Chapter 26The End

I walked home by myself, feeling a pair of eyes burning into me. Even in broad daylight, I couldn't resist the urge to glance around. The paranoia was mind boggling.

And it only worsened when I reached home. Mom usually wasn't home at this time, but it was amazing what the absence of a nine year old boy could do to make you feel. I had found a note taped on the fridge from Mom explaining that Jason had gone to a friend's house after school. She must have stopped by on her lunch break.

I sighed, and nervously chewed on my bottom lip. I had no friends to pass the time with, and I desperately needed to get out of the house before going insane. I briefly considered going to the library and starting my homework there.

Then a sudden thought struck me. God, I'm such an idiot. Just finding some source of comfort would relieve me. I could go over to Alex's house, and if he wasn't there, then his parents would tell me what was going on. I had hoped the idea would make me feel better, but the bad feeling in the core of my stomach would not go away.

I hurried up the stairs, wanting to use the bathroom before I left.

I twisted the knob and the first thing I realized was that the window of the bathroom was open. The cool breeze blew my hair around me, and I hastily closed it. Huh. I didn't recall leaving it open this morning.

I turned from the window, and with a gasp that clogged my throat and sent me paralyzed, I stared at the mirror in utter and horrified fear.

For there was crimson clear writing in the mirror. It was a second before I could even process what the words were saying, and I had to read it over a few times, trying to let the shock seep out of my paralyzed mind.

Find Woode in the woods. Alex says hi. You know where to find us. Come alone. Or else.

The handwriting was perfect, but I could not get past the fact that it was written in blood red lettering. Blood red…

Unable to move or think, I could only stare at the mirror, the fear swelling up inside and burning its way farther and farther up into my throat. It threatened to overtake me, and it finally did. An ear shattering scream left my lungs, and when it was over, I sunk to the floor, panting.

Finally, through the haze of shock and fear, my brain began to function again. Without a second thought, I leapt to my feet. The fear, shockingly, had almost left me and I was in furious pursuit. I knew what I had to do.

My feet pounded and drummed loudly in my ears as I ran. There was no way I would make it there in time. How far was it anyway?

The sweat trickled down the sides of my face, and I could taste it in my mouth. A couple of times, I tripped and my face met the hard concrete. I tasted the blood in my mouth.

Eventually, I made it. I kneeled over, hands on my knees, trying to ignore the stabbing pain in my side. My hair was matted with sweat to my forehead, and I tried to push it out of my eyes.

Once I had regained a bit of my breath back, I headed into the horde of trees, not allowing my mind to capture the reality of the fear. There was no time to think.

Just keeping moving, Belle.

But my mother and Jason's faces suddenly invaded my mind, so sharply, so vividly. I didn't realize I was crying until I reached my hand up to wipe more hair out of my eyes, and felt the wetness there.

"Belle," a hoarse voice croaked.

I gasped, and whirled around in shock. Because it was not the voice of the Spirits. It was the voice of someone I was in love with.

Alex sat at the base of a tall tree limply. Squinting, I realized his arms were wound tightly around the tree, refusing him to escape.


Without thinking, I sprinted over to him and dropped down on my knees.

He looked like he was about to fall asleep any second, although his eyes remained alert and focused on mine. His hair, matted down with sweat, was pressed into his forehead and falling into his eyes. There was dirt smeared across his face, leaves and branches in his air.

"Alex," I cried weakly, crumpling down vulnerably in front of him. The tears pooled over, gushing down my face like a flood.

His eyes were full of a burning emotion and I spotted wetness tearing at his eyes.

"Belle," he whispered. "You've got to get out of here."

I blinked furiously, trying to get the tears out of my eyes so that I could see clearly again. "What? No, I've got to get you untied from here."

I rose to my feet and went around the other side of the trunk, my fingers brushing along the rough, tight knots lightly.

Oh shit, how am I going to undo these?

My fingers grazed Alex's, and with alarm, I realized that his hands were beginning to turn a nasty shade of blue and purple. Alex's fingers twitched within mine.

"What the hell are you doing, Belle?" his voice was weak and strained. "Leave now."

"Hang on," I whispered back faintly. My fingers began making furious contact with the ropes, tears falling down my face as I tried to unknot them.

"Belle!" his voice was harsher this time, demanding my attention.

My hands froze.

"Would you listen to me? I'm going to be fine. They're not going to do anything to me. But you've got to get out of here before something happens," Alex's voice was stronger, only gaining more momentum.

Automatically, I collapsed to my knees and crawled to the front to meet him. His arms struggled more and more with the ropes, but with no luck. I knew his fingers were aching to wipe the tears from my cheeks.

I gazed back at him, my eyes blazing into his piercingly sharp blue ones.

"Come here," Alex whispered to me throatily.

I leaned forward and pressed my lips gently to his. It was one of the sweetest kisses we had ever shared. His lips were comfortingly warm and it soothed my muscles and limbs, even when we were in the middle of the forest, where impending doom was about to meet me.

The tenderness of the kiss made the tears fall even more freely down my face. He pulled a bit away and gave me a shaky smile. Then, he took a deep breath and whispered, "I love you, Belle. Never forget that."

I swallowed hard, and desperately tried to answer him through my tears. "I love you too, Alex."

His lips kissed away the remaining tears on my cheeks and then he went back to my lips; my hands wrapped tenderly around his waist.

The flash of blinding light caught me completely off guard; I flew backwards as a gust of wind reached out to meet me and I lay sprawled across the forest floor, shaking uncontrollably.

This reminded me of something familiar.

"Alex!" I screamed out, but there was no answer. Only eerie silence.

Be strong, Belle, be strong. Coughing, I rose to my feet and leaned against a tree trunk for support. My knees buckled.

Am I even in the same area? Frantically, I searched all around, my eyes scanning the area for the love of my life.

My legs moved forward automatically, although unwillingly. It was like I had no choice. Was I even searching for Alex anymore?

And then his face burst clearly through my mind, a perfect, flawless sculpture of him, smiling serenely back at me, his sharp, blue eyes gazing at me with an intensity that almost sent me flying.

I gasped, and had to stop walking, trying to regain my balance.

"Alex," I choked out. I couldn't speak any longer; the huge lump in my throat from fear and sadness had moved forward in my throat, making even breathing an obstacle.

I pushed past the tall trees, winding myself farther and farther into the forest, searching. Only searching.

As I was blindly searching, I stumbled across something, and found myself face down in the dirty forest floor.

Coughing, I straightened up so that I was sitting and turned towards the object that had sent me flying.

Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh my god.

Because I recognized the familiar pale face staring up the sky, eyes closed. Her dirty blonde hair lay straggled messily across her face. Still dressed in the clothes I had last seen her in.


Without stopping to think about what I was doing, or letting the fear and agony filter through my brain, I moved forward on my knees and hesitantly reached up, touching her face.

She was freezing.

I felt the surge of blood drain from my face; a cold sweat began to break out. My hands slipped from the cold, lifeless body. Hundreds of thoughts filtered through my head, but only one stood out. Realization had finally hit.

I began backing up to get away. No! It couldn't be.

She was gone. Dead.

And I was next.

I whirled around, my heart pounding frantically, ready to burst. My eyes roamed the clearing of the darkening trees. The sun was about to set; soon it would be too late. I needed to get out of here. And fast.

I willed myself to get away from the still body lying on the ground. But my brain was frozen and my body wasn't cooperating the way I needed it to be. I was getting aggravated; tears began to well up in my eyes, clouding my vision. But I could still hear.

The voices. The voices were whispering my name in rage. But I had done nothing wrong. "Belle, Belle!" They continued. My hands flew to my ears, covering them. I didn't want to hear anymore. I had finally had enough.

"What! What do you want from me?" I cried out to the darkness helplessly. My back collided against the trunk of a tree. I looked around for any means of escape.

In response, the queen herself stepped out of the long shadows of the trees. A dark smile was splashed on her red lips.

"Hello, Belle." I was trapped.