Dreams of Escape (2006)

By B.L. Castellini (aka 14 year old me)

All typos have been maintained.

CHAPTER 1: THE ‘PRISON’

“Kate, come on, You can stare at the clouds later! It’s time for our astronomy lesson.”

“Who cares about the stupid astronomy lesson? They’re all a bunch of dots to me.”

“Kate! If you flunk astronomy you will be stuck in this prison for another year!”

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

By ‘prison’, she meant Lady Zinc’s boarding school in London, England. My best friend Jenna and I have been stuck in this lady-like jail since we were eight. Now we are thirteen. Unfortunately, we are sentenced here for another five years. Lady ZZZZZ’s, our nickname for the school, was for the un-ladylike orphan girls. The school was five stories high and had at least 600 rooms, including dorms, classrooms, and the cafeteria. Our schools population is about 1,500 students with over 100 staff members. There are no males on campus. This enormous boarding school was actually a 17th century castle designed for mainly protection against other invading countries, so we felt pretty safe. Of course, when it was remodeled in to a school in 1911, they filled in the moat and the dungeons were remade into classrooms. From the moldy green brick walls to the dull pink dormitories, it was a miserable place to live.

Jenna and I met when we first came to the school. I had been an orphan since age five, when my parents died in a car crash. I was the only survivor. Jenna never met her parents, for her dad abandoned her when her mother died giving birth to her.

“Focus your telescopes on the big dipper. Draw the pattern in your notebooks.” Barked our evil teacher Ms. Gradshaw. Her tight bun of gray hair showed that she meant business.

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

The astronomy tower was the tallest tower in the school. It had no roof, and surrounding the perimeter of the hard marble flooring were three-foot tall stone columns. The color of these rails, puce, was enough to make the whole tower sinister- looking. On the section near the entrance back into the school was a wall of deep red bricks. The color had long since faded, and the moss on the walls didn’t help the pathetic, drab bricks.

During class, Jenna and I were pacing around the tower, bored. The teacher hadn’t noticed us, for she was too entranced with her lengthly and lackluster speech on the stars and constellations. We were pretending to be very interested in the wall, when I saw a brick that caught my eye. It wasn’t completely caulked, as were the other’s in the region of it. I looked around, reasured that no one was watching, ushered Jenna over, and as quietly as I could, I lifter the brick out of place. Jenna kept watch throughout this process. When the brick finally came out, I handed it to Jenna, and reached into the open space. My groping hand made contact with a small brown bag. I pulled it out and was about to open it when our teacher finally realized what we doing.

“Girls! What in the name of all things are you doing? Get back to you seats and stop vandalizing the school property!”

We looked at each other and, though reluciantly, started to decsend back to our telescopes. When I replaced the brick, I noticed a slight carving in the back of the brick, JKC. I commited the initials to memory as I slid the brick into it’s rightful possision. I carefully and soundlessly thrust the package into the pocket of my hand-me-down winter coat. Jenna wrinkled her eyebrows at me, but I mouthed “later.” She frowned and started taking notes on the eternal speech. I sighed. I was too lazy to write any myself, so I sat back in my chair and waited for the class to conclude. I decided that I could copy Jenna’s notes later.

After astronomy, we practically ran back to our dormitory, for two reasons. To get out of the cold and the brown bag. Upon reaching our room, I ripped open my pocket and took out the bag. When I pulled out the object, both me and Jenna drew our breaths. The object inside was a brooch. Ancient, from the looks of it. It was a green marble mixed with specks of blue and purple. It was oval-shaped and was held inside a stainless steel frame. It appeared to have been on a chain at one point. At the bottom of the frame were the same three initials that I had see earlier. JKC. What did they mean? After quickly scribbling down Jenna’s notes and taking a speedy shower, we turned in. I put the brooch under my pillow and fell into a deep sleep.

CHAPTER 2: THE KEY

“Mmmm,” I murmured. I was dreaming about watermelons. Fresh, juicy, tasty…hey! What happened? Every dimension of the dream was plastered with keys. Slim, silver keys. In the middle of the space the statue of the mermaid- that can be found in the corridor outside the cafeteria- stood. However it was not the mermaids profile on the statue, but my great, great grandma Jean’s face! She pointed at a key. “Behind me you will find…”

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

Her voice trailed off as Jenna shook me awake.

“Kate! Wake up! We have English in 30 minutes and you haven’t eaten yet!”

“Jenna, we have to go to the mermaid statue.”

“Kate? Wha…?” I slipped on my favorite outfit, blue jeans with a lime green 3-quarter shirt and Adidas running shoes, grabbed her hand, and led her down the hall.

“Kate, what’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you later. Help me move this statue!”

With a lot of effort, and a batch of strange looks, we moved the statue about three feet off the wall. Behind it was a key identical to those in the dream. I grabbed the key and stuffed it in my pocket before a fellow student saw it.

After we replaced the statue, I had a maximum of five minutes to eat. We slipped into the cafeteria. As I was wolfing down my toast, I told Jenna about my dream.

“You’re dead grandma’s face was on the mermaid? Creepy.”

“And disturbing. But I think she is trying to tell me something. You know, she went to this school too. And I thought of something. I think those initials stand for. Jean Kusiki Clemonts! That’s my great great grandmother. I wonder what the key goes to?”

“We can worry about that later. We’re going to be late!”

We raced down the halls and skidded into the classroom just as the bell rang.

“Have a seat, ladies,” said Ms. Gradshaw sharply. “Today we are writing about ourselves. What we look like, what we enjoy, and favorite things.”

In my head I had an idea:

My name is Kathryn J. Clemonts. (Kate) My favorite color is lime green; my favorite animal is the Gila monster. (These little dudes are so cool!) My best friend is Jenna McDermont. I have long red hair that is usually in braids or hanging loosly around my shoulders, vivid green eyes, and some say that I’m attractive. I am tall and lanky for a thirteen-year-old girl. I love basketball, though Ms. Gradshaw never lets me play -or so she thinks! (I didn’t actually write this) And I HATE THIS STUPID, POINTLESS BOARDING SCHOOL! (All right, maybe I didn’t write this either, but it’s true)

I wrote this down and converted it into a final draft. I only got a B- on it for ‘poor sentence structure’, otherwise translated as ‘IT SUCKED’.

“Kate, eat something. You look like a dead man in thought.” It’s lunchtime, or more like, ‘etiquette central’.

“Sorry, I can’t stop thinking about that key.”

“Don’t kill yourself over it. Anyway, we don’t have any more classes until two.”

“Yeah, we should check on Leo.”

Leo is the little abandoned cat that Jenna and I are taking care of. He is orange with ink-black stripes, like a little tiger. He’ll come when called like a trained dog. In our second year as we were taking a walk, we found him, a small, sick kitten with no family, just like us. We nursed him back to health and made a promise to check on him and bring him food every four days, at least. From table scraps to food snuck out of the teachers’ lunches, this little cat was spoiled.

“Hey Leo! I have a treat for you!” Leo obediently jumped from a bush. I fed him a can of sardines from the head mistress’s lunch.

Just as Leo slipped back into the forest, my archenemy walked up behind us.

“What are you doing so far away from the school?” said Pam Gardener nastily. “You could get a detention”

Pam Gardener. What do you say about Pam Gardener? Well, ever since Jenna beat her at a math quiz and she found I was gullible and fun to tease, she hated us. Pam is small, ‘cute’, and popular. Her ‘posse’ is about the size of a small army. If you weren’t her ‘level of importance’, you were basically shunned. Except, she seems to think that we are more fun to tease than ignore. Oh, and she loves to call me fat because I am taller and a bit heavier than her.

“Go away Pam.”

“Ooooo, fat girl is paranoid.”

I’m going to get her…

“It’s all the better, I could sit on you and you’d die.”

After I said these heroic lines, she stopped, put her nose in the air, and walked away.

I am so not fat, just larger lengthwise. Literally, Pam hasn’t grown since we got here and she obviously doesn’t comprehend that just because I am heavier than her doesn’t mean that I am fat.

“Good one, Kate.” Praised Jenna.

“Thanks. Let’s go.”

Next we had another manners lesson. Ugh.

“Miss Clemons, sit up straight and extend your pinky while you drink your tea.”

Blah, blah, blah. Who cares about extending your pinky?

“Yeah,” smirked Pam, “extend your pinky”

“Shut up Pam,” I whispered menacingly.

“Girls!”

“Sorry Ms. Gradshaw!”

After manners was dinner. I got spaghetti, like always. I was still thinking about that key. I was also wondering if I would have another dream after astronomy tonight. As it turns out, I would.

CHAPTER 3: THE MAP

“Leo, come back!” Leo meowed and kept running. “Leo!” Just as I got my arms around that rascal of a cat, he vanished and I was clinging to an old battered scroll. I opened it and saw up-to-scale blue prints of the school! “Where did you come from?” I wondered aloud. Suddenly, the map jerked and flew out of a window, with me still holding on. It felt as if I was on a wild roller coaster, but about 100 miles per hour faster. “AAAAAAAHHHHH!” As I clung to it, the map glided to the astronomy tower. After it shook me off, it opened a rail and slipped inside. It was the broken one that had never been fixed. Then the rail morphed into my grandmother, who smiled down upon me. At that very moment, Jenna dumped a glass of ice water on my face.

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

“Kate! Are you ok? You threw up on the covers after screaming

‘AAAHHHHHH! Make it stop!’”

I looked at the rotten spaghetti-smelling covers and quickly sprang from the bed. After I removed my puke-strewn sheets, I took a shower.

I remembered screaming in my dream, but I didn’t think it would matter.

When I finished my shower, I told Jenna about my dream. She in turn told me that the teachers are making me stay in bed.

“In bed? Jenna, I have to get that map! And what if they see the brooch? They’d take it away!”

“I can’t get it for you, it would be too suspicious. Maybe you could go up to the astronomy tower and get it during lunch? And I dunno how you can hide that thing. It’s pretty big. Maybe we should put it in the closet. I’ll do it.” She added hastily, seeing the look of agony on my face.

I reflected on the possibility of getting the map during linch. That idea was quickley swept aside by another minor setback. “I can’t get it during lunch either! The nurse sits by your bed all day.”

“I can’t help you then.” replied Jenna as she shut the closet door.

Two hours later…

Mrs. Biddle, the school nurse, was almost older than the school itself. She talked as slow as a three towed sloth crawls. She always wears the same tacky pink dress with white frills around the hems.Talk about revolting. She used a walker to get from place to place, so it took her FOREVER to get around.

“…And they lived happily ever after.”

“Please! I need some peace and quiet.” The nurse was reading me ‘Beauty and the Beast’! How lame is that? Then I got an idea. “Mrs. Biddle,” I said in my most pathetic voice, “Could you get me a glass of water?”

“Well, it would take about fifteen minutes.”

“That’s ok.” As soon as she was gone, I slipped into black clothes, and then tucked my hair into a black stocking cap. Stealth, I thought. I have fourteen minutes.

The quickest way to the astronomy tower was by the English room. Unfortunately, English class was in session.

I caught Jenna’s eye and gestured towards the teacher. Jenna nodded, and put her hand in the air.

“Ms. Gradshaw? Could you re-read that last paragraph please?”

Ms. Gradshaw turned to face Jenna. “All right.”

I gave Jenna a thumbs-up and darted up the stairs. When I reached the top of the tower, I saw the broken rail. This is too easy, I thought to myself. When I got to the rail, a large bird flew overhead and attacked my hat. “AAAAHH!” Darn it all! I jinxed myself.

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

When I finally shook off the bird, I heard footsteps from the stairway. Someone had heard me scream! I quickly located the rail again, reached inside, and retrieved the map. Then I fled down an alternate stairway and groped through the darkness to find a light switch. I walked blindly until I found one. Then I whipped out the map and located my position. I found a passage to the cafeteria.

As I emerged from the wall, I saw the nurse come out of the kitchen with a glass of water. I hastily took out the map again and traced a passage to get to our, mine and Jenna’s, neighbors’ room. Man, this map was good! I had just barely undressed and raised the covers up to my neck when the nurse came in.

“Here’s your water dear.”

Later that evening, after the nurse left, I told Jenna about my afternoon.

“We heard the scream, so Ms. Gradshaw went up to see who it was. I had a pretty good idea it was you.”

“Maybe I could make it to the astronomy lesson tonight.”

“Maybe.”

I ended up going, but I wish I hadn’t. All we did was copy out of our astronomy books. But that night, when I clambered ito bed, nothing happened.

CHAPTER 4: DICSOVERIES [sic]

“Did you sleep alright last night?” Asked Jenna.

“Yeah, completley dreamless.”

“Isn’t it funny, though,” She mused, while picking an apple from the fruit bowl in the cafereria, “That the night when you slept with that brooch, you had a strange dream that lead you to discover a map with secret passages hidden throughout the school? I doubt it’s coincidental.”

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

“What are you suggesting?” I asked suspiciously. For a teacher’s pet, she is very devious.

“Oh, I was only wondering if you wanted to try something tonight, that is, sleep with the brooch again.” She said, too innocently. “Unless you’re scared of wetting you bed or something…” She trailed off suggestedly, leaving me to think of the possibilities of why I shouldn’t try it. I have to say, there weren’t many.

“All right,” I growled, “But if I get sick again, I;m trading my comforter with yours and making you stay in bed with the old lady.”

She snickered.

And sure enough, after the astronomy lesson, I had a dream.

CHAPTER 5: THE UNIFORM

“Grandma Jean was riding a red and yellow sailboat in the ocean. She wore what looked like an inspectors uniform. At the end of the dream, the vision got smaller and was framed by carved border of waves.”

I was re-telling my most recent dream to Jenna.

“Wow. She made you think this time.”

“I know. It sucks.”

Jenna laughed. “Do you think you could draw it? I have an idea.”

I drew a crude re-creation of the dream, and Jenna studied it for some time.

“I’ve got it! Once when I went into the teachers lounge, I saw a painting of a red and yellow sailboat on the ocean. The frame is carved oak wood.”

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

“Jenna, You’re a genius!” It so pays to have a friend that is trusted by Ms. Gradshaw.

Jenna smiled, but suddenly frowned. “On a day like this, teachers are never far from the lounge.”

We sat in silence. I watched the late spring snow pile silently on the window, and the drifts tumble down from a nearby hill. Classes were canceled for the day, because the teachers knew that no child, young or old, could stay focused when it snowed.

Just as a bird hit the window like a wild torpedo, I snapped my fingers. “That’s it! A commotion!”

“Brilliant, but one flaw. That would only bring one teacher out.”

“Ok…time for Plan B.”

“Plan B…?”

“Yeah. When Ms. Gradshaw turns to write the planner info, I’ll steal…”

“STEAL?!? You never said anything about stealing!”

“Shut up and let me finish. I’ll borrow the attendance sheet. She’ll ask you to go get it. Then I’ll secretly give it to you and you’ll ‘go get the attendance sheet’ and open the painting.”

Jenna rolled her eyes, “Whatever,”

As it turns out, I didn’t have a dream that night.

CHAPTER 6: GETTING THE UNIFORM

In the morning, the snow had all but melted, so classes began again. During French, everything was going as planned. I got the attendance easily. But, when the teacher found the attendance was gone, she called on Pam to get it. I gaped at Jenna, who sat, looking happier than ever.

“How can you be so happy?” I hissed.

“Do you want to make Pam look like a fool and get the uniform?”

“Yeah, but…Jenna!”

She was holding the teacher’s best pencil with a sarcastic ‘I-suppose-you-could-do-better’ look.

“What are you doing?” Then it hit me. Jenna was the only student that was trusted with the pencil.

“Oh dear. I seem to have forgotten my pencil, too. Jenna, would you mind going and getting it for me?”

“With pleasure.” She hid a smirk.

“Ms. Gradshaw! I couldn’t find the attendance!” Moments after Jenna left, Pam came bursting in.

“Well, alright.” Ms. Gradshaw said disapprovingly.

When Jenna returned to class, she was holding both the pencil and the attendance.

“Thank you Jenna. Please be seated.”

Pam glared at Jenna. I smirked at Pam. Jenna just grinned. It was a happy little love triangle.

I looked over all of Jenna’s stuff carefully, but my search prevailed no extra lumps, hopefully hiding the uniform. I asked Jenna multiple times where she hid it before she told me. “I stuffed it in a passage on the way back. I borrowed your map.” I should have been mad, perhaps, that she’d taken it, but I was too anxious to see the uniforms to care.

Later at lunch, I couldn’t find Jenna, so I settled at an empty table. It was quickly inhabited by a swarm of girls chatting about absolutely nothing, as far as I could tell. I recognized them as Pam’s ‘inner circle’, so I stood up. As I was walking away, Pam just happened to be walking right at me, so she jammed her tray into my stomach. I doubled over in pain. Everyone in the cafeteria started laughing. Jenna rushed towards me and took my tray. She led me to the bathroom. My stomach was throbbing with pain, and I threw up a few times, but I refused to tell anyone, for I could not stand another day in bed. Jenna was still in the bathroom when I left.

When she met me in our dorm, she was dressed in an inspector uniform. The second one was draped on her arm.

Inspectors come once a month to check on the school’s welfare and the condition of the students. They always wore the tacky gray suits and navy-style hats.

My stomach was much better, so I was able to speak. “Wow, Jenna! You look professional!” It was true. Jenna had tied her long black hair in a tight bun and a slight tip in her hat finished off the look.

“Don’t I just? Anyway, I have an idea what these items are for. First, the map is to guide us through the school. These uniforms are for when there are no passages around. The key goes to a window to get out. It’s too small to fit a door. I think your grandma is helping us escape!”

CHAPTER 7: THE FINAL DREAM

My grandmother was giving me instructions.

“You have done well. On your map there is a window outlined in red. Make your way there. When you get there, tap on the third tile over, ninth tile up, to the right of the window. Use the rope to climb out the window. Your friend was right about everything else. Good luck.”

That’s when I woke up. Jenna was reading. ”Jenna, are you ready to go?”

“Now? But it’s two in the morning!”

“No, Jenna. We’ll wait until thirty minutes into English and just waltz right out of the classroom. Yes, now!” I said impatiantly.

Jenna glared and grabbed her bag. It took us about fifteen minutes to get all our stuff packed and don the uniforms. Jenna undid my braids and replaced them with a bun.

“As of today, I am never taking my braids out again. Except special occasions.”

“Like now?” I glowered.

We snuck into the cafeteria and stocked up on at least a month’s supply of bread, dried meat, and fresh water. Then we started off to the window, or should I say, our destiny.

CHAPTER 8: THE ESCAPE

Jenna and I dashed into the night. “The first passage is to your right.” We had traced our route earlier.

“Got it.” Replied Jenna.

We got through seven passages before we came to a hallway without them. As we tiptoed down the corridor, I could sense that we were being watched. I mentioned this to Jenna, who agreed to the same eerie feeling. So we switched to inspector mode. We pretended to be interested in the many ancient paintings the school had to “spice things up”, or so says the head mistress. We knocked on the walls to add a spark of interest to our followers. Finally, our stalkers revealed themselves.

“Good, er…morning. We are the inspectors of Lady Zinc’s boarding school. And you are…?”

Jenna stared at me in horror, but I stayed cool. “We are inspecting this month. You obviously didn’t get the notice. We got here yesterday and noticed that a certain Pam Gardener needs some extracurricular time, so we thought the school newspaper would do her good.” Pam hated the school newspaper. According to her, it was just a way for uncool kids to feel important.

The real inspectors nodded, then departed.

I pumped my fist in the air, “Yes!”

Jenna pulled me along the hallway. “We have to get going.”

Unfortunately, our trail only had another bump…

“Good evening.” Said the headmistress. I was so scared I could have wet my pants. We were running when our uniforms ripped and our regular clothes were revealed. The headmistress found us sprawled on the ground. That’s where we are now.

“Might I ask why you are in this particular hallway in those particular uniforms at this particular time?”

“We were getting away from a particular someone, particurally you, and a particular boarding school that we particurly hate.” With that, Jenna jumped up, signaled me, and ran. We passed at least two hundred portraits before we lost her. I have never prasied someone’s fat before now. “Whew. That was close, too close.” I said, panting hard.

Jenna looked dismayed. “Kate, we have a problem. We passed the portrait passage we needed to go through to get to the window. We either go back or take a long detour.”

“Lets go back. What is the painting of?”

“Fruit.”

So we ran back down the corridor, only choosing to be quieter. We found the picture, and it took us a half an hour of grunts and sweat to get it open. We clambered in and found our way up the dark passage. When we finally reached the end, the dim moonlight blinded us. Once inside the room, Jenna found the rope without a problem.

“ Here’s the rope. Let’s tie it to that stature underneath the window.

“Good idea. I’ll climb down first and you can throw me the bags.”

“Ok. The key fits into the window. Brrrrr. It’s chilly outside.”

“I’m ready.” I said this with more confidence than I felt.

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

Half way down the dark, musty building, I could feel my heart ripping through my shirt. This was the scariest thing I had ever done. I looked up at Jenna, who gave me an encouraging thumbs-up. I focused on the wall and took another step. But this time, I forgot to catch myself. I flew down the side of the building, which has a smell of musty gym socks and day-old puke. When I finally landed, there was a sickening crack. Luckily, it was only a stray branch. My nose was bleeding and my clothes were beyond repair, but as far I could see, no bones were broken.

“You ok?” She whisper-yelled frantically.

“I’m fine!” Not. But it wasn’t as if I would have any lasting injuries.

“Ok, here come the bags!”

Jenna made it down without as little as a scratch, and I changed into clothes that were still in one piece. Then we set off.

Illustration by Colin Hinckley.

CHAPTER 9: A HOME

We hiked up the large hill that separated Lady ZZZZZ’s from the rest of the world. After around eight miles of hiking, it started to get light and we were exhausted. We found a nice tall oak and sat under the cool, refreshing shade. I took a long swig of water while Jenna picked blackberries from a nearby bush. “We need to clean these. Hand me a water bottle.” She said.

“Why waste perfectly good, pre-bottled water when there’s a stream right over there?” I said lazily. Then I got up, picked a handful of berries, and hobbled after Jenna. She hand cleaned a large leaf and was placing clean berries on it. “Good idea!”

When all the berries were taintless, we sat on the green grass and enjoyed our find. The snow from the previous week had already melted and perished under the boiling hot spring sun. The new day was beautiful, with blooming flowers and trees wherever you turned. We rested in this paradise all day. Finally, around five o’clock, we packed more blackberries into two empty water bottles and filled the rest with water from the stream. After another five miles, we finally reached a small clearing.

‘Go into the clearing, there is a cottage about 100 feet away’ my grandmother said in my head.

“C’mon” I told Jenna.

‘A little farther…’ Grandma Jean stopped, and that was the last time I ever heard her.

To my left, I saw the graves of my grandparents. The blackberries given to the town by my grandpa overjoyed the community; so they took the liberty to bury my grandparents. My mother told me this a long, long time ago, when she was still alive. From the looks of them, no one had visited these graves in a long time, for the stones were over-grown with weeds. Jenna and I cleared the stones and I arranged flowers from a nearby field. A field of red and white tulips that made the forest look as if it were on fire. We took a moment of silence. Then I looked at Jenna, nodded, and we walked the remaining 25 feet to feast our eyes on a beautiful log cabin overgrown with ivy.

“We can clean this up easily,” said Jenna.

We walked inside the house and looked around.

It was equipped with shelves, table and chairs, storage boxes, and furniture.

“We just need to dust.” I said thoughtfully. “Oh, and add a bathroom.”

“ You’re seriously considering going to the bathroom in a hole?” said Jenna jokingly.

“If I was desperate.”

That night, Jenna, Leo, and I sat on the roof of the cottage and gazed at the stars. (Leo had followed us out of the school grounds)

“They’re so much more beautiful without scribbling their patterns into a cramped notebook at the same time.” Remarked Jenna, but I wasn’t listening. I was too busy enjoying the silence of our new home. With Jenna and Leo at my side, I knew it couldn’t get any better than this.

- B.L.Castellini

Writer, filmmaker, adjunct prof, and human bulldozer. Colorado>Oregon>NYC>LA www.BriCastellini.com