Shortcut to: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine | Part Ten
Zena opened her eyes.
That was odd. They were already open. It was dark. Well, it was BLACK. It wasn't the sort of dark where you may stub your toe on a stone if you didn't look very carefully where you were going. It was the sort of dark where you were going to stub all ten toes on something whether you were careful or not.
She could not see a thing.
She reached forward with her right foot to check the ground and stubbed her toe. She yelped quietly. She had been stood with her face just millimetres from a hard rocky wall and the ground didn't feel much different. From the echo, her yelp made it seem as though she was in some sort of cave or tunnel.
Zena crouched down and felt the ground around her. She started to crawl across the cave floor, when…
Footsteps! Someone was coming! Zena didn't know what to do. Presumably she couldn't be seen, but perhaps she WANTED to be found. If she couldn't be seen then whoever it was might run into her, and that would hurt - the footsteps even seemed to be quickening. So she pressed herself firmly against the rocky wall.
The footsteps came quicker and closer, and closer and quicker, until…
Then there was nothing. Nothing except the inky blackness. Nothing except the cold hard rock against Zena's cheek. Nothing except the slow, indecisive and almost imperceptible crunch of feet shuffling in the sandy gravel.
"Who's there?" said a voice. A girl's voice. Little older than her own, as far as Zena could tell. It sounded concerned, yet confident.
"Please, who is there? We must go!" pleaded the voice. "Please, they will come!"
"They"? thought Zena. Who are "They"? And why must we go before they come? What will they do? If I can't trust them, why trust you? Zena suddenly realised she did not know what to do. She started breathing more heavily, and fought desperately to keep it under control, lest she be heard.
She wasn't the only one to start to panic, but she didn't notice. The shuffling of the feet became more nervous, the voice more desperate.
"Please, they see you arrive too! They see everyone arrive. We must go. I will help you. I am here to help you. Come with me. Please."
Zena let out a tiny whimper. A crunch of gravel followed. She'd given herself away. She felt such a fool. How could she give herself away so easily? But did it matter? Maybe she should trust the other girl. Maybe They were really coming after her, whoever They were. But maybe They were coming to save her from this girl.
Oh what could she do? She'd always looked after herself so well but she was still just a small girl; she only turned six yesterday, for pity's sake. She was just a foolish little six year old girl who was rubbish at Maths, and all she wanted was a hug from someone to make her feel safe, something she'd never even got from her parents. She couldn't even speak to this other girl because of the Binglish.
Just a few minutes before she'd been optimistically talking to a new friend who seemed to be helping her, who she thought might make everything better. But then she'd just ended up here and she couldn't imagine how anything could get any worse.
Zena burst into tears.
"Don't cry," said the voice. "Don't cry. They hear you. They hear everything."
"I don't care!" shouted Zena. And she didn't.
"Please stop. What is your name?"
"Ze - what did I - ?" Zena didn't understand. She was cured! She was cured of Binglish! Or at least -
"Okay, no time now. Will talk later. Nice to meet you, Zee."
"No, it's Zena, but - oh." She realised that she wasn't cured. The voice was speaking in Binglish, and so was she. It just sounded so … normal.
"Talk later. I hear them. Come now."
A hand grabbed hold of Zena and yanked her to her feet. She found herself hurtling arm-first along she-didn't-know-where, grazing herself each and every time she met the rocky wall. Yelping in pain with every trip, with every fall, every time she stubbed her toe.
And then came the light. The blinding light.
"Glad you could join us," said a familiar voice. "It seems you have been chosen."
To be continued...
Link of the Day: On Thursday I clicked "Stumble" (taking me to a random page recommended by The Internet) and it took me to this lovely bowl. Which was made by my very good friend Zena West. For whom I wrote this story.
By the way, the real Anunciada speaks perfect English. Not sure exactly what I was doing there. Oh well, just wait and see what I did to Collins...
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