The Soul of the Matter–Part One

The day had dawned hours ago, but the city was just beginning to wake up.  Dingy yellow cabs cruised the streets of Chicago, the drivers honking their horns and gesturing wildly to anyone who got in their way.  Hot dog vendors rattled their carts onto their corners, and steam from the handcarts began to rise in the cool spring morning.  Men and women in pressed business suits and worn-out walking shoes hurried to their respective buildings, each a study in high-rise architecture.

Into one building that seemed to be made of nothing but glass hurried a young woman.  Dressed in a drab brown suit that matched her thin brown hair, the woman, Hannah Miller, ducked her head as she passed by a trio of men who were laughing at some joke she didn’t catch.  Like a little mouse, she darted around the people who obviously belonged there and scurried into an empty elevator.  When the doors closed without anyone else stepping inside, she sighed with relief.  She glanced at the familiar red and white sign on the side of the car: “Please report all incidents of supernatural activity.  Call 911 if you see anything suspicious.”  She shivered, but turned away.

Hannah cleared her throat as she stepped off the elevator.  She caught a glimpse of herself in the gold-framed mirror across the hall and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.  Just stay calm, she told her reflection as she turned and pushed open the glass doors that led to Human Resources.  The receptionist took her name and told her to take a seat.  Hannah settled into one of the chairs against the wall and pulled her slightly battered briefcase onto her lap.  She tapped her fingers nervously and tried not to look at anyone too long.  The last thing she needed today was to See anyone.

“Ms. Miller?”  A tall middle-aged gentleman entered the lobby.

“Good morning, sir,” she said, standing and straightening her suit jacket.

“Good morning.  Can I get you anything?” he asked as he led her back to his office.

“I wouldn’t mind some water, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.”  He handed her a bottle of water and took a seat behind his desk.  She sat in a chair across from him and waited until he’d taken his Talker out of his ear.

“Where’s my daddy?” a soft child’s voice whispered.

Oh no, Hannah thought.

“So, Ms. Miller, did you bring a copy of your resume?” the man asked.

Hannah glanced at the glowing nameplate on the man’s desk.  “Yes, Mister…Donovan.”  Hannah handed her resume to the man.

“My daddy’s gone,” the child continued.

Hannah glanced out of the corner of her eye and saw a little boy dressed in a Little League uniform standing beside her.  His chin trembled as tears rolled down his cheeks.  The two black stripes under his eyes were smeared from him wiping his eyes.

“Your resume is impressive, Ms. Miller.  I just have a few questions for you.”

“I’m ready when you are.”  Hannah cranked up her smile a notch.

“I hurt my knee,” the boy whimpered.  “And Mommy’s at work.  Can you find my daddy?”

Hannah glared at the boy before grinning at Mr. Donovan.  Donovan smiled back and asked, “Why did you apply for this position?”

“As you can see on my resume, Mr. Donovan, I have three years’ experience as an administrative–”

“PLEASE,” the boy pleaded, clutching at her arm.  She tried not to wince as his cold fingers dug through her sleeve into her shaking arm.  “I’m bleeding all over!”

She glanced down again, this time at the boy’s knee.  It was gashed open and blood ran in thick streams down to the boy’s sock.  “Oh my gosh,” she whispered.

 

“Ms. Miller?”

Hannah jerked her eyes back to Donovan.  “I’m sorry, I…”  She gulped.  The boy will be fine! she scolded herself.  But hearing the boy cry made her eyes fill with tears.  “I’m j-just a little nervous, I guess.”

“No need, Ms. Miller.  You are more than qualified for this position.  I just have to go through the questions so the higher-ups won’t grill you later.”  He smiled politely at her.  “You were telling me about your experience.”

Tears slid down her cheeks.  “I’m sorry,” she sniffled.  “I’m sorry I can’t help you,” she whispered to the boy.

Mr. Donovan sighed and stood up to show her out.  “Why don’t we reschedule, Ms. Miller?”

She looked up at him suddenly.  “I’m sorry you lost your father, Mr. Donovan.”

He startled back, and she gasped.  “How did you know that?” he whispered hoarsely.  Then his eyes narrowed.  “You’re…”  He grabbed his Talker and shoved it into his ear.  “Police,” he barked.  The Talker’s green light glowed as it contacted the local station.

She backed away.  He hit an invisible button and the glass door to his office–her only exit–locked.  “You’re not going anywhere until the cops get here,” he snarled.  “Should’ve never let you in here.”

She sank down against the wall furthest from the door and curled into a ball.  Fear, sympathy for the boy, and anger that she couldn’t control her Sight unleashed themselves in her stomach and made her gag.

“What are you anyway?”  His eyes jerked from her to the door and back again.  A tiny holographic screen appeared before Mr. Donovan’s eyes and a man in a black officer’s uniform.  The two men spoke for a moment, ending with the officer saying, “An investigator is coming.  Sit tight, and don’t listen to a thing it says.”

It, Hannah thought.  I’m an “it.”  

The boy sat near her.  “I’m scared.”

I’m going to fry anyway, she thought despairingly.  “Me too.”

“Shut up,” Mr. Donovan said.

She shut her eyes.  “You lost your father when you were a little boy, and you’re still scared.  I’m sorry for that.”

“Shut up!”

The boy curled into her.  “That man looks like my daddy,” he whispered.

 

As the glass door unlocked and the room filled with black-uniformed men, Hannah whispered, “You can sleep now.  You’ll be just fine.”

As the officers strapped her hands together behind her back, Hannah watched the boy smile and fade away.

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3 thoughts on “The Soul of the Matter–Part One

  1. I love how you first tell us your world is different: “Please report all incidents of supernatural activity. Call 911 if you see anything suspicious.” It’s in the second paragraph, so early enough that we know there’s something different here, but after you’ve set up what appears to be a typical street scene. I do wonder about your first line, though: “The day had dawned hours ago, but the city was just beginning to wake up.” Most cities I’ve been to are up with the dawn — granted, not everyone, but rush hour can come awfully early. Is this just a different observation, or a note on how your world is different?

    I like how you introduce Seeing and how Ms. Miller is not a hero. She’s scared and not out to change the world — at least, we don’t see it, if she is.

    I do have to laugh, though: Ms. Miller was a singer in the… 70’s? … who was known for her really bad voice. I know it’s not intentional, but your choice of names made me think of that.

    I also like your quick spike of action — the story doesn’t sit still at all.

    Good first part! When can we expect part two?

  2. I really like your style of writing, Annabeth. It’s such a change from all the science fiction to encounter words like “supernatural” and “Seeing”. You give this blog a new twist. I really can’t wait to read more, to find out what happens to Ms. Miller. You set the story well and as Luke said, you hint at the fictional part in the second paragraph. I like that because I get a little grip on what’s happening before I’m plunged into a world that I really don’t know. You make it so realistic with the little boy and his hurt knee.

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