Chapter I: Rescue
She could practically hear the music.
The bass loud enough to shake the windows of the old third floor flat she and her mother had lived in together in Swim City. Swim City—it had been a rather sought out place, filled with flashy teens and young adults littering the streets, checking out the nightlife that the city was famous for. Everything was great. She had her Momma, and they had the nice family above them who owned the building watching over them.
It was wonderful.
It had been wonderful. And that's how it should've still been today—but then, something happened. Something awful, unpredictable and scary had happened.
She sat on her small bed in the present, staring into space, lost in the memory of her mother. The happiness, warmth, and hope that filled little Claire Aerovl every time thoughts of her mother wound throughout her mind were the only thing that kept her going now, two years later.
You see, Claire Evans (at that time) had loved her life back then. Her little eight-year-old self couldn't possibly imagine anything bad ever happening. But of course, it's almost always when you think things are going great that things stop going great and take a turn for the worse.
And that's what happened to the lively Swim City.
It was like every other virus. It started small, one or two cases—just a warning. But then the virus spread very fast. Everyone in Swim City was coming down with this fever. Nobody knew what had caused it, or how it was spreading. Even more mind boggling was how localized the sickness was. It was only happening in Swim City—and thus, they dubbed it the Swim Fever.
All over town, people were moaning and groaning—the stench of death and sickness tickled the noses of those unaffected by the sickness. Claire vaguely remembered being scared of the zombie-like people. All too soon, her mother fell prey to the deadly virus. Worse and worse the illness had gotten until one fateful evening, she left the land of the living.
Ten-year-old Claire still remembered the last words her mother had ever said to her. Her Momma had spoken them to her as she lay in bed taking her last gasps of breath, each more harsh then the next. They still troubled the little girl to this day.
"Claire, promise you won't forget me. I want you to know that I will always be there for you, no matter what may happen."
"I-I...p-promise," Claire said, between stifled sobs.
"I'll be there for you Claire. I promise," she wheezed. She pulled her cold clammy hand out of the firm grasp of the little eight-year-old girl's palm, reaching around her neck. She pulled off her necklace—a simple silver chain with a heart pendant, and gave it to the young girl, closing her small fingers around the trinket and grasping her hands oh so tight.
"I...Promise…" she said as she took in her final breath, the air leaving her lungs in a long drawn out whoosh, an eerie silence filling the apartment.
All Claire remembered after those words were the endless tears. The nurse lady from the apartment above shaking her head, trying to comfort the young, confused girl. Then came the social workers. The endless days in the orphanage. The birth certificate…and then, him. The man who had somehow won the heart of classic minded Sophia Evans—Melthore Aerovl.
He had been a bachelor in Swim City, fleeing right when the fever began to infest more people. With a group of other scared citizens, he had packed his bags and left as fast as he could, following a great migration to the neighbouring town of Swan Valley. It was small, new, quaint and most importantly free of Swim Fever.
The father she knew now was a harsh and immoral man, who always seemed to be involved in some sort of affair. Even now, stuck in her attic room, she could hear a woman's giggle and moans echoing through the empty halls of his run down bungalow. Locked away in the attic almost four months after she had arrived, Claire was sad. She was lonely. She was almost starving, attention deprived; neglected. And she was always so cold…
With a huff, she pulled the covers over her fragile form, trying to gain as much warmth as she possibly could from the threadbare sheets. Curling her body up, she burrowed into the hard mattress, trying fruitlessly to get comfortable. As all these thoughts of school, her mother, her cruel father, the dumb attic and the cold swirled around her uncertain head, she drifted off into a restless sleep.
She saw herself behind bars. She was screaming, crying, yelling for help, she wanted to get out! She wanted freedom...
Her father stood outside the cell smiling...watching her tortured state was like pleasure for the sick, twisted man. Claire screamed louder...
Then her mother appeared—the graceful walk and the black flowing hair surrounding her heart-shaped face as she walked towards Claire, Sophia's round violet eyes filled with light...
"Momma?" the little girl cried, trying to walk towards Sophia...
"It'll all be over soon...don't worry...even though it may not seem like it, I'm here for you and I know things will get better very soon..."
Sophia's warm voice filled Claire with hope...
"I promise..." the whispered words faded in her head, as her mother slowly disappeared—
"WAIT!" Claire cried, chasing after the slowly fading light...
"I have to go now. Wake up, Claire. Everything will be all right. I promise..."
The morning had started out quite normal for Melthore Aerovl. He shifted positions, his thoughts on the night of endless trysts with his latest lover. She was a young, passionate red-head. He had met her a few weeks back by the Beer Store. He had been short on cash, trying to seduce the lady behind the counter—and failing miserably. He was arguing with the woman seconds later. The red-headed girl had felt bad, and helped him cover the cost. One thing lead to another, and, well…
A rustling at his side told Mel that she had just woken up. He looked over at her; she stared back at him, a small smile and sensual look in her eyes. He raised an eyebrow as she began rubbing her hands up and down his chest. She was drawing slow circles around his stomach, inching lower and lower with each… light… touch...
Groaning, he grabbed her waist, moving his hands up her back and pushing her down onto him, her exposed chest crushed against his. He ferociously pressed his lips to her, nudging her lips with his tongue, asking to be let in…
Cursing under his breath, he got up and looked around the floor for his pants. Hurriedly putting them on, he promised the woman he'd be back shortly. Making his way to the door, he tried to remember his lover's name through the fog. Jordan? Anna? It was something like that, he thought, aggressively flinging the door open.
Once he locked eyes with the person in the doorway, however, he found himself pleasantly surprised. Arms crossed he leant on the door frame, staring at the woman with olive skin and vivid green eyes standing on his doorstep. Her dark curly hair was tied back in a low ponytail, a small triangular hat perched her head. Straightening her navy blue skirt, she turned a cold glare onto Melthore.
"Good morning. I'm here for a Mr. Melthore Aerovl? I received multiple calls yesterday evening informing me that a child might be living here in very unsuitable circumstances. Are you him?" she asked, revealing a slight European accent in her voice, ever so faint.
I'd tap that, Melthore thought, dirty images filling his mind as he rubbed the stubble that came with not shaving.
"Wait, a kid?" She was here for the kid?
"Yes, a kid," the woman replied, icily.
Then it clicked.
This chick was a social worker, sent by the infuriating twats who worked with child support services. The kid must've had one of those meltdowns yesterday night while he and what's-her-face were out, and someone had heard...and reported it.
So much for his lovely morning with his lusty lover.
Claire awoke with a start. Looking around she saw that it had been a bad dream. The relief that coursed through her was short-livid; the dream might as well have been real. Perking up, she wondered what had awakened her. Throwing off her covers and stepping out of bed she strained her ears—there were loud noises coming from downstairs. Not the sensual sounds she usually heard, though. Something more fight like.
Creeping to her bedroom door, she listened closely and heard her father's voice yelling.
"What the hell? You have no right to come into my house and accuse me of...this...nonsense! Keeping a child locked away? And even if I am it isn't your fucking problem, woman!"
"It is my problem Mr. Aerovl. I'm head Social Worker from the Swan Valley Support Services. We deal with children being mistreated, abused, or hurt in any way. I'm here to take your child away from this household, despite what you say, and don't try that "I have no child" nonsense again. We have you on file, sir," The social worker said, scowling at the topless, scruffy man glowering at her.
I promise it'll all get better...
With her mother's words dancing in her head, she gathered a bunch of boxes and glanced out of the small window to see a blue van parked outside. A blue van had taken her away from the sick city and had brought her here. If it was back outside, it meant that they wanted to take her away once again.
Despite the blue van having brought her here in the first place, Claire felt deep inside that anywhere was better than here and that van would take her away from here. Smiling for what seemed like the first time in all her life, Claire ran to her small cupboard of a closet and began to get dressed, carefully listening as the conversation continued.
"You may be right but she is my daughter. You can't take her away from me, I have rights! That girl has caused me so much trouble, there is no way I'm giving her up!"
"Sir, if you do not oblige I'll be forced to call the authorities on you."
A string of swear words echoed, closer to the stairs that led to the attic. Claire paled, fear broiling in the put of her stomach—Melthore was standing his ground and coming closer and closer to the attic.
Despite the fear, Claire realized that whoever it was arguing with her father was good, would help her. Wanting her awful way of life to be thrown into the spotlight, Claire started throwing things. She started jumping up and down, shouting; screaming things like I'm up here! Behind the door! She didn't know what she was saying for sure. She just knew she needed to get out and to do that, she needed to be heard. Warm tears coursed down her cheeks.
With renewed vigour, she made as much noise as her small, skinny frame could possibly make.
Just outside of the attic door, the social worker shoved Melthore aside. He stumbled, losing his balance and falling, smacking his head on the stone floors—with an almost sickening thunk. Flinching and making a note to call paramedics, she turned down the hall and found herself beside a wall and the bathroom. Strangely enough, the child's voice seemed to be coming from above the wall.
Upon closer inspection of the dead end hallway, she realized that there was, in fact, a door; it was paneled and blended into the wall quite well. She tried opening it—but it was locked. The keyhole was on the outside. Where was the—
"The towels! Key! Under the towels!"
Looking around, she darted into the washroom behind her, spotting the towels. Running her hand under each one, she felt a cool metal touch her hand—the key. Grabbing the old-fashioned key, she slid it into the keyhole. She turned it left, then right, satisfied when a click told her that it worked. A narrow staircase appeared, the roof low in the passageway. The stairs led up to another door—an attic.
The woman ran up the stairs carefully, her hands pressed up against the tight walls, praying she wouldn't fall. She reached the landing okay, tried the door—and found that it too was locked.
But the girl was there. She could hear her shouting very clearly now. Praying, she tried the key and smiled when she heard the tell-tale click of the lock, the door swinging open.
The smile was short lived, however, when she laid her eyes upon the girl standing in the middle of the room.
Her hair was dark and matted with dirt, and she seemed too skinny to be able to have so much energy. The little girl stopped yelling and ran to the social worker, tears pouring down her pointed nose and stretched cheeks.
Mom was right, she thought as she embraced the social worker, it is going to get better. Sobs wracked her small body.
"Shush, it's okay now. It's okay. My name is Ashlee. I'm from the Swan Valley Support Services," she said kneeling down, at eye level with the girl.
"I'm…my name's Claire," the young girl said, sniffling and standing back, afraid.
"Claire. That's a lovely name. Claire, I'm going to get you out of here. I Promise."
The young girl clung to the social worker, crying as Ashlee hugged her tightly, whispering reassuring things in the child's ear.
She looked around—still reassuring the girl—and took in the state of the room. Ashlee had seen many, many uninhabitable situations in her few years with the SVSS, but this was perhaps one of the worst she had ever laid eyes on.
The low ceilinged room was messy, and smelt foul. Dirt laced the cracked windowpane and no source of food or heat seemed to be in the room. A dirty, closed door in the corner was where the stench came from, most likely a small bathroom—too small for a decent shower. There wasn't a light in sight, not a single toy…nothing.
Never would she understand how a parent could be this cruel to their own child.
Ashlee squeezed the young girl one last time, and picked up the suitcase lying on the floor. Finally calm, Claire helped grab her clothes, and any other meagre possessions she had with her. As the social worker began to go down the stairs, Claire pulled back and opened up a drawer. She pulled out a simple silver chain with a heart on the front, as the words she would always remember came to mind.
Maybe her Momma had been right; only time would tell.
A/N-I cannot begin to tell you how hard it's been for me to update Remnants. I've been caught up in other projects and busy with school; the editing, writing and spelling and everything about Remnants had been bothering me since I started Post-Secondary. I'm finally getting the chance to revamp it and finally finish it-which I know I've said thousands of times, but this time I'm serious. I started a OneNote notebook for Remnants back in January, and am rehashing the characters and plot motivation on Mel's end. I've signed up for Camp NaNoWrMo and my writing project is this lovely story of mine that I WILL FINISH this coming month, I am DETERMINED.
So, to those of you who have stuck around since 2010-THANK YOU. YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST AND I'M SO HAPPY YOU'VE STUCK AROUND. To those of you who may have lost interest-I'm so sorry for not updating regularly. It's changing, now, however. I have a schedule. I have more experience. I have it written all the way to Chapter Thirteen and counting now. So if you're back, welcome to the new and improved Remnants! I hope you enjoy it much more than you did before!
And to those of you who are new readers-HELLO! :D Thanks for reading the newly revamped Chappie One, and I hope you stick around and leave a review-it's what that white box down there is for ;)
Remnants takes place in 2010, just for you all to keep in mind and for me to remember as well-that's when it was published, so that's when it will take place.
Thank you for reading this long A/N, and I hope you use that white box down there to rant, rave, talk about your feelings, point out mistakes, favourite parts, or just say hi! How're all your summers going? Or final months of school? Or work, perhaps? How's life? I just finished a really rad specialized field school in England. Found me some Roman pottery, how rad is that?
TL;DR-Remnants is being totally rewritten. It will be edited between now and July, hopefully completed in July and regular updates will begin come August. I hope you enjoy Claire's Tale and stick around for more after it's all over :). Tell me how you found the new first chapter!