Chapter 37. Write a Novel Challenge.
Neina’s eyelids fluttered open. Day had traversed into night within what seemed to be the blink of an eye; the city skyline glowing fabulously from her vantage point up in her office. Down below, Neina could hear the commotion caused by scores of cars and people commuting back to their homes. Oh, how she envied their normal lives; free of the pressures of evil forces, of the knowledge of some ancient prophecy that had her life balanced on a tightrope. How, after a long day of work, they could go back to their residencies where their loved ones would be waiting, welcoming them with open arms and drowning any of their worries purely by their company. Company itself could evolve into many different stages where the loved ones would console, caress and care for their counterparts. Eventually, they would heal. Forget their worries and start anew.
But who did Neina have to share her troubles with?
Her mother and Freya were dead. Ryder was a shadow of his former self; cold and uninviting. Quinn and her father were nowhere to be found; completely vanished off the face of the earth. Her fellow colleagues, notably Frankie, exuded an air of selfishness around themselves and were shallow beings. And Isla, the root of all her pain, bedevilling her with misfortune upon misfortune; Neina would rather live the rest of her days in the Mors, than express her emotions to that sorry excuse of a creature.
But there was still someone. Someone who kept Neina from toppling off into the extremity of lunacy. Someone who meant as much as her precious mother to her. Someone who just encouraged her to persevere. “You’ve got this.”
It was all it took. A small sentence of encouragement, nothing out of the ordinary. To the everyday Joe, such a saying would bring bouts of eye rolls and the usual sarcastic comments: “So inspirational”, “Never heard that one before”. But to Neina, the source of the comment was all the inspiration she needed to break free from the cycle of terror that repeated every day. A small spark that set alight a blaze, too powerful for even Isla to stop.
Exhausted but committed, mustering all the energy within her frail body, she heaved herself off her office chair and turned around to face the window that accounted for the back wall of the room. She hesitated for a second; what if her plan failed? Was her sudden change of attitude just the result of adrenaline? Was she really committed to this? For the trillionth time, the two sides in her mind waged war against each other; the rational side favouring peace and the adrenaline fuelled side favouring the rescue. The ensuing carnage left her mind relatively shaken, but adrenaline endured. Now her plan of action was resolute.
From a hitherto unused section of her vocal cords, Neina yelled at the very top of her voice repeatedly:
“JANUS! JANUS! PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP!”
No sooner had she said the word “help” did Janus materialise to her left, head cocked slightly in concern, taking in the ghoulish sight of Neina.
“Did somebody call for my help?”
“Janus, please,” As much as she loathed begging, Neina had to do it. “I need to get to the Mors world.”
“Excuse me?” Said Janus, slightly taken aback.
“You heard me. I want to – no – I need to get to the Mors world. It’s imperative. I have a hunch Charlotte is down there. And she desperately needs my help.”
Janus furrowed his eyebrows, indicating he was thinking. Neina could sense the tension building up in the room, as Janus seemingly weighed up the dangers her trip could cause, especially in the atrocious state she was in.
“You do understand Isla will be waiting for you. This is all most likely a trick; a plan to lure you in, give you a false sense of victory by rescuing Charlotte but being ambushed on the way.”
Neina soaked in the new theory. Could this all be a plan? Possibly a figment of her broken imagination? Is Isla taking advantage of her damaged brain by playing dangerous mind games with her? The thought of it certainly seemed plausible. But she would never forgive herself if it all turned out to be what she had originally assumed, and let Charlotte perish in the unruly Mors. There was no alternative, she told herself. She must go into the Mors to save her, and that was that.
“Look, Janus, I get your point. There’s a minor chance this is all a ploy to get me into Isla’s grasps. A minor chance that I may not come back again. But it’s certain that Charlotte is confined in the depths of that wretched place, and if I can’t make it back alive… well… at least she can.”
The silence that followed stretched on for what seemed like eternity. Janus simply stood to her left, his gaze averting her eyes, staring off into the dark, endless fathoms of the night. After what seemed like an age, he finally caved in.
“Fine. I’ll open a portal for you to be transported to the safest place I know in all of Mors. From there you can begin your search for Charlotte. Lucky for you, the region is also a haven for fruit growth, so you can replenish yourself too.”
Neina could tell from the subdued tone of his voice and unusually dark, damp button-eyes that he was strongly against the idea and was holding back tears. Going into the Mors world to meet a face-off with Isla without any weaponry was practically suicide. But she was determined, and clung onto the miniscule amount of hope that remained within her, praying this was the right call to make.
Janus moved his arms in circular motions, while simultaneously chanting in an indecipherable language, generating an infinitesimally small hole at the centre of the herculean glass window. Gradually, as the pace of the chanting increased, so did the size of the hole. At some point, green-flecked mist spontaneously appeared and was sucked into the abyss, giving the portal a dark green tinge – all the more eerie. Like a black hole, it engulfed the whole glass pane; ultimately meaning the back wall was now a noiseless, rectangular portal that lead straight into the jaws of death.
As Neina walked into the portal, she experienced the same weightless feeling she had felt in her previous trip in a portal. Before it took her down, knocking her unconscious, she glanced back at Janus, giving him a reassuring wave.
But as he smiled and waved back, another miniature version of the portal Neina was using appeared behind him. Unsuspecting, he took no notice of it until Neina screamed at him to run.
But it was too late.
Ryder, his face glazed with an unnaturally deranged expression, materialised from the portal wielding a razor sharp knife and stabbed the hay-filled sack that was Janus’ torso.
Before she could react or even take a step towards him, Neina was violently sucked into her own portal. The last thing she remembered before blacking out was the helpless body of her mentor splayed on the floor.
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