Katlyn and Iris
The Max Clan. Rather a very peculiar family. No one is sure if they really are a family, though, no one knows they really exist. The Max Clan. Their presence can be felt, yet never seen. Unless, they want to be seen. The Max Clan. A mere figment of our imagination. Or not. You can never be sure if they’re existence is real existence or a simple feeling of presence. The Max Clan. They work in inconceivably treacherous, risky, hazardous ways. The Max Clan. They weren’t born. More like, solely, awakened.
The sun was shining above the Walker household. Layla was heading off to the woods to unwillingly try taxidermy. She went down the stairs, to the kitchen. Her dad was sitting at the dinner table, reading the local newspaper. He was wearing his best suit and his favorite tie. That meant he was in no mood to chat, for he had an important meeting ahead of him. He only wore his best clothes when they were useful.
“I’m off to the library.” Layla told him.
“Have fun, I guess. Stay out of trouble. I don’t want to have to drive down to that library to here that my daughter tried to steal some worthless novel. I have much better things to do today.”
“Like what? Pretending to go to meetings, and freeloading at work?”
“What? I don’t get it! It’s that obvious? But, I’m wearing my best clothes! They just shout the word, ‘Meeting’!”
“You are the weirdest person I know.”
“Thanks! Most of the best things in the world come from the weirdest people alive, you know.”
Layla strolled over to the front door, struggled to open it, but eventually got through. The heat struck her like a lightning bolt. Never had she witnessed a summer as hot as this one. She checked her cell phone. It was 101°F. Layla scolded at the sun but concluded her gaze as it started to blind her. She walked down the driveway with a hop in her step. The excitement was building up inside her. She had only dreamed about the woods. The trees, the plants, and the animals all fascinated her. Layla was about to cross the street, when it struck her. She was about to disobey her father. Is it worth it? Will he find out? What if he questions me when I get home and I have no answers? These questions tousled through her head, each one eager to be positively answered. Layla put them aside and continued across the street. All was well until a dark green van pulled up to her, and the back doors swung open. A young girl, around Layla’s age, awkwardly toppled out, landing next to her. She had an atrocious look in her eyes. She whispered something dim from her parched mouth. Layla could just make out the word, “Run.”. She had no time to think before she was hoven by the arm into the van, and stuffed in the back seat. The driver slammed onto the gas pedal, and the van’s timeworn tires gave a deafening screech. Still in too much shock to yell, Layla studied the others around her. The driver was a woman. She looked to be in her mid- 20’s or early 30’s. Her hair was black, slightly curled, and propped up in a tight pony-tail. She was wearing an old T-Shirt and jeans with fur boots. The woman next to her had an appalling appearance. Her face was wrinkled, her hair was knotted and a muddy brown and she was wearing a black jumpsuit. The younger woman turned to the other and winked. She looked at Layla and grinned.
“Hello, Layla Walker! My name is… My name is Katlyn. How are you?” she asked
“I… I don’t know.” Layla replied wearily.
“Still cooling off from the kidnapping, right?”
Layla remained silent.
“Okay, then. Just let me know when you’re ready to talk. But make it quick, okay? Iris and I don’t have much time before we’re expected at home with all of the information we need.”
Iris turned around and gave Layla a quick glance. She then focused her eyes on another car behind them. A look of astonishment formed on her face.
“Step on it.” She said, without dropping her gaze.
“What?” Katlyn asked while turning to her.
“I think Gamma’s following us! Step on it!”
Katlyn forced down the gas pedal. The van accelerated, and shot past the store fronts. Every now and then, Katlyn looked back at the car behind, each glance displaying a greater level of panic than the last. The van took a sharp turn, and Layla flew to the side. Iris rolled her window down, and threw a music box with a dozen symbols on it, at the car following them. The box crashed through the wind shield, and the car stopped. Iris squinted, and waited a few moments. BOOM! The car exploded and sent Layla, Iris, and Katlyn hurtling forward. The van’s two front wheels shot upwards, and landed, forcing it to do a fish-tail rotation. The tires finally came to stop and Layla’s mind started to clear.
“Ahhh! Let me out! Let me out! Let me out of this van right now!” she screamed.
“Calm down” Katlyn said, “, before you have a heart attack!”
“Calm down?! Calm down?!”
“Please! We’re almost home!!”
“Just let me go! I’ve been a good person! Please!”
“Goodness, you complain a lot. Oh and by the way, this isn’t a kidnapping. I just want to steal you away for a while. It’s tremendously important that you come with me.”
“I just want to go home!”
Katlyn and Iris exchanged glances. Suddenly, Katlyn slammed on the gas and the van sped up.
“Seriously?! Did you not hear what I just said?!” Layla asked angrily.
Katlyn didn’t pay attention. She just kept her eyes on the road. She drove out of town, and went down a road surrounded by fields. There was a giant hill ahead of them. The van eased up the hill and came to a stop. There was a humongous mountain in the distance. It was a while before Katlyn began speaking again.
“I know you’re very angry and scared, but you don’t have to worry. You may not know me, but I know you. I need to take you home with me. My… my brothers and my father have some life-changing news to tell you. It’s very hard to explain. I hope you’ll understand.”
“Wait. You know me? How? Are you connected with my dad somehow?” Layla asked.
“Oh, you mean Daniel? Yeah, I know the guy! Jerk…”
“Jerk?! My dad’s not a…”
“He dumped her in high school, kid.” Iris interrupted.
“Iris! Shhhh!” Katlyn shushed her.
The rest of the ride was quiet and long. The sun was starting to set around their area. Layla wondered why it was getting so dark at only 9:26 a.m. Before she knew it, the sun was out of sight and the sky was pitch black. Millions of stars were out, and in the middle was the biggest star, almost as big as the sun, giving off an attractive, white glow. It didn’t make any sense.
“This doesn’t make any sense.” said Layla.
Katlyn slammed on the brakes and turned to her.
“What doesn’t make sense?”
“This place! The sun is down, the sky is black, and there is a huge star out at 9:30 a.m.”
“Don’t use that language with me! This is going to be your home for a while so you’re going to have to get used to it! You know better than to criticize other peoples’ homes! You confused children drive me nuts.”
“I don’t think that was really all that offensive! And you shouldn’t even be yelling at me! I am only a confused child…”
“Seriously? ‘I am only a confused child!’ Don’t turn all this back on me! I’m not all fun, y’ know. I have to be serious here. My father is watching. I’m most likely going to get in trouble just because I told you that!”
Iris turned to Layla.
“She speaks the truth, kid. We have to be serious here or we’re going to be kicked out, flat on our rears. It’s happened to me before. I’m not going to sit back and let it happen again, so you better straighten up or I’ll have to...”
“Iris!” she was interrupted by Katlyn. “She’s just a kid! We can’t be that tough on her. I think I said enough.”
“I think we need to fix her up until she’s more proper than our queen.”
“Iris! You’re going to get us killed! You know we don’t talk about…”
The car came to a quick stop. A young lady that looked like Katlyn, but blonde, was standing in front of the van shaking her fist in front of her face. She was yelling something, but Layla couldn’t make it out. Katlyn kicked her door open and slid out. She calmly walked up to her blonde twin, and tackled her. They went tumbling down the mountain side, neither of them losing their grip on each other’s hair. They yelped and squirmed and rolled. They slid off a slope and flew into the air. Iris looked tremendously proud of Katlyn’s developing fighting skills. The women landed and continued to roll until they collided with a dusty boulder. The blonde pulled away from Katlyn and turned to run, but Katlyn caught her by her shirt collar. She yanked the blonde back and pushed her passed the boulder and down the rest of the mountain side. Soon the blonde was out of sight. Vanished. Gone. Possibly dead. Katlyn ran back up the steep hill and flashed Iris a thumbs-up. She jogged around the front of the car and got back behind the wheel. Layla said nothing. She was in too much shock. Iris sure wasn’t. She and Katlyn shared a high-five and started laughing hysterically. Katlyn started the engine and the van continued on the mountain.
“You sure showed her!” Iris congratulated Katlyn.
“I know! Ha-ha!” Katlyn replied.
“Wait till everyone hears that you, Katlyn, defeated Anna again! And in only one try!”
“Wouldn’t it be so crazy if she was gone forever?”
“We sound like 5th grade girls now.”
“Yeah, let’s shut up.
“Katlyn, I… I meant now.”
Layla wanted to ask what was going on, but she still had to process it all. She had only known Katlyn for about an hour and a half but she had already labeled her as a fun-loving goody-goody. She didn’t seem like the fighting type at all. She was more like a fight-stopper. Nothing made sense. Absolutely, nothing at all. Layla wasn’t expecting to witness an attack today. She wasn’t expecting anything that had happened so far that day at all. She started to think about her situation a little harder. The harder she thought, the clearer her problem seemed. She was still being kidnapped. She could end up like that girl who was dumped in front of her that morning. Katlyn and Iris were criminals. Her father had no idea she was gone. He wouldn’t go look for her and save the day. She was being dragged into the un-known. She absolutely had to escape before something dreadful occurred. Layla turned to the left and reached out for the door handle. She wrapped her fingers tightly around it. She regretted it almost immediately.
Layla turned to the left and reached out for the door handle. She wrapped her fingers tightly around it. She regretted it almost immediately. The van’s door swung wide open, letting in a gust of foul air. Both Iris and Katlyn spun around in astonishment. Layla was close to being sucked out of the backseat when Iris snatched her by the arm. Layla furiously shook her sleeve from Iris’ firm grip. The wind howled in Layla’s ears tuning out a shout while dragging her from the van. Layla felt her body slip from the leather seats and shoot out into air. She tried to grab for something but there was nothing to grab. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her spine. She roughly re-united with the ground. The road she lay on was rocky and displeasing. The pain in her back began to increase, and Layla started to investigate. She moved her hand along her back in search of the problem. Her fingers found a large splinter in her lower-back. Layla wrapped her fingers around the shard of wood and pulled. She grimaced at the pain but kept pulling. She howled every now-and-then but didn’t give up. It wasn’t long before the splinter was out. Layla had a revolting cut along her flesh but didn’t pay too much attention to it. She had to find out where she was. Her surroundings were foreign and appeared to be distorted versions of shrubbery. She stood up to catch a better look at the mountain. It looked like a triangle with a rounded top, and jagged sides from Layla’s view. Suddenly, she heard someone calling her name in the distance. It sounded just like Katlyn.
“Um… LAYLA IS NOT HERE, MAN!” Layla shouted in a Jamaican accent.
She spun around and dove for some nearby bushes. As she was hiding in the bushes, she was thinking about how incredibly idiotic she was. There was a loud sound of running feet that seemed to be getting closer at an extraordinarily rapid pace. There were also more shouts containing Layla’s name in familiar voices. It had to be Iris and Katlyn, coming to look for her. Layla turned and found herself staring into a cave. She wondered how she’d missed it before. She crawled inside and started to run when she was deep enough inside and far away from Iris and Katlyn. She continued running deeper inside the cave before she collided face-first into a wall. Layla plummeted to the cave floor and clutched the wound from earlier on her back. She got back up on her wobbly legs and stood with her back pressed against the wall. The large star was still shining and created a mystical gloom inside the cave. Layla’s eyes adjusted to the light and could make out large 5 ft. plants growing in a corner. She crept towards the plants and started pulling them back to the cave wall. She tore the large leaves off of each plant one by one. She had a spare sewing needle in her pants pocket. Layla always kept an “emergency needle” with her. Apparently, her mother used to be a seamstress and an extra needle always came in handy for her. She took the needle and started ripping out grass around the area that the large plants grew. She took her needle and wound it through bunches of grass to make thread. She punched holes through the sides of the large leaves with a tiny rock and sewed them together with the thread. Now she had a blanket. Layla took off her jacket and bunched it up for a pillow. She lied down on the cold, hard cave floor, and pulled the leafy blanket over her from waist-down. Her stomach let out a mean rumble. She knew she had to find food. She had to explore her location as soon as possible. The chances of survival with little knowledge of her surroundings were low. If only she had known that all of this was going to happen that morning. Maybe she would have listened to her foolish father when he specifically told her to stay out of trouble. She was nothing but hopeless.
Layla awoke to the roughness of a storm outside. She looked around at her destination. Then she remembered. She was kidnapped. She jumped out the car. She found a cave. She slept till the next day. No. Sleeping for 24 hours wasn’t possible. Perhaps she was unconscious. Yeah. Unconscious. And she was lost. Layla stood up, almost fell over, but steadied herself. She started to walk over to the entry of the cave, getting faster with each step. Soon she was running until she reached the exit. She saw the rest of the mountain before her and the still dark sky. She ran from the cave and into the open air. The first thing she did was search for food. She hiked up along the side of the mountain, zealous to settle her famine. All she could find was plant-life. Small crowds of shrubbery concealed the entire mountain. Layla couldn’t take it. She didn’t care anymore. All she wanted was food. She furiously ripped out tiny plants from the ground and stuffed them into her mouth. The vegetation took up all the space in her cheeks, making her look like a squirrel stuffed with nuts. The taste was as foul as the air. But Layla swallowed it anyway. Regret. She doubled over and clutched her stomach as the shrubbery swam up her digestive system and exited through her mouth. Layla spat and scowled at the pile of disgust in front of her feet. At least it was enough to soothe her hunger for about a half-an-hour. At this moment she had wished that she never left the van. She whipped the thought out of her mind the moment it entered. If she’d stayed with Iris and Katlyn, she’d most likely be their little prisoner by now. She continued up the mountain and stopped ever now-and-then to take a rest. The last rest she took was another thing she later regretted.
Layla was in the kitchen eating cereal. Her school bag was packed and she was ready to go learn some more useless skills and facts. She grabbed her bag, kissed her father goodbye, and headed through the foyer to the front door. She opened the door and stepped out onto the street. Suddenly, she appeared at the local library. It was teeming with people and the librarian was tending to groups of people, running left and right. Layla looked around the room in confusion. She slowly walked up to the librarian.
“Excuse me?” She tried to get the librarian’s attention.
No answer. The librarian looked right at her but didn’t say a thing.
“Can you tell me what’s going on here?” Layla tried again.
No answer. The librarian walked away to her desk and started making some calls. Layla looked around again and now noticed that all of the book shelves were empty except for one in the middle of the room. It was the only shelf that no one was looking at or moving near or disturbing. Naturally, Layla assumed it was something important that no one would dare ever try to peek at. So she ran over to the shelf and stared at the one book laying on it. She reached for it, hesitated, but gripped the spine and yanked it off the shelf. It had a wine-red cover with a strange design that spread across it. Layla opened the book to find that it was empty except for a Table of Contents. The only chapter was titled, “The Max Clan”. It was on page 300/600. Layla flipped to the page and her eyes feasted upon a small paragraph describing “The Max Clan”. Whatever that was. It read:
The Max Clan. Rather a very peculiar family. No one is sure if they really are a family, though, no one knows they really exist. The Max Clan. Their presence can be felt, yet never seen. Unless, they want to be seen. The Max Clan. A mere figment of our imagination. Or not. You can never be sure if they’re existence is real existence or a simple feeling of presence. The Max Clan. They work in inconceivably treacherous, risky, hazardous ways. The Max Clan. They weren’t born. More like, solely, awakened.
It seemed very familiar to Layla somehow. She felt like she was related to these words somehow. The description was very much native to her. It was almost like it was a description of her. She shut the book, frightened by the feeling of Déjà Vu. Suddenly, the library and people disappeared. Layla was awakened.
Layla woke up with a massive headache. She was lying on a cobblestone path covered with blankets and pillows. Around her was a humongous crowd of curious people with the look of bewilderment in their eyes. She sat up and the crowd shifted and everyone was ready to run away. A little girl stepped forward with a large rock in her hands. She placed the rock in front of Layla.
“I threw this at you when I found you in the mountains, Miss.” She said
“Um… That’s okay, kid. I think I’m okay. Except for this huge headache, but other than that, I’m perfectly fine.” Layla replied.
“No. It was very rude of me to throw it. I thought you were a creature of some sort. I couldn’t see very well from the bushes.”
A woman from the crowd pushed the little girl even more forward.
“Oh, yes! I almost forgot. I am truly sorry, Miss.” She apologized.
Layla stood and looked around at the crowd.
“I need to ask you people something important. Do you recognize this passage?”
Layla recited the description to the crowd. She hoped it was just a paragraph from a popular book.
“The Max Clan. Rather a very peculiar family. No one is sure if they really are a family, though, no one knows they really exist. The Max Clan. Their presence can be felt, yet never seen. Unless, they want to be seen. The Max Clan. A mere figment of our imagination. Or not. You can never be sure if they’re existence is real existence or a simple feeling of presence. The Max Clan. They work in inconceivably treacherous, risky, hazardous ways. The Max Clan. They weren’t born. More like, solely, awakened.”
The crowd froze. No one spoke, blinked, or moved. Everything was quiet and still until a tall, strong man stepped out from the crowd.
“Finally! After years of searching, I have found our warrior.” He shouted out to everyone. His voice was deep and intimidating.
The entire crowd began to cheer, shout, cry, and bow down to Layla. She didn’t pay any attention. Warrior? Was the man talking about Layla?
“Sir!” she asked the tall man, “What do you mean by warrior?”
“You… You are.” He replied, stunned.
“No. No, sir my name is Layla. Layla Ann Walker.”
“Oh dear… I’ve said too much. Melissa, would you do the honors?”
The little girl picked up the giant rock and wound her arms back, ready to toss.
“No!” Layla held up one hand to the girl. She continued to protest. “No! Stop! Stop! I just want to know what’s going on! I really don’t mean any harm. “
The tall man came forward again.
“Where did you learn about this ‘Max Clan’?” he asked.
“I don’t know. It just came to me while I was knocked out, I guess.” Layla told him.
“We might need to lock you away for a while. This is extraordinary. You are more powerful than you think. ”
“What do you mean? You can’t lock me away!”
The crowd started to shuffle and everyone began to panic.
“Where am I?” Layla asked.
“Guards! Guards!” The tall man called.
“GUARDS!” The man yelled louder.
“No! No! No!” Layla screamed as the guards budged their way through the crowd and approached her with hand-cuffs hanging on their shoulders.
“Shackles!!” The tall man ordered the guards and they placed the shackles around Layla’s wrists.
“No! Please! Stop!”
Layla was rushed through the town, shackled with chains on her wrists and ankles. Two guards were by her sides and the tall man was in front while Melissa, the little girl with the stone, followed from behind. The people of the small town were all stunned at this display. Layla kept shouting out, pleading, and begging without stopping no matter how many times the tall man told her to stop.
“Let go of me! Let go!”
She screamed millions of times over and over and never stopped until the tall man couldn’t take it anymore. He stopped in his tracks, spun around, and wound his massive hand back. One of the guards left Layla’s side and told the tall man to calm down. He called him something. Layla thought she heard Gamma. The tall man’s name must be Gamma. The guard still tried to calm Gamma down, but he was too late. Gamma swung at Layla, nearly knocking her over. The shackles on her ankles made it harder to keep her balance. The guard at Layla’s other side lunged at Gamma, and tackled him. The guard took off his handkerchief and covered Gamma’s eyes with it. The guard then pulled of his mask. It was Iris.
“Run, kid, run!” she shouted at Layla, not noticing the shackles.
Layla looked down at her ankles and shook her head to Iris. The foul air made the wound on Layla’s cheek sting. Iris looked enraged. She kept one hand on Gamma’s face and used the other to take a sharp knife out of her pocket.
“A knife can’t cut these shackles!” Layla said.
Iris didn’t say anything. She raised the knife and swung with amazing force. The knife cut through the ankle shackles like it was cutting through butter. As soon as the shackles were separated, Layla dashed. She sprinted past Melissa, and through the groups of town people. She heard Gamma calling after her, and she knew he was chasing her. She took a sharp turn into a horse stable and ducked behind the gate. Layla could hear Gamma running past the stable and into the rest of town. She sighed with relief and sat down on the floor of the stable to relax. Suddenly, a hand tapped her shoulder. She opened her eyes immediately and got ready to punch. She calmed down when she saw that it was only a boy, about her age, crouching next to her. His hair was a brownish-golden and he had dazzling blue eyes. His body was slim, but his arms were strong. He was wearing a baggy button-up shirt that was white, but speckled with dirt. His jeans had rips and holes near his knee caps.
“Sorry. Did I disturb you?” He had an English accent. It was the cutest accent Layla had ever heard.
“No! I mean… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be here. I’ll just go.” Layla replied feeling embarrassed.
“It’s fine. Anyone can come to the farm when they want. My name is Sean Max. I’m thirteen.”
“Layla Walker. I’m thirteen, too.”
“Welcome to my farm, Layla Walker. I have a lot to show you.”
“Okay. But, first, can you somehow get these shackles off of my wrists?”
“Sure. How did you get those on your wrists, anyway?”
“It’s a long story. I wouldn’t want to put you through it all.”
“It’s okay. I’m all ears.”
Layla and Sean walked around the rest of the farm, talking about Layla’s journey over to the town. Sean listened and asked questions like he really cared. After the story was over, Sean led Layla to a chicken coop. In the back of the coop was a long sword. Sean reached for it and slowly pulled it out.
“I keep this for emergencies.” He said.
“Oh. You don’t have to waist it on me. I can go a long time with these shackles.” Layla told him.
“This is a big enough emergency for me. It’s not every day I get to help out a pretty girl.”
This made Layla blush. She was sure that Sean would hear her heart beating. He took the sword and held it around the top to keep it steady. He slid the sword between the shackles. After a few minutes, the shackles dropped from Layla’s wrists to the ground. Layla rubbed her hands and pecked at the marks that the shackles left.
“You must be cold.” Sean said.
“Yeah, I guess.” Layla replied.
“Here. Take my coat.”
Sean took off his coat and placed it around Layla’s shoulders. He wrapped an arm around her and led her inside a little, two-story house near the cattle. The inside was warm and comfortable. The furniture was arranged in a proper order, and was all covered with fur. The walls were beige and all rose high to a dark brown ceiling. The floors were all black rugs except for the floor in the kitchen. The kitchen floors were white diamond-shaped tiles. Sean pulled out a chair from a small table and gestured Layla to it. Layla sat down while Sean went through the kitchen, looking for a snack. He came back with mozzarella string-cheese, glasses of pomegranate juice, and a pitcher of seltzer water. He poured some seltzer in each glass, followed by some pomegranate juice. He passed one glass to Layla and sat across from her.
“Pomegranate soda?” Layla asked.
“You bet.” Sean answered happily.
They sat and drank their soda in silence for a while.
“Who is Gamma?” Layla asked.
Sean looked stunned.
“You don’t know?” he asked.
“Oh. Well, he’s our leader. We wouldn’t be The Max Clan without him.”
“That’s impossible. The Max Clan sounds like it’s just a fairy tale.”
“Nope. It’s all true.”
“No. This stuff doesn’t exist. Anyway, when I told Gamma, he said ‘Sigma has returned!’ and a bunch of other stuff. Who’s Sigma?”
“You are, Layla Walker. Or should I say, Sigma Max?”
Layla stood. She turned away from Sean and headed for the front door of the small house. She gripped the door handle, hesitated, and pulled.
“Wait, Layla! Where are you going?” Sean called after her.
“I need to find someone sane to help me.” Layla replied without turning from the door.
“Wait.” Sean got up and took out a small note pad from his pocket and scribbled something down with a pen. He walked over to Layla and gave her the pad.
“It’s the house number. Call whenever you like.” He said.
Layla stared at him. She then opened the door and slipped outside. The wind was still cold but she threw Sean’s coat back to him. She checked the empty streets. Layla then turned back to Sean.
“Don’t tell a soul that I was here.” She told him.
“I won’t. Cross my heart.”
Layla strolled off of Sean’s front porch and walked half-way down a path out of the gated farm before turning to see if Sean was still watching her leave. He was. In fact, he was following her.
“I want to come with you.” He called after her.
“What? Why?” Layla asked.
“You’ve told me your story and it sounds very interesting to me. Plus, I might be able to get you the answers that you need.”
Layla hesitated, but nodded. Sean jogged up to her and they started walking side by side, away from the farm. They walked for a while without saying a word. Then, Sean held Layla’s hand in his, and they laced their fingers together. The sky was still dark and the big star was still shining. Layla had come to the conclusion that it was night all the time here.
“Okay. Say that The Max Clan was real. I’m not saying it is. But, how is it a family? ” she asked.
“What do you mean?” Sean was confused.
“The description mentioned that The Max Clan was a family.”
“Well… We kind of are. You see, the first Max’s weren’t people. They were statues. A traveler named Delilah Walker was hiking in the mountains when she found the statues. This all happened in the future so she had some intense technology with her. She animated each statue and taught them to talk, walk, and fight. After the statues were fully trained, Delilah Walker used her amazing technology to take the statues back in time. She took them all 1,000,000 years back a.k.a. 1,000 years ago from this date. The statues became highly intelligent. They all decided to start a colony. Each statue reproduced and created different breeds of their people with each other statue. When there were 600 of them, they stopped reproducing just to create a larger population and began to live the way they wanted to. Half of the colony broke off to create their own colony. The 300 that stayed chose the first statue ever awoken to be their leader, Gamma Max. They later named their colony, The Max Clan. The other colony chose the second statue awoken. Arumis Karma. They named their colony, The Karma Clan. The Karma Clan became an evil colony and turned against the Max’s. They threatened us, vowing to start a war someday and crush us all.”
“Oh. Wow.” Layla was stunned with The Max Clan’s foolish history.
“I know, right? It’s such an amazing story.”
“Wait. Did you say that the traveler’s name was Delilah Walker?”
“I did. That’s your last name. Is it not?”
“Did Delilah Walker become a part of the clan at all?”
“No. Not possible.”
“No it’s not! It’s just a story.”
“It’s because, you were in the presence of Max Clan members for a while, that you had the dream.” “When was I with Max Clan members?”
“Katlyn and Iris are a part of The Max Clan. Their real names are Kaila and Irma.”
“That’s impossible. They’re regular people, like you.”
“No they aren’t. I’m trying to tell you, Layla. We’re real.”
“You can’t be. You expect me to believe that all of this is from the future? And that Gamma, or whoever he is, is some sort of statue, bingo, robot person? And that my family is somehow connected to all of this?”
“I do because it’s one-hundred percent true. I’m going back home. Call me when you realize that this is no joke.”
Layla said nothing as she watched Sean turn around and start walking back the way they’d come without looking back. She reached into her jacket pocket and clutched the pad with Sean’s number on the front.
Layla ran from the entrance of the farm to a nearby warehouse. It was old, shabby, and had an appearance of abandonment. The doors looked like they’d been blown off their hinges by an unbeatable force. There were five windows on each side of the building including the roof. A majority of them were shattered while the rest were completely missing. Spider webs stretched across the empty spaces where the glass used to be. They were big enough for someone Layla’s age to squeeze through if one needed to. This was the perfect place for Layla to hide from the rest of the townspeople. She’d originally planned to run and find someone to help her. Perhaps Iris, but that’d be awkward because of the whole “escape stunt” Layla had tried earlier. Plus, she couldn’t risk being seen by anyone who’d be willing to escort her to Gamma against her will. Although the chances of someone spotting her through the many wide gaps and holes in the warehouse walls were high, hiding inside was the best option she had. Well, that and going back to get help from Sean. Layla knew it wasn’t the best idea, too. She couldn’t go back to him. Not after their discussion. She then focused back on the warehouse. The door was out of place and partly disassembled so it was an easy entrance and exit. If the door was blocked somehow, she could use one of the many windows on the roof as an emergency escape. She crept towards the empty doorway and walked into the house. The first thing she stepped on was an unattached rat tail. There was still a small tuft of hair from the rat’s backside. Layla quickly looked away and shut her eyelids tight, trying to erase the image from her mind. She lifted her foot and stepped forward slowly, trying not to look back. She peered around the corner and found a tattered room with words spray-painted across the walls. The floor was covered with old newspapers and muddy rocks. A purple curtain hung from the low ceiling to the floor on the far-side of the room. Layla strolled into the room and closer to the curtain. She walked over and yanked on it. It fell down to reveal a small pile of dead, tailless rats. Each one of them had their eyes wide open, almost staring at Layla. Her stomach did a quadruple flip. Her eyes widened and felt like they were going to fall out of their sockets. Layla turned and ran as fast as she could. She just made it to the toppled front door when the plants from earlier that day swam up her digestive system once again and exited through her mouth. Everything was foul in this town. Absolutely everything. Layla couldn’t stay in the warehouse. It was too revolting. She had to run from building to building if she wanted to escape. It was the riskiest way, but it was the only thing she could do.
Layla stepped out of the warehouse, off balance and disgusted. The foul air shot at her again, greatly adding to the disgust. To her left was a small street fair down the block. To her right was the path back to Sean’s farm. Layla veered left and ran down to a dusty, run-down street fair. The food gave off an atrocious stench that nearly made Layla’s eyes water. There was a miniature zoo for the children, packed with stand-offish faunae. In the middle of the fair were tiny ticket booths. The women running them were rude and refused to provide service for whoever was thought of as an out-sider or out-cast. Each woman stood next to a small sign that had, “No smile, no service.” painted on the front, yet, they weren’t smiling. Layla doubted they’d even smiled once in their lives. The only people enjoying the fair were adults traveling in packs. Layla didn’t know why they, of all the people, were so happy until she saw the small shack that they were headed to. The shack had a banner hanging across the top that read, “Sam’s Seltzer!” in a large font that spread from corner to corner on the banner. Why would anyone drink plain seltzer? Layla figured it was popular in this town. Almost like beer and wine from home. She then spotted the absolute last thing she wanted to see that day. There was a “Wanted!” sign plastered onto the seltzer stand counter. Below “Wanted!” there was a picture of a guard cutting off Layla’s ankle cuffs while she was being escorted through town. Apparently, there was a $5,000 reward waiting for whoever found Layla. According to the sign, the other $5,000 was already given away to someone who’d caught the guard. That’s when Layla remembered. The guard was Iris. Iris had set Layla free from Gamma’s wrath. But there was a problem. If Iris found Layla and set her free alone, what’d happened to Katlyn? This wasn’t the only problem. Iris was most likely in jail. Layla had to go rescue her. She may have kidnapped her, but she still needed Layla’s help. She is all Layla has right now. Layla then snapped back into focus. If anyone saw her near this poster, she’d be arrested for sure. Layla sprinted through the booths, weaving in between the people and their children. She surprised many people and bumped into a few, but kept on running. She had to find a new place to stay. She could always go back to Sean, but it was still too soon. He must be angry about everything Layla said. He could’ve been speaking the truth but it just wasn’t possible. Layla had only heard about situations like this in her old story books from her earlier years of youth. Nothing made sense. Layla had to escape from all of this nonsense. She’d go to find Iris, possibly Katlyn, too, say goodbye to Sean, and try to find her way home. Her father must be worried sick. Layla thought about this all while she was dashing. Things flooded her head, threatening to over flow through her ears. Layla just kept on running. She couldn’t imagine herself doing anything but that. Run. As she was running, her speed advanced. Her legs were about to meet maximum speed until they slipped from under her, pushing her forward. Layla crashed to the ground face-first into mud and what smelled like horse dung. She peered at her feet and saw that she’d slipped on a small lump of sludge. She looked back ahead. A few feet away was a message carved out of granite on a marble post that read, “Talon Palace main lobby straight ahead” that stood on the lawn of a large, mystical castle. Layla hadn’t seen it before. How did I miss a castle? , she thought to herself. She scanned the area and found a doorway labeled, “penitentiary”. Layla go up to a push-up position then stood. Her jeans and shirt were stained with mud. She started to walk, trying to ignore the feeling of scum squelching in between her legs each step she took. She stepped onto to the castle’s yard and made her way over to the doorway decorated with chains. There was a list taped onto the door. It looked like a roster. The list contained the names of every prisoner inside. It was updated every time a new delinquent was put behind bars. The latest prisoner update was no surprise. Iris Max was number 13 on the list. That meant her cell was the 10th row, 3rd cell in the hall.
At the bottom of the prisoner list was a message.
“Visitors ask for entry in Talon Palace lobby.” Layla read aloud.
She looked around. There was no way of telling where the lobby was. Layla backed up away from the jail and off of the front yard. She went back to the little sign she’d seen early. There was an arrow pointing straight to the castle’s entrance. Layla walked off to the main door of the palace. She reached out for the handle but the door opened before she could touch it. Layla snapped her hand back. The main doors swung wider and wider until Layla could see the entire lobby from outside. She hesitated, but slowly stepped into the corridor. The walls were beige and appeared to be made of marble. The ceilings were like designs carved into vanilla cake frosting. Along the walls were scattered cracks that gave the building and ancient-looking interior. She walked until she came to a small desk that sat behind a wire gate and blocked off the rest of the hall. Behind the desk was a short man in all plaid who was stuffing his face into a book he seemed to enjoy. Layla cleared her throat loudly to get the man’s attention. He quickly took his face from the book and stood up.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Yes. I’m here to visit my mother in prison.” Layla lied.
“I meant the prisoner’s name.”
“Oh. Iris Max.”
The man looked confused.
“Why do you have a different last name?” he asked suspiciously.
“I got my name legally changed. And I moved out of town because everyone was giving me grief about my last name not being Max and Mom being sent to prison.” Layla spun up a tornado of lies.
The man bobbed his head and handed Layla something that looked like a hall pass that could be easily copied. He then opened up a part of the gate and helped Layla slip through. She continued on down the rest of the corridor when she stumbled upon the entry to the jail. There was a buff guard waiting at the door. Layla showed him her pass and he stepped out of the way to let her in. She walked down the halls, counting the doors that led to each row of cells. She reached 10 and paused. Layla then reached out and gripped the handle. She pulled the door open and was greeted by flying garbage. The prisoners threw trash and ruble at her as she ran down the aisle. The cells were surprisingly far apart. It looked as if the hall went on forever. It took a while before she reached a set of metal bars below a sign that had a number 3 carved into it. Behind the bars was a small cube-shaped room with a bunk bed and a silver commode. The walls were crumbling and covered in dust. The bunks had blood stains on the covers and pillows. There was graffiti written on the floor from past prisoners. There was a large hump in the covers on the top bunk. It made no movements.
“Iris?” Layla said into the cell.
The lump in the bed covers squirmed and tousled. Soon, Iris’ head popped out from the sheets. Her hair was a mess and she was wearing an orange jump-suit with zippers and buckles.
“Kid,” She said with a hoarse voice, “what are you doing here?!”
Layla wrapped her hands around the cell bars.
“I came to see you.” She said.
“Oh, kid. You’d better go. This isn’t a place for you anymore. My father has turned against you.”
“I couldn’t care less about Gamma. I want to know what is going on. Where am I? Why does everyone act like their living in a fairy tale?”
“You just don’t get it, kid. This ain’t no fantasy. You’d better find Katlyn. She’s got all the answers. Plus, I don’t want to have to be the one to tell you you’re life is the real fantasy.”
Layla pulled open the refrigerator door, took out pitchers of pomegranate juice and seltzer, and carried them over to the small table in the middle of the house. She poured two glasses and passed one across the table. Sean didn’t pick it up. He didn’t look at Layla. Not even once.
“So you need help, eh?” His voice was deep and quiet.
“Yes.” Layla was surprised at how scared, quiet, and sorry her voice sounded.
“I’d love to help…”
“Oh, thank you!”
“IF… you’re sure you know what you’re in for.”
They sat in silence. It was so quiet; they could hear the street fair that was still going on two blocks down. Sean still didn’t look at Layla. He just stared at his cup, waited for an answer.
“I’ll be fine.” Layla finally said.
Sean didn’t flinch.
“Tell me what is going to happen to you if you’re caught.” His voice was still quiet and unsettling.
“I’ll be arrested and interrogated about my… dream.” Layla croaked.
Sean nodded and remained silent.
“And what would happen to me if I were caught alongside with you?” he asked.
“Prison.” Layla could only manage to slip out that one word. There was a large knot in her throat.
Sean nodded again. The room once again fell silent. Layla’s eyes wandered around the room. She could suddenly feel Sean glaring at her. She didn’t dare look him in the eyes, though. The moment was just too awkward for eye contact. There was no movement in this little house. Not one sound. Layla couldn’t even hear Sean or herself breathing. She took a sip of her soda and shot a quick glance at Sean. He’d switched his focus to a wall clock in the kitchen. It was later than Layla thought. She’d expected it to be around 1:00 p.m. It was 6:12. Layla had spent the entire day running around town. It’d only felt like a couple hours.
“How fast does time pass here?” Layla asked.
“Sean? If you’re mad at me, I’m sorry.”
Still no answer.
“Sean! I don’t have time for any of this. I need to find Katlyn and get home, so just tell me. You in?”
Sean looked at Layla. He pulled a little tab out of his pocket. It looked like an iPad or Nook. He tapped the screen a few times and pushed a button on the bottom of the screen.
“So…” he said, smirking, “Where do you think Katlyn would go in a time like this?”
Layla smiled and Sean flashed a grin. They sat there, gazing into each other’s eyes for what felt like forever.
“Okay.” Layla said cunningly, “Let’s begin.”
Sean strolled around town carrying posters in his hands. He posted them on every popular pole and building he saw. He was certain that these “Lost” posters would help him find Katlyn. He was accompanied by another boy. His hair was shaggy and long, and a dark brown. His eyes were blue. The boy was also wearing Sean’s old clothes from past years. They fit the boy enough for them not to sag.
“I feel ridiculous.” whispered the boy.
“Just stick with it.” Sean whispered back.
The boys kept posting more posters that drew more attention than the others. It was brilliant. Everyone would go looking for the girl on the “Lost” posters and Katlyn would be with Sean in no time. He led the other boy around the street fair, back to the farm. They ran past the cattle and into the small house. They slipped through the front door and settled down in the foyer. The other boy ripped off his hair and took out his pupils.
“This wig was so itchy and I hate contacts.” He said.
Sean looked at him annoyingly.
“Come on, Layla. They’re not that bad. My mom used to wear them. She was a secret agent. Had to disguise herself as a man sometimes. You’re lucky I even lent them to you.” Sean told him.
“Oh. Sorry.” Layla felt foolish.
“It’s fine. I don’t need them anymore. I used to look at them when I felt lonely, but all that’s over now. Now I have a friend.”
Sean looked extra annoyed now but also slightly charmed.
“You, Layla Walker! You!” he laughed.
Layla felt her cheeks become warm. She’d never blushed like that before. She watched Sean stroll into the kitchen to fetch a snack while a feeling of comfort washed over her. The comfort suddenly shattered as there was a deafening knock on the front door. Sean dropped a bowl of pretzels on the kitchen floor and they scattered. He and Layla stared at each other. The knock came again but stronger and more alarming. Layla rushed out of her seat at the table and over to Sean. She ducked behind the kitchen counter while Sean went to answer the door. He pulled it open and what sounded like two guards barged into the foyer. Layla heard a dull thud as if Sean had been knocked over. She listened a little harder. Someone was speaking.
“Iris attacked me. She is associated with Katlyn and that… that girl. I found a poster claiming Katlyn was lost which meant that whoever posted these signs wants to see Katlyn. Iris is in jail so Katlyn is the only person the girl can go to right now. The phone number on this poster is linked to this household. The girl is here.” The voice said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, GAMMA.” came Sean’s voice.
Layla froze. It was Gamma.
“If you don’t know, then exactly why do you need Katlyn?” Gamma asked.
“I have my reasons, Sir.”
Everything was quiet again. Suddenly, there was a ruckus and the guards stampeded through the house. Sean ran out of the way and back to the kitchen. He dove behind the counter and tackled Layla into a corner. They sat there, listening to Gamma bark out orders and the guards continuing to ruin the house. During the chaos, Sean crawled over to the dish washer and opened the compartment door. He then gestured to Layla. She shook her head but Sean took her by the arm and shoved her in the washer anyway. It was dry enough. Sean closed the door when Layla was in a good enough position for her to fit. It smelled like soap and air freshener inside the washer. Layla listened until the ruckus came to a stop and there were a few muffled voices. She heard the door open, a “Good day.”, and the door closed shut.
The house was a complete mess. The table in the center of the house was upside-down and the chairs surrounding it were lying on their sides. Some were missing a leg or two. Some decorations from the foyer were scattered across the floor along with glistening shards from an irreplaceable looking mirror.
Layla and Sean paced back and forth in the kitchen.
“Gamma’s on to us.” Layla said.
“We need another way to find Katlyn and a way to keep Gamma from finding you with me.” Sean’s voice was quick and panicky.
They continued panicking when the phone rang. It was sitting on the table, vibrating and playing a recording of someone playing a harp. Sean looked embarrassed.
“A harp?” Layla asked.
Sean shrugged. Layla sighed and went to pick up the phone.
“Hello?” said a female country voice through the phone.
“Hi. May I ask who’s speaking?” Layla said.
“I know the lost girlie.”
Layla held the phone to her chest and nodded to Sean. She then placed the phone back on her ear.
“Where did you find her?” she asked.
“She was eating a corn dog in the middle of a street fair.” the man replied.
Layla felt dumb. She had run straight through the fair and must have passed Katlyn but didn’t notice.
“Oh. That’s wonderful. Just drop her off at the entrance of…” Layla stopped.
She looked at Sean. He took out a pad of paper and scribbled something down. He then lifted it in the air for Layla to see. It said, “Sean and Sheryl’s”.
“Just drop her off at Sean and Sheryl’s, please.” Layla continued.
“Okay. See y’all in a few!” The voice said before hanging up.
Layla looked at the phone for a while then placed it back down on the table. She turned to Sean.
“Who is Sheryl?” she asked.
“My mom.” He replied sadly.
“Oh. Where is she, anyway?”
The room fell silent. Sean’s eyes looked like they were watering. Layla tried to avoid eye contact.
“I’m sorry.” She managed to say.
“Don’t be. My mother let the man kill her. My dad chose to die. They wanted death. They got death. Can’t cry over someone’s decision.” Sean told her.
Layla still didn’t look at him. She tried to keep him from seeing the tear run down her cheek. She whipped it off with her shirt sleeve. When it was just a wet dot on her sleeve, there was a light knock on the front door. Layla didn’t hesitate, walked over to the kitchen counter, and nodded at Sean while getting ready to crouch. Sean walked to the door, checked the peep-hole, and opened the door. A lady ran in and sat down at the table. She was wrapped in a bunch of coats and wore jeans that were clearly high-waters. She wore tennis shoes with rubber bracelets around her left ankle. Sean stepped out onto the porch and looked around at the rest of the farm. He scowled and slipped back inside the house. He loudly shut the door behind himself, making Layla flinch.
“Where is Katlyn?” he asked.
Layla stood up and cackled.
“That is Katlyn, you dingo!” she shouted happily.
“Layla! You’re okay!” she exclaimed.
Layla and Katlyn shared a hug while Sean stared at Katlyn’s apparel. She was wearing the most ridiculous mix of clothing he’d ever seen in his life. Layla finally pulled away and looked quite serious now.
“Where have you been? What does Gamma want with me? What’s the life-changing news? Who are you?” she asked quickly but firm.
Katlyn looked astonished.
“I was at the street fair, hiding from royal guards. They took Iris away, you know. Gamma… Gamma wants to know everything about you to see if you’re…‘The One’. It’s possible that you are. And I am Delta Max, at your service.” Katlyn answered each question calmly.
Layla scowled. She glared at Sean who flashed a thumbs-up, a wink, and a laugh. Katlyn remained serious.
“What do you mean ‘The One’? Who’s ‘The One’?” Layla asked.
Katlyn and Sean exchanged looks the same way she’d done with Iris before they drove her into this madness. Both of them lunged at Layla and tackled her. Layla screamed as she plummeted to the floor. Sean and Katlyn had her pinned to the ground but there wasn’t much pressure being applied to her right arm. She clenched her hand into a fist and swung. Her knuckles smashed against Sean’s jaw, making a dull crack. Sean was launched back, one hand clutching his chin, the other fluttering into space. Katlyn acted fast and pinned down both of Layla’s hands.
“Stop! We don’t want to hurt you! We just need to get you to the Talon Palace.” She shouted into Layla’s face.
“Why did you attack me?!” Layla asked.
“It was a pre-test. The people at the palace are going to test you’re agility.”
“Why? And you never answered my question. Who’s ‘The One’?”
“I’ll explain later.”
“No. You’ll explain now.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have time for this. Just trust me.”
“Fine, I’ll go. But I’m not going because you told me to. I want to find out what the heck is going on. Maybe the people at the palace will understand how crazy this is to me.”
Layla shook Katlyn off of her and stood.
“Well, come on.” She said, staring at Katlyn.