This is something I've been writing and keeping to myself for over a year now, something that I once tried to stop thinking about, but it was persistent. This has undergone so many personal revisions that it hardly resembles what it used to be, but at it's heart, it is what it is.
A story about a journey. Nothing more, nothing less.
Without further ado, I present to you...
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Images flashed violently across her mind as she bolted awake.
The clothes she wore were simply tattered rags. The flesh visible through the shirt was ghostly white, and the girl was sweating profusely, staining the cloth upon her body.
When she had managed to move the dark brown hair lying limp over her eyes, she was truly able to gauge her surroundings. Sat alone upon grass, she could see only trees and the morning sun. Standing up in the forest clearing, she shook her head and, barely hanging onto her ripped shirt, walked into the forest. She knew her way home, though a wild animal attack had taught to her keep her distance from the forest, the knowledge just made her walk that little bit faster.
The girl had to wonder how had she managed to get to the middle of the forest without knowing it; she had never been known to sleepwalk. Although the dream did involve the forest. The girl grimaced and slapped a palm to her forehead as if to knock the dream into focus, but the more she thought about it, the more it evaded her grasp, like water escaping from a cupped hand.
The girl continued to walk, eventually leaving the forest and reaching a small village of stone houses, looking for all the world like a beggar from the street. The locals gave her a wide berth as she walked down the cobbled road, reproachful eyes cast at her from every direction, she would turn to look through a window, only for the curtain to get shut promptly.
The girl reached a familiar stone wall and looked into the window. The occupant didn't flee after being caught staring, instead they opened the window and shouted for the girl to get inside quickly. She was opening the gate when the door was flung open by a female figure whose hair was an identical shade of brown to the girl, now walking up to the house. Concerned, she rushed over to the young girl and draped an arm around her shoulder, guiding her inside.
“I saw your empty bed and feared the worst, what happened to you, and why are your clothes torn? Oh it doesn't matter now, lets get you inside, your father has prepared breakfast.”
Oddly the girl didn't seem hungry. “It doesn't matter Mum, I'm not hungry. Can I just go upstairs and get a change of clothes? These are ruined,” she indicated the rips and tears in her night clothes.
The girl's mother looked rather suspicious and grabbed her daughter's hand, “How can you not be hungry? Look at you, you're basically skin and bone and you're so pale. I think you're ill, no one can healthily lose the amount of weight you have that quickly.”
The girl felt a new anger rising in her that she had never felt before, like a great beast rearing its ugly head, “No mother, I'm fine.” She snapped, “I just look like skin and bone compared to you, have you ever heard of a diet!” The girl broke free from her mother's grip and for the tiniest moment, the girl's mother could swear she saw a glimmer of blue amongst the usual deep brown of her daughter's eyes. “I said, I'm going upstairs to get a change of clothes.”
And as the girl stormed off upstairs, she left her mother stunned in the hall.
“Is everything all right dear?” Came the question from her husband in the kitchen.
The girl slammed the door to her room and jumped onto her bed, face pressed into the pillow.
The girl didn't know why she was so angry, her mother hadn't done anything wrong. She got up and walked to her dresser, opening a small blue velvet laced box she had been given years ago. Inside was a necklace that had her name, 'Zaniah', written in fancy text across a silvery full moon, it was a present from her grandmother and she cherished it, but kept it always in the box unless she really needed to look at it. It always acted as a great sense of comfort to her.
Zaniah reached out and grabbed the silver chain but recoiled her hand almost as soon as she had touched it. The chain seemed to radiate an intense heat that burned her skin, the chain and pendant both fell on to the dresser, both looking fairly innocuous. She rushed to the bathroom to run her hand under the tap, which left it feeling quite numb. 'At least the pain is gone' she thought. She tried to push it out of her mind, but as soon as she entered her room again, her eye was dragged straight towards the necklace that lay haphazardly on her dresser.
She distracted herself by studying her clothes in the full length mirror on the back of her bedroom door. Her favourite white night shirt had several large rips across the torso and the left shoulder had been torn completely off leaving the shirt hanging precariously on her other shoulder, her three quarter length pants weren't so bad but had one large tear running the length of the right leg. She also noticed several very long but thin cuts that seemed to co-ordinate with the rips in her clothes. 'Thorns?' Zaniah asked herself, it seemed the most likely explanation, she did wake up in a forest after all.
Zaniah removed her shirt and realised what her mother was talking about, her ribs were easily visible, each bone could be seen and from the bottom of her ribs was a very noticeable inwards curve on both sides which awkwardly curved back out to her pelvis which jutted out horribly. Looking quite scared, she found a pair of what were her tightest pants and found that she could slip them on without much trouble, leaving some room at the ankle where the material flapped around. The effect was made worse by the fact that she was rather tall for a fifteen year old, the overall look was that of an extremely malnourished teenager.
Zaniah was confused though, she hadn't changed what she ate in the past month and she hadn't felt any different than she had a month ago, although she was falling asleep earlier and waking later than she usually did. She put on a simple black t-shirt and went downstairs to get some breakfast, no matter how full she felt, she was going to eat as much as she could, she knew no earthly way how she could have lost so much weight, but she was determined to put it back on.
Creeping downstairs, she slowly popped her head around the door of the kitchen, where her mother and father were currently eating. Feeling apprehensive, she approached the table and cleared her throat, her mother didn't look up, but her father looked over the top of his glasses and asked “What is it you want, dear?”
Zaniah directed her response to her mother,“I'm sorry for shouting at you earlier mum, you were right and I had no reason to be angry at you, but I felt really strange and I couldn't stop what I was saying before I said it.” for a majority of the apology, Zaniah looked at the floor shuffling her feet. She felt relieved to get it out into the air at the very least and felt brave enough to ask a follow up question, “Is it okay if I have some breakfast?”
Her mother was sat silent for a few seconds and seemed to be chewing a piece of bacon, when she finally looked up to the pale face of her daughter, she smiled, “Of course you can have some breakfast, I made your father save you some.”
Zaniah smiled and sat down to the left of her mother and grabbed the last of the bacon and some toast and ate like she hadn't done so in a few days.
“I thought you weren't hungry” asked her mother suspiciously, raising an eyebrow.
“Once I got upstairs I realised I was quite hungry, so I finished dressing and came back down.”
Zaniah's mother raised her eyebrow again, that was an obvious cover-up, but she let it slide, “Oh, your grandmother sent you a package, I left it on the table in the living room. Once you've finished eating you should open it.”
Zaniah looked confused, it wasn't her birthday for another three months, so why would she be sent a package? She took the final bite from her bacon sandwich and got up from the table and walked into the living room where she saw a brown package wrapped in string, there was a note attached, 'I know you'll find this useful. Grandma'
She looked at the package for a few seconds with a quizzical stare, 'What would I find useful?' she thought. Slowly untying the string then unfolding the brown wrapping paper, she found a shoe box, but the box was considerably lighter than a box with shoes in it should be. Zaniah opened the lid and was met by a pokéball, enclosed with lots of tissue paper and a note, which read:
Make sure your parents don't read this note.
Inside this pokéball is a pokémon from a distant land, with the recent developments you may or may not be aware of, this little pokémon can help. Her species is called 'Chingling' and hails from the continent of Sinnoh. This particular Chingling was bred from a pokémon of mine, which is important, I would like you to visit me in Ecruteak, we have things to discuss...
“What has she sent you?” came a voice.
Zaniah jumped and spun round, sliding the note into her back pocket as she did, her mother was standing in the doorway. “Oh, it's just a... a pokéball, I don't know why she'd send it to me though.”
“That mother of mine, you know, she was always trying to get me into pokémon training, but I told her, 'It's my life mother and you can't tell me what to do.' She kept trying though, but now it seems she has turned her attention to you. So what do you think?” Zaniah's mother had a reminiscent look about her as she said this.
“Think about what?” asked Zaniah.
“About pokémon training of course, you're fifteen, you've finished your education and you don't seem to have any other plans. It would be good for you to get out the house and get some exercise, get some muscles on your bones.”
Zaniah had to think, it did seem nice and a lot of her friends had started, some earlier than others. It had always seemed that she would be the last one to go, but now she had a pokémon for herself, “I'll have to think about it,” she replied, mulling it over in her head.
“Well you should at least see what pokémon she sent you, you can let it out in the back garden and say hello.”
Zaniah held the pokéball in her hand, staring at it as if to open the ball using only the power of her mind.
That was until her mother said, “Just throw it.”
Zaniah looked up and smiled hesitantly, “Sorry mum, okay then.”
She threw the pokéball at the garden fence, it wasn't the most terrific throw ever, but something must have triggered a release mechanism. Perhaps it was the sudden increase in movement or maybe because it sensed some kind of throwing action on Zaniah's part, but in mid flight, the ball split in two horizontally across the middle, red on the top half and white on the bottom. The resultant red flash of energy caused Zaniah to block her vision with her arms, when she loooked over however, she now saw a yellow sphere sitting next to the red and white one she had just thrown.
This new sphere had a face, a face which looked up at the girl with mixed fear and confusion. The girl crept over to the newly released pokémon and got a better look at it, along with a face, it also had stumpy arms and legs and a ribbon like extension coming from its head, coloured red and white in a swirling pattern around the 'ribbon', much like a candy cane.
The pokémon looked up at the girl approaching cautiously and muttered the tiniest of squeaks, unfortunately, the girl heard this squeak and bent down even further saying words like 'cute' and 'frightened' that meant nothing to the small yellow pokémon, who recoiled slightly from the advancing girl. The girl then reached out a hand to touch the little yellow pokémon, who promptly curled into a defensive foetal position, when it felt the hand touch its skin it shuddered slightly but quickly calmed as it began to enjoy the feeling of the girls thin fingers tracing over its head. The small, yellow chingling opened its eyes and stared into the happy smiling face of the girl stroking it, something that looks this happy couldn't pose a threat, it rationalised, and began to smile much like the girl.
“You know, I didn't think that this pokémon malarkey would be any use but this little guy is really cute. I suppose a little time off from my education couldn't be all that bad.” the girl called to her mother, still stroking the chingling, “Just look at it, it's so small and delicate.”
“It's a bit like you then isn't it, except you aren't that small, you already have something in common.” added her mother.
But the girl didn't hear her mother, she was busy stroking her pokémon. Her pokémon. It dawned upon her that she owned this pokémon and thus had the responsibility for its upkeep and well being. If she was to care for it, then she would need to know about it, an idea suddenly struck the girl.
“I need to go to the library,” she said suddenly, turning to look at her mother. “Mum, I need to go to Violet Town and get a book on how to look after my pokémon.”
“Well make sure you're back in time for tea, I thought we could have a special dinner in celebration of your plans,” the girl's mother replied. “And you should take your pokémon with you, think of it as a practice run for when you actually go.”
“That's a good idea, and I'm sure she'll be glad of some company instead of being cramped in that small pokéball by herself.”
“How do you know it's a girl?” her mother asked.
“Oh.” The girl had been caught in a predicament, she couldn't tell her mother about the note as her grandmother specifically stated not to show her mother or father, and she wouldn't do that unless it was absolutely necessary. “I suppose I just do. Well, I should probably get dressed if I need to get to Violet and back before tea.”
Zaniah picked the chingling up and ran inside, giving her mother a big smile as she passed her.
Her mother didn't return a genuine smile, her daughter was hiding something and she intended to find out what it was. For now however, she was content to play a waiting game.
If you're reading this then I assume you read the prologue, I hope you enjoyed it and will continue to see if the rest of the story is any good.
Just a quick note, yes the title was inspired in part by the Hemingway novel, which I openly admit to only knowing about because of the Metallica song. I enjoyed both of them and they in turn gave me tiny bits of inspiration to write this entire thing, hence the title.
If you're interested, I will make special notes in my Livejournal, which you can find linked in my signature, I'll probably talk about what I thought during the creation of the specific chapter, any easter eggs or random notes I can think of etcetera. I also want to start a little side segment called "Ask the Cast" in which you can ask whatever you like to one the characters and I'll try to answer it in character as best as I can, this is obviously limited to actually receiving questions, but I'll be glad for a chance to stretch my imagination.