Because so many responders mentioned that “Arrows” felt like it needed more, our submitter decided to add a bit more. He’d love to know what you think. It’s a bit longer than the previous ones. Hope that’s okay.
Arrows (part three)
Someone at the controls of heaven’s automated sprinkler system decided that the town of Ingerton needed extra rain that autumn. As school began to occupy every nook and cranny of my conscious and subconscious, I began to forget the names Charlotte and Miss De Broglie.
As the grey sky rumbled and screamed in the distance, I made the unfortunate acquaintance of a man who was to change my life forever.
He came to me while I was making my way back to my lonely home, to which I had no desire to return. My parents had returned from their trip a week before, still bearing all of the useless sundries and trinkets they had so painstakingly worked to upcycle into something interesting yet still useless, all in a modern world of global, cheap manufacturing where people are more likely to buy decorations from Ikea and the like. As a result of their recent failure, the house was, yet again, filled with those useless trinkets. My dad returned to his day-job. Luckily, all of his far-fetched ideas about the philosophy of upcycling had not yet dismantled his common sense to keep a stable job as a sales representative to a large toaster manufacturing company. My mom worked at the local daycare, and I was an only child. My parents would not be home from their busy lives until 6:00 in the evening. I had plenty of time until then, and I took my sweet time walking through the Appalachian Wilderness.
The forest bore a chilled wet smell, with the dew of the previous rainstorm glistening on everything in sight. The sun streamed through the hazy and chilled foggy air and was caught by every dazzling crystal drop, blanketing the meadows in stars and turning the puddles into gold.
The birds sang jubilantly, their voices coordinating as one discordant yet mesmerizingly beautiful choir. I felt my mind at ease in that moment and I felt happy that everything in the world was right as the rain.
Then, I saw the unmistakable black sweatshirt of Charlotte Gibson hanging from the lowest branch of a young tree. I froze. Never before did I feel with such disturbed foreboding that I was being watched. I dared not turn my head, for the eyes of the trees held my neck facing the sweatshirt.
Though at the time I couldn’t possibly understand the reasoning behind what I’d felt, I later discovered that in that moment I was the marionette of a man known as Quasar.
You have interfered, young man. You have stepped where no man should step, and now you must be silenced, lest my plan be ruined by your filthiness.
The voice in my head was venomous and scathing. I felt reduced to a disciplined child, shrinking into the floor, tears running down my face. I could not move. I could not speak. My thoughts were not my own, and I was trapped.
Just as my hope of escape began to wane, I saw Charlotte. My vision blurred and I collapsed as she came to my side. Then, as though nothing had happened whatsoever, I was at ease and my mind was back in my own hands.
I sat up. Charlotte was not wearing the same frumpy articles of clothing as before. She was in a black pea coat and a dress. For the first time, I noticed that her hair was done more nicely and she was wearing makeup, as if she had just come from a special dinner or event.
“Hue, are you alright?” she asked, softly.
“No…,” I replied, rubbing my eyes and trying to refocus my vision to see my surroundings more clearly.
“They know that you know. I swear, I have no idea how they found out. My aunt just can’t control herself sometimes. We aren’t allowed to use our gifts for anything except the approved practices. Now that you know about us…Quasar is furious.”
Quasar. I’d heard that word in documentaries on Discovery Channel and briefly in my astronomy class. It was a powerful galactic nucleus, shooting radio waves all over the universe at high energy.
Quasar, however, was not a galactic nucleus, according to Charlotte, but a man, a very angry and powerful man.
“Come on. We need to get you back home. He won’t be able to read you from there.”
As Charlotte explained to me over the next few minutes as we walked home, Quasar was one of several Sentinels among ‘her people,’ as Charlotte referred to them. She told me that they had rules. The psychics weren’t allowed to use their powers on normal thinkers unless the person being read was screened and approved by the Sentinels. The Sentinels had a plan, and anyone who broke pace with that plan was promptly dealt with, often ‘silenced.’
In the midst of our conversation, I had the mind to ask her why she was dressed up.
“I was at a meeting at the Manor. Quasar was there. I don’t know how he found out about what my aunt did. He was looking over at me with that look he always gives people when he knows something we don’t want him to know. He probed my mind and I couldn’t stop him. He was looking for a specific memory: your house. He then left the meeting and I followed him. I’m sorry I didn’t get to you sooner.”
“What’s going to happen now? How do you know I’ll be safe in my house?”
“A Sentinel will not use his powers in a populated area like Ingerton. As much as psychics try not to, when we use our powers, everyone in the immediate area is affected in some way or another. Most of us haven’t mastered the art of keeping our powers secret, even the Sentinels, so we rarely use our powers outside of the Manor.”
My street wasn’t far ahead. I was relieved when I saw it. That relief was short lived, for, looming before us, was a man in a dark green suit.
Quasar wore a monocle. His head was mostly bald, with brownish-grey patches shortly trimmed to the sides of his white head. His large eyes shone brightly with irises green as the suit he was wearing.
“Hello, dear Charlotte. Who is your friend?”
“I think you know, Quasar.” She retorted back to him with a fire in her voice I had yet to hear.
“I didn’t bother to learn the young man’s name, only the location of his house, my dear Charlotte. I prefer to learn the name of a subject directly from the source.”
“My name is Hue,” I said, wanting to know from this strange man, likely mid-forties, tall, thin, and pale, what his ‘plan’ truly was.
“Ah. Hue. I can assure you, Hue, that I have no obligation to cause you any harm. It is against our customs and traditions to do so. I must warn you, however, that the consequences of telling another living soul of what Miss De Broglie did to you are much more severe. It is also unwise of you, Hue, to associate with dear Charlotte or seek after her. They have done their best to erase themselves from your society, and we plan to keep it that way. You two may say your goodbyes. Then you must never see one-another again. What we seek is far to important and the means too fragile and delicate to be damaged thusly.”
With that, Charlotte looked at me with her black eyes and nodded slightly, the nuance of her expression penetrating the fibre of my soul and filling my mind with yet another thought that was not my own. This time, I saw a pool ball with the number 7 written clearly on its green surface. Next to the ball sat a strip of paper recently removed from a broken fortune cookie, with small black words printed on it.
Alfred is a friend. Standing stones dance at the end of the longest night. Come prepare the fields of your new home for the children of your forefathers.
I nodded back, unsure of Charlotte’s purpose in sending me this message. I walked home and left Quasar and Charlotte behind, believing in my mind that I would never see them again, yet feeling in my heart that this was not the end of my role in Charlotte’s plan. A seven-ball and a cookie fortune. Indeed, Quasar was hiding something esoteric. I was determined not to keep my promise to him. I needed to know, and Charlotte needed me to know.