Undraland, p.6

Undraland, page 6

 

Undraland
 


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Boys are so dense.

  She followed him to his car while he fished around for the wallet he would never find, chatting all the while as she checked out his butt none too subtly. That, I couldn’t blame the girl for.

  When he went to search the trunk, I took pity on him. “Jens, your wallet,” I called, making a show of picking it up so he could see how clumsy he was in dropping it in the dust.

  He rolled his eyes at himself and trotted toward me, ignoring Short Skirt Stina as she prattled on about something very important to her that Jens couldn’t have cared less about.

  “I’m talking to you, Jens!” she shouted.

  Jens stopped and turned, an eyebrow raised almost comically. “I’m working, Stina. Why don’t you just keep dialing up the crazy? Nothing sexier than that.”

  “A blonde? Really?” she directed toward me. “You’re such a cliché! I can’t believe you’d take her to your house when we were together not a month ago!” She said it to me like she was announcing some scandal, as if he’d been cheating on me with her last month. I didn’t really have a convincing gasp in me, so I leaned against the ticket booth while I waited for their very mature fight to finish up.

  “Ignore her,” he called to me.

  She shouted to me in a high-pitched screech of desperation, finger jabbing like a threat. “If you think he’s only sleeping with you, you’re dead wrong, honey!”

  Jens met my wary gaze with one that was mildly embarrassed, then he turned to bark at the long legged beauty. “Leave her alone, Stina.”

  I thought Stina would give him a verbal jab to parry, but instead she pursed her lips and sucked in a lungful of air.

  Jens gasped in surprise and lunged at her, his fist cocked. So quick, I barely saw all of it, Jens socked Stina in the nose with force meant to combat a large man. Her head snapped back, and she stumbled. Jens caught her, anticipating she would fall backward, and lowered her to the ground gently, as if he’d not been the one who’d just leveled her with a single blow.

  I screamed with my hands over my mouth, shocked that the puppy prone to misbehaving was capable of biting. The gravity of the situation hit me afresh; I knew nothing about Jens.

  Jens glanced over at me, chagrinned that he’d been a horrible person in my presence. He shrugged as if to say, “What else was I supposed to do?”

  I ran to the woman, shocked and appalled that I’d let a smidgen of my guard down around him. I passed through the gate and helped her up. “Are you okay? Jens!” I thrust open the car door and fished around for some napkins, pressing them to her nose and pinching the bridge so the red globules would clot.

  Stina spat blood onto the ground and sneered up at him, delivering a swift shove to my chest to scold me for helping her. I caught myself before I could fall backward on my rear, surprised that she lashed out at me when I’d had nothing to do with her bloody nose. When she spoke, everything was gulpy and nasal. “I can do whatever I want out here. You forget we have free reign of the Other Side. When you need to get out of a tough spot, I’m the one you want, but now you’re all high and mighty when I try to use my whistle just to calm you down?” She spat more blood on his black boots, but Jens didn’t even flinch.

  Instead, he stared down at her imperiously. “Don’t you ever try anything like that on me again.” He yanked on my arm, and I had no choice but to bob along behind him like a rag doll.

  Finally I regained my footing and jerked myself out of his grip. “Get your hands off me!” I shouted, stomping in the opposite direction.

  “Lucy, we have to go! You have no idea how dangerous Stina is.”

  “Stina hasn’t punched anyone in the face!” I countered, stomping past the woman who still had blood trickling out of her nose. Her lips pursed together again, and I could tell she was trying to whistle, but couldn’t manage it with her face in such disarray.

  In only a few steps, Jens cleared the distance between us. His hand banded around my waist, but he surprised me by jerking my head to the side. His lips suctioned to the space between my shoulder and my neck, confusing me more than anything. I felt a slight pinch when he bit me, and felt my chest constrict after I choked out a scream. Jens was talking to me in that irritated tone he gets when I piss him off, but I couldn’t make sense of the words that tumbled out of him too fast.

  He steered me back toward Matilda, and I walked with leaden feet as I tried fruitlessly to protest.

  “Jens! She’s positively white as a sheet. Be careful!” Matilda called, pushing a button to let us through the turnstile.

  “It’s only a half dose,” he said, as if whatever he’d done to me had a good excuse. I tried to dig my heels in, but I only managed to trip myself and ram my hip into the metal bar.

  This was it. Somehow I’d just been roofied by a vampire who thought he was a garden gnome. It was the only explanation.

  Jens righted me, but my knees were shaking. I could smell hot dogs and a stomach-churning mix of amusement park foods. The hot dog made me think of Tonya and her creative, yet appalling hot dog casserole. I wondered if she made it with cabbage, like she did last time she concocted the creation. It smelled the same going down as it had coming back up. What I wouldn’t give for her casserole now. I’d muscle my way through the whole thing if it meant I got to see her again.

  Apparently, I’m dead now, since Jens had my apartment burned down and me declared deceased. My last meal had been that tasteless granola bar I’d stolen from Danny. He was probably just getting home now to find his belongings burned. Tonya would cry on his shoulder. They’d get closer. He’d probably count it as a gain when it was all said and done. He’d do the obligatory “feeling sad” dance concerning my death for Tonya’s sake, but there would be no funeral. Who would come? Everywhere I went I was erased shortly thereafter.

  Jens was yammering at me, but I didn’t hear anything. He wanted me to walk faster.

  I clutched at my chest in what felt like slow motion. My limbs were stalled as if moving through Jell-O, each gesture an effort.

  Then I couldn’t move at all.

  The air was too thick to breathe. I looked around for anyone who could help me, but Jens was the only face I could focus on. Then I lost even that. My anxiety peaked when I realized we were the only people in the entire park. Even if I could scream, no one would hear it.

  My vision blurred as I tried to resist his iron grip. “Lucy, it’s okay. I’ve got you,” he insisted, as if that was supposed to be a comfort. I whimpered in his arms, and then, just like the Gravitron carnival ride we were standing next to, the bottom dropped out from under me.

  Seven.

  Britta and Jamie

  Unconsciousness had been a blessing that couldn’t have come at a better time. I slowly came back to myself, but kept that little fact a secret, so I didn’t have to deal with Jens’s unpredictable violent tendencies. People were moving around me, but I didn’t open my eyes. My throat was so dry; I couldn’t recall the last glass of water I’d had. I did my best to listen to my surroundings and gather information before I was forced to participate in whatever this new life was. I kept hearing a swish and then a bang. Sort of like darts, but harder.

  “So then what?” asked a female voice that sounded just a couple years more mature than mine.

  Jens answered, “Then I brought her here.”

  Another swish sounded. “Mine got closer than yours,” the woman bragged in an impish manner.

  “You’ve had more time to practice. This one keeps me on my toes. She’s a pistol, that’s for sure.”

  “Pretty, just like you described her. Doesn’t look like she’s seen the sun. And so short. Is she well off where she comes from?”

  “Nah. Humans are different, Britta. Most of them aren’t farmers. I told you that. Her skin’s normal for her kind.” Another swish. “Ho! I win.”

  “No! I was so close.”

  Jens stood and walked across the room. I heard his black boots heavy on the wood floor. I peeked with one eye as he jerked the
knives they were using as darts out of the wall. My eye shut quickly before I gave myself away.

  “You think she’ll like me?” The girl’s voice wavered with insecurity. She sat on the edge of the… bed? I touched the sheet beneath me. Yup. I guessed correctly that I was laid out on a bed.

  Jens’s tone softened. “Of course she will. Who wouldn’t like you?” Their easy and tender back and forth threatened to melt my heart, so I put up a mental fight to recall the reasons I despised Jens.

  Britta scoffed. “You’re a sweet big brother. But you know I’m the leper around here.”

  “Maybe it’s because you play with knives,” he teased. “Nah, I’m kidding. Toms are backward. There’s nothing wrong with you.” He sat back down on the chair next to his sister, and I peeked and saw him rocking it back to balance on the rear two legs. “How’s work going? Anyone giving you any trouble?”

  Britta’s answer sounded carefully selected. “It’s fine. Not many’ve been hanged lately. I’m glad you talked the palace into paying me annually, instead of by the hanging. The less I have to actually do my job, the more people start to forget about it. Much more time for gardening.”

  “I want you to be honest with me, Britt. If anyone’s giving you a hard time, tell me who. I’ll take care of it.”

  “Yes, well the last time you ‘took care of it’, I had to clean up after yet another hanging. I’m fine, as I always am.” There was a precious note of silence between them before Britta spoke in a quiet way that seemed to calm Jens’s arrogance. “You’ve never brought a girl home before.”

  Jens chuckled bitterly. “Well, this sure doesn’t count. She’s a job, not a girl. Don’t get attached to this one. And if I ever do bring a girl home, she’ll be conscious.”

  “And thanking her lucky stars, no doubt.” The third voice was new to the mix. The man was a few meters away. “When’d you get back, Tom?”

  Tom?

  Jens rose from his chair and slapped the newcomer in what sounded like a bear hug. “Not too long ago, Tom.” I peeked to see their prolonged embrace that went several seconds past the obligatory guy hug. They gripped each other in an unshakable way, as if breath was easier now that the other was around. It was a beautiful thing. A brothers by choice moment not often seen in nature.

  The man’s voice took on a reverence when he turned toward the girl. “Britta.”

  “Hello, Jamie.” I didn’t need my eyes open to sense the sexual tension between those two. Yikes.

  Jens paid it no mind and collapsed back into his chair. “Did I miss anything interesting?”

  “My father still hates you, so nothing new here.” His voice turned toward me, his excitement that of a boy on the eve of Christmas. “Oh! Is that her? The famous Lucy Kincaid?”

  “Shut up.” Jens sounded embarrassed.

  “I half-expected her to float or have sunbeams shooting out of her fingertips.”

  Jens shushed his friend. “I brought you something, but I’ll only show you if you shut up.”

  I heard Jamie strolling toward me for a better look. I fought to remain motionless. “Can I say I’m not terribly shocked you had to knock her out? What? Did she want an actual conversation?”

  “Oh, Jens.” Britta sounded disappointed.

  Jamie’s voice was almost giddy as Jens fished through his red bag. “Please tell me… Oh, amazing! This phone’s even better than the last one! How much battery does it have left?”

  Jens’s tone was light and familiar with the man. “Not much. Put it on the solar charging pad I got you. I’ll show you how to work it when I come over next. She’s got a few games on there you’ve never tried.”

  I peeked and saw that they were fondling my cell. My eyes flew open and I tried to sit up, clumsy fingers gripping the rough bedding I was laid atop of. “Hey! That’s mine!” Then I started coughing, making my anger less intimidating. When I brought my hand to my mouth, I saw that my sleeve belonged to nothing in my wardrobe. I glanced down and observed with horror that my jeans, green long-sleeved T and purple tank top had been replaced by… a dress.

  I could not recall the last time I’d worn a dress. I didn’t go to my prom, which would’ve been the last logical reason for me to don a girly frock. This one was beige, cut just below my bust, and flowed well past my bare feet. At least I still had purple nail polish on my toes. That was an indicator I’d not been unconscious for days. Tonya and I had given ourselves pedicures the morning before last.

  My hacking cough stayed my cavalcade of questions. Britt or Britta or Brittney or whoever was at my side in an instant, tipping a glass of water to my lips, lending her arm around my back for me to lean against in a sort of cuddle. It was three swallows before it dawned on me that I was drinking out of a cup of liquid I had not poured in a captor situation. My clothes were missing, and I was in a foreign place. I spat the water at Jens, who was on my other side, helping Britta hold me up in a sitting position.

  Jamie laughed at the water dripping down Jens’s face. I scrambled off the bed and bolted clumsily toward the exit, but Jens beat me to it, keeping the front door shut. I evaluated my rural surroundings. I appeared to be in some kind of quaint wood cabin with a roughly hewn floor. It was all one room, save for what I assumed was a bathroom off to the side. Panicked, I snatched an iron poker from the hearth and held it cocked, as if I knew what I was doing with it.

  Britt shouted her alarm, and Jamie gallantly moved in front of her, acting as a human shield.

  “It’s fine, Britta,” Jens assured her with a cocky smile. Oh, how I wanted to knock it off his face. “She won’t do anything. She doesn’t believe in violence. She’s just trying to scare me.”

  Jamie cocked his head to the side, observing my juvenile grip and the stance of a non-fighter. I was trying to copy the swordfighters in The Princess Bride, but knew I was doing a horrible job. I wondered if a deadly “Prepare to die,” might help sell the act. Jamie’s nose scrunched as he watched my every move. “Doesn’t believe in violence? That’s not a thing.”

  “It is in the human world. Not often, but it’s there. She’s never had to hunt for her food, though. Humans can afford that kind of ideal.” Jens addressed me as if I was a kid joking around with a toy knife. “Put it down, Loos. You’ll hurt yourself.” When I didn’t budge, he shook his wet head at me. “What would Martin Luther King Jr. say if he saw you like this?”

  Ouch. Well played, jerk who apparently knows me pretty well. Really should’ve chosen Genghis Khan as my role model. I lowered the weapon, ignoring Jens’s sniggering.

  Britta was holding onto Jamie’s waist, which is why I assume he did not lower his guard right away. Her emerald eyes blinked at me with equal amounts of curiosity and wariness. She had two long dark braids coming out from under her white Amish bonnet.

  “Where are my clothes?” I demanded. “You didn’t… you didn’t dress me in this, did you?” My cheeks were hot, and I couldn’t manage to look at him.

  Jens’s smirk died on his lips. “Of course not. My sister did. Britta washed your clothes for you.” He turned his head to the side. “Britt, are her things dry yet?”

  “Probably not. Just a little longer. They’re in the sun and it’s a breezy day, so they’ll dry fast.” She addressed me as if I was a wild animal. “It’s okay, Miss Lucy. No one’s going to hurt you.”

  Jens cleared the distance between us and covered his hand over mine that was still clutching the poker. The warning in his eyes could not be ignored. “I know you’re harmless, but you won’t threaten anyone in the presence of my sister again.”

  “Who knew you had a heart?” I hissed, glaring up at him to show I wasn’t afraid.

  “Whatever. You’ll get your precious jeans back soon enough, Moxie.”

  Crap. That was a great nickname. I kind of loved it.

  Jens placed the poker back in the sheath on the hearth. “Would it kill you to dress like a girl for once?”

  “Yes. Yes, it would. Just as much as it would kill y
ou to give me a straight answer.” I sniffed the stale air that smelled of sweat and a little like cookies. “Or bathe. Honestly, is it a rule that guys have to smell like a sweaty gym wherever they go?”

  His arms flailed out in exasperation. “I killed a Were so you would be safe! Then three Weredogs!”

  Oh, yeah. He got me there. Change the subject. “Where am I?”

  He spoke slowly, as if I were mentally handicapped. “This is a house. My house.” He stomped his foot to the wood surface. “This is a floor. It’s what you use to pass out on.”

  My fists clenched at my sides as I glowered. “Why am I here, smartass?”

  “When you’re done being a pain, I’m going to take you to your Uncle Rick. He can answer all your questions.”

  “And you can’t?”

  “Can, but won’t. Your questions just multiply. Answer one, and fifteen more appear. My job was to keep your family safe and move you if Pesta tried to take you.”

  “Pesta?” A faint ping sounded in my brain, alerting me that the name sounded familiar.

  His smile was infuriating. “That sounds like another question for Alrik.”

  I let out a noise of frustration. “It’s like you get off on being annoying. Do you have to be so difficult?”

  He scoffed. “Whatever. I’m a joy.”

  I had no words for this. No ladylike ones, anyway. “What about my phone? You’re just giving away my stuff now? Kill me off on paper, so my belongings are up for grabs? That phone is precious to me!” It had my brother’s voice on it, voicemails saved that were the last remnants of my other half. I think threatening with a knife was a reasonable path. I touched the heart on my necklace to remind myself that Linus was still mine.

  Jamie handed over my phone with a guilty expression weighing down his brown eyes and too-tall build. He touched his curly brown hair and stood straighter. “I’m sorry, Miss Lucy. I meant no disrespect.”

  I clutched the phone as if it was my lifeline, my ticket out of here. I took my anger at Jens and directed it at Jamie. “Don’t touch me or my stuff.”

 
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