75. Armageddon. The Final Chapter. Write a Novel Challenge 2020.
Note from the Editor. “75”. Armageddon. The Final Chapter. Write a Novel Challenge 2020.
Today we publish the final chapter of what has been an extraordinary, three month long, roller-coaster of a ride through the imagination of children.
The quality of writing has never been less than thrilling. Whilst the Covid 19 pandemic has raged around them, these writers have shown levels of self-discipline, commitment – and courage, that are astonishing. Yes courage. It takes guts to put something you have written in front of a national and global audience many times removed from adoring parents and the compassion of our schools. As they submitted each chapter, children put their names to something and put themselves up to be judged. How many of us, even as adults, would even think of doing this?
Many children here did not have English as a first language. Some writers were as young as 12 years old. The oldest was just 16 years old. Each writer had just 24 hours to pull together the next chapter of a story – and until seconds before the clock started ticking they did not even know the story they would have to respond to. These writers wrote from the insecurities and darkness of the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic and of knowing what would come before, or after.
The quality of writing here would put many of us as adults to shame. During my thirty odd years as a professional writer, I have not seen this level of literary achievement by young people working collectively before. Not close. The project showcases just how outstanding our schools and teachers can be. Many of us, so far from home, wrestling with the worries of whether we should have packaged our children off to boarding school, should be confident that, at their best, our schools compete with any in the world.
As with all novels, there is a “twist.” I will save it for after you have read the final Chapter.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Just remember to fasten your seat-belts ……
Neina shot Janus a piercing glance, “The God of two faces? And what should we make of that?”
“Oh come on, Neina!”, Janus drawled, “Can’t you figure this one out?”
Neina felt something snap inside her head. She grabbed the sword from Freya and with an alarming swiftness placed it firmly at Janus’s throat, “Not now, Janus”, her voice low, “I’ve been answering your riddles all this time and I can see that you clearly enjoy the attention, but enough now! Our Universe stands at the brink of annihilation and you stand there wanting me to humour you by figuring out your inane riddles? Say what you want to say or else I will not hesitate in testing the powers of this sword on you!”
“I am a God, Neina. Nothing can destroy me.”
“Look around, Janus!” Neina screamed as flares sparked around them and the mind-numbing wails and shrieks of people running and stench of death overwhelmed the surroundings, “Look around! All that we know, all that we are, all that we love, will be destroyed if we don’t act now. What kind of God watches while innocent lives are ripped apart? What will you be the God of when everything is reduced to nothingness?”
Janus started saying something but thought better of it as he looked into Neina’s raging eyes. He stepped back carefully, a sombre expression on his face, almost as if he too was frightened. “Neina, haven’t I already saved your life? Do you think that the end of the world scares me?”
“You have, Janus”, Neina shot back, “But just as many times you have played mind games, appeared and disappeared at your own whims, compelled me to doubt my own sanity and made me dance in circles to fed your own vanity. It’s pathetic.”
Freya who had been watching Neina and Janus intently stepped in between them, “Janus, yes, of course we know you are powerful. Your ability to open passages in time at the behest of Orla made it possible for Isla, Charlotte and me to transition between the two worlds to watch over Neina. But is that it? Is that all you have got? Is that enough?”
Freya looked at Isla who looked torn, “We did the right thing didn’t we? We looked after the child of prophesy, the chosen one, until she was ready to fulfil her destiny and reinstate order in the universe. There had to be some collateral damage…. ”
“Yes Freya, we followed a Queen who would not have hesitated to set fire to the world for her own sick need for power,” Isla responded, “ But we now know that she did not lie about the portals. The world faces extinction. These need to be closed forever.”
“Janus”, Freya said, now with a deafening sense of authority in her voice, “As your Queen, I now ask you to do one last thing. This wormhole needs to be closed. The consequences of what we have done are all around us. The portal has been compromised in the Mors World and our world is getting pulled through the wormhole leading to Earth. Death is everywhere now across both worlds. There is no way Neina can now reach the portal at the Prophesy Tower site in time. You need to create a safe passage for her to reach the site.”
“And then what?” Janus asked.
“Then we do what Orla intended to do. I’ll close the portal on Earth and Freya, as the Queen of Mors World, will close it here.” Neina found herself speaking with deliberate calmness; she could afford to betray no hint of the turbulence and sorrow now wrestling inside her mind and filling her with dread.
“Can she really do it? We are pinning our hopes on her? Really? She is weak like all of you. She is just a mortal.” For the first time they all heard it – Janus was worried.
“A mortal who has defied all principles of space and time, Janus. Don’t forget that. A mortal who has, again and again, traversed the searing paths between the Earth and Mors world and risen from the dead. Even with all my powers I could never subdue her. You know it too. It is as if she is shielded from death itself. If anyone can do it, it is her.” Isla looked at Neina as she spoke and Neina saw respect and awe – and something else: desperation. She needed her. They needed her. Neina nodded in acknowledgement and forced a tiny smile.
“I’m ready. Let’s go! There is no time left.” Neina spoke, urgency weighing in her voice.
Freya, Janus and Isla looked at each other. Freya spoke, her voice strained but steady, “From this point on it has to be just you, Neina. Our presence in your world will do nothing but hold you back. We will stay here and close the portal from this side and you close it there. Charlotte will be there. She is all we can give you.”
“But shouldn’t Charlotte come back here? She is one of yours too,” Neina asked.
Freya replied, “ We’ll figure that out later. For now, you must go. Now.” And with that Janus opened a portal and motioned Neina to step in.
As she walked towards the Portal, Neina extended the sword to Freya but Freya shook her head, “ Take it with you, Neina. You will need it to close the portal. Hold it steady and point it right at the centre of the portal. If you are successful and the portal closes, the Mors World will claim what belongs to it. The portal will engulf the sword before closing forever. As soon as I get the sword through the portal here, I’ll use it to close it forever. And that will be the end of it. It’s a race against time itself. Goodbye Neina …..”
Neina cast a sweeping look at Freya, Janus and Isla. Freya and Isla rushed to embrace her. This was a goodbye with all the sorrow, regret and horror of bereavement. For a fraction of a second, but no more, Neina wished she could stay with them. Her soul felt tired. But this was bigger than her, than any of them.
Her chest heaving painfully, without looking back, Neina walked into the portal. She would never be able to explain the sensation of every atom of her body deconstructing itself, every atom, memory …. everything that made her, her, undoing itself and reconstituting itself as she travelled between worlds. How many times could she even do this without some piece of her being lost forever? There was no pain – it was as if the swirls of purple light absorbed whatever humanity she had for the seconds it took to travel between worlds. Perhaps for those seconds she travelled, she did not even exist any more ….
As she stepped out on the other side, Neina had to steady. Every time she travelled through the portals something changed. It was if something of her had been broken and stolen away from her. It was if, terrifyingly, that something of her had been replaced with something altogether foreign..#
Hardly any time had passed since she had left Earth, but everything had already fallen into utter chaos. Neina looked around in horror and disbelief. The sky spat cruel orange streaks of molten lava and the ground had cracked up in deep black trenches, scarring the landscape and providing the last resting place for countless thousands. Men, women and children swept passed her seeking shelter as security personnel, at least those with the courage to remain, were rendered powerless by a destruction of life beyond their comprehension or abilities to intervene.
Piercing the thick veil of smoke, Charlotte appeared before her. Covered in a congealed mess of dust and blood, she clutched her stomach as flows of blood drenched her blouse scarlet, her feet scraping the floor as she dragged herself towards Neina.
The anguish of seeing Charlotte fight death to reach her hit Neina with indescribable force. This was real. Responsibility weighed on her like a hammer blow. Charlotte had been the only constant in a life riven by loss and struggle Even she was … Neina could not finish the words.
She gasped, “Charlotte! What happened?”
“I-I-got hit during a shootout between the police and some vandals. The entire city is under siege. It’s mayhem,” Charlotte’s words came thick and fast in painful gasps. “There’s no time for anything else, Neina. We need to rush. People from the Mors World are reaching Earth and they’re running rampant. Run!”
Neina took a deep breath, willing for strength: “You will be alright, Char. You will. But we have to get you back to Mors World. Let’s go! To the elevator shaft. This way …”
Janus had done his job. The passage between worlds he created had brought Neina to Charlotte and the location of the elevator shaft. Neina stepped in followed by Charlotte. Neina hit an unmarked button, hidden under a concealed plate obscured by the LEDs counting the floors. The elevator sputtered to life, as if struggling for power, before descending into the bowels of the Earth. Faster and faster it descended, and they found themselves pressed up against the walls, the skin of their faces flattened to bone by G forces that left them struggling to breathe.
At the moment it seemed that they would both pass out, the elevator crashed into the floor, brakes screeching as metal hit metal and sparks and flames melted the perspex escape hatch embedded in the ceiling. Neina dragged Charlotte out by the waist and, as the flames extinguished, blackness engulfed them and the icy cold of a place seemingly untouched for thousands of years made her shudder.
The damp thickened the air and breathing was a struggle.
“I can’t see. Neina, I cannot see anything at all. How do we find our way through here?” Charlotte’s voice echoed through the hollow space.”
Neina was not listening. It was all coming back to her now. All those hours sitting at her desk designing the intricacies of The Prophesy Tower. She knew every nook and corner of the place. She did not need light to guide her because the plan was imprinted in her mind. It had been there… forever.
Neina steadied Charlotte and walked forward in the darkness.
“I cannot see a thing, Neina. How will we find the portal?” Charlotte said, her voice feeble.
“I know exactly where it is, Char”, Neina said calmly. “Nothing has ever been so clear and vivid in my mind. Trust me.”
Neina now understood why she had insisted that the tunnels did not need lighting. No one else, except Neina, was ever to have come here.
Charlotte could not tell how many tunnels they passed through, but she had faith in Neina. Charlotte had been assigned as one of Neina’s chaperones by Queen Orla but through the years she had genuinely started caring for Neina and respected her for the grace and courage she possessed. The girl could rise from the ashes again and again. Charlotte smiled, despite herself.
Right at that moment, a blast above ground tore through the ominous silence. Even down here, so far from life, Neina choked on the smoke engulfing the world so many miles above them.
“We’re almost there, Char”, Neina held tight on to Charlotte. She could feel Charlotte’s skin getting colder by the second.
They could now hear the crackle of electricity and a faint light appeared at the end of the tunnel. As they moved further, the light grew brighter. There it was. The portal. Neina and Charlotte stopped in their tracks, mesmerised by the magnitude of the pulsing, purple spirals that lit the shaft in front of them, each dancing around the psychedelic artefacts of the engine rings that floated and disappeared into infinity above them. It was hard to believe that all this could exist whilst the people of London had traversed their mundane lives through thousands of years of human history above them. went about their daily lives above them.
Time came to a standstill for Neina as her entire life flashed before her eyes. This was her destiny – there could be no greater truth. She knew it since she was 5 years old and lay on the grass watching stars as they called out her name.
Everyone is born with a purpose. This was hers. They now stood like mere specks of dust before the towering, enigmatic doorway to other worlds before them. But Neina knew there was only one thing to do.
She felt Charlotte’s grasp on her hand loosen. Like a rag doll, Charlotte collapsed to the ground, struggling to breathe as she coughed up blood.
“Charlotte, no! We’re here now. Don’t give up. Let’s get you through the portal. Charlotte… Charlotte… stay with me …”
“My work is complete, Neina. I must leave now. I am going home. You have done it. You saved us all. Never forget who you are. Never, Neina. Promise me. The girl made of stars…”
Neina held Charlotte’s head in her lap. She knew that her best friend was in pain, that she was dying. Charlotte’s eyelids fluttered momentarily, as if in some final struggle to find her friend, and then closed.
Even at the end of her own life, Charlotte wanted to make sure that Neina would be able to fulfil the fateful task.
Neina sobbed. She found herself stroking Charlotte’s forehead and whispering, ” It’s fine, Char. You can let go now. Your fight is over. Sleep. Let the pain go. I will never, ever forget you ….”
Even as she choked out the words, Neina knew she was, already, gone. She felt her heart being torn from her chest.
Take me. For God’s sake, take me instead.
It was not fair that Charlotte was dead, and she was still alive. But nothing was fair anymore. Nothing meant anything anymore, except that ….this was more than what was fair and what was not.
“You saved us all… The girl made of stars…” Charlotte’s words reverberated in Neina’s mind. She heard billions of voices talking to her, flowing through her, overlayed inexplicably like a giant blanket of stars around her. She heard the cries of those who had lived in the past, the ones alive above her and ….. those yet to be born. She could hear every nuance of their thoughts and voices as places and people ran around her like a thousand films playing in the blackest infinite theatre. History scrolled backwards and forwards like electric currents sparking at the edges of storm clouds. Neina felt the universe calling out to her, beseeching her to ….protect it.
Blinded by tears, Neina stood up. Holding the sword in front of her, she felt waves of energy flowing through her as purple light flooded and meshed with the rings of the portal. Pointing it towards the epicentre of the portal, to the point of infinity that met pure blackness in the heavens of the tunnel above her, the rings of the portal exploded into the tunnel, cracking the rock and sending shards of debris and stone pouring from the roof of the underground world. The sound was deafening as Neina felt the sword pulling itself away from her towards the blinding light enveloping her. Enveloping everything
“It’s working! The portal is closing”, Neina whispered to herself as she let go of the sword.
As she turned to shield her eyes, Neina saw Charlotte’s lifeless body levitating away from her as it drew itself into the portal.
Mors World will claim what belongs to it.
Freya’s words came back to Neina and tears ran down her cheeks. She watched as Charlotte body faded into the light as the portal pulled everything around her into its core.
I’ll just blink. She will come back to me. Charlotte. Charlotte…
A blinding flash threw Neina against the granite wall. She felt light tearing through every atom of her existence. The portal was gone and only darkness remained.
She has gone. My friend. My friend. Has. Gone.
For what seemed like eternity, Neina lay there. Finally, she stood up and walked back to the elevator. Was it in another lifetime that she had walked there holding Charlotte’s hand? Pain seared through her heart. Her mother, Archie, Charlotte… all gone.
I have nothing left.
She found the concealed button and pressed it without thinking. Without caring. She felt the engines of the elevator fire up as the sound of the steel wires pulled on the cage around her taking her away from even the time to mourn.
As she stepped out of the elevator, the sun was setting, its embers mimicking the burning sky. Neina could see the swirling blues cascading from the lights of emergency service vehicles that blended together to the horizons around her. Siren sounds were deafening but sounded impotent. News vans thronged the place and reporters frantically spoke into their microphones-
“…..what appears to be an intergalactic attack…”
“….. world under siege…” ”
“The number of dead has not been confirmed but runs to thousands …. ”
“The Prime Minister has been moved to a safe house and will address the nation at 2200 hours…”
Neina walked through the chaos around her, hardly registering. But, strangely, amidst all the carnage and horror, she knew that everything would be fine now.
But the world had paid a heavy price for it. She had paid a heavy price for it.
Neina looked up at the sky. As the night drew in, she could see the stars. Shimmering celestial bodies shone bright. She wondered which one of them was Mors World and, as she did so, she sent a silent prayer for Freya, Isla… And Charlotte.
Sinking down on her knees, Neina looked around her.
Oh God how she wished she could hug someone.
I want to be happy.
Pulling herself up, Neina took slow, laboured steps into a world that suddenly felt new.
We have a chance to begin again. To make the world better.
As Neina walked through that infinitesimal moment between the last throes of night time and dawn, the last star before morning, deliberately, sparkled.
©SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com 2020. All rights reserved.
Note from the Editor
I promised in the introduction a “twist.”
Tomorrow we will publish the Epilogue to the novel and, for the first time, its title.
Fittingly, and quite correctly, it has been chosen by the very children who have created this novel.
The Prophesy Tower – A Novel.
To read Chapter 1, click here.
To read Chapter 2, click here.
To read Chapter 3, click here.
To read Chapter 4, click here.
To read Chapter 5, click here.
To read Chapter 6, click here.
To read Chapter 7, click here.
To read Chapter 8, click here.
To read Chapter 9, click here.
To read Chapter 10, click here.
To read Chapter 11, click here.
To read Chapter 12, click here.
To read Chapter 13, click here.
To read Chapter 14, click here.
To read Chapter 15, Click here.
To read Chapter 16, click here.
To read Chapter 17, click here.
To read Chapter 18, click here.
To read Chapter 19, click here.
To read Chapter 20, click here.
To read Chapter 21, click here.
To read Chapter 22, click here.
To read Chapter 23, click here.
To read Chapter 24, click here.
To read Chapter 26. click here.
To read Chapter 27, click here.
To read Chapter 28, click here.
To read Chapter 29, click here.
To read Chapter 30, click here.
To read Chapter 31, click here.
To read Chapter 32, click here.
To read Chapter 33, click here.
To read Chapter 34, click here.
To read Chapter 35, click here
To read Chapter 36, click here.
To read Chapter 37, click here.
To read Chapter 38, click here.
To read Chapter 39, click here.
To read Chapter 40, click here.
To read Chapter 41, click here.
To read Chapter 42, click here.
To read Chapter 43, click here.
To read Chapter 44, click here.
To read Chapter 45, click here.
To read Chapter 46, click here
To read Chapter 47, click here.
To read Chapter 48, click here.
To read Chapter 49, click here.
To read Chapter 50, click here.
To read Chapter 51, click here.
To read Chapter 52, click here.
To read Chapter 53, click here.
To read Chapter 54, click here.
To read Chapter 55, click here.
To read Chapter 56, click here.
To read Chapter 57, click here.
To read Chapter 58, click here.
To read Chapter 59, click here.
To read Chapter 60, click here.
To read Chapter 61, click here.
To read Chapter 62, click here.
To read Chapter 63, click here.
To read Chapter 64, click here.
To read Chapter 65, click here.
To read Chapter 66, click here.
To read Chapter 67, click here.
To read Chapter 68, click here.
To read Chapter 69, click here.
To read Chapter 70, click here.
To read Chapter 71, click here.
To read Chapter 72, click here.
To read Chapter 73, click here.
To read Chapter 74, click here.
The writer of this chapter, Mishal Faraz, is fourteen years old and a student at The Winchester School in Jebel Ali.
For our independent review of The Winchester School in Jebel Ali, click here.
For the official Winchester School web site, click here.
For further information on the Write a Novel Challenge by SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, please click here.