They threw me into a plush room. My hand went through the fine silk embroidered settee. Same for the China filled mahogany cabinet, and the jade and ivory sculptures adorning every table and shelf. It was all reflected luxury except for the rich carpet covering the floor. The door slid aside, and the man himself entered.
Largarus dressed in the same vein as his faux furnishings. Ruffled white lace cascaded from his neck and covered the v of his red pinstriped vest. Identical lace fell from the sleeves of his black long-coat. White boots with black straps and shiny gold buckles rose half-way up his thigh and enclosed the ends of black tailored pants. His bushy mustache concealed his upper lip. His smooth cheeks met an outline of beard that curled over his jaw like a well-groomed pet.
“Are you comfortable?” he asked.
“I didn’t take your blaster or eye piece. I want us to be good friends.”
“I’m not five,” I told him. “Get to the point.”
He pulled a wooden chair around and straddled it with his arms crossed, resting on the back. “Have a seat.”
I looked around.
“Oh, I forgot,” he said. “You can’t tell reflection from reality. That wooden one’s real.”
I slouched into it with my ankles crossed in front of me and my arms folded.
He continued, “Cheyenne knows things, but she doesn’t know how to use them. She thought maybe you could help.”
“She stayed with me for a while, but she was no use, so I let her go. She was gracious enough to deliver you.”
I huffed impatiently, “So, what do you want?”
“I only want you to retrieve something, then I’ll let you go.”
I shrugged, “Alright.”
I saw his eyes move a little. I didn’t know if it was surprise or suspicion. “Alright?” he asked.
“I’d like to get my life back.”
He ran his fingers along the brim of his top hat. “I believe Cheyenne told you about the Griffon’s little side business?”
“I’m supposed to steal the movies?”
“You misunderstand. I want the names and addresses of their ‘contacts.’”
I decided to raise the stakes. “That’s risky. I’m going to need extras.”
“I want you to leave Sadie and Maddie alone. And I want unlimited mirror travel, forever.”
“If you do this thing, I will consider all debts paid. And as for the travel. . .”
He snapped his fingers. I was surprised when a girl of about my age walked in. Her auburn hair framed a naturally made-up face. She carried a large, silver staple gun.
Largarus continued, “I’ve developed a special serum that will allow you to travel back and forth between our worlds. You can bring me the papers yourself. ”
I rolled up my sleeve.
The girl placed the gun against my arm and pulled the trigger. A thousand little needles punctured my skin. I clamped my teeth and made a face. The mark on my arm looked like one of those small pox vaccine scars I’d seen on older people.
Largarus clapped his hands. This time, two men entered, dressed very much like his soldiers. Harper minced along between them, his feet and hands shackled to each other by short chains. His face was white.
He didn’t even look at me. His full attention was on Largarus. “Please, don’t hurt her,” were the first words out of his mouth.
Largarus picked up a mirror and started combing his facial hair. “What could you possibly trade?”
Harper’s tongue felt for the missing rings. The pleading defeat in his eyes hurt.
“He’s not going to do anything,” I said.
“What will you trade?” Largarus insisted. I didn’t like the way his mouth clenched around the words. As if he were strangling the life out of Harper with every syllable.
“I made a deal with him,” I said. “He’s need me.”
Largarus put the comb in his pocket. It must have been some secret signal because one of the attendants moved in behind me and wrapped his arms around me in a vice-like grip. The girl grabbed my hand and held it over Larg’s mirror. I started to struggle, but the grip held firm.
“You need me,” I said.
“But, you don’t necessarily need all of your fingers or toes or your nose to do what I want you to do.” He raised his eyebrow at Harper.
Harper’s eyes took on a look of guilt and sadness. “Anything,” he whispered.
I pulled again. “We had a deal.”
Largarus ignored me. “Name five informants.”
“If you cut me, I won’t get the papers,” I told him.
He spoke to me as if to a child, “If you don’t get the papers, I get Sadie and Maddie.”
The girl pulled my pinky out at a painful angle, and Largarus positioned the mirror so it was almost touching.
“My name’s Audrey, what’s yours?” The girl said it as if we were at the snack table at a party.
“How many times do I have to tell you, don’t make friends with the prisoners,” Largarus told her.
“I got to kiss him.” Audrey let go of my hand to gesture at Harper.
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. “You kissed her?”
The fact that he didn’t answer told me everything.
“What’s wrong with that?” Audrey asked.
“You said we were bonded. You ju–” I dug my feet in and pushed so hard, the attendant took a couple steps with me before regaining control.
“You’re not his girlfriend, anymore. Larg promised him to me, got it?” Audrey grasped my finger and pulled it over so hard I thought she would rip it off herself.
“The names,” Largarus demanded.
Harper’s shoulder’s slumped. “Sam Ysvelt, Tom Carson, Sally Turner, Amy Lynn, Gary Wenworth.”
“Release them,” Largarus said. The servant let go of my hand and snapped open Harper’s shackles. They fell clanking to the floor. “Harper, you can escort the lady to the Griffon’s house.”
“But you said,” Audrey whimpered.
“I’ll get you another pet,” Largarus promised. “This one has other business.”
The things removed our blindfolds after we had crawled through four or five aperatures. We were on the street in front of my house. They touched a button on their sleeves and faded away.
“What papers?” Harper asked.
“You kissed her.” The words left a bad taste in my mouth.
“It wasn’t like that. She kissed me. I thought it would buy us some time.” The way he said it, so matter-of-factly with not one trace of remorse, stoked the anger burning in my stomach.
“What papers?” Harper asked again, completely ignoring my outrage.
Having to explain that calmed me a little. “I wanted to save Sadie and Maddie.”
“So?” His voice was louder.
“Don’t you need to find Tristen?”
The veins in his neck stood out. He shouted, “What did you promise?”
“It’s no big deal. I just have to get some names off their computer.”
“You lied to me,” he said. “You said you wouldn’t cooperate with him.”
The same gut-wrenching guilt I’d felt when my last boyfriend found out I’d gone to a movie with his best friend surged through me. “You kissed that, that, girl.”
He threw his gun to the ground. His foot sent it whirling down the street. He picked it up and threw it again. Springs, gears, and rings flew in every direction.
“Larg’s driven her completely insane. You saw how she talked to you. She kissed me on the cheek a couple of times, that’s all,” he said. The truth in his voice somehow made me feel more guilty. “You just cost five people their lives.”
I ran over to him. Somehow, if he would forgive me, I wouldn’t be such a terrible person. “I wanted to save my sister. I didn’t know.”
His eyes were hard. “Tristan was wrong about the bond. I never want to see you again.”
“Please, please try to understand,” I begged.
“You said we would trust each other.” He sneered at me like I was trash. “And the worst part is, I don’t have anyplace to go. Tristan must hate me for what I did.”
“You have me,” I said. “We’ll get the papers, and you can live on my side of the mirror. We can be together like before.”
He shook his head sadly, “You just don’t get it.” He pushed a button on his arm and faded away.
I cried for a couple of minutes. Tears pooled in the scope, so I had to take it off. I stopped crying when I thought maybe his mad would wear off and he’d come back. While I waited, I crawled around the street, picking up pieces of his gun and putting them in my pockets.
“He could’ve left any time, you know,” a voice said behind me. It was a kid, about ten or eleven, wearing a white baseball uniform like they used to wear in the fifties. He threw a ball way above his head and watched it land in his glove.
“What do you mean?”
“Larg didn’t really capture him. He gave himself up, because of you.”
“Why? I mean, he could’ve gone for help.”
“Larg doesn’t just kill people. He sends them through different mirrors, a piece at a time. They don’t die for a while. Wanna play?” He handed me a glove.
I put it on and backed up.
“My name’s Gene.” He sent a grounder whizzing between my legs. I had to run half-a-block to get it.
“Mine’s Kelsey,” I tossed him an easy one.
“So why’s your boyfriend so mad at you?” His next throw almost took out my ear.
“I lied to him.” This time, I threw a really hard curve ball. He caught it with ease.
“My dad wanted me to pitch softball.”
My hand stung when his next zinger landed in the middle of my glove.
“So, why don’t you just say, ‘Sorry,’” he asked.
“No, you didn’t,” he said. “You gave him excuses why what you did was alright.” He paused, “Was it alright?”
I kept the next throw and flopped to the ground. “No.”
He sat down criss-cross beside me. “So, why don’t you tell him, ‘Sorry’?”
I tossed the ball up and caught it. “He’ll never forgive me.”
“Tell Tristan. He’ll make him forgive you.”
I shuddered. “Tristan’s mad at me, too. He’ll kill me if he finds me.”
“Oh, he knows where you are. He knows where everybody is,” the kid said. “Can I have my ball back?”
“Sure.” I handed it over. “Did you ever tie a knot so tight and complicated that you couldn’t get it undone?”
“That’s the kind of mess I’ve made. I can’t fix it, and everybody’ll hate me when they find out what I’ve done.”
“Tristan can fix it,” the boy said confidently. “He can fix anything.”
I ruffled the kid’s hair. Things are so easy when you’re a kid. “Thanks, but he can’t fix this. I gotta go.”
“Can I have my glove back?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry kid.”
It grated against my skin when I pulled it off. My hand puffed and oozed out of the fingerless gloves the peddler had sold me. Then, I realized that the other hand was the same.
The kid looked a little guilty. “I forgot.”
“I’ve got this, fungus stuff. It spreads, and it’s icky. Looks like you got it, too. Better take off those gloves before your hands swell too much.”
I threw the gloves to the ground. “Great.”
He took a familiar looking bottle out of his pocket. “If you had a bottle of this, you’d be alright.”
“I do,” I said. I pulled Dr. Quint’s Ailment Oil out of my pocket.
“Just rub it on your hands all the time until the bottle’s empty. You’ve got to keep it on your hands all the time.”
“O.K.” I wasn’t a fan of greasy fingerprints everywhere, but this was unacceptable. I put some on. It smelled like really strong gingerbread.
“See ya,” the kid said. He hugged me.
I gave him a gentle squeeze. “See ya, Gene.”
His arms faded, and he was gone.
My house had a mirror in the study looking over the garden. That would be the closest aperture.
Mom walked in while I was taking off the blaster.
“Kelsey!” she screamed. She hugged me so tight my back cracked, and I couldn’t breathe. “Where have you been?”
“I don’t know,” I told her.
Her voice turned angry, “What do you mean you don’t know? You’ve been gone for days.”
“I went over to Cheyenne’s mom’s with Harper. We visited for a while, and I walked Harper to his house. On my way back something hit me on the head. That’s the last thing I remember.” I hoped my story jibed with whatever Cheyenne had told everyone.
“Cheyenne showed back up about the same time you went missing. We’ve got to call the police.” Mom took out her phone and dialed.
That evening, Mrs. L came by. Maddie and Sadie watched television while my parents and Mrs. L talked around the kitchen table.
I mostly felt dazed and half-listened until Mrs. L said, “Kelsey, I owe you an apology.”
“What for?” I was afraid she was going to say she was sorry for trying to steal my soul. My parents would lose it.
“For firing you. I’ve felt so guilty since you went missing. To make up for it, I called the local daycare the minute I heard you were back. They said you can start whenever you want, and they’ll work your hours around your dance squad.”
“Thanks.” I figured she really must feel guilty if she went to all that trouble.
“Oh, and it’s the strangest thing, the nanny found your cell phone in our couch when she was cleaning.” Mrs. L set it on the table.
After everybody was in bed, I wrapped two socks over the place where the scorpion had stung me and secured them with camouflage duct tape. I put the emergency fire ladder out the window and climbed down. I was afraid my parents would hear the car start, but no lights turned on. I drove on over to Billy’s. Cheyenne opened the basement window after about a million quiet taps.
“Kelsey!” she squealed. She about broke off the window when she tried to hug me.
“I need your key to the Griffon’s house,” I told her.
“Sure, wanna come in?”
I shook my head.
I heard her rummaging around in a drawer. She got back fast enough. “I don’t know why Largarus didn’t just let me steal the files.”
“You offered?” I whispered.
“Yeah, he said you had to do it.”
“So, you set me up?” After what I’d done, I couldn’t really blame her.
“No, I escaped. I was trying to warn you to run before you traded places with me in the mirror. That was really dumb.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. “I need Billy’s cell.”
“You can have mine.”
“I need his.”
“He won’t like that,” she said.
“It’s an emergency.”
“At least give me yours for him to use.”
“I lost it.”
She hesitated, “I don’t know.”
“You owe me,” I said.
“Oh, alright. But only for a day or so.”
“Only for a day or so.”
It’s so funny. If you go into a person’s house in broad daylight, and look like you’re supposed to be going into that house, nobody really sees you. The morning when I stole the copies from the Griffon’s, there were a kabillion people out walking their dogs and raking leaves. After the Griffon’s noticed the two copies I’d left in their printer, they asked around. Not one person noticed me coming or going.
The night after I transferred the papers, I decided to try to make amends with Harper. I waited until around one in the morning, and then stood on my dresser. I put my hand up to the mirror, and pushed. Nothing happened. I pushed with both hands, nothing. I thought maybe I needed to use the one I came in through. We used the study mirror before going to any dress occasion because it was full length. I pushed on it with both hands, then kicked it with my foot. The mirror stayed solid.
When Harper and I went through, we ran into the mirror and broke it. I started running at the far end of the hall and didn’t slow down. The next thing I knew, I was on the couch with mom standing over me while dad swept up broken pieces of glass.
I started crying. Mom held me while I sobbed. Largarus was a liar. I couldn’t get back through. I would never see Harper again. I was so upset that I didn’t stop to wonder what was really in the injection.
I started my daycare job the following Tuesday morning. I had to wear soft white gloves because my hands were still swollen, and it wouldn’t go over good if the kids went home smelling strongly of cloves. Work provided a welcome distraction that filled the few hours between waking and school.
I hurt inside from missing Harper. I covered all the mirrors in our house. Mom and dad thought it was a sign of post-traumatic stress and wanted to take me to a counselor. I didn’t want to. The medicine cabinet mirror wouldn’t stay covered. Tape came loose with shower steam, a sheet or towel simply slid off, and my parents would not allow me to nail anything into the wall. I wore a bathrobe until I got into the shower, took it off to bathe, and put it back on before pulling the curtain back. By then, the glass steamed over, and it was too opaque to show anything.
I kept waiting for the hurt inside to stop, but it didn’t. I wanted so much to see him grin at me, to feel his breath on my skin as he leaned in for a kiss. And then there was the guilt. It wedged like a splinter deep under my skin that I couldn’t dig out. I searched the Internet for the obituaries of the people I’d helped kill. I couldn’t find anything which meant they probably died on the other side.
My parents had a small get together one Friday after a football game. By the time I changed out of my dance outfit, I could hear mingled adult voices, and kids running around giggling. Dragging myself through the day had become more and more difficult. I didn’t want to entertain those people with the “perfect daughter” routine, so I stayed in my room. When I heard a knock at the door, I thought it was Sadie.
“Come on,” I said.
I was surprised by who stepped into the room.
“May I sit?” She gestured to a spot on the bed beside me.
“Sure,” I scooted back.
She perched on the edge with her stilettoes digging into the carpet. “I just want to thank you, for paying off my debt.”
“It was easy enough,” I said.
“Still, that’s a huge burden to carry, even though you won’t be carrying it for long.” She watched the wine swirling in her glass. “At least Maddie will be safe.”
“I try to tell myself those people deserve whatever Largarus is going to do to them. They can’t be any good if they were distributing those kinds of movies.”
“What, dear?” Her attention turned from her drink to me.
“The people, on the list.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You agreed to be the carrier. You’re a brave girl.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“That injection,” she said. “It had a Nano virus. You’ve spread it to enough kids by now that in a year, everybody on this side will be dead.”
I just stared at her.
“Oh,” she said. “Of course he wouldn’t tell you.” She patted my leg. “But even if he did, I’m sure you would have made the same decision, to save Sadie.”
She stood, “I’d better be getting back to the party.”
I grabbed her arm, “Wait, how do you stop it?”
“You can’t.” She sat back down. “Do you know what I do for a living?”
I shook my head.
“I’m a bio-molecular engineer. Know what that is?”
This time I nodded.
“You do deserve to understand what you’ve done.” She leaned toward me a little, obviously dying to tell someone. “Some of my partners and I have helped Largarus engineer a Nano virus. It’s mostly biological but the shell is made from minerals found in the human body. White blood cells, antibiotics, nothing can’t penetrate it. It’s also self-replicating.”
“So it uses the human body to reproduce?”
“Yes. You were injected with two hundred. When you touched anyone or anything on this side, especially those children, the nano’s were released.”
“But, how, how’s it going to spread to everybody?”
She laughed. “You know how kids are, touching things and putting them into their mouths. And then there are adults. How do you flush the toilet in a public restroom?”
“I push the handle down.”
“Did you know some people push with their feet, some with their sleeves? Five or ten people who touch that handle after you will become infected. And the ones that use their feet will carry it. In the case of this virus, the five-second-rule doesn’t apply.”
“People do wash their hands.” I let sarcasm drip from my words.
“Too late. It penetrates on contact.” She giggled a little. “Then, it self-replicates. The carrier gets run down, maybe even sick for a couple of days, then returns to normal. After that, the virus evacuates the body, all except one, which lies dormant.”
“Until about this time next year. Largarus will send out a high frequency signal that will trigger it.”
“And?” I prompted.
“The little virus will rip through the body like a circular saw. Everyone will be dead within hours.”
“Then, you and Maddie are infected, too.”
“Doesn’t matter. We won’t be on this side when the signal goes off.”
I felt dizzy.
“Larg didn’t even know about Sadie until you included her in the bargain. He wants me to bring her with. She’ll be safe. ” She patted my leg again. “Don’t feel guilty. You didn’t know. And all but one are gone from you by now, so you can’t do anything about it.”
I thought about what she’d said long after the last voices faded from downstairs. The only way to prevent the virus from waking was to stop the signal. The only way to stop the signal was to stop Largarus.
That Monday, I stayed home from school and hid in the bushes behind Mrs. L’s house. Around ten, I dialed Billy’s cell.
When the nanny answered, I said, “This is Thesar Pest Control. We will be arriving to spray the house in 30 minutes and we want to confirm that everyone will be out of the house for around two hours after.”
“I didn’t know anything about it,” the nanny said.
“Would you like for me to have,” I paused as if consulting my information, “Tammy Largarus call you to confirm?”
“Oh, no, don’t bother. We’ll be out.”
I waited for ten minutes after the nanny’s car rounded the corner in case she forgot something and came back. I got the spare key from under the frog statue in the backyard and let myself in.
Before I got on Mrs. L’s computer, I unhooked the Wi-Fi. When I was sure it wasn’t sending or receiving, I started checking files. She didn’t have any of it password protected, which was probably because she didn’t have anything sensitive saved on it. I went through her desk drawers and files. Then, I searched her bedroom closet and side table. I wished I’d read more detective stories to know where people hide stuff. I looked in the freezer and the toilet tank. Frustrated, I sat back down in front of the computer and stared at the screen. The search engine icon caught my eye. I started looking at the history. Apparently, she hadn’t erased it since she got the computer. As I scrolled down, something caught my eye.
Since Monday’s mom’s day off from the bank, I had to lay low until school was over. When she commented on me skipping dance practice, I told her I was sick. I just wanted a to lie down. She put her hand on my forehead and said she’d be up later to check on me.
I turned on the shower but didn’t undress. I leaned against the mirror. “Harper.”
“Harper, I know you’re mad at me, but it’s important. Please.”
I stood there like that for about fifteen minutes. Then, Mom knocked on the door. “Kelsey, you alright in there?”
“You’re taking an awfully long time.”
I held my nose. “My sinus’ are plugged. I’m trying to steam then open.”
“O.K. Well, don’t stay in there too long.”
I cracked the door open to make sure she was gone. By now, humidity fogged the glass surface.
Gene said Tristan might help, in spite of what I’d done. It was worth a shot. I leaned against the mirror again. “Tristan. Tristan, please, I need to tell you something. It’s important.”
“Tristan, I am so sorry for what I did. You can pull me through and do whatever you want to me. I just have to talk to Harper.”
Through the fog, I saw a pinkish-purple blur. I wiped the mist so I could see his face. His eyes still had the cold, angry look. I was so glad to see him.
“Harper, I’m sorry,” I said.
He shook his head and cupped his hand to his ear, indicating he couldn’t hear me.
I smooshed my face against the glass, “Please forgive me.”
He shook his head again.
I knew we wouldn’t be able to see each other much longer. I had to get the message to him. I had an idea. I traced a giant triangle in the fog on the top half of the mirror and pointed.
I exaggerated my mouth movements, hoping he could read my lips. He faded before I could see if he understood, “Bermuda Triangle.”
The next morning when I told my parents I was too sick to go to school, I was only half-lying. What I’d done ate at me until I felt like I couldn’t bear up under the guilt. Not only had I infected those little toddlers and babies at the daycare, but also, I had infected all of my classmates and friends. I’d basically killed five good people, hurt a guy who truly loved me, and doomed the rest of the world’s population. The worst part was, I didn’t have anyone I could tell. I felt like a crazy person when I stood at the mirror a couple of times and asked Tristan to forgive me. Since I’d seen Harper, I believed more Tristen was there. I figured he must still hate me because he didn’t answer.
Around two o’clock, the doorbell rang. I waited for the person to go away, but whoever it was laid on it until I couldn’t stand the sound. When I pulled the curtain aside, I saw Cheyenne standing on the porch.
“I need Billy’s phone,” she huffed when I opened the door.
“I’ll go get it.”
She followed me up the stairs. When I handed it to her, she got this strange look on her face. “Largarus needs you.”
“Largarus sent me. He needs you.”
“Nuh uh. That was our last deal. We’re done.”
“When you deal with Largarus, you’re never done. Are you going to crawl through, or do I have to push you?” She gestured at the mirror.
“Let me put on my gear.” I pulled my clothes from the back of the closet. My cell phone charger was compatible with the blaster, so it was fully charged.
“I can go through, now?” I asked.
I got up on the dresser top and put out my hand. It melded with the mirror and then disappeared. I crawled in after it.
Largarus’ goonies were waiting for me on the other side. One grabbed each of my forearms and marched me to a waiting stingray ship. A ramp lay open on the side, and the tail curled around behind. As my eyes adjusted to the darker interior, one of the guards slashed the duct tape off my leg with a hunting knife. The other one took my blaster.
The telescope allowed my right eye to see before my left. I was inside what looked like a Roman slave galley ship. Rows of prisoners chained to benches slumped on thick wooden oars.
The guards led me to an opening in the middle of one row and indicated that I was to sit. They shackled my ankles and wrists and left me there.
The person to my right unfolded his arms from around his head and looked up from where he was resting. A familiar pair of eyes looked at me from under pinkish-purple hair. Harper.
“You’re back,” he said.
“Looks like it.” I tried not to show how much it hurt for him to hate me when all I wanted was to be close to him. “How’d you wind up here?”
“After you left, Tristan accepted me back into his army. Got captured on a mission. You?”
“Cheyenne got me,” I faced forward.
“I understood your. . .” He stopped when I reached over and squeezed his hand. I shook my head at him.
“Largarus can hear us.”
“His scorpion stung me when I got here. I think it implanted a device.”
“How’d you figure that out?”
“He called my gauntlet a blaster. He couldn’t have known that’s what I called it unless he heard us talking in the cubby.”
I looked out the side window. A massive eel-like shape undulated above us. Long cat-fish type whiskers hung below two pool-like orbs. A mouth opened and closed as if gulping air.
“What is that?”
“Leviathan,” Harper said.
“Biological. It’s one of Tristan’s.”
“But why isn’t Largarus firing on it?”
“He’s massing his army. That one’s a scout, not worth wasting the ammo.”
“What’s going on?”
“Tristan has an army of giant creatures. Dragons, leviathans, others, all biological, extinct beings from your side. He’s kept them caged in hidden reflections. The day of battle is here. They’ve been released to serve.”
“Kelsey!” A tiny voice shouted.
Sadie stood at the top of the ramp. Mrs. L let go of her hand so she could run to me. She jumped up on the bench and put her arms around me neck.
“We’re going to a park,” she said.
Mrs. L stooped over and started fussing with Maddie’s shoes.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
She kept her back to me. “It’s the only way to keep her safe.”
“Put her back,” I said.
“You saved Maddie; I’ll save Sadie.” She started braiding her daughter’s hair. “Don’t make this hard.”
She was right. It would be hard on Sadie if she got upset. The chains had enough slack to allow me to hug her.
“Have fun at the park.” I breathed in the strawberry scent of her hair and kissed her baby-soft cheek.
“Kiss Mr. Bun, too,” she giggled.
I put my lips on his furry face. “Go on, now. I don’t want you to miss out on the rides.”
She skipped happily over and took Mrs. L’s free hand. Her bobbing ponytail was the last thing I saw as they descended the ramp.
“She’s going to turn out like Audrey, isn’t she” I rubbed my wrists where the chains were already wearing blisters.
He concentrated on something going on outside the window. “This is all your fault.”
From the way he’d talked to me, I’d hoped he’d forgiven what I’d done. The bitterness in his voice told me otherwise.
One of Largarus’ gas-masked figures took its place in front of a giant drum.
“We’re supposed to row to the beat,” Harper explained.
“I thought his machines ran on power cells.”
“He doesn’t have enough for all the ships. He uses slave labor for the rest.”
“Harper, I’m really sorry. I was only thinking of myself. And I lied. I shouldn’t’ve lied.”
He didn’t answer.
With the first drum beat, the heavy oar creaked as we lifted it with difficulty. The downbeat was harder because we had to control the weight. I heard shafts and gears crank to life as our efforts powered the engines below. The ship moved forward, faster and faster with the speed of our rowing. There was a lifting sensation, and the ground became small as we gained altitude.
The outside stayed the same uninteresting blue for a long time. My hands blistered as the sweat rubbed them raw against the wooden handle, and my shoulders and back were on fire. My leg rubbed against his, and sometimes our hands brushed as we each looked for a dry place to grip. Being so close to him and knowing he would never forgive me was torture. I decided I would prefer being cut into a million pieces than to be sitting here so close to him with no way to bridge the chasm between us.
Then, buildings began to appear. A dragon, covered with slithy scaled armor, roared as it flew past on paper-thin wings. A pterodactyl followed, screeching its disdain at every mechanical it saw. The bottom of the ship just missed the head of a tyrannosaurus. It bit at the keel. The ship’s tail wrapped around its neck and lifted it off the ground. One snap broke its neck. A cotton mouth the size of a cruise ship opened its mouth in protest as the limp body barely missed the enormous nose.
Our ship maneuvered into formation and faced the seemingly endless mass of creatures grouping against us. As we backed into position, I saw a giant skyscraper reflecting our battlefield. Mechanical stingrays and air ships of all design on one side; snakes, dragons, and leviathans of all description on the other.
Harper’s words echoed what I was thinking: “We don’t stand a chance chained to this ship.”
(Coming Soon: Part IV)
Photo credit goes to Angie Niederer. Thank you for risking your life on the highway to get the yellow dotted line.* Graphic credit goes to Brock Jump. Sorry about buying the “unbreakable” mirror. Glad you figured out a way to smash it into pieces.
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*Angie was never actually in danger, but it sounds tougher the way I phrased it above.