I've been dying

Chatterbox: Inkwell

I've been dying

I've been dying to share this story since I started writing it. I've finished the first chapter (I think, I might make it go longer...) so I want to gather some opinion so far. I'm not sure it actually would make sense, but here I go...

The Softwood Chronicles, Chapter One (Name subject to change)

Chapter 1

 

“Be safe,” mom whispered in my ear as she bent down to hug me. It was a familiar phrase; she said it to me every day before I left for school. I grabbed my pack off of the coat rack and stepped out the door that opened to the balcony. There was a small opening where you could step out and climb down the ladder. I  grabbed the first bar and carefully made my way down. It was no longer difficult; I had to go up and down it every single day because my cabin was at the canopy of the trees.

“Riya! Over here!’ A familiar voice called when I stepped out of the tree. I walked over to the neighboring tree, where my friend Arken was standing. “Arken, you’ve got to be quiet!” I hissed when I got close enough to him. “They could hear you.” I gestured across the field where the Commando were sitting, polishing their dragon-scale shields and eating fresh-cooked pork even though it was morning. 

“They’re lost in their power-hungry world. They won’t hear us,” he said

“You can never be too sure,” I said. At that moment, the Fert Cart pulled by. That was our cue. Arken and I, along with a few other kids, jumped into the back of the cart. The driver turned around suspiciously, but we were all already hidden in the mounds of fertilizer. It was another routine I did daily, jumping in the cart like it was my bus ride to school. It had been nearly seven years since the buses in Softwood had stopped running and the schools had, as the Commando thought, been shut down. 

“Get ready,” Cedar, the oldest boy in the cart, whispered. He was our lookout, because he was the oldest and the bravest. “Now!” He said. We all tumbled out of the cart and onto the dirt. Brushing fertilizer from our togs, we walked over to the ivy tree, rotting away from lack of care. We did our best to maintain it, but keeping it too clean would be suspicious. We walked around the tree to the back ladder and began to climb. I glanced sadly at the abandoned balconies that had once opened to rooms full of students. Only sixteen kids still went to school in the ivy tree. It had once held all the kids under seventeen in the land of Softwood. We climbed all the way to the canopy, which had once been the seventeen year old’s classroom. We now used it as the only classroom in our Softwood, because the Commando were less likely to climb all the way to the Canopy, but it had more escape routes if they did. 

“Hi everyone!” Our cheery teacher, Ms. Solis, said. We took a seat at the clump of desks in the middle of the classroom. All the other students were already seated, except for one. 

“Where’s Jaala?” Someone asked. Ms. Solis looked down sadly.

“Jaala’s father found her school books hidden in a corner. He threw them out the window of their cabin. I’m afraid he might report her to the Commando.” Everyone gasped. Many of the kids that still attended school had been defying their parents for years. Jaala was the second this year that had been taken out of school because of a parent’s discovery.

“We can’t let the Commando find out! She’ll have to rat out all of us!” Someone else cried. Ms. Solis nodded sadly. 

“Anyway, we need to get on with our lesson. We’re learning more about the Outerlands today.” That lightened the mood a little bit. Although being in the Outerlands was dangerous, learning about it was very interesting.

Ms. Solis pulled down a chart on the wall and said, “The Outerlands. As you learned yesterday, it is where all the creatures of Softwood disappeared to after the Commando’s takeover.” She crossed the room to her desk and picked up a poster. “Dragons,” she said, holding up the poster “Used to roam Softwood. They were used as transportation and entertainment, and they were friends of the people. Does anyone remember this time?” I raised my hand ruefully; my father had once been a dragon trainer before he was taken by the Commando.  Many of the other students had their hands up too. A lot of us had been very young when the Commando took over; I was only six. Some of the older students could remember it much better than I.

“Well, now dragons roam the Outerlands. The giants have taught them hostile ways.” Another girl, eleven years old, raised her hand. “Did the giants roam Softwood, too?” she asked. I was surprised she couldn’t remember, even if she had only been four years old. 

“I can answer that,” I said. Ms. Solis nodded for me to go on. “Well, the giants weren’t exactly friendly like the dragons, but you wouldn’t see them much unless you were out at night. After sunset, when all the people were home in their cabins, they would march across the Great Field. I don’t really know why they did it, but I remember watching them out the window of my cabin. At dawn, they would march bak across the Great Field. That’s why we didn’t have alarms back then, because the giants would always wake us up.” Everyone chuckled. “But to answer your question, the giants didn’t roam Softwood, they would just stroll through every day.” 

“Very good, Riya,” Ms. Solis said. “Next up, the goblins. They live in caves and are very-” she was interrupted by the sound of marching outside. Ms. Solis’s eyes widened and she rushed over to the window. “Commando soldiers!” She cried. “Places, everyone, places!” Ms. Solis rushed to the back window and threw it open. We all pushed our desks to the back wall and rushed over to the window. While we were climbing out, Ms. Solis shoved all books and posters into drawers and put away any evidence that people had been here. Then she rushed toward the window, climbed out after us, and slammed it shut.

We were all in our hiding spots when we heard them coming. “I’ll search the canopy!” a voice shouted. I settled into the tree branch I was sitting on and tried my best not to move. The entire class was hidden away in the tree branches, concealed by leaves. I looked around at the other kids sitting on different branches, terrified, trying not to make a sound. I held my breath as I noticed a figure pass by the window out of the corner of my eye. 

“They’re not up here!” The voice hollered. We sat and waited as we heard the sound of the balcony door slam and the soldier climb down the ladder. It felt like ages before we heard them marching away. Even after they were long gone, we sat in silence until Ms. Solis said, “Okay. I think they’re really gone.” You could hear the breath of relief from each and every student as we climbed back into the classroom. 

“What were they searching for?” Arken asked. Breathless, Ms. Solis sadly replied, “Us.”

 

Soooo, yeah. Is it any good? 

 

submitted by Majestic Mary, age 1 eternity, Somewhere Special
(March 24, 2020 - 12:27 pm)

Yes! It is! It is very very good! At the part where they hear soldiers I was like "TENSE NO DONT FIND THEM NO NO THIS IS INTENSE* - you're doing a very good job! Maybe add more description of the setting - the trees, the school, etc, and the people, but I love it SO MUCH! Please keep posting

submitted by cerinthe, age 13
(March 24, 2020 - 4:12 pm)
Tip top
submitted by TOP OR ELSE
(March 25, 2020 - 5:57 pm)

AHHH!! I love this!! Keep going with it, I'd love to hear more. :D

<3 Fidelity 

submitted by Fidelity
(March 25, 2020 - 10:01 pm)

Oh. My. Gosh. 

"Is it any good?" This is amazing!

Continue, please!  

submitted by Evergreen, age who knows?, The Library
(March 25, 2020 - 10:46 pm)

*Applause*

submitted by Sorrelshine
(March 26, 2020 - 12:23 pm)

THIS IS SO GOOD!!! IT'S AMAZING!!! I LOVE IT!!!

submitted by Emekittycon k, age 11, Kitten Kingdom
(March 26, 2020 - 2:03 pm)

Wow! This is excellent! I love the description and the way you wove in the history, I was hooked almost immediately. I'd love to read more, I hope you continue to update it as you write!

submitted by Quill
(March 26, 2020 - 5:50 pm)

OMG this is amazing! Way better than what I write! Wow, just wow. When you’re done you should get published. I’m not joking. Wow. 

submitted by Dolphin, age Wow!, Amazed
(March 28, 2020 - 2:55 pm)

Okay, here's chapter 2. It's a little messier than chapter 1, but it's just a first draft, so that's fine.

 

“Olive loaf,” mom said, setting down a plate in front of me. “Your favorite.” She smiled as she pulled out her chair and sat down. I poked at the meat on my plate, but didn’t take a bite. 

“Riya, are you okay?” Mom asked. “You look a little pale, and you're not eating.” I looked up into mom’s pale green eyes, and all of a sudden, the whole story spilled out. I told her about school and how Jaala might have ratted us out and about the Commando soldiers and how we stayed hidden in the branches for ages until we were certain they were gone.

“But I’m still going to school tomorrow,” I concluded. Mom stared at me like I was insane.

“No, you absolutely are not!” She cried. “As a mother, I can’t let you go to school while the Commando are searching specifically for your class.” Mom shook her head sadly. “I’ve already lost too much. I can’t lose you.” She got out of her chair and sadly crossed the cabin to her bed. 

“Sorry,” I whispered.

---

The next morning, I didn’t wake up to mom shaking my shoulder, but instead to the sun glowing through the window of the cabin. I blinked twice before crawling out of my covers and dropping my feet onto the hardwood floor. I pulled the lever that raised my bed to the ceiling to create more space in the cabin. Mom, who was in the opposite corner making breakfast, turned around when she heard the sound of my bed hitting the ceiling.

“Good morning,” She said. “I made eggs.” She put down a plate of scrambled eggs at my place at the table. I sat down to eat, and mom came over and sat down next to me. 

“What are you going to do today?” Mom asked. I knew exactly what I was going to do. As soon as mom’s back was turned, I was making a beeline for the ivy tree. Of course, I couldn’t tell her that, so I said, “Probably head down to the archery range.” It was one of the things that the kids who didn’t attend school could do. I found most of the activities to be boring after a while, and you didn’t learn much from them. That’s why I went to school instead. 

“Fun,” Mom said. “Archery is very interesting.” I nodded.

“Well, I better get going, if I want to beat the lines.” I said. And with that, I jumped up and headed toward the balcony. When mom had turned around, I quickly grabbed my school pack off the ground and slid out the door.

Standing on the balcony and looking out, I saw the land of Softwood going about its business. Kids ran around the Great Field (keeping their distance from the Commando camps), others rode horses through the grass, and carts bounced along the main road. Looking down far to the right, I could see the Fert Cart disappearing into the distance. Looked like I would be finding another way to school. 

“Riya!” A voice hissed. I whipped my head down to a lower balcony on the neighboring tree. Arken was standing there, gesturing for me to climb down. I grabbed the ladder and went down as quickly as I could, meeting Arken on the ground.

“You’re still going to school, right?” he whispered. I nodded, glancing around to make sure no one was listening. 

“But I’m not sure how we’re supposed to get there, considering the Fert Cart just pulled away.” I nodded down the main road, where our ride to school had almost completely disappeared from view. Arken followed my gaze, then turned back to look at me.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I know a way.”

---

Arken led me around the back of his tree, pushing away branches that crowded our path. We walked until we reached the point where the grass was no longer tended by the caretaker crew. It was overgrown and brushed against our knees as we walked. 

“Where are we going?” I asked. Arken didn’t respond, just continued to lead me farther and farther away from the familiar roads.

“Seriously. We could just walk to school.” Again, Arken didn’t respond. This time he smiled mysteriously, took a sharp left, and finally came to a stop.

“Look,” he said, pulling a branch out of the way. What I saw completely took my breath away.

Horses. So many horses. The clearing was full of them, all sizes and colors. Arken walked straight to the center of the field and started stroking one's face. 

“Hey buddy,” he said, “Go meet Riya.” He gave the horse a gentle pat and it came trotting over to me.

“What the heck?” I said. “Did that horse just… Listen to you?” I stared in awe as the gorgeous horse dropped its head down in front of me.

“Yeah, I don’t really know what’s up with them. They seem to really like me.” I knew the second he spoke what was going on. 

“Arken,” I said. “Have you ever heard of the Whisperers?” Arken turned around and looked at me blankly. I started to explain the Whisperers; a group of people who could speak to certain animals. 

“They were in one of Ms. Solis’s books that I read. Most of them were banished by the Commando, but… Apparently, not all of them. You must be a Whisperer.”

“Wait. So you’re saying I can talk to horses?” 

“Yep. Now let’s get riding.”

“Wait! This is a lot to take in,” he said. Turning his back to me and looking across the field to another group of horses, he called, “Hey horses, come here!” All of them came trotting over. He turned back to me, mouth wide open.

“Yeah, Arken, you’re a Whisperer. Now let’s GO! We’re already super late.” Still dazed, Arken ordered two of the horses to lean down so we could climb on. We were both experienced enough to ride without saddles, and with Arken talking to the horses, we were able to get to the ivy tree pretty quickly. We climbed up the back ladder and entered the classroom, with only seven kids at the desk clump. Nearly half of the class had left.

“Arken! Riya!” Ms. Solis cried. “Boy, am I glad to see you.” We took our seats at the desk clump with a relieved sigh - school was still on. 

“We’re learning about the art of self-defense and furtiveness,” Ms. Solis said.

“That means sneakiness,” The kid next to me whispered. 

“Yes, but furtiveness sounds much better,” Ms. Solis said. “It is important to be furtive, especially when hiding from the Commando. After what happened yesterday, we have to be more furtive than ever. That means coming to school the back way, practicing more escape drills, and avoiding all conversation about school.” Ms. Solis walked closer to the desk clump “To practice being furtive, we are going to-” She was interrupted by a loud thud coming from outside. Everyone simultaneously stood up from their desks, prepared to run to the window. The door burst open and a familiar face tumbled inside. 

“Jaala!” Everyone cried. Her clothes were tattered and her body was bruised and dirty. She looked up at us, her eyes full of fear. “Run,” she said. At that moment, voices of Commando soldiers filled the room - they were on the ladder, almost into our classroom. 

“Go, everyone! Be furtive!” Ms. Solis cried. We rushed to the window and climbed out, just as we had yesterday. But we weren’t fast enough this time. The soldiers had seen us escaping, and they were hot on our tail. 

“Climb down the branches, everyone!” I shouted. I had experience climbing on trees, so I leapt and climbed from branch to branch, the whole class behind me, and the Commando behind them. 

I climbed downward until the branches were too thin to hold a person’s weight. We were still too high up to jump down to the ground without being seriously injured. There was nowhere to go - we were caught. At least, until I noticed the ladder poking out from around the side of the tree.

“We have to jump to the ladder!” I shouted. 

“It’s too far! We won’t make it,” Ms. Solis said. I turned around to all my classmates and, seeing the fear in their eyes, knew that I had to find a way. My brain was swirling with thoughts. Why couldn’t there be more branches near the ladder? Or the ladder be nearer to the branches? 

“I found them!” A soldier's voice hollered. It was now or never. I jumped.

My slippery hands barely took hold of the bar, and my entire body slammed into the ladder. I knew I was bleeding and probably bruised everywhere, but started climbing down anyway. 

“Jump!” I hollered to my class above me. Everyone came leaping onto the ladder, a loud crashing noise and shouts of pain ringing out with every person that jumped. 

It was a lot of chaos, but everyone was safely on the ground and sprinting away from the ivy tree.

“Where are we going?” Someone shouted. The truth was, I had no idea. I didn’t know where we could go without being caught by a Commando soldier.

“Arken!” I said, finally having an idea. “We have to get to the horses.”

“What? Why?” He said.

“Don’t question it. Just go!” We took a sharp left and started running through the woods. I heard painful shouts as we crashed through the brambles. Finally, we made it to the horses’ clearing. 

“Why did you bring us here?” Someone asked.

“So we could make a quick getaway!” I replied.

“A getaway to where?” Arken shouted. I suddenly realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how we would escape or where we would go. The sound of Commando soldiers crashing through the woods behind us was becoming louder and louder. 

“We’re going to- to-” I stumbled. Ms. Solis came up next to me, sitting on a horse and clutching a cut on her arm. 

“We’re going to the Outerlands,” she said.

 

There it is! I'm not exactly sure where the story is going from here, but I've got a few ideas... 

 

submitted by Majestic Mary, age 1 eternity, Somewhere Special
(April 1, 2020 - 10:22 am)

Is it selfish of me to top this? (It's me, MM, by the way)

submitted by Top
(April 5, 2020 - 3:15 pm)

This is great! You do a really good job of building tension.

I know I'd read more if you continued posting! (Of course, you don't have to.)

:) 

submitted by Summer, age tau, Nowhere at all
(April 6, 2020 - 7:27 pm)

THIS IS SO GOOD!SmileI love it. How do you have such great ideas??? Please keep posting.

submitted by Pajama Master, age 127 moons, Earth
(April 9, 2020 - 1:24 pm)