guess whaaat! i finally wrote the second part to A World Awaits! this assignment was, in a way, a free write, so i took the opportunity. but it wasn’t entirely free. i had to include 10 words– words that my classmates and i all contributed to– in the piece. and not just any words. they were terms for things found in a hospital: Death, ward, scalpel, knife, syringe, healing, surgeon, oxygen, formaldehyde, crutch, hydrogen peroxide, blood, and nurse, all of which are underlined. Additionally, i could not use the terms in a hospital setting. As it turned out, these terms fit nicely into my story, particularly “death”, “oxygen”, and “blood”. i think, though, that i found a loop-hole with the word “ward”… ;D
one more thing before i let you read this incredibly long “short” story: i sure got my heart pumping while writing the ending. *wipes sweat from brow*
“What’re you doing out here?” a cold and steely voice asked, as a cold and steely knife was put to my throat.
The man had come up behind me as I stood on a headland, watching the sunset. Either I was unusually engrossed in the golden glory, or the man had incredible stealth. It was strange for my senses to not have been piqued.
“None of your business, cur,” I growled in reply.
“Well now,” he said as the blade pressed closer against my skin, “if I was just an ordinary cur, it would indeed be none o’ my business. But as it happens, I work for someone very important who desires your services. You’ve hindered his business too many times, but rather than simply dispose of you, he wants to offer you the chance to work for him, instead of against him.”
I knew instantly who the ruffian was speaking of. A crime lord simply called “the Boss”, he was cruel, and could not be trusted. Knowing that anger could send negotiations in the wrong direction, I tried to remain as calm and diplomatic as possible. “So basically, I start doing dirty work for the Boss, and he spares my life?”
“That’s about the way of it. Now, if you’ll just come this way—” his words were cut short as he suddenly slumped to the ground, the knife slicing my shoulder at the same time.
I whirled around to see a young man standing behind me, a club over the head of the unconscious thug, and a smug expression on his face.
“Adrian!” I exclaimed, grinning at him. “It’s always good to see you, my friend—but this time your presence couldn’t have been more welcome.”
“Oh, Eva,” he laughed, “why is it you keep getting into pickles? It seems like I’m always having to save you…”
“Hey! I’ve saved myself plenty of times without your help—you gotta have that kind of skill when you’re a vigilante. Certainly I don’t need you as a crutch. I’ve even saved your ungrateful hide a couple of times!”
“Vigilante, eh?” he said, raising his eyebrows, “when did you start calling yourself that? Certainly not when you first came here.”
Throwing my head back in laughter, Adrian playfully punched me in the shoulder, cutting off the laughter as I gave a cry of pain. Looking down, I saw that my sleeve was partially soaked in sticky blood.
“Oops,” he said apologetically, “c’mon, let’s get you cleaned up.”
“What about him?” I said, gesturing to the slumbering man on the ground.
“Oh, I’ve got a feeling he’ll be out for a while. I’ll have someone come by for him later, and then he can sleep all he wants—in jail.”
“Sounds good to me.”
As Adrian and I began walking away from the disappearing sun and back towards the direction of town, he spoke up again.
“So, my joke about how you weren’t a vigilante when you first came here got me thinking… where did you come from before you came here?”
The question threw me off. “Well… I, uh…” I stalled, sending my thoughts back in time. For a solid year or more, I had lived in and near this town and the surrounding woods, acting as a sort of unofficial keeper of the peace. But going back much further than that, all I came up with was confused, blurry images. To be honest, I couldn’t remember a single thing about my life before coming to this area. Not wanting to sound insane, I simply shrugged.
“Y’know, I would, uh, rather not talk about it. I had a, um, bad childhood—I’d like to forget about it. Let’s stay in the present, shall we?”
Adrian seemed to accept it as a legit answer. “Sure thing. We’ve all got things we’d prefer to forget.”
I nodded and started walking with a brisker pace. I wanted to get back to town as quickly as possible to do something, anything, to get these strange, muddled thoughts out of my head. That, and I wanted to get my shoulder taken care of before it got too infected.
A short while later, we arrived in town and were at Adrian’s place. As he rummaged through a cupboard, he said, “Dr. Lane has been instructing me in the art of healing. He thinks I could make a fine surgeon someday.”
“Pfft, you?” I scoffed, “you wouldn’t make so much as a decent nurse. I’ll bet you don’t even know a syringe from a scalpel.”
“Ha, ha,” he said with slow and bitter sarcasm. “Laugh all you want, but I really think I can make a living out of this. I don’t plan on spending all my days apprehending criminals in the wilderness—unlike some people.”
I knew it was true. Although Adrian sometimes accompanied me on adventures of errantry,—at my insistence, of course—his real passion and fascination lay in the medical field. He now approached me with a bottle and cotton swab in hand, and began addressing my wound.
As the liquid bit into my flesh, I bit back curses, “What is that?! Are you trying to kill me?! Gosh, why don’t you just soak me in formaldehyde now.”
“Ah, ” he said with a smirk, “Eva, the rough and tough vigilante, is afraid of a little hydrogen peroxide, eh?”
I rolled my eyes, “Oh… just slap a bandage on it and let me be on my way. I told Mama Rosie I’d be on time for dinner.”
He complied, and after bidding him goodnight, I made my way to Mama Rosie’s Inn. I often stayed at her place, and would eat meals there whenever my business wasn’t too… distracting. She could always be relied upon for a clean room and a hot, satisfying meal. She and her other guests also made excellent company, constantly ready to tell a tale or spread gossip that was useful to me. That night, however, the food seemed strangely bland, and I felt out of touch with the other people. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was missing.
Hoping to reestablish my equilibrium, I decided to go for a late night walk. It might have seemed risky, considering the incident just a few hours earlier. But such run-ins were terribly rare, and the occurrence of one made the occurrence of another much less likely. Sort of like being stuck by lightening.
Trying to ward off the cold, I pulled my brown leather jacket closer about my body. Around me, the graceful trees danced slowly in the nighttime breeze; nighthawks chirped from their shadowy hiding places on the ground; and the full moon cast its glistening glow on me and my surroundings. But I was too preoccupied in my own thoughts to take much notice of the natural beauty. Without warning, a nearby voiced called out to me.
“What are you doing way out here?” it asked.
You have to be kidding me! I said inwardly and, placing my hand on my dirk, I spun around to face the speaker, determined not to be caught off guard this time.
To my surprise, it was not a ruffian but an old man. He had a long white beard, a wooden staff, and a large brown cloak.
“What are you doing out here?” he said again, his voice warm and kindly.
“I’m… I’m just walking,” I answered, not sure of what else to say.
“Had an interesting day, have you?” he queried.
“Well, yes, I suppose so.” I cocked my head to the side, watching him as he walked closer, a smile on his face.
“You’re quite fortunate to have friends like Adrian. You know that, don’t you?”
“Who are you?!” I exclaimed, “And how do you know I’m friends with Adrian?”
“My name,” he said, “believe it or not, is Clover. And I know a great deal about you—probably more than you yourself know, at this time.”
Although mildly alarmed at his words, I sensed that I had nothing to fear from him. Folding my arms, I said, “Ok, and how do you know these things that even I don’t know? What’s your deal, old man?”
“I am a Guardian,” he replied, “I watch over the Portals between Worlds. I make sure that no one is transported who was not meant to be transported. And, when the time comes, I send the Chosen Ones back to their own World.”
I stared blankly. “I didn’t understand a word you just said.”
“Of course not,” he sighed, “for you have forgotten. Although, I suppose that even if you had not forgotten, you would hardly comprehend my meaning. But that is of no consequence. I have a message for you.”
“I can’t believe this,” I said, slapping my face. “Out here in the forest—with a crazy old man.”
“Eva McDonald,” he continued, speaking with grave importance, “you must return.”
“Return where?” I groaned grumpily.
“You must return to your own World. You used to live on a planet called Earth, in forests very similar to this one.”
“I’m sorry,” I snorted impatiently, “but I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I don’t intend to waste my time talking to a madman.”
“Wait! Listen! Eva, this is imperative. You must return to your own World through the way which you came to this one—a Portal in a little picket fence. Down that road there about a mile, and then cutting across the field, and then over the hill, and from there you should be able to find it. I know you don’t believe me. I know you have forgotten. But you must trust me. You can no longer stay here.”
“And why can’t I stay here, grandpa? What’s gonna happen? Huh?” My anger was overcoming my civility.
“You cannot stay here because this is not reality. Yes, yes, it is reality for the people of this World—but not for you. Your time here is done. If you do not return, this World will disappear—and you will disappear with it.”
His words sent my skin cold. For the first time, I tried to listen. “What do you mean?”
“Eva, you have your reality; this is not it.” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “Go back, before it is too late.”
“When?” I asked, my eyes searching the man’s face.
“Tonight. Now. If you wait more than a night’s time, there is no guarantee the Portal will work.”
“But Clover,” I said, speaking his name for the first time, “I must say goodbye to Adrian and Mama Rosie, and many others. I can’t just leave.”
“But you must!” he insisted, “Besides, by time you get to each of them, they will have forgotten you, even as you have forgotten your past.”
“Forget me? They won’t forget me!” I said, my anger returning. “And, and… I still can’t remember any of which you speak. How do I know it’s true? How can I trust you? I can’t! I won’t go!” I began to storm off, heading back to town.
“No! Eva, you must do as I say!” he sounded desperate.
“I’m not going to listen to you!” I yelled, “You’re insane!”
“I’m insane?!” he yelled back, finally losing his temper, “You’re the one who can’t remember the first seventeen years of your life!”
I whirled around, intending to hurl another insult at him—but he had disappeared. Huffing, I stomped away. Just forget about it, I told myself. As if more forgetting was what I needed. I mulled over all these compelling thoughts as I made my way down the shadowy streets, back to Mama Rosie’s, into my room and into bed.
I woke up the next morning with a start. Something was wrong. The sun shone through my window, but it wasn’t golden. It was grey. Sitting up and pushing myself to the edge of the bed, I tried to clear my mind. The more I tried to clear, the more the thoughts came in floods. They came in torrents. Suddenly, I saw them—my friends. My home. My life. Tears streaking down my face, I struggled to get dressed.
“Susanna!” I said aloud. “Susanna—I left you! You must have felt horrible. And Nickolas—we never made up after our last argument. Levi—you were going to show me your latest drawing when you had finished it. I left you! I left you all!”
Tripping over my boot as I put it on, I fell to the floor, sobbing. I rose back up and straightened myself out. I knew what I had to do.
Racing down the road at top speed, the wildlife around me already seemed dim and faded. Mama Rosie hadn’t noticed me running out the door. When I’d ran past him in the street, Adrian didn’t acknowledge my existence—not even when I called. But I knew they’d be alright; this World wasn’t really fading. I was.
Having followed Clover’s directions, I ran the last stretch of open ground, and then slowed down as I approached the fence. I began jogging along side it, looking for the Portal.
“It’ll be here, it’ll be here,” I said, “it has to be.”
I halted. In the fading light, I could just barely make out ancient-looking symbols on a picket. I dusted them off just to be sure. I had found it.
“This is it!” I exclaimed, “It’s still here! That means I’m not too late!”
With that, I hurled myself in between the bars of the fence. Standing up, I took in my surroundings again. All hope left me. Despair overwhelmed my soul.
“It didn’t work,” I whispered, “I was too late. I’m not back home. It’s just the other side of the fence.”
I yelled frantically, blindly, despairingly to anyone who might hear, “It’s just the other side of the fence!”
All went black. My body crumpled to the ground, and I could feel the oxygen leaving my lungs. Even the ground beneath me left. Death came.
Still, lifeless, cold.
I feel something. Dirt. My fingertips move slightly and touch the grainy material. My chest starts to move up and down—air is entering. A foreign sensation comes over me. Warmth. I lift my eyelids and see magnificent, golden rays streaming above me. I hear birds and smell fragrant blossoms. I see the trees of a northern California forest. Life floods my veins. I am alive. Yes, I am alive—and I can hear the voices of my friends in the distance.