First off, this:
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: Hi. How are you? Are you having a good day? (I’m going to assume yes after those two videos.)
I’ve been sick(ish) for the past week or so, but I’m almost over it now and I just finished reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue and my plans for the evening involve revising and a meeting with a couple amazing Ch1Con team members, so I’m well. (Also: HOLY CRAP NANOWRIMO BEGINS IN THREE DAYS SOMEBODY HOLD ME.)
This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.
Also, heads up that this is the last chapter of TEWIB I’m posting. This is less because I plan to actually do anything with it (because it was always just a practice novel anyway), but because I kind of, sort of definitely have not written anything on it since the end of last year’s NaNo and that 53k ends in the middle of Part II. And this is the last chapter of Part I. So this is really the onlyhalfway decent stopping place.
Thanks for keeping up with this over the past year! It’s been fun.
Read previous chapters:
The blast of searing air knocks me off my feet. I fly down the hall. I land on my back, and my skull knocks against tile, and everything is a thousand colors, temperatures, swirling sensations. Chunks of concrete and twisted metal rain down upon me.
I hurt everywhere—no longer just in my jaw or my elbow, but everywhere—and it’s a wonder as I found myself on my feet, limping away from the explosion, with a scream in my throat but no way to hear it.
All I hear is a high-pitched buzz in my ears. Rich, black smoke chases me down the hall. I don’t know where the recruiting officers are, or anyone else, but I know the Second Origin must have set off this explosion, they must have, and I have to keep moving.
If I stop moving, they will get me. Again.
The smoke fills my lungs, clogs my throat. I lean against a wall and cough, retch, have to keep walking.
I don’t know where I am. This entire hallway looks the same—just one long expanse of blank walls and doors, and now it is torn to pieces, I can hardly see anything, why is no one else down here?
The tears burn down my cheeks, but I am not crying, and finally I spot the other end of the hall. A second stairwell. A way out of this madness.
I wrap my swollen fingers around the knob, clumsy, and push. It won’t open.
It won’t open, it won’t open, why won’t it open.
I shove my shoulder against the door, the entire side of my screaming body—my ribs are on fire, my leg is weak and covered in blood—and it moves just enough, just enough for me to slip through—and I trip over the thing on the other side of the door.
I still can’t hear my screams, but I’m aware that they must echo around this compact, concrete room, and Dr. Reede is on the floor before me with blood all around her head and a hole in her face and someone is saying my name. I don’t even notice it until I realize I can hear.
I spin. Dr. O’Brien lies on the floor behind me, only the hole in him is in his chest, and it’s not just one hole but several, and the vomit is in my throat but it won’t come the rest of the way out. My head is spinning, I want to lie down on the floor beside them but also run, run as far as I can, and the light is flickering, flickering, about to go out overhead.
Dr. O’Brien’s lips twitch ever so slightly. “You have to go, Miss Dylan. You have to go now. I’m sorry. We wanted to give you time. But you have to go.” He takes a breath, thick with liquid. His eyelids flutter, but he forces them to stay open. “Fifteenth floor. Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.” He gasps again. It’s the sound of a fish without water, only of course he has too much liquid instead, and in the wrong places, and now I am crying, but I do not know why, because I barely know him anyway.
His last words are: “Don’t let them succeed.”
I don’t know how I find my way to the top of the staircase, but when I crawl through the door to the lobby, it is into a world of screaming sirens and flashing green lights and a bomb went off here too, so everyone is dead.
I pull myself up against the wall, but before I can move a step towards the elevator bank, the vomit finally works its way past my teeth, and I retch across the glossy black marble floor, now dull with blood, and the acid is not nearly as hot as it should be against my raw throat, because the explosion was so much hotter.
Faintly, faintly, beneath the alarms, people are screaming. I slide my feet across the floor, shoulder braced against the wall. The elevators are so close.
I press the up button and a sob breaks free as it lights up in response, because thank God, the elevators are still working, I cannot climb fifteen flights of stairs right now, and I don’t have the time.
I sag against the wall. I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the people. All of the Clinic’s extravagance torn apart, coated in dust and blood, the terrorists are real and I am truly leaving.
The doors slide open with a ding.
I step inside.
Someone shouts, “Help! Help me!”
I don’t want to look, I don’t want to see which poor soul on the floor is yet to stop breathing, but I look anyway. It’s not one of the blast-victims. It’s a woman covered head-to-toe in black striding towards me through the smoke, perfectly whole. Even her face is covered. She levels a gun at my head.
A member of the Second Origin.
“Alexa.” My name does not make sense on her lips. It sounds like a foreign word.
My heart is in my throat. I am no longer in pain, but numb. I don’t feel the button to close the doors beneath my finger, but when I look down I have pressed it.
I slam my fist against the button for the fifteen floor. I crumple against the marble.
The elevator lurches upward and I vomit again. All that is left is acid. It burns in my nostrils, sends fresh tears to my eyes.
I rock back and forth.
Dr. O’Brien did not tell me which room to go to on the fifteenth floor. I do not know how I will find it.
The doors ding open. Finding the room is not a problem. The fifteenth floor is a single, carved-out space with no windows, everything covered in the same black metal as the door to Ramsey’s cell was made out of.
So close. I am so close. I can see the control panel that must house the green button from here, in the direct center of the room. A low black thing.
I stumble out of the elevator and my forehead cracks against an invisible wall.
No, no—not invisible. Transparent. Of course. Glass. A glass wall, keeping me out of the room I need to get to.
“Let me in.” My voice is hoarse, lower than it should be. “Let me in, I have to get in, I have to go!”
They’re going to kill my family. They’re going to kill Daddy and Calvin and Amelia if I do not go. I don’t care if other versions of them exist in the other realities, these are my version, and I want them, I want them so badly. I don’t want to go, but I need to. I need to go to save them.
“My name is Alexa!” I scream. “I am Alexa Dylan!”
The glass wall shifts, separates. It comes apart before me and I fall to the floor with a hollow bang. It is hollow beneath the metal.
I crawl forward. I am so close to the control panel. I need to press the button before the Second Origin figures out where to go—before they come to stop me.
Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.
Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.
I reach the control panel. I am sobbing, blind. My cries echo throughout the vast, empty room so loudly it feels as if the entire reality is crying along with me.
I drag myself upright. The control panel contains two buttons.
The one is green. The other is the same color as my Identiband keeps flashing.
The elevator doors chirp open behind me. I spin.
“Leave me alone!” I scream. I know it will do no good, but I don’t know what else to do, but no one barrels out of the elevator at me. It is empty.
I don’t know what’s happening.
I turn back to the control panel and press the green button. A needle presses into my palm, but the pain is so miniscule compared to everything else that I barely feel it.
I sag against the panel. “My name is Alexa Dylan.” The lights in the room flash—go out. I am filled with a ticklish, upside down, sick feeling, the way I used to feel when my dad carried me with my legs over his shoulder, arms parallel with the ground. Laughing and kicking and screaming.
Only now I am crying. I cry as the Fifth Reality disappears from around me. I cry as they all disappear, and I never got to say goodbye.
Happy early Halloween! TALK TO YOU NOVEMBER FIRST.