Chapter One – Wishing Tree
“You can’t catch me!” Carmen called out behind her as she raced through the town as Elene her best friend chased her. Carmen laughed as she ducked between alleys and around cursing stallholders and grabbing the poles to swing round a corner. Her reddish brown hair flew out behind her like a flying flag, her feet slapping the floor with a steady beat. She rounded the corner of Raven Avenue and flung straight into a cart. Carmen’s hair was full of straw and her face was eating seeds. As Elene flew round the corner like a racing horse, she stopped drastically and fell to the floor in a fit of laughter. Carmen spat out the seeds and tried to pick out the straw, but evidently failed miserably.
“Help me Elle,” Carmen whispered pleadingly to Elene, who finally stood up and went over to her best friend still laughing. “Only Carmen Sabre would do something like this-” she began but stopped quickly. Carmen looked to her side and a man clasped in dark clothing with joined hands walked to stand next to Elle. He looked down at Carmen, his hood drawn up covering his head.
“Miss Sabre, Master Isla would like to see you,” he told the girls and walked down the avenue. On the shoulder of his jacket was a symbol only the Taine used; half the moon and half the sun joined in middle.
The two girls looked at each other in fear, but they quickly followed the hooded figure after Elene helped Carmen out of the cart. They raced through the crowds of rich tourists and market holders. The smell of cooking peanuts wafted the air and the girls turned their heads in a synchronised manner. “What do you think Isla wants to see me for?” Carmen asked Elene in a whisper, her emotions took the better of her and it caused her voice to waiver. Elene looked at her with worried eyes and shrugged.
Carmen reached down and took hold of her Pendant swinging at the base of her neck. Just like the rest of the world, it was only half a willow tree in a circle. About the size of an acorn and was attached to a black leather cord. It was startling cold to touch, as though there was an ice cube placed underneath. Carmen remembered sitting in the hot Australian sun for hours, swimming in the rivers and climbing the trees. Running around the cane fields and getting all hot, but her Pendant continued to stay as cold as ice.
They went down an alleyway and went up a flight of golden painted stairs. Odd, to just have some golden stairs, Carmen thought to herself. A man wearing a suit and gold tie greeted them at the front door and marched them into a hallway clouded with smoke. The ceilings were high, and many doors branched off of the main hall. At the very end was a deep black door, it looked as though it was a black hole. Its only give away was the shinning doorknob planted in the direct centre of the door.
“After you Miss Sabre,” the hooded figure gestured towards the opening door and the girls walked through. Inside was lit so brightly that Carmen had to blink a few times to let her eyes adjust. It was a very long room, with oil paintings on the walls of abstract art. The walls themselves were stark black, with golden rimming around the paintings. The floor was some sort of stone; it looked as though something a museum would have in its lobby. In the farthest corner were a gold and black lounge chair and a woman lay on it. Next to her was a small table with a bowl of fruit on it.
Carmen frowned. Isla herself was in red, an odd touch of colour to see in only a gold and black room. She had black hair, which looked like a horse’s main running all the way to her waist. An apple was close to her reddened mouth and long pointed nails pierced the apples skin as they walked in. “Why good damn morning to you Carmen Sabre,” Isla’s high-pitched voice echoed down the room.
“Good morning Ma’am,” Carmen and Elene replied nonchalantly.
“Smile girls, smile. It is in fact free, and I must say it will liven up the room a tad,” Isla sat up and placed the half eaten apple onto the table and walked towards the girls. Her red dressed had a long slit up to her mid-thigh and she seemed to have no shoes on. A long leather cord swung around her neck to the beginning of her dress, the pendent was half an eye, like the ones you would expect to see in ancient Egypt hieroglyphics.
“Miss Felts,” Isla nodded towards Elene and she tensed. Elene managed a stiff nod back, but her lips remained sealed. Isla was right next to the girls now, she seemed to have delicate features, and her eyes were slightly slitted like she was half Asian, and they zoomed into Elle’s pendent.
“A strange shape you have there dear Elene, what is it? A half circle?” Isla walked closer to Elene and touched her Pendant. Carmen had never really taken notice of the other girl’s Pendant. The whole nation had one, each one a different unique shape. But the shape was only half, for the other half was given to their soul mate at birth.
“A moon Ma’am,” Elene replied, as she looked at the ground. Isla turned drastically to Carmen.
“For my whole life I have never seen an actual Willow Tree. How fascinating it is, isn’t it?” her voice like poison. Isla’s eyes drifted to Carmen’s collarbone, where the icy Pendant lay. She reached up her hand as if to hold it but Carmen quickly stepped back. Elene cried out in disbelief.
“Do you not want me to touch it dear?” Isla’s eye narrowed and her hand fell down to her side limply.
“My mother has always said to not touch stranger’s Pendants, for it would bring a bad influence on them,” Carmen spoke with a sudden sense of confidence.
“Your mother has always been a strange creature hasn’t she. Running of and having you, defying the Taine’s wishes-” Isla made a tutting noise in the back of her throat “- and yet the Taine continues to let both her and you live. I still wonder why.”
Isla stopped, and with a quick movement she was in front of Carmen so close that Carmen could see the remaining juice from the apple. Isla reached up with her hand and grabbed hold of Carmen’s willow tree; her eyes were shinning with triumph as though she had won a race. For some reason Carmen sensed something bad was going to happen, because her head began to tilt to the side. Her conscience knew that was a warning.
Isla’s gold eyes once shinning now glazed over and became fully black, like a demon out of a horror movie. Her mouth slightly parted and her back began to go ridged. She spoke in a language that wasn’t English and her eyes were not blinking. Carmen remained stationery and calmly took Isla’s hand from her Pendant. This had happened only twice before to Carmen. Once in school when a boy named Joshua grabbed her Pendant in anger to try to break it. Although it was not going to break and everyone knew it he had still tried. But instead of freezing his hand, his eyes had become black and he chanted foreign words to her.
The second time was when she had been running down an alleyway, being chased by a hooded figure. And when he had caught Carmen he gripped her Pendant to pull it off, but had fell to the floor in shock. His eyes diluted black and his voice changed. She had run off down the alley and did not sleep for weeks.
This time though she knew what to do. “La noche,” she whispered to Isla, who instantly returned to herself again. “What did you say?” her voice quavered and she sank to the floor, cradling her hand as though she had been burned. “You need to have some water infused with Eucalyptus, it will help. We know our way out,” Carmen said as she ushered Elle out the long hallway with her towards the exit.
They pushed the door open together and ran down the alleyway to the busy street. The girls breathed in deeply in synchronization. “What did you say?” Elene looked shocked, her curling black hair stuck to her forehead in sweat. Carmen thought of the first time they had met; Elene was on the floor in tears, holding her bleeding knee where Joshua had pushed her out of a tree. Her hand had fluttered to her pendant when Carmen had offered her hand. It looked as though she were protecting it.
“The Night,” Carmen whispered to Elene as the two girls walked swiftly through the streets of Brisbane. “And in what language is that?” Elene replied; her eyes alight with caution.
“Spanish,” Carmen answered quickly, and her pace quickened, forcing Elene to jog a bit to catch up. At this point Elene grabbed Carmen’s arm and stopped her, “in what universe did you know Spanish?” Elene’s fingers shook and her voice quavered. Carmen looked squarely at her friend and the continued to walk down the street. Elene jogged to catch up again. “This universe, I learned to speak Spanish. My Mother taught me.”
“Mari taught you how to speak Spanish?” Elene was panting, her perfect hair was pasted to her forehead and her body trembled. Carmen turned to her friend; a worried expression crossed her face, “why is this a big deal?” They turned down Crown Street and plunged through the markets and tourists.
Carmen tensed when she passed a clothing stall. Three men wore long black cloaks and stood clumped together towards the side of the stall, their shoulders were marked with the Taine’s symbol.
“Walk faster,” Carmen hissed to Elene, as her friend stumbled over a drainpipe. The girls wore fairly ordinary clothes but they still seemed to stand out like candles in the dark. Glancing around Carmen noticed more and more of the Taine’s black-cloaked men. In stalls, talking to pedestrians, sitting by fountains and in the windows of the surrounding apartments.
In a shop window Carmen saw her reflection glare back at her. Her hair has been described as brown, but it was in fact more red then brown, and it was an awful mixture. Carmen’s eyebrows were dark and bushy. Although she was wearing a creamy colour today her lack of breast was still noticeable. Her hair was straight but extremely frizzy and her eyes a mix of green and yellow that looked like mold on a 3-week-old sandwich.
Elene on the other hand had perfect raven black eyes and they wavy hair to match it. She looked amazing in her green tee, and her not-lack-of-boobs. Her eyebrows compared to Carmen’s were well kept and looked like something from the Royal family. The only not-royalty-perfect was her strange birthmark, which was located in her hair. It caused a strange patch of brown hair to come through, but somehow she still looked perfect. In short Elene was the exact opposite to Carmen.
Behind the girls in the mirror stood two brightly coloured girls. Their faces sprinkled with freckles and their hair a shade different. Closely matching Pendants swung from the hollow of their necks and a bag was swinging in their hands.
“Hola mi amigos,” Coral shouted towards the shocked girls. Elene gave Carmen a clinical look and smiled back at Coral. The girl skipped in joy over to them her bright orange dress bounced around her. She caught them in a friendly embrace and smiled like a kid in a lolly shop. Coral’s twin was a few steps behind, was a little more reserved and looked like the disapproving mother of the two. Even though Coral was the eldest of the two, she was defiantly the least mature.
Tori made her way over, in black pants and a blue top with tassels on the bottom. Their Pendants were both straight-sided shapes, dangling just below their collarbones. Coral’s lips were more puckered than her twins and eyebrows thicker. She was slim built but nothing like Tori. Blue eyes and a pentagon marked her Pendant. Coral’s hair was a darker shade then Tori’s, which seemed almost yellow and dusted her shoulders.
“You’re being followed. Did you know that? Did you, did you?” Coral’s excited voice was unmistakable. Tori glared at her twin, but Carmen nodded and waved her hand for them to follow her. After slipping down countless alleyways and dashing through dozens of gardens the group finally made it to Carmen’s house.
The four girls looked up at the remains of a two-story farmhouse. “That. Is. Not. A. House. That’s termites’ holding hands,” Coral said, it seemed as though she lacked the filter in your mind and once she had a thought she just said it. Carmen heard a reassuring whack, as Tori hit her in the arm. Coral raised her arms in a surprised What? They made their way through Carmen’s house and finally fell down into the lounge room.
That consisted of a small red ragged couch and a tea table piled high with various plants. Carmen although stayed standing in the archway. Coral looked her up and down, “what are you wearing?” she exclaimed, her hands fluttered to her face in horror. The kind of expression you would see mockingly, but Coral’s face was anything but mocking; it was full out horrified. “OK so maybe her style is a little classic,” Tori told her sister, giving Carmen a once over.
“Yeah, classic ugly,” they bawled out laughing and Carmen looked down at her outfit; denim knee length shorts and a creamy coloured top. Carmen didn’t see anything wrong with it.
A series of banging sounded from the back door and the girls straightened. “Relax, its my mum,” Carmen said as she raced out towards the kitchen. Her mother was struggling with bags upon bags full of plants and papers; her maroon coloured hair was pasted around her temples. “Carmen my darling girl, how has your day been?” she asked as Carmen took some of the pile off her.
Amari’s face changed suddenly as she saw Carmen’s expression. “You had a run in with Isla didn’t you,” Amari put the pile onto the counter, the plants suddenly forgotten and Carmen nodded. Amari embraced her daughter and then turned and walked towards the lounge room. She wore black three-quarter length baggy pants, a small jacket was tossed over an orange tee and a fading black sun hat was not grasped in her hands. Carmen raced after her mother in distress.
“Afternoon girls,” Amari said as she took a seat by the small fireplace and poked it with the metal poker next to it. The girls mumbled a response back, but continued to look drawn. Elene had filled the twins in when Carmen was helping her mother, and by the looks on their faces Carmen wasn’t felling any confidence. “Tell me everything,” Amari said, and clasped her hands into her lap and focused her eyes onto Carmen.
After what seemed like hours the group had finally decided on a logical plan. The distant sounds of the city echoed through the house even though they were about a k away.
Just unlike the rest of Australia, Brisbane has suffered the most. After the invasion from the Taine’s men, the idiotic government had offered them anything North of Brisbane in an attempt to calm the tension. This worked for about a month until the Taine had decided to use this area as a type of new government entertainment. Stealing people from families and testing on them, seeing if they survived or died a painful death. All in the name of ‘The Taine,’ a so-called creator who had conquered the remaining continents and had set up shop for different testing. And anything South from Brisbane was the only remaining none Taine settlement.
After World War III, the countries that had survived the catastrophic wars of magician versus magician had decided on a way to repopulate Earth. And boom the invention of the Pendants was born. Every single person had one, able to match up with their ‘perfect’ mate that had a ‘perfect’ genotype that matched the others, which caused no abnormalities to form.
With the intervention of the Mid-Wife Life Magicians, they helped the newly born to find a compatible match.