one mind-chapter 8

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 8 (v.1) - The Metamorphosis

Submitted: June 05, 2016

Reads: 170

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Submitted: June 05, 2016

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Chapter 8

Stella glumly pushed back the living room curtain staring out through the parted space she had made.  Although the rain poured down, the semaphores of journalistic headlights burned brightly on either side of her street.  This story wasn’t going away, not by a long shot.  Camera crews documented their every move with reporters ready to drill the remains of her family with questions they themselves did not yet have the answer to.  Edward quietly came up behind her, looking out through the self-same space.

“And so the hell continues,” he muttered.

  “I can't imagine it’s as bad as all that.  We’ve all been interviewed before, so this is really nothing new,” replied Stella. 

“Yeah except we were role models then, a picture of what every other family is supposed to strive for.  The reporters had to be nice to us, they were forced to be polite and courteous.  This is different, they’re out for blood now, waiting to document our fall from grace.” 

Stella looked at Edward, with Lenny's brown hair and Stella's blue eyes, he stared forward with a mix of anger and disdain.  He had become surly lately, his frustration showing only in ways a mother would notice.  There wasn't one specific moment when his anger had begun, it curiously just appeared one day, surrounding the essence of who he was, trapping him inside.The ire was there, from his physical stance to his short clipped replies, to his balled up fists every time he walked by the masses of news raptors, with Edward almost assaulting the last news man who had asked him a question. She had spoken to him after that incident and several times since, all to little avail. 

Stella watched helplessly once again, as Edward walked down the driveway with his lanky teenage gait, like a buck lingering between faulty fawn steps and the purposeful stride of an adult owning the woods it walked through.  When Stella saw him disappear around the corner she knew he’d arrived at the other side.  She wasn't sure why but this simple daily act of watching him make it, knowing he’d passed through successfully, always gave her the strength to continue on with her morning.

Even with this morning routine, the two of them, Stella felt, simply co-existed together these days. They shared a home, a life, but never quite connected, instead living together in a bubble of non-associables, as if they and the society they were once part of now sat on opposite sides of a cliff with a shaky bridge in between, neither side daring to cross it.

Stella shook herself out of her thoughts long enough to put the dishes away and start the wash, a habit born out of self-preservation.  She knew when the investigators visited they were constantly scanning for any sign of disarray or lack of everyday organization. These signs would become flags to them, indicating something here was wrong.  With this assumption, Stella knew, they would feel they had their answer to the whole puzzle of the incident.

 The Investigators hadn’t spoken with Stella for several weeks now.  This did not mean that the fact-finding had stopped though.  It was only that the work had gone from interviewing and examining every part of their family closely to a behind the scenes investigation, a quieter type of finding out, with the searching of databases and monitoring of phone calls.

There were signs of this non-search, not noticeable hints but instead tip-offs, that only the person who did the daily housekeeping would notice.  A centerpiece slightly moved, a toss pillow on the couch relocated from one side to the other, a manual which she knew had been on the coffee table, was somehow now neatly put away on the shelf.  They had been to her home more than once, Stella suspected.

Even the status of Stella’s updates had changed.  In the beginning of her family’s incident, she had received updates daily. They became the emotional nourishment she had survived on.  The inspectors would alert her of every potential twist and turn in the case. Those calls had dried up weeks ago. 

Stella still received periodic updates from the investigators, but now only if she called.  Even then, rather than answer her with, “Here is what we found,” now a planned answer came from the clipped voice of the Sergeant in Arms, “Nothing new to report, we'll call you when there is.”  This simple phrase, always brief, always cold, left Stella with the feeling the person on the other end wanted to end the conversation as quickly as possible. 

The clock chimed, reminding Stella of her need to leave for work.  She picked up her purse, ready to face the throng outside.  The minute Stella opened her stage door, every camera and microphone focused on her.  The barrage of questions from the news reporters were answered deftly by Stella who referred them to the officers handling the case.  Still the news people clung like vultures hoping to catch any stray words, a perceived look, a sudden hesitation or anything which would offer a slight doubt, a questioning, a hint somehow that Stella knew more than her closed lip portrayal was saying.  The reporters well aware that every one of these inklings or suspicions would not only bring the clarity and belief of her story down, it would also shoot their ratings way up.

Stella continued through this journalistic gauntlet, viewing it only as a necessary price of moving back and forth in her world.  Her sole focus, despite the circus erupting around her was her silver sedan which provided her a singular solace from the unwanted intrusions as well as her transportation to work. 

Even the silence of her commute though, was interrupted by her inner turmoil. The drum beat of her mind always repeating the same three questions again and again. Where was Lenny? Where was El? And most concerning of all, where was her family headed next?

Arriving at the office parking lot, Stella braced herself once again. Stella had been stalwart since the incident, never missing a day of work because of it.  Still week after week, as Stella’s story wore on, a familiar sound accompanied the shouting of her co-workers silent avoidance.  It was a quiet buzz behind her back, made up of whispers, glances and coughs.  A low drone which Stella had participated in a hundred times before.  This time though, rather than being part of the chorus, the hummer as it were, she was the hummee for the first time in her life, a role totally foreign to her.

Stella had slowly become accustomed to this new “normal” in her life.  Which was why she was surprised when ‘different’ showed up on one particularly unconventional morning. Stella had felt restless from the moment she had awoken, turning on the television to try to calm her unsettling feelings. An HLU break out dominated the headlines, although other than that, little was actually known.  To Stella however, this headline translated into nothing but extra work.

Stella arriving at her office, immediately noticed the change around her.  This place seemed electrified with a business-like panic from the news of this breakout.  The missing escapee numbers waited for Stella on her desk, although there would be no use to her trying to process these numbers presently as the computers too, it seems, had inexplicably crashed.

Judging by this large list of numbers though, this appeared to be a large break, Stella thought.Smaller breaks, of one, two, maybe even three retrainees, were usually instigated by insiders desperate to get away from retraining.  No, this wasn’t that. This was a larger break of fifty at least, all ages and types.

A break like this took planning by those with experience, Stella knew.  Those whose “Otherness” had moved on to the point of being labeled “radically untrainable.” The less formal term used for these unrepentant trainees was “long-termers” as they were kept on site in a separate long term, where they were treated humanely, with qualified staff looking after them.  These long termers were looked at as what they were adult children, incapable of anything but the most mundane and predictable of tasks.

  Stella picked up some left over filing from the bin on her desk and walked toward the filing room.  Her co-worker Megan stopped her on the way. “This breakout did you hear?  They think it was planned with outside help.”

“But who?” Stella instantly asked.

“No one seems to know but we're all suspect.  That’s why the computers are down, they’re trying to figure out if someone hacked into them.”  

Stella mmhmmed and went directly to her work, knowing that everyone presently, even the lowliest file clerk in this office would be under an investigative magnifying glass.  Her plate was full with scrutiny, thanks, she did not need to add anymore suspicions to her life.

After this sudden jolt of activity, the rest of the work week moved on to its usual predictability.  The computers were back up the next day, allowing Stella to busily process the escapees numbers one by one.  Despite her return to routine though, her restlessness inside remained.  It was more than that actually, Stella noted.  There was a stirring, a wanting, foreign to her thinking mixed in,  a new spice had been somehow added to her life that only Stella recognized.

By the next Wednesday, the reporters near her house had finally begun to thin out, most having left searching for bigger and better stories, juicier ones to produce.  Still there were one or two stragglers, mostly new to the business, hoping to get their big break.  These reporters, stubborn to the end, tried to glean that one little gem of information which others may have overlooked. “Ma'am a question or two?” Stella glanced toward the reporter who had spoken, regretting doing so immediately. 

“Your husband's disappearance, could it be related in any way, to your daughter's school performance issues?” Stella stopped, her hand falling from the car door handle. 

“Excuse me?” she said as she leaned against her car to steady herself.

“We've been told by reliable sources you've attended multiple meetings regarding your daughter's school performance.”

“And who would these reliable sources be?”

“I'm sorry, all of our sources are confidential.”

“Of course they are,” said Stella staring directly at the protectors across the street.

“Could the two disappearances be linked?  Your husband and your daughter's?”

“My daughter is on a semester sabbatical with a friend and her parents.”

“Ma'am we checked with those parents last night, after they and their child returned from an educational excursion.  According to them, their daughter is spending her entire sabbatical with her family and no one else.”

“Sir I need to leave for work shortly and apparently I also need to track down which friend my daughter is with.  Good day.”  Stella got into her car firmly closing the door without any further interaction.  There was only one thought racing through her mind as she drove to work, ’ They know!  Dammit they know!’

Stella was sure it had been becoming obvious as time passed, to officials and neighbors alike that something was amiss.  A week or two could be explained away as a sudden emergency or maybe time away for Lenny to contemplate his sudden emergence into the spotlight. However, a month with no contact whatsoever, indicated something altogether different.

El, she was an “Other,” Stella had resigned herself to that fact now.  She suspected the protectors knew it as well, how could they not.  They would have gone through her school records and had discussions with her teachers.  Stella was sure all of El's educators would have been brutally honest.  They would be thinking only of protecting themselves, making it clear to those investigating that El was an different, making them, by default, normal.  The suspicions the educators had, the notes from the meetings would have all been passed onto the officials, who would in term forward them to the “Other” specialists, for further analysis. 

All at once, Stella began to feel angry at the cost of this debacle on her family.  Her furiosity surged as the thought crossed her mind that she and Edward had mostly had to bear this calamity alone.  El, who knew where she was, and Lenny, he was on this damn quest of his, leaving her and Edward alone to face the world.  Damn Lenny, Damn El and damn everything!

Tears formed in the corners of Stella's eyes, at the feeling of being trapped in a box of everyone else's creation.  Tears which she quickly wiped away, every drop filled more and more with the salt of anger, retribution and clear thinking. 

However, as Stella continued her drive, a new type of steel began to form within her, forged by some kind of nameless, panicked crescendo growing inside.  Music of her impending metamorphosis emerged as steady as a heartbeat.  

Stella had had it with being followed and being talked about.  She was fed up with planning her every step in case protectors were watching or investigators were making assumptions.  She no longer cared what they thought or what anyone thought.  The hiding, the quivering in a corner was over for Stella. 

Stella now knew she needed to make a move, to take a step, any step to change things.  This step, no matter how small, she felt, would lead to another step, then another, bringing her to a transformation of herself, which had all begun with having the fearlessness of taking that first step. 

When Stella arrived at her cubicle, that morning of her self-declared independence, she found her work was not there.  Waiting on her desk, was work, but not her work.  It was somebody else's work, busy work.  She glanced at the neat pile in front of her, the official form with her number and name clipped onto the top.

The document was a reassignment of work order with no cause given.  As was customary the name of the person requesting the change was also absent.  There was never a name or responsible party ever attached to any of these official reassignments, nothing which would identify any particular person.  Always only the form itself, nameless and faceless, yet insistent with its computer printed edict. 

Her new “assignment” involved stored files, the dead number job.  The safest of safe tasks.  A job usually reserved for those with no security clearance or those whose first clearance was pending, new hires.  It was never a duty given to someone like Stella with a Section 12 clearance. 

The message here was clear, Stella knew.  There were official concerns about ‘her situation’ and indeed she herself.  These concerns now had reached beyond what was suspected into a new realm of what was assumed as fact. 

Their reasoning she knew was clearly the government line.  Stella’s daughter was not acting irrationally on her own, she must have gotten the irrational genetics from somewhere and her mother, it was clear was the prime suspect. Therefore it was felt that Stella could no longer be trusted with sensitive information, she was unofficially under surveillance. 

Stella realized she needed coffee immediately.  Grabbing her empty cup from the desk Stella walked firmly up to the coffee dispenser, watching those surrounding the machine scurry away like rats.  For once Stella did not worry about these co-workers or any of the petty, stupid gossip she knew they were spreading.  These concerns to her were now shallow and useless, she didn’t care about any of it.  Instead she cared about…about… All at once Stella realized she didn’t know what she cared about but she knew it was certainly time to figure that out.


© Copyright 2017 Carla Charter. All rights reserved.

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