The Girl Who Never Came Back

BOOK: The Girl Who Never Came Back
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The Girl Who Never Came Back

by Amy Cross

Kindle Edition

 

Copyright Amy Cross, All Rights Reserved

Published by Dark Season Books

First published: November 2013

 

http://amycrossbooks.wordpress.com

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. If you enjoy it and wish to share it with others, please consider buying them their own copy. Feedback is always welcome. The author reserves all rights in respect of this work.

ALSO BY AMY CROSS

 

Horror

 

Asylum

American Coven

The Night Girl

Devil's Briar

The Vampire's Grave

Darper Danver series 1

 

Fantasy / Horror

 

Dark Season series 1, 2 & 3

The Hollow Church (Abby Hart)

Lupine Howl series 1, 2 & 3

Grave Girl

Ghosts

The Library

 

Thriller

 

The Dead and the Dying: A Joanna Mason Novel

Other People's Bodies

 

Dystopia

 

The Shades

Mass Extinction Event series 1 & 2

 

Erotica

 

Broken Blue

Broken White

Table of Contents

 

Part One

Floating

 

Part Two

Sinking

 

Part Three

Drowning

 

Part Four

Rising

 

Bonus

 

Extract from The Dead and the Dying

The Girl Who Never Came Back

Part One

 

Floating

Twenty years ago

 

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was the bravest girl who ever lived. Her name was Charlotte Abernathy, and she was eight years old, and the reason she was so brave was simple: there were two of her, one timid and cautious, one adventurous and daring, and they lived together in one head and one body, and they went
everywhere
together. The timid one was named Charlotte, and this was the one that everybody saw; the adventurous one was named Ettolrahc, which was Charlotte's name backward, and Ettolrahc lived deep inside Charlotte where nobody else could see her.

It was paradise, and it lasted until the day that Ettolrahc disappeared, which was a Saturday.

"Where are you going?" her mother asked, reaching out and grabbing her arm just as Charlotte was about to race out the back door.

"Out."

"Out
where
?"

"Into the garden," Charlotte replied, trying in vain to twist free of her mother's grip. "Can you let go of me? I don't want to be late!"

"Late for what?"

"I'm going to be
late
!" she half-giggled, half-shouted, still trying to get free until, finally, she accidentally gave herself something of a Chinese burn.

"Don't go where I can't see you," her mother said sternly.

"I won't," Charlotte said, using her one free hand to try prizing her mother's fingers from her wrist one by one.

"And don't get your dress dirty."

"I won't." She was trying to resist the urge to use her teeth to get free from her mother's grip.

"And don't..." Her mother paused, and finally she let go. "Charlotte, don't -"

"I know!" Charlotte said, turning and running out the door, almost tripping on the step in the process but just about managing to stay upright as she raced from the porch, down onto the grass and across the lawn. She was vaguely aware of her mother shouting another dumb rule after her, but she didn't have time to stop and listen. All she cared about was getting across the lawn as fast as possible. It was a hot day, and hot days meant only one thing. Charlotte was going to go and visit the witch.

"Charlotte!" Ruth called out, sitting cross-legged on the grass. "What are you doing?"

Ignoring her older sister, Charlotte ran straight past her, skillfully leaping over the dolls that Ruth had laid out on the lawn.

"Charlotte!" Ruth shouted. "Come back!"

With a grin on her face, Charlotte kept running, past her father's derelict old greenhouse and then finally through the broken wooden gate that had once marked the boundary between the garden and the tow-path that ran along the bottom of the family's land. Suddenly, the well-manicured lawn gave way to overgrown bushes and low-hanging trees, and the sunlight that fell freely upon the lawn now had to fight its way through dense, overhanging foliage. Charlotte kept running, though, confident that she knew every raised tree-root and every errant rock that could possibly halt her progress, filled with the spirit of Ettolrahc and her confidence, and finally she came to a halt at the very edge of the river. In fact, she almost went
too
far, and for a precarious second she tried desperately to hold her balance and keep from toppling into the water. Waving her arms out at her side as if she was trying to take off, she eventually brought herself under control and stood panting for breath as the river flowed lazily past.

Silence for a moment. Apart from the sound of the river.

And then:

"Charlotte!" Ruth called, a long way back but getting closer every second. "Wait!"

Charlotte ignored her sister, just like she ignored her every day. She knew that Ruth didn't understand the lure of the water, and that she'd arrive filled with questions, snide comments and reminders of what not to do. Charlotte preferred going down to the river on days when her sister wasn't around, but she figured she could put up with her presence for a while. It wasn't that she
hated
Ruth; it was just that she found her sister to be a terrible irritation. Ruth was two years older than Charlotte, and the younger child often wondered whether those two years accounted for the gulf between their personalities. While Charlotte was carefree and adventurous, Ruth was more serious and waspish. Ruth would never understand about Ettolrahc.

Sometimes, it was almost as if there was only one of Ruth.

Charlotte, though, had her two sides. The impish, adventurous Ettolrahc urged her on to explore the world, while the cautious Charlotte worried that perhaps they should be a little careful. Both Charlottes lived in the same body, which meant that other people often made the mistake of thinking that she was just one girl. Charlotte knew, however, that there were two of her, and that this must be the factor that kept pushing her forward like some kind of unstoppable force. Sometimes, when Charlotte and Ettolrahc were in harmony, they seemed to fuse and become one happy, unstoppable girl, and those were the moments worth living for. Right now, they were merely close. Charlotte figured that either her sister never had this kind of two-sided personality, or maybe her two sides got stuck together one day and needed to be unpeeled. Whatever, Charlotte pitied Ruth a great deal.

"What are you doing?" Ruth asked as she came to a halt several feet back from the edge of the river.

"I'm in the middle of something," Charlotte replied, aware that her inscrutability would drive Ruth up the wall.

"In the middle of what?"

Charlotte didn't answer. She was watching the light as it danced on the river's rippled surface.

"In the middle of
what
?" Ruth demanded to know.

"Floating," Charlotte replied.

There was a pause. "Huh?"

"I'm floating through the air," Charlotte said. "You might think I'm just standing still, but I'm not. I'm moving atom by atom. You just can't see it."

Ruth sighed. "Charlotte -"

"I'm floating like the light floats on the water," Charlotte continued.

"The light
doesn't
float on the water," Ruth replied dourly. "It's
reflected
off the surface. The whole reason you can see it is that it comes back at -"

"Ssshhh!" Charlotte said suddenly.

"Don't Ssshhh me!" Ruth replied indignantly.

"You'll scare it away," Charlotte continued.

"Scare
what
away?" Ruth asked. "The light? Is that what you mean?" She sighed again. "Charlotte, you're just being stupid. That's not what's happening. Not really. It just looks that way, but if you actually read about these things, you'll find that the light is just -"

"I
have
read about it," Charlotte replied. "Can't you see me moving? Each atom taking its turn -"

"Mummy said not to play by the river," Ruth pointed out suddenly, as if their mother's decree resolved the whole debate. "She said there are two places we're not allowed to play. We're not allowed to play by the river, and we're not allowed to play next to Daddy's old shed."

"And what does Daddy say?" Charlotte asked pointedly.

"Daddy doesn't say anything," Ruth replied. "Daddy's dead."

"So we only have 50% of a decision," Charlotte replied with a smile. "Do you know what else I'm doing right now? I'm using the power of my mind to keep myself from falling faster."

"No," Ruth replied, "you're
not
! You're not falling at all. You're just standing there. Come on, get away from the edge. Mummy's in charge now, and we have to do what she says. Until we're older, anyway."

"I'm already older," Charlotte said. "I'm older than I was when you said those words, and now I'm older than I was when I started that sentence."

"Why are you always so stupid?" Ruth asked.

Charlotte didn't reply. She was watching the water, and wondering how cold it might be, and trying to ignore the very faint pain in her belly.

"Are you listening to me?" Ruth continued, clearly getting annoyed. "Mummy says -"

"Don't distract me," Charlotte said hurriedly. "I might lose concentration and fall, and it'll all be your fault."

"Mummy says -"

Opening her mouth to form a wide grin, Charlotte let herself fall forward. She heard the sound of Ruth calling after her, but it was too late, and she quickly plunged face first into the cold water, her ears filling with the whooshing sound of her body crashing through the current. She felt free, and for a moment she stayed perfectly still before finally she used her arms to turn and look back up. Through the dirty water, she could just about make out the light of the river's surface, and the dappled, constantly dancing silhouette of her sister standing sternly by the water's edge. Finally, for the first time that day, she felt as if Charlotte and Ettolrahc had come together as one mind, and everything was perfect.

Today

 

The sun's rays passed effortlessly through the bathroom window and dappled lazily on the surface of the bath. From beneath that surface, the light looked broken. Far below, with her bare back pressed against the rough bathmat as she counted out the seconds with well-rehearsed precision, Charlotte stared up and wondered if today might finally be the day that the spell would be broken. All she wanted was to find her lost half again, the half that had disappeared almost two decades earlier.

She waited, holding her breath.

She still remembered the day two decades ago when her other half had died. It had been a Saturday morning, just before the change and just before her disappearance. The whole thing seemed childishly dumb, and yet somewhere in the heart of the memory there seemed to be a kernel of truth. She certainly felt as if something had changed, or as if something had left her, and now that she was in her late twenties she found herself thinking more and more about those days. The memories themselves seemed vague, as if they were playing on a movie screen and had happened to someone else, but they were all she had to think about in her solitary moments. She replayed them over and over again, looking for something she might have missed, but every time she came to the same conclusion: she
had
lost something, or someone, that day.

And she had never felt brave or adventurous since.

So now she waited underwater, even though it felt as if her lungs were about to burst. She had no choice. Naked and submerged, she tried to imagine time itself flowing through the water, curling around her naked body. She felt that if she could finally see time, she might have a better chance of wrangling it and forcing it to flow in reverse; she knew the task was almost impossible, but she couldn't stop trying. She felt so alone beneath the surface, as if she'd finally found a longed-for hideaway far from the eyes of the world. Suspended in the water, with her eyes wide open, she pretend to be dead: she dared not breathe, or blink, or move a muscle. All she wanted was to appear still and unmoving, so that perhaps the fingers of time would not brush against her as they moved past. Somehow, it seemed to her that she had more chance of stopping time if she was underwater.

And yet deep down, the aching sensation of breathlessness was becoming increasingly painful and seemed more hopeless by the second. Her lungs were screaming for air, and she knew she couldn't deny them for much longer. This, she figured, must be how it felt to drown. She always secretly hoped that her body would somehow adapt, that she might be able to survive underwater forever, but she never had much luck in that regard. Wherever she had been while she was away as a child, she clearly hadn't been living underwater after all. She waited a few more seconds, holding her breath for as long as possible, ignoring the pain as it slowly turned in her chest and got bigger and bigger until finally she knew she could wait no longer without dying, and then she waited a moment longer, and a moment longer still, and then -

"Fuck!" she gasped as she finally, suddenly, violently, broke the surface, gulping for air as water poured down from the top of her head. "Fuck! Bullshit! Fuck!"

She stared straight ahead, filled with the first flush of failure as she realized she was still in the same mundane old world from which she'd been trying to escape. Still catching her breath, she realized that the bath water, which had felt so warm an hour ago, now seemed unpleasantly cool on her skin. She considered turning the hot tap back on, but she didn't want to commit to a longer soak. The moment was over, so she figured she might as well get out. She just needed to summon the energy to lift herself out of the bath. Sometimes, however, that energy proved elusive; many days, she'd just soaked and soaked in the cooling water, wasting hours as she stared at the wall. She knew this wasn't exactly normal behavior, but she no longer cared. Besides, when she was out in public, she always put on a more energetic persona.

Leaning over the side of the bath, she looked down at the bare wooden floor and saw that it was bone dry. A slow, sly smile crossed her lips. This, at least, was a small comfort.

The fact was, the bath had been filled to the brim, with the water just millimeters from the top, before Charlotte had climbed in. A normal person would have displaced some of the water upon submerging herself, spilling onto the floor. After soaking for a while, she'd dipped her entire form beneath the surface and held it there for several minutes, enjoying the feeling of the water slowly become more and more still around her. She was up now, of course, but as she stared down at the wooden floor, she couldn't help but notice that none of the bath water had been spilled. She was used to this phenomenon, of course; it had been the same ever since the day all those years ago, when she'd first disappeared and then only half of her had come back. The water just seemed to pass straight through her body, as if it didn't notice her presence at all.

As if, despite everything, she still didn't exist.

BOOK: The Girl Who Never Came Back
9.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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