In The Castle’s Shadow (pt 3)

Part one- http://wp.me/p7AdNd-7G

Part two- http://wp.me/p7AdNd-7W

As the phone started ringing, Connor had a moment of panic. He was sure that the time differences meant he was calling Gregor in the middle of the night. He knew from the picture that his great uncle could not be a young man anymore. He doubted that the man would even be awake. He was so sure that Gregor would be asleep that when a gruff voice said hello, he just sat there in shock for a minute. A second rude hello roused him from his stupor.
“Uncle Gregor? This is Connor, um Alexandre’s son. Did I wake you?” Connor managed to stumble out.

“No.”

Connor waited for more before continuing.

“I’m so glad I reached you. I have to do a family history project for my psychology class. I’m supposed to contact living family members and gather some stories. I was wondering if I could ask you some questions?” Connor asked.

“I do not usually take phone calls to talk about myself. It is a waste of time,” Gregor’s accent was so thick that Connor had to concentrate to understand him.

Connor needed to get the answers and decided to ask again. It was easier to push for answers when it was over a crackling phone line. 

“I just need to get one story and any medical history you would be willing to share,” Connor spoke quickly, worried that the phone line was going to die.

He listened to the fading connection, praying that Gregor would give him the answers he needed. His hopes began to fade as the silence dragged on. At one point, he even checked his phone to make sure they had not lost their connection.

“Gregor?” he tentatively asked.

“I do not want to give away personal information to someone I have never met. If you want answers, I will send you tickets,” the line clicked before Connor could answer.

Connor sat there in shock. He had never left the state let alone the country. He had always thought of traveling, but Romania never made the list of countries he wanted to visit. He did not even know anything about Romania. The only thing that he knew about the country was that Dracula’s castle was there. The legend of Dracula had always peaked his interest. Without fully realizing what he was doing, he walked to his parents room to let them know that he was going to visit Gregor. He did not know what he was expecting. He knew that they would not be happy about his decision. 

When he was back in his bed for the night, he was a mixture of anxious and excited. To say his parents were less than thrilled would have been an understatement. Connor had nearly changed his mind when his mother started to cry. He had never made her cry before and hoped to never do it again. The anger on his father’s face battled against his apparent fear. He did not say a word as he comforted his distraught wife. He did not even look at his son.

Connor knew that going to Romania was going to disappoint his parents, but loosing his scholarship would disappoint them as well. He was in a no win situation. He hoped that in time, they could accept this trip and forgive him for making it. Despite their reaction, his excitement mounted. He could not wait to learn more about the country his great grandmother had grown up in.

He feel into a restless sleep, his dreams plagued with vampires and monsters stalking him. Everywhere he turned, horrors waited to greet him.

Jessica

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In The Castle’s Shadow (pt 2)

Part One- ​https://wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/in-the-castles-shadow/?preview=true

Connor did not think about his project again until his family was sitting down for dinner. His mother started to cut up the meatloaf. One look from her and he knew what was coming.

“How was your day honey?” she asked.

“It was okay. We started a family history project in my psychology class. I need to interview a couple of living relatives. Dad,” his father looked up from his phone. “Don’t you have an uncle from Romania? My teacher wants me to get in contact with him.”

Connor felt the mood in the dining room shift instantly. The air itself seemed to grow icy. If he had not been watching his father, he would have missed the sharp intake of breath and the furtive glance towards his mother. The tension mounted as the silence waned. Connor regretted asking the question. He felt dread settle around him as his father relaxed his clenched jaw. 

“My uncle Gregor,” was all his father said before turning back to his phone.

Connor waited for more, but nothing came. He stared at his father in shock. Their family had always been open about everything. He never felt like he needed to keep secrets from his parents and they had never kept secrets from him until now. He was not sure what they were hiding from him, but he had to talk to Gregor in order to pass his class. He decided not to press the matter and do some research on his own. 

The meal passed in silence and soon Connor found himself in the den. He was flipping through the old photo albums, making notes about hair color and other defining features. He knew one of the albums would have a picture of Gregor. His patience was rewarded when he found a tattered black and white photo. The photo was that of a much younger version of his great grandmother standing beside a young man. Someone with spidery handwriting had written their names and a date so faded that he could no longer read it on the back of the photo.

Connor smiled as he studied the picture. He had not known his great grandmother very long, but he only had good memories with her. The man standing next to her was wearing a soldier’s uniform and a grim face. He seemed tall with dark hair and haunted eyes. Somehow, Connor could tell that those eyes belong to someone who had already served their time in the military. Someone who had lost loved ones and returned home without them. 

He quickly flipped through the remainder of the photo albums, hoping to get more information but finding nothing. He was going to have to talk to his father about reaching out to his uncle. He was not looking forward to pressing his father, but he was not willing to loose his scholarship over an awkward conversation. 

        Connor found his father in his study. His father’s law firm often overloaded him with cases, so most nights he worked from his study. He knocked on the open door before walking in. He felt like he was in the principal’s office at school. 

“Dad, I can’t find any information on Gregor. I need to do good on this project,” Connor watched the same dark cloud cover his father’s face.

Connor found himself debating if it was worth it. The carpet mills provided a steady income and had a good benefits plan. He did not want to cause his father any strife, he just wanted to pass his class. He felt his determination grow as he waited for his father to answer. He did not want to get stuck in this town like all of the other athletes who peaked in high school. 

“I do not know much about my uncle. As far as I know, he has never left Romania. Even when your  great grandmother died, he refused to leave. I do not think he even has an email. You can try calling him, but you might want to consider getting creative,”  his father slid a slip of paper across the desk towards him. 

Connor took the slip of paper, careful to avoid his father’s eyes. His father who had just implied that he should cheat on a school project. He could remember being forced to return a stolen candy when he was younger. He could not believe this change. He could not imagine what would posses his father to encourage such dishonesty. A foreboding feeling filled his room as he looked at his phone. He was not sure he wanted to call Gregor if his father was so against it. He could easily make up dates and information and his professor would never be the wiser. Just the thought of cheating did not sit well with him. Reluctantly, he punched in the numbers.

The Widowmaker (pt 3)

Part One- https://wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/the-widowmaker-pt-1/?preview=true

Part Two- https://wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/the-widowmaker-pt-2/?preview=true

I walked towards the castle, apprehension filling my every step. I kept waiting for the three men to appear and start chasing me again, but the only sound was that of birds chirping in the trees. The castle walls loomed ahead, the red sandstone reflecting the sun. I noticed men scurrying along the tops of the walls as I got closer. I could hear them shouting, but they were too far away to make out what they were saying.

I looked back, unsure if the shouts were a warning. Mary stood just inside the small grove of trees watching me. She frantically motioned for me to keep going before sinking further into the shadows. I wanted to slap myself for not asking her more questions before she shoved me towards the castle. I just wanted to know where I was. I put my hand in my pocket to reassure myself that the Widowmaker was still there. When I felt the jewel encrusted spider, I started walking towards the castle again. 

The heavy wooden doors creaked open in front of me. My heart thumped painfully in my chest as I waited for the doors. Inside the courtyard, a small battalion of soldiers stood ready. Their hands rested on their sword hilts with a deceiving ease. I had no doubt that they were all efficient with their weapons. I froze, unable to approach the imposing group. A scream almost escaped my lips when a set of hands grabbed my arm and began to haul my forward.

“Where are we going?” I finally choked out.

The stoic man stared straight ahead, his jaw clinched in silence. He led me through a torch lit hallway. The air inside of the castle was dank and cold. I could fill a chill seeping into my body as we walked. I was sure the man was taking me to a cell, but to my shock, we entered a bright room. The floor was lined with rugs and animal skins. In the center of the room a throne seemed to grow out of a huge tree. It was not carved, the tree formed the throne.

The man sitting in the throne was a large man with a thick red beard. A thin, twisting crown rested on his unruly mane of red curls. His face was set in a permanent scowl. With a crook of his finger, the guard shoved me forward. I stumbled, awkwardly falling to my knees. 

“Where have you come from and why are you here?” the man’s voice boomed through the room.

“I’m not sure how I got here. I fell into a lake,” my voice cracked. “M-mary sent me here.”

“You have found the Widowmaker?” the man’s voice filled with rage. “We have spent centuries protecting the world from that cursed spider. That lake was our last line of defense, you’ve doomed us all.”

Desperation set in as his words hit me. Despite all the warnings, my pride had forced me to search for the artifact. I knew I was the best and finding the Widowmaker would prove that. My pride would lead to the downfall of humanity. My breath came in shallow gasps as the panic set in. The world seemed to rock beneath me. I did not even notice the soldier entering the room until he spoke.

“My Liege, the Guild is here. We must get ready to defend the fortress,” he looked at me, anger clear on his face.

The guard grabbed me again, this time leading me deep into the fortress. I felt numb as I listened to the footsteps thundering overhead. I had brought death to this place. I still was not sure where I was or who the Guild was, but I knew I was in trouble. The cell door clicked shut behind me. They had not even bothered to search me for weapons. The spider still rested in my pocket as I listened to the soldiers preparing for battle. Their blood was on my hands.

(Remember that likes equal a fourth part)

Jessica

Journey to Styxaz 

Captain’s Log: Day 145

Nothing can describe the feeling of falling asleep in the Earth’s shadow and waking up to find the red surface of Mars glaring at you. It looks like an angry ball, just daring us to trespass on its surface. The sight of the planet leaves you with an overwhelming sense of dread and apprehension. I’m trying to stay strong for the rest of the crew, but I can’t help feeling like we might never see Earth again.

We woke from hypersleep a day before we reach the planet’s surface, just as planned. All systems seem to be working as expected. Thanks to the improvements, we did not experience much muscle loss. We are just dealing with minor soreness due to inactivity. We should reach the surface without any complications.

The broadcast has grown stronger, but we are no closer to translating it or identifying the source. The constant beeps and clicks are not helping with moral. Smith has taken to wandering what little space we have. I fear he will break before too much longer. I have to express my concerns once again. It was foolish for us to come out here without knowing what the broadcast meant. We do not know if it is a warning or a plea for help. We could be flying into some kind of trap.

After years of studying life in harsh climates, I am not sure life can survive here. There is no water visible on the surface. The surface appears to be made entirely of rock. When we land, we will use the tools we brought with us to attempt drilling. We will proceed with our experiments despite my reluctance to step foot on the surface.

End transmission.

Captain Keith sat back, rubbing his temples. He knew the entry sound like death was a sure thing, but he was told to be honest. He could not shake the feeling that they were in trouble. If Smith lost it, he would be alone. Something needed to change. He winced as the beeping and clicking started up again. That was not the change he had in mind.

The Horsemen (part 3)

Famine followed the small girl back to her tiny apartment. The halls leading to her room were lined with sick and dying people. Along the way, she stopped to help some of the worst cases of disease. Taking their sickness into her body and ending their pain. He watched in terrified fascination as she worked. Other then soft groans, she did not make a sound.

After she had helped as many of the sick as she could, she stumbled weakly into her room. Famine looked around her sparse room, curious about her past but unsure how to bring it up. Eventually, she stood up and gathered a few possessions in a tattered backpack. She threw what little food she had in the bag too, before looking at Famine for guidance.

“The Indians said that I would be guided to each of the four. That is how I found you. I think there is someone to the east of here. It should not be too far, the tugging feels stronger then it did with you,” he answered the unspoken question.

When he was sure that she was ready and able to travel, he headed back out of her room. The bodies of the dead had been removed, only to be replaced by more disease and plague victims. Tears ran down the girl’s silent cheeks as she walked past them. She wanted to help them, but she knew that she would need her strength for the upcoming journey. She stared ahead, desperate to avoid the pleading eyes.

Famine could sense her distress and started to walk faster. He wanted to get out of the hallway anyways. He could practically feel the plague climbing across his flesh. Before the end had come, he had been a nurse. He knew from experience just how quickly germs could spread. That life seemed like an a faint dream now. He could barely recall his life as Ben.

* * *

They set up camp for the night in a small grove of trees. Famine would have liked to walk further, but the child was slowing him down. Her breathing had become labored and she started stumbling. He knew she needed to rest. He was not sure how taking away people’s illnesses affected her, but he could tell it wore her down.

Pestilence collapsed into a heap as soon as they stopped walking. She could not feel the tugging that Famine claimed to feel, but she trusted him. She had always been really good at reading people’s true intentions. She tried to stand up and help gather firewood, her muscles protesting every movement.

“You rest, I can handle this,” Famine noticed her trying to rise. “You should eat something while I make a fire. I am not sure how much further we have to walk tomorrow, hopefully not too far.”

He stared off into the darkness, his eyes following the tugging sensation. After the end, huge cities had been abandoned or demolished. Cities that had been around for years disappeared over night. He had no idea where they were heading. If he had a normal map, he would guess they were heading towards Maryland. For all he knew though, Maryland could have sunk into the ocean.

Famine glanced over at the girl, surprised to see her asleep already. Traveling in silence all day had made the day seem longer, he hoped the next horseman would be more talkative. He was tired of working through his thoughts on his own. One thing he had decided today was that he needed to talk to the Indians. He needed to get answers to his questions and help figuring out his mission.

He built up the fire and laid down next to the wood pile. Building a fire was a necessary risk. The night chill was too much to handle, but the flickering light could attract bandits. He slept with his dagger clutched in his hand. The only way that they would be in danger is if they were taken by surprise.

* * *

The girl woke as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon. Famine was still asleep next to the smoldering ashes of their fire. She walked over and gently touched his shoulder. She stared at him indifferently as he jumped up, dagger in hand. This was the longest she had gone without helping anyone along and she felt stronger then ever.

Famine looked down at the girl, shaking his head in disbelief. She had not even flinched when he jumped up. He knew that he had no room to judge, but the girl was strange. He kicked dirt over the embers and they started walking again. The tugging was much stronger than before, making it easy to follow. Before they had walked too long, a city came into view. This was the city where they would find the next horseman.

Famine was shocked upon entering the city. It seemed almost normal. People walked the streets and talked to each other cheerfully in passing. Stores were open and selling everything from food to luxury items like soap. No one seemed tempted to loot anything. It was the most normal city he had seen since the end. He could not wrap his head around it.

“Excuse me,” he stopped a passing woman. “What is going on here?”

“We are under the protection of the Tookie Brothers. Under their rule, there is no need to revert to such savage ways as other cities,” she answered politely.

“Where can I find these Tookie Brothers?”

“They live in the blue house on main street.”

Famine watched the woman walk away, still dumbfounded.

“I think we need to talk to these Tookie Brothers. One of them might be who we are looking for or they might know of someone in the city who fits what we are looking for,” Famine turned to the girl.

Once again, she nodded in silent agreement. He did not think she would ever talk. They walked towards main street. Everyone they encountered greeted them with polite smiles and even some handshakes. It was very unnerving. Famine was grateful when the blue house came into view. He expected the house to be guarded or at least fortified, but it appeared to be a normal house. It had a large porch that circled the entire house. The yard was in pristine condition. They walked up the stone walkway and knocked on the solid wood door.

A large dark skinned man answered the door. His meaty arms were covered in tribal tattoos and his dark hair hung to his shoulders. He greeted them with a warm smile.

“To what do we owe the pleasure,” the man asked in a thick Tongan accent.

“We are looking for the Tookie Brothers,” Famine answered hesitantly.

“Well, I am Anga. My brother is called Malohi. Please come in,” Anga swung the door open wider, motioning for them to enter.

Famine followed behind the huge Tongan, careful to keep the girl close behind him just in case things got crazy. They walked into a fancy living room. A second man identical to Anga was lounging on a couch.

“Brother, these two wish to talk to us,” Agna turned and frowned at them. “I do not think I got your names.”

“I am known now as Famine. You can call the girl Pestilence, but do not expect her to answer, she does not talk. We came to your city seeking the two remaining horsemen, war and death. I am not sure who-”

He stopped talking as Malohi stood. This brother gave off a distinctly more hostile vibe then his counterpart. He was not someone to be messed with.

“I am war and my brother is death,” he growled simply.

“Um, how do you know? Have you done things,” Famine asked awkwardly.

“Who are you to question who we are? We do not even know who you are,” Malohi advanced angrily.

“What my brother means to say is,” Agna stepped in between them, “We have known who we are for a few years now. War and death go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other, so it makes sense that it would be twins.”

“But how did you find out you were different,” Famine questioned.

“We grew up in this house. When the end came, everything went crazy. People who we knew were running and looting everything. I had no idea people could act that way. One night a few years ago, I woke up to find Malohi gone. He has always been more driven by his emotions,” Agna smiled at his brother. “I left the house to find him. When I did find him, he was in an alley fighting numerous looters. I watched in amazement as he took them all on single handed. One thug somehow got behind him. I ran to protect him, but before I could reach him, the thug fell to the ground dead. I knew I was the cause.”

“If you had not reacted, it would have been me,” Malohi sounded like they had had this discussion a hundred times. “It was that night that I found out just how strong I am and just how quick my reflexes are. As the years progressed, I have become able to sense people who do not have good intentions. It has helped us run this city. I can pick out who will cause trouble and if they refuse to leave, my brother can end them with a glance.”

“As I said war and death go hand in hand,” Agna finished sadly.

Famine stared at the twins, still unsure if they were telling the truth. He had been sure about the girl the second he saw her, but he never expected twins who readily accepted their fate.

“They are telling the truth,” the girl spoke for the first time.

All three of the men turned to look at her, but she did not elaborate. She just resumed her stony silence.

“OK,” Famine finally said. “I think before we do anything we need to get some answers from the Indians. It’s a two day walk back to the park where they live. We need them to give us some guidance on how to restore balance.”

The remaining horsemen nodded in agreement. He was a little overwhelmed with their total acceptance of him as the leader. He expected Malohi at least to put up a fight about it, but he did not even open his mouth to protest. They settled in for the night, resting up for the long journey ahead.

Icymi here’s part two 

wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/the-horsemen-2/?preview=true

Jessica

The Horsemen (part 2)

        Famine stepped out of the park and despite hearing the howling of dogs, he felt calm. He knew his reflexes were faster, he just was not sure what else had changed. He walked down the streets, silently hoping for a gang member to show up and test him. He did not have to wait long. A huge thug walked straight at him. His face was covered in poorly drawn tattoos and he had the same sharpened teeth as the woman from the park. He cracked his knuckles loudly as he got closer. As soon as he was within arms reach, he lunged.

        Famine dodged the huge man easily, slashing his arm with the wise woman’s dagger. He watched with a morbid fascination as the man stumbled. His skin grew taut and his body seemed to wither as he fell. He was dead before his body hit the ground. Nobody who saw the body would have believed that he was a burly thug just seconds ago. His skeletal frame bore no resemblance of his former self.

Famine gasped suddenly as he felt warmth flood through his body. He looked the same, but he felt so much stronger. The realization dawned on him. He had gained his victim’s strength. He could inflict famine like symptoms on whoever he deemed deserving and he would benefit from it. The wise woman was right, he would restore balance to the end. He knew the tugging sensation was guiding him to one of the others.

He turned away from the body and walked towards the tugging. The longer he walked, the stronger the sensation got. At one point he could feel the tugging coming from two different directions, but he continued on the first path. After his second encounter with a gang member, this time a woman, word started to spread about the stranger with the deadly dagger. Soon enough, the streets were deserted.

* * *

        Famine walked for days before he reached the next city over. He never realized how much he took modern conveniences like cars for granted. The extra strength he had gained from killing the thugs was spent. He searched for a secure spot to spend the night, every inch of this city seemed to be covered in filth. He eventually had to settle for a dilapidated building, knowing his options were limited. He kicked as much of the trash away from his corner as he could before laying down.

        Unlike before, his dreams were empty. He no longer dreamed of the disease or the destruction the end had brought. For the first time in a long time, he woke up feeling well rested and ready to face the day. The tugging feeling had grown steadily stronger as he entered the city. He was sure that he would find one of the four today.

       As he walked, Famine realized it had been days since his last meal and he was still going strong. He scrunched up his face in confusion, considering this new ability. He wished he had asked the Indians more questions before they left him, but he was not positive he could even put his thoughts into words right now. He never expected to be anything more than a normal survivor, barely scrapping by.

        He wandered through the city aimlessly, the tugging was fairly strong now but it just showed him the general direction. He had no clue who he was looking for. They told him he would know the others when he found them, but he had yet to see anyone out of the ordinary. As the sun crept higher into the sky and the humidity increased, he grew steadily more discouraged and angry. The Indians had to know more than they let on. Why were they not more willing to help him?

        He was so consumed with anger that he stumbled over the legs of an elderly man. The man looked like he could have been one of Famine’s victims. His skin hung in loose folds over his knobbly joints. His clothing hung in tattered rags, barely covering his body. Famine pulled back as the old man started to cough, spraying blood and spittle on the sidewalk. Fear shot through him as memories of the end resurfaced. He had no clue if his new found talents would protect him from disease.

        Famine turned to run away from the man, only to bump into a small child. The girl had her pale blonde hair tied back with a string. Her eyes were a piercing blue, the kind that could see straight into your soul. Famine knew immediately that she was the reason he was here. He watched in wary silence as the child knelt next to the diseased man. She completely ignored his raspy coughing as she checked his temperature. It took every fiber of Famine’s being not to jerk the girl away from the dying man.

        The girl did a hasty check of the old man’s vitals. She could always tell who was going to die and who was going to get better. A few months ago, her mother had fallen ill. She was forced to watch her mother deteriorate before her eyes, helpless and alone. One morning she could tell her mother’s time was near. She held her mother’s hand and could feel life leave her. Her mother’s breath came in ragged gasps. The girl prayed for a way to help her mother.

        The girl closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, just like she had for her mother. She breathed in the man’s disease, taking the pain from his body. Tears streamed down her face as his pain entered her body. Relief flooded the old man’s face as he drew his last breath. She winced as his life ended. She knew she was helping the sick, but being the one to help people along was a lonely road.

        Famine stepped forward and caught the girl as she fell backwards. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she shook slightly as the pain rain through her body. He watched in horror as roaches and flies appeared all around them. As soon as the bugs disappeared in the street, the girl rose shakily to her feet. She stared at him apprehensively, sensing that something was off about him.

        “My name was Ben, I am now known as Famine. I was sent to find three others and I believe that you are one of them. I think you are Pestilence. We are supposed to bring an end to this way of life. I’m a little bit foggy on the details,” Famine stated awkwardly.

        The girl watched him for a second before nodding. She had nowhere else to go and no one that would miss her. She motioned for him to follow her back to her hideout. They would need supplies for their journey.

Jessica

(Just in case you missed part one here it is:

wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/the-horsemen/?preview=true )

Paying Dues (part 2)

​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.”

“Who-”

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.