This page is rated T for Moderate Violence, Moderate Depressive Themes, Frequent Light Depressive Themes, and Frequent Light Horror Themes.
"We're going to survive this, Kate."
"It'll be OK."
What were they going to survive, though?
Why wouldn't they have been OK?
Bri reflected on this, now that she had the time. She and Kate had lived, so it was time to see why they might not have.
When would there be a better time?
Flash back…two days…three days…
Bri woke up, realizing that she was moving. From how her legs felt, she'd been being dragged along in a seated position for some time.
Bri tried to feel behind her, then realized that she couldn't. Ropes confined her arms, binding her to something behind her.
That something was Kate.
"Bri, what's going on?" whispered Kate. She was right to be scared; she was 8. Bri was 13, and didn't know if she was scared or not.
"It'll be OK, Kate," whispered Bri. "We'll make it through this, I promise you."
Kate had to make it through. Bri was Kate's older sister. She had a duty to fulfill.
"Is that the kids whisperin' back there?" came a male voice. Bri looked up and saw that the voice belonged to one of two men dragging a rope, the end of one of the many ropes that confined Bri and Kate.
"Doesn't matter if they are," said the second man. "When we're safe in the Fog of Silence, they'll have nothing to whisper about until someone comes to pay up." He chuckled. "Bet their parents'll pay a good chunk of cash for their safe return, don't you think?"
"Of course there's the police to avoid…" said the first man.
"What police?" said the second man, snorting. "We out-ran the police in every realm we went through. Do you think anyone can stand up to our powers?"
"Well then, why're we here?" said the first man.
"So nobody will even try," said the second man. "According to rumors, no one leaves the Fog of Silence. We bring them in, and everyone will be so scared that they won't even bother trying to arrest us. They'll just drop the money by the door and leave, running for their dear little lives." He chuckled again. Bri was beginning to hate that sound, just as much as she hated the men.
"What door?" said the first man.
The second man rapped on the wall of the corridor. "The entrance to the realm, dummy. What'd you expect?"
This was when Bri realized that they were exiting the corridor and moving into a dense fog.
After a bit more dragging, the second man turned to Bri and Kate. "Welcome to the Fog of Silence, kiddies. Don't worry, you'll be absolutely safe until your parents come to pick you up."
"Lies," hissed Bri.
The first man knelt down next to Bri, his fist near her mouth. "One more word and I'll hush you up, you got that?"
Bri didn't respond. Evidently, that was what the man wanted, as he resumed his previous position with the second man.
"So, what do we do here?" said the first man.
"Watch for signs of trouble," said the second man. "Or people, money…whatever comes our way."
"What about…" said the first man fearfully.
"Don't let it get to your head," said the second man. "The Creature doesn't exist. It's just a rumor."
That was when the howling started.
"Rumor?" said the first man, beginning to shake. "What kind of rumor does that sound like?"
The second man slapped the first man, making him stop shaking. "You're a man, not a bit of jelly! There is no Creature! And if there is, think it can stand up to your powers?"
The first man suddenly began to grin, holding up his fist. A red glow surrounded it as he laughed. Bri was now very glad that she hadn't tried to escape, or else she and Kate would have both been in trouble.
"Yeah," said the first man. "Yeah, I can take on this Creature or whatever it is. I'll be back in a moment, and we can all sleep easy until the money comes."
The first man walked off in the direction of the howls with a confident swagger. Within a second, he'd disappeared into the fog.
More howls were heard. A minute later, the howls were interrupted by a gulping sound.
The second man whistled. "Wonder what's up with him," said the second man. "I'll be back to watch over you, kiddies." He walked off into the fog.
Kate, trembling, whispered to Bri, "Is the man dead?"
"He's dead and I don't care," whispered Bri. "I also don't care that—"
The gulp came again.
"—that the other man just died, too," said Bri. "Come on. I don't know what's going on, but we need to get out of these ropes."
"How, though?" said Kate. "I have no powers, and all you have is—"
"Fire," cut in Bri. "Which is enough."
Bri wished later that she'd thought things through a bit better. As it was, she was mostly intact, and so was Kate, but she wouldn't have had the scars on her wrists if she didn't burn the ropes right by them. A small price to pay for her and her sister's safety, but an unnecessary one.
With those bits of rope gone, Bri pushed the ropes off of herself and Kate, helping Kate up.
"You're fine, right?" said Bri, turning the ropes into a bundle and wrapping that around her arm.
"Bri, your wris—" Kate started to say.
"They'll be fine," said Bri. "Now let's get out of this place before—"
A white, hairy limb nearly hit Bri's head. She managed to dodge, but realized that it stood between her and the entrance to the realm. She would later be told that it couldn't escape the realm because it was part of the realm, but right then, all that mattered was that it stood between her and freedom.
…and that it was trying to kill her.
…and her sister.
That last part was what mattered.
"Kate, get out of here!" said Bri. After the moment to watch Kate start running, Bri did the same.
The howling came right above the claws.
"It's—" said Kate.
"The Creature," said Bri in between breaths. "It doesn't matter. We can run from it."
More limbs swiped at Kate and Bri. The howling came again, but further.
"We're doing it, Kate," said Bri. "Just keep running until we can't hear the Beast any longer."
No one spoke for a long time. Bri and Kate ran, and the Creature howled behind them, but its howls came less frequently and farther away until it couldn't be heard at all.
Bri stopped running, breathing heavily with exhaustion. Kate followed suit when she realized that Bri had stopped.
"What do we do now, Bri?" asked Kate. Bri could see tears running down Kate's face, despite the relative calmness of Kate's voice.
In as calm a voice as she could muster, Bri said, "We make a campfire here to keep warm while we figure out a plan. I'll use the ropes to make a fire, and I'll keep feeding it with the ropes as it runs down."
"But what happens when the fires run down?" said Kate.
"We'll have thought of a plan by then," said Bri. She tried to smile, making Kate smile slightly and wipe the tears off her face.
Bri set up a few ropes in between herself and Kate, then summoned a bit of fire from her hand to light the ropes. Within seconds, they had a fire going. Kate sat down near the fire, so Bri did the same.
Neither girl talked for several minutes. Bri wished that she could think of something to say until, finally, she did.
"Feeling all right, Kate?" said Bri.
Bri moved closer to Kate and put her arm around Kate. "It'll be all right, Kate," said Bri. "This is just like a bad dream. Maybe you can't wake up at the moment, but when it ends, you'll be back in the real world, where everything is good and normal again."
"Really?" said Kate, sounding on the verge of crying again. "Do you know this?"
Bri swallowed hard. She hated lying, but she had to this time.
"I know this, Kate," she said.
Kate looked less worried for a moment. Bri realized that she'd done her job.
Then Kate jumped backwards. A white limb had appeared near the fire, swiping near it.
Bri stood up to prepare for anything. Kate did the same, although Bri realized that it was partly because she'd pulled Kate up without thinking.
The limb swiped near the fire again, nearly hitting Kate. Bri dragged her to the side, then realized that there was no point: the limbs wouldn't get near the fire.
The limbs wouldn't get near the fire.
Like a box of gears all aligned to turn together when one turned, the processes of Bri's mind began to run. If the Creature couldn't get near the fire, and she could control fire, then—
"Bri, the fire!"
Bri looked at the fire, which Kate was now pointing to. The fire was almost out.
Quickly, Bri pulled another rope out of the bundle, but it was too late. The Creature swiped at the fire's smoldering remains, putting out the fire for good.
Bri closed her eyes for a moment.
So this was the end of her story.
It didn't have to be the end of Kate's, though.
Bri didn't have her later self's memory that it would work that time. For her, this was real, and she was about to go out.
So be it.
"I have a plan," said Bri, speaking as the Creature reared itself up, revealing all of its limbs and its head. Bri barely noticed any other details of the Creature, as she was absorbed in her current task: throwing down the ropes in a circle around Kate, being sure to leave a foot or so of room between the ropes and Kate.
"What's the plan?" said Kate, too terrified to even look scared.
"Don't move," said Bri, backing up and summoning a fire. "That's the plan."
Bri threw the fire at the ropes, setting them ablaze. In a moment, Kate was surrounded by a circle of flames, kept just far enough from her to hurt her.
The Creature, which had swiped at Kate, withdrew its arm before it could hit the flames.
Bri bowed her head momentarily, thankful for her success.
"Bri, how are you going to survive?" said Kate.
"This is the rest of the plan," said Bri. Deep inside, she knew that she didn't have one.
The Creature lunged at Bri, causing her to dodge to the side. Summoning a small bit of fire, she threw it at the Creature, making it dodge in return.
Then she realized what she needed…what would save both her and Kate.
"Kate, I need you to hold still again," said Bri, using her control over fire to lift up the fires from Kate's ropes. Forming them into a ball of fire, she started maneuvering it towards the Creature, hoping that it would hit the Creature's head, hoping that it would hit before the Creature could…
The limb came down towards Bri's head. She kept moving the fireball. She had to hope that it would move once she was gone.
It never came down to that.
A rock hit the Creature's back, making it stumble to the side. Its limb went over Bri's shoulder, missing her head and failing to damage her.
This was the time that Bri needed to hit the Creature with the fireball.
Before she knew it, it was all over. The Creature howled in pain, then fell over backwards, never to move again.
Kate picked up another rock. "Do you need me to hit it again?" she said, looking nervously at the dead Creature.
Bri took a moment to monitor her breathing. She'd survived, somehow. She always knew she'd survive. There was never a problem in the world.
Kate lived, which was what was important.
Bri hugged Kate. "You don't need to hit it again," she said, letting go of Kate. "It's gone now, and we can leave here."
"What if something else stops us?" said Kate.
"Nothing will," said Bri, starting for the exit and motioning Kate to follow. As Kate followed her, Bri said, "We're going to survive this, Kate. It'll be OK. I promise you."