from sydney and austin, but currently living in singapore.
in the process of writing a full-fledged book with three amazing other humans.

you built me palaces out of paragraphs

black lives matter

Message to Readers

Sorry, formatting didn't work out! Here is the FINAL beginning:


May 7, 2018


I don’t want to talk about it.

Maybe someday, in the near future, after you finish reading this, that line might just be considered something short of funny.

Maybe someday, if ever I come to terms with my horrible, crazy, depressing, straight-up tragic past, I’ll talk about it.

But for now, I’ll stay silent.

Later on, I might have things to say. But not now.

                                                                -=+ Chapter One +=-

I shuffle into my seat, two and a half minutes after the bell. The teacher, Ms. Abbott, shifts her glasses on her nose, and peers down at me, a kind of malicious enthusiasm in her cold green eyes.

“Late again, Gamora?” she asks. There is a not-so-silent whisper and some snickers at the sound of my name. I grimace at the modern, ahead-of-my-time name I hated. And before you ask, no, my parents were not Marvel superfans.

“It’s Autymn. Autymn Halloran.” I mumble, taking out my notes.

“Well, Autymn Halloran, I suggest that you owe us no more interruptions in the near future. I’ll see you this evening, in detention. Good morning, all! Sorry for that… interruption. Now, I assume you all did your homework? Pull it out of your bag and bring it to my desk.”

“Yes, Ms. Abbott.” I inwardly groan. Detention! Great. Just great.

I pull out my math homework. It is a mess of numbers and crossed out lines. There is a rough sketch of a phoenix on the top left corner. I flatten it and place it gently on Ms Abbott’s desk. She looks it over and gingerly picks it up by the corners, eyeing the phoenix drawing, a disgusted frown on her face as if the paper is coated in nuclear debris. I got that same frown when I was working at the vintage coffee shop and I served coffee. She sniffs at it as if she expects it to be coated in dirt or even sewer waste. Ms. Abbott dusts it off with her hand and sets it down on the homework pile, frowning at me. “No doodling on homework,” she says sternly. I scowl, but Ms Abbott doesn’t notice. Thankfully, she doesn’t comment any more on the state of my homework. The girl behind me is not so lucky, though.

“Wynter? Just waiting on you, now!” Ms. Abbott says impatiently. Wynter, huh? Interesting. And no, I had no idea that was her name, and that is not why I chose Autymn. Wynter bites her lip and walks up to the teacher’s desk. She stiffly holds out the ruined, empty homework and looks at her feet. Ms Abbott arches her eyebrows disapprovingly and drops it in the recycling bin.

“Back to your desk, Ms Warlen. I expect more next lesson. Detention, after school, Friday.” Wynter walks back to her desk and buries her head in her bag, dejected. I feel bad for her.


Class finishes all too quickly. I gather up my belongings and am the last to file out of the classroom. However, I’m not alone. Someone’s following me! I get annoyed very easily, so I narrow my eyes and whirl around, face to face with my pursuer.

It’s a guy! A guy was following me. He had dark brown hair that swept into his deep blue eyes, and the sort of roguish smile that made most girls swoon.

Yeah… I’m not ‘most girls.’

I scowl, not even aware of the fact that my own burgundy hair flopped into my eyes. I brush my side fringe away, annoyed.

“What do you want?” I ask angrily.

He puts both of his hands in the air and backs away slowly, as if cornered by an attacker, or perhaps an angry lioness.

“Hey, you’re Gamora, right?” he asks, scratching the back of his neck.

Wrong. Wrong thing to say.

“Don’t call me that!” I hiss. “It’s Autymn.”

He tilts his head to one side. “Autymn isn’t short for Gamora. Is it like your middle name or something?”

“Maybe I would tell you if you stopped asking annoying questions!” I roll my eyes.

He is silent for a couple of minutes, but continues to follow me like a very annoying puppy (I didn’t even know it was possible for puppies to be annoying until now)and runs a hand through his hair, messing it up.

He pauses. “So… are you gonna tell me?”

I scowl again. “I changed my mind. No.”

“Please?” he begs.

“Why is it so important for you to know anyway?!” I ask, a touch of asperity to my words.

He looks sheepish. “Um… I guess… I don’t really know.” He runs a hand through his hair again. “I’m awkward, I guess.”

I soften a bit (not enough, just like 0.1% of my persona) and roll my eyes at his annoying antics. “What’s your name, jughead?”

He shrugs and runs a hand through his hair yet again. Why does he keep doing that? “Chris,” he says finally, “Chris Levy.”

“Well, Chris Levy, would you kindly explain the obviously important reason why you have targeted me as your outlet mall this morning?”

He brightens. “Can I call you Gam?”

I huff, now extremely annoyed. “No, you may not. And you are missing the point here. Why are you following me? What exactly is in it for you?”

“I… I wasn’t following you.” Chris says, apprehension dawning in his eyes.

“Oh, ha ha,” I say, making it clear that I am NOT AMUSED. “Now why were you following me, really?”

“I just… you know… wanted to make sure you were ok. After Ms. Abbott targeted you, I meant. I mean, we’ve all been there.”

Um, what even was this reason? I’d honestly rather him rant at me for asking.

“Yeah, thanks but no thanks. I can take care of myself.” I say.

“I noticed,” he says, a touch of veneration to his words.

“And just so you know, that Wynter girl got detention, too! You totally noticed how Ms. Abbott targeted her for the whole homework thing!” I say, now very annoyed. When was it that this Chris Levy guy would get some perspective? He ignored me twice, purposely changing the subject. Never, in my life…

“Hey Gam?” he asks, and I want to explode and maybe set one of the sewer alligators on him. Can I do that? I ponder this so I’m not really listening to what he says next.

“Don’t call me Gam, jughead.” I snap.

“So, do you?” he asks at the same time.

“What?!” I ask.

“Know where the assembly hall is. Because if you don’t…” Chris starts.

“I’m sure I can figure it out.” I say, exasperated. This Chris Levy guy just would not let me BE!

“Ok then,” he says, and shoves his hands in his pockets. He bounces on his toes.

Oh for heck’s sake, LEAVE ALREADY!!!

“Do you want to head there now? If we get there early, we won’t miss anything in the assembly.” Chris says, looking hopeful.

“Yeah, I think I might,” I say absently, before adding “Alone.” scathingly in my mind.

“Ok, then!” Chris says, and bounds after me, like an excited puppy trying to keep up with my walking speed (I’m a super fast walker, especially when I’m trying to shake off annoying jugheads like this Chris Levy guy.).


I sigh, still very exasperated and annoyed. What did I do to deserve this? I ask myself.

But then suddenly I hear something very, very strange. I hear a peal of high, tinkling laughter.

I know that laugh. I would know that laugh anywhere.

“Oh, Autymn,” says a disturbingly familiar voice. “What have you gotten yourself into?”

“Wh-what?” I ask, my voice trembling. “Vicky?”

“Vicky who?” asks Chris. ACK! Why oh why does he have to but in to everything?!

“Nothing.” I snap, regaining my I-am-the-lioness-and-you- are-just-an-annoying-jughead-puppy face.

He inches closer to me and awkwardly places a hand on my arm, as if he’s afraid I’ll sprout fangs and attack him, or perhaps self-combust.

Hmm. Not a bad idea.

I whip around and stare at him with a menacing gaze that makes guilt-ridden-puppy Chris Levy shrink away, embarrassed.

Aww. He’s intimidated by me.

I walk to the assembly hall. With purpose. I hope in my heart of hearts that Chris Levy does not follow.

No such luck, as I can still sense him behind me.

What is it with this guy?

                                                                    -=+ Chapter Two +=-

The assembly hall is deserted when I arrive, Chris Levy trailing behind me.

“What time does the assembly start?” I muse.

“9:45.” Chris pipes up.

“I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to me,” I snap.

“But I’m right.” Chris smiles smugly. “I know I am.”

I roll my eyes. Boys.

Before I can respond, the loudspeaker crackles to life. “Gamora Halloran, please report to the principal’s office.”

Chris annoyingly jumps at the chance. “Do you know where it is?”

“Yes,” I lie, to get him off my back.

“Well, maybe I can go with you! You know, because it might be helpful to have a friend with you there!” Chris smiles, looking triumphant.

“We are not friends,” I say.

He pretends to not have heard me. Or maybe he really didn’t hear me. Or he didn’t want to hear me. Either way, no reaction whatsoever.

“Let’s go!” he says, his face bright.

I’ll go,” I say. “You have an assembly you need to get to.” Thank heck for that.

“I’ll skip,” he says, a kind of new fire in his eyes that I didn’t see before. Someone gave the puppy a knife.

“No, no you won’t. You’ll stay here.” I say, my mind made up. Honestly, what did I have to do to get this Chris Levy off my back?

“Take him with you. You can try to shake him off on the way there.” said that same voice. Vicky’s voice.

I could still see her so clearly in my mind: sweet, caring Vicky with her big blue eyes, pale skin and wavy blonde hair. I’d loved and protected her since she was five years old. Though I was only nine at the time, when my mom died, leaving Vicky and I to be evicted, I understood how important it was that Vicky and I stayed together and protected each other. I trusted her with my life.

“And I trust you with mine,” Vicky says.

She would be so upset if she saw you now, chides a voice in the back of my head that is neither mine nor Vicky’s.

Shut up, I tell it. You know nothing about Vicky.

“Don’t listen to what it says, Autymn,” says the voice that sounds like Vicky. “I will always love you, and will always be happy
for you. Mom and Dad would be so proud if they saw you now.”

Oh Vic, how can you bear it? I ask, directing these thoughts towards Vicky. You were only thirteen!

“Shh…” Vicky’s gentle voice reaches out, enveloping me in a mental hug. Then she laughs. “I think your boyfriend is trying to say something.”

He’s NOT my boyfriend!  I argue. He’s not even my friend.

“Hello? Gam?” Chris annoyingly interjects, interrupting my train of thought. I narrow my eyes at him, and the Vicky in my mind continues to laugh at either him or me. I’m hoping it’s him.

“Don’t call me Gam.” I say out loud. “If you want to come along so badly, fine. Just don’t bother me.”

He happily follows me out of the assembly hall and toward the principal’s office. Of course my mind is swirling with unanswered questions, most of which are Vicky’s.

“Why’d you get sent to the principal’s office in the first place?” she asks.

I don’t know, Vic. I say in my mind, trying to be brave. How could I not be? I couldn’t exactly tell people that the spirit of my dead sister was living in my head. If that’s what was even happening. Maybe it was all happening in my mind. Maybe Vicky’s voice was just a figment of my imagination.

Maybe I’m going crazy.

“Gam, we’re here.” says Chris.

“Don’t call me Gam, and don’t wait up either.” I snap. I head through the double doors leading to the principal’s office, slamming them behind me.

“Gamora Halloran?” asks the secretary.

I wince. “Um, no. It’s Autymn.”

She doesn’t look up. Instead, she directs me to a door labeled PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE.

The principal, a tall, slim woman with dark brown hair tied in an elegant updo, peers down at me.

“Gamora?” she asks. “There’s been some urgent news.”

“Um, Principal…” I start.

“Levy. Principal Levy.” she says.

“Levy?” I blurt out. “As in Chris Levy?”

She folds her hands and sighs. “I see you’ve met my nephew.”

“Um, yeah.” I stare at my feet. Well, this was a plot twist. I wanted to mention to her that her nephew was one of the most annoying jughead puppy-eyed boys alive on this planet, but I was about 100% sure that wouldn’t go over well.

She massages her temples. “I can assure you, my nephew is no easy feat to live with.”

I laugh. “You’re telling me.”

She smiles at me. I bet she’d be a cool aunt. “Gamora, something popped up at the… foster home that pays for your education.”

“Um, Principal Levy? It’s Autymn, actually. I was never that fond of Gamora.”

“You go by your middle name?” she asks. Like aunt, like nephew, I guess.

“Autymn’s not my middle name. It’s a childhood nickname. My sister gave it to me when we were little. She was Mayple and I was Autymn. I used to go by Gamora, actually, up until about a year ago. I took Autymn when Vicky...” I manage, staring at the ground.

She smiles. “That’s sweet. Well, Autymn, something happened at the foster home. Something that concerns you and your… sister.”

“What about us?” I ask tentatively.

Principal Levy (ok, that’s still a bit weird!) sighs. “Last week, there was a… tragic accident concerning the fate of Miss Aurora Vanderfort.”

“Miss Vanderfort?” I bite my lip. “She took Vicky and I in when no one else would. She could afford to.”

“Well, apparently, she could afford to do anything. But she… last week, there was a terrible accident. The foster home caught fire. Miss Vanderfort didn’t make it.” she finished.

Immediately I know what this is about. I experience a sudden sinking feeling in my stomach. I’m going to be kicked out.
They’re going to expel me now that Miss Vanderfort isn’t there to pay my fees.

“Miss Vanderfort died with a large sum of money to her name. According to her will, she wants all of it to be divided amongst the orphans that she cared for. Unfortunately, none of the orphans that were staying at the foster home got out in time. Only you and Vicky were staying abroad. So technically, the money goes to both of you.” Principal Levy concludes.

“But Autymn,” says Vicky’s voice in my head. “I’m long gone. Which means…”

“The money goes to me?!” I ask in surprise.

The principal nods. “That’s why I called you here today. Because now you have over 70,000 dollars to your name. School fees are only a small percentage of that money.”

At first I’m shocked. Then I just feel disbelief. Denial takes over that disbelief, which is replaced by the feeling that finally, I can make my own choices. I have the freedom, the time and the money to do so.
“Really?” I ask.
“Really.” she smiles.


Chris Levy is waiting for me outside his aunt’s office.

“So how’d it go, Gam?” he asks.

“Don’t call me Gam, and none of your business.” I snap.

He shuffles next to me so he can walk beside me. “That’s okay. I’ll just ask my aunt later.”

Oh yeah. Like I could forget that tiny little detail.

“Well, it was fine. I didn’t get kicked out, if that’s what you were wondering.” I say, my hands in the pockets of my ripped jeans.

He relaxes his stance. “Good.” he says.

We awkwardly stand there for an agonizing three and a half seconds, avoiding looking at each other.

“So.” he says.

I clear my throat. “So.”

I bounce on my toes. Chris Levy stares at me expectedly.

“So… what?”

“I don’t know.” I reply, now confused. Um. This is very awkward.

“I’d best be getting back… you know, to my new dorm.” I say, hinting heavily for Chris Levy to LEAVE ALREADY.

“Do you know where it is?” he asks.

“Um, yes,” I say, exasperated, “and even if I didn’t know, I could probably figure it out.” The‘by myself’ part is implied.

“Oh,” he says. “Okay. I’ll leave you to it, then. See you around, Gam.” he says, smiling that roguish smile at me again.

I roll my eyes, but smile back despite myself.

                                                            -=+ Chapter Four +=-

I drop my black leather school bag on the floor of my new dorm. I unzip it and pull out my sketchbook.

“Autymn?”  Vicky’s voice asks in my head. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” I answer out loud.

I sigh and start to sketch the same person I’ve tried to sketch for the past year now.

I start with her face. Clear skin, pale complexion, vivid blue eyes, small, pixie nose with a flick at the end. Long, black eyelashes and thin eyebrows. Full lips curved into an innocent smile, dimples showing. Long, blonde hair curled into princess waves. Then I sketch her neck and thin build, wearing the light blue dress Miss Vanderfort made for her. Thin, small legs wrapped in silk stockings and tiny feet enclosed in polished shoes. I stare at the drawing of my sister on my sketchbook page.
But there’s something… off about it. The drawing doesn’t look like Vicky. It just looks like pencil on paper. So I rip it out and chuck it in the trash can, despite Vicky-in-my- mind’s protests.

“You’re such a good artist!”  Vicky protests. “If I were still here, I’d want to keep it!”

No, Mayple. I reply silently this time. It wasn’t good. It was just like the other ones I did of you. They don’t look like you, Vic.

“Well, maybe you need a new subject. Someone you can actually see.” I can feel Vicky smiling.

“Who, Mayple?” I ask out loud. “If not you, then who do I draw?”

“I don’t know,” I get a miniature headache as I can feel Vicky shaking her head. “Someone you know perhaps, eh Gam?” I can’t see Vicky smirking, but if she were sitting next to me, she would be.

I roll my eyes. “You are so annoying. And anyway, you shouldn’t be eavesdropping, even if you persist in being inside my head.”

“Don’t you have a date with detention, right about… now?” Vicky asks.

I check the clock. “Thirty minutes, Mayple. I can still make it.”

“Oo-kay then.” Vicky rolls her eyes, and I get a wave of nausea. “I just don’t want you to get in trouble… the detention room is on the other side of the campus.”

I lean my head back and massage my temples to clear the nausea. I take deep breaths to block out Vicky’s complaints.

I pull out a fresh sheet of drawing paper and one of my pencils. Before I can rethink this idea, (Vicky’s, by the way, not mine) my pencil is already gliding its way across the paper.

I start with the hair, dark brown and swept carelessly across the forehead. Then the face shape, and the features. Deep blue puppy eyes, freckles across the nose. Full lips curved into a roguish, cocky, and fully arrogant smile. Chris Levy stares back at me from the page, a gleam reflected in his dark blue eyes.

I roll my eyes at the picture. “Jughead.” I say, before rolling the picture up and placing it carefully in my bedside table drawer.

I can hear Vicky laughing in my head all the way to detention.

                                                                 -=+ Chapter Five +=-

After detention with Ms. Abbott, I start to head back to my dorm for a well-deserved rest.

I shiver. The corridors are drafty at night.

“Autymn?” Vicky asks timidly. “I’m scared.” I can feel her mental presence curling up into a tight little ball.

“It’ll be ok, Mayple.” I say, with more confidence than I have. “It’ll be ok. We’ll get back to the dorm and settle down for the night.”

A storm is brewing outside. Lightning flashes and thunder booms. Vicky’s mental presence curls up tighter, and I can hear her sobbing. Poor Mayple. She never liked thunderstorms.

I never liked them that much either, for that matter.

When we lived in the sewers, some nights the storm winds would be so strong, they would threaten to blow the grates off the top and expose us. Vicky would cry, and it would be my job to protect her.

Up until recently, I never actually realised how much responsibility was on my shoulders.

I trip over something and fall to the floor. Vicky screams, and my migraine intensifies.

I look to see what I’d tripped over. I’d tripped on a loose tile, drenched from the rain.

“It’s okay, Mayple.” I say, taking deep breaths to calm Vicky down. I can hear her sniffling.

As the lightning continues to flash, and the thunder continues to boom, the storm exacerbates.

Then something really weird happens. When the lightning strikes a spot very near the window, it illuminates a strange door.

Which then creaks open.


“Um, Autymn?” asks Vicky timidly. “The dorms are that way.” I feel an instant pain in my head as Vicky turns it sharply to the left.

Yeah, well, I wanna go this way, I think scathingly.

I wait for Vicky to retort, but she doesn’t. So without even thinking about it, I step inside the door, which slams shut behind me.

No turning back now.

I can hear Vicky whimpering like a sad puppy in my head. Trying to shake the pounding it gives me in the back of my head, I try to find the walls. If I find the walls, I can find the direction I’m supposed to go and avoid hitting any… obstacles.
When my eyes adjust to the light (or lack thereof), I can see a winding staircase that leads down.

“Down where?” sobs Vicky.

Just down, Mayple. I guess we have to find out, I think to her.

“You were always the adventurous one, always the amazing one, always wanted an adventure like in the movies. You really lived up to your name. No one came near me to try and harm me because of how fierce and formidable you became.” I can feel Vicky smiling sadly. “You always protected me.”

“And I’m gonna do that now, Mayple. I’m not gonna let anything happen to you-er, me… us.” I say out loud, not sure who to reference anymore.

I find the walls and carefully make my way down the winding staircase. Vicky curls up tighter, and soon her heavy breathing makes it clear she had fallen asleep.

I creep down the staircase, not wanting to wake her, when my hand touches something that feels like a button.

I press it, totally oblivious to the consequences.

Well, that was about the stupidest thing I could have done all day. Maybe all week. Maybe even all year. Maybe in my life.

The stairs turn into a slide. Thankfully, not a slippery one. Just when I think it’s going to be all right and I can find a way past this obstacle, I hear water rushing, like I’m near a waterfall.

Before I can react, water is rushing out of all of the walls at a mile a minute. It crashes together like one gigantic tidal wave and suddenly I am riding down the world’s fastest, longest waterslide. I am drenched, it feels like there’s a tsunami behind me, Vicky’s woken up and is screaming at the top of her lungs, which does NOTHING to help my headache, and yet some small part of me, that isn’t screaming “terror!terror!terror!scared!scared!run!” is screaming “THIS IS AMAZING!!!”

My head goes under and I see my life rapidly flash before my eyes. The terror part takes over and I kick to the surface, gasping for breath, when I am pulled under again. I plough into walls and am generally thrown around before I realise one very important detail.

“The water is rising!” moans Vicky. “You’re going to die! You’re going to die down here and no one will ever know! They’ll find your dead body down here years later, when-”

“Thanks for making me feel a lot better, Vic.” I say, annoyed.

I have to paddle ferociously in order to stay afloat. The water continues to rise until I stop sliding and my head goes under once more. For good.

Then suddenly the water stops rising. That’s it. It’s reached the ceiling. I’m so dead. I start to wonder if these will be my very last thoughts.

Uh-oh. I suddenly feel the need to breathe.

Well, goodbye world.


Then suddenly, like someone had just pulled the plug of a giant drain, the water level starts decreasing.


My head breaks the surface. Air! Air! I’m breathing air! I’m not dead!

“You’re not dead!” Vicky cheers.

I take several deep breaths, and size up my surroundings. I’m in some sort of pool, and there are over a million brightly colored crystals fused to the walls. The room is ablaze with light, a beautiful contrast to the dark staircase of before.
There are four large pillars in the very middle of the pool. They are like stalagmites and stalactites on end, almost touching, one crystal coming out of each of the stalagmites. Each pillar has a different colour crystal, and they glow with an eerie light. One is a vivid coral orange, one is a bright aqua, one is a light blue, with swirls of deep purple, and one is a shade of deep scarlet red.

I feel drawn to the scarlet one, and start to move toward it.

“It must be a ruby,” says Vicky, her voice dreamy. “Only rubies are that sparkly.”

But then Vicky’s voice goes away, and is replaced by a new one, a commanding one.

Go. Get it. You do want it, right? You have to go get it.

I don’t know,  I reply to the new voice in my head. It doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before. It could be dangerous.
You have to get this one. It is important! the voice continues. This could be the difference between everything. Think of how astounded everyone will be when you bring a centuries-old scarlet crystal up from a secret passage in the school! Think how they’ll all finally want to talk to you and be your friend.

Shut up, I continue to resist. SHUT UP!

Think about the glory you’ll get. Think about who might be interested in such a treasure. Come on, Autymn. You’re a nobody. You talk to your dead sister in your head, for goodness sake. I know why you wanted Chris Levy to go away when he was talking to you. You didn’t see how someone like him would ever talk to someone like you.

SHUT UP! I scream, hoping it’s enough.

“Autymn!”  I can hear Vicky calling. “AUTYMN!”

Before I know it, an invisible force inside me slams into my side. Like a magnetic force, I’m pulled over to where the scarlet crystal is.

But then I’m suddenly realizing how stupid this all is. I mean, who wouldn’t go get it? I had to get it, before it goes away for good!

I reach my arm out, and my fingers rest on the scarlet crystal.

At first, nothing happens for about three and a half seconds. Then the crystal glows with an eerie red light, getting brighter and brighter until it is almost white. It blinds me for a couple of seconds and I fall to the floor, trying to shake the light. As I fall, I accidentally dislodge the crystal with my hand. The whole room shakes, and crystals everywhere start falling into the shallow water. Afraid one will impale me, I curl up into a tight little ball.
Pain shoots through my body and I want to be submerged in the water to ease the pain. Well, if I wasn’t going to die before, I am now.

“Fight it!” Vicky cries. “Come on, Autymn, FIGHT IT!!! You’re a fighter! You have to fight the pain! Whatever you do, do not let it destroy you!”

I try to fight the pain, but Vicky’s constant screaming in my head only adds to it. I try to scream, but my mouth is paralysed in fear and pain.

I… can’t… fight… it, I manage. I can’t, Mayple. I’m… I’m sorry.

I hear voices, incomprehensible to me, around me.

“Take her.” one of them says.

Then I black out.

I’m dead. I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead.

I’m still submerged in the pool, but I’m floating, completely dry and somehow breathing. There are no pillars, no crystals anywhere and no creepy voice in my head. No anything. The cavern is open to the sky, and I can see bright light flooding in from above.

I look down at myself. I’m wearing a simple white, flowy knee-length gossamer dress. No shoes. My burgundy hair is out, and for some reason, long and wavy. Yeah, it’s always wavy, but I cut it with a pair of old kitchen scissors someone threw out when I was eleven, and it’s stayed uneven ever since.

What are you doing in there? chides a voice somewhere up on the surface. Come on, do you plan on staying in there all day? The voice sounds more amused than angry.

I get closer to the surface, and I can hear it clearer now.

“Hold on, Gam.” says Chris Levy’s voice. “Come up.”

I break the surface, taking deep, calming breaths of air. Fresh air, unlike anything I’ve ever breathed before.

I see him standing there, barefoot, wearing a burgundy shirt and jeans. His dark brown hair is carelessly swept across his face, and his deep blue eyes gleam mischievously at me. He smiles that roguish smile again, trying not to laugh.

“Come on, Gam.” He smiles. “Take my hand.”

I grin back at him from the water. “Jughead.”

I reach up and take Chris Levy’s hand.

When I come to, I am lying down in an uncomfortable position. I open my eyes and look around. I’m lying in some sort of hospital bed.

Uh-oh. I’ve been hallucinating. After detention, I must have been struck by lightning on my way back to the dorm and have been having crazy visions ever since. Or I must have passed out. Yes, that must have been it.

“What did I miss?” asks Vicky’s voice, and I want to explode with joy when I hear it.

Nothing much, Mayple, I think, reassuring myself rather than Vicky. Nothing at all, actually.

“Gamora Halloran?” asks a voice. The same voice I heard before I passed out.

I open my mouth to say the familiar “It’s Autymn!”, but no words come out.

Hmm. Strange. Maybe my mouth is still paralysed or something.

I turn over to see the school nurse and Principal Levy hovering over me.

“Shh!” says the principal. “I think she’s waking up.”

I groan (thank goodness I can still do that) and stretch. Then I start to feel around. I still have all the right limbs in all the right places. Phew. All my teeth in place? Check.Ten fingers and ten toes? Check, check. Two eyes, two ears and one nose? Check, check, check. I reach a hand up and run a hand through my hair. Uneven, as per usual. I knew the wavy hair of my hallucination was too good to be true. And I was assuming that my face still looked the same, because otherwise the principal and nurse would be looking at me all weird.

“She’s coming to. She’s currently in a steadfast state.” says the nurse solemnly.

I start to sit up, but the principal won’t have it. She sets me back down on the bed.

“Oh no,” she says. “You need a good rest.”

I open my mouth to ask what happened, and how they found me, but no words come out again.

Hmm. Very strange.

The door bursts open and I crane my neck to see who it is.

“Gam!” says a familiar voice.

I roll my eyes, but can’t help but smile.

“Chris!” chides the principal. “You shouldn’t be in here. You’ve still got homework to do!”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Arcadia, but I just had to check that Gam- um, Autymn was ok.” My nickname sounds strange in his mouth.

I secretly wanted him to keep calling me Gam, but I couldn’t tell him that for two reasons: 1, my pride. I hated to admit I was wrong.

And 2, I wasn’t entirely sure I was able to tell him.

I also wanted to tell Principal Levy that he could stay, but I wasn’t able to do that either.

Now I was beginning to get very worried. What if my mouth was paralysed forever?

Ok, I’m worried now Mayple, I direct my thoughts toward Vicky’s mental presence. What if… what if touching the crystal made this happen?

“Made what happen?” asks Vicky.

I… can’t… talk.

As soon as those words were brought to light, I knew it was true. I can’t talk. I can’t talk. I can’t talk. I CAN’T TALK.

I wanted to shout those words as loud as I could, but… oh yeah! I. CAN’T. TALK.

I sit up suddenly. Principal Levy tries to get me to sit down again, but I violently shake my head no.

Chris smiles when he sees I’m ok, and starts to leave.

More head shaking. I put my hand on his arm and mouth the word no and then the word stay.

I bite my lip. Something’s wrong, I mouth.

The three of them look confused. I sigh, and mime a pencil and paper.

The nurse comes back with something better. A whiteboard!

I take the marker, board and eraser she gives me and write in big letters:


Chris makes a strangled sound, and the principal and nurse look very concerned. Some other patient starts crying, but I ignore the noise.

“You didn’t...“ the principal begins, then lowers her voice to a whisper so that her nephew and the nurse don’t hear, “touch anything underground, did you? You can just nod or shake your head.” she adds.

I pause, and give a tiny nod.

“As in you did or you didn’t?” she asks, still whispering.

I nod, and mouth the words I did.

Her eyes widen and she utters a small squeak. She gulps and taps the nurse on the shoulder. “May I speak with you in private, please?”

The nurse meekly nods and follows the principal out of the room.

Chris and I are left alone. We awkwardly stand there for about two seconds before Chris gets over his shock of the news.

“Oh, god, Gam,” he starts. “How did this happen?”

I take a deep breath. Then I take the whiteboard and start to write down everything that happened to me, with heading back to the dorm after detention, the storm, the door, the button, the slide, the water. I even write about Vicky’s voice in my head. Then I start to write about the pool, the cavern, the crystals, the pillars and the creepy new voice in my head. How it told me to take the red crystal, and I did. I quickly finish writing.

And then… I blacked out.

Chris frowns. “That’s it? No aftershock? No denial? No anything?”

I gulp, and shake my head. Nope. No anything. No anything that he’ll ever know, anyway.

He sighs. “Gam, this is a lot to process.”

I exhale. I know, I mouth.

“Ok, this is going to make a few things difficult… but, we’ll figure something out. Together. I promise you, we’ll work this whole thing out.” he says, and reaches for my hand. I instinctively pull away, but his hand brushes mine anyway. I feel an electric current race its way through me, but I try to shake the emotion. I couldn’t be in love. What was I thinking?

“You weren’t thinking,” says Vicky, and I can sense her smiling. “You were feeling.”

Shut up, I say (yes, I can call directing my thoughts towards Vicky’s mental presence talking now).

“Something up?” Chris asks.

I smile, tilt my head to the side and gently shake it. I write:

Sister issues. Nothing major, though.

“Oh, right. I’m still getting used to the idea that Vicky’s living in your head and all. And the fact that you can’t talk.”

I shrug, and mouth Yeah, but what can you do?

He smiles. “That’s why I like you, Gam. You’re always cool in the face of fire.”

My heart beats a little faster at these words despite myself. I’m suddenly glad I can’t talk, because otherwise I would be
stuttering right now.

All I can do is nod and smile, because I have nothing to say, so I don’t write anything down.

God. This ‘no talking’ thing is making me seem like a very insensitive person.

The nurse and the principal both come back inside. I quickly stare out the window and subtly make sure there were no words left on my whiteboard.

When they reach me, I mouth So, what are we going to do? and tilt my head to the side.

The principal shakes hers. “Autymn, we’ve decided something. You can’t head back to school if you can’t talk. We’ll notify the teachers and set something up in here for the time being.”

I sigh. That meant it was permanent, then. For now, at least.

Then I get an idea. I start to ferociously scribble down words on my whiteboard:

What if this is like a curse of some kind? When I touched the crystal it activated and now I can’t talk. But with every curse there’s always a way to break it. So… what if we can?

The principal’s eyes go wide and the nurse grips the edge of a chair, knuckles white.

“You… you touched a crystal?” asks the principal. Her eyes look like they’re welling up with tears.
I exhale, and grimly nod.

“Oh. Oh my. This changes things. Autymn, this isn’t good. Not good at all, my dear.”

Why? I mouth.

The principal turns to the nurse and Chris. She politely asks them for a private word with me, and they head out of the room.
When they were gone, Principal Levy stares at me, a kind of fire in her eyes not unlike her nephew’s.

Except her expression reads: I am so, so sorry.

“Which one did you touch?” she asks with a desolate voice, like she was watching a loved one die right in front of her.

I sigh, and point to my red shirt. Red, I mouth.

“Oh. That explains it. That explains a lot.” Her face falls again. “Did you hear voices of any kind?”

I nod gravely.

“What kinds of things did they tell you?”

I take a deep breath.

Bad things. Stuff I didn't want to hear. Stuff I could’ve gone my whole life without hearing.

“Oh, my dear, I’m so sorry.” Principal Levy says, and pulls me into a sympathetic hug, like I was the loved one she’d watched die.

I shake my head violently. WHAT HAPPENED? I mouth. WHY?

She wipes a tear from her face. “All right,” she says sadly, “I’ll tell you.”

I move closer and wait patiently to hear the rest of the story.

“When the founders first had plans to build this school, they wanted to find the perfect spot. They searched all over the world, but couldn’t find anywhere suitable for the school. One day, they stumbled upon the very land we tread on now, and decided that it would be the perfect spot to build their school. What they didn’t know was that this land was sacred land, blessed by generations of a tribe that thrived on this land long before we did. The tribe begged and begged and told the founders to reconsider. But the founders were greedy, and wanted to make a lot of money off of applications. So they killed off all the tribespeople and built this school that you are standing in right now.”

I gasp, my eyes wide. Even though it sounds like a whole lot of fairytale inanity, the very fact that I AM UNABLE TO UTTER
WORDS kind of proves it a little bit.

Ok, a lot.

I nod, and motion for her to continue.

“After the founders killed off all the tribespeople, they made measurements to start building the school. But the tribe elder materialized in front of them, and told them that if they stopped now, no one would have to suffer and they could leave in peace. But the founders laughed and said they wouldn’t. The elder sighed and shook his head and said that they left him no choice. This scared the founders, and they threw their weapons at him. But he escaped. He disappeared into thin air.”
What happened next? I mouth.
“After the elder left, the founders searched and searched but they could not find him. So they resumed their progress. At first, everything was fine. Until one fateful day when the four founders had had a busy morning of building, they started to settle down for a little break. The first founder decided to explore. Winding his way around the side of the (now very tall) building, he found a secret tunnel leading into the catacombs underground. Curious, he lit a torch and descended into the depths. He found a cave where wonders awaited him. Crystals as far as the eye could see! There were five pillars in the middle with five different crystals: one, with an aqua so bright it could disintegrate the darkest of shadows, two, coral as orange as new blood, three, a purple and blue one that reflects the tears of the saddest of souls, four, a scarlet deeper than the darkest heart and five, a sparkling diamond shining with all sorts of vibrant colors. The founder knew that if he took even one of these back to his friends, they would know that he was the true hero and should be recognized as the only founder. He grabbed the diamond, and pulled it off the stalagmite. What he didn’t know was that all four stones were cursed differently. You’re very lucky you only touched the crystal. He tried to bring it out of the cavern. Once his arms closed around it, and he dislodged it from the stalagmite, he fell to the ground, dead, shattering the diamond into a thousand pieces.”

My eyes widen. I’m suddenly very glad I didn’t try to take the crystal.

I motion for her to continue.

“When the other founders noticed that their friend and co-founder was missing, they looked everywhere for him. They found him in the catacombs, where his dead body was still clutching the shattered pieces of the diamond. He wore an expression of absolute terror, and the other three founders were freaked out. They ran out of the cavern, and tried to forget about it. But their friend’s dying face still haunted their nightmares, and they decided to bury the cavern even deeper underneath the school where no one could ever find it again.” She clears her throat. “Up until now, at least.”

“Every principal who has worked at this school knows the truth of its hidden secrets. I have a key to the doors, which will appear for only a week in a year, and only noticeable during lightning storms. Now, I have to use that key to lock them again.”

The nurse rushes in. “Principal Levy, another one. The coral one.”

“Another?” Principal Levy looks anguished. “We can’t keep letting this happen. Next electrical storm, you’ll take me to the door, and I can lock it until the next year. Until then, we have to make sure no one touches the last crystal… I’ll do everything I can. Put out warnings. Make sure that every single person is safely inside their dorms during electrical storms.”
“But for now, stay in here. You’ll be staying here in the hospital wing until we can find another place.” she says.

Early that evening, another girl is brought inside, accompanied by a boy who is reassuring her. She’s crying… or at least I think she is. Her tears are blood red.

I shiver and turn over in my bed. The nurse brought me some tomato soup about thirty minutes ago, and I haven’t touched it. I am suddenly not so hungry for tomato soup. The longer I stare at it, the sooner it becomes the same color as that girl’s tears.

I shiver again. Vicky sighs, which is unusual, as I haven’t heard from her since early this morning.

“Autymn, what are you going to do? You can’t exactly call for help, and the school is in a secluded area surrounded by forest. So, what’s the plan here?” she asks.

I wish I knew, Vic, I say, directing my thoughts towards her. I wish I knew.

Vicky sulks. “Well, let me know when the plan is ready to launch into action, then. If there are no more interruptions, I’m going to bed.”

Interruptions? I ask her, feeling irritated. Interruptions? I’m the one who can’t talk here!

But she ignores me. Soon I can tell by her heavy breathing that she is asleep.
Ok then! Soooooo.... here is the beginning. It's not my best, so PLEASE leave feedback!!! To clear a few things up (if you don't already know them) Mayple is a nickname, and so is Autymn, actually (Her real name is Gamora, which I know is from Guardians of the Galaxy, but I wanted to name a character after her. Plus, it's a really cool name!) And second, this is only a chapter which I thought was my best on a story I am currently working on. Vicky and Autymn actually have a very tragic backstory, which I will publish soon, along with the rest of the story. I'll keep you all updated, since I know what it's like to be left in the dark. Not nice! 

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  • rainandsonder

    Wow. This is really good!

    about 2 years ago
  • rosemarywisdom

    Thanks! Please leave a review on which bits I should edit so I can change it accordingly.

    over 2 years ago
  • *Gigi*

    I like it! A few bits I think could be consolidated but its great!

    over 2 years ago