Author: rainbowsandglitter13 PM
Alex Byrnes is a normal teenager, except for one thing: she always tells the truth, no matter what. One day, she meets an individual that explains to her there is a world beneath her feet, deep inside the ground. This world seems like the most perfect place to live in, ever; however, under the surface, not everything is what it seems.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 18 - Words: 52,291 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 10-06-12 - Published: 07-27-12 - id: 3045405
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
16. TRUTH OR LIE
Alex had lied for the second time in less than a week. However, now she understood a little bit better the necessity of telling a lie every once in a while. Sometimes, if you told a lie, you could save a life.
She didn't doubt that had been the case with Paradox. She had either saved his life or saved the lives of some people that were connected to him the other night just by lying, and although she didn't quite understand from what, she knew she had done it.
She hadn't saved him from bad memories, though. Since he slept on the couch in her room, Alex could hear anything he did very closely. The last time Paradox had slept in her room, he had been a very silent roommate. He slept as deeply as a rock, as quickly as the speed of light, and as soundlessly as a cushion. He never made any noises in his sleep or snored as far as Alex could remember, and she was a light sleeper, so anything would have woken her up.
However, this time he had been loud. Alex remembered him screaming all night. Sometimes what he screamed didn't make sense; it was just noise. Sometimes it did and it didn't. It didn't make sense to her, just as it must not have made sense to everyone else when she began screaming "Paradox" everywhere; however, it probably made sense to him. But Alex could clearly tell these were words. He often said the word "sun" and the phrase "fresh air", and sometimes seemed to be addressing a parent. Another thing he often said was "Perenelle".
Alex believed it was more prudent to apologize for asking Paradox such personal stuff last night, and not question him about Perenelle or what he was supposedly wishing to say to his parents. She felt rightfully embarrassed for invading his private life already and she didn't want to invade it even more.
However, she had become very interested in the actual underground world. She began wondering what they were taught in school, and what they did to entertain themselves. She even began wondering how they had air—Paradox had said he longed for "fresh air" a lot the night before. Why did he long for that? Did these people not have fresh air? How long did they live?
After letting the subject go for a few days, she tried to insert into a normal conversation a few questions about the Underworld. They were the most innocent ones she could think of, asked just so she could get an idea of how things were down there. They were nothing like the ones she had asked previously, about his life, or about leaders of the Underworld and how he came to be a Portal Guardian. These were the most normal, ordinary things she could come up with.
Paradox had begun to come to class with her. He paid a lot more attention in them than Alex did, because he had a lot more interest and/or reason to be interested in them than she did. After all, he loved this world. She could bet that since that Ms. Mallette he talked about had told him about the aboveground world's existence, he had gone crazy about it. He wasn't going to waste this brilliant opportunity of learning all he could about it.
That was exactly what Alex was feeling about the Underworld right now.
She had been obsessing over it lately, though she had to confine her thoughts to her head. She could never tell Paradox, because she didn't want to alienate him or get him in trouble; and she obviously could never tell anyone else, since nobody else she knew even had any idea there was an Underworld several meters below their feet.
However, sometimes, Alex wrote notes to Paradox at the corners of her notebook pages. She did that in order to talk to him without needing to talk out loud with him. Sometimes she typed in a message when she was using a laptop (laptops and computers were inventions that took forever for her to explain to Paradox) and he read it and answered out loud. That was the way it always worked.
This was one of those times. Alex caught Paradox's attention by nudging him when no one was looking. She usually let Paradox sit in a nearby chair or on her table, and she supposed that wasn't very comfortable for him, but he didn't complain about that at all. Most of those times he was just so absorbed in what Alex's teachers were explaining he didn't even care.
Paradox looked down at Alex after being nudged with an extremely annoyed expression.
"What?" he asked rudely. "I'm trying to pay attention here."
Alex couldn't help but chuckle a bit at his willingness to pay attention in class. If he had lived here his whole life, he wouldn't be doing that now.
"Is anything funny, Miss Byrnes?" Alex's math teacher, Mr. Davis, insisted in being the most formal teacher Abe Lincoln High would ever receive, and so he always called students by an honorific title and their last name.
Again, Alex was in a tight spot. Usually she paid attention in class to avoid occasions in which she'd need to lie, and if she got caught doing something wrong, she would say the truth. However, what would she answer now? Paradox was there, and he still had no idea she had recently become a liar.
She picked the truth. Well, sort of. She didn't know if she was picking the way of telling the absolute truth anymore, but she simply picked not to lie. At least not this time, she thought to herself, regretting the occasions in which she had outright lied.
"Yes," she confessed. "But don't worry; it was just something I thought of for a second, I wasn't talking to anyone or looking at any electronic devices."
This was true: she had thought about Paradox's love for aboveground classes, and the thought made her laugh. She hadn't lied, at least not this time. The teacher believed her: she always told the truth, he knew that, and she had nothing incriminatory with her. Soon enough, the teacher was back to his usual affairs with numbers and variables.
Paradox had been observing the whole interaction from the top of her desk. It blocked Alex's view, but she didn't care much about getting a good look at the whiteboard. She just wanted to talk to Paradox.
Not pleased with the interruption of a class he was so interested in, he turned to Alex. Or rather, to Alex's notebook.
"What is it? What do you want?" he asked, still somewhat rudely.
I was just kind of curious about the Underworld, she wrote in her notebook. Paradox began turning away, but he saw that there was more and decided to keep looking at what she had written.
Hating herself for pretending to be paying attention and copying the equations on the board—before Paradox, if she did not feel like learning, she would just sit back and sleep—, and hating herself even more for discovering she actually could give a pretty decent performance, she finished scribbling her question.
I have a series of pretty common questions that anyone after learning of a world underneath the surface of the Earth would have. And my first one is the following: How do you guys get fresh air down there?
Paradox assumed a dull face. Obviously, he had expected her to keep insisting on the questions from that other night, or at least to ask questions equally triggering or about complicated politics. It was strange that she would ask something so basic, that he probably knew since forever—something that was so dull.
"The government deals it out," he said simply.
Alex thought she hadn't heard correctly.
"What?" she blurted out loud, so surprised she forgot to write the word in her notebook.
The math teacher at the front of the class sighed. Apparently she had interrupted him during a very important explanation, for the second time in the same day.
"What part did you not understand, Miss Byrnes?" he began, with a voice that clearly denoted he did not want to explain anything he had already thoroughly gone over.
Alex chose to tell the truth again. This time, however, there was no way she could get out of the situation saying the truth. No way. Yet, she still tried.
"Nothing. I… I understood everything." She knew she was telling the truth, and she knew he would not believe her, even if she was.
For a few moments, Mr. Davis was suspicious. He looked like he was sniffing the air, thinking there was something foul about the smell of it, and trying to identify what was foul about it.
Suddenly, he went closer to her, grasping at the only thing he thought was possible. Everyone now thought Alex was normal and that she would not go back to her supposed temporary insanity—nicknamed as a "stress disorder" by the school counselor. This teacher obviously did not know how such disorders worked, Alex thought. He did not think remainders of that were going to come back as Alex's life went on. Of course, she didn't have any sort of stress disorder; however, it still indicated how little he knew. Instead, he went with another excuse for Alex's behavior.
"YOU HAVE A CELL PHONE WITH YOU!" he screamed. She had seen him shout at other students like this before, and they all had seemed truly terrified. Obviously he also did not know how to treat a supposed victim of a stress disorder.
However, Alex wasn't scared. First of all, she had faced worse things than Mr. Davis in a very recent past. Second, he wasn't scaring her because she knew she was telling the truth when she next opened her mouth.
"I don't have a cell phone with me," she spoke, clearly and calmly. "Neither do I have an iPod or any sort of electronic device.
He was now grabbing her table, shaking it. Paradox fell off, but he seemed to make no sound to anyone but Alex. He, unlike Alex, was actually frightened. The whole class was paying attention to what he was doing now—and they were all in silence. They were afraid to speak up. When the time came, they were all cowards. They were sheep.
"WHERE IS IT?" Mr. Davis kept screaming. "GET UP!"
He was not taking things maturely, like Alex. He was going insane. Electronics in his class were a big no-no, and anyone who broke this rule was subject to this punishment.
Calmly, knowing she had nothing to hide, Alex got up. Nothing besides her notebook and pencil lay on the table, and nothing was in her chair either. She had had the good sense to turn the page in her notebook so her teacher or any classmates would not see the question she had phrased to Paradox.
"You're tricking me," he suspected. "Empty your pockets!"
"Mr. Davis, I have no pockets," said Alex just as calmly as she had when her teacher had exploded in her face.
A few daring souls could not repress laughter.
Paradox managed to get back up, rubbing his buttocks since he had hit them as he fell, but still amazed at Alex's courage. She had enough balls to face this mad math teacher.
Mr. Davis turned around to the few students who had laughed. His eyes and red face immediately caused them to shut up and shrink deeper in their chairs.
"YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY?" he asked. Well, "asked" was not the proper word. "Furiously charged" was probably closer to his tone of voice. "YOU THINK THIS IS-"
He was interrupted. He could not quite believe what he felt.
He had been using his arm to gesture towards Alex, when he hit a solid surface. Nobody heard that solid surface complain about the pain he'd just caused it. Nobody saw its expression of pain and the tears caused by a blow swelling up its eyes.
Nobody else but Alex.
"What's happening here?" he asked Alex. Suddenly, he was the one who was terrified, his eyes quickly becoming wider and wider.
Alex had no doubt about this: she had to lie. Paradox had backed off already, with a look identical to Mr. Davis' in his face. Except for the fact Paradox was a lot more bug eyed, the faces of the two of them seemed like replicas of each other at the moment.
"What are you going to do, Alex? Oh my, oh my, oh my…" he cringed.
Alex looked confused, just like everyone else.
"I have no idea what's going on," she said. It was ironic, how she was actually the only person in the entire room who actually knew what was going on.
"Oh my! What have I done?" asked Paradox. "I have failed! I have failed! She can't see me anymore!"
Paradox began hovering around Alex; without daring to touch her, though. He was just terrified his mission had been canceled.
"Maybe you imagined… whatever it was that you imagined?" she adventured. A rational math teacher would buy any argument that allowed him not to think he had experienced anything remotely strange, supernatural, or otherworldly.
The teacher believed Alex this time. "Alright. Yes, that's probably it. Also, um, I… I may have overdone it," he admitted. "I should've believed you from the start. You always tell the truth anyway."
That last sentence stung. She didn't always tell the truth. And because she had been stupid and talked to Paradox out loud, this whole problem had happened.
The teacher asked her to come closer. "Hey, you're not going to tell the counselors about this, right? I… uh… I… didn't mean to…" he tried to explain.
"Don't worry," Alex cut him off. "It didn't trigger anything in me, and I know how paying attention in your class is a serious matter. I won't tell anyone." She meant what she said. She wasn't really planning to tell anyone.
However, the schemer side of her mind was telling her she should save this for later. It could be useful that she had a connection in the school with someone. Mr. Davis had never thrown this bad a temper tantrum, even though these did happen every once in a blue moon. Also, usually when he did it, his victims were too terrified to tell on him. Alex had not seemed scared, however; and the counselor would definitely petition for him to leave his job if it became known that he had done something that could trigger a student with a supposed mental disorder. Maybe Alex could turn this into something that could come in handy someday.
Paradox was now begging Alex to become able to hear him again, pleading, kneeling even.
"What have I done? Please listen to me again, please…"
The bell rang. Alex began packing her things as all the other students filled the room and the halls with chatter. She left the classroom, Paradox still crying out words, trailing behind her.
As soon as she got to a woman's bathroom that happened to be empty—the same one she and Paradox had met in for the first time—she stopped. Checking all the stalls to make sure she and Paradox were really alone, she went into a stall and stayed there until the next bell had rung. Paradox was almost giving up, almost ceasing to call Alex's attention.
Therefore, he was beyond surprised when Alex came out of the stall, stared straight at him and said to him, "Paradox, I can see and hear you."