Bogleech.com's 2018 Horror Write-off:
Book of Alesanderia
Submitted by Monita R.
Then, I started seeing them.
They were people who looked like their skin was made of literal porcelain- clean, smooth, like a single push would shatter them. I saw them first in a crowded mall when I was about 10- a woman with long, wavy hair that was a blushing shade of pink with a matching dress that ruffled past her knees, holding the hand of child with scruffy black hair wrapped in a fluffy coat, walking past a man with ragged clothes and stringy black hair, hobbling along with a woman whose dull red hair was up in a bun, tucked behind her white cap that matched her own clothing- a plain shirt and plain pants. I stopped to look at them more closely. Something about them just screamed “inhuman” to me. The mother had blue eyes. The child’s were gray. The man and the other woman’s eyes were black and yellow respectively. That always stood out to me about them- their eyes.
As I saw them more often over the year, (usually early in the morning since the medication dose being upped), I noticed a pattern among them. The most frail and beggar-like of them all were either black-eyed or a shade of red. The most common colours were yellow, green, and light blue. The ones who had the most extravagant outfits, were deferred to the most by the others, and gave orders all had darker blue or purple eyes- the nobles. Even they deferred to those who had no pupils, no irises, with eyes completely blank. However, all the children, no matter who their parents seemed to be, had gray eyes. I remember sometimes seeing one that looked older with gray eyes. The others seemed to always ignore them.
I started to hear them speak after a few months. Before, I’d seen them move their mouths, but I’ve never heard anything come out of them. But even now, I could not understand them- they seemed to speak their own language. I first heard their melodic words when a man with slicked back blue hair and green eyes spoke to another man in a stall full of fruits and vegetables, whose head was covered by a wide brimmed yellow hat, the same shade as his eyes.
“Lokashosi garubana yuso?” the first man politely said, seeming curious
“Eno,” said the man in the straw hat, shaking his head.
“En, atha.” The other nodded understandingly, and walked away.
I didn’t quite get what they were talking about, but I think I got the gist of it. With sound, I could watch the lives of these people, see what they were like. I eventually learned that a “lokashosi” was a kind of long, conical root vegetable. I also learned how to say hello, goodbye, please, thank you, yes, and no. “Narinari, rinarina, ima, soyu-ri, ari, eno.”
I practiced when I could, though I could not speak to the people. Sometimes, I would even raid my mother’s room to slather myself in white powder and dress myself in colourful dresses to make the whole thing seem more believable to me when the meds kicked in. My favourite was my mom’s red dress with that tapered skirt. It complimented my mom’s curly orangey hair, and my own straight orangey hair. Then my mom would barge in and yell at me to clean up and put the purloined clothes away.
When I was 12, one of them spoke directly to me.
The medication dose had changed again, but it didn’t seem to do much good. It was a rainy day and I was looking through the window of my bedroom, and something whispered in my ear, telling me that I should jump and that it would be okay because there was a pile of tires at the bottom. I had trouble thinking straight with that sort of nonsense going on, and my grades at the time reflected that.
It was a weekend after the change, and my dad wanted me to get fresh air.
When I saw her, she towered over my dad, being the tallest one of those people I’d seen. Her hair rippled behind her past her waist, a swarm of braids of various pastels, with a shining crown of a silver encrusted with red gems adorning her head. Her eyes were blank white, the only evidence she had them being her starkly eyelashes. Her dress was adorned by rainbow coloured threads at her collar, and at the ends of sleeves. The gown skirt flew outwards, trailing behind her like a tidal wave of gold layers as she walked past the dark trees- and our bench.
She kept walking, her back to me, when a ruby red object dropped on the floor beside her. I looked to my dad- he had his scratchy, blue baseball cap hung over his eyes. Cautiously, I got up and over to the object- a pendant made from silver, embedded with a heart-shaped gem which I guessed was a ruby at the time. Running a finger over the cuts and creases, it felt quite solid and not-hallucinatory to me, but I’d learned better than to trust my senses. Still, this couldn’t hurt.
I picked it up, and called to the figure, still walking away in her graceful gait.
“Hey! Miss? You dropped something!”
“Keep it,” her voice, speaking rather clear English, echoed past her, past me, past the bench, and the park.
I took her command of generosity to heart as I walked back to the bench. At that moment my dad lifted the baseball cap up, away from his eyes- which immediately went straight for the pendant.
“Where’d you get that?” he asked, motioning for me to hand it over. I did so.
“It was on the grass,” I stated, running a finger over it once again, but a bit more gently this time, before pressing it into dad’s hand.
The next time I saw one of them, I knew they were speaking their own language- I heard it. Still, I felt like I could understand them- I knew what they were saying, at least. It was through a woman giving a speech on a balcony that I learned their name. On the tip of my tongue, I whispered it to myself- alesanderia.
I heard my mom calling for me on the edge of town square, and I ran towards her- bumping into an alesanderian girl along the way.
“Sorry!” I called as I rushed past.
“Aya?” she replied to my apology. “We napura? Berisa eno...”
My thoughts ran with me- the pendant, the contact, the touch of it all, and her words-
What? An impurity? Not possible…
I reached into my pocket, and the edges of the ruby’s facets greeted me. I treasured it, and my newfound faith in my senses, as I finally got a more reliable set of meds.
It was a cheery summer day when I was 16 when I first actively sought their world out. Armed with a good sense of the alesanderian language I grasped over the years- as it turned out while I understood them, most couldn’t understand me- a lot of powder and makeup on, and a backpack with a day’s worth of supplies, I told mom I was heading the the park.
The more I willed and wandered with all my heart and head, the longer the trees seemed to stretch on. Thankfully, after enough wandering the bark seemed to lighten and straighten out, with the sunlight filtering through the leaves becoming a less harsh grayish tone. When something rustled overhead, I looked up to the leaves that were now like green stained glass windows. In the branches above, I saw a creature that looked like a ball of dough with a segmented tail and scruffy hair the colour of the leaves. Its eyes were beady and in one solid colour, with some teeth jutting out of its mouth. It made a garbled, raspy noise, and hopped to another branch, and out of sight.
I kept walking. I saw more of those creatures, with a few miniature version of their kind huddled together in nests among the roots. At that point, I could see the start of a well-kept paved path ahead of me.
Following it for a while, I could sometimes see tiny ragdoll-like beings with dragonfly wings flutter in and out of sight, carrying brooms, mops, buckets, the like. I saw one scrubbing the pavement before noticing me and running off.
The trees grew scarce until I could see blocky buildings made of colourful cement beyond them. Most of these buildings followed a peculiar, pattern- after the first few stories, the next few would be smaller, like a step on a pyramid. The next few would be the same, but there were less stories in a “step”, until the tiniest step on the top only had one floor. The smaller buildings though, they just looked like big boxes in one colour with painted metallic patterns on them.
As I walked through the busy streets, with alesanderia going about their lives around me, I had the feeling that I was out of place. I mean sure, with the makeup and my own green eyes I looked enough like one of them. Still, sometimes I could see one cast a suspicious glance at me, before continuing on (sometimes shaking their head) like I wasn’t there at all. So, I kept on walking. Once, I saw one with black eyes fall over, limp, on the streets, with a heavily armed person coming out of a building to carry him away. I drew a tense breath, and kept walking.
The smell of something baking caught my attention, and I turned left onto a quieter road to follow. It lead me to a small shop with a three tier cake on its sign, and looking inside gave me all the hallmarks of a bakery. Without thinking too much of it, I wandered in.
Half of the counter was made up of a glass display that showed various treats. In the centre, the masterpiece of it all was a three-layered cake like on the sign, with the first layer being a chocolatey colour, the one on top of that being a cherry red, and the final layer was a cream colour and it was all finished with a pure white dollop of icing on the top.
There were three jars of multicoloured beads stacked on top of each other in one corner at the front, with some candied fruits hanging by a thread from the glass. A replica of one of those roly-poly creatures was under that one, with the body made of a round loaf of bread, two of the powdery beads from the jars for eyes, and an icing mouth.
Finally, the front row had a row of seven pink cups with scoops of something that looked like a cross between ice cream and pudding in them, and the scoops going from red to purple, like a rainbow.
A lady with green eyes and brown hair up in a bun, wearing an apron, came up to the other, regular half of the counter. She looked to me, practically pressing my face against the glass for a moment, and began to speak.
She then trailed off, looked away, as if she never saw me.
I paused and looked towards her- a long face, with lips frozen in an unexpressive form. Now that I thought of it more, it seemed like they were all like that- all the alesanderia. The children were more likely to smile and giggle and shout. The adults? Frozen, stone-cold.
As I was staring though, someone else in the back of the bakery caught the corner of my eye. She had long black hair, and gray eyes- the only ones I’d seen during my little trip. She also wore an apron. We only made eye contact for a moment before she disappeared on some other errand. I decided to look up- there were many pictures of various tasty-looking things with their original names. I don’t think I have a good translation for those names, but I did learn that the creatures in the forest- with a replica pastry in the display- were called Horiza.
As I was reading, something lightly bumped my head, and just a second later I heard a soft crinkle on the ground next to me. I looked to the sound, and a piece of crumpled up paper sat on the floor, right there. I leaned down and unraveled it slowly, flattening it out, as an exchange went on between someone in the back and the woman at the counter.
“Napuge relinana igani sho?”
“Vi obalizasi moloni. Suri lizakapa. Epuli relinana miye.”
Something is wrong?
With making bubble bombs. One explosion. I am fine.
I was out the door before I could hear what was said next. I felt like I’d seen enough of this world for today. Retracing my steps, I went back through the streets full of people, back through the forest path, back to where the creatures, those horiza, were hopping from branch to branch. After what seemed like forever, the colours of sunset dawned upon me and the bench ahead as I looked towards the orange sky, taking in a deep breath.
I got to the safety of my home, and sat down at the desk in my room, where I brushed over the paper with a finger, flattening it more. Written in plain (though imperfect) English and a lot of scribbled out patches, it told me-
“Alesanderian to English translating rough. Forgive me please? Ranaopaia is my name. To talk with you is my want. Why you are here?”
Taking a piece of paper and a pen for my own, a response was owed. It was a long night working on it, but I can say I ended up happy with the response.
A day or so later, I ran out into the woods again, down the streets, and towards the bakery. Still, nobody seemed to notice me for more than a second. A paper airplane sailed over the bakery counter into the kitchen, and the culprit was out the door before the lady at the front suspected anything. Though, right as the door was shut, I heard a thud against it. I turned around to see another wad of scrunched up paper. Opening the door just enough to reach my hand in and grab it, I did so and scurried off.
On the way home I unfurled the paper to see what was written. It was an address.
The house had been abandoned for quite some time, and nobody’s moved in because somebody apparently still owns it. Whoever the owner is doesn’t really care though, and left the house to rot, never even letting anyone from the neighborhood see their face.
It was a small house, with a single ground floor plus an attic, and faded walls. The roof shivered in the slightest breeze, and the windows and doors creaked with it. The lawn in front was wild and tangled, and overtook the now barely visible path to the entrance. Despite all this unkemptness, I saw the number clearly on the door- this was it.
I gently open the door, with my eyes looking forward and willing to believe.
The inside was far more quaint, with a soft blue wallpaper adorned with fluffy clouds adorning the space. The entry room was small, and contained a hook with a brown leathery coat on it by the door, and a pair of red sneaker-esque shoes under it. On the wall left of the entrance was a sofa that had an amicable floral pattern on its faded white fabric. Next to it was a tall, coverless lamp shedding a blue light. Across from it was a hallway- one that the woman from the back of the bakery walked through.
“Here, you,” she said, with a nod. I blinked a few times- so there was one alesanderian who knew plain English.
“I am,” I replied. “You’re Ranaopaia?”
She nodded again. “Rana, too. Name yours?”
“Felicity,” I said.
“]You sit there, please? Tea is liked?” She pointed to the sofa.
“Sure, sure.” As Rana walked back out of the room, I took a seat.
The sofa was squishy, the kind of squishy that second hand furniture, that somehow lost one of its legs, from a garage sale is. Once Rana came back, a small cup of china was pressed into my hand, and she took a seat on the other side of the sofa with her own cup. The tea was warm and sugary, and its taste reminded me of a rose as I sipped.
“You wanted to talk?” I confirmed. Rana nodded.
“To learn outside,” she stated. “Seeing humans, learn them, and English.”
“Ah, and you want me to help?” I asked further. She nodded in response, and took a sip of tea.
“What kind of tea is this?” The taste was nice, unlike the tea I’d tasted before. Maybe I could learn how to make it.
“With leaves lokasha flowers,” she informed me.
“Where can I find the flowers?”
“In forests with Horiza. Flowers eaten by Horiza.”
We sat in silence, sipping our tea for a while, when another, more pressing question came to me.
“Your eyes are gray,” I started. “And children’s eyes are gray, right? But adults usually aren’t. Why is that?”
Rana seemed to go silent for a while, looking away, sipping tea, looking to the floor… until she spoke again.
“Broken. The test broken by me. When little was I.”
“A test?” I pressed further. “What does the test have to do with anything?”
“Everyone does it. Never finished.” she shook her head sadly.
“That’s it?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. Rana nodded, again.
“No test, no eye colour change. Better colours is a better life. How colours are chosen? Not known by me.” she rambled as she spun the teacup around in her hands. “And better colour better life, better position.”
“Wait, let me just straighten this out a bit,” I stop Rana, and put a hand out, hovering by her shoulder. “So you never finished a test thing and that’s why your eyes stayed the same?”
“Mm-hm,” Rana confirmed, nodding.
“And because of that, you’re considered lesser in society?”
“Than the oranges and below I am higher. But yes.” she again confirmed.
“That’s messed up, you know?” I tell her, finally resting a hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure you’re okay living like this?”
“How else?” she said. “How else I live?”
I didn’t have an answer, so I withdrew my hand and pulled my feet onto the sofa, cradling the almost empty teacup in both my hands.
“Still grateful for offer of yours,” Rana continued. “But no way to work.”
“Well… at least you have a nice place,” I attempted to change the subject.
“I leave not often, so it is comfortably made,” she said in response. “People like not sight of gray eyes. So no work at bakery counter of mine.”
“I think they’re just fine,” I noted casually. In response, Rana smiled.
Once all the tea was gone we said our goodbyes and agreements to see each other again. On the way home I saw a bunch of kids my age on the other side of the street. They giggled, then one was waving at me.
“Hey! We’re having an open party at the arcade this Saturday, everyone’s invited! Wanna come?”
I shrugged. “Why not?”
One of the girls turned to the person who called, and muttered “It actually worked!”
The crowd kept on walking, laughing and chattering among themselves, and I went on my way too. I only vaguely knew these people, but any chance to get out of the house makes my mom happy.
It made her especially happy to know I was finally deciding to do a bit of socialization with people my age. The kids there were surprisingly not-mean, and one, a guy with blonde hair even taught me how to play a couple of the arcade games- one of those shooter games where you control a ship flying through space while dodging bullets. Still, I was more interested in heading back to Rana’s house to tell her all about it, over small cups of pudding she made for us.
As summer turned to fall and the school bells rang once more, it became a weekly ritual. On Saturday, I would head over to Rana’s house and tell her about my week, and she would smile and comment on the various interesting things humans did that she wasn’t familiar with. My eyes were open not just to the alesanderian’s world now- but also interesting events here. I wouldn’t want to bore Rana now, would I? Of course sometimes I visited the alesanderian world through the forest path, but that was rarer now. I’d seen all I wanted to see of that portion of the world, after all, even if it was fun to revisit and remember.
I’d gotten so comfortable in the two worlds, but I couldn’t get too comfortable- I learned that on an evening in late September where a slip of the tongue revealed my knowledge of the horizas to my dad. The next day I was back with the psychiatrist re-evaluating my med doses, asking me if anything had changed. It was bad enough that I was taken out of school for a couple of days, which upset my newfound acquaintances.
Luckily, it was all smoothed over once Halloween came around. I and a group of others were walking home from school that day when one of them, the blonde boy stopped and turned- the rest of us followed. What stood before me was Rana’s house. The boy turned to me and whispered-
“I dare you to go in there.”
I looked him in the eye and said “Okay.”
I waltzed in like I lived there, and came out of there holding a bag of cookies that Rana gave me when I explained the situation. The group gasped, looking to the bag that smelled of freshly baked treats, the house, and me. I think they liked the cookies, though, the blonde boy named Jack especially.
At long last the school year wound down for the summer, with weeks of laughter, clinking arcade tokens, talks over tea, and colourful sights in alesanderian streets. On the last day of school I was walking home with a heavy bag, but a big smile on my face. Suddenly, I heard the laughter of children, and turned to look.
A playground sat a block away from the school on my route home, but it was usually empty. The kindergarteners left earlier in the day, after all. Now though, little gray-eyed children with fragile porcelain skin were giggling, chattering, and flailing around on the slides, the swings, everywhere. I could see one make eye contact with me, and shriek. The children fell silent, with some peeking out from behind the monkey bars. The rest went back to playing as those that peeked out came towards me, stopping at the edge of the sidewalk.
Their chattering, unmistakably alesanderian, but somehow unknown to me echoed everywhere, and the children seemed to grow, and grow, until they towered over me, their stern eyes and furrowed brows blocking the light as their shrill voices drowned out everything else.
I looked up. A group of my schoolmates were standing over me, with myself curled into a ball with my hands over my ears. Sitting up, I looked past their legs to the playground. The alesanderian children were still there, playing, as if I hadn’t come into their sight at all.
“Are you okay?” one of them asked again. Without responding, I lifted myself up and dashed away- instead of going home, to Rana’s house.
She poured out a cup of tea for me as I described the ordeal.
“Alesanderian children do not do that,” she stated, obviously. “That is odd.”
“No kidding,” I said, as I took the tea into my hands. “Guess the hallucinating is getting worse after all.”
Rana had no response, she simply looked at the floor again like she did. She then placed a hand on my shoulder.
“Why don’t we make some pudding together?”
I perked up at the idea- the pudding Rana made was truly a treat, and I would love to have the recipe. Though, I figured most of the ingredients would be unique to alesanderia.
Ground up kernels, a sweet powder, a translucent blue syrup, juice from a few fruits- it seemed like an oddly simple recipe. As I was mixing the ground kernels and the powder together, Rana put the pot down on a stove-like counter and looked out the kitchen window.
“Look! A parade!”
I put down the mixture in the bowl, and looked out- and my eyes widened, with my mouth hanging ajar. The tall, graceful being who I got my locket from all those years ago, there she was again, walking through the streets of alesanderia, with a crowd cheering and armed guards around her.
“I’ve seen her!” I almost shrieked. “She spoke to me-”
“The Empress?” Rana gasped. “The Empress spoke to you?”
“I… she gave me a pendant…” I try to explain, distracted by the being I now know as the Empress out the window. We were both quiet as we watched the spectacle of her waving to the crowd, and people coming up to her and talking. She nodded her head at each of them, handed them a small red gem, and sent them on their way.
“Did the pendant look like the blessing gems?” Rana asked.
“Those red gems? Yes!” I cry out.
“Oh! The Empress gave you her favor!” Rana exclaimed. “You, a human!”
“There aren’t many of those where you are, are there?” I half-joke, with a small smile.
“Well…” Rana places a hand on the handle of the pot, her finger tapping against it. Over, and over, and over… “You do realize not many nice things happen to humans the Empress sees, right?”
“Hm?” I tilt my head. “Nobody’s had a problem with me.”
Rana gulped, before speaking “Humans in general are… often not liked. According to law I should have reported you, but... I thought you were a dream. Now? I can not report you. Just no.”
A horrified scream pierced the glass, and my neck almost snapped as I looked out the window. Two of the heavily armed people who had been around the Empress before were now holding up a human by an arm each. Blood soaked the human’s hair and dripped from his chin, as the Empress held a mace in one hand, hovering it above his crushed skull. The crowd went into a wild roar.
The silence after was deafening, and I left the house soon after the pudding started to bake. Looking to the ground distracted me from seeing the buildings switch between their usual triangular and rectangular selves to the stacking steps of alesanderia- flickering, then settling on the pyramids.
“You’re seeing one of mine,” a voice that was familiar in a faraway memory spoke, booming from above. I peeled my eyes away from the pavement, and stared up at the Empress’ figure.
“Why me?!” I immediately yelled. “Why me and not the human you just murdered in cold blood?”
“I work in mysterious ways, child,” she stated, staring down at me.
“Why did he have to die?” I shouted again.
“Impurity in our land will not be tolerated,” she answered. “And that includes all of your kin.”
“SILENCE!” The Empress’ voice echoed even louder. I looked around- the streets once dotted with people coming home from school or work were now empty, and the June sky was grayed out.
“You are different, and that’s why I chose you for a special opportunity to leave all impurity behind,” she continued. “I allowed you to visit my domain- unharmed. And if you chose wisely you may continue as such once you live there-”
“I’m fine here, thanks,” I deflect her offer, and turn around.
“You will never hallucinate again. Not the children at the playground, not the voice in your head, nothing.” she then said, more gently. I stopped. “We will make you perfect.”
I stayed silent for a while, until a question burned into my mind.
“I never told you about the incident with the children.”
There was a pause.
“You told Rana,” she answered bluntly.
“She’s… Rana’s working for you?” I asked, quivering.
“No, quite the opposite,” the Empress brushed off. “But... I see all that happens in my empire.”
I stood still with my back to her. I thought back to the red and black eyed beggars who were avoided as they pleaded, Rana and her scenario, and most vividly of all the the crushed and bloodied head of the human whose only sin was to enter this strange, whimsical-seeming world- just as I did.
“I don’t want this,” I started, squeezing my eyes shut. “I don’t want this to be my world.”
The silence continued after that, and it echoed just as the Empress’ voice did.
“Very well,” she finally said.
“Who are you talking to?” I opened my eyes to the sound of Jack’s voice, as he stood in front of me. His lip was chewed on, and his eyes were nervous, perhaps even welling with worry.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I quickly nodded, and turned to walk off.
“You can tell me if there’s anything wrong, you know!” he called after my retreating back. I had no response.
Another summer came and went. I still visited Rana every week, but the air in the house felt stiffer, and colder, and even Rana’s treats seemed to be a bit drier and crumblier. The first day of school came back, and then the first week ended, like that. It was hard to focus on the passage of time when my med dose was changed once again. Still, the image of alesanderians was always there, no matter what meds I was on, or how much of them I took. On the more positive side, I could still and talk to Rana.
The Saturday after the first week, before I did my weekly visit, I turned the pendant over and over in my hands, studying its every crest and cut. The shine of it seemed to taunt me. I pocketed it, and went down the road to Rana’s house.
“So the fairy ragdolls things keep the place clean?”
I looked past the cup of tea I was holding and onto the pendant in my lap.
“They must have their work cut out for them,” I commented.
“How do you think everything looks so perfect?”
I nodded, in acknowledgement, still looking to the pendant. Rana fell silent, with me.
“She’s watching, isn’t she?” my mouth spontaneously forms the words.
“What?” said Rana, slightly startled.
“She sees everything in her Empire,” I muse out loud. “The only reason you haven’t been caught is because she won’t allow it yet. But… the refusal.”
“A refusal? You refused something from the Empress?” continued Rana, her words seeming to shake with anxiety.
I slowly nodded.
More silence. Then Rana whispered, “I approve.”
“Hm?” I look to her, with a quizzical glance.
“That was a good choice,” she restated. “I do not want to be alesanderia. I do not want to be here. I wish I could live differently, but as long as I am here I cannot. I…”
She tried to say something, bu coughed, gulped, and rubbed her throat, the pain audible as she finally said her next words.
“I hate the Empress. I hate how she makes me live like this.”
The vibrance returned to the house through the school year as we discussed the state of the alesanderian world and how to fight against it in the small ways, but only sometimes when I visited. At some point close to Halloween, I believe we discussed the idea of forming a rebellion- but that idea was quickly quelled, as there was no way we could pull it off. Meanwhile at school, the friend circle I had surrounded myself in simmered down, as the last year of high school’s end came nearer and nearer. Thankfully, my studies didn’t suffer enough for me to not get into a university.
Then, it dawned on me- the university was rather far from my small neighborhood. I would not be able to visit Rana, so what would become of her in my absence? As May came and turned into June, I told her about it- she kept assuring me she’d be fine, that she had a plan, and that it would all be okay in the end.
The last bell rang. Sure, graduation was still to come, but that was for tomorrow. Right now, I had goodbyes to say.
First I had to go home to gather a few things and put them in my bag- a small notebook with a few photos of me, drawings of my time in the alesanderian world, and a few recipes I thought Rana would like. I then attached a small pocket to the back of it all and slid a small bracelet into it, a silvery chain with heart shaped charms of various colours dangling from it. As I let go of it and its metallic touch left, I heard something outside my window. Looking up, I saw the sky go gray with clouds, and the gentle patter of rain falling upon the roof over my head.
I took my red raincoat and headed out on the usual route to Rana’s house. The fear of the creaky old “haunted” house, small to begin with, had vaporised, replaced by two years of friendly chats and the smell of baked goods. It began to condense again when I got a good look through the door.
Now the interior matched the falling-apart exterior of the house- the wallpaper was gone, the furniture was too, and the rain made everything creak. I stared into the emptiness, and my mind tried to run away, but it too was frozen there.
“You two were quite bold, Felicity.”
I turned around quickly, my eyes wild and wide as they stared upon the shaded figure of the Empress in the doorway. Behind her stood two more of those guards.
“You thought you could get away with all that slander against me?” she asked, with a sly smile on her face. “You thought I’d let any of my subjects talk so rudely like that?”
“She had a point!” I snapped. “And you just proved it!”
The Empress laughed- it was a hearty laugh that filled the space and squeezed the air out of my lungs to make room.
“Did she?” she asked. “You know I wouldn’t have gone after her if you didn’t make her act up.”
“Don’t act like it’s not your fault!” I cried, blinking rapidly to keep my eyes clear. “You set her up like this! She didn’t have to be-”
“Don’t act like it’s not your fault,” she reflected at me in a deeper tone. I stayed quiet, sniffling as my vision blurred.
“Now you have no need to be worried,” she went back to her gentle voice, as she gave me a pat on the shoulder. “Look, she’s not even dead.”
I blinked, staring at our shoes, as a droplet fell onto one of mine. The Empress lifted my chin up so I looked her in the face.
“See, I didn’t forget that you refused my offer earlier. But I never gave up on you, child. If you choose to come with us, and become one-”
“No!” I yelled, turning away from her to force her hand off my face. “That’s the opposite of what Rana would want!”
The guards raised their weapons- the maces, those horrible maces capable of crushing a man’s skull-
“Now now, no need to attack,” said the Empress, taking a step back. In the corner of my eye I could see her smile sweetly. “So be it, Felicity. This could have been avoided if you didn’t tempt one of my pure subjects to the wilderness of humanity. Yet, you still refuse to own up to your mistake and make things right. So be it! I hope you can live with yourself.”
The Empress turned, and her guards followed her. I stood in the house until I was certain the entourage was far enough away.
Then I ran, the rain battering my raincoat. I was going to go back home, but when I reached a crossroad I was reminded of a bridge on one of the turns. I took the pendant out of my pocket- it still shined, even in the dreary rain.
The bridge stood over a river, usually gently flowing, now seemed to roar along with the rain. The waves smashed against rocks and rapids on its way to the bridge, before peacefully going under. Another glance at the cut, another feel of the gem, and I knew just what to do.
It dashed against a sharp rock right on one of the creases, and the ruby heart sent its shrapnel right to the bank of the river, only for every single piece of the gem to sweep with the rainwater into the river, and float complacently under the bridge. Content, I started to retrace my steps.
It was then I noticed one of those pyramid buildings in front of me- but only for a second before it changed back to the house that it really was. My heart threatened to burst out of my chest in panic, and my feet quaked in their rainboots. The building flickered again. I heard shouting.
From every corner, in every direction, alesanderia pointed and screamed. I bolted into an empty alley, and I could hear more shouting. Daring to look behind me, those guards with their maces were there, creeping upon the entrance of the alley. I looked ahead and kept running, swerving into alleys, as the buildings sometimes seemed to blink back to the houses I was familiar with every so often. A guard surprised me, and took a good swing at my head, ramming into my nose and not my skull thankfully. I turned back, but more guards were there. I dashed to the side, more alleys, and I completely lost track of where I was going. One guard threw something at the back of my head, as if the rain beating down on my body wasn’t enough.
Running out of breath, I had to slow down for a bit in a relatively empty street- it was an unwise decision, and something that looked sharp flew past, providing a shallow but painfully noticeable incision on my shoulder.
Finally, I found one alley where I couldn’t see them coming for me, and stuck to its wall, gasping. My lungs were ready to give out at any moment, my knees ready to fall and accept my fate.
The I saw the path into the forest, and raced towards it faster than I could think. The horrible squelch underfoot was a horiza I stepped on- looking back I could see its squashed body. But to me, it was a sign I might be getting closer. Finally, I burst out of the forest to the sight of the park bench. A glance around revealed houses, not pyramids.
I still felt like I could hear shouting behind me, so I kept running- until I ran into the blonde boy again, who was holding an umbrella.
“Felicity?” he asked, before I caught enough breath to apologize. “You don’t look so good.”
I slowly blinked as he talked.
“Honestly, you look kind of beat up. Is that blood on your nose?”
I thought I saw something before the last time I blinked, and I was right. I saw it again- houses changing to pyramids, and a tall figure behind the boy.
“Listen, I think we should get you to a hospital or something. Or at least somewhere safe.”
I looked above his head as a familiar voice seemed to underline his words.
I screamed, and ran off, pushing him away.
I can only pray that this whole alesanderian empire was just a fever dream that lasted my whole life. Then it can end along with me. If not, then I fear for everyone else I know. I didn’t choose to start this. I’m sorry it had to end this way. Please understand.