“Well, I’ll be gobsmacked!” a blonde girl whispered to herself just after rousing from the floor. Her sparkling brown eyes were fixated on the red-headed boy strapped to a chair. He disorientedly opened his eyes and observed the small, cozy living room. The boy looked about fourteen. The two girls and chinchilla on the floor beside the blonde girl quickly roused as well.
The blonde girl was wearing long overalls with a white shirt underneath. The brunette girl was wearing denim skinny jeans and a bright yellow sweater. The last girl, who was a ginger, was wearing a short, white dress. They all looked around twelve years old. The chinchilla was wearing a black top hat and bow tie.
All four of them abruptly stood up — sat up, in the chinchilla’s case — just after the boy looked down and saw the ropes that tied him to the chair.
“Good heavens! I’ve been tied up! Why have I been tied up?!” he asked, seemingly to himself, waking just as quickly as they had. After looking up, his eyes widened at the sight of the girls in front of him. “Don’t hurt me, please!”
The brunette girl shook her head disbelievingly at the boy. “Are you having a laugh? We wouldn’t hurt you!” After studying the boy, she whispered to the blonde, “He’s scared of us, a boy, scared of us!”
“It’s because he’s tied up, obviously,” the blonde whispered back.
The chinchilla rolled his eyes. “Rubbish. The boy’s aaa cowaaard, obviously.” He then used his leg to shove a spoonful of peanut butter in his mouth. A jar of peanut butter was held with the animal’s other leg. The boy strapped to the chair jumped, then searched around the room. His eyes finally landed on the chinchilla, laying against the brick fireplace only a few feet to the left of him. He was now reading the nutrients label on the peanut butter jar, mumbling all the while.
“I’ve lost the plot,” the boy muttered to himself.
“Not yet, I’m afraid,” the blonde said to the boy, matter-of-factly, “but maybe after a week in this horrid place. Fancy a cuppa?” The boy ignored the girl’s question and kept talking to himself frantically. His eyes were wide and focused on the chinchilla.
“Whaaat aaare you staaaring aaat?” the chinchilla asked the boy in a disgusted tone, “Peaaanut is minding his business, eaaating his peaaanut butter, aaand you staaart gaaawping aaat him! He is offended. Offended, indeed.” The boy kept staring.
“It speaks in third person,” he whispered to himself. The three girls in front of the boy shared a look of pity.
“It?! It?! In caaase you didn’t know, caaalling someone aaan it is insulting! Aaand Peaaanut sure is insulted! Insulted, indeed!” Peanut bellowed
“Now, now, Peanut,” the blonde girl walked towards Peanut and soothed him, “the boy hasn’t seen a talking animal before. Don’t distress him even more.”
“Haaasn’t seen aaa taaalking aaanimaaal before? Peaaanut is taaalking right now!” Peanut argued, then he shoved another spoonful of peanut butter in his mouth. The girl sighed.
“Yes, and how?!” the boy asked. All three of the girls shared a look.
“You tell him,” the ginger whispered, her hands on her hips.
“I’m not telling him! You tell him!” the brunette whispered back to the ginger.
“I’ll tell him,” the blonde said.
“Tell me what?!” the boy asked. He looked from one face to another.
“Where to start, where to start,” the blonde muttered to herself. “Ah! Yes! You are, at most, a day old, first of all.”
“I’m a day old?! Have you gone mad?!” the boy asked.
“Afraid not,” the blonde said, “the author can’t write for more than a day, after all. You see, you are a character in a story, just like everyone else in he—”
“I’m a character in a story?!” the boy asked, laughing hysterically.
“Be quiet, you twit, aaand listen to her taaalk! Peaaanut haaates when people interrupt,” the chinchilla said. The boy glared at him.
“—just like everyone else here,” she finished. “When the author of our story starts writing, we sort of black out. During the blackout, we act out what the author writes. We can never remember what happens during the blackout, though, so we have no idea what the story is about. When the author stops writing, we can act for ourselves. You were created during the last blackout. Therefore, you’ve only been alive for, at most, a day. And Peanut can talk because that is how the author created him,” the girl took a deep breath, then asked, “make sense?”
The boy stared at her blankly, then the ends of his mouth curved up. “Did the author make Peanut rude and obnoxious too?”
Peanut gasped after quickly swallowing his peanut butter. “How insolent of you! Peaaanut haaas never met someone so hypocriticaaal!” he fumed as the boy and the girls started having a laughing fit. “Why aaare you aaall laaaughing? This is not aaa joke!”
The ginger wiped the tears from her eyes. “You have peanut butter”—she giggled—“all over your chin.” As everyone started howling again, the boy and the blonde caught each other’s eye. The blonde’s eyes held a sparkle. They both blushed and quickly looked away.
Peanut narrowed his eyes and stomped towards the bathroom, everyone laughing at him the whole way there.
After the laughter died down, the girl with short, brown hair clasped her hands together. “Now that that’s sorted, you need a name. Any suggestions?” The boy shook his head.
“How about Theo?” the blonde girl suggested. “Or Axel?”
“Axel works,” he decided.
“Great! I’m Armelle, the blonde is Elody, and the ginger is Ruby, by the way,” Armelle said. Then she looked at Ruby and Elody, “Now, let’s untie Axel, and then we’ll tell him about our plan.” They nodded and then started undoing the knots in the rope around Axel and the chair.
“A plan? What for?” Axel asked the girls.
“To escaaape the story, of course,” Peanut said on his way back towards the living room. His chin was now free of peanut butter. “Peaaanut and the girls waaant to go to the reaaal world. It’s better thaaan this plaaace, it’s dull aaas dishwaaater here.”
“How have you seen the real world before?” Axel asked Peanut.
“He hasn’t, he’s just assuming it’s better,” Armelle explained.
“Oh. How did you find out that you were in a story?” he asked.
“Lots and lots of experimenting and studying,” Armelle answered. Axel nodded.
“Done! Follow us, the plan’s progress is in a journal upstairs,” Armelle said. Axel stood up from the chair and stretched his back. He then followed the girls, his eyes on Elody’s long hair the whole way there. Peanut trailed behind.
Once they reached the top of the stairs, the girls showed Axel to the first room on the right. A king sized bed was against the wall, and a wooden desk was right beside it. There was a huge window on the left wall. Looking out of it, you could see two houses beside the one they were in. One was medium sized and the other was huge. The small cottage they were in was nothing compared to those houses.
“The journal! It’s gone!” Armelle yelled as she approached the desk. She started opening the desk drawers and searching frantically around the small room.
“It must’ve been the author! I bet we did something with the journal during the story,” Elody exclaimed.
“Well, our plan just went all to pot if we don’t find it!” Ruby growled.
“Can’t you just remember your plan?” Axel asked them as if it were the most obvious thing.
Ruby glared at him. “Of course we can’t! The plan was pages and pages long. We had to experiment over and over again to get closer to the answer. Now we’ll never be able to get past the invisible wall in the forest!”
Axel backed away, and timidly asked, “Why do you think getting past an invisible wall will get us to the real world?”
“The invisible wall is there because the author didn’t create a setting outside the forest. At first, we thought there would be nothing beyond the wall. Quite literally. Then, we realized that it’s possible that beyond the wall is the real world,” Elody said.
Axel gazed at her for a moment, then looked down at his feet shyly. “Oh, that makes sense.”
“We'll have to start looking for the journal,” Armelle announced. “I’ll check this house.”
“I’ll check the medium sized house,” Ruby said.
“I’ll check outside,” Axel declared, looking back up.
“I’ll check the huge house,” Elody said.
“Aaand Peaaanut the peaaanut butter jaaar.” Axel and the girls stared at Peanut. “Whaaat? You took aaall the plaaaces to look.”
“Nothing. Now, let’s get started!” Armelle commanded encouragingly. Everyone scurried off except for Peanut, he started eating from his peanut butter jar.
“No one found anything?” Armelle asked as she sat down on the living room couch an hour later. They all shook their heads. She sighed and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands.
“Peaaanut found aaa paaaper on the floor,” Peanut prompted.
“How lovely!” Ruby exclaimed sarcastically. “And I’m sure that paper is the answer to all of our problems?” Peanut shakily shook his head.
“Wow, I was really expecting Peanut to talk back,” Axel said.
“He’s scared of Ruby, and really, I don’t blame him,” Elody said. Ruby eyed her. “But nevermind that! We need to start our plan over again, now.”
Armelle sighed. “It took us weeks to construct that plan, I’m cheesed off.”
No one said anything for a while. Armelle and Ruby sat on the couch, shoulders slouched. Elody sat beside them, tapping her chin thoughtfully. Axel laid on the floor, his hands behind his head. Peanut laid against the fireplace, eating his peanut butter sorrowfully. After a few minutes, Elody gasped and then perked up.
“What?” Armelle asked, her voice coming out muffled through the pillow she was using to cover her face. Elody was quiet for a moment.
“I don’t think the real world is behind the invisible wall.”
Armelle looked up from the pillow. “What? Why would you think that?” she urged.
“Think about it. It would mean that every story that’s written is placed on the real world, so there would be little space. We must be somewhere else. I’m thinking that we would have to fly to get to the real world. Or teleport.”
Armelle’s face fell. “If that’s true,” Armelle said, “we’re just as stuck as we were before. How are we going to find out how to fly or teleport there? Plus, I’m going to bet that the invisible wall is more like an invisible dome, so we can’t fly anyways.”
Elody tapped her chin thoughtfully, then she shrugged.
“She has a point, though,” Axel chimed. Elody grinned at him appreciatively, and maybe a little sheepishly. “Maybe we should forget about your old plan and look into that.”
“We might as well. I’m not looking forward to redoing everything, anyways,” Armelle said. Ruby and Elody nodded in agreement.
“Waaait, if flying is out of the question, aaall we haaave to look into is teleportaaation,” Peanut disputed. Armelle’s face fell once again.
“Yeah, I’m not sure how we would go about experimenting with teleportation. Where would we even start?”
No one said anything. Armelle sighed. “So, what do we do?” It stayed silent. Armelle groaned as she covered her face with her hands.
Ruby perked up. “Peanut, you said that you found a paper earlier, right?”
Peanut looked up from his peanut butter jar. “Yes, the one thaaat you saaaid would solve aaall of our problems?” He asked sarcastically. Then a sudden anxious expression on his face showed that he wished he hadn’t.
She scowled, but ignored his question. “That gives me an idea! Peanut, bring us to the paper.”
Armelle, Elody, and Axel stood up abruptly, a hopeful look on their faces.
Peanut shrugged. “This waaay.” He led them upstairs and back into the same bedroom from before. “I found it in thi—”
Ruby, laying on the grass, slowly opened her eyes. She stared blankly at the sky. After a moment of laying there, she sat up abruptly. “Brilliant, another blackout,” she muttered. “Guys!”
“We’re here,” Armelle said from behind her. Turning around, Ruby saw Armelle, Elody, and Peanut brushing their clothes off.
“Has anyone seen Axel?” Elody asked. They all shook their heads. “Well, I’m going to look for him, are you guys coming?”
“Sure,” Ruby and Armelle said at the same time. They then looked at Peanut.
“Whaaat, Peaaanut? Peaaanut is definitely interested in looking for thaaat insolent boy.”
Elody rolled her eyes and gestured for Armelle and Ruby to follow her. They made their way towards the house they had just been in.
“Axel?!” Elody yelled once they stepped inside. There was no answer. “Okay, then. I guess he isn’t here. Let’s try the house beside this one.”
No one answered when they yelled into that house either. “He must be in the biggest house,” Elody said after stepping outside. She made her way towards the mansion, Armelle and Ruby trailing behind.
Elody grabbed the mansion’s doorknob and pushed the door open. She stepped into the humongous space, Ruby and Armelle stayed outside. A white, marble staircase was on her right, and on her left was the doorway to the kitchen. In front of her were two couches, one facing away from her and the other facing the right. Sunlight shines through a window on the wall behind her.
“Axel?!” Elody yelled. No one answered. “He probably went back to the cottage while we weren’t looking,” she muttered to herself as she looked around. Then she yelled outside, “He’s not here! Let’s go ba—”
Elody stopped mid sentence. She grabbed a wall to hold herself steady and started gasping for breath.
In front of her was the cold, lifeless body of the boy she had just gotten to know. Axel.
“The author killed him!” Elody shrieked, her eyes flooded with tears. Her face turned from grief-stricken to frightened. “What if my character killed him?!”
She was sitting on the small house’s living room couch, Ruby and Armelle on either side of her. They rubbed her shoulders and silently cried while she fumed about the author. Even Peanut was grieving by eating more peanut butter than usual.
Hours passed of the girls and Peanut doing nothing except for staring at walls or wiping their tears. Elody was hit the hardest, she had a special connection with Axel, a potentially romantic one. Elody’s eyes no longer held the sparkle they normally did. The sparkle was long gone… just like Axel.
Finally, Peanut decided to say something. “Aaaxel would haaave waaanted us to keep trying to find aaa waaay out of here.” The girls nodded slowly. They were quiet for a moment.
“Bring us to the paper again,” Elody murmured, standing up. She looked as if she wasn’t really here. Sure, her body was, but not her mind. Elody’s thoughts were far away, bringing her soul with them. Ruby and Armelle stood as well, the same faraway look in their eyes.
Peanut sulkily led them upstairs and back into the bedroom. He opened a drawer underneath the bed and pulled out a thin paper. Peanut handed it to Ruby, Armelle and Elody stood on either side of her. Elody looked away and stared at the king sized bed. She didn’t seem all that interested anymore.
“My plan is to write on the paper that we find a magical portal that takes us to the real world. Things happen when the author writes them, so it should work for us.”
Elody shook her head, her eyes becoming less distant. “What?” she asked. Then she looked at Ruby hopefully. “That’s a brilliant idea!”
Elody and Armelle shrieked with glee. “I’ll go get a marker!” Armelle said. She ran downstairs and was back in the room within twenty seconds. Armelle shoved the marker in Ruby’s hand.
“What if we blackout?” Armelle asked. Ruby pondered her question.
“What I’m writing has nothing to do with us, so we won’t,” she said reassuringly as Elody was deep in thought.
Elody gasped. “What if you write that Axel comes back to life?!” Elody asked excitedly. Her eyes burned with the desire to see Axel again.
“Brilliant!” Ruby exclaimed. She grabbed the marker from Armelle’s hand and started writing, muttering the words aloud. “Axel comes back to life just as a magical portal to the real world opens up on this very page.” She set the marker down and stared intently at the paper. Nothing happened at first.
But then, a small black dot appeared on the page. It grew bigger and bigger, swirling on the page. The hole ended up being as big as the page, and inside the hole were stars, rocks, and planets. The girls started jumping around excitedly. Peanut danced, twirling his peanut butter jar on the tip of one finger and his top hat on the other.
Then, Elody stopped suddenly. She looked around the room. “I need to go to the mansion,” she yelled, already halfway to the door. She sprinted downstairs, through the living room, out the door, and all the way to the same doorknob that had led her to so much grief. Elody placed her hand on the doorknob and slowly opened the door. She stepped inside the luxurious room and beamed at the empty spot on the floor where Axel’s body should have been. Elody searched the room, and, finally, laid her eyes upon a familiar red-headed boy.
He grinned sheepishly. “Hey.”