Dark shapes swirled in the blackness that smothered everything, morphing into eyes as they floated around me - making me feel as though I was being watched. I could hear whimpers somewhere beyond the darkness, sounding scarily like Silver which made me both angry and scared at the same time as I thought about what might've happened to her. I could also feel a hard floor beneath me and a cold breeze flowing around me. In the distance I could almost make out some words. "Well well well" the words whispered, becoming louder and louder as they repeated themselves, making me moan in worry. Slowly though, the blackness drained away like soap suds sliding down a freshly washed plate, leaving a small room with green wall in its place. I heard raised voices, although they were muffled like my head was buried under something. My ears cleared up though as my eyes alighted on where the voices were coming from; a very young boy with jet black hair that was long and messy and a much older man, his bluish purple-ish hair going grey in some places. They were yelling, arguing over something. I looked into the boys green eyes, full of passion and realized they were mine. Suddenly extremely loud noises flooded my ears and it was as though all Distortion World had broke loose!
"You don't care about me! Or mum!" The boy - I - screamed in the man's face.
"You know that isn't true!" The man yelled back, his voice just as loud.
"Yes it is! If you cared about us, you would actually go get a job! And you'd tell mum that you quit your job! You just lie to her everyday instead!"
The man's face reflected my own as I heard myself scream those terrible words; first white with shock and pain, then rage red. When he spoke though, his voice was a deadly calm. "Go." He said, staring myself in the eye. Both versions of myself faulted a moment, before the arguing me spun on his - my - heel and marched out of the door and slammed it. It was only as I left through the door and followed myself that I realized that that was my father I had been screaming at. It hit me like a tidal wave that I was remembering something from before I met Sky! I felt a swell of excitement, but that soon soured into fear as myself walked out of the building and into the back alleys. I swiftly followed and found myself crouched behind an abandoned crate and peering round the wall. Walking forwards I suddenly fused with the me I'd been following, seeing exactly what he saw. Or rather, what I had seen on that fateful night. There was a man, his beige trench coat pulled tightly around him as he talked with another man, who lurked in the shadows. I crept forwards, making sure I wasn't seen as I eavesdropped on their conversation.
"Do you have it?" The man in the trench coat asked.
"Y'know this is illegal?" The shadowy man replied, waving away the question. "You should be putting both of us behind bars." He let out a short sharp laugh that reminded me of a whip, snapping as it reached its conclusion. By this point I was close enough to smell the alcohol in his breath and the sickening smoke on his leather jacket. The first man barked a rough and forced laugh. "The stuff. Now." He threatened. The other man reached into his pocket and pulled out a box that he tossed to who I assume was some kind of cop. The cop checked the contents before yelling in frustration. "This is half what we agreed to!" He threw it on the floor and several small canisters fell out. One rolled right up to me and I picked it up to see what it was. I gasped audibly and dropped the canister on the ground with a resounding clang as I read the label - it contained a slow, potentially deadly poison, one that often drove its victims mad long before they died! The two men's argument over how much the cop would pay was cut short and they both glanced at where I hid in the shadows. The second man rushed forward and grabbed my arms tight with one hand, clamping the other over my mouth, leaving barely enough room to breath through my nose! I began kicking and punching, trying my damn hardest to break free.
'If only I hadn't fought with Dad!' I thought distraughtly, my fist connecting with something and leaving my fingers covered in some sticky warm liquid that I couldn't see. I thrashed even more, wondering against my will if this would be the end for me. What this man was going to do with me!
"Now, the payment!" The man holding me practically screamed.
"Ah, yes. Your payment." The first man mused, his tone frightening. He reached inside his trench coat and pulled out something long and silver. The look on the face of the man holding me was enough to tell me what it was, even though I couldn't see it properly. "You see, I don't think I'll be needing any more of this, Joey. And I wouldn't want anyone finding out what I've been up to... I've worked too hard to stop that from happening to not do this!" The sinister man sneered, pointed the silver barrel at Joey. I heard the bang before I saw anything happen. The cops hand barely moved but the man holding me did. He staggered around before falling to his knees and keeling over to the side.
"No! No! NO!" I tried to cry, but no sound would come from my mouth. I gripped Joey's t-shirt, thick red blood soaking my fingers.
"His name..." Joey began, red liquid bubbling up into his mouth, "...is Looker." He stared into my eyes, clearly making sure I knew why he'd told me. His frantic eyes glazed over as he stared at me. His beating heart stopping beneath me hand as I pressed them to his chest in a futile attempt at CPR. Slowly, Looker marched over to me, the shiny gun still steady - but now aimed at me! Then I screamed. I felt like the world was being torn apart as I screamed - light flooding my eyes and washing away Looker, and Joey and the blood. I wriggled as though someone still had me in a tight grip, my screams echoing in the dark. Slowly I found my limbs becoming more sluggish and refusing to move, and my throat dried up - rendering my screaming impossible. Then an image of Looker swam before my eyes, his glare burning into my eyes as he snarled those words.
"I will get you!"
"HELP!" I screamed, sitting bolt upright, my heart pounding loud enough to drown out an entire brass band! Slowly I realized I was in the Prince and Princess' room, sat on the bed I'd fallen asleep on earlier. As I turned my head however, I caught sight of Sky - her blonde hair all tousled and soaked with the tears that were running swiftly down her face and her blue eyes large and scared, with blood flowing from her nose.
"Skylar?" I asked quietly, my voice cracking as I stared into her frightened eyes.
"Are you alright?" She asked me, dropping her gaze. Salty tears mixed with the red blood that ran in rivers down her face as she shook.
"Am I alright?!" I exclaimed in shock. "Skylar you're crying and your nose is bleeding!"
"Y-you were having a nightmare." She stuttered with a shaky breath. "I just came a bit too near."
Guilt flooded my eyes as it dawned on me that it had been me who'd inflicted this on my friend. Without saying a word, I reached down and grabbed the bag that I had woken up with. Rummaging through it I pulled out a handkerchief of some sort. Through the darkness I saw Sky attempt to wipe away the blood with her sleeve, but I grabbed her arm and pulled it away from her face. Holding up the handkerchief I reached forward and began to wipe the blood up. I sniffed, trying to stay quiet as tears rolled down my face as well. 'How could I do this to Sky?'I thought angrily. I continued to clean Sky's face – wiping away tears and blood. Then I turned the handkerchief around and used a clean side to wipe the tears from her eyes. When I was finished we sat in complete silence for a while, thoughts racing around my head. Finally I mustered up the courage to speak. "I…" I began, my heart pounding fearfully as Skylar turned to look at me. "… I'm sorry for scaring you so much."
I heard her shake her head in the dark. "You shouldn't have to appol-" she began before I cut her off.
"I should for the way I acted earlier!" I exclaimed as I lay back down on the bed, still angry with myself for everything. "I shut out… you only wanted to help." I finished in no more than a whisper.
"I did the same as well." Sky muttered, but I corrected her quickly.
"Ignoring me because you're upset and shutting out someone that's trying to help are two different things, Sky!" I exclaimed. I heard her open her mouth to protest, but all the arguing and the nightmare had really taken it out of me. Slowly I felt my eyes droop shut, although I tried to fight it for as long as possible – it wasn't good manners to fall asleep whilst someone was talking but also I didn't want to have another nightmare! Eventually, though, I couldn't fight it anymore and I slipped off into a peaceful sleep.
My eyes fluttered open in the cold air. It was dark, but I wasn't scared. The darkness felt softer than it had before, and though it was cold it almost felt comforting. Heavy blankets were laid over my body and thick pillows propped up my head. Slowly the darkness receded and I looked around the room. As my mind cleared of sleep I remembered where I was; the bedroom of Prince Bennedict and Princess Arabella. Rolling over I saw Sky tossing and turning on the other bed, which was covered by as thick blanket as well, but beneath her head were two near empty pillows that looked like they'd had all the feathers beaten out of them. With a jolt I realized that they must've been mine! As I'd thrashed during my nightmare I must've knocked all the feathers from them. As to why Skylar was using them instead of her own, I had no idea. Then it hit me that I must be laying in hers! She'd swapped them! For some reason a wave of anger flooded over me, but as I heard my friend tossing in her bed I made a decision. As silently as possible I clambered out from under my blankets and tiptoed over to Skylar. Gently I brushed her hair to the side, humming a wordless tune. As softly as possible I slid the empty pillows out from under her head, before throwing them onto my bed and removing the pillows from my bed. Carefully I slid the full pillows under Sky's head, all whilst humming the strange tune that flew around my head. She smiled softly as she stopped tossing. With a quiet sigh I walked across the floor back to my bed and slid under the sheets again. After a while I accepted that I wouldn't be getting to sleep anytime soon so I got up and walked over to the window. Outside the world seemed to have stopped – the Mareep huddled together, and the trees barely swaying. The nearby brook tumbled silently downstream and the breeze brushed my cheek as it rustled the grass. I stood at that window with no way of knowing how much time had passed, but eventually the land was bathed in a light pink glow, the light streaming down the mountainsides as it chased away the darkness that had the land in its cold grip. Slowly the sun started to rise over the mountain peaks, as life appeared to flood back to the world – the Mareep bleating again and the trees swaying in the wind. I saw people wandering around the castle grounds, oblivious to the fact that I was watching their every move. With a sigh I softly leapt down from the windowsill where I had been perched, landing on the floor as I glanced over to Skylar again. She was still sleeping soundly, but I knew I would have to wake her soon as we needed to get going! With a sigh I quietly began to strip my bed of its blankets and sheets. Once I'd tied them together I turned back to Skylar. Reaching forward I grabbed the blankets resting over her and yanked them off.
"Hey!" Sky cried, surprising me as I had thought she was asleep still! Still I remained silent however.
"Stop being annoying and answer me!" She practically yelled.
I stopped what I was doing and looked her in the eye with a slightly apologetic look, as I was still sorry I fell asleep whilst she was talking last night.
"Why did you switch pillows with me?" I blurted, for some reason rather annoyed she had.
"What does it matter?" She shrugged, although clearly shocked by my straightforward question. She stretched and yawned, trying to pretend that nothing had happened. "I had a good night's sleep. How about you?" She asked casually, trying to skirt my question.
"Don't change the subject!" I muttered angrily under my breath.
I concentrated on tying all the material together as Skylar got out of bed and picked a dress from the wardrobe. I glanced at the dress she'd picked out. It wasn't the most suited for adventuring but one glance at the wardrobe told me it was the best there. Sky looked at me impatiently, as if there was something I should say or do. I met her gaze and wondered what on earth she wanted.
"Look away!" she moaned, realizing I wasn't going to work it out.
"Oh!" I blushed, hastily spinning on my heel to face the window. 'Stupid!'I chided. I focused on the knots I was tying, though I had no idea how I knew how to tie them. I heard Sky moving around and suddenly caught sight of her in my peripheral vision heading towards my – no, Benedict's – side of the room. Embarrassed I clamped my hand over my eyes, hoping she hadn't noticed.
Unfortunately she had. "I'm done, James." She called lightly, "Just looking for some actual shoes." After a bit of most likely routing through Benedict's shoes she stood still. "Ready!" She called.
I turned round and smiled. She looked happy, and ready to escape this beautiful prison.
"Are you going to change?" She asked, noticing I wore the same clothes I had the previous day.
I shook my head embarrassedly. "I'm fine." No way could I get changed in the same room as Sky!
Sky shrugged. "M'kay," she replied. "You ready to go then?"
I nodded and picked up the rope I had made, hoping against hope that it would work.
"Is that gonna hold our weight?" Sky worried, voicing my thoughts. "And what are you going to hang it from?"
"I'm sure it'll be fine." I replied confidently, trying to trick myself into believing that I was as confident as my tone suggested. "And I'll hang it from my bed," I continued, "Since it's the closest to the window."
Sky just sighed and glanced at the rope worriedly. "If you're sure. I just want to get out of here."
"You and me both."
Sky watched as I fumbled with the rope, trying and failing multiple times to tie it around the leg of my bed. I rubbed sleep out of my eyes, my early start had left me feeling rejuvenated but now I'd been up for a few hours it was starting to drag me down. Still, I shook of the fatigue and carried on tying the knots that would enable us to escape. Carried on tying the knots, that is, until I heard a near-silent yelp sting my ears, coming from Sky's direction. Quickly I glanced towards Skylar, and saw her clutching her head between her hands, moaning silently.
"You alright?" I asked her, careful not to raise my voice too much, as I suspected she had a migraine. However she barely heard me.
"Huh?" she asked quietly, finally making eye contact with me.
"Are you alright?" I asked again, slightly louder this time, as I stepped towards her. In response she waved a hand at me dismissively.
"Just a headache. It's probably a side effect of being body swapped with a Princess." She insisted. I was a little doubtful, but I accepted her word for it. Slowly I wandered off back to the rope I had been tying. I kept glancing back to Sky every so often though, watching as she slowly dropped off to sleep. Swiftly I tried off the end of the rope and tested its strength. I took another look out of the window and was suddenly overcome by a swelling feeling that our escape route wouldn't hold us, or be long enough. I turned away from the window and wandered over to the wooden door, desperately trying the handle again and again, in the sheer hope that doing more would somehow open the door. When I took a break from almost pulling the handle off to rest my arms, a quiet sound drifted into my ears. But it scraped against my brain, the tone setting my teeth and making me feel like death itself was whispering into my ear. As the grating voice continued, I pressed myself against the door to try and work out what was being said.
"Nothing can go wrong with this – relax!" The gravely voice said, the jovial tone making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
"And you're sure they are in here?" A second voice asked slowly, with slightly more trepidation.
"Definitely!" The first voice answered angrily. "I locked those two idiots in there myself! They're sitting ducks, and once Kingsley gets his lazy self over here, we'll go straight in, and walk out of the castle with two heavy sacks slung over our shoulders!"
My blood ran cold as I realized that they were kidnappers that had come to take the prince and princess – except that it was me and Sky that would be taken, rather than Bennedict and Arabella! Fear coursing through my veins, I rushed over to Sky and began to shake her awake.
"Sky?" I asked as loudly as I dared. One eye opened and tried to find me through the sleep that obscured its view. "I've finished, and I can hear voices outside the door. We need to go now!" I urged, sounds of a pair of footsteps approaching flooding my thoughts. I decided not to tell Sky about what the voices were saying, as I didn't want to scare her. Hurriedly she got up and helped me drag the rope over the windowsill and hide it behind the branches of a sycamore tree. I quickly looked to see if any guards would see us, but our window was on the outer wall, and no guards were nearby.
"Ladies first." I said, trying to rush Skylar onto the rope.
"Go on then!" She retorted, barely holding in her laughter. I rolled my eyes in annoyance – we were in too much danger for jokes! But I smiled anyway and silently thanked her ability to make my mood lighten even when we were in danger.
"I should probably go first though." She decided anyway, gesturing to her dress, which confused me.
"Careful!" I whispered. She seemed to ignore me, and began her climb much quicker than was safe. As if to confirm my thoughts, Sky slipped a few times – making my heart race with worry each time. As she climbed down, I mused over everything that had happened recently, from being frozen to ending up in the body of a prince, from training to finding we'd been locked in, from my nightmare to Skylar's strange comment about going first… a strangled cry flew from my lips as something clicked.
"James? What's wrong?" Sky asked quietly, stopping climbing for a moment.
"I just got that joke about you going first!" I practically screeched. Skylar's only response was to snort with laughter. Soon after, Sky came level with the tree below the window. Once I saw that, I began to climb out of the window myself. After that, Sky climbed a little way further before dropping to the ground. By then, I was nearly at the base of the rope too, but behind me I heard something metal click and my blood turned to ice as I realized it was whoever had been on the other side of our door unlocking it! I tried to go even faster, but my arms were beginning to cramp!
"James!" Skylar screamed at me, "Hurry up!"
I risked a glance upwards and saw a figure trying to untie the rope! I continued down as fast as I could. Suddenly, the rope went slack… and then the end of it flew past my head!
"JUMP!" Sky hollered even louder!
With my heart hammering away in my chest as if trying to break my ribs, I let go of the rope, my only lifeline, and threw myself towards the ground. Wind rushed past my head and filled my ears, making me deaf. As tears streamed from my eyes because of the breeze, I saw the ground appear to zoom towards me. I closed my eyes, and a single thought choked out all others.
'I'm sorry Bennedict… I wish you could've continued your life…'