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Many come into this thing we call existence through a random mix of genes; each one a box of surprises when it comes to appearance and personality. But not me. Every benefit, every flaw I have, was intended by Tax, the overseer of BT. He himself designed my appearance, gave me large blue eyes for me to appear more child like, a turned up nose and full lips to give the illusion of sweetness, straight brown hair for me to appear more normal. But don’t let my appearance fool you. I am far from an ordinary eleven year old.
My birth certificate says Lily. No middle name or last name, and where my parent’s name would have been the initials BT reside. Shortly after my birth certificate was made, Tax Roberts himself took me home and raised me. Every ten years he does this. I am told that is because he likes creating his special watchers himself. He is the one who teaches us how to walk, how to talk, how to use self control, how to act in front of the press, and how to kill a human in seven different ways. And that is all before we are five. From ages five through ten, he lets us to pick what form of killing we would like to specialize in. I chose poisons, so in five years I mastered chemistry, aiming a dart gun, and mental manipulation. I have been trained to have no fear, to appear innocent and childlike to all of those outside of BT, how to poison a man in 162 ways, to have no attachment to anyone, and to remain loyal only to Tax.
“Come in,” Tax said as the door to his office slid open. I walked in holding my head high, hoping that Tax would recognize my haircut. I had gotten bangs straight across and kept my hair long, making myself appear as unthreatening as possible.
“I see you have had your hair cut,” Tax noted as one year old Rose stood beside him.
“My hair kept on getting in my face, and people have a tendency to think that people who are hiding their face have a guilty conscience and or hiding something. By cutting it short, I eliminated this problem,” I stated as I stared coldly into Tax’s brown eyes.
“Very intuitive of you Lily,” Tax said absentmindedly as he watched Rose sit down.
“I tired,” the little child said as she sat down, looking up at Tax with large green eyes. Even though she is young, I could easily see the soft blonde curls poking out of her head.
“You may be tired, but I told you to stand,” Tax said firmly to her as he stood her up, giving her a swift smack on her bottom.
Rose wailed, tears streaking down her now red face. She was weak to cry like that, so Tax spanked her again until she stood dumbfounded beside him. It’s hard to believe that once I was a pathetic weakling like that; but little Rose is in good hands, Tax will make her strong.
“I know she appears to be more resistant than expected…” Tax started, noticing that I was watching her, “but this will work to the company’s advantage. All of this resistance will build up anger in her, resulting in a peak where she will be a crafty Watcher. If anyone attempts to alter the timeline on her watch, heaven help them. Three children above you, Ivy, had a temperament very similar to her, and she ended up taking pleasure in mutilating those who tried to alter the timeline. One time we’ve found out that she decapitated one man, split him open from his navel to neck and stuffed his head in the crevice. No, her weakness will become her strength with my help.”
I nodded, watching little Rose. It is hard to believe that this whimpering child will ever become anything useful to this company. But then again, I have never seen Tax make a mistake yet.
“You should turn your personal cloaking device on, our client is coming soon. He is an old friend, so we should give him special respect as well as keep an especially close eye on him,” Tax instructed, and as usual I turned on my cloaking device. I must learn as much about my subject as possible before he is in the position in changing the course of time.
Arthur hesitated at Tax’s door even though he has known the man for decades. Many men his age walk around with a sense of dignity and acceptance, but he moves about as if there were a great weight on his shoulders, a deep regret of years past has eaten away his spirit and heart. A hollow man, except now was a chance to redeem himself, and a flicker of the man he once was shines in his eyes.
He pressed the button to the right of the door to notify Tax that he was here, that he was ready.
“Come in,” said the voice of an old enemy, an old friend, as the door opened.
Arthur walked in stiffly, clutching his bag.
“Thank you again, Mr. Roberts, for allowing my request,” Arthur said, his voice sounding both respectful and hateful.
“You were the one who made time travel possible and me very rich man by selling the rights over to me, so it’s the least I can do,” Tax said, smiling his press conference smile.
Even though everything Tax was doing from the tone of his voice to the way he holds his eyes indicated that he was honest and sincere, Arthur knew better. Tax is the very definition that people aren’t always what they seem. No, he is far from it.
“I have made this request every year for thirty five years,” Arthur said sharply.
“Is it already 2050? You have to understand, Arthur, that we have had other priorities,” Tax said, shrugging.
“You mean I didn’t have enough to make myself a priority,” Arthur countered.
“You have to admit, Mr. Lewis, 20 million is enough to put anyone on top priority for anything,” Tax said, momentarily showing himself for what he really is.
“It is all I have. I have told you before; I would do anything to find out who murdered my wife,” Arthur said solemnly.
“I realize that. May I see what’s in your bag?” Tax said, glancing at the satchel hanging on Arthur’s shoulder.
Without hesitation, Arthur tossed the bag over and watched emotionlessly as Tax pulled out a camera, three different lenses, and two sets of glasses.
“Well, everything checks out here,” Tax said as he picked up the camera, turned it on, and took a picture of Arthur, “Smile.”
Arthur stared blankly at the camera as the flash went off, irritated by Tax’s lighthearted view on the situation.
“Where is the paperwork?” he asked impatiently as Tax smirked at the photo he just took.
“It’s here,” Tax said as he pulled out an I-pad, “All we need is your thumbprint verifying that you comply with our policy.”
“What exactly am I complying with?” Arthur said eyeing the contract.
“That during your three hour trip to the year 2013 you will not do anything to alter the timeline and stay in the second dimension so that you can be a quiet observer. And if you were to be foolish enough to attempt to alter the timeline, the watcher who will be cloaked in second dimension with you will kill you and BT will not be responsible for any lawsuits,” Tax briefly explained.
At that Arthur nodded, pressing his thumb on the screen. He didn’t mind the idea of dying, it’s not like he has anything left to live for anyways.
I kept my steps quiet as I followed him, carrying a basket of apples. I remember hearing the tale snow white when Tax took me with him to meet the public when he was still instructing me in poisons, and though I don’t recall the storyline I always had poison apples as my trademark. But just in case, I always kept one poison dart in my pocket.
The twenty seven people that I have shared them with all followed a similar pattern. But this one was different. He appeared to be weak and empty while the others appeared passionate and strong. And once we stepped through the time portal, I knew that he was going to try to alter the timeline.
The place he chose was an ordinary house in 2013. The walls were white, and there were simple decorations throughout, but not enough to make this place stand out from the others.
The old man walked around the living room, his fingertips touching everything gently as if it would fade away if he wasn’t careful.
“It’s good to be home,” he said softly as his eyes wandered the room.
He then approached the stairs, running his right hand over the railing before climbing up them slowly. Once at the top he turned right, and walked in the open doorway.
The room was dark, and took a few moments of adjusting before I could take in my surroundings. The old man sat down beside the bed of a sleeping woman, his eyes watering.
“Her name was Madison,” the old man said shakily, “Ever since I first met her, I knew she was something special. She brought light and joy to everyone lucky enough to be in her life. She was loud, always laughing and making jokes, someone born to be the center of attention. But she wasn’t self centered…no I do not think that there was a selfish bone in her body. We were married only six months before…” a choking sound stopped the words from leaving his throat.
Why is he doing this? Does he expect me to feel sorry for him because he puts on a pathetic act? This weakling should shut up and do what he came here to do, not babble on to someone he cannot see.
“She died when I was on a business trip…I didn’t take her with me because of how bad her morning sickness was. I thought she would be safe at home for only two days. But someone broke in to rob the house….she must have startled him or something because she ended up dead. He beat her to death and bolted. When I heard the news, I couldn’t believe it. Everything that I was working for, what I was living for, gone…just like that. I went insane trying to find a way to bring her back. I was willing to do anything and stayed up every night racking my mind for ways I could cheat death itself. It was in my moments of insanity I decided to try time travel. The science of it consumed my life; I barely ate or slept, until finally at the end of two years I found it. I had everything figured out, but I couldn’t find a way to come up with the immense amount of power or money needed to make it happen. I showed my ideas to anyone who would listen with no results until I met Tax at a coffee shop. I agreed to sell him the idea for $2,000 as long as I would be allowed to use it to find out who murdered my wife once it was operating. Thirty five years later, he needs 20 million to motivate him to keep his promise,” he continued as he watched the woman stir in her sleep, brushing her black hair out of her face.
Even though he said the only reason he is here is to see the face of the man who murdered his wife, I know the old man had another reason he’s not telling. Deep down he wants to save his princess from death, breathe life back into his snow white. I cannot let that happen, this is my opportunity now that he has gorged himself in self pity.
Lily turned off the cloaking device, tears streaming down her face. She even let her lower lip tremble as she looked at Arthur. Arthur’s jaw dropped once he saw how young his Watcher was, and immediately felt sorry for the child who had been forced into such a life.
“I’m so sorry about Madison,” Lily said, without attempting to brush her tears away, “It must have been hard to lose your princess when you were only a young prince.”
“You’re so young,” Arthur whispered, stunned. No one knew why Tax had so many young girls under his care, and though many had their guesses no one suspected this.
“What is it like to have a family?” Lily asked as she approached him tentatively, holding her basket of apples in front of her.
Arthur paused for a few moments, trying to find the right words.
“It’s like knowing that no matter what happens, there will always be someone out there that loves you, worries about you, cares whether you live or die,” Arthur stammered, trying to explain something beyond words.
“What is love?” Lily asked innocently.
“Love is when you will do anything for the well being of another person. It is when you put someone else’s interests before your own,” Arthur continued, confused as to what is going on, “What is your name?”
“Lily,” she said, smiling sweetly, “Do you want an apple? I brought them in case I got hungry while we were here, but I’m willing to share.”
Arthur’s hand hesitated over the basket, wondering if this was a trick. This child has been raised by Tax, the master of lies and deception; is it possible that he made her like him?
“But what would this child have to gain from my death?” Arthur reasoned as he picked up a green apple.
The sound of glass shattering stopped him from taking the first bite. Slowly he picked up his camera, turned it on and stood facing the doorway.
The wood creaked beneath the intruder’s feet, waking up Madison. She sat up in her bed cautiously.
“Who’s there?” Madison called out anxiously.
Arthur’s heart filled with hate toward the man walking in his house, the man that will murder his wife and destroy his life as well as the lives of the many children that have been forced to work at Black Travel. If this man had not broken into this house, his wife and child would still be alive. If they were alive he would not have felt the need to invent time travel to save them, and if he had not invented time travel the corrupt corporation BT would not even exist. It was the amplified amount of hate that was the deciding factor as to what he was going to do next.
The old man opened the back of his camera and pulled out a homemade dimension shifter. He was going to save her, just as I expected, but I didn’t have the chance to feed him the apple.
“Stupid weakling,” I muttered under my breath as I shoved my hand in my pocket and stabbed him in the side with the poison dart.
But I was too late, he was only in the same dimension as me long enough to get half a dose. That gave him ten minutes to live, long enough to change everything. There is nothing more I can do.
I sat on the floor, watching dumbfounded as he fought the burglar. Madison had a look of panic and confusion as she was screaming at the two men fighting in her bedroom. She makes a very loud damsel in distress.
“Failure is unacceptable,” I whispered, remembering how serious Tax looked when he said those words.
I picked up the reddest apple from my basket, and took a big bite. I would rather die a success than live a failure.
My skin is not fair, my hair is brown, and my lips are far from the color of blood. I wonder what kind of prince will come back to try to save me…