This story was started on this blog months back. People begged me to continue, so I did. You guys only brought this upon yourselves. I'll warn you now, I'm not that happy with the ending. It's weird. I could go on about how I could use this as a metaphor etc. but that would be boring. I'll just let you read it.
The girl stood on the shore, the sand crunching between her toes, a welcome feeling after so long. She turned, letting her dress spin around her. All around her was silence. The grass stood shock still, daring the non-existent wind to conjure up an attack. The rocks held their breath, waiting expectantly for an unexpected event. The ocean gently swirled onto the bay, patting it reassuringly, insisting everything will be okay in the end. The bay was deserted besides the girl. The girl in her sodden dress. She pulled seaweed from her tangled hair. The girl was still bobbing as though in water as she stumbled up the beach. She sat on the warm sand in the shade of the dunes, pulling up pieces of grass. It was hard to tell where she had come from, or where she had been trying to go. Her hair was slowly drying in the sun, but clouds were gathering. Fearing rain, the girl sighed. She got up, stretched, and tried to work out where she was.
Picking her way through the knee-high grass, the girl noticed a road ahead. Her legs were scratched, her knees bruised. Her dress soaked and her hair tangled. The girl, a complete stranger to this community she now found herself in, walked on with her eyes fixed on a goal. A goal to find somewhere to spend the night. Somewhere warm and dry. Somewhere she would feel safe.
The road twisted and turned into a village, a short scattering of houses, a few shops. The girl shivered as she heard the crash of thunder from behind her. Fastening her pace, she followed the road a little further. Everywhere she looked was quiet. The silence told of a past, hidden from strangers. The silence told of evil at night, the village completely still so early in the evening. The girl walked on, looking out for this unknown danger. She limped slightly, stumbled and fell.
As she was getting back on her bleeding feet, she turned her head sharply. A woman had been peeking out from behind a curtain, watching her. The front door of the house opened, and the woman stepped out tentatively. She offered a hand towards the limping child, who stumbled towards her.
The woman looked up in fear, and gestured towards the girl once more. The girl stared up the road, unsure. She was hesitant, but knew the house would be the best sanctionary. There were so many questions she wanted to ask, and most went unanswered. The woman was silent as she offered food, drink, dry clothes and a bed. The girl was happy to accept each in turn, wondering why no questions had been asked as to who she was and how she had got there. More confused than before, but now with a full stomach and dry clothes, the girl gratefully clambered into the bed. It felt softer and warmer than any other bed she had slept in, yet it was probably mediocre. Her head was rested on a pillow made of clouds and it was seconds before the girl fell asleep.
Her night was an unsettling one, dreams filled with the screams of the past. She was back on the ship, crouching in a corridor with her hands over her ears. She didn't like the yelling. She didn't like the screams. She didn't like the way the ship was moving, lurching in the swollen ocean. The way the spray would reach the deck. The way the water made sparks, bright flashes of light in the swaying rooms. There was water on her dress, the water was up to her ankles now. People were rushing past her, people were shouting... She closed her eyes and wished for this to stop, for someone to come over and tell her everything was going to be okay. She kept them shut, ignoring the world while she whistled her own little tune. She only opened her eyes when someone grabbed her arm and told her to go. In the brief glimpse she had of the man, she saw his unkempt beard and tiny, beetle-black eyes. He was a member of the crew. The girl got up, shaking. She tried to follow the man, but the ship lurched again and she fell back down the stairs.
She woke with a start, sitting straight up in the bed. The memory of the last few days was still raw, close to the surface of her mind. She didn't understand most of what had happened but she didn't want to forget it. The first rays of the sun were seeping into the room, bringing colour to the room's many mysterious objects. Beside the bed stood a small chest of drawers made of dark hardwood. On top there was a lamp, a wooden box, a bear and a tiny rusty key.
The girl stood. Her arms and legs ached, but she was used to pain. She stretched, then looked at the variety of bruises she obtained. Some were deep blue, tinted with purple, like the sky at night. Some were yellow. Some had no colouring, they just hurt. Her feet were scraped, but the blood had dried now. She tried to tease the tangles from her hair with her hands, but it was no use. Having looked around the room, she tiptoed downstairs. Two major questions still played in her head. Why had they left her behind? And where was she now? Her brain felt as though it had been through a washing machine. Somewhere in the silent house, an answer must hide. Hidden in a cupboard or drawer or under a bed, having tea with the bogeyman and discussing how best to terrify the girl.
She wandered into the living room as a snake of fear slowly began to rise in her chest. Where was that woman from the night before? She couldn't have just disappeared. Hurrying, she checked the other rooms. Yet still she couldn't find her elusive saviour. The house stood there, refusing to tell the secrets it so obviously hid. The girl sat on the carpet, trying to make sense of it all. Perhaps she was out. Maybe she would come back if she waited long enough. But did she want to wait? She looked around her. The oak furniture, the strange patterns on the carpets, the moth-eaten curtains... She had known as soon as she had stepped over the threshold that she wouldn't stay long.
Outside, the sun was fully up, spreading thin rays through the broken cloud. A few patches of blue sky could be seen. The girl stood, looking out. She had enough experience with weather to think it was unlikely to rain soon. Grabbing the pen and paper from a worktop in the kitchen, she wrote a short message, incase the woman came back and was worried about her. "Thank you for everything, I will be going now" That should do.
Stepping out into the street once more, blinking in the bright light of the day, she started her long walk on down this same road from the night before. Why she thought the answers were down this road, she didn't know. Her home was somewhere in that direction. Not knowing the neighbourhood meant nothing more than a longer walk. Somewhere deep down she knew her innocent, naive way of thinking wasn't right. If she never found her way home, hopefully there would be some place she could make a home. Your home is where your heart is after all, that's what everyone says.
One lonely road stretched out in front of her, one path on. She didn't know where it would take her but for now she was willing to just follow it. On either side of the road, there was grass and little plants. Every so often, there were paths up to houses that stood alone, free-standing and independent. But lonely, like everything else. Around a corner, the girl found a small cluster of shops. One for food and little necessary items. One for clothes, although the choice appeared limited. One for DIY items and bigger things. They were just opening up, half a dozen people scattered there, opening shutters and talking. Some looked around, surprised by the presence of the girl. But she walked on oblivious to the whisperings behind her.
The main road was fully tarmaced, but either side the road just faltered away to nothing. Gravel, stones and grass. There was no path at the side of the road, none was truly needed. Here, the road just stretched to the horizon, it’s future as uncertain as the girl that walked along it. The sun had risen enough to give her a warming pat on the back. It was comforting, in a way, made her think that everything would be okay. One day, somewhere just past the horizon, on an undiscovered ground, there would be a place for her.
It had been a long time since she had eaten and the rumbles from her stomach were reminding her. She continued to walk though, passing trees and bushes on her way out of the village, walking over a stone bridge, turning with the road and following onward. Some hours down the road, she began to feel like she was just a point following a line, where there was no beginning and could be no end. Time lost all meaning as she walked on, conscious of her energy slowly wearing down. The process may have been gradual, but eventually she found her head filling with cotton wool and her legs becoming lead. She lay down on the grass at the side of the road, deciding that she could go no further without rest. Her head hurt, her throat hurt, her feet hurt. She curled up on the grass, imagining a lullaby as she drifted off to that other land, the one made of candy floss clouds and sheep jumping over gates.
But even in this land there was trouble.
There was water seeping through her clothes and the ground under her was so uncomfortable she might as well have been lying on bricks. Her head hurt and her legs were twisted at odd angles. It was the ship. The ship was rocking back and forth atop the waves, stopping her from getting up. A man picked her up, his rough hands tangling her hair as he slung her over his back.
She couldn’t see the man, she didn’t want to. Her eyes were held tightly shut, blocking out the world. She could feel the man going up the stairs, but she thought there were more steps. She could feel him placing her down. Was he putting her on a lifeboat? Was she safe? There was blanket put over her, and an engine started. Still tempted to open her eyes, but too exhausted to actually look, she turned a little and fell into a deeper sleep.
Waking hours later, the girl sat up, confused. She wasn’t sitting on dew-covered grass at the edge of the road. She was sitting on a couch in a big room filled with photos. Her movement had startled a man who was sitting nearby on a chair. He smiled at her, his old eyes crinkling at the edges, his beard laced with grey. His head shone with lack of hair. His clothes were the colour of moss. He had seen the girl pass by his shop, and upon seeing her sleeping at the side of the same road after the shop was shut up, he took her home.
The girl was scared. She had been since she first got to this island, but now everything was becoming more frightening. The man seemed friendly enough, yet she wasn’t sure who to trust. She could be independent, but she had never been around strangers for this long. In this mysterious place, there was nothing familiar left to hang on to. It wasn’t that she wanted to be back with the family, but she didn’t know anything else. Could there be a place for her somewhere else, when it had never left like she had a place there? Everything was becoming so confusing, and the worst thing was people trying to help her. They didn’t know what happened. She wasn’t even sure if she knew. The girl stood up, her head spinning. The man, the man looked kind. He had photos of children. Grandchildren? But the girl blundered past him, out of the room.
The man tried to stop her. He yelled, he put his arms out and told her she couldn’t go outside. What was wrong with outside? That man was weird. She was free, and she could do what she wanted. Holding her head, she wrenched the door open and stumbled outside.
It was dark now. The girl stood beside the road for a while, trying to combat her fears. It would be so easy just to go back inside and spend the night on the sofa. But she wanted to feel in control. So bad she would risk the unknown in this walk through the dark.
Night was creeping on and a moon shone above, a bright coin in the sky. The girl walked, humming a nursery rhyme to herself. The moon was a small comfort to her on her endless journey. She was far from the man’s house, but ahead she could see nothing but shadows. Her legs hurt badly from the walking and her stomach was growling for food. But she had to go on. There was no giving up. She couldn’t admit defeat. The fear she felt gave her enough of an adreniline boost to continue.
The darkness was surrounding her and choking her. She could barely see the ground beneath her feet and her head felt like it had been wrapped in cotton wool and left out in the rain. Nothing made sense. The shadows in front of her seemed to be moving, dancing before her eyes. Vague shapes were forming and disappearing. All she could see was slightly different shades of black, mixing, churning, spitting out an outline of a person. All light in the world was gone, leaving a horrible collection of shadows. But how could there be shadows if there was no light? She had keep putting one foot in front of the other. Closing her eyes, wishing it all away. Hoping for some light for her journey. The moon had even gone. Vanished. Maybe it was hiding behind a thick cloud, laughing at her misfortune. Laughing at her for being scared without it.
The shadows. They couldn’t be shadows. But they were moving. She stopped. They were definitely moving. Coming closer. Reaching out, shapeless, terrifying figures. It wasn’t the moon that was laughing at her. It was the shadows.
She took a deep breath and told herself they didn’t exist. There were no scary monsters. The bogeyman doesn’t exist. It was just her. On this road. Nobody could hurt her. She kept repeating it in her head, as though it would make a difference. The girl started walking again. Slowly, each foot testing the ground in front. Slowly, trying not to think about what creatures were out there.
She had walked right into something. Something very solid. Toppling over, she could just see the shadows forming into people before her head hit the ground.
Stars were spinning in her head. She could feel the lifeboat moving. She could hear the people screaming. She could feel the waves as she was pushed off the boat. She could feel the the chunk of the ship as she held onto it tightly. She didn’t want to let go. But she couldn’t hold on. She was drifting away, barely keeping her head above water. Her knees were getting scraped by the sand. She was lying, coughing up water, on the beach. There were stars spinning in her head.
She looked up. And blinked. The darkness was gradually being displaced by rays of sunlight that briefly flickered over the horizen. The clouds were gone again.
The girl stood shakily in the middle of the road. She was in a town, there were houses and shops. And people. She saw the town from her blurry point of view. The people with concerned glances. Some came closer. One or two nodded in her direction, sympathy radiating out. It was like everyone understood, even when they couldn’t possibly understand. A girl her age, smiling and telling her she had been there before.
The girl had no words. No possible way to explain her situation. The beautiful part was, she didn’t need to. She felt like she had found her home.
It took her a few days to fully understand this island. There was a problem with the night. Perhaps it was only children that saw it at first, but when children disappear, adults get scared too. The girl had never thought that adults could be scared. She had thought they would always be able to protect. But sometimes, no matter what you do, there is no such thing as forever. So she was happy to live in the town. She had some close escapes, but people looked out for each other there. No one would be left out at night. She would still wonder about the family, if they were even alive. The past had its problems, but it was long gone. The future has its demons too, but most can be fought.