Novella excerpts: Ethereal, part one

Author’s note: I know this is early, but for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month,) I am writing a book with four novellas. I have decided to post two chapters for each novella. This is the first one. (Clearly, it says so in the title after all)


Chapter One
The Darkness

Ivy always knew that she was a freak, even among the witches and wizards.
While most witches/wizards/warlocks/magicians/etc. were learning about potions and flying, she was bedridden with headaches. Not the typical, dull ache in the forehead or back of the skull either. Huge, cataclysmic pain that felt like someone was hammering her head over and over and over.
They started when she was only a year old. Her parents were delighted when they’d found her floating above her crib;  witches who specialized in flying were some of the most useful of all. However, their delight turned into rapid horror when she began to howl. They believed it was because of a nightmare, but as the mother, Yvette, scooped her baby up, she noticed that Ivy’s eyes were open.
She was awake.
Occasionally, Ivy saw visions with the headaches; a small boy encased in lightning, a gray haired woman falling from the sky, lime green light, a man and woman falling over a rail, a woman with sleepless eyes gripping a knife, and a girl staring up at something, stunned. But once the pain was over, Ivy quickly forgot about the images, and since they changed so much, she could never quite recall the things she saw.
Once Ivy entered school, the children became frightened of her; she was known as the girl who crumpled over screaming without any warning, the girl who twitched and writhed on the floor.
There were always a few kids who were polite and nice, yet distant. They were too put off by her strangeness to become truly close. Only one girl was brave and kind enough to become a close friend of Ivy’s. Her name was Tipanna, but since she hated that, she was called Tip.
The teachers were frightened by Ivy at first, but they quickly adjusted to her screaming fits. Whenever they saw her collapse, they’d pick her up, stuff a tissue or towel in her mouth to at once muffle the sound and keep her from biting, and then they would rush her to a dark room in the nurse’s office. The screaming didn’t last too long; an hour at most. But they were frequent enough to be an issue.
Ivy didn’t think it was that big of a problem, until one day, two of the older boys at school crowded her and Tip while they were walking home.
“Hey, you two!” one of them shouted. Since Ivy and Tip were the only two on the road, they stopped.
Tip turned around. “What d’you want?” she snarled. Even at six years old, she was the obvious fighter of the duo.
The bigger one had thick hair the color of mustard. “I heard that you-” he pointed at Ivy, “interrupted my sister’s speech.”
Ivy thought for a moment before remembering; a girl named Ophelia was going to do a presentation because she’d memorized a passage from The Handbook of Wizardry, which most six year olds wouldn’t be able to do. Ivy had gotten a headache during the presentation, therefore distracting everyone from Ophelia. She felt herself pale. Oh.
“Ophie would like to talk to you about it,” he said.
Ivy nodded. “Okay. I’ll say sorry,” she said. At six years old, she was gullible, and didn’t realize how suspicious the situation was.
The mustard haired boy grinned. “Okay. She’s at the roof of that building. We’ll take you there.” As Ivy and Tip followed the two boys, Tip nudged her. “What?” Ivy demanded.
Tip’s wide blue eyes had gone even wider. “Isn’t this weird? We could say sorry at school,” she said.
Ivy shook her head. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”
Tip groaned. “That is not…” She couldn’t find the words, and they walked in silence up the stairs of the building.
They finally made it to the roof. “Ophelia?” Ivy asked. She didn’t see anyone but the two boys and Tip. For some reason, her heart began to skip. Where’s Ophelia? I’m apologizing to her…
Suddenly, she felt hands underneath her twiggy arms. “Huh?” she cried.
“What is this?” Tip begged. The other boy had grabbed her by her arms as well.
The mustard haired boy snapped, “Ophie was really looking forward to that assembly, but you screwed it up!” He started towards the edge of the roof, and then Ivy began to scream.
“No! No!” Even at six, she knew that a fall from this height was deadly. “I don’t wanna die!”
“You’re not gonna die, dumbass!” he snapped.
“You’re crazy! She’s gonna fall!” Tip wailed.
Mustard Hair just rolled his eyes. “Six year olds sure are dumb,” he muttered. He began to dangle Ivy over the ledge by one arm.
She screamed even more, and tears began to pour out of her eyes like rivers. “I don’t wanna die! I don’t wanna!” she howled.
Mustard Hair was struggling to hold on to her wrist; she was a lot more twitchy than he thought. “You will if you don’t stop wriggling! Stop moving!”
Ivy was too crazed with panic to listen. “No!!” she shrieked, and then, to make a bad situation worse, a headache slammed back into her skull. “Argh!” she screamed, and began to move even more from pain. She just managed to loosen his grip on her arm.
He let go of her arm for half a second.
That was all the time needed for her to fall.
Ivy’s screams were lost in the wind as she fell. The pain was so bad, and the visions were blurring before her eyes… Then nothing. Am I dead? she thought. She opened her eyes warily to blackness and calmed down. She was in The Darkness.
The Darkness came every now and then. During her worst headaches, she would snap her eyes shut, and then open them to find herself in The Darkness. It was a comforting place; her headache would retreat to a dull ache, almost unnoticeable. She would rest there for a little while before opening her eyes and finding herself back home.
However, this time was different. A big white rip burst through The Darkness. Ivy gasped and tried to move back, but for some reason, found herself drawn to the light. A split second before she put her hand towards it, she recovered her sense. “Oh!” she gasped. “No! I don’t want to!” she cried, but by then, it was too late. Like a black hole, the light yanked her in. “Aughh!” she screamed, and soon, her whole world was consumed by white light.
And then it was cold. So cold, and her headache was back. “Ugh…” she groaned from…wherever she was. She opened her eyes a fraction of an inch.
She was lying on smooth gray rock. Snow fell from the mist colored sky and burned into her skin. “Hey!” a voice called, but Ivy didn’t have the energy to look up. “Hey.” It was a woman’s voice.
Ivy felt herself being turned over. “Kid, you okay?” the woman asked. She had long auburn hair somewhat hidden by a cap, and her nose was a bright red. Ivy noticed a man with thick brown hair standing behind the woman.
“Kath, are you sure this is safe?” he asked.
The woman turned around. “Of course I am!” She scooped up Ivy’s aching head. “Where’d you come from, girly?” she asked.
Where am I? Ivy thought. “Home…” she murmured.
The woman had misty gray eyes the exact color of the sky, and she narrowed them suspiciously at Ivy. “Okay, where’s that?”
Ivy began to cry. “I… I… I dunno!” she sobbed, and then she was gone, being yanked away by an invisible force. When she opened her eyes, she was back in The Darkness. What was that? Where was that? Ivy wondered. Her heart was still skipping from the experience. She felt her eyes begin to close, and soon, she fell asleep.
She woke to loud noises and something cold on her head. A compress.  Huh?
Suddenly, she saw her mother’s face. “Ivy!” she cried, and held onto her with so much force, Ivy couldn’t breathe. “Mama…?” she asked confusedly.
The door opened, and her dad, Ferdinand, and Tip swept into the room. “Ivy!” Tip screamed and ran towards her. “What was that, Ivy? How’d you do it?”
Ivy became even more confused. “Do what, Tip?” she asked.
Her father looked down on her. “Ivy, do you remember what happened?”
Ivy shook her head. “No, papa, I don’t.”
Tip rubbed her eyes. “You fell and vanished! Just poof, gone!”
Ivy blinked. “No, I didn’t.”
Tip stamped her foot. “You did, Ivy! I saw you!”
Ivy thought back. “No, Tip. I didn’t… Oh.” The Darkness. The white light, and the misty sky and snow and those two strange people.
Oh, indeed.
Yvette grabbed her face. “Ivy, sweetheart! What’d you think of?” she begged.
Ivy couldn’t explain. She’d told her mother about The Darkness before, of course, but her mother had dismissed it, saying it was childish nonsense, whatever that meant. Why would she believe her now? “Nothing, mama.”
Her mother glanced down, disappointed. Her daughter was keeping something important from her, she could tell. She knew that would happen sooner or later, but she always expected it to be later. Six year olds were much too young to keep secrets like this. But she knew that when Ivy wouldn’t talk, she wouldn’t talk. “Okay then, dear,” she said gently.
Ivy nodded solemnly. “Thanks, mama.” Ivy sighed; she needed to think about what had happened. “I’m sleepy. Can I sleep now?”
Ivy felt the compress lift from her head. “Okay. Good night, sweetie.”
Her dad patted her cheek. “Rest, Ivy.”
She felt Tip pat her shoulder. “See you tomorrow!” she chirped, all worries gone.
Ivy had meant to think once they were gone, but once her door shut, sleepiness swept over her. She sighed, rolled over on her side, and promptly passed out.

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