And we arrive at the second chapter of Once Upon Nowhere: The Tombs
A foul stench rose to his nostrils, filling his senses. Must. Sweat. Fear. The Tombs, they called it, and rightly so, for few men ever emerged from the dank recesses of Hespa’s dungeon. And those who did escape with their lives pleaded for death in the end.
Anwar shuddered against bone-chilling cold. His limp form, clad in the sodden cloak, sprawled across a stone floor. The length of his captivity up to that point remained a mystery.
We join Tori and her mother at the window. Ayn was trying to reassure her that the figure below her window last night was just a trick of the storm.
Ayn reached over and played with a curl that had fallen in Tori’s face. “Even into full-grown men in cloaks.” She pecked Tori on the forehead before rushing to the door. “I’m sure it was nothing.”
But Tori thought she had detected caution in her voice. Like, perhaps, she suspected what her daughter had been saying was true.
Alone once more, Tori turned to the window, but only blue skies and drying puddles greeted her this morning, none of the menace that she had faced only hours before. “He was real,” she repeated, as if to set her mind at rest. “I know he was real.”
The storm has ended. A new day arises. Tori hastens to the sill, but the man she glimpsed the night before has vanished. Perhaps it was as her mother said, just a dream. But what if it wasn’t?
Ayn joined her at the sill, glancing over Tori’s shoulder at the promise of a new day. “There’s no one out there, sweetheart,”” she said.
“Well, no . . . not now.”
“And not last night either. Shadows twist themselves into all sorts of shapes during a storm.”
Tori wasn’t convinced. “Even into full-grown men?”
“Even into full-grown men.”
“In cloaks?” Tori added.
The smile on her mother’s lips faltered. . .
Continuing on with Once Upon Nowhere, I skipped ahead a few paragraphs for today’s snippet. Twelve-year-old Tori, already restless because of the storm, is now faced with something even more frightening. Surely, this can’t be good.
Breathless, Tori anticipated the next illumination, her forehead pressed to the cool glass. For a fleeting moment, night became day. She peered through a tangle of limbs to a patch of ground beneath her window.
That was the first time she saw him, his cloak so heavily drenched that it clung to his slight frame. He stared at the house, motionless, as though he were simply another stone statue in the city park.
The light failed. Tori’s legs were heavy with fear, her mouth bone dry. Her feeble attempt to call her mother ended in a croak. Still, Tori’s eyes remained fixed on the veiled figure below her window.