PDA

View Full Version : Excerpt - Shadows of Ivy



Elsey2
August 4th, 2015, 08:45 PM
I wandered into the back corner of the library and slunk down into a chair at the same small table I had recently chosen as my study spot. Every library I’d ever been in smelled the same; like fifty-year old paper and dust. It was a scent I could recall dating back to elementary school when our class was forced to find books that we might like to check out, or take home for the weekend.
The lighting was plentiful in my little corner, but for some reason I felt like I was tucked away in some underground cave. Maybe it was the towering bookshelves, or the desolate nature of the spot I’d picked. I wasn’t totally sure.
Calculus. I stared down mindlessly at the homework assignment in front of me and suddenly wished I wasn’t so studious. It was Friday night and I was getting ahead on Monday’s work while I was certain ninety percent of the student body was probably out having fun; partying somewhere on campus, or off. Maybe at Caleb’s party that he all but forbid me to attend.
I huffed and slunk down further into the chair. My mind wasn’t in the right place for academics.
I stared around the immediate area. I took in the lighting fixtures, the uneven pattern of the books in the shelves and the big, steel door to the far left.
My thoughts began to wander as to what was behind it; where it went. I wanted to know why Jameson and the others had gone back there. A ration of mystery had recently been thrown into my life and now I was seeking more of it.
What was behind the door? Storage? A mechanical room? Skulls and crossbones?
My bet was on one of the first two options, but I didn’t rule out the third. Still, I let my curiosity climb and stood up from the uncomfortable wooden chair I’d been sitting in.
My eyes scanned the library and I slowly tiptoed toward the steel door. A moment later I was pushing it open, inch by inch, before slinking quietly out of the library and into a much darker place.
I took a deep breath and looked around, letting the door close behind me with a light click.
The air smelled musty, more so than the library had. Somewhere in the darkness there was a dripping sound.
When my eyes adjusted, I quickly realized I was standing at the top of a staircase. It ended just ten to twelves steps below, leading to a platform and then to another staircase that was illuminated by a dim, yellow light at the bottom.
More mystery, I thought to myself.
The light was taunting me; daring me into the darkness.
I looked over my shoulder at the door I had walked through before beginning to make my way down the first step of stairs. Before I realized it, I was standing under the yellow light. It hung alone beneath a dented, metal cone and looked as if it was on its last limb.
I squinted upward for a moment before progressing on; looking for a purpose to this journey I’d taken from nothing other the sheer boredom.
Brick walls lined either side of me and I decided to follow them.
Follow the yellow, brick road. I smiled to myself at the joke I shared with myself inside of my head. Yes, that was a Wizard of Oz reference.
I sighed, but felt intrigue begin to pull at my core again when my eyes locked on a mahogany door down on the right, just outside of the reach of the light.
It was wider than most doors and had a twisted, rustic handle.
Another mysterious door. I was really embellishing these doors in my mind. I had to admit, I was having fun with my lack of academic motivation.
My hand traveled along one of the wooden panels that made up the door, and then I found myself reaching for the handle. It was surprisingly warm and had rough spots that felt uncomfortable as I gripped it. I took a deep breath and attempted to push the door open, pressing my thumb on the small, leaf-shaped lever above the handle. To my surprise, the door clicked open and unveiled a small room.
More dim lighting. More books.
I made my way into the room. The walls were lined with thick, wooden bookcases. Unlike the world upstairs, there was no variation to the books on the shelves. They were all uniform throughout, and the bindings were all of the same dark, red-stained leather.
For whatever reason, I felt compelled to know what was written inside of those books.
My feet felt heavy, and I looked down at the dusty floorboards beneath me. A sigh left my mouth and I crossed the room, looking from side to side as I did to take in the room in its entirety.
There was a desk with an old lamp that had been left on. A log of some sort was in the open position with a feather pen to the left that sat in an ink blotter. I wasn’t sure if it was used or just there for decoration, but there was one thing for certain in my mind, and that was someone had been here recently.
I returned my attention to the bookshelves and walked over, noting that each of the shelves was engraved with a number.
One, two, three… I counted to my head until I squatted down and traced my hand over the last number at the bottom. Eight.
I removed the first book from the bottom stack and felt my heart leap into my throat when I read the name on the front cover.
“Caleb Winter.” I covered my mouth his name escaped my lips. What is this?
My hands scrambled to uncover what was written in the book. I didn’t know what I was expecting to find, but it wasn’t what I discovered.
The first page was a list of names, all scribed perfectly in cursive. There was no order; no rhyme or reason to the unknown people who were listed one after the other on the formerly blank page in the home-made book.
I flipped to the next page; more names, but who were they?
My thumb danced along the edges of the book, giving my eyes just a millisecond of access to each page until I settled randomly on one near the back.
Jack Sullivan.
Mary Louis.
Katie Cote.
Thomas Myers.
The list went on and on endlessly.
What does it all mean? I desperately wanted to know. No, I needed to know.
I placed the book back on the shelf and grabbed the next one in line.
Another Caleb Winter book… or journal. What is it?
The names continued. They seemed limitless, and for some reason I felt frightened. Who were the anonymous people on these lists, and why were they there?
I didn’t bother to shuffle through the second book of names. Instead I placed it where it belonged on the shelf and took a step back to take in the cryptic collection before me.
I was surrounded. There were leather-bound, hand-scripted journals on all of the walls around me. I was certain they were all filled with names. The ambiguous notion of it all gnawed at my curiosity.
I crept backward, still deep in thought and jumped, letting a scream ring out as a hand clamped down on my shoulder.
“Shh…” The hissed response from whoever had snuck up on me was impatient and edgy.
I spun around with my hand over my mouth, not knowing who or what to expect. And then I saw his face.
Caleb stood before me with one hand up defensively, and the other at his lips. The dim lighting highlighted his cheekbones, and emphasized the crease in between his eyebrows that signaled he was either concerned, angry or both.
“Caleb.” I had no other words to say as I felt my sanity leave me. I had been caught by none other than the one boy I couldn’t figure out, and just as well couldn’t get out of my head. He was stuck there, permanently implanted in my brain.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. Accusation rang in his voice. “I mean,” Caleb’s voice softened, “How did you find this place?”
My limbs were shaky, and my body felt numb. A number of adequate responses flew through my mind just as quickly as they had gotten there. Still, none of them left my mouth and I began to contemplate if I really was paralyzed.
Caleb glanced around the room, and then locked his eyes back with mine.
Damn it, I thought. Whenever Caleb’s eyes challenged mine I lost all control of sensible logic.
“I-I don’t know.” That was all I could manage. It wasn’t a complete lie.
“You don’t know?” He continued to stare at me as if he knew the whole truth but was waiting for me to make some grand confession.
I decided that whatever was in this room had to be significant and, possibly more importantly, kept a secret.
“I was studying upstairs,” I explained, swallowing hard. My eyes still locked with his grayish, blue irises. They held me firmly in place. “I got bored and wandered down here.”
Caleb’s stare was starting to change my paralyzed state to that of pure stone. I wondered if he could possibly be some male version of the mythological Medusa. He was reading me to see if I was lying.
A single slamming sound from somewhere in the distance rang off the corridor walls and trickled into the secret room.
Caleb looked over his shoulder and his eyes widened.
“Come on.” He gave a nod in the direction of the open door behind where he stood, “Let’s go.”
“What?” I was confused, but looked down at his outstretched hand. I could move again.
He put finger to his lips again and whispered this time, “Just… come with me. Let’s go. Now!”
The last word was firm and sent a chill down my back. I reached for his hand and Caleb whisked me out of the room, away from the millions of questions I had that I feared would remain unanswered.
I had a new one. Where were we running?
The library and the staircases that lead to it were in the opposite direction. There was nothing ahead of us but darkness. My boring Friday night had suddenly become a whirlwind of action in a matter of minutes.
Caleb grunted as he pushed through a door that I hadn’t seen coming, and a cool burst of fresh, autumn air hit my bare cheeks.
My eyes adjusted, yet again, to the new form of lighting. A full moon hung high in the sky, ricocheting light off of each colored leaf in the trees above us.
Caleb didn’t take a moment to admire it the way that I did. He pulled me with him; farther away from the towering, brick building we had just emerged from and didn’t stop until I felt as though we had run a mile.
I panted, attempting to catch my breath. Between the abrupt change in course, the physical act of running and the unforgiving chill in the air, it was hard to breathe; not to mention I was with the person who quite often made me stop breathing.
Caleb stared at me in the same way he had in the library basement. He wasn’t huffing and puffing, or even remotely out of breath. He was waiting for me to regain my composure and seemed to be prepping to ask some more questions of his own.
“What was that?” I asked him, finally able to speak.
“What was what?”
“That,” I responded, “Why did you pull me away so fast?”
Caleb looked up toward the moon, and then reached into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt and removed a gray hat, pulling it down over his ears.
A few stray strands of his wavy, blond hair stuck out from beneath it, though he didn’t seem to notice or mind. It appeared to me that he was trying to appear incognito.
“Caleb,” I went on, “Can you tell me what this is all about?”
“Why were you really in that room?” he asked. His voice was serious, though lacked the accusation that it held the first time he’d asked.
I looked at him, softening my eyes. “I was in the library doing calculous homework. I couldn’t concentrate and started wandering. There was a big, gray door next to where I was sitting that I saw a few of your friends go through the other day.” I shrugged, “I was bored.”
“My friends?” he scoffed, but then returned his gaze to meet mine. “So, how’d you get to the room you were in?”
What is in that room? I wanted to ask him, but I refrained.
I cleared my throat, “I went down a couple flights of stairs and then I saw the door so I opened it.” I knew my answer was simple, but it was the truth. I didn’t have a good lie to tell, anyway.
Caleb studied me again before responding coolly, “I’d, uh, I’d stop opening doors if I were you.” He tipped his mouth up in a half-smirk, but I knew he was serious.
“Was someone after you?” I asked him. “Is that why we had to leave so fast?”
“After me?”
“I felt like we were in The Terminator, with all that ‘come with me if you want to live’ thing you just did.”
Caleb let out a chuckle, and then looked upward as he laughed some more.
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh with him or not. There was something I was missing, and it was something bigger than I could wrap my mind around.
Is he a robot sent back through time? The thought made me almost laugh out loud, but I simply smiled at my own private joke. Still, reality crept back in and I felt anxiety begin to spread through my limbs.
“Autumn,” he said, “I think you should go back to your dorm. Get a good night’s sleep.”
“Sleep?” I asked, “You expect me to sleep after what just happened.” The next question poured out of my mouth without thought, “How did you know I was down there?”
Caleb froze, and I could see I had taken him off-guard. His posture stiffened just slightly and his eyebrows pressed together again. “I followed you.”
“You-you followed me?” I was strangely flattered.
“I saw you go through that door,” he admitted, “The gray one.”
My eyes widened. “Okay…” I took a deep breath and let my eyes drift away from his for the first time. “Why aren’t you… why aren’t you at the big party?” The last two words oozed out of my mouth dryly.
Caleb smirked, now seeming to be enjoying a private joke of his own. “I, uh, had some studying to do.”
“You had some studying to do?” I squinted my eyes, feeling just a bit annoyed. “Is this some type of joke on me or something? Tell me what’s really going on.” The demand in my voice surprised me.
“No,” he replied, hardening in voice. “It’s not a joke on you.”
He was staring at me as if I was crazy.
“Okay,” I replied, “Then what? Why were you in the library? Why did you follow me downstairs? And why did we high-tail it out of there?” I failed to ask the last question: why were there journals with your name on it filled with the names of hundreds of other people?
Caleb didn’t immediately respond, and so I shook my head and began to walk in the direction of my dorm building.
“Wait!” he called.
I turned to face him, showing a hint of displeasure in my expression.
“I didn’t… I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” he explained, “I know we talked briefly at the coffee shop, but… I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings by telling you to leave the party at the house.”
I wanted to make a smart comment back, but I allowed him to continue.
“I just… those parties get out of control.”
“So, what about all of my friends?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Those girls aren’t your friends, Autumn.”
“Well that’s news to me.” I could feel my blood pressure raising.
“I mean, you’re too good for all that.”
I’m what?
“You don’t want to get wrapped into their irresponsible, reckless, stupid-“
“Oh, but you can?” I asked him, putting my hands out to the sides, “It’s okay for you to hang out with the girls that I shouldn’t be hanging out with?”
“Am I at the party tonight?” Caleb challenged me.
“No,” I responded, “You were too busy following me down into the library basement.” I felt like we were going round and round.
“I followed you down there to protect you,” he explained.
“From what?”
“Not from what, from who.”
“Is this like that Abbott and Costello routine?”
“What?”
I sighed, “What are we talking about?”
“Me protecting you,” Caleb replied simply.
“From…”
“There are a lot of things that go on around you that you’re unaware of, Autumn.”
I avoided asking for specifics because I knew I wouldn’t get an answer. “Was that somebody’s office?”
Caleb sighed. I could see he was struggling to come up with an answer.
“I can’t tell you everything,” he answered with honest regret, “But it’s not a place you want to revisit.”
I contemplated, again, telling him that I saw the books with his name on them.
“Was someone chasing us?” I asked. The previous excitement I had been feeling was suddenly coupled with fear.
I stared at him, and there it was again: the struggle. It radiated out of him.
“Can you trust me?” he asked, “Trust me not to go back.”
Our stare game continued. This time his gray eyes begged me. I thought for a moment his bottom lip would quiver like a seven year old who didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas if I denied his request.
“Yes,” I obliged with a decompressing sigh, “I won’t go back.”
His posture loosened up a bit and he let out a breath that he had been holding in. “Thank you.”
“Did anyone see us?” I asked him, “Down there?”
“No.” Caleb shook his head furiously, but he didn’t look wholly sure of his answer.
“Okay.”
We stood there together in silence in the middle of the school’s posh campus.
“I guess I’ll just go back to my room then,” I said to him.
“Yeah,” he said, “I think that would be best.”
Was this it; the end of our wild ride? I still had so many questions.
“Well, I’ll… I’ll see you around,” I told him, trying to be cool about everything that had just happened.
Caleb shoved his hands into his pockets and nodded. He turned his back and slowly began to walk in the opposite direction.
I sighed to myself, standing still for a moment in hopes he would turn around and come rushing to profess some sort of undying love for me. It didn’t happen and so I turned away.
How was it possible that he could anger me and put a spark in my soul at the same time?
“He’s probably going back to the party to cozy up to the reckless, stupid girls.” I mumbled the phrase to myself, overcome with a jealousy I didn’t completely understand.
“Hey, for the record…” Caleb’s voice called out to me.
I whipped around to face where he now stood some fifty yards away. “Yeah?” I asked.
“I’m not going back to that party.”
I swallowed hard, wondering if I had voiced my inner monologue louder than I had realized. “O-Okay.”
Caleb nodded once and turned back around, flipping the hood from his sweatshirt up over his hat. He continued his walk into the night.
I smiled to myself, a bit satisfied from the conclusion of our evening. There were still a number of questions I had regarding the events of that night, but I decided it was best to sleep on them. I would go out of my way to see Caleb Winter again in the near future.

Harper J. Cole
August 27th, 2015, 06:41 PM
Elsie,

Firstly, apologies that it took so long for your story to get a response. One thing I would advise is to put a blank line at the end of each paragraph. Because the WF doesn't let you indent the start of each paragraph, that's the only way to properly space your work out and make it easy to read.

I think that you did a good job overall of establishing a tone of mystery and intrigue. The secret room full of names hints at a cult of some kind, which is always interesting to explore.

There were a few issues with your use of specific words; let me give some examples of what stuck out for me ...

Maybe at Caleb’s party that he all but forbid me to attend.

I think that this needs to be "forbade," as it's the past tense.

It was wider than most doors and had a twisted, rustic handle.

Perhaps you mean "rusty" here? "Rustic," which refers to something from the countryside, doesn't quite seem right in this context.

I had no other words to say as I felt my sanity leave me.

Maybe a word like "composure" here? In the subsequent paragraphs, while Autumn is under stress, she doesn't appear insane.

The last two words oozed out of my mouth dryly.

This appears contradictory, as ooze isn't dry.

Despite these issues, you have a promising idea; finding one of those is the main stumbling block for many people. Once you have your full story worked out you can polish the prose at your leisure. :thumbr:

HC

Elsey2
September 27th, 2015, 03:17 PM
Thanks a lot for the input! I appreciate it. I haven't logged in in awhile so I just read this, but it is much appreciated! :)