KATTY KING AND THE MAN FROM ANOTHER EARTH130,000 words
Gloria ran barefoot from the wolves. In the dim halls of Barrett Manor the wolves hunted the girl, and Gloria's only hope for safety was in the chase. She knew there was no hiding behind locked wooden doors or thick stone columns from the wolves. The hunger in their long, lonesome cries snapped at her ears. Lost in her own home, Gloria Barrett fled.
“Gloria!” the wolves howled. Their calls echoed off marble and dampened on carpet. “Gloria, where are you?”
Forward, forever forward, the loudest and clearest voice in Gloria’s mind insisted. Do not answer. Do not stop. Do not wait. They will find you if you do. They will sweep over swallowing you whole and they will drag you back. Now run.
Gloria’s feet shifted from soft carpet to cold marble. They took her over an abstract mosaic she never understood before guiding her around the next corner. It was that place she needed to escape from more than the wolves. That place burned to the back of her eyes and named the sour taste of bile behind her mouth. The forest-no-city the wolves called home. But she didn’t know where that was, so what if she was running toward it?
Something rough and woven caught Gloria’s foot. It held firm, not letting go until Gloria’s world became a blur of gold hued hair and maroon silk pajamas. Tumbling across the carpet she scrambled to her feet. Forever forward, or else they would capture her.
“Glory!” came from behind her, but there was no looking back. “Glory, are you alright?”
Gloria knew kindness was a net the wolves would try to catch her in. These were clever hunters after all, so she sprinted ahead. She must move fast, or else their false concern would entangle her. Under masks of her father and friends they called out, but she would not be tricked.
That was what they were doing, wasn’t it?
It's what they've already done, right?
As she passed through one hall among countless others, Gloria wanted to stop. It felt like she was still falling-fumbling-tumbling over the floor. Her thoughts raced through her mind like she raced down halls; randomly turning-churning-changing at a moments notice. Not for any logical reason, but simply because they could. She had lived her entire life in this house, and somehow she was lost? And wolves? How could wolves have gotten in the house?
With a deep, slow breath Glory pushed down the fear swirling in her stomach. She slowed the panic pounding of her heart, and silenced the voice demanding she run. Seeing is believing and she needed to see for herself.
In the shadows between a set of red leather armchairs, Gloria found a hiding place. She pulled her body in onto itself and wished to melt away. Nothing to see, or smell, or find until they passed. And they were coming. She could hear their footfalls racing up the hall. Or was that her heartbeat?
Soon a young man only two years older than Gloria came to a stop in the middle of the hall. He looked handsome in his red and black uniform. His blond hair trimmed neat and brushed to the side. In the daylight and before bed he was called Peter, but this person Gloria watched was not Peter. This was not a person at all, but a wolf. Like her father and Melody, Peter was a face the wolves loved to wear. A face they knew Gloria trusted, but not this time.
If Gloria was anything, she was smart, wasn’t she? Certainly smart enough to out wit these wolves. Even if they had found a way into her home and their edges were sharp enough to cut light, there must be a away to… to what? To stop them? To force them to leave? To catch them?
“Gloria!” the wolf hiding behind Peter howled. He listened to the echoes die before moving further down the hall.
There is no waiting, a voice reminded Gloria from the mists of her mind. Forever forward. She pulled herself from the shadows and rushed down the hall the wolf came from.
Maybe now was the time to find a place to truly hide, Gloria thought. Somewhere she could wait for sunrise when the masks will be put away and the true owners would take their faces back. Or where she might at least catch her breath.
The time for hallways had passed, Gloria decided. A place to think and rest was what she needed. If the wolves roamed the dim hallways, then she would be safest somewhere, anywhere, else, wouldn’t she? It’s hard to be hunted if you remove yourself from the hunting grounds, right?
Gloria entered the first room she crossed. Suddenly and silently she was filled with a cold ache as if she had stumbled upon a hundred hungry wolves.
Behind the door Gloria stood still as stone. Caught in the sight of a woman she had only ever dreamt of meeting, Gloria was motionless. The woman and Gloria shared the same gold hued hair and brown speckled blue eyes. And Gloria wondered if she had a ball of barbed wire in her chest too.
“Mom?” Gloria asked as tears welled at the edge of her eyes. The word hurt from a lifetime of the want, and lack, to use it.
“How are you here?” Gloria moved closer to the woman with the kind smile. “How can you be? Where did you come from?”
But Genevieve Barrett did not reply or move closer to her daughter. Rather she stayed posed frighteningly beautiful. A rose seemingly weightless in her outstretched hand.
Gloria watched, and waited, but there was no motion. Not a blink or the slightest breath. Her mother just stared ahead at some point pass the walls, never looking at her daughter.
Like a bubble rising through tar, the truth slowly came to the surface of girl’s mind and popped.
She’d never met her mother.
It was impossible.
And she should know that.
Genevieve's image was a familiar one to Gloria. Portraits and statues were kept around Barrett Manor so Gloria could grow up under her mother’s gaze. Gloria had spent countless hours studying those paintings, pictures, and statues. She looked for likenesses with mirror in hand, but all those hours never taught her the sound of her mother’s voice. As Gloria’s throat filled with sour shame, she knew that no amount of time ever could.
Genevieve’s death nearly fourteen and a half years ago during Gloria’s birth was the foundation on which Gloria’s whole life had been built. A constant that molded the world as much-if not more-than gravity or the laws of motion. To forget such a basic, fundamental fact sent a cold spike into Gloria’s heart. She felt a crack in the world and could not help vomiting into it.
As her stomach emptied, fear seeped in to fill the void. ‘Why?’ wandered about her mind like a traveler lost in fog. Why had she been running? Why wasn’t she in bed? Why were wolves after her? Why did she think she had found her mother? Why were her feet muddy?
Gloria wiped the edge of her mouth on the sleeve of her pajamas. She rose, turned, and found Peter. He stood straight on two legs. He filled his red and black uniform like it had been tailored just for him. His face was pleasant, but held concern.