Into Exile – Episode 3
(Warning – The content of this episode contains reference to homophobic and sexist slurs and descriptions of violence that may be of a triggering nature. Reader discretion is advised.)
I stared off into space, vision blackened, and jeered into rampant anxiety triggered at this smell… The smell of paper, and wood. The scent of strange incense, and a nearly ancient dust. The smell you get inside historic buildings and cathedrals. It sent a shiver down my spine. In the state they call “Breach Sickness”, I couldn’t hardly remember a thing. They came back eventually, I heard. But, in this moment, I was frozen stone cold fear. I started to sweat. I could hear heckling of children in my mind, and I could feel the pressure of sneakers being ramming against my face as I tried to guard myself with my arms. I felt as though I my head was pulsating with pain and the warm sensation like a goose-egg on my forehead. I couldn’t tell what was going on around me, just felt unbearable fear and pain throughout my body, as though I was being throttled by the feet of children. I balled up in the center of this painful memory, and I lost myself in the fear and anxiety and I couldn’t breathe. The screams and shouts of children began to echo in my head, and I started to scream for help… “Faggot….. You’re going to burn in hell”…. “Sissy boy!”…. “Girl”…. “Why don’t you just go wet yourself, you little girl”… “Ally is a faggot, Ally is a faggot, Alfred is a faggot”… I could feel the memory burned in to my mind, and the sensation of blood trickling from my nose and forehead. All of a sudden someone grabbed me….
I came to a little… Danielle was holding me with her arms wrapped around me rocking me back and forth trying to calm me and bring me back from whatever dismal flashback I was trapped in. My face and her shoulder were sopping wet with tears, and I was trembling vigorously. “Shhhhh, it’s okay now… Don’t worry… You’ll be fine, you’re going to be okay”, she said softly in my ear. Something about her embrace, her smell, her presence felt oddly… very oddly… scratch… incredibly familiar. Her hair was brown and soft as a rabbits fur, and smelled of strawberries, and her breath smelled of mint. I could feel her cheek against my neck, and it felt as though I knew that cheek.
“Sudden recall of painful memories isn’t terribly uncommon with this condition Pastor Muriel.”, she says still holding me face turned way, “Give her a few moments before you begin, please.”
He nods quietly, moved, but is not shocked by my outbursts of screaming and tears. I can’t remember why I was crying as much now, but the pain and fear of that moment is yet to pass. Some how I am able to see everything about this man through my partly opened eye’s peripheral vision, as if instinct. Danielle leans me back and rubs my shoulder with one hand while clearing her own eyes of tears with the other. I can see her eye color is brown, and her smile and facial expression strangely familiar, in a way I hadn’t noticed before. She looks up at the pastor with affirming eyes, and a look of rejuvenated composure and confidence. The pastor takes a seat on the edge of the bed, but strangely the pressure of him seating himself has little effect on the shape of the bed where I lay at. “Well, Alira… I’ve heard so much about you. My name is Eduardo Muriel. I am a pastor here at the Tempest School of St. Marshal”, he says in his awkward half seated position against my bed. He has a full mustache and goatee, and he has a very, ever so slight Portuguese accent. His facial hair is peppered and he has silver, curly and flowing locks dangling on either side of his face and the rest pulled back into a small pony tail. The bed slips a little away from him, and he kicks a bit and pulls himself up to a full seated position. Danielle scoots the bed back after he sits and resumes sitting herself. “Nurse Verde and I will be your case workers and advocates at this school. Do you think she’ll be okay for starting uptake tomorrow?”, he continues. “I don’t know, she is still pretty weak… She’s only been out of breach for 22 hours now, and her electrolytes are still low”, Danielle insists.
“However, isn’t she a… an Angel Class tempest user? And if I recall from my report…”, he trails off opening the bible in his hands as a blue light comes out. It’s some kind of PDA style electronic portable bible. I can see him lick his finger, and then attempts to swipe it across the screen releasing a squeaking sound. With a peppy one breath laugh, he wipes his finger on his robe, “Old habits die hard”. With his now dried finger I can see him flipping like you’d flip pages of a book, and occasionally doing expanding motions with his fingers. “AH HA!”, he says victoriously, “It says here that she is at least a….”, reading more, “A tier 1. So she should be able to handle normal curriculum. Her body regenerates faster than you nor I, and she constantly refuels herself. And I trust that you’ll make sure she gets proper nutrition until she gets to full potential?” “Yes, Pastor”, she says reluctantly. “Well, then… It’s settled. Alira… I’ll see you bright and early in the morning at the Diocese Registrar. Sleep well”, he says, then quickly hops to his feet. He straightens his robes, and cracks his neck, and walks to the door doing a wiggling finger wave as he exits. Out of the corner of my eye I see a strange black square and a red blinking light…. “A camera”, I muddle to myself…
Danielle pulls my face back towards her with her index finger sighing, “Well, I tried sweetheart. I really don’t feel your ready, but I don’t have any control over that. You should sleep as much as possible tonight, because tomorrow is going to be a long day. However, your tier rating should be sufficient to help you cut through some of that a lot faster. You get priority after-all. Healers of your caliber are few and far between.” She gently pushes me back down to my pillow by my shoulder and reclines the bed into its original position. “But I don’t think I can sleep now”, you say. She interrupts you after pushing a button over your head with a beeping sound, “Thems the brakes, kitten. Besides I already gave you a light sedative to help you sleep after what happened earlier.” You look up to see 3 tubes of liquid on the strange hi-tech medical device over your head. There is little plungers on metal poles in the tubes that push the liquids out into the IV, (right to left) and the clear one is mostly full, the yellow one around half, and the blue one about 3 quarters of the way empty. There are lights under each one, the clear and yellow are red, but the blue one is flashing green for a moment, then solid, then to orange. I feel a slightly cold sensation entering my arm, and a strange mild tingle. A few moments later I feel heavy, like I suddenly gained 10 lbs. Danielle reaches in to pet my hair again, “Night, night… Little angel…” My focus trails off, as I feel a strange “Déjà vu” within the things she said. I look up at the ceiling as I hear the beep of the button that turns of the light, and her quietly shutting the door behind her. I can see a flickering, but dim red light beyond the plastic light diffusing cover, and become fixated on it as I try to fight the sedatives and concentrate on that feeling I have. But every passing second makes that more, and more difficult. I forget for a moment what I was trying to remember, and succumb to sleep.
And then comes this dream… It’s a dream that is strange, but also familiar. I am floating in the air above a building… Yes… I recognize the building… It’s the hospital… New York, something or other… It’s like watching one of those time-lapse films on the nature channels. The clouds move fast across the night sky… The sun rises and quickly climbs into the sky. I can feel it set behind me, but I can’t move or do anything to change my vantage point. I watch the repetition continue another 12 times… I see rain sometimes… sometimes snow… On the 13th repetition I see streaks and bright lights and everything that I could see before is obscured in equally fast-moving smoke, and red glow. As the smoke clears I see the sun rise over what looks to be a crater filling with water… It doesn’t stop raining, but I can’t tell if it’s ash or water. Fires are burning quickly and spindles of smoke rise into the leaden sky, and are carried away with the breeze. The time-lapse speeds up, and I can see the fires go out, and lights outside of the charred wreckage begin to form.
The sun is spinning even faster through the sky blurring night and day. I can see the phases of the moon like pulsating flashes. I start to see structures form outside of the burned out remnants off to the side of the rising sun. In this day and night blur there are lots of speckles of camp fires, and what looks like growing shanty towns. In the distance I can see large skeletons of buildings rising and then being applied skins of skyscrapers. They appear to flicker from black to orange with the day night fast forward. First one, then three, then 10. Then some of the old buildings collapse, and then 25… the spinning… It’s making me dizzy… I feel a little nauseated… Feel like I am going to throw up a little… The city is now starting to look like what I saw that night on the roof off the hospital, and the nausea gives way to vomiting…. I am violently awoken to vomiting in a stainless steel pale in front of me. I am leaned over into this large bowl like object dry heaving now, as very little if anything came up when I vomited. I feel the nausea pass after a few bouts, and I am sweating profusely. The nurse lays me back, and pats my forehead with a damp, cold wet cloth. As my eyes clear a bit I can see that it’s a different nurse than Danielle. This nurse is much shorter, but some how more menacing looking than Danielle. I rest my head from inspecting the nurse, and my head is still spinning. She reaches over to a cart behind her and grabs what looks like a blue glue gun, and firmly presses it against my arm. It’s warm against my arm, and as she squeeze the handle it ejects a little warm disc of what looks like glue-gun glue onto my arm.
Then she reaches for a round paper disc and peels back the paper from it and presses it over the now hardening but still flexible substance. It’s starting to tingle a little, and I start to feel my dizziness subside a bit. The strange plastic like disc on my shoulder starts to glow a little bit, kind of like the sticker on my head the other day. It must be some form of medicine, because my sweat cools and starts to dissipate, and my dizziness subsides.
There is a knock at the door, and Pastor Muriel’s face peeps in around the corner, “Is she ready yet?” The nurse nods, “Yep. Just watch her, she may be a little uneasy on her feet for a bit.” “Here, put this on”, he holding a black and white uniform with a pair of shoes and knee-high socks. It is a below the knee skirt with lace at the bottom. It looks very new age Gothic, in style, and it’s in a child’s size. “Are you sure I’m going to fit in that”, I ask with doubt written across my face. He tilts his head forward and raises his eyebrows. “Right, I am that size now… Gotcha”, I resound in defeat. He sets it on the bed and then walks out of the room with the nurse. I roll to my right side and throw my legs off the side. This little twist reminds me the dizziness isn’t completely gone. Putting the uniform on is strange and unfamiliar. It’s a perfect fit, but I feel weird wearing what appears to be a Gothic school girl’s outfit. Goth was never really my thing, but it was cute. I turn to the mirror on the backside of the bathroom door as I put the shoes on, and gasp. This is the first moment I have seen myself since I’d been rendered this… Size. I look like an elementary school aged child with fringe bangs at my eyebrows, and knee-length hair. My hair looks like someone was brushing it in my sleep, as I don’t appear to have “bed head”. The outfit is cute, and I touch my chest to only be further reminded of the reality of my situation. “Nope, flat as a pancake”, I say to myself while mind wandering to the feeling I have had since this began… “I feel like… I am…. Hmm… Forgetting something”, I say aloud. Some part of all this feel like a dream, so… Unreal… I feel like I’ve forgotten something important. The nurse noticing I am done through the PDA camera feed opens the door, scaring me. The pastor reaches out his hand, and I reach out to him.
His hand is warm, but feels a little frail. But his grip is firm, but not too firm. He leads me down a long hallway, into a room that looks like something from the Sistine Chapel, only significantly modernized with lighting, and displays with frames on them designed to match the esthetic. There are rows of seats, and a bunch of wood desk style cubicles. There are children everywhere, and pastors and preachers guiding them and tending to them. Some of the children are seated at the desk with the pastors and nuns. The nuns outfits are very flowy, fitting in with the Sistine Chapel meets sci-fi flick meets neo-gothic style of the place. This was the Registrar area, or at least that was what the sign said. We walked down the aisle almost to the desks, past the many other children and their guides waiting to be seen. The pastor turns to me, and leans down, “Almost forgot this…” He pulls out what looks like a rosary, and puts it around my neck.
Instead of a regular cross, it had a perpendicularly equidistant cross (like the Celtic Cross), sealed in a clear gem-like pendant. As the necklace’s beads touched my skin, the engravings on the cross began to glow green, at first subtly, then brightly enough that it drew the attention of the children, pastors and guides around me. Even the attendants at the cubicles stopped what they were doing, to look. The pastor fixes my collar a bit, and picks me up and holds me in his arms. He then walks up to the desk nearest to the exit of the aisle, and I can hear the other children whispering, and some of them resuming previous chatter. “Excuse me, sister”, he says while holding out my pendant. She nervously jitters her attention between her screen and the pendant, and then stands to wave to what looks like security guards. The men walk up to us, “Take them to the Regent Registrar’s office”, she stammers a little. “This way father”, says on of the men in a gruff sounding voice. They are dressed a lot like the men who pulled me out of the burned out hospital, accept that they look like SWAT mixed with Knights Templar. They have subdued colored Templar crosses on their gear and helmets, and red stripes instead of blue.
Tucked in nicely against the wall, just before a large cathedral-like archway atrium, this humble little wooden, earthy toned office sits. There are bookshelves stacked to the ceiling which is nearly 15′ high. The office pinpoints into a semi-dome with intricate engravings, like the other room, only smaller. Behind the desk sits this frail, but angry older nun… her garb has streaks of red, unlike the other nuns, and she has a blue glowing pendant, like the one I have around her neck. She has a strange black nose-piece on her face at the top of the bridge between her eyes. It has a little blue light in the middle of it. Looking up from her desk, she clears her throat, and pushes the blue light, and bifocal lenses materialize out of the sides of the nose-piece. She leers at me uncomfortably, as the pastor sit in the one chair in the office with me on his lap. “Well, Eduardo… It has been a long time since you worked a case, hasn’t it… I thought I was dreaming when I saw you walk in to my office haulin’ that one in tow. Let me see you”, she says in a firm, authoritative voice while looking at me. I slide off the pastor’s lap, and irk closer to her. She reaches up with her left hand and motions me to come forward, but it startles me. Her arm is mechanical, cybernetic. It has no exterior skin, a kind of minimalistic design, and it has one of those rubber thumb pieces that librarians use to flip through books, and such. “Come closer, child”, she waves to me again.
Now standing in front of her desk she reaches across with her robotic hand and pulls my pendant closer. She grimaces with a little twitch around her eye as she tilts her head back to look through the bottom of the lenses. She releases the pendent and sits back. With her left hand she motions me to sit down. Her right hand is very bony and far more frail looking than the pastor’s. “Well, we got a genuine grade A here, I see. I haven’t seen a tier one of her age through my office, well… since your sister”, she says as the pastors face becomes slightly distressed at this reminder. He picks me up and sits me on his lap again. Her voice getting gravelly again, she clears her throat once more. “I’d prefer you not mention that”, murmurs Eduardo. She leans her ear towards him and cups her hand behind it as he says, “Não, não foi nada.” She sighs at him in annoyance while dropping her hand.
She rolls her chair around behind her, grumbling and shuffling around on her shelves. She then presses a button, and I hear sound like air escaping from a bottled soda. She abruptly spins back around stopping the chair with her feet, one sounded like a human foot, one sounded artificial some how. There is a blue tablet like object in her hands, and the pastor reaches forward to grab it. It has a big dark blue pad on it about the size of an adult hand, with wear on it in the shape of a human hand print. The wear makes the generally matte texture of the plastic shiny. There is a cartridge loaded into the bottom with a medical symbol on it, and above it a finger sized pad with a hole in the center, and a blue rimmed light around it. There is a tiny screen at the top right glowing blue with text on it. He holds the pad in front of me, and turns it to face me. “Put your hand inside the blue pad area”, he says, and I can see a hand-print shaped back-light from this angle. I place my hand on it, and it flashes blue for a second and beeps. “Okay, now place you thumb on that little spot that looks in the shape of a finger”, he says as I reluctantly place my thumb against it. A sudden sharp jab stabs my finger, and then a the sound and sensation of air being sucked into that hole. I jerked my finger back as soon as the vacuum released. There was a tiny pin prick in my thumb and a tiny blotch of blood. He then reaches around me up to a red button at the top, and presses it, “Now speak your name, and the last year you remember before coming out of the breach.”
“Alira… I… um… 2014, I think”, I say. “Last name, family name”, the head nun says while clearing her throat again. “Alira…. Alira… ah… I can’t remember my last name”, you say in finishing. As you do Ed presses the button next to the red one, and a woman’s voice comes out of the device, “Collection completed, ejecting cartridge”. The medical cartridge pops out of the bottom, and I can see little metal contacts on its surface like those specially chipped ID cards have on them.
He hands it to the head nun, whom as I am noticing is called “Sister Partridge” from her name plate on her desk. She grabs a blue case and slides the cartridge in. She places a white cap on the end of it, and presses a button on the back. I can hear the air being sucked out of the container a little, and she seals it with red tape. She then runs the bar code on the side of the container across her desk which is apparently a computer, scanner and screen. “You have been processed… I’ll take care of the report from here, Pastor Ed. You head on over to the dormitory offices and get her settled in. We’ll get your identification records sorted out, and finish your enrollment”, she barks as if a military sergeant giving her soldier orders. Eduardo just nods, “May we be excused”. She gives the “Shoo” hand gesture and returns her attention to the screen that is her desk. There are books and strange antiques lining her desk, but you can still see her face over them. Pastor Ed leads me out of the office. I look back at her, and she quickly glances at me before returning downwards towards her desk again.
Now heading for the door in that atrium I had previously seen, he turns to me and places his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry about her, she’s always like that. Comes with being a former tier 1 herself. She is blue, which means she is a power user”, he says while whipping out his pendant which is glowing only slightly red. “Mine is red, which means I am a speed user”, he continues, “Which means, in my prime I could move beyond normal human speed. But I am not that strong, so the best I could do was act as a messenger, usually for bad news. Power users are the front lines, speed users are the covert ops, and well, green… Green is support. Your flames can range anywhere from near turquoise to a pale yellow color. But your green is the most optimally balanced one, so you’ll have no trouble with placements. Some people come out hybrids, like paladins, strikers, and technicians but… Occasionally there is a trancer, but they never go above tier 3 in any trait. As a tier 1 you can’t have any other attributes, or at least it’s never been seen”, he lifts his hand off my shoulder and picks me up again, only this time placing me piggy back. As we exit the atrium doors we are in a beautiful, awe-inspiring courtyard that looks like something in the Vatican, accept that it’s on top of a 100 story skyscraper. I can see trails of flying vehicles flying around, in the semi hazy, but mostly clear sky. The city and buildings around us are even larger, and it takes my breath away… I feel like I am standing on the shoulders of giant mechanized monstrosities at this height with the sheer scale of size of the buildings. Some sharp, some rectangular, some square, some round. “Pretty amazing isn’t it… Before the 3rd reformation none of this was possible”, he says looking over his shoulder at me. I’d never met my dad, but this man is pretty close to how I’d imagined him being, in character at least.
“Even this wouldn’t have been possible”, he says while pulling up the cuffs of his trousers a little, revealing two bulky robotic legs designed like something from a dystopian future where cyborgs hunt and kill humans, except that he had a preachers shoes on his feet. He starts making a buzzing sound a running with me on his shoulders… I grasp him more firmly and he put’s his arms out like wings and acts as though he is flying around. At first I am dumbfounded by this seemingly odd “break in character” he is showing me. But that fades, and I can feel a giggle welling up inside me. I start to giggle hysterically as he runs, and does swooping and diving motions while he runs across the courtyard. It reminds me of my childhood, and of memories I never got to have. His legs sounded machine-like stomping against the tile mosaic ground, and the wind feels fresh and free against my face. It’s the best feeling I have had since this ordeal had started. We continue to run and I can feel a cold gush of wind blow into my face and we transition into the shadow of the other cathedral-like structure in this courtyard. I see children of all ages going in and out of this building, wearing similar versions of the clothing I am.
Inside, it looked like a school, and there was a hallway by the entrance which looked like dormitories. There was an office situated at the corner of this L-shaped hallway. The rest of the day felt like a blur to me, due to fatigue. I wasn’t completely recovered yet. I sat in that office for what felt like a century, pretty much twiddling my thumbs or signing documents on PDAs. The kids who came in stared at me, because of the fact that my pendant was glowing so much. Pastor Ed gestures to me to tell me I can put it away now. He shows me to a tiny room, that looks like an efficiency apartment in Tokyo, only way more high-tech, and with that same “Gothic Flair”. One bed, on sink, one stove top, on TV/Computer. They only had public bathrooms here. By the end of the day the pastor had to carry me, as I could barely walk. He sets me down on my bed, and closes the door behind us, just as there is someone knocking on the door. Danielle is there with a tray of food and 3 of the apple sports drinks, “You look a bit pale their girly.” He closes the door again. Setting the tray on the night stand, she one by one makes me consume the beverages, which makes me feel a little better. She then places several pillows against the head of the bed and lifts me back onto it, and then hands me a tray of food. I don’t feel terribly hungry so I just pick at it.
“Well, Ms. Verde, don’t be late for your shift”, Pastor Ed says now reasserting his “Business is Business” frame of mind. “I have sermon, so I can’t hang around and chat with subordinates tonight”, he says while opening the door again. With a paternal, warm smile he does the cute little finger wave, and closes the door. “Sometimes, that man… Ugh!”, she says exasperated. “I heard that”, Ed says from the hallway chuckling as Danielle clasps her hand over her mouth. She shakes her fist at the door, and grimaces a little. Turning back to me the smile returns to her face. She frowns a little bit as she notices I only picked at my food, “I cooked this stuff myself. That isn’t cafeteria food, that is home cooking.”
That’s all I say to her looking up into her eyes then down at the food, trying to eat more. Something about the food reminds me of something triggering another episode of deja vu. This time it makes me a little dizzy and disoriented, and she becomes aware of it from watching me. “It’s okay, I know a lot happened today, and lately in general. I’ll try to do something like this again when your stamina and appetite returns”, she promises with a forgiving mother look on her face, as she places the tray of food back on the night stand. “Alrighty, young’un, I need to get a move on. My Shift starts in 30 minutes, and I am not ready to go yet. You just do whatever, but please get plenty of rest”, she explains once again petting my hair. “You really like doing that a lot, I’ve noticed”, I say in mid-yawn. “HA! Gotcha! Almost as good as sedatives… See, you’re already part way to passing out for the night”, she reports confidently. She presses her lips into a smile, and settles her brows into a soft curve. She gently pinches my earlobe, and hops up and walks to the door. “Don’t stay up too late”, she commands, “Sleep good, kitten.” I wander off to thought about the day, about my life, and I try desperately to remember what it is I am forgetting to no avail. I stare at the clock, and some point I just passed out finally, maybe 7:43pm or something…
Someone is pounding on my door…. My eyes open wide, startled by the loud noise… It’s 11:21pm… Still very fatigued I stumble to the door. I open it and Danielle is there, and she is frantic, shaking with a look of terror on her face, “We have to get you out of here, NOW!”, she says in a screaming whisper. I turn over my shoulder to look out the window into the courtyard, and I see military men, like the ones I’d seen earlier in the day escorting the Bishop, and a few of those guys in white hazardous materials suits. Terror, is the only word that describes what I feel now… The only thing I can think of is that somehow they know. I would be willing to bet that it had something to do with blood tests. She is holding on to my arm so tightly it almost hurts, and I can feel her shaking. She hurriedly makes me get dressed in some durable clothing she brought for me and grabs me by the wrist and drags me from my room. “Hurry, she says”, as we run down the all away from the dorm office. At the end of the hallway there is this metal chute door on the wall and she opens it and pushes me closer to it.
“Look, you have to get out of here. They found something wrong with your tests, and identity check… They care coming for you, and you can’t let that happen… Please run… I put electrolytes, stims, and food in this backpack for you. (she hands over the bag) There is a map inside that which will guide you….”. She is abruptly interrupted by a tall masculine silhouette standing behind her…. It’s Pastor Ed!
“Danielle, you realize you could be exiled for this. What a foolhardy thing you’ve done here…. It’s not wise of you do defy the dioceses like this, especially not with your rank. Do you realize what you’ve done, do you realize how hard I’ve tried to keep you out of trouble”, he says shaking her a bit as she begins to cry. He releases her, and lets out a loud sigh, as he covers his face with both of his hands. Sliding his hands down, he speaks through his fingers, “You could have at least disabled the security cameras and covert surveillance. Foolish, Danielle, purely foolish.” She slumps over a little, and turns letting her back fall back, and slides down the wall and crumples into a ball, tears streaming down her face. Eduardo towers over her looking down, shaking his head while running his hands through his untied hair. “Mulher, você vai ser a minha morte!”, he says to her. “Go… I already turned to standby the moment I saw you storm off. Get her out of here. Do it before I regain my sanity… Por favor!”, now standing looking away from her with his hands on his hips. She quickly wipes her face, and grabs me locking arms at the wrist. She puts, me in the chute, “Run, don’t look back, just keep running. Please, sweetheart. Just go”. She is sobbing, and her tears fall from her face and onto mine. I look down, “I’m scared”. I look back up at her, “Don’t worry, there is gravity dampeners in the shoot for safety reasons, because sometimes the kids play in the chutes against regulation. It will not let you die… Trust me.” She releases my hands, and my grip is too weak still so my grip slips…. I am falling!!!
To be continued…