Neina is obviously dazed by the unexpected happenings which have turned her world totally upside down. The chapter ended with someone familiar approaching her- none other than her best friend Charlotte!
With teleportations, deceptions, vanishing grounds beneath the feet and blinding flashes of light, there is never a dull moment in our Neina’s life! Let’s see how Week 9 treated her.
Chapter 41 has been written by Aya Nayal, Year 9, of Deira International School. The chapter opens with Neina coming face to face with Charlotte, who is emanating an unnatural light. Before Neina can understand why Charlotte is enveloped by the bright light, Charlotte gives her a tight hug which makes her forget all her troubles.
Just then a vortex sprouts from the ground and it engulfs Neina, Charlotte and Janus. The vortex carries Neina to her apartment while Janus and Charlotte are nowhere to be seen. Neina is so tired and exhausted that she does not even make an attempt to make sense of what is going on. She collapses into her bed for a much-deserved rest. As she climbs underneath her covers, she discovers a small card on her pillow. It reads-
“You come to me with all your problems
For I am the only one who can solve them
I’m the one you least expect
Someone you shall never neglect
I’m the mastermind behind it all
The person you want to hate
Is in fact, just the bait”
Trying in vain to decode this message, Neina decides to call it a day and get some sleep. She wakes up in the morning with a renewed strength and zeal-
“She was confident. She knew that she was good at her job and no fresher would be able to compare.”
Once in her office, she meets Isla in the elevator. Seeing Isla, Neina is reminded of the words she read on the card she found on her pillow the previous night- “The person you want to hate is in fact, just the bait”. Neina realizes that Isla is not her true enemy and that she is merely a pawn in a wicked game.
Now readers who have followed this story from the beginning will agree with me that this abrupt change of perception doesn’t quite make sense. We’ve seen Neina hate Isla with a burning vengeance and very emphatically term her as the main reason for all the hardships that she’s going through, and now all of sudden, one elusive, vague message on a card has absolved Isla of all that she was thought guilty of.
Moving on, Neina spends time working on the Prophecy Tower and drops in Frankie’s office to share her plans. When she returns to her office, she finds another card with yet another cryptic message-
“Here’s a hint to make it simple
On my pale face, I’ve got two dimples
My face is framed by a lovely red
Watch out, sooner or later, you’ll be dead…”
Just as the previous message had made Neina give a clean chit to Isla, this message convinces her that Charlotte, the friend who had always been a source of comfort to her, is in fast the “bane of her existence”! Again, this doesn’t add up. When a character in a story does a 180 flip like this, there has to be a very logical reason behind it.
A note to the future authors- while it is exciting to add an element of complete surprise, past chapters need to be taken into account and progressions need to be made accordingly so that the readers feel convinced. I so wish there were something more concrete than anonymous notes to convince Neina of Isla’s innocence and Charlotte’s connivance.
Samhita Roychoudary, Grade 11, Universal American School takes over for Chapter 42. When the chapter opens, Neina is still reeling from the revelation of Charlotte’s deception. She wills herself not to cry and is reminded of Janus’s words-
"You’re asking all the wrong questions. All that matters is what's happening right now, and for you, that means surviving”.
Neina does some retrospection and reaches the conclusion that instead of spending her energy raging over Charlotte’s actions, she should try to understand how she did it all without raising any suspicion.
“Instead of asking why Charlotte did what she did, it was time for Neina to question how Charlotte did it. The fact that Neina was never once suspicious would mean that there were clues there that she'd need to trace back.”
Neina is horrified thinking that Charlotte observed her for almost 2 decades before orchestrating her introduction into the Mors World. She also tries to make sense of how she exists in the real world and the Mors World simultaneously. Neina reasons that most probably, when she goes to the Mors World, she lies unconscious in this reality. Thoughts of Archie (her fiancé/ ex-fiancé?) also go through her mind. She wonders why he hasn’t been around in these trying times. As her musings continue, another realization strikes her-
“The prophecy that was supposed to be her life’s purpose wasn’t a prophecy of fate. It was the Prophecy Tower, a project that would become her life’s biggest accomplishment. The project in which everyone in her life was somehow involved.”
Neina realizes that she was just a part of a big plan- a plan which started decades ago, and somehow that plan’s focal point was the Prophecy Tower.
“It was this project. It all started and ended with the Prophecy Tower. The project that, despite all the mind games, was going to be built.”
The chapter ends with a really promising prospect – Neina feels that the barren premise of Prophecy Tower holds all her answers.
Thank you, Samhita! You were successful in doing what you intended to do- “to build the framework solidifying a purpose or an intent for the book”. My curiosity as a reader definitely surged after reading your chapter and I wanted to know more about the secrets the mysterious Prophecy Tower holds.
Chapter 43 has been penned by Zoya Khan, Year 9, of The British School Al Khubairat. Neina is furious that she allowed Charlotte to play around with her mind for so long-
“Charlotte was the engineer of this operation. The administrator of the torment and heartbreak. At first her betrayal had left Neina in shock. But now she was seething.”
Neina now wants vengeance and goes around looking for the one person she can trust- Archie. As Neina looks around the café for him, she spots another card with a message on it-
“Do you not enjoy the game?
Well then, that seems quite a shame.
This game will be full of death -
I know you’ll take your own last breath.”
Taking it for granted that the card is from Charlotte, Neina is outraged. Lost in her thoughts, Neina does not notice a subdued ache at the back of her head. Then, out of the blue, the pain intensifies so much that Neina screams out aloud. She closes her eyes to fade out the commotion around her. Someone taps at her shoulder and she’s filled with fear to see who it is.
Chapter 44, which closes Week 9, has been written by Sophie Waddington, Year 8, of the British International School, Abu Dhabi. The chapter opens with Neina coming face to face with Janus! She is livid with him for betraying her, but he manages to quieten her down and they slip out of the café.
Her attention is caught by “a horrendous discordance of sounds” and she realizes the source of this unpleasant sound is a monstrous being who is described by Janus as their “ride”. As they go closer to the beast, it morphs into a “New York” taxi (to avoid any future disruptions in the continuity of the plot, I’d like to remind the future authors that our novel hitherto is based in London- that’s where Neina’s office is. So for now, keeping in mind the unnatural happenings around Neina, let’s assume that this “New York” taxi has appeared on a London street).
Neina and Janus get in, and Janus tells her that he is taking her to a safe place since Tutumni has been corrupted. Neina finds something different about Janus’s demeanour and to her horror finds out that it is actually Charlotte wearing a disguise. Neina scrambles to open the car door but realizes that the vehicle is actually floating in the sky now. After a quick assessment of the situation Neina opens the car door and, grabbing Charlotte in a hug, plunges to the ground below. Neina whispers the words “thank you” in Charlotte’s ear and they both hit the ground. And the chapter concludes.
To reiterate what I mentioned earlier, the turn that Charlotte’s character has taken is way too abrupt and I hope future authors would balance it out in some way so that it looks more logical. What really held promise for me was Chapter 42. Prophecy Tower, the larger than life project, which somehow controls the collective destiny of so many people- the prospect of thrilling secrets to be unraveled sounds stimulating to me and something that would keep me turning the pages. In the coming weeks, I hope to see some stability in Neina’s life- that she has people around her who genuinely care for her and, most importantly, she believes that they care for her.
The words of literary maestros always exude more meaning than I could ever endeavour to infuse in mine. Hence, I conclude this week’s review with a quote by seventeenth century English poet John Donne-
“No man is an island”.
Mishal Faraz, WSA Junior Journalist, Year 9, The Winchester School