However, the idea of the story continued to stick around and mull in my head until I had finally come up with a good plot, and decided to turn it into a book. I'm almost finished with the rough draft and so ....
(Drum roll please!)
Here's the first chapter! Enjoy!
1: This Morning
I stare at this page, unsure if I should commit to it the words that threaten to flow from my pen. It all seems too strange, too fantastic, yet it happened. It really happened. I realize it is too late, for I have already started to write.
My name is Jenifer. Jenifer Marie Brown. People used to call me Jenny, when I was younger, but now that I’m older, now that I’m fifteen, most people call me Jen.
My name sounds so normal … yet I know I’m not normal, not after what happened. I’ve been told to write it down, that that is my job, my duty, my place in life. It was so that I could write it down that I went through this. Therefore, I will write it down.
The words flow so easily, they didn’t always. It seems such a short while ago they didn’t. I can hardly believe it. I feel as though I have stepped into a dream. In a way, I have. In another way, I have finally woken up.
I will begin my story not at the beginning, but when I finally woke up, or fell asleep – I shall let my readers decide. Could it be that it was only this morning? The calendar says so, but it seems to me as though it had been weeks and weeks and weeks … or at least days and days and days.
I was sitting at the base of a tree beside the creek that cuts through the woods behind my house. Propped against my knees was a spiral note book – the one I’m writing in now – and in my hand was a red mechanical pencil – the one I’m writing with now. I could hear Letitia singing not far away. Letitia was my adopted sister, and, I will admit, I was jealous of her.
She was perfectly beautiful – alabaster skin despite how much time she spent in the sun, big blue eyes, golden hair that fell in perfect waves almost to her feet. Compare that to me – I have frizzy brown hair that tangles something awful, too many freckles to count, and my blue eyes (which are nowhere near the size of hers) are hidden behind a thick pair of glasses. Add to that the fact that she had a perfect singing voice and I only croaked … well … you can see why I was jealous.
So, there I was, sitting by the side of the creek with a notebook in my lap, a pencil in my hand, and I was jealous. That’s where I’m starting.
Did I mention that I was frustrated?
Well, I was. You see, there wasn’t a single word in that notebook, and would you like to know why? Because I had absolutely no idea what to write. If I had had my way, I would not have been there with a notebook in my lap and a pencil in my hand. I would have been examining leaves or something. But I did not have my way. My mother, who homeschooled Tisha (We called Letitia Tisha.) and I, had assigned a story for me to write. She didn’t care what I wrote, as long as I wrote something.
Although she hadn’t appreciated it the one time I had done this assignment by writing “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write …” over and over and over. (I must have written it at least a thousand times, each time on a new line of the page, and sometimes in cursive.). She had wanted me to write some sort of story.
“You used to have the most amazing imagination,” she said, “back when you were seven. But now …”
It was true, when I was seven I had had my imagination – back before Chris disappeared.
Who was Chris? Christofer had been my adopted brother, about a year older than me. He and I would make up some of the most amazing stories all day long. It wasn’t just him; I know that for sure, because I would make up stories before we adopted him. In fact, he had only been with us a few weeks before he disappeared.
How he disappeared, or why, no one knew. Why I lost access to my amazing imagination, no one knew either. I vaguely remembered fighting with him shortly before he disappeared, but I couldn’t remember why we were fighting.
So there I sat, on the side of the creek, and I will, at last, stop making false starts and actually tell the story. I sat there, staring at the page – with its deceptively innocent whiteness, with its blue lines that reminded me of prison bars. I stared feeling trapped – scared, almost.
Why could I no longer access my once-brilliant imagination? I did not know.
I shut the note book to gaze at the picture I had pinned to the cover – a picture taken eight years before, just after we had adopted Chris. It was of Chris and me playing beside this very creek. I had pinned this picture to the front of my notebook as a desperate inspiration trick.
“Chris,” I muttered, staring at the picture, “I don’t know where you are, or what happened to you – but I wish you would come back and tell me what you did with my imagination. I’m convinced you stole it.” Then I opened the notebook and resumed my attempt at writing a story, with no more inspiration than before. I could hear Tisha getting closer as she sang. It was a pretty enough song – and I’m pretty sure she was making it up, as I had never heard it before, and she made up most of the songs she sang.
That was another thing I was jealous of her about – she could make up songs, I couldn’t make up anything. I frowned at the page.
“It’s a stupid assignment,” I told the page, feeling stupid for talking to an inanimate piece of paper. “I wish Mom would realize that trying to get me to get my imagination back is like … like making a dog climb a tree.” I felt stupid for that comparison, but I didn’t have enough imagination to come up with a better one.
“Why’s that?” said a voice, that of a young boy.
I looked up to see a young boy standing in the middle of the creek. He was dressed like Robin Hood, complete with a felt hat with a yellow feather in it. In his hand was a sword, a sharp looking sword, and strapped to his back was a bow and a quiver full of arrows – all of which looked plenty sharp as well. Honestly, I thought to myself, what was his mother thinking letting a kid his age, he looked no older than ten, loose with a sharp sword and sharp arrows. He could hurt someone – such as himself.
The second thought that occurred to me was, what was he doing in our creek? Actually, by the time that thought occurred to me, he was out of the creek, but that was beside the point. What was he doing in our creek?
“Does your mother know where you are?” I asked, trying to sum up all of my questions in one.
He cocked his head to the side, as if in thought. “I don’t think I have a mother,” he said after a while, as he slid the sword into a sheath hung on his belt.
I raised an eyebrow. “Of course you have a mother. Everyone has a mother.”
“Not me,” said the boy. “I’m looking for Jenny,” he then said, as I looked for an answer through my confusion. “Do you know where she is?”
“Jenny?” said I, frowning, my confusion growing. “Jenny who?”
“Jenifer Marie Brown,” said the boy. “Do you know where I could find her? She’s our only hope.”
I cocked my head at him. “I think that would be me,” I said, then I frowned. “Why am I your only hope?”
He stared at me for a second searching for I knew not what. Finally he nodded. “Yes, you’re Jenny – Oh, I hadn’t realized it had been so long.” He suddenly doffed his cap with an elegant bow – far more elegant than one would expect of a boy of no more than ten. “Sir Christofer at your service, milady,” he said formally.
My heart stopped beating for a second, and I shut my notebook with a surprised snap. Him? Chris? But he was too young. Chris had been a full year older than me, so he should have been at least sixteen.
I glanced down, trying to gather my thoughts, and noticed the picture pinned to the notebook. True, they wore different clothes, but the brown hair was the same, the mischievous brown eyes were the same, the freckles were mostly the same – this Chris seemed to have a few more.
“Chris …” I muttered. “How?”
“I’m sorry, Jenny –,” he began, looking nervous, as if he were scared of me.
“Jen,” I interrupted, rolling my eyes. “I’m not a little kid anymore. It’s Jen.”
“Very well, then, Jen,” said Chris, “I know you didn’t want me to come out again – and that you promised never to come back in yourself – but it’s been horrible since you left! Everything’s going dark and dingy … time doesn’t seem to work at all anymore … and everyone is hiding, lest … it gets you. I know you didn’t want me to get back out again, and at first, I wasn’t going to, but everyone said I was the only one who had the least hope of reaching you again, and since it was an emergency, and I’m the hero and all that, I just had to come. I’ve been looking for oh so long, and have only just found a way out.”
I frowned. “You just made as much sense as … as a square bowling ball.”
The sound of Tisha singing could have been heard all this time, but it suddenly stopped. “Chris!” her clear voice suddenly exclaimed, and she suddenly came rushing up and threw her arms around the boy. He, surprisingly, did not seem annoyed. She drew back and sat back on her heels. “Chris,” she said, “how did you get out? She locked you in!”
“Who’s she?” I asked.
“You’re she,” said Tisha, turning to me. As I tried to figure out what she meant, she continued. “Not only that, she made herself forget – completely! I don’t know what she did with the Ankulen –.”
“The what?” said I, cutting her off.
“The Ankulen,” said Tisha, looking down so that her face was unreadable. “Your Ankulen.”
“And what’s that?” asked I.
“The golden bracelet you always wore – what you used to control us, and everything else – what you used to get in and out,” explained Chris.
I shook my head, not able to remember any golden bracelet that I “always wore.” Especially not one that I used to control people.
“See,” said Tisha, noticing my shaking head. “She doesn’t even remember the Ankulen. She’s forgotten everything.”
“She remembered me,” said Chris, an edge of hope in his voice.
“Not properly,” said Tisha, and I could see that the edge of hope that I had heard was dashed. “She remembers you as you claimed to be when you got out – as her adopted brother who made up stories with her, then disappeared. She doesn’t even know why you disappeared. Doesn’t know it was because she locked you in.”
“In?” voiced I, noticing that the words “in” and “out” were being used a lot. “In where?”
“In your imagination,” said Tisha, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “That’s where Chris and I came from. We’re yours. I couldn’t tell you this before, though … but with Chris here, I kind of have to.”
“My imagination?” asked I, skeptical. Well, wouldn’t you be skeptical if you suddenly get told by someone that they are complete products of your imagination? “I don’t have any imagination.”
“Yes, you do,” contradicted Tisha. “You have an amazing imagination – and you have an Ankulen, which allows you to bring it to life. You’ve just locked yourself out of it.”
“And it’s dying,” continued Chris. “You have to come back, Jen, you have to! Please? Fair Maiden Letitia and I are sorry for getting out! We just wanted …”
My skeptical expression apparently stopped him in his tracks, because he stopped talking. I have to admit, though, I almost laughed at him calling Tisha, “Fair Maiden Letitia.”
“She can’t get back in without the Ankulen,” said Tisha. “And she doesn’t have it, and obviously doesn’t know where it is.” She looked at the ground for a few minutes. “Do you think it might be in your jewelry box, Jen?”
I shrugged. “Don’t think I remember ever seeing a golden bracelet that controls people in there,” I said. “However, you’re welcome to look. I’m locked outside until this notebooks at least show signs of a story, so I can’t look myself. Just don’t steal anything.”
Tisha stood up. “If what Chris and I plan to do works,” she said, “you should get your imagination back. Just … please don’t be too mad at us when you do? Please?”
Chris echoed her “please?”
I rolled my eyes. “I’ll make no promises until I figure out what, exactly, I’m supposed to be mad at you for. Right now, I’m thinking about being mad at you for keeping bringing it up.”
“Very well, then, Jen,” said Tisha. Then she turned and started running, her long, golden hair streaming in the wind.
Sneak Peek at the working Cover art!