Sorry this is coming to you technically on Thursday! I completely spaced. (First week of fall semester and all that.)
So far, my classes are awesome. My film classes are kind of freaking me out, because it’s the first time I’ve formally studied film stuff and I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it yet, but also I love movies and I’m really excited to learn more about their history and how they’re made. So fingers crossed this goes well.
Choir is as lovely as ever. Creative writing starts next week and I am READY to dive back into the weekly short stories (who would have ever thought I’d say that). Whoever decided U of M should offer a YA lit class is my hero. MY HERO.
This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.
Read previous chapters:
I’m not sure who I expect to find standing on our stoop, but it is certainly not Dr. O’Brien and his partner from the Recruitment Assembly.
“Hello, Miss Dylan.” The woman dips her head. Her ears appear even more prominent this close up. Her features are youthful and pixieish, from her wide eyes to her small, pointed chin. “My name is Doctor Lindsey Reede. You’ve already met my associate, Doctor O’Brien. Your family reported you missing when you did not return home yesterday after school.”
I squint against the sunlight behind them. “How did you know I was back?” I raise my left hand to shield my eyes.
“Your Identiband.” Dr. Reede trains her eyes on it. I glance up at it and a jolt of fear runs through me. It’s flipped colors again.
“What?” I try to make it sound like I don’t know what she’s talking about.
Dr. Reede frowns. “We knew you were back because we were monitoring your Identiband. It showed that you had entered your residence.”
“Right.” I lower my arm. Of course she didn’t see the other color, not when what’s causing the problem is obviously my eyes. “Sorry.” I look at her and Dr. O’Brien, the way they stand stoic but uneasy outside my house. I close my eyes for one, long second. “Hold on. You knew I was home because my Identiband told you so. Right. So that means you know where I’ve been for the past twenty four hours as well, correct? What happened to me?”
“We unfortunately don’t know,” Doctor O’Brien says.
“How is that possible?”
Dr. Reede bristles like I’ve accused the Clinic of something. “Someone hacked your Identiband. They looped the information from what we assume was Monday—the last day you walked home normally from school—and the loop didn’t end until you entered your house. We wouldn’t have had any way of knowing that anything was wrong if it weren’t for your family messaging the police.”
I run a hand over my eyes. “I didn’t even know that was possible.”
“Only the very skilled and very well-connected are able to perform such crimes.” Dr. Reede glances around me into the house. “Is your father home?”
For some reason I look behind myself too, although I know he isn’t there. Calvin has barely had enough time to contact him as it is. “No, but my brother is.”
Dr. Reede stares. “How old is your brother?”
“Why does that matter?”
Dr. O’Brien steps around Dr. Reede. “We need to bring you in for questioning. Everything that has happened over the course of the past several days dealing with you is too much of a coincidence. We must know why these events are occurring. In order to legally escort you to the Clinic, we need permission from a family member over the age of eighteen.”
“My brother is twenty one.” I turn towards the kitchen. “Calvin?”
“Yes?” His head pops around the doorway. Dr. Reede raises her eyebrows at his bushy, curly hair. My brother smirks.
“Hello, Mr. Dylan,” Dr. O’Brien says. “We are from the Clinic.”
Calvin’s smirk widens as he takes in their uniforms. “I can see that.” He shifts his gaze to me. “They want you to go with them, I’m guessing?”
I nod. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back in no time.”
“Fine, go ahead. I’ll let Dad know.” He disappears back into the kitchen.
Dr. Reede nods. The movement is robotic, perfected. “After us, Miss Dylan.”
They do not take me to office suite 4581 as I expect. Instead they lead me from the lobby to a long, narrow hallway that ends in a flight of stairs leading down.
“Why aren’t we going to your office, Doctor O’Brien?” I grip the handrail as I descend the steep stairs behind the two recruiting officers. Dr. Reede walks with even steps that are so rigid they seem almost painful, while Dr. O’Brien follows behind her a little bit looser, with his arms swinging at his sides.
“My office?” He looks back. “Oh, the room I met you in yesterday was not my office, Miss Dylan. It was just one of the many multi-use spaces available throughout the building for employees to use in meetings and such. I was only assigned to it for yesterday.”
We exit the stairwell for another hallway, this one lined with unmarked doors. They walk side by side now, leaving little space for me to get near them.
I walk a good several feet back—it’s evident they don’t want to talk to me right now—but the question itches against my tongue anyway. “Why weren’t you there yesterday, Doctor Reede?”
She throws the answer over her shoulder: “My job during your meeting with Doctor O’Brien was to monitor everything behind the scenes, to ensure that safety procedures were maintained at all times and that we obtained the information needed to properly analyze the situation at hand.”
“You were behind the cameras the entire time I was in the building yesterday?”
She doesn’t break stride as she speaks—just keeps moving as if my questions are not distracting in the least. “Yes.”
“So you were the one watching my conversation with Ramsey, not Doctor O’Brien?”
At this, she glances back and nods.
I fold my arms. “Why didn’t you let me out?”
She faces forward again. “We still needed more information.”
I scowl. “And did you get what you needed?”
Her tone is plainspoken, emotionless. “Yes.”
While it would have been nice to have some assistance with Ramsey, they were just doing their job.
I force a smile into my voice. “Good.”
Dr. O’Brien stops at a door that looks absolutely identical to all the others and holds his Identiband to the scanner, then pricks his thumb. The scanner beeps, followed by a click from the door as its lock disengages.
The room they’ve brought me to is long and low, with a mahogany conference table centered beneath a sparkling glass chandelier and wood paneling along the walls.
Amelia would love this place. It’s even nicer than the formal dining room in which her mother holds biyearly dinner parties for the intercontinental representatives of the different branches of the Clinic. For all the times I have visited Amelia’s house since May, we have never once been allowed to set foot in that room.
My dirty school uniform and the braid I have not redone since yesterday morning make me feel like I should not be allowed to breathe the air in this conference room, let alone touch the table or sit in one of the plush leather-upholstered chairs. The recruiting officers do not notice my discomfort as they stride straight to the nearest chairs and sit down on the same side of the table. I swallow and take the chair opposite.
“Tell us exactly what happened yesterday after you left the Clinic.”
I tuck my feet under the chair and fold my hands in my lap. I still feel like I should not be allowed in this room. I explain about staying at New Capital High for an hour after school let out, and making small-talk with the stranger in the subway station who knew my name. My cheeks warm as I tell them about getting off the train one stop early, and they cool when I describe running, only for the man to catch me.
The entire time, the recruiting officers don’t take their eyes off me. They don’t blink, don’t write anything down, and I know they must have cameras in this room to record everything I say, but it is still disconcerting to be able to watch them try to figure it out right before me, rather than on tablets, where they wouldn’t feel the need to look so closely at my face.
When I finish, Dr. O’Brien leans back in his chair. “You weren’t aware at all that time had passed between the man drugging you and you waking up?”
I shake my head. “No. To be honest, I thought it was all a dream until Calvin told me I had been gone for so long. My only injury was from when I fell on the sidewalk.” I hold up my elbow to demonstrate. The blood has dried my sleeve to my skin, and I grit my teeth as I lower my arm. “They didn’t touch me.”
Dr. Reede turns to Dr. O’Brien like she thinks she is speaking only to him, although I can still clearly hear her. “If they did not want something from Miss Dylan’s body, then it must have been something in her mind.”
Dr. O’Brien shakes his head. “The girl does not know any vital information. She knows nothing the terrorist cell would go to that much trouble to learn.”
“Perhaps they were curious why we recruited her a year early?”
“No, they already know why. It had to have been for some other reason.”
“Perhaps they simply wanted to learn how much Miss Dylan knows of the situation at hand. After all, we now possess Miss Carp.”
“We’ve allowed them to retain access to Miss Carp’s Identiband as it is. They already know all that transpired yesterday. They—”
They speak in such a rapid fire it is difficult to keep up, but one part does stick out: “The terrorist cell.” Not a terrorist cell. The.
“You know who attacked me.”
They keep speaking, words nearly overlapping in their ferventness to be heard.
“Perhaps what they wanted was not from her mind at all, but her Identiband.”
“What would they gain by kidnapping her, then? They had already hacked the Identiband. They already had all the information stored in it at their fingertips. It’s—”
I raise my voice. “You. Know. Who attacked me.”
Dr. Reede turns so quickly her neck cracks. She does not even flinch. She levels her eyes at me. “Of course we do. Very few people exist not just in the Fifth Reality, but in the entirety of the Quantum, who could have committed such an act. Even fewer would have wanted to.”
“Then what are you doing in this room right now?” I throw a thumb at the door. “Why aren’t you out there tracking them down?”
“It’s… complicated.” Dr. O’Brien shifts in his seat. He pulls at his collar. “I’m afraid we have not been entirely frank with you until this point, Miss Dylan.”
His voice is so constricted, my mouth goes dry and my palms grow damp. My muscles clench. What little confidence I had before dissipates. “Meaning?”
He leans towards me and says the words gently. “We did indeed recruit you because of the actions of Miss Carp, but they weren’t the actions we led you to assume. We already were monitoring your old friend before the Recruitment Assembly. That is because, since May, she has been assisting an inter-reality terrorist cell known as the Second Origin.”
My Identiband changes color at the name. I glance at it and it flickers back to green.
Dr. O’Brien glances at Dr. Reede, who nods him onward. He swallows and takes a breath. “We have heard reports of the atrocities committed by the Second Origin for nearly a year now—first as rumors passing between realities, then as actual warnings. Brutal murders, citizens disappearing, break-ins at important buildings. The final warning came on May fourteenth, from the Clinic of the Fourth Reality, and you must understand, Miss Dylan: what they told us is confidential. No one outside a select few members of the Clinic of the Fifth Reality knows what we are about to say.”
He turns to Dr. Reede, who does not lose her nearly inhuman posture or tone as she says, “The final warning about the Second Origin came in the form of a message. A single word. One we thought to be impossible until the events of recent.”
Despite Dr. Reede’s stoic demeanor, when she opens her mouth, not a sound comes out.
If you’re a student (or a teacher or someone else involved in the school shenanigans), how’s the fall term going so far? Any fun stories or cool classes? Do tell.
Thanks for reading!