The clicking and banging on the door that had woke me up finally resulted in the stepmonster's furious face. Her pupils—was I imagining it?—were vertical slits and her tongue hissed between her teeth like a snake's.
In all the years I'd known the stepmonster she had never been out of control. She was always, always, always calm, meting out punishment with a steady hand.
Now she was livid. And I had no idea why.
"Get up," she commanded. "Now."
I stumbled free of my closet, weak from days without standing or eating. She grabbed my arm in a vice like grip and hauled me upstairs to the living room.
This was the creepiest room in the house. Everything in the room was white, except for the furniture and curtains, which were an eerie blood red. White carpet, white walls, even a white TV. If there ever was so much as a speck on all that white I had to clean the whole room again until it was bleached clean.
The first thing I noticed when I stumbled into the creepy room was a new addition; a white bar extending from floor to ceiling. The stepmonster led me to this. When I realized its purpose I began to shake, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not stop walking toward it, much like a mosquito flying toward its impending, bright doom.
She towed me to the bar. There, locked in place around it, were silver handcuffs. She opened one and slipped it around my right wrist, then tried to chain the other one, but I forcefully pulled it out of her grasp.
Her eyes glowed green. "Give me your wrist now," she commanded. Something in her voice made me want to obey, and I trembled as my hand fought to do so, but with a willful shove, I hid the disobedient appendage behind my back.
Dannika shrieked her anger and I winced. She snapped the other manacle around the pole an stormed off, her red hair seeming even redder.
Panting with the effort it had taken to resist her, I looked at my hand, appalled. It had seemed to have a mind of its own.
What had caused her to lose control in such a manner?
It was sometime in the middle of the afternoon. Light filtered through the curtains, red and angry. I pulled at the handcuffs locking me to the pole but all I succeeded in doing was cutting my wrist. I was stuck as much as I had been in the basement.
Time wore on. I watched the light slowly fade to nothing and still the stepmonster didn't return. I fell asleep watching.
This time my dreams were filled with nightmarish images of seeking eyes. Their malevolent glares pierced through me, searching for something I didn't have.
"Where is she?" a deep, petrifying voice asked. I stared at the eyes ii fear, unable to speak.
"Answer me! Where is the one I seek?"
"I—I don't know?" It came out as a question.
Anger flared in those piercing eyes. "There is no need to protect her. I know everything about you, Isabeaux Bridges, including where you live. Rose Park Avenue, is it? Tell me now."
In my fear I began to run. The creature roared behind me and I fell, tripped by who-knew-what. As soon as I hit the ground, I woke with a jolt, my nose and mouth buried in the thick white carpet of the living room and covered in a cold sweat.
I was having rather vivid dreams lately, and I wanted them to stop. What happened to my normal, crazy dreams that were hard to remember? Still panting from the nightmare I tried to roll over.
And came up short.
With a moan I looked at my hand. The wrist was ringed with bruises and cuts, and the hand itself looked purple and swollen. Even moving my fingers hurt. The metal around the wrist was strong, and I couldn't prize the thing open.
I began to cry, something I hadn't done in a very long time, even with everything the stepmonster had ever done to me. But hunger, hurt, sleep deprivation and fear, combined with a feeling of confinement had me in tears soon enough.
I looked at the light on the carpet. It was fading. Dannika would be home soon, if she was going by her usual schedule.
A sudden noise in the next room made me jump. Had she come home early again while I was sleeping? If she had, she didn't come to where I sat, shivering. Maybe she was still pissed off at whatever I had done and didn't want to see me. That would be a bonus.
The noise came again. It sounded almost as if someone had dropped something heavy. Several somethings, I thought as the noise repeated itself several times over.
A chittering could be heard from the next room. Did we have mice?
Something small and red in color flitted around the corner and hid behind the bookshelf. Small, but not small enough to be a mouse. It had looked about the size of a large cat.
More chittering. I shrank back against my pole in fright.
Shadows loomed in the room and yellow eyes glowed at me from them. I realized I must still be having a nightmare. Either that or my Milton and Dante themed dreams were invading my consciousness.
The yellow eyes grew closer, six pairs of them. My heart began to beat incredibly fast as I tried to get as far away as I could. Then one of the creatures appeared, leering at me with razor-sharp teeth.
I recoiled from the stench that emanated from the thing. It was like rotten eggs mixed with dog breath. Even the sight of the thing was disgusting. At first glance, it appeared to be a little red human, but that wasn't even close.
Its arms were as long as its entire body, and were as wide as my two smallest fingers put together. It had two joints in each arm—and two extras in each long, spindly finger. Yellow claws extended their length. The legs were shorter, but no less weird, and the knees bent forward instead of back. Black cloven hooves clopped on wood. Wood? I thought, then realize that they had burned hoof prints right through the carpet. It had a long, forked tail and greasy black hair.
"Hey sweetheart," it said leeringly. I leaned away as far as I could. "I hear you been bad. And bad little girlies don't meet good ends, do they boys?"
There was a murmur of malicious laughter.
The thing's eyes slitted as it glared. "Astaroth really wasn't worth it, sweetie. You should have just given her up. Any last words?"
I shrunk farther into myself, praying that I would wake up soon.
The thing leered. "I thought not." A puff of smoke appeared in its hand, materializing into a three-pronged staff—which looked very sharp. It caressed the points slowly. "Ensidino doesn't like to be kept waiting."
And with a savage thrust, he buried the staff in my chest.
Surprised, I looked down to see blood flowing freely from the wound. Ensidino vanished in another puff of smoke, as did the laughing, leering creatures surrounding me.
I continue to stare at my chest as a red flower bloomed on my shirt. Now what was I supposed to do?
Then the pain hit. I tried to scream but all that came out was a strange bubbly noise. Fire clawed at my lungs, my throat, mu mouth and I fell back, writhing in agony.
This was no dream. It was terribly, utterly real and I had no idea what to do about it.
My breath began coming in short, burbling gasps. I pressed my hands to the three holes in my chest but nothing was stopping the blood or the pain.
"Help," I whispered. "Please help."
I wasn't sure why I said what I did next. Maybe it was because I'd just been stabbed by a trident-wealding demon. Maybe if that dream was true, so was the good.
So I whispered his name.
Then all was black.
Was this what dying felt like?
Someone was screaming. Were they dead too?
Pain throbbed in my chest. Would I have to live—or exist, as the case may be—like this for the rest of eternity? I can't say I liked being dead.
Someone whispered in my ear but I couldn't make out what they were saying.
The screaming got louder, as though the screamer were coming nearer. Soon it felt as though it were right in my ear. I winced and tried to cover my ears—did I have ears, now that I was dead?—but my hands wouldn't respond. Did I have those? Maybe I was just a presence hanging in limbo.
"Whathaveyoudonewhathaveyoudone?" The screaming seemed to say. I was confused. What?
Something smashed overhead and a sharp object pierced my right jaw. Maybe I wasn't dead after all.
The whispering in my ear grew urgent. I had time to register the words "hold on" before there was a sudden jerk and a dizzying feeling. I managed to make the muscles in my fingers work enough to weakly clutch whatever material was in front of me. It felt like a shirt.
"Almost there," the voice said soothingly. It almost sounded familiar but I couldn't be sure. I blacked out again before I could hear more.
A light buzzing noise woke me up. From the sound of it, it had been going on a while, I just hadn't known until now. I was laying on something soft, in a slightly upright position. Someone stood beside me, shifting the tiniest bit. I opened my eyes.
The someone beside me was a middle-aged woman, several years older than myself, with violently curly black hair, sapphire eyes, and olive skin. She was tall, thin, and had dark freckles everywhere. A simple white, flowing dress hung from her shoulders to the floor, with a blue cloth belt.
And she had long, white wings.
They were actually white that faded to light blue at the tips but I was still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that she had two feathery things sprouting from her back.
She saw that my eyes were open and smiled. "Hey, there," she said. Her voice had a nice quality, slightly husky but low and kind "Nice of you to rejoin the living. How do you feel?"
I was in a hospital. Or a hospital-like building. The walls appeard transparent, but I couldn't quite see through them. Monitors beeped and buzzed all around me. The winged woman checked one and wrote something down on a clipboard.
"I'm fine?" I replied. My chest, which I had been sure was full of holes before, only felt a dull ache. My wrist was wrapped in a brace and the cut on my jaw was a mere scab. I wondered if this was all a hallucination and I was really still locked away in the basement, imagining winged people and demons as a result from lack of food and water.
"That didn't sound like it was very sure," the woman said sternly, moving to the bedside. "Open your eyes wide and look to your left. Now follow my finger."
I obeyed but nothing out of the ordinary happened. "Where am I?" I asked. "Am I even awake?"
"You're awake," she assured me. "And you're in the Ophanim Hospital. No concussion, that's good."
The Ophanim Hospital. That sounded like no place I had ever heard of.
"My name is Andrea. I'm your assigned healer for the time being."
I struggled to sit up, panting with the effort. Andrea took pity on me and helped me. I was hampered by thick bandages over my chest and under my arms. "I'm Beaux," I began, but she interrupted me.
"You're Isabeaux, daughter of Alandra, daughter of Bethany. Your father is Jared Bridges. I know. You look just like your mother."
"What?" I asked dazedly.
"You look like your mother. She had shorter hair, of course, but you two could have been twins."
I had trouble processing this. My mother? The one who had disappeared before I'd ever gotten to know her? Because I certainly didn't look anything like my stepmother.
"You know my mother?" I asked weakly.
Andrea patted my wrist—the one that wasn't injured. "I knew her, yes. She disappeared long ago. I remember that day perfectly. Aly was much loved by everyone. She wasn't even punished for running off with a human and having a child, and most would have been. Everyone was so sad when she disappeared. It was like a mourning day for everyone."
My mouth opened and closed several times. I felt numb. For a second—just a second—I'd felt a smattering of hope that maybe she was here, and had been all along, but that died the longer Andrea spoke.
So I dealt with the pain in the same way I had always done; I hid it.
"How did I get here?" I asked to change the subject.
Andrea looked startled at the interruption but responded gamely. "My young cousin brought you. He didn't ay much, only that you were attacked by a Hellion. Horrible creatures, those. It's a wonder you came out alive. Are you hungry? Thirsty?"
I realized that I was parched. "Thirsty," I replied. The idea of food seemed repellant somehow.
"I'll be back in a few," she said and hurried out of the room.
When she had gone I pulled the covers off and flipped my legs over the side of the bed. I unplugged all the machines that were hooked up to me and pulled out the IV. Managing to stand—barely—I looked down and took stock of myself.
I wore a white hospital-gown type garment. It was a little longer and skinnier, but no more flattering. My chest and stomach looked huge and thick and felt bulky from all the bandages. When I moved, sharp pain pierced my sternum and I could feel the pull of stitches. My right wrist was completely unmovable. When I tried to walk I found that my balance was way off. I wobbled a little bit toward the door, wanting out of the hospital, and tripped over my own feet. I automatically held out my hands to catch myself, jarring my ribcage and slamming my hurt wrist directly into the ground.
Panting with the effort it took not to cry out, I rolled off of my hand but stopped when I saw two sandaled feet.
I looked up. Standing there, silver eyes amused, was dream-boy Jonas.
"It hurts less if you stay in bed," he pointed out.
For the third time in less than ten minutes I found myself absolutely speechless. Now I was positive that I was still asleep. Or passed out. Or hallucinating, because this couldn't be happening.
He laughed at my expression and held out a hand to help me up. "You think this is weird? Try having a girl appear in your bedroom. Twice. Then magically disappear as if she hadn't been there in the first place."
I took the hand he offered. He hauled me up—pulling my stitches in the process and causing me to wince—and shook my hand. "I don't believe we've been formally introduced. I'm Jonas."
"Beaux," I replied. "Isabeaux Bridges. That really happened?"
"Ah, a voice!" he said dramatically. "I was beginning to wonder if the Hellion had pierced your voice box!"
I smiled tentatively. "Well he tried."
His grin was infectious. "As to your question, yeah, it did happen. I was about to leave on a—to go to work when suddenly, from out of nowhere, there came a great, roaring sound and there was a girl sitting on my floor."
"I was dreaming," I explained. "I'm not sure if I'm still dreaming or not."
"I feel like that almost every day," he assured me.
At that moment, the healer Andrea came into the room, wings spread wide. It made me wonder how they ever fit through doorways.
"Jonas! You leave my patient alone! And you!" –here she pointed at me— "you should be in bed! Never unhook the monitors!"
"I feel fine," I said. To prove it, I took a step. Except my feet forgot to move and I found the floor suddenly rushing up towards my face. Just before I added a broken nose to my list of injuries, someone caught my shoulder and hauled me back up. The two of them managed to get my weakly struggling body halfway into bed.
"I swear," Andrea muttered. "You're a worse patient than even your mother. I didn't think that was possible."
At the mention of my mother I lost all the fight. They laid me back into bed gently.
"Jonas, you watch her and make sure she stays put, or so help me God." She didn't finish her sentence, instead leaving the semitransparent room.
Something she said pulled me out of lollypop land. "Aren't angels not supposed to take the lord's name in vain, or something?" I asked.
Jonas pulled a stool over to my bedside. "We're not angels," he said. "We're Ophanim. We take our names from the bible, sure, but it doesn't really mean anything. I'm agnostic, myself."
Everything he said entered my brain slowly. It took me a minute to process it. "An angel who doesn't believe in God? What kind of drug am I on?"
"You're not on a drug. You're in the Ophanim Hospital—the OH, we call it—in Ophanim."
I frowned. "Is that in Oregon?" It didn't sound like anyplace nearby.
He snorted. "This city isn't in the States. It's above a mountain in Canada, actually, though I forget which one. It's not like I've been there."
Above a mountain in Canada. We were in a floating city. If this was real, I wanted no part of it. Lurching up, I slid out from under my covers, past Jonas and his absurdly large and real wings, and through the door. Desperation had taken me that far but when I realized hat I had no idea where to go I leaned against a wall to catch my breath—it had taken a lot out of me—only to find myself falling trough its seemingly solid appearance. I fell right back through into my room and on top of something feather-soft.
"What—the hell—is—this—place?" gasped while disentangling myself from the downy black wings I had fallen on top of.
"I told you—," Jonas began, starting to look irritated.
"The OH, yeah, I got that." I bravely stood up and tried to hide the amount of pain I was in. "But falling through walls isn't exactly the norm for hospitals, is it?"
He regarded me curiously, as though I were a novelty—and I wasn't the one with wings—and said, "You really don't know, do you?"
"Know what?" I asked acidly. "That someone's pumped me up on drugs or something? Because that's what I'm starting to think." I actually wasn't just starting to think it; I had been thinking it for quite some time now.
He was shaking his head. "You don't know who you are? What you are?"
I laughed, but it sounded strangled, as though something had a hold on my throat. "That was the most cliché line in the book. I'm Beaux Bridges, named so for the actor, stepdaughter to an evil woman and daughter to a missing mother and uncaring father. Yeah, I know who and what I am."
I knew I wasn't being very nice. But when I got scared, I tended to be a bit of a bitch, and I was terrified. Where was I? The walls were virtually nonexistent and the people talked about demons and angels and other such topics.
Jonas ran a hand through his hair. It seemed like a nervous habit. "No, not your name. I'm talking about your legacy. Do you know who your mother was?"
I froze. "What do you know about her?" My voice shook slightly.
"I was going to ask the same thing."
To my reviewers:
Silencia-Thank you so much for being faithful to my writing. I've noticed you added a lot to your favorites lists. That means a lot to a budding writer. I'm glad you have enjoyed this story so far, even though it's not that far into it, and I hope you like the direction I'll be going in.
Estelin-Same to you. I'm glad you guys like this so much, when I've barely begun.
Kira-Duh, I'm continuing this. It's the one I've been working on for a while, and one that I pretty much was talking nonstop to you about. :D
Hubby-You're such a dork. I'm also glad you guys like it. And yeah, of course I bombard my character with trouble!! Just wait until you read this chapter! :)