Princess Charlize woke up in unfamiliar surroundings. In fact, there were no surroundings, as far as she was concerned. Just blackness. She felt the ground with her fingers. She didn't feel anything, but there must have been a ground, for her fingers didn't pass through the floor. My fingers must be numb, she thought. Probably from the pain relief I took for the terrible aching throughout my body that I experienced last night. Her fingers curled in. Strange, but I can feel my hand, so it can't be numbness, can it?
Charlize stood up. "Killian?" she called to her husband. "I can't see anything and I think I've fallen off the bed!"
Then Charlize noticed she could see her hands clearly, as if it was daylight. Where am I?
"Hello Charlize," came a voice in the near distance. "You're probably wondering why you can't see anything, but yourself, and me... eventually. You can only see your future here, that's why. Obviously your future is... well, you know..."
Charlize's gaze shifted to the woman walking towards her.
"It's a bad dream, isn't it?" Charlize muttered, seeing the familiar woman, who she had thought was 'dead,' walk swiftly towards her, looking very much alive.
The woman laughed. "No, thankfully. It would be a bad reality, for me, if this was just a dream. But, I don't dream anymore and neither do you."
"Gemma, if you were haunting me, as you regularly do, you'd look see-through and 'ghostly.' Unless you are trying to contact me through my subconscious, to see if you can threaten me better there. And my answer is still 'no.' I am not letting your 'darling' Alex do whatever he wants... oh wait, correction, I am not letting 'precious' little Alex do whatever you want."
Gemma narrowed her eyes in a sinister, 'Evil Genius', kind of way.
"I'm not sure you fully understand what I meant when I said you're not dreaming and I am certainly not in your mind. Your soppy mental images of your 'I love all the people' daughter McKenzie are enough to keep any sensible Evil Genius out."
Charlize stared, frightened, at Gemma.
"If you insist on being real... and you're not a ghost... then what could you possibly be?"
Gemma chuckled to herself. Oh, how I've longed for this little chat. She smiled.
"You should be asking that yourself, for I am whatever you are. Now, to cut to the chase, since we really are on a tight schedule, and Grim will annoyingly tell you everything anyway... oh wait, he won't because he and I are... well, he and Grandma are - sort of friends...actually, she's friends with his friends..."
"You're not making any sense..." said Charlize.
"Oh I'm not?" said Gemma. "I'll be clearer, then. You are in the land of the dead. At night, you may be able to visit the land of the living, except, Grandma and I have permission from Grim to prevent you from doing that, so you cannot interfere with our plans. You see, we have ways of keeping you here, in this eternal darkness... I don't suppose you remember that old legend of Talula the Witch... It's true, you know. Grandma is a witch and it turns out she's just as powerful, if not more, dead."
Charlize's mouth went dry and she almost collapsed.
"Dea..." she managed to get out.
"Oh yes, I watched the whole death on the telly!" came a mischievously cold voice from behind Gemma. "You and Alex should talk more often. That scene between you two at the reception was spectacular. I was almost sad to see you go."
"Talula...Grandma!" smiled Gemma. "On time, as expected."
The Hellewells' Camping Grounds, Granite Falls, 2028
Victor, Henry, Madelyn and Kristen walked the last stretch of lane to their lodge. Waiting for them at the door was Lauren. Henry's spirits sank. By the looks of it, so had his cousins'.
"Hi fam," said Lauren. "I'm your camp leader for the holiday,"
What did I do to deserve this? Thought Henry.
"I'm sure we're going to have lots of fun together, as a family," continued Lauren, in a forced 'happy' sort of way, as if she were shooting positivity at her nieces and nephews. "How exciting this will be - much better than school, yeah?"
The Hellewell children grumbled in reluctant agreement, apart from Madelyn on Henry's far right, who whispered something to Kristen.
Lauren scowled at her, then carried on.
"First, I've got some housekeeping..."
"Some what?" said Henry.
"Wait, we get to keep houses?" cried Victor. "Heck, yeah! I'm all for free housing!"
"Why are you so dumb, Victor?" Lauren snapped. "Or do you just play dumb so you won't get invited into the Sweglords when you turn eighteen?"
"Wait, it's possible not to be invited?" Victor lit up, then his face fell when Lauren glared at him.
"So, here are the rules, yeah? One: You can do anything you want, as long as I approve, are we clear?"
Everyone nodded, then waited uncomfortably for the rest of the rules, but Lauren didn't say anything else, other than "come on in," and her head twitched towards the cabin door.
"Girls downstairs, boys upstairs," said Lauren, as she led her nieces and nephews into the cabin.
Inside, there was a kitchen, which opened up into the dining-room...
A living-room, with a tv and fireplace and one bedroom downstairs, and another upstairs.
"So, we're upstairs?" said Henry.
"Is your name Henrietta or Henry?" snapped Lauren. "I said boys upstairs, girls downstairs. Decide which room applies to you!"
"Uhm, okay," shrank Henry.
Henry followed Victor upstairs into a spacious room with two single beds.
He sat down on the bed nearest the window, while Victor checked the view.
"Ah, look Henry," he cried. "I can see another cabin in the woods! It's very near our place."
"You could have phrased that better, Victor. You know that movie gives me nightmares."
"What? Cabin In The Woods?"
"You said you liked scary movies!" said Victor.
"But I was eight when I saw it!" Henry replied.
"You're a Hellewell, Hellewells like extreme things," said Victor, his eyes still searching the landscape outside his window.
"You cried in Barbie Swan Lake," said Henry.
"I was four!"
"More of a wimpy movie than Cabin in The Woods!"
"I was four!"
"Anyway," sighed Henry, "I never said I liked scary movies."
Victor carried on staring out the window. Henry checked his watch. 4:00pm, it read.
"Lauren wouldn't mind us going for a wander?" Victor asked.
"Huh?" said Henry.
"If we went for a wander, Lauren wouldn't mind?"
Henry frowned. "Why?"
"It's that cabin over there... come have a look! I wonder if Lauren's aware of its... occupants."
Henry got up off the bed and went over to Victor by the window.
"See what I mean?" said Victor.
"Henry's eyes expanded and he backed away.
"What are the odds?" he said. Victor nodded.
"Lauren can't know they are here," said Victor.
"Why are they here? Did someone invite them... Did you invite them?"
"Don't be an idiot, Henry," said Victor. "I don't think this is a coincidence. I think Lauren's up to something. Whatever this is, I think we are meant to be right next door to The Evil Geniuses."
"That's not good," said Henry. "But, what I don't get is, how did they get here? I don't remember them getting picked at school to go on this camping trip."
"Which is why I think something else is going on..."
Victor looked into Henry's eyes, "Henry," he said. "Why aren't you looking more worried? What if we're here to fight them or something?"
"Huh?" Henry hadn't realised his face had been neutral the whole time. "Uhm, yeah, Victor, it's because I've been thinking, maybe we should just ask what's going on?"
"Ask who? Not Lauren," Victor blurted out.
"No, not Lauren," said Henry, "the Evil Geniuses. They're... I mean, I'm sure they're reasonable people - SOMETIMES!" Said Henry, blurting out the last word very quickly, so Victor wouldn't suspect he knew anything about the temperaments of Evil Geniuses.
"Yeah, okay," said Victor. "And we pray we don't bump into the king."
"... Agreed," said Henry, his cheeks going slightly red. "Although," he said very quickly, to stop his cheeks from reddening further, "I think we should be more worried about not bumping into any people from His Evil Services - particularly Toni's kids - goodness knows what she would do to us if we so much as look at one of them. I mean, it's bad enough having Cas in art class," Henry leaned closer, "she sits right next to me, and I don't know what to do, I can't believe Cas hasn't said something to her mum already, but I'm still waiting for my head to be chewed off by Toni at some point..."
"...YEAH!" gulped Victor. Now his cheeks went red.
That evening after dinner, Lauren held a meeting in the living room.
"So," she said, "I'm going to tell you the real reason why you're here."
"Because we're on holiday?" asked Madelyn.
"No Madelyn!" snapped Lauren. "Why on Planet Sim would we be on holiday during term time? No! School trips always have an agenda and I'm giving you this one, if you'll keep quiet and listen!"
Madelyn and Kristen were silent.
"Anyway," Lauren continued. "Paris spoke to me last term about an arrangement with King Alex..."
On the mention of Alex, the Hellewells shuddered.
"And Paris and Alex agreed to send the children of the Hellewells, the children of His Evil Services and the children of the Evil Geniuses to Granite Falls to see if we can end the feud between us here. Now, Alex and his... friends are settled in the cabin near us..."
The Hellewells panicked.
"Oh stop it! Alex wants to talk to us, not kill us. Apparently, he thinks he can make peace with us. I mean, yeah, he can try all he likes, but I only agreed to do this so I could declare war on him and his.... friends."
"So, we're going to be fighting our class-mates?" said Madelyn with a wobbly lip.
"Don't be a baby, Madelyn. What did you think was going to happen? You're a Sweglord, or, at least, will be. Get some back-bone. And it's not like your 'class-mates' don't kill. Alex, for one, just killed his aunt last month... for the 'lols,' I bet. Of course the media said she died of an overdose of painkillers for her back, but... nah, it was Alex, I know it. It's in my gut." Or I recognise that look after you've killed someone you can't stand. It was on his face when he made a statement to the press about how 'sorry' he felt about losing his 'aunt.' Playing the 'innocent' king are you Alex? Want us to underestimate you, huh? Well you're not fooling me!
"Right," whispered Madelyn.
"Tomorrow, we head over to Alex's cabin and hear what he has to say, but remember, we're here for the war, so no 'reasoning' with him. In fact, it's best if you all stay quiet and let me do the talking."
Lauren paused for a moment and furrowed her brows. "Where are Victor and Henry? We need to pass the message on to those two losers, although I'm not expecting much help from, them. In fact, why aren't they down already? Victor? Henry? Ugh... trust those two to be AWOL... VICTOR? HENRY?"
Madelyn rushed to the boys' bedroom, while Kristen skedaddled to the bathrooms.
They scuttled back, shaking their heads.
"They're not there," they muttered.
"Right girls," said Lauren, with a face like thunder, "They must be outside. Grab your torches, you never know how long we'll be out there, but we're going to find them if it's the last thing we do." Believe me, you two, if Alex accidentally catches you, it's me you should worry about, not him, for I told you to stay here in the cabin, not wander around.
"We've got the torches," said Madelyn.
"Good," said Lauren and she stepped outside into the heat of the night.