Chapter 24. Write a Novel Challenge.
With a strangled grunt of exertion, Neina let her hand fall, gripping the fragment of glass as it hurtled towards Isla’s decrepit face. The glass pierced through her right eye, slicing her iris as it tore through her once elegant appearance. Hate and rage fueled Neina as she forced the weapon deeper into Isla’s eye, slashing through tendons and tissue as if it were paper. Finally, the crushing grip around her throat loosened, leaving an assortment of bulging, throbbing bruises shaped by Isla’s bony, pale digits. Neina threw her head back, swallowing buckets of air as she fought her way free from Isla’s clutches. While her experiences in movie theatres dictated that she step forward and deliver the final blow to her foe, Neina knew that she had not reached that step. She remained a slave to the will of this ever-changing, hateful realm that she was trapped in, and it commanded that she run.
Neina could barely stomach the final glance at the source of her self-hatred for all her life; her stomach, still full with the warm stew she had shared with Janus, churned and stirred at the sight of Isla writhing and wailing as she desperately tried to rip the shard from her face. Aware of the Mors World’s abhorrence for disobedience, Neina turned her back on the screeching figure, and her fatigued legs dragged her trembling body forwards, towards the emptiness that lay before her. Neina was running away. Again. Yet this time, it was not out of fear. Though exhaustion racked through her body, Neina felt a hint of freedom lie in the pit of her stomach. The terrors of self-doubt and anxiety that had plagued her subconscious ever since the moment her mother had toppled from the boat, began to dissipate, though the process was painfully gradual.
With a renewed sense of purpose in the tumultuous prism that she had been ensnared in, Neina marched onwards, forcing her legs forward, certain that an equally horrifying path had been laid out for her.
Despite her supposed conviction and confidence, her breath still caught and stuttered as the darkness swallowed her; the floor leaving her feet. However, rather than plummeting into the abyss that lay beneath her, she remained where she was, floating perilously in a state of limbo. Her only company was the continuous tortured screams of Isla that echoed endlessly around her, tunneling into her mind repeatedly.
Neina did her best to ignore it, clenching her fists in a meek display of strength and fortitude even as her breath shortened and stuttered as the dense darkness pressed against her dark skin.
In peculiar perpetuity, she hung there, her skin crawling as her seemingly undying ounce of confidence began to waver.
Without warning, she felt the familiar sensation of ground beneath her feet, her state of limbo brought to an abrupt conclusion. Simultaneously, as if a blindfold had been lifted from her eyes, light filled her surroundings, placing her in a field that seemed to span to the ends of the earth.
She glanced downwards, gazing upon the lush, rich green grass that she was now perched on. With her ankles bruised and exhausted, she reached down and removed her heels, discarding them haphazardly as she dug her toes into the earth. Neina failed to contain a breathy, light chuckle as the simple feeling of the cool earth and the gentle strands of grass tickling her toes brought her an immeasurable sense of relief and comfort. She refocused on the world before her, looking up and marching forwards, her fragment of conviction carrying her forward, though fear and trepidation continued to flip her stomach.
Neina trekked slowly but with certainty, the emptiness of her setting giving her no indication as to how far she had come. It was as if in the endless plain that lay before her, the world itself had been draped in a thick blanket of verdant cushioning. Revelling in the sensation of the greenery against the soles of her feet, she saw several silhouettes eventually came into view.
She increased her pace, briskly striding in the direction of the figures, her breath heaving slightly as she willed her beaten body to continue. As she approached, a stifled whimper escaped her bruised throat as she gazed through blurry eyes, transfixed at what was before her.
Three grand oak trees towered over her, casting immense shadows across the shimmering field of meadow, their tangled roots escaping the ground and wrapping around one another in a tight embrace, leaving each tree entwined with the others. It would have been beautiful. Breathtaking, even. Had it not been for what hung from the branches of each tree.
On the first, hung a taut, aging rope tied in a noose at the end, with the head of Freya, her childhood friend before she had chased her dreams at Bath, encased in its grip. Freya’s body hung lifelessly from the rope, the gentle breeze causing her limp body to sway slightly. A choked gasp escaped Neina’s lips as she watched her friend’s skin rot and decay, the life having left her body long ago.
On the second tree, an identical sight met her eyes, except it was Ryder’s head that had been slotted inside the clutches of the noose, his hands and fingers having turned a sickening shade of blue as the breath had been choked from his once larger than life, body. The sly, charming smirk that had often adorned his face throughout Neina’s childhood had been wiped from his handsome face, as if it had been scrubbed entirely from his being, replaced with an empty, cold expression that he would wear forever.
Finally, the last, and grandest, tree exhibited a similar sight, but it was Isla’s body that hung there: lifeless; all signs of rage and hatred absent, her beautiful features on display.
“Well?” a voice as soft as syrup asked; her voice barely hiding her amusement at the horror that decorated Neina’s face. Neina’s attention tore away from the hanging bodies and snapped to the speaker’s. Unlike so many of the creatures she had come across upon entering the Mors World, what she saw was not ugly or disfigured. She was actually beautiful. Draped across a mound of rocks, a figure lay in a lazy recline, eyeing Neina, her deep emerald skin matching the acres of grass that spanned the field beneath them. She seemed to be entirely made of grass and leaves, with countless butterflies fluttering around the crown of lilies that sat on her head.
As Neina let out a mess of stutters and whimpers, the green woman rolled her eyes in disdain, before carrying on as if she hadn’t received a response. “Answer me this, girl,” she directed, raising her hand and gesturing to the hanging bodies that decorated the grand oaks. “I am always there but never here, I feed off passion but am always hungry, I live to love but hate to live, I’m ever seeking but never finding. I have ruled you since that day in May. I am the second of seven. What am I?” Upon finishing her riddle, the woman let out a raspy cackle that made Neina’s skin crawl.
Despite the fear and terror that coursed through her veins, the sliver of strength and power that she carried since stabbing Isla’s eye, surged forwards, giving her the confidence to solve the riddle presented before her. Immediately, her mind travelled to her first challenge she had faced in the Mors World. Through her scrambled thoughts she remembered the hulk of mass that had posed her a similar puzzle. ‘A seventh’ it had said. Pride. Neina couldn’t help but emit a deep sigh of relief as she discovered the crux of the mystery much faster than she had last time. It was sin. But which one?
Without the details of how long she had, Neina’s mind raced in a panic, mumbling to herself as the words she had heard became one. She closed her eyes tightly, knowing that if she were to lay them on the hanging bodies, she would lose focus. ‘I have ruled you since that day in May’, played over and over in her head like a mantra. What had happened in May? She had passed her driving test in May; she got her first job in May. What do they have to do with anything? Knowing she was stumped, Neina moved on, tackling the other clues first. ‘I feed off passion but am always hungry’. Something that is never satisfied and thrives on the excitement and passion of others. One of the sins? Greed? It had to be.
Neina went to state her answer, her confidence pushing her forwards, but she stopped herself, causing a strangled “Gr-gghhl’ to leave her mouth instead. Take it slow. Think about it. ‘I am ever seeking but never finding’. Looking for something that it cannot achieve. A dark chuckle rang through her ears, scrambling her thoughts once again. “Open your eyes, girl.” Spoke the green woman, “Look at them.” She commanded. Reluctantly, Neina opened her eyes and fixed her teary gaze on the three trees, examining the people hanging from them closely. She ignored the twinge in her heart as she viewed their lifeless forms, knowing that there was a clue somewhere… Freya had been as smart as a whip. Ryder had been smooth and cool no matter the circumstance. Isla was stunning and pale. So what?
Wait. ‘Ever-seeking’. ‘Rule over you’. ‘That day in May’. Freya had been her only equal at school in terms of intellect. Smarter even. Neina was usually hysterical and emotional in times of stress; Ryder was always there to handle the situation and calm her down. Isla had replaced her as the beauty in the office…
She was jealous. She was jealous of them all. She hated that fact, but it was true. ‘I live to love to hate to live’. It fits. ‘That day in May’. The day her mother had fallen. Neina had lived much of her life trying to match the traits of others out of jealousy. ‘Ruled over you’. The words of the green creature rung in her head as she put the pieces together, until she was certain she knew the answer.
Neina tore her stare away from the corpses swinging aimlessly in the breeze, facing the beautiful beast draped across the rocks. Neina dug her feet into the cool earth, standing her ground as the seed of confidence grew.
“You’re envy.” she said with unwavering certainty, despite the crack in her voice. “And you don’t rule over me anymore.”
The last thing Neina saw was the woman’s face curl into a knowing, nauseating smirk, before the green earth opened its jaws and swallowed Neina, taking the peace and serenity of the field with her.
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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.
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