Persie Merlin and the Door to Nowhere by Bella Forrest



No air. Can’t breathe. Can’t see. Heavy limbs pushed through impenetrable darkness, thick as tar and clogging my mouth, my nose, my eyes. The black deadened my every sense. It wanted to choke me. It wanted to drown me, my churning body not knowing up from down, down from up. And every second that passed brought me closer to unknown oblivion.

Panic splintered my struggling chest, forcing me to take breaths that only let the dense substance deeper within. Help! Someone, HELP!

But I was alone, floating in this abyss of pure, blackest black. The kind that didn’t exist in nature, or in any ordinary palette, the kind of nerve-shattering absence that a deep space explorer might see when staring a black hole dead in the eye. And it incited the same terror in me—of getting sucked into that hollow nothing, my atoms shattered to smithereens.

And then, it spat me out.

I hit cold, hard… something. Hunched over on all fours, I drew in breath after breath until the slimy slugs of shadow that had snuck into my lungs dissolved with sweet, sweet oxygen. Coughing, I sat up and froze. Hazy figures stood beyond a pane of blue-tinted glass, its rippled texture warping their faces and shapes until they looked like eerie wraiths, staring through the glass as if I were an animal in a zoo.

“Hello?” I called, and my voice echoed back like there were ten of me. My head whipped around in fright, forcing me to take in my surroundings for the first time. That same blue-tinted glass, embellished with faintly glowing hexwork, incarcerated me on all sides.

What’s going on? My heart raced, my eyes flitting back to the figures beyond the glass. I staggered to my feet, holding my roiling stomach. Stumbling into this new place left me feeling shaky and strange, and a numbing cold made my limbs stiff and uncooperative.

“Hello? Can you hear me?” I went to the front pane and placed a palm on the frozen surface. I yanked my hand away on impact, the icy touch of the glass biting into my skin like a burn. The sting made me wonder if it was glass at all, or a thick slab of ice. A few faint wisps of black wafted up from the site of the pain—the kind of gossamer mist I’d seen before, in box after box of Purge beasts.

This isn’t right… I don’t puff out smoke like this… The panic from the black nothingness returned with a vengeance, piercing me like poisoned barbs. I had to believe my eyes were just playing tricks on me, or that this was some sort of sick joke. Anything to ignore the simplest explanation.

I’m not a monster. I’m not a beast. Don’t lock me away!

There might have been air in this glass prison, but I couldn’t get so much as a lungful. Gasping, I hammered on the pane with every ounce of strength in my shaky muscles. A dusting of frost fell away from the glass, revealing the faces of the figures who stood beyond.

“Mom, Dad, help me!” I screamed, my voice thundering in my ears. “Genie! Anyone!”

They were all there, huddled together in identical black robes as though they were standing vigil at a funeral: my mom, my dad, Genie, Victoria, Kes, Diana, Finch—literally everyone I knew and cared for. O’Halloran stood off to one side with Tobe, holding a ring of keys that jangled in a mysterious breeze. I heard the sound like a death knell, chiming out my fate. It exploded my panic into the stratosphere, and I slammed my hand into the glass until my bones shuddered.

“I’m not a monster! Help me! Get me out of here!” Hot trails of tears trickled down my cheeks as I pounded harder against the pane. “Please, let me out! I haven’t done anything wrong!”

Either they couldn’t hear me, or they wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure which was worse. My mom kept her head down, and my dad held her close as though they’d already lost me. The sight wrenched through me, tearing up my insides until the emotions had no choice but to rise up my throat as a howl of suffering. As my cries spilled over with all the anguish and terror that urged my fist to keep pummeling, my mom tipped her chin up to look at my dad. Grief and anger morphed her face into a mask of pain, but she wouldn’t look at me. She refused. My desperate eyes scoured the rest of the miserable