Updated: Jul 7
If you would like to see the results of the previous spins on which this chapter is based, you can click on the image below to watch the Live selection video. I have also listed the spin results at the bottom of the chapter (to prevent spoilers for those of you who would rather read the chapter itself first without knowing the spin results).
Reminder: Chapter is mostly unedited! Please excuse any typos. I'll be editing it once the book's completed.
Spinner Story: Chapter 2
Jay groaned and blinked dust from her eyes. She reached up to wipe them off, and her hand came away wet. Blood. Her heart raced with panic. She probed her forehead with her fingers and winced. It was sore, but only bleeding a little. Already there was less blood on her fingers than at first. Her vision cleared with a little blinking, but it was dim. She coughed, and pain shot through her side. Dust puffed up from the ground beside where she lay, stirred by her breath. She felt dazed. Where was she?
Jay gasped and sat, stopping herself just before whacking her head on an enormous wooden beam. Her pulse careened as she took in her situation.
She was in a pocket – the chairs had stopped the beams from falling all the way, bracing her in a small tent of safety. But beyond where she sat, she couldn’t be sure. Chunks of concrete and wooden beams and rubble lay all around, blocking her view.
Jay coughed again, forcing the dust from her lungs. It hurt; both in her chest and in her ribs. Her rib was probably cracked or broken; but at least she was alive. “Kyle!” She coughed again involuntarily. “Kyle?”
“Aren’t you a lucky duck,” a voice giggled.
Jay whipped around and found spectral eyes staring back at her, amused. “What have you done? Look at what you caused!”
The ghost laughed. “What I caused? You must mean saving your life, of course. You wouldn’t dare be talking of anything else.”
“Save my... You did this! You could have killed me! The overpass – “ Jay shivered, afraid to think how bad this could really be, what she might find when she got a look at the full disaster. “How could you do this? Don’t you know I’m trying? This was never part of our deal!”
A haunting laugh drifted in from another direction, another of the ghosts nearby.
“Deal?” The ghost in front of her sneered. “You had a job to do, and you didn’t do it, and now we’ve made sure you lived so that you can. Business, Jayana. Nothing more. We don’t make deals. We just want what you’ve promised us. But if you want a deal, we’ve saved your life, now. One could say that you owe us.”
Jay’s blood went cold.
The ghost smirked. “Careful though! This pile of wreckage doesn’t look stable. Wouldn’t want it to come crashing down on you or dear, helpless Kyle.”
The ghost laughed again, then vanished.
“Kyle,” Jay called again, more tentative this time. He had been right beside her when the roof caved in... “Kyle?”
It was hard to see details in the dimness, and Jay was afraid to move too quickly for fear of disturbing the wooden beam braced above her. That beam seemed to be holding up a bunch of other collapsed materials from the roof, like a tent pole in the mound of rubble. But Kyle –
Jay felt out with her left hand and hit something solid and warm. She focused on the shadows beneath the wooden beam, and could make out the chair Kyle’s leg had been trapped under, standing in a safe pocket – if it could be called that – beneath another large piece of fallen roof. Kyle seemed to be unconscious. She slid toward him, careful not to bump the wooden beam or anything else around them.
She placed her hand tentatively on his chest. He was alive; she could feel his heart beating steadily and his chest rising and falling with breath. She shook him gently.
He moaned, then blinked his eyes open. “Jayana?”
Jay sucked in a relieved breath. “Shh, it’s okay; don’t try to move.”
He remembered her name; that was good – his brain must be clear. But he was pale beneath the layer of dust, and his muscles trembled beneath her hand on his arm. She pulled her hand away.
“I thought we were about to die.” Kyle’s brown eyes peered up at her.
So did I, Jay thought.
Kyle coughed, and pain shot across his face. “My leg, it hurts.” His voice quivered on the last word.
“I know, I’m sorry. Just stay here. I need to see if there’s a way out.” Jay sank back, examining the situation. Like her own spot, the rubble seemed to have magically fallen around Kyle and not on top of him – yet another thing for which the ghosts would likely claim she owed them. But at least Kyle was okay.
Jay eased herself up, slid out from beneath the wooden beam, and struggled to her feet in the small space so that she could get a better view of what was around them.
There was nothing to see. Beyond the wooden beam that held up their small pocket, there was just an enormous section of roof that blocked everything else from sight. She could just barely stand up without her head brushing the giant piece of roof, metal and wood splintered but still holding together. The stage next to them seemed to have caught one end of the chunk of roof as it fell, but the other side of it had crushed some of the rows of chairs and created sort of a lean-to... but on either side was more caved-in wreckage, more rubble. They were in a pocket within a pocket, and for all Jay knew there was even more on top of that. Panic swept in again – they were trapped, and moving any of it could make everything cave down on top of them. But Jay could hear movement and clanging and shouts from above and around them. She was relieved they weren’t alone, though she was still afraid to see what had become of the building and the overpass, and the people who had been on and around it when it collapsed.
Jay knelt carefully down next to Kyle again.
His eyes searched her face, and she struggled to keep the fear out of it. “I can hear people. I’m going to see if I can get help.”
Kyle reached his hand up to her, and Jay hesitated only a moment before taking it.
“Be careful.” He paused. “If you need to leave me – “
“I’m not leaving you. Just stay still and I’ll be right back.” Jay slipped her hand from Kyle’s and pressed her face to a small gap between the swatch of roof and another mound of rubble. “Hey!” She coughed as dust toppled in on her, gasped, brushed the dust from her face, then called again. “Please! We need help!”
“Over here!” a man’s voice shouted. “I heard someone!” There was shuffling and then the man’s voice sounded again, closer this time. “Hello? I need you to speak again; help me find where you are.”
Jay coughed. “We’re in here!”
A man’s eye appeared in the gap, and he breathed a sigh of relief. “There you are. Are you hurt?”
“I’m okay. But there’s a guy in here with me, and his leg is stuck under something. It’s bleeding.”
The man’s eyes widened as he peered in through the small gap. “You have to be the luckiest people I’ve ever seen. It’s like the whole place collapsed around you. There’s a piece of the roof right on top of you. Is there something you can get under while we move it? Some of it might break apart.”
Lucky. Jay knew better. She glanced back at Kyle. “There’s a wooden beam. I can get under it.”
“And the guy with you?”
“He’s already under it.”
“Okay. Get under and stay there. We’re going to shift the piece that’s over you so you can get out.”
Jay scurried back under the beam next to Kyle. Kyle reached for her hand, and together they huddled as the piece of roof above them shifted up and away, and the men tossed it to the side.
When the dust settled, Jay stood. It was suddenly much brighter. She blinked at the crew of rescue workers.
“You alright?” one asked. Jay nodded as two others slid past her toward Kyle. They knelt down, speaking to him, and Jay moved out of their way, taking in the devastation of the building.
Half the roof of the auditorium was open to the sky above where the concrete overpass had demolished it. The giant slab of concrete lay, still mostly intact, across several rows of seats. One car lay upside down across a row of broken seats, its windows shattered. But there was no one inside it. Other than the rescue crew, there was no one else in sight at all.
Jay turned to the worker nearest her. “What happened?”
“The overpass collapsed,” the man said, clearly thinking Jay should have figured out that much.
Jay shook her head. “I mean, was anyone else hurt?”
The man shook his head. “A few minor injuries, that’s all. The only car that fell through was that one.“ He gestured to the overturned car Jay had seen. “And the person inside had already gotten out. Everyone managed to get safely out of their cars and off the overpass, though some cars are still stuck up there until we can get some crews to move them. There was already an ambulance and rescue crews nearby, for the call we got about the roof caving in. We came inside to look for you – the lady in charge of the pageant said there were still two people in here—but everyone else was accounted for.” He smiled. “Looks like we found you.”
“Thank you,” Jay was unsure what else to say.
One of the men tending Kyle stood. “We’ve got his leg stabilized and we’re coming through.”
Men from beyond the pile of rubble brought over a stretcher, and Kyle groaned as two men lifted him – his leg now wrapped tightly with bandages – and carried him to it. They settled Kyle on the stretcher and wheeled him toward the side exit, where the floor was clear of rubble.
“Wait.” Kyle pushed up, wincing. “Jayana?”
“They’re taking me to Summit General Hospital. Will you come see me?”
Jay blinked. “Sure, yes. Of course.”
Kyle smiled, then leaned back. “Okay, good. I’ll see you there.”
The men wheeled him away.
Jay turned to find the one rescue worker watching her.
“You truly are lucky. The way the rubble fell across you – it’s almost like a miracle.”
Somewhere in the distance, a voice laughed. Jay stared. “Yes. Lucky.”
“Would you like a ride to the hospital? You should probably get checked for a concussion; from that cut I’d say you took a knock to the head.”
Jay nodded. “That would be great.”
She sat in the hospital waiting room a few hours later, cleared by the CT scans as still having a normal brain, her ribs declared only bruised and not broken. A small bandage covered the cut on her head.
Kyle was in surgery. Jay wasn’t family so she hadn’t been able to get much info, but the nurses said when Kyle woke, she could see him if he gave permission. Until then, she would have to wait. She’d considered going home, but she’d promised Kyle she would come see him, and she wanted to know he was okay. Besides, no one else had showed up in the waiting room at all. For all she knew, she could be the only person who knew Kyle was hurt. She couldn’t leave him there alone.
Jay opened a magazine from the table beside her. Her eyes tracked the pages mindlessly, not really reading anything. She was too on edge to focus. In one of the pictures, a woman wore a long evening-gown not unlike Jay’s, though hers was torn and dirty, now. It was the only thing she had with her to wear, so she’d put it back on after her tests came back clear. She ached to go home and shower and change – as soon as she knew Kyle was okay. She let her eyes glide over the image, taking in the woman’s dramatic pose. What was this ad even for? Perfume?
“Hello!” Spectral eyes popped in where the magazine woman’s eyes had been, blinking.
Jay screamed and dropped the magazine.
The nurse leaned over the reception counter. “Are you alright, dear?”
“Yes, sorry. Something startled me.” Jay leaned down and lifted the magazine by its corner with two fingers, then slowly raised it to her face and opened it.
A spectral face grinned at her from the page, over the top of an ad for a sneaker. “You’re so jumpy these days.”
Jay slammed the magazine shut.
A hollow laugh echoed out as she dropped the magazine back onto the table, then a voice whispered in her ear. “Boo.”
Jay jumped again. “Leave me alone,” she rasped.
The nurse glanced over.
Jay forced herself to meet the nurse’s eyes. “Um, where is the bathroom?”
“That way.” The nurse pointed to the other end of the room.
Jay nodded and hurried toward it. She closed and locked the door behind her, then sank against it. She glanced up at the mirror – and nearly screamed again.
A face stared back at her from beside her own, translucent, wide-eyed and grinning. “You can’t run from us, little Jayana,” it said. “Why even try?”
“I’m not running from you,” Jay answered. “I came in here to talk to you. Talking to you around other people only makes them think I’m crazy.”
“Aren’t you?” The ghost raised a spectral eyebrow.
“No.” I don’t think.
“You’re wasting time, little Jayana. The pageant was a bust, a failure. But you still owe us. You must keep your promise.”
“I will.” Jay stiffened. “But you aren’t giving me time! You’re making everything worse!”
“Oh, Jayana, are you upset?” The ghost’s mouth twitched up in a smirk.
Anger bubbled inside Jay. “Leave me alone.”
“Fine, but don’t forget what you promised us. You’re running out of time.”
“I’ll get the money, but you have to stop interfering. You’re only making it harder.”
“If you say so.” The ghost shrugged. “You’re wasting time. You’re not injured badly; you should be home by now, making plans for how to fix this.”
Fix this? They had some nerve, blaming her for this after they had screwed up the pageant. But still – better not to anger them. “I’m here for Kyle. I want to be sure he’s okay.” Jay bit back her accusations as to why Kyle was in the hospital in the first place.
“Ah, is that all?”
Jay suppressed a shiver at the ghost’s smile.
A scream cut through the air, from the waiting room.
“That’s your cue, little Jayana. Time to get moving!”
“What did you do?” Jay yelled, but the ghost was already gone, its laughter last to fade away.
Jay rushed out into the waiting room to find it covered in ladybugs. She shivered. She hated ladybugs.
The nurse at the desk was jumping around, trying to swat them off her scrubs as they swarmed across and over her desk, the floor, the chairs, everything. She looked up at Jay in panic. “They just poured out through the air vents. They’re everywhere!”
Jay glanced up; they were streaming from the vents, marching out along the ceiling and down the walls.
Why did it have to be ladybugs? But her fear of them was exactly why they were here, and she knew it. Her mind flew back, unbidden, to that dark night hiding, the smashed glass of her ladybug terrarium littering the floor. Glass crunched beneath her sneakers as she crouched, eyes squeezed shut, in her bedroom closet. The ladybugs crawled all over her body, unseen but tickling. She bit her tongue till she tasted blood, fighting back her screams. She was terrified in the closet, but it was safer in it than out – outside of it, Mom and Dad were fighting, screaming, throwing things again. She sank against the door, her legs cramping from crouching, and drifted in and out of time. She imagined herself eaten alive by ladybugs, devoured by them, her parents coming to find her finally and seeing nothing but bones. Hearing her parents fight was as bad as being struck herself. She could the pressure of their anger as it closed in, crushing. And her skin crawled with ladybugs, covering her arms and legs, flittering inside her sleeves and collar, their tiny feet marching...
Jay shook herself back to the present to find the nurse peering at her in concern. Jay sank back against the wall. “I’m...I’m okay.”
The ladybugs continued their march across the ceiling and down to the floor, a parade of repressed memories. Her private memories; ones she’d never shared with anyone. But she didn’t need to share, because the ghosts had been there. They had seen it. They knew what this would do to her. They were tormenting her. The ladybugs were a reminder, a warning that the ghosts could do anything they wanted, and Jay – and whoever happened to be around her at the time, poor souls – paid for it.
I need to get away from people. The safest thing for everyone else, even random strangers, was for Jay to stay as far away from other human beings as possible. The ghosts only cared about her, about whether she was making progress on what she’d promised them – and until she got them the money, no one was safe near her. I need to get out of here... But she had to at least check on Kyle, to be sure that the first mess she’d created was okay, that he was okay. Then she would lock herself in her garage, crank out graphic design projects for any remote clients she could find, and refuse to leave her house until she’d gotten the ghosts their stupid money. Then she would finally be free.
The ladybugs scattered across the room, settling onto the floors and chairs and walls. The nurse seemed to have calmed down from the initial shock and to have shaken off most of the ones which had landed on her.
She shivered, her wide eyes glancing up to Jay. “Where did they all come from?”
You don’t really want me to answer that.
The nurse shivered again, then grabbed the phone. “Yes, I need – we have – ladybugs? Yes. Ladybugs. Uh huh. I don’t know! They’re just everywhere. Yeah. Okay. Bye.” She turned to Jay. “They’re sending someone. You okay?”
Jay nodded. “Yeah. But Kyle, my friend, do you know if he’s...”
“I’ll let you know as soon as I hear,” the nurse said.
“I think I’m going to step outside to get some air.”
Jay headed for the elevator in the hall, and took it to the ground floor. She rushed outside and slipped back against the outer wall beneath a column, glad to be out of the hospital for a moment.
She was embarrassed for letting the ladybugs disturb her so much. They weren’t dangerous, but she’d spent so much time running from all memories of that part of her life, the urge to run now was powerful. But she needed to get it together. She was here to make sure Kyle was okay, to be sure he made it through what her ghosts had done to him. This was her fault– not that she had any control, but if she had gotten the ghosts what they wanted sooner, they wouldn’t have been so upset; they wouldn’t have hurt anyone.
“Miss?” The nurse from the surgery waiting room poked her head out the door. “The shift is changing and I’m going on break, but I just wanted to let you know your friend is awake. He asked for you. He’s in recovery, room seven.”
Jay smiled her first genuine smile in hours. “Thank you.”
The nurse smiled back and went inside. Jay took a deep breath and turned for the door.
The ghost from the bathroom threw himself in front of her. “No. No, you can’t. Don’t go in, it’s – “
A deafening boom shook the building. Inside the hospital, screams broke out.
“What was that?” Jay lurched for the ghost, glaring at him. “What did you do?”
“It wasn’t me, not me!” The ghost flung his translucent hands up in front of his chest. “I swear, not me, not us! The others!”
The ghost actually looked scared. Jay blinked. “What? What others?”
“They want the house! Not us, not us!” The ghost melted away into the door, its wide, frightened eyes fading slowly into the glass.
Jay yanked open the door and rushed inside the hospital.
END OF CHAPTER 2
Spin Results for Chapter 2:
(spun on live video prior to writing this chapter)
Chapter 2 plot:
Spinner Story – Chapter 2
Goal: Get what's-his-name to the hospital
Conflict/Obstacle: Ladybug invasion