Per Aspera (NaNoWriMo 2014)

My first 5000 words of the story I'm writing for NaNo this year!


1. Hollow

    "What the hell is this? Is it one of the 80s records again?"
    Celia laughed and turned the old-fashioned music even louder and started tapping her fingers on the black steering wheel. Her long blond hair were dancing in the wind, some of them got stuck on her aviator sunglasses. 
    "Oh c'mon! I can't take it anymore!" I cried and took out the CD (it was one of the 80s records!) and turned the radio on.
    "Hey!" she shouted and gripped the steering wheel tighter. "We had an agreement that on the way back I'll pick the music!" 
    I laughed and brushed my curly hair out of my face. They were really getting out of hand.
    Celia smiled and sighted. "Fine, you can have it your way. You always do, don't you?"
    I put my hands on my crossed legs and tossed my hair aside. "Yes, I do."
    Celia shook her head, smiling to herself. And that about sums up our relationship - she laughs and shakes her head a lot and I, although I'm younger than her, take responsibilities and have everything my way. Celia always called me "control freak", but I'm not like that, I swear! 
    As I opened my mouth to sing to a Rita Ora’s song, the singer's voice died mid-sentence and our car filled with white noise.
    Celia drew her eyebrows together. "What the hell? Marko said my baby was okay." She started pushing various buttons on the radio, but it didn't do any good. 
    "Hey, stop it!" I smacked her on her fingers and she cursed silently. "Eyes on the road, Miss!" 
Celia took her sunglasses off and put them in her lap. I turned the radio off, but the noise didn't vanish.
    "Um, Alice?" Celia said under her breath as I felt the car slowing down. 
    "Just let me handle it, okay?" I said still trying to get that radio working.
    "Alice, stop," Celia's voice trembled. I looked up to see her face caught in horror and for a split second I thought she wasn’t breathing. "Look at the sky."
    I leaned forward and looked up to the sky above dark green treetops. For a moment, I didn't understand what exactly I was looking at. It looked like the sky had turned into a living creature that was growing bigger and darker with every second. The dark blue and grey clouds kept swirling and moving all too fast until they had overtaken the very last bit of clear sky. 
    I heard Celia let out a sharp breath. "I think it would be better if we sat this one out," she said almost to herself.
    "Sit out what, exactly?" I asked with my stare still caught up in the sky. Now the clouds were hanging really low in a shape of an upturned mushroom which looked like it would fall down any second.
    "The storm, dumbass," Celia laughed nervously and stopped the car in the middle of the road. "Everyone's doing the same, see?" She gestured forward.
    I looked down to the ground and saw that she was actually right - there were dozens of cars on the highway but not one of them was moving or, as it seemed by the lack of exhaust, even had an engine turned on. 
    After Celia turned off our jeep’s engine and pulled out the car keys, the first signs of the storm showed. The mushroom cloud started glowing at times with a sound of rolling thunder.
    "Well," I said as I brought my legs up on the seat, "at least we picked out a gorgeous place to stop."
    Celia laughed and scratched her long nose. When we were little I used to make fun of it a lot, I always called Celia a witch. No one would ever call her that now - she was truly beautiful. She had perfectly straight light blond hair which often seemed white, especially in bright sunlight. I, by the way, had the same hair color, but not hair texture. While Celia's hair was thick and sleek, mine was curly and wild. Why did she have to get the good-hair-gene? Well, at least I got prettier eye color - mine was sea green while she got icy blue mum eyes.
    "I didn't know you find pine trees and swamps beautiful," Celia looked around.
    I gave her a you-disappoint-me look. "I was being sarcastic. Like, really, this is the opposite of gorgeous."
    "Oh," she laughed and stared at the swamp on her left. "Well, I find it kind of cool, but really scary. This storm, forest, radio... I'm not even talking about that swamp. I get goose bumps just looking at it. See?" She extended both of her arms for me to look. "Man, I'm getting those sci-fi vibes, you know? Days of the Triffids, War of the Worlds, The Martian Chronicles..."
    "I really don't know what you are talking about right now."
    As she brought one leg up and turned to me instead of the road, I knew she was going to, as she always put it, educate me, on the stuff she had more knowledge on. "These are old sci-fi’s which are really interesting and have fascinating concept, especially Days of the Triffids, I could go on for days about this book-"
    I frowned and reached to shush her with my finger but my arm was too short, so my shush gesture left hanging between us. "Please don't or I will have to dump you in that swamp."
    Celia shivered and rubbed her naked arms."Okay, I'll stop. I think I wouldn't go to that swamp even if someone offered me a million dollars."
    "I would," I said. "I'd get to be the rich beauty and live in Palm Springs."
    "Yeah, right. I wouldn't want to see that," Celia laughed just as the sky erupted with lightning. I have never been scared of it, I actually really enjoyed a beautiful storm, but this was something different. The lightning bolts were striking the trees which fell down into the swamp. Several of them fell on the road and I let out a whining noise. Celia moved closer and tried to hug me, but couldn't because of the gap between our seats, so she took my hand and squeezed a little bit too tight.
    Just as another tree fell down in the swamp, a lightning bolt stroke in the middle of the road not five feet in front of our car leaving a burning smell and a small amount of black smoke. 
    "Shit!" I screamed and dug my nails into Celia's hand. "Sorry but that was close! We could have been killed."
    Celia stared at the spot where the lightning had struck without even blinking. "Celia? You okay?"
    She didn't answer me, but let go of my hand and sat up straight.
    "You're not going to drive, are you?" I asked. My hands were trembling from shock and fear and without Celia's hand to hold mine I had to clench fists. 
    As Celia stared forward I heard heavy steps and looked up at the highway. People were getting out of their cars and standing right next to them. They didn't even bother to close their door - they were staring at something at the end of the road. 
    "What the hell are they doing?" I whispered. "What is going on?" Celia?"
    She didn't say anything, but, to my surprise, opened the door and stepped outside without closing it. 
    "Celia!" I cried out and hopped out of the car too. She was standing just like all the others - looking at the end of the highway. I felt my heart going crazy and I dug my nails into my palms even deeper. 
    I ran around the car and stood in front of her, face to face. She wasn't blinking; her stare was locked and hollow. The only living things about here were her hair which tangled and danced around her head like a white halo.
    "Celia?" I called as I felt tears coming down my face. I looked back and saw numerous people doing the same as her - staring, waiting, not moving a muscle or blinking. I felt like screaming and running, but I was trembling so much that I wouldn't have gone far. I didn't shout because everything was incredibly still and quiet. The silence was sticky and thick like honey and there was nothing that could break it apart. Even if I found the strength to scream, the silence would fill my lungs and mouth and shut me forever. However, one thing was stronger than silence. A lighting stroke the swamp to my left with tremendous sound which made my ears pop. Without meaning to, I got closer to Celia and looked up at her. As soon as the thunder died, the corners of Celia's lips curled up like the thunder was the most pleasing sound she had ever heard. Without saying anything, she turned on her heel and moved towards the swamp. 
    "Stop, Celia" I grabbed her arm above the elbow, but she flung herself forward with such great force that my struggle didn't do anything. Just as if somebody had given a command, everyone started walking towards the swamp. I had no idea what to do, so I followed Celia. Tears kept rolling down my cheeks and dripping down my chin, I had trouble breathing. As I looked around, I realized I was the only one questioning the situation - everyone else kept walking forward until they reached the turgid water. But even that didn't stop them - they kept marching on and on. I kept pulling at Celia's tank top but she still kept walking. I was so desperate I tried stopping other too: I snapped my fingers in front of a business woman, tried pulling some people out of the swamp. I even tried to stop a little girl in a pink puffy dress with a teddy in her hand by pushing her back but she still managed to get past me and drown her teddy in muddy water.
    "Stop, please," I mumbled through my tears. I could still see Celia next to the little girl. When the water had caressed her feet and knees, she stopped. So did the others.
    Thunder trembled upon us all. Lightning stroke somewhere behind me and I heard a tree falling down on to a car, but I couldn't take my eyes off Celia. I felt like if I did, the swamp would devour her and I'd lose her forever. 
    Another lighting stroke to my left, making little hairs on my arms stand up. I moved back a couple of steps to get myself out of the water. Just as my feet touched the asphalt, lightning stroke the swamp.
    When I was younger, I used to love building card houses just as much as Celia loved destroying them. She used to simply touch the top of my masterpiece, and everything would tumble down.
    Just as the cards, people started dropping one by one into the water. I didn't care about the silence anymore - I was screaming my sister's name, choking on it as she fell into the water.
    I clasped my hands on my mouth and kept myself pinned on the road until there was no one else standing. I screamed Celia's name again and again and ran tripping over the bodies and branches and sunken trees. Just as I tried to reach her I fell down because of something small and slippery. I looked back and held back a cry - the little girl was laying face first with her pink tutu skirt spread out on the water. Celia was right next to her, lying on her back. Water had almost taken her away from me and I tried lifting her up, but I couldn't. It seemed like she and the swamp had become one. I kneeled next to her and hugged her with my hands and hair in the water. Celia's body was hollow, there was no heartbeat. Her stare was hollow too - she still stared up at the sky, piercing it with her cold blue eyes. I sobbed and chocked on my tears and the water around me which was full of mud and little hints of blood.  
    For an eternity, I sat there rocking back and forth with an endless stream of tears and confusion until the world turned black and faded away.
    Both, the storm and my sister died quickly.

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