Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chapter 1. "Great adventures, unforgettable"

"I can't believe you managed to take me out to town."

"Correction, I dragged you out of your gloomy little den. After I cleaned off the spiderwebs and thick layers of dust off you." My friend Melinda laughs at her own joke. Haha, very funny.

"I was working. You know I can't take time off." I narrow my eyes. Of course she wouldn't know, her family is so rich, she can afford to do whatever she wants, party all day and all night long if she so pleases. She doesn't notice my quick glower and goes on.

"Work work work. Can't you have a little fun from time to time?" I'm about to protest, to tell her again that my time is precious, but she cuts me off. "Please, Liv, live a little." She giggles at her own joke again. I swear sometimes I wonder why I am still friends with someone like her.

We couldn't be more different, Melinda and I. She has always been outgoing and popular ever since school. She always dresses by the latest fashion and the boys swarm around her like bees around honey. It doesn't hurt either that she is a pretty blonde with blue eyes, built like a super model.

I on the other hand have mastered the art of being invisible. If I weren't a translator, I would have been a ninja. I have average looks, neither ugly, nor pretty either. Maybe the guys would have noticed me more if I didn't disappear as soon as they showed any kind of interest. My mom has always said I would just end up a lonely cat lady. I never mingle, I never date, I barely interact with other people. I'm terrible at small talk and get very nervous around new people. But they say the best cure for a fear is to face it head on. Which is why I let my best friend Melinda here try to "socialise" me from time to time.

I snap out of it when the waiter comes with our order.

"Thank you!" my friend beams up at the waiter and I just nod, avoiding eye contact. I do notice the waiter's hand though, white and delicate, with long elegant fingers. A young woman, perhaps?

The waiter leaves. "Liv, you should have seen him, such a sweetie!"

I raise an eyebrow in surprise. So, a young man? I steal a glance back in his direction, but he was just disappearing behind a door. Tall and slender. Too bad I didn't get to see his face.

"This is exactly why you're still single." Melinda rolls her eyes. "A nice guy walks by and you don't even glance at him."

"Melinda, with you here, there's no point anyway. When I'm with you, I am invisible to guys. They all just look at you." The bees and honey image creeps back into my mind. I'm in the picture too, as a very unattractive lemon. I take a sip of my drink.

Melinda picks up a piece of paper off the table, where my glass used to be.

"This one definitely saw you!" She smiles teasingly, unfolding the note. I'm half expecting it to say 'Please give my number to your cute friend.' She stares at it for a while, then hands it to me, looking puzzled. "I don't know, it makes no sense."

I read it aloud " 'Great adventures, unforgettable. Find your prince charming and change your life forever! 24 White Street.' " Is this some kind of joke? "Do you think maybe it's for you?" I try, looking at Melinda.

"No, silly, it was under your glass. It sounds like fun though. You should go."

"No, I have work to do..." I protest. Yes, feebly. I still worry about becoming an old cat lady.

" 'Oh, my work, my deadline!' " she mocked me. "This is officially your day off. Maybe it's a cruise, wouldn't that be exciting? I'll come with you, let's go!"

When she gets going like this, it is easier to just go with it rather than try to change her mind. We drop some money on the table for our drinks and leave.

It is such a lovely spring day outside that I am almost grateful to her for making me take the time off. Almost.

White Street is just around the corner and our destination is a lovely white house. This is wrong, it's just someone's home, not a travelling agency. I'm about to turn and leave, but Melinda knocks on the door. Damn it! Almost immediately, the door cracks open slightly.

An old man with a long beard peers from behind the door. "Yes?" He doesn't sound friendly.

"My friend Olivia is here to meet her prince charming." Melinda chirps. Oh boy... The old man will definitely think we're crazy. I'm about to blurt out an excuse and get out of there, but grandpa is quick.

He grabs my arm, yanks me inside and closes the door behind us. I start to panic. I've been kidnapped! It doesn't help at all that it is very dark inside, with blinds down at all the windows and no lights on. I am blinded momentarily because of the bright sun outside. I start flailing my arms, trying to feel for the door, but it's as if it was gone. I'm grasping at air.

"Where am I? Let me out, mister! You have no right to -"

"Calm down, little lady. You are in no danger." the old man says in a voice that is not particularly reassuring.

"Help, Melinda! Get me out of here!" My heart is throbbing in my chest. This is it, I'm a goner.

"Spare your voice, little lady. She can't hear you."

My eyes are starting to adjust to the darkness and I'm able to make out the silhouette of the old man.

"Let me out!" I yell at him, not so loud this time.

He doesn't reply, just flicks a match and lights a candle on a table, then several others. In the growing light, I begin to distinguish a large room, elegantly furnished, full of candles, on table tops and shelves.

"You can't get out. Not yet. And not through the same door that you came in." he replies, not turning to look at me.

"What do you mean?" I turn around, but the white door I came in through is gone. Instead, at the far end of the room there is a stairway going upwards.

"You came here for the adventure, right?" He squints at me. "And the prince charming, I suppose."

"You can keep them both. I want to get out." I try to remember some kung fu moves from martial arts movies I've seen. Grandpa was quick just then, but he doesn't look that scary. Maybe I could knock the wind out of him and run for the stairs.

"The only way out is to go in first." Again with the cryptic responses! Let me out, old man!

"Fine, I will go in to go out. Please, lead the way."

He picks up a candle and heads for the stairs. I follow him.

"What is this place anyway?"

He doesn't turn around. "Some people usually call it purgatory. Others call it wonderland. But you can call it whatever you like."

8 comments:

  1. Now you've got my rapt attention, will you be sharing the rest of this story?

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  2. Yes, of course. I intend to serialise this and probably publish a new chapter every week.
    I have yet to come up with a title and there are still a few things to work on. But I promise "great adventures, unforgettable" :D I hope I can keep that promise.
    I welcome any feedback and criticism, of course. I've never finished a long story, but this time I hope I'm doing something right.

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  3. Gosh, that certainly held MY attention! Beautifully written, and naturally I want to read more. A new chapter every week sounds good! Such talent you have there my friend.

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  4. Great news! I'm looking forward to being entertained weekly :)

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  5. Hello! I am visiting for the first time and intrigued! Congratulations on publishing your book of poetry! I'll check back for further chapters!

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  6. Can't wait to see what happens next.

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  7. It's hooked me too - keep going Lavi. Well done :D)

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  8. Thanks for all the attention! I've cooked up most of the second chapter, but I still have to figure out the main plot :P So many possibilities...

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