The cold wind bit at my cheeks, the kind of cold that sucked the life out of the air. The dark trees hung low in a canopy above the main avenues, leaving behind fallen branches scattered along the sidewalks. Heavy gray clouds covered the early morning sun; the sun rarely showed her face in the village and her sister, the rain cloud, took over for her most seasons. Sometimes though, I swore I could glimpse slivers of sunshine on the horizon beyond the barriers. The village was unbearable this time of year, leaving the streets barren and open for my wandering. I was grateful that it left me alone to think. Yet no matter how I analyzed the situation, I could find no way to avoid my fate. The Council’s word was law and I, unlike many others my age, respected the ways of our land and the traditions in place, at least until a couple days ago.
Running my fingers through my hair, I tried to contain the dark blonde strands that whipped around my face. The crumbling sneakers I wore moved along the streets with a silent ease, a welcome addition to the rest of my clothing that helped me to blend into the background. My white button-up blouse was fading and the sweater vest that accompanied it was dull and thin. The dreary beige colors did little to compliment my pale complexion. I felt no fear; it simply wasn’t in my blood. So, why now would I be scared? My summons had been clear, which arrived on the front stoop two days prior:
Miss Isabelle is hereby summoned to appear before the Council of Elders to discuss the events that took place on the seventeenth of January. The defendant has two days to prepare his/her defense before the summons takes legal effect. The Council has spoken. –Elder Katherine, M.B.
Defendant? Discuss? Why mock me by insinuating I have any rights in these matters?
“Remember your place, Isabelle,” I said to myself. “Keep your head low and your nose clean.”
I rolled my eyes; well, Isabelle, your plan is working perfectly! I was to appear before the Council, alone, so they could gather information about the day’s events, as Prescott explained after I read my summons to him. Prescott was the closest thing our village had to legal aid; his obsession with our village’s history, both legal and social, proved to be a valuable asset to those in trouble.
His smile was long gone; I think I was the main source of his worrisome look. I disappeared for long periods of time, but Prescott had to remember he was not my father nor was he my lover. What reason did I have to answer to him? This did not mean, however, that Prescott was unattractive; his chestnut brown hair was neatly styled daily and his overtly preppy attire—hence my sweater vest—was at times gag-worthy. Yet none of these things could lead distract you from his toned abs and forearms that bulged from his shirts. But attraction? Perhaps, on a merely sexual level, but he was twice my age (not that that would stop me) and a friend of my father’s. Prescott knew me since my father was sent away, always making sure I had plenty to eat and a place to sleep. He and my father were close friends from prep school and for some reason Prescott felt a certain debt to my father.
“You’re too stubborn,” he said. “Please, for once Isabelle, let someone help you!”
Prescott knew me better than that; I denied help at every turn. Besides, I didn’t need the type of help he offered: a clichéd Age of Rebellion defense.
“My father would want me to speak the truth, Prescott,” I retorted. “I’m not going to insult the intelligence of the Elders and claim a drug-induced rage!”
From the ages of 17-21, teens in our village emancipated themselves from their parents and were given free-range to use any illicit drugs and alcohol they could get their hands on; this rite of passage was known as The Age of Rebellion. Sex was rampant, though a strict distribution of birth control eliminated most adverse effects of our promiscuous ways. It was popular to mock the Council while in the Age of Rebellion, to get high and complain about how hard and unfair our lives were. The preachers warned us about our self-destructive ways. After prep school, most of us didn’t bother attending services since it was no longer required. The preachers would leave the safety of their pulpits briefly every Sunday to shout threats of damnation at the Age of Rebellion teens—or, as some affectionately called them, “rebels”—that walked past their churches.
The year was 2010; that was what little knowledge I had of the “outside world.” Now, where exactly our village was in relation to the rest of the world, I had no idea, but what I did know was we were the only human life left and the rest of the planet was dangerous, dangerous beyond our comprehension. We had food, clothing, shelter, and supplies as needed; never did we question the origins of our good fortune. What reason was there to?
I grabbed the flask from my coat pocket and took a long swig of the gin. Slumping down onto the curbside, I rubbed my temples and tried to concentrate. Unlike my peers, I didn’t need to shoot up to focus or get shitfaced to function, but people had their crutch. Mine was men.
“Of course, the one thing I indulge in has to get me in trouble!”
I sighed; it wasn’t his fault. Shit, what was his name? Taking another gulp from my flask, I tried to remember that night. It had been a normal Friday evening for me: hanging around Studio 7, hoping to pick someone up. I made eye contact with what’s-his-face nursing a beer at the bar. His hand slid up my thigh and I smiled coyly; he knew my game and was ready to play.
We were at his flat at the edge of the village before I asked his name, basking in the afterglow of our lovemaking. I hadn’t bothered asking his name and I didn’t care to know; anonymity kept things from getting too dicey. The silk sheets were twisted and stuck to our sweaty bodies. Lying on his chest, I snatched the cigarette out of his hand to take a drag. I loved sex, the loss of inhibition and serenity that clouded my never resting mind. At the end of the night though there would be an emptiness I couldn’t shake. I didn’t need the Age of Rebellion to show me this. My life was a never-ending cycle: eat, sleep, sleep with someone, continue my search…
What’s-his-name and I talked for what felt like hours. In that after-sex moment, when the air is heavy and the world is at peace, words flow more easily. I rolled to my stomach and stared at him.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I mumbled, but he knew that wasn’t the truth. “Don’t you ever think there has to be more to life than this? Drugs and sex?”
He laughed, which pissed me off. Why are people here so content?
“Listen to me baby, it’s our Age of Rebellion. This is what they expect us to do! Why not live it up and enjoy freedom while it lasts?”
I turned toward the window that overlooked the ominous fence bordering our safe, little village. My temper was rising and I could feel the anger boiling from within. I was always so angry and I never knew why. I could feel this energy that I could not control. That was another thing I hated, not being in control.
“Freedom? You call this freedom? Don’t you ever wonder what’s on the other side? I mean aren’t you the least bit curious?”
“They keep us trapped here like cattle,” he said, like a sound bite of the others our age.
I shook my head, hoping someone would understand. “No, there has to be a good reason they keep us here, and I believe that with every fiber of my being. The Council of Elders is not a group of washed up adults controlling our every move,” I said to what’s-his-face, the belief in my statement growing as my mind raced.
“So, why do you think they are keeping us here, then?” what’s-his-face asked.
“I don’t want to know why they keep us here,” I said, afraid to say what I really felt.
I had felt this my whole life and my father hinted at it, but to speak of such things was to risk getting dissolved. People in the village disappeared from time to time, either dissolved or sent away. No one knew what happened when a person was dissolved, but everyone knew when it occurred. The actual event was never witnessed by citizens and only occurred after extreme disobedience or disrespect toward the Council of Elders.
Before the pregnancy regulations, the Age of Rebellion resulted in a surplus of children. My mother gave birth to me when she was only seventeen, dying during childbirth. My father took care of me, but disappeared when I was four. I remembered very little of his physical appearance, only recalling the tidbits of knowledge he shared. He had committed no act of disobedience; in fact, he is the one who instilled respect for the Elders in me. He was sent away, but I did not know where, and I did not know why.
When someone was sent away, it wasn’t spoken about. It wasn’t something to be ashamed of, but people who asked questions drew attention. Attention wasn’t good; it arouse suspicion.
“Oh come on darling, you’re among friends. What are you interested in then?” he pried.
Friends? Right, I forgot, fucking someone once, especially a stranger, automatically lays the foundation for a healthy friendship! I pulled on my clothes and walked to the window, looking past the village’s boundaries.
“I want to know what is out there, what is so dangerous that it threatens our existence,” I said. “I want to know what’s on the other side of that fence.”
Laughing again, he turned to his bedside table. He pulled an elastic band taught around his forearm with his teeth while his free hand rummaged through a drawer in search of a syringe.
“What, so you’re going to jump the fence? You’d be shot, no doubt,” he said absentmindedly, as though it was a fact of life I must accept.
“Shot? You must be joking. You know the guards would never take such drastic measures,” I replied.
We spoke matter-of-factly, as though it was not odd to discuss such things post-mind-blowing sex. For me, it wasn’t odd; I didn’t bother to beat around the bush or worry about revealing too much to a complete stranger. For him, well, he was a no-good druggie; who knew what went on in his liquefied brain. I sometimes wondered if the drugs were to keep us from nosing around, to keep us subdued and under control.
“Don’t be ridiculous, they are not the enemy. You need to find out who is,” I thought.
The boundary guards were wimps from prep school whose dads wanted them to be “real” men. Being a guard was a joke to most people nowadays. We accepted it would be dangerous to test the limits outsides our village. Besides, most believed it was electrical, eliminating the need for added protection. The guns the guards carried were for extreme circumstances and to shoot anyone for being attempting to escape would result in being dissolved. Such drastic measures would be a direct violation of their oaths of maintaining peace.
What’s-his-face wasn’t listening anymore and was more concerned with letting the high wash over his body. Heroin, cocaine, meth, I hated them all, hated what they did to people. The way their eyes rolled back and the way their heads lolled from side to side did more than frighten me. It angered me. No one around me was coherent long enough to listen to me, and I grew tired of talking to myself. The adults were busy with their own lives and assumed we in the Age of Rebellion were having plenty of fun on our own.
I was sick of it, sick of it all. Sick of the mindless, anonymous sex, sick of the drugs flooding the veins of my peers. Sick of the lonely, cold nights searching for answers in libraries, office buildings, and factory files for an answer. Yet to find the answer, I needed to know the question I was posing, and that I did not yet know. I didn’t even know what I was trying to find! Maybe I was in search of an epiphany of total clarity, a spiritual revelation to re-evaluate my path in life, or a conspiracy theory buried deep in the foundations of our government. Something was off with not only this village, but also me. I wasn’t normal; I could sense it. I did not cry, hug, or get overly excited. Instead I was cold, shut-down when made angry to keep whatever was growing within me at bay. Something was wrong and maybe my chance at an answer meant taking risks, more of a risk than I’d dared ever take.
“This is crazy, you’re being crazy!” I thought. “Just stop and be rational for a second, if you don’t, you could jeopardize the entire search!”
Ignoring my subconscious and leaving what’s-his-face in his distorted state, I made my way to the fence, the one thing between me and my answer, the answer I had searched for fifteen years. The boundaries were quiet most nights; anyone with half a brain was smart enough to stay away from the fences. People in the village were afraid of the unknown, afraid of what could be. Carefully, I tested the fence with my fingertips, expecting an electric current to throb through my body. Nothing. I looked around; the coast was clear.
“Come on, Isabelle, don’t be afraid. You can do this, you know you can,” I whispered.
What did I expect to find on the other side? Some giant monstrous creature? Another village? I didn’t know and for some reason, I didn’t care. The only thing on my mind was jumping the fence before me. I wrapped my fingers around the wired barrier, braced one leg on the ground and the other on the fence, ready to move.
The next thing I knew, I heard a guard shuffling his heavy feet toward me, huffing and puffing along the way.
“Hey! Hey, you there miss, what do you think you’re doing?! You don’t want to go out there, it’s for your own protection!” the guard yelled as he approached.
I rolled my eyes, did he really think saying that would stop me? He had to let me go; I knew the rules: once the citizen is on the fence, they are free to test the limits outside, but can never return after he or she’s passed over to the other side.
“Listen, sir, stay out of it, go back to your post, and just let me jump this fence.” I said to the guard, not even bothering to turn my face.
This one had to be a new guard; his voice raised an octave as he continued to plead with me and I could hear his keys jiggling as he trembled. Oh no, this was bad, very bad. New guards, especially scared ones, were potentially dangerous. I heard rumors that some snapped from the stress and tried to shoot anyone who approached the boundaries. Very few though had to be this unstable and very few were as irrational as me to attempt this. I heard him load his gun, cock it, and pull the trigger…shit. Bracing myself for impact, I held still waiting for the inevitable pain. But wait, where was it?
My head turned slightly and I found I was centimeters away from the bullet, suspended in midair. An icy calm overcame me that coated my body from head to toe. Looking up, a saw a dome of light, like looking into a flashlight, surrounding me in a bubble. The bullet hung there as I stared in fascination, noticing that the guard was moving in slow-motion, meaning time had either stopped or I was moving faster than time. No, no that cannot be.
Staring the bullet down, it fell to the ground, and soon after another came hurling toward me. One by one the bullets flew at me and my ball of light. My body was moving on its own, my arms flailing around painting intricate patterns in the sky. The movements drained me of my energy and I watched as my skin grew hot and white. Stumbling, I lost hold of my light, my body crashing with it in a cloud of fury.
I awoke three days later, at Prescott’s place, with no memory of the days I lost. Prescott barged into the bedroom early that morning.
“You showed up here this morning, covered in dirt, muttering something about a ball of light,” he said as he handed me the legal document he found on his doorstep.
He battered me with questions, assuming I got high and attacked someone or destroyed government property. I couldn’t tell Prescott what happened. I didn’t know what happened.
There was no use worrying now; I had to go to the Council and state my case, beg for mercy even.
The Council’s Quarters lay at the north end of the village high upon a hill. When I entered the premises, two guards escorted me to the chambers. White marble covered every surface and the drapery accenting the Quarters was deep red. My shoes clogged noisily on the floor of the hallow chambers. The guards bowed and exited, pulling the great oak doors shut behind them. I walked to the center of the room, trying not to let the seven sets of eyes send me shaking into the ground. The Elders sat perched high above me in a semicircle. A sighting of the Elders was rare; I had only seen them in photographs. Yet here I was, before the seven most powerful people in the village: Elder’s Karl, Frank, Rebecca, Jacob, Katherine, and Greg. A few stood out from my studies, most notably Elder Katherine M.B. and Elder Karl F.F. Their title’s origins were ambiguous in the village, further shrouding the Council in mystery.
“Forgive me Elders, for I have forgotten my manners. My name is Miss Isabelle, daughter of Mr. Dayton and Mrs. Cynthia. I have come as a response to my summons,” I said, bowing before the Council while desperately trying to recall the formalities I learned in prep school.
Elder Katherine signaled me to rise. Unlike the others, her hair was not gray; in fact, Elder Katherine did not look a day over thirty. She was indeed the youngest of the Elders, yet seemed to hold a remarkably high position of power for someone so young. Her eyes told me she must also be the kindest of them; they were a piercing blue and moment I entered the chambers, I felt her eyes understand. They were so mesmerizing that I tried to keep eye contact, but I could feel my arms shaking at my sides and lowered my head bashfully. I had never been nervous in my life. Then again, never had I somehow cheated death, lost three days worth of memory, and been summoned before the Council.
“You may relax, young Isabelle. You are not to be dissolved. You are the daughter of Mr. Dayton and do not need to worry yourself with these frivolous formalities. Please, we must speak freely,” Elder Katherine said.
I let out the breath I was holding in since I last spoke, thankful I was to be spared. Elder Katherine was not finished with me though and continued to gaze down on me as though she could see into my mind, her eyes darting back and forth across my face in rapid succession.
“You are special, Miss Isabelle, are you not? Well, of course you are, but you already knew that about yourself, didn’t you?” she stated.
I knew it was a rhetorical question, but I couldn’t shake the feeling she knew the answer to every question she asked of me.
“We both know, I mean, we all know what happened on the 17th of January, hm? Well, I happen to know you are experiencing a great deal of confusion on this issue, Miss Isabelle. Why don’t you tell me what you think happened by the barriers?”
What on earth made her think I knew what happened ?
“Something came over me I guess and this…this light covered me and the guard’s bullets couldn’t penetrate it. It was like a kind of shield of light that I was making…,” I said, letting my voice trail away when I felt the red begin to cover my cheeks.
I sounded silly, I mean, what did I think I created? A shield? A ball of light? This wasn’t child’s play we were dealing with; this was my life! I was making a fool of myself and they were encouraging me. I wanted to disappear for real, to crawl in a hole far away and pretend none of this ever happened. I should have kept my mouth shut, fucked what’s-his-face, left him alone with his heroin, ignored my stupid subconscious, and been done with it all! I could feel Elder Katherine’s eyes bore into me.
“Miss Isabelle? You are special,” she smiled knowingly. “And I can assure you this is far from child’s play,” Elder Katherine said.
Wait a minute, child’s play? I hadn’t said that out loud, had I? How did she know what I was thinking? Was she reading my mind or something? I backed away slightly, my heart racing.
Elder Katherine smiled at me again, “Yes, Miss Isabelle, yes I am. It is alright, there is no need to be frightened.”
I gulped audibly, clasping my quivering hands together behind my back.
“Don’t be afraid, I’m a Mind Bender, one of two kinds of our special forces,” Elder Katherine explained. “And you, my dear Isabelle, are a Force Fielder like your father before you. I must say though, we have never seen power of your kind in our history.”
M.B.? Mind Bender? Of course, it all made sense now…damn, who was I fooling? None of this made any sense. I must have finally snapped or succumbed to crack and was having a bad trip. Oh shit, or was I dead? Did I die out by the barriers a week ago? This was impossible, completely insane.
“Never discount the impossible, for the truth lies in improbability.”
I heard those words ring clearly in my head, my father uttering them to me after I cried when my classmates told me fairies were not real. Beyond my lingering fear though, a part of me wanted to soak up her words, accept them and make them mine. Somewhere deep down, I knew this was my answer. I didn’t care how far-fetched it was or how shocking it must seem, this had to be my truth. Finally, after all these years of searching, I could find out the reason for my father’s disappearance.
“Is that why my father was sent away?” I asked.
The Council looked among themselves, ignoring my question. Elder Karl, the great Elder Karl, known for his brutish ways and blunt attitude, stood suddenly and spoke with conviction.
“Enough skirting around the issue at hand, Katherine! This girl is bright, are you not?”
Was he talking to me? I nodded obediently.
“There,” he said. “No need to sugar-coat the truth from this young Force Fielder.” Elder Karl looked at me, stroking his chin in thought.
“Miss Isabelle, there will be plenty of time for us to play Twenty Questions. In the mean time, we have work to do. You will accompany me upstairs. I will introduce you to your classmates and then show you to your chambers. In the morning, we will begin your training,” he said.
Snapping his fingers, he beckoned the guards by the glass elevator.
“Wait, training?!” I shouted at Elder Karl as he came down to the main floor.
Instantly, I covered my mouth with my hands; I could not believe I spoke so freely to an Elder! Elder Karl looked tired. He rolled his eyes as though this type of disobedience was ordinary. Perhaps the students here did not share my level of respect.
“We, as I said, have never seen someone with your level of talent before, Miss Isabelle. I do not know if you can grasp this concept, but in the field last Friday night, you stopped thirteen bullets without any prior training. Do you realize just how powerful you are?” Elder Karl spat at me.
“Karl, you’re frightening the poor girl! This is a lot of information to absorb. We must give her some time,” Elder Katherine pleaded.
Elder Karl ignored her, “You, my child, are destined for greatness! In the past, the highest number of bullets a Force Fielder stopped without recharging was six.”
Recharging? What, was I a robot or something?
“You surpassed that two-fold with no prior instruction,” Elder Karl continued. “Who knows what other unknown abilities lay within this magical body of yours!” Elder Karl said, gripping my shoulders.
I walked with Elder Karl across the marble floor toward the glass elevator. Questions, so many questions swam in my head. I felt dizzy and was on the verge of passing out from excitement and terror. Never again would I see Prescott, or my peers, or find out who what’s-his-name’s really was. This chapter of my life was over now, and a new one must begin. I knew that once you were sent away, you were gone forever. Now, where exactly that might be I had no clue. Any chance I had at finding out was on the floors above. The Council of Elders was now standing, nodding in approval, except for Elder Katherine who still looked concerned it was all happening too fast. I looked to Elder Karl, whose stern grasp of my shoulders comforted me and reminded me of something I couldn’t place. As we stopped short of the elevator, I understood what it was reminiscent of: my father.
I had to be strong, no matter what was at the end of this elevator ride. My father was out there somewhere, maybe beyond the barriers I foolishly tried to scale. Elder Karl nodded to the guard who led us into the elevator. He looked to me, his eyes smiling for what I guessed was the first time in a long while.
“Welcome to our village’s secret army, and I can assure you the Force Fielders and Mind Benders welcome you too,” Elder Karl said.
The elevator doors closed, taking me to my new place in life, to my answer.
“Miss Isabelle, welcome to the Mystieks.”
|Mock book cover I've uploaded before, but may make more sense now|