It’s finally here! The fourth and final part of Hijacked! Enjoy, and be on the lookout for an exciting Christmas Announcement in the next few days!
“You really thought you could just waltz out of here? You think I wouldn’t notice? What kind of fool do you take me for, Hannah?” He thunders, swiping the glass of water from the table.
“You can’t keep me here, Judas! You may be all high and mighty now, but just you wait! You can’t keep your author locked up. Sooner or later, I will get out. And when I do, I might just have to write in a nice, long, juicy scene about her. Or maybe I’ll go back, make a few edits to that scene at your favorite little coffee shop. How’d you like to be the one to pull the trigger? Hm?” I fire back at him, my face blushing until I’m sure it must be the same fiery hue as my frizzy red hair. His eyes narrow further, and his fists clench. His jaw works back and forth, the fury so clear in every one of his features that fear drops into my stomach like a boulder.
“Don’t you ever bring them into the conversation again. You hear me?” I eye him up and down, then stiffen my neck.
“Oh, I hear you alright, Judas. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am your author, and I will do what I please. Now let me out of here, or so help me –” His fist connects with my jaw, sending me flying backwards into the wall and effectively cutting me off.
“You are not in charge anymore! I suggest you climb down off of that high horse you’re riding, your majesty, and start cooperating, or else I may just lose my temper!” My head spins. His words are fuzzy, as though muffled by fog. I shake my head, and he tosses me roughly back into the chair, binding me once more, the ropes much tighter than last time. The door slams shut, and I’m left alone again… this time, with a pounding headache and aching jaw adding to the misery of that blasted dripping.
I stare at the floor in front of me, trying to get my eyes to clear. I flinch at the sound of footsteps outside. Wait… those footfalls are too quiet for guards. They sound… bare! I jerk my chin up towards the door, my eyebrows knitting themselves together in concentration. There’s whispering followed by a scuffle, and then all falls silent again. I relax the muscles in my arms, shaking my head again slowly. You’re losing it Hannah. Losing it. It was probably just a couple of rats. Now, how are you going to get out of here?
I fidget around, trying to work the ropes loose to no avail. I finally let out a sigh, giving up hope that I’ll be able to get myself out. There’s nothing I can do. He’s somehow made this room author proof. Maybe he’s even changed the byline to his name, and taken full control. I’m entirely at his mercy… and I know better than any that he has no understanding of that term. I close my eyes, letting my chin fall down on my chest. I wonder what they think of this at home. How long has it been, anyways? One day? Two? I don’t know. Is there a difference between book time and my world’s time? For all I know, it could be like Narnia… no time passes at all. Or perhaps it’s the opposite… But, if that’s the case… it could have been years already! David will already be married, maybe with children. And Jonathan will be in college, and mom and dad… and my grandparents… they’ll be gone before I get back. And everyone will have moved on with their lives. That is… if I do get back. I shudder, sending off a prayer for protection.
Just then, the door bursts open again. I flinch, and take a breath before looking up at Judas. I can’t hide from him here. And putting him off will only make it worse. I look up, setting my jaw and expecting an argument. My mouth fairly falls open in shock and surprise when I see the figures standing just inside the doorframe.
“Ben? Jesse? What are you –”
“Shhhh!” Ben hisses as Jesse lunges towards me and covers my mouth with her hand. I look at them wide eyed, unable to believe they’re actually here.
“Don’t make a sound. We’re gonna get you out of here. But we have to be fast. And no matter what happens,” Ben grunts as his knife finally slices through the heavy rope binding my hands. “You have got to stay behind me.” I nod, and quickly untie the ropes around my legs as he returns cautiously to the door. Jesse helps me up and holds me steady when my legs threaten to buckle, numb from the poor circulation caused by the ropes. She smiles softly, a gleam of excitement mixed with worry in her eyes. I return it, and shake my legs out to get the feeling back.
Ben motions us forward, and Jesse and I jog lightly towards him, doing our best to avoid making a sound. We move quickly up stone hallways, following Ben. Last time I was here, I came in through the main entrance. But that was an interview, and I had full control over everything. Besides… there’s no way we’d make it through there together. They’re the most wanted rebels in all of New York!
Jesse covers my back, and Ben carefully guides us forward, taking us down towards the emergency tunnel. Of course. Jesse would know where it is, and how to get in. I’d forgotten about that!
We’ve nearly made it out when Ben jerks to a halt so quickly that I run into his back. I can hear the boots crunching around the corner, and my heart rate climbs. Now’s as good a time as any to figure out if I have any power left at all or not. I think to myself. I close my eyes, and mentally write about the guards turning the other way down the long hall. When I open my eyes, Ben and Jesse are staring at me with huge eyes, and the troops are walking away from us. I smile, and we run outside, not stopping until we’ve crested the hill safely.
“How did you do that?”
“Why didn’t you get yourself out like that?”
“That was incredible!”
“I wish I could do that.” They chatter on excitedly, leaving me no room to interject an answer to their questions. I laugh with them, leaning against the tree. So much has happened under this tree… it’s a special place. I finger the bark gently, the texture like any tree of our world, but the feel like magic, sending shivers down my spine. Words squirm inside and outside, running across the surface where no one but me can see. I suddenly realize how quiet it is, and look up. The two of them watch me curiously, soft smiles on their faces. Finally, Jesse squeals, and we jump together, hugging.
“It’s so great to see you again!” She squeaks, her voice high with excitement.
“And you’ve no idea how wonderful it is to see both of you! I’d about lost hope that I’d ever get out of there.” I sigh, and Ben glances up at me.
“Lost hope? You? Hannah, our whole story is about endurance through hope.” I meet his firm gaze, and look down at my hands.
“That’s true, Ben… but I uh…” I wring my hands, unsure of how exactly to explain what happened. Am I even sure myself? “I’m not exactly… fully in control, at the moment. And I’m not entirely sure how much has been changed.” I rub my foot against my leg, and Ben and Jesse exchange looks.
“But… Hannah, how can that be? You’re our author! And back there, you diverted the guards!” Jesse gasps, and I nod.
“Yes, I am. But there’s a character here… I don’t believe you’ve met him yet. He’s a writer too. Somehow, he got a hold of my transcriptor. He kidnapped me and brought me here. I know he’s already changed some things… he made one of the cells author-proof. But I don’t know what else he’s changed. It can’t have been too much yet, since I still have some control. But I didn’t know that there. Now I know I can stop him.” I smile at them, and they relax.
“That sounds more like the Hannah we know and love.” Ben replies with a smile. He steps forward and wraps me in a hug, ruffling my hair like a big brother might. I laugh and stick my tongue out at him, and he chuckles. I close my eyes a moment, picturing the byline of the book. I erase it, and bury it deep within the pages, hidden where Judas will never find it. Jude, take control. Judas isn’t in charge anymore… nor will he be until I leave. Bring the transcriptor back to me. The words that form the air around me suddenly seem less tense, and I know it’s worked.
“Hannah, are you okay? What are you doing?” Jesse asks. I open one eye a crack, trying not to laugh at her inquisitive expression.
“I’m fixing things.”
“But… you aren’t going back yet, are you? I mean…” She rubs her neck, her face fallen. “I don’t know, I thought maybe you’d want to stay for a little while.” I almost tear up at her words, my heart fluttering like a butterfly’s wings. I still can’t believe they actually want to be with me. It’s every author’s dream! I can feel disappointment in Ben’s silence, and my heart warms. I shut my eye again, and three horses come galloping from nowhere.
“Did you…” Jesse looks at me with wide eyes, and I smile breathlessly at her. Ben stares at them, his jaw hanging slack as they slow to a walk and begin nuzzling us gently. I feel a bit lightheaded, and breathe a heavily. Wow… I didn’t expect it to take this much out of me. It’s always exhausting to write, but… that really took a lot out of me for something so simple.
Jesse giggles, rubbing the white one’s forehead. They stand tall, about Moose’s height, and have a regal look to them. I smile again, reaching out to the flaming chestnut in front of me.
“Why did you bring them here?” Ben asks, gently stroking the jet-black steed before him. He would have been such a marvelous horseman. He just lights up around the beasts. They’ve always been therapeutic to me… they must have the same affect on him. That magical connection that makes everything – past, present, and future – just melt away. I’ve always thought it was a heaven send to me… I can’t imagine what a relief it is for him.
“Well, I figured you two would feel more comfortable hanging out at camp. I’m not nearly as fit as either of you, and it’s been a long couple days. I don’t even know how long I was in there… but it felt like an eternity. I’m not going to make it on foot. Besides, I figured you might enjoy it. I’ll make sure no one sees us.” I reply, turning to face him as the chestnut rests his head contentedly on my chest. The two of them come just short of squealing in excitement, and I laugh.
“What are their names?” Jesse asks, gazing into her horse’s eyes as though mesmerized by the nearly crystalline quality of them.
“Well, this one right here is Felix.” I laugh as the chestnut tosses his head, nibbling my hair before resting his chin on my shoulder.
“Your white one is Lisha, and Ben’s buddy over there is Alban. They’ll take care good care of us… and won’t give us any fiascos like last time.” I wink at Jesse, and she blushes. Ben laughs heartily, and Jesse quickly turns, hands on her hips, eyes sparking flames.
“Easy there, Jesse! I was just having a little fun!” Ben puts his hands out in defense, and Alban shuffles back nervously.
“It happens to the best of us, Jesse. I can’t tell you how many times that horse has tried to pull something on me!” I console her, and she sighs.
“Now, let’s get going.” I want to see what it’s really like there. I add selfishly. I step to Felix’s shoulder and gently tap my foot to his leg. He quickly drops down into a bow, and I swing aboard before he stands straight again. I look down at Ben and Jesse with a broad smile, gathering a fistful of red mane for balance. They stare at me, then look to each other with wide eyes. After a moment, Ben shrugs, and they repeat my actions cautiously.
“Ready for some fun?” I ask, my eyes gleaming. They nod excitedly, and I turn Felix towards the hill on the opposite side of town. “We’ll stick close to the town, and dismount before we hit the shack. I’d love to let the men take a ride too, but I’m just not strong enough to create that many horses right now… and I couldn’t put these three through that. It would be unkind to ride in like kings, then send the horses away. This way, the men will never know.” They nod agreement, and I cluck to Felix. He picks up a trot, and slowly works into a hand gallop, his long strides eating up the ground. Lisha and Alban’s muzzles brush my ankles, and I can hear Ben and Jesse laughing happily behind me.
Felix’s muscles slide beneath me, stretching and contracting, widening and condensing, flowing like a living river between my legs. I lean forward over his center of balance to help him along, and his flying mane brushes my wind bitten cheeks. A crumbling stone wall runs along our path to the right, and the shambles of the town lay just beyond it. Our ride comes to an end far too soon, and Felix slides to a stop as I lean back.
“Wasn’t that lovely?” I ask, in an almost dreamy tone.
“That was incredible!” Jesse agrees, and Ben nods subtly, rubbing Alban’s neck appreciatively. Gosh, I wish I could keep them together. But even if I could work Alban into the story… the guards would catch them far too easily. It would only end up in tragedy… worse even than what I’ve written. I can’t let them catch him like that.
“It’s okay, Hannah. It would be foolish to keep them around. We’d love it, of course… but without you here, there’s very little we could do to draw more unwanted attention to ourselves than go gallivanting around on horseback.” Ben whispers, as if reading my mind. I give him a sad smile, and we slowly slide off our horse’s backs and plop to the ground. After giving each of them one last pat, I close my eyes. When I’ve opened them, the horses are gone, hidden back in the dark recesses of my mind, ready to appear in some other story in the future.
“Hannah? The fastest way to base is straight through…” Ben starts, but cuts off when he sees my smile. “But… of course you already knew that.” He scratches the back of his neck, and I laugh.
“I know, Ben. But I just…”
“You have to see it for yourself.” He finishes, a sad smile resting on his lips. “I advise against it. It’s not as magical a place as you may think. But I can’t exactly forbid it, now can I?” I give him an apologetic grin, and Jesse shakes her head.
They follow close beside me as I venture into the town, drinking in the world made of my pen’s ink and raw imagination. The farther I travel into it, the thicker the air seems around me, and the heavier my heart feels within my chest. I knew it was bad… but actually being here… seeing the filth, the starved faces, the fear… I never imagined it would be this bad. I press onward, taking the long way around to the tunnel that holds the rebel base. We’ve nearly made it to the shack when we stumble across a lifeless corpse resting in the mud, its back propped up against the weathered stone wall. I gasp, covering my mouth and stumbling backwards. Ben catches me, supporting me as I try to rein in my emotions.
“Hannah, it’s okay. It happens all the time. It’s probably better for him. Look at how malnourished he was! He’s in a better place now.” He tries to comfort me, but his words do little to soothe me.
“No Ben, it’s not okay. I made this place like this. All of this is my fault. These people, this town, this country… they’re all suffering because I wrote your story this way.” I curl into him, sobbing. My knees shake under the weight of guilt crashing down on top of me, and Ben hugs me close.
“Hannah, it’s not your fault. You may have written the story, but life was like this long before you took up the pen. We came to you because you were the only one that would treat our story well, give it the life and breath it needed. No one else could have done us justice the way you have.” He whispers hoarsely.
“Yeah, Hannah. You have treated us with greater respect than we could ever have hoped for. You care deeply for us. That’s all that matters. The things that happen here… no one can help that. It’s our fate, our destiny. It’s God’s plan for us. You’re just the medium through which He breathed us. And you’ve done well by all of us.” I look up at them, the tears still wet in my eyes, and take in their courageous, willing, humble faces, filled with honesty. I hug them both, unable to give words to my gratitude for them.
“Come on. I think we should go to the base. You can see the shack some other time.” Ben says firmly, and I nod. My feet follow his through the slop and muck of the town’s streets, and send up a prayer of thanks. I wish I could learn a thing or two about being bold from these two. They might be my characters… but I’ve learned more from them than they ever have from me.
It’s not long before we’re stepping into the trees, climbing up the side of the mountain in which the unfinished tunnel lies. A short ways up, hidden beyond the trees, I can see the yawning mouth of the entrance. Colleen and Jordan come running towards us, but stop when they see me standing between their leaders. Jordan’s jaw drops, and Colleen glares at me with those furious crystal blue eyes of hers. I can almost feel my soul shrivel beneath her gaze.
“Ben? Jesse? That’s not… is it? Is that even possible?” Jordan stammers.
“It’s me, Jordan. It’s wonderful to finally meet you!” I shake his hand firmly, and he breaks into a smile. Colleen huffs, turns on her heel, and storms back towards the tunnel without a word. Oh boy. I knew she’d hate me. Jesse gives me a sympathetic look, and I gently bump her shoulder as we walk. At least Jesse understands… she’s in the dog house too.
I feel like I’m walking across hot coals as I enter the tunnel, everyone staring at me. Ben leads me to the very center, where he steps up onto a tabletop with pride.
“Alright men, as you all can see, we have a very special visitor in our midst! Our author has come to see us. I expect you all to take good care of her while she’s here, as short a time as it may be.” He leaps off the table, and turns back to me. My face is beet red, and I glance around at the faces I’ve written so many times, but never truly seen. Within seconds I’ve been completely surrounded by my characters, calling for me and asking questions until they sound like an angry swarm of bees.
“Hey! Everybody back off!” Jesse shouts, instantaneously silencing the men. “Give her some space to breath! She can’t stay for too much longer. Her world is waiting for her. Now, if you want to say hi, line up behind Jordan. You’ll all get the chance to say hello, then you are to get back to work. Just because our author is here doesn’t mean we can stop everything. Clear?” I smile at her appreciatively, and she nods.
I lose track of time as the line of characters go by. My main and supporting characters I can’t help but hug, and the rest I shake hands with, exchanging fond salutations and kind words. By the time I’ve reached the end of the line, my hand is sore and my face hurts from smiling. This must be what it feels like to walk the red carpet. Who’d of thought I’d get this kind of treatment here?
“So… Hannah…” Jesse’s impish voice breaks through my thoughts, and I turn to look at them. They both wear mischievous expressions, and I’m instantly on guard.
“Yes?” I ask cautiously, staring both of them down.
“Well… since you’re here and all… Ben and I were thinking that maybe you’d like to…”
“You know… uh… experience it a little?” Ben finishes for her when she can’t find the words. I laugh, but my hair stands a bit.
“Well, what did you have in mind?”
“Oh, you know… just a little fun on the firing range.” Jesse answers, blushing.
“And maybe I could teach you to spar, or… something.” Ben adds, scratching his neck again. I can’t help but laugh at their pained, nervous expressions, and they smile. It’s Ben and Jesse. They’ve proven well enough that they wont hurt me. It might not be my smartest move but… I’m going to trust them.
“Alright guys, alright. But I have something I need to do first. I’ll be right back.” They give me a funny look, then shrug their shoulders. I sprint off towards the firing range, where I know I’ll find Colleen. Hannah, this is probably the most stupid thing you’ve ever done. I whisper to myself.
“Colleen?” I call softly when I’m a few paces away. She flips towards me, her black braid whipping around and landing over her shoulder. Those clear blue eyes bear the likeness of white-hot flames, and I take a precautionary step backwards.
“What do you want? Haven’t done enough damage already?” She snarls. I eye the gun in her hand and take a deep breath.
“Colleen, I’m truly sorry for what happened. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve cried over what I did to you. But please, just give me a second. You have every right to hate me. But I’m asking you to please, just give me a chance.” My voice quivers, and my heart aches for her. She glares at me, but I stand firm, refusing to back down.
“Fine.” She sighs, putting the gun away and looking suddenly exhausted.
“Follow me.” I whisper, phrasing it more like a question than a command. She eyes me warily, but I keep walking, and she finally comes after me. I take her to the mouth of the tunnel, so that we’re hidden by the trees. She looks nervous, her fingers twitching, her legs tensing at the slightest sound.
“What are we doing out here?” She asks suspiciously. I smile lightly, daring to hope that maybe this will help.
“I couldn’t do this in there. Everyone would have wanted me to do the same for them… but I don’t have the time or strength for that. Colleen, what happened to you two was a tragedy. One of the worst I’ve ever had to write. It haunts me. It keeps me up at night, because I can’t change it. But while I can’t change it… I can at least do this. And I know you can never forgive me, but maybe it will help you hate me a little less.” I speak quietly, trying to ease her nerves. She looks at me like I’m crazy, and I crack a small, sad smile.
I close my eyes, writing in my mind’s eye. I can feel the energy draining from me, as though someone accidentally pulled the plug. I hear Colleen gasp, and open them. Mason stands in front of us, looking between us and his hands as though confused.
“Mason?” Colleen whispers, unable to believe her own eyes. He looks up at her, a smile spreading across his face. I collapse back against one of the trees, sliding to the ground in fatigue. They run to each other, laughing and smiling as they embrace. I smile faintly, tears springing to my eyes at the beautiful display. It might not last… but at least I can do this much. They bubble back and forth, jumping from tears to laughter and back again faster than a spinning top. I close my eyes, listening to them and resting a moment.
“Hannah?” Colleen whispers above me, and silence falls around us. I look up at her, and she blushes, refusing to meet my eyes.
“I… I’m sorry for how I’ve acted towards you. It was uncalled for and childish. I know you hurt just as badly as we do when you write, if not more. And I’ve been terribly cruel to you.” She sniffles, and I carefully push myself to my feet, leaning heavily against the tree.
“Colleen, it’s perfectly alright. I understand. We all have our ways of grieving.” She wraps me in an unexpected hug, and I cautiously hug her back.
“Thank you.” She whispers in a quivering voice. “I know he can’t stay… but seeing him again was more than enough.” I squeeze her shoulders weakly before she pulls away, and give her a smile.
“Hannah… I don’t know how you did this, but thank you.” Mason speaks up, stepping up to give me a hug as well. I return it, then look the two of them up and down, breathing in the sight of them together.
“It was the least I could do, you two. Enjoy your time. Mason will be here until I have to go. Just make sure no one sees you.” They nod, smiling again as I slowly make my way back to the tunnel on the little energy I’ve managed to gather from resting.
I spend the rest of the evening going back and forth between the firing range with Jesse and learning hand to hand techniques with Ben, with the occasional character popping in to talk for a minute or two. The world my pen created amazes me, sucks me into the very fiber of itself and wraps around my heart in a way I’ve never felt. When Jude finally shows up and slips me the transcriptor, his face down and pale, my heart sinks. We slip away, so that no one knows he has it.
“I’m sorry, Hannah.” He whispers.
“I know, Jude. It wasn’t you, it was him.” I take the small machine, watching his face for any sign of Judas. All I find is misery, as he mulls over what Judas forced him to do. I quickly wrap him in a tight hug, letting go quickly. He gives me a startled look, but I just smile, and eventually he brightens a bit. Such a lost, broken soul.
“Ben… Jesse… it’s time for me to go.” I whisper, coming up behind them. The familiar hole begins to form in my chest, and I dread leaving them. As awful as this world is… I can’t help but love it.
“Do you really have to go Hannah?” Jesse begs, and Ben stands behind her, trying to look tough and distant, but not doing a very good job of it.
“Guys… I wish I could stay here. You’ve no idea how much. I love you all so very much. And I will come back. Soon, hopefully. But you know I’m never truly gone… a part of me will always be here in Raven Falls.” We hug once more, and the escort me out so that the men can’t see the transcriptor at work. As the word twister forms at my feet, I wave, and my heart aches for them. I wish I could stay, or take them with me. Writing about them just isn’t the same.
When the whirlwind of words calms and falls away, I find myself standing on their book, the pages rippling slightly. My room is dark and silent, exactly as I left it. My little white puffball of a dog lays at the end of my bed, looking up at me and wiggling her tail lazily. I plop down next to her, and pull her over onto my lap.
“Back to reality, eh pup?” I sigh and curl up under my blankets once more. Well… maybe not quite yet.