I think it’s Part Four. I lost count.
Morning, folks! It’s Monday! I know, I know, that announcement always brings groans of despair. But I like Mondays, because it’s Fiction Day in my little corner of the darkest jungles of Appalachia. Another installment of Ellie and Paul’s adventures, hurrah!
Ellie tensed, her dagger held in front of her, ready for the attack; the blade tip shivered, echoing the tremble in her hand. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this scared. Paul stood behind her, his magic impotent. The creature, barely visible in the darkness, stalked closer. Ellie could feel its breath, hot and foul, blowing back the strands of dark hair around her face. Ellie’s legs felt rubbery, like they’d collapse at any second and let her fall.
“You should not have come here,” said the disembodied voice from out of the darkness.
“Miss Perdue?” said Paul. His hands were on Ellie’s shoulder, and she could feel the slightest hint of a tremor in them. He was as scared as she was. His voice was strong, though; confident. “Miss Perdue, we’re not your enemy. Mr. Salisbury sent us to contact you. You’re in danger.”
“Not here, not in my own home,” said the disembodied voice. The dark creature growled low, stalking closer.
“Mr. Llewelyn is dead!” shouted Ellie suddenly.
“Ellie, don’t!” whispered Paul. His hand on her shoulder became a vice grip, squeezing so hard the bones ground together.
There was a moment’s pause. “What did you say?” The disembodied voice sounded smaller, confused.
“Mr. Llewelyn is dead,” said Ellie. “We didn’t do it. We came here to tell you.”
Paul’s vice grip on Ellie’s shoulder eased. “There are men upstairs in the monument, Miss Perdue. You know where they are; your own security spells would have told you that already. They killed Mr. Llewelyn, because he wouldn’t help them find you.”
“They followed you here!” snapped the voice in the darkness. The creature growled in answer to her angry tone. Ellie raised the knife again. “No!” said Ellie. “They were here when we got here.” It wasn’t strictly true; she had no idea if they had followed her and Paul here, or if they’d arrived independently. With a monster in front of her and men upstairs seeking to kill her, she didn’t much care about the timetable.
“Mr. Salisbury sent us here to help, Miss Perdue,” said Paul.
A clattering sound, then a loud boom! as of something heavy hitting wood, came from the top of the stairs Ellie and Paul had just descended. Ellie flinched, but didn’t look to the door; she was still focused on the dark creature in front of her. “Crap! They figured out you tricked them,” said Ellie softly.
Paul swore under his breath. “Miss Perdue, we’re running out of time. Those men will be down here in a moment. There are at least four men, maybe more. They have guns and they have magic.”
“I’m not afraid of them,” said the disembodied voice. But it didn’t sound certain.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, this isn’t the play yard at school! They aren’t coming down here to steal your lunch money and throw mud on your favorite skirt,” snapped Ellie. “They’re Nazis, do you understand that? They’re coming down here to kidnap you and force you to help Hitler and his craziness. They’ve already killed your friend Llewelyn. You think they’re going to stop coming just because you have a magic watchdog? It didn’t stop me and Paul, and we’re on your side!”
There was a long moment with no answer. The only thing Ellie could hear was the dark creature’s breathing, and the thumping at the top of the stairs.
“I think you might have gone too far,” said Paul softly.
“You may be right,” Ellie answered.
Then the dark creature snuffled, growling low and tensing. Ellie held her breath, tensing. But the attack never came. Suddenly the creature turned and stalked away, melting into the darkness. Ellie scanned the darkness, waiting, watching for it to come lunging out of the darkness again.
Instead, a light came on to their right. Ellie jumped when it popped on, and Paul made a little squeak of surprise. There was no obvious light bulb or other source. It lit a narrow opening with an even narrower stone staircase leading further down. “Come this way,” said the disembodied voice; this time the voice definitely came from the stairs.
Ellie looked back over her shoulder at Paul. He met her gaze and shrugged. As the two of them took their first cautious steps toward the light, behind them there was a loud bang! and the unmistakable sounds of a door being slammed open so hard that it banged the wall. Multiple voices shouted, and then came the sound of hurried footsteps descending the steps.
Paul looked toward the source of the sounds, then down at Ellie. “You go first. I’ll watch our backs.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Ellie sheathed her dagger and sprinted for the steps; Paul stayed on her back, matching her speed. As soon as the two of them were on the top steps, the light disappeared. Another light appeared, further down the stairs. Ellie followed that. It happened again; each time they descended until they were directly under the source of the light, that light disappeared, replaced by a light further down the stairs, which were circling back on itself in a long, narrow spiral. Above them, the sounds of men moving around in the darkness continued, though growing distant. The Nazis hadn’t seen the lights that were guiding Ellie and Paul. But it wouldn’t take them long to find the opening at the
top of the stairs.
As Ellie stepped under one of the lights, two things happened. One, that light disappeared
like the ones before it. But the next light came from an open doorway at the bottom of the
stairs. She could only see a few steps into the room beyond, nothing beyond a smooth stone floor covered with an intricately colored and fringed rug. The second thing that happened was a shout of triumph from above, and the sound of running footsteps descending the stairs.
“Go!” said Paul.
He didn’t have to tell Ellie twice. She sprinted for the door, stumbling and nearly falling down the last five steps. Paul caught her arm to steady her, and they both arrived at the doorway. Ellie flew into the room just a step ahead of Paul. She turned and grabbed the heavy wooden door. As soon as Paul was clear, she pushed the door shut. Paul picked up a heavy wooden beam and slotted it into brackets on either side of the door. Ellie automatically registered that an ancient black lock was set into the door. She dropped to her knees in front of it, her hands already fumbling for her lockpicks.
“Is there a key for this lock?” she shouted.
“I don’t know!” Paul answered.
Before Ellie could say anything more, the doorknob shivered. There was an audible click! click! of the lock engaging.
“I don’t need a key,” said the disembodied voice. But it wasn’t the echoing sound it had upstairs. It sounded normal, conversational. And it sounded small. Confused, Ellie stood up next to Paul. He wasn’t looking at her, though. Ellie followed his gaze into the room.
The room was large, the walls and of smooth stone. A number of faded oriental rugs covered the stone floor, and a blazing fireplace and multiple candlesticks cast the only light. There was a bed in one corner, with a lacy canopy over a pink figured counterpane.
Beside it was a long shelf covered with hundreds of books, flanked on every shelf by dolls, stuffed animals and small metal wind-up toys. In front of the fireplace was an overstuffed sofa draped with a worn knitted afghan. On the opposite wall was a desk, several chairs, and more books on shelves; no toys had wandered this far.
On the sofa lay a little girl, maybe ten years old, wearing a pink flannel nightgown and wrapped in a second afghan. The girl’s mousy brown hair was pulled into two long braids tipped with little pink bobbles; her face was pink and well-scrubbed, her expression serious, but not particularly concerned. She frowned at Paul and Ellie.
“Where’s Miss Perdue?” said Ellie in a whisper.
“I think that is Miss Perdue,” said Paul softly.
“Oh, he’s not,” said the little girl. “I’m Amelia Perdue.”
* * * * *
And that’s it for me today! I’ll see you all on Wednesday, where.. well, I don’t know what I’ll be doing. You do want to be on the lookout, though. Fellow writer, fellow audio drama enthusiast, and friend Abner Senires will be making an appearance here on the blog in the very near future, as part of the promotion for his second collection of Kat and Mouse cyberpunk adventures. In the meantime, don’t forget to write, share, tweet and comment. I live for your feedback! And if you have a recommendation for Fun Fridays, you know how to get hold of me!
Back on Wednesday! Same Bat Time! Same Bat Channel!