CH.2

I really should not have gone towards the light. I should have stayed away. That's what they always tell you to do in those creepy Twilight Zone type shows that deal with near-death experiences and having special powers that allow you to do random things like steal that one guy's terminal eczema. I suppose that if anyone should know about these kinds of things, they should.

"Don't walk into the light..."

That is just plain creepy.

That time I wasn't being sarcastic. However, me being me, I ignored all instinct and common sense, and was drawn to the radiant light like a moth to the flame.

I did not hesitate. That bright, sparkling thing had captured my overly developed sense of curiosity; I was a slave to it. I had to know what it was. I walked towards it, focused entirely on the orb of pure light in front of me. It wasn't even hot, as you'd expect something that bright to be.

When I was all but a few feet away from it, I heard a tiny voice in my head, screaming. I didn't think too much of it, until I jolted to a stop, now inches away from the abstruse object. I couldn't walk anymore. I could feel an intense coldness sweeping over me, chilling everything in my body. I felt my heart falling to a stop, my brain shutting down and my lungs collapsing as I realized that that screaming voice was coming from me.

The light was growing brighter by the second, and at one point I went blind. My voice failed, and I could feel icicles forming on my skin, hair and clothes. I knew what was coming. I never pictured it happening like this in all my Math class daydreams, but it definitely seemed like this was how I was going to end.

I was dying.

My eyes closed and everything was darkness.

I was falling!

In the blink of an eye (figuratively, of course; I couldn't even feel my eyelids, let alone blink), I was falling through a purely white place that I'd never seen before in my entire life. It was so weird, the feeling of falling, especially since I couldn't see that I was doing it. My surroundings never varied. Just the feeling of plummeting gave me any indication I was moving. I felt like I was going to hurl, it was so mind-boggling.

Only my immense wonder kept me from doing it. Barfing, I mean. I could even swear I saw an angel, right before it all stopped. I went from being in heaven to hell again.

I hit something very hard and unforgiving with a very thud-like thud.

I lay there for what seemed to be hours. Probably was, too. I couldn't feel anything, really; I was still numb in most places, my legs especially. My mind was reeling from whatever just happened. I didn't even know! What if I had just imagined it and I was lying on the forest floor, just waiting for some power-hungry rapist to come and deflower my virgin soul? There weren't exactly many rapists in little old Clareton, but still. Not the best situation to be caught in by anyone. Maybe I just breathed in some weird smelling smoke on my way here and all this is a dream-

"Oh, God!" I cried.

I had regained feeling in my whole body, and it hurt like what I imagined being run over by a raging semi would feel like. I never wanted to move again.

"Please say this is a dream." I muttered into the grass my face was resting in. I tried to move my neck, looking up to the sky-

No. It was definitely real.

I knew that for sure the moment the beard came into view.

"Why, err, halloo there, missy! Had a roof day, err, have wee?" The little old man said, offering a hand. I just stared.

"Humm, guess ye'll be needin' some help then?" Before I could protest, he had bent down and yanked me to my feet. It was all I could do to not cry out.

The minute I stood up straight, though, I felt the break. My left ankle was throbbing like it had its own little heart beating in there.

"Shit! Ow!" I yelled, collapsing back to the ground. I had never broken anything before in my life, so this was a huge shock.

It fucking hurt!

"Oh, my there! Looks like yer ankle's a bit put out with ye! I can help ye with that, yes I can!"
He bent down next to me summoned a long white bandage from out of thin air. But that wasn't what was commanding my attention at that particular moment.

It was then that I realized just how accurate the 'little old man' description was.

He was inhumanly small. He was a perfect miniature of my grandpa who always smelled like cigars and cinnamon. Except for the clothes; he was wearing (here's the clue that I needed to believe that I wasn;t in Kansas anymore) a tunic. I think my old Gramps would have too many masculine pride issues to pull that one off. He was around four feet tall with a beard half his size and a red, roly-poly face.

Seriously, he looked like a miniature Santa Claus mixed with Lacelot.

Or at least what I imagined Lancelot to look like when I was deep in my medieval romance phase in grade seven.

"Umm... sir-" I started to say.

"Leo-nard Hughie, if you please madum."

"Mr. Hooly-"

"Hughie. Heeeuuughey, if you please. Madum."

"Mr. Hughie, may I ask you a question? (He nodded) Umm... where are we, exactly?"

"In O'Harra, madoom."

I snorted. This couldn't get weirder.

"As in Scarlett O'Hara?"

I snorted again, despite the glare he shot at me.

"Why no, madum. As in O'Harra! What's yer name, little lass?"

"Evie, sir, pleased to meet you."

"Pretty, indeed. Your ankle's all done!" I admired his handiwork and thanked him. It was perfectly wrapped, and the throbbing had stopped entirely.

"Do ye need somewhere to stay? I know where you'd be taken in! She'd help ye get on yer feet again, she would." He had the weirdest accent I'd ever heard in my life, drawing out every other syllable to make him sound almost like a squawking bird.

I thought for a minute.

I had nowhere else to go.

Hell, I didn't even know where 'nowhere' here would be!

I jumped onto his donkey cart; he insisted that I lie down in the back, get my rest. I personally didn't mind one bit. I closed my eyes, and in what seemed like seconds, was in the middle of a city.

I sat up and gazed out into the streets. My jaw dropped.

It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my whole entire life.

It reminded me of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, when there's this big festival going on, and Quasimodo wants to go join it. The rich colors and textures, the ribald laughter and dancing, gypsies... It was all so vibrant. I saw a child chasing a dog, laughing the whole time, a man and woman dancing a graceful foreign dance, gypsies twirling... It was almost too much, it was so amazing. But even amidst all of that thick, rich 'je ne sais quoi', there was a lining of something not too good. Not really fitting in until you knew what it was. I don't know how to explain it.

It felt kind of… bad.

Like there was an undercurrent of evil running sneakily between the boy playing with his puppy and the couple, now embracing in a dark corner. It was like you could sense that the eggs had gone rotten, but couldn't smell them…

Yes, Evie. It's exactly like groceries going bad.

Okay, maybe I went too far.

The thing was, it was so hidden the darkness melded with the scene, disguised by the passion and laughter.

And I never wanted to leave.

There were narrow cobblestone pathways surrounded by medieval houses (though, thankfully, they had found a better way of getting rid of waste than just throwing it into the street) and we passed at least five square openings where bunches of people danced and sang, sold and traded and bustled about, trying to get to who-knows-where on time. I was in full awe of all I was seeing the whole time, trying to absorb it all at once, even though I knew that was impossible. And you know what the weird thing is?

Even though I was going through worse culture shock than the time I went on an exchange program to Japan, I was fully calm. Seriously, I had absolutely no remorse for being away from my home. I mean what did I really have? A bully who had it in for me? A cheating ex-boyfriend, the first boy I've ever loved? An aunt and uncle who are the exact opposite of good parents? Who constantly put me down? That's pretty much all I have, except for a few buddies at school who I only really hang out with because they're like me. In other words, freaks.

Wowie, you'd better book me the first ticket back to that hotness!

I was jolted out of my reverie by Mr. Leo-nard Hughie, if ye please madum.

"Well, err, Miss Evie, this is where I let ye off. Just tell Ms. Knox that I sent ye. Ye'll be fine. G'day!"

I got off the back of his wagon and scrutinized the house in front of me. It was the color of a rainbow, literally. It was a Victorian era house covered in random splashes of extremely bright paint. I actually kind of liked it, despite its utter chaos.

He 'Hyah!'-ed his donkey and disappeared in a flash.

Well, that explains why it only took seconds to get here. To O'Harra. Or... hell, I'm confused.

And, looking at the strange house I was about to enter, I had a feeling that wasn't about the change.

I knocked on the door, and a few seconds later, a girl answered the door.

"Ms. Knox?" I asked, all hopeful.

"No, Madame. I shall go get her if you wish."

Ah; the maid.

"Yes please... umm... Tell her that Leo-nard Hughie sent me, please,"

She said nothing, only raising her eyebrow at the 'please'. Whoa. Maids must have it bad.

She let me in, closing the door behind her, and told me to have a seat in the next room. The house –the inside, that is- itself seemed pretty plain. All of the rooms I could see were painted white with hardwood floors. It didn't have many decorations either, and the living room, or at least what I thought the living room was, didn't have many either. It had all of two paintings; a pig with a grin on its face, being held by a grim faced old woman, and another of a younger pig, on its own. It was about to be slaughtered, but a young man who looked vaguely like an elf my friend drew once was fighting the executioner, trying to get the axe away from the pig.

Weird.

I was admiring (more like 'pondering' or 'contemplating') the second painting when Ms. Knox arrived.

"Well, how do you like my dearies? My pigs are quite lovely, you know. Not to eat, of course. I would never eat my dearies. Evie, isn't it? Mr. Leo- nard Hughie is a dear friend of mine, and one of us. Not you, of course. Of us. I would always give him a favour; I owe him dozens. So what is the matter, child?"

She spoke in a gravelly, reassuring voice, and when I turned around, about halfway into the little speech she gave me, I saw that she was the grim old lady in the painting. Only she was a lot less grim. So this was Ms. Knox.

"Ms. Knox, I'm Nevada Rose Hart, and I know you probably won't believe me and I'm probably dreaming right now anyway, but here it goes: I was transported into this world not too long ago, and I was cold, and I'm a bit creeped out, but I love this place and have nothing to leave behind anyway- "

"Dearie, dearie, dearie... Shhh, now."

I shhh-ed.

She slowly walked over to one of the two couches adorning the bland room and sat down. I wanted to yell at her to hurry up, get it over with, since I could sense that it would be important, whatever she would tell me.

"They must have wanted you... We must have wanted you. That's why she's here. Stuck here..."

She was rambling.

"Ms. Knox, what are you talking about? Please tell me, I need to know."

"Sit down, child."

I sat.

"You, Miss Hart, are stuck here, in O'Harra, until you do something. Oh, I don't know what, so don't ask. They must have wanted you here. I'm sorry, dearie. You can't go home."

I was a bit shocked to hear that, even if I wasn't too sad. I just like to have my options open, that's all.

"And if I complete what 'they' want?"

She smiled.

"Who knows, dearie, who knows?"

"Who are 'they'?"

Her smile grew larger, revealing a nearly toothless, rotting mouth.

My gut sank to my toes.

"Who knows, dearie, who knows?"