Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wednesday Writings # 31 - Friends Reunited

My "Wednesday Writing" posts were initially created as a writing exercise for me to try and keep myself motivated and on track by making sure that I spend at least 30-60 minutes each week (with the follow-up goal to turn it into a daily writing practice).

Over the past few weeks, I've been continuing the same story with a single post each week. To help you catch up with this serialized story, you can use the following table of contents:
  1. Morning Machinations
  2. Communication Between Friends
  3. Daydreaming Decisions
  4. Off to the Park
  5. Driven
  6. Coming Home
  7. Revealing Photographs
  8. Just a Dream?
  9. At the Tower
  10. Caught
  11. Revelations
  12. Lunchtime
  13. The Watch
  14. Visions
  15. Escape
  16. Evan (part 1)
  17. Evan (part 2)
  18. Evan (part 3)
  19. Formulating a Plan
  20. Testing the Boxes
  21. Betrayal
  22. Julie
  23. Out of Time
  24. A Problem of Paradoxes
  25. Taking Charge
  26. The Chase Begins

As always critiques, suggestions, comments, etc. are welcome and encouraged.


Friends Reunited

Gabby's spirit sunk and pulled her body down with it. A wild dizziness spun the world around as her mind reeled, sending qualms of nausea pulsing through her. She didn't understand. Julie was gone. Instead of her best friend, the empty driver's seat held the other time travel device. Her body shuddered with waves of panic. Shivers crawled over her skin as she whirled around in her seat, her eyes straining through the darkness in hopes of catching sight of Julie. Gabby forced her breathing to slow down and whispered reassuring thoughts to herself.

It's alright. She's here somewhere. She can't have gone far.

As clarity fell over her mind, Gabby realized she wasn't where she should have been. When she and Julie entered the boxes to observe Evan, they had been on the side of the freeway. Outside the darkened windows, Gabby saw silhouettes of houses, parked cars, trees, even a swingset. Her heart began to race and disorientation threatened to come back. She closed her eyes momentarily to quell the rising anxiety.

She contemplated opening her own time box and seeking out Julie through it, but she wasn't sure how much time she had. Obviously she hadn't come back out of the box at the same instant she had entered. So where was she? Or rather, when was she. An explosion of light and sound in the distance cleared up the question.

Farther up the street, a small house with a high pitched roof burst into flame, spitting forth debris and a small string of hobbling people wandering away. In the extreme flash of light, Gabby caught a glimpse of Evan standing at the side of the car looking incredulously at the destruction ahead of him. Gabby knowingly looks to the yard next to Evan and a moment later she watches as Julie shoots out from behind a stand of shrubs and begins sprinting to the car.

Forcing down the horror threatening to paralyze her, Gabby slides over to the driver's seat and turns the key, forcing the engine to life. Slamming hard on the gas so the tires squeal, Gabby grits her teeth in determination to change the future history she observed just moments before. She flashed the headlights on and off then on again causing both Julie and Dalton's pursuing bodyguard stuttered to a stop. Caught in the spotlight, confusion spreads across Julie's face then turns to soft recognition. Glancing back over her shoulder at the bodyguard running towards her again she turns and runs for the car.

Gabby honked the horn a few times and then whips the wheel hard to the left and slams on the brakes, skidding to a stop partially turned back around. She leaned across the seat and pushes the passenger door open.

"Hurry Jules!" She screamed as loud as she could but still wasn't sure whether or not Julie heard her. Not that her plea would have any effect beyond what Julie was already doing. Gabby watched through the open door as Julie sprinted closer and closer to the car. A stinging sound dinged off the side of the car and Gabby realized the bodyguard was shooting at Julie, striving to stop her. The next bullet shot through the windshield, not shattering it but making a distinctive cracking sound and sending an ominous spiderweb of cracks across the glass.

A moment later, Julie was at the door and dove inside. Gabby shoved her foot down on the gas pedal even before she was fully straightened behind the steering wheel. She spun the car back the way she'd just come and pushed the pedal to the floor. There was another clang as a bullet hit somewhere in the trunk of the car, but a moment later, the only sound was that of the engine racing as they sped through the darkness. In the rear view mirror, Gabby watched the flames flicker and wondered what was happening now. As she neared the end of the block, she slowed down and cautiously rounded the corner.

"Thanks Gabby. I'm glad you woke up when you did."

Gabby looked over at Julie. Even in the darkness it was easy to tell how harried she was. Her hair was flying in every direction, a small leaf caught in her disheveled bangs. Her face was streaked with smudges of dirt and at least a little blood coming from a scrape on her cheek. Her T-shirt had a couple of small twigs sticking out from the cloth.

"You don't know the half of it. I'm just glad I was able to be here this time."

"What? What do you mean?"

Gabby said nothing but just put out her hand and patted Julie's knee. She wound through the neighborhood and turned onto the freeway, pointing the car towards Dalton's home.

"Gabby? What do you mean 'this time'?"

The fear in Julie's voice caused a lump to form in Gabby's throat. She tried to force it down but couldn't seem to swallow properly. As she tried to clear her throat, a tear started to pool in the corner of her right eye. She pressed her eyes closed hard for a second then back open and focused on the road.

"I'm so sorry Julie. I'm so…so sorry. You shouldn't be here. I hate that you're in danger. Because of me."

She tried to force her voice to be strong and calm, but her words broke slightly as she spoke. She looked over at Julie and found her staring back, sadness and worry mirrored on her face.

"It's not your fault. I don't understand what's going on. But I do know that none of this is your fault."

Julie tried to smile, but it only made Gabby feel worse.

"Well, maybe if you'd gone to the police when I first told you. That part is your fault. So you can be sorry for that."

Julie laughed and slapped Gabby on the shoulder. Gabby gave a cursory chuckle but drove on without saying anything.

"But even if we had gone to the cops, there's no telling how much good it would have done. They might have offered us protection or something. But how much protection can they give against a lunatic who can travel through time to find the perfect opportunity to grab us? Still, we're taking care of things ourself, right? I mean, we're taking charge and fixing things.

"Hah. I just repaid Evan for saving me by saving him. Did you see the look on his face when I tossed him those cutters and that gun? I hope he shoots Dalton down. I almost did it. I had him in my sights. I had the gun pointed at him as he left Evan in the car. I hate him for what he's done. I wanted to kill him. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it. I hope. I hope Evan. I hope..."

Julie was rambling, trying to make them both feel better. On mentioning Dalton, she fell into silence along with Gabby. She shivered and wrapped her arms close to her body, patting her shoulders. Then she reached forward and turned on the heater. A stale, musty air spewed out of the vents.

"It's so cold."

Gabby nodded silently and kept driving. She mechanically turned off the freeway and maneuvered through the ever darkening countryside towards Dalton's house. A minute later, she slowed the car to a crawl and gently followed the road into the copse of evergreens surrounding the mansion. As they neared the house, lights flickered between the tree branches. Gabby turned off the headlights and stopped the car at the edge of the trees.

The two girls scanned the large yard for any sign of life. A few lights were on in the house but the yard and driveway were dark. In the room they knew to be the library, the light flickered and moved. Gabby looked over at Julie. Julie stared out the window at the house. At her prison. She'd been trapped there. Locked in a small, dark room. She'd only recently been freed and now she was expected to sneak back inside and imprison herself willingly. She shuddered at the thought.

Gabby put her hand on Julie's shoulder.

"It'll be okay. It's only for a few minutes. Evan will be there to open the door before you know it."

Julie looked back at Gabby. Both girls tried to force their eyes to shine with confidence but both faces fell drab and melancholy instead.

"It's almost over. Just a few more minutes and we'll be done with this. Free to go home and forget all about it."

Julie nodded. Then her chest jumped and sobs fell from her mouth and she shook her head from side to side.

"No. No. No no no. Maybe. Maybe I don't have to go back in. Maybe if we just both go and wait inside for them to get back. It'll be alright. We're already back. We made sure Evan was safe. You're safe. I don't see why I have to go back in there. Don't make me go back Gabby. Please don't make me go back."

Gabby felt the lump in her throat raise and fall with each passing breath. Her body felt like lead. She felt the pain in Julie's gaze and couldn't bear to look. She turned and stared out the windshield, focused on the mansion ahead of them. She tried to speak. To reassure her friend. But the words wouldn't come. Julie's was sobbing heavily now, her entire body shaking. Gabby reached over and put her hand over Julie's hand and gave a small squeeze. Julie's skin was a paradox, clammy and hard while also hot like fire.

Gabby remembered Evan's discussion about paradoxes. About what had happened during the experiments. Slowly, she pulled her hand back and gripped the steering wheel, then inched the car slowly forward.

"I'm sorry Jules. It's just for a few minutes. It'll be ok. It's almost over. I promise."

Julie slumped to the side and leaned against the door. Her irregular breathing alternated between sobs and gasps. She wilted against the cold passenger window and watched as they crawled up the driveway towards the garage. Gabby maneuvered the car around behind the garage and then shut off the engine. She looked to Julie, but couldn't find anything to say. She cleared her throat and gave a sympathetic glance when Julie looked over.

The two girls quietly exited the car and snuck up to the rear door of the garage. It was locked, but the key was on the keychain for the car. The door creaked as they opened it and both of them froze, anticipating discovery. When no one responded, they slid inside the dark garage. The door to the interior hallway was slightly open. A sliver of light reflected off the silvery dust on a shelf next to the door. Gabby slinked forward and peeked through the slit.

"Looks clear. Come on."

She motioned for Julie to follow but as she glanced back, Julie stood statue still, leaning against the back door of the garage. Gabby hopped back and wrapped her arms around Julie.

"I know this is hard. But it's almost done. Come on. You can do it. You were always the strong one. I always looked up to you for your strength. I know you can do this."

She pressed slightly against Julie's back and the girls inched forward. Gabby pulled the door open and gently led Julie down the hallway. She cautiously peeked around corners and finally found the way to the room where Julie had been kept prisoner. The door was shut but no one stood guard. Gabby scanned the scene, found it empty and inched forward. She quickly realized Julie wasn't following and turned back to pull her along.

Each step seemed to take an eternity. Gabby tried desperately to push Julie on faster while still being sympathetic to her fear. The past few days had been a crazy, horrific nightmare to Gabby. She couldn't even imagine what Julie had been through locked in that room. They finally reached the door and Gabby tried the handle.


But she anticipated that. She turned, expectantly to Julie.

"Julie. I need the key."

Julie just stared at her.

"The key Jules. The key Evan gave you."

Gabby spoke in a harsh stage whisper, glancing around anxious that someone would hear her.

"Julie. Come on. Please?"

Julie continued to stare blankly at the door. Gabby moved over and started frisking her friend, trying to determine which pocket held the key. She couldn't find anything.

The silence suddenly broke with the sound of voices. Their muffled distance and slight echo told Gabby they came from the garage. Which gave her some time, but not much. She put her hands on Julie's cheeks and pulled her glance face-to-face with her own.

"Jules. Please. We have to do this now. You'll be in there for one minute. Two at most. But you have to go there now!"

Julie began gasping again, tears welling up in her eyes. Without saying anything or looking anywhere, she reached down through the collar of her T-shirt and came back a second later with the key. She held it up silently to Gabby who grabbed it from her and raced back to the door. With a soft click the door unlocked. Gabby pulled and pushed the sobbing Julie into the room. Gabby began to cry as well.

"I'm so sorry Jules. It's just for a minute."

She pulled the door shut and locked it with the key. She held the key for a moment, not sure where to put it, then turned and scanned the hall, trying to find her own hiding place.


logankstewart said...

Nice, tense cliffhanger. This is an impressive story.

Phoenix said...

This is getting so tense! It's getting harder and harder to go a week between these! (I guess because I'm leaving this comment late, I only have to wait two days, huh?)