Phantom Clockwork

Chapter 1: Reveling Rebels

"Emmmmmmmmaaaaaaa!" A familiar voice shouts up toward the hatch of my tree house. I threw my drawing materials aside and crawled to the hatch, throwing it open and staring down toward where Dani was tapping her foot impatiently. She threw something up at me. I got a face full of some yellow fabric, which I recognized a second later to be my bathing suit.

"What's this for?" I ask as I let down the rope ladder. I smile when the rope hits her squarely on the head and startles her into a quick, "Ow!"

She rolls her eyes as she starts climbing up as I swiftly throw on my bathing suit before she pops in.

"We're going to go swimming!" She yells happily in reply. "You done?" Dani asks.

"Yeah, you can come in." I answer

She pops her head up and scrabbles to get in the rest of the way. Her brown hair is in disarray, telling me she probably had to fight her way out of her house, which had about twenty times more animals in it than humans. Every time she left the dogs would whine and paw at her, trying to get her to stay. "My mom wants to know if you've got enough clothing for school."

My parent situation is kind of odd. My father died a few years ago out of the country, K.I.A. He was part of a squad of Navy SEALS, one of the team leaders I guess you could say. My mom has never been the same since. In a way, she shuts me out completely, ignoring me, forgetting I exist. I remind her too much of dad. And for a while, I thought, she'll get over it. She remember that I'm her husband's daughter and love me again. But didn't. And she won't. Not ever. So, I've been living in between two homes. I spend most of my time with Dani, and the rest of it working, so I can pay them some kind of rent for letting me stay with them. I'll visit my mom in the evenings, leaving her half my money earned from work because she lost her job due to depression and never showing up after her gathered time off had been used up. She never acknowledges it, never even notices when I walk in the door, drop some money on the table, and leave. Doesn't even blink.

"You guys don't have to buy me anything," I say once again, as I told her mom Lisa every time she offers to buy me things. "I have a job, remember?"

Dani rolls her again, and I wonder if her eyes will be like googly eyes on a doll if she keeps doing it. "Whatever." She lets it drop, but I know she'll bring it up again.

"Are the guys coming?"

"'Course they are. Will is the one who suggested we go actually. Said he wanted to practice drawing pine trees. And Leo loves swimming in freezing water. By the way did you-?"

"No. We're not dating. Status won't change, Dani." She starts climbing back down and I follow after her carefully.

She snorts. "Not if I can help it."

My friends and I make an odd bunch. I'm Emma Hoffman, the crazy adventurer who will take any challenge against anyone, at any time. People say that my smile is enough to make someone jump off a bridge if I asked. I've never tried it though….hmmm.

Dani AnnMarie Shore is my best friend/non related sister. She has beautiful silvery eyes specked with gold, and her long brown hair makes her look as if she just popped out of an anime. She's talented in everything musical that has strings—including violin, viola, cello, guitar, heck even a banjo. We love each other to death, and would jump in front of a train for each other, if need be.

Leo Stark is one of my guy friends. We're not dating, but people ask us all the time if we are. According to the people at our school we'd make a cute couple. He's never asked me about, and I've never said anything. We're happy with just being friends, though Dani is always encouraging us to go out on a date. He's categorized by most girls at school to be a total hotty, short blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes almost hypnotizing when you walk past him. He ignores them; all too aware that he could have any girl he wants in the entire school. Leo hangs out with us, the little misfit nerd group in the back of the cafeteria, where it's rumored they play Dungeons and Dragons.

Which, sadly enough, is true. We do play D&D every Friday at lunch.

And Will…Will is just about the most talented artist I know. He's a total nerd too, which makes him fit right into our little posse. Any day you can catch him drawing something from Star Trek, or some videogame from the 90's. Not only that, but he can draw anything he wants too, and make it look amazing. So, if he draws a random piece of trash, he makes it look like a picture worthy of some stuffy art museum in England. He's like my metaphorical big brother.

Together we make some sort of messed up none related family. We're always together and always sticking up for each other. We've known each other since first grade, and now we were getting ready for our sophomore year.

Today was the perfect day to go swimming. Well, for polar bears that is. It was about 60 degrees out, which is all fine and dandy if you're dry. If you jump into freezing cold water however, that suddenly becomes about ten degrees below freezing, and you yourself, are freezing just standing still in a swimsuit that barely covers anything at all.

Will told us he just wanted something new and different to sketch, said the water might be warm enough to swim in. Dani just made him drop his sketchpad and pencils, take off his shirt and dragged him into the water. I just stared after them, hoping I wasn't next.

They told us with chattering teeth that it was indeed freezing, but was fine once you got used to it. So, being the daredevil I am, I decided to climb up high above and jump in. Which according to Dani, was the worst idea since square wheels. I thought that was a good idea, but hey. My opinion on the shape of wheels doesn't seem to matter.

"Emma…you can't seriously be thinking about doing this," Leo warned as we walked closer to the edge of the water. We were standing on the edge of a steep cliff, facing the deep river that flowed in front of us. Dani and Will were already down in the water, while Leo and I had climbed up the rocks to get a better view. Now I had suggested we jump into the water from this height, but Leo didn't want to take any chances. He knows that I can be a total klutz sometimes. I trip over my feet a lot, especially when I wear shoes.

I turn to him carefully, keeping my feet firmly on the tiny ledge. "Leo, I'm not a total—." The rock beneath me crumbles slightly and I squeak, losing my footing for a second and nearly toppling over the edge. Leo quickly catches me by my shoulders and holds me still, so I don't fall.

He raises his eyebrow as if to say, I told you so.

I roll my eyes and remove his steadying hands. I grab at the cliff wall to get support "I'm not gonna— Whoa!" I reach out to grab at him, and end up clutching his hand and dragging him down with me.

The ledge crumbles even farther and suddenly I'm falling, tumbling in the air. I have half a second to hear Dani's surprised scream—then, I'm in the water. My first reaction was to take in a panic triggered breath, but all that did was make the burning in my lungs about twenty times worse, and I started trying to cough. Which, when underwater, coughing is just about the worst thing to do. Everything was dark and bleary as I tried unsuccessfully to figure which way lead to the surface. My spinning head and burning water filled lungs made it harder. I didn't know how long I was down there, but it felt like years. I couldn't think straight…the water was everywhere…

I barely realized that someone had looped a strong arm around my waist, and was now pulling me—hopefully up to the surface.

I was greeted by the cold air a second later, and I started coughing harshly, like I'd been smoking three packs a day my entire life. Water poured out of my mouth and I struggled to bring in air. I was shivering violently in the cold air, feeling like a popsicle in Antarctica. I buried my head into the shoulder of my savior, struggling to breathe without coughing even harder.

"You hurt?" Leo asks, also panting and wheezing. I noticed with bleary eyes that there was a thin stream of red flowing down his neck, like he'd hit his head.

I manage to shake my head no weakly, still shivering like a maniac.

"Emma!" I hear someone shout, followed by the sounds of two people treading water to get to us. Leo pulls me out of the water completely and now I'm even colder. Part of me wants to go back in the river 'cause I know it'll be warmer than the chilly wind, but the other half of me is still afraid of breathing in more of the water. He sets me down carefully on the bank and runs past me, heading toward Dani's truck to grab blankets and towels.

Dani is finally on the bank with me, where she envelops me in a big bear hug and rambles about how she hopes I'm okay, and that she saw us fall.

Leo throws two blankets around me and sits next to me, hugging me close to get me warmed up. He's swam in half frozen lakes before. He's used to the cold water and even colder air afterwards. I'm not.

"You hit your head." I murmured into his shoulder.

"S'not that bad," He assured me, touching the back of his head gingerly, and disguising a wince.

I didn't answer for about five minutes, until I looked up and said, "Can we go home?"

"Yeah." He replies, picking me up, though I'm perfectly capable of walking.

"I'll drive," Dani calls as he sets me carefully in the cab of the truck and sits next to me. Dani opens the car door and sits on my other side. Will silently sits in the back, with the rest of our camping gear and things. I'm pretty sure there's a law against people riding in the back of the truck, but even so, we break it rather often. We haven't gotten caught yet.

The ride back to Dani's house is relatively short and comfortable, due to the fact she turns the heat on high and I'm squished in between two warm bodies and a plethora of blankets.

Dani's mom Lisa greeted us when we arrived, a little confused.

"I thought you'd be gone longer," She admitted. Lisa gasped a tiny bit when Leo picked me up carefully. "Oh, my god! What happened!" She questions quickly.

"Took a little plunge…" I said with a weak smile and a cough.

Leo walks inside and sets me on the couch. Then Lisa gives me a fast look over, before turning to Leo and pulling out her first aid kit from under the sink and attending to the still bleeding cut on the back of his head.

Dani's mom knew we all hated hospitals with a passion. Ever since one terrible visit when Dani broke her arm, we never wanted to come back. If she asked us to go to one, we'd all run the other way.

But before I knew it, I had fallen asleep.

^('o')^

A loud noise jerked me back to consciousness sometime later. I moaned and rolled over, only succeeding in falling off the couch.

I moaned again and got to my knees, blowing hair out of my face. It wasn't dark yet, which meant I hadn't been asleep to awfully long.

"Oh, Emma, you're awake!" Lisa said happily, drying her hands off. She must have been doing dishes. "You okay?"
"Yeah," I answer, throat still a little sore from all that coughing and hacking earlier. "Where is everyone?" I ask. I know they wouldn't have left yet. They already got confirmation they could hang out here for the night.

"Oh, out at the campsite. You ought to head over before it gets dark, honey. Will you be allright by yourself?"

"I'll be fine." I nod, which makes my head hurt. I run upstairs to grab some things for tonight, and when I come back down, Dani's mom is holding something wrapped in brown paper, with my name written on it in scrawling letters.

"This came in the mail today." She says as she hands it to me. It's the approximate shape of a book, large and rectangular, about two and a half inches thick. "It doesn't have our address on it, much less a return address. I have no clue how it even got here."

"Huh," I say thoughtfully, staring at the wrapped book in my hand. "That's weird. Well, I'll see you tomorrow morning." I call over my shoulder as I walk out the door and start walking out toward the woods.

"Bye."

I whistle while I walk, because, the truth is, the woods on Dani's land are pretty darn creepy, no matter what time of day. The wind seems to whisper as it rushes through the branches and it feels like someone is always watching you.

About a quarter mile out into the woods we made our own little campsite that we usually spent nights at under the stars, girls on one side of the fire, guys on the other.

"Oooh! Emma! You're okay!" Dani squealed happily, rushing forward to squeeze me tightly.

Will and Leo sat next to the fire, each giving me an unreadable look. They seemed relieved, if knowing them half my life had taught me anything about body language.

"Come on, we were just about to start campfire songs and make s'mores," She takes my hand and drags me toward the fire.

"Hey, before we do that, I got something in the mail I wanted to open," I brandish the brown rectangle and take a seat in front of the guys and beside Dani, our backs to the warm glow of the fire.

I tear away the wrappings and notice instantly that the cover of the book—I was right; it is a book- is imbedded with jewels and lined with gold.

"Whoa," Leo mutters.

Written in big letters across the top is some weird script of some language I've never seen before, and I speak several fluently. It looks like some odd mix between Cyrillic and Arabic, similar to my signature.

"What is it?" Will asks, clearly admiring the artistic front of the book in awe.

I open the book up, the pages inside written in the same odd language.

We all reach forward at the same time to touch the old leathery pages.

There's a bright flash, and my vision goes white. I take in a deep breath to scream, but no sound comes out. My mind is on overdrive and I'm panicking…now everything goes black as I pass out.

^('o')^

I wake up with a groan sometime later, rubbing my head as I try to gain my bearings. I open my eyes slowly. What greets them is something I can't explain.

A beautiful room comes into sight. I'm lying on a plush bed, a dark blue canopy floating softly above me. Silken blankets and lush quilts of the same blue cover me. I'm not wearing the same t-shirt and jeans I had on when I'd... passed out…because of the book. I have on a beaded purple nightgown, that's hardly decent.
I gasp and fumble to get out of the bed, and run, backing against the wall and breathing heavily.

I have no clue where I am, no clue what just happened. All I know is that the book had something to do with it.

^('o')^

Hiiiii…. I did have this posted on another account, and that's still me, in case you see this and are like, 'did someone else write this?'

But yeah. I decided it was a good idea, and I oughta try and continue it, but with INK being at the forefront of my mind rite now, it might not get updated right away

So, if you reaaaaaalllllly like this story, review, cus that's what helps me muster up the enrgy to write!

Love,

Gilraenstar