Isabella SWW Chapters 1-4 Phoenix
It was a frosted evening in early December. Verglas smothered the lampposts, strangling the paint. The feather-light snow drifted down, settling on the banisters of the stairs leading to the pavement. Unforgiving frost laid itself upon the roof panels. The last autumn leaves were swept away by the broom-like wind, hypnotising it with its eerie whistle. Few residents of the houses along the road were collecting water to help their pipes flow. The gurgling of the sluggishly flowing pipes sounded like the whispers of the wind.
Florence Fenice pulled her khaki parka closer around her as she trudged through the cobbled streets of Kynance Mews. The snowflakes whisked at her face as she sauntered towards the turning into Gale’s Cornwall Gardens.
Turning left, Florence hesitantly made her way towards the checkpoint where a sturdily built soldier stood. The pastries, which were in a box in her arms, jumbled about. Stood at the checkpoint, were a family, similar to hers: two children and two adults. The youngest child was fighting the other as their parents argued with the soldier. ‘Sir and Ma’am, not everyone is allowed through to the rest of London. You know the drill.’ The children stopped playing. ‘As for your children, they cannot go to school. I am not allowing you to go through.’. He refused to elaborate and ushered his hand towards the northern half of London.
‘Little girl, you’re next!’ bellowed the stocky soldier, signalling at Florence with his cadaverous index finger.
‘Good day, sir,’ Florence responded, keeping her chin to her chest, ‘I’m taking these croissants and bread to a customer for my parents.’
‘Let me take a gander,’ snarled the guard, looking ravenous for a sweet pastry.
‘Which route are you taking?’ asked the soldier, eyeing Florence in an abstruse manner.
After a moment’s consideration, the soldier piloted his hand past the checkpoint. Florence was relieved and exhaled.
It was staggering. Florence inhaled and looked around. She couldn’t comprehend as to why her parents wouldn’t allow her or her sister to ever get past the checkpoint. Although her sister had been there before, she was not allowed back. The populaces ambled as if it was the norm. It was far from the norm for Florence. Stout, moss covered stone towers impended over Florence.
Here the streets were different. Very different. There were motor cars; Florence had never seen those before. There were telephone boxes; she hadn’t seen those either. Florence had imagined life on the other side of the checkpoint, but never like this.
Rats were not scampering through the bins like they had done in the ghetto. She craved to live on the other side of London. Where the sun shone, the birds twittered and the citizens were extravagant with their money.
Florence strained to keep her tears locked away. They burned, sweltering and turbulent against the callous, immobilising air of London. This wasn’t fair; why were the foreigners not allowed on the other side? Why weren’t they allowed to live like the other Londoners? That was when she remembered her parents’ words, ‘keep your head down, don’t make eye contact and don’t talk to strangers.’ When they were younger and every time her parents repeated this saying to each other before making a delivery, Florence and her sister would giggle at each other, not knowing how important this saying would be to them later on in life.
That was when a hand reached for the hood of her parka and another trapped her words in a cage. She was pulled into an alley. There was no-where to run to.
Soon after, Florence found herself in a dark corridor. The alley cats prowled around her as if she was in a circus. “That’s mine now,” the prosperous figure, which could barely be made out by Florence, spat. Florence winced as a shower of saliva sprinkled over her face. She wiped her forearm over her eyes. A window, alongside one that was bricked up, caught her attention. “And give me everything you own!” he continued, reaching out for the parcel. Florence jerked her hands back. The pastries rattled in the box. “Excuse you? This package is mine!” She thrust her fist forward and into his stomach. He cringed and staggered backwards, groaning and cursing under his breath. Florence ran.
She ran towards the window and jumped.
Outside, the sugar-like snowflakes lay, engulfing the mist as Florence felt the sleet nestle in her untamed hair and the wind cackled and teased the trees. From where she was stood, Florence could see a small area, sort of like a bunker where she could hide in case the muscly man conjured up enough energy to chase her. Florence made her way to the area, but, as she looked left, she could see multiple rusty screws and a hammer. As she looked to the right, it was more a monstrosity: broken glass, rotten rafters and what seemed like flesh and blood-smothered feathers. Alongside them were bottles of old milk, sour smelling and foul. To her disbelief, there was nowhere to shelter, nowhere to hide. She could hear the footsteps of the man following her, his laugh, one that no-one could forget. Florence could see his expounding figure, holding a knife which was glittering as the sharp edge snarled at Florence. There was nowhere to hide.
…but at that moment, Florence heard a high-pitched, shrilling noise not far behind her, which echoed throughout the alley, grabbing at Florence’s ears and tearing through the earth. What Florence saw next was nothing compared to what she had imagined. Out of the darkness, Florence emerged and witnessed a ruby coloured beast.
A bird. A phoenix. It was otherworldly. The cardinal bird stared with its onyx eyes and raised it wings, the left one struggling. Florence felt her heart slowly float up towards her throat as the phoenix crept closer, its curved talons scraping the tarmac.
The phoenix contracted her wings and Florence sighed. Her heart sunk down to where it was supposed to be. Florence could see the wound, a simple **** encrusted with soaked feathers and small clumps of mud. Florence watched as the phoenix nestled its head under its left wing.
It was then that she spoke. The Phoenix spoke with a powerful voice containing the rubble from the essence of the waves, “I need help from you,” stated the Phoenix, trying to avoid stumbling into Florence.
Florence stared the Phoenix in the eye, questioning whether this was real or if she was imagining this creature. She urgently wanted to help the Phoenix. “We need to leave. Now. They are after me.” Florence could and would do anything and everything for the phoenix. No matter how long it took.
Ten minutes later, and after a walk to Little Venice, Florence and the phoenix passed multicoloured house boats and gondolas. It was a pretty calm day as many residents were dancing and cooking in their house boats. Florence had heard rumours of drowned sailors near Little Venice, but a few years ago, she had seen the posters of missing sailors around the area. They settled down near a bench and the phoenix perched on the back rest and laid its head on Florence.
Florence lurched upwards; the phoenix rustled her feathers. From nearby, Florence could hear the slapping footsteps of the follower’s sandals and a shrill, but worn, voice. The man had brought an acquaintance with him. They were making their way through the brush. Florence shovelled up the Phoenix with her hands and ran towards the abandoned house behind the bench. The phoenix woke with a start. As they entered the house, Florence hid behind the grandfather clock and hid the phoenix behind the couch. The phoenix looked up at Florence with a mischievous look glowering in her eyes. A piercing shriek demolished the air; voices called out; Florence sighed, considering whether it was a logical idea to take this creature with her.
Shuffling towards the phoenix, Florence put her index finger to her lips hoping the followers hadn’t heard it, and hoping that the phoenix was educated enough (although she was a mystical creature) to understand what her signal meant.
Then Florence heard the key in the front door jingle. She could see a penumbra in front of the door. There were two silhouettes standing there. Quietude echoed throughout the house; the followers were listening. The light in the kitchen flickered on as the fan began to whir. Whoever was in the house, either lived there or were the followers. Threatening a brave glance, Florence held her breath as she witnessed one of the followers walk past her. The door was still open and a rush of crisp, breezy air erupted into the kitchen. Raising her shoulders and trying to regulate her breath, Florence shuffled over to the phoenix behind the couch and crouched down. She thought to herself, ‘I feared this would happen. We just have to wait this out until the time comes to escape.’
It seemed like a lifetime until the followers finally left. In that time, Florence had gone from crouching on her knees to lead down and stroking the phoenix. The door rattled closed as the shutters on the door clicked against each other. The phoenix spoke in a hushed voice, “Florence, I need to reach the gateway. A gateway back to the world I came from. It is rather ancient and many royal weddings and coronations have happened here”.
Florence had a suspicion that the gateway was in or near an ancient cathedral in London which she had visited when her family had been looking for a place to stay. As Phoenix told Florence the clues, she could see the gash on her shoulder. The blood had dried up and turned into a wound. She looked more awake. She looked healed. Could they make it to the gateway? It was a lengthy walk, and Florence didn’t know how long she could tolerate a squawking bird. To satisfy her hunger, Florence handed Phoenix a pastry from the box. She expertly tore it apart and ate it.
Florence figured that she would be severely punished if she was out too late. But she wanted to help Phoenix, so desperately. So, they slipped alongside the canal, careful not to fall in, and made their way to Westminster Abbey. They were now on their way to find the gateway. Although Phoenix was sat on Florence’s shoulder, the moon and the stars accompanied them.
Tower Bridge (which aided the travellers along their journey and had stood inherent in the Thames) guided Florence and Phoenix to Westmynster Abbey. There were 25 ways out of London, and Florence knew all of them. In recent years, the buildings had become modernised, with new structures taking place. It was in this direction that Florence and Phoenix needed to take.
The silver sixpence in the sky glimmered down at Florence and Phoenix as if it was a torchlight in the darkness. Florence, inhaling and exhaling shakily, had to advance at an unhurried pace due to her obstructive wound . Every now and again, Phoenix paused to rest herself.
As Florence and Phoenix impended on the primal gateway, Florence could barely make out the sharp, hollow sound of the horses’ hooves.
Mr Méchanceté and his guards had followed them. Luckily, they weren’t seen.
Shambling forwards, Phoenix rustled her wings as she made her way towards the gateway. A stone arch housed the robust wooden door buckled with locks and bolts. The steel bars above the door locked away the secrets of the church, of unknown stories.
Florence, anxious but grateful for her time with her new friend, stood rooted to the ground, curious to see where Phoenix would come to be.
Through the door, it seemed as though it was a normal forest, but to immortals, it was the way to another world. There were no other creatures, no birds, no animals; just space.
And there it was again. The sharp, hollow sound of horses’ hooves. A moment later there they were. Mr Méchanceté and his guards. Florence, who could see the rivers of anger flowing through Phoenix’s eyes. Florence felt it. Phoenix. As Phoenix screeched to intimidate the guards. They wavered.
“I must leave now. Take care and bless you. Thank you for being my friend.” She turned to Florence. “I’m heading to infinity and I’ll see you soon and I will return when I have healed.” They stood in silence for a few second before Florence said, “I’ll miss you, Phoenix,” she replied, looking up at the night sky. The gateway seemed to warp, to rip at the seams, to tear apart and make way for Phoenix. She tensed her claws and spread her wings.
She leapt from the ground, calling out to Florence. She soared through the forest, her shriek echoing throughout. Her body floated through, entering her own world… she was gone.
Florence spun around, bewildered as to what she had just seen. No one would believe her if she told them. She exhaled and decided to make her way back home, still forlorn that her friend had left.
When she finally arrived home, her family were still asleep, but it was morning, clear as day and the snow had cleared from the ground.
Florence knew Phoenix would always be with her. Even though she wasn’t there in person, she would be deep in Florence’s imagination.
Previously, there had been a checkpoint that connected the ghetto and the city where the foreigners weren’t allowed. Now, there wasn’t even a checkpoint; just a wooden sign reading “Welcome to upper London” in poorly painted letters. Florence had never known London to be as nice as it was now.
Many years later, when Florence was a lot older, she went back to see if Phoenix had returned yet. To her surprise, Phoenix was stood there, majestically opening her wings, presumably waiting for Florence. They embraced each other, Florence crying and Phoenix wrapping her now healed wings around Florence’s back. Outside Westmynster Abbey, Florence loped across the lawns, Phoenix mounting the air above her, letting the breeze flow freely through her healed wings.
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