Half an hour later, Anastasia raised her head and breathed in the air gratefully. An instant wave of nausea washed over her, and she gagged. Tucking her head between her knees, she rocked back and forth in pain, and had recovered within a couple of minutes.

She crawled over to the peeling wall, poking bricks through with a long wooden ruler she kept to one side. She slid through the hole she had made, and stood up groggily. Moving her foot forward, something made her hault, her foot poised in the air, about to pound down on a shard of glass. She stopped, lowering her foot. The black and white photograph of her parents lay broken on the boards. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she raised her head, choking back a gasp.

Her room was wrecked. Everything looked dirty, and pushed askew to the side. The rug she had laboured so hard over in her sewing lessons was crushed, and her 3kg lifting weights had been knocked off their shelf and lay in a dented hollow in the floor. A cracked torch lay on the floorboards by her foot, and she slipped it unconsciously into her pocket. The window glass was scratched by something a little clawlike, and there was nothing in the room that was not streaked with black. Black streaks: what?

Anastasia blinked her tears back angrily, and dismounted the stairs with caution. Every room in the house was the same. And where were her sisters? They had been watching TV again when she went up to her room several hours ago, once again in a rage. What other choice did they give her? Stamping up to her room in a rage was a daily occurance for the youngest of the Swallow girls.

She felt the nausea coming again, and decided to get some fresh air. Questions were whirling about in her head like a tornado. She would go to the beach. That was always quiet. Well, everywhere would be quiet now. Everyone was gone. Unknown capture. Unknown kidnapper. Unknown fate. Nothingness. She recalled the nausea.

She had instincts. She knew she had.

And she was the only person in the whole town who was safe. And she would soon shrivel and die like the explorers in Australia. Which was better: capture or death? She didn't know. Did capture mean death also? She didn't know that either.

She sauntered to the beach.

The End

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