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Author's note: My AP Lit teacher gave us an assignment to write a story based on the events of Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I imagined the characters of my story as aliens because the protagonist in Remains of the Day seemed so alien to me. Also, I was watching a lot of Doctor Who at this time.
Where do I start with a tale of such passive woe? It seems as if the beginning would be boring, the middle endless, and the end—unbearable. That’s all goodbyes ever are; unbearable. If I started from the first time I met him, I don’t think you would understand. I barely understand anything myself. It is such a complicated story that needs to be told by such a simple person. I dare call myself that, you see, because I worked so hard to become human. He and I always worked for a greater purpose. We needed to be what everyone else was so we could be unique. Our voices had to be heard, and the only way for that to happen was through the changes. So much trouble for one little alteration. Now I’m making no sense at all. I suppose the beginning would be a good place to start. I might as well, for it might control the surge of memories I am currently experiencing.
It all began with my childhood. I lived on a lonely station in the middle of a planet called…I can’t remember. It had many numbers within its name. Also, it was always night there. An unrelenting darkness that took over the mind and soul to create a species that fed on light. We were the lowest on the totem pole of life forms, but the healthiest. We lived to serve the greater beings. We were controlled by the greater beings. We died while working for the greater beings. I never found out what the greatest of life forms is. All I know is that humans are the third greatest beings of all. I was raised from birth to labor for humans. Looking back, I think how unfortunate that arrangement is. Humans are so full of darkness—pain, agony, dread, deception. Lust. So many things that could lead to their downfall; instead, these awful traits allowed them to climb over other lighter species to get to the single digits on the list of the greatest species. Desiring to get further up, humans turned to lower life forms to destroy their competition. However, no one would dare go against the number one and two species. So, humans settled for spot three. It was the best us lower beings could do for them.
At the age of nine I was taken to a lake house owned by two extremely wealthy human doctors and their three children. They had much influence in the workings of the world. I admired them greatly, and they treated me with a little dignity. I was their nanny, cook, and maid for thirteen years. I received a paycheck of three dollars a week—this was fortunate among my kind—along with boarding. I had to take care of the children while the couple was away, but I never minded. The children were as kind as their parents. They treated me as an equal. I would bathe them, feed them, play with them, and sometimes buy them sweets with the money I earned from their parents. The human doctors never knew; or maybe they did, but wouldn’t admit to it. Maybe they allowed me that one pleasure. They let me take care of the children since I couldn’t have any of my own.
I devoted thirteen years to that family. No point looking on the past, though sometimes it takes over my mind and makes me what to go back to where things were simpler. The doctors had no choice when they gave me away. They were going into debt—I make excuses for them to save my own mind. At the start of my fourteenth year working for them the doctors informed me I was being let go. My kind had been trained not to question their employers, but I had grown so close to that family. “What did I do?” I demanded. Tears poured down my cheeks. The doctors backed away, looking awfully guilty. They explained how they had spent all their money on sending the last child to college. They had no choice but to sell me. The children would be heartbroken, but in order to save the couple I had to go. So I went.
I’ll admit that I was disappointed. I thought they were going to change the world for me. I had discussed my beliefs that the world ought to be a bit different; I suppose they weren’t allowed to listen. The world could not be changed at that point—not even by two geniuses like the doctors. Life was set in stone, and I had to play my supporting role. I decided I would be great to any master I serve. I did not need to be respected, paid, or… or loved. I just needed to be working. As a member of my species, it was the only thing I knew. It was the only part of my life that I could, and still can, truly control. I realized this as I was driven to my new home.
The place was as tall as a mountain and gray as the sky above. Miles and miles of snow lay out in front of me. I have never felt such torment as I felt that day. The particles of snow crunched with every step of my new boots. The doctors bought them for me as a goodbye gift. They had wished me luck and handed me the box full of a pair of boots and an old coat lined with cow fur. I brushed the fur against my chin and breathed in the smell of my old home. I could smell the lake’s scent still clinging to my coat. Mildew, smoke, and a faint smell of dirt remained on the jacket. It was the most amazing smell I have ever experienced. Tears dripped down my unwelcoming cheeks, leaking into my mouth. I wanted to go back to the lake more in that moment than ever in my life. I wiped my tears away quickly as I approached the entrance.
“Welcome to the House of Huse, Miss Anna Louise Gaubens. I hope you are able to make yourself comfortable,” an old, human woman with a cold voice greeted me at the large, metal doors. I had never felt less sedate in my entire life. She led me through the hallways into a crowded room full of other members of my species. For the sake of the story, I will refer to my people as the Service. That is what we were—all we were. We worked for humans and served them until the end of our lives. Anyways, a Servant boy glanced in my direction. He smiled at me with an odd grin that almost gave me hope. The flicker of comfort ignited in my stomach, so I attempted to walk to the boy. He shook his head quickly. His voice boomed in my head.
“Don’t,” and I was scared once again.
My room was as chilling as the old woman who had welcomed me into the House of Huse. There was nothing else in my room except a small, steel bed with a lumpy mattress and empty walls. I sat down on the bed, but refused to weep. My feelings were never supposed to be shown in public. I had made the mistake to display them to my former masters. They sent me to this place. I should not even have cried when walking into the House of Huse. It showed weakness. Never again, I promised myself. Never again.
Life passed on quickly in the House of Huse. It made me stronger, more able, but it made my insides cold. I would get up before dawn, eat breakfast, work for the Huse family—they were lawyers of the greater beings—and go to bed. Most of the time I would mend old clothes or cook deserts. I was never allowed to prepare main courses, despite my years of experience at the doctors’ house. I don’t think the Huse family ever trusted me with their meals. I don’t blame them. I was not loyal to them. During the first couple years of service I would remember the Servant boy. The spark of hope I felt on the first day when watching the boy was gone. I wished it would be absent for good because it made it easier to exist without the flame. Except, the boy kept turning up in my life.
He would show up unannounced in the kitchen while I bake pastries, or in the dining hall when I was serving food. He watched me closely, always smiling that awful smile that made me feel the spark again. I wanted to beat him senselessly with my plate whenever I saw him. How dare he fill me with false hope? It was useless, embarrassing, and it hurt my spirit. His smile of red, thick lips surrounding bright, white teeth made my head cry out in joy. While I wanted to hit him with a hard object, I also felt the desire to grab and kiss him. What a fool I was. The day I finally met him was the day my mistress divulged her darkest secrets in me.
“I have a strange feeling I can trust you, Anna,” the Lady Huse addressed me as she applied her thick mascara. She gave up, and handed me the thin stick. I quickly painted her face with the awful colorings that made Lady Huse’s face turn even paler than before. I figured that was how Lord Huse preferred his wife’s face—hidden by monstrous mask of cosmetics. I felt no pity for Lady Huse and her blessed life. I curled her bright blonde hair and placed small red bows in between each strand. I helped her into a matching red dress that reached the floor in an elegant, superior way. “How do I look, my dear Anna?” Lady Huse asked pleasantly. I thought, a bit over easy, ma’am. I said,
“Absolutely gorgeous, ma’am.” She beamed at me. I smiled back. What a mistake to lie to my master, I thought. Lying will bring no good.
“Now, Anna, could I tell you something without you judging me?” Lady Huse brushed an invisible strand of hair from her face. I bit my lip. I saw the Servant boy standing in the door. He pressed in index finger to his lip in a universal sign to be quiet. “Oh, never mind. You are just a Servant. Like you could ever judge me!” She laughed at her own wit. I giggled as well. I can’t fight back, I told myself. Let it go. Lady Huse continued to tell me about her affair and how her daughter was not actually a Huse but… I should not continue. It was a great speech where Lady Huse explained how completely demented the family of Huse was. I was not surprised by the woman and her many mistakes. The great woman hugged me, told me I would go great places one day, and demanded I leave her sight at once. I left with my chin and shoulders drooping. I doubted I would ever go anywhere except this cold, metal palace.
My room was freezing when I returned. Apparently, Lord Huse had demanded the heat be all pumped into the party room where his lovely daughter—or not—would be having her twenty-seventh birthday and wedding party. I sat down on my smelly old mattress and rubbed my old coat. I wrapped it around me. No tear fell from my eyes. My mind was silently moaning when I heard a noise in my room. The boy was standing there, the door wide open and tempting. “Would you like to leave with me?” He asked me, his voice radiating through my head. He reached out his hand. I looked around me. This family, the Huse, I could never be anything but inconvenient to them. I should leave for them. They needed for me to leave; they wanted me to escape. They would suffer if I stayed. I convinced myself of this as I took the boy’s hand and fled.
His name was Marcus Lee. He was experienced in all types of skills, including camping. His first masters—like mine—were kind and took him out into the woods to learn outdoor skills along with their children. He described them fondly, his eyes always brightening whenever he spoke of them. Whenever I mentioned the doctors, Marcus would get very angry and make a low growling noise. When I mentioned his fury to him out of context, he told me he did not appreciate how I grouped the doctors with his first masters. They were of a completely different type of people. His first masters didn’t sell him; they were killed in a car crash. He explained that the doctors sold me out to the Huse family for money and protection. The doctors, he insisted, were evil. I would not argue, for I did not have a good reason to fight back. Eventually, I stopped speaking of the doctors. Marcus’s and my relationship got on much better afterwards, though his first masters would come up in conversation often. I trained myself to stop listening.
Marcus decided he had the power to change the whole way of thinking in the universe. He just needed to change into a human to get respect from other humans. To fix the world, we had to fix ourselves. Still, we lived on the run because we were escaped Servants. Our species was never meant to fight back; we were trained to serve and serve alone. The woods were our main are of sanctuary, but sometimes we got to stay in towns. There, Marcus would preach his ideas. He would tell the crowd how we were going to earn dignity for our people and all of the other species in the universe. “The greater beings do not have the right to control us,” he would scream. “Anna Louise and I beg you to come with us and make a difference!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I just wanted to go home. I would breathe in the smell of my old coat and remember the past.
To my surprise, people were actually moved by Marcus. Some would come live with us in secret for a while unless they became bored with the life. Life was dull, I admit. Others stayed with us until the end of our journey together. A couple of loyal citizens informed towns of our arrival. We would be welcomed with banners, flowers, and food. We were given dignity through Marcus’s followers. They respected us to the point where we became full of light. A silvery glow would follow us through the streets. Our names became Mr. and Mrs. Silver. Marcus took pride in the fact they thought we were as valuable as the greatest metal on earth. I was proud of him.
One night, when we were hiding in the woods, Marcus skulked into our tent as I was reading wilting maps. I was tracing lines down the old paper, attempting to find direction in such confusing pictures. My head began to ache when cold, long fingers brushed my white hair from my forehead. “What are you doing, Mrs. Silver,” Marcus whispered. We had decided when the nicknames first came out to call each other by those names. That way, no one would ever truly know who we were. My hand froze in the middle of the line.
“Attempting to find a way to the capitol, Mr. Silver,” I murmured back. Marcus seemed discontent with the answer but let it pass. His fingers wrapped themselves through my hair and twirled the strands. My nerves exploded at his touch. I leapt away from him. “What do you think you’re doing, Mr. Silver?” I cried out. He looked so confused I wanted to cry out and hold him. A realization dawned on him. He could never have me as long as I was who I was. He chewed on his lower lip, considering the situation. Fury filled his purple eyes, turning them a devilish red. He stormed from the tent, leaving me to trace my lines on my maps.
I do believe I had fallen in love with the great Marcus Lee. Even through this realization, I wouldn’t let myself open up to the man who had been caring for me for almost two years. Though life would change drastically, my mind remained. After that night Marcus Lee began working even harder to bring our adventure to an end. I tried to make amends several times, but he would not even look at me. My heart was breaking. I worked even harder towards the project he planned out for us; no matter what I did he would not forgive me for denying him. I couldn’t blame him for never allowing me back into his heart—I couldn’t even forgive myself, why should he have to?
The maps came in handy, though. I am glad I finished them that awkward night. We travelled through the woods with our dozen most loyal followers to the gate of the capitol city. It towered over our heads and our spirit. The buildings were higher than the mightiest tree, and the gates surrounding the capitol were full of agony and wealth. I knew they were bewitched to make any intruder miserable and want to commit some act of self-punishment. I had discovered a way to get past the gates, but did not let it on to Marcus. He didn’t know about the pain the gates made one feel. I didn’t want to show him how awful humans could be. I whispered the incantation and everyone was safe.
Through the streets of stone we walked. Lights all around us shined brilliantly; they gave me a sense of hope. We marched through the city with our chins held high. A part of my heart gave way to the thought of changing. I didn’t want to change, I realized. It was too late for that, though. I glanced down at the maps I held in my hands. I rubbed my old coat between my fingers, taking comfort in the familiar smells. Despite the many years since living on the lake my jacket had not lost its scent of that beautiful place. It would not mix with new smells of the woods or the gas ever present in the House of Huse. Smiling, I took Marcus’s hand. He stiffened at the touch, but relaxed. The stones in the streets turned into gold; the capitol building was close. Marcus shouted an encouragement to our followers. “We will bring change!” They believed him—they always believed him. I didn’t dare doubting him.
As soon as we made it to the front gates we were arrested. Our followers couldn’t fight back, for we did not have the power. The police officers had guns. All they had was the spirit for change. Screams and cries for mercy hung over our heads as I caught Marcus’s eyes. He looked at the papers in my hands and bit his lip, like he so often did. He was the one meant to be a human leader for the Service. I could never be, I admitted to myself. The smoke of guns was encircling us, trapping oxygen and making it impossible to breathe. I shoved the maps into one of my hidden coat pockets and took it off. I breathed in the scent of the coat again. An officer grabbed my arm, but still had not recognized Marcus as the leader. I threw the jacket at Marcus and told him to run. He gave me a last look, his eyes filling up with tears—he displayed his emotions too often. He dodged the officers and ran into the capitol building. I watched his long, white braid swing behind his head. Such determination in his stride, I thought.
The officers dragged us miles away to prison and threw us into cells resembling the rooms in the House of Huse. The government kept the followers in there for five years. I was supposed to be set free after nine years because I admitted to being the leader so no one else would suffer. They were not terrible years, though. The prison guards treated us well and with dignity. They were also Service people; they seemed to take pride in the fact we fought the government. I never tried to explain how I didn’t want to fight. It never seemed worth getting Marcus in trouble. If anyone ever found out that he was the one who had ignited the Servants’ pride and spirit, he would get arrested for treason and put in jail. All of our hard work and suffering would be in vain. He visited me near the end of my prison sentence after all the other Servants left. One of the guards told me I had a visitor. They led in a large, imposing man with short, brown hair and skin as dark as it used to be. His eyes were green, which was unusual for a black human. Maybe that is what set him apart from others of his species…
“Hello, Anna Louise,” he grinned at me through the bars. I couldn’t help but smile back at those bright, white teeth. “I am Mark Silver and am here to get you out of here.” All emotions left my face. He was too different. My smile melted into tight lips and I turned from him. I sat on my hard mattress and stared at the floor. Mark banged on the bars, begging me to look at him. He told me he was sorry he hadn’t come sooner, but he had to wait many years for the surgery to settle. Becoming a human was hard work and frowned upon in most societies. After he was accepted as a true human in society, he travelled around the world to preach of the Service and its necessary freedom. Years past, and he had gained enough influence in the world he could come back to save me from prison. I blocked his voice from my mind. A couple hours passed. I heard him walk away from me. I fell asleep on my hard, cold mattress. My last thought was that he didn’t come back to me soon enough.
The next morning I woke to find my old jacket on the ground. It still smelled of the lake, even after all of those years. There was a note in the pockets, along with all the old maps I had gathered in my time with the great Marcus Lee. I read the note and allowed myself to feel sorrow. Marcus Lee, right before his alteration, had written his last words to me: My dear Anna Louise, I do wish things could have gone differently for us. I’ve often imagined a world where you would be with me, but I know you could never be happy living that way. You will want to be a Servant as long as you live. You are pure. I know you have always doubted the power of the Service and wanted to be left alone in a home of kind people. I will arrange for you to be sent to a new house after I’ve gained some influence in the world. They will be much kinder than the doctors. After the surgery, everything will have changed for me—except how I feel about you. Yours truly, Mister Silver.
Marcus Lee kept his promise. I was sent to a house in the capitol city called the House of Gorbe a year and three months before I was supposed to be freed from prison. The Gorbe family is extremely kind, though not as influential as the doctors were. I was accepted into the house through the recommendation from Mark Silver, the leader of the new world. He visits often and wink at me from the corner of my eye, but never speaks to me personally. He faded from my everyday thoughts a while ago. Every once in a blue moon my mind drifts back to him and the way he looked at me long ago—like I meant everything to him. His dark, green eyes fill my vision in the middle of work sometimes; I have to sit down at these moments. The Gorbes never yell at me for resting on the job, though I do think they get annoyed. They believe I am getting old. They don’t know all the adventures I went through. Mark Silver can never tell, and I will never betray him to tell my stories. He makes the most of his life, and I made the most of mine through him.
Sometimes, I dwell on him and my life in the woods. They calm me down when life becomes a bit overpowering. The trees tell me their ancient stories, and in return I divulge to them mine. Their skies weep with me as I do. They sob when I don’t have the strength to. In the forest, I remember all the memories while I was on the run from humans. They are good ones…they allow me to get through what remains of my existence. I can also remember the lake. The scents are all so similar, so they comfort me. I can feel the water as I fall asleep in the undergrowth, waiting for something—anything—to take me back home.