ForNevermore Part 43


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“What did you do?” Randy asked, standing beside Noella, staring into the sky with widened eyes.

Noella peered through the trees at the two moons hanging fat in the sky.

I did it! I brought us both over!

Then Noella realized that Randy still had his gun in hand, and decided that now — while he was staring at the sky — was her chance to run.

She fell back on her heels, then launched herself into the dark unknown as fast as she could go as Randy screamed after her.

“Come back here, you witch!”

Noella kept moving. Though she’d not been overweight for many years, she still felt woefully out of shape and unprepared to run. The last time she ran at anything faster than a trot was the year before in gym class during a softball game. She had hit a ball between second and third, then raced past first base, pulling up limp, thanks to a horrible cramp. She fell to the ground writhing in pain; embarrassed, and hearing quiet cries of “Scarella” all around her. She hoped to God she wouldn’t get a cramp as she ran from Randy. Anything that dampened her speed would spell her certain doom.

“Noella!” Randy continued to scream as leaves crunched and branches snapped on the forest floor behind her.

She pushed herself faster, through the woods as curling branches reached from the trees to claw at her skin, drawing thin lacerations on her arms and face as rocks and underbrush threatened to trip her every step.

Noella’s legs were on fire and her breath was ragged, but she kept moving, pushing herself too fast to think. She wanted a moment to stop, to evaluate her environment and find a way to lose Randy, but couldn’t afford to turn back and see how close he was.

The snapping branches and footfalls were growing louder and closer.

She pressed herself to move faster, and then it happened — the cramp she feared stabbed her right calf. She tried to keep moving, but couldn’t, then fell to the forest floor, thankful it was covered in a carpet of leaves.

Her gratitude lasted only a second as Randy’s footsteps turned to thunder.

He stopped, then leaned over, hands on his knees, his right hand holding his pistol, as he tried to regain his ragged breath. He looked up at Noella, his eyes glimmering in the double moonlight like a hungry wolf.

“What did you do? Where are we? What are you?”

She tried to stand, but her leg spasmed, then sent her back to her butt, hunched over, pressing her fingers into her right calf as she tried to work the cramp from her leg. Noella said nothing.

“I asked you a question,” Randy pointed the gun at her, shaking it for emphasis. “What the hell are you?”

“I’m just me,” she said.

“No, you’re some kinda freak! Some kinda monster or something.”

Monster? Hello? 

Pot meet kettle!

Noella said nothing; shaking, too scared to provoke him. She would milk the moment as long as she could, searching for a way out. Noella wondered if she could cross back home and leave him behind.

“Are you a witch? Some kinda Satan worshipper or something? Would explain all the black clothes.”

There was an idea bubbling to the front of her mind that might work, though it could also make Randy more inclined to shoot her. But since she couldn’t stand, much less run, she had to try something.

“I’m not quite a witch,” she said, slowly, elongating each word as much as she could, both to buy time to heal, and consider what she would say next. She paused, waiting to see if he’d take the bait.

He did. “Keep going,” he said, now standing, slightly more relaxed.

“Have you ever heard of fairies?”

Randy laughed, and she could already see where his juvenile mind was going.

“Not that kind of fairy. The magical kind.”

“You mean like the little flying things. Like Tinkerbell?”

“Sorta, except they’re not little. Or I should say, we’re not little. We’re magical beings, though we look like humans.” She watched Randy’s eyes, hoping he wouldn’t realize she was pulling her story from thin air in a desperate buy for time. He waited for her to continue, though his amused smile seemed to be fading.

“I’m not from your world, Randy. I’m from here,” she said, waving her arms through the air, then pointing at the sky to remind him of the two moons above them. “I came to your world long ago.”

“Why?” he asked, apparently buying every word.

Um, why, Noella? Think, think!

“I can’t say why,” she shook her head. “It’s a secret, even to me. But I do know one thing. . .”

As she paused, she stretched her leg a bit, to see if it would support her if she were to leap to her feet. The moment her muscles flexed, the pain returned; a shooting intensity that felt like liquid fire.


“What do you know?” Randy said, his voice suggesting he was growing tired, or perhaps skeptical of her story. Or maybe he figured out what she was trying to do.

Double crap.

“If you kill me, you’ll never get home,” she said. “And if you kill me, I’ll haunt you forever.”

Randy stared at her, entirely silent as he inched toward her.

Noella’s right hand dug into the cold dirt beneath the leaves.

Leaves crunched under his boots as Randy stopped just inches from her, staring down, close enough for her to smell Old Spice and the stale stench of beer on his breath.

Her fist filled with cold soil.

He aimed his pistol at her. “You freak.”

Noella threw the wad of dirt at Randy’s face, striking him in the eyes. She expected his gun to go off that second and the bullet to hit her, but instead, he yelled, swiping his face.

Noella hopped up and pushed herself into a sprint, despite the pain. She hobbled over a slight hill, then heard the gunshot behind her as thunder split the night’s silence.

She dived into a thicket of shrubs as her leg erupted in pain. She wasn’t sure if she’d been shot in the leg, or if it was another cramp. But at least for the moment, she lost sight of Randy, and he’d lost sight of her.

Randy fired another shot into the dark, and Noella heard the bullet thwap into a nearby tree.

The forest went eerily silent as if the gunshot had severed the natural sounds of insects and nocturnal animals.

Something was wrong. Noella could feel it before she heard a rising whistle in the distance, followed by dozens, if not hundreds, of whistling things approaching from the darkness behind Randy.

What is that?

Noella sat up to look, but instead saw Randy just a few feet in front of her. “There you are,” he said, oblivious of, or ignoring the high-pitched sound as it grew louder.

He brought his gun down on her again. “Time for you to go home,” he said.

Lights suddenly exploded through the trees behind him. It looked like there were at least 20 small circular lights bobbing up and down, flying toward them.

“What the…” Randy turned as they whizzed by both of them. They looked like flying tennis balls, but dark with blue light inside them, somehow hovering in the air with an ear-splitting whistle.

Randy turned his attention back to Noella and aimed the gun at her again, “Take me home,” he ordered. “Now!”

The whistling grew louder, and Randy’s eyes went wide at whatever he saw. Noella didn’t have time to look, diving down as the whistling went shrill, and the balls sailed over her again. As they passed, they unleashed thin blue wires that hooked into Randy’s flesh.

Randy screamed and his body convulsed as the balls stopped in mid-flight, then swung back, wrapping around him, like tether balls on a rope.

Randy was the pole.

He fell to the ground screaming, trying to free himself, but could only shake as if being electrocuted as the high-pitched whistle grew louder.

Noella could do nothing but stare as the balls, of which there were about 20, began to glow a brighter blue, almost white, like the wires still wrapped around him.

Something was about to happen.

Noella knew she should stand and run, but she couldn’t move. Nor could she look away. She was hypnotized.

The whistling was now at a scream, and Randy’s screams were now at a choking as he began to gag on something. Blood. Noella was horrified to watch him dying in front of her, but relieved to be free of his horror, finally.

Noella had traded one monster, one she knew and might be able to reason with, for something else, alien and unknown. Two hands were suddenly behind Noella, grabbing her arms and wrapping around her chest, pulling her back into the forest.

She didn’t resist. Whoever was pulling her back was saving her life. She and her mystery person stumbled backward as the balls exploded, blowing Randy to bloody chunks which splattered her and her savior as they rolled back, then down a hill into more brush.

Noella’s ears were ringing, her leg was screaming in pain, and her head was throbbing. She rolled over to see who had saved her — Dante.

“What? How? Where?” 

Noella’s mind was filled with a hundred questions, but his gloved hand closed tight around her mouth. He crawled halfway on top of her to keep her down, then said something she couldn’t hear; an inaudible whisper over the whistling in her ears.

“What?” Noella cried.

Dante brought his other hand to his lips and shook his head, signaling Noella to “Shhhhh.”

She shut her mouth as more lights whistled through the trees. The balls flew past Noella and Dante, then came back around, passed them again, and then stopped, hovering in the air at the spot just above Randy.

Noella was transfixed as three pale figures appeared in the darkness.

Her breath and heart stopped as she recognized them as the same pale creatures with the horrible mouths and sewn-shut eyes she’d seen when she crossed over from school . . . the monsters. They weren’t naked as she’d seen them before, however. They were dressed in white robes.

Two of the creatures lifted their hands and the glowing balls flew to them. The monsters took the balls and placed them within the folds of their robes.

They circled around Randy’s body, examining him. The chime in her ears was still ringing, so she couldn’t hear if the monsters were speaking or not. Noella stayed perfectly still, feeling Dante’s warmth against her body, and his gloved hand over her mouth. She could feel his heart racing against her chest, and it sent a tingle through her, though it was good, not scary.

The three monsters turned toward them and moved closer. Noella remembered how the things had sniffed her location as she tried to hide from them in the decrepit school. They were nearly 30 yards away, and moving closer, sniffing the air.

She wanted to move, to run, to do anything other than sit, but Dante kept still, keeping his hand on her mouth. She looked at him for direction, and his eyes locked onto hers.

He shook his head no.

She had to trust him.

The monsters inched closer, and Noella’s heart raced, certain this was it. They were going to find and kill them.

She had an almost violent need to pee. The last time she’d gone was in a bucket in the cell, which was utterly gross. But now she was about to pee her pants, right in front of Dante.

Suddenly there were more lights — now above them — and Noella wanted to cry.

This is it. Now they’re surrounding us.

As the whistling from the explosion faded, Noella heard another sound — the familiar hum from one of the blimp-like machines above them. The three monsters looked up, then turned quickly, and started to run.

Sparks shot from the blimp, and a voice called out, “Stop, in the name of the Queen!”

The monsters kept running, surprisingly fast and agile, given their size.

Noella waited as the blimp-thing passed, until there was nothing around them but black.

The song of night returned. Dante said, “We must get you back.”

“First, I need to pee,” she said, then hopped up and hobbled to a spot behind a large tree and dropped her pants, embarrassed, though not half as embarrassed as she would have been if she had peed her pants.

She returned to Dante, who didn’t seem too weirded out to see a girl peeing without privacy.

“What were those things?”

“Harvesters,” he said, as if she’d understand.

“Harvesters of what?”

“You don’t wanna know,” Dante said, as he began to walk up the next hill, distracted, searching for something in the distance, or maybe the sky.

“Where are you going?” Noella asked. “I have questions.”

“Yeah, I know. But first we need to get you home.”

“How did you find me?” she asked. “How did you know I was in danger?”

Dante stopped, then turned to face her, and for the first time his features softened, and his eyes locked onto hers, almost hypnotically.

“You still don’t remember? Even after all this?”

He reached out and held her hands in his gloved palms. She remembered his warning before about not touching him. Still, as her hands fell into his embrace, she felt butterflies stirring. She laughed, feeling silly, as he moved closer, now just inches away. She continued to stare into his eyes, her mind settling into the oddest sense of deja vu. Like she’d known him before.

Well, of course you do, you’ve been seeing him in your dreams forever.

No, it was something else.

It was what he’d said before.

They’d known each other for centuries.

But how?

“This isn’t your first life,” he said. “I’ve known you now in nine different lives.”

“Nine?” she said, staring at Dante in shock. “Nine lives like a cat?”

“Yeah, something like that.” He smiled. “You are a very, very special being.”

She flushed, at first feeling like he was heaping undeserved praise on her. But then Noella realized he wasn’t necessarily complimenting her.

“What are you saying? I’m not human?”

“Not even close,” he said. “You’re one of the last of your kind. And some of infinity’s most powerful people are fighting over you. They want to capture you, to turn you to their side. And they’ll stop at nothing, spare no one.”

Noella’s head was spinning as she tried to pull sense from the incomprehensible.

“Come here,” he said, taking her hand and leading her up the hill he had been heading toward just a moment before.

They walked in silence as she tried to comprehend what he’d said, but also because he seemed to be listening for something. Perhaps more of those blimp-things.

As they stepped into a clearing atop the hill, Noella saw what he’d wanted to show her — they weren’t just in a clearing. The forest had suddenly ended, as though someone had burned the world for at least a few thousand feet between them and a giant, black wall before them.

“What is that?” Noella gasped, barely able to say the words as she stared at the marvel before her. The wall was massive, seeming to sprawl forever in either direction. It stood at least 20 stories high, and it looked like there were millions of tiny dim lights inside the wall — robotic or, maybe organic in nature. Above the wall, was a thick cloud of darkness — like a wall of living smog.

“It’s the Dark Wall,” Dante said. “The last place in the world you want to be near or behind.”

Through the smog, Noella could make out vague shapes in the black haze — arches, spires, and skyscrapers, and even more lights deeper in the darkness. An entire city breathing beyond the wall.

“You don’t remember any of this?” he asked.

“No. Should I?”

“That’s where you were born. Though it didn’t look like that back then,” Dante looked away, as though embarrassed.

They were suddenly blinded by a light from above.

Noella looked up to see one of the blimp-things, but this one made no sound.

“Airship! Run!” Dante said, as he grabbed her hand and pulled.

“I can’t!” she cried. “My leg is cramped.”

Dante glanced at her, and without hesitation, swooped her into his arms and carried her. “Don’t touch my skin,” he warned, racing into the woods with her.

She was shocked that he was able to walk while holding her, much less run as fast as he was. Noella was reminded of how quickly Finn had galloped, carrying her weight. But Dante wasn’t a centaur; he was a man with two legs.

Except he wasn’t a man. Dante was something else.

As was she.

They raced through the darkness, with Noella certain he’d drop her at any second. She held on tight, making sure to avoid touching his only exposed skin — his neck and face.

The airship, as Dante called it, hovered above, its constant bath of light focussed on them no matter how fast Dante ran. The ship moved closer, hovering just above the tree tops.

A man in black leaned from the bottom of the airship, in the pilot’s basket, and withdrew something that looked like a weapon.

“He’s gonna shoot!” Noella cried, staring up.

Dante glanced up. His eyes widened, then he flung Noella to the ground.

Noella fell forward hard, rolling hard through the darkness, over the leaves, rocks, and knotted tree trunks snaking through the underbrush.

She glanced back to find Dante about 20 yards off, caught up in some sort of black net, struggling to break free, or grab his sword, even as he was being lifted from the ground. But he was tangled and losing his battle.

She ran toward him, crying out, then grabbed onto his boot, trying to snatch him back from the net.

Dante looked down, surprised to see Noella trying to save him, “Go home!” he yelled.

Another of the men in black leaned out of the basket, holding another of the net devices, taking aim at Noella.

“Go!” he said, screaming.

“Not without you!” she screamed.

“I’ll come, but you have to go now! Concentrate!”

“I can’t!” Noella screamed as the man fired and the net surrounded her, sticking to her flesh like some sort of man-made web. She screamed, struggling to break free as the net began to raise in the air with her inside.

She cried in terror, afraid to be trapped, but equally afraid to fall as they went higher and higher, now 30 feet from the ground and quickly climbing.

Noella looked over to Dante.

Why isn’t he bringing us over? Why can’t he do what I did with Randy?

Then she saw something hanging from his neck. They had shot Dante with some sort of blue glowing dart. He was struggling to keep his eyes open and focused. He said, “Go,” but it was barely a whisper.

Noella looked up again and saw the man now aiming one of the darts at her.

“Go…” Dante said, his voice finally fading to nothing. His eyes closed.

“No!” Noella cried, as the man took aim, and then she . . .

was gone.

Noella crossed over, not in the sky, as she feared, but in the middle of train tracks.

She searched for Dante, but he was nowhere.

“Dante!!” she screamed into the night until she realized she’d come back alone.

Noella sobbed, hoping he’d somehow found a way to escape. She wanted to cross back to the other side to save him, and tried several times without any luck.

She waited for a half hour before the cold night chill prompted her to start walking. She wasn’t quite sure how, but she eventually found her way back to the neighborhood where Randy had held her prisoner. She wasn’t sure which street Randy’s murder shack was on, but she kept following instinct until she finally happened upon a street bathed in red flashing lights. She walked down the road and saw dozens of local police department squad cars, along with a few sheriff’s deputy cars from Aurora Falls, and an ambulance.

Her eyes widened, as she saw a policewoman coming from the open front door of the house.

“I’m sorry, miss, you can’t go in there,” the woman said.

“No, I was held prisoner in there. My aunt Josie’s in there. Is she okay?”

“Noella?” Josie cried from behind. She was standing in front of a car with Dr. Foster of all people.

What’s he doing here?

Noella ran to Josie, hugging her tight.

“You’re okay!” Josie said, “Oh my God, my poor baby.”

“How is Sam?” Noella asked, remembering the last time she saw him, bloody on the ground in the dungeon.

“They took him to the hospital. I’m not sure how he’s doing. He was hurt pretty bad.”

Noella felt her guts churn at the thought of Sam hurt, or possibly dying.

“How’s Tori?” Noella asked. “Is she okay?”

Josie’s eyes were grim, red, and swollen and filled with bad news.

No. Please.

She remembered the last thing she’d heard from the cell beside her, thumping on the wall, weak.

“Is she . . .?” Noella asked, unable to finish the sentence.

“She wasn’t in there,” Josie shook her head. “There was some other woman, but she didn’t make it.”

Noella stared, unable to register what Josie was saying.

“Did they check everywhere? She has to be in there! He had her!” Noella approached the house, pushing her way past cops, screaming, “Tori!!”

Two cops blocked her from going inside.

“You have to let me in! He took her! I have to find her!”

“Please, step back, ma’am,” one of the cops, a young chubby man, said.

“No, she’s in there! I’ve got to find her! Tori!!”

The cop grabbed Noella by the arms and pushed her back. “I can’t let you in there,” he said. “Please, step back.”

Noella pulled away from the cop, balled both fists, and began to wildly swing, battering the cop, unleashing the entire night’s rage and fear in one violent outburst.

“Noey!!” Josie screamed as she tried to break up the battle.

Two more cops joined her, and Noella felt hands closing in on her, forcing her to the ground. Memories flooded her brain: being trapped in the net, being confined in the cell, being held down against her will in her bed . . . though she wasn’t sure where that memory came from.

“No!!” she screamed, feeling the world tighten around her as handcuffs slipped around her wrists.


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About David Wright

Dave is the co-founder of Collective Inkwell, in which he and Sean Platt re-invented serial fiction. Hailing from the quaint town of [REDACTED], Dave's renown for putting children in jeopardy (in his fiction, anyway) has made him world famous.

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