Batteries

October 24, 2011
Mother and Father aren’t quite right, Leila thought as her mother grinned and ruffled her hair a little too hard. Her father walked on out the door without as much as a goodbye.

“I have to go now!” her mother trilled as she swept out the door in a rush. Leila watched through the window as her mother, as in the days before, backed directly into the mailbox and then zoomed forward, barely avoiding the garage. The car, finally missing any large objects, skidded out onto the highway, going at least twenty miles per hour over the speed limit.

Leila sighed and turned away. As she climbed the winding staircase to her room, a tear fell out of her eye. Walking into her room, she opened her journal and wrote down her parent’s latest developments. Mom grins like a maniac, her pen scribbled, and then completely forgets how to drive. Dad won’t even talk anymore. She stopped and bit the tip of her pen, leaving a small black spot on her lip. She could point to an exact date where this all started. In her mind, this was a timeline, and it was her duty to fill in all the blanks. Slowly almost reverently, she turned to the very first page. Its date was Friday, June 13, 2010. “A year from tomorrow,” she realized aloud. She reread her first entry. “I’m not sure what’s wrong,” she said, “but Mom and Dad aren’t acting normal. I’ll keep writing in here and keeping track until things are the same again. I’m sure they will be soon.” Leila set the book down and laughed dryly. “That didn’t happen.” With a pang, she realized something else. Tomorrow is their anniversary, she thought. Leila was suddenly overcome by a longing to do something for them, even if it had been almost a year since they had done something for her. She decided to call Charlene, the secretary where her parents worked, and ask her to give to them a bouquet of flowers she would ask the local shop to deliver to the office. Reaching for the phone, she rolled across the bed. Quickly punching in the numbers to the company, she held the receiver up to her head.

It rang once, then twice. “Hello, you have reached Emery Industries, Charlene speaking. How may I help you?”

“Hey Charlene! It’s Leila! Can I ask you something?” Leila said excitedly.

“Lei? Of course. What is it?” There was a puzzled tone in her voice.

Leila spoke excitedly. “Well, since tomorrow is my parent’s anniversary, I was wondering if I got a bouquet of flowers sent there if you could take it to them.”

There was a long pause. “Your parents?”

“Yeah, my parents. You know, Ashlee and Bradley Fisher, long time employees. Those parents.”

There was another long pause. “Oh, honey, they didn’t tell you?” Charlene said her voice quiet and hesitant. “They haven’t worked here in about a year.” Over the phone, there was a loud rustle of papers. “In fact, a year ago today was the last day they ever came to work here.”

Leila didn’t hear anything as the telephone clattered to the floor. She was oblivious to the faint echoes of hellos coming from the phone. “One year ago,” she whispered. “One year ago today was the last day they ever went to work at Emery Industries. One year ago today was the last day they ever were…” her voice trailed off. They haven’t been going to work for one year, she thought. Which begged the question; what had they been doing?

“I’m going camping!” Leila shouted a few hours later as she headed out the door. She heard a garbled shout coming from the house, but she kept walking. Her parents hadn’t cared about what she was doing for some time now. Now she knew her parents hadn’t been going to work, she was going to find out what they had been doing. Instead of heading out into the small woods near her house, she climbed into the rather squashed trunk of the car they took wherever they went each morning. As the sun slowly dipped beneath the horizon, her last thought before drifting into sleep was, maybe, just maybe, by tomorrow I’ll have my real parents back.

Bam! Leila was roughly jolted awake by the practically ritualistic running into the mailbox. As the car sped away, the pit in her stomach grew larger and larger, while the questions racing through her mind increased as well. What will I find there? What are they doing? What if they’re members of the FBI? What if they’re in a cult? These queries spun through her head at light speed, and yet they would not stop. Her heart beat faster and faster, until she felt her stomach drop… literally. They were descending into a tunnel!

As her parents got out of the car, Leila slithered into the front seat. When she saw them disappear around a corner, she slipped out and silently closed the door. Tiptoeing to the corner, she peeked with her head around to try to see where they might have gone. She turned around just in time to see a door closing. Ignoring the fear rising inside her, Leila followed close behind and opened the door. What she saw inside amazed her.

She saw dozens of bodies were hanging on hooks and plugged into walls through ports in their backs. Her parents were dangling from a rack not too far away. “It’s a charging center!”

“You’re a smart one.” Leila jumped as the cold, menacing voice came out of nowhere. A short figure advanced rapidly towards her. He was wearing a black cloak that covered everything except for his eyes. They were icy blue and had an unearthly quality. “You are the first one to come here. I suppose you are wondering what I am doing?”

Leila nodded. “Why, yes, but-“

“Follow me. Then you will understand.” The strange person swept out the door with a rustle of his cloak.

She dumbly followed. What else could she do? As he led her into a small room and flipped on the lights, she gasped in shock. Her mother and father lay on two small cots with intricate systems of wires and tubing sprouting out from them. “What have you done to my mom and dad? Who are the people I’ve been living with for the past year?”

The being paused to consider before answering. “You humans have a quality about you- I really can’t explain it. It’s like an inner energy source. I simply harness that for the use of my machines. As for the people, I simply send out robotic copies of the originals.”

“You’re using people as batteries! Let them go!” Leila shouted.

“Now, now,” he soothed. “They know nothing. They are living in a virtual reality: their own idea of a perfect world.”

“I don’t care! Let them go!” she screamed.

He tilted his head slightly and looked at her closely. “Unfortunately, I have been hit with a rather sentimental streak,” he said, emotionless. “I will give you one of two options. One, you shall take your parents to your home and live life with all the pain and trials it brings. Two, you leave them here to survive in their perfect world, a world without troubles or flaws. It is your choice.”

Leila stopped for a moment, lost deep in thought. Would she want a fake life without pain, or a real life, full of trouble- but also wonder? A thought suddenly occurred to her. “How many people have you replaced?”

“Millions have been taken.” The answer was blunt, but it was powerful.

“And… if you let them go will you just take them back?”

“It is quite possible. I need more and more power for the battle raging on my planet.”

Leila stood motionless for a second. “Let them go. Let them enjoy life to its fullest while they still can. They might as well glimpse life’s joys one last time.”

The thing nodded. “That is a very admirable answer. Unfortunately, it will not be allowed for you to go home with them. You now know classified knowledge that cannot leave this room. You shall now be transported to the room where you shall be prepared to enter your virtual reality and be used as a human energy source.” He pointed a strange looking weapon at her head, and everything went black.

Birds were singing. Leila could feel the warm sunshine beam down on her face. As she opened her eyes, she saw her house a few feet away. “It’s perfect,” she gasped. As her head turned, she could hardly take in the beauty of it all. Everything was in completely harmony. She ran, laughing into the woods…

“Leila!” her mother called. “Where are you?”

Her father came up and set a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “I don’t think we’re going to find her. She’s gone.”





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

lightanddark said...
Oct. 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm
I quite like this :) The only thing I would suggest working on is the pacing. This story moves a little fast. Other then that, it's a really good idea and an interesting plot. Very creative original, you don't see much like this out there. And I really like your writing style as well, you're a really great writer.
 
FuzzyBunnyGirl replied...
Oct. 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm
Thanks! As for the pacing, as I mentioned in the author's comments box, this was for a contest with a 1500 word limit, so it did move along a bit faster than I would have liked.
 
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