I wrote this several years ago for a creative writing class. I wrote 30 chapters of a middle-grade fantasy novel before giving it up. (I think I prefer reading to writing.) This is my unedited first chapter. Maybe someday I will go back and finish this story. -Hikari
Chapter One: First Sight
Nothing escaped Ms. Winny. If there was anything happening on Walnut Lane, she’d be the one to tell you about it. She’d even known about Miles Winston’s acceptance to Buffington University before he did, as she’d taken to inspecting the cleanliness of the neighborhood mailboxes years ago—obviously helping herself to the mail as she did so.
Ms. Theodora Winny was not even five feet tall—not even with her gray hair piled up into a high knot on top of her head—yet she seemed to have her nose in everything. Dorie Jensen had sworn that she’d seen Ms. Winny perform an incredible set of acrobatics, as she dodged a car and hopped over a cat, and then a shrub, in order to catch a glimpse of a family intending to move into the Bridger Family’s old home.
It was Ms. Winny that Lillian Weaver considered as she lay awake in the dark. The green glowing numbers on the small clock on her nightstand read 2:00 a.m. If she turned on a light, Ms. Winny would surely notice. It was no help that Lillian’s window faced into the street either. If it had been at the back of the house, she might have turned the light on. Maybe. It didn’t seem like Ms. Winny slept either, and Lillian didn’t want Ms. Winny asking her parents what their daughter was doing up at 2 o’clock in the morning.
Rolling silently out of bed and crouching nearly to the floor, Lillian tiptoed her way across the white carpet of her room towards the bedroom door. It was not that Lillian was extremely curious by nature, she just liked to be certain that things she saw were real, and that she wasn’t delusional. The house was still and dark as Lillian slipped through her bedroom door. Their home was a simple, two story house, decorated in blacks and whites as her mother preferred, but at night, the color scheme turned everything into shadows and ghostly outlines. Though it never scared her before, tonight it left her uneasy.
She couldn’t be sure if the exact time mattered, but it was probably best to recreate what she’d done the night before exactly, just to make sure. Silently, she tiptoed down the stairs, pressing her hands heavily into the wall and stair banister so she didn’t have to set all her weight onto the steps, which creaked a little under pressure. The bottom stair opened into a wide, larger room with stone tiled floors. The kitchen and dining room made up one half, while the living room took up the other. Once Lillian hit the stone she relaxed her weight into the balls of her feet, feeling it pin her down as she scanned the room.
A flash of movement caught her eye, and Lillian whirled quickly in defense before half relaxing. It was her own image and movements reflected back to her in the giant floor length mirror in the room. Moonlight was pouring in from the giant bay windows that surrounded the room, leaving pools of light on the floor and washing out her complexion. Lillian pushed her dark and wild curly hair away from her face and stared hard into the eyes of her reflection, which stared hard back at her. Her brown eyes, black and wide in the dark, glinted with the reflection of the moonlight. It was eerily mesmerizing and frightening at the same time. It was then, when Lillian could no longer hold her own gaze, did she shift her eyes to catch the reflection of the rest of the room behind her.
Floating in the moonlight, only barely visible in its movement, Lillian saw something white suspended in the air in the middle of the room. Lillian whirled around, and froze as she watched.
It was almost as if someone had drawn a picture in the air with smoke, or hung a tapestry of lace from invisible threads in the air—except that the images were alive with movement. Whatever it was, it did not advance or recede. Taking a careful breath to steady herself, Lillian reminded herself that this was the reason she was out of bed in the middle of the night.
Last night, Lillian had woken from a strange and vivid dream that had left her gasping and thirsty. She’d been in the middle of a desert, running up and down giant sand dunes. In the dream, Lillian had tripped in the deep sand and it sent her rolling down a hill with a jolt that had woken her with a gasp. Still groggy, she’d gone downstairs for a drink of water. That was when she’d seen the white images, glowing translucent in the moonlight in her living room.
But last night she’d still been half asleep, and the whole thing had felt like an extension of her dream.
Lillian carefully observed the scene, edging closer and closer until she could see quite clearly what it was. It looked like a giant picture frame, with the scene inside alive and moving. Lillian could see trees and a lake, all moving in a breeze she could not feel.
Gazing deeply into the image, Lillian lifted her hand tentatively to see if she could touch the milky frame, but it was as if the picture were always an inch or two out of her reach no matter how far she stretched her hand. Then without warning, a white tendril grew from the frame and reached towards Lillian’s outstretched hand. She tried to pull her hand away, but was frozen in place. The tendril slowly wound its way around Lillian’s hand and up her arm as weightless and soft as smoke.
Terrified, Lillian stared as it crept up her arm and wove itself into her curly hair. Then with a bright white flash, the tendril disappeared.
A slight creak at the top of the steps sent Lillian whirling around to see a small beam of light flashing from the stairs, waving unsteadily where it landed. If she had not been so disoriented or scared by what had just happened, she might have smiled.
Down the stairs, with no regard for the loud creaking of the steps in the silent house, Joshua, Lillian’s ten-year-old brother, came holding a parcel in his arms. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he swung his head around to face Lillian, shining the light from his headlamp into her eyes.
Though Joshua was ten, he was often called an old soul. He was cheerful and hilariously comical, but his face often appeared serious and unreadable—especially due to his pale grey eyes. Though he looked almost exactly like their father, Joshua has been adopted into their family when he was two years old.
It was with his serious face that he stared at Lillian. He did not register any surprise to see her, nor did he appear worried that he was caught out of bed so late. The elastic of his headlamp made his black hair in the front stick up wildly, while the elastic in the back pushed his ears forward elfishly.
He stared at Lillian for a moment and then continued walking as if she hadn’t been there in the first place.
“Joshua! It’s two in the morning! What are you doing out of bed? Where are you going?” Lillian whispered, glancing back at the floating images, only to discover that it was gone.
“I was up writing. Now I’m going to bury my manuscripts in the backyard.”
Joshua replied so casually that Lillian almost felt foolish for asking, as if she’d asked him the same question at a reasonable hour while he was doing perfectly normal things.
With no regard or worry that he might get in trouble, Joshua deftly opened the backdoor and stepped onto the patio, closing the door softly—not to avoid getting caught for sneaking out, (because he was not sneaking) but in simple respect for those who were sleeping. Lillian watched, incredulous, as Joshua was swallowed up by the darkness, with only his swinging headlamp light disappearing into the woodlot behind their home.
She wanted to wonder what he had been writing and why it required burying in the backyard at two in the morning, but her attention was swallowed up entirely by what had just happened to her. She had almost convinced herself she had been sleeping, up until Joshua’s appearance.
The house suddenly felt eerie and Lillian looked out the window again to see if she could see the light from Joshua’s headlamp. Joshua obviously had no concern for Ms. Winny, as he let his headlamp swing crazily around the yard on his return minutes later. There was a large woodlot behind their home, at the edge of their lawn, and it appeared that Joshua was emerging from the trees. There were some things about her brother that Lillian had just accepted she would not understand.
As he approached the door, Lillian wondered if she should tell Joshua what she’d seen and why she was up. The truth was, she didn’t’ want to be up all night terrified and alone with an unexplainable secret.
Joshua pushed the door open and almost walked right past her on his way up the stairs before he turned suddenly, shining his headlamp into her eyes again.
“What are you doing?”
With his elfish ears, wild hair, and serious face, it was hard for Lillian not to tell him everything she’d just seen, but she didn’t know how.
“I just came down for some water, that’s all. I’m going back to bed now,” she said.
“Goodnight then,” Joshua said, as he made his way back to his room.
Lillian hurried to the refrigerator and pulled it open in search of a bottle of water. The light from the fridge shone out into the room, creating shadows and pitch-black corners. Quickly taking one of the cool bottles of water, Lillian took one look behind her into the living room before shutting the door and, in a moment of sudden overwhelming uneasiness, raced up the stairs back to her room.