Faded Memories

Faded Memories

By Jasmin James

There was a chill in the air as I walked through the park. At the time I thought it strange that there was a silence of such intensity, even though it was too early for most people to be out and about. Such a silence shocked me. For that moment in time the Earth at a dead calm. The only sound was the harsh noise of my breathing, appearing in white wisps in the cold morning air. I looked over to the swing set illuminated in the early morning light. As a solitary tear ran down my face I uttered one word, his name, Jake. The memories came over me like a massive wave rushing into my head pulling me down. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I couldn’t breathe and my heat was beating so fast, I thought it would burst out of my chest. My eyes adjusted and I saw myself sitting on the swings two years ago when I was fourteen. My blonde hair fell around me in golden clumps illuminated by the sun. I was surprised at the detail of this memory, down to the strawberry pattern on my white sundress. I could hear my younger self vaguely humming the theme tunes of television shows that have long since been canceled. Then everything came into focus and all I could see was Jake. His jet black hair was still the same, messy but at the same time silky and smooth. I could feel his intense blue eyes staring down at me. I remember that as I lifted my head to meet his gaze I realized that his eyes were filled with infinite sorrow. The Jake I knew was always smiling. He could light up the room with his jokes and capture the heart of a total stranger. But this Jake seemed withdrawn and scared. It was as if all the light and joy had been drained away leaving behind a hollow shell, a shadow of the original. I should have noticed the warning signs earlier but I had been so caught up in everything else. I wish that I had because I might have been able to change what happened. I am crying freely now as I keep drifting in and out of my memory and back to the scene playing in my head. How could I have known what was about to happen on that day so long ago? Jake was pushing me on the swings where we had met so many times. “Higher”, I commanded until for on brief moment I reached out my hand to take my place in the sky. I jumped off the swings and launched myself into the air landing softly on the ground in front of him. He smiled at me and reached out to take my hand. We started to walk towards home hand in hand for the last time as the sun set behind us. My teeth were chattering as the wind picked up, blowing my hair into my face and stinging my eyes. “Are you getting cold?” whispered Jake as he placed his favorite baseball jacket around my shoulders. I beamed up at him in silent appreciation. He smiles back at me but then turns away. His face contorted into a look of utter despair. “What’s wrong Jake?” I ask him. “Zoe, I came here to see you one last time. I have to go away but I can’t tell you where I’m going. I can’t stay in this dead end town forever and if I don’t take this chance I will spend the rest of my life wondering what could have been. Zoe, you mean more to me than anyone and I wish I could take you with me but I would be putting you in danger and I wouldn’t be able to live with that. I will come back for you and I will find away to contact you to let you know if I’m ok. Always remember this place. We used to spend hours in this park. We would talk about life and the future. We will part here but I swear to you that we will come back here together one day. I know you won’t understand any of this but just trust me ok?” He grasped my hand tighter and pulled me into his embrace. “Jake? I murmured in disbelief. Don’t leave me!” I sobbed as I buried myself into his chest and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. How could this be happening? I thought to myself. “It’s not forever Zoe, he whispered as he held me tighter. I won’t ever leave you because we share a bond that can’t be severed by distance or time. You know that you mean the world to me.” He kissed me tenderly on my tear stricken cheek and gently pulled away from our brief embrace. “Why Jake?” I said through strangled sobs. But Jake didn’t answer the question. Instead I could feel his eyes pass over me as if he was trying to memorize my face. Before I could ask him again he took off at full speed headed towards the outskirts of town. I tried to run as fast as I could but I couldn’t keep up with him. I tripped on a branch that had fallen onto the path and crashed into the cold unforgiving ground. I couldn’t see Jake up ahead anymore and it was getting dark. I curled up into the fetal position and wept until I had no more tears left to cry. I was alone in the world and I had lost the person who meant the most to me. I had no feeling left anymore but somehow I managed to find my way home in the dark. The next day Jake’s parents called the police when he didn’t come home. The police knocked on all the doors in town but they said that they couldn’t launch a full search until the next day when Jake was classed as a missing person. The search began but yielded no results. In time Jake was presumed dead and the town mourned for his loss, except me. A year later everyone seemed to forget about him. To them he was just a foolish boy who had met an unfortunate end. His parents couldn’t bare it anymore so they moved away. I knew Jake didn’t run away but no one would listen. He was out there somewhere and one day I would find him. My vision clouded once more and my mind snapped back into the present and reality.

I look around the overgrown park clouded in mist. The swing set is now rusted and overgrown with vines. I sigh and a bust of white cloud rises then evaporates. I walk slowly over to the bench at the edge of the park. I stair at the plaque that reads “in loving memory of Jake Billings.” I sit down on the paint chipped seat, damp and soggy from the morning dew. A sign stands a few feet away. It states “Red Bird Park demotion notice. This park is to be demolished on 3rd April 2010 to make way for city developments.” My attention wavers from the sign and settles on a patch of grass at my feet. “Help me Jake. I don’t want to wait anymore. Help me to find you. Keep you promise and come back to me.” I sighed as I walked into the centre of the cloud of mist.

A noise in the distance makes my skin crawl and the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. As I was blinded by the thick blanket of fog before my eyes, I was unable to see who was approaching. I was acutely aware that I was alone and if whoever was approaching wished me harm, I was too far away from town for anyone to hear my screams. I wanted to run but instead I stood my ground, not making a sound. I stood there hardly daring to breath until the sounds of the approaching footsteps faded away into nothingness. I left the safety of my blanket of mist and retraced my steps until I arrived back at the bench. There on the worn down bench lay an envelope with my name on it written in Jakes familiar scrawl. With shaking hands I opened the envelope to find a single crumpled sheet of paper inside. Written on the paper were the words

John Baker
Private investigator
265 Denver Avenue, Rockwell
Office times: 9:00am to 10:00pm weekdays (CLOSED ON WEEKENDS)
Phone: 080055564

Breathlessly I dialed the number into my old mobile phone. I held my breath while the phone kept ringing continuously. “Good morning, this is John Bakers office. How may I help you?” said a secretary on the other end of the phone. “I would like to book an appointment” I stammered. The secretary was unfazed by my insecurities. “Please state your name and preferred time slot” she replied. “My name is Zoe Grey and I can come down to the office between 5pm and 6pm.” I said with confidence starting to return to the tone of my voice. There was a pause on the other end of the line and I could hear the secretary flicking through papers until she replied “I have confirmed you appointment with Mr. John Baker at the specified time. Thank you for calling, goodbye.” With that the phone went dead.

John Baker’s reception area was dusty and smelled of old books worn with age. It was furnished with an assortment of mismatched furniture which contributed to the unique character of the room. I waited in an old antique chair watching dust particles float around the room; dancing in the rays of the setting sun. The receptionist shifted in the computer chair she was sitting on and continuously typed on the computer in front of her until she eventually called my name. She guided me past a long corridor at the back of the building until she came to a halt outside John Bakers private office. The receptionist opened the door and gestured for me to enter. The room was dark and yet I could still see his face. John Baker was largely built middle aged man with a square jaw and pleasing features. He had dark brown eyes, Fair skin, and sandy brown hair. He was wearing a large brown button up coat which made his shoulders seem even broader, and a matching brown hat which he took off and placed in front of him on his desk when I entered the room. “Good afternoon Miss Grey” he said as he gestured to the chair positioned in front of his desk. His secretary collected a pile of seemingly important looking files from the desk and exited the room with a soft click as she shut the door behind her. “Thank you for seeing me” I replied meekly. I could hear the nervousness creeping back into my voice, so I began to fiddle with a loose flap of material attached to my sleeve to try and calm myself. “Well let’s get down to business he proclaimed in a booming voice. What can I do to help you Miss Grey?.” “Well, I stammered, I need you to help me find a person who has been missing for two years. I’m not asking for a miracle, and I’m well aware that the chance of success is very slim, but this is the last chance I have to find someone who is more important to me than anyone else in the world.” “Well then you had best start from the beginning” he replied with a smile. “His name is Jake Billings and at the time of his disappearance we were both living in Downing Estate on the edge of South Bradford. The police mounted a full scale investigation of the area but he was never found. They gave up after two months and he was pronounced legally dead. It was assumed that he had run away or possibly committed suicide but everyone in town could tell you that he wasn’t that sort of person. He came to see me the day he disappeared to tell me that he was leaving. He wouldn’t tell me where but he said that he would try and contact me, which is when the letters started showing up.” “What letters?” asked John Baker with a look of pure bemusement. “Every year on the day he disappeared I go to the place that I last saw him in Redbird Park and there is always a letter waiting for me. Last year’s letter just said don’t worry, I’m safe. I miss you, love Jake. At first I thought it was a prank that some of the boys at my school were trying to pull but when I turned the letter over I discovered a small picture of the green lakes where Jake and I always talked about camping out when we left school. But when I called up the park ranger he said that the area had been flooded for months and that it was impossible for anyone to get in or out. It didn’t have a stamp or post mark so it must have been hand delivered by someone. This year I went to the park early to try and catch the messenger out but I lost my nerve when I heard someone approaching and canceled myself in the fog. Unfortunately I was too scared to get closer to him so I couldn’t get a good look at him because of the thickness of the fog but I know that it wasn’t Jake who left the letter on the bench. I could only see this mans outline but I can tell you that he was very tall and was a largely built man. In the letter was the number for your office and a picture of Hampton Gorge. The most frustrating thing is that I have told the police about all this but they think that I’m making it up. Everyone in town thought I had lost my mind when I tried to get the national radio station to ask if they could broadcast a message asking for anyone with information to come forward. No one did of course but I will never give up on him!” Throughout the recounting of my story John Baker listened intently, sometimes nodding to himself and stopping only to write down the occasional piece of vital information. When I finished filling him in on every word that Jake had said to me on our last encounter he thanked me for coming down and promised to phone me if any developments arose. He also said that he had to apply for the police statements and try and locate Jakes family to get some new information from them. I thanked him for his help and grimaced at the thought of the long trip home.

Twenty minuets later I sat on the nearly deserted public train headed for home. I gratefully sipped the cup of coffee I had purchased five minuets prior. I was tired and worn out. I had told John everything about my relationship with Jake, but because of how much I missed him it had been painful for me to remember. John Baker had said that based on the information I had provided he would be able to start the investigation, however because there wasn’t much to go on he would have to apply to the police and apply for disclosure of results of their previous investigation. I felt satisfied that I had finally made progress but at the same time I wondered If I had done enough. If I disappeared would anyone care? Would they go to the trouble of finding me? My doubts were interrupted as the train came to a halt and I stepped off the train. I hailed a taxi and was home in ten minuets. My dingy little flat that I shared with my sister Ann smelled damp, and was always cold. Ann works nights so I’m always alone. Lately I’ve stopped going to school because every time I try to concentrate I get distracted for sitting there trying to secure my future when I know I don’t have one. Jake’s friends don’t talk to me because they think that Jake ran off and that I know where he is but I’m not telling them. My friends just think he’s dead and I’m just obsessed so they don’t talk to me. My teachers all hate me because they say I don’t “try” anymore, and the school wants me gone because I have six months overdue school fees which I have no means of paying off. My parents don’t want me either because that’s why they sent me to live with Ann. Three years ago my Dad lost his job in the law firm he was working in. His business
Started drying up a year prior but he didn’t tell us so when he lost his job we had no idea of how bad our financial state was. We were in severe debt and dad was too old for anyone to take him on. We had to move out of our big house in the suburbs and relocate to a block of flats on the other end of town. That’s when dad got depressed and filed for bankruptcy. Ann dropped out of school an took a job as a cleaner to support us and I worked as a waitress every night after school. Mum packed her bags and left about a year ago and no one has heard from her since. Dad never goes out of his flat. He just sits in the dark all day taking anti depressants. The only thing he has to look forward to is when Ann and I visit him at the end of the week to give money for his rent to the landlord. We used to give the money to Dad but he just spent it on drink. I used to love school but after what happened I knew things would be different. It was hard going to school with no lunch and explaining to my teacher why I couldn’t afford to buy new books. Jakes family was fairly well off so he would sometimes give me some of his allowance to help me out. At first I refused it but in the end I had no choice. He also tutored me every Saturday so that I could keep up with the rest of the class. When my friends found out about my family’s financial state they began to invent ways of taunting me inn very subtle ways. They would invite me out to the movies or to go shopping when they knew I couldn’t afford it then talk about what a great time they had without me. Jake stuck by me and I started hanging around with his friends. They were really nice to me, even though I was a year younger than all of them. But now that Jake is gone I have no one. I am completely alone.

I sit on my rusty bed and stair at my empty coffee cup. I think about Jake. I had known Jake all my life. We were pretty much brought up as brother and sister. Jakes father was my Dad’s old University buddy and our mothers both volunteered at the community centre on the weekend. Jake was a year older than me but even though we were in separate grades we always hung out together at school. He was great at everything, especially drama. He got top grades in every subject and received the highest year level academic award in year eleven. He was a sporting captain and everyone in his year nominated him for school leader for year twelve. My grades were average but I excelled in English, literature, and social studies. I was shy in those days and I hated public speaking, but I loved books and that was one of the things we had in common. We used to walk for hours until we were far away from human civilization. Sometimes Jake would borrow his father’s old car and we would camp out in the hills surrounding the town. We would stay up there for days, sometimes a week talking long into the night then gaze at the stars until we fell asleep. We would talk about books, music, school, family, friends and where we would be in ten years. We had so many plans mapped out for when we left school. None of it matters any more because neither of us has a future anymore. I just don’t understand why he just packed up and left. He had a loving family, supportive friends and a good home. Was he running away from something or trying to find it? It feels like there is something nagging in the back of my mind but I just can’t reach it. I just know that there has to be a clue here somewhere. Jake is trying to tell me something. There was a loud click as Ann stepped through the door. “Zoe! Look at this place! It’s a tip. What have you been doing all day? You could have cleaned up. It’s the least you could do for me seen as I work all day and night to provide for you. All you do is sit around. If you’re not going to go to school then you could pull your weight and get a job” said Ann as she slumped down onto our dusty couch. “Ann please don’t get upset. I will clean up tomorrow. I have a job but I need the money to pay the detective”, I said as I rushed to the kitchen to heat up Ann’s dinner. “What detective?” asked Ann. “The detective I hired to mount an independent investigation to find Jake. Don’t worry about money because I took a job at the supermarket down the street to pay him off.” “Zoe! Are you stupid? screamed Ann. You should be paying off you school fee’s not paying some sleazy con artist. I can’t believe you would do something so foolish. You’re doing all this for some idiot who ran off. He’s gone Zoe! It’s time to move on and forget about him.” “HOW DARE YOU I screamed. You didn’t even know him. How I choose to spend my money is my business and when I find Jake I’m getting out of this slum and away from you!” I ran to my room, slammed the door and cried myself to sleep.

For the next two weeks I waited by the phone in case John Baker called. Every time the phone would ring I couldn’t contain my excitement but was soon disappointed when the only people who called were chasing money. Since the other night Ann and I haven’t spoken to each other. I couldn’t even bare to go see Dad with her. Finally the phone rang and I was ecstatic to hear John Bakers husky voice on the other end of the phone. “Excellent news Miss Grey, we have a lead, he exclaimed bursting with enthusiasm. However, I don’t think that it’s safe to discuss the case over the phone. Would it be possible for you to come down to the office this afternoon?” “That would be great. Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me” I replied holding back the tears. “Will five o’clock be convenient?” he asked. “That will be fine” I replied, and with that the phone went dead.

Jake sat in a dark room deep in thought. He brushed his hair out of his eyes and tried to concentrate. His train of thought was broken as the door was thrown open and light flooded into the empty room. A large figure blocked some of the light from the doorway. “Jake Wes will see you now.” “Thanks Hal”, replied Jake. Jake walked slowly down the long corridor until he reached Wes’s office. “Come in Jake” called Wes before he even had a chance to knock. Jake opened to door to find Wes waiting for him. “Jake I know what you’re thinking and no I’m not going to erase her memories.” Jake slumped into a chair lying against the wall and sighed with relief. “You hid it well. Your training has paid off. I don’t have all the details but I’m sure you will fill me in. I know she means a lot to you so I can understand why you kept this from me but sending those letters was very foolish of you. You put us all in danger. I won’t be too hard on you because I know that it was something that you had to do.” “What’s going to happen to the detective?” asked Jake wearily. “It’s unfortunate, replied Wes. But I’ve had to send the boys round to take care of it. Don’t get upset but I had them leave your girl a message.” “What kind of message? boomed Jake. Wes I swear to god If you cause her any discomfort …” “Calm down Jake, soothed Wes. It’s just so we can keep an eye on her. If she stays where she is we won’t have to do a thing. Jake I will forgive you in advance for what you are about to do.” “Wes…” sighed Jake. “I had the boys turn out her apartment to give her a scare so she won’t do anything silly” Jake crossed the room in a flash and hit Wes so hard that his knuckles bled profusely. Wes got up of the ground, smoothed out the wrinkles in his shirt and sat back down in his chair as if nothing had happened. “Jake, I think you need some time to cool off. I want you to go to the east branch for a while and help with counseling a group of newcomers. You have a gift for helping people come to terms with our predicament. If you can do that, I will allow you to continue your correspondence with the girl on condition that you show them to me first and never put you feelings before this community again.” Jake nodded and stormed out of the room. “I forgive you” shouted Wes as Jake punched a hole in the wall.

As I stepped off the train at Denver station I couldn’t help but feel as if I was being watched. However, I quickly dismissed the idea and replaced it with the thought of finding Jake. I could hardly contain my excitement. I was so close to finding him. Ann never understood because she never knew the kind of friendship that I shared with Jake. She had friends at school before she left but none of them were like Jake. They didn’t even acknowledge her existence after Dad lost all his money. In a way I felt sorry for Ann because she was forced to grow up before her time. She didn’t have anyone to confide with when she got upset. She had no friends and mum left. It was different for me because I had Jake. Sometimes I think she resented me for getting on with my life and being able to go to school while she was forced to work.

As I approached John Baker’s office I could sense that something was wrong. The large oak door at the front of the building was wide open. I stopped in my tracks, unable to take my eyes off the mangled lock and the lacerations on the door which was now blowing back and forth. I held my breath and stepped into the reception area, clocked in darkness. As I groped around in the dark searching for a light switch, I tripped on something and toppled on a pile of debris on the hard stone floor. I reached down to examine my ankle which I had fallen badly on, but instead found the object that I had tripped on. I had fallen on an upturned office chair that had been thrown and left in the middle of the room. I now realized that the whole building had been ransacked. Everything was on the floor including the filing cabinets which were usually stacked in neat lines behind the front desk. I forced myself to stand up once more, stepping over the debris towards the wall. I found the light switch and the room was now emerged in light. I could now see the full extent of the damage. Nothing was left intact. I made my way towards John Bakers office at the back of the building only to find that it was in much the same state as all the rooms I had passed. Except every file was gone and John Bakers hat had been left on his desk with a note attached to it. It read

Zoe Grey
Stop meddling in affairs that don’t concern you. If you fail to meet our demands you and your sister will receive the same treatment as the detective you hired.

I couldn’t breath. Someone had done all this because of me. Why? Did these people have Jake prisoner? I held onto the leg of the upturned desk to steady myself. Light was leaking out through slashes in the curtains. All I could do to stop myself from screaming was to stand completely still and let my mind wonder. I sat in the dark for a long time. I have no idea how long I was there but by the time I emerged from the building the moon was lighting my path back to the station. I reached for the back pocket of my faded jeans until I found my purse. Inside was the $200 that I had saved up to pay John Baker but at that point I doubted that I would ever see him again. My phone began to vibrate so I pressed so I hit accept and was surprised to hear Ann’s rasping voice. “Where the hell are you Zoe? We’ve had a break in.” “What?” I replied in utter disbelief. “I came home from work to find you gone and the flat destroyed. Is this your doing? I hope to god that you haven’t been doing any dodgy dealings and this is the result, because if it is you can hit the road, or go live with your father.” she screamed. “Ann I’m in trouble” I whimpered. “You’re damn right you are. What is it? Please tell me it’s not drugs” screeched Ann. “No it’s not drugs I said as I began to cry. “What is it then Zoe?” asked Ann getting angrier by the second. “I can’t tell you. It’s to do with Jake. Bad people are involved and they will do worse if I don’t do what they say. I’m not coming home because I don’t want them to do anything else. I know that we haven’t seen eye since what happened to Dad but I just want to say that I love you Ann and I appreciate everything you have done for me. You always tried to protect me but I always seem to go looking for trouble. It’s my turn to keep you safe by not endangering you further. I’m leaving town and I won’t be able to come back until this dies down. Don’t try and ring me because I’ll buy a new sim card when I get to wherever I’m going. Take care of Dad ok?” “No, just come home Zoe. We will figure this out. Don’t do this” pleaded Ann. “I’m sorry” I cried as I hit the end key, tossed the sim card into the trash and stepped on a train headed to an unknown destination.

When I woke up it took me a minuet or two for me to register where I was. I looked out of the train window and sighed heavily as I swept my eyes across the sweeping landscape before me. I had only seen the ocean three times in my life. Dad used to take us all on holiday during the Christmas break. We used to go swimming for hours until we all got cramp and swum back to shore. Ann and I collected sea shells and took them home with us to put in the keepsake jar that we kept in our room. We added to it every time we went somewhere new. After Dad’s work dried up we couldn’t afford to go on holidays anymore. I think that was the thing I missed most about those days back when we used to be a family. I sighed once more and let the motion of the train lull me to sleep once more. I awoke to discover the woman in seat adjacent to mine gently trying to wake me. “We’re at the last stop love. We had better get off before the doors close” she said softly. Dazed with drowsiness I shuffled to the train doors and stepped out onto the station plat form. I held my hand to my head to steady my spinning head. I sat down on a nearby bench and looked out onto the platform. I could hear the ocean in the distance as the salty breeze cooled my face. I looked around absently for any clues as to my present location when I happened upon a sign reading Alphinia Station. I had no idea where Alphinia was so I resigned myself to sit and study my surroundings. I watched strangers come and go and I couldn’t help but imagine what their lives must be like. Sooner or later the trains stopped coming and I was left alone on the platform. As darkness began to set in I began to get nervous. I wasn’t afraid of the dark or spending the night on a deserted station platform, but as time went on I began to imagine dark silhouettes watching me from the trees across from the train tracks. At first I tried to put it down the fact that I had completed a stressful journey and I was lost and alone. Surprisingly that didn’t help calm me down at all. Instead I became more paranoid and I started hearing footsteps. I had no I idea if this was my imagination or the real thing but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. I bolted down the platform to the exit, only to find that my way was barred by a large iron gate. I panicked and flung myself down onto the train tracks and ran as fast as I could until the station was out of sight, and I somehow managed to clamber onto the bank. I lay on the grass panting until my lungs heaved with exhaustion and my throat grew dry. I woke up the next morning cold and damp from the morning dew. I forced myself to stand up and amble up the bank back towards the train station. The gates were open now so I passed through them and headed out towards the car park.

I began to walk towards the roadside when someone grabbed my shoulder forcefully, and I was flung backwards and a large hand covered my mouth. Oh my god, I thought to myself. I wasn’t imagining things last night. What are they going to do to me? Three large men stood around me. One got into a van and started the engine, and another pulled a blindfold over my eyes. The next thing I knew was that I was being bundled into their van and I could do nothing about it. I tried to struggle but the man restraining me was too strong. I couldn’t even scream because they had gagged me. I don’t think I have ever been so terrified in my entire life. “You are a fast runner little miss said one of the men. We didn’t want to take you in broad daylight but you gave us no choice. If you hadn’t come back to the train station you might have had a chance, he chuckled. The thing is we have orders to take you back with us because of the stunt you pulled when you left town. You should have stayed where you were so we could keep an eye on you but you had to go and flee didn’t you. Foolish mistake. Don’t be too scared, we won’t harm you. Believe it or not even I have issues with violence towards women. Sorry about the rough manner we used to get you in the van but it was necessary.” I couldn’t believe it. I was being abducted and this guy was going on about violence to women. No one spoke in the van after that. I was so petrified that I couldn’t stop shaking. Where were they taking me? What if the had punished Ann because I had run away? I did all this to keep her safe not put her in danger. The van suddenly shuddered as it finally came to a standstill. I was guided out of the van by one of the men while the other two stood on either side of me. They made me turn around in circles to make sure that I couldn’t gage which direction we were headed in. We walked for what seemed like hours. I couldn’t hear any voices or noises you would hear if you were in a populated area, so I had to assume that if they were going to kill me it was going to be in a place where no one would ever find me. I wanted to cry but I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. What would Ann say if someone found my body? What would it do to Dad? What would they say at school? The teachers would say that I went off the rails and I probably went looking for trouble. I doubt that Mum would even find out. Would Jake know? No I won’t die like this. I broke free of my captor’s grasp and flailed about trying to kick, punch or scratch anyone that came within reach. But eventually they grabbed hold of me again and all I could do was writhe about and hope I would get another chance to escape. All of a sudden everything went black and I felt a severe pain in the back of my head. I remember falling and hitting the ground but after that nothing.

I woke up with no idea where I was or what had happened. A girl with short brown hair was wrapping bandages around the injuries I received when I took the blow to my head. I could barely focus because my head was throbbing and the room seemed to be spinning. “Thank god you’re finally awake, exclaimed the girl. We were all worried that you had a concussion. Wes was furious when he found out that Vick hit you on the head.” “What? Where am I?” I mumbled. “Oh I’m sorry, she replied. You are in the hospital wing of our facility. I can’t really tell you anything yet because you need to rest up, but once you are recovered you can go see Wes. He will tell you everything you need to know” she said with a smile. “So I’m not dead?” I asked cautiously. “No, of coarse not silly. What Vick did was inexcusable. But the boys said that you were really brave. You didn’t cry once and you actually managed to break Denis’s nose. No one who has ever been marked has been able to lay a finger on any those boys. Hal said that you pretended to be all fragile and complacent then you attacked out of nowhere and punched Denis in the nose. You are quite a celebrity down here.” I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying. I started to fall into a deep sleep. My body seemed to sigh with relief as soon as my head touched the pillow once more and I closed my eyes. In the dream I was standing in an alleyway. Jake was next to me. He looked like hell. There was another person as well but I couldn’t make out his face. He was in pain but Jake wouldn’t let me go over to him. The person next to me was writhing on the floor as if in the midst of and internal struggle. He was crying out in pain and I desperately wanted to help him. I tried to break free of Jakes grasp but he was too strong. All of a sudden men in black suits started pouring into the alleyway. Jake told me to run but I wouldn’t go without the stranger. The men in suits pulled out guns and aimed them at us. I screamed, the dream shattered and I awoke with a start. I realized I was still screaming when the girl from before rushed into the room to try and calm me. “It’s ok it was just a bad dream. She soothed. Its ok, you’re safe.” I began to cry as she cradled me in her arms. “Wes will be here any second.” “Where is she?! Shouted a voice coming from outside in the corridor. Let me through Dennis or so help me...” “Calm down man. I don’t want my nose broken a second time.” The door flung open and my world shattered. Jake stood in the doorway with utter joy plastered all over his face. “Zoe!” he exclaimed as he ran to my side and wrapped my in his arms. “Oh Jake I’ve missed you so much” I cried as I punched in square in the jaw. Jake stared at me in utter bewilderment as I nursed my fist. “Don’t you ever leave me again you hear me!” A smile spread across his face as he picked himself up off the ground. “You have grown up a lot Zo, he laughed. Then again you were always able to take care of yourself.” A man with sandy blonde hair and startling green eyes walked into the room. The girl who had nursed me greeted him warmly before excusing herself and exiting the room. I could feel Jake go tense next to me as he reached for my hand. “Hello Zoe, my name is Wes” he said warmly. He strode over to my bed and shook my hand firmly. “Hello Wes” Jake said warily. “Good to see you Jake. Before you ask I will allow you to stay while I explain things to Zoe.” I could feel Jake relax then as he slumped down on the end of my bed. “Well Zoe I’m sure you have many questions at this present moment so I won’t waste anymore time. But first I would like to apologize for the rough manor in which you were brought here. The person who acted inappropriately has been reprimanded and has asked me to give you his profound apologies. Now that’s over and done with we can get down to business. This community houses young individuals who have been “marked.” You may find this hard to believe but every so often someone is born with the ability to channel spiritual energy. We don’t know for sure what spiritual energy is. Some people believe that it is the left over life force of living things that have passed away and left remnants of their life behind. Others believe that it is simply the natural energy of all living things on this earth. There are other theories but these are the most widely accepted. When someone is born with the ability to harness spiritual energy their physical state is altered. You won’t show signs of this ability until your early teens. Everyone is different but spiritual energy usually either enhances you mental ability, physical ability or your spiritual senses or in rare cases all three. Many people are born with low grade abilities in physical and mental enhancements where as others may specialize in one area. I specialize in mental and spiritual areas which is quite rare. I can sense the type of atmosphere in a room and to some extent alter it. I can also see into the short term future, anything that will happen in the next ten minuets I will know in advance. I am able to read peoples thought trails and I can also gauge the type and level of anyone’s spiritual energy. I have one other ability that has never been seen before. I can harness spiritual energy and manipulate it to either physically shield or protect myself in the form of an invisible force. Jake on the other hand specializes in physical and mental capacities. His physical ability is the highest we have ever seen. He could win in any sport he chooses to enter. His mental abilities allow him to retain every piece of information he has picked up during his lifetime. By the time he reaches thirty he will have an IQ of 97. There are many sub divisions and abilities but it all comes down to the individual. However, you may be wondering why the word it oblivious to this phenomena. The general public is in the dark but the government is all too aware of our gifts. Five years ago the government spent millions of dollars to program a computer so advanced that it can pinpoint the exact time, date and location of anyone who is born with these abilities. The program is based upon the laws of probability which is how they mark every person they see as a threat. Basically as soon as you are marked you are watched constantly until they can be certain that your spiritual abilities are of a low grade and virtually useless. But if you have strong abilities you will be taken to a special government facility where you will be kept and observed until you have served your purpose and they have drained you of your power. They erase your memory and they release you back into society like nothing has happened. The government have to spent a lot of money to keep this all quiet but its only a matter of time before they find away to harness spiritual energy for themselves to use as weapons of mass destruction. Anyone who escapes from them is executed. At first we had no idea that you exhibited any signs of spiritual energy. What’s even more interesting is that you were not marked from the time you were born. We have a tracking system that can hack into the government computer and give us the names of everyone who has been marked. You are the first person to have spiritual energy and not be detected by the government. I only realized that you were unique when I could no longer track your movements. I sent the boys out to get you but we had to blindfold you because it is community policy that every newcomer has to be oblivious to the location of the facility so if they are caught they can’t reveal its whereabouts. When you are trained you can control your mind so that it can never be probed. As yet we don’t know the extent of your abilities so we will have to wait and see how you develop. I know this is a lot to take in but if you need any help please don’t hesitate to come to me for guidance. I act as the community councilor and administrator. You will have to remain here for some time before we can let you outside our protection but we have assigned you comfortable lodging and we all hope that you will feel at home. Unfortunately, I have to take my leave but I will be paying you regular visits to observe your progress.” He kissed my hand and swept out the door in the blink of an eye. `


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