Are you ready for the next chapter? I definitely recommend reading Chapter One, Chapter Two, and Chapter Three of Collected first if you haven’t already. I am so excited to be sharing these first four chapters with all of you. However I ask that you please keep in mind these chapters are pre-editor and some things may change before final publication. I would also like to note again that I am currently accepting donations in an effort to cover costs of hiring a professional editor. If you are interested in donating there is more information after the chapter. Regardless I thank you for stopping by, reading, and I truly hope you enjoy!
“Hello?” the word fell out softly past her lips this time as she looked off into the darkened mall. Confusion was setting in again. If this wasn’t Dillion, then who or what was this? It didn’t make any sense to her. With a shake of her head she muttered, “I must have finally snapped…”
Looking across the mall she could see the main entrance on the upper level. It was shadowed a bit, but enough light seemed to pour in from the skylights above that she could see well enough to get around. Rian started making her way there when she heard the waltz music of the carousel strike up suddenly. As she slowly turned around she gaped in shock as not only was the brightly lit amusement ride coming on again on its own, but the animals seemed to be moving on their own.
Did that horse just move? Rian questioned herself silently as her eyes remained focused to the animals, when it finally registered that indeed they were moving. Furthermore, they were moving off from their stationed places on the platforms. Seeing them come to life was like witnessing mutations occur. The unsightly life breathed into these once wooden animals as they kept their carousel appearance while their skins and eyes transformed from wooded to real.
Unable to help herself she took a step towards them as she blinked. I can’t be seeing this right… she thought to herself until the noises of the creatures began to echo in the mall.
It was as they began to actually descend off from the platforms of the carousel that Rian stumbled backwards shaking her head. “What…” the word fell out of her mouth in a breath as she quickly glanced around. I need to hide! Rian shrieked silently to herself.
Turning on her heel she started to dash towards the mall entrance, but her eyes quickly caught onto the chains intertwining around the handles of the doors. “Shit!” she blurted out, making a quick move to her right and running in a full sprint down what seemed like an endless hallway. Rian could hear animal noises echoing all around her and what sounded like hooves not too far back behind her. Fear took over as she kept on moving forward and forcing herself not to look back at what may be coming.
As she ran her eyes scanned various entrances to the different stores. She knew she needed to find a place to duck into, especially since the muscles in her calves were beginning to burn from her sprinting away from the carousel. The waltz music was close to deafening as she could barely hear the animal noises until she ducked into a clothing store. It was dark with only a couple dim emergency lights that had seen brighter days. Mostly by feel Rian pushed through as quietly and quickly as she could while trying to find a hiding spot. It was as she found the door to a fitting room she could hear what sounded like a horse at the store’s entrance.
There was a slight squeak on the hinges as Rian tried to softly push the door open. With a cringe she slipped inside and pushed the door shut. Feeling her way around as it was total darkness inside the cramped fitting room she managed to latch the lock. Then slowly she stepped backwards until the back of her legs felt a wooden bench that caused her to flop down upon it. Her body silently heaved from exhaustion with her run, but the adrenaline of not knowing what was happening kept her eyes wide as she stared ahead and tried to listen closely to the sounds on the other side of the door.
Her heart raced as she did her best to keep her breathing quiet. Tears formed in her eyes as she could still hear that music playing so loudly. She willed her ears to hear beyond the music when what sounded like large nostrils sniffing close by hit her. Her hands flew up to cover her mouth trying to stifle the scream, but as she heard a rather large bang in front of her she couldn’t help the yelp that escaped. Tears slipped from her eyes running down her face.
For a moment she truly believed she was about to lose her life, but then the music began to wind down. The banging and sniffing nostrils stopped as she heard what she imagined to be hooves galloping away from her suddenly.
Rian sat in silence as she listened to nothing going on. There wasn’t a sound around her. She just sat on that fitting room bench for what felt like several minutes until a small voice spoke to her through the darkness.
“It’s all clear now. You can come out.”
Stiffening she didn’t move a muscle. Rian’s eyes were as wide as saucers as she stared at nothing in front of her face.
“I won’t hurt you.” the small voice spoke again. It sounded young.
Clearing her throat some Rian stood and found herself shaking as she felt her way towards the door of the dressing room. “What’s going on?” she managed to get out in a voice she immediately wished sounded stronger.
“The animals went back to the carousel. It’s safe again.” replied the soft voice.
“Animals?” Rian questioned aloud, though she knew darn well what animals. She saw them come to life for herself. “How is this possible? Who are you?” she questioned as her trembling hands found their way to the latch on the door.
“It’ll be easier to explain somewhere else. Best not to stay in one spot too long.” As the soft voice continued Rian tried to pin-point an age to it. “I’m Penny.”
“Well… Penny…” the words came out of her slow as she allowed herself to undo the latch and slowly open the fitting room door. As the hinges squeaked again Rian flinched. She felt as though her heart could compete with a jackhammer. Her eyes tried to peer through the darkness with the very limited light the store provided. She couldn’t make out a face, but not too far out from the door Rian could make the shadowy outline of what appeared to be a young girl. She noticed pigtails in the silhouette. For a split second the woman debated retreating back into the dressing room.
“It’s okay. I’m here to help you.” Penny spoke with a soft assurance before stepping into a small post of dim lighting. It wasn’t much, but Rian could finally make out the delicate features on the girl’s face. It was clear she was a child.
“How old are you?” Rian questioned as she looked with disbelief. How did a child get in here? she had to wonder.
“Let’s go somewhere else first.” Penny again suggested as she reached for Rian’s hand. “It’s not safe to stay in one place for too long.” Rian stared towards the child in disbelief as the small girl began to lead through the darkened store towards the entrance leading back out into the mall’s main halls.
This is it for now! Thank you so much for reading the first four chapters (pre-editor) of Collected! If you have enjoyed these chapters and want to help support me as a writer in getting this novel professionally edited, then please feel free to send donations through PayPal by clicking the button below.
I do ask all donators (no matter how much you give) please include their name in a note during the transaction. I will be including a special ‘thank you’ page dedicated to all donators in this effort. So whatever name you would like to be known as is what you should include in that note if you choose to donate.
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