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Netherland

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Old 09-10-2013, 07:21 AM
mlp (Offline)
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NEtherLand: Chapter One

“Why are you just lying there in the dirt?”

The boy opened his eyes and looked up at a young girl who was standing over him. Her red hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail and she wore a large purple sweater and blue jeans. Her green eyes spoke of concern, and the way her head was cocked to the side was almost comical.

The girl was roughly twelve years old, which was about the same age as the boy.

“I… Um…” The boy sat up on his elbows and looked around. He was on a playground that looked vaguely familiar. “I don’t know.”

“Let me help you up.” The girl held her hand out to the boy who took it. Her skin was cold and felt clammy. She helped the boy to his feet, and dusted off some of the soil that was on his leather jacket. “There you go.”

“Where are we?” asked the boy.

“I’ve no idea.” She walked over to a swing set and sat down on the leather strap that was attached to two chains, which hung from a rusted cross beam. “Let me ask you a question. Do you know what your name is?”

The boy laughed, “Of course I do.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s…” The boy frowned and looked at his feet. He thought as hard as he could, but nothing would come to his mind. He ran a hand through his shaggy black hair and huffed. “It’s funny. I’m having a hard time thinking of it.”

“That’s what I thought,” said the girl. “I cannot think of my name either.”

“There has to be some explanation.” The boy sat on the swing set opposite to the girl and gently rocked himself, dragging his feet in the dirt. “Maybe we are dreaming? Maybe you aren’t even real.”

The girl looked cross at the boy. “I’m not a dream.”

“How do I know that?” asked the boy. “I’ve only just woken up a few moments ago. I think that’s exactly what a dream person would say.”

“I cannot be a dream. I’ve been walking around this city for days now. If anything you are a dream.”

“Well, I know I’m not a dream.”

For a moment the pair sat in silence, except for the squeaking of the rusting swings as they swayed backwards and forwards.

“So have you seen anyone else these past few days, or just me?” The boy looked around himself. “I ask because this town seems a bit quiet. There is nobody anywhere – except us.”

The girl shuddered. “I’ve seen others.”

“Ok….” The boy sat there looking at the girl expecting her to continue. After a moment he decided to prod her a little. “Did they know their names?”

“I didn’t stop to ask them,” she said. “They aren’t… they aren’t normal.”

“Aren’t normal?” asked the boy. “What do you mean?”

The girl chewed on her lower lip, and furrowed her brow. “A few days ago I woke up in a hospital. There was no one around. I went outside, and there was no one there either. There was just a whole bunch of empty streets.

“After a few hours I even got bold and went into people’s houses. There was no one there either. There weren’t even pictures on the walls – just furniture. No food in the cupboards, or drinks in the refrigerator – but that wasn’t so bad, because I haven’t been hungry or thirsty at all.

“Finally I noticed something weird….”

“Not being hungry or thirsty for days wasn’t weir d enough?” asked the boy.

The girl glared at the boy. “Do you want to hear my story or not?”

“Sorry. Go ahead.”

“There isn’t any sun here,” she replied. She held her hands up towards the sky, and spread her arms wide. “There is only this half-light. The days here are only just brighter than twilight. And look at this fog everywhere. It’s impossible to see more than a football field’s length in any direction.

“But this half-light, I discovered, is daylight here. When night comes it gets very dark. And that’s when the other people come out.”

The way the girl had said “the other people” made the boy’s skin tingle. “What’s so different about these people?”

“We need to get going,” said the girl. “You are lucky that I found you when I did. It will be night soon, so we need to find a place to hide. The sooner we get going the better.”

Now the boy was becoming slightly alarmed. Clearly the girl didn’t want to talk about the others very much, but her urgency at finding a place to hide startled him. What was so bad about these other people that inhabited this town?

The girl grabbed the boy’s hand and said, “Come on. Let’s go this way.”

They made their way across the playground towards an old house that had blue siding, and a clay tiled roof. The house was a two story building, with porthole windows in the attic.

The girl grabbed the door handle and turned it. The house was unlocked.

“We have to find the hatch for the attic.” The girl pulled the boy up the creaking stairs to the second floor, and frantically looked up and down the hallway. “There it is!” She pointed to a thin white string that hung down from the ceiling. A white plastic bulb dangled from the end of the string, making for a tiny gripper.

The girl walked under the string and tried to reach it, but it was too high. She went into the nearest bedroom and shouted, “Come help me with this!”

The boy walked into the room and saw her standing next to a small wooden nightstand.

“Help me push this under the attic door so I can reach the string.”

The boy grabbed one side of the nightstand and pulled, while the girl pushed. After several push and pull steps, the piece of furniture was positioned in the correct spot. The girl jumped on top of the wooden stand and grabbed the string.

The attic door slowly creaked open as the girl applied her weight to the plastic bulb, revealing a dark area above. The attic door had a wooden ladder built into its frame, which folded in half so it could be neatly tucked away.

The girl swung the ladder out and away from the attic door, and handed the lower half to the boy to hold. She jumped down from the night stand and pushed it backwards a few inches so the ladder could reach the floor.

“Help me get the nightstand back in the other room,” she said.

“Why?”

“Because if they come in this house and see a piece of furniture under the attic they will know we are up there.” The girl rolled her eyes at the boy.

“Whatever you say, boss,” said the boy, saluting her.

Once the nightstand was back in its original place, the pair climbed the attic ladder. The girl bent over the rectangle hole in the ceiling. She pulled the ladder up, shut the attic door, and pulled the drawstring up through its tiny hole so no one could pull it from below.

The boy looked around the attic. It was full of boxes and insulation. Cobwebs dangled from the rafters, and dust covered almost everything. “What now?”

“Now we wait until morning comes,” said the girl, “and make as little noise as possible. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves.”

The boy stood there looking at the girl. “This is crazy. You’re acting crazy.”

“I tell you what.” The girl walked over to the boy and poked him in the chest with her bony finger. “You go ahead and leave. I promise that you’ll regret it. Or you could stay and look out of one of those windows there. Once you see what happens at night you’ll be apologizing for calling me crazy.”

“Fine,” said the boy. He took off his leather jacket and tossed it on the ground. He glanced out of the nearest porthole window that looked out over the playground they had just come from and saw nothing.

“I’m glad you’ve decided to stay.” The girl opened a box that was marked “blankets” and pulled out several thick quilts. “You are a bit annoying, but I could use the company. I’ve been pretty lonely these past few days.”

The boy walked from the window and sat down next to the girl. The minuets passed like hours. Each second seemed to drag out longer than the one before it. The dim light that came in through the windows slowly began to fade, casting long dark shadows in the attic.

“Hello?” called out a voice from outside. “Is anyone out there? Can anyone hear me?”

The boy and girl locked eyes.

“Someone’s out there,” he said. He jumped up and looked out of the window.

Down below a young girl, probably about ten years old, slowly walked down the street. Her hair was blond and in tangles. She wore a blue sundress, and flip-flops.

“Don’t say a word,” said the girl, who was now standing at his side and looking out of the window. “It’s too late for her.”

“What do you mean?” asked the boy.

“Watch.” The girl pointed out of the window. “They are already out. I can see them moving in the shadows.”

The boy scanned the surrounding houses, and then finally saw movement between one of the narrow spaces that separated each building.

A small boy walked from the narrow and waved at the little girl. He wore all black, and looked as white as death.

“Hi!” she squealed. The little girl ran towards the boy, but then suddenly stopped after she had made it about five feet.

Slowly, the girl began backing up. Suddenly five more children dressed in black appeared out of nowhere.

The boy pulled back from the window, and sucked in a large gasp of air. “Look at their eyes,” he whispered.

The children dressed in black had burning red eyes, which looked like sulfur dripping from their sockets.

The girl stood next to the boy at the window, her face drawn and knowing. She knew exactly what would happen next. “I’ve seen this before. Now they will take her.”

“Take her where?”

Before the girl had a chance to answer, the children in black grabbed the girl. Some took her by her blond hair and others by her wrists and ankles. She screamed in fright and kicked at her attackers.

The children in black drug her off into the shadows. Her screams slowly faded until they were nonexistent, and silence returned to the world outside.

“What was that?” the boy asked in a trembling voice. “Where did they take her.”

The girl walked back to her pad of blankets and sat down. “That was what happens if you stay outside after nightfall. I don’t know where they took her, or what they will do with her. All I know is they always drag their victims away.”

The boy continued to look through the window. The children in black were now everywhere. Some played on the playground, and others just wandered around aimlessly. Their many red eyes burned in the darkness like giant fireflies. But something else caught the boy’s attention: in the distance, through the fog, was a shimmer of white light. “Hey. Come look at this.”

The girl returned to the window and looked out.

“What is that light way over there to the east?” The boy looked at her and shrugged.

“I don’t know,” said the girl. “It’s where I have been headed these past few days. Now come away from the window before they see you.”

The boy walked to the blankets the girl had spread out and lay down next to her, who fell asleep quickly and began gently snoring. The boy didn’t sleep at all that night, but instead listened to the shrieks and cries from the ghoulish children below.

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Old 09-10-2013, 09:57 AM
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NEtherLand: Chapter Two

The boy and girl left the house at dawn. Although there was hardly any light at all, the girl assured the boy that it was daytime and that they would be safe.

There was nothing but houses, street after street. Rusted and broken down cars littered the roads, and dead and dying trees cracked and groaned in the cool wind.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” said the boy, his breath ragged. He walked beside the girl, trying his best to keep up with her pace. They had been walking almost two hours nonstop, and the boy felt like his feet were about to give out on him. “We should really come up with names for each other.”

The girl smiled and slowed down her stride. “What would you like to be called?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” said the boy, “and the name Clark sounds good.”

“Clark?” The girl laughed. “You could choose any name in the world and Clark is what you picked?”

“What’s wrong with Clark?”

“Nothing I guess. It just sounds so ordinary.”

“Well, what do you want to be called?” asked the boy, as he jumped over a deep pothole in the road.

“How about Jasmine,” she said.

“Why do you want to be called Jasmine?”

“The name is familiar to me,” said the girl. “Maybe it is my real name.”

“That’s Fair enough.” The boy nodded his head. He looked down the road they were walking on and huffed in frustration. “How many houses can there be? We have been going for hours. You would think we would be making our way out of this housing edition by now. But every time we step forward, more houses appear out of this stupid fog!”

“That light we saw last night in the east looked like it was pretty far away,” said Jasmine. “It could even be hundreds of miles from here.”

“Let’s hope not.” Clark took off his jacket and tied the sleeves around his waist. From the corner of his eye he saw someone standing between the houses. “Don’t look now,” he whispered to Jasmine, “but there is someone watching us.”

“I know,” said Jasmine. “He’s been following us for a few miles.”

“And you didn’t think to say anything to me about it?”

“I didn’t want to worry you,” she spat.

“What if it’s one of those freaky kids – like the ones who took that girl away?”
“They only come out at night,” said Jasmine, reassuringly. “No, this person has been watching us with binoculars. I’ve seen them dangling from a strap around his neck.”

“Why don’t we let him know we see him there?”

“Because clearly he doesn’t want us to know he’s there.” Jasmine shook her head. “And as long as he doesn’t know we know he is there, we can surprise him.”

The two continued walking down the dark foggy road in silence, the boy tailing them.

“Ok,” said Jasmine. “I have a plan.”

“What is it?”

“Up ahead we are going to stop at the redbrick house on the right. You are going to go inside, while I wait out here. Then you will sneak out the back door, and circle around. Grab the boy that’s following us from behind, and I’ll run over and help you.”

“How do you know where he is?” Clark looked around. “I don’t see him anywhere.”

“That’s because he’s two houses down, hiding behind the blue car that’s in the middle of the road. I’ve been keeping an eye on him.”

“Why do I have to go?” asked Clark.

“Because you’re the boy. Shouldn’t you want to protect me or something?”

“You’re not my girlfriend,” snapped Clark.

“Well, with an attitude like that I never will be.”

“Fine.” Clark walked towards the house. “But if I get killed it’s on you.”

Clark made his way up the sidewalk of the redbrick house, and went in through the front door. The house was dingy and smelled of musk. The furniture was thrown about the room, and the walls were cracked and had holes knocked into them. He quickly made his way through the house, and out of the backdoor.

He slowly crept through the backyard, and silently made his way past several houses. Once he was down far enough, Clark walked towards the road.

The boy was crouched down behind the blue car, just like Jasmine said he would be. He was leaning against the trunk of the car looking thorough his binoculars. A large leather backpack rested beside him, and looked rather heavy.

Clark could see Jasmine standing in the middle of the road, nervously looking around. He slowly crept up behind the boy, and threw his arms around him. “I’ve got ‘cha!”

The boy let out a shriek of terror, and kicked his feet against the blue car.

The boys fell to the ground, and wrestled around. Clark held onto the boy’s wrists to prevent him from punching. The black binoculars that dangled from the boy’s neck kept knocking Clark in the chin as they struggled.

“Let me go!” The boy tried to tug his wrist free, but Clark was older and stronger. There was no way the boy would get away. “I said let me go!”

Two hands reached over the boy’s shoulder and pulled him to the ground. Jasmine stood over him, and lifted a big rock over her head.

Once the boy saw the rock he froze.

“Who are you?” asked Jasmine. “Why have you been following us?”

The boy wore a camouflage jacket and pants, and white tennis shoes on his feet, which didn’t match the rest of his outfit at all. His forehead had a few scrapes and bumps from wrestling with Clark, but overall he was fine.

“She asked you a question.” Clark grabbed the boy’s undershirt in his fist. “Answer her.”

“It’s ‘muh orders,” said the boy. “Please don’t hit me with that rock. I wasn’t gonna’ hurt you.”

Jasmine lowered the rock. “No sudden movements.”

The boy nodded his head.

“Get up,” said Clark, letting go of the boy’s shirt. “And don’t even think of running. I’m older and faster than you are.”

“Who are you?” Jasmine stepped closer to the boy. “And who gave you orders to follow us?”

“’Muh name is, Peepers,” said the boy. He pushed a lock of brown hair from his eyes. “I got the name on account that my job is to watch people.”

Jasmine and Clark exchanged glances.

“What’s so special about us?” asked Jasmine.

“Not you in particular.” The boy rubbed a bump on his head. “But anyone I find out here in Netherland. I’m to follow them, and make sure they are ok to bring back home.”

“What’s Netherland?” asked Clark. “Where is home?”

Peepers held his arms out and said, “You’re looking at it. All this fog, houses, and darkness… it’s all Netherland. I’m sent here to look for people to bring back to Tower City, which is home. It’s safe there from the crazies that live in this place.”

“The crazies? You mean those kids with the red eyes, right?” Jasmine leaned in closer. “What are they?”

“I think it would be best of President Hawkins answered ‘yer questions. He’s the ruler of Tower City.” Peepers lowered his eyes, and nodded his head.

“How long are you planning on following us?” asked Clark.

“I guess I’ve followed ya long enough to know if ‘yer good people. You don’t seem bad. So you’re welcome to come with me back to Tower City.”

“Where is tower city?” Jasmine dropped the rock she had been holding onto the ground. “How far away is it?”

“I thought you knew.” Peepers looked confused. “You’ve been walking towards it all day long. I figured you might be on your way there.”

“We’ve been walking towards a light we saw in the night,” said Clark. “We have no idea how far away it is, or even what the light was.”

“It was the lights of Tower City!” Peepers smiled. “It shines in the night to guide people towards safety. The light also keeps the crazies away. They are afraid of the light.”

Jasmine sat down on the trunk of the blue car. “How far away is it?”

“About two day’s walk, east,” said Peepers.

Clark groaned. “You mean we have to spend two more nights here in Netherland with these red eyed demons running around?”

“Not to worry.” Peepers grabbed his leather backpack from the ground and opened the flap. He pulled out two flashlights and handed one to Jasmine and Clark. “Just click the plastic button at the top of the flashlight and shine the light at any of those crazies. They will run like the wind. But don’t use it too much. Ya wouldn’t want to run batteries down this far from Tower City, and I wouldn’t want to spend the night out here without one.”

“We had to spend last night in the dark.” Clark flipped on his flash light and looked at the brightly lit bulb, and then turned the light off with a click. “It was kind of scary. But, Jasmine over here slept right through the night like a baby. I am surprised she could sleep with all that howling and crying from those red eyed kids.”

“I was tired.” Jasmine smiled. “I hadn’t slept in two days. I knew you weren’t going to sleep, so I decided you could be on watch.”

“So, Peepers?” asked Clark. “I’m guessing that isn’t your real name.”

“I don’t know my real name.” Peepers frowned. “No one here does. Most of us woke up here in Netherland without a clue who we were or where we had come from – the more lucky ones woke up in Tower City. I was one of the unlucky ones that woke up on the outskirts of Netherland.

“I lived out here on my own for almost a year.

“By the time I made my way to the light of Tower City, I was almost loony. Being on ‘yer own for so long can play tricks on ‘yer mind. But President Hawkins took me in, and showed me the ropes.

“He reckoned because I lived out here in the Nether for so long that I would make a good scout. So I come out here a few times out of the month to look for poor lost souls, like ‘yer selves, to bring back home. I’m good at what I do, and I’ve never been seen by those crazies that wander the streets at night.”

“I can’t speak for Clark,” said Jasmine. “But I’d like you to take me to Tower City.”

“No way am I staying behind.” Clark laughed. “Besides, there’s nothing out here anyway but rundown houses and rusty cars.”

“Ok.” Peepers threw his backpack over his shoulders and said, “Follow me and do what I say. If you can do that we will be at Tower City in just a few days!”

Clark and Jasmine both nodded agreement.

Peepers guided the group down the street, melting into the thick fog, and leaving nothing but silence behind them.

Last edited by mlp; 09-10-2013 at 12:22 PM..
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Old 09-10-2013, 12:17 PM
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I don't write standard fiction so I read the first few lines to see what's going on. Most excellent!

I skipped to the bottom to find the same superior form. Good job!

Lance
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Old 09-10-2013, 12:20 PM
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Thanks Lance.
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Old 09-10-2013, 12:20 PM
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NEtherLand: Chapter Three




The upstairs bathroom was barricaded from the inside. Peepers had found hammer and a box of nails in a cupboard downstairs. Jasmine and Clark had busted apart some old wooden chairs from the kitchen, and the boards were nailed between the door and wall, sealing the room shut.

A queen sized bed mattress had been drug into the bathroom for the trio to sleep on, and was laid awkwardly on the floor, with its edge leaning against the toilet seat.

Jasmine had preferred to sleep in the bathtub, and had piled several large comforters into it for padding.

Only several minutes had passed since nighttime had arrived, and already the groans of the red-eyed-children could be heard outside. Their wails sounded like something from a horror film, and they refused to stop.

Peepers lay on the mattress with his feet by the door, and flashlight held against his chest. He had agreed to take first watch, and lay there thinking of home in Tower City.

Clark and Jasmine had managed to fall asleep, and were silently dreaming behind their eyelids.

Peepers pulled out a large coin from his backpack and flipped it around his fingers. It had been in his pocket the first day that he had woken up in Neatherland. There were things about this world he found extremely odd: the fact that he didn’t know his name or where he had come from; but he did know his age, and knew the coin he held in his hand was a half dollar.

Why should he be able to know what type of coin he had, but not his name?

When he had first been found by President Hawkins a little over a year ago he was close to insanity. Back then President Hawkins was just simply called Hawkins.

He had assumed the role of President when his predecessor had left Tower City. But before then, Hawkins had been a scout just like Peepers.

Hawkins had kept a close eye on Peepers the first night that he had met him. He would always insist on looking in Peepers’ eyes. He claimed that he was checking to see if Peepers was crying. Now that Peepers had lived in this world long enough, he knew what Hawkins had really been looking for.

A loud smash of a breaking window echoed from down stairs, bringing Peepers from his thoughts into the present.

Jasmine sat up in the bathtub, and Clark shot to his feet with balled up fists.

“Be very quiet,” whispered Peepers, “and don’t turn on your flashlights unless you absolutely have to.”

Jasmine and Clark nodded their heads, and remained silent.

Downstairs the group could hear dishes being smashed against walls, and screeches from one of the demonic looking children. Thumps could be heard on the stairs as feet stumbled on the steps. The screeches grew louder and moved closer towards the bathroom.

Clark heard a sniffle behind him. He turned and realized that Jasmine was crying. Her red hair was covering her face, and her thin fingers were wiping away thick tears that flowed from the red pits of her eyes.

Peepers held up a hand for her be quiet.

Clark climbed into the bathtub. He hugged Jasmine who was trembling, and he couldn’t help but feel relieved that she had finally let her tough girl front down; even if it was due to fear. “It will be ok,” Clark whispered into her ear.

Jasmine felt comforted that Clark was so close, and leaned against him.

A gentle rasping came from outside of the bathroom. Something was sniffing deeply, and reminded Clark of a hound dog.

The bathroom door handle shook, and the nailed boards flexed as pressure was placed on the door from outside. Then the door boomed as something slammed into it from beyond.

Peepers held up his flashlight and motioned for Clark and Jasmine to get ready to turn theirs on.

The sniffing started up again, and then a voice came from behind the door. “Roses are red, violets are blue, and I can smell all of you. Now open the door!”

The creature began beating on the door again, and was obviously kicking it with all of his might. The nails were starting to come out of the wood, and pushed out more with each hit.

“When that door opens use what I gave you,” said Peepers, no longer keeping his voice at a whisper. “These things don’t play fair, but we have protection against them.” He held up his flashlight again as if it were a symbol of his faith.

“It would be easier for you to open the door,” said the voice. “I just want to go outside and play and you are keeping me from it!”

Jasmine looked at Clark and clenched her jaw. Clearly some of the fighting spirit was returning.

A nail popped out of the door frame and fell to the tiled floor with a metallic clink. Soon several nails were laying on the ground and boards as well.

A thin white hand slipped through the door, which was now partially open. Clark used the butt of his flashlight and pounded the top of the hand as hard as he could. For a moment the hand was pinned between the wall and flashlight, and the creature howled with rage.

When Clark removed his flashlight the hand darted back behind the door, and a large dent was in the drywall.

“You’ll pay for that!”

The pounding began again and Peepers said, “Get ready!”
The door burst open and a large kid of about fifteen was standing on the other side. He wore all black like the children Jasmine and Clark had seen prior, and his eyes glowed crimson. His teeth were jagged and pointed, and saliva dripped from the corners of his mouth. Fog rolled from the creature’s skin and out of his mouth.

The fog flowed over the floor like water, and slowly began filling the bathroom.

The kid smiled an evil smile. “Now you are mine!”

“Take this instead!” Peepers pointed his flashlight at kid in black.

The monster opened his eyes wide, and shrieked. Peepers flicked on his flashlight and sent a stream of white light directly into the face of the creature.

The kid screamed wildly and flew backwards as if it by a wrecking ball. He slammed into the wall behind him, and pieces of drywall fell to the ground.

Peepers held the light on him, and he flopped on the ground like a fish out of water. After several seconds of flopping and shrieking the monster quickly darted down the hallway, out of the lights reach.

More footsteps could be heard crashing through the house now, quickly running up the stairs.

“Wait!” The raspy voice shouted to the others. “They have flashlights in there.”

“Flashlights?” asked another voice. “They must be from The Tower.”

“One of them is. The other two look like newcomers.”

“How will we get them out of there?” asked another voice. “The boss will be angry if we fail to bring him back any converts this time.”

“We wait them out,” said the familiar voice. “Their batteries cannot last all night, and there is a long night ahead, indeed.”

“I have a whole backpack full of batteries,” Peepers lied. “It will be well after dawn before they get all used up!”

“We shall see,” came a reply. “But I know a lie when I hear one.”

“What do we do?” asked Jasmine.

Peepers looked at her and smiled. “We play our odds that our flashlights can last all night.”

“And if they can’t?” asked Clark.

“Then they’ll get us….”
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Old 09-11-2013, 06:43 AM
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NEtherLand: Chapter Four

Peepers kept his flashlight trained on the open door until the light started to dim. He swapped it out for Clark’s and then finally Jasmine’s. Now, just minutes before dawn, the final flashlight was beginning to run out of juice.

The house downstairs sounded like a carnival. Hoots and hollers carried upstairs to the bathroom in which the trio had cornered their selves into. The taunts from the red eyed children had been a constant throughout the night, and were beginning to wear on the confidence of Clark, Jasmine, and Peepers.

Clark leaned in close to Peepers and whispered, “We are going to have to make a run for it.”

Peepers scoffed and shook his head in disbelief. “Are you insane? There are probably hundreds of them out there. Where are we going to run anyway to? We are still a full day’s journey from Tower City – and there isn’t even a guarantee we will make it there.”

“We have to do something.” Jasmine hopped over the lip of the bathtub, and huddled down with the boys. “We are down to our last flashlight, and it doesn’t look like it will hold out much longer.”

“Ok,” said Peepers. “Suppose we made a run for it and managed to get out of the house... what then? We are in Netherland territory, and this entire place for miles around is crawling with those things out there.”

“What if we made a fire?” suggested Clark. “A fire doesn’t need batteries and will provide enough light to keep them away.”

“Make a fire with what?” Peepers looked all around him. “There are no matches in here, and I certainly don’t know how to make a fire from scratch. Do either of you know how to do that?”

Jasmine and Clark glanced at each other, and then back at Peepers. They both shook their head no.

Peepers rubbed his half dollar with his thumb, which was a nervous tick he had. “Clark’s right. We have to try to make it out of this house and run as hard as we can. It will be dawn soon. Perhaps we can hold out until then.” He pocketed his coin and stood up. “The other two flashlights have just a little power left in them. There might be a minute or two each.

“If you turn them on and off in small bursts, you might be able to hold them back.

“Here is the plan – we are going to stand back to back and slowly make our way down the stairs. When we get outside we are going to link hands and run east as fast as we can.”

“That sounds easy enough,” said Clark.

“Well here is the hard part.” Peepers slung his backpack over his shoulders. “If they get one of us, you must not stop running. Whoever gets caught is lost. If you stop to help, you’ll only get caught ‘yerself.”

Jasmine stood up and said, “We are ready.”

The children got back to back, forming a human triangle, and each held their flashlights out in front of them. They moved into the hallway, which was infested with shadows and red eyes.

Peepers took the lead since his flashlight was the most useful, and cleared their path. Jasmine flashed her light a few times, causing some of the shadows behind the group to scatter like rats.

The house had become abnormally quiet, and tension filled the air. The taunts and laughter had stopped, and only added more apprehension to the situation.

“Where are they?” asked Clark. The house was a mess. Broken glass and destroyed furniture covered the living room floor. Holes had been knocked into walls and mud had been tracked onto the carpet. “I don’t see any of them.”

Peepers kept his eyes locked ahead of him. “They are hiding… waiting for the perfect time to strike. We are almost to the front door. Get ready.”

Peepers slowly opened the front door and stepped onto the patio. The fog was thick and blurred shadows moved within its milky white haze. Little red eyes danced within the shadows of the night, gazing on the three children with ill intent.

In the distance a thin light cut through the fog. It was the beacon of Tower City, lighting the way that the trio must travel.

“Take hands,” said Peepers. “Now Run!”

The trio headed into the dense fog. Peepers held his flashlight in front of him, warding off any danger. Jasmine and Clark flashed theirs on and off to the sides, and narrowly escaped a clutching hand several times.

Dirty fingernails raked on their clothing and tried to grab them but couldn’t get a good grip before retreating into the fog, escaping from the light.

The sky was starting to brighten and the fog was thinning.

“Get them before it’s too late!” shouted a voice from the mist.

Suddenly Peepers stopped running. Clark and Jasmine crashed into him, and they all fell to the ground. Jasmine’s flashlight was knocked out of her hands and went rolling off into the fog.

They had run upon a brick wall, and had nowhere to go. They were pinned down and trapped.

A thin white hand immediately shot out of the fog and grabbed Jasmine’s leg. She cried in horror as the face of a red eyed girl appeared from the shadows and grinned at her. “Come play with us!” she said, grinning. Her breath was horrible and stank of death, and her teeth were jagged and rotten. “It will be so much fun!”

“Get away from her!” Clark clicked on his flashlight and held it just inches from the ghoulish girl’s face. She cried out in pain, and fluttered back into the shadows. Clark pulled Jasmine closer to him and said, “I got ‘cha!”

“Huddle up!” shouted Peepers. He waved his flashlight in every direction, trying to ward off the creeping shadows that were getting closer and closer.

Clark and Jasmine stood behind him, their backs pressed to the brick wall. Their arms were tucked to their sides, trying to make it harder for the ghostly hands to grab them.

“My flashlight is dying!” Peepers banged the metal tube of his flashlight with the palm of his hand, before the light finally died.

The three children huddled in a tight ball against the brick wall, kicking at the hands that reached for them. Giggles carried though the darkness, along with taunts and jibes.

The red eyes closed in on the group, turning the white fog into a blood red. Just as hundreds of hands reached out to take them, the beautiful light of dawn poured down from the sky.

Cries of pain reached up into the morning air, and the hundreds of hands that were upon the children turned to ash and scattered in the wind.

The trio stayed huddled next to each other for a few minutes, trying their best to catch their breath as adrenaline coursed through their blood.

Jasmine turned to Clark and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for saving me!”

Clark’s face flushed red and he smiled at Jasmine. “Any time.”

Peepers cleared his throat. “We need to get going. I want to be in tower city before night falls. We won’t make it another night out here. There will be nowhere to hide. Those things will rip every house apart until they find us.”

“Let’s go then.” Jasmine stood up from the ground and dusted her pants off.

Peepers put the dead flashlights into his backpack, except for the one that had been lost in the tussle, and began to lead the way east; the source of light and safety.
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Old 09-11-2013, 09:06 AM
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NEtherLand: Chapter Five


As the group marched closer to Tower City the fog began to thin. Soon the light of day began to break through the thick mist, and golden rays of sunlight struck the ground.

“So this place does have a sun.” Jasmine held her arms out and let the warmth fall upon her skin.

“Of course it does,” said Peepers. “It didn’t appear that way because the fog was blocking out most of it before.”

The group had passed the last house hours ago, and had been walking through a desert waist land for the better part of the day. Every now and then they would pass the ruins of a destroyed house, and continue on past it.

“What is this place we are walking through?” asked Clark.

“This is limbo territory.” Peepers looked over his shoulder at Clark.

Jasmine pulled her red hair back from her face, and tied it into a pony tail. “What does ‘limbo territory’ mean?”

Peepers held his arms out and said, “This is the halfway point between Tower City and Netherland. This desert surrounds Tower City, and separates it from Netherland. The children in black never cross this desert. They prefer to stay in their fog and darkness.”

A large city jutted from the horizon. The light of the sun reflected off the many windows of its buildings, and shimmered like glitter.

“How far away is the city?” asked Clark. “It looks like we could walk all day and not reach it.”

“I think we will make it before nightfall,” said Peepers. “Even if we don’t, the crazies never venture this close to Tower City. We should be fine.”

“Who are those kids?” asked Jasmine. “And why are there no adults anywhere? The oldest kid I’ve seen is Clark, and he’s only thirteen.”

“Almost fourteen,” added Clark.

Peepers stopped and turned to Jasmine and Clark. “Look. There is a lot I want to tell ya. I know you have a lot of questions. But President Hawkins prefers me to let him do the explaining. He thinks it builds trust if you hear it from him about what is going on in this place.” Peepers turned on the balls of his feet, and continued walking again.

Jasmine ran up beside him, and laid a hand on his shoulder. “What can you tell us?”

“Only that when we reach Tower City, you probably won’t like what President Hawkins has to say.”

“Why?” asked Clark.

“Because what he has to say is going to be hard to believe.”
The trio walked for hours in silence across the dusty desert floor. Tumbleweeds blew across the ground, and small sand tornados spun in the distance.

Despite that the heat of the sun was beating down upon them, and had been for hours, it wasn’t painful. Jasmine, whose skin usually burned easily, was surprised that her arms felt cool and good; there was no hint of reddening or irritation.

The distant Tower City now loomed closer. Its buildings could be easily seen in the distance, and the desert floor was beginning to show signs of grass and weeds.

The sun was beginning to set in the west, and the gloom from Netherland could be seen far behind; its fog began to billow up like a smoke bomb, and tiny tendrils of white snaked through the air.

“I’ve never seen it do that before,” said Peepers, glancing over his shoulder. He watched as the fog pushed even higher into the air and began to block out the sun. “We need to run… now!”

The group began to sprint towards Tower City as the shadows began to speed across the ground. Dust began to swirl at the feet of the children as they ran, and clump together.

Peepers pulled his backpack over his shoulder as he ran, and pulled a bulky orange gun from inside.

“What is that?” asked Jasmine over gasping breath.

“It’s a signal flair,” said Peepers. “Only to be used in case of an emergency!”

The dust that was swirling around the ground began to form arms, and those arms began to grow white leprous flesh over the dirt. Groans and hisses began to emanate from all around the group as the red eyed children began to appear.

“What’s going on?” screamed Clark. He kicked one of the newly formed heads as he ran, scattering it to dust, only to watch it begin to reform.

“They are coming!” shouted Peepers.

“I thought they didn’t come this close to Tower City!” Jasmine jumped over a newly formed body, and almost tripped over another. “This looks pretty close to me!”

Peepers loaded a large flair into the tube of the gun, and fired it off into the sky. The white glow erupted into the air. Everywhere the light touched screams of the red eyed children followed as they turned into dust, and quickly began reforming. “They must want us pretty bad to come this far. I guess Morgoth was pretty upset they didn’t bring us back last night.”

“What’s a Morgoth?” screamed Clark.

“Just run for that group of trees!” Peepers pointed to a large grouping of oak trees that stretched as far as the eye could see. “The entrance to Tower City is just past them!”

The shadows of the forest were almost as dark as Netherland. Frogs and crickets burped and chirped from their hiding places in the vegetation.

Peepers jumped over a fallen log. “Stay close and don’t get separated. Help is on the way.”

“I can’t run anymore,” said Jasmine, collapsing on the ground. “It’s too much.”

Clark stopped and doubled back. He grabbed Jasmine under her arms and lifted her to her feet. “We have to keep going.”

“I can’t” she said. “Go on without me.”

“No,” said Clark. “If you hadn’t saved me in Netherland on that first day, those things would have gotten me for sure. I owe you.”

Jasmine looked at Clark smiled.

“I got just one more flair in my pocket,” said Peepers. “It’s not enough to keep them away forever. But I’m not leaving you two here. We’ve come too far together.”

Red eyes were marching in from the west and thick fog moved over the forest floor. This time there were no taunts or threats. The shadows moved with a mission; they were intent on capturing their targets.

Soon they surrounded the group and began moving in. There was no place to run this time, and they were helpless against their attackers.

When they were completely encircled the redeyes stopped moving. A lone figure approached from the group and knelt down beside them. It was the same red eyed child from the house they had escape from the previous night.

The boy looked at Clark and held up his hand, which had a circular dent in it from where Clark had smashed it with his flashlight. “I told you that you’d pay for this.”

Peepers leaned forward and pointed his flair gun directly at the boy’s face. “Will this work as payment?”

The entire forest lit up in bright white light as the flair shot form the gun’s barrel and slammed into the kids for head. The boy with the smashed hand flew backwards about twenty yards and clawed at the flair that was stuck in his skin.

The boy’s cries of pain were nerve wracking and caused the children to cover their ears with the palms of their hands. Finally the boy turned to dust and the glowing flair dropped to the ground before exploding into a firework, sending trails of sparks in every direction.

Peepers, Clark, and Jasmine covered their face and ducked down to avoid getting stuck with one of the exploding pieces of fire.

The children in black scattered into the forest, taking cover from the light where ever they could.
“Come on,” said Peepers. He got to his feet and began running through the forest.

Clark and Jasmine followed suite and followed close behind him.

When the flairs died away the children could hear hundreds of feet running after them. No one dared look back in fear that the least hesitation would get them captured.

Just as the feet sounded like they were nearly upon the children bright lights began appearing in the shadows. Hundreds of flashlights snapped on, and a flood lamp that was connected to a car battery illuminated the entire surrounding area.

The red eyed children screeched and retreated back from wince they had come, while others that were too close to the lights burst into ash and vanished.

Peepers, Jasmine, and Clark all froze and gazed into the blinding light. A single figure moved towards them until he was close enough to be seen clearly. The boy had bright blond hair, and ocean blue eyes. He was lean, but muscular.

“President Hawkins, sir!” said Peepers, saluting.

“I told you not to salute me, Peeps’,” said President Hawkins. He smiled at Clark and Jasmine, and then turned back to Peepers. “It’s a good thing you fired your flair, or we wouldn’t have known to come rescue you – and we got here just in the nick of time, I see.”

President Hawkins walked towards Clark and Jasmine and shook their hands. “Welcome to Tower City.”
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