YA Carib speculative/dark fantasy/horror; written in 2015 and updated in 2019; features revamped Caribbean lore, original creatures, and a relatable diverse cast.
Happening right now . . .
Breadfruit trees are a blur of thick vegetation as I run. I press a hand down hard on my side, still blood escapes through my fingers’ creases. Maintaining speed is difficult when coupled with the need to breathe. One or the other, my body screams, but I know I can’t stop.
My pursuers crash through the bush behind me, macaw palms slowing their progress. The leaves’ sharp edges nip at my bare legs and arms, leaving nature’s version of paper cuts behind. They sting, the chorus line behind a knife wound upgraded from a trickle to a steady stream. I try not to focus on it, even though pain spreads across my torso with a rapidity that almost takes my breath away each time my feet find the muddy ground.
“Give up Gaps, stop now.”
From Avery’s shout, I put him at less than a quarter mile away. They must see me now and even if they can’t, the trail of blood left smeared along the tall grass, is sure to give them an edge. I imagine him and the others their faces painted pitchforks high above their heads. Stupid imagery and I glance back to see Avery sans paint and weapons, dark hair flopping into his face.
He’s led the charge for my capture from the beginning, unwilling to let the past be or see the real danger of our predicament. Instead he revels in his psychopathic vengeance and right now, I’m his main target.
“You’re not going to get away,” he taunts, closer still. Fair assessment, but I have to try. Rachel must be on the beach, it’s the only place I haven’t already checked. I need to get to her. Failure isn’t optional and after all that’s happened, I’m sure I can’t even bear it.
As I near the wood’s edge, salty sea air masks the heavy scent of wild fruit and dank earth. Grimy sand welcomes me onto a little-used path and my skin bids a cheerful goodbye to the terrorising palms. Unable to run anymore, I stagger onto the beach, head lowered, blinking away sparkles playing peekaboo before my eyes. I lift my head and expel a heavy breath.
“Rachel,” she doesn’t turn, russet hair whipping across her shoulders. Waves bash against the sand, taking any grains that dare join its march back to the sea. I try again, ambling to where fluffy dry sand meets its wetter brother and extend my neck in hopes of projecting my voice. “Rach—”
“You made me chase you.” Avery’s bony hand comes down on my shoulder. “That’s not good.” His breath taints my skin.
“You don’t have to do this.”” I try to face him, but he keeps me in place. The others join him and dread plays me like a fiddle as I see the one who stabbed me in their midst, his eyes just as crazed as before. “None of you have to.” My gaze falls on Darren. His refusal to make eye contact gives me hope. “Dar don’t let them do this, you can’t believe the things Bois says, he wants us to—” Avery’s fist is the final nail in the coffin I’ve been holding together with nothing but a few rusty screws. His knuckle protrudes and burrows into my wound.
“Begging’s not a good look, He pulls his hand back and without it propping me up, I fall to my knees. Sand cakes onto my skin as I forward, my hands ploughing into its warmth.
A conversation erupts above as my head swims somewhere below true consciousness. They toss Rachel’s name about like a loose tennis ball and I force my head up, using the dregs of my reserves to call out.
“Run. Rachel, run!” She turns, eyes vacant, chilly sea air dabbing her cheeks with natural rouge. Her t-shirt is torn, revealing a black bra strap and plump, fair shoulder.
“You know what to do,” Avery says and unleashing my attacker on her. The same helplessness I’d felt when he came after me, a pilfered knife waving high in the air, grips me now. I watch, helpless, as he buries the knife still crusted with my blood, into her neck. He leaves it there and saunters back, hands raised to the heavens in thanks. Rachel crumples, blood spurting in thick streams.
She dies, I never leave. Adrenaline fuelled by selfishness gets me to my feet on rubbery legs. I totter to her side and drop down next to her, my hand covering her wound as she chokes on blood.
“Hold on Rach, we can fix this.” There’s little truth to these words. Even if I can make another deal, even if this is all a long con and cameramen jump from behind coconut trees yelling “Gotcha!” Even if all this happens, nothing broken between Rachel and me has any chance of being fixed.
A sudden kick to the jaw knocks me away from her. Blinding pain bowls me over and my hand trembles as I touch my face. My skin’s split open and I drop my hand no longer distinguishing between Rachel’s blood and mine. I’ve been so caught up in my despair I missed Avery’s approach and as always, he’d uses this weakness to his advantage.
“You never were good at staying down.” He kicks me again, landing a solid blow to my injured side. The world of quiet and peace that’s been trying to claim me calls again and I drift, eyes fluttering.
This can’t be where it ends. I dig my hands into the sand and try to get up again, when the blade that’d been tucked in Rachel’s neck, finds a place just above my first wound.
“I said stay.”
I give into the blackness, a place safer than anywhere else has been for weeks. A hideaway inside my head . . .
Get up Cyra. Get. Up. I’m not out for more than a few minutes when the inner voice that’s gotten me this far speaks up. I don’t want to listen, but it won’t let me do anything else. It repeats the order until it’s a mantra of good intentions reverberating in my head. I try not to let Avery and his people see I’m conscious, keeping my eyes squeezed shut. There are fewer voices now and I hope this means most of Avery’s guys have retreated to the woods or the institute.
Water laps at my feet like many slick hands desperate to pull me closer. My body aches against the sand and the one opened eye that dares scan the surface, widens at the sight of thick red liquid pulsing past me. I push up, chest rising, chin sinking comically into white sand, before I’m down again with a vulgar squelch. Numbness in my left side replaces wretched pain. My nerves are like electricity coursing through me, and I can’t stop trembling despite the sun beating down overhead. A bird calls to another across the bay, an unknowing jeer at my inability to escape with the flap of wings.
“We can’t just leave them here,” Darren says, at least it sounds like Darren. Without his trademark stutter I can’t be sure. It’s as if my brain can only focus on a couple things at a time and figuring out who’s who is currently not one of them. A silver-tipped boot nears my face, creating a slew of tributaries in the miniature blood lake.
“Why don’t you shut to hell up? Someone had to step up and do this and in the end they’ll all be glad these two are gone. You heard Bois, it’s their fault we’re in this shit storm.”
Avery? I tried with actual words, a final attempt to stave off fate. “Avery?” I whisper, more of an effort than it should be an I dissolve in a fit of racking coughs. Ah, there it is. Not sure why it makes me feel better, but joy at the recurrence of jabbing pain in my side is short-lived, as a sneering Avery bends to meet my one-eyed gaze. Clutching a fistful of my hair he laughs, an upgrade from his usual sullen expression.
“Thought the knife had finally gotten you,” he sneers, “Don’t worry though we’ll fix that.” He drops my head and grabs my legs, his fingers digging into my flesh.
“You-you’re n-not, th-thinking of . . .?” there’s the Darren I know, or at least, thought I did.
“You two get the other one, I’m not going down for these bitches,” Avery shrieks and soon I’m being dragged. It’s like a body scrub at first, like the ones we’d have at my mum’s favourite spa. As the sea rushes to greet me, enjoying the dance the farther I’m pulled in, terror takes over. My arms find life again and I flail about, raking my hands against sharp rocks, unable to grasp onto anything worthwhile.
“Too late!” Avery shouts over the waves’ throaty song. “Should have done as I said.” He lets go and I start to sink, my arms no help to the rest of me with legs that have forgotten how to work. Panic overcomes anything I know about water safety and I open my mouth to scream, letting the first gulps in. My mind tries to catch up, tries to make me stop swallowing water, but Avery’s right. It’s already too late. As I sink, hands finding sharp rocks and scuttling fish, a disturbance interrupts my struggle for air. My eyes settle on a body floating just above, red hair like thick seaweed framing a dead mermaid’s face.
Find out how this all began in Chapter 2: Five Weeks Ago.