|No Questions, Please
Author: Summer Fall-Winter-Spring PM
When Alice's friend Stellan needs to leave the dormitory to begin his life as an Adult, she decides to slip in one last goodbye and she doesn't like what she finds. Creative Writing homework reveiws appreciated.Rated: Fiction K - English - Horror/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 2 - Words: 4,248 - Reviews: 3 - Updated: 01-29-08 - Published: 01-16-08 - Status: Complete - id: 2463641
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Alice was sitting on the top bunk bed, in her sleeping costume, with her legs folded and her hand clasped on her ankles. Her fine blonde hair had been let out of its small knot and fanned down, effectively blocking her face from view.
Stellan changed quickly into a sleeping costume, which was one shade darker than the standardized blue-gray blanket. Privacy was not an issue anywhere in the Children's dormitory, not the areas for the five-year-olds or the fifteen-year-olds- even the lavatories were not in enclosed stalls- and dressing and undressing in the space between beds was the everyday routine.
"You're supposed to have your hair tied up," he said, only half-kidding, and Alice raised her head slightly. Her light blue eyes looked shiny and the pale skin around them looked wet and slick. His heart sunk to somewhere around the industrial-grade gray carpet.
"Hey, Alice- Allie, come on." He reached up and took her hands- they were cold and mildly slimy around the sides from wiping her face with them. "Hey, kid, don't cry."
"Don't call me kid!" Alice cried and promptly burst into tears again. She was not an attractive crier- bright red patches bloomed on her fair skin and her nose began to run. Blonde hair stuck to her cheeks in random clumps. "I'm only two months younger than you are!"
Stellan sighed and climbed the ladder to her bed quickly and lithely as a cat, seated himself next to her like a dancing snake winding back down into a basket. One arm went around her shoulder and she collapsed against his chest, as delicate as a wilting flower. Salty tears soaked the cloth. "Come on, Alice. You know better. It's just for two months, and then you can leave too."
"Leave the dormitory," Alice sighed, sniffling.
"But I'll miss you."
"It's not for very long," Stellan said soothingly. To Alice, his voice was as quiet peaceful and as the hum of the ventilation in the ceilings above, and the thought reminded her that once he- and she, eventually!- left the Children's dormitory and became full-fledged Adults, their new dwellings would have silent ventilations. Or so she'd heard- Children weren't given any official information, but there were a lot of rumors from Children who claimed to have seen the Adults and their dwellings. "Just a couple months, and we'll be back together on the other side of the walls, okay?"
Alice's breathing had smoothened some. Stellan always made horrible things better than they really were. He stoked her hair like a big brother. "Are you okay now?"
"I guess," she muttered, and her voice only hitched once. Stellan seemed to think that this was the best he could do, and carefully shifted her off of his chest and back to sitting of her own accord. She mumbled something incomprehensible and wiped her eyes while Stellan wiped off his shirt.
"I have to go turn in my uniforms, okay?" he asked, and when she nodded, he went back down the ladder and to the small cupboard they shared beneath his bed. It served as a closet for the two users of the bunk bed; clothing, for some reason, was not able to be made of smart matter and therefore had to be kept, not recycled, and each Child was given three sets of regular uniforms and three sleeping costumes, which had to be washed in a cycle.
A few minutes after Stellan departed, holding a carefully folded gray piece of fabric, a small group of girls came in, talking and chatting. Alice sighed and turned her face away- these were not the people she wanted to see her tears-swollen face.
One of the girls, Amika- the leader of the group with her auburn hair knotted back in a bun that was just neat enough to be classified as acceptable, but still messy enough to be somewhat defiant- was talking, about Stellan and his leaving. The other girls gossiped around her like planets orbiting a sun. "I can't believe Stellan's leaving."
"I know, right?"
"I heard they already picked out his dwelling."
"Oh, I heard that too! And his job and everything. But don't they, you know, do that for everybody?"
"Maybe." One of the girls lowered her voice. The group occupied a big clump of bunks next to and across from where Alice and Stellan slept, so them reaching bunks and settling down did nothing for her poor heart. "You think he'll keep in touch or anything?"
"No," Amika snapped patronizingly, and the girl cringed. Alice felt a savage, wicked delight in her pain- the girl who had spoken was eleven or twelve, and the rest of the girls were fourteen and fifteen, and she was very close to losing her status among the more popular girls. "Nobody does, and nobody ever will. Got that?"
There was no reply, but Alice could imagine the girl meekly nodding her head yes.
With that, the subject was dropped, the clique moved on to other topics of discussion, and Alice was no longer interested. Instead, she stretched out beneath her blankets and buried her face in her pillow so as to soak up her tears.
Stellan returned six minutes before lights-out, and on the walk back his collar had apparently folded back in an odd position, showing the inside where they'd taken pigment from the Art Period and colored the inside of their clothing- it was tradition with them that every time they outgrew a uniform and got a new one, they personalized it somehow with stolen India ink. It had been Alice's idea, and she- the one who generally tried to flout authority when possible- always colored wild, multicolored designs on the insides of her clothing. Stellan, she suspected, had only done it because she'd wanted to, and he was pliable like that, and so stuck to simple line-drawings- a bluebird he'd copied from a book written before both books and bluebirds went extinct.
He noticed her looking, and folded it down quickly. She felt another pang of sadness, and evidently it showed; he put one hand on her shoulder and said, just soft enough to reach her ears, "It'll be okay."
For a moment she was so overwhelmed with a feeling of such intense love she thought she might break into a billion pieces, that surely a person could not feel something like this or they would die. But her tongue had mysteriously gone limp, and before she got control of her mouth and her thoughts again, Stellan had gotten back into bed, and the ten o'clock lights out began with a noise light someone banging on a thin sheet of metal.
I can't lose him.
Headmistress Barson came before the lights were back on.
She was a tall woman, gray haired, and she had small lines between her eyebrows and at the corners of her mouth, suggesting but not promising age. She was the sole Adult in the Children's dormitory- every other function was automated- but was rarely seen. Alice had always assumed she was back in her office, or perhaps outside of the dormitory's grounds, whatever was out there. Children were not provided with History or Geography.
Alice, still and prone on her top bunk, felt her heart rate begin to rise, and she took great pains to remain motionless and keep her breathing regular. To be honest, she had not had so much as five minutes of sleep since lights-out, but she was very good at pretending. She and Stellan had sometimes snuck out of bed after hours, just because she had wanted the place to herself and her friend for once, and fake-sleeping came in handy when they slipped back in, five minutes before seven, and pretended to wake up with the rest of the group.
Stellan, apparently, had been awake all night too.
"Are you ready to go?" Headmistress Barson had a very throaty, charismatic voice, and now it was lowered as though preparing to give him the secret of the world. Which, Alice reasoned, she sort of was.
"Yes," Stellan whispered back. There were the sounds of him getting out of his blankets and standing up. "But can I wake Alice to I can tell her goodbye?"
"No," the headmistress said, and in her fake sleep, Alice clenched her jaw. "There's no need for a drawn-out goodbye; a clean break will be best for all of us. You've turned in your clothes?"
"Good. You'll have to stay in your sleeping costume for a little while longer, I'm afraid, but you'll be supplied with new clothes soon enough. Come along."
There were the sounds of feet, one set of them bare, padding away down the rows of bunks, and then the door opening and closing. Alice dropped the fake-sleeping act- who was awake to see it now- and sat up in bed, slid to the ladder and from there to the ground with no trouble at all. That, as a matter of fact, was the easy part- what was difficult was coming up.
By Alice's internal clock, it was more or less five o'clock, so she had a good two or so hours to find Stellan, say a formal good-bye, and be back in her bunk by the time the lights came on. Her sense logic insisted it was the worst plan in the history of the earth, but Alice was not accustomed to reason.
She opened the door herself and started to walk. Stellan and the Headmistress were up ahead, not talking, but she could hear their footsteps, and as long as she stayed one corner out of their sight, she was as invisible as a fly.
They went; Alice stalked, stealthy as a jungle cat. By her count, they were headed to the Headmistress's quarters, which was located all the way in the back of the Dormitory, but as soon as they were there, instead of heading straight into her office, the woman turned and went down a short corridor Alice had never really noticed before- walked straight past it, in fact- with Stellan in town, and unlocked it with a thumbpad.
There was a click as it swung open, and she heard Stellan say, "This is where I go?" with surprise in his words. Alice's heart was starting to race again when the Headmistress replied, "Yes. Just go through the door and the end of the hall and wait; I'll be along shortly."
There was nothing but silence for a moment, and then the sounds of bare feet moving, the sound of a door being shut, and the sound of a Headmistress walking away.
Alice waited for the footsteps going down the corridor to fade, and when they did she darted across the hall as quickly as a triggerfish, and to her intense surprise, found the door was unlocked. When she thought about it, it didn't seem quite as ridiculous- after all, to the Headmistress's knowledge, no one was out of bed to follow Stellan, and she would be coming back shortly, and it was the latter thought that spurred her to pull open the door and go through.
It was not at all what she'd expected.
She was, essentially, outside; there was no tile under her bare feet, just sod, and not even well-cared-for sod like that of the campus. It was scrubby, with small springs of yellowish grass appearing to struggle out of the ground at random intervals, separated by a particularly light kind of dust, and in moments her soles were covered in fine dirt. As for a hallway, it wasn't so much that as plain old canvas stretched over poles like old-fashion tents.
Alice stood for a moment, puzzling over why such pathetic means were used here, and why she had never noticed them. She got an answer to the second in a matter of seconds- any outdoor play facilities were on the other side of the building, and there were no Periods required for the Children on this edge of the Dormitory, nor- she suddenly remembered- were there any windows.
How odd, then, that someone had planned to keep this here all along and never breathe a word of it.
She continued down the hall, coating her legs up to the ankles in dust, and reached a door surprisingly quickly. It was actually a separate building from the Dormitory itself, made of wood, so clearly an old one, because the canvas "walls" had been nailed into the side with no regard for damage or good looks at all. And the door was a dumb one, made of some plastic, and quite dirty, with a broken handle. It hung slightly ajar in a matter more befitting to a broken arm.
Alice put one hand to it, listened for any signs of life, found none, and opened the door. The inside was looked like some kind of medical lab, a doctor's office from an old book, but it had one key difference- it was dirty. Not actively smeared with grime, but dirty nevertheless.
The tiles on the floor were chipped and dusty, the counters and cabinets that went around the room had the same unwashed feel as the door did, the metal-and-canvas cot in the middle of the room had dirt and stains permanently trapped in the fibers, and the closet- empty, although there appeared to be several shelves in there- hung open, and the small, square window it sported had some kind of yellow grime around the border. The only exit appeared to be yet another door on the opposite side of the room, and it looked locked.
But Stellan was standing in there, and that made the room perfect.
He had not yet sat down on the pathetic, sagging cot, and, in fact, when he heard the door open and saw her burst in, he nearly tripped over it. His expression of surprise, so exaggerated it was comical, almost ripped a giggle out of her before he got control of his mouth.
"Alice!" he gasped. "What are you-"
"Stellan, please, I just wanted-"
"You can't be-"
"No, just let me-"
There was the sound of footsteps, and Stellan's surprised turned into horror. He nearly hit the floor in his haste to sit on the cot, waving his arms at her. "Closet!" he hissed. "Quick!"
Alice turned and lunged for the closet, and managed to slam it shut tight just as the other door- the locked one- was opening and someone was coming it.
"Oh, he-!" Stellan started to half-shriek in a falsely cheery voice, as whoever it was was silent, but he changed midsentence, and very real panic was now evident. "Who are you? What's wrong with you?"
A knot of fear suddenly appeared in Alice's throat, and worry for herself was overcome with near hysteria for Stellan. Any thought that she would be caught sneaking around fled from her mind, and she rose from her crouched position in the dark closet to look out the grimy window.
A woman with pale blonde hair cut short as a boy's had entered the room, and something about her made the skin along Alice's spine prickle. It might have been any number of things that made her feel this way; the way the woman's clothing (it looked like a sleeping uniform, come to think of it) hung on her shiny, rail-thin frame in filthy rips and tatters, or the stupid way she was moving, or perhaps it was all of it.
But when the woman turned around and picked something out of the cabinet next to the closet, Alice came very close to screaming out loud, only didn't because her jaw froze up.
Something was wrong with the woman's face.
Alice had never seen deformity. Everyone she had ever seen had had clear faces with everything in the right places. Likewise, the woman had all the components for a face- she had eyes, a nose, a mouth- and they all appeared to be where they should have been, and there was no visible scar of any sort- but all the same, the woman's face was blurred, the features almost hard to distinguish because the lines between them fuzzed. For a moment, Alice tried to convince herself it was the window, but when she moved her head just a little, the ambiguity stayed with her, and Stellan's horrified expression- and now she knew at what!- stayed in perfect focus.
The woman found what she needed in the cabinet and backed away; held between two fingers of her right hand was hypodermic filled with some sort of amber liquid, and between her other fingers and her thumb was some sort of small, square package. Alice's throat locked up, but Stellan's didn't- he gasped and shot to his feet, holding up his hands to ward off the woman's advance. His mouth formed the words "Don't you dare! Don't you dare!"
Alice scrabbled for the door handle, but it had stuck as solidly as if the door was simply part of the wall. Stellan was in a similar position. His back was in the corner now, and the woman with the syringe was advancing.
He tried to lash out at her, but the hand not holding the needle grabbed his wrist, and with surprising strength, pulled him forward and pushed him onto the cot. He let out a cry and tried to get back up, but again, the woman was too fast for him, and suddenly one wrist was bound, palm up, with an idiot strip of canvas. He tried to break free of it, but it didn't have nearly enough to allow any motion of the wrist without breaking it or cutting off circulation, so Stellan was thoroughly stuck when the woman opened the small square, pulled out a wipe, methodically wiped off a spot on the underside of his arm, and pressed the needle into it.
Alice went from simply pushing on the door to actively kicking it with blows that made the whole thing rattle in its frame, and the woman looked at it with confusion written in her dumb features.