EAST-BRIDGE SCHOOL FOR MISCREANT GIRLS
CHAPTER ONE: THE PACKAGE
Jillian tapped her finger nervously on the edge of her desk, staring blankly at her phone. For the second day in a row she had received a text from an out of state number—“sorry we’ve missed you, please verify your address at the link below.”
“How stupid,” Jillian muttered slamming her phone down as a web-browser opened to a series of links. Without thinking she’d clicked on one. A gloomy wine colored screen popped up, intricate scrolls lined the page with a font so dark it was barely legible, “you are formally invited...”
Jillian squinted; it was hard to make out the rest of what was said. Below was a thin, narrow frame with the words “click here,” flashing across the screen. She tried to exit out of the page but nothing happened; her phone seized. Just as she pressed the back arrow for the hundredth time reams of virtual confetti exploded, turning her phone dark once more.
“It’s not coming back on,” Jillian fumed, pressing the two side buttons together frantically until her fingers turned white-hot. “Nothing’s happening…”
“Calm down Jill…just put the phone down. You’re always on that thing…why don’t you take a break from it for once.” Jillian’s boyfriend Scott urged. Of course this was much easier said than done and it didn’t help that she’d been expecting a few packages in the mail; nothing that should have required her to verify her address. All she was trying to do was get back into the tracking page so she could see where all her recent orders were.
“Just delete the text. You’ve been looking at that phone for over an hour. Nothing’s going to change.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jillian began, “I know better than to click on a link but it looked so normal. What if it was a virus or something?”
“Can’t do anything about it now, I wouldn’t worry about it Jill just restart your phone. What’s the worst that’ll happen? Someone hacks your phone?”
“You’re right. I’m probably over reacting.”
Jillian knew her boyfriend was just trying to help but she couldn’t stop thinking about it.
A few days passed and she’d totally forgotten about the strange message—of course that didn’t stop her from rushing to check her phone every time a pulsating ping was heard signaling the arrival of another text.
“Would you stop doing that Jill, it’s getting ridiculous.”
“Sorry, can’t help myself.”
She wasn’t sure why she was still so preoccupied with her phone. The last of her packages had arrived— intact and with no issues and yet something didn’t sit right with her. All morning a sinking feeling lurked in the bottom of Jillian’s stomach. She felt as though someone was watching her, standing just out of sight waiting—but waiting for what? She wasn’t sure; she found herself peeking out of the blinds more than usual but nothing was there, nothing seemed different.
It was nearing dinner time and she’d almost finished cooking when a noise first caught her attention rousing her from another self-induced day-dream. It wasn’t the typical sounds of neighbor car-doors shutting or the house settling. In fact, it wasn’t like anything she’d heard before—a light tapping noise as though a Roomba was bumping into the front door repeatedly. Jillian started for the door but then as soon as it appeared, the noise went away.
At first Jillian thought she was imagining it so she went back to her usual tasks at hand.
The noise happened again, this time louder, rapping against the door. Jillian paused, staring at the front door just a few hundred feet from her—the noise was coming from higher up on the door, nearer the top.
“That’s strange, something must be stuck…” Jillian whispered slowly opening the door, unsure of what she’d find. To her surprise something was buzzing overhead—zooming closer and closer to Jill.
She couldn’t quite make out what it was—a toy helicopter? No that couldn’t be right this was far too advanced. Jillian craned her neck to get a better view—there was something small attached to it—a box of some sort, a package maybe? She wasn’t sure. Before she had any time to investigate a tiny square box was dropped into her hands. She barely caught it—her hands fumbling, afraid of what it might be.
“Hold on, stop, come back…wait, this isn’t mine…” Jillian called out, chasing after the drone as it disappeared from sight overhead into the sun-filled trees.
The package itself was pretty generic, bright red calligraphic handwriting spelled her name—‘Jillian Roberts’ with her proper address and everything. The senders name read: East Bridge School for Miscreant Girls.
“What in the world…” Jillian dropped the package onto the front steps; it landed softly on her doormat. Surely this was a mistake. Yes, that was it, there had to be another Jillian Roberts who was expecting a package—after all, she had such a common name that there might have been a mistake at the post-office. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder if that tugging nudge in her belly had something to do with this package?
She went back to her phone, pulling up the text—thankfully she hadn’t deleted it like her boyfriend had begged her to do. She clicked on the link, nothing happened.
“That’s weird,” Jillian whispered, clicking the link repeatedly several times before exiting out again, nothing happened, no confetti, no strange site, nothing. Jillian decided against leaving the package on her front step—“I will take it out to the curb later,” Jillian said, tossing it into the trash for safekeeping.
Hours later the sounds from earlier roused her from a perfectly good sleep. She was miffed.
“Of course he’s undisturbed, sleeping peacefully through all the noise…” Jillian muttered as she tightened a plush blue house robe around her waist and rushed down the stairs towards the front door as to not wake her boyfriend Scott. To her surprise the drone was back, the trash stained package dangled loosely from its claws, ready to drop into her lap again.
“No, no, no!” Jillian hissed in a low roar. “This is not mine, I don’t want it, return to sender….” She shouted, slamming the door and locking all four of the bolts for good measure. She knew if any of her neighbors were out at this ungodly hour they probably would think she was crazy; she sure felt like it. Jillian leaned up against the door with her ear pressed nervously against the cold painted wood for a better listen. Whatever it was, was not going away, she heard the buzzing slams of the drone hitting the front door as the sounds echoed through her body with each jolt.
After a few seconds of silence Jillian finally ripped the door open. The package lay quietly on her doormat, ready for her to scoop up and place inside.
“This is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous…” Jillian shrieked but it was no use; she picked the package up and tossed it onto her countertop.
The rest of the night ticked by at an uneventfully dreadful pace; she watched hour after hour crawl around the clock and yet she still couldn’t fall back asleep. She sat quiet, even quieter than before, the box and its contents sitting unopened on the middle of her kitchen island afraid of what she would find inside. Something from East Bridge School for Miscreant Girls was nothing to scoff at but all the same, the name gave her chills. She wondered what sort of fresh hell awaited her under that beautifully packaged box that seemed to grow larger the longer she sat looking at it.
“Hey Scott,” Jillian called out as the first beams of sunlight graced the windows—“Scott, can you come here? I want to show you something.”
Her boyfriend came into the kitchen—eyeing the unopened package suspiciously.
“What’d you buy now?” He queried, sarcasm dripping on every word. “Have you been up all night, you look awful…”
“Gee, thanks!” Jillian began, “and not that it matters but I didn’t buy anything new. This came in the mail for me, have you ever heard of this place,” she asked—handing the package to Scott. He tossed it over lightly in his hands.
“No…what’s inside…” he whispered in a disgusted manner, “more importantly, what’s all over the box…”
“Mustard, I got mustard on it,” Jillian muttered, grabbing the box from his hands, “I’m not sure what’s inside the box but someone wants me to get this. Honestly, I’m afraid to open it…”
“Well, you should at least see what’s inside. It’s a small package…what’s the worst that could happen?”
“That’s what I’m afraid of…”
Scott grabbed hold of the box again, tugging at the taped seams but they didn’t budge. “Here you try,” he huffed, tossing the box to Jillian once more.
She stood rooted to the spot as she slipped a neatly trimmed finger under the sharp edge; a slight cut in her finger drew blood as it pooled under the cardboard.
“Careful,” Scott urged.
“Too late,” Jillian hissed, sucking on her finger, a hefty gash formed.
The box was even more unremarkable on the inside. Jillian sat staring at the nearly empty contents. A handwritten letter was inside, accompanied by a stamped train ticket. She had little time to process what was inside when a dubious tapping was heard at the front door. Jillian answered the door with the closest thing she could grab hold of.
“What are you going to do with that my dear? Dust cobwebs?” a tiny woman with a hunched back and long black robes laughed, a piercing cackle as she hobbled into Jillian’s front door.
Jillian looked down to the hand sewn straw hearth broom she held before dropping it onto a nearby bench.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Scott asked as he came into the foyer—standing between Jillian and the mystery woman.
“This doesn’t concern you my boy, please, take heed and go upstairs or you will be sorry,” the woman hissed through an upturned smile that made the hairs on Jillian’s neck stand up.
The woman had beady, glowing yellow eyes and pale wrinkled skin. Her hair was tucked under a pointed hat that was even pointier than her nose. She stood holding a cane that seemed to shake under her diminutive weight, but other than that she was very unassuming all the same.
“Have you not thought you were different my dear?” the woman began, leading Jillian into her very own living room. A pop of dust sent the fireplace into a frenzied roar.
“Well no,” Jillian replied, her eyes furrowed even closer together as she crooked her neck, curious as to how the fire started.
“You brought matches?” Jillian queried, looking to the woman’s free hand. “No my dear, no matches…”
“Take a seat, we need to talk.”
Jillian nodded, sitting down on the edge of a nearby recliner.
“You may be unsure of why I’m here and you might be wondering what all the huff is about—but don’t you worry about a thing—everything will make sense once we arrive at Wormswallow. But first things first, you signed a contract, let’s not forget—a blood oath to be exact and unfortunately, no matter how hard you try your life is going to be different now, much, much different.”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t sign anything,” Jillian whispered. A warm, tingly feeling overtook her and the room began to sway. She thought back to several hours before when she’d pricked her finger opening the stupid package. She looked down, her own bandaged finger still pulsing with pain.
“Yes, a blood oath, we’ve found it to be much better than a signature…” the woman continued.
“That’s not fair, that doesn’t count; that shouldn’t count. You tricked me…”
“All is fair game. You've been warned, you should know you don’t get to pick the school, the school picks you,” the woman began, “Besides, we've met before. Can't believe you can't remember, my name is Headmistress Cleobella Mothbane and I’ve been in charge of East-Bridge School for Miscreant Girls for quite a number of years…over a hundred to be exact…and I've been dying for you to enroll for the new year. Why've you been ignoring our letters? Did you not get my text?”
The sounds of a slight, unmistakable gasp came from Jillian's direction.
“No need to be frightened dear-heart, no need at all, you aren’t in the slightest bit of trouble yet, in fact, the school year hasn’t even started…you have plenty of time for things to go awry.”
Jillian shook her head in further disbelief.
“I’m not going. This can’t be right, I’m nineteen. I’m not a child. I live on my own…I don't need to go to school."
“You don’t have a choice my dear, you aren’t listening, the school chooses you. Besides, there are many, many rules here at East-Bridge School for Miscreant Girls and you will follow them all as though your life depends on it. You always do.”
Jillian sat back deeper into the couch. It felt cold and stiffly unwelcoming.
“Blinking won’t make me disappear dear, that's rude…strike one,” the woman, Headmistress Mothbane added, her voice sharp and unforgiving as Jillian felt a burning sting cross her hands.
“I already packed your things, we leave in exactly forty-five seconds,” Headmistress Mothbane ordered as she snapped her hands.
Several trunks appeared in the foyer.
“What about Scott? I need to let him know what’s going on…”
“Scott?” Headmistress Mothbane queried, a look of cruel satisfaction forming on her face.
“My boyfriend,” Jillian answered, her eyes darting up to the stairs.
“You don’t have a boyfriend my dear, there is no Scott. Got rid of him for you,” Headmistress Mothbane coolly replied, “Can’t have any distractions at East-Bridge. You will find everything out later as we go along. For now, forget him, we have to get a move on. You’ve got a lot to learn. Besides, within a few hours you will forget your entire life as you knew it, that I can assure you…”
“Speaking of,” Headmistress Mothbane whispered, “here my dear, take a deep, deep breathe,” Headmistress Mothbane cooed, blowing a potent dust into Jillian’s face. When she awoke they were somewhere cold and dark, blades of grass and tarry pavement lit up under a nearby streetlamp. She sat propped up against several trunks.
“Ah, glad you made it,” Headmistress Mothbane said aloud, elbowing Jillian who looked increasingly more confused as time went on.
“Why wouldn’t I…”
“Portal-jumping humor, clearly you wouldn’t understand,” Headmistress muttered.
“Obviously…” Jillian tried moving. “Ah, don’t want to spoil your dinner. Portal traveling dust makes me woozy just thinking about it. We will get you to the train, don’t you mind that…”
Jillian had barely any time to reply when four men appeared out of nowhere, hoisting Jillian and her luggage into the air.
They followed closely on the ends of Headmistress Mothbane’ s robes as her heels clicked loudly on the ground below as they made their way to the front of the loading dock. Hordes of students and what Jillian suspected to be teachers moved aside. “The rules my dear—pay close attention, memorize them, these are your life now—there will be no phones at any time--which you need to take heed. You seem to forget that one from last year. Where was I...oh yes, there will be no technology, no talking of any sort during class. You are expected to learn each module in rapid succession; I estimate you will be a natural, just like your parents. You will have this stuff down by the coming winter break…and, keep in mind, under no circumstances are you allowed to practice magic for any reason unless you are safely off campus…” she paused to give a sly little wink—“and my dear, you are never to be off campus…”
“Am I understood?”
The train disembarked, Jillian was led to a compartment in the back of the train. Headmistress Mothbane slid the heavy wooden doors open revealing two young women about Jillian’s’ age. “These will be your new roommates my dear, and remember, no funny business, no trying to break out. You won’t want to do that, just give me a few more hours of your time. Once you arrive at school—your former life will be but a silent memory…any questions?”
Jillian hesitated. “Yes…”
“What is it my dear?”
“I never got to read the letter in the package, can I see it…”
“Letter,” Headmistress Mothbane whispered, “There is no letter, never was…” and with that Jillian was pushed into the compartment as she heard the latches bolt into the floor at her feet.
“We’re locked in. Pretty soon you won’t even remember how you got here. Or at least I assume that's what happens…” the girl with short curly blonde hair whispered. Her name was Jane.
“If you aren't sure, how do you know?” Jillian asked quietly from her corner of the compartment.
“Because it happens to you too; just like the rest of us…you would think by now you would quit rebelling and recognize the handwriting…” the other girl Rachel added. “Pretty soon we will be entering another world where the only thing we take with us is our names. It’s the only way they can get us there, some of us remember more than others it’s just the luck of the draw.”
“Jillian ran towards the windows. The front of the train disappeared into the clouds; One by one, each compartment fizzled into dust.
“It’s starting; it’s happening, we must fight…”
The words had barely left her lips. Bubbly tingles crawled up her fingers and toes as she awoke in Wormswallow, a sharp but familiar voice cracking over the speakers.“Miscreants, Miscreants, we will be arriving at your final destination within the hour, prepare your things for departure."
Jillian knew it wouldn't be long before the games would begin, she smiled—her plan had worked. Pretty soon she would be face to face with the fate-maker.
About the Creator
Writing my escape, my future…if you like what you read—leave a comment, an encouraging tip, or a heart—I’m always looking to improve, let me know if there is anything I can do better.
& above all—thank you for your time
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