Susy finds herself deep within CERN, isolated with no recollection of her past. Her dear cousin and only friend, leaves unexpectedly and bestows upon her a mysterious key-like jewel as a farewell gift. His sudden departure drives her to escape from the facility where she encounters the members of the Honorary Knight Order.
They have searched in every corner of Earth for Susy and the map that will lead them home. In the completion of their quest they face many obstacles and challenges as they realise that Susy has lost more of her powers and memory than they had previously anticipated
The Earth, affected by Susy’s extended stay, continues to deteriorate as the members of the Order hunt for the missing power stones, lost since the time of Susy’s kidnapping. Whilst on their journey, Susy struggles to remember her true connection to them, as they try to infiltrate her senses. Love and secrets delay the completion of the mission and concerns grow that the balance of life will not be re-established in time.
Gift upon review
I had big shoes to fill, a long journey to walk and there are a lot of people depending on me – for different reasons!
First 5 Chapters
1 BEGINNING OF THE END
When I think back on what my life had been like, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. An isolated life had no honour, and wasn’t a life at all. The knot in my stomach and the pain in my eyes made me feel increasingly hopeless with every day that passed. The noises in my ears and the throbbing in my bones and joints distracted me from everything enjoyable in life, such as reading books or watching TV in the evenings. Even memories of being with my family had become blurry; I could hardly remember them at all. Worst of all was that sometimes I couldn’t even recognise my visitors’ faces. The feelings that washed over me when I failed to remember were unbearable. I didn’t recognise them and couldn’t remember their names. Their tilted heads and sad faces demonstrated a pity that I couldn’t return, because I wasn’t able to understand or remember why they were sorry for me. I saw that it hurt those who visited me, especially the nurses in the ward who had followed me through my time here and had always been by my side.
I lay in my bed and looked out through my dirty window that couldn’t be opened to invite the fresh air in. I didn’t know when it had last been cleaned. It was most comfortable to lie on my right side rather than on my back as lying directly on my spine felt like resting on a row of marbles. Just outside my window sat a robin on a narrow branch, in the only tree in the courtyard. It was a beautiful bird and it was clearly very proud. That was something I always wanted to feel about myself. Recurring thoughts about the disappointment of my life echoed in my head and made it difficult to hide reality in my attempt to escape into daydreams. This had become my self-defence mechanism. Through my daydreams, I could disappear into distant lands with their adventures. Freeing me from having to endure the torture of my pains, every minute of every day. I tried to remind myself that everything turns out as it should in the end.
A deep sigh rattled out of my lungs whilst a single tear ran down from my cold pale cheek. I had spent a lifetime at this private hospital in Switzerland, in a ward that belonged to the research department with which my father worked on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Despite the clinic’s outstanding technology and many leading scientists, no one had found a cure for my agony, not even a diagnosis had been established. There had been countless tests, but no answers had been found.
A nurse came into the room on an occasion, humming a light-hearted and slightly romantic melody. With her, she carried a tray with a glass of rosehip soup and two biscuits. When I was younger this was the only combination of food that I could stomach during my blood tests, but after twenty-nine long years, the mere sight of the orangey brown mess triggered my gag reflex. It was a symbol to start preparing for the sharp needles that the nurse would use to slowly extract blood from my veins. During the blood tests I was treated differently, more like a lab rat and it was the only time that both a male and a female nurse were present. The female nurse told me the reason was to ensure I wouldn’t refuse to cooperate. She would smile a brief smile and then turn to the male nurse and start talking about her daughters. It was like I wasn’t even there, like I had already died and was a corpse during an autopsy. I had never refused the tests in the past. My feet had never needed to be tied down and I had never even expressed my views on needles during all the years of torture. Why would I start protesting all of a sudden? And if I didn’t want to continue my treatment, what would they do then? Force me? I wondered at times when the day would come in which I would have enough of this and would just want to give up and let the disease take over. I felt tired; my life could just be terminated. I winced in pain when the nurse put the needle in my throat. I didn’t even get a ‘now there will be a sharp scratch’ warning. The woman noticed my twitch, but continued unperturbedly to nag on about her teenage daughter’s drunken exploits as they had been at a party over the weekend. The man nodded in agreement, but looked to be just as uninterested as me. The whole situation, the energetic woman, the extraction of blood and the sight of rosehip soup, month in, month out, just made me feel closer to death instead of giving me hope of a possibly better life. After the female nurse had filled the tubes with my blood, they both left the room without even turning around to say ‘goodbye’. I was unsure whether they were finished or if they would come back. They left me sitting on the bed with my shirt pulled down over my shoulders baring my throat for several minutes. As I waited a thought popped into my head: was there anyone who cared about me? Was there anyone who cared that I was a lonely girl in a bed all day, every day? Well, there was someone!
In the robust seventeenth century mirror next to the window I saw Vic’s figure reflected, as he stood in the doorway. My dear cousin had always been there for me. He felt more like a big brother or a best friend than a cousin. He stopped by every now and again to see how I was doing and gave me words of encouragement to remind me that better times would come. Or at least it was what I wanted him to bring, but the better times never came nor did my aches become less severe. He never brought the answers that I longed to hear. Instead, he sat for long hours at the bedside and told me the wildest stories I had ever heard. Sometimes he would continue telling the stories until I had fallen asleep. It was his way of comforting and distracting me from my self-destructive thoughts. It helped; and during those nights that he spent with me, I slept less troubled.
“You’re in deep thought,” Vic chuckled with a dark and mysterious voice, put on to make the comment a bit more dramatic.
“You always read me like an open book,” I replied cheerfully to try to avoid being forced to admit what I really thought.
If he had known how hopeless I thought it all was, perhaps he wouldn’t be able to find the strength to continue visiting me. Life would be miserable without him. Given my poor short-term memory, I was grateful that his face was always familiar. Nevertheless, I had hoped that his face wouldn’t always be sad when he looked at me from behind the dark blonde fringe that hung down over his eyes. It always made me full of laughter when I observed how the fringe lived its own life and tore itself away from the otherwise perfectly gelled hair.
Vic’s drooping eyebrows and the strained smile showed compassion, but were coupled with a certain admiration. I was important to him and that was shown clearly in his expression. There was something special in his amber eyes, a tension that I always found comforting.
“Are you far away in a distant land where the sun always shines and the gold covers the widest beaches?” he asked whilst he gesticulated with small and distinct movements to help me create an image of his story.
Vic knew me too well and I knew that he wouldn’t drop the subject or get straight to the point. He was too gentle. For some strange reason I felt uncomfortable with him this time and had to look away from Vic to counteract a crying attack that would be embarrassing in front of him. How would I be able to concentrate on his visit when the sounds in my ears howled like wolves’ cries?
I quickly decided to focus my eyes on the floral wallpaper that had once been a yellow summery tone, but over the years had faded to an ugly colourless and worn shade of its former glory. It reminded me of how many years I had spent in the same room, in the same bed and in the same situation. The room was not very interesting otherwise. It was no bigger than a bunker with a small en-suite that wasn’t even big enough to fit a bathtub, only a shower. Next to its door and opposite the end of the bed, there was a dresser with two old copper candleholders supporting candles that had never been lit. There was a white Victorian chair to the right of the dresser in the corner. The cleaners always pushed it around and left it standing in different places when they cleaned the room. I slept most of the time when they were there and didn’t formally inform them about my displeasure over the chair’s constantly changing position. I wasn’t exactly someone who would care about little things and adjusted quickly to changing circumstances. The curtains had been washed and re-hung several times, but never replaced.
The short length of the room in relation to Vic’s long legs enabled him, with only two steps, to quickly move over to my bed and comfortably sink into the mattress with his grandpa sandals firmly on the floor. The silence lingered, allowing me to gather my emotions and give him a smile as a signal that we could continue the conversation. I looked at him and the warmth spread through my body, as it always did when he was in my presence. I don’t know how to explain it, but I could certainly feel that his feelings were mutual.
“How’s the research? Have you managed to smash some particles together and create more worlds yet?” I asked with a playful sarcasm in my voice.
“Well, actually, a little ‘Big Bang’ has been created in one of the cylinders, but we have to investigate more to know that it didn’t happen by accident. Once we have mastered the art I will create a world for you.”
Vic tried to impress as he threw the last sentence at me with an equally playful sarcasm. The flaw in his comment was that he didn’t believe in chance or something supernatural for that matter, however this was his way of showing humility. He stuck to Charles Darwin’s theory that the strongest survives and lives on, or a more modern translation: ‘the majority’s opinion leads to the world’s future development’.
Vic continued to talk about another matter instead, which turned into a murmur in the background as my thoughts focused on how extraordinary the man in front of me was. He knew I wasn’t really interested in the topic because my knowledge of science was minimal. I was happy that he wouldn’t drag out the conversation in long complicated sentences, something that would certainly make me bored. Vic’s humility shone through every time he spoke. If I thought about it, I had probably never heard him say a single selfish or negative word. My admiration for Vic was out of both an emotional and professional fondness. He was very intelligent and had begun to help his father, who was my uncle Benjamin, or Ben as we called him, with his science research from a very young age. Vic mastered extensive knowledge in the field despite his age and although he was four years younger than me, he was perceived to be as wise as a forty year-old man. However, he had been blessed with the looks of a twenty year-old. The way age weathered people can really prove unfair and although the disease was often playing tricks with my memory, I always seemed to return to the terrible realisation of my thirtieth birthday next year. Where had the time gone? Not that the time really mattered to me here. It was Vic I was worried about. He had dedicated his life to research and to my knowledge, had never met a woman to share his life with. Just the thought of it developed a fear that this was probably because of me. It always gnawed at my mind. Given Vic’s pleasing appearance, he shouldn’t have had any problems at all with charming women standing in line for him. He had a combination of a serious life, a sincere will and a personality, which inspired feelings of security. He was simply admirable. He was a man I couldn’t even imagine a woman rejecting.
Maybe it would have been better for him if I refused his visit. It would give him more time for his real life, with real friends who did real activities rather than just sitting with me in my prison. But Vic was my everything and he was the only one I had. I couldn’t imagine life without him. Did that make me a horrible and selfish person? A sudden awareness of these destructive thoughts reminded me that I had sat quietly for an embarrassingly long time. Self-pity didn’t make my face attractive. My large eyes narrowed with concern, my teeth bit hard together and my thin eyebrows framed into a worrisome V-shape. I quickly tried to steer my thoughts to something more fun and improvised to entertain Vic with a story in which I was a vampire victim.
“You know I thirst for your blood,” I grimaced and threw my body in a rapid movement towards Vic.
I could see Vic’s eyes harden and his ears became red as he blushed.
“Oh, oh…” he murmured quietly with uncertainty and awe at what I meant by my bizarre words.
“Look,” I complained, as I pulled down the collar of the shirt and pointed to two pinpricks on the lower part of my neck from where the nurse had taken the two blood samples.
The needles had penetrated my neck three centimetres apart and the skin had developed a bluish bruise around the wounds, which made them look like a vampire’s bite. Vic laughed.
“You can takeover the storytelling in the future. The apprentice has become the master.”
Vic looked down at his hands and it seemed like he wanted to say something more, but something stopped him.
“You will soon get well, you see. We are all working hard to find a cure,” he whispered gently.
I took a deep breath and swallowed in an attempt to keep away the tears whilst I nodded helplessly. His sad words had made the moment tense. Vic would leave soon; he had that look in his eyes that showed he didn’t have time to stay any longer.
“Read your poem,” I pressed as a quick request, but with a much harsher tone than I had intended.
I lay back down on my bed with my head against the high pillow to show submissiveness. I was referring to the poem, which he often used to read to comfort me to sleep. If I asked him to read it, he always stayed a moment longer than planned.
Vic moved to sit higher up on the bed and caressed my cheek gently with the back of his hand and stroked away a strand of my long, blonde hair from my eyes. It didn’t feel right, something was wrong. Vic wasn’t himself and just as I could sense his feelings, I was sure he could feel the fear that came over me, like needles pricking my skin from my head to my toes. I was quiet again and waited for the words I thought I knew would come from Vic’s mouth, whether I wanted to hear them or not.
Vic took a deep breath and held it in for what seemed like several seconds. He looked at the two pink flowers that were placed in a glass. They always seemed to appear on the night table the night before my blood tests and were probably the only things that were beautiful in the room, except for Vic. His gaze wandered awkwardly toward the ceiling and then down to his hands. Vic’s mouth was closed, but I could detect little cautious movements as if he was trying to start a sentence but couldn’t quite find the right words. If I knew him well, he would have practiced what to say repeatedly in the office in an attempt to find words that best reflected his feelings. His conflicting emotions were clear to me, even if the words weren’t spoken yet. He opened his right hand and in his palm there was a piece of jewellery that I felt was a farewell gift. It was a key with a handle in the shape of a pentagram and in the lower left triangle of the star was a yellow triangular stone. Without saying a word, he bent over me and brought his hands behind my neck and clasped the chain to hang the pendant around my neck.
“I have to leave Susy. I have things I need to do and I don’t know if I’ll be back. I haven’t forgotten what I promised you. I’ll find a cure for you, but you also have to promise me one thing. You must never show the jewellery to anyone, you have to keep it a secret. One day, I will want to have it back, but right now it’s safest here with you. You are the only one I can trust,” he said in a low and serious voice.
Vic swept his hand over my eyes so that I would close them and I realised it was to hide his tears. With a broken voice from the tears he began to whisper the poem that he knew had comforted me so many times.
“Find Your dreamsin the rainbow way,
Count two lights revealing a starry day,
The brave knights will see You through,
The kind of seven are waiting for You,
Within You lie memories deep,
They will shine when You are asleep,
When You gather what’s been apart,
Make sure You find the secret heart.”
After Vic finished the last line, there was a silent unwritten rule where no one would talk agin. As always, I kept my eyes closed whilst Vic quietly sneaked out of the room and disappeared into a world behind locked doors that I didn’t have any knowledge of, since I had never been allowed to leave the ward. My restrictions had been pointed out several times. ‘The research department isn’t a place for a little girl’ my father had hissed at me for as long as I could remember. He said the same thing every time I asked if I could go with him. He also wanted to have control over me all the time because I was so sick and my memory loss could put me in great danger.
The few areas where I was allowed to be in were all within the ward. It was my own, lonely, private and boring ward. There was a sitting room with a sofa and a TV, a clinically boring kitchen and a small gym that consisted of a treadmill, an exercise bike and a few weights. The staff served the meals four times a day, at exactly the same time each day. Just like the medication.
Fortunately, the blood tests weren’t part of the daily routine, but were performed only once a month. The monthly routine also included visits from my father. Sometimes my feelings for my father and uncle Ben felt unimportant, at least in comparison to my feelings for Vic. It was horrible that I felt that way, but I saw them only a few times a year. I don’t deny that I felt hope grow for a cure each time they stuck their heads around the doorway, but so far they had only been to see if I was still alive. Their faces symbolised disappointment more than joy to me. I should really be ashamed of my thoughts. The two men, who were both in their sixties, weren’t good at handling emotions. I guess my father had become more withdrawn after my mother died during childbirth. He had had to deal with his grief and having to care for such a sick child as me. It was strange to me that he never remarried and had more children, even though I had pointed out many times how nice it would have been with siblings. At least I had Vic, well, until now.
I brought my hand under my shirt to feel the hidden jewellery that rested against my chest and then I burst into the most painful cry that I had ever experienced. I pulled my knees up to my stomach and grabbed hard onto the big down pillow. Feeling sharp scratches in my chest and cheeks, which pounded with heat, I had to remind myself to breathe. ‘Why are you leaving me now?’ I whispered repeatedly to myself in self-pity. I had several unanswered questions surrounding the reason why he left me, but I understood that there was nothing more to be said. His facial expression had been crystal clear and it was obvious that he had left to never come back. He wouldn’t come tomorrow, or next week, or in a month’s time. What hurt the most and got my stomach to contract into the form of a shrivelled raisin was the thought of never seeing him again. With the abominable life I had lived, the rest of it without Vic’s presence was the beginning of the end.
2 ESCAPE WITH HIS LIFE
In Bath, England, Samuel glued a blank A4 page to either side of the old piece of paper. He pasted minimal amounts in the corners so as to prevent damaging the piece of the map that he possessed, then shut the lever-arch file and returned it to the bookshelf.
“There, now no one will be able to find it,” he confirmed to himself with a cheerful voice, finally having it in his possession after so many years of searching.
He slowly made his way into the kitchen and brewed a cup of tea. He opened the cupboard where he had a jar with some cookies and took out two, which were smothered in chocolate. It was the neighbour who had baked them for him when she had come over for a chat earlier in the week. Since his wife died in a car accident last year, Samuel hadn’t had much social contact with other people and appreciated the chats more than her baking. He wanted to call her now when he was in such a good mood, but realised that he would never do it because of his feelings for his late wife. He still felt like an insecure cat playing with his first mouse when he tried to make contact and develop feelings for someone else. This was a deep-rooted feeling that would probably never go away. He had decided to spend the rest of his life in solitude; after all, it was his fault that she was dead. He should have been honest about who he was from the beginning. To be able to protect her, he should have been near her at all times, near enough to hear her every breath.
Samuel sat down on the sofa, sighed and looked down at the fabric of the cushion on the kitchen bench. Harriett had re-upholstered it just a year before she died. His heart felt heavy when he thought of her. He sat silently for a while and breathed in the vapours from his mint tea. He could hear the ticking of their old cuckoo clock, tick-tock, tick-tock. He gazed toward the curtains that she had also sewn. He couldn’t even admit to himself that he thought they were awful, out of respect for his deceased wife. The flowery fabric wasn’t to his taste. However, there was no need to change them since he didn’t spend many years residing in the same place due to his professional duties. It was also nice to have them as a memory of her passion toward her hobbies.
A black BMW drove past outside and stopped at the driveway. The car’s size would provide sufficient space in the trunk for a tied-up man of his size, he thought dismissively as he closed his eyes and hung his head in despair. He immediately understood the events that would follow and without waiting another second, he took the plate with cookies and the teacup and threw them in the trash without even pouring the tea into the sink. He ran quickly down the stairs to the basement and went to the trap door he had installed beneath the staircase when he had moved in five years ago. He pulled up the hidden pin that popped the door open from the wall, bent down, crawled into the small space and closed the door quickly behind him. The space was limited so he had to sit down with his knees pressed tightly against his forehead in complete darkness. He hoped that no spiders had moved in during the five years that it had been empty. He didn’t like spiders. As expected, he heard the burglary take its course. Calling the police wasn’t worthwhile. The thieves were only here for one reason and if they didn’t find the map, they would keep looking. Now he had to move again which he wasn’t looking forward to since he had found the area appealing in its own way and he was starting to enjoy the newfound relationship with the neighbour. But all had been to no avail, even though he had been able to simulate a normal life, he was very clear about his duty. It was the most important duty he would ever have in the world and it didn’t come without its consequences. The treasure must be returned at any cost and so he understood how important it was that the map was safely hidden from the intruders. He didn’t want more people to suffer. When the time was right, everything would be returned to its origin.
He heard them ransack the entire house, looking in every little nook and cranny. The china was smashed and his books were thrown on the floor. Everything would be in a state. At least there wouldn’t be much left which needed to be packed for the move. He had been through this so many times that he no longer cared about material possessions. Just as long as they didn’t find the map. Was it hidden in a safe enough place? Samuel could hear male voices, but couldn’t make out exactly what was said. He pressed his ear closer to the door and closed his eyes to concentrate.
“Maybe it isn’t here. Old Samuel is very tricky. He would have had time to hide it since we were last on his tracks.”
The rough voice came from a man who couldn’t be more than thirty with a vocabulary that could only indicate that he was from a lower social class. His dialect was broken and indicated that he wasn’t from England, prompting Samuel to conclude that the man must have followed him here.
“Don’t you think it’s strange that he isn’t home so late at night? Where would he have gone at this time?” commented the young voice, whilst Samuel heard what could only be his Chinese-style vase that sat on the shelf next to the washing machine smash into a thousand pieces against the floor.
“I don’t know, maybe he’s still here and has been hiding. We’ll continue to look.”
The other man was much older, about fifty Samuel guessed. It was clear that he was the mastermind behind it all and the one who gave the orders.
Still slumped in his little hideaway, with his knees now under his chin, Samuel began to feel the torments of his worn body. His back started to hurt and his indigo eyes still couldn’t see anything but darkness. When would they leave? How long would he have to sit here? He should have brought some cookies, he thought ironically, as he wondered whether the supermarket still had a good price on moving boxes. He had seen them last week and now he would need moving boxes again.
Suddenly Samuel’s heart started to pound faster and the adrenaline pumped into his fingertips when footsteps were heard just outside the secret door. Holding his breath would probably not help, but it was worth a try to be as quiet as possible, so as not to reveal his position. He heard the men throw things around them and his paintings fell loudly to the floor. ‘Don’t let them find me; don’t let them find me,’ was the only thing that repeatedly went through Samuel’s head.
He closed his eyes and thought that when they had gone, he would summon the Order. Now they needed to forge new plans on how they would handle their opponents, who had begun to come nearer to them. He also wanted to give the others the good news on holding onto the map. That is if he still had it in his possession after this evening. These opponents had, throughout the years, gathered more knowledge of the Order’s powers, as they had been able to study the other part of the map that they possessed. For this reason it was important to keep abreast of what they could expect from their adversaries if the group were to come out victorious in the battle.
It had been seven years since the Order had been summoned and it would only be the third time they met since the world’s treasure had been stolen. The meetings were few whilst all seven members attempted to make every effort to retrieve the treasure and keep it safe. They worked in three groups of two and were responsible for reporting to the others if anything happened to their partner. The seventh member, the Chameleon, worked alone; no one had ever seen him. Michael was Samuel’s partner and they were in touch regularly although without routine. Sometimes they contacted each other by letter or e-mail and other times via phone calls or meetings. At these meetings they got the chance to share information that they gathered with regards to new clues about the treasure’s location. Samuel’s mission had been the burden of finding and preserving the part of the map that he had now found. Secretly he had always hoped to pass the burden over to any of the other members in order to return to his life with Harriett, but it was too late now. His main duty now was to stay alive until the treasure was safely returned.
“No Tim, he’s not here, there’s nothing here. I’ve been looking through all the boxes and I can’t find the map. I say we leave, grab a bite to eat and then we can come back and wait until he returns home. He must come home at some point and when he does we will take him,” reasoned the weary voice of the older man.
“Okay Peter, I’m hungry, so it sounds like a good plan and I don’t want to be around you when you get low blood sugar. We can’t go back to the boss without the map and without having killed the old man,” murmured the young voice in a plaintive tone.
“Were we supposed to fix the old man?” commented Peter in surprise. Not that he was a coward, just lazy.
“Yes, the boss takes no risks, so read our order,” replied Tim more enthusiastically.
“Okay, I understand. But I am not cleaning up after you if it becomes a messy slaughter.”
One of them whispered hurriedly and Samuel couldn’t distinguish from which man the voice had come. Samuel closed his eyes and used his weakened power to see them both in his thoughts. It had been the old man whispering, now followed by a gesture with his index finger over his mouth as a sharp request for silence. Samuel opened his eyes to stop all his energies from being sucked out of him and waited with a frightened feeling of discomfort. There was silence for several minutes and Samuel couldn’t hear any footsteps or sounds from the men. They must have conjured a new idea, or possibly they had spotted the secret door.
With a sudden jerk the door to the secret space opened which made Peter’s thin blonde hair float upwards with the draft. A Walther PPK revolver, known as James Bond’s most widely used handgun, was pointed at the space under the stairs. The hiding place was empty, though Peter could determine that someone had been there recently since they had left tracks in the dust on the floor. He turned around to warn Tim, but didn’t get the chance as he took a hard hit on the back of his head, which threw him to the floor. He had underestimated his opponent when he assumed that Samuel had no strength left after so many years. Peter was a big man, but would still not have stood a chance against Samuel even if he couldn’t have made himself invisible. Samuel was a slender middle-aged man who had spent the last ten years learning Taido. Coupled with his power of invisibility, it was a highly dangerous combination to attempt to overcome. Peter’s choices would be to flee or play dead. His choices were reduced when Samuel managed to knock him unconscious and he now lay on the old wooden floor. Meanwhile, Tim approached Samuel in a squatting position and menacingly whispered.
“Eleanor,” he threatened, as he made a nodding gesture towards his revolver, “will puncture your two lungs and dig out the contents of your brain if you move a muscle. Nice and easy now, tell me where you have hidden the map and no one should get hurt.”
His voice was sharp and credible, coming from an impulsive newbie. Samuel knew that he had to think quickly to be able to escape with his life.
3 LUST FOR ADVENTURE
Vic leaned all his weight against the closed door and could hear Susy’s despaired cry as a result of his betrayal. Normally, when he comforted her, he always managed to stay calm, but this time it was different. He felt weak and had to sit down at one of the office desks. His fingers pounded nervously, one after the other, on the desk and he felt a great guilt over having to abandon her. If it was up to him, he could have spent the rest of his life within a metre of Susy; they were an unbeatable team. What began with merely trying to relieve her pain had grown into something stronger than blood. Twenty-five years he had spent with her locked up in the institution. He had witnessed her personality change and become less naive over the years, but her innocent nature was still apparent at times. Vic didn’t want to leave, but the time for his deceitful departure had been decided. He had to ensure that life proceeded according to plan.
Hunched down on the black office chair, his legs rested on the floor and his face lay in his hands whilst his elbows rested on the desk. He wished to hear Susy’s weeping cease. He wanted to leave the office with the knowledge that she would feel content enough without him. He knew it was unlikely and that he was important to her. But where he was going, she could not follow. If future plans went his way, they would hopefully see each other again. Her last twenty-five years had solely given attention to him. Moments they had spent together had been an epoch, hidden from the world, as if frozen in time. Now the era had ended and they had to continue their lives in different directions.
The farewell had not been executed with enough dignity, but it had been conducted to his best ability. His cowardly action would haunt him, but he deserved it. It was an impossible thought to have to endure, seeing the pain and suffering in her innocent eyes, as he hurt Susy so badly. However, he had to decide and keep his course. After having wandered up and down the office, conjuring images of Susy’s suffering in his thoughts, he stroked his fingertips over the door that led into the ward, closed his eyes, took a deep breath and rushed through the door that led out to the engine room. He must get as far away from this world that he was now leaving behind.
I had been lying awake for two hours staring at the full moon, calm but still suffering, without being able to fall asleep. Normally I wouldn’t sleep many hours, but this night it seemed exceptionally impossible to even get one. I felt a creeping feeling in my gut and emotions of freedom couldn’t be kept out of my thoughts. How would it feel to experience the world as I’ve seen it on TV? If I left the ward, would the pain increase without my drugs? Would it be worth it to experience a short time outside the hospital as opposed to an eternity in the hospital bed? Without Vic, life was ‘Game Over’ since the years would continue with the same routine, but without him.
The code escaped my lips. It was the code to the door that led to the research department. Vic had keyed it in a hurry once, without noticing that I was looking over his shoulder. U-235, it definitely was. I wondered if there was anyone in the department at this time. If I were to be noticed within those premises my father would be in big trouble. He would be very disappointed with my actions. But I had to get a little adventure in my life, now when all other hope was lost. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than the situation that stood before me.
I gently sat up, threw my little feet off the bed and wiggled my small toes. These tiny feet were the reason I almost never wore shoes. They were hard to find in my size, other than with childish motifs. Or that was my father’s excuse anyway. Not that I complained. The worn Mickey Mouse slippers that I got for Christmas five years ago still worked. What amazed me at this point was that I could actually remember when the slippers were given to me, which was very unusual considering my normal memory loss.
My heart raced and dizziness clouded my sight. Could it be that I was nervous? Or was it my illness? Would the aching strain start in my muscles, the screaming in my ears and the stinging in my eyes, which were always most evident in the evenings? I hesitated for a few seconds. No. The uncomfortable burning sensation in my chest was probably just nerves. I felt like a master crook before I had even put my feet on the floor. The sun-bleached wallpaper caught my eyes’ attention and knowing how I had watched it fade over the years made my life feel unnecessary. This reinforced my decision and I left all doubts behind me. Tonight, I was going to follow my heart, my mind had had its way for too many years.
I peered out of my bedroom to the hallway where the door to the left led to the outside world. To the right I could see a glimpse of the living room. It was late, no staff in sight. This was the perfect opportunity for an escape. I had never even thought about escaping before. Well yes, I had dreamt of the outside, but never had I seriously thought about the necessities and the plans for a real escape. Where would I start? What could I expect and what would I need out there?
I pulled out the bottom drawer on the dresser and took out my small, but well-organised black bag with many compartments and zippers. It was a gift I had been given by the kitchen staff at Christmas to keep cookie cutters. That’s what the patch I had placed in the bag described, since I knew my memory wouldn’t recall the information. I poured out the cutters into the drawer without thinking about being quiet when they rattled out with a loud metallic sound as they collided with each other. Next, I quickly opened the drawer above to pack underwear, a top and a shirt. In the bathroom I grabbed the towel, but hung it back on the hook and assessing that I just needed the essentials.
In the mirror over the washbasin I saw the dark shadows under my tired eyes and the greyish skin. It made me shiver and frown. The blonde long hair was bushy from lying on the pillow, which I solved quickly with a brush and by pulling it into a ponytail. Was it worth any attempt to make myself beautiful for what awaited me outside the clinic? I had never been interested in my appearance and it seemed like an act to try to show otherwise.
After debating with myself, I brushed mascara over my long eyelashes, which gave life to my blue-violet eyes, brushed my teeth and quickly stuffed the three articles in the bag. No lipstick. I had never been much for it. My pale lips could show I wasn’t vain and besides I would lick it off within ten minutes. Where would I be in ten minutes? I would probably still be in the ward. Now when I was reasonably decent I began to reflect on something that I had never had to worry about. Where would I get money? I had never had any reason to need money before. I could always improvise on the way out, look through other people’s belongings. No, that didn’t feel right. Maybe it was best to stay in the ward? I shook off those doubts as soon as possible. I couldn’t stay here forever. I had to escape tonight. The idea that I would forget that Vic had said farewell tonight and die of grief when he never came back was too daunting.
Out in the kitchen I rooted through every drawer, opened every cupboard, every jar and eventually saw the white piggy bank where the staff gathered snack money. It wouldn’t be much, but it was a start. The piggy bank opened from the bottom and the contents poured out into my hand. I put the money into the compartment with the zipper on the front of the bag. Then I threw some biscuits into the slot on the side with a Velcro fastening. Now I was ready for the world, yes…or almost. I walked with firm steps back to my room, but stayed in the doorway. The little purple teddy bear that had been my friend and comforted me throughout all my days sat on the bed and looked straight at me. The fabric was old and its padding had begun to seep out through its left foot. To others he might not seem like anything special; two embroidered black round eyes, a nose and a mouth. But I was an adult now. I couldn’t drag a soft toy with me on my quest. I tried to convince myself that he barely fitted in the bag.
The deep sigh was ambiguous this time, as I really would miss my secure ward. The ward had given me a roof over my head although I didn’t consider it to be a home. My gaze wandered around the room one last time to try to understand the seriousness of my choice. Something wanted to pull me back into the room, ‘stay in your safe bed’, but I had made up my mind and my stubbornness couldn’t be defeated. I continued past my room and to the door that would lead me to freedom. My index finger pressed gently but firmly on the letter U followed by the numbers 235. A green light was lit on the panel and I could hear a click. My frail hands pressed down on the handle, whilst I gave the heavy door a gentle shove with my hip, opening it until my head could just about fit through the gap. I don’t think my heart stopped, but the fear was significantly stronger than expected. At this point I had crossed the forbidden line that would surely result in consequences. I peered into the room and around the door, to see if the coast was clear. No one was around. A big sigh of relief escaped my lungs after having held my breath since I left my room. Holding my breath for a long time was something I mastered well. It was almost as if I didn’t even have to breathe at all. I always wondered if something was wrong with me and had therefore chosen to withhold that information about me from Vic. Besides I was too modest to say something positive about myself and always tried to hate myself, preparing my useless life for a death that never came. But Vic had always been there to point out the opposite. No, I shouldn’t think of Vic now. It saddened me and I needed all my strength for my mission. I took another deep breath to try to sneak across the floor as quietly as possible.
This room was only a little bigger than mine. There was room for two desks, and in the middle of the room there was a workbench with drawings. It was strange that there were only two desks when there were three people. As I took another breath I could smell Vic’s aftershave and it unexpectedly made me halt in my step. I never knew he was so close to me all the time. On the wall there were numerous buttons and dials in different colours that surrounded a glass window above the desks. When I looked through the window, I saw an almost empty room with just one chair in the centre. The chair was similar to a dentist’s chair and could be adjusted into sitting or lying positions. It was linked to various tubes and electrical wires, which increased my curiosity about what each button on the wall controlled. I sat down at the right-hand desk. This didn’t look dangerous at all, as my dad wanted it so seem. Thoughts on why I wasn’t involved in the research made me upset. Even though I was sick, I could be helpful by just pushing the buttons. ‘This isn’t a place for a little girl’, echoed in my head again. Shaking my head, I took a new breath and looked around amongst the objects on the desktop. It was clinical; not a pen was out of place and not a single family photo was displayed. The desk’s drawer was locked.
“There must be a key near,” I whispered quietly to myself even though I was alone in the room.
All I could see when I looked around were old books on a shelf whose titles I could read on the spine. There were books on Isaac Newton, the Great Fire of London, a Bible, one on the Universe and other scientific books that were related to the work at the Institute.
On the workbench were drawings and a notebook, also by Isaac Newton, which I discovered contained mostly calculations as I quickly flicked through it. Where had father got hold of it? It looked genuinely old, with the same handwriting as my father’s. With the same name and handwriting the scientist must have had a significant role in the family. Maybe if I read it, I would understand my father in a different way and maybe even get him to be proud of my newfound knowledge of science. That would make a change from the disappointed eyes he always showed me when he came to visit me at the ward.
The notebook was too large for the outer compartment and was therefore tucked into the large compartment in my bag. I would have to return the book one day. Father would be enraged if it disappeared and his temper was well known to be short and furious.
Where was I? I had lost my train of thought. Oh yes, the locked drawer under the desk. How could I open it? My thoughts turned to the key-like jewellery I had been given by Vic just hours earlier. It would be too simple if it were the key that belonged to that drawer, but would it really be so strange? He would never have guessed that I would find myself in the research room with access to the drawer. My fingers fumbled under my top to get it out. Hunching my body was necessary for the chain to reach the keyhole. Yes, but of course it was the right key. The handle to the drawer was solid, made of copper, which made the almost empty drawer easy to pull out gently.
I couldn’t have felt more baffled in the ensuing seconds. In the drawer there was only a silver pendant and a piece of paper with Vic’s poem. My eyes were drawn to the pendant that glistened in the corner. It was hard to break into and only opened from the extra force created when I pushed my nail into the groove between the two halves. There was a small picture on the inside that Vic had taken of us on a day we had baked a gingerbread house one Christmas years ago. It was strange that Vic wasn’t in the picture. I could have sworn that the picture was taken of the two of us. But with my poor memory I was quite pleased to remember the occasion at all. It had been a wonderful day; the sun had been shining after the frost had appeared on the ground during the night. All the workers and staff were on holiday and it had just been the two of us. When I closed my eyes I could remember the smell of gingerbread and how skilled Vic had been in decorating the house. Again, a tear fell down my cheek, but this time I didn’t even try to prevent it, as I was sure it wouldn’t be the last one of the evening.
Were these items the big secret that I wasn’t allowed to show to anyone? On reflection, there was probably nothing else I could have found that would have had more meaning to me. Perhaps money, but the poem was of sentimental value and had great significance to me even though I knew it by heart. There were some additional scribbles written on the paper and something in pencil that seemed to have been added after the poem. It read: ‘Captain Lalo’, with the numbers ‘0360724,0052075’ written below. How odd. Vic had never mentioned any captain or that he specifically liked the sea or even boats in his stories. Or had he?
The poem and charm were also placed in the large compartment in the bag next to the notebook. It was probably best that I closed and locked the drawer again so as to leave the room as I found it. No trace of my whereabouts should be left behind. I wondered if the key unlocked the other drawer too. The key was tested, but it wouldn’t open it.
I heard sounds from outside the room. The voices of two men approached rapidly. The sounds came from behind another door next to the one I had just come through. They were familiar; they belonged to my father and uncle. I couldn’t even imagine how angry father would be if he saw me here. Furthermore, my adventure would be over. ‘I have to return to my room’, I thought in panic, imagining the pain in my arm due to father’s steady grip that would give me more bruises. I had to collect myself. ‘Think quickly, where can I hide?’ My knees scraped the floor when I crawled under the workbench, where the overhanging papers, with all their scientific calculations, would help to conceal me.
The door opened and two pairs of legs stepped into the room. I bit my teeth hard, locking my jaw, as I always did when my nerves were too intense. My fear rose with the idea of father hearing my heart pound. The same heart that had led my impulsive actions to this moment where I found myself without a choice to return. It was as always stubborn and filled with a lust for adventure.
4 THE SUMMONING
Samuel didn’t waste his time on unnecessary words and disappeared out of sight to re-appear with his right arm around the younger man’s neck. His muscles were firmly wrapped around him in order to stop the blood from circulating and the air from entering into his lungs. The man grabbed hold of Samuel’s arm and quickly bent forward to throw Samuel’s lightweight body across the floor in a heap on top of the older man’s body, which was still lying unconscious. Samuel was quickly up on his feet again in a rocking Taido posture with knees bent, right hand at his waist and the left straightened in an attack-ready position in front of his face. He threw his body down towards the floor and with support from his right hand he shoved his legs against the young man’s knees, which made him fall on his back. Samuel could master the art of Taido, but was equally aware of his weight disadvantage. He only went into battles he could win with ease so as not to lose too much of his power reserves, which he needed to get out alive. He back-flipped towards the revolver that had been pushed aside against one of the house’s wooden pillars, tucked the revolver in his belt and vanished once more. He was gone again, a deadly wandering ghost. The man breathed nervously. He gazed around trying to protect himself against any new attacks. He randomly punched his hands in the air and screamed with fear that his life be spared. Samuel wanted to kill him to get rid of the threat and to put an end to having to flee all the time. He didn’t like the situation he was faced with and was considering all his options. He wasn’t violent by nature and didn’t like having to harm others. In this case, the ‘others’ was an evil villain who would deserve it, but he decided to spare him this time.
Time was limited and Samuel rushed up the stairs to the bathroom where he had his medicine cabinet. He took two painkillers and sat down on the toilet lid to ponder. He had to plan and didn’t have much time; the young man could come upstairs any second after noticing he wasn’t being attacked.
He had to decide what to pack and then escape. In the bedroom, next to the bathroom, he opened the storage closet and brought out his suitcase. It was new, bought just last year, and not an old and broken plaid one like most old men owned. However, he didn’t care in the least about fashion, architecture was his passion; in buildings he could see beauty.
The case had four wheels at the bottom so that it could be pulled upright, which made it easier to drag and relieved a lot of agony since he used to travel a lot. Samuel quickly packed clothing, hygiene items and jewels that he inherited from his father. ‘The map!’ he thought. He couldn’t forget the map. In the office he located the lever-arch file from the chaos on the floor, which the two men had created in their savage search for the map.
He flipped to the page containing the map between the two glued papers. He looked at the page that was old and thus a bit yellower than the others and shook his head thinking about how much misery this piece of paper had caused. With steady hands he carefully unstuck the paper from the page, went back to the bedroom and tucked it into the front pocket on his suitcase. The jacket he didn’t really need, it had always been used to blend in with the people of this world. Samuel’s blood was of icy temperature and was used to much colder climes. He thought of his home, and sighed with homesickness and exhaustion.
He refocused on his mission, now he just had to take a taxi to Heathrow airport. ‘No’, he thought, ‘not a taxi’. He didn’t want anyone to pick him up, jeopardising his mission by giving his description if someone asked. An Asian appearance wasn’t common in this neighbourhood and it would be easy to remember if anyone asked about him. Walking into the city and then moving on by train to the airport was safer. He was less likely to be recognised that way. Best to also use cash as much as possible so that no one could trace his journey.
He decided to withdraw cash one last time in the city, and then he would disappear. He considered purchasing a false passport. How long would that take? Would it be worthwhile so that he could be more confident that he wouldn’t be found again? Samuel made a few calls and got lucky at once. An old friend, who owed him a favour, knew someone who could do it in under an hour. It would take about forty-two minutes to walk to the city so that was perfect timing. Samuel had walked that path many times and he even knew a small detour that he could take which was calmer. On the plus side that route was also very beautiful with a small pond and some ducks that were always there come rain or shine. He zipped his bag shut and rushed into the kitchen. It was probably wise to bring along something to eat, as the journey could be long.
Samuel no longer flew first class since it reminded him too much of the affection he had always shown his wife. She had always been worth the best, just like she had always done her best to help others. Economy wasn’t as painful as the memories even though he ended up between two brothers who were on the brink of killing each other. Additionally, a snotty kid seated behind him would probably kick him in the back throughout the entire journey. He had wanted to swap seats with one of the brothers in order to sit at one end, but their mother from the seat in front, objected and said it was probably best that he sat in the middle so they wouldn’t kill each other.
“The journey isn’t that long. I am sure they won’t be any trouble as soon as the plane takes off,” the mother commented without expecting a response.
“It’s perfectly all right, I collect painful memories so I’m ecstatic now,” Samuel replied with a bitter sarcasm that made her turn around without a reply.
‘Great!’ Samuel thought, a mother who doesn’t want to sit in the middle and would let an elderly gentleman suffer a heart attack rather than take responsibility for her own children. Apparently, she was on ‘vacation’.
He picked up a stack of flyers and a magazine from the seat pocket and began to flip through them to see if there were any good deals. His nerves began to play on him and he examined the emergency booklet carefully. He had read it many times and knew it by heart, but was sure that he would still forget all about the procedures if a real emergency would occur. He didn’t like to be trapped in the air. Luckily, the two brothers fell asleep after forty minutes and Samuel could relax.
An hour later Samuel was awakened by a very pretty flight attendant who asked him to fold away his tray and raise the chair back into the upright position. The aircraft was about to land. Samuel wished he hadn’t been woken up; the landing was the worst part of the whole trip.
The old part of Malaga airport looked the same as it did seven years ago; the last time he was summoned to a reunion of the Honorary Knight Order. This time it was Samuel who had initiated the reunion to gather the members since he had found the map. Normally the gatherings occurred once every decade and were unpleasant events as most of the members didn’t agree over anything and never got along. The gathering comprised of six participants from completely diverse backgrounds. Michael was a skinny, humorous, medical man, with solutions that could confuse anyone. His long wavy brown hair matched his yellowish eyes and made him look more goofy than serious. He wanted to appear tough, but would run like a scared hare in a hunt if confronted on his attempted heroic deeds. Despite this, he had a kind heart that Samuel knew he could trust. For the most part, Samuel chose to spend his time with him, as he didn’t see eye to eye with Tarus who was like a nasty wolf in the dark night. Renowned for his desirability to women, Tarus had what might be called an ideal appearance. His skin was smooth, even under a microscope, with a golden tone and bronze brown hair. These colour characteristics would make one guess that his eyes were brown, but they had an unmistakable emerald green colour. He didn’t speak much and remained quiet throughout the summons except for occasional comments where he always managed to sound remarkable as he spoke. Samuel couldn’t remember if he had heard his voice more than a few times. The reason why he was in the Honorary Knight Order surpassed his understanding, but the Chameleon must have had a use for Tarus, otherwise he wouldn’t be a member. Hunter was the only one who had contact with the Chameleon through short phone calls. He was also the informal group leader, the one who kept everyone under some form of organised control. He was the obvious choice since he had authority in his voice and in addition, he held all the information provided by the Chameleon. He was strong, incredibly talented with weapons and there was no one who could outrun him. Leo was the one who always came up with the wisest remarks. He was the most protective and also the most understanding of the group’s various characters. Even though he was an exceptionally skilled magician, he used his spells with care and only in emergencies, as if he wanted nothing to do with what could be considered his dark side. This self-imposed restriction to the use of magic wasn’t only a policy for this world, where all of his powers were fading, but also for his home world where his powers would be unlimited. At first encounter one could immediately realise that he repressed many secrets that lay like a blanket of guilt and grief over his shoulders. They had an iron grip over him, suffocating his life’s passions. The last member was Kora, the only female, however she compensated being in the minority with her immense wisdom and experience. She was like the most precious crystal. A glance at her soul through her amber eyes captured you in a moment of enchantment that no one wished to be released from. She was an angel with the power to transform your deepest feelings into her own and use the knowledge of your exploited heart to her own advantage. Even though she was the most beautiful woman ever seen, Samuel had suffered a history of disputes with her and kept as far away as he could.
At the last Honorary Knight Order meeting the members had exchanged duties, which resulted in Samuel having to look for the map. This was the most difficult and dangerous task and had cost him his wife. He was relieved, therefore, to finally be able to call this mission complete after only seven years. Tarus’ uncooperative character had obviously and unfairly excluded him from the draw for the different duties and he solely had the responsibility to track the treasure: Susy. This was the only way he agreed to help. Given Tarus’ characteristics it was strange that he was given that assignment, but Samuel didn’t want to argue with Hunter who was also Susy’s closest relative in the group.
The long hallway to the end of the airport was full of passengers waiting for their bags and Samuel was glad to have his small case that allowed him to stroll past the crowd. He remembered the little kiosk on the right-hand side just before the exit to the buses, where seven years ago he had bought water and chewing gum. This time he bought a juice and a bag of peanuts that he hadn’t been allowed to buy on the plane because another passenger had been extremely allergic.
He went outside to the waiting area and sat down on a bench to wait for the bus to Malaga bus station. He tossed a handful of peanuts into his mouth and drank a little of the juice before the bus arrived. He stepped on board, paid and continued further back into the bus. The front seats were already occupied. The bus set off and Samuel got a clear view of the new part of the airport through the window. It was an extension of the old with a modern design, covered in tinted windows and was a very impressive structure.
It wasn’t long before Samuel arrived at the bus station where he walked up to till fourteen to buy a ticket to continue his trip to La Linea de la Concepción. It would take about three hours with all the stops to arrive in La Linea bus station. The stops were always in the same places: Fuengirola, Marbella and Estepona before La Linea. The trip wasn’t yet finished at this point for Samuel would need to cross the border to Gibraltar with the hope of not waving the fake passport too obviously at the immigration officers. Samuel wanted to remain anonymous. ‘The more invisible the better,’ he thought with irony and smiled given his ability to make himself invisible. His final destination was the Eliott Hotel located just one street off the centre of Gibraltar’s Main Street.
When Samuel arrived at the bus station, he began to walk towards the big majestic rock rising up from the southern tip of Europe as one of Hercules’ Pillars, which guarded the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. What an inspiring sight the illuminated cliff face of the towering rock was, he thought in awe. Legend has it that in the shadows can be seen a soldier standing to attention and a woman cradling her child. However, he couldn’t see it from the bus station and so briskly walked forward. These parts of Spain weren’t quite safe to wander around when it got dark.
Arriving at the border, his sore feet reminded him that the journey must soon come to an end. Samuel was nervous when passing through the border control, which would be carried out in two stages. Firstly, a member of the border police verified your passport, both on the Spanish and the British side, and secondly the customs officer on the British side checked if you had anything to declare for duty taxation. This meant that he had to go through various checks where he could be caught. However, he was pretty sure his perpetrators hadn’t followed him. He had taken precautions along the journey, changed course, passed through different doors and even changed his shirt at the men’s room in the airport whilst he had waited for his departure.
His heart started pounding inside his chest as he approached the Spanish policemen. They were two young men who stood inattentively talking to each other. Samuel began to slow down his pace to avoid looking guilty, but eventually he had to pass them at a normal walking pace for the policemen didn’t even acknowledge that he was there. Had they even seen him? He was quite sure he hadn’t made himself invisible. He continued with the same expectation on the British side. Even they waved him through when they saw the front of his European passport. He could have been anyone and the passport could have belonged to a woman. Of the many things that were wrong with this world, this was one that Samuel wouldn’t complain about now. His luck continued when white taxis were lined up, waiting around for customers just a few metres away after the border. He jumped into the first available taxi and spoke up his request loud and clear.
“Eliott Hotel, please!”
Upon arrival at the hotel Samuel paid the taxi driver and gave a small tip even though he didn’t deserve it. The man had been driving like a car thief whilst talking on the mobile phone in a mixture of English and Spanish and occasionally waved his arms around to indicate his dissatisfaction at the other motorists who remained a little too close to his lane. He quickly proceeded to the reception area to be allocated his room. It had been a long day and a long journey. The paracetamol had long since stopped being effective and he felt pain in both his body and soul.
In the hotel room he unpacked his pyjamas and toothbrush. He brushed his teeth, but threw the pyjamas aside. It was way too hot to wear them. It was strange of him to have even packed them. Harriett always wanted him to be decent and he would never have complained in her presence. At this moment he wanted nothing more than to curl up and feel the cool, freshly laundered hotel sheets against his skin. It wouldn’t take long before he would fall asleep.
Samuel woke up a moment later due to a gentle knocking on the door. His whole body froze from fear wondering who could be on the other side. Looking toward the digital alarm clock he noted that his sleep hadn’t lasted longer than thirty minutes. It couldn’t be any of the Order members. They would never jeopardise being seen together except at the agreed location. The meeting wasn’t until tomorrow night. This visit probably had no connection to the summoning.
5 UNEXPLAINED RESCUE
Would I dare to breathe? Would I try to crawl out through the door they came from? To stay under the workbench still seemed the safest, but it would reach the point when I must get out. Frankly, I was terrified of what awaited me on the outside world. Father hadn’t yet discovered my escape; I would have felt his disappointment shoot straight through my soul adding to my feeling of unworthiness. Why was I such a coward? Was the fear based on the uncertainty over how long my health would keep me on my legs? I only hoped that my memory held up until I was in a safe place. My memory failed me frequently and there were no patterns that suggested if it was caused by a problem with the short or long-term memory. It was selective, as if someone viewed me from above and chose which moments would give the most amusing outcome or perhaps it was like a random lottery. I had always remembered father, uncle and Vic, but not the nurses on the ward who must have known me for as long as my family. Some news reports on TV may stay with me for a year, others only for hours. Days and dates were worse. It was as if numbers didn’t stick at all. Perhaps it was down to my photographic memory because sometimes I remembered faces, but not the names and the prick of the needles, but not the time they had been carried out.
From under the desk, I could see the two men adjusting some dials and standing to watch with tense interest through the glass window into the small room.
“Do you believe me now Ben? Have I managed to prove my theory to you after so many years?”
I could hear my father speak.
“Well, it suggests a certain success, I must say,” followed my uncle’s voice in recognition.
The topic of this conversation wasn’t interesting to me because I wouldn’t understand what they were talking about anyway. I came back to my senses trying to form an escape plan until the next strange comment broke my concentration.
“I would never have thought that it would have taken four hundred years to see the first glimpses of hope,” muttered uncle’s low voice, “and many have paid a high price for our greed,” he continued in the same low plaintive tone.
“No, don’t start on this issue again, you are a scientist and you understand that sometimes a few have to suffer in order for the majority to prosper,” father explained with a disconcerting satisfaction, which I had never heard before and which increased my level of fear toward my mission.
“What is missing in the formula? Could it be the speed at which Susy’s blood collides? Is the blood not hot enough? Or has it to do with gravity?” he continued to debate, more to himself than to uncle Ben.
“Maybe the power stone is a contributing factor, which must be near the blood for it to be activated?”
Now it was my uncle’s turn to try to contribute to the research.
“Stupid, don’t you think I understand that! But you know very well that Samuel disappeared with the yellow stone as we returned to Earth through the black hole portal,” father said disrespectfully, slating off his little brother to clarify that his suggestion was of no help.
So they were still trying to find a cure for my disease, or what was the research they had accomplished? What effect from a stone was it that they wanted? And what did they mean when talking about returning to Earth’?
During my reflections on what had been said, I realised that I now had an opportunity. They had turned their backs to the door leading to the outside, which was automatically closing at a slow pace. Quickly, but silently, I must make my way out. I wish I didn’t have to crawl on my knees. They felt sore and the floor was cold. The first metres were the hardest, but just a little bit further and the room would be left behind. It was nice to get back on my feet. Yikes! A long corridor of stairs that led up to a closed door about twenty metres away! Stairs, they would make my knees just as sore as the cross-trainer in the gym and my physique wasn’t in the best condition. I felt the agony in every step and I couldn’t be happier when I saw the final step behind me.
The door was locked, but fortunately could be opened from my side. As I closed the door behind me I noticed a sign that read, ‘Restricted Access’. I turned to view the room I had entered and felt stunned by its grandiosity. The room was massive, with wires, pipes and tubes, high up in the air that could be reached by a yellow metal staircase. It was clinically clean, with an array of buttons lit in green and red and a dull buzzing sound that could be distinguished from the cries I usually heard in my head. What I saw in front of me was one of the engine rooms to the Large Hadron Collider. That was an easy guess since Vic had told me about this contraption. What baffled me was the fact that I had thought it was located in another building. I was in a private hospital on CERN’s premises and would expect there to be other wards with other ill patients. Was I the only patient here? Was I even in a ward? Did the rest of the staff here even know I existed? It surely didn’t seem so. Gathering from the ‘Restricted Access’ sign, it seemed like I had been a lab rat trapped for research, tucked away as a national security case. I could understand that I was useless when so ill, but I would have thought that father could have found another use for me than this horrible fate.
This realisation of my status increased my fear to another level and I understood the importance of getting out quickly and undetected. There was no one around. There should be emergency signs with ‘Exit’ in white text in green boxes that would indicate the direction of my next move. Drafts of air stroked my cheek on the right-hand side and there…there was a large double glass door with white text printed onto the reverse, ‘Entrance’. It was even better than the emergency exit sign and would lead straight out to the front of the building.
My legs carried me amazingly quickly and sturdily, considering the spaghetti sensation I felt after climbing the stairs, across the floor without stumbling. The doors opened automatically as I approached them. Now I stood on the outside of the building and was able to feel, for the first time in my life, fresh air. It felt like…as…I didn’t really know what, but it was wonderful. It was fresh, like when you open the refrigerator, though not with the smell of old food or onions. My lungs had probably never taken a deeper breath and they enjoyed it. I wished that time would stop at this moment, to stand quietly for hours, so I could embrace the soft breeze against my cheeks. But there wasn’t time and I had to run far away before my father discovered that I was missing.
As my eyes wandered from the glass doors, I noticed the car park. Two white vans were parked in the closest possible spaces right in front of the building, on the other side of the railing. I didn’t even attempt to memorise the number plates, I wouldn’t remember them even if they were to save my life. A large opening in the fence towards the road was just about visible in the evening gloom a few metres away. It could be reached via a sidewalk along the building wall to my left. A high pitched sound suddenly woke me out of my observations. It was such a loud noise…it was the siren. People appeared and began to panic amongst themselves behind the glass doors, which could clearly be seen, as the light inside was very strong against the dusk outside. My heart began to gallop, as they must have noticed my absence. I had never felt so scared yet excited at the same time. Would I only get this far? Would they catch me and take me back, or would I even return voluntarily? But people didn’t say I was stubborn for no reason. The sidewalk towards the fence seemed a lot further now, as the circumstances had become more hectic.
My own dampened scream startled me when a figure from behind the corner of the building grabbed me around my stomach with a strong left arm and a cloth covered my mouth. My feet left the ground, as the man was much taller than I. A stench of burnt leather and blood from his hand began to sting in my nose through the cloth. No chemicals appeared to be involved, only heat pressing on my skin. A horrifying yet calm gaze met my eyes when I looked into the perpetrator’s own. We stood silent for seconds that seemed like minutes. His intense eyes looked deep into mine after having put me back down on the ground. His eyes…they were…they were searching for something in mine. But what were they looking for, recognition…an acknowledgement? He moved his hand slowly from my mouth to his own with a gesture to indicate that he commanded continued silence.
“Get in the car,” he hissed between his teeth and nodded towards the car parked behind him, hidden along the side of the building. I had a growing feeling that I should recognise this person, whose familiarity didn’t match the fear I felt about the situation. He interacted with me as if he had known me all his life, as if he thought I knew him. Was he one of the many nurses from the ward? My memory couldn’t have been so cruel. If I had seen this perfect creature before I must have remembered him, or at least remembered the feeling my heart created as the warmth was burning holes in my chest. I stood paralysed by his appearance. It was stupid of me to stare and he must have noticed my astonishment. He grabbed hold of my hand when he had clearly understood that I was both amazed and confused by a stranger with such hostile body language, yet with a preserved beauty that made the Earth stand still. Again his grip affirmed that he had taken my hand many times before. The steady grip wasn’t too hard to be a forced grip or too soft as the shyness of strangers who had just met. His hand was hot, near to scorching. My reflexes took control to retract my hand, which released me from his grip. He looked angrily at me with disapproval as he went around the car to the driver’s side. “How do you want it? Are you in or out?”
More words came hissing from the perfect white teeth. They came from a mouth that seemed to not have given many smiles, but if they happened, they would melt hearts. How could I trust someone I just met and why would I want to go with him? No, it seemed strange. The gap in the fence was within reach, so I could probably make it. It was what everything was all about tonight. The man must have seen me looking toward the gap.
“No, you are coming in the car, you have no choice, there’s no way I’m letting you out of my sight now. Choose. Jump in voluntarily or cause a scene that can put both you and I in danger,” he threatened with a stressed voice, which mumbled at speed.
The stressed threat sounded softer and more pleading than his first commands even though he meant it to be robust and delivered with a nonchalant authority, as he had pulled his hands through the bushy bronze hair that had covered his eyes. I reflected on my choices. I seemed to have been left with two options: either I followed the stranger, or returned to the ward. The decision came quicker than my usual reluctance to make decisions since the cool June evening breeze was biting my skin. The temperature didn’t at all seem to bother the stranger as he wore just a black t-shirt, but it made me act quickly. The car looked brand new, a black SUV with tinted windows and was not exactly discreet enough for a car chase, which I guessed was what was probably about to take place. Not that I was an expert on cars, but it looked stable and fast. I would have been more scared if the last hour hadn’t had a positive impact on my health. I felt much stronger than usual. It must have been the adrenaline. The silver metal handle was cold against my hand when I opened the door to the passenger’s side.
The moment the car drove around the corner towards the gates I could see father rushing out from the building’s entrance doors. The troubled eyes along with the stressed body language appeared in slow motion and all I could hear was my name screamed in panic.
“Susy, Susy…Susy, come back!”
But it was more than a panic. There was something else in his voice, something I couldn’t put my finger on. Given that he was seeing his only daughter driven away in a car with a stranger, indicating that he might never see her again, I could have sworn he looked at me like a lost possession. I saw greed. ‘Susy, come back’, his voice echoed in my head as a guilt punishable by death tore at my conscience. The mystical creature next to me drove the car so fast that it skidded on the gravel path through the gates, before I even had time to react to my father’s cries. There was silence in the car for several minutes whilst I watched buildings fly by outside the car windows. On the left-hand side was a large, round, ball-like building at the end of a long road lined with buildings on both sides, after it we made a right turn at a roundabout.
“Are you alright?” the man asked trying to show compassion, but he didn’t sound particularly credible and spoke rather out of duty.
“I have no idea,” my voice barely whispered.
A few hours ago I saw Vic’s face peeking into my room at the ward giving me a smile and now I was in a stranger’s car on my first ever time outside the research institute. To think of it, it was the first time I was near a male of my own age, except for Vic, which could be either harmless or extremely dangerous. Was this how it felt to sit inches away from another man’s flesh and blood, or was this feeling due to him being the most beautiful creature I had ever beheld? His body was faultless. There wasn’t a male model that could measure up to him, neither in physique nor complexion and that’s considering that the models on TV weren’t even real. Well, of course they were real, but they had lighting that was set up at a favourable angle and stylists who took care of every detail. This man’s appearance was natural. The muscles were clearly visible through his tight t-shirt and there was no makeup on his face that I could detect. His hair…well, it was drenched in hair gel, but still had more than a supernaturally perfect pose. His three-day stubble was sensual and even his arms manoeuvred the car with a confident precision. He projected a calm, secure control with superiority. “Yes, I’m fine,” I replied slightly louder to the same question so as to not seem inferior to him.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked again to make sure that I meant my words, and this time with sincere concern.
He took a new grip of the wheel since the leather had begun to give off smoke from the heat of his hands. It was the first time I spotted the cuts on his right hand. The blood seeped out of three straight wounds. It was fresh and hadn’t coagulated fully. The blood seemed bubbly, as if it had boiled from the inside out. I dared not even ask why he had them and assumed my concern would be in vain because he didn’t seem to be the type who would provide any answers.
“You have a small bag of crisps in the glove compartment, you need salt and it’s your favou…” he stopped his sentence without completing it.
He must have realised that I was staring his way. The heat that rose inside me all the way to my ears embarrassed me. He must have seen me blush. I reached into the glove compartment, not because I was hungry, but because I felt weak and salt had always increased my ability to concentrate. The crisps were cheese and onion flavour, my favourite flavour, which the stranger seemed to have been aware of. This situation felt completely surreal.
“Are you going to hurt me?” I asked slowly, immediately regretting my question since I didn’t really want to know the answer.
Either he would hurt me and then it would already be too late, or he was helping me and then the question was actually another. “Who are you? Where are you taking me? How did you…?” my questions fumbled up in one breath, which seemed to blend together and didn’t wait for answer to the previous questions.
“Time will tell, Tarus, home, the Chameleon,” he replied nonchalantly rather than with the turmoil of his previous appeal.
He seemed irritated and had not appreciated the quiz. It was as if I had no right to ask. I remained silent, pondering over the answers he had given. They didn’t give me more clarity at all about the situation. It didn’t help that I had also forgotten the order in which I had asked the questions. But what I gathered was that his name was either Tarus or the Chameleon. Right then I wished he were a little more willing to give explanations. If his agenda was to help me, he could at least have been more talkative.
“My name is Susy.”
I tried some small talk and hoped it would catch on for him to return the same information about himself. To confirm his name, for example, would have been a good start.
Those were the only few words I got in response as he kept his eyes focused on the road. I couldn’t understand why, but he sounded disappointed that I had introduced myself, maybe even angry. But it was also clear that he didn’t want to provide any information. If I wanted to know anything, I would have to drag it out of him. He glanced nervously at the side mirror and back again to the rear-view mirror.
From a sharp turn three streets behind came a white van at full pelt with flashing orange lights and sirens. We turned abruptly down a side street to the left and took a turn to the right to proceed in parallel with the main street. We were being followed. It must be my father who had come to save me. Or would he really save me? I would be locked up in the ward again. Even if father wouldn’t punish me for this defiant adventure, I still didn’t want to spend any more time in the hospital. No, I’d rather die than be taken back to the same bed with the same faded wallpaper and the same pitiful eyes on the nurses’ faces.
I kept a firm grip on the handle above the car door and my left hand clenched onto the edge of the seat to keep me in place as the car was thrown between the traffic. The road signs that flew past had one common denominator, ‘Airport’.
“Airport! Are you taking me to the airport and out of the country?” my voice stammered in haste at the reluctance toward that thought.
I hadn’t planned every possible outcome for this evening, but even if I had, it would never have involved leaving the country. The idea had at most been to be on the run for a few days and then return to the ward to prove to father that he could trust me on the outside once in a while. If the escape proved successful, perhaps it could bring some other perks, but leaving the country was petrifying. Could he really take me out of the country? I had no passport and no money!
“You were never good at trusting me, ironic that this time you have no choice.”
The man’s sentence was brief and mysterious, which appeared to be a consistent behaviour. Now I felt really uneasy. Did this mean that I had known this man previously? Who was he? Furthermore he stated that I couldn’t trust him in the past, but also apprised that I had no choice. Was I kidnapped or rescued? The situation was absurd.
The car sped through the darkness and towards a sign on the roof of a large building that started to become visible from the car, ‘Crowne Plaza’. The car didn’t change direction and went straight to the hotel’s private car park. Once in the car park and a few metres past the entrance, a garage door opened for the car to enter, almost as if it were programmed to do so. The door closed behind us and it became pitch black. The man opened the driver’s door, which emitted a dim light and stepped out.
“How silly of me to think that we were going to the airport,” I admitted as I stepped out of the car and slammed the door behind me.
“Not tonight,” he retorted, smiling arrogantly and handed over a passport that he retrieved from the side compartment of the car door.
I flicked open the passport and, sure enough, there were all my details. My blue eyes, though they were actually leaning towards violet, my height, name and Swiss nationality. There was a picture that looked exactly like me, but I had never taken the photo. A lump formed in my throat. Whoever it was that I had in front of me, he was clever. He knew what he was doing and made no mistakes. I was a puppet in his play, a hamster in a wheel that could only wait for the next instruction.
“Shouldn’t I have a fake name since you are kidnapping me?” I questioned, keeping my chin high to not seem scared and to try to gain respect by pointing out his mistake.
A brief release of air left his lungs from what seemed to be amusement.
“Kidnapping you say?” he asked me and I could tell he felt hurt by my choice of word.
Why did I get the feeling that his good and bad demons struggled to remain under control, a ticking bomb of emotions that could explode at any second?
“Aye, kidnapping I say.”
I verified the status I had given this mission with a stern pirate-like voice that I had learned from Vic’s storytelling.
“I would never…you are free to go if you please,” he declared and pointed at the garage door.
I viewed the solid door and realised I would have to bring out my big boots to be able to push it open. As my hand gripped firmly around the metal handle at the bottom of the door I saw him squat down and he stared at me with his suffering gaze, which made me fall to my knees in surrender. This time he didn’t touch me.
“I can’t let you go yet,” he whispered softly with regret and pointed to a door on the other side of the garage before he himself started to make his way there.
The man’s confusing actions didn’t help make my understanding of the situation any clearer.
“A fake name is pointless. Isaac would never report you as kidnapped since you don’t exist,” he finally answered and without further explanation he opened the door from the garage leading to the hotel’s reception.
The two young women, who sat in the rear rooms, came quickly rushing towards us with excited smiles and only had eyes for my mysterious kidnapper.
“Good evening Tarus, what adventure have you been up to this night?” inquired the older of the two, holding on to a key in her right hand.
Unusually, the key was a traditional key instead of the plastic card that had replaced them as the technological era had had its success. The other girl stood right behind the older woman’s back where I could only catch a glimpse of her black chaotically styled hair. When she approached, I had registered that she must have been one of those eccentric Goths with ‘the meaning of life’ as the focus of most of her discussions. The numerous piercings couldn’t be counted during the brief moment I saw her, but I managed to count up to seven around her ears, mouth and nose alone. Her clothes weren’t much to evaluate, as every item was black. In the next second, the first woman saw me and I could see her eyes widen and her smile turned to a sour frown. It didn’t suit her blonde soft face at all. It made her look like a spoilt ‘Daddy’s Girl’, used to getting her own way. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail, which revealed all her pearl jewellery that appeared on both ears and around her neck. I found it hard to concentrate on the girls’ behaviour, even though it amused me somewhat, because I was excited to finally know my culprit’s name. Tarus was his name. Furthermore it was difficult to determine what relationship he had with the blonde receptionist as he gave her a charming glare that made her smile from one ear to the other, as he held his hand up over the till for her to drop the key in it. Was I jealous? No. That was a ridiculous thought. I didn’t know him, yet it felt like he was MY kidnapper. It was he and I. When I looked at him I surely felt overwhelmed with…something. And it wasn’t he who flirted with the receptionist. He couldn’t help his adorable eyes and my gut instinct made me believe that he really was indifferent toward the woman and simply wanted to claim the key.
Without a word he looked at me for reassurance and departed from the reception area along a corridor, with me shoved in front of him. We reached the lift and called it down. As a gentleman, he showed me into the lift before himself with a polite hand gesture and pressed the button for the sixth floor, which I noted was the highest floor.
“An old flame?” I asked playfully, not knowing if I was talking outside the boundaries of the social code that existed between us, and hoping again that it would lead to some small talk. Besides, I was probably a little bit jealous, even though I didn’t want to admit it to myself. I had by then concluded that this man was actually trying to help me in some twisted way since he had made no attempt to hurt me yet. Also, if I trusted my instincts, I could feel an electric tension between us, indicating that we shared deeper feelings.
“No,” he answered sharply and quickly, so as not to invite any more questions about the mystery man’s love life.
He looked at me and waited for my reaction to his response and maybe even assurance that I had believed he was telling the truth. He stood silent, so I remained quiet until we saw the lift door open. He held out his hand in a gesture to show that ladies went first. I stepped out and waited for him to catch up with me. We walked side by side along the carpeted hallway towards a dark brown wooden door numbered 607. He opened it with the old key and a firm push in order to let me lead the way again.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” he greeted this time with a social acknowledgment suggestive of an invitation to converse.
I didn’t know if I should accept the invitation and risk being fooled were he to switch over to his arrogant self again. His mood swings had been unsettling so far.
The room was simple, but full of scattered personal items. I got the impression that he wasn’t expecting company on this particular evening.
“How long have you stayed here?” I decided to ask, to open the conversation with something general.
Surely that question couldn’t be offensive.
“For twenty-five years,” he replied in the same short spirit.
“But then you must be…”
My tone descended because of my mathematical calculations, rather than through surprise that the answer was in years and not days.
“Older than you assumed? Believe me, don’t worry your pretty head with that calculation,” he said quietly with the same mysterious voice as always, as he tossed his key onto the mahogany desk beneath the window.
The hotel room was furnished the same way as I had seen on TV, however, as for my expectations for this evening, there was only one bed.
“It is true then, you can’t remember anything that happened prior to twenty-five years ago?” he continued with a grievance in his voice and the answer was already expected, so I gave him no answer.
His question was outrageous. I didn’t even remember what happened last year let alone what happened twenty-five years ago and besides, I would only have been about four years old, so instead of answering his silly question I responded with a counter-question.
“What is it you want me to remember?” I murmured in an attempt to make my voice interesting and mysterious to match his.
Unexpectedly, he sat quietly for some seconds, determining a good answer. Then out of a sudden he stood up abruptly. He seemed in anger again and stormed into the small bathroom to carry out his needs without closing the door. Embarrassed, I tried to look the other way and sat down on the edge of the bed with my back to the door. The strident sound in my ears had resumed after having been absent since the sirens at the institute. The crisps had maintained my concentration, but my bones had become sore again. I hadn’t taken my evening medication and so I retrieved the bag from the office chair. Tarus had dumped it there after having carried it from the car.
“How do you suggest we sleep? If we sleep opposite each other I want my head furthest away from the door!” I demanded, trying to sound tough and in control to not be taken for helpless prey.
“You need not worry. There is a full moon tonight so you won’t be able to sleep anyway. I suggest that you continue to take your anticoagulation medication until we meet up with the other members of the Order, and have a soothing bath,” he ordered back irritably, impatient that he had to tell me how the world best suited me.
But he was right again, or I thought so anyway. I sometimes had trouble sleeping, but hadn’t understood until then that it must have been due to the moon, which the stranger had just pointed out. Keep taking my medication? I had never contemplated stopping, was it not vital for me? Vic was the only one who had the authority to prescribe more of the drugs when they ran out and had given me a month’s supply before he left me. I hadn’t previously had any idea what effect the drugs had. How would the anticoagulation help my pain? It sounded rather as if it would have the opposite effect.
Before I decided to acknowledge the stranger’s advice to take a bath, I heard Tarus starting to run the water in the bathtub. His perfect face, followed by his bare torso, appeared from the bathroom doorway as a supernatural being with no reason for improvement. My eyes tried their best to look down at the floor whilst he wiped his hands on his t-shirt as he approached me.
“The bathroom is yours whenever you want,” he gestured, towards the door.
It was impossible to hesitate following his instructions and it was no use trying to protest. Inside the bathroom he had folded what must have been one of his t-shirts on the toilet lid.
“You can use my toothbr…” growled his half sentence from the bedroom before he quickly came in with a purple toothbrush and placed it on top of the t-shirt before he disappeared again.
My heart felt sore. Purple was my favourite colour. His next gesture was even odder; a lit candle gleamed on the edge of the bathtub and gave a romantic glow. I had seen another tea-light holder on the desk and ran out to retrieve it. With two candles, I could turn the light off and still see clearly as they shimmered.
“May I borrow your lighter?” I asked politely without having to explain myself when he saw that I was holding the candle in my hand.
“No,” he replied briefly as always.
He approached me with his majestic body, where even a quick peek would clearly catch sight of the eight-pack on his sandy toned skin. He stood close enough for me to smell his cologne that infectiously appealed to my senses. I closed my eyes to inhale his scent and felt paralysed. I held my breath, not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t control myself otherwise. I felt his hot hand against mine when he took the glass holder for the tea-light. I opened my eyes and focused them onto his. I had forgotten his beautiful emerald green eyes. Without breaking his gaze from mine, he wrapped his fingers over the wick and at the same moment a flame arose from nowhere. It wasn’t normal, it wasn’t human. Who was he? This explained his burning body heat. This whole evening had been so unreal, so insane that I couldn’t bring myself to be either scared or impressed. I had a feeling in my gut that I couldn’t abandon. I had to know the truth.
“Who are you…really? Have you and I…I mean…are we special to each other?” I asked without blushing, exposing my soul in a serious tone.
I could feel my eyebrows folded down over my eyes into a V-shape in intense concentration. My eyes tried to penetrate even deeper into his. His answer took far too long. His eyes still locked onto mine. The time had frozen to a standstill, not a movement could be detected, not a sound.
“No,” he answered after thorough consideration, so low that I almost couldn’t hear him. “I am here out of duty to take you home safely, that’s all.”
The sound was like a broken record on repeat, as if that was his programmed answer. He grabbed his phone from the desktop in a hurry and before I had time to say a word, he was out in the hallway with the door slammed behind him. His mood swings didn’t distress me anymore, but I felt hurt by his answer. I turned to go back into the bathroom, but remained next to the door when I heard Tarus’ voice in the corridor. He spoke with someone on the phone. He spoke softly, but my hearing had improved considerably since the morning and I could hear most of the conversation.
“We are at the safe house. For when has the Order been summoned?” he asked eagerly and seemed in a hurry to get rid of me. “Someone needs to release me because I don’t know how long I can be close to her without burning something to the ground.”
The voice was more protective now. He wanted to complete his duty without mistakes. “Something isn’t right. She is weak and has forgotten everything that happened more than twenty-five years ago and yet my strength has increased since she came near me. I think she must wear one of the power stones.”
The confidence in his voice was apparent. He was talking to someone he could trust with his life. His superior must either have great power or a lot of money to control a man like Tarus, a man who didn’t seem to take orders from anyone if it wasn’t important.
“No, I haven’t forgotten my duty Hunter,” he replied irritably and then there was silence.
I hurried in and closed the door so as not to reveal that I had overheard in case he were to suddenly come back. The bath was relaxing and the soreness in my joints was numbed. He had been right again. Was there really a part of me that I had forgotten? Who was I and why couldn’t I remember anything?
After the bath, I dressed in Tarus’ t-shirt. It was pure black and way too big on me, which made it hang to my knees. I brushed my teeth thoroughly and combed my fingers through my hair. I observed myself in the mirror. I looked tired and I freed my hair from my ears to appear more attractive. Soon I would be on the other side of the door, my body near his. I myself was surprised by my desire toward this stranger. I wanted nothing more than to feel his hot skin against mine. I must pull myself together and I had already been stupid enough to ask about our relationship and received an embarrassing answer. He had already confirmed that we didn’t share a romantic relationship with each other.
“What on earth are you doing with my bag?” I hissed abruptly after leaving the bathroom and discovering Tarus rummaging through it.
In a rage he showed me Vic’s poem and quickly placed it on the desktop so that it wouldn’t catch fire. My heart started beating heavily in my chest when my thoughts recalled my dear cousin, but I was still furious that Tarus had taken the liberty to go through my belongings.
“What is this?” he fumed, even more frustrated than I had seen him until that point. “You have one of the three parts to the map. It has been missing ever since you were brought to Earth. Have you possessed it all this time without saying anything?” he continued with a louder and more furious voice, and he hadn’t finished. “You have a power stone as well, isn’t it so? I know because I can feel it!”
He was yelling now. My despair at his sudden aggression struck hard at my confidence and my breathing grew quicker until I almost burst out into tears.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s a poem I’ve been giv…”
I had to stop myself. Firstly, I hadn’t really been given the poem, it was stolen from Vic’s desk drawer, and secondly, I felt my tears about to emerge. I felt dizzy with misery and had to sit down on the bed. This time, with my back to Tarus, staring at the beige wall. I focused all my strength, but the tears trickled like a river down my cheeks. It had been too much to digest in one day and I had to cover my hands over my face to hide my ugly grin. Tarus said nothing more and sat down quietly on the opposite side of the bed. I wished I could hear his thoughts, or have eyes in the back of my head to see if he would come up with further attacks. Instead, I felt that he threw something small and soft behind my back. His footsteps firmly approached me, but passed straight by, continuing to exit the room.
“You shouldn’t sit in the moonlight,” he commented briefly and they were the last ashamed words I heard before he was out of sight.
The moonlight had found its way through the window and shone on my skin portraying the rainbow’s colours, as reflected in a calm lake. Why would it be dangerous for me? It was the only thing about me that was beautiful. I wriggled and turned my hands to behold how the colours played over my arms, the indigo more predominant than the others this time. I was angry with Tarus too and didn’t want to take his advice.
Then I remembered that he had thrown something behind me and I turned around to see what it was. It would have been too light to be my bag, but too heavy to be the poem. The sight of what it was made my tears resume, now more than ever. It was Novus, my sweet, cuddly little purple teddy bear. It was the best consolation I was able to imagine. It was my own dear friend with the torn left foot and the same black eyes. I knew it would have made me annoyed that I couldn’t remember who had given it to me, but right now it didn’t matter. How Tarus had got hold of it was a mystery since I had left it on my bed. But like everything else, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to hug it and feel the old fabric softly sweeping against my cheeks.
After the first overwhelming moments with my old friend, I couldn’t comprehend my feelings for Tarus who was being erratic. He had a hard façade, however he was still caring for me in a peculiar way. Since I had met him earlier this very night I had felt much stronger and I could think more clearly now than ever. I held the bear’s stomach tightly whilst I stroked the fabric. He must have punched a hole through the window to my room in order to retrieve the teddy bear. It could have been the reason that his right hand had bloody scratches, but why? Had he really been looking for something else in my room? I couldn’t bring myself to think about the possibilities. If only I could remember. What had happened all those years ago? What was the reason behind this unexplained rescue?
Want to know what I am up to? Follow me and you will see!