Chapter 1: Reality

I recall sitting, cold, frozen in my caretakers home. She was an old woman; gray hair, plastic complexion, honey glazed eyes. She almost looked like a clay statue melting under the heavy rain. Pictures on the wall told a much different story, she was once quite beautiful, stunning even. As she paced before me, she examined every inch of flesh scanning me like a blind mans finger tips, groping me inch by inch she was no beauty queen. Her gaze entering my bones drinking the marrow. Within her vacant eyes she molested my soul leaving me empty. This ordeal seemed to last forever, a moment would pass which set me free, then with one shift of comfort I was once again imprisoned by her vile stare. Devoured.

In the midst of my ingestion her voice shot through the silence, through me like a burning needle to the eye. “You will be attending an academy. I can no longer keep you in my home. Go pack your things you leave tonight.” before I could stand she was gone, leaving to linger the threat of something much worse. The dark hold she had over me remained with much vigor and I let myself be drowned in it as I thought about the possibilities. Her voice had been smooth and cold as though she was singing, it always was, but there was no fire, no passion that allowed one to hear the music. There was a void within her song that left one empty and held in their position she drained the soul of its hope.

Standing suddenly while all around me things objected without the ability to move, they simply glared down upon me. The air was heavy in that house sluggish; things always seemed to follow me. Everything I did seemed to be recorded in the slow memory of those walls. To say the least I was glad to be leaving.

With nothing much to call my own I fit everything in one suit case and adorned myself with the only luxury I possessed, a silver locket that I coveted with grand enthusiasm. For my caretaker objected to those of my age and class to have any so called luxuries such as this. As a lady she had many, and though indeed she was considered a lady the term was applied only by those outside this house, to me, who knew her all to well, thought her common, her soul’s purpose was to grieve. Now at this moment I feel love for her, truths abound by her, and I wish then I could have seen her for all she was. But that is now, then, then I felt only her stagnation. Nothing could be done.

 

That night she loaded me into a car with a small bag that I was not to open until I reached the school; she did not part-take in goodbyes and left soon after handing me off to the driver. The car ride was silent leaving me to think about the time it would take to reach the Academy. I was happy to say the least, ecstatic to say the rest. Free from the cold, slow moving house, from the frozen voice of my caretaker the suffocating smog was lifting. The drive was smooth and my nerves calm with the taste of freedom.

Don’t forget me the words slipped by a whisper in my empty head shocking me from my calm with a start. Nevertheless, for the life of me I couldn’t place it -it had to be the driver- I knew it was the driver, it had to be didn‘t it? There was no other in the car except him and I, it was him. Even so I made no question of the shrill words, I remained silent. As the words repeated their ghostly melody I kept my lips tight, it had been the driver I told myself over and over again, fixated my gaze out the window until we reached the train station. There I ended my silence only to say my goodbyes.

The station like the house was filled with suffocating smog, an omen of things to come? As I entered the platform noise overtook me, there was too much going on and for a moment I thought for no reason at all that I had missed my train. A slight panic grabbed me then, it held me frozen, the chains of my captivity returning with brute force. Would I be sent back? My hand began to tremble as I felt someone approach me from behind, “you would need to be on that train, yes?” a man asked, as he placed his soothing hand upon my shoulder. The thoughts had come far too fast, only emphasizing my distress I stared dumb and mute.

He was a young man awkward looking, but handsome. It appeared as though he had just recently hit a growth spurt towering aimlessly over me like a limp tree with soft eyes and a nervous lip. I managed a simple yes and the man nodded taking me by the shoulder, leading me to the train. I felt like a child, he gave me no say in where I was going, but took me passed all compartments until we reached one at a safe distant from open doors “You get the only empty one left in this cart.” he smiled as if he knew all along who I was and where I wanted to be. When the compartment doors closed behind him I went suddenly numb, panic or something stripping me of will. For the first time in all my life the suffocating air was gone, but I couldn’t breathe. It was a strange feeling to know I had my freedom; I was left alone with myself. I held onto the edge of my seat as if anchoring myself to the train, I was breathing heavily trying desperately to drink the air. Frozen in place, a statue of distress, and there was nothing to comfort nor sooth the rigid body. All I did was futile, forced to fail from the beginning.

By the time I was able to move the day had risen I’d missed breakfast and was forced to rummage through the small amount of food I had stolen from the house. I remember with pleasure taking out a little red bag of chocolates, the kind she kept hidden from me, but that I saw her eat from afar. They came in velvet bags which held a dozen or so foiled coins and smelled sweet and inviting through it. I had taken three bags to spite the years she had tortured me with them. I picked one chocolate from the first bag, it was dressed in maroon foil and decorated delicately with leafs, I salivated as I placed the first bite on my tongue. I was overwhelmed by the powerful satisfaction I got from the tiny coin of milk chocolate. I would come to remember this moment throughout my days at school as the moment I first felt something, anything at all. My sense of taste was overwhelmed and I recalled all the meals I had prior to this, tasteless things. My body trembled as I ate and the world became just a bit more colorful.

When all was done and my hunger filled I laid back and watched the world from the window, everything seemed new, even the air tasted different as I breathed. I had no explanation for what was going on, for how I felt, or why but I enjoyed each second. Then without warning two girls came knocking at the door each was in the uniform to the school I was headed, eyes searching with anticipation and glee. I waved them into the compartment trying to etch a smile unsure if one already had its place on my lips. I didn’t feel like talking, but they took the freedom of choice away. I was glad to have some of my new freedom invaded upon it was far too much for me.

“Hello, my name’s Ana, this is Ophelia.” both girls sat almost as quickly as they had come smiling brightly I knew they wanted to talk so I swallowed my social fear and allowed the conversation to commence.

They were my room mates, Ophelia who I had renamed the tragic subversion, was a melancholy-struck, flower-like girl with light strawberry hair that shimmered even in the small dim compartment in which we sat, eyes the color of limes, and skin absurdly milky in color. She seemed unreal her existence seemed thrust upon a world unready for her and during our conversation her words melted over me. She spoke of what seemed grand things, but the words fell flat with little life. She said much but nothing all the same. It was like reading a seemingly exciting story which ended up with more description of the surroundings then plot development. I came to think of her as a fabricated truth there was substance in her words somewhere but I couldn’t find it. In fact the very search for meaning was quite disorientating. I would come to find that my definition of subversion was in a few ways incorrect, but turning out that though the definition was wrong and not based strictly upon repression of the self, in fact not at all, her name was exactly right, she was the Tragic Subversion.

The other one, Ana was harder to name I would come to fondly consider her both the lioness and the last legend depending on her mood. She took to me like heavy sunlight to dry wood, raging with passionate destruction, too much energy for me to comprehend. She wore what was called the rebels band a basic black arm band displayed on the left arm or occasionally both for memorial occasions. She thought herself a rarity forgetting that the only rebels left were rich kids, though I think many like her lacked reasoning to see that. Like many other’s she wanted people to be heard, the genocide in our country side to end, and the idea of rank to be obliterated, but her story would come to surprise me. Her blonde hair was short and choppy the ends painted black and red to symbolize her cause, her blue eyes were capped with a lens that tuned her vision so she could see aura’s more clearly, though they looked unfocused and out of use. These sorts of caps turned ones pupil grey and at times the shade would change with dilatation, and mood if worn for prolonged periods. During our conversation her voice rang out like a harp not soft spoke, but lacking something that I couldn’t quite place. Fiery as she was I felt a sort of repression the kind that held the tragic subversion though not as intense. Her opinions were her own and informed by various levels of educators, visionaries and other rebels, but it seemed something was amiss. She was a bit overwhelming; she burned my faded reality and together with Ophelia painted a new portrait of my world.

The time on the train was one of repression and freedom. Each pulled and twisted around me, choking me, and reviving me, creating a new version of myself. Those hours we spent together were like living in a dream the line between reality and reality blurred, my life no longer existed; the tigress and the tragic subversion were putting the final brush strokes on the new one.

Yet, I should get back to the point, the last night before we arrived Ana brought two of her male friends from the pervious year to our compartment, both wore black arm bands the irony of wealth. Their introduction began with the taller of the two, “my names Marcus, this is Ash.” he had medium length choppy black hair with an angular face, and glowing orange eyes that held a deep emptiness within them with a lanky body that drifted like a thin tree. I named him the wise one, but that was much later on.

His friend Ash was shorter, by a head or so, he had fiery red hair that seemed to shift between shades similar to the tigress’s pupil. He was board and muscular as Marcus, but seemed more sturdy more inviting to the touch, but the thing that stood out the most were his pale red eyes, a color that I’d never seen before. I named him the minister that too, I do not wish to explain just yet.

We sat in a thick silence before the tigress broke it with a laugh resembling the thunder that was to come that morning. “Wow I never thought this would be so uncomfortable.” she said uncrossing and re-crossing her legs. “Someone say something I mean you two” she pointed at the tragic subversion and I “don’t know these two” pointing to Marcus and Ash “so talk.”

Marcus shook his head as if she were crazy, but then looked to Ophelia and I and asked “First year here?” his fingers ran through his hair as both the tragic subversion and I gazed at him. I was trying to remember how to speak. I met his gaze and felt him pierce me almost instantly, but I allowed it to happening smirking and knowing soon he’d be in tremendous pain.

I finally managed a “yes” and surprised myself at the critical tone it came with. I smirked a bit more when Ophelia caught my attention shock on her face. It may have seemed rude, but one should know better then to jump into a strangers mind.

“Why now? I mean you’re a transfer right?”  His voice broke my internal laughter; it was strong and filled with a curiosity that commanded my immediate attention.

“No, I was home schooled.” I replied remembering my teacher’s face. “I went to a contact school after that, but my guardian thought this would be better”

“You went to a contact school?” Both the tigress and Marcus gasped, I had forgotten how off those schools seemed to the rich, how controversial the topic was then. I became a jewel. A perfect case study.

“Yes” I sighed reliving behind my eyes the horror of those days. “My guardian was opposed to spending too much money on me.” Ophelia smiled as to show me she was ready to jump in at anytime, save me from their interrogation.

“Guardian?” He asked leaning forward as though he had never heard this word uttered before, as if I was about to tell him my tragedy. I was not.

“Yes I believe she felt that I would choose to become a maid or something, but then she gave up and decided to send me to this school.” I lied I had no idea why I was here.

“That’s good.” Ash cut in as if to symbolize the end to Marcus’s search, I was thankful to say the least.

“I assume…” I muttered tying to smile at him, as a thank you. I’m not sure if it worked. “But I guess there’s nothing I can do now.” I leaned back ending my introduction ready to listen, it was Ophelia’s turn.

“And you’re a transfer?” Marcus asked a part of him hoping she would say yes, he wasn’t difficult to read in the least I didn’t even have to pry it was all in his eyes. He was not ready to settle again for the tip of the iceberg as he was forced to do for me.

She did not disappoint her yes rang out into the small area and she prepared to open up. She had waited for someone like Marcus to share her story with, someone to pick her life apart and show her the pieces, show her what it all meant.

“What school?” He seemed content with normal introductory conversations, but his eyes were fixated on her as though she was the most important person in the world. I had no idea how to read the look, his eyes darted about her face and body with a curiousness I’d never seen.

“Telic” she was giving him the same look, while observing I felt a thick space form around them pushing the rest of us out. Out of all of us they seemed to bring more out of spoken words then we could ever fathom of in it may have just been me “it was nice, but my parents were afraid of all the rumored rebel gathering and such.”

“Telic is full of ignorant fools” Ana laughed pulling her hair back she was uncomfortable, shifting in her seat and playing with her hair I couldn’t figure out why though.

“They began a protest and a riot broke out on campus the day I left.” she sighed remembering her friends, her sisters and brothers, her story before this end.

“Yeah? I heard of that. Telic’s school reps still hold life-servants to their ancestral contracts, right?” Marcus mused as I realized they had both ignored Ana, finding each other far more interesting I supposed.

“Yeah. The senior leader got fed up, that’s how the riot started, just him.”

“Good man.” He laughed leaning back to reminisce, or so it appeared. “So how’d you end up at Telic? Rich parents?” he said dryly still watching her but apparently bored with the conversation.

The moment she had waited for! “No my parents one-well-um” and she couldn’t find the words. Her whole life had been framed on this need, yet then, at that moment she couldn’t bring herself to speak. “My caretakers had money” she finally said, using a word that held so much power, too much power, too much intimacy within its letters, those who could use it normally avoided it.

“Caretaker?” Ana asked in a whisper all this time and she had never used that word. No one knew what else to say. I hadn’t guessed she could’ve come from a care-taker, as I had. She was far too well kept and coming from a school like Telic it seemed nearly impossible.

“Uh…oh-yea” she sighed looking at me for some kind of comfort. I tried my best to tell her mentally that I understood, but nothing got through. She appeared so alone, so cold and distraught “I think I’m gonna walk around, my legs are sore.” she sprung up instantaneously and nearly leaped out of the small box. There was silence for a long time after, none of us willing to speak. And on the wise one’s face I saw regret burning. I wanted to go into his mind, but I kept myself from doing so. Later I came to understand he regretted more then what I could comprehend, their connection was mind collapsing.

Care-takers and contact schools were attributes of the poor, after the silent death,

-a plague that had swept over our world when I was just seven years old- they appeared. The children of those who had died who lost everything within the flood of unexplainable death became victims to these things. The children were taken in by the upper-class if they were lucky those who were obligated for numerous reasons, such as; blood-ties, social climbing, and or social pressure, among the top. These individuals were seen as saints, they were the angels reaching toward the sinners left behind, the saviors for those who could not have the means to save themselves. All the while the cared for suffered the neglect of cold hearts.

Most everyone treated life the same as before the plague nothing escaping the paint of the rose colored shades. They ignored the masses of homeless peoples consisting of older adolescents who have yet to reach the age of 20, and the overcrowded, dirty, disgusting contact schools. Which in there own right are prisons. They teach the young to read and write, do basic math and then give them trades if they survived ‘til the end. Only certain lucky individuals get pushed on to actual schools. Ophelia and I were lucky our care-takers had given us even if in reluctance; a fighting chance.

This was what the rebels fought against; the death in the streets, genocide in the country, decay of lower society and delusions of the elite. All denied the suffering, but all suffered in their own right. Many prep school children live their life for this cause, yet when they reach a certain age they either disappeared or changed. Fear and Punishment was too powerful a tool; they would sell themselves in order to live. It was inevitable; there was nothing to be done.

 

“Ana, we’re gonna go back now, our stuff and all is back there.” Marcus said he was still stiff about what had happened and didn’t want to face Ophelia again.

“No come on, stay with us.” She begged, her eyes bulging out of her head “please, please, please, please.” she pleaded grabbing his hands.

“Ana come on let go.” he said with a sudden urgency. His orange eyes turning red with random fear at least random for me.

“Fine Leave.” she pouted crossing her arms and legs.

“Don’t get mad. You understand right?” he asked looking at me, I wanted to say yes, but something in Ana’s eyes told me to say no.

“You should stay.” I choked, forcing it out with a horrifying pain I wouldn’t want to see Ophelia again either not if I were him. As angry as he seemed I guess he understood or in the least he didn’t act mad. I was fairly certain he understood that I had to live with her this next year so he let it pass.

“Okay then, so someone start entertaining me.” he said laughing off his irritation. He couldn’t get passed the idea of losing all the first accounts that Ophelia had to offer, but like most humans he felt guilt that only came with forcing someone to remember and to remember yourself. At least that’s what I concluded at the time.

“So how ‘bout this train ride?” Ash sighed as he laid down. His head hit my lap with a shock. I’d never had contact with any male especially as intimate as this felt. I had hardly any physical contact with any individual through out my entirety of being. “You don’t mind do you” he asked shifting his position until he felt comfortable.

“Not at…all” I sighed looking down at his pale face. Trying to figure out what was going on, stop myself from running my hands across his forehead and pondering why I suddenly felt at home.

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