Forgotten: Chapter 09

Early Saturday morning, I was digging underneath the bed I slept in. I don’t know why I was, maybe I was bored, maybe I was trying to forget the unpleasant experience the day before. Honestly, the classes after lunch were just as a bad, and I got no information about Lhasa. But now, digging underneath a bed gave me time to think about it and now, I really didn’t want to know what had happened to Lhasa. I was also rethinking the whole school thing. How I was treated made me almost unwilling to go back, only the promise of ability training on Monday keeping me from asking the old lady to keep me here.

“Ooo… what’s this?” I spotted something that looked interesting. Grabbing it and climbing out from underneath the bed, banging my head along the way, I leaned back on my knees holding a teddy bear. It looked old, was missing an eye and had appeared to be sewed back together a few times, but still, it felt soft, comforting. Slowly, I drew it into a hug. As I hugged the bear, I thought over what I knew, the depressing fact that I felt unwelcomed in a world without hope. I thought over how the students and teachers treated me. I thought over everything, but now, the bear made me feel warm, comforted, and safe.

“I’m not surprised you found that.” I quickly dropped the bear and looked up. The old lady was leaning against the door, smiling.

“Do you ever knock?” I asked, embarrassed that she saw me hugging it.

“Yeah, twice, but you didn’t hear me. You were too busy being a little kid.”

I felt embarrassed. “How much did you see?” I asked sheepishly.

“All of it,” the old lady replied. She went and picked up the bear and sat down on the bed. I sat down next to her and watched her as she studied the bear. “I remember when I first got this bear for Jerri.”

“Jerri?” I asked, unsure who she was talking about.

“Oh…” The old lady realized that I didn’t know who she was talking about. “Jerri is my adopted daughter. I got her when she was just a baby and I raised her. Sadly, she was injured many years ago and remains in a coma. Anyways, she was only six, and my husband, well, late husband and I took her to a carnival. While there, I was able to win at something. I honestly don’t remember what kind of game it was, but this was my prize. The bear. So, I gave it to Jerri as a birthday present. She named it Mr. Fluffypants because, at one time, the bear had pants.” The old lady laughed silently, remembering good times. Then, she offered me the bear. “Here.”

I hesitated. From what the old lady told me, the bear belonged to someone else. But I still wanted to feel safe and comforted, feelings that I got when I hugged the bear. “Don’t worry, Bug, I don’t think Jerri will complain. Besides, I think you need it more than her right now.” Feeling reassured, I slowly took the bear and embraced it, feeling comforted. Maybe I was acting like a little kid, but I didn’t care. “I’m getting the feeling that yesterday wasn’t a good day.” The old lady was good at guessing my current state of my mind.

I didn’t answer because I didn’t feel like talking about it. Besides, if I did, what could the old lady do? I got a bad feeling when I was around Gare. I didn’t realize it at first, but now that I thought back to yesterday morning, I was getting a strange vibe from him. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I worried a bit about what would happen if the old lady confronted Gare. So, instead, I hugged the bear even tighter.

“I see. Well, when you are ready to talk, Bug, I’m here,” the old lady reassured me, and drew me into a hug. I tensed up, surprised. I’d been hugged before, by Lacey, and by the old lady, when I first arrived at this house and the other night, but this hug, it felt different. I felt that the old lady was hiding something from me and I still didn’t trust her, but the hug, it felt warm, safe. A soothing feeling came over me and I felt a strange emotion rise up, one that I didn’t recognise. It wasn’t fear, anger, hope. No, it was something else. I went to return the hug when she let go, seemingly feeling my body tense up in her embrace. “Oh, I have something for you, Bug.” She quickly left the room and came back with the Harry Potter book I took from the library, along with something small wrapped up. “In your haste, you took the book from the library without checking it out. I took the liberty of getting it checked out.” She handed me the book. “And next time you feel like sneaking out and going to that library, please use this.” She handed me a small envelope. A sudden knock at the door drew the old lady’s attention. “I’ll be right back.”

Once the old lady left the room, I looked down at the envelope. I felt that it had something small, but hard within it. Opening it, I found a card. Looking closely at it, I realized that it was a library card for the library I fell asleep in. On it was the name ‘Claire Doe’, my court given name. I still wondered why they decided on Claire. I was sure that there was some other, simpler name that the court assigned to those with amnesia, but I couldn’t remember what it was. That, or I simply never knew that bit of information. But something caught my eye; between the names, Claire and Doe was my personally chosen nickname, Bug. Claire ‘Bug’ Doe. I smiled, but my revelation was interrupted by the old lady crying out.

I dropped the card, but held onto the bear as I dashed out of my room, down the hallway, and into the kitchen. The scene I found was, well, indescribable.

--------

Nancy’s heart melted as she watched Bug act childish. Bug hugging the bear showed to Nancy that the girl still possessed an innocence of sorts and that was very hard to come by nowadays. But now, despite the girl finally starting to get her bearings and Nancy finally understanding how her balance between her personal feelings for the girl and her orders from Galen was affecting Bug, all that was about to get ripped away. Nancy knew that she didn’t have much time, so she needed to get her affairs in order. This included her family, which included Galen, and Bug. However, she decided to hold off on telling her family, minus Galen, of her impending death. Yes, it was horrible to do so, but today, and for the next week, right up to Christmas Eve, was the International Mourning Week. This was an emotional time for everybody because it was the time when people remembered the day when Lhasa perished. Lhasa caused the world as a whole to break to a point where the reasons for the war became pointless. Everybody fought because they simply could. There was no honor, there was no reason. This is because when something breaks, it can’t always be put back together.

For her own family, this time was also hard for them. It was the anniversary of Jared’s death at the Battle of Lhasa. A lot of families lost people during the battle, but for Nancy’s family, it was different. They had betrayed Jared, turned against him when he needed them the most, and for no reason. Jared had done nothing wrong, but his family turned against him and abandoned him. Nancy knew that even she had turned her back on her grandson. By the time they had all realized their mistake and attempted to contact him, they discovered that Jared had perished along with Lhasa. For them, their guilt only caused additional grief. For Nancy to tell them now, while they were all grieving for Jared, would destroy them. It was better to wait until the grieving period passed.

But the situation with Bug was different. The girl was a nobody. She had no fingerprints and her DNA did not match any in the system. The Agency had even run her picture through the missing persons database. Despite the millions in the database, Bug did not match any in the system. A quiet investigation undertaken by the state police along with the Agency turned up no results. No one in the area that Bug was found in recognized the girl. In truth, Nancy wasn’t even sure Bug even had any family. Everybody involved in the investigation into Bug’s past knew by this point that the girl had some connection to the Falling Star. Whether she was hit by it or came into contact with it after it crashed, it most likely responsible for Bug’s memory loss. Who Bug was before that memory wipe was, in Nancy’s opinion, impossible to figure out. But it also presented the truth that Bug had no current connections to this world. So, if Nancy were to tell Bug that she was dying, it wouldn’t have the same effect.

However, Nancy did need to consider something. Bug was right, she had treated her like nothing. Nancy tried so hard to balance the weight of her orders and the care Bug needed. But she’d failed, and Bug had suffered for it. Not only did Bug need a home, but someone to care for her and love her. Not to ignore her and her needs and keep her locked up away from other people, but to help the girl embrace her abilities and give her the life that she needed. A healthy life. Nancy felt though that she was the least qualified to give it to her. So were Galen and her own family, except maybe Frederick. But Frederick was busy in Singapore trying to keep the peace between the two sides. There was no way he had the time to care for a teenage girl that had no memory and level 4 abilities. So, while telling the girl that she was dying and that she would have to be placed somewhere else might not have the same effect with Bug, her news of her impending death could spark Bug to uncontrollably lash out, either in anger at being lied to or in fear of the future.

Watching Bug hug the stuffed bear when she found it, then hug it again after Nancy gave her the bear to keep showed Bug’s current mental state quite well. Simply watching the girl gave Nancy second thoughts. Instead of talking with her about the future, Nancy shook off that idea and gave Bug the library card. It was a stupid move, but Nancy simply chickened out.

The knock on the door was surprising. Nancy knew of no visitors that were supposed to be coming by today. Her son Eugene’s family was going to be visiting Jared’s empty grave in Winchester, and everybody else was out of the state. The knock was meant that there was either a neighbor stopping by, or it was Galen. Most likely it was indeed Galen, coming by to talk to Nancy about Bug’s first day. She left Bug to her own devices to go check who was at the door. To her worry, it was neither Galen nor a neighbor. Standing outside her door were two army personnel dressed in Class A uniforms. She recognized one as a chaplain. The only time that the army sent an Army Chaplain personally was in the case of someone’s death while serving in the military. She had only two family members in the armed forces. Jerri and Frederick. Jerri was lying in a coma in a military hospital in Washington. It was possible that she had finally passed away, but it was most likely Frederick had perished. The Chaplain said a few things, confirming that Nancy was indeed Nancy. It made no sense, most army officers that were still around knew who Nancy was. She was the mother of General Frederick Rodes, the man responsible for securing the first true ceasefire in years.

But now, Nancy was in deep shock. It was her time to die; no one else’s. Frederick, she was sure it was him. With Frederick being dead, the world might descend into war. Both sides respected him and now that he was surely gone, the world faced an uncertain time.

“Ma’am…” the Chaplain started, “the Secretary of the Army has asked me to express her deep regret that your daughter, Jerri, was killed in an explosion that took place at the hospital where she was receiving care.” Nancy paused. Jerri? How could it be Jerri? She was in a hospital, away from any combat. Jerri was in a coma, if anything, she would have just passed away peacefully. But to hear that she was killed? “The Secretary wishes to express her deepest sympathies to you and your family.” Nancy fell back with a sob. Jerri, killed? How could that be possible? Jerri wasn’t supposed to die, hell, she wasn’t even supposed to be anywhere near a battlefield, both when she was injured and now. Her last surviving daughter… dead.

The Chaplain cleared his throat. Nancy realized that they had an observer: Bug. Nancy’s outcry had drawn the girl into the kitchen to investigate what happened. She even was still holding the bear with one hand. Jerri’s teddy bear. “Go, Bug!” Nancy demanded, tears streaming. She wasn’t mad, she just didn’t want Bug to see her like this. But Bug didn’t move. Her face was a mix of surprise and confusion. She didn’t know what was going on. “GO, Bug!” Nancy cried out, much louder, and more forceful. Bug quivered, suddenly afraid. Nancy instantly regretted yelling at her, but there was nothing she could do because Bug slipped out of the kitchen and back to her room, leaving Nancy sobbing in front of the Army personnel.

-------

Nancy finally chased away the two officers, but it mattered little if they were gone. Jerri was dead, and there wasn’t even enough of a body to recover. The explosion, which was still being investigated, originated from the hospital wing that Jerri was in. There simply was nothing left to be recovered, meaning Nancy had nothing to bury. Regardless, she would still have to travel to Washington to handle everything, meaning she would have to leave Bug here. This might take a few days and there was good chance that Nancy couldn’t get home in time to take Bug to school. The girl needed to make it. If she succeeded in getting in, Nancy wouldn’t have to worry about placing Bug somewhere, as she could simply live at the school in the dorms. This meant that Bug had to stay here, alone. Of course Nancy was worried, but the only thing Bug did when she was out and about was read and sleep. Between that and Bug’s developing abilities, Nancy felt secure enough to leave her here.

Nancy tried to collect her belongings but found herself simply falling onto the couch, overcome with emotions that she had nearly forgotten. She just sat there, detached from everything. Nancy had mentally prepared herself for the news of Frederick’s death at the hands of something other than natural causes, but Jerri… Nancy never expected her to die. Selfish, maybe, but it came down the simple fact that one was in a combat zone and one wasn’t.

“Are you okay?” a quiet voice asked. Nancy looked up, her eyes red with tears, to see Bug standing in the doorway to the living room. She didn’t have the bear this time and her face showed concern and worry. She was rubbing her arm a bit nervously as well. Go figure, Nancy had just yelled at her.

Nancy searched for the words, but couldn’t find any. Instead, Nancy turned away from Bug, too emotional to talk to her. Bug stood in the doorway for a few moments, hesitant about what to do. To Nancy’s surprise, Bug sat down next to her and leaned her head on Nancy’s shoulder. That was how they stayed for awhile. Nancy stared off into space, still overcome with deep emotions, and Bug rested against her shoulder.

It was quiet and peaceful, reminding Nancy of beautiful memories, of her children growing up, being cared for in this house. Remembering a time before the war. Before the destruction. Of barbecue, of family gatherings on warm summer days. Evenings hanging out by the creek and river, or just having fun by the campfire. Nancy smiled as she remembered watching her children, and then later, her grandchildren run across their yard, with imaginations that even the most powerful superhuman couldn’t contain. So many memories in this house, so many memories, good memories, her family and the past, but now, they were nothing. Claimed by the war. Now, Jerri had become another victim of the war. She had become one of the forgotten.

Nancy looked down at Bug, brushing the longer strands of hair away from her face. The girl had fallen asleep while leaning against Nancy. She looked peaceful, at ease, and the pained look that often plagued her had disappeared. Just watching her sleep made it hard to believe that Bug was a teenager. Her actual age was unknown, but just looking her… she was so small. Her mind still held innocence. But Nancy knew looks could be deceiving. Beneath Bug’s angelic appearance lay vast, untapped power. More power than any student or teacher at that school, maybe except Gare, who was one of the three remaining Level 4s in the Americas.

Nancy’s watch finally beeped, alerting her that it was time to go. She needed to pick up Eugene and Charles in Front Royal before heading on to Washington. Gently waking Bug, she prepared to tell her the news, “Someone in my family just died, so I’m needed in Washington with my family. However, I can’t guarantee that I will be back by Monday morning, so you are going to have stay here over the weekend.” Bug didn’t say anything, she just remained still, listening. “The library is closed today and tomorrow, but I’m not going to lock you in this time. If you want to go out, just promise me you’ll stay out of trouble?” Bug nodded, but she still didn’t say anything. “Alright. There is food, but if you want something else, there is enough money to get it. Just don’t empty the bank. If I’m not back by Monday morning, I’ll have someone drop by to take you to school.” Nancy quickly went over everything in her head, making sure she’d said everything that needed to be said.

Feeling satisfied, she got up and gathered her stuff from where she’d dropped it. “Alright, Bug, I’ll be back hopefully on Monday. Stay safe.” Nancy was about to leave when Bug did something unexpected. She jumped off the couch and gave Nancy a hug. In all the time Bug had been living with Nancy, she had never returned a hug unless encouraged to do so by someone else. Whether the girl was simply very shy, or had trust issues, she was very particular as to who she showed affection to, and Nancy knew she wasn’t part of Bug’s very short list. But Bug hugged her, right here, right now, without being asked or anything. Maybe she sensed the despair building within Nancy, or maybe she simply decided to hug her for no other reason. But whatever the reason, Nancy quickly returned it and at that moment, she felt something. A connection. Something that she hadn’t felt in a long time. She felt love. Love for the girl. What Galen said, no, what he ordered, no longer mattered.

Neither Bug nor Nancy knew how long they embraced, but it came time to end the embrace. Looking down at the girl, the girl with half brown, half pink hair, the purest blue eyes, and Eurasian appearance, she wiped a tear from Bug’s face. She regretted that she would be dying soon. “Take care of yourself. I’ll be back, I promise,” was all Nancy could say by that point. Walking out the door, Nancy prepared herself for the unfortunate job of telling her sons of their adopted sister’s death.

----------

For the remainder of Saturday and well into mid-day Sunday, I didn’t do much except read and watch Firefly. I had the freedom to leave the house and go out and explore, but I stayed in the house. The quietness had given me time to think. My thoughts did stray to the old lady and her loss, but they mostly rested in my place in the world. I was given a reminder of death today, which was partly the reason why I hugged the old lady. I was wondering at one point about who thought I was dead. But I also realized that there was good chance that there was no one who thought I was dead because I had nothing before this.

However, by Sunday night, I had suppressed those feelings. I had gotten too depressed thinking about it and I was afraid I might cause more light bulbs to explode, or worse, a window. Now, I was lying on my bed after a delicious dinner of Indian chicken curry, a meal that I had bought from a convenience store down the street. I was thinking about the things that I would be able to do tomorrow. I wasn’t looking forward to classes and the interaction with the students and teachers that didn’t like me. Before, I was longing for the chance to attend school, but now, I was dreading it. I hated being singled out, and for what? Sitting up in the bed sighing, I realized that while I didn’t look forward to school, I was still hopeful for the chance to be able to learn how to use my abilities. So far, I only had very limited control of them, emerging when I was angry or upset. I did have better control of my telepathy, but I still involuntarily read minds from time to time.

Looking down at my hands, I wondered what other abilities lay dormant deep within me. A few had emerged since I woke up, but still, I could only imagine what abilities I had yet to discover. Lying back down and hugging the bear, I contemplated what to do tomorrow. I needed to make it to the class that would provide me with knowledge on how to use my abilities, but after, I really didn’t want to go back. Maybe if the old lady made me go on Tuesday, I’d go ahead and give that Greg what’s coming to him, a kick to the groin.

By now, my eyes were feeling heavy, so I got underneath the covers to get warm. Tomorrow was just going to be like Friday, a day that was unwelcoming to me.

--------

At first, nothing. Then something. A feeling, a sense of something, the awareness of a place. A cold feeling came over me, and I felt myself enter a dark space, empty of all emotional thought. Quickly snapping my eyes open, my awareness returning, I found myself in the same place that I had dreamt about in the library. The same continuous darkness, the same mushy ground. The same feeling of absolute despair. Why am I dreaming about this again? I thought as I wandered around. The last time I dreamed of this place, I was attacked by flowing, mud-like hands that emerged from the ground, but as I was walking across the dark, mud-like ground, there was nothing. This place was nothing in all directions.

“Wait a second, if I’m dreaming, then how the hell am I aware? It's almost like I’m awake,” I contemplated out loud. Unless… I began to come to a realization as I watched the ground began to shift, I’m not dreaming. The moment that thought passed through my mind, a form began to take shape from the mud. It rose, flowing and shifting awkwardly, before finally taking the shape of a girl. It started speaking with a very quiet voice, making it nearly impossible for me to hear what it was saying. As it started to make its way towards me, more figures emerged from the ground, each taking the shape of a person, but still retaining the flowing muddy appearance. They all began to speak, but I was unable to hear what they were saying.

The first female figure reached me, but before it could grab me, I stepped to the side, sticking my leg out to trip it. When its leg made contact with mine, it came apart and the figure fell forward, disappearing into the darkness. But as quickly as it disappeared, it reappeared, re-emerging from the darkness. This time, I could hear what it was saying, “Why did…” the rest I couldn’t understand. By now, the other figures began to converge on me, so I tried to run, only to fall when a hand rose up from the darkness and grabbed my ankle.

“What do you want?” I screamed while trying to get free. I need to run, but more hands grabbed me. How was I supposed…. “My ability!” I had to try it. Focusing on every ounce of will I had to get free, I felt a surge of energy rush down towards my legs and out into the murky hands holding me down. Instantly, they exploded in a rush of messy goo, but I was free. With the figures nearly on top of me, I ran as fast as I could away from there. However, there was a problem. Where the fuck was I supposed to go? The place was endless, nothing but darkness in every direction.

A sudden wall of blackness shot up right in front of me, blocking my escape. Now I needed to wake up in order to escape. With the figures not far me behind me, I needed to wake up fast. So, I did what any rational being would do. I started hitting myself. Slapping my face, saying “Wake up!” every time my hand made an impact. But all I was left with was a stinging face and a failure to wake up. Turning around, I made eye contact with the female figure that had first emerged from the ground. Just I resolved to punch myself somewhere in the gut, the figure spoke again, only this time, I heard and understood every word. “Why did you leave us?” it asked. I stopped, surprised.

“You know me?” I questioned it.

The figure asked the same question again, “Why did you leave us?” it said a more forceful tone. The figure, this murky, dark flowing figure, knew me. But how? How did it know me? “Why did you leave us?” it asked for the third time.

“Who… who are you?” I inquired. If it knew me, there was a chance that this ‘thing’ knew my name. But once again, the figure ignored my question and asked the question it had already asked three times so far.

“Why did you leave us… why did you leave us… why did you leave us?” it chanted the question over and over again. I stepped back against the wall of flowing darkness. Soon, the figure was joined by the others, asking the same thing, “Why did you leave us!” The figures didn’t say that last one like a question, more like a demand, their voices murky and full, but understandably full of pure anger. Suddenly, all the figures joined together as one big geyser of darkness, streaming up, curving, and shooting back down at me, “WHY DID YOU LEAVE US, JAMIE!” they screamed as the geyser prepared to strike me down. I quickly gathered enough strength, and just before the geyser struck me, I punched myself as hard as I could in my gut, causing me to fall back… right onto the floor of my room.

Quickly coming to my senses, I felt my stomach heave. Making a mad dash to the bathroom, I threw up what was left of my dinner into the toilet bowl. Breathing heavily, with the nausea subsiding, I flushed and leaned back on the floor, exhausted. I was a mess. I felt sick, my stomach hurt, and I was drenched in sweat.

Emotionally wrecked, I glanced around the room, double checking that it was, in fact, the old lady’s bathroom and not the Dark Place. The clock that read 2:46 am on the wall, thirty neatly folded bath towels in the closet, and a small sticker that I had placed on the mirror. Yeah, I was awake, I was back. But I was overwhelmed with my experience. Now I knew this and the time back in the library weren’t dreams. That raised the question, if I wasn’t dreaming, then what was I doing and what the hell was that place?

“That place... what was it?” I whispered to myself. Those figures, whatever they were, seemed to know me. They even called me Jamie. Jamie, was that my real name? Was that who I was? Jamie? So many questions and no answers. Curling up into a ball, I started to cry, unsure of what to do now.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
127 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 5046 words long.