice, “But not anymore. Not for a long time.”
  “Why? What happened to this place?” I ask,
  “The girl,” replies the woman’s voice again, “The little girl did this.”
  “She was mad at us,” says the old man, “Furious. Because we forgot about her.”
  “She died because of us,” says a new voice, the young voice of a boy, “So she cursed us. Cursed the whole town to be forgotten. Just like she was.”
  “So that’s who you are,” I say, looking around at the blackness, “You’re all the townspeople. You’re the nobodies!”
  “Yes . . .”
I feel myself floating idly for a moment before I speak again,
  “So . . . why did you bring me here?”
  “We needed to get you away from the girl,” says the deep voice, “We didn’t want her to turn you into a nobody like us.”
  “No, not here. I mean this town! Why did you bring me to Nowhere?”
There’s no answer for a long while.
  “We didn’t bring you here,” says the young boy, “Maybe you were brought here by someone else. Perhaps you were forgotten, just like us.”
Forgotten . . . by my mother? No, she wouldn’t forget me, surely. But then why am I here?
  “Well, you’ve got to take me back,” I say.
  “We can’t,” says an elderly woman, “There’s no escape from Nowhere.”
  “That’s why we brought you here,” says the old man, “We’re here to keep you safe from the young girl, so you can spend eternity with us.”
  “Eternity?!” I scream,
  “Yes. We had to save you from the girl,” says the deep voice, “Eternity is a lot longer if you don’t remember who you are. But now you can stay here. Safe, with us. Forever.”

  “No! I can’t stay here! I have to get back!”
  “Why would you want to go back?” asks the young boy, “your mother probably doesn’t even remember you.”
  “I don’t care!” I say, “I can remember her, and that’s all I need. And if she can’t remember me, I’ll just have to remind her.”
  “But we can’t take you back. We don’t control this place,” says the old man.
  “Then take me to the girl,” I say. “If she controls this place, then I’ll make her let me go.”
  “You can’t hurt her,” says the boy.
  “I don’t need to,” I say, “just take me back . . .”
At first, there is no response from the townspeople. Just more silence. Then my vision starts to slip to grey and I see spots, and everything goes white . . .

I open my eyes and I see black again. But this time I am not weightless, I’m lying in the middle of the road, staring up at the empty sky.
I slowly stand up, and I see the little girl. She’s standing just a few metres away from me. And she looks mad. Her usual, blank expression has been replaced by a menacing scowl.
  “You. Left. Me.” she says, practically snarling at me.
  “I didn’t want to,” I say, “but you should know I can’t stay with you.”
  “Why not?!” barks the little girl. Her hair seems to flutter, but this place has no breeze.
  “I’m not from here. I have to go back home, to my Mum.”
  “You’re just like everyone else . . .” says the girl. As she speaks, her eyes begin to glow a fiery orange. She looks like a demon, but as much as it scares me, I stand tall and begin to walk towards her.
  “No, I’m not,” I tell her, “Because when I leave here, I won’t forget you.”
  “You’re a LIAR!” roars the girl. Every second she seems to get angrier, she looks less and less like an innocent little girl, “You can’t remember me! I can’t remember who I am! I don’t even know my own name! You can’t remember me because . . . I’m no one. I’m empty. And so will you be . . .”
  “True, you’re empty now,” I say, standing right in front of the girl. I stop just a metre away. “But . . . as I learned from my Mum, you may be empty now . . . but that just means you have a chance to have new memories. Better memories.”
The girl’s eyes still glow orange, but she looks at me with a sadness in her eyes.
  “But, I don’t even have a name . . .” says the girl.
  “Then you can borrow mine,” I say. I bend down and give the girl a tight hug. “I won’t forget you . . . Caity.”
At first, the girl stands there stiff . . . but eventually she wraps her arms around me too, and the orange glow in her eyes fades away.
But then, as I hold her in my arms, Caity crumbles away in my arms. I step back as the little girl crumbles into a pile of ash.
  “Caity? . . . CAITY!” I call. But she’s gone. I promise  . . . I will not forget her.
Then I hear a sharp crack. The ground, beneath my feet, it’s splitting in half!
There’s a loud crashing sound as the buildings around me begin to disintegrate, and the pieces fly up to disappear in the blackness.
The whole town of Nowhere – it’s falling apart! I turn and run as the crack down the road splits right between my feet. I jump over the gap and run as fast as I can. The bus stop flies apart. The barber shop. The book store. All of it breaks apart, snapping, smashing, cracking and crashing as it is torn into nothingness. I keep running, past the disintegrating shops, buildings and houses and onto the endless road into blackness, but as I run, I still hear the road tearing up behind me!
It’s getting closer! The ground under my feet is crumbling. I have to run faster.
Then suddenly, the ground slips away, and I clamp my eyes shut tight as I’m falling!
Falling into infinity!

Thump! I land hard on the ground.
I open my eyes and see that I’m staring at grass. Bright green grass, wet with dewdrops. I pull myself up and brush myself off.
I’m a little sore from landing so hard, but I’m alright. I’m standing on a lawn in front of someone’s house. And the sun is shining bright in the sky above me. The sun! My goodness, it feels great to finally see sunlight after so long in that dark hellhole.
I look around to see that I’m at the end of a no through road, and there’s a bus stop at the far end. I’m at the end of Dead End Street! Just around the corner and I’m home!
I jog to the end of the street, happy just to be in the light of the sun. I head around the corner and see an old man mowing his lawn.
  “Good morning!” I call out,
  “Morning,” replies the old man, obviously not as ecstatic as I am to be home. I head up to number 31 and knock on the door
  “Mum? Hello!” I push on the door, and am surprised to find it’s unlocked.
  I open it and see Mum isn’t far away on the other side.
  “Sorry I was just . . . Caitlyn?” Mum looks at me a little confused, “Caitlyn, what were you doing outside?”
  “It’s great to see you, Mum!” I say, running up and grabbing her in a hug.
  “Caitlyn, what’s the matter with you?”
  “Nothing Mum. I’m so sorry about knocking over the boxes.”
  “What? Oh, that’s nothing, dear. I was just stressed. What about you? Are you alright?”
  “I’m fine now, Mum. I’m just great.”
  “Alright then . . . well, since you’re up. We might as well have some breakfast. You’ll need your strength for your first day at school.”
  “School? Oh, right . . .” I say. Then it dawns on me that I’ll have to go through my whole first day at school without any sleep, “Well, if I have to go to school, can we at least have pancakes for breakfast?”

I eat a whole stack of pancakes, and cup of coffee, just in case. Then I have to race around getting my bag and everything ready for school. It takes ages to find my books and pens, and before you know it, Mum’s yelling at me from downstairs that the school bus is here.
I run as fast as I can down the stairs, tripping on the third step, but managing to catch myself before I tumble down to the bottom. I run past Mum, who’s holding the door open. I manage to say “Love you, Mum,” as I run out the door and sprint towards the bus stop, where the bus is already waiting. Just as I’m getting close, the door closes and the bus starts to move.
  “No, WAIT! Wait for me!” I call out. The bus jolts to a stop and the door slides open again. Breathing heavily I head up to the door and step inside.
  “Well, hello there, Miss,” says a familiar voice. I look up at the bus driver. A skinny, wrinkly old man, like a bag of bones. He looks at me, chuckling to himself, and he says,
  “One-way ticket?”

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