Author: Cool Monsters PM
Not realizing the danger, two people enter a town of darkness and secrets. But will they be able to make it out again?Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Adventure - Chapters: 6 - Words: 34,388 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 03-03-13 - Published: 03-02-10 - id: 2780987
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"The Zombie and the Dark King"
The walk back to town was long and tiring. The sun seemed to grow somehow dimmer as they reached the village, as if it refused to shine upon such an evil place. They looked around carefully, in case Zeke or any of his friends were still looking for them.
"No sign of them now," Jack said softly. "I'd hoped this place would seem less…creepy…than when we left it, but no such luck."
"I know," Lily said, staring in windows in case she saw froggy eyes looking back at her. "I'd like to believe that I've been dreaming since I first got here, but that's too much to hope for."
They walked slowly through the town, continuing to glance about, straining their ears for cries of revenge or sounds of pursuit. There were none.
"Maybe they've gone looking for us," Jack suggested. "Or found someone else to chase."
"I feel sorry for that person," Lily said. "Because you're not there to protect them."
Jack looked uncomfortable. "I just did what anyone would do," he said.
"No, you were very heroic," Lily insisted, looking up into Jack's eyes.
"Lily," Jack said, softly, "I…"
"Yes, Jack?" Lily asked.
Jack had never been at a loss for words before, but somehow looking into Lily's big brown eyes made his mind go fuzzy. He wanted to say something poetic but nothing but couldn't think of anything but old clichés. "I, uh…I just wanted you to know that I…uh…"
Lily smiled at him. "Go on," she encouraged him.
Jack swallowed hard. "I think you're a very special person," he said finally, taking her hands in his. "Very special."
"I think you're very special too, Jack," Lily said.
Jack looked away nervously. When he turned back, Lily wasn't there anymore. He looked around. "Lily?" Had Zeke found her after all? He hurried down the street, calling her name. "Lily? Lily, where are you?" Then he saw him. Tall, thin, dressed in black robes and armor.
"Who are you?" Jack demanded, taking a step back as the figure moved slowly towards him. "Where's Lily? What did you do with her?"
"You will never see her again," the figure said in a deep, ghastly voice. His face was hard, cold, his eyes under thick black brows were red. His mouth twisted slightly into a cruel smile. "Forget you ever knew her, for she is mine now!" He turned, robe swirling about him, and began to walk away. "Leave this village and go, for you have no place in this world and Lily no longer has any place in yours."
"No!" Jack cried, leaping at the figure. "Give her back!" But the figure was suddenly gone, fading before Jack's eyes like a television image when the set was turned off. Jack looked around. "Where are you?" He demanded. "Give her back! Do you hear me?" But if the dark figure heard he gave no response.
Jack started wandering about the town, trying to figure out what to do, where to go. At least with that clerk he had known where Lily had been taken. But that figure in black…who was he? Some sort of knight? Where would someone like that take her? To a castle maybe. But they hadn't seen any castles in town.
"If not a castle, then a mansion," Jack decided. Yes, someplace large, belonging to a rich man. He looked around desperately. The buildings in this area of the town were large but hardly the sort of places a nobleman would stay. These looked more like old tenement buildings, ramshackle apartment buildings that he'd seen in old movies that weren't taken care of by their landlords. Places where poor people lived that couldn't afford a better life. But perhaps he was in the poor part of the town. Maybe there was a higher class area. He ran down the street and turned the corner. He'd search this place the rest of his life if he had to!
"I love her," Jack muttered. "I love her!" he said more loudly, wishing he'd told her this to her face. "And anyone that wants her will have to take her over my dead body!"
The sun, never very bright in this town, vanished completely behind thick clouds. It began to grow colder. More rain. That was just what he needed. Well, the weather reflected his mood.
Jack finally found himself back at the city hall where he'd gone when he first came to town. He walked up the steps and pushed the door open. Maybe he could get answers here.
The man behind the front desk was still writing something with a quill and ink bottle. There was an old typewriter near him. This place didn't even have computers. Jack felt as if he'd stepped into the distant past. There was a patch of mold near the desk. Jack wondered exactly what they were, but decided he probably wouldn't like the answer.
While he waited to talk to the clerk, Jack thought about exactly what he should say. Something told him that filing a missing persons report would be a waste of time. People that came here and disappeared were probably never seen again.
He looked at the clerk, trying to detect some sign of relationship with Zeke and his clan. The guy seemed human enough. He took a quick glance at the few other people in the place. Also normal in appearance, although they walked about the city hall like they were expecting something crazy to happen at any time. He wondered why they didn't just get out of town. But then, he hadn't had much luck doing so himself.
"Yeah, can I help you?" the guy at the desk finally said. From the glare in his eye and the look on his face as if he'd just smelled something sour, he looked like he thought Jack was going to cause trouble, even though Jack hadn't said anything yet. Did he know what was going on? Would he purposely send Jack to the wrong place, then call someone to be waiting for him?
Ordinarily Jack would think he was becoming paranoid, but in this town paranoia seemed to be a necessity just to get by.
"Uh, could you tell me where I can find the library?" Jack asked at last, hoping he could find a map of the town there.
"Go down the street three blocks, turn right, keep walking, you'll find it," the guy said. Normally Jack would have complained that those were lousy directions, but something told him not to tell anyone where he was trying to go. He muttered thanks and hurried away.
The three blocks Jack walked down were like the rest of the town Jack had seen so far, old buildings with sagging roofs and peeling paint. No one in sight except, a couple of times, he noted a swift movement of curtains, as if someone had been watching him them quickly pulled their curtain closed before he could see them.
Tired or not, once he found Lily again, he was determined to get out of this place, even if he had to crawl.
The perpetual twilight that seemed to hang over the village made it impossible to tell what time of day it was. He hoped it was close to night. It might be easier to sneak away with Lily in the dark, although considering some of the things they had encountered so far it was entirely possible that this king and whatever court he had could see in the dark.
Jack went up one street and down another, staying in the shadows whenever possible, just in case anyone that might be watching him couldn't see in darkness. Since the buildings swayed crazily towards each other, often blocking out light for some distance, it wasn't at all difficult to stay out of the dim sunlight.
Finally, as he was beginning to worry that he might never find Lily, he turned a corner and saw a strange shape moving away from him. The person, if it was a person, walked bent over and wore a long, dark blue cloak. A staff was grasped in a wrinkled old hand. Odd looking old fashioned shoes like from colonial times moved slowly, scuffing up dirt.
Jack moved back around the corner in case the strange figure turned around and looked towards him. One of Zeke's relatives? Possibly. Perhaps Zeke worked for this king or whatever he was and had mentioned the beautiful woman that had gotten away from him. Or had the dark figure known about him and Lily long ago, perhaps even before they'd reached this town? At this point Jack had seen so many crazy things that not much would surprise him.
Jack looked up ahead of the strange shape moving slowly along. Was that another shambling figure far ahead of them? He started to move forward, then stopped and looked back in the direction the first figure he'd seen most likely came from. Something moved in the shadows. He bit his lip as he realized it was another of them. He'd almost blundered right into its line of vision! He sighed and crouched where he stood, waiting to see if still more came behind this one. He was curious to see what one of them looked like, but didn't want him or she (or it for all he knew) to see him. He noticed a darker shadow behind a nearby porch and rushed to it. From here he wouldn't be able to see what it was too well, but at least he should be unnoticed.
Time seemed to crawl by. Why was this guy moving so slowly? Crouched, dragging his feet, clearly he didn't want to be going wherever it was he was headed. So then why was he following the others? Fear?
After what seemed like hours, the figure was finally close enough for Jack to make him out fairly well. Or it, actually. The wrinkled, purple skin and nearly bald scalp told him what he'd long since begun to suspect.
The person he was watching slowly move past him was no longer alive! Its clothes were tattered rags, its bare feet bloated as if full of water. A stray breeze blew towards him and Jack recoiled from the odor of decaying flesh. One word jumped into his head: zombie!
Jack's first thought was that it would smell him and come after him to eat his brains. But then he remembered that traditionally zombies only ate what they were given and told to eat. The brain eaters came from old monster movies. This seemed more like the Voodoo zombies he'd seen in a couple of even older movies. The kind that just stood there staring blankly into space when they didn't have orders. That meant they had to have a sorcerer, a Bokor, controlling them somewhere. Hopefully, since they were effectively mindless, they wouldn't notice him. But he wasn't ready to test that theory quite yet and let it go on its slow way, nerves on edge with impatience.
Once it was in the distance, Jack looked back where it had come, wondering if more would appear. He didn't see any, but that didn't mean they weren't coming. He looked to where the last zombie was about to vanish in the distance. He had to follow. Something told him that there were probably going to this dark ruler. Subjects of his, no doubt. But how could he get in there, or even close to wherever it was they were going, without being seen?
Then it hit him. Jack mussed up his hair so that it stood up in every direction. He stooped and gathered some dirt, rubbing it on his arms and face and clothing. He hoped the soil wasn't contaminated with something that would make him sick later. He sighed and ripped his shirt sleeves a little, pulled out his shirttail, and looked around for a rock. Finding one he worked carefully at cutting his pants at the knees and the bottoms. He rubbed dirt all over his shoes and socks.
Hoping he looked enough like a zombie, Jack watched carefully for a few minutes in case more zombies appeared. Not seeing any, he began walking towards where he saw them vanish, hoping no one saw him and realized he was moving too quickly to be a zombie. He had a feeling he'd be having to walk like one of the living dead soon enough, and moving at such a pace would take forever for him to get anywhere.
He soon caught up with the last zombie he'd seen. Did he dare move normally where it could see him? They were supposed to be mindless, but what if they weren't? What if they were in mental contact with their master, whoever that was? He didn't need some sorcerer coming after him demanding to know why he was pretending to be one of his servants.
Jack looked carefully at the creature. It didn't seem to even notice he was there. Maybe he could get away with walking normally for awhile. He passed it, watching carefully for its reaction. It seemed to make none. He hurried to the edge of the street, then stopped. Unable to see what was around the corner, Jack began to move very slowly like the zombie.
It was a good thing he did. As he turned the corner and found himself on a wider street going to his right, he saw others, clearly not all zombies. Figures in black or red robes walked along the road ahead of him. A knight in ancient looking armor rode past on a skeletal horse. Jack forced himself not to react. A skeleton horse was hardly the strangest thing he'd seen since first arriving in the town. Jack wondered if anything would surprise him again if he ever managed to escape.
The trail was long and Jack knew he was ruining his shoes shuffling them along the dirty streets, but he had no choice. Having gotten this far there was no way he could leave without being stopped, and it wouldn't take long to determine that he wasn't really a zombie.
As he continued to walk, Jack wondered why the people in the town hall, or the sheriff, if there was one, did nothing about all of this. Afraid to interfere? Or, perhaps, were they in on it? He remembered the guy in the town hall that hadn't been very friendly. Was he there, somewhere, among the crowd heading up the street? He forced himself not to look around. He was certain that zombies had no curiosity and didn't sightsee. His throat was dry, but there was nothing he could do about that. His feet hurt and he was getting tired, but again he was helpless at the moment to change that. Perhaps he should have moved more cautiously, gone around the crowd and attempted to learn where they were heading then only begin his charade there, but it was too late for that now.
Others passed by, paying no attention to what appeared to be simply one more zombie. An ugly old hag with a wart on her nose, wearing a dingy brown robe and smelling like she hadn't bathed in months. A figure in armor riding a skeleton horse. As it passed him it took all he could do not to react. The figure on the horse was also a skeleton! A bat flew past him, hovered over the street for a few moments, then suddenly grew and stretched into a figure in a black suit, white shirt, and black and red cape, hair black and forming a widow's peak in the center of his forehead, eyes a glowing red and teeth long and pointed. A vampire! Jack knew enough about such creatures to realize he wouldn't stand a chance against this monster alone. And he was by no means alone! Another old hag approached, this one accompanied by a man in a robe with stars and moons on it. A wizard. Just what sort of horror was he getting himself into?
It suddenly occurred to him that some of these beings could probably immediately sense whether he was really a zombie or not. Were they just humoring him, waiting until he'd gone too far to have a chance of escape, then planning to pounce upon him like a pack of cats pouncing upon a helpless mouse? Or was he simply beneath their notice?
He didn't see any werewolves or other animal like creatures. Such beings would probably smell that he wasn't dead and rip him to shreds before he knew what was happening. Their absence was puzzling. Did werewolves not associate with vampires and witches and wizards? Or was there some other reason they weren't about? Or was he on the verge of running into one without knowing it?
Jack was so nervous that it took awhile for him to realize the sky was growing darker as he continued to follow the others. The sun seemed to grow dimmer and dimmer. A cold wind blew past him. He forced himself not to shudder. No doubt zombies wouldn't feel the effects of weather.
It seemed to take forever, but Jack finally turned a corner and started towards the outskirts of town. Ahead the streets ended. A dirt road moved slowly uphill. At the top Jack could see a castle. So there was one in this crazy place. It reminded him of the castles he'd seen in old horror movies.
Suddenly his shambling foot hit a rock and he stumbled. He forced himself not to break his fall, placing his hand in front of his face so he wouldn't hit his head. His hand stung, and, when he slowly rose to his feet, he saw that it was badly scraped but not bleeding. He suspected zombies didn't bleed and that would give him away. He hoped he got there soon and could get away from the others and rest. Even if he could fight some of the creatures here, he was growing tired and wouldn't be of much use to Lily if he needed to defend her. He just hoped she was still all right. And inside the castle. If he'd gone to the wrong place and she wasn't there, he'd probably never find her and he knew that he'd never forgive himself for making such a stupid blunder.
After what seemed to Jack's tortured mind like hours, he finally reached the castle. He crossed the drawbridge, looking neither to the left nor to the right, then, just inside, stopped and stood for a few moments, moving only his eyes to get an idea of the room about him.
"Hey!" came a voice. Jack nearly jumped but managed to keep from reacting. He stood as if waiting for orders.
A man with a long beard, wearing a purple robe, came towards him. "To the servants' quarters with you!" he yelled, pointing a wrinkled hand with long yellow nails to the left. Jack moved slowly in that direction, hoping no one would think anything odd about a seemingly mindless creature getting lost.
If anyone did they didn't say anything. Jack soon found himself in a small, dingy room without furniture. Several zombies stood there, just staring at nothing. Jack did the same, but inside he was a nervous wreck. Not only could he be caught at any time, but standing here wouldn't help him find Lily. Were the zombies just supposed to stand around until the end of the party? Then why even have them come?
Finally an ugly old hag with a wart on her nose came in and looked around. "Zombie help again?" she said. "No one ever has any demented toadies anymore? Good help is always so hard to find. Well, might as well get you morons to work! Follow me!"
She walked through a couple of rooms. Jack could smell food. They entered a large kitchen from the back. So Jack was going to be kitchen help? He forced himself not to make a face, thinking of the germs people would get from having dead corpses handle food. Well, he'd seen horror stories where witches and similar creatures weren't harmed by food or drink that would kill normal humans. But if Lily was there…if she was forced to eat or drink something handled by rotting corpses…
He forced himself not to think that he might already be too late. That Lily couldn't be harmed by anything in this horrible place because she was already dead. No! Lily was alive! She had to be.
Because Jack had no reason to go on without her.
"…seen the king's bride?" came a voice across the room. Jack forced himself to move slowly towards the speaker in order to hear better. It was a fat old hag with stringy greenish-gray hair and a huge nose, stirring something that smelled horrible in a huge black pot.
"Lovely girl," came another hag, this one tall and thin with stringy black hair and as far as he could tell without looking closely only three teeth. She was taking bottles from a shelf and sprinkling the contents into the pot while the other stirred. "The king has made a good choice. She should give him some strong sons before he grows tired of her."
Jack's face clouded over but he forced himself not to react. So the king wanted her for a bride, just like Zeke had. Well he wouldn't get her either! Jack had no idea how he'd get Lily out of this one, but he'd try anything he possibly could. First he needed to find out exactly where she was, though.
"Hey, stupid!" a witch yelled, placing a tray of food in his arms. "Take this out to the king's table! And don't be all day about it!"
Jack started across the room towards the far exit, hoping he was going the right way. It appeared he was. He came out into a huge room with a long banquet table set in the center. Dozens of strange people and creatures sat at it. But Jack had eyes for only one person: Lily! She was sitting at the table, looking horrified by the actions of the creatures around her. The stranger Jack had seen earlier, the king, sat beside her with his hand on her wrist. Jack fought off the urge to drop the tray and leap at the king like a wild animal. But getting himself killed wouldn't help Lily. He shuffled his feet slowly as he walked towards the table, finally setting his tray down right in front of Lily. Then it occurred to him that she might recognize him and give him away. He quickly looked away from her. But Lily seemed much too upset by what was going on to notice what to her was just one more disgusting zombie. She didn't look at him. Jack sneaked a peek at her while acting like he wasn't looking at anything in particular. She looked so pale, her brown eyes wide with terror, her red lower lip quivering slightly.
Soon, my love, he thought, soon I'll get you out of here and then I swear I'll never let you out of my sight again.
As much as he wanted to stay by her side, he knew that would give himself away. He started to shuffle slowly back towards the kitchen.
About halfway back someone bumped into Jack. He pretended not to notice. They stepped down on his foot. He made a face as he struggled not to cry out.
"I know you're a fake," whispered a voice like sandpaper. Jack looked up into the red eyes and hooked nose of an ancient hag. "You want that girl, don't you? I can help you, for money!"
Could he trust her? Well, if she wanted to tell the king he wasn't really a zombie then he couldn't stop her, so what did he have to lose? "I'm afraid I don't have any money," he hissed, looking around in case any of the other guests noticed anything odd about him. "But I have an old house, if you want it. The old Graymoor place. Maybe you've heard of it?"
The witch slipped something into his hand. A small bottle. "Take this and put it in the king's drink," she said. "And then the old manor house is mine!" She wrapped her ragged old cloak around her and walked away as if Jack's presence disgusted her. Well, it was supposed to, he thought. After all, he was just a rotting corpse. He slipped the bottle into his pocket, then walked away slowly, shuffling his feet.
Jack stopped in a corner of the room, trying to look at the king without appearing to be focusing on anything. Now, how to slip it to him without being caught? He looked towards the kitchen. Even if he could get in there without being thrown out, how could he make sure it ended up in the king's drink and not someone else's?
In the kitchen, he strained his ears to hear what the cooking witches were saying. All he heard was gossip about some magician cheating on his wife. He had just started to tune their voice out when he heard the hag with the wart on her nose cry out, "You! Take this to the king!" Jack saw a zombie shuffle towards her. He decided to take a chance and did the same. The two crashed into each other. The impact almost knocked Jack over, and the touch of dead flesh made his stomach churn, but he fought to stay on his feet and keep his last meal from coming up. The zombie stopped. Jack took another step forward then did the same, hoping to be chosen since he was the closest.
He was successful. The witch pushed a covered tray into his hands. "Drop it and I'll toss your head in the fireplace!" she cackled. Jack stood there for a moment, not sure if he should go or wait for further instructions. "Well?" She demanded. "Don't just stand there like a ninny! Take it to the king!"
Jack turned slowly and walked through the kitchen back into the dining room. He moved slowly towards Lily and the dark king. She still showed no sign of recognizing him. But then, she was too busy backing away from the king without getting out of her seat. The king was holding her hand and trying to kiss it. Jack wanted to break his face but he knew even if he could beat the king, and that was a big maybe, the assembled witches, warlocks, and monsters would tear him apart before he got five steps.
Jack set the tray down in front of the king. He ignored Jack and continued to talk to Lily in a pompous voice not unlike Prince John in a Robin Hood movie he'd seen.
"Come, come," he said, placing his other hand on her other shoulder and pulling her closer to him. "Why resist the inevitable? Any woman would be honored to be my queen."
"Then marry some other woman!" Lily hissed, trying to pull fee of him.
Jack looked around, moving only his eyes. Too many of the creatures were watching for him to put something in the king's drink. And if he stayed there for very long, someone might get suspicious.
Suddenly two of the real zombies, carrying trays, crashed into each other. They fell to the floor. Food went everywhere. The king released Lily's hand and glared at them. "Who's the master of those cretins?" he demanded in a cold cruel voice, his face suddenly twisted and ugly. He pointed a finger at the zombies. There was a blast of flames and they faded away to dust.
Jack took that moment to pour the contents of the small container into the king's wine. He hid the container in his pocket, hoping no one noticed what he had done.
Jack and Lily had both cringed at what the dark king had done. Not only was he incredibly powerful, but he was clearly cruel and vindictive, and would make a terrible husband. Jack fought the urge to move away. He didn't want to be caught sneaking away, but he certainly didn't want the king to blast him next.
His confusion was quickly solved. The king seemed to notice him for the first time and motioned him disdainfully away. "Another one of those smelly creatures?" he said. "Away with you, swine!"
Jack waited a moment then started to leave, hoping he hadn't made a mistake by walking off too soon. But if he was acting strangely for a zombie the king hadn't noticed yet.
Jack reached the edge of the room then pretended to stumble so that he could look behind him quickly and see if the king had touched his drink. Yes, he was holding it in his hand. It suddenly occurred to Jack that he might offer his cup to Lily since she was supposed to be his fiance now. If he did that Jack had no idea what he would do next. But the king saluted Lily with his cup then drank. The powder had quickly dissolved and become invisible but what if it now had a strange taste? Jack pretended to walk into the wall so that he'd be partially turned around and could continue to watch. Yes! The king had emptied the cup like an alcoholic in one big drink. He set the cup down.
As he watched for signs that something was happening to the king, Jack suddenly wondered how, even if the villain passed out, he could get Lily out of there past all of those creeps?
"Where are you? Get back in here you lazy good for nothing!" came the cry of one of the witches in the kitchen. Jack assumed she was yelling at him and moved slowly towards the kitchen, hoping he might be given another order to take to the table. Even if they didn't make it, Jack hoped to hold Lily just once before they ripped him to pieces, or did something worse, possibly making him into a real zombie. Well, even as a zombie he might still be near Lily, even if he wouldn't know it. But he wouldn't want her to go through that.
Back in the kitchen, Jack had a broom pushed into his hands and told to sweep. He began sweeping, wishing he could look to see if the potion was working. What if it didn't work? Or if he missed whatever was going to happen because he was stuck in the kitchen? He'd only get this one chance!
Finally he was sent back into the dining room with another tray. He noticed that the king looked drowsy. But he still didn't see how that was going to help him get Lily out of a room full of monsters and wizards.
The king turned towards Lily. "You are so beautiful…" he said, leaning towards her to kiss her. As he did he spilled the contents of the crystal goblet in his hand. Blood red wine (at least Jack hoped it was wine) splashed onto her dress. The king made a face. "That will never do," he said. "My bride must have a spotless gown!" He looked over at a couple of hags. "You two! See to it!"
The witches dragged Lily out of her chair and through the dining room. Jack saw them drag her up a flight of steps. Well, he'd gotten her out of there, now to try to join her. He placed the tray on the table then staggered across the huge table. At the edge he pretended to bump into it and turn slightly. He walked towards the staircase as if he had gotten turned around and didn't know where he was going. If only no one noticed.
Chancing a look over his shoulder, Jack saw the king seemed asleep now. He looked back at the stairs. Not that far away but it would take a long time to reach it at the rate he was going. He could easily get called back before he reached it, but speeding up would give him away.
After what had seemed like hours he reached the stairs. Lily and the old witches had already vanished at the top long ago. He started slowly up the steps, hoping he wasn't stopped. He moved more quickly on the steps. He was running out of time.
"Hey! Where do you think you're going?" came a voice some distance behind him. As he continued to climb he saw that it was one of the witches from the kitchen, no doubt come to check on what was taking him so long to get back. "Get down here you fool!" she yelled. Jack pretended not to hear her, staggering against the handrail as if he was unable to figure out how to get off of it.
She hurried across the room. Jack reached the top and walked towards where he'd seen the witches take Lily. He was going to have to act fast now.
He heard voices coming from a room down the hall. He moved as quickly as he dared, then stopped outside the door. The witches were yelling at Lily to hurry up and get dressed.
"You'd better not keep His Majesty waiting!" one cried.
"Don't worry," said the other, "the king will soon break her of her bad habits."
Jack could hear the other witch coming up the stairs. He took a deep breath, then knocked.
"Who's there?" one of the hags demanded.
In an imperious voice Jack said, "What's taking so long? The king is displeased by his bride's long absence!"
"Just a moment!" both old women said.
Jack took a deep breath. If they really were witches like he suspected, he had no idea how to fight them.
"Get down here this moment, you idiot!" came a voice from behind him. Jack's time had just ran out. He tried the door and stepped in. One of the witches was just zipping up a long golden yellow party dress Lily was now wearing. It wouldn't be easy to run in it.
"What are you doing here?" one of the hags demanded. Instead of answering Jack shuffled across the room and walked into the wall. He stopped, his mind racing to figure out what to do next.
Luckily Lily helped him out. She picked up a candlestick and struck one of the old women over the head with it. The other turned towards her. Jack leaped at her, knocking her to the ground. He hated fighting women, but there was no other choice at this time.
Lily stared at him a moment. "Jack?" she said.
He grabbed her hand. "We don't have time to talk now," he said. "We have to get out of here."
Just then the door opened. The hag that had followed him up the steps stared in shock at the other two lying on the floor, then glared at Jack.
"You're no zombie!" she cried. She began waving her hands at him, muttering something in a strange language. She was casting a spell!
Jack threw himself in front of Lily, determined to protect her from whatever the old witch was going to throw at them. Then something shot past his ear. The candlestick struck the witch. She staggered, her hands now pointing at one of the hags on the floor, who was just starting to get up. Suddenly the old woman on the floor began to shrink. She became smaller and smaller. Jack was shocked by what was happening right before his eyes, but now was no time to stare in wonder. As the old woman snarled and started another spell he threw himself at her in a football tackle, knocking her down. As Lily passed him out of the room, he tossed the witch inside and closed the door.
Jack grabbed Lily's hand again. "Come on!" he said. "We have to get out of here!"
"We can't go back down the stairs," Lily pointed out. "They'd stop us before we got halfway!"
Jack led her into another room. This one had a fancy canopied bed. He ran to the small window. "We'll have to go out this window the same way we did before when Zeke was holding you prisoner," he told her, starting to tie the bed covers together.
"I don't think we have time, Jack!" Lily said. Outside they could hear shouts. The witches were calling for help.
There was a dresser against the wall. Jack pushed against the door while Lily continued tying the covers together. As the dresser began to move, Jack pushed against the door and hissed, "No more time, Lily! Hurry!"
"What about you?" she demanded, looking back from the window.
"I'll be right behind you," he said. "Go!"
Lily climbed out the window. Jack waited a minute, felt the door moving again then again, then raced for the window. Lily had already reached the ground. He grabbed the blanket tied to the bedpost and threw himself out the windowsill. He lowered himself quickly as he heard the dresser crash against the wall. Suddenly he felt the makeshift rope being pulled back up. He leaped, rolling as he landed.
Lily helped him up. "Jack!" she cried. "Are you all right?"
"I'll live," he said, grabbing her hand again. "Run!"
As they ran Lily kept looking back.
"What is it?" Jack asked, looking over his shoulder. "I don't see anyone following us."
"Isn't that strange?" she asked. "Shouldn't they be? I mean, if their king wants to marry me then shouldn't he have sent them to bring me back?"
"You're right," Jack agreed as they reached the main part of the town and hurried down a street. "Strange he'd give up on you so easily."
Lily suddenly cried out. "Jack! Someone is following us!" she said. Jack looked back and could just make out a single figure in black coming slowly their way.
"He's coming by himself?" Jack said, surprised. He had to be very sure of himself to follow them alone. Jacklooked around. Or were the others liable to suddenly appear at any moment without warning?
The two hurried down the street and turned the corner, running past old buildings with small windows and oddly peaked roofs that would not have looked strange when Paul Revere made his famous ride.
They ran down the street and turned onto another. They could no longer see the dark king, but they hadn't seen him before when he'd stolen Lily. Jack just hoped he didn't suddenly show up in front of them.
They turned down another street, raced down it, then made another turn. The town hall could be seen in the distance, but they kept going. Jack had a feeling they'd either ignore their requests for aid or somehow inform the king of their whereabouts.
Lily stumbled. "I don't…think I can…go much further…Jack…" she gasped.
Jack was out of breath himself. He let Lily rest while he cautiously snuck back to see if he could spot the king. After a couple of blocks he looked carefully around a corner and saw a dark lone object moving slowly towards them. He pulled his head out of sight and forced himself, now puffing like an old fashioned steam engine, to race back to Lily.
"He's still…following…" Jack wheezed. "Don't know how…but we have to…keep going!"
"You should leave me and save yourself, Jack," Lily said, rubbing the sweat off of Jack's forehead.
Jack took her hand and kissed it. "Not a chance," he said, looking her in the eyes. "I won't let him or any other man have you, Lily. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Lily looked surprised. "Do you really mean that, Jack?" she asked, leaning towards him.
Jack kissed her cheek then pulled on her hand. "We'll talk later," he promised. "Come on!"
"But if he somehow knows where we're going, how can we ever get away from him?" Lily asked.
"I don't know," Jack admitted. "But that doesn't mean we should stop trying. If I only had a weapon of some kind."
"I don't think that would help against him," Lily said.
"I don't either," Jack agreed as they turned onto yet another street. "Otherwise I'd…stop and try…hitting him with a rock…"
"I don't want him to kill you," Lily said, making a face. She stumbled again. Jack, exhausted himself, supported her as they continued to run.
The king continued to follow, slowly but surely, seemingly having no problem anticipating where they were going.
"Quick!" Jack said, pulling Lily towards a large building with the word "LIBRARY" over the door. "Let's try…hiding in the…library!"
It was a an old, two story building, made of brick with few windows. They hurried inside. As Jack had suspected, it was deserted. They ran toward the shelves of books. Unlike modern libraries, there were no computers or other machinery. Not even a drinking fountain, not that either of them would have drank the water, even as exhausted as they both were. They slowed down and walked carefully between the aisles of books. The books looked very old, many having frayed covers. They didn't see any paperbacks. They slipped behind a large bookshelf and struggled to catch their breath.
"You okay?" Jack asked, putting his arm around her.
"I think so," Lily said. "I…then she noticed Jack's arm around her. She looked up into his eyes, then leaned towards him. Their lips touched. Jack suddenly felt a surge of new strength. The ancient prehistoric urge of a man to protect his woman even against hopeless odds. The king would touch Lily only over Jack's cold lifeless body.
"I love you, Lily," Jack said. "I guess I did from the moment I first saw you getting thrown out of that cab."
"I love you too, Jack," Lily said, leaning her head on his shoulder.
Jack sighed. As much as he wanted to take her in his arms and keep kissing her, they were still in danger.
"Let's see what's at the back of the library," Jack whispered to Lily, taking her hand. "Maybe we can hide and slip past him when he comes looking for us."
Lily nodded and gently squeezed his hand, looking behind her in case the king was already approaching. She saw no sign of him, but that didn't mean that he wasn't right on their trail. And of course he'd suddenly appeared out of nowhere and spirited her away before. What if he did it again?
In the back of the library was a door. It led to a cobwebbed storage room. Here were several shelves of seemingly even older books, some looking as if they were coming apart. Whoever was supposed to take care of this place wasn't doing his job.
Not far away, the king had entered the library. Not having any reason to hide, he walked boldly down the center aisle, looking left and right down the shelves for the two.
"There's no use in hiding," he called in a loud booming voice that carried throughout the entire building. Lily heard him and cringed, hugging Jack. Jack hugged her back.
"Lily," he whispered in her ear, "if he finds us, I want you to run. Never mind about me."
Lily gasped, then whispered back, "No, Jack! I won't leave you! He's a monster! He'll kill you!"
"Your safety is all that matters to me," Jack said. He realized he really meant it. Living without Lily wouldn't be worth living. "Please don't argue with me," he insisted. Lily opened her mouth to say something else but he placed a finger on her lips. "Shhh! I think he's coming this way!"
"You can't possibly think that you can escape me!" the king said mockingly. "Give me the girl and perhaps I'll make your death relatively quick and painless. Otherwise…well, it would be most unpleasant for you, I promise you that." He stopped and listened for a reply. Hearing nothing he called out, angry now, "Do you think I'm joking? Are you that big a fool to believe I don't mean what I say? I will have Lily no matter you do, Jack! You can't save her! You can't even save yourself, you pathetic excuse for a man! I will have the birds peck out your eyes before I allow death to claim you!"
From their hiding places, Jack and Lily could hear soft footsteps. He was in the back room now!
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!" the king said. "I know you're here!"
Jack got in front of Lily.
"If he sees us, run while I hold him off."
To be continued