Hey, this is part 2 of yesterday’s story. Hope you enjoy it!
Jenna stepped up onto a green turf, with rolling hills are far as the eye could see. Small wildflowers dotted the expanse here and there, forming miniature clusters of white and yellow among the vibrant green. The sky was not blue, but a royal-purple color that matched the leaves on the trees. What is this, an alternate universe or something? she wondered, befuddled.
She turned to look down at the ladder. The space was gone, as she had expected; it’s not like the mystery man would let her go back, anyway.
A cluster of large objects caught her attention in the distance behind her. She turned around; it seemed to be a city of some sort, except that the buildings had the strangest shapes: pyramids, spheres, dodecagons, and more. She set off towards it, cutting across the grass on her way down the hill.
She could make out a small rabbit-trail snaking through the grass. She followed it, hoping it could lead her to the city. Instead, it led her to a worn-out old road that ended at a brick wall that surrounded the city.
Jenna sighed, then slung out her apple and began to eat it to ease her hunger; she hadn’t had any lunch. When she had finished, leaving the apple core in the grass, she tried to find a way around the wall.
Finally, after about twenty minutes of walking, she came to the end of the wall. Thankfully, there were doors on that side, with two guards lounging in front.
Jenna watched as a cart rumbled up to the gate. An elderly man with a large straw hat and dressed in old, faded clothing approached the guards. They exchanged a few short words and both guards stood up, forcing the old man back to his cart. The man clutched his hat as he jumped into the cart and turned it around, driving it away as fast as he could. The guards stood, pointing and guffawing rudely.
Just watching that made Jenna’s blood boil, and it took all of her self-control to stop herself from jumping out and giving the two disrespectful men a piece of her mind. She knew now that the gate wasn’t an option.
She looked at the wall again. It was smooth, which would make it a difficult climb, but she was sure that with a rope and hook she could do it.
She dug through her bag. She had a bit of rope, but no hook.
She looked around. There were several strangely shaped rocks lying in the long grass, and she picked up a U-shaped one. Not what I was looking for, but it’ll do.
Holding up the rope, she tried to tie the thick fibers to the rock. It took a while, but she finally managed to pull it tight enough, and launched that end over the wall.
It sunk to the ground on the other side and she tugged on it to make sure it would support her weight. She then began to scale the wall, her purple sneakers skidding over the smooth grey stone.
Finally, she reached the top, sliding into the city. Now for a diamond key, assuming this is the metal city.
She wandered through the streets. They were empty, and no lights shone from the buildings. The startling golden sun had set, leaving the sparkling blue moon to rise of the now red sky. The cold light dappled the cobblestones that paved the roads.
Jenna let her hand trail on the sides of buildings. These were made of a shiny metal quite unlike any she’d ever seen before. Not only was it a multicolored blend of different colors in a tie-dye pattern, it also emitted a faint silver aura that she could clearly see.
She realized after a while that she’d gotten lost in the city. She still could not see anyone, but she could hear a loud cheer in the distance. She followed it hurriedly.
Presently the sound grew louder and louder until Jenna was forced to cover her ears as she ran. The only place she’d ever been with such loud cheering was a baseball stadium during the ninth inning, and that didn’t even come close to compare.
She soon found herself in the back of a large crowd. She pushed through with muttered apologies until she was at the front. What she saw made her want to turn right around and go home.
She was in a gargantuan public square filled to the max with all the city’s people. There were three main sections: one group consisted of faces covered in white paint, another in black paint, and a third in orange paint, the one she was standing at the head of. They were all yelling their corresponding colors.
In the center of the square was a raised wooden stand, upon which three cages sat. Squinting, Jenna could just make out three animals inside – one snow-white, one bright orange, and one pure black. A man in a dark green cloak stood next to the cages, leaning on the top of the white one’s cage. He twirled a long sword in his hands that caught the blue moonlight and reflected it dazzlingly. The word key was inscribed on the hilt – a dead giveaway.
Jenna’s breath caught in her throat for two reasons: one, the sword was made of diamond, and two, that man was going to use it to kill the animals in the cages.
Sure enough, he raised a hand and straightened up. Instantly the noise ceased, until it was so silent that Jenna was sure she could hear a pin drop across the city.
“Which shall die tonight? Convince me!” He snapped his fingers.
The man pointed to one group. “Orange!” they screamed.
He moved his finger to the next group. “White!”
He shifted it again. “Black!”
The man pretended to scratch his chin in contemplation, and then he threw open all three doors. The crowd roared approval.
The animals huddled at the back of their cages, terrified, and Jenna’s heart went out to them. This is wrong, she realized.
The man stooped over and grabbed them roughly, dragging them out one by one, and the metal cages clanged closed.
The animals were turkeys.
How ironic, Jenna thought drily. Slaughtering turkeys on Thanksgiving. If I survive this, I’m becoming a vegetarian.
She noticed there were no red turkeys, but maybe there were turkeys with more bizarre colors, like green, or blue, or even purple. That’d be a sight to see.
The man fastened chains to the poor turkeys’ legs, hooking them to the stage so they couldn’t run away. He raised his sword, pausing over the head of each turkey. The correspondent group colors cheered.
Jenna felt as if she was going to be sick. How could these people be so bloodthirsty?
The man brought the sword down.
Jenna turned away, hearing the dull thump of the orange turkey’s head hitting the ground. The crowd behind her screamed loudly, wild with excitement.
The black turkey squawked in alarm and fear as the executioner moved on, sword held aloft. It was quickly silenced, replaced by the black-paint crowd’s screeches.
The white-paint group began shouting as the man held his sword to the white turkey. This time Jenna dared to look, wincing as the white turkey’s severed head fell onto the stage. Blood stained its beautiful snowy coat, turning it red.
Jenna froze, the chilling realization almost forcing her to turn and run. He meant a bloody turkey. A dead turkey.
She was broken out of her funk by a sudden jolt. The three parties were running all over the square now, hollering. It was complete chaos, and now she decided to make use of it. Ducking through the crowd, she reached she stage and jumped up. The executioner was watching the crowds mingle, but as Jenna rolled onto the wooden platform, he leapt to attention, glittering, blood-stained sword at the ready.
Jenna dug through her bag for her pocketknife, pulling it out. The short blade was nothing compared to the sword, but at least she had something.
She held up the knife warily as she circled the man. Finally her foot bumped against the turkey’s dead body, and she tried not to be sick as she bent down and plucked two unstained white tail feathers. She tucked them into her pocket, eyeing the sword.
The executioner leapt forward suddenly, swinging the sword in a deadly arc. She dove to the side just in time, and it missed her face by a hair. She stood up again, trembling, and threw her knife.
She knew it was no good from the moment it left her hand. The man sidestepped easily, and the knife sailed over his shoulder and into the crowd. Jenna was now unarmed.
He held the sword above his head and slashed downwards. This time Jenna lunged forward, crashing into his legs. He fell back from the unexpected weight, and Jenna snatched up the sword.
She wasted no time jumping off the stage and running. She raced through the streets, but she was still lost, and the executioner still hot on her heels. She skidded to a stop as she rounded yet another corner, panting hard.
She could hear the yells of several angry men behind her, but there was nowhere to hide. She took a step forward-
The square in the ceiling closed. Jenna was back in her house, the attic door now closed.
She realized she was shaking and stood up. She still had the two feathers and the sword, as well as the cinnamon can. She trudged down the hallway to the staircase and then to the kitchen, setting the ingredients on the table. “Two feathers from a red turkey, a diamond key to a metal city, and two dashes of cinnamon,” she said aloud, pulling out the card-paper. “Now what?”
Now you get the last ingredient.
She frowned. “But I have all of them right here.”
Nope. You’re missing the soda.
Jenna remembered with a start that she was still missing the can of Diet Coke. She crossed to the fridge, averting her eyes from the circle of dolls as she pulled it open.
The soda box was empty.
“No, no, no!” she yelped. “We can’t be out of Coke! We can’t!”
She turned back to the paper. “What do I do?”
You could always ask the police when they come to give you a can.
“The police?” Jenna frowned. “But the phone’s dead, and you locked the door.”
What about the mailman?
“He ran away. He didn’t believe me.”
Your doorbell should ring in three seconds.
Sure enough, it did.
Jenna shoved the paper back in her pocket and skittered into the foyer. The door was still locked, but she knew there was someone outside. “Help!” she screamed. “Call the police!”
“We are the police,” came a low voice from outside. “The mailman called. Said something about a stranger and some dolls.”
“Oh, thank you,” Jenna sobbed in relief. “This isn’t a joke. It might not sound possible, but it is.” She began to narrate her story.
“…but now I’m out of Diet Coke,” she finished. “I gave the stranger the last can.”
There was silence, and Jenna wondered if the officers had left while she was speaking.
“You were right,” the first officer said. “It doesn’t sound very believable.”
Jenna felt her hopes fly away.
“You say you need a can of Diet Coke?”
Jenna sat up straight. “Yes, please!”
She heard the sound of receding footsteps. A minute or so later, the second officer returned, something heavy clinking in his hands. He set it down on the front porch, in front of the mail slot, and Jenna stooped over, peering through the opening.
The officer dropped the soda can through the slot and Jenna snatched it up with a quick thanks and scurried back into the kitchen while the officers worked on opening the door.
“Now what?” she asked the paper as she set the can down on the table.
Get a bowl and pour the soda into it.
She grabbed the green plastic bowl she’d washed earlier, pouring the soda into it.
Add two dashes of cinnamon.
She unscrewed the can of spices and took out two pinches, sprinkling it into the soda.
Put the two feathers in it.
She dipped the white feathers into the mixture, then let it drop. It dissolved before her eyes.
Stir it all with the sword.
She picked up the sword. It was difficult for her to hold it, and even more so to stir with it, but she finally managed to do it without slicing the bowl in half. She pulled it out and wiped it off.
Now tap each doll on the head with the sword. Gently.
She did so. Taking the heavy sword again, she let the blade rest lightly on the head of each doll.
Go upstairs, too.
She hurried up the stairs, trying it on the children. Still, nothing happened. They didn’t miraculously transform back into humans as she had hoped.
“Why isn’t it working?” she yelled at the paper.
Patience, child. Go empty the bowl into the sink. Let it drain.
She heard the front door’s lock click.
She dumped the contents of the bowl down the drain, then shoved the sword under the table and hurried to meet the officers.
“You opened it!” she sighed, relieved. “Thank god.”
The two officers were grim. “Show us the dolls.”
She led them upstairs to where the kids sat in a circle around the Robby doll. The police examined them carefully before following her to the kitchen.
The paper was still on the table, blank. Jenna picked it up, hiding it from the view of the officers as they prodded the adult dolls.
Finally they returned to the foyer. “There’s nothing we can do, but we’ll set an investigative team down here,” the first officer told her. “I must ask you to accompany us to the station for questio-”
He was cut off by a loud squeal from upstairs, and alarmed yells from the kitchen. While the adults rushed into the foyer, little James at the front, the children bounced down the stairs, Robby descending carefully behind.
“Dolls!” Robby gasped as he came down amid the clamor of the family. “Jenna’s telling the truth. The man turned us all into dolls.”
“Yes,” Jenna’s father agreed, while her mother tried to calm the children. “One moment we were chatting, and the next, we were all dolls lying around. Jenna came and gathered us up. We heard the whole story, we just couldn’t do anything.”
The officers seemed a little bemused. “Let’s just keep this quiet,” the first officer mumbled. “Unexplained cases can be an embarrassment sometimes, and you have it all wrapped up anyway.”
“You are going to try to catch that man, though, right? I could’ve died, and my family could’ve been stuck as dolls forever, thanks to him.” Jenna still wasn’t very happy with him.
“Yeah, yeah.” The officer waved his hand dismissively. “Of course. Can’t have this madman running around.”
Jenna hardly thought him a madman, but now was not the time to voice her concern. She took out the card-paper again, holding it out to the officers. “This is how he tried to contact me.”
Suddenly, it burst into flames. Jenna let out a small shriek of surprise and dropped it. It crumbled to ashes before it even hit the floor; now she had no evidence except for the sword and her missing pocketknife.
The sword! She hurried to the kitchen, bending over to retrieve the diamond weapon. It was still there, and she grabbed it before it could disappear too.
She handed it to the officers, who gave low whistles of surprise. “The museum would love to see this.”
It faded away.
Everyone except Jenna gaped as the officer’s hands closed around nothing but air. “Where’d it go?”
Jenna shrugged, not surprised anymore. “Probably back to where it came from.”
The officers left, annoyed at having lost such priceless magical items, but at least they didn’t have anything to explain away. Jenna’s mother closed the door and turned to Jenna, who realized everyone was staring at her.
Her mother swept her into a hug. “We’re sorry, dear,” she murmured, and Jenna thought she could detect a hint of horror in her voice.
She hugged her back. “It’s okay. It was my fault anyway.”
Her mother pulled back. “No, it wasn’t. We should’ve paid more attention to the stress you must’ve been feeling. We’ve been so unappreciative.”
Jenna shrugged, feeling a little awkward at being the center of attention. “Let’s just forget about it.”
“Of course.” The adults began herding the children back into the kitchen. By now it was close to dinnertime, and they were working as fast as they could to finish preparation for the feast. Thankfully, Jenna had turned off the stove before she left, and nothing was burnt, although the ice cream had melted into a thick, soupy mixture that needed to re-freeze again.
Jenna sat at the dinner table, now laden with delicious food. Her father began the prayer. “I’m thankful for my daughter,” he said, grinning across the table at Jenna. Jenna blushed, smiling back.
The prayers went around the table, until it finally reached Jenna. “I’m thankful for everything,” she announced. “I know I couldn’t get through this without all of you.”
“Aw.” Her mother placed her hand on top of hers. “That’s so sweet, Jen.”
The feast started. Jenna made sure to avoid the turkey.
There was a loud bang from the bathroom, and Jenna winced. Her whole family was over again for the holidays, but at least now the adults paid more attention to the kids and Robby was a lot nicer than he used to be.
Jenna trotted down the hallway to the foyer. She was expecting some friends over later, and she wanted to clean up a little.
She heard the mailman’s van drive past and bent over to retrieve the mail that he pushed through the mail slot. Grandma’s letter should be here, she thought, rifling through the papers.
A red envelope slipped under the door.