Chapter 12: Cracks

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It was over. This time, there really was no escape. I knew this, and yet, I couldn't accept it.

I heard them coming, knew it was futile, but kept climbing, scrambling up the green magic, forever running.

I heard them around me, felt their heat even though they weren't yet touching me. Kept climbing.

Cold metal slid along my arm, but I pushed it away. Felt warm scales brush at my neck. Kept climbing.

They were all around me now, slithering over my body, circling around me. Why weren't they attacking? They had the power to rip away my very life, and yet they held back.

I refused to stop. They pulled me up with strength I wouldn't have believed them capable of, but I refused to let go of the stalk. They pulled harder. Several slithered between my back and my duffel bag. I felt a hiss near my ear.

My heart refused to stop beating and lungs to stop breathing. Fear squirmed in my stomach, coiled like these snakes would have been on the ground.

All I knew was that these snakes meant death. I wasn't letting go.

Skai had. She floated up past me, carried by slithering monsters.

"Skai!" I yelled. She didn't hear. "Skai!"

I became hyper-aware of the rough green my whitened fingers were clutching, of my toe poking through the hole in my sock, feeling the rough fabric of my shoe. Skai was up there.

I tried to let go, but my fingers didn't twitch. Jack. Let. Go. Slowly, I felt my fingers begin to loosen, before they abruptly came to a stop, like a plow slamming against a stone. That was all I could manage.

At the same moment, though, the death darts gave an almighty yank, effectively wrenching me from my last hope.

I entered the air, rising up after Skai on the bodies of flying serpents. The wind buffeted me to the point where I was afraid I'd fall, but the death darts slipped gracefully between each gust. Guess it paid to be the one with flight.

From my new position, I was able to look down at the Eastern Mountains, now almost dark as the world lost its light for the night. I would have looked longer, only Skai and her escorts were approaching the ceiling of cloud. Told ya we were almost there.

She broke through the white, and more cotton moved where she had entered.

Now it was my turn. We approached it at the flying equivalent of a dead run. My fate was already sealed. The only question was how horrific my death would be.

Unless we could still escape.

I had always been taught that death darts meant, well, meant death. But I wasn't dead. Meaning I might still have a chance.

Now I watched the clouds looming above me anxiously. Almost there. What would it be like? Would we have a chance? It was mere inches away.

At the last second I remembered to look back at the Eastern Mountains one last time before I came to the Land of a Thousand Skies.

I closed my eyes as I was plunged into air so filled with water droplets, I couldn't breathe. Then we were through.

I could barely believe my eyes.

It looked exactly the same as it had before- blue sky stretching forever in every direction- except that below was a sheet of white. That was it. It was just another cloud. Disappointment rose into my throat like bile.

As we continued rising, though, I noticed what I hadn't before- what I should have noticed first. This high up, the beanstalk had started growing sideways- not diagonally, horizontally.

I scanned the sky above and around it, but there wasn't anything there. I lay back, wondering how much longer I would be forced to wait. Pitchforks, that wasn't my strong suit. Skai's snakes stopped a short distance to the left of where the stalk had fallen to the right. There really wasn't anything there. Maybe they had decided to wait for mine?

There rang out a great splitting sound from above, and I looked up in awe. The sky was cracking again.

We were going to the Land of a Thousand Skies.

A/N: Thanks for reading! Comment below: what did you like? Dislike? I'd love to hear from you!

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