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Beyond -- Chapter 5

by SemperAugustus


Ayden watched the second hand of the wall clock ticking away. He scrunched up a piece of paper and aimed at the trash bin—another miss. Four out of nine.

Business was slow at the International Movie Theatre today. The three screening rooms catered to a German audience who simply couldn’t wait for the next big Hollywood movie to be translated. And Friday was usually their busiest night.

Outside, the rain sluiced into streams down the window, passing one another like race cars.

The clock read 8:50 PM. The movie would end in ten minutes.

Popping a hand full of buttered-flavored popcorn into his mouth, Ayden stilled his growing hunger. The popcorn had been in the machine for too long, making them drier than usual. Still, it tasted better than what mom had left him.

He washed down the saltiness with a swing of Dr. Pepper. The cinnamon-like taste was a weird reminder of home.

He yawned, shifted his weight and sunk deeper into the cushioning of the bean bag. The day’s meeting with Jane popped into his head.

Sometimes these things affect us on a subconscious level. We don’t even know how strongly they influence us.

He peered across the entrance, then to the three theatres. Apart from a few guests who regretted ordering the extra-large soft drinks, the place was empty. A soothing rhythm emitted from the raindrops that tapped against the window.

Ayden felt the heaviness of sleep lure him in. He closed his eyes. Just five minutes.

Ever so slowly, starting at the back of his mind, something began to take subtle hold of him. Like miniature bubbles rising from a glass of champagne, the image materialized before him.

Before he could contain his thoughts, the memory had seized him, as if he was no longer in control, but rather it was controlling him.

The howling wind had returned.

He opened his eyes and felt a hard, cold stone floor. He racked his mind for what happened—something about being lost in jungle… finding a ship.

As the ground stopped spinning, he sat up… and realized that he wasn’t alone.

Men and women with leaves and sown-together tree bark as clothes sat idly in a circle around him. Each member was painted with the same emblem—a pair of white wings. They examined him, probing him with predatory eyes.

Paintings of flying birds adorned the cavern wall. And through an opening, he saw the jungle far below. Scattered by the wind was a sickening sweet herbal scent that emitted from nearby torches.

He felt the cold and gasped as his own clothes were replaced with the same native attire.

From the circle, some pointed at him, speaking in hushed voices.

Slowly, he rose to his feet. Straining to remain calm, he surveyed his captors.

Sitting within the circle was another man—an elder with thinning white hair. His age carved deep wrinkles on his tanned face. He was so slender that each rib protruded from underneath his leathery skin. On shaky legs, the elder stood. Countless hands came to his aid; like an ignorant child, he swiped them away.

Without a word, the elder moved about him and reached to take his hand. Unfolding his palm crested with blood, the man traced along the crevices with a boney finger—all the while muttering something inaudible. When seemingly finished with the task, he moved around and examined his back. With the precision of a chiropractor, his fingers dug into the spaces between his spinal cord.

Fear squeezed his chest.

“You made a mistake,” he burst out. The voice was pitched, hoarse and even foreign to him.

He turned from the elder to the men and women in the circle.

“My family came here for vacation. We won a trip.”

With trembling hands, he mimicked the boat ride. “Please let me go. I won’t go into the jungle again, I promise.”

His eyes met one emotionless face to the next. “Do you understand me? I’m not supposed to be here. You’ve made a mistake.” He turned in the circle of strangers, hoping, praying to seek some sort of sympathy from them.

They gave no response, no gesture... Nothing.

He wanted to cry, to scream. Hopelessness clouded his mind. Nausea trickled in his chest.

But above the fear and confusion, another feeling roused inside him—one that even startled himself.

Anger.

“Why am I here?” he yelled, the emotion taking hold. “What do you want from me?”

In a fit of rage, he turned and swung at the elder’s hand which was still inspecting his back.

“TELL ME!”

His shout bounced off the stone walls with unnatural clarity.

The old man, surprised by the blow, stumbled to regain his balance. Two men shot forward immediately and approached him with menacing glares. At the wave of the elder’s hand, they halted and withdrew to their seats.

The elder staggered towards him. For the first time, he noticed the man’s fragile state and sorrowful eyes.

“Ayden.”

His eyes gaped open; he took a step back, stunned by the sound of his own name.

“How… how do you know my name?”

The elder didn’t answer and simply smiled. With one hand, he removed his necklace—one crafted out of bird skulls and bound together by tangled thread—and set it ceremoniously over his head. Patting his shoulder, the elder scanned his face, as if to appreciate every detail. Then, his gaze turned to one of remorse. His words were blended with a thick accent.

“I am sorry, but it’s the only way.”

On cue, two pairs of arms grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him to lie on his stomach. Another gentler hand fastened a wedge of bamboo between his teeth.

He tried to resist, kicking and squirming, yet the mountain of force didn’t budge. Submissively, he raised his head from his restrained pose; the elder’s callous feet were directly in front.

Around him, the men and women rose, each with a drum in their hand. In unison, the entire circle began to chant. Echoes of drums and hymns filled the void of the cavern. The chanting grew louder as the torches flickered.

An aura of white light flooded his periphery just as a wheeze escaped the elder. The excruciating pain that followed was unmatched by anything he had ever felt before. An inferno coursed through his body past his restrained arms, into his fingertips. His scream was consumed in the deafening chants. It felt like his skin was being peeled from his body.

He bit down hard on the bamboo, the stiffness slowly giving away under his gritted teeth. All other senses melted away—sound, sight, scent and taste. There was only the electrifying agony. He screamed and begged for it to stop.

I’m going to die!

Then as quickly as it came, the pain faded, leaving his body in tranquil paralysis.

Releasing the tension in his neck, he let his head sag to the side. In slow motion, he saw the two men leave his side as they reached for the elder’s lifeless body.

He rolled on to his back and stared directly at a figure that had emerged above him.

A breastplate covered his muscular frame; a helmet concealed his face. And on either side of his body, something protruded, ending in soft, light-permeating edges… something similar to…

Wings?

Ayden jerked awake, seizing the bewildered expression of a middle-aged man with a bag of popcorn in his hands.

“The movie stopped suddenly,” he grunted.

“Sorry,” Ayden said, still feeling the heat on his back, “I’ll fix it in a sec.”

The man gave him one last glance before disappearing in the third viewing room.

Ayden shook his head as if the motion could clear the thoughts as it does a bad dream. Massaging his temples, he walked into the projector room.

The memory still flipped through his mind like a picture book, though each image was stamped with a sound and smell.

He opened the safety box and noticed that the fuse had blown, again. Mr. Peterson still hadn’t called the electrician to fix it. He twisted at a couple of knobs and heard the familiar voice of Christian Bale fill the screening room.

With a mop in hand, he dragged himself to viewing room one where the few movie-enthusiasts were leaving the theatre. The last two to leave were a young couple around his age. The girl’s hair was disheveled while the boy had an arm around her and a big grin on his face.

Ayden sighed as he took in the littered scene before him. The clock read 9:23 PM. The next viewing would start in thirty minutes. It was going to be a long night.


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Mon Mar 28, 2016 4:07 pm
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Rydia wrote a review...



Hi there!

Specifics

1.

Popping a hand full handful of buttered-flavored popcorn into his mouth, Ayden stilled his growing hunger. The popcorn had been in the machine for too long, making them drier than usual. Still, it tasted better than what mom had left him.


2.
Sometimes these things affect us on a subconscious level. We don’t even know how strongly they influence us.
These lines feel too much like a direct message to the reader so I'd suggest cutting them. Instead of telling us this information, show it. Describe how Ayden feels when thinking about that encounter - show us it has marked him on some level he isn't yet aware of.

3.
“You made a mistake,” he burst out. The voice was pitched, hoarse and even foreign to him.
I think there needs to be a comma after even so that we read it as an adjective.

Overall

There's not much to fault here in the grammar of your writing but I found the transition between Ayden being in the theatre and then in the - memory? Other land? - a bit jarring. I think he fell asleep too suddenly and you hadn't described him as being tired before than so it came out of nowhere. We knew he was bored but not tired.

The actual action of the elder having Ayden tied down and hurt was gripping but I wasn't sure how Ayden was being hurt - were they stripping his skin off or burning him or pressing down on his back? I feel like the pain needs to be associated with some action done to him so we can understand where it comes from or if it's magical pain then perhaps it needs to be described as emanating from his heart or lungs and we need to feel Ayden's confusion and lack of understanding of how that could happen and then to see that change to uncaring as those thoughts are swallowed by the pain.

I think that's all I can say without having read more of the story. Best of luck with this!

~Heather




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Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:51 am
Mea wrote a review...



Hey there! I noticed this in the back of the Green Room and I thought I'd come give it a quick review. I apologize in advance for not having read the previous chapters.

This was a very good chapter, overall. I thought it was a pretty good length and the pacing was good as well. You did a good job of keeping the suspense high, and I think you had him wake up at pretty much exactly the right time.

Overall, the only problem I encountered was something that's kind of hard to describe. Basically, even though your grammar was correct and your sentences all individually made sense, I sometimes had a hard time figuring out what was happening. I think this is at least partially because you're trying a little too hard to use descriptive language and "big" words. You have some very nice metaphors and descriptive sentences in there, but sometimes they wind up obscuring your meaning.

For example, when you describe the elder brushing away their offers of help as an "ignorant child," that doesn't quite give the image I think you wanted it to give.

I also felt that the very beginning was a bit stilted in the way you described the surroundings and what was going on. I think that partly has to do with how short your paragraphs are and how you basically just say that something is there and then say one thing about it. Maybe try for a bit more variety in paragraph length and structure.

Sometimes these things affect us on a subconscious level. We don’t even know how strongly they influence us.

The first sentence is good, but the second sentence is just vague and not very memorable. I think it's just worded a bit poorly.

And that's all I've really got for you - I apologize this review wasn't too detailed. Good luck with this novel, and keep writing!






Hi,

Thanks for another review. Some of the things from this chapter reference chapter one which is why a few things can be vague.
I look to minimize the short paragraphs I have.



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Tue Mar 22, 2016 9:01 pm
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RadiantShadow wrote a review...



​Hi I'm here to leave you a review :)
First thoughts after reading : A lot of things going on. Totally unexpected. Brilliant.



The opening sentence managed to set the mood perfectly. Although, you did make it clear that Ayden was bored but I think you could have added a bit more description to it. For example " The incessant tick-tock emanating from the wall clock was drilling a hole in his brain"

I do want to mention that this line "Outside, the rain sluiced into streams down the window, passing one another like race cars." was great in description and there were other instances where they were perfectly written and described the situation perfectly.

The part of the memory was incredibly well written. It was clear, concise and coherent and very well thought out. I enjoyed every second of it. The description, the word choices were brilliant and perfect for the situation. Thus it made it easy to read and to comprehend. Idea wise, it really blew my mind, It came out of no where and it left me speechless.

The ending was also great I loved how it all went round full circle. You started with time and you ended with time. Great concept.

Over all I loved it! keep writing!
~RS






Hi,

Thanks for the review. If you like this chapter, feel free to take a look at my other chapters as well. This scene references a lot from chapter one and the prologue. If you have time to take a look, I think it will make more sense.




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