Chapter 1 Caught Up
I know we shouldn't have been there but I couldn't help myself. I still ignored all warnings, I still acted against all precautions, and we all paid the price.
“Hollie! Hollie wake up! For goodness sake wake UP!” Loren's annoyed, worried voice tore its way through all happy unconscious thoughts, “Hollie come on!”
“Get stuffed” I grumbled, eyes snapping open. I checked my watch. “We still have half an hour!” I growled, annoyed at being woken up early.
“I know but Katie wants to go NOW!” She snapped, “she said she would leave with or without all of us”
I called Katie every name under the sun under my breath as I dragged myself out of bed. I flicked on my mood light, knowing that harsh, electric house lights would fry my eyes.
Hannah plodded over, still half asleep.
“Ugh,” She moaned, “at least you didn't have Katie shoving you out of bed onto the lino.”
In the dim light, I see Katie smirk and nod. Clearly she was amused at Hannah's moaning, probably because Hannah almost never moaned about anything.
We padded the beds out with pillows to make it look like we were still in bed, and climbed out Katie's window, along the Conker Tree and off into the inky black night.
Bushes, brambles, angry grumbles around me as Katie, Hannah, Loren and I crept towards the abandoned mansion. Its ominous silhouette stood out in the gloom, dark, creepy and mysterious.
Mist swirled around us as we fought our way through the brambles and over the chain link fence.
The rustle of some demented creature was the only other sound to be heard as we paused for breath.
I heard a whimper behind me.
“What Hannah?!” I snapped.
“This doesn't feel right, we shouldn't be here” She whispered, terrified and visibly shaking.
“Are you ducking out?!” Katie said sharply
“No!” She retorted, “I'm in if you are! But I do wish it didn't have to be tonight...”
“This is the only night we can! I can't have anyone else round for ages!”
And so we moved forward.
As we finally got to the front door of the mansion, it was clear this place hadn't been visited or used in centuries. The bricks were crumbling and cracks covered the walls, criss-crossing and joining in crazy, dangerous looking patterns I didn't even want to look at, as if looking would show possible collapses when we entered. Tiles had fallen and shattered from the distant roof, and the stone gargoyles from either side of the door had turned to rubble and dust. Ivy, creepers and parasitic plants make it hard to see much. We could be standing on a doorstep, or a massive hole in the earth covered over and made stable by the sheer number of these plants.
The door was made of solid oak, rotted and infested with wood eating insects, but still solid and strong. The rusty iron hinges scream like tortured souls as we all pulled the door open, disgusted at having to touch the decay, yet excited for the adventure, we walked into the abandoned, empty mansion. It was creaking and groaning around us like a sleeping monster.
The floor had huge holes and cracks in, showing the 7foot drop to the floor of the basement. The furniture that had been left here was rotted, smashed and covered in cobwebs. The old chandelier was dull and broken with dirt, dust and age. The ceiling was close to collapsing, covered in a web of cracks. The staircase huge, and had obviously once been the place the owners had walked down at parties and fancy dinners all those centuries ago. But as we looked at it, we saw a broken old staircase that only had one side that was usable.
The amount of decay and instability was frightening. Lake Acre Mansion was not a good place to be at 1o'Clock in the morning on a Friday night.
Katie was the first to break the deathly silence, pressing on us like 6feet of earth. “Well,” She said slowly and hesitantly, “Shall we?”
We had not taken more than a few steps when the mansion groaned louder then ever and the ceiling crashed down on top of us. I screamed and dropped to the ground, shielding my head with my hands. Clearly the others had had the same idea as I could hear them shrieking under the rubble.
When the silence returned, we did nothing but cower under the rubble for a few minutes, trying to get our gasping, desperate breaths and racing hearts under control.
What was that? Had one of us had the courage to get up?
Crunch Crunch Crunch.
But I could still hear my friend's terrified gasps not two feet from me!
CRUNCH CRUNCH CRU-.
The footsteps stopped right next to me.
“Hmm... what do we have here then?” A harsh, deep and terrifying voice came from above me.
The person grabbed my hair and I yelped, surprised at the strength of the hand.
The person yanked me up and spun me round. Through the still-swirling dust and dirt I saw a tall, creepy-looking man with sharp icy grey eyes and yellow rotting teeth. He was wearing a long, black cloak and had a short twisted beard. He had little hair on his head and had a disturbingly cruel smile.
“Finally” said the scary looking man
If I could have trembled I would have, but his hand had my hair too tight for me to even move.
Suddenly, deafening screams were echoing around the mansion, from 3feet in front of me, from Katie. I shrieked when I saw why she was screaming.
Blood was pouring down her face from her hair, there was a massive gash on her head, with blood gushing out and soaking her and the ground around her.
“KATIE!!!” Loren screamed, as she both cowered from the man and reached for the stricken blonde.
The man sighed and said something strange in a harsher, scarier voice. The blood stopped flowing, though Katie screamed all the more.
The man dropped me and I fell to the ground, my head aching where my hair had been pulled.
He walked over to the massive oak door and slammed it shut as if it were a normal-sized thin modern house door. Then he grabbed us and dragged us upstairs one by one, into a massive room with tiny iron cages inside. He shoved us into the cages and locked us in.
The room was almost as bad as the main hall. Paint flaking off of the walls, ancient cobwebs caked in dust draped over most of the things in the room, old smashed wardrobes, what appeared to be a rotting bed frame and other things I couldn't guess at.
He then went to a dirty makeshift table (probably made out of old wardrobes or something) and fiddled about with test tubes with different coloured liquids inside, all labelled in a language I couldn't even begin to understand.
He walked over and examined us all, our positions in the cramped cages, our facial expressions, everything. He then walked back to the table and thought for a moment. Then he turned, laughing. “How would you four girls like to take part in... an experiment of sorts?”
“Hell no!” I shouted
“Well, I don't think you have a choice young one.” He said, smirking, “You can go last I think. You can watch what happens now!” He yelled, and with that, grabbed a test tube full of a silver liquid and ran over to Hannah. He wrenched the door open and grabbed her by her throat. He dragged her out so he could hold her in a strangle hold and force her to drink the liquid.
As soon as she swallowed it, she collapsed, screaming.
He put a gag on her and kicked her back into the cage, locking it even more securely than before.
Katie, Loren and I shrieked in horror as she writhed and thrashed in the cage, obviously in terrible pain.
Meanwhile, the man got some emerald green liquid and approached Katie. What he didn't know was her massive strength. She was stronger than most adult men. But as she lashed out at him, he spun her round, tripped her and got her by her hair, pulling it so hard you could hear some hairs snapping.
He twisted her hair for good measure and said to her in a bitter-sweet voice; “Now you're not going to give me any more trouble are you sweetheart?”, twisting and pulling her hair more but I knew she would never scream, not for anything. But he pulled until she gasped and, mistakenly, opened her mouth.
Quick as a flash, he tipped the liquid down her throat, making her cough and choke and splutter. She had no choice but to swallow the awful stuff. It wouldn't have scared if she hadn't started to shriek like a tortured banshee. But scream she did. He smirked, tied the gag on and threw her into her cage. Then he picked up a test tube of pink liquid. It swirled in the test tube like pink chrome. He didn't have much to deal with where Loren was concerned as she was weak and tired. He forced her to drink hers a lot like he did to Hannah.
Finally, he turned to me.
“What the hell is happening to them?” I screamed, terrified out of my mind.
“I see no harm in telling you, as you are about to have the same fate as them,” He sneered at me through the bars of my tiny cage, “After all, it will make it just that little bit more fun for you, as you understand exactly what is happening to you.”
He picked up a test tube full of gold liquid as he spoke.
“I have been working on these potions for months and months now, and have been doing spells to make four young people come to the Lake Acre Mansion and it looks like you four idiots took the bait.” He smiled cruelly and shook the test tube slightly, staring into it like a crystal ball. “You and your friends are the first of my many planned 'experiments', all of which involve these potions”
“I didn't really want to hear your whole life story you know.” I snapped, irritable.
“I'd watch yourself and know your place girl!” He spat. I narrowed my eyes but just about held my tongue.
“My work involves stripping the soul from the body and sending it to another world. Not in this universe, not even in this reality. The soul is ripped from its body and shaped into its true form, which is always an animal.” He shook the test tube at this point, “With this potion, your fate will be sealed.” He took a step towards me.
“But why all the different colours?” I asked, trying to buy myself some time.
“Ah,” He said, “Observant aren't we? They match the soul's essence, making it easier to tear it out of its human body.”
“And what about-” I began
“I know what you're doing.” He cut in in a calm voice, “You're trying to stall my plans. But what you don't know is that your friend's souls cannot leave without yours accompanying them. You're putting them through more pain, not that I protest to that, and I'm on a tight schedule. See you there young one.”
“Wait what?” I tried to say, but he grabbed me, not bothering to open the cage, and forced the potion down my throat. The effect was instant.
My throat was on fire, I could feel the potion burning my throat as it went down, then my stomach too. Within seconds, my veins were on fire, twisting like seething, scorching snakes, my heart racing, I thrashed and screamed, the sound muffled by the thick gag I didn't remember the man putting onto me. The cold metal against my skin hurt, my body hurt, the gag hurt, everything hurt. I felt my body fade away, even though I tried to hold onto it, it faded away. The room faded to black, as did my life in the only reality I knew of.
I came to consciousness slowly, keeping my eyes shut. It must have been a horrible nightmare. It had to have been. I'd open my eyes to Katie's messy bedroom, the others still asleep, then I'd wake them up to tell them about my freaky nightmare, I thought.
I opened my eyes – and shut them again.
Sunlight stabbed my eyes like a knife. It was too clear too, definitely not from through curtains, and it didn't have the slightly artificial quality it took on when filtered through a window. I cautiously opened them, and gasped in wonder.
Trees surrounded me, green and brown pillars in a huge leafy palace. The canopy far above me, ivy climbing the brown trunks of the massive trees, making them look like nobles in beautiful ball-gowns of rich, dark brown and shining green. Maple, Birch, Chestnut, they were all there, including a huge Oak tree, its trunk wider than a house, and taller than a cathedral. The Oak's branches made up at least a quarter of the canopy. The wood was like something out of a fairytale, magical, mysterious, beautiful.
Suddenly I heard something, not a sound as such, more of a ghostly voice inside my head, just one word echoed through my head, chilling me to the core; hurry. The voice was not my own mental voice, but a male's, haunting and strangely familiar at the same time.
The voice grew in volume, hurting my head.
Stop it! Please! I cried inside my head, throwing the other entity's haunting voice out of my head. I waited for a few minutes, just in case it came back. But my thoughts were once more my own.
Something tugged at the edge of my mind however, but I ignored it and got up. Was it me or was the ground closer to my face than usual? A LOT closer? I went to take a step forward and froze. There was a huge, black paw next to me. There was an animal next to me! I cautiously tried to move the other side, but there was a paw there too! There were two of them! Abandoning caution, I panicked and ran, faster than I usually did. I ran for what seemed like forever and eventually stopped, thirsty. I wasn't seeing any sinks or taps anywhere, so I guessed I had to find a lake or something. I walked for a while, no real direction, just keeping an eye out.
Something caught my eye. Something the wrong colour to find in the woods.
A huge, flat, perfectly circular black rock lay there like a massive circular paving slab, but twice as flat. It was smooth too, as if it has been polished and sanded down. There was a bit like a small platform too, part of the rock itself. This rock had obviously been made by someone. Rocks didn't just appear perfectly smooth and flat by magic. I stood on the raised platform and peered into the trees, trying to puzzle it out.
But through the trees, I saw something much more important. A lake. I leapt from the platform and ran to the lake, as thirsty as if I had been running in a desert in the middle of summer.
But as I leaned over the water to see if it was clear, my heart missed a beat.
Because staring at me from the glassy water, eyes wide with shock and fear, was a huge, black wolf.
Two hours later I was still freaking out. I had drunk my fill and lay there looking at my new reflection, my mind too muddled but to remember what the man had said; The soul shapes itself into its true form, which is always an animal. I was still in shock by the time the sun set, still lying staring at myself in the lake. The only think that finally jolted me out of my shocked, terrified state was that voice from earlier sarcastically saying; Are you done wallowing in self pity yet or do you want another three days?
I stood and growled.
What do you want with me? Who are you? I snapped
I am here to help you.
Where is here then?
I turned, and surprise surprise, there was no-one there. Yeah right, I thought to myself, just my imagination I expect.
“Imagination huh?” A voice said from the shadows.
I bared my new, sharp teeth and growled uneasily. I couldn't see anyone in the shadows.
Show yourself! I thought viscously, I hated not knowing what or who was there.
A huge black wolf slid out from the shadows and slowly walked towards me, leaving a slight pause between each step, as if anticipating my reaction at I closing the distance between us. I stepped back, nervous of this powerful wolf.
“Relax, I won't harm you.” He said gently, stopping.
I just narrowed my eyes, wondering how he could speak and I couldn't.
He nodded, reading my thoughts. “Your soul isn't used to your new body yet, that's all. You will be able to speak in a couple of days.”
Something that had been tugging at the edge of my mind all day suddenly exploded into my thoughts, making my heart race and making me stiffen.
Katie! Loren! Hannah! Where were they?
The wolf nodded and said; “I've already got one of your friends, don't worry. She sent me out to find you.”
“White wolf, says you're her sister or something? She wouldn't give me her name.”
Katie. It had to be. She wasn't really my sister though, but we were closer than any blood-related sisters could be. We told each other everything, and would trust each other with our lives. Without my big sister, I always felt alone.
My ears pricked up and I took a small step towards the wolf.
“You want me to take you to her.” He said before I could ask, “Fine, but keep your eyes open. These woods aren't as safe as you might think.”
I nodded and started to follow him through the maze of trees. As we walked, I thought. Katie was safe, but were Hannah and Loren?