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Chapter 19: Venus fly-trap

April 24, 2013

Fatima stood at the tip of the ridiculous, bowl-like hill, twisting the yellow cap in her hands.

“Falcon!” she shouted.
The bowl echoed, returning the name back to her.

“FALCOOOOONNNNNN!”
The earth she stood on seemed to resonate with her shouts, singing with reverberations, a weird counterpoint to her desperation. Even the soil began to vibrate. It was shaking.

The shaking got stronger. It became violent and Fatima began to see cracks opening up in the ground. She looked about wildly for escape. The only way out was to fling herself down the mountainside but, even as she was steeling herself to do it, she was too late. The whole ridge erupted and then collapsed.

She was falling. Rocks and branches were hitting her. Roots, clods of earth. She rolled herself into a ball, instinctive, no plan, riding it out. Something big hit her, hard, in the left leg.

Her eyes were shut tight against the dust and grit that sprayed all around her, but even through closed eyes she was aware of being surrounded by light. The flickering shadows of falling debris gave little relief from the painfully bright orange glare through her blood-and-flesh eyelids. And then – nothing.

This is it, she thought. The shadowlands.
The bright light had vanished.

Cautiously, she opened her eyes. It was dark. The afterglow had blinded her. She waited. Even as her eyes began to relax and recover, she could not see. She put a hand in front of her face. Nothing.

Her leg hurt badly, where she had been struck.
She did not want to get up anyway.

She was lying on something soft, yielding like a mattress, slippery. Whatever could it be made of? So slippy, slipping. She was sliding. It was gentle, steady, but still – sliding down into deeper darkness and who knew what might be at the bottom?

She put out her hands to stop but could not get any grip on the surface, she glided over it like a fish in a waterslide. She pressed down hard into it, hoping to generate some friction that would slow her down, but the surface bobbled away from her. Wicked. Like a water bed. She’d never seen a water bed – only on the TV.  She imagined they would feel like this.

She was sliding. Could this be real? Everything felt – muffled. Perhaps she was unconscious.

Her mind dislocated and drifted upwards, hovering away from the body that was descending, hell-bound, outside her control. Her mind’s eye looked up, though, not down, and saw a dim light far above. She allowed herself to drift towards it. She was dreaming, or unconscious, or dead. She did not know which. It did not seem important.

And this slide could not go on forever, could it?
She supposed she would stop at some point.
In which case, whispered her tired soul, why worry. Why not just wait for the blackout?

But – the thought of being alone in this dark, sliding to oblivion, no control. Is this what it’s like? The journey into the Abyss? She had not expected it to be like this.
“Hello?” she called. “Is there anyone here?”

“Hello?” Oh, thank the Lord. An answering voice. A man’s voice.
“What’s happening?” she shouted.
“I don’t know!”

“Can you help me? I’m sliding… I can’t stop.”
“I’m sliding too.”

They both started shouting and hello-ing. Fatima was fighting pain and exhaustion but it was worth it because there were replies, real people, out there somewhere. The voices were muffled by the dark, the distance, the thick air.

She drifted in and out of awareness. After a time, she did not know how long, she realised that the slide into oblivion was slowing. Perhaps they had reached the end.

She bumped into something warm, and solid.
“Ow!” it said.

Others were there.  It was hot.

Fatima could make out the very dim outlines of people, indistinct, huddled together at the bottom of – whatever it was. It was a hole in the earth, she supposed. The bottom was rounded, concave, and just as smooth as the walls that curved upward on all sides, further than she could see even in her mind’s eye.

She was coming to terms with the fact that she might be conscious.

It seemed almost as though they were at the bottom of a giant flower trumpet. The kind of flower that catches insects. She had seen them on nature programmes, felt pity for the insects scrabbling to escape. They could not get any grip on the flower’s smooth, waxy walls. She shuddered. Is that what this was? An enormous Venus flytrap?

Fatima could see, far above, that the darkness thinned. What little light there was in the giant flytrap (she could not think of it as anyhing else, now that the image had crossed her mind) seemed to be coming from up there.

And, looking up, she began to see shadows moving. She shuddered again. The shadows looked like – but there were no wolves in England. Zane had said.

“Where are we?” said a voice.
“What happened?” said another.
“I don’t like the dark.”
“How do we get out?”
“What’s that, is that a – ”
“Oh my God, Lena is that you?”
“Is anybody hurt?”
“Who’s here?”
“Can anyone actually see anything?”
“Are we dead?”
“There’s a kid here, unconscious I think. Does anyone know first aid?”
“In the dark?”
“Who’s here?”

“My leg hurts,” she said. “I fell into the hill.” She probed it with her fingers. She could feel scratches, places where the skin was broken and sticky with blood. There was a massive area on her lower leg where she had been hit. It was hot, tender and swelling up like a balloon, but she didn’t think anything was broken.

“We should do a roll call,” said a voice. Fatima thought she recognised Hazel’s voice. “So we know who’s here, and how many of us.”
“Good idea,” said another voice. That was Lena, she thought.

There were others. The man who had been sliding near to her was Ian. There were two teenagers – Fred and Pip, Fatima thought perhaps they were brother and sister but she wasn’t sure. A woman named Karen. And the child, of course. Nobody knew who the child was, but they speculated that it must be Falcon, the lost boy. Ian knew the boy, he said, but it was too dark to be sure it was him.

They totted up their resources – someone had sandwiches, a bottle of water. Someone else had biscuits. Karen had a knitting bag, not much use. But then Fatima had only the yellow hat that she realised she was still clutching in one hand.

“I’ve got a torch!” said Fred, remembering, triumphant.
“Bloody genius,” said the girl, Pip.
Fatima could hear fumbling sounds, he must be trying to find it in his bag.

“Oh, God, look up!” said Hazel, urgently.
They did and they could see that the top of the trap was beginning to glow.

It shone red, green, yellow, silver. The rainbow light shimmered and then formed into something like a droplet, strange, hovering. A blob of nectar, Fatima thought.

Magic!” whispered Karen. There had been too much of that already, in Fatima’s heartfelt opinion.

The drop of light flowed towards them like weightless mercury, shimmering in the dark. It fell, slowly, as though it was not answerable to gravity.  It was bright enough to see, but not bright enough to shed any light on its surroundings. Several metres above them – Fatima only guessed the distance, it was difficult to be sure – it slowed and hovered, forming into a definite shape.

It was a human shape. It began to solidify and descend.
“Helen?” It was Lena’s voice, incredulous, and Fatima realised that she was right.
It was Helen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 24, 2013 9:46 pm

    Wordcount – 1307
    Prompt – Meeting (BrendaAlicante)

    I’m running behind so I’m already working on Chapter 20….
    Please suggest prompts for Chapter 21 and beyond in the comments!
    (Check the sidebar for a link to more info about this interactive project!)

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