The Way Out: An excerpt from Escape from St. David’s
After months of watching the new girl from behind the bushes near the stone benches in the main part of St. David’s, Nala got a little closer. Behind Wylder, Nala sat on her bare heels and watched a grasshopper bounce by her toes and into the grass.
“I hear you over there,” Wylder said, without looking up. “You can come out. I’m not going to hurt you.”
A few minutes passed but the girl stayed in the bushes. “My name is Wylder.”
It was dark and the only light was the full moon shining down on the stone benches. “How old are you?” Wylder asked. “You couldn’t be more than ten. What’s a little kid like you doing here anyway?”
Nala turned and ran back to the dark corner of St. David’s.
Wylder watched the girl go and noticed a faint twinkle of blue like she had seen when she got the tour of St. David’s. It was like a bundle of blue fireflies swarming together, fading in and out.
A month passed and when the moon was full, Wylder sat on the stone benches, with her fingers interlaced and covering one bent knee. Wylder knew the girl was there too. Wylder sat up, putting her palms behind her on the cold cement benches, leaning back to see the full moon. “I used to go riding when the moon was this bright,” Wylder began. “I’d sneak out my window and get on my horse, Blaine, and we’d ride until the sun was just starting to rise over the mountain. My dad would be up early and my mom would be sleeping. She worked nights at the hospital and slept in the day. I would put Blaine back in the barn and my dad would pretend not to notice that I had been out all night. I miss them terribly. I miss Blaine.”
“Twelve,” the girl said.
“What?” ask Wylder, surprised that the little girl spoke. “Twelve,” she repeated. “I’m twelve years old.”
The little black girl came out from the bushes, tippy toed over, and sat down beside Wylder on the stone bench. She was tiny, barefoot, and wearing a long white nightgown. Her hair was in two tousled braids, like a little girl would wear. She didn’t even appear twelve, yet she had eyes like someone who carried years of pain.
“I’m Nala. I like horses too,” she said. “I sneak out and ride sometimes.”
Wylder spun around to stare at her so fast that Nala jumped back. Wylder quickly stood up. “No, sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you. Did you say you ride sometimes? Here? A horse?” Wylder said with enthusiasm reserved for the living.
Wylder tightened her fists and shook them in front of her, eyes wide and a smile so big you could see her teeth showing.
“Shhh! Quiet! You’re gunna get me in a heap of trouble!” Nala started to walk away.
“Wait, please! Where do you ride?” Wylder asked.
Nala kept walking. “I have to go. My mama will be around soon. I’ll meet you here next month when the moon is full.”
“Next month!?” Wylder said, clearly frustrated. “Next month.” Nala giggled. “What? You got plans?” Nala smiled and skipped off back to the Dark Side of St. David’s.
The days passed slowly. Patty and Guy sat under their usual tree, the huge yew tree in the center of St. David’s, where they had a good view. They sat talking about everything and nothing, and watching the visitors come and go. Brenda sat in silence most of the time and smiled like she was overhearing a funny conversation. Steve and Tom spent their days surveying the remaining spots and checking for any signs of new arrivals. The moon became fuller each night.
Tonight, the moon would be at its brightest and Wylder could hardly wait for the sun to set. That night, just as she promised, Nala came to the stone benches. “Come on,” she said and started walking to the Dark Side of St. David’s.
After Brenda’s warning, Wylder was not sure about this. Nala kept walking and was nearly out of sight, but with the moonlight, Wylder was just barely able to keep her in view. “Don’t be a chicken,” Wylder said to herself. She jumped up and ran after Nala. “Wait for me!”
“Would you hush!” Nala hissed from ahead of her.
Wylder realized how loud she had been and shot Nala a look of apology. “Where are we going?” she said in a real whisper.
“We’re going to see a horse,” Nala replied.
Wylder could hardly contain her pure joy. They walked deeper into the dark. The moon did not shine here. This must be why Brenda called it the Dark Side of St. David’s, thought Wylder.
The trees became still, and the surroundings became silent. Wylder could not hear anything, not even her own steps. Total silence. Then the dark started to collapse around her, an unmistakable force began to pull her toward the blue light, and Wylder started to panic. This was all a trick to get me to the Dark Side. Then she felt a hand on her arm. She nearly screamed, but the hand was small and gentle, and she knew it was Nala. Wylder let her lead until she saw a small flicker of blue light. Nala reached her hand toward the light and pulled it back like a curtain. A space opened that was big enough for both of them to walk through.
Wylder could see sunlight on the other side, even though it was night here in St. David’s. Nala stepped through, never letting go of Wylder, and she followed Nala into the sunlight.
Once they were beyond St. David’s, Wylder saw her: a mare, beautiful, with a dark brown face. Wylder let go of Nala and walked slowly to the horse.
Nala came up to the horse first and touched her muzzle. The horse made a soft, happy neigh as a greeting to Nala. She put her forehead to the horse and whispered something to her.
“Can I ride her?” Wylder asked.
“That’s up to her,” Nala said.
“Where are we?” Wylder asked.
“Couldn’t tell ya,” Nala said. “All I know is she’s always waiting here.”
“But you got out of St. David’s! We got out! Can everyone get out?”
“This is not ‘out’ really, but it ain’t ‘in’ either.”
“It’s out!” Wylder said. “Most certainly, out!”
“We can only stay a few minutes,” said Nala, “My mama will have a fit if she knows I took you here. She thinks this is a wicked place and scolds me when I talk about it, sayin’, ‘Don’t you ever go there, do you hear me!? It’s foolin’ you. It ain’t real!’” Nala mocked.
When Nala insisted it was time to go back, Wylder said, “Thank you, Nala. That was amazing! When can we come again?”
Nala patted the horse gently and said, “Silly, we can’t come back.” Wylder’s face had a painful expression, “But, why?”
Nala sighed, eyes fixed on the horse. Wylder saw Nala smile with her mouth, but her eyes were not smiling. “My mama will have my head. She’s scared of this place. The last time I came, I stayed a good long time. I didn’t mean nothin’ by it. I was just playin’ in the field with the horse and didn’t know how long I’d been gone. When I got back, my mama gave praise to Jesus that I was not taken by the devil. She keeps a close watch on me since then. If I even go close to the gateway, she grabs me by the ear and drags me back. I had to sneak off while she was singin’ with the others. That’s the only time she leaves me alone.”
“What could she be scared of?” asked Wylder.
“She says this is the devil’s playground,” replied Nala, staring down at her bare feet. “It’s OK. I just wanted to come back one last time, to say goodbye to the horse.”
Wylder tried to think of ways to persuade Nala to bring her back again, but it was the horse who stepped forward and nuzzled Nala’s cheek. Nala looked up at the horse, put her hand on the mare’s face, and then kissed her nose. “Why you gotta go and do that?” Nala said to the horse with a giggle and patted her on the cheek.
It almost seemed as if the horse smiled. Nala shifted her focus back to Wylder. “Are you ready to go back to St. David’s?” she asked. “No,” said Wylder with a laugh, “but I will go willingly if you promise we can come back one day.” “Ugh,” Nala said, throwing up her hands. “My mama’s gunna kill me!”
Wylder couldn’t help but laugh out loud. The irony, she thought. As the girls started back to St. David’s, Nala took Wylder’s hand and gave it a squeeze. She faced straight ahead but said to Wylder, “It’s nice to have a friend.” Wylder returned the squeeze. Wylder smiled and felt the first bit of joy since arriving at St. David’s.
I agree, Wylder thought.
If you like the book, you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited or buy it here: Escape from St. David’s: Albers, Deborah, Keating, Keidi, Tieszen, Melissa, Gilders, Andrea, Meghnagi Bailey, Deborah, Onest, Amy: 9781736941867: Amazon.com: Books