TEASER: Escape from Neverland
Town girl Wendy Twyner escaped from her mundane existence by walking into the Wyrde Woods, a world of its own even though it's just a few miles away. The Wyrde Woods are to change her life...but there is always a price to be paid for magic. Always.
Extract from Chapter Four: Hindesideafore
I must have slept for some time because when I woke everything was not only unaccountably cold but also unexpectedly pitch black and I panicked instantly. I wasn’t used to this degree of darkness, in towns there was always some light, dim maybe, but enough to see by. I don’t like darkness, have an irrational childish fear of it. All my life I had been chided for leaving the lights on wherever I went. Unnecessary costs, a waste of energy. Yeah right, was my standard mental response. Let there be light baby. As soon as possible I would drift through hallways and rooms turning on as many lights as I could.
Night in the Wyrde Woods was one of total darkness, for a moment I even felt like I had gone blind. I lifted a hand in front of my face but couldn’t even see that. I fumbled for my lighter. The relief I felt when I flicked it on was only brief, for all I succeeded in doing was create a minute globe of light which allowed me to see my hand but seemed to increase the intensity of the surrounding darkness. Cursing again, I killed the flame and tried to distract myself by making a roll-up. My hands were shaking badly and all I managed to do was spill precious baccy on the ground. Giving up, I pressed my back against the chestnut and sat there; shivering and peering into the darkness.
I was not sure if the shivering was because of the rising panic or the night’s chill. Probably both as the cold was fierce. My bare arms felt blue and my stockinged legs weren’t in a much better state. I pulled my knees up and folded my arms around them, pressing myself against my upper legs.
I became aware of sounds all around me: Rustling in the bushes, a strange high-pitched series of grunts off to my left, and the hoots of owls competing with the screeches of other birds in the black sky. The woods seemed to be teeming with life; hunting or being hunted, a gruesome game of life and death. I tried to reassure myself that England’s main predators walked on two feet, like tenement rats and douchebags with lecherous hands. Unlikely to be in the woods tonight. Out here there’d be what? Foxes and as far as I knew those wily creatures didn’t hunt and eat humans. So nothing was going to pounce on me out of the eerie total eclipse of light.
I decided that I found the pressure of the chestnut against my lower back comforting. We knew each other now, this tree and I. I had unlocked one of its secrets after all and if that many teethed monstrosity -which usually lurked beneath my bed at night- came whiffling out of the murk I could shimmy up the tree in no time. The tree would protect me, I felt absolutely sure of that.
Reasoning with myself thus I calmed my breathing somewhat, the initial fear subsided and the cold become the predominant problem. I didn’t have a clue as to how long I’d slept and what time it was now. If it was still early in the night then that night would last an eternity. Much as I drew comfort from the chestnut I realised that I would have to leave it. Without warm clothing it would be madness to remain stationary. Better to move, maybe even get back to Odesby. Suddenly I missed my room, my duvet and the extra blankets on my bed as well as the awareness of the Forlorn Hopers all around me. It was the first time ever that I actually thought of Nowhere Place as a safe place of some sorts.
I made up my mind when I realised that the total obscurity of the night was becoming less relentless for I began to discern different degrees of darkness around me. I stood up, gave the chestnut a pat, and then marched bravely down the path. The shapes I perceived were partially visual but also a sense of another sort, just a feeling they were there. That feeling increased manifold when I left the clearing and the forest swallowed me up. It became darker again and the trees and foliage seemed to crowd up on me. The temptation to rush back to the chestnut and climb into the embrace of its branches was great and I overcame it only by thinking of that duvet and those blankets on my bed.
Slowly things improved. Though I was still shivering a little I felt a bit warmer now that I was on the move and I got used to the sensation of the trees pressing in on me from all sides. My eyes had also adjusted to this new shade of night and I somehow managed to make out where the path was, even there where it twisted and turned. I felt renewed confidence, I was going to simply own this return journey. Willick had made a fuss over the woods at night, but I was coping wasn’t I? If only I had a coat it would have been a piece of piss. As it was the absence of one offered plentiful motivation to keep on moving.
I’d walked for about 20 minutes or so when my mind started gnawing, eroding my resolution. By now, I figured, I should have reached the open water meadows, sensing open space that would widen even further once I was past the priory. Once across those meadows Odesby would be tantalizingly close.
Maybe I had misjudged the distance I decided and walked on, though my steps began to falter in their determination somewhat. The view I had seen earlier from atop that ridge drifted in my mind’s eye. The Wyrde Woods had seemed to stretch forever in three directions from there. If I had taken a wrong turn somewhere this walkabout might yet become something of an ordeal.
The temperature dropped with a startling suddenness and I halted. I took two step backwards and immediately felt warmer. For a moment I hesitated, the word thermal air layer popped into my head but I thought those were horizontal layers, this was a vertical wall. I decided it might have to do with the type of trees that grew here -even though I couldn’t actually see much of them- and continued, albeit more cautiously. In no time goose bumps covered my entire arms and I was shivering badly again.
The clouds above broke and a perfectly rounded moon slowly drifted in sight, casting a remarkable amount of illumination. Suddenly I had regained a great deal of my sight. Then I spotted the pale grey of a monastic looking tower and sighed a breath of relief.
It lasted less than a second at most. I froze in my tracks.
Something was wrong. The ruin should have been further away from the trees. On the other side of the path. Rounded, not rectangular like this one. Maybe I had missed an outbuilding on the way to the Giant’s Grove? Maybe not. With trepidation I walked on and soon registered that I had definitely not seen this place before. There was no clearing as such, ghostly pale birch trees thinned out irregularly, with clumps that stretched out like forest fringe fingers right up to the walls of a small roofless church with a seemingly intact squat tower. There were no other buildings nearby, just a low irregular wall which ran adjacent to the path on either side of the church.
An icy fear gripped my heart, could it be…?
Status: Escape from Neverland
Escape from Neverland, the first of two novels that completes the series Lord of the Wyrde Woods, is available on Kindle, but the paperback can also be ordered from most bookstores in most countries all around the world.