Chapter 36. Write a Novel Challenge.
“Neina… You’ve got this. Please hurry,”
Those words echoed through her mind, like a never-ending cacophony. Her vision blurred, her stomach in knots, Neina couldn’t remember the last time she’d had peace of mind. How long had she been stumbling in, out or teetering on the edge of the Mors world – of all the confusion, lies and memories? Where was she now? Was she even alive?
“Is this what death feels like?” The once strong-minded woman asked herself.
She needed to figure something out, but her brain refused to process the information that’d cascaded upon her like a waterfall of words. Her mind was a jumble sale of people and hidden truths, leaping out at her from every corner. How easy it would be to just give up. Just to give into Isla.
Isla. The name brought combinations of emotions that Neina never thought she’d feel. Ones that couldn’t be deciphered, especially in her own brain. Many a time, she had longed that she had chosen death over the Mors world. At least it would’ve been quick. She could feel the darkness slowly coaxing her in. She was too tired – too weak. But then, Neina heard Charlotte’s voice ringing through her ears, the single phrase crystal clear against the madness churning around.
Neina couldn’t give up. That’s what Isla would’ve wanted.
And Neina was no Isla.
She needed to think. Forcing the rusted clogs in her head to turn once again, she fixed her mind onto a goal. Complete the puzzle she was in right now. Work from the easiest part of the puzzle – the edges. The things you know.
Neina knew that Isla was out to get her. To do whatever it took to derail Neina from her prophecy, just like her mother. Isla had sent her to the Mors World to prove her worth… Clearly, she had thought it an unattainable task. Unfortunately for her, Neina was still prevailing – completing the three challenges set for her. So why was she still being targeted?
“Think, Neina, think…”
The appearance of her brother had thrown her off balance more than she could’ve expected. After ‘disappearing’ for the majority of Neina’s adulthood, then suddenly turning up, claiming to work at her own workplace? The brother she had once known had hated the type of office environment that she adored – he had felt captive in a cell of four beige walls. The brother she had once known loved adventure, after being tied down for all those years, looking after her.
Neina was so engrossed in the mess that was her mind, she didn’t even hear the footsteps approaching her desk, or the subtle ‘click’ as the figure locked the door. She didn’t hear the duffle bag being opened, or the frigid breeze that swept through her office. She didn’t notice the security cameras being disabled, or the cloth being plucked from the stranger’s shirt pocket. It wasn’t until he spoke that she noticed his presence.
By that time, it was already too late.
“Neina?” Ryder questioned, placing a hand on the back of her chair, smelling heavily of aftershave. It was overpowering, so much so that Neina almost gagged on the smell. Then something (other than the horrific minty stench) hit her.
Ryder hated aftershave. He said it was because he didn’t like the overpowering smell, but Neina knew it was due to the fact that it reminded him of their dad, who would wear it to disguise the scent of alcohol that was ever present.
She whipped her head around, her bouncy curls hissing through the air like snakes. Trying not to show her fear, she glared at the smirking stranger right in his dark, unforgiving eyes. Neina had finally figured something out.
“You’re not Ryder.”
The figure laughed, as she was taken aback by the response. He shoved the cloth into her face, until all she could smell was chemicals. She tried to scream, to escape his grip, but the hand stayed put, constricting her movement. Slowly, her fight disintegrated, as her heartrate melted away.
“I thought you were smart, Neina. Thought you would’ve worked that out sooner.”
It was the last thing she heard before her eyelids locked and she took one last glimpse of her office.
Darkness. That was the only thing on offer on the Despair Express. Neina felt like she was floating through a bubble – void of time, light or feeling. Her body parts felt loose, like if someone yanked them, they would fall off. She couldn’t touch, smell or hear anything, alone in her bubble of gloom. She sat there, hunched in a ball for what seemed like days, yet only seconds had passed. It was strangely peaceful, as Neina reflected on what she could remember. The office, Ryder… Chloroform, that voice… It was all so disorientating.
Her bubble then gradually started to get lighter – and a hole in the side appeared. Blinding light radiated through it, a way out! Almost swimming through the air, Neina managed to get closer, like she was drawn to it, a moth to a lamp. Without hesitation, she took a voluminous breath before hurtling herself through.
Gasping for air, Neina’s eyes darted back and forth across her new surroundings. She tried to touch her face to make sure she was all in one piece, before realizing they were tied behind her back. The coarse rope clawed through her wrists, irritating her skin. Bewildered, the exhausted woman searched for answers in her surroundings. She sat in a jet-black carriage, trudging along a bumpy road, causing her splintered chair to ricochet off the sides of the interior every few seconds.
Neina was travelling through a forest of thick trees that blocked the sunlight, the blistering cold snapping at her bare ankles. The windows to her carriage had no glass, and so subsequently trees would poke their brittle branches at her, some catching her eyes, and tearing her top. She felt quite helpless, constricted to her chair, battered, bruised and defeated. Her gut feeling had been right – Neina was truly running out of time.
Questions. Questions with no answers. It was hard to believe there was a time where she had felt content. The truth really did hurt, and sometimes, as Neina was growing to realize, it just causes even more questions. The list of wonders and queries grew longer by miles every day, every minute, every second as she kept being thrown information, like she was in a basketball game. Neina had never been very good at sports anyway.
She had to keep a cool head if she was to get out of this situation.
Scooting her chair to the edge of the carriage, Neina managed to get close enough to the window to stick her head out. From that position, she could see two figures, controlling the horses pulling the vehicle. They were laughing, joking around with each other like childhood friends.
One was obviously Isla. The effortless blonde hair combined with the petite frame of her enemy was undisguisable. But who was with her? It wasn’t ‘Ryder’, no, this character had a much more feminine frame. She had cropped ginger hair.
The figure turned slightly to whisper something to Isla, revealing a huge gash down her pale cheek. With a sickening lurch, Neina realized who it was.
It was Charlotte.
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