Short Story 28

Willow

In almost every respect, Willow was the human personification of a pixie. She had almost white shoulder-length wispy blonde hair and a set of ice blue eyes that could pierce your soul. Her petite build was complimented by the crocheted midriff tops and ripped denim short-shorts she always sported but none of these things were as enchanting as her presence in a room. There was always something truly magical about how she held herself and how infectious her laugh was.

But this pixie was being kept in a cage…a very lavishly decorated cage, but a cage nonetheless.

Willow was starting to forget the faces of her family. People she saw every day for nineteen years were becoming a vague blurry memory. Six months was the best guess she had for how long it had been since the blindfold was removed from her face…But gaining some understanding of the where was even more difficult. She was unconscious for the most part of her journey – all she remembered was being grabbed in a corridor at her university, waking up only once when the drugs were wearing off and the plane she was in hit turbulence.

The cruel reality was, she probably wouldn’t see her family again, or ever see anything beyond the gold embroidered curtains that lined the black frosted glass of the lone window in her penthouse dungeon. It was strange, to wake up every morning and for that split second forget that she wasn’t in her own bed, in her tiny box of an apartment with the sound of traffic and people yelling as her alarm. But all she heard was silence. Every single morning there was literally no noise. No creaking floorboards, no birds chirping, no aeroplane engines, nothing. Willow always thought that there was a good chance there would just be an endless black abyss when she opened her eyes but instead they simply adjusted to reveal a four poster king bed. Just once, she hoped to wake up anywhere but there.

She heard the five locks on the outer door clicking open – it must be a Tuesday. Every week without fail this was the day when Willow would see him…the man who put her in here and refused to let her leave. But what’s more disturbing is that he wasn’t a stranger, he was someone she thought of as family, if not by blood, than by the sheer amount of time she had known her father’s best friend. Her love for him had grown to hate over these months. He was crazy, he had to be crazy with the things he was saying to her.

“Shhhhh, don’t worry. You know I can’t let you leave, and can’t promise I won’t hurt you, but you know that I really do care about you. You’re just like her… you have more fire…you’re perfect…you’ll last longer…you’ll be able to help me, won’t you sweetie,” he would say over and over again in a whisper while smelling her hair in a reluctant embrace that she dreaded. Knowing exactly why she was there was a challenge because he would just rant on and on about the life behind the veil, none of it made sense.

Today was different. As Willow heard him move from the outer door to the bedroom door, she braced herself against what by now she thought had to be a fake window because the temperature around it never changed, expecting him to walk in and pace back and forth spouting stories about how it needed to be the perfect time, he had to wait for the veil to shimmer and for the stars to align in a particular way. Instead, when he walked in, he wasn’t alone.

A man wearing a cloak started saying a prayer in a language she didn’t understand or recognise with his hand pressed firmly on a leather bound book with a clump of hair used as a bookmark.With little more than a few sentences, the cloaked man turned abruptly and left. In his wake, two women entered with a white dress draped over their arms. She knew that this was it; this was the moment she was going to get sacrificed. At this moment she didn’t see the point in fighting, after all, these women hadn’t done anything to her.

Willow slipped into the dress, let them tie rope around her hands and then it dawned on her…they were handcuffing her which meant she must be leaving the room. She was so excited, and her mind was racing…actually, her head was spinning. She was barely able to pay attention as she was taken through corridor after corridor, but noticed one room hidden behind a portrait because she recognised a photo on the desk…it was of her father.

Then all too suddenly, her mind was pulled away…Willow had been dreaming, she wasn’t dressed in white, she wasn’t out of this God forsaken room. She dramatically kicked her sheets off before turning and screaming into her pillow. Willow didn’t know how much more of this she could take.

That thought was briskly sent out of her mind with the sounds of the outer door clicking, just like they had in the dream and the countless times he had come to visit her in the past…But something wasn’t right.

*****

Jay was carrying a girl, who must’ve only been twelve or so over his shoulder. He didn’t hesitate to run into that burning building, all he needed was to hear the cry of her mother in the street. He placed her softly on the pavement, her mother quick to be by her side, but when she turned to thank him he was gone.

Training since he could walk, Jay was one of the deadliest people you could ever come across. But he would never hurt an innocent. He followed orders just like any other soldier or agent, the difference was, his came from behind the veil. He had magic in his blood, but that didn’t mean he had abilities or powers. Instead, what he had was access to more of his brain than humans which made him appear superhuman.

He and his team had been tracking an object that the Veracious had been keeping secret. They heard murmurs that it was the thing that could tip the war in their favour. Ancient manuscripts depict a damaged prophecy that requires an object that can bring life and take it swiftly. Jay hated that they called themselves Veracious, they were anything but. Just tortured souls who forever thought they had been given the short end of the stick. They were murders, cheats, liars, and above all else, self-centred cowards.

As he was sifting through old reports at the command centre, an alert flashed on his handheld – they had found the location of the object. This was a huge win, they had been too slow to get to it before the Veracious got their hands on it, and the bad guys of this tale had been doing everything in their power to keep the location unknown. Apparently only two members knew where and what it was, and one of them had just slipped up.

Jay’s team were debriefed on the mission – get in, get out with the object in tow but infiltrate silently. This was the most important mission anyone had attempted in recent years, and the elders made sure they understood the gravity of the situation. They had to succeed and they absolutely had to do this right the first time.

Weeks were spent planning and gathering as much intelligence as possible. They had set up a makeshift command centre in New Zealand, careful to never bring attention to their presence. Finally, with the help of someone on the inside, the day came for them to make a move.

What can only be described as an epic cut scene of scaling a building in the dark of the night, entering through the ventilation system in multiple locations, and silencing those that got in their way, the team was well and truly in the thick of it. According to their extensive scans, there was something under the mansion that wasn’t on any known plans. With a field of energy distorting the images, the only thing they could see with certainty was what appeared to be a hidden elevator shaft that they had no way of accessing until they were inside.

Jay knew it had to be where the object was but he also knew he would be going in blind. Regardless, once they located the elevators exact location, one of his teammates was able to control the elevator by jerry-rigging the electrical circuits. With only control over the movement, the elevator was sent up, allowing Jay to climb into the shaft. Once he pried the doors open at the end of the shaft, he cautiously proceeded. Command and his team were in his ear the entire time, “Have you found it? Report what you see? What is it?”

He ignored them and moved forward. There was only one corridor, with a metal door at the end. The electronic locks were no match for the technology he carried. Another door, wooden this time with no lock. He opened it, weapons drawn. They were prepared for just about everything, but they weren’t prepared for this. As Jay entered, he found a blonde girl staring back at him.

He finally responded to command with one hand on his ear, “Ah, it’s not a what…it’s a who.”

*****

Once Willow’s mind quickly measured Jay’s character and registered that it wasn’t who she expected it to be while watching him refer to her as a ‘what’, without hesitating she moved forward and hugged him. Stunned by a girl suddenly wrapping her arms around him he instinctually hugged her back before a voice in his ear quickly brought him back to reality.

Despite his team trying to get a response from him, Jay wasn’t the first to pull away from the embrace. But when Willow did, he responded to the frantic voices in his ear. He was about to try and explain what was happening but instead all he heard was his friends frantically telling him to find the hidden mainframe, take whatever was in that room and get out as fast as possible.

Few words were exchanged by Willow and Jay as they heard gunfire begin to rain out. They just moved as one, first climbing the elevator shaft. Jay began speaking with his team, determining if any of them knew where the secret mainframe could be. But as they crawled through a particular air vent, Willow stopped in her tracks remembering the dream she had earlier with the room behind the painting. One of the team, a girl, just older than Willow, was in the corridor of the painting and quickly confirmed the energy spike behind it, and once in the room, began cloning the mainframe.

Bullets came flying through vent Jay and Willow were crawling through and it crumbled under their weight. Before they hit the ground, Jay had taken out the two men shooting but they had to move quickly in case more men arrived to kill them. Jay was bleeding but didn’t seem to care as they quickly joined the others in the secret control room.

Waiting for the software to complete was agonising but once it did, the girl grabbed Willow’s hand, the rest circling her, and with Jay taking point in front, they made their escape that was certainly a blur to any who witnessed it. Deep in the forest, they stopped to regroup. Two of them didn’t trust Willow, and they weren’t afraid to show their disdain. They thought she could be a working for the Veracious, that it could be a trap, but Jay came to her defence and told them it would be best to sort it out once they were back at base in a tone that was more like an order.

Pushing her aside, the two men questioning Willow’s morals went to guard the girl who had taken her hand earlier. She was pulling metal spheres from a bag and once laid in a circle, she turned her attention to a watch on her wrist. Rotating the outer rim in what seemed like a combination, the balls suddenly began levitating and formed an arc taller than Jay. Energy then pulsated in a kaleidoscope of colours and a slight shimmer was now held inside.

Willow saw something in the corner of her eye and leaped in front of one of the people who had just shoved her away, yelling warning as she felt the piercing pain of a bullet. Before more shots were fired, the gunmen were disarmed and Jay ran to her aid. Picking her up as she started fading, they all rushed through the makeshift door, and found themselves in a forest similar to the one they just left, but Willow knew it was different because where the sky was blue, it was now decorated in auroras. She didn’t care that she might die because she was free, she felt safe and she had never seen a sky as beautiful as that.

By Naomi Eleanor

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