AN: I made this chapter a little long...sorry, just got carried away writing it. Note to self: never write/read this at night.
Also, I'd like to apologize in advance to any Scottish people reading this. The only time I've ever heard the Scottish accent is on Doctor Who, and watching the Decoy Bride, so sorry if its atrocious.
I hope this lives up to your expectations, and thank you to all for reviewing! :) Made me very happy!
Am I afraid of the dark? Yes I am. And after you hear my story, you will be too.
I dot the period at the end of the sentence and turn the page of the journal. The old binding cracks loudly and I wince, praying that it will hold. Ash told me that using old books was preferable for records, since there was less chance they were Occupied, but I still thought it was ridiculous. This journal she had given me looked like it was from the 18th century! Records were no good if they fell apart before you could read them.
This isn't even an official record, I think, scowling slightly. It's not going to be cataloged or anything! It's just in case... I pause in my mental complaining, contemplating exactly why I was doing this. I had told everyone that I wanted to write my experiences as a diary, then burn it, as was the custom, so I could finally come to terms with everything that happened. But that was a lie. I had come to terms with it long ago, and now I was just...what? Why do I feel the need to get it down on paper? I pinch the bridge of my nose, thinking hard on my decision. I finally open my eyes again, deciding it didn't matter so much why I was doing it, but that I was.
The Lord has a reason for making us do the things we do, I think, then smile. A small reminder of Brody is it all takes to make me happy, even if there is a twinge of sadness mixed in.
I look down at the page, feeling newly invigorated. I touch my pen to the paper, and begin to write.
It began on March 7th, 2013, the day my life fell apart. Later it would be torn to shreds, ground into mulch, and sprinkled over a noisy parade like confetti, but I had yet to know that. On that particular day however, I was fifteen, living with my father in metropolitan New York, and had no idea of the things that awaited me in the future.
The time was 6:37 PM, forty-three minutes after sunset. My father and I were eating a hurried dinner of microwaved Mac-and-cheese in front of the TV, and I was getting to ready to leave for a party at my friend Sarah's apartment. That was a party I never got to.
I glanced at the clock and shoveled the last bite of gluey cheese into my mouth, then plopped my plastic container onto the coffee table.
"Gotta go," I said, snatching my purse from the floor and planting a hurried kiss on my father's cheek. "See ya, Dad."
"Hold on a minute!" he said, putting down his own dinner. "Do you have your phone?"
I rolled my eyes playfully, then patted the pocket on my jean jacket. "Easy access," I said. "I'll call you if anything goes wrong."
"How about money?" he asked. "Do you have enough?"
"Da-ad!" I crouched next to his recliner so we were at eye level. "I'm old enough to take a taxi to Sarah's by myself. I'll be fine, don't worry,"
He sighed. "I'll try."
"Good." I said. "I'm more worried about you, old man. Sure you can manage without me?" he gave me a look and I smirked. "Okay, I'll see you later then."
"Have fun," he said, picking up his food again.
"'Kay," I called, entering the hallway that led to the door. As I passed under the hall light, it fizzled and went out, then came back on a second later. "Hey Dad, I think you need to replace the bulb again!" I called, continuing down the hall.
"I'll do it tomorrow!" he replied, his normal response to anything remotely involving housework. "Love you, Ariel."
"Love you too Dad." I replied distractedly, already thinking about the party. Sarah had promised me that she would get me alone with Michael, my crush for the past two months. I barely noticed the doorman who said hello to me in the lobby, or that the lights seemed to flickering more than usual.
I ran outside our apartment building and hailed a taxi hurriedly.
"Where to, mehs?" the driver asked, glancing at me in the rearview mirror. He had sparkling blue eyes, and brown hair that flopped over them carelessly. He looked like he was in his twenties, which surprised me since most taxi drivers were older than that. I was also surprised to hear his accent, which sounded Scottish. I told him the address as I buckled in, and looked out the window as we pulled away from the curb.
"Want meh to take the back way or the lon' way?" he asked, and I looked over at him. His accent was growing on me, and I found myself beginning to like him even though I knew nothing about him.
"Uhh..." I said. "Which one is the way by that big casino?"
He smiled at me in the mirror. "Tha's the lon' way."
"Don't wanna go by there." I said. "Got traumatized last time I went by,"
"Don' I know it," he chuckled, turning right and switching lanes. "Back way i' is."
I settled into the soft seat and looked at the name plate on the back of the chair in front of me. "So...Charlie McKay?" I asked.
"Tha's mah name." he said.
"Are you Scottish?" I questioned with a shy smile. He glanced back at me.
"That I am, mehs. Why do ye ask?"
I shrugged, leaning forward and placing my elbows on the back of the passenger seat so I could talk to him easier. "Just curious, I guess. I haven't met many Scottish cabbies."
"Aye," Charlie said gravely. "We're a dyin' race."
I giggled quietly, covering my mouth with my hand. He glanced back at me again and smiled warmly. "How 'bout you, mehs? Wha's your name?" I suddenly remembered my father's warning about giving personal information to strangers. It was a dangerous thing to do, especially in New York City.
Charlie seemed to sense my hesitation and smiled. "Don' worry mehs, you don' have to tell me if ya don' wan' to."
I smiled back at him and opened my mouth to say something. I don't remember what it was now; it was silly and unimportant, meant to make him laugh. But I was cut off when the headlights of the cab turned off. Normally you would never notice if that happened in New York City: every building was lit up like a fireworks show and there were hundreds of other cars around to provide light. But at that moment, after sunset, the clouds covering the moon, it wasn't just the headlights that turned off. It was the headlights of every car on the road. The stoplights sparked above us and went out as well, and the street lamps up and down the road fizzled out.
"Wha' the hell?" Charlie exclaimed, slamming on the brakes the same as every other car around us. My seatbelt caught as I jerked forward, and I suddenly felt thankful for safety regulations.
"Power outage?" I asked, staring around at the suddenly darker world outside.
"Can't be!" Charlie said, looking just as bewildered as me. "The power in the buildin's is still on!"
But even as he said it there was a bright flash of light, and we were plunged into total darkness. It was darker than I had ever seen (or hadn't seen, depending on your point of view) before, having lived in the city my entire life. I couldn't even see the back of the seat in front of me. I felt like I was the only living thing left in the world, and a cold shiver ran down my spine. At that point in my life, I was not afraid of the dark. At least not in an extreme sense. I got unnerved when I couldn't see anything, as all people do, but I didn't freak out when I was in a dark room. But that first moment in the darkness, I felt a terror more potent than I had ever felt before. The darkness was smothering me, leaching all the warmth and life from my body. My hands clenched and unclenched around my purse, and I closed my eyes tightly. Then a voice rang through the dark, pulling me back from the abyss of terror I was falling into.
"You alrigh', mehs?" Charlie asked. I couldn't see him, but his words were like an anchor, and I hung onto them.
"Yeah," I croaked, trying to quell the panic I felt. I sternly told myself to get over it, that it was just a power outage and there was nothing to be afraid of. Its almost funny, looking back on it now.
"I think I got a flashlight in the glove compartment here," he muttered and I heard him grunting as he stretched across the seats to reach it. I tried to imagine what he looked like; his brown hair would be flopping over his face as he leaned over, his hands scrabbling to find the catch to open the compartment. Light, I thought. We need light. Then I remembered my cell phone. I patted my jacket until I found the pocket, then slipped my hand inside and pulled out the small, old fashioned flip phone. I searched for the seam with my fingers, then flipped it open. Light flooded the cab from the screen, and I immediately felt calm settle over me.
"Ah, thank ye lassie." Charlie said. I looked over at him, and watched him pop open the glove compartment and remove a large, heavy looking flashlight. It looked like one of the ones a cop would carry so he could hit people with it if he needed to. Dad had one of those; he said it was his last line of defense if he couldn't get to his gun. I had always laughed at that, after all what damage could a flashlight do? But now I felt a little bit safer as Charlie turned on the heavy-duty light source.
"You alrigh'?" he asked again, shining the beam into the back of the cab. I squinted in the brightness and nodded.
"Yeah," I replied again, my voice a little stronger this time. "Just surprised, thats all."
"Heh," he laughed quietly, but it came out as more of a nervous bark. "Tha' means you're braver than me. I'm petrified."
"Of the dark?" I asked, trying to stop my voice from shaking.
"Yeah, bu'..." he paused. "This ain' jus' the dark," he whispered, and I couldn't help but agree with him. Then something occurred to me.
"Why is it so quiet?" I asked. Charlie cocked his head to the side, seeming to listen for a second.
"You're righ'," he said. "Tha' is odd,"
Like I said before, I had lived in New York City my entire life, and it was never quiet. There was always a car honking, or a person yelling, or a neighbor playing there music too loud. It had been loud when I had gotten in the cab, like it always was. But now it was completely silent, as if the whole city was holding its breath.
"We-" my voice cracked and I cleared my throat. "We should go find someone. Get inside or something."
"Yea'," Charlie said quietly, his face reflecting the fear I felt twisting inside me. "Come on." he opened his door and scooted out. I undid my seat belt and looped my purse around my shoulder, then scooted across the seat so I could get out on the same side as Charlie. Once we both stood outside the cab I looked up at him, noting that he was almost a head taller than me. He gave me a tiny smile, which I imagined was all he could manage right now, then turned away. He shined the bright flashlight in front of us, over the hoods of the cars now stopped on the street. He strode up to the one in the lane right next to us and tapped on the windshield.
"'Scuse me!" he said loudly. "Sorry to bother ye, but-" his sentence suddenly ended in a strangled sort of choking sound. I walked up next to him, staring at his face in concern.
"What is it?" I asked. He didn't answer, but just gestured inside the Prius he had been looking inside. I looked through the windshield, and though it was hard to see with the flashlight mostly just reflecting off, I could see well enough. I could see too well.
"Oh god," I whispered, backing up. My phone fell to the ground but I hardly noticed as I brought my hands up to cover my mouth. Tears of panic and terror welled up in my eyes and spilled onto my cheeks, and I felt Charlie gently pull me away from the car. I bent over slightly, trying hard not to vomit or panic. Possibly both.
"I's alrigh'," he whispered. "Jus' don' look."
"They're... they're..." I whimpered, clinging to his arms, which were holding me steady.
"I know," he whispered. "Come on. We're gettin' out o' here."
I hardly noticed that he was marching me around the cab and setting me in the passenger seat. I hugged my arms to my body tightly, trying to forget the horrible image. Those two women inside the car-
"Hey," I looked up at Charlie, who was now sitting in the drivers seat and holding my arm tightly. "I's alrigh'. Jus' try and forget it."
"I can't," I whispered.
"Jus' don' think abou' it." he told me sternly. "Here," he handed me the heavy flashlight, and I clung to it like it was a lifeline. The light was immediate, the light was now. If I concentrated on that, maybe I could forget that horrible image.
Charlie began fiddling with buttons around the steering wheel and I shined the light on it. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"Tryin' to get the headligh's to work," he said. "I can' figure whats wron' with em." he looked up at me, and I saw in his eyes that he was just as scared as I was. At that moment I felt closer to him than I had to anyone before. "There's a manual in the glove," he muttered. I nodded, and opened the glove compartment. I grabbed the thick booklet and handed it to him. "Thank ye, lassie," he said, beginning to flip through it as I shined light on it for him.
"My-" I tried, then started again. "My name's Ariel." he looked up at me in surprise and I smiled wanly, though it probably came out as a grimace. "Just so you know,"
He nodded, understanding perfectly. "Nice to meet ye, Ariel." I nodded, then focused on the book. After a minute of flipping through it, he sighed and placed it on the center console. "We don' need em anyway." he said, turning the car on.
"What?" I said, surprised at this turn of events. "We can't see, how are you gonna drive?"
He looked over at me. "I know these streets like the back of my hand."
"Which you also can't see," I pointed out.
"Got a be'er idea?" he asked. I froze, thinking, then shook my head. "Righ' then," he said. "Le's get out of here." he set the car to drive, then pulled forward. I tried to shine the flashlight through the windshield without making it glare, and closed my eyes. But the image of the Prius burned on the inside of my eyelids, so I opened them again. I watched wordlessly as Charlie slowly navigated through the maze of cars, bumping and scraping as he went, but miraculously moving us down the street.
"Where are we going?" I asked finally.
There was a moment of silence, then he spoke. "East."
"East?" I asked. He nodded.
"Tha's where the sun rises. An' we need light, even if it'll take hours to 'et it." Silence fell again, and I winced at a particularly loud thud as we hit another car. There was a long screech as we sideswiped it, and I tried not to think about the occupants of that car. Or any other car on the road. There was still no noise, except for us, and I felt as if we were the only two left alive.
We might be, I thought, then tried to smash it down. I don't believe that. I will never believe that. I can't believe that. Then something occurred to me.
"My dad!" I cried.
"Wha'?" Charlie asked, looking over at me.
"My dad, he was in our apartment, alone! What if he was...I mean, there's no way to know, and...where's my phone? I have to call him!" I twisted around in my seat, patting my pockets and looking at the floor. "Its gone! Where did it go?"
"You must have dropped it," Charlie said, cursing loudly. I looked over at him, eyes wide and wet with tears. "Sorry," he muttered. "Tha' was our only other ligh' source."
"What about you?" I asked. "Don't you have a cell phone?"
He laugh-barked again. "Yea', at my apartment. Forgot to brin' it to work today."
I slumped into the seat. He glanced over at me. "Don' worry, we'll 'et out of this."
"How do you know?" I asked miserably. He didn't answer.
Then there was a bright flash of light. I squeezed my eyes shut, then cracked them open again. Charlie sat next to me, arms up to block the sudden brightness. I leaned forward and looked out the windshield, and saw the source. It was a helicopter with a search light attached to it, hovering right over us.
"Hello!" a female voice emanated from the helicopter, and I saw a door on the side of it open. "Please exit the car so we can pick you up."
I looked over at Charlie, shocked, and he shrugged. "Wha' else are we 'onna do?" he asked. At the same moment we leaned over and opened our doors, then got out. I clutched the flashlight and my purse, my hair getting whipped around by the helicopter's blades. It was then I noticed that though it was less than ten feet above us, I couldn't hear it at all. It was completely silent, which probably explained why it had been able to sneak up on us without us noticing.
A ladder was tossed down to us and I looked up. Standing at the top of it was a woman, her long brown hair being blown around in the wind. She wore a tight jumpsuit, and a gun rested on each hip. Her large combat boots reached her knees and looked out of place with the rest of the outfit, but I didn't really feel like I could question it at the moment. She looked down at me and gave me a small smile, then brought a microphone to her lips. "Don't worry, just climb on up." she said, her voice echoing around us in the silence. I looked back at Charlie, who nodded. He grabbed the ladder and climbed up first. When he reached the top and the woman pulled him up, I shoved the flashlight into my purse and began to climb as well. I was shaking so much I could hardly hold onto the ladder, and as my fingers finally wrapped around the bottom of the helicopter the woman reached down and grabbed my arms. She pulled me up and closed the door after me. I questioned leaving the ladder hanging out, but didn't say anything as I moved back to stand next to Charlie. It was eerily silent inside the helicopter.
The woman looked me and Charlie up and down, then smiled slightly. "Hello," she said. "Welcome to Aduro."