Zoey kicked at rock and watched as it rolled end over end into the street. She felt the same way, as if someone had half-heartedly kicked at her and sent her rolling, right-side up, up-side down, turning and twisting, and never stopping. "Mrow?"
Zoey looked around, confused, and was surprised to see an orange kitten with pale yellow stripes come tumbling out of a side-street. Zoey was flabbergasted. Animals usually hated her. Dogs barked, cats hissed, horses reared, and birds pecked, but this kitten was trotting right toward her. The kitten weaved between her legs. Zoey laughed and knelt down. She didn't know why the kitten was being so friendly, but she wasn't complaining. The kitten jumped up on Zoey's knees, put her front paws on Zoey's shoulders, and licked her nose. Zoey laughed again. This kitten was way better than anyone else she knew. Even her family. Zoey's face darkened. Especially her family.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"I'm home!" Zoey called as she walked into her house and slammed the door. As she had expected there was no answer. She tiptoed up the rickety stairs, trying to get to her bedroom before her jerk of a brother saw her. Oh why had she said she was home?
" Hey sis. How was school?"
Zoey cursed. Her brother stepped out of the shadows.
"Well, aren't you going to tell me it was easy like always, or is eighth grade too hard for a baby like you?" he said, leaning back against the wall and brushing his black hair out of his eyes.
"Leave me alone, Chase" she replied, pushing him out of the way and heading for the relative safety of her cluttered bedroom.
"Fine then, baby. Have fun in that little shack you call a room!" Chase called after her as she ran into her bed room and slammed the door. Chase was such a jerk! Unfortunately he was right about one thing. Unlike everyone else, she had a room that was about as big as, yes, a shack. All she had was a mattress on the floor, a small chest for the few toys she had, out-dated clothes, and a desk. Everyone else had a room a little bit smaller than her math room (which was about 28ft by 15ft) and had a king size bed, dresser, and anything else you would find in a bedroom. To put it simply, her family hated her, and loved Chase.
"Hey sis, it's time for dinner" Chase called through Zoey's bedroom door.
"Okay. I‘ll be down in a minute" she replied, opening the door and stepping out of her room.
"Oh, and by the way, Katie is going to come over for dinner. She might spend the night, too."
Zoey groaned. Great. Another annoying sibling to pick on her.
"Where will she be sleeping if she stays the night?" Zoey asked, even though she thought she knew the answer already.
"Where will she be sleeping if she spends the night? What kind of question is that? The answer is obvious. Your room."
"What! Why my room! My room is tiny! You can't fit two people in there! Why not use one of your rooms, Chase?!"
Chase glared at Zoey. Whoops. Zoey had violated the one rule in the house. Don't make Chase mad. Chase gets what he wants, when he wants.
"You're right, you can't fit two people in your pathetic bedroom. That just means we have to find you a different place to sleep." Uh-oh. Zoey didn't like the way this conversation was going.
"Never mind, I was wrong. Two people can fit in my bedroom. No problem" she said, trying to steer the conversation away from dangerous ground. She twirled her long brown hair around her finger, just like when she did when she was nervous. Which she was.
"No, no, you were right the first time. You can't fit two people in your bedroom. Now where else can you sleep? Well, we don't have a couch so you can't sleep there, and we don't have any room on the floor so I guess the only other place for you to sleep is outside in the tree house." Chase replied smugly. Zoey wasn't scared of many things, he knew, but one thing he was sure of, Zoey hated spiders. And the tree house was full of them.
Zoey paled. "There must be somewhere else. There must!" she cried. Chase smiled. He had won once again.
"No I don't think so. Come on, it's time for dinner. We don't want to be late."
Dinner was a disaster. Once again it was Chase's favorite, peanut butter and ketchup in macaroni and cheese. Zoey almost puked, and to make matters worse, there were leftovers. There was no room in the refrigerator and Chase and Katie were full, so Zoey had to have a second helping, a third helping, and a fourth helping. This time Zoey did barf. Twice.
Chase made Zoey clean it up, and then sent her outside to the tree house with only a thin sheet for warmth. Zoey swore she heard Chase snicker as he slammed the door in Zoey's face as she stood there, thunderstruck as she realized that he was actually doing this to her.
Finally she realized there was no way she was going to convince Chase to let her back in, so she turned toward her back yard and headed for the tree house. She climbed the rope ladder, doing her best to ignore the spider webs as they brushed against her hands, and the swaying of the ladder as it moved with every step she took, threatening to drop her down to the ground where she would be squished flat like a pancake.
Once she reached the top, she spread her sheet out on the floor where it was relatively clear of spiders. She lay down and tried to fall asleep. A few minutes later Zoey felt a spider crawl over her nose. She screamed and flicked it off, hoping it wouldn't leave a sticky web behind it and hang off her nose like a live booger. Fortunately, it didn't. Just then Zoey felt another spider crawl up her back. She screamed again and flicked it off too. This was hopeless. She was going to spend the night flicking spiders off her face and back, and it was all Chase's fault. Zoey felt her eyes brimming with tears.
"Mrow?" Zoey looked up and saw first a paw, then an ear, then a face, and then her kitten jumped up into the tree house. Zoey watched as the kitten pounced around the tree house catching spiders and eating them, eight eyes and all. After three minutes all the spiders were gone. Zoey smiled.
"Thanks, kitten" she whispered. Then it occurred to her that she should name the kitten. What about... Cinnamon. Yeah, she liked that.
"Cinnamon" she called softly. The kitten turned to look at Zoey, then bounded over to Zoey and curled up right next to her. Zoey was surprised at how warm the kitten was. She lay down and fell asleep, Cinnamon at her side.
"Twee twee twee. Twee twee twee."
Zoey stretched, yawning as she woke to bird song. Cinnamon was lapping up a breakfast of cold milk. Zoey had no idea how it had got there, but she didn't care too much. She was hungry. She moved over to the other bowl and was surprised to see the bowl was filled with Cheerios. She quickly ate her breakfast, and then watched as Cinnamon lapped up the remains of her milk. Zoey didn't know what to do. She didn't want to go back to Chase and Katie, and she didn't want to leave Cinnamon, but there was nothing here for her. She knew Chase was a jerk, but Zoey knew she had to face things as they were, do what she could to stop them. She couldn't stay here and hide; otherwise Chase would always have power over her. She couldn't allow that.
Coming to a decision, Zoey turned around and climbed down the rope ladder. She looked back at the tree house, half expecting Cinnamon to follow her, but she saw nothing.
Zoey turned toward her house and walked over the dewy, spongy grass. By the time Zoey had crossed the lawn and reached the front door, her feet were soaked. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door. She was starting to wonder if this was a good idea, when Chase opened the door.
"What do you want?" he asked, scowling.
"Uh, I wanted to know if I can come in" Zoey replied, wondering once again if this was a good idea.
"Can you come in? Of course not!" Chase began to close the door.
"No, wait a minute. I just want my book."
"Fine, I'll get your book" Chase went over to the table and picked up Zoey's book. He looked at the cover. "Forever and a Day" it said on the front.
"What a lame book" Chase thought. He took the book and ripped it in half. Then he took each half and ripped those in half too. Chase went over to Zoey and gave her the four quarters. Zoey looked at her book, dumbfounded.
"What did you do?" she cried.
"Well, you said you wanted your book." Chase replied innocently, starting to close the door.
"Wait!" Zoey called. "Can you get me twenty dollars from my piggy bank?"
Chase sighed, then turned around and went upstairs. A few minutes later he came back down, clutching a handful of coins.
"Here. This is the last of what you have, though." Chase said, pushing the money into Zoey's hand. Zoey frowned. That couldn't be right. She had been saving up her money for months.
"Where did the rest go?" she asked. Chase laughed.
"I used it to buy a new laptop, of course" he replied, smirking as he slammed the door closed once more.
Zoey looked down at her handful of money. All that was left from her months, years of having to put up with Chase, cleaning his room, making his meals, letting him bully her, working as his slave for so long and this was all she got in return?
Zoey turned around and headed for the general store. She was tired of being the one with nothing for herself. Today was her chance. It was time to show that just because Chase bullied her didn't mean she couldn't have fun, too. And Cinnamon was coming, she thought as the kitten ran across the wet grass toward her.
Zoey looked around. Where should she go first? She had already been to the book store and gotten a new copy of "Forever and a Day", so that took care of one thing. But Zoey wanted something sweet, so with a last glance around her, she walked into the candy store, Cinnamon not far behind.
Zoey looked at all the different types of candy. There were airheads, skittles, sour patch kids, chocolate, and mints. Everywhere she looked she saw sweet things, sour things, absolutely yummy things. She looked around. What should she get? Zoey turned and grabbed two packets of sour skittles.
"I would like to buy these," she said, placing the candies on the counter.
"Okay, that will be four fifty please," the salesman replied. Zoey paid the money and grabbed her candies, then went outside.
"Come on, Cinnamon." she called. "It's time to go."
The kitten bounded after her, ready to go to the next store, but Zoey turned away from the stores and headed in the opposite direction. She wanted to go to the park.
Zoey sat down on one of the benches and watched Cinnamon as she chased flocks of pigeons around the park. Zoey opened the pack of sour skittles and grabbed a lemon flavored one. Yum. Candy was a foreign food to her, since Chase was who her parents revolved their lives around.
"Hey, give me those. They're, like, my favorite type of candy."
Zoey looked up, surprised to see a girl about the age of fifteen or sixteen standing in front of her. She had long blond hair and small blue earrings that looked like diamonds. She also smelled slightly of lavender perfume.
"Well, aren't you going to answer me? BTW, those clothes are, like, so lame. You need to get some new ones, like, ASAP." she said, her blue eyes glimmering.
Zoey looked at her, totally confused. She had never heard texting language in her life, since she didn't have a cell phone.
"Um, what's that mean?" Zoey asked.
"You don't know what ASAP and BTW mean! OMG you are, like, so lame.
Everyone knows BTW means By The Way and ASAP means As Soon As Possible! OMG, you are lame! Now give me those skittles!" she said, her eyes flaring, and looking about as dangerous as you can get in designer clothing. Zoey was about to give her the candy when something very strange happened. One minute the girl was standing there, scowling, and the next she was running around screaming, with a fuzzy puffball crawling all over her face.
"OMG! This stupid cat is trying to kill me! Get it off, like, right now! You're going to mess up my makeup! OMG! Get this stupid cat off me ASAP!"
Zoey rolled around on the ground laughing, as Cinnamon perched on top of the girl's head, hanging on for what seemed like dear life as the girl ran around the park screaming about the cat that was screwing up her amazing new hair style.
"It isn't funny! Stop!"
Finally, Zoey managed to stop laughing long enough to call cinnamon over to her.
"Cinnamon, come over here," Zoey called softly. Cinnamon looked around, still perching on the girl's face. Her expression read "um, how?" So Zoey gently picked her up and placed her on the ground.
The girl, with her hair looking like she had been in a serious wind storm the way it was so messed up and her makeup totally askew, screamed, You are so lame!" one last time and then turned around and marched away.
Zoey laughed again, and stroked Cinnamon's silky fur gently. She grabbed another skittle and popped it in her mouth. She got up. She still had ten dollars and fifty cents left, and she was tired of peanut butter and ketchup in mac and cheese. She wanted a real dinner. Well, as real as you can get with ten fifty, but at least it wouldn't make her sick.
Zoey munched on her cheese burger. She had stopped by a fast food restaurant and got a cheese burger and fries for her and a half gallon of milk for Cinnamon. She watched the kitten as she drank her milk. Zoey wondered where they would sleep tonight. She did not want to go back to Chase yet, and she did not know anywhere else to sleep so she guessed she would just go back to the tree house. It was just fine now that there weren't any spiders there anymore. Zoey stood up, brushing crumbs of burger off her lap. Cinnamon looked up, her bowl of milk empty.
"I'll give you some more milk when we get to the tree house, okay Cinnamon?" Zoey told the kitten.
The kitten jumped up and followed Zoey as she walked toward her house a block away. As soon as she got to the tree house, she climbed the rope ladder and lay down on her sheet. Zoey had bought a new blanket, a big fluffy one, and she spread it over her now. Zoey yawned and closed her eyes. Within two minutes, she had fallen asleep.
Zoey stretched and looked around, surprised not to see Cinnamon at her side like usual. Oh well. She would head down and find her in a minute.
She looked out the window at the sunrise and watched the birds as they flitted from branch to branch. She loved birds. They made such nice sounds. She stretched again and headed for the rope ladder. She turned around to put her foot on to the first step of the ladder and almost fell twelve meters from the tree house to ground.
Zoey quickly scurried away from the gap and stared at the place where the ladder used to be. Now there were only two pieces of rope, each about two inches long. There was only one person who could have done this. Zoey couldn't believe it. Chase had cut the rope ladder down, and Zoey was stuck inside.
Zoey looked at the remains of the rope ladder coiled up at the base of the tree house, far, far, out of her reach. She didn't get it. How could Chase have cut them? He would have had to climb up here to reach the ropes, but then once he had cut them he would have fallen down to ground. So just how had he done it?
Zoey pulled back from the edge. Looking at the ground from so high up made her dizzy.
Zoey was totally irked. She just didn't get it. How had Chase cut the ropes? She pulled her knees up under chin, trying to find a way to get out when she thought she heard a noise.
Zoey looked down at the ground and was astonished by what she saw. Somehow, some way, Cinnamon had found a ladder and was slowly pushing it toward her. It was incredible! Zoey watched as Cinnamon pushed the ladder up against the tree house. She climbed down the ladder, still amazed by what she had seen.
"Thanks Cinnamon. Cinnamon?" Zoey looked around, wondering where her cat had gone.
"I took her. You'll never get her back. Never."
Zoey whirled around at the sound of the raspy voice in her ear, wondering who was speaking, but saw nothing, only a shadow.
"You ruined my plans. You and that horrible kitten. It's funny, you don't know what she really is. It matters not. Without the cat, you are powerless. The world will be mine once again soon." Zoey turned around again, nervous more than ever now.
"Stop it. I don't know what you're talking about." She said, struggling to keep her voice from breaking.
"Oh, you don't, do you ? I guess I'll just have to show you," and before Zoey could say another word the scene around her changed. She opened her eyes and was shocked by what she saw. All around her, for miles and miles, all she saw was flat black rock. And wired beings that seemed almost as if they were made of shadows.
"This is my dimension, the shadow dimension. The only living things here are Oscuros. They are made entirely out of shadows and liquid darkness."
Zoey looked at the Oscuros one last time before the scene changed. When Zoey opened her eyes again she saw a massive black throne that seemed to be made entirely out of liquid darkness.
"This is throne of darkness. It is made of liquid darkness and trapped souls," the voice told Zoey before the image blurred and switched again.
This time it showed a room, inky black. The temperature was sometimes well below zero, and at other times was a sweltering hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit.
"This is the dungeon. We keep all our prisoners here. Look around. You might find someone you know."
Then Zoey stood there, completely alone. She couldn't believe this. She was stuck in a dungeon in a different dimension. She took a step. She was actually here. She looked around and walked toward one of the walls. Just as she was about to reach the wall, a cage popped out of it and barred her way. Zoey looked at the cage. It too seemed to be made of liquid darkness, like all the things here.
"Mrowww." Zoey looked into the cage deeper and was surprised when she saw Cinnamon crouched into the back corner of the cage.
"Cinnamon!" Zoey cried and reached out toward the cage, but as soon as she touched the cage her skin burned like she had touched a hot stove. She quickly withdrew her hand and stepped back, right into the image. She was no longer in the dungeon, just looking at it. Then she was whisked away to another image once more.
This time she saw a person in all black wearing a black crown with rubies on it.
"This is our king. I may be the lord of the shadow dimension but he does the work for me. His crown is our symbol. If it were to be broken, the shadow dimension would be lost forever, along with anything or anyone who is in it at the time." The king turned to look at Zoey and smiled evilly.
Zoey took one look at him and screamed. It was her brother. The king of the shadow dimension was Chase.
"Yes, your brother works for me. I thought you would have figured that out by now." And then the image changed once more.
This time Zoey was floating above nothing. The only thing there was a portal.
"Step into the portal and it will take you to the shadow dimension. The only way back from the shadow dimension is to destroy it. Who knows. You might be able to save your cat."
Zoey looked at the portal. She thought of when Cinnamon had eaten all the spiders in her tree house and how she had kept her warm at night. She thought about how Cinnamon had chased away the bully in the park. She smiled as she imaged the valley girl with Cinnamon on her head, hanging on for dear life. She thought about how Cinnamon had pushed a ladder up against the tree house so she could get down when Chase had trapped her.
Zoey knew what she had to do. She took a deep breath and stepped into the portal. She had to rescue her cat, her pet, her friend.
To be continued.....