Here’s a look into Chapter 2 of “Escape”
When Amelia came to, she found herself in a pitch-black darkness. She rubbed her sore head and groaned as she struggled to sit up. Pain shot through nearly every muscle in her body. The ground beneath her felt like plush, rich soil and the air was bitterly cold and muggy. She squinted around, but could find no trace of light. It was hard to tell if her eyes were really open or closed it was so perfectly dark.
Amelia quickly checked herself for any breaks or oozing cuts. She seemed perfectly fine from what she could tell, just a bit dirty and achy.
As she sat in the darkness, she searched her memory for what had happened. She was at home, watching television. Then she heard a noise and went to the basement. There was a hole and she knew she had fallen down the hole by accident. Whether she had fallen through the center of the earth and was just a few steps away from Shi Huangdi’s burial tomb in China, she didn’t know. Neither did she know how long she had been unconscious. If there was any way out of this hole, then she may have been late for school already. What an odd time to think of being late for class.
Instead of wasting time by panicking, Amelia did the next logical thing. She dug the toe of her boot into a spot on the dirt and reached out in all four directions to determine where the walls of this hole were. She could feel soggy soil walls surrounding her on only three sides, but the fourth side was far out of reach from her fingertips.
Next, she attempted to stand up. She only made it to her knees before she smartly hit her head against hard packed dirt, causing some soil to crumble onto her scalp and onto her shoulders.
“That’s strange,” she thought. “I fell down a hole, but now the ceiling is caved in… But, I’m alive? This doesn’t make any sense.”
Amelia only shrugged, rolled up her blouse sleeves past her elbows so the fabric wouldn’t get too dirty and began crawling in the one open direction she had found earlier. She shuffled along like a toddler for several moments before she finally saw a dim light far out ahead of her. She crawled even faster, eager to get out of the burrow.
Her forearms and hands were scraped by small pebbles and broken roots that protruded from the ground she crawled upon. She knew her knees must have been caked with dirt and her mind instantly thought of how she would clean those stains out later.
When she reached the opening of the burrow, it was masked in a thin curtain of overgrown weeds from the ground above her head. She swept aside the foliage and she poked her head out of the tunnel. What she saw outside confused her more.
Amelia found herself in a forest. But, it wasn’t the lush green forests she was used to seeing on the outskirts of her town or in her neighborhood. This forest was dead, grey and lifeless. The branches of the tall trees were crooked and had thick wiry clumps of moss hanging from their appendages. Their roots were twisted along the ground that was veiled in a dense fog. The mist softly crept and swirled over the forest floor like the gentle rippling of the surface of a lake.
Above her, a full moon shined brightly down through the canopy of distorted branches and swaying moss, onto the path that the tunnel had opened out to. In the distance, she could hear the little chirps and haunting calls of nocturnal creatures. The whole forest was bathed in the moon’s eerie bluish glow, casting dark shadows in places that Amelia wished there were no shadows.
She pulled herself out of the burrow, dusted off her clothes and shook out the bits of dirt that had accumulated in her hair.
As she inspected her surroundings once more, she knew she must have been dreaming. There was no possible way that she could have fallen through a hole in her basement, only to come out into a remote forest. Amelia didn’t even live near any forests like this. She couldn’t have crawled that far.
“I’m dreaming. I just fell down the hole and hit my head, that’s all,” Amelia told herself as she gazed around at the bent thin branches and thorny bushes that lined the path she was now standing on.
She knew that in dreams, if one thought about it hard enough, they could change what they were seeing and experiencing. Amelia shut her eyes tight and tried to envision a more beautiful forest, like the park that she lived near. She loved that park and its comfortable benches sitting by the lake. She wanted to be in that park, not this forest. When she opened her eyes, however, she was still in the dead forest. She knew she had to be dreaming, there was no other explanation. Or was there?
Amelia bit her lip and cautiously began walking down the path in one direction, hoping to come across some friendly stranger who could explain to her what was going on. If this was a dream, then the more she thought about a nice guide to help her along the way, the faster they were bound to appear. But, the longer she walked no guide appeared.
Instead of meeting a person to help her, she spotted strange orange orbs glowing in the distance. It was only two at first, one on each side of the path. But as she drew closer, they multiplied and soon she could see the dark green iron lampposts that the lights were emitting from. They reminded her of the lampposts from Main Street, but she could see a distinct difference. These lampposts actually had the old-fashioned gas flame burning in their glass acorn-shaped lantern house instead of the modern light bulb.
Forest earth slowly changed into slick cobblestone, coated with moisture from a rain that must have come earlier in the day and the dissipating fog. Amelia’s footsteps were the only sounds that softly echoed through the empty town.
Along the streets stood handsome wooden and brick shops and homes of the late Victorian style. All the house windows were black and there was no sign of life anywhere along the paved sidewalks. Despite it being the middle of the night, the moon gave ample lighting so Amelia could make out the fine crafted details of the signs and different landmarks.
The town reminded her of a classic horror flick, taking place in some foreign city in Europe. It was peaceful in the movie too, before the monster would come raving through the streets chasing a screaming lady. Amelia hoped she would not be that lady.
As she walked down the middle of the stony street, Amelia became braver than she was before. This place didn’t seem too bad for a dream and at least she didn’t feel as lost now.
She kept walking, letting her eyes roam over the historic architecture, trying to find someone to talk to or some little shop that would be open for her to enter and ask questions.
Amelia had to walk all the way into the middle of town until she finally found someone. He was standing near a brick wall, scanning over multiple flyers that had been tacked up, his back faced her and shrouded in shadows so much that she couldn’t tell what he looked like from where she was standing. He looked like a suspicious character wearing a long trench coat with the collar turned up and a wide brimmed hat shading his face. All she knew was that he was someone who might have been able to explain where she was in this dream. She was very curious what her imagination had concocted.
Putting on her best smile, she hastily made her way to his side. “Excuse me?” she said, taping on his shoulder. “Could you tell me where I am? I’m a bit lost, you see and I want to-”
The man turned to look at her and Amelia was horrified by what she saw.
The man’s face and neck were covered in thick, slimy, green scales that might have resembled the skin of a lizard or serpent. His eyes were black with no iris at all, only pair of red, vertical slits stared back at her with disdain.
Amelia gasped as a pink forked tongue flicked rapidly from between the creature’s lips and a threateningly hissing noise erupted from its throat.
She screamed as loud as she could and ran down the street, thinking the creature would chase after her in the hopes of a late night snack. It only peered at her figure curiously, then shrugged its shoulders and went back to reading one of the flyers on the wall.
Amelia quickly found a shop that still had its open sign flipped to allow customers inside. When she charged through the door, a cheerful bell chimed from above her head and Amelia saw she had just entered into something like an old antique store.
She panted heavily and quickly looked around for help, eyes wide with fear and heart pounding faster than it ever had before. If there was a monster on the loose, she had to inform the authorities, whoever that may have been. She didn’t even know the creature wasn’t chasing her at all.
All around here were tables and bookcases filled with all sorts of ancient knickknacks and trinkets that would have appealed to her if she were not frightened for her life. “Is anyone here?” she called out, seeing that the room was empty. No one was even behind the clerks counter that housed the cash register and a tall jar of odd looking candy.
A tall, lean looking gentleman emerged from the back storeroom. He was dressed in an overcoat, the collar turned up, wearing a soft hat and pair of black sunglasses. He appeared to be in the process of leaving for the night. He immediately saw the distressed look of the girl and quickly advanced towards her.
“I’m sorry, miss, but I’m just about to close up my shop. Is something the matter?” he asked in an old British accent that rolled off his tongue liltingly
“Yes, yes! There’s a creature out there with scaly skin and a weird set of eyes. I need to call the police or FBI or somebody. Please, may I use your phone?” Amelia asked frantically, pointing outside the storefront window into the empty street.
The owner of the shop stared long and hard at her, and then cleared his throat. “Uh, miss, I think you should just rest here for a moment. I’ll call an ambulance to come and pick you up. You must have hit your head a little too hard out. I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere.” And with that, the owner turned to walk back into the storeroom.
Amelia’s hand fled to her mouth to stifle the impending scream as she saw a golden lion’s tale swish out from underneath the man’s overcoat. Once in the back room, she saw him he removed his hat and sunglasses to reveal a thick mane of coarse hair, rounded cat ears and yellow cat-like eyes with similar vertical pupils as the serpent creature.
What kind of a place was this? Amelia rushed out the door as he began dialing the phone, disturbing the bell over the doorframe again. She didn’t want to see what strange animal the ambulance people would be like.
As soon as she stepped out the door and trotted down the sidewalk, an icy mist passed through her her. She staggered a little, trying to regain her balance. She could feel little droplets of moisture all over her fact and front of her blouse where the mist had hit her.
Amelia turned around to where the mist had passed to and instead saw a disgruntled man… No, not a man, he couldn’t be. He looked far too transparent with a pale tint to be a man. If Amelia hadn’t known any better, she would have acknowledged him as a ghost. He wore a very expensive looking suit ensemble and fedora. His facial features were sharp and rather handsome – in an old Hollywood actor sort of way – and the only blemish she could find in his appearance was a grisly wound across his throat like he had been slashed with a machete.
“Hey, watch where you’re going!” the man barked, then turned to continue walking, or rather floating down the sidewalk.
Amelia pressed both her palms against her mouth to keep in the terrified shriek. This couldn’t be real. This wasn’t a dream. It was a nightmare.
Amelia slapped her cheek in an attempt to wake up, but it was useless. The world around her still seemed too tangible, too real and quickly becoming too frightening for her to comprehend.
High from above her, Amelia heard a shrill cry, much like a hawk or falcon would make. She knew it wasn’t wise to look up, but curiosity got the better of her. When she turned her eyes to the sky, she saw a flock of winged creatures descending upon the street with razor sharp talons outstretched.
Amelia cried out in surprise and backed herself up as close to the brick wall of a nearby building as she could, witnessing what she could only describe as the landing of half a dozen harpies.
Their bodies resembled women, but they were fashioned with brown eagle like wings in their backs and bird-like feet. Their hair was sinewy and thin, but their faces were perfect like a model’s. These harpies reminded Amelia of the cheerleaders back at school, wearing tight fitting shorts and torn up tank tops.
The winged creatures made their landing, took one glance to Amelia and walked on by, sneering and cackling like old witches. They seemed to have no problem walking on their clawed feet.
From down the street where the harpies were sauntering came strolling a pack of werewolves. There was no mistaking what they were. They walked upright on their hind legs, covered in bushy hair that varied in hues and colorations, with pointed dog ears mounted where normal human ears should be and slanted, probing amber eyes.
All of them wore tattered pants and no shirts to display their chiseled muscles beneath their pelts. Their faces were distorted to resemble that of a wolf’s with a long muzzle and butter-colored fangs. Their nails were sharpened into points and looked nearly unbreakable. As they gestured their hands at the other pack members, Amelia saw their palms were dark with pads like a dog’s. Their feet were the same, but they walked upon the balls of their paws with what would have been their heels raised up above the ground.
Amelia gawked as they ambled on down the street and straight into a pub that was advertised to be open all night long.
Her eyes locked onto another disturbing sight. Next to the pub was something like a whorehouse that was just opening for business. Numerous seductive looking women and women, wearing suggestive clothing, were emerging from the front door. They appeared normal, perhaps a little pale in this moonlight, but normal and possibly human.
Amelia took a step forward, sighting a man that seemed to take notice of her. She opened her mouth to speak and ask all of her questions, but the man gave her a slow toothy grin and she realized that this man was no human. As he bared his long fangs, she knew that he must have been a vampire. No wonder his skin was pale.
Amelia’s face wrinkled with disgust as she held her own throat and stepped back onto her side of the street. The man noticed that she didn’t seem interested any longer and turned away to attract more prey.
Amelia turned to run in the only direction that there seemed to be no monsters, but she paused when she heard a cacophony coming from the opposite end of the street.
She swiveled her head around to see a hoard of little gremlin-like children running, shouting and tossing a ball among themselves. There must have been eight or nine of these little goblins prancing down the street, not caring that Amelia was staring at them with her mouth gaped wide open, both in shock and fear.
The children were wearing everyday, normal clothing that children would wear, but their faces were grotesque with boils, wrinkles, demonic eyes and purple skin. They even moved like children, despite their appendages being slightly stubbier.
One child didn’t catch the ball when it was their turn and the toy went flying off to the other side of the street. The ball hit one innocent bystander in the head and the ball fell to the ground… along with the head.
The man’s severed head made exclamations of frustration and general sounds of displeasure and pain. The rest of the man’s body was turning around wildly, as if searching for its lost head. His clothes were tattered with strips fluttered from his limps as he moved about. The skin of the head and the body were a gruesome ashy color. Amelia could just barely see his face from where it lay on the ground. His eyes were sunken in with dark circles around his lids and much of his features were unrecognizable due to the mass of scars that had accumulated there.
“You horrible imps, put my head back!” his head shouted from the middle of the street.
The children all laughed at the great joke, grabbed the ball and ran without helping the man, almost trampling over his head.
Amelia watched with horrified fascination as the man’s body continued to struggle to find its missing head.
“Hey, lady!” she heard the head call. Looking down, she could see the clouded eyes of the decapitated head look right at her. “Would you mind giving me a hand here?” it asked.
Normally, Amelia was always ready to lend help to those in need. But she couldn’t bring herself to move. She was fixed in that spot on the sidewalk and all she could do was shake her head, eyes wide with fright.
Petrified with fear, she looked between all these things she had witnessed, wondering what she had put in that spaghetti sauce to bring on this kind of hallucination.
She didn’t want to talk to anyone anymore. She knew exactly where she was. Hell. This had to be hell or some form of it, if it were not a dream or a nightmare. This was just all too real to be anything but the new reality that she somehow had been thrown in. All she knew is that she wanted to go home.
Without taking a second thought, she ran as fast and as hard as she could down the street, trying to retrace her steps back to that tunnel, holding back her hysteric sobs and urges to scream at every no terror she came across. There had to be some way get home. There just had to be.
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