Paying Dues Cont.
After staring at the packet until her eyes grew heavy and the words blurred, Ella fell asleep. Her lumpy bed creaked as she tossed and turned. Every dream seemed to haunt and mock her situation. Tears dampened her pillow as her son and husband repeatedly condemned her. She pleaded, desperate for them to understand just how sorry she was. When the first rays of the strange orange sun trickled through her tiny window, the torture finally ended. Her blue dress clung to her sweaty body.
Ella rinsed herself as much as possible in the small sink and put on the spare dress. The packet said that she would be working in the forge kitchen. From what she could piece together from her memories of earth, she was a decent cook. If she tried to hard to remember other details from earth, a piercing pain shot through her head. She hesitated in front of Jaxon’s door, but quickly moved on. The packet was very clear about their stance on being late. Ella did not want to start off on the wrong foot. She wanted to slide under the radar for as long as possible.
The map from the packet lead her directly to the forge. The acrid smell of melted metal began to burn her nose immediately. The forge master was a portly man. He had a bulbous bald head and green mottled skin. When Ella signed in, he directed her to the kitchens. She shuddered slightly as his mouth twisted into a wicked grin, revealing sharp, curved teeth. As soon as she walked into the kitchen, a scrawny female human shoved a tray of what she assumed was food in her hands.
“They supply you with all of your meals, but you must eat fast or you will run out of time,” she whispered.
“What is this,” Ella asked, poking at the red mush.
“It is a protein paste. My name is Samantha, but you can just call me Sam. You are going to shadow me today so that I can train you. It is important that you learn fast and don’t mess up. The guardians do not like mistakes,” Sam answered.
Ella shoveled the paste into her mouth, gagging it down as quickly as she could. She finished the entire plate in four huge gulps. Sam was already walking away and mumbling about what her daily duties would be. It was all pretty straight forward. Ella halfway listened to the woman, all the while planning and thinking about how to get home. The day seemed to drag on, by the time they stopped for lunch, her feet ached. Lunch was a green vegetable paste.
“Making it a paste makes it easier for all of the different species to eat the same thing. Not every species has teeth,” Sam explained between mouthfuls.
The day continued until finally a whistle rang out and a small bag containing red and green paste was handed to her. Ella walked home in near darkness, wincing with every step. Her head throbbed dully as she tried to remember more about her life on earth. The only thing that she could clearly remember was the night she had ruined her life.
Before she knew it, she was standing in front of Jaxon’s door. She raised her hand to knock, just to have him open it.
“I knew you would come here eventually. I was hoping you would not wait too long like Sherry,” he looked at her feet, the sadness clear in his voice.
“I need to know. Can I ever go home, there has to be a-”
Ella screamed as he lunged at her. His calloused hand clamped over her mouth, cutting off her scream. He pinned her against the wall. She struggled to get free, his hand was so large that it was covering her nose and her mouth. She was no match for him. Eventually, her struggles grew weaker and black spots began to swim before her eyes.
“I’m going to let go now, but you need to listen and be quiet,” Jaxon hissed.
Ella tried to nod her head, but the pressure from his hand prevented any movement. When he dropped his hand, she gasped and coughed as air rushed back into her lungs. She was so lightheaded that she could not even protest when he guided her into his room. She sat down stiffly on his bed and watched as he started to frantically scribble on a notepad.
“The guardians can hear everything. If they are close enough, they can even read our minds. You have to be careful, if they know that you are trying to get home, you commit ‘suicide’. Sherry made that mistake. The leader has been working on our problem, but he hasn’t thought of anything solid yet. Each building is a pod in the organization, I’m in charge of this one. We are supposed to pool our ideas together and I will give them to the leader. Eventually, we will find a way home.”
Ella clicked her mouth shut before the unspoken question could be heard.
“No one knows the leader’s name, that way the guardians can never find out who he is. Only the person in charge of each pod ever sees him and even that is not very often. Our goal is to find a way home and to restore our original memories.” Jaxon wrote.
Ella took the paper and pencil from him.
“What do you mean our original memories?”
“The leader believes that we were not brought here as prisoners. He believes that we were brought here to be slaves. The guardians altered our memories in order to keep us complacent. We were not sent here, we were kidnapped.”
Ella stared at Jaxon’s handwriting in disbelief. She could remember driving home on that snowy night. She could still feel her eyes growing heavy. That split second of dosing off and the squeal of tires on the icy road. She did not think she could ever forget the look on her son’s face as they spun out. There was no way they could have implanted that. Hot tears of shame raced down her face as the memories flashed sharply in her mind.
Jaxon clasped her hand in his. He knew what she was going through. Even though he believed the leader, the “memories” of what he had done still hurt. He knew they were not real, but the pain of not knowing if he would ever see his family again was. It would take Ella time to accept what he had told her, but he hoped that she would be able to handle it. They needed everyone working on a plan to get home, not alerting the guardian’s to their plan. Loosing Sherry was a serious blow.
“You have had a long day. You should probably get some sleep and gather your thoughts. You have to work again tomorrow and I’m sure that you are already sore. Remember,” Jaxon tapped the paper firmly.
“Only your thoughts are safe.” was scrawled across the bottom.