Akarnae, p.32
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       Akarnae, p.32

         Part #1 of The Medoran Chronicles series by Lynette Noni
 

  That was a relief, at least. She would have been mortified to find out that he had been forced to carry her.

  “I can’t really remember much,” she said.

  “That’s a common side-effect of the sedative,” Fletcher assured her. “But you’ll be fine now. Let’s have a look at how you’re healing.”

  He used his MedTek to X-ray her again. After perusing the holograph he said, “Everything’s looking good.”

  “How long until it’s healed properly?” she asked. “And until it stops hurting?”

  “Is it hurting much?”

  “A little,” she admitted.

  “I’ll give you something to help speed along the healing now that I know it’s setting in the right position,” Fletcher said. “You should be back to normal within a few days. Until then, I’ll keep you on the pain meds.”

  “A few days?” Alex repeated, wondering if she’d heard wrong. “That’s pretty fast, isn’t it? What sort of ‘something’ are we talking about?”

  Fletcher walked over to his medicine cabinet and came back with two vials—one green, the other a dusky pink.

  “This is a regeneration motivator,” he said, handing her the pink one first. “It’s commonly referred to as Regenevator.”

  She peered into the glass. “What does it do?”

  “It accelerates your body’s natural healing process just like the healing salve that we use on minor cuts, but this one is taken orally. As it enters the bloodstream it motivates an increase in bodily functions associated with healing. This particular dose is specifically for damage to the skeletal structure. Other Regenevators can cover a range of internal and external maladies where there’s a need for tissue, flesh and even organ regeneration. Some also motivate speedier white blood cell creation to aid against infection, which is necessary with some of the nastier wounds.”

  “So, a few days, huh?” Alex said again, impressed.

  “Just in time for you to finish your final week of classes.” He laughed at the face she made and then instructed, “Go on and drink that down.”

  It was a testament to how much she’d learned to trust the doctor that she didn’t even hesitate before raising the flask to her lips and swallowing the pink liquid. Much like his other medicines, it had a nice taste to it, sweet and fruity.

  “Since you haven’t actually broken anything you’ll only need one dose,” he said when she handed him back the empty vial. “But you’ll still be a little tender until it’s done its work.”

  He handed her the green flask then, and she examined it before asking, “What’s with the different shades? I’m used to having the bright green one, but last night you gave me a dark green one, and now this is somewhere in between. Are they different strengths or something?”

  He nodded. “They each have a different concentration of analgesic, and the darker ones have an added sedative to help with the pain.”

  “Will this one knock me out again?” she asked, looking at the forest-coloured liquid warily.

  “It’s nowhere near as strong as last night’s dose,” Fletcher assured her. “You’ll be a little sleepy for the rest of the day and you’ll probably need an afternoon nap later on, but that should be all. There’s only a minor sedative in it—just enough to help you relax—so you won’t forget anything and your coordination will be fine.”

  Something about his coordination remark stirred a memory from the previous night, but Alex couldn’t quite remember so she shrugged the thought away.

  “Okay,” she said, and swallowed the minty liquid. Immediately the throbbing in her shoulder disappeared again. Wonderful, wonderful painkillers.

  “Now, best if you come back again tonight after dinner and I’ll give you another dose to get you through until morning. We’ll do the same again tomorrow, but by Monday you should be almost completely back to normal.”

  “That’s good, since I doubt Finn will let me off in PE,” she mumbled, getting to her feet and moving to the door.

  Fletcher chuckled but he didn’t refute her assumption.

  “Thanks again, Fletcher,” she said. “I’ll see you tonight.”

  Alex headed straight for the food court, absolutely starving after having slept through dinner the night before. She was just finishing off her second helping of breakfast when Jordan arrived and sat down beside her.

  “How’re you feeling?” he asked, running his hands through his sleep-tussled hair.

  She sipped a mouthful of water before answering. “Uh, good?”

  “Your shoulder,” he clarified. “How is it?”

  “Oh,” she said. “Much better, thanks. How do you know about that?”

  Bear sat down opposite them—also looking like he’d just rolled out of bed—and jumped into the conversation. “We came looking for you last night to celebrate the end of exams, but we couldn’t find you anywhere. When we finally ran into D.C., she said you were already asleep.”

  “Some of the guys in your Combat class told us you’d dislocated your shoulder and were high as a kite on Fletcher’s pain meds,” Jordan said. “They thought you’d probably be out of it for the rest of the night.”

  “Yeah, I was totally gone,” she said. “But it’s amazing what a good night’s sleep will do. I’m feeling so much better now.”

  Her assurances were negated by the huge yawn that swallowed up the second half of her sentence.

  Jordan snorted. “It looks like it did you the world of good.”

  “Really, I’m heaps better,” she said, shaking her head to try and clear away the fuzziness. “I’ve just been to see Fletcher and he gave me some more medicine. I’ll be a little tired today, but so what, right? We can still celebrate. No more exams! Yay!”

  Jordan and Bear exchanged amused glances but they didn’t say anything about how she’d slurred half her words.

  “What are we going to do?” she pressed. “Something fun?”

  “Why don’t we take it easy?” Bear offered. “Something relaxing, like a picnic? It’s been such a crazy week, it’ll be nice to just have a bit of calm, you know?”

  “Subtle, Bear. Real subtle.”

  “I kind of like the idea,” Jordan said, ignoring Alex’s sarcasm. “It’ll be good just to chill out.”

  Alex didn’t know if they were doing it for her or if they genuinely meant it, but either way she was thankful. She certainly wasn’t up for anything energetic.

  “I have to go and see Fitzy about something, but I’m free after that,” Bear said. “Why don’t we all meet back here in an hour and we’ll head down to the lake?”

  “Sounds good,” Alex agreed.

  It turned out that Jordan had to meet up with Jarvis for some kind of indiscretion he’d been involved in earlier in the week, so Alex returned to her dorm room, intent on cleaning it up a bit. The mess she’d brought in with her the previous night needed to be dealt with, but there was also a few weeks’ worth of cleaning that neither she nor D.C. had got around to doing during their study-induced madness. It would be good to get on top of it—and it would also help to keep her awake.

  “This is really nice,” Alex said, reclining on a picnic blanket and looking out at the lake.

  “Sometimes I have good ideas,” Bear said, reaching for another sandwich.

  “Mmm,” Jordan agreed, his mouth too full of food to speak.

  Alex and the boys had spent the last couple of hours lounging around outside, relaxing. Well, as much as they could, anyway, considering the circumstances.

  “Why do they have to be so loud?” Alex murmured, not for the first time.

  It turned out that she and her friends weren’t the only ones celebrating the end of exams. Every student at the academy seemed to be rejoicing. Impromptu groups had formed all across the campus with loud gatherings of people making the most out of their freedom. Even with the painkillers in her system, Alex was still developing a headache from the noise of so many excited students.

  “Only one week left, that’s why,
said Connor, who had decided to join them on their picnic at the last minute. “Everyone’s excited for the summer break.”

  “Where do you live, Alex?” Mel asked, having tagged along with her cousin. “Maybe we can meet up over the holidays? Hang out?”

  Alex froze, not at all prepared for the question. Where was she going to be over the holidays? With the stress of her exams, she hadn’t had much of a chance to worry about her complicated circumstances, but the time was quickly approaching for her parents’ return to the land of communication. They were bound to be concerned if she didn’t arrive home from her ‘boarding school’ on time—and one phone call would tell them that she’d never enrolled at the International Exchange Academy to begin with. That would be… beyond awkward.

  What Alex really needed was to find a way back to her world, but she had no idea how to do that. She could only hope that the headmaster would finally return to the academy sometime in the next seven days before term ended. Then he would—hopefully—be able to get her back home before her parents lost their minds and contacted the FBI, Interpol and anyone else who would listen.

  “Didn’t you mention that you’ll be travelling over the summer?” Jordan piped up when Alex was silent for too long.

  “Yeah, that’s right,” she said, playing along. “I’m not really sure where I’ll be, to be honest.”

  “Oh, okay,” Mel said, sounding disappointed. “Well, we’ll just have to stay in touch via ComTCD and if you have some spare time we’ll organise something.”

  Alex nodded but she doubted they’d get the chance, even if she was still around. And as nice as Mel was, they really didn’t have all that much in common. Alex would much prefer to spend the time with Jordan and Bear.

  She noticed that all the boys were looking longingly at one of the ball games that had just started near where they were sitting.

  “Why don’t you guys go and join them?” she said. “It looks like fun.”

  Connor looked excited at the prospect and immediately headed off. Mel followed him as well, but Jordan and Bear remained seated.

  “We’re not going to ditch you,” Jordan said when she looked at them questioningly.

  “Seriously, guys,” Alex said. “I won’t be good company for much longer. I think I’ll follow Fletcher’s suggestion and have a nap, as embarrassing as that is.”

  She’d been fighting back the sleep even while cleaning her dorm earlier, and only through stubborn determination had she managed to force it aside to stay awake for the picnic with her friends.

  Jordan and Bear still looked hesitant to leave her, so Alex stood, making the decision for them. “I’ll meet up with you for dinner. Go have fun. Kick some butt. You know the drill.”

  Seeing that she meant it, they smiled at her and sprinted off to where the others were playing. Alex waved when they turned back to her, and then she headed up to her dorm.

  Twenty minutes later she was still tossing and turning in her bed, desperately trying to drift off, but unable to because of all the noise outside. She’d even tried to close her window, but within minutes the room had become like a sauna, making it even more impossible for her to relax.

  “So tired,” she mumbled to herself as she sat up and rubbed her weary eyes.

  What could she do?

  It was a mark of just how tired she was that when a crazy idea came to her she didn’t think it was stupid or dangerous. Instead, she got up and put some shoes on before leaving her room.

  A few minutes later she was stumbling wearily into the Library’s foyer. The librarian wasn’t at his desk, which was probably for the best considering what she intended to do.

  Instead of walking over to the staircase, Alex approached the closest wall and continued along it until she found what she was looking for.

  “If I can fall out of one, why not into one?” she murmured to herself, staring at the picture in front of her. It was an oil painting that depicted a dark room with a roaring fireplace. In one corner of the room was a large four-poster bed with drapes around it, and in the other corner was a woman sitting in a rocking chair, knitting. Everything was frozen, captured in time by the artist, and Alex knew it would be perfect for what she needed.

  “How do I do this?” she wondered.

  When she’d come out of the waterfall into the foyer, she’d literally just fallen straight through the painting. Maybe it worked in reverse too.

  Alex reached out her hand to press it onto the surface of the painting, and she was amazed when she didn’t meet anything solid. Instead, her hand continued straight through and into the portrait.

  She smiled in victory, and it turned into a gasp when she was jerked forward into the picture and tumbled out into the dark room.

  “Good heavens! Where did you come from?”

  Alex stood up and clutched her throbbing shoulder. After a moment the pain eased and she was able to look around the room that she’d landed in. The first thing she noticed was the lady in the rocking chair, who was staring at her with her knitting needles paused mid-stitch.

  “Um… Hi, I’m Alex,” she said. “I’m so sorry to intrude like this, but…”

  She really hadn’t thought about what she was going to say. It wasn’t every day that she stepped through a painting and talked with someone who wasn’t actually real.

  “You must be Chosen,” the woman said knowingly, rising from her seat. “No one else would be able to enter here.”

  “Yes, that’s right,” Alex said, swaying on her feet now. She reached out to steady herself on the wall behind her and noticed that the painting she’d come through was still hanging there, but instead of showing the dark room she was now in, it was a portrait of the Library’s foyer. At least she now knew how to get back out when the time came.

  “I’m really sorry to disturb you,” Alex told the woman. “I’m just so ti-ti-tired.” She had to cover a yawn as she finished her sentence.

  “Child, you look simply exhausted,” the woman said, walking over to take hold of her arm. “Come and sit down.”

  Alex let the woman lead her over to the bed and she almost moaned when she felt how soft it was.

  “I know this seems like an odd request, but do you mind if I take a nap? It’s just… I’m so tired, and everywhere else is so noisy…”

  “Of course, you poor dear,” the woman said, surprising her. Maybe strange people arrived in her bedroom more often than Alex presumed. “Here, let me help you.”

  The woman bent down to help Alex with her shoes before she pulled back the covers on the bed. She was so kind and caring that Alex felt tears come to her eyes.

  “Thank you so much,” she whispered, her voice catching. She always became emotional when she was tired, and this woman’s compassion was overwhelming.

  “Don’t even mention it,” the lady said, tucking her in and tenderly brushing the hair away from her face. “Now, you just close your eyes and have a good rest while I sit and watch over you. You’re safe here. Sleep in peace, child.”

  Alex tried to thank her again, but she couldn’t form the words as her eyes closed of their own accord. The repetitive click, click, click of knitting needles and the lady’s quiet humming soon pulled her straight down into the deep sleep that she so desperately needed.

  Forty

  “Child.”

  “Child?”

  “Child, you need to wake up now.”

  Someone was shaking Alex gently.

  “Come, dear, you must awaken.”

  The shaking increased and Alex couldn’t ignore it any longer. “Hmmm?”

  “That’s it. Open your eyes.”

  Alex did as she was asked but she couldn’t see much. Everything was completely dark except for a small light coming from a candle the woman held in her hand.

  “You need to get up,” the woman said urgently.

  Alex forced herself to sit up, and she pulled her shoes on before standing. Despite her difficulty waking, she felt so much better now than she ha
d earlier.

  “How long have I been asleep?” she asked, her voice groggy.

  “Four turns of the hourglass,” the woman answered.

  Four hours. That meant it was around seven o’clock. Her friends would be worried about her if she didn’t turn up for dinner soon.

  “I should go,” Alex said. “Thank you, again—so much—for the peace and quiet.”

  She started walking over to where she’d stumbled out of the painting, looking for the exit point.

  “Child, I think something is wrong,” the woman said fearfully.

  Alex was about to respond when she looked at the candle again, their only source of light, and realised that the woman was right—something was wrong. They were in a painting, a painting that captured a set of images in time forever. So why wasn’t the fireplace burning brightly anymore?

  Dread welled up within Alex. “May I borrow your candle for a moment, please?”

  The woman handed over the little flame and Alex held it up to the wall. The painting was still there, but it no longer showed the brightly lit foyer. The picture was completely black—a deep, smothering darkness, the likes of which Alex had only seen once before.

  “No,” she gasped.

  “What is it?” the woman asked in a trembling voice.

  “Lockdown,” Alex whispered, horrified. It wouldn’t mean anything to a woman stuck in a painting, but it meant the world to Alex. Her world.

  “I have to go. Now.” She shoved the candle back into the woman’s hands and reached forward into the painting, feeling her world tilt and expand as she tumbled out the other side.

  Just like the last time, the darkness was overwhelming. Alex wished she had something to see with, but she hadn’t had the heart to steal the woman’s only light source. She couldn’t believe that she’d slept through the Lockdown sirens, but maybe they hadn’t penetrated into the painting.

  She carefully felt her way along the walls, making sure not to press too hard against any of the other artwork. Moving as fast as she dared, she hurried towards the staircase that would lead her up into the Tower and then out onto the grounds. It would be lighter outside and she would hopefully be able to find out what was going on.

 
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LYNETTE NONI SERIES:

  • The Medoran Chronicles
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