It’s been a while since I wrote something on here.
I’ve been busy with virtual school (my school is doing all remote learning, and I never thought I would be so anxious to go to my actual school) and have been spending my free time on a project, which I am working on a post about.
Now that I have finished (sort of) that project I decided to pick up on the first few chapters of a story I started writing in the summer. You might need a recap, so here are the links to the previous chapters.
However, if you are new to this story or you forgot what happened (because I kind of did too) I understand if you don’t want to go back and read all the chapters, so here is a brief recap:
Click to read summary of chapters 1-3
The story switches perspectives between two characters. Finn, a homeless kid who grew up with his uncle, who was one day arrested and was pretending to be his uncle. Finn, who was quite young at the time, was told that his so-called “uncle” planned to do bad things to him when he got older, with not many other details. Mabel is Finn’s eleven-year-old best friend who lives with her adopted family in a house in Chash, the city Finn “lives” in.
Finn has a normal morning until someone kidnaps him. Mabel, who had been looking away when it all happened so quickly, saw him disappear into what looked like a rip in the world. She climbed through the rip, which was a portal, and hid, listening to a conversation between Finn and his kidnapper, who was the man pretending to be his uncle Aran (really named Ilten Bay). He said that Finn has now ‘come of age,’ and he is forcing him to do three Trials: of Ingenuity, of Courage, and of Passion. Finn tries to leave and is nearly killed.
They go through another portal ripped open and Mabel follows, except this time they are in a completely blank white space that goes on forever, so there is nowhere for her to hide from them. Switching back to Finn’s perspective, he and Bay have a conversation (very long and boring and unnecessary and I need to majorly revise it) only to realize that his portal knife is gone, so they are stuck in the empty blank space. Now, we are back to Mabel.
However, after publishing chapter 2 (the last chapter with Mabel’s perspective), I added a few paragraphs to the end of it that are very important for the plot to make sense, so here they are (as well as a few sentences from the original ending):
…I follow them through the portal.
When I emerge, I find myself standing in a place that is completely flat and empty, even way off in the distance.
There is nowhere to hide.
My hands fly up to my mouth. I stand in shock for a moment, then whirl around to climb back through the portal. But the portal is just sealing up. I am stuck here.
I take a deep breath. Somehow, Finn and Ilten still have not noticed me and are walking away. Well, Finn is half walking, half being dragged. I can see the knife resting in Ilten’s sheath and I get an idea. A terrible one, but an idea nevertheless, and the best one I’ve got.
Why am I even trying to hide from them? I stop and wonder. What will happen if I show myself? Probably something bad. Maybe. But what am I even trying to do? Get Finn back. Of course. But if I want to get Finn back, why am I trying to leave here? I guess it’s the best chance I have. I will come back for him. I nod and tiptoe toward them.
I need to be fast. Once I start, I have to finish in a fraction of a second.
My only hope is that the portal knife works using telepathy. Ilten hasn’t said anything or done anything visible to make it work. And where should I go? Back to Chash?
No time to think it through. They’re getting farther away.
I run more quietly than I ever have. Holding my breath, I clutch the handle of the knife and slip it out. Ilten starts turning around. My heart rockets as I slice a gash in the ground, scream “ANYWHERE!” in my mind, and jump.
This is my very first draft of chapter 4, and I have done pretty much no editing. But I am pretty certain it needs to be shortened a lot, because it’s kind of long and most of it doesn’t really move the plot forward. At the same time, I wanted readers (and myself) to get to know the setting and characters introduced in this chapter. I also think it’s kind of weird that she isn’t more focused on finding her friend. Anyways, sorry if it is boring in some parts, and here it is.
The portal doesn’t open too far off the ground, so rather than killing myself my feet take the impact and I crumple to the grass. I stand up to see a small crowd of people watching me.
“Hello,” I say cautiously, taking a step toward them. The group steps back.
They look around among each other, eyes questioning. Most of them have smooth nut-colored skin that shines in the harsh sunlight and flawless dark hair tied in three braids.
One woman whispers something to the rest, turns to me, and says, “Who are you?”
I respond with another question: “Where am I?” Then I think that might be rude, so I add, “My name is Mabel. I am from Chash.”
It is clear that none of them have heard of Chash, but the same person says that this is their village, called Hoto, and they have not had a newcomer in many years. They are far away from any other people.
“I got here with a… portal,” I say, not expecting them to believe me.
Eyebrows raise in confusion until the woman I was talking to says something in a language I don’t recognize, and they all nod in understanding.
“Where did you get that portal knife? They are so rare,” the woman asks.
I eye her, deciding whether or not to tell the truth. She is probably in her forties, and two kids stand on either side of her. My brain tells me to say that I saw someone drop it as they stepped through what it had created, or that I received it for my tenth birthday, but which is worse, stealing or stealing and lying? “I took it. From a bad person. Who kidnapped my friend,” I stutter.
“You are a thief?”
“No,” I say, but the thought surprises me. Am I? “I did it to save my life.”
The woman steps toward me. Someone older than her calls out something in the same language, and she replies in English, “She is just a little girl.” Then she puts a hand on my shoulder and brings me into the village.
I follow behind her, along with her kids. I catch one, a boy about four, examining me. The older girl, probably my age, and I smile awkwardly at each other. We walk past a few identical small houses until the mother says, “Here.”
She opens the door to a room with a small rug and a few wooden chairs. On the other side is an oven and a sink. The back wall has two doors, which I assume are bedrooms and maybe a bathroom.
“This is our bedroom,” the woman says, pointing to one of the doors. “And this is the bathroom.” She turns to me. “Do you need a place to sleep?”
I blink, not knowing what to say. “Um, I don’t think I’m planning to stay awhile… but yes.”
She nods and bends over. She folds the rug in half to make it thicker. “Why are you being so nice to me?” I ask abruptly. “You barely know me. I am just some random person who came through a portal.”
The woman looks at me. “Why not?” I have no answer.
She continues. “My name is Willow. They are River and Honeydew.” She motions to the kids, who are sitting in the chairs, stiff.
“Hello,” River says quietly, his feet swinging.
Willow asks me how old I am, and I respond eleven. She says that River is five and Honeydew is twelve.
After an uncomfortable silence, Honeydew stands up to break the awkwardness and whistles through the open front door.
I watch as a huge, long-haired dog bounds toward Honeydew and knocks her over. She laughs and pets him. Then she remembers I am still here and her smile disappears, she stands up again. The dog circles around my legs, sniffing my shoes. “This is Maple,” Willow says to it. I don’t bother correcting her — she’s already being so generous. “Maple, meet Tin, which means Twig. You can call him Twig; he understands both names.
“Well,” she continues. “It is still morning. Honeydew, can you show Maple around?”
“I have to—” Honeydew says.
“Bring her to help you with your jobs.”
Honeydew nods and motions for me to come with her. I follow her and Twig out the door and down a path of hard dirt. We pass more houses and then the path gets narrower and goes between two houses and we come to a circle of them, with small trails going out between each one. In the middle there is a large metal thing that I think is a sundial.
We have both been quiet so far — I can tell she’s like me; not very good at starting conversations — but now Honeydew says, “This is the center of Hoto.”
We pass the metal thing and she points at it. “Eleven.” When I get a closer look, I see that I was right, and the shadow points toward a symbol carved in the metal.
Eleven. Fifteen minutes ago was the exact time that both of my parents died six years ago. Seven days before my birthday. I always sit and watch people talk and laugh, not noticing me at all, and try to talk to them. I whisper to my parents about how the year has been, the best and worst parts, and how much I miss them. I was young, but I remember that they used to call me Mo. I remember my mother serving me a bowl of ice cream, and me whining because the bowl was the wrong color. I remember my father playing the guitar and always making us laugh. Maybe that’s why I feel so close to Finn — he reminds me of him. But so much has happened in the last hour that I forgot to do this.
I trace my finger along the smooth carving of the eleven and whisper an apology to my parents for forgetting. I promise them that I will find Finn. Then I catch up with Honeydew and Twig.
Honeydew waves a hand, motioning at the circle of houses around her. “These are stores.”
I nod, looking around. “What are your jobs?”
“First is to buy eggs and milk,” she replies. “This way.”
I trail behind her into a store on our left and chuckle from surprise to see that chickens are strutting around the floor. Wide double-doors in the back are open, and through them I can see a large, fenced yard with chickens, pigs, and other animals, including a dog, who runs toward Twig with a rope in its mouth and they start fighting for it.
They have a quick conversation in the language I don’t recognize, and trade a crate of eggs and a jug of milk for a loaf of bread and a few dark-colored coins.
Honeydew asks me to carry the crate, and as we walk outside I ask, “What language do you speak?”
“A language only spoken here. In Hoto. My mother wanted River and me to learn Crrenian, since most people speak it. She says it might come in handy someday, even though hardly anyone else here speaks it. I suppose she was right.”
I feel bad for not being able to speak their language, for making them adjust to my, the random stranger, life. “Can you teach me some words in Hoto? Like what did you just say to the person who sold you eggs?”
“Well, his name is Kao. I said, ‘Hello Kao. I need twelve eggs and a pitcher of milk.’ He said ‘Yes’ and brought them out. When I gave him the bread and coins, he said, ‘How about a little more?’ I gave him two more coins, we both thanked each other and left.”
I nod, trying to remember what I heard in their conversation. Honeydew teaches me “hello,” “My name is Mabel,” a few more simple phrases, and (by my request) “I come in peace and am very thankful that you have been so kind to me. I must rescue my friend, who has been kidnapped.”
“What is your next chore?” I ask. I need to get going, but I still don’t know where to go, and I might as well stay at least until tomorrow. Plus, I’m so tired, and don’t feel like thinking about it right now. I scold myself for that thought — I can’t let my friend die because I “didn’t feel like saving them.”
Honeydew thinks for a moment. “How about this?” she says. “We will get our work done faster if we split.” My heart skips a beat thinking of making my way around this village without her, but I can’t tell if it’s from nerves or excitement.
“Here are your jobs: get fruit — you can either buy it or pick some in the forest there, deliver bread and jam to our friend Dana, bring water from the well to the house, and sweep,” Honeydew directs me. I start to ask how to get to these places, but she answers before I can speak. “Don’t worry, you will figure it out.”
“Okay,” I say, uncertain. Honeydew puts some of the things from her backpack into the crate I am holding, says goodbye, and walks away with Twig.
I think I can remember my tasks. Fruit, deliver food, water, sweep. For the fruit, she didn’t say where the store is, so I decide to go to the forest.
Finding fruit to pick is easy. I have a good time and almost forget about Finn. I notice that all the trees look the same age, not young nor old, and thriving with ripe, bright-colored fruits, even though it is early spring. I don’t think much of it, though, as I pull the fruits and place them in the crate. Honeydew didn’t say how much to pick, but when the crate is full, I decide to move on. I find my way back to the village center and see a man heading toward a store. Nervous, I walk briskly toward him. He sees me and eyes me, confused.
“Hello… my name is Mabel… I come in peace and am very thankful that you have been so kind to me. I must rescue my friend, who has been kidnapped. Where is Dana?” I say in Hoto. It sounds stupid and doesn’t make any sense, but after a moment the man nods in understanding. I don’t remember seeing his face from the people who first met me.
He points toward a path next to the place where we got eggs and milk and says something I don’t understand, but his hand gestures are enough for me to guess where her house is. I thank him and walk toward the path.
For a second I turn around, confused, because it looks the same as the path we went on to get to the center. But I have gone the right way. I keep walking down the straight road and, after a few houses, see an old lady watering plants growing in crates that I realize are the same as the one I am carrying. I call out to her, “Hello! Where is Dana?”
She turns around and points to herself, smiling. “I am Dana.”
“Oh.” Honeydew didn’t teach me how to tell her that I have something for her. But I realize after a second that Dana was speaking Crrenian, so I respond, “Here is something from Willow, River, and Honeydew.”
I fish from the crate a loaf of bread and a glass jar of magenta jam. Dana tells me in broken Crrenian to thank them for her.
Next on the list, I recall, is to get water. Before I leave, I ask Dana where the well is. She tells me it is down the widest path from the sundial. When I get back to the center, I see that in between two of the stores, the path is much wider. It opens to a large square space that has a well in one corner. People run and play in the sandy grass. Looking at the ground reminds me that I have no idea where in the world I am, which is a strange feeling.
I head for the well. I used a well at one of the orphanages I went to for a year. I liked the owner, a woman named Bess. But one day she was arrested in front of us and taken away. I was too mortified to ask what was happening and why. All the other kids and I were sent to different places.
I remember this moment as I turn the crank, lowering the bucket into the well. I pour the water into a bucket Honeydew gave me. Out of habit, I lift the bucket and pass it on to Marena, another girl at the orphanage. We had a whole assembly line for getting water. But Marena isn’t there. I sigh and manage to lug the heavy bucket and crate to Honeydew’s house. On my way back, I note the time. One.
I knock on the door and Willow opens it. She asks me where Honeydew is.
Not wanting to get her in trouble, I say, uncertain, “We decided to split up and do jobs.”
She sighs. “Honeydew was supposed to give you a tour and have you help her with the jobs. It doesn’t matter. I see you have brought water?”
I say yes, holding up the bucket. “What should I do with it?”
“Just leave it on the table,” she says, gesturing inside.
I do so, and see a broom leaning against the wall in a corner. Glancing at Willow, who I know is watching me, I grab it and shuffle outside. She clicks her tongue. “I can just make Honeydew do it later.”
“No, it’s fine,” I say. “You’ve done so much to help me already.” I grab the wide broom and sweep the inside. Then I shove the dust out of the front of the house.
Right when I finish, I see Honeydew coming toward the house with a full backpack. She says hi to me and her mother says something to her in Hoto. By the tone of her voice I can tell she is scolding her.
Honeydew takes off her backpack and empties it next to the crate. Willow inspects the contents, mostly various foods, some I recognize and some I don’t. She nods. I ask Honeydew what they’re for.
She looks at me. “Eating for dinner.” I feel stupid. Willow glares at her.
Honeydew prepares to cook them. I offer help, but Willow doesn’t let her accept it. After watching her for a while, I realize this is the first time I have felt bored in days.
Wait, no. All this happened today. I think back to this morning, eating breakfast and leaving to meet Finn. It seems so distant, so long ago.
I need to find him. Why am I still here? He could be long dead by now, I realize.
“I… have to go,” I say quickly. Willow and Honeydew turn their heads. “I need to find my friend.”
“But, Maple,” Willow says. “You should at least sleep here. Leave in the morning. We will help you prepare.”
My heart melts with appreciation for these people who met a lost stranger and took them in immediately. But I have to find Finn. I should have left when Honeydew told me to do chores.
Willow manages to convince me to stay the night. “But I’m leaving first thing in the morning,” I tell her. “Thank you so much for… everything.”
A few minutes later, I ask, “By the way, where is River?”
“Playing with Twig,” Honeydew replies. “This has to cook for a while. Let’s find him.”
We go to the place with the well, but River isn’t there, so Honeydew leads me back to the house and in the opposite direction from the center. Eventually, the houses disappear and it is just a flat, clear space. River is playing fetch with Twig. He throws something and it twirls in the air, quite a long way for someone with short arms. Twig leaps after it, catching it in midair. As he begins running back, River stares at him and in an instant the dog disappears and reappears at River’s feet.
My jaw drops. Honeydew yells, “River! You’re not supposed to use it for selfish reasons!” River sticks out his tongue at her.
“What… did he just do?” I ask, stunned.
Honeydew thinks for a minute. She motions for me to come toward the forest.
“They’re kind of hard to find,” she says, looking around at the trees, “because, well, you know.” But I don’t.
We walk for several minutes, deeper and deeper into the woods, until she says, “Here!” and points to a tiny tree.
Honeydew sits cross-legged facing the tree and looks it in the eye, her face relaxed. I watch as the sapling’s arms move quickly, extending toward the other trees as its trunk gets taller and thicker. She sighs, both her and I realizing she was holding her breath, and says, “That is why the fruit is always ripe.”
I plop onto the dirt and process this — everything. Am I hallucinating or something? Is this a dream?
“So… you… do magic too?” I ask the obvious question.
“Well, not all kinds, of course.” She gives the seemingly-obvious answer.
“So what kind do you…” I pause and try to guess. River teleported Twig, and Honeydew grew a tree. What do they have in common… “Nature?”
“No…” she says. “Time.”
I realize that when River made Twig be right in front of him, he was making Twig jump to the near future. And Honeydew grew a tree, speeding up time for it.
She chuckles as I think, motionless, for a long time. “Come on, let’s go back. I need to finish cooking.”
We walk to her house, bringing River along. Nobody makes a sound as we approach the rows of houses.
The rest of the day goes by quickly. We eat dinner and they listen as I tell them all about me, and my life, and Chash, and Finn. I say that I cannot put into words how grateful I am, but that I need to go first thing tomorrow morning.
They haven’t heard of the “Trials,” but suggest going to wherever Finn grew up with Ilten. I hadn’t thought of that. It’s my best bet.
I thank them for the thousandth time and lie on the folded rug. I am restless for several hours, thinking about everything, but I must fall asleep at some point, because in the middle of the night I jump a foot in the air, awoken by a horrid screech so loud that I can’t hear anything, only see the frantic words on Willow’s lips.
It’s been three weeks, and I’m still here.