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Author's note: Hi! This is Ella for ourwritersnotebook. I'm pleased to preset you with my work. Enjoy!
"Alesia Roger?" barks my landlord in clipped voice. He scowls at me through the peephole of the thick dark wood door.
"Oh! Just a moment Mr. Fish!" I call back. Seven deadbolts later, I swing open the door and stand face to face with him. "What's up?"
"Where's your parents at?" he asks nosily, peering around me and into the neatly ordered living room.
A jolt of something like fear bristles over me, just as it always does when someone mentions my parents.
But, thanks to years of practice, my voice is steady as I return coldly, "They're sleeping. It's been a long day at work. If you need to talk to them, you're going to have to wait."
"Nah. S'not them. It's you." He digs around in his overlarge pocket and retrieves a bent envelope. "Says it's for you."
Without pausing to say anything else, he hands me the letter and abruptly turns away to leave.
I listen to his footsteps thudding away down the stairs before I close the door quietly and return to my apartment.
Without looking at the address on it, I flip it over and tear it open. It's obviously the latest check from my Aunt Liv. She is the only one who knows about my parents, and also has a sizable bank account. Every week, she sends me a check to sustain my expenses; something I am most grateful for. Money is never tight, but this is all owed to her.
"Shoot!" I say under my breath, sucking on my finger. I've always had this strange ability to get paper cuts from any and all paper items.
Sliding the contents of the envelope into my palm, I'm disappointed to see it is not a check at all, but a hand-written letter.
I unfold it and begin to read.
Do not be alarmed by this, it is not my intention to frighten you. My name is Elphias McKay. I knew your parents, once. I was devastated to hear that they had gone, and astonished to hear they had had a child. And now I must beseech you. You do not know me, but I feel as though I do you. I need your help. If you truly are your parent's child. You'll come to me. At least hear me out.
Meet me by Old Sailor's Lake at your earliest convenience. I'll be waiting.
Please, Alesia. I beg you.
I hesitate for a moment more, then tuck the letter in my pocket along with my cell phone and keys. Then I leave.
A half an hour later, I pull into the lot at sailors dock. It's windy today; huge gusts of wind follows by insignificant wisps. My eyes rove the passerby, evaluating their potential. None of the dressy business personnel on lunch break catch my eye as a possible "Elphias McKay". So I head over to the water's edge. A wooden railing lines the antique dock. Little nameless fish flitter along the surface of the water, casting long deep ripples radiating around them.
My fingers slide over the roughly splintered railing on the dock's edge. A sweet smelling breeze blows through my colorless blonde hair and tosses it aside carelessly, as if begging me to play some silent game of tag.
Someone clears their throat behind me.
I spin around and brace my hands against the railing.
A rather familiar old man stands there, hand outstretched. "Alesia Roger? Elphias McKay."
"Alesia Roger," I repeat back, hesitantly taking his hand. He grips and pumps it firmly, smiling at my stupidity.
"Something wrong?" he asks, still grinning. The crinkles skin around his eyes becomes more pronounced with his wide smile.
"No," I say, shaking my head slowly and then quickly as if to clear it of water. "No. It's just that, you're not Mr. McKay. You're Mr. Fish aren't you?"
His crinkled eyes become even deeper. "No. But I look like him, don't I?"
"You don't sound like him," I mutter, eyebrows raised at his perfect English; free from slurs and odd contractions.
Mr. McKay tips his head back and roars with laughter. I glare at him, unsure why I'm here only to have him belittle me.
"Well how would I know?" I bristle irritably. "I can only tell you what it is I see. And right now I see a mean old man who seems to be impersonating my landlord. So why don't you tell me what you want and get over yourself!"
He sobers up at that. "I'm sorry, Alesia. You're right. I shouldn't have. Mr. Fish and I do have something in common, and I can see why you would think us one and the same. But that's not what's important at this point. What matters is you."
I cool off a little. His tone has taken a more serious note, and his eyes more straight down into mine intently. "Alright. Lets hear what you have to say."
He looks relieved. "The story starts with your parents. Do you remember what they did for a living, Alesia?"
"Yeah. Yeah of course. They were scientists-" I say, faltering at the weary look he gives me. "Weren't they?"
"You're right, of course, in essence. But the truth is much more complex. Strange..." he mutters, reaching out to touch my face.
I flinch back, unsure I want a stranger coming to close. It's not as if I'm scared of this man. That's the funny thing. Who wouldn't be scared of him? The letter he sent? The entire situation? But the thing about me is that I haven't much use for fear. I was never scared of the dark or of my parents leaving me. As I got older, my friends developed a very strong sense of mortality. And I never did. Not even the night when my parents were dragged from our home and murdered right in front of me while I watched from under the couch. I wait for a shudder of terror or revulsion to overtake me, just like I know it should. But I feel just a resonating sadness.
"-shouldn't have been so forward," says Mr. McKay, snapping me from my reverie.
"Huh?" I say, blinking at him.
He smiles knowingly. "Lost in your head?"
I laugh, embarrassed. "Yes. Yes I was. I'm sorry Mr. McKay."
"Call me Elphias, dear. It's what I'm called, isn't it?"
I nod slowly and motion for him to continue speaking.
"I'm going to give this to you straight. Your parents were in genetics. They dreamed of creating the perfect human being. All of their live's work was dedicated not only to the science behind that, but what traits embodied perfection. When they found they had conceived you, they wanted to try their studies out on you. Alesia, I know this is a lot to take in. And that you might not believe me in the slightest. But I'm telling you, that according to the notes on you your parents left behind, you are literally a perfect human being."
He looks at me, bent slightly at the waist, leaning towards me with his fingers entwined. He seems to be waiting for my reaction.
But there seems to be nothing to do but say, "And what do you need from me?"
Elphias grins wistfully at me. "For everything you are," he mutters, "you're still just like them."
The usual shudder runs over me, but this time it is laced with something unusual. Maybe it's just that I've never actually heard anyone reference my parents like their gone. Not for the past seven years anyway.
I give him a stiff nod. "Um.... I guess so."
"Right," he says, suddenly business like. "You're here for a reason."
Elphias looks around suspiciously. For the most part, no one is around. Lunch time is nearly over, and the streams of lunching business people have dwindled to three.
He looks back at me, apparently deciding we are sufficiently alone. "We want to continue your parent's work. We believe that you are the key to a future if perfect civilization. Come with me, Alesia. We an tell you so much about you. What you are. What your parents were. And we're well funded. Come with me, and you'll never have to be alone again. So what do you think, Alesia?"
I shrug noncommittally and turn to face him. He looks so hopeful, so sure I'll help him. But at the same time, he looks tough, as though he's never needed anyone or anything.
Another breeze rolls through and tickles the hairs on the back of my neck; an incessant force of nature driving me to respond.
I open my mouth to form a word...
...and it can only be yes.
Elphias's face lights up comically. He claps his hands together energetically and beams.
"Then, Alesia, it is time to go," he says in a cheery tone.
"And where," I say, taking a short hop jog to catch up with his already retreating back, "do you think I'm going?"
"Headquarters," he chirps casually.
I stop walking. "Weren't you going to ask of I needed anything from home?"
He stops for a second and turns back to face me. "My dear Alesia. When have you ever let anything be important enough to keep?"
And he sets off walking again.
"So when you said underground, you weren't joking, were you?" I ask, staring at a huge, bottomless pit inquiringly.
"Afraid not," he grins.
"And I already know you weren't joking about the smell," I say, batting a fly away from my ear.
"Unfortunately-" he begins.
"Not," I finish for him. "Thought so."
He grins again and gestures toward the hole.
I tilt my head slightly to the side and contemplate it for a fraction of a second before leaping straight over the edge.
In a book I once read, I remember a character who had to do much the same thing as this. Jump down a hole, I mean. But in her story, there was a net to catch her. And as I hurtle down this pit, wind shrieking by my ears, I hope there will be a net to catch me.
And suddenly, there is one, blessedly stretching out under my body.
I stand up and find myself in a well- lit room. The walls and floors stretch ceaselessly, all covered in an immaculate white metallic paint. Computers and metal desks cover the space, to the untrained eye randomly, but actually quite organized if given a moment to ponder. The net I'd just landed on spans a large area in the center of this room. I look up and see nothing but a pinprick of light far above my head.
A small smile begins to play over my face. I like the feeling this room gives me. It feels simultaneously soothingly peaceful and catastrophically busy. I think it reminds me of my own mind, which I turn to when I need solace, but which also is constantly full of energetically swirling nonsense.
Before I have more time to ponder the inner workings of my mind, Elphias has fallen for, the sky and onto the net. I offer him my hand, which he accepts gratefully, and pull him up.
"Never gets old," he mutters, dusting his hands off for dramatic effect. "Now, Alesia, lets get you settled in. I'm going to have you begin analysis and orientation tomorrow."
"Analysis and orientation?" I ask him, feeling a bizarre mixture of excitement and caution. "What exactly-"
He smiles at me in the kind of way I know means I'll get no reply.
"Fine," I say, exhaling. "I'll 'settle in.' But I'd better be getting answers, fast."
"Of course. Now, if you'll just follow me..."
"Settling in" turns out to be a lot more complicated than one might think. From the first blindingly bright room, a series of long winding hallways deposit me in a small, dorm-like room.
Elphias leads me the whole way, chattering idly about things that make absolutely no sense.
I smile and nod a lot, but my mind is a long ways away as the dorm door closes behind me, and I'm alone with my thoughts.
Collapsing onto the small, neatly made bed, I begin to think for the first time in hours.
What was I thinking when I decided to do this? Why on earth does it make any sense to blindly trust Elphias? Was it because he mentioned my parents, or was it because I'm dumber than I might have thought.
The second option seems pretty viable in that kind of self depreciating way.
But in all honestly, what am I doing here? What is this place? Am I going to walk out of this room in a few hours and find out I'm some sort if human sacrifice to a strange underground cult?
Groaning, I lie back against the pillows and run my eyes with the backs of my hand.
Oblivion comes on slowly... slowly... And then I'm asleep.
What feels like moments later, gentle knocks resonate through my room, and I jerk up with a start. Breathing heavily, I slide across the room and open the door slowly. Bright light from the hall streams in, and I find myself blinking rather rapidly.
To my surprise, it is not Elphias and his kind smile waiting for me, but a dark, scowling boy with long dark hair.
"You need to get your ass down to the control room. The higher-ups need to take your readings while you're still fresh." His eyes rove up and down my body, making my stomach plummet. "Nice hair. Let's go."
"What?" I say automatically, running my hands through my hair. What's wrong with it?"
"Looks like you've got a flamingo nesting up there. Now lets go," he says again. With out so much as a backward glance, he stalks off down the hall.
Shoot. Cute boy turns up outside my door, and I have bad hair.
Rolling my eyes in an indignant way, I scamper off after him, running my hands through my hair as I go.
"Why should I be going with you? I don't even know your name," I say to the boy as I catch up.
"It's Harry," he says in a bored tone.
"Really?" I squeal, taken aback. "Like Harry Potter?"
"Nerd," he shoots at me. "Aren't you supposed to instantly think of Harry Styles?"
I wrinkle my nose. "What am I? A stereotype?"
"Didn't say you were. Just that every girl loves One Direction."
"Or you could just say every girl is a stereotype and save time," I fume. I'm starting to seriously dislike this boy.
He sighs dramatically, which is a sharp contrast to the uninterested look on his face. "Actually, my name's Echo."
"What kind of name is Echo?" I say indignantly. "And why'd you tell me your name is Harry if it wasn't?"
"I have weird parents. And it amuses me to watch your reaction."
"Well you're an idiot. And I can find my own way to the control room."
I flip my hair and flounce off past him, still angry. Who does this boy think I am anyways? Why does he get to boss me around? I'm fairly certain I hate him at this point.
Wrapped up in my thoughts, I barely notice anything that's going on until I realize Echo isn't following me. I'd thought he would have come after me.
Infuriatingly enough, he's leaning casually against one of the sleek white walls. His brown hair and green eyes stand out startlingly, and the light that catches his tanned skin makes his cheekbones look even more angular. Echo looks angelic, standing there propped on the wall, arms folded. Angelic except for the fact that he's glowering while he examines his nails.
"What are you doing?" he says without looking up.
"Going to the control room," I say snippily.
"You're going the wrong way."
"Well if you know the way so well, why don't you show me," I spit.
Yeah. I definitely hate this guy.
He winks at me, a tiny smile pricking the corner of his mouth. "Well if you insist..."