It took a little more time to really find my voice in this week’s chapter, but it all came together quite nicely.
Here are the previous chapters in case you haven’t read them yet: Chapter 1, Chapter 2 & Chapter 3. Before you begin, if you’d like to see the answers for Chapter 3’s question, “What happened to Rick and Lauren at the park?”, you can find them here.
And now, without further adieu, please enjoy Chapter 4 of our story where we find out what happened to Rick and Lauren based on your votes.
He was seventeen. She was sixteen. It was a relationship that some might consider taboo.
Rick didn’t care.
He spent a lot of time with Lauren growing up as kids. The were roughly the same age, their families lived within walking distance of each other, and they shared a lot of the same friends. But because they were related, they had a special bond that went beyond friendship.
Don’t you go and get your aunt knocked up, Rick’s father used to say. I don’t want to have to chain up some three-legged mutant in our attic. Rick was only ten at the time, so he really didn’t understand why his dad would say such things. No way was he going to kiss his aunt (much less any other girl he knew) — what? And get infected with sensitivity overload?
That was until the day he first took notice of the effects of puberty. Not only had she developed a nice curvature to her chest, but in the rest of her body as well, not to mention the breathtaking beatification of her face. His own adolescent developments sent him to bed thinking of her almost every night. It didn’t stop him from hanging out with her and their friends as they always did, and nothing much changed beyond having to sometimes hide his waist when he accidentally got a glimpse down her blouse or spied her lying next to the pool. If only he could find some excuse to get her alone in a more romantic situation.
It took five years, but the timing was finally right.
Wanting to do something special for her sweet sixteen, Rick planned a special late-night picnic for Lauren. He knew she’d at least consider it, since she took great pleasure in astronomy and was almost always hanging out at the park whenever she wanted to be alone. Imagine his excitement when she actually agreed without so much as a hesitation. For Rick, that meant, whether subconscious or not, she had some shared feelings for him and he couldn’t wait to explore them.
As they walked along the path that led into the park, the brisk night air hitting their skin, Rick was itching to hold her hand but was afraid it might be too uncomfortable (at least this early in the night) for her to handle. The last thing he wanted right now was for Lauren to ask him to take her back home. The night was meant to reveal all of the hidden feelings they might have for one another and cultivate a much deeper relationship.
Don’t you go and get your aunt knocked up!
He set the blanket out near the tree she liked to read under in the summer afternoons, where the breeze was absolutely perfect and the sun shown just off to the edges, never causing glare across her eyes. Sometimes she’d sit and watch the kids play, or the dogs run around (occasionally getting tackled by one or two — she loved it) and it was where she took Rick to help him study Calculus — the day he started planning his attempt at a first kiss. He finally got his chance to take her hand as he helped her sit.
“Such chivalry,” she said as she rested her fingertips against his palm. The urge to kiss her knuckles and complete the picture nearly buckled his knees, but he stopped short, once again afraid it might send the wrong message too early.
For the next hour, Rick and Lauren enjoyed vegetarian sandwiches, fresh apple pie and a conversation that included a lot of laughs and a lot of playful teasing. Occasionally (as women do), Lauren would rest her hand on his arm just gently enough to urge Rick’s little friend to join the party (as little friends do). Good thing the picnic basket was there to hide it.
A half hour after finishing the meal, the two lay next to each other regaling over some stories about Rick’s football team (Rick never being the one to shy away from a good sports story) and Lauren’s art classes (who knew there could be so much drama in art?). During one such story about some Renaissance painter (what did he care what was coming out of those luscious lips of hers), Rick read all of the wrong signals and leaned in —
* * *
“Wait,” Jaden said, trying to wrap his head around what was being said. “You kissed aunt Lauren? With tongue?”
“It may have come out to play a little, yeah.”
Jaden wanted to say so much. “That’s just… no.”
“Oh come on. Are you trying to tell me you never thought about it?”
“No!” Jaden yelled a little too quickly, and he knew it.
“Not even once?” Rick smiled as Jaden admitted his own fantasies, however minor, through his uncomfortable bodily ticks. Jaden kept his mouth shut from then on.
* * *
Lauren didn’t instantly pull away, but when she did, her face was nearly the color of Santa’s suit. “What are you doing?” she said, covering her mouth, her eyes huge glass saucers.
“I’m sorry,” Rick said, sitting up. “I just… no. I’m not sorry. Lauren, I like you —”
“I like you too, Rick,” Lauren said. It felt as if she didn’t even realize what she said. “You’re a great guy, handsome and sweet… but you’re my nephew.”
“I don’t care.”
“No, Rick. We can’t do this. We just…” It took her much longer than it should have to finally say, “… can’t.”
Rick took Lauren’s hand. He tried to calm her trepidation by completely covering it. “Lauren…”
“Rick, please.” She wanted to pull her hand away, but felt a tenderness she didn’t want to let go of. In fact looking at the softness of sincerity in his eyes helped her accept the feelings she had been suppressing for so long. She pursed her lips, looked away for the briefest of moments and then said all she needed to with a kiss — a kiss that would last for the next five minutes.
DON’T KNOCK UP YOUR AUNT!
When Lauren finally pulled away to catch her breath, they both knew it was wrong — and so incredibly right. They smiled and giggled and held their hands together, unsure of what to say, or what to do next… or how to explain this to their family and friends, and whether they even should.
That’s when Lauren saw the puppy bounce out from behind the tree.
“Oh, how cute,” she said. She slid up to her feet so gracefully it was as if she was on a cloud. “Where did you come from, little guy?” she said as she knelt next to the puppy, a little shocked that it allowed her to pet it. She looked to Rick. “Get over here —”
Rick bounded to his feet and backed a few steps away from Lauren until he was frightened by his inability to help her. She hovered four feet off the ground, her mouth covered by the smoke of a shadow (if that’s even what he was seeing).
I sense your fear and confusion, young tertian. But rest assured, we mean no harm.
The voice was deep and dark like a rolling thunder and seemingly came out of nothing. Rick was so focused on Lauren and the shadow’s fingers wrapping around her waist like a family of snakes, he didn’t notice two other shadow creatures flanking him from behind.
“Stop,” he tried to say, though it was more airy than vocal. It was no matter; there was no chance to stop the shadow from fully consuming Lauren. “You bastard,” he screamed. That was more like it.
Calm yourself, Richard, the shadow said as it wafted toward him.
“What did you do to her?” Rick said. He wanted to charge the monster, tackle it and rip Lauren from its dastardly, oily grasp, but his feet were frozen to the ground.
The shadow stopped a foot in front of Rick, who could now see the creature’s eyes — deep yellow orbs hidden under the smoke. Your female counterpart will be fine, the creature said, as long as you do as we ask.
“I’m not gonna do shit for you.”
I believe otherwise.
Rick finally caught a glimpse of the shadows behind him while keeping his focus on the leader.
As long as you do what we ask of you, your family will remain safe.
“And if I don’t?”
Then everyone you love will join Lauren in the netherworld of nothing.
“The nothing?” Rick said, exasperated. “The nothing? What the hell is that?”
It is a place between the plains of existence where nothing truly exists.
“You bastard,” Rick repeated, unable to come up with anything more creative. “What do you want with us?”
This isn’t about anyone else, young squire. This is about you and you alone. You have been chosen.
“Chosen? For what?”
You will help bring peace to the realms as one of the Galaxy Gifted.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
What you believe to be the universe is only one of millions of realms that co-exist together.
“You mean, like, dimensions?”
If that helps you understand, then yes. These dimensions are balanced by the power of the Galaxy Gifted, twelve unique entities that when bound together, keep the realms from melting into one another. If the Galaxy Gifted fail to stop the shape-shifters and secure the balance, all existence will be in peril.
“What kind of peril?” Rick said, unsure of why he was even humoring this monster.
Everything will be revealed as soon as you agree to come with us.
“Why me? What’s so special about me?”
In terms you will understand — you have the heart of a lion, the mind of a fighter and the bravery of a robot. With those elements, you can and will do anything to keep the heart of existence beating into forever.
Rick thought carefully about his options, trying hard to comprehend what was being said. “And if I don’t agree, everyone I love will be taken away from me?”
And we will take you with us anyway.
“What happens if these shape shifters win?”
Then everyone and everything that has ever lived will witness what absolute pain means.
Rick didn’t know what to make of any of this. All he could think about was Lauren, Jaden and his father’s safety. On the surface, it may have seemed he had been presented with an option, but there was really only one.
“If I go with you,” he said, “I want you to return Lauren and heal my father.”
We will return Lauren to this realm, but unfortunately, we cannot interfere in the daily dealings of life or rips may occur in the thread of existence.
Rick clenched his teeth. He could feel the cold rush of the other shadows swimming through his blood. “Can I at least say goodbye?”
I am afraid not.
Rick didn’t like that answer one bit, but what other choice did he have? “Fine,” he said. “Fine, I’ll go. Just bring Lauren back.”
He couldn’t be certain, but he thought he heard the shadow laugh as if the deal he just made was a fool’s contract. It was only when Lauren flew from the shadow’s chest and landed a few yards away from him that he thought otherwise.
Apparently love was stronger than anything else, as Rick was finally able to escape his bonds and run to Lauren. She was unconscious (which was probably a good thing) and wasn’t visibly hurt. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, and with a tear landing on the temple of her forehead, Rick kissed her cheek. “Goodbye.”
The shadow wrapped itself around Rick’s chest. He kept his hands on Lauren’s arm as long as he could.
“Where are we going?” he asked sullenly.
The shadow refused to answer Rick as it enveloped him, leaving Lauren alone under the stars.
Where did the shadow take Rick?
Be as creative as you can, as outrageous as you want, and as detailed as possible. The best answer will determine where the story goes next.
Post your answers to Facebook, Twitter (using #WriteANovelWithMe and @phoenixmoirai) or in the comments section below by 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, November 13, 2014. You can give as many different answers as you want. The top 5 will be posted on Friday.
I can’t wait to see where your imaginations soar.