I have been on the move for as long as I can remember. Never stayed in the same town for more than a week. And I mean that. I haven’t gone to a school like ordinary people do. I was homeschooled or more like hotel and car schooled. The only person I know, and I mean I truly know, is my mother. You can’t get too attached to anyone else when you never be there when they want a second date. All this has started to bother me. I see how things should go on the TV and read from the magazines, but none of it recoils with me as life has been. Again, I stare at the clothes I’m supposed to steal and pawn before skipping down. My mother is somewhere at the shopping mall. This time she is getting the electronic goods. She says that I get too distracted. Clothes don’t do that to me. I have always found them more like a tool than an extension of my personality, as the marketing state them to be. There’s no one I have to impress other than the security guards to think nothing of me. Easy to achieve. I’m nothing, and that has always been so.
I hear footsteps behind me, and without having to turn, I know it’s the salesperson. I have been staring at the same blouse for seconds too long.
“Can I help you? We have that in yellow,” she offers.
I face her and shrug. “I’m not sure if this is what I’m looking for.” I put the blouse back on the rack.
“What are you looking for? A blouse for a date? How about a dress? I think I have a perfect one which matches your eyes. It’s cerulean blue.”
I wonder if I should ask her what color that is, but it doesn’t matter. I somehow have to make her lose her interest in me. I can’t come empty hand. We only have a few bucks left, and that’s reserved for gas.
“I’m fine. I was just a million miles away. You know what that’s like,” I say.
“Yeah, sure. Still, I really think you should see the dress. It would suit you.”
“Thanks, I guess,” and I walk away.
She snorts after me as I walk out of the shop. I need to find another one, where the salespersons are planning an escape and are uninterested in the customers. But I find myself walking out of the whole building and heading to the car park and to our car. I shiver inside the cold car until my mother gets back.
I must have fallen asleep as I wake to a punch to my arm. “What did you do?” I hear before I open my eyes.
“Sorry, a guard clocked me and didn’t leave me alone.” I massage my arm and try to avoid looking at my mother.
She starts shouting at me, but I tune out the words. Finally, when her voice gets horse, and she stops waving her arms around, I interrupt her. “Can’t we just leave?”
She says nothing and pushes the key to the ignition. Finally, when we are well away from the shopping mall, I dare to glance at her. She has that look on her face that I better keep my mouth shut or she starts her rant about how she is doing all this for me, and I should be thankful. The rant always ends up with her sobbing and me locked into the toilet. The last thing she usually says is that she could be living in one of those beach houses and sipping margaritas every day if I didn’t exist.
I glance over at the back seat, but there’s just a few console games there. Nothing which gives us any money, really. I turn back to stare at the road without taking a peek at the fuel meter.
At these times, I pretend I don’t exist, and if you don’t exist, you need nothing. I read somewhere that people practice that as faith, nonexisting and not wanting, but I never have found absolution during all these years. Just stillness and survival. I guess they have to remind themselves of that; those who write about these things in the magazine. They write an awful lot of stuff there, all seeming so important. I don’t know what is important. It’s not the cerulean blue dress, that’s as much as I’m sure of.
“Fuck,” she screams next to me and hits the brakes as she swirls the car off the road. I let her storm out and sit there as immobile as I can. Then, when she doesn’t come back in after the usual time, I get up and get on the pavement. She’s still beside herself.
“I’m sorry. We can go back, and I do better,” I say.
She barely sees me. She is screaming the usual litany.
I already know I never should have been born. That I am an abomination. All except that I had figured out why. The magazines and TV shows show people getting pregnant when they shouldn’t. Having me was a mistake, but I am not sure why I am an abomination. Such words are reserved for the disfigured or derelict. I’m always nice to my mother and do what she wants. Yes, there have been similar days before when I just can’t do it. I don’t know why I sometimes freeze, but it feels like something inside me goes wrong, and I get stuck.
“Go back into the car. People are staring at us,” she shouts at me.
I look at the highway, and I see people gawking at us like we are circus monkeys. I once sat outside a circus tent. There weren’t any monkeys or elephants, but there were people who could twist their bodies to weird positions. That was a good day. So I pretend I’m a performer, who is putting on a show for the passersby. So that they have a perfectly good reason to stare at me as I get back into the car.
My mother comes after me, but she doesn’t get in. Instead, she reaches for her purse, takes it with her, and slams the door shut behind her. She paces around the pavement and then takes her phone out. I watch her dial a number from a piece of paper she draws out of her wallet and then continue that nervous trot she was doing earlier. I want to go out and hear who she is talking to when her mouth begins to run fast. I don’t dare.
I have never seen her talk to anyone on the phone. Occasionally, she bums a smoke from someone and tells me to leave her alone. Maybe she calls that number at those times. I don’t know. I don’t have a clue about a lot of things. I have accepted that a long time ago. As I have me not having a father or any other family. Another touchy subject I can’t ever discuss around her.
When she’s done on the phone, she comes in and sits next to me. The anger has melted away, and she is something else. Expressionless, I would love to say, but it’s not entirely that either.
“What now?” I ask and feel as the words grasp my throat.
“We wait,” she says, and I’m sure she’s holding her breath and more.
We sat there for an hour at least. Her hands are shaking as she fumbles with her purse and phone. Every time I open my mouth to beg her to leave, I can’t get anything out. And as I almost about to tell her that I’m so sorry, I wish I was never born, a brand new black SUV pulls in front of us. Two men in black suits get out. One of them opens the back door, and a tall woman with long white hair and beautiful serene features steps out. She looks like my mother did when she was young, and if stress hadn’t eaten her whole essence. I lean forward, holding on to the dashboard, preparing myself for whatever this is.
The woman moves like she weighs nothing. Her white dress and coat flow after her. She is perfect, like those women in the magazines. She has that permanent, pleasant smile on her face.
“Mother,” I say.
“Remember, you asked this,” she says and gets out of the car.
“Nicole,” she greets the other woman. “You haven’t grown old at all.”
“Hello, darling Christine.” Nicole spreads her arms to embrace my mother. I see her hesitate for a second, but then step into the embrace.
It doesn’t last long. Nicole pushes my mother away and gives a huge smile. “So, where is our Sasha?” She looks at me, and I feel my stomach get all tight.
“Sasha, come out,” my mother says with a strained voice.
I hesitate, but I do what is asked of me.
“Look at you,” Nicole shouts, delighted. She opens her arms once again. I’m meant to let her hug me. But I look at my mother, and she nods.
“Oh, Sasha,” Nicole lets out as I step into her embrace. She smells of fresh laundry and berries. Underneath her flowy dress and coat, there is a skeleton-like figure. I want to let go of her and run, but I let her keep me for a lot longer than she hugged my mother.
“Let me look at you,” she finally says and pulls away. She takes hold of my chin and familiarizes herself with my features. “Those eyes of yours, so bright blue,” Nicole says and glances at my mother.
My mother looks away.
“Sasha, you are as lovely as I have pictured. Now come, let’s leave this despicable place.” She guides me by holding on to my shoulders towards the SUV. I glance behind at my mother, and she is following us.
One of the giant men in a black suit opens a door for us, and Nicole instructs me to go in first. She gets in just behind me. My mother gets in through the other door, and I’m between her and Nicole.
“So, Sasha, my sister tells me that it’s time you and her come home. You don’t know how much I have wished for to have our family whole again.” She squeezes my leg.
“Ma’am?” the man who had climbed to the driver’s seat asks.
“Back to the plane,” Nicole orders. Her voice is so soft, so composed. And she doesn’t break from that constant smile of hers.
“Mom?” I ask as the car pulls off.
“Not now,” she says, looking out of the blackened window.
I swallow and sit still as the tense atmosphere gets even tenser farther we go. I keep clenching my fists. When things get too much for me, I open my mouth to say, but Nicole interrupts me.
“I have come to realize that all this must seem odd to you. You must know nothing of me and who your mother was.” She pauses for a moment to glance at my mother. “But all of that will be revealed once we get home. Then whatever has happened here will pass, and you can live your life as it was intended.” Nicole brushes her hand against my cheek, and I have to stop my body from recoiling so visibly that I draw off her touch.
She tries that smile of hers, and I can’t figure out what it means. Mother never smiled at me that way. All I ever got from her was a frown followed by a bark of commands.
“Okay,” is all I say.
It’s the wrong choice. Nicole narrows her eyes for a second, then she turns that smile on again. “Oh, Sasha. You are such a breath of fresh air.” That’s all she says, and we go back to that awkward silence my mother has supported all this time.
When the car stops, and we are let out, we are in a hangar, and there’s a small plane in front of us. I’m too stunned to say anything as I’m hurried into the plane and seated in its leather seats. All I can do is sneak a glance at my mother. She looks so out of place with her old jeans and a top, and a knock-off purse. But not her posture, though. She sits there like she has always belonged there. So does her sister, but her high street nonchalant white clothes don’t contradict the décor. I look at my clothes and feel more out of place than them. Not because of the clothes, but because of the turmoil going inside me. None of this makes sense. Least of all, the word home Nicole so freely uses. This all feels like some lie the magazines tell what can happen to you. A hope that there’s a long-lost relative who has left their fortune to you. There’s a catch. There has to be. I want to ask what from my mother, but I don’t dare. Instead, I squeeze the rests of the chair as the plane moves and press them even more as it takes off.
Where are we going? I scream inside my head. “Let me go,” comes out over and over again. I struggle against my seatbelt, trying to tear it open. My fingers feel numb. I can’t get them to work. Then I feel a sharp jab on my shoulder. I look over and see Nicole standing next to me with a syringe in her hand. I start to get up but collapse back into my seat. My eyes are heavy; I fight to keep them open.
I hear my mother ask, “Was that necessary?”
“You heard her. She was getting out of control. She looks like you have run her into the ground,” Nicole spits the words out.
I lift my arm, but it doesn’t get up. Then everything turns soft, and my mother and her sister’s words get muffled.
I scratch my itching arm. It doesn’t go away. I open my eyes to see what is going on and see I’m no longer in… I’m not sure where I was before… before what.
“Mom,” I scream, but what comes out is a screech. My throat is dry. I push myself up against the bed, but sitting up makes my head spin.
“Mom,” I scream again. But this time, there’s more than a gurgle.
Nothing happens. I put my feet on the cold floor only to notice I don’t have my shoes or socks on. Altogether, I’m wearing some sort of loose pale green pajama. There’s a bandage on my right forearm. I tear it off and see a red dot where a needle has punctured me.
“Mom,” I scream again. This time a man’s face appears to a small window on the door leading into the room, which reminds me of a sickbay. I rush to the door despite my legs feeling like two left feet. I seize the door handle and shake it. It’s locked. The man just stares at me as I try. I bang against the door, wiping away the contented look on his face. He turns away and leaves me alone. I collapse against the door and take in deep breaths to stop the hyperventilation from coming. I count all the things in the room I can find to get control back. There’s not much to count. Just the bed and a small table next to it. I can feel the breath getting shallow again. I have never been to a hospital. Not even an emergency room. My mother refused to take me. She always snorted that doctors were quacks and she could fix me better. She always did.
I bang my head against the door, closing my eyes.
“Sasha darling,” comes Nicole’s voice, stopping me from cracking my skull open as I beat sense into my head.
I refuse to reply.
“Sasha, please be kind and get on the bed. Then I can come in, and we can talk.”
“I want my mother.” I actually didn’t want her. Christine had never been a mother, a jailer, maybe. Still, I screamed for her to come.
“Your mom is resting. We had quite a tiring flight here, and it seems like you two haven’t slept in a proper bed for a while. But Sasha, I will let nothing wrong come to you. I love you. You don’t remember me, but I used to hold you when you were just a baby, and you loved being pressed against my chest. You slept there for hours. This was before your mom took you away. If you let me, I can show you your home.”
“What about the bandage and the syringe? A family who loves each other doesn’t do such things.”
“I feared that you would hurt yourself, and I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you. It would devastate your mother and me.”
Her words make no sense, but nothing ever has. I crawl away from the door and climb onto the bed. I tie my hands around my knees to wait for her to come in. The man I saw earlier follows her. He is a big man, but not as big as the ones in the car were. This one is wearing a matching pajama to mine, but now, as I see it on someone else, it is more of a robe.
“There, that wasn’t hard,” Nicole says as she approaches me. She moves like a cat who has seen a mouse.
I back away from her against the backrest of the bed. It’s a simple metallic railing.
She sits next to me and puts her hand on my leg. “Sasha, my blue-eyed beauty. I don’t want to harm you. I don’t know what your mother has told you of our family or me, but I’m sure we can sort out any misconceptions. That time comes later. Now we will get you breakfast. Come,” she says and takes hold of my hand.
I let her guide me out to the hallway. We move past closed rooms and a vast open space, which looks like a laboratory with state-of-the-art microscopes and vacuum desks. Next to them are small containers full of bright blue liquid.
Nicole isn’t pleased as we move past the section. “Close the door,” she says softly to the man.
I have come to associate her softness with strictness. I think I’m right. The man hurries to push a button on the wall, bringing a wall-like door down to seal the laboratory. Then, when everything is out of view, we move on. The hallway emerges out of the wall. I look behind me; there’s a high mirror behind us, hiding away the corridor. But I return to look at the colossal lobby leading into a canteen. The reason why I had to look back where we came from is that all of this is too much. There are more people, like the man and me, dressed in robes. All of them watch as we walk, looking hungrily with adoration towards Nicole. And as Nicole nods at them or calls them out by their names, their knees wobble, and their perfect faces with marks of plastic surgery try to comprehend how they had received such an honor. I have to turn my attention back to the surroundings to gain a sense of normalcy. The place is more elaborate than I have ever seen, even in the magazines. It reminds me of a futuristic spa with its glass walls, dome-like ceiling, and birch wood chairs and tables. And that’s not all. Some people are hooked into IV machines with the blue liquid I saw earlier dripping into their veins.
“What is this place?” I ask and follow a movie star passing me.
“It’s your grandfather’s legacy and your future if you let me teach you.”
I say nothing back.
Nicole takes me to the canteen, where a spray of fruits and vegetables is laid to be taken. She selects a plate for me and fills it with all sorts of fruits. Then, when I’m about to take a bottle of the blue liquid inside, she takes it away from me and says, “Not for you. You don’t need it.”
“But,” I protest.
“They need it. We don’t. Look at me, Sasha darling. Really look at me,” Nicole orders.
I peer at her face, her long blond hair framing her snow-white skin, and her blue eyes are locked hard into mine.
“Now, look at yourself.” She takes hold of my face and twists it to face the fruit spray. There behind it is a mirror, and I understand what she wants me to notice. We have the same blue eyes. The ones my mother has as well. The same blue that is in the bottles.
“Good girl. You are bright.” Nicole lets go of my face. “Now eat.” She trusts the plate to me. “And then we can plan your future beyond being a drifter for the rest of your life.”
“We had a chat with your mother on the plane. She should have never taken you from us and put you through all that.”
“Your grandfather and me.”
“Dead? I guess you could call it that—” but Nicole stops from saying more as a man steps near to us. I have seen him on the news, but I can’t place who he is.
“Ma’am—” he begins.
“Nicole, always Nicole to you.” She laughs. Her laughter sounds open, pleasant, and as I could get lost in her voice. The man feels the same. His tense shoulders melt as Nicole gives him her full attention. “What can I do for you, Jeffrey?”
I gasp as I realize who he is.
“I’m sorry to bother you; you are with your daughter. I wouldn’t have come if I had noticed. But now, as I am already here, I might as well…” the richest man on the planet leaves an opening for Nicole to protest.
“Go on. You can say anything in front of my niece, you would say in private to me,” Nicole says.
“They are denying my girlfriend from flying in,” Jeffrey says after glancing at me.
“And you would like her…?” Nicole offers.
“To get the treatment—”
“But that’s not in your agreement. Or are you willing to vouch for her and her silence?” Nicole doesn’t let the man to reply. “I thought as much. You can take her to some other resort to profess your eternal love. Not here. Do we have an understanding?”
“Of course, Nicole. I’m sorry to have bothered you.” The man bows and takes his exit.
“What is in the liquid?” I ask.
“What all want,” Nicole laughs. “You have come to your mother, always so blunt and never time for smiles. A smile in the right place and a concerned tone and tilt of the head, and you can own anyone. Mark my words.”
“You are stalling,” I say.
“A way to stop time for the body.”
“Eternal life, if it’s in the cards. Now take your plate and let’s leave before anyone else is daring enough to approach me. You have gotten your first introduction to the family business.”
I let her guide me back to the hallway we came from. I almost miss the entrance behind the mirror. She leads me into the bare room, leaving me there with a plate and mineral water she snatched before we left the canteen.
I hear the door being locked behind her.
The first lesson, then, I think.
I eat the fruit and drink the water while trying to collect my thoughts. Either my aunt has sold lies to these people here, or she actually means it. If it’s true, then something in her and me and my mother is different. It has to be a lie. So what that I have cerulean blue eyes. It means nothing. Just a fluke. I need to talk to my mother. There’s a reason why she fled. Why she hates Nicole. Why she is kept from me.
I get up and try the lock. It’s shut. I push at the balls of my feet to see out of the window. If there’s someone outside, I can’t see.
“I need to use a toilet,” I shout.
“There’s one in your room.” The man who was there before appears at the window, startling me.
I compose myself and ask, “Where?”
“Push the panel at the opposite to your bed. There are lines on the wall.”
I obey him, and when I get closer, the lines become more obvious. I push the wall, and it slides out of my way, revealing a bathroom with a shower and a cabinet with a mirror. There next to the opening is a rack, and Nicole has left me identical white clothes as she wears. I look at myself from the mirror and see the resemblance again, but my face hasn’t been altered like Nicole’s is.
I open the cabinet door. Nicole has left comb, make-up, and hair accessories for me to use there. Or I think she has left them for me. Clearly, she doesn’t know anything about me or our lives. I take the hairpins with me and retreat to the bed.
“Is everything okay?” the man asks nervously.
“Yeah, I didn’t need to go.”
“Okay,” he says and goes away. I guess he finds staring at me as creepy as I do.
I sit there, unable to do anything, until I hear the man stir outside. I listen to his footsteps getting farther away from me. Then, I get up and push the pins on the lock. I wonder how stupid Nicole is, buying such a cheap lock. It opens easily, and I push the door carefully open. Before I go out, I take the white clothes from the bathroom and make a body-shaped form under the covers on the bed. I sneak out and hope that the man won’t return while I’m gone. I get as far as the laboratory and don’t dare to go farther. I bush the button on the wall and see it slide up. I look for a similar one inside and find it. The wall slides back to its place, and I spot a corner where I can hide, listening to the man come back. It takes him a while. I wait if he sounds an alarm, but he doesn’t. Only then do I dare to lift up and look around.
The blue liquid is thick and gooey as I shake the first bottle I find. It’s hard to tell what it is, but how stupid one has to be to let you inject into you. It looks like a chemical cleaner. I guess even the rich and famous are ready to go in blindly when eternal life is tangled in front of them. I still doubt it’s true. An elaborate lie my aunt has conducted to milk money out of those who already have everything.
I put the bottle down and began opening the cabinets. There are printed documents inside folders. All looking gibberish to me. Only one paper makes sense, and it has intake frequency measurements. If the eternal life thing is true, my aunt’s or my family’s, as Nicole sees it, customers need to up their liquid intake once a month. I leave the folders to be. I open a computer at the corner, but it requires a password, which is beyond my skills. I look inside a walk-in closet, which has a weird-looking tube system producing the blue liquid. I follow the tubes, which lead to a wall. I push it in hopes that it works like the bathroom wall in my room. It does. The wall slides to my left, and I see two pod-like beds with windows. My mother is in one of them. A liquid tube is attached to her pod, and darker blue liquid flows out. I rush to her and see that there are tubes hooked on her arm. I glance over her pod and see a man in his mid-fifties laying on the next pod over. Grandfather, I wonder. But I ignore him and move back to my mother’s pod, searching for a way to open it.
I don’t get that far. There’s a cough behind me. “So here you are. You are too clever for your own good.”
It’s Nicole, holding a gun.
“Unhook her or,” I say.
“Or what? You don’t even know what’s going on.”
“You are…” I try to fight the insane words out. “You are… using their blood as… as… as…”
“As what? Say it,” Nicole says.
“Elixir for the rich.”
“And you keep them hooked on it, so you can extort them… not for money, no. For power?”
“Oh darling Sasha, I wish your mother had never taken you. Think about what we could have done together!”
“I’m not your darling Sasha. Unhook her, or I will.”
“And kill her? Eternal life doesn’t mean eternal. Only that the cells won’t go bad. And your mother’s blood is weak. Has always been. Not yours, though. Your father was marvelous. Too bad he knew nothing about good taste and the value of the blue blood. And before you ask, he’s dead. Died protecting you. He and your mother thought they could leave me alone with father and this. Stupid. But you don’t need to know any of that. What you need to know is that if you unhook your mother or grandfather, they’ll die. And so will all of those who are dependent on their monthly intake. They die if they don’t get their dose. That’s the cost, and they signed up for it.”
“Willingly?” I ask.
“Willingly,” Nicole says.
“That too. You only have to hint and show them eternal youth, and they will throw out any caution. Not you, though. I can see it in you. You don’t believe a word I say. You see past my smile. You did that right away.”
“What are you? What are we?” I ask.
“I tell you if you step away from your mother… Or, no, let’s play a game. I allow you to unhook them, and you can decide if they and those out there who you saw will die. How about that?”
“No stalling. There are only two options you can say. You can unplug that.” She nods towards a joint tube circling from my mother’s pod, connecting to my grandfather’s line and returning to the laboratory. “Or you can walk out of here with me, alive, and be part of the family business. We can keep them in support, and you and I can reap the benefits. They owe us that much. I make it easy for you.” She lowers her gun on the floor and kicks it away from both of us. “It’s your free choice.”
I look at her and then at my mother, then at the tube and the gun. Finally, I yank the line out of the wall and feel the blue blood on my hands. Then the banging starts. Both my mother and grandfather shake in their pods, and I can see I have severed two other liquid lines in the process. I turn to my mother and try to open the pod, but it doesn’t open. I watch her eyes flicker open and shut.
“Don’t bother,” Nicole says next to me. “The line is tricked so that poison will fill their medical bays if it’s touched.”
“You can’t let them die,” I say.
“You made your choice.”
“The others? Dead in a month.”
“Why are you so calm?”
“Do you think I care about them or him and her? Now I’m free to do what I want. So are you. You can set your own shop and sell your blood or burn the place down and take a boat to somewhere you like or live on the island. It still has a few good years ahead, especially when the obnoxious people get out,” Nicole says. She doesn’t stay for an answer. I watch her walk out.
Then when I face my mother again, she’s gone. Her cerulean blue eyes are open but lifeless.
Thank you for reading. Have a lovely day ❤
© K.A. Ashcomb
P.S. This is a dream I had a few weeks ago, and I had to flesh it out and write it into a complete story. It has taken me a few Sundays to write this down, and now I’m wondering if I will start writing longer short stories more rarely or will I continue down the road that I write a short story in one sitting and post it every week. Not sure yet what I shall do.
Oh wow so full of twists and turns!
LikeLiked by 1 person