"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."
Summer, 2011. New York City.
The girl with the long, dark hair pushed through the crowd, a hand wrapped around the messenger bag slung across her body. Rush hour traffic was unbearable.
She stepped around a child screaming for its father to pick it up, smiled at Lenny behind the desk at the ticket booth and swiped her card through the machine, effectively checking out of the madness for another day.
She had big grey eyes, and they widened considerably as she watched a cab swerve to avoid a teenager, headphones jammed tightly in his ears, crossing the street as Tessa reached the top of the stairs from the subway onto her street. The boy didn't even notice as the cabby drove away, swearing at him from his car window.
Tessa dug her keys from her bag as she drew nearer her apartment and, tired from walking all day, decided to take the elevator. Three flights of stairs felt like three thousand after the day she'd just had.
Her phone beeped in her pocket and she slid it from her pocket, stopping to read the message. Something from a loan company about claiming compensation. She rolled her eyes and deleted the message, her eyes skimming the nearly empty message box.
"Aunt Harriet?" Tessa said, dropping her keys on the coffee table next to the front door. It banged shut behind her as she headed down the hallway into the front room and found it to be empty. She sighed and threw herself down on the couch with a thump. There was a noise from the kitchen and a boy who was slightly taller than her and had ruffled blond hair walked out, holding a phone in his hand. He nodded a hello to her as he sat down on the other free chair, speaking into the phone.
"Mmhmm," he said, and then he rolled his eyes dramatically at Tessa, who giggled and scrambled up into a sitting position.
"Yeah, okay. Love you too. See you later." He flipped the phone closed and dropped in into his lap with a sigh. "You're lucky you're single, Tessie," he said rubbing his forefinger and thumb across his eyes, "girls are hard work."
"I resent that," she said, tucking her feet underneath her, "but I wouldn't be seeing a girl anyway, so it doesn't matter, does it?"
"I can't promise you boys are much better," he said, but he grinned at her and crossed his feet at the ankles, resting them up on the coffee table in front of him. "You'd better bring them home to meet me, first," he said, his eyes serious. Tessa laughed aloud and slouched back against the seat.
"Sure thing, Nate," she promised airily, "if I ever find someone remotely interested in my existence, I'll be sure to bring them back here to let you scare them off."
"If they let me scare them off, they aren't really made of the sort of stuff I want my little sister dating, anyway," he said with a satisfied grin. Tessa made a sound of agreement and looked around the room.
"Where's Aunt Harriet?"
"Something about a book class, or something," Nate said, waving a hand dismissively. "She said she'd bring home dinner."
"Awesome," Tessa said with a yawn, "I wasn't looking forward to eating spaghetti. Again."
"Hey!" Nate said, "if you want something else, you cook it!"
"Not on your night!"
They bickered back and forth for a while until the sun began to set outside, and the sky was flecked with different shades of pinks, oranges and blues. Tessa threw open the doors onto the small balcony that overlooked the city and walked out with a smile. She loved New York; the hustle and the bustle of the people, the feeling that something was constantly happening, that something could change any moment. She leant on the railing and as watched a car hurtled past the end of the road, some kids kicked a ball around downstairs, a man with a briefcase ascended the stairs from the subway. She'd lived in the city for all of her life – with her parents before they'd died, briefly – and then with Aunt Harriet ever since.
She was nice to live with, Harriet – she mostly let them do what they wanted, but she always knew what to do in a problem. She always had a nugget of wisdom to share, a plaster to patch up a scraped knee – not that Tessa needed them, now she was seventeen, - a smile at the end of a bad day. She'd taken them in immediately after their parents had died, and Tessa and Nate felt they could never repay her for her kindness.
Their Aunt had never married, so they had no cousins, but they'd always had each other as children and were very close. Tessa couldn't think of many memories that didn't include Nate in some way.
The door to the apartment thudded open, and Aunt Harriet called from the door.
"Hello, children!" she said, "dinner is ready!"
Tessa smelt the Chinese food before she'd even made it through the door and hurried hungrily towards the smell.
"My favourite!" she said, darting around Nate as he tried to beat her. She pushed him playfully aside as she did and he bumped into the wall.
"Hey!" he exclaimed, and she laughed, reaching Harriet and plucking a box of sweet and sour chicken from her hands.
"Is the sauce on the side?" she asked, heading towards the kitchen. As she returned, she saw Harriet giving Nate chopsticks, but Tessa could never make them work for her.
"Of course," Harriet said, sat down with her shoes off and a box of the same meal as her niece in front of her. "That's the best way to have it!"
Nate grunted as he tucked into his food. Tessa plopped down next to Harriet and sighed in contentment as she ate the first bite.
"Did this stuff come from that place on fifth?" she asked, tipping some sauce onto the rice.
Harriet nodded. "They give you free crackers while you wait."
She flicked the television on and settled back to watch the news. They ate in silence as they watched a story about a high profile murder in the city.
"Another one," Nate said, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. "That's the third one this month."
"It makes me so worried about you two," Harriet sighed.
Tessa snorted. "We live in New York City, Aunty. You should always be worried about us."
Harriet swiped at her and Tessa ducked away from her hand with a chuckle. They finished eating and Harriet left to have a shower, while Nate switched on his playstation. Tessa decided to go for a walk.
New York was beautiful at night. She'd heard plenty about the stars, but you couldn't really see them with all the lights. Still, she loved to climb up high enough to see all of the lights from the hotels and bars and cars and just watch them all exist and whiz by and blare against the darkness as if screaming I'm here, watch me burn.
Before leaving the apartment, she grabbed her messenger bag. In it, she still had two books she wanted to finish before the end of the week and she loved to read outside, where she could really hear the birds as she read about them.
She took the stairs this time, enjoying the feel of the wind as it rushed up towards her as someone opened the door to the building downstairs. She walked leisurely, with no particular destination in mind. On the second floor, she heard a woman yelling at someone. There was a loud bang as a door was thrown open and hit the wall next to it. A second later, an attractive boy with glasses hurried past her, a sour look on his face. Tessa waited until the sound of his footsteps had disappeared and then peeked around the corner. It was empty.
The yelling didn't faze her. It was New York; if you didn't know how to stick up for yourself, you were in the wrong city.
With a shrug, she turned back to the stairs, and saw something from the corner of her eyes.
Nestled in the alcove next to the stairs was a doorknob. It didn't appear to be attached to a door, just simply a piece of the wall. She had never seen it before, but supposed it must be because it was hidden in the shadow of the wall opposite it. Still, she had lived here for nearly ten years. It was strange to think she couldn't remember ever seeing it before.
There was a humming sound coming from it, and she definitely had no recollection of hearing that before. She inched near, her brow furrowed. She pushed her dark curls behind her ear impatiently, catching her finger on a piercing at the top of her ear. She muttered an "ouch" and moved closer, pressing her ear against the wall. There was definitely some sound coming from the wall, but what it was, she wasn't sure. She looked down at the handle and gripped it with her right hand.
As soon as her fingers clamped down on the metal, her arm jolted painfully and Tessa felt as if all the wind had been knocked out of her. She felt her body slide towards the wall without her permission and tried to pry her fingers away from the knob, but they wouldn't move. It seemed as if now she was there, she was there for the whole ride.
Suddenly she was through the wall, and flying through the air until she had landed on her back in a room very different from the one she had just left. Sitting up slowly, Tessa rubbed the back of her head where she had hit it on the floor. The room she was in was small and there was no light but a single candle, flickering on a wooden table near a bed. The room appeared to be empty, so she stood up and had a better look around.
The room was simple, only a bed, the table and a small dresser on the opposite wall. The bedspread looked hand knitted. Tessa looked for a door and found one next to the dresser. She opened it and found herself in a passageway, even darker than the one she had left behind. Where she was, it appeared to already be night.
She took a deep breath. She'd hoped that by going back through the door, she'd end up back where she'd started, but that didn't seem to be the case. She felt hysteria build up in her throat but pushed it back, focusing on the sound of approaching footsteps instead. She didn't know if she should present herself and ask for help, or if she should hide until she had a better idea of where she was. Deciding on the latter, Tessa ducked back inside the door and listened as the steps kept going past her. She wondered how they could even see anything, but as she peeked out and saw them round the corner that was at the end of the passageway, she saw a glow of bright, pure light, so bright in the darkness she had become accustomed to that it made her eyes hurt.
She had never seen light like that before, but if they had torches that bright, she thought, they must use a lot of batteries. She slipped out the door again and headed the way the footsteps had come from until she reached a stairway. She headed up the stairs and found herself in what looked like the entrance to a large house. Another stairwell led upstairs opposite her, while a large set of wooden doors seemed to lead to a huge room of some kind opposite her.
"Where the hell am I?" she breathed, looking around at the tapestries that adorned the walls. This did not look like New York City.
There was the sound of voices from behind the big wooden doors and Tessa darted across the hallway, ducking down to hide beneath the stairs. The door opened and closed. It had thrown out a man dressed in a waistcoat, shirt and straight black trousers. He was tall, with unruly ginger hair spurting from the top if his head. He was wearing glasses and chatting quite animatedly to a younger man, who had the strangest pale silver hair. He was dressed similarly, and both seemed to have black tattoo's creeping out of the places their shirts covered their skin.
"Quiet ingenious," the taller man said, in a distinctly English accent, "I wish I had thought of it myself -"
They disappeared down the stairway Tessa had just climbed and she fell back against the wall behind her with a huff. Where was she?
She slipped out from behind the stairs and decided to go back down to the room she had ended up in and see if she could find another door. She was halfway across the entryway when there was another bang behind her, signalling that the door the men had left through had been opened again. She spun around and clapped her hands over her ears as the pretty blond girl in front of her opened her mouth and emitted a blood curdling scream.
So here we are! A new multi chap fic (I haven't written one of these for about two years, I am notoriously bad updater.) I came up with this while I was sitting at work today and I've already outlined all the chapters (which I never usually do, which probably explains the lack of updates on other multi chap fics) and it even has the potential to have a sequel. But enough about that, I haven't even written this one yet! Are you a little perplexed? Not to fear; all will be explained!